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Old 12/10/2019, 03:13 PM   #1
Zalick
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Join Date: Dec 2011
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My battle with GHA, my "parameters" and the future: a diary

I'm starting this thread to document my battle with GHA and hopefully someone down the road will find it and maybe it will help them. I've found there are vast amounts of information and "opinions" about the cause of this nuisance algae and how to solve it.

I've overcome my "shame" in having an ugly algae problem and included my "before" pics below, for posterity.

I welcome opinions, thoughts and friendly debate in this thread. My comments below are purely anecdotal. If you do have an opinion, I ask that you support it either with links, or with your own personal experience. Too many of these threads have people commenting without any support or anecdotal personal experience. I think those comments can lead people down the wrong path.

Some background. I've been keeping reef tanks for about 20 years. Over that time I've had 6 tanks: 10g, 20 long, 34g hex, another 20 long and my current 300g. When I first started, I used tap water filtered through a Brita. No other water conditioner. I had a 250w metal halide hanging on a coat rack above the 20L. That first reef thrived like nothing else. The temp fluctuated between 78 and 85 during the summer and I floated bags of ice to cool it down. I never had any issues with algae of any kind until my current 300g. My tank prior to the 300g was a 20 long. I had that running for 5 years and upgraded it to the 300. Then the GHA reared its head.

Age: Tank is 5 years old but its an iteration of a previous tank. Rock was uncured liverock (told myself I'd never do that again but it looked too nice). I cured it for maybe 3 months in a giant tub with heaters, pumps etc. Some of the rock is from the prior tank.
Here is a pic of the tank December 2014 when it was first setup without any livestock:



3" sand bed on half the tank. other half is bare.

Filtration: Reef Octopus 5000ext. The 114w UV is plumbed inline with skimmer. Entire equipment is in my sig.

Inhabitants:
6" Magnificent Foxface
10yr old b/w Ocellaris
Banded goby
Purple White Wrasse
Royal Gramma
Scarlet Cleaner

Feeding: 2x per day. Rods or flake. maybe 1/2 cube to 1 cube total.

My tank parameters are:
Ph: 7.8-8.1
Alk: 8.5
Ca: 455
Mag: 1320
Nitrate: 0
Phosphate: 0 (highest ever was .02) - Hanna ULR
Temp: 78.5 - 79.5

I have a 114w UV, with slow flow through it ~700gph. I aggressively skim.

I make my water with a 6 stage spectrapure. I use a big blue carbon as well. My water comes out crystal clean and pure.

I started with 6 kessil a360w. Currently have 4 mitras 7. Will update the schedule this evening.

I've probably read 90%+ of the GHA threads on this site and R two R. Most people comment that the poster must have a nutrient problem because the GHA is the evidence of excessive Phosphates. They often state that "the GHA consumes the phosphates before it gets to your test kit". I believed this and it guided my attack on the GHA.

I added GFO, yet the GHA still persisted and my phosphate reading was still 0. I read more posts, of people with similar experiences, and they were advised that the GFO must be getting exhausted extremely fast and that they must still have a phosphate issue. I again believed this guidance and began aggressively changing out my GFO, expense be darned. Yet my GHA still persisted and my corals suffered. I stopped with the GFO.

During this time I also aggressively pursued manual removal via scrubbing and siphoning. I would also scrub and use filter socks to collect the algae that blew around the tank.

The GHA persisted and regrew where I scrubbed.

I've been battling this for 2 years now. I can't tell you how many times I thought about giving up on the 300 and moving back to a 20l or 40b. Its not practical to remove rocks from a 300, scrub and use H2O2.

I began to think more logically about this problem and continued reading more threads. The OVERWHELMING advice is that if you have a GHA issue, you have a nutrient issue and you need to focus on your husbandry.

