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ALK Issues

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fishyman19 View Drop Down
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    Posted: January 16 2017 at 12:05pm
Hello everyone!

I'm at a loss trying to figure this out so I figured I'd throw it out here. I noticed some of my SPS, mainly my red dragon, showing signs of burning. So I tested calcium noticed it was fairly high so I stopped dosing. It seemed to help, but after a few days some other SPS started showing the same signs. So I tested my ALK and it was at 13dks. I've since lost my red dragon.

ALK is the only thing I have on a dosing pump and it has been stable at 9 for so long. I dose 1.1 ml for 3 minutes and 15 seconds from midnight to noon and it has kept it stable for over a year and a half. I did raise it to 4 minutes a few months ago which I realized could be part of the problem, and I dropped it back to 3:15 but I've not been doing for almost a week and it doesn't seem to be going down much, it's planed off at 10, but corals are still losing tissue.

My main question is why would the ALK in the tank stop being used? Their is some coral growth but some have just completely stopped. And how do I keep my SPS from dying, I've lost 3 colonies already and it seems like I've got a few more unhappy, including my Last dragon starting to show more signs of tissue loss this morning before the lights come on.
90 Gallon mixed reef. Wife's 12 gallon nano cube mixed reef!
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Mark Peterson View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 16 2017 at 6:51pm
To answer your main question, Why would Alk stop being used?, realize that when these animals are stressed, they stop growing, in other words, they stop using Alk, Ca, Mg, etc.

If I understand what you did, you decided to increase the dosage to increase the amount of Alk available to the coral, right?. Was your intention to raise the Alk to a higher number, thinking that might increase the growth rate?

Right now, I advise turning off the Alkalinity doser.
Alk and Ca are sort of on either ends of a balance scale. In typical tank conditions, when one goes up the other goes down and if one component goes down, the other goes up. This is why the Alk rose when Ca dosing was stopped. You didn't say how high the Ca level was at the time, but it might help for you to know that Calcium can go as high as 600 ppm with no bad effect, if the Alk is right. As you may have figured out, the SPS burning was caused by Alk being too high.

How to save the coral?
Step one is actually quite easy. Rapidly decrease the Alk from it's 13 dKH level by simply adding a lot of Ca. Hobbyists will generally not see this as an alternative, because they have not tried it, because they do not understand it, because it may seem counter-intuitive, but it works and is easier than doing water changes. This Ca addition should cause a snowing effect in the tank. Snow is a good thing. It's a chemical response to balancing the Alk and Ca levels in the salt water. Where the two components, Alk and Ca are higher (more saturated) than they need to be in the water they combine and drop out of the water (precipitate) as CaCO3(Calcium Carbonate). CaCO3 is the mineral that rock and sand are composed of. In some tanks this precipitation appears immediately as "snow" and in other tanks it may coat pumps and heaters with a layer of CaCO3 cement.

Step two in saving the coral is to check Mg. It needs to be above 1200 ppm and at this point may be better at about 1400 ppm

The tissue loss will not stop overnight, but within 3-5 days a turnaround should start. If it doesn't, come back here. If you don't mind, please post a pic of the tank so we can see if there is something else needing attention.

Aloha,
Mark  Hug
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Edited by Mark Peterson - January 17 2017 at 11:23am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 16 2017 at 7:14pm
As the problem above illustrates, "chasing" Alk and Ca numbers can be dangerous. My best advice in this regard is to listen to what your tank is telling you. It knows what balance it likes. Listen to it and dose only as much as is needed. 

As an illustration, I help a hobbyist with a tank that is always testing on the low end of Alk (~7 dKH) and Ca(~350 ppm). Yet he has an amazing Blue Wall Hammer Coral that grows like crazy, currently filling almost a quarter of the 180 gal tank. There is also a basketball sized Candy Cane Coral and lots of other stony coral, mainly LPS but also SPS. He manually doses Alk and Ca every other day and has been advised by LFS (and by me) that he could increase the dosages. He gets nervous about this because his tank had a bad experience with dosing too much. 

What I take away from this example is that the important thing is to dose what the tank is eating but not to worry about artificially elevating levels to reach some kind of target.

Aloha,
Mark  Hug
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 16 2017 at 8:00pm
What's the frequency and amount of water changes on this tank with what salt?
Depending on the salt being used, a water change right now may help. If the salt mix has higher Alk, it will hurt to do a water change, IMO.
Also change the AC to remove maximum amount of toxins being released by the dying coral.

That's all from me for tonight. Smile
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phys View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote phys Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 17 2017 at 1:06am
Being that high, a safe way to do it is several small water changes for a few days or a couple larger ones. Test after each one and make sure your new water youre adding in isn't too high either.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote evan127 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 17 2017 at 10:06am
Do you know what the consumption rate is for your reef? In a 24 hour period my reef is currently consuming 30ml of sodium carbonate and 25ml of sodium bicarbonate. That is up from 25ml/20ml last week. I'm changing the dosing schedule every 4 to 6 weeks it seems like.

You said a 1.1ml dose . Are you using the BRS dosers? If you are and you figure out the consumption rate in 24 hours, there is a great calculator for the Apex that gives out the programming code based on what you want to dose, how often and it tells you how long to run it with other code I don't understand. If you are just using them on timers, it could still be useful to tell you how long to precisely run each doser.

How ever you decide to lower you alkalinity, go slow. Rapid changes in alkalinity, high or low, is very shocking to corals. Don't put your other livestock at risk based on trying to lower it on the account of losing a single specimen. Obviously the rest of the livestock has adjusted to the steady rise and haven't shown any ill affects. Also, if you go slow you can ease into the target number of your choice as to not by pass that target number and have to chase it.

