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The Tragedy of 99%

My roseband wrasse died due to my negligence. 

After routine cleaning of the sand bed,  I place the jump guard back as usual. This time round,  I didn't put it back properly, and there is a 1/2 inch gap between the panels. 

Well.

The 1/2 inch thick fish through sheer will and coincidence, jump through the 1/2 inch gap, trapped on top of the jump guard,  and died. 

99% of my tank was covered. 1% killed the fish. 

 

The Lesson of Inevitability 

We always hope the aquarium is accident free. However, hope is after all,  hope.  Without warning, a sea cucumber may decide to sleep at the over flow and block it;  an anemone may decide to put it's foot through a wave maker. Or maybe a turbo snail may decide to knock over the most expensive frag, so that it drop into the arms of a torch coral. 

No,  it doesn't happen often. It probably doesn't happen for many years. But remember, all it takes is once,  and the damage is permenant. 

Given the confine of the aquarium,  it's not the question of if,  but a question of when,  the misfortune will happen. 

So, as reefers, we need to be vigilant. Don't let the 1% carelessness undo the diligence of 99%

PSX_20210314_104431.jpg.c631f0a8b8dbb3cf2f49662ab4b7c7ca.jpg

*looks like I have to get a roseband wrasse again. 

 

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Variety is (Not) the Spice of Life

One of the ever green reefing dogma is "Feed a varied diet". If a fish is sick or recovering, if an aquarist looking for better fish growth,  or more vibrant color,  the advise is almost always "feed a varied diet". This idea has been around since the very beginning of reefing,  and is still held as the golden truth by many. 

But is it

 

At the Beginning 

At the infancy of reefing,  there is really not much choices for fish food. Banana,  cooked spinach, discus pellets,  these are the food which are given to the marine fishes. These food does not have the correct nutrient profile for our marine inhabitants.  Aquarist soon realised. If they were to feed only spinach to tangs,  they don't do all that well;  if they feed only tubifex worms,  the fish also don't do that well. However,  if they mix and match different foods (at some arbitrary proportion), the fish fare much better. 

The idea that varied diet is important stem from the limitation that there is no good food for marine fishes. 

 

The Advancements 

Thank goodness those days are behind us. We the modern reefers a blessed with much better understanding, as well as amazing products in fish nutrition. In many prepared foods,  ingredients of marine origin takes centre stage.  Cold extrusion process reduce nutritional damage to whole marine organisms.  (Micro)encapsulation ensure precious lipids such HUFA are not degraded rapidly. Freeze-drying, chilled gut-loaded planktons,  we are now equipped with many options for good fish nutrition. 

Therefore it's possible to supply generally complete nutrition to a fish through a single well designed fish food. 

Then will it be better to mix pellets?  It must be better to have even more choices,  right?  Anyway, I need to use up the bottle of xxx food. So it's better to mix them? 

This is where I have a different take. In my opinion,  mixing food reduces, rather than supplement  the nutrition profile.  Hear me out. 

 

Junk Food for Better Nutrition? 

Imagine making a commitment to have a healthy diet.  After planning out all the meals,  you see the packets of junk food on the counter top.

"Let's add in all these junk food into the diet plan,  maybe I can replace some of the healthy option with potato chips. Afterall,  they would help to make the nutrition complete. "

The absurdity of this is, i hope, obvious. In the same vein, by substituting a high quality food with a lower quality one for the sake of variety, is an exercise in futility. 

 

Do Your Fishes Mind? 

I highly doubt it. Fishes evolved their physiology and behavior to take advantage of the limited food source in their environment. Some fishes are so specialized such that they eat a single type of food in the wild. I guess when we mix different color of pellets together to feed the fish, it feels more "right" to us. To the fishes?  I don't think they care. 