My wife was a bio-chemistry major, and is a veterinarian, and I talked about this issue with her and about all the various advice. One thing I found extremely difficult to understand was how could the algae possible consume the phosphates before my test kits could detect it? If there is phosphate in the water column and I have a nutrient issue, shouldn't those phosphates be evenly distributed as a "solution"? Its not like the algae is a high powered electro-magnet and the phosphates are pulled to it like metal. I asked my wife about it and she thought there is no way these "theories" could be true. The algae is definitely consuming phosphate, but its not magically pulling all the phosphate out of the water before I could test it.

I again read more threads on this topic and began to see some people state that, just because you have GHA doesn't mean you have a nutrient "problem" and GHA can survive in low nutrient systems with 0 measured phosphates. I discussed this with my wife again. She said while she doesn't know about the specific phosphate needs of GHA, she would assume the Hanna ULR tester is not sensitive enough to measure extremely low amounts of phosphates and there is likely some in the water. I also read some comments suggesting that GHA can almost self-sustain, to a given level, by feeding themselves their own phosphate via tiny amounts of die off.

I've come to believe that the GHA in my tank is "surviving", though not "thriving" in my ultra low nutrient tank through its own release of phosphates due to tiny amounts of die off and the almost undetectable level of phosphates in my water column. I base this opinion off the following:
1. The phosphate level in my tank is at an undetectable level to the Hanna ULR tester, and I do not have a phosphate problem in my water column. I trust this reading.
2. The algae does not and cannot access the phosphate in the water column "instantly" giving me a misleading reading on my tester.
3. When I scrub the rocks, the GHA slowly comes back but seems to reach a maximum growth level. Although its covering most rocks, it does not continue growing and there are patches of rock it does not grow.
4. The GHA is feeding itself with the .0007 level of phosphate in my water column in addition to locally releasing phosphates via die-off and re-consumption.

I'm not sure my plan of attack from here on out. I'm reluctant to add chemicals to my tank, but I fear that might be my only option. Since I definitely do not have a phosphate "issue" with my tank, further attempting to strip phosphates from the water column via GFO will be fruitless.

I must attack the GHA at its source, not through a proxy war with phosphates.

My current working plan is to attack the GHA with an aggressive scrubbing, water change and then dose fluconazole. After about 6 weeks, assuming die off, I will remove the fluconazole and install Bud's Turbo ATS. Hopefully this can out-compete the GHA for what little phosphates are in the water column.

Anyone is free to chime in on this thread with their experiences! I'll keep updating as I try different things to get this under control.






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Current Tank Info: I'm growing GHA

Last edited by Zalick; 12/11/2019 at 02:24 PM.
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Old 12/10/2019, 03:52 PM   #2
mrtint
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You didnít mention your lighting situation
Type of lighting
Schedule
Par (if you know)

I have battled the same thing now and in the past with different tanks. Always seems to be something different. In the past it came down to my lighting. Old bulbs coupled with over feeding. Usually a huge cleanup crew and new bulbs did the trick.
Currently I have a 250gallon and 100 gallon sump. Have fought algae since day one in this tank (3 years now). I really suspect the rock itself is leaching phosphates. After reading and doing everything you described above the best solution for me is to never miss my weekly water change. I now have limited to a red turf algae that only grows on the top part of my rocks closest to my lights. I do run LED, T5 and metal halide (old school). My clean up crew keeps it low but not exactly what I want. I will be adding 2 tuxedo urchins on Thursday to see what they may do.
Good luck. I will be following


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Old 12/10/2019, 03:58 PM   #3
Zalick
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrtint View Post
You didn’t mention your lighting situation
Type of lighting
Schedule
Par (if you know)

I have battled the same thing now and in the past with different tanks. Always seems to be something different. In the past it came down to my lighting. Old bulbs coupled with over feeding. Usually a huge cleanup crew and new bulbs did the trick.
Currently I have a 250gallon and 100 gallon sump. Have fought algae since day one in this tank (3 years now). I really suspect the rock itself is leaching phosphates. After reading and doing everything you described above the best solution for me is to never miss my weekly water change. I now have limited to a red turf algae that only grows on the top part of my rocks closest to my lights. I do run LED, T5 and metal halide (old school). My clean up crew keeps it low but not exactly what I want. I will be adding 2 tuxedo urchins on Thursday to see what they may do.
Good luck. I will be following


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I updated with my lights and will add the additional info tonight. Thanks for chiming in! In my prior tanks i used compact florescent, MH and T5. Never had an akage issue until LEDs. Part of me wants to blame th led. . ...

