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My Slice of Nature (Part 3)

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Cause related to DOC may be hard to prove without controlled experiments & proper equipment. What I have is anecdotal data which may not be able to demonstrate root cause or nail down to the factors affecting the result. Bacteria is a new topic & am keen to explore more.

I did notice 2 incidences of massive SPS RTN (really overnight) several days apart. A slimy cloud was observed just above the rocks. Sections of various SPS colonies in contact with the slimy cloud had the flesh peel off overnight. Everything else above it was OK. In both incidences, the tank were fed with Ocean Nutrition Oyster Feast the night before. Don't get me wrong.... Oyster Feast is fantastic food for the tank. But this bottle went bad -> And hence I was actually dosing massive ammonia laden liquid onto the corals. 

Once the cloud was turkey basted away, the RTN stopped. Coral did not recede further.

I mention this here to highlight the importance of ensuring you feed the freshest food possible. I noticed something odd on this bottle of Oyster Feast. Whenever the cap was popped open, there was air gushing out (like opening a coke bottle). I didn't recall this in previous bottles used. I supposed that it'll stink of fishy stuff if it had gone bad. But instead it smelt a little sour. I thought it was odd but continued to use it because good money was spent of it. (just a week old...$30 bottle of food).  After 2 incidences, I put some oyster feast under the microscope. 2 observations :

1) Bubbles continued to form between the 2 layers of glass slide. Some kind of gas (CO2? Nitrogen?). The drop of oyster feast is fermenting.



2) The liquid was quite clear. Very tiny bits were present but most of it was liquid. It is very different from microscopy pic of what it should look like.



My conclusion is that the food had gone bad. The addition of this increased the level of ammonia / DOC, arising in a cloud of ciliates. Some reefers may refer this as 'bacteria cloud' which in reality is a bacteria layer loaded with ciliates.



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It has been one month+ since using the Mastertronic. And about 3yrs+ with the Alkatronic. There has been queries from fellow reefers along the way. I'll share some pics & comments here.

Let's start  with Mastertronic.

Configuration & setup Mine is set up to run Ca, Mg, PO4 & NO3. 

While the Mastertronic is able to test Alkalinity (using Salifert test kit), I configured mine to skip alkalinity and continue to use Alkatronic to measure this parameter. Alkatronic uses its own proprietary reagent to measure the change of pH using a pH probe. Each bottle can last ~2500 tests => at least 1.5yrs based on 4 tests per day. Moreover, the Alkatronic has an extra dosing pump to automatically dose alkalinity solution when it drops below the range.



Accuracy The Mastertronic use various test kits major brands, namely Red Sea (Phosphate, Magnesium), Fauna Marin (Nitrate), API (Calcium), Salifert (Alkalinity). I did some manual testing using the same test kits just to check accuracy. Mastertronic is spot on accurate for all the parameters. However, I did notice that Magnesium seems to read higher on Red Sea test kit compared to Salifert Magnesium. I'd trust the Red Sea Magnesium test kit a little more since it is all liquid reagents. On the other hand Salifert kit uses some crystals in the testing that is quite hygroscopic (absorbs moisture). I suspect this affects the accuracy since I'm actually adding less crystals when its laden with moisture. In any case, the small difference does not bother me.


Overall the Mastertronic has been quite problem free. A couple of things to take note during installation. Some have complained of bent needles. I've not had any issues personally. I suppose its important to ensure the needle is fully inserted & fairly straight.



A more likely cause of bent needles is improper positioning of the vials of reagent. The bottles must be fully inserted in the carousel. If the cap is not fully closed, the top may not slide in properly and result in the needle poking the plastic lid (instead of the silicone membrane). The needle may also bend further if its inserted at an angle, into an unclipped & moving vial.


This is the inside view of the Mastertronic.175992440_IMG_9033(Medium).JPG.0c61dd78e364e2436cc5b85b6f1bdca9.JPG


At work, my boss often says "What gets measured gets done". In the same way, having water parameters get tested on its own, on a regular basis, ensures you are on top of water parameters. Encourages one to take action towards the target numbers. My numbers are not perfect but getting there. 



Test frequency :

  • Nitrate : 1x a week
  • Phosphate : 2x a week
  • NO3 : 1x a week
  • Magnesium : 1x a week
  • OLI : 1x a week
  • Alkalinity (via Alkatronic) : 4x a day

So far, all is good with the Mastertronic. New firmware updates are pushed down to the unit automatically and cloud connectivity has been reliable. As with any new products, we expect to see more firmware releases in the initial months as corner case bugs get resolved. So far none has affected my operation. 


Next topic on Alkatronic. its been a workhorse since February 2018 (see original post here https://www.sgreefclub.com/forum/topic/142862-my-slice-of-nature-part-3/?do=findComment&comment=1318876)

Looking back, it probably saved my tank on several occasions. I will never run a tank without one. From the 4x daily KH measurements, you are able to understand what's going on.

