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Grape caulerpa outbreak

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startreefover View Drop Down
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    Posted: September 23 2017 at 7:40am
Hello all,

I have a 40 gallon breeder with a 20 gallon sump. I am struggling with a grape caulerpa outbreak in my display. I can't keep up with it. I pull out a lot but can't get it all and within the next few days everything I have pulled out has grown back.

I have been told to try a few things but am not sure any are great options. Please tell me if you have had luck with any of these or anything else.

One was to get a small foxface and it could stay in for a couple years before getting too big. I read that they grow quickly though and this worries me. I plan to get a larger system but that is a year or two away.

Another is to get an urchin but what I read about them is that they cause other problems and may not touch the stuff.

Another is to get a sea hare but what I read is they will be caught in the powerheads and also will quickly run out of food and may or may not touch the caulerpa either.

The last one I have been told that seems reasonable is to get a few emerald crabs but I hear they are hit or miss also as to whether or not they will eat it.

I cannot keep up on pulling it out so now need help on what will eat it. I am doing my regular maintenance and not overfeeding. I cannot do more than I do right now.

Any advice would be great. Thanks in advance for your help.
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kevin.st View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote kevin.st Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 23 2017 at 8:35am
Get a small foxface, maybe even a small tomini tang?  If I drop a chunk of caulerpa in my tank, my tangs go wild for it.

If you go to reef on, they might be able to show you a tang that eats the stuff.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote startreefover Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 23 2017 at 11:17am
How long could a foxface stay in a 40 before it grows too big?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote kevin.st Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 23 2017 at 11:47am
A year. Maybe 2.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 23 2017 at 12:26pm
You will find that few people even the people that work at the LFS really know much about algae in aquariums. All the suggestions you have received, except the one about a fish, are not going to help with this. In fact, you may not realize it but I can tell you for certain that the Caulerpa growth has actually saved your tank from other problems much, much worse than excess Caulerpa. I suspect this tank is less than 6 months old. Am I right? 

I love algae and have kept it in my tanks for as long as I have been in this hobby, 24 years since 1993. I have kept Tangs in tanks as small as 14 gal. In a 40 gal it's best to get a smaller Tang or Rabbitfish (Foxface are in the Rabbitfish family), so it can grow a little. The fish will not outgrow the tank unless it is constantly fed more than it really needs.

An herbivorous (algae eating) fish is only part of the answer. From what you wrote, I suspect the tank has an excess of nutrients that the Caulerpa is eating. It would help if we could see a pic of the tank and get some more information:

Is AA or GFO being used and how is it being used?
Where did the sand and rock come from, or in other words, what condition was it when placed in the tank?
What type of food is fed, how much is fed and how often?
What other fish are in the tank?
What snails and how many, are in the tank?

Aloha,
Mark  Hug


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote startreefover Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 23 2017 at 6:46pm
Thank you again for your help.

To answer the questions. My tank was set up almost two years ago then was moved. That was over a year ago. This caulerpa problem began about 2 months ago and is now completely out of control. I know that the caulerpa is only growing because something is not in line but I can't figure out how to bring it back in line while this caulerpa is growing like this. Before then it was only in the sump, which is how I prefer it.

I haven't pulled the caulerpa in a couple weeks so if you saw a picture you would only see a green blob of algae.

AA and GFO is not being used currently. I am not sure how to run them or what they do. I am open to using them if they will help and if I know enough about them. The rock was in great shape when I put them in. It was dry and cleaned properly and then I added a piece of live rock from a fish store owner who I trust completely then let it cycle. The dry rock was also purchased from that same owner. The sand actually came from you Mark and I then added some live sand I also purchased from this shop owner. Again I had no real issues (out of the ordinary) until this caulerpa outbreak.

I have three fish in the tank is all. I have two ocellaris clownfish and one chromis. All are about 3 inches in length so not too large. I mostly feed pellets (about 10-12) every couple days. I feed mysis shrimp a couple times a week and do not feed pellets when I do.