I've suspected my rocks are leaching the bound phosphate as well. There seem to be two camps on that issue: yes v not possible.


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Current Tank Info: I'm growing GHA
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Old 12/10/2019, 04:27 PM   #4
Vinny Kreyling
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Pull a piece of rock ( test piece) & put it in RO water over night.
Check PO4 the next day. If it shows I would repeat the next day & see if it shows again.
This could be an indication of PO4 bound in the rock.
I thought I might be in the same boat with new dry rock but my tests were -0-.


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Old 12/10/2019, 04:39 PM   #5
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I feel your pain. I inherited a buddies 50 gal setup after being out of the hobby for 10 years. I once had a successful 90 g BB mixed reef. Mh lighting with T-5 supplemental. ZERO algae. Heavy bioload.

I have tried it all so far but chemical. Gfo, skimming wet, rodi clean water going in, light every other day feedings, lighter bioloads, 3 day blackouts, weekly water changes, scrubbing/siphoning... 6 hr light schedule max

I’m sure it’s got to be my rock. I don’t have a sandbed anymore and I still have .25 PO4 with Salifert kit. I’m only running a Nuvo 20 setup right now with only 20 lbs of rock lol.


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Old 12/10/2019, 06:05 PM   #6
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Ive had GHA too it does blow, but only on tanks maturing thru cycles, and to be honest ive never had success with LEDs in the beginning (tho i see many have had good success)and that was also when i had the GHA was with that type of lighting. That could have just been bad timing and/or coincidence.
Im running T5HOs now and no algae at all in either tank tho and wish i could actually get a bit to grow as food for my scarlet hermits & pods but not happening go figure.
When i read about your long past good experiences lighting or a outside light source nearby came to my mind immediatly since i always keep my window closed in my aquarium area to stray outside light 24/7. After testing the rocks or your water what is left really but lighting?


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Old 12/10/2019, 07:34 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zalick View Post
She said while she doesn't know about the specific phosphate needs of GHA, she would assume the Hanna ULR tester is not sensitive enough to measure extremely low amounts of phosphates and there is likely some in the water.
This is definitely a problem. Affordable phosphate testing is by definition going to be limited in precision at the low levels.

Quote:
I also read some comments suggesting that GHA can almost self-sustain, to a given level, by feeding themselves their own phosphate via tiny amounts of die off.
I agree with this as well.

Quote:
I've come to believe that the GHA in my tank is "surviving", though not "thriving" in my ultra low nutrient tank through its own release of phosphates due to tiny amounts of die off and the almost undetectable level of phosphates in my water column.
I think this is very likely.

I haven't ever had much of a hair algae problem. I did have a small patch once, and it died off over time. My royal gramma liked to tear it apart, which was part of the problem.

You could consider something like AlgaeX or fluconazole. I think fluconazole is more commonly used for Bryopsis, but there are many species of algae, and we don't have useful data on what's in our tanks and how they respond.

You have tried GFO, but organic carbon dosing (vodka, vinegar, etc) might be worth trying. Sometimes, this approach works, but there's no magic bullet that I've seen.


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Old 12/10/2019, 08:04 PM   #8
ohashimz
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The pictures do not look like GHA...

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Old 12/11/2019, 08:36 AM   #9
Zalick
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Originally Posted by ohashimz View Post
The pictures do not look like GHA...