  • KH dropping very fast during the day (when lights are on). I'm using a calcium reactor. Tank consumes about 1.7dKH a day. With the alkatronic, it is possible to detect if the calcium reactor outlet tube is clogging as less effluent is coming out. This happened before when I was away on a business trip. I then triggered a fellow reefer to my place to unclog the calcium reactor. In the meantime, the Alkatronic was dosing alkalinity solution till help arrived.
  • KH decreases gradually over the week. This could either be the dosing is slowing down gradually (measure it). Or a sign that the corals are consuming more
  • Unable to hold KH levels. Bigger than usual swings from day to day. This is a tell tale sign of low salinity. I usually get this if salinity drops to about 1.023 - 1.024SG (instead of 1.026 / 35ppt)
  • KH increases gradually over the week. There could be 2 reasons 
    • More is being dosed. Check calcium reactor effluent rate or dosing pump accuracy
    • Corals not growing / consuming (more likely case). When this happens, its usually some water parameter is out of balance. Usually I'll detect that potassium is very low (eg. 350ppm instead of target 400ppm) or Magnesium (1260ppm instead of target 1400ppm). I've also noticed that dosing trace elements increase consumption slightly.
  • KH increases beyond 13dKH. This is usually a hardware fault. The maximum that Alkatronic can read is 13dKH and give a Code3 error. The unit determines the kH level based on the amount of reagent added. Higher alkalinity if more reagent is added. 
    • However if the reagent nozzle is clogged, no reagent is dispensed into the beaker, but the unit is still counting the volume. Check the pink nozzle. Unclog it. In my case, I snipped a bigger hole and recalibrated the pump. The issue didn't come back again.


    • Reagent tubes leaking. The only tube that has a higher chance of leaking is the 1.6mm one for the reagent. It stretches over a acrylic tube. Especially if you tug & pull it, it can develop micro holes or cracks over time. 
    • As a preventive step, I snip off the ends ever 6 months or so.



This is what it looks like after 3 years of use. 

The internal peristaltic pump tubes and the 1.6mm reagent hoses have been changed once around the  2.5yr mark. You can see from the color of the hoses.  The pH probe is still the original set. Its calibrated once every 6-9 months.



I've changed the hoses once so far. They weren't leaking or anything but just a preventive move. 





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Picked up a frag from fellow reefer recently. All the best on your future plans.



Here it is in my tank. Hope I can maintain the lovely colors.514584185_P4170586(Medium).JPG.ad99d687e9a0b8d7e103ad90a28970aa.JPG


Some other pics taken yesterday. Most with yellow filter.


Bali shortcake (From Coral Fanatics SG)1205165822_P4170593(Medium)(1).JPG.5751f04460380389cbf2e312f0bfb633.JPG


Divaricata (From Coral Fanatics SG)1988321313_P4170565(Medium).JPG.46f5f93b0ce7417cbb9cc2034e900083.JPG


Space Invaders Pectinia (From Coral Fanatics SG)325811484_P4170604(Medium).JPG.a1f83e85e9ad2539750a437486b2a830.JPG


Horrida (From Reefing Reality)786150386_P4170599(Medium).JPG.9e296bca1cab8e859108b4ef2c056e08.JPG


From reefer (originally from S5)





Love the colors of this branching hammer (From Coral Fanatics SG)1810333216_P4170556(Medium).JPG.71230f144aa11606abf3e1e91c8d5c04.JPG


Holy Grail torch



Fiji pink birdsnest




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On 4/18/2021 at 10:39 AM, R0B said:

I second that hahaha. Have you ever thought of doing a live stream q&a ?

Sent from Singapore Reef Club mobile app

Ha...did a short one during the last SRC Visits event on 21st March. Can always do another one if there is enough interest. But I think there are more interesting folks to chat with :)

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Received some queries what I feed my tank, how if it affects nitrate levels, and my opinion on Reed Roids.
I feed minced fish/prawn meat & pellet food to the fishes daily. And Reef Roids to the corals about 3 times a week.
Specific for Roids Roids, it’s a very good zooplankton based food for SPS, LPS and filter feeders.
Broadcast feed is perfectly fine. In my case, both the return pumps & wavemakers go into feed mode, so the bits float around the display tank longer and be captured by the coral polyps. 
Mix with a bit of tank water to make it relatively thick.
But most of the time, I’ll turn off the return pump and wavemakers then target feed the corals. And enjoy the sight of the corals’ feeding response. After 15-20min, turn on the wavemakers to allow the food to circulate in the display tank. After a further 10min, turn the return pumps back on. No big issues with nutrients. A quick check last week showed its 6.3ppm, which is alright.
Gonios love it.
While some can get away with not feeding SPS corals, I find they fare much better with feeding.  Also, polyps will extend more regularly, especially for millipora. 
It’s interesting to see how some LPS respond to fine food - they secrete a mucous layer to capture the reef roids then suck in through their mouth .
A quick video :

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I have this particular pink birdsnest frag that has stubborn bubble algae that keeps coming back despite best effort to scrape off the bubble algae (out of tank).



While we know that zoanthids in general are tolerant of diluted hydrogen peroxide dips, the general belief is never to let Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) touch SPS. As a last resort, I dipped it in about 0.3% H2O2 for about 1-2 minute after manually removing as much bubble algae as possible. You can see the frag bubbling away.


That frag was dipped on 4th April. Its alive & growing well today :)


Some will take the safer route of using Vibrant.

But if you have just an isolated case & want to use H2O2, its at your own risk.

Best to 'test' with a small frag ahead of time. Below is the dilution recipe for 3% H2O2 to 0.3%. Add 10ml of H202 (3%) to 90ml of RODI water (to make a final volume of 100ml). 



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