The snails are definitely a problem and I know I need more. That is something I want to be sure to do as soon as I get this caulerpa under control. I have 4-5 astrea, several nerite, 4-5 cerith, and a couple tiger conch. I also have 3-4 blue leg hermits.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 23 2017 at 10:28pm
Thanks for the good responses.

As you may know, algae eats two basic things; Phosphate (PO4), Nitrogen compounds (Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate). We often hear of these as being pollution, but algae considers them as nutrients. 

Fish food is usually the major way that these nutrients enter the aquarium but there are two other sources: 

2. The water used for top-off and water changes can add to algae growth if it has excess PO4 and Nitrogen compounds. This is why many of us use purified water and periodically check the purity of that water. Have you checked the TDS (total dissolved solids) lately Question If the RO unit also uses de-ionizing resin (DI), the resin must be changed often. If not changed, it releases the impurities that it has collected. This can cause a sudden bloom of algae. Could this be your situation Question

3. Dead dry rock and sand that was once alive with bacteria, bugs and worms can have these nutrients, and other bad chemicals, physically leach out of the rock/sand for a year or more after being re-introduced to an aquarium. To know if this is part of the problem, I would need to see the current condition of the rock/sand and need to know a little more of this tanks 2 year history.

Good biofiltration typically removes PO4 and Nitrogen pollution by the action of bacteria and algae eating that pollution/nutrients. 

Sometimes, a tank has an unexpected accident(foreign chemical like soap, copper, etc. or a heating accident, etc.) where something visibly seen, sometimes unseen, dies and creates pollution, feeding an algae bloom. A dead fish or coral can be eaten by the cleanup crew and disappear, triggering an algae bloom. If an unseen population of bacteria dies, it not only cannot do the biofiltration it is supposed to do, but it actually adds to the pollution/nutrients. Is it possible that an  animal or population of animals died Question

A Refugium can be a vital part of the systems biofiltration. The Refugium is supposed to keep algae growth to a minimum in the display tank, but if the light over the Refugium is too old/too dim, algae cannot grow well, leaving nutrient uptake to algae growing somewhere else in the system. It often shows up as increased algae growth on the glass or even a bloom of hair algae. Does this sound like it could be part of the reason for the Caulerpa bloom in the display tank Question

AA (activated alumina) and GFO (granular ferric oxide) are two different media, each used for removal of PO4 (phosphate) because biofiltration alone may not always remove enough excess PO4. If AC (activated carbon) is being used in this tank as it should, it's a simple thing to also add a media bag of AA. In a relatively small system like yours, I usually place about 3/4 cup of AC and 2 tablespoons of a special high quality, fast acting AA in a single, dual purpose media bag next to the intake of the return pump or a circulation pump. This gets changed every 2-4 weeks. The use of my special AA removes PO4 so well it actually inhibits Macroalgae growth. GFO is not as effective. In future, you may want to use one of these two media in your system.

Coming back to fish food, hobbyists are prone to overfeed without even realizing it. Overfeeding does not immediately lead to an algae bloom. Often its a delayed reaction of weeks or months so the hobbyist may miss the connection/cause-effect. It's very easy to overfeed, especially since fish are genetically and environmentally disposed to eating all they can find, whenever they can find it. Putting this into context, I feed only 3-4 times every two weeks, the 5 small fish I keep in a 70 gal system. In the meantime they eat algae and bugs growing in the system. This system grows a good crop of Caulerpa and Chaetomorpha which I am continually giving away to hobbyists.

It would still be helpful to see a pic. As an example, the pic below is one of my tanks, a 29 gal, featured as a Tank of the Month many years ago. The thick algae growth became home to thousands of bugs that helped feed about 20 young, bug eating, Bangaii Cardinals. So you see, a forest of Macroalgae can be a really good thing for a good reason other than biofiltration.