So think again when u want to offer your fishes "a variety of food"

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The Tragedy of 99%
My roseband wrasse died due to my negligence. 
After routine cleaning of the sand bed,  I place the jump guard back as usual. This time round,  I didn't put it back properly, and there is a 1/2 inch gap between the panels. 
Well.
The 1/2 inch thick fish through sheer will and coincidence, jump through the 1/2 inch gap, trapped on top of the jump guard,  and died. 
99% of my tank was covered. 1% killed the fish. 
 
The Lesson of Inevitability 
We always hope the aquarium is accident free. However, hope is after all,  hope.  Without warning, a sea cucumber may decide to sleep at the over flow and block it;  an anemone may decide to put it's foot through a wave maker. Or maybe a turbo snail may decide to knock over the most expensive frag, so that it drop into the arms of a torch coral. 
No,  it doesn't happen often. It probably doesn't happen for many years. But remember, all it takes is once,  and the damage is permenant. 
Given the confine of the aquarium,  it's not the question of if,  but a question of when,  the misfortune will happen. 
So, as reefers, we need to be vigilant. Don't let the 1% carelessness undo the diligence of 99%
PSX_20210314_104431.jpg.c631f0a8b8dbb3cf2f49662ab4b7c7ca.jpg
*looks like I have to get a roseband wrasse again. 
 


Sorry for your loss, happen to me too, scooter blenny jump out through the smallest gap, i tot wouldnt happen but it did. Need to cover all the gaps.


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22 hours ago, Otaku Reefer said:

Sorry for your loss, happen to me too, scooter blenny jump out through the smallest gap, i tot wouldnt happen but it did. Need to cover all the gaps.

Thank you. 

Yes. The mantra is: do it properly,  or don't do it at all.  

This applies to all things reefing :thumbsup:

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The Algae

Algae is one of the "pest" reefers tries to control. How to deal with excessive algal growth in the aquarium?  This is one of the challenges which many reefers face. 

The conventional wisdom (if you read through my posts, you will know I'm not a fan of blinding believing in them)is that, one must tackle the algae problem at its source. By addressing the underlying nutrient problem,  we can overcome the algae problem. To many,  this means reducing nitrate and phosphate in the water.  

I, however, think that this view is missing out on the bigger picture. 

 

Algae in the Reef 

Just like the corals,  algae evolves to take advantage of the sun light,  and produce their energy supply through photosynthesis. At the same time,  they require inorganic nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate in order to build its biomass. So, suppose if we can deny the algae of these nutrients,  by lower the nitrate and phosphate to very low levels,  surely we can control the aglae growth, right? 

It's not that simple. Unfortunately, algae evolved to take advantage of the environment where coral thrives. They can survive, and thrive, even under very low level of nutrients,  such as that of a coral reef. So in the blind rush to drive down the nutrients,  one often realise that the first to suffer is corals,  not algae. 

Therefore,  dealing with algae by driving down nutrients, is probably not the best direction. 

 

Algae NOT on the Reef

Having said all these, we are face with another interesting fact: natural reefs are not overrun with algae. This is not because algae cannot grow in the reef,  but because herbivores residing in the reef place a grazing pressure on those growth. Tangs,  foxface, angelfish and various inverts continuously prey on the algae,  and keeps the population from overrunning the reef. 

Therefore,  the key to algae control is having a sufficient population of herbivores.  And that's the natures' way to keep algae in check.

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Algae and Nutrients

In the previous post, I discussed how reducing nutrients is not the key to algae management. But if we over-generalize and think that nutrients management is not important for algae control,  then we can't be further from the truth. 

In order to apply grazing pressure on algae,  we need to introduce herbivores. But if these herbivores do not graze on the algal growth, then all is for naught. We reefers know well enough that fishes do have a preferences, as well as avoidance for centain food. Therefore,  getting the aquarium to grow predominantly the correct type of algae,  is the key to herbivorous control. 