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It's tough to tell. I looked at it under a microscope at a local reef function and most thought that it was GHA. It's not segmented.

Visually, it doesn't quite match up with anything. I'm colorblind and my wife says its base is green and it fades to a brown/tan at the tips. .

Any guess on what you think it is?
]


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Current Tank Info: I'm growing GHA
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Old 12/11/2019, 08:58 AM   #10
ohashimz
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zalick View Post
It's tough to tell. I looked at it under a microscope at a local reef function and most thought that it was GHA. It's not segmented.

Visually, it doesn't quite match up with anything. I'm colorblind and my wife says its base is green and it fades to a brown/tan at the tips. .

Any guess on what you think it is?
]
Would it be possible to:
1- take a close up picture of the algae inside the tank?
2- take out spme.of the algae, place it on white paper kitchen towel and take a pic?



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Old 12/11/2019, 09:00 AM   #11
Zalick
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Originally Posted by ohashimz View Post
Would it be possible to:
1- take a close up picture of the algae inside the tank?
2- take out spme.of the algae, place it on white paper kitchen towel and take a pic?



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Yes, I'll try and do that this morning.

I'll also try to take a pic under a microscope at my wife's vet clinic.

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Current Tank Info: I'm growing GHA
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Old 12/11/2019, 09:03 AM   #12
ohashimz
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One more thing
Can you out the details of your system please
How old?
Dry rocks or live rocks?
Sand?
How did you cycle?
What's your bio and mechanical filtration?
What's your equipment?
Inhabitants?
Feeding?
Latest paramters(no3, po4, no2, alk, ca, salinity, temp)

Thanks

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Old 12/11/2019, 09:22 AM   #13
Zalick
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Originally Posted by ohashimz View Post
One more thing
Can you out the details of your system please
How old?
Dry rocks or live rocks?
Sand?
How did you cycle?
What's your bio and mechanical filtration?
What's your equipment?
Inhabitants?
Feeding?
Latest paramters(no3, po4, no2, alk, ca, salinity, temp)

Thanks

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The parameters in the initial post are the current parameters. I'll answer the other questions up there as well, for ease of reading for other members.

Here is a pic on paper towel.



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Current Tank Info: I'm growing GHA
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Old 12/11/2019, 09:33 AM   #14
Zalick
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You could consider something like AlgaeX or fluconazole. I think fluconazole is more commonly used for Bryopsis, but there are many species of algae, and we don't have useful data on what's in our tanks and how they respond.
Aside from my general reluctance to put chemicals in my tank, my wife said fluconazole can be hard on the liver in animals. She qualified that with she has no idea how a fish would absorb it in the tank and how it would metabolize. My biggest fear is losing my 10yr old clown, or any fish really.


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Current Tank Info: I'm growing GHA
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Old 12/11/2019, 09:35 AM   #15
Zalick
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Originally Posted by Oldreeferman View Post
Ive had GHA too it does blow, but only on tanks maturing thru cycles, and to be honest ive never had success with LEDs in the beginning (tho i see many have had good success)and that was also when i had the GHA was with that type of lighting. That could have just been bad timing and/or coincidence.
Im running T5HOs now and no algae at all in either tank tho and wish i could actually get a bit to grow as food for my scarlet hermits & pods but not happening go figure.
When i read about your long past good experiences lighting or a outside light source nearby came to my mind immediatly since i always keep my window closed in my aquarium area to stray outside light 24/7. After testing the rocks or your water what is left really but lighting?
I don't have any direct sunlight on the tank. One side gets indirect, diffuse, early morning. The other side gets none at all.

If I can't get this under control in another year, I may go back to T5 and/or MH.....


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Current Tank Info: I'm growing GHA
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Old 12/11/2019, 09:36 AM   #16
Zalick
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Originally Posted by Vinny Kreyling View Post
Pull a piece of rock ( test piece) & put it in RO water over night.
Check PO4 the next day. If it shows I would repeat the next day & see if it shows again.
This could be an indication of PO4 bound in the rock.
I thought I might be in the same boat with new dry rock but my tests were -0-.
This is a great idea. I have some of the same rock in my sump with 0 algae growing on it. I will try with that rock.