Let us know if or how this helped.

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: September 23 2017 at 10:51pm
Originally posted by startreefover startreefover wrote:

The snails are definitely a problem and I know I need more. That is something I want to be sure to do as soon as I get this caulerpa under control. I have 4-5 astrea, several nerite, 4-5 cerith, and a couple tiger conch. I also have 3-4 blue leg hermits.
Almost forgot. I would be surprised if some other kind of nuisance algae, such as hair algae, has not already started growing. A danger of removing more than 50% of total system Macroalgae is that other algae grows quickly to fill the gap, eating the available nutrients. My story of the Ugly Green Haired Mermaid is the direct result of removing from my first reef tank (55 gal in 1996), close to a 5 gal bucket of Caulerpa. 

In my experience, more Snails should be added before the Macroalgae problem is "under control".

Also, if two Conch Snails are doing well, that's a probable sign of overfeeding. Even just one Conch Snail should eventually get quite hungry in a tank the size of a 40 gal breeder.

Aloha,
Mark  Hug
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote startreefover Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 24 2017 at 3:26pm
Thank you Mark,

So a couple followup questions to your response.

First, my experience is that too many snails always leads to die off. I was told a snail a gallon when I first entered the hobby but that led to a lot of dead snails. So how many and what kind of snails? I have never felt like I have been successful in figuring out the right mix of the different types of snails and crabs.

Also, the algae in my sump is very thick and I probably should trim it anyway, so I don't think my lighting is a problem yet. I am sure the bulb will need to be replaced in the next little as it has not been replaced in about a year but it is growing the macroalgae well so far so right now that is not my priority. I need to figure out how much macroalgae to cut out of there and how much to leave at some point too. If I ran GFO or AA and it prohibits macroalgae growth, won't that kill all the macroalgae in the system? I really only want the macroalgae out of the main display, not the sump.

Lastly, I have not tested the TDS and between that and the DI that could be a large part of the problem. I should probably figure out how to test the TDS and to replace the filtration for the DI portion. Thanks for the advice on that as I had not thought about that. This is the first ro/di unit I have had so I am still figuring that out.

Thanks for the help and advice.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 25 2017 at 2:53am
The right amount of snails is something you have to "play by ear". When there is a good crop of Macroalgae, the nuisance algae that Snails would eat just doesn't get much chance to grow. Less nuisance algae means fewer Snails are needed.

Refugium Algae should be harvested frequently if it's growing well. Harvest no more than half of the algae at a time. As I may have said above, if too much Macroalgae is removed from the system all at once, a nuisance algae problem can easily bloom. This is what happened that caused an Ugly Green Haired Mermaid to appear in my first reef aquarium. It was a terrible situation back when I was a new hobbyist, but now it's kind of a cute story, in my opinion anyway. Smile

GFO is not nearly as efficient as my special AA, but if the right amount of either one is used, it will allow a balance in the aquarium so that Macroalgae can still grow, albeit more slowly. Notice in the previous post where I said that in a system the size of yours, 2 tablespoons of my special AA is all I would use.

I recommend that you save your money by removing the DI cartridge and leaving that canister empty, with pure water just running straight through it. After removing the DI, make and discard a gallon of RO water before checking the TDS. As far as I'm concerned, DI is just trouble. It's relatively expensive and must be changed more frequently than the 6 month Sediment and Carbon filters. With all the different organisms we want growing in our reef to make it a healthy reef, making the water too pure is just as bad as having it not pure enough. That's my opinion.

Speaking of top-off water, many hobbyists use tap water. A reef with a proper biological filter, including generous algae growth, eats up the minerals and impurities in tap water.

Here is something regarding water that you might find interesting or crazy. You choose. Embarrassed  I have replaced the RO Auto-Top-Off for my reef system with "Amazon River water". See this new thread: http://utahreefs.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=83235

Aloha,
Mark  Hug
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www.utahreefs.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=9244
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