As I am writing this I see that you said you dose "1.1 ml for 3 minutes and 15 seconds from midnight to noon and it has kept it stable for over a year and a half." Either your corals aren't growing at all or you're using water changes frequently enough that the alkalinity in conjunction with your dosing is keeping it at 9dKH. What salt are you using and what parameters does it mix to?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 17 2017 at 12:09pm
I realize that what I said above about adding Ca to balance the two components is hard to understand but it works because it uses principles of chemistry. This shouldn't be all that hard to accept, since it was chemistry that messed things up in the first place.テつWink

Another technique involving chemistry, and also biology, that will help in this situation is to decrease the salinity level of the tank.テつ
Why would this helpQuestion
Because the problem right now is too much of the Alkalinity component in the water. Decreasing salinity decreases Alkalinity. Alkalinity is carbonate ions floating around in the water waiting to combine with Calcium. Removing some salt water and replacing it with pure water will dilute the amount of those ions, making the water more bearable for the aquarium inhabitants.
But won't decreasing the salinity hurt the coralQuestion
Actually no, not if it's done over the course of an hour or so. In the wild, these animals are genetically tuned to having salinity go down quickly, like when a torrential rain adds millions of gallons of fresh water to the reef and tide pools. Ask anyone that has seen their top off water do a small flood of their aquarium. Salinity can drop fairly rapidly to 1.022 or even 1.020 without any bad effect on the animals. But when raising the salinity back up, do it more gradually because there is no genetic variable to handle a quick rise in salt content.

This means that if you have chosen to do some water changes, do them with the aim being to bring tank water salinity down by several points.テつ

Oh, one other thing. Above I said that Mg should be tested and if below 1200, should be raised. Without Mg available to the animals, they cannot consume Alk and Ca to build their home. Mg is critical to the action of the Alkalinity ions combining with Ca to form Calcium Carbonate.テつ

Hardly any of us realized, when we got in to this hobby, that chemistry would be so important.テつSmile

Aloha,
Mark テつHug

P.S.
I hope fishyman19 has come back to read this thread.テつWackoテつSmile

P.P.S
Some may think I'm "off my rocker" and they may be right. I welcome opposing viewpoints but consider this, I've been at this for a very long time, intensely via the WMAS, via this forum and via all the experts whose brains I've picked over the years. I may have seen more incidents like this than most hobbyists or professionals.


Edited by Mark Peterson - January 17 2017 at 3:42pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote bur01014 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 17 2017 at 1:07pm
an alk of 13 isn't your problem, your problem is how fast you got there or how crazy the rollercoaster ride was to get there....i wouldn't do anything and turn off the dosers and let alk drop slowly and naturally.

Last thing you need is changing more on your tank after things are stressed enough.

You may never know why consumption decreased suddenly.  I would employ basic fish feeding and weekly water changes and no dosing of anything until alk drops and consumption starts picking up again.


Edited by bur01014 - January 17 2017 at 1:10pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 17 2017 at 3:39pm
I agree that when water chemistry is out of whack, it will eventually fix itself. In this case, I believe that will leave animals under stress for too long.

This tank handled the gradual increase of Alk over a couple months until it reached the edge of what some animals could handle. The stress then became too much for a few animals. Was any testing done during that time, to indicate the rise in Alk?

Returning water chemistry back down closer to where the animals can more easily bear it (10-11 dKH) can be done quickly for the reason I explained earlier.

Aloha,
Mark
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fishyman19 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 19 2017 at 12:41pm
First I want to thank everyone for responding, I haven't been on in the last couple days because the forum was down for some reason. I posted the same question on reef2reef and have been getting a ton of help from that forum as well. 

I will try and answer all the questions that you guys have though and thanks for the input! I have used a lot of it as it was the same answers I got from the other forum. 

First off turns out my test kits were very expired. So I went and bought new testing kits and got some crazy different results when I tested on Monday. My plan has been to test on this past Monday, let nature take its course and test again on this upcoming Monday. 

Alk-9.8
Calcium-400-I've been dosing this now every other day because it does dip down and I think I have it figured out. So far so good. 
Magnesium- I haven't tested this for a long time and was just assuming Unhappy that it was stable so I stayed with my regular dosing of 40ml every other day. Turns out that was a no no, Mag was off the Chart as well. Dosing has been since stopped. 
Phosphates- Didn't have a test so I will be taking water in to get it looked at. 
Salinity-1.026
Nitrates-Have been consistently at 25-50. I can never seem to get them to go down. 

Now during this process it seems to me that my SPS especially have stopped receding, the ones that I lost, or that had issues seemed to already be struggling and this was the last straw. The rest are holding strong and while not really growing at the moment, they have full polyp extension and seem to be happy. I picked up 4 new SPS frags a couple weeks back and they are all happy. 

I have been using pre-made saltwater from Aquatic Evolution and his was is always on point.   I 5 gallon water change every Saturday for those of you that asked. 

So for now I seem to be riding down the slippery slope fairly well as I let everything settle back in to form. I'm hoping I can get my dosing back on schedule and can see some growth again! Thanks for the help and I will keep you posted on Monday what happens. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 19 2017 at 9:02pm
Thanks for the complete update.
Wow, a great reminder to all of us about the importance of regular testing with good test kits.

Regarding Nitrate, that level is not bad at all, as you can see from your coral growth. I'm often telling hobbyists not to fret. There are several simple ways to bring it down further to make the tank even healthier. Start a new thread and we'll all chime in.

Aloha,
Mark

Edited by Mark Peterson - January 19 2017 at 9:09pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote phys Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 21 2017 at 11:15pm
Keep testing! that'll be the thing that'll get you where you need most.
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