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Current Tank Info: I'm growing GHA
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Old 12/11/2019, 09:41 AM   #17
ohashimz
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Ok I know this might get annoying but:
Any chance you spread the algae out more on the paper towel and get close up pic? I want to see a stem if possible

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Old 12/11/2019, 09:54 AM   #18
Zalick
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Ok I know this might get annoying but:
Any chance you spread the algae out more on the paper towel and get close up pic? I want to see a stem if possible

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Headed to work. Will do this afternoon!


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Current Tank Info: I'm growing GHA
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Old 12/11/2019, 09:54 AM   #19
ohashimz
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It's still not clear to me what is your rock and sand situation.
You say system is 5 years old but you talk about curing the rocks.
Are the rocks 5 years old? Is the sand 5 years old?
What do you mean system is evolution of 5 years?

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Old 12/11/2019, 10:09 AM   #20
Zalick
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It's still not clear to me what is your rock and sand situation.
You say system is 5 years old but you talk about curing the rocks.
Are the rocks 5 years old? Is the sand 5 years old?
What do you mean system is evolution of 5 years?

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I had a 20 long that was started in 2009. It had maybe 20lbs of rock. In 2014, I started a 300g with this rock and the inhabitants. I purchased maybe 200lbs of fresh off the boat live rock and I cured this in a giant pond liner. Not a real scientific curing process. I did not measure phosphate. I kept heavy circulation kept it in the dark and changed the water every 2 days. I did that for about three months. Then it went into the 300 gallon tank. I ran the 300 gallon like that with bare bottom for a few months. I wanted to make sure that it was stable before I introduced the fish from my old tank. I put sand in the tank in about 2016 to keep certain wrasses.



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Old 12/11/2019, 10:31 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Zalick View Post
I had a 20 long that was started in 2009. It had maybe 20lbs of rock. In 2014, I started a 300g with this rock and the inhabitants. I purchased maybe 200lbs of fresh off the boat live rock and I cured this in a giant pond liner. Not a real scientific curing process. I did not measure phosphate. I kept heavy circulation kept it in the dark and changed the water every 2 days. I did that for about three months. Then it went into the 300 gallon tank. I ran the 300 gallon like that with bare bottom for a few months. I wanted to make sure that it was stable before I introduced the fish from my old tank. I put sand in the tank in about 2016 to keep certain wrasses.



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Why would you cure a live rocks thu? The whole idea of buying live rocks is to use it without curing.. when you cured the live rocks you killed all the organism on it's, so you better make sure it's no longer leaching po4 before you add it.
There is a high chance your rocks (the old rocks cause they were in old systems and the new rocks cause you cured it that way) is saturated with po4 that's why you do not have detectable po4 in the water column but rocks itself has, so algae grow and live off what's the rocks are leaching. That also light explain why some places there is no algae...

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Old 12/11/2019, 11:25 AM   #22
Zalick
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Why would you cure a live rocks thu? The whole idea of buying live rocks is to use it without curing.. when you cured the live rocks you killed all the organism on it's, so you better make sure it's no longer leaching po4 before you add it.
There is a high chance your rocks (the old rocks cause they were in old systems and the new rocks cause you cured it that way) is saturated with po4 that's why you do not have detectable po4 in the water column but rocks itself has, so algae grow and live off what's the rocks are leaching. That also light explain why some places there is no algae...

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I liked the rocks, didn't want the organisms on it. Didn't want to introduce any nasty pests. Your points above boil down to: does bound phosphate in rock leach? There is quite a bit of debate around this question.

In my system, this may be happening. However, I have a pile of the same rock in my sump, without light so no algae. If it were leaching large amounts of phosphates, I should be able to see that with my Hanna ULR tester.


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Current Tank Info: I'm growing GHA
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Old 12/11/2019, 11:37 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Zalick View Post
I liked the rocks, didn't want the organisms on it. Didn't want to introduce any nasty pests. Your points above boil down to: does bound phosphate in rock leach? There is quite a bit of debate around this question.



In my system, this may be happening. However, I have a pile of the same rock in my sump, without light so no algae. If it were leaching large amounts of phosphates, I should be able to see that with my Hanna ULR tester.
I think you are mixing things a bit and confusing yourself.
In the sump you do not have light, so even if there nutrients, without light algae will not grow. So just because same rocks do not have algae in the sump it doesnot mean rocks are not the issue.
Am not yet concluding rocks are the issue btw, we need more data and testing to understand exactly what is fueling this algae.
Ine thing for sure, something is fueling this algae, finding it is the key to cure it.
What fuel algae is not only po4.. depend on the algae here is a list of what can cause algae outbreak.
-High Po4/no3
-Silica leaching from types of silicon tubings
-Iron and some metals that can keqch from magnets and or rusted equipments
- light or specific spectrum of light




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Old 12/11/2019, 11:43 AM   #24
Zalick
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ohashimz View Post
I think you are mixing things a bit and confusing yourself.
In the sump you do not have light, so even if there nutrients, without light algae will not grow. So just because same rocks do not have algae in the sump it doesnot mean rocks are not the issue.
Am not yet concluding rocks are the issue btw, we need more data and testing to understand exactly what is fueling this algae.
What I meant with my sump rock example was this: The same rock is in my sump. If the rock is leaching phosphates, this rock would be leaching phosphates. Since the sump rock does not have algae growing on it, the phosphates leached by this rock would enter the water column v. being consumed by the adjacent algae. If these phosphates are released by the sump rock, in to the water column, I would be able to detect them with my Hanna ULR tester.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ohashimz View Post
Ine thing for sure, something is fueling this algae, finding it is the key to cure it.
What fuel algae is not only po4.. depend on the algae here is a list of what can cause algae outbreak.
-High Po4/no3
-Silica leaching from types of silicon tubings
-Iron and some metals that can keqch from magnets and or rusted equipments
- light or specific spectrum of light

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My PO4 and NO3 are both undetectable, but clearly not 0. So this algae must be able to live on extremely low levels of this.

I have no silicone tubing. And no other obvious sources of silica aside from the sand.

No leaking magnets. But I was running GFO which likely added some iron to the water column.

The algae started with my LED lights..... (I'm not blaming the lights yet....)


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Old 12/11/2019, 11:49 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ohashimz View Post
Why would you cure a live rocks thu? The whole idea of buying live rocks is to use it without curing.. when you cured the live rocks you killed all the organism on it's, so you better make sure it's no longer leaching po4 before you add it.
There is a high chance your rocks (the old rocks cause they were in old systems and the new rocks cause you cured it that way) is saturated with po4 that's why you do not have detectable po4 in the water column but rocks itself has, so algae grow and live off what's the rocks are leaching. That also light explain why some places there is no algae...

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I have always cured my live rock. For me itís one of the oldest practices around. Gets rid of unwanted hitchhikers. Sponges. Nems. The bacteria living within the rock is what you want. Not the crap attached to the rock. Itís been years since I purchased live rock from a fish store but we would have a option of cured or uncured rock. The uncured we would put in trash cans for a couple weeks with airstone and skimmers to kill the bad stuff off. This would keep from ammonia and nitrite spikes.
I personally believe itís the dry rock that is mined from old dry reefs that the phosphate leaches from. This is just a thought. Been in hobby since the 80ís. I actually have Hawaiian rock in my tank. I have had it since then (before the reefs were closed off) and have never had a issue with that or any purchased live rock. Itís only when I have mixed mined reef rock or manufactured rock that I have developed a algae problem.


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