An example is the venerable yellow tang. Yellow tangs readily graze on green hair algae. It use the spade like teeth to cut the algae as it feed. However,  if an aquarium has a sudden disruption, and has an outbreak of cyanobacteria,  we can observe something interesting. When cyanobacteria covers the green hair algae, it's no longer palatable to yellow tangs,  and the grazing stops. 

 

The Algae Bender 

Therefore to keep a pristine aquarium, the aquarist need only to manipulate the algal population in the aquarium,  so that one or two species is dominant,  then ensure there is the corresponding herbivores to keep these algae in check. 

So how do we manipulation algae population?  It's not as if we go around buying hair algae and bryopsis to throw inside the aquarium. 

We do that by managing the nutrients. Nitrate and phosphate, in their organic and inorganic forms. Different nutrient level gives advantage to different algae.  Generally speaking,  higher organics contents gives rise to more bacteria-like algae such as cyano and dino; higher phosphate tends to courage growth of brown algae. 

 

At the end of the day, manage the nutrient,  manage the algae. 

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Algae and Nutrients
In the previous post, I discussed how reducing nutrients is not the key to algae management. But if we over-generalize and think that nutrients management is not important for algae control,  then we can't be further from the truth. 
In order to apply grazing pressure on algae,  we need to introduce herbivores. But if these herbivores do not graze on the algal growth, then all is for naught. We reefers know well enough that fishes do have a preferences, as well as avoidance for centain food. Therefore,  getting the aquarium to grow predominantly the correct type of algae,  is the key to herbivorous control. 
An example is the venerable yellow tang. Yellow tangs readily graze on green hair algae. It use the spade like teeth to cut the algae as it feed. However,  if an aquarium has a sudden disruption, and has an outbreak of cyanobacteria,  we can observe something interesting. When cyanobacteria covers the green hair algae, it's no longer palatable to yellow tangs,  and the grazing stops. 
 
The Algae Bender 
Therefore to keep a pristine aquarium, the aquarist need only to manipulate the algal population in the aquarium,  so that one or two species is dominant,  then ensure there is the corresponding herbivores to keep these algae in check. 
So how do we manipulation algae population?  It's not as if we go around buying hair algae and bryopsis to throw inside the aquarium. 
We do that by managing the nutrients. Nitrate and phosphate, in their organic and inorganic forms. Different nutrient level gives advantage to different algae.  Generally speaking,  higher organics contents gives rise to more bacteria-like algae such as cyano and dino; higher phosphate tends to courage growth of brown algae. 
 
At the end of the day, manage the nutrient,  manage the algae. 



This is not true. Where did you get the info that highrt organics trigger dinos, cyano and inorganics trigger brown algae?



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1 minute ago, peedeers said:

This is not true. Where did you get the info that highrt organics trigger dinos, cyano and inorganics trigger brown algae?

This is thru my observation and testing in my aquarium. In every instance of cyano and dino occurance, my aquarium have low orp levels,  likely indicating that organic levels in the aquarium is high. Taking measures to address these organics,  for example thru the use of enzymes, or by increasing the amount of activated carbon, has significantly reduce these growth. 

Same goes for brown algae,  I observe the algae growth is more "brown" rather than "green" when the phosphate level is higher. And when the nitrate level is elevated, I do see more green algae. 

 

So these are my observations. Not conclusive of course, but I think it's something worth considering 

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8 minutes ago, peedeers said:

trigger

To make it clearer, it is not a case of "trigger", but more of a case where the environment allows some algae to outcompete others. Therefore one observes a "spike"

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This is thru my observation and testing in my aquarium. In every instance of cyano and dino occurance, my aquarium have low orp levels,  likely indicating that organic levels in the aquarium is high. Taking measures to address these organics,  for example thru the use of enzymes, or by increasing the amount of activated carbon, has significantly reduce these growth. 
Same goes for brown algae,  I observe the algae growth is more "brown" rather than "green" when the phosphate level is higher. And when the nitrate level is elevated, I do see more green algae. 
 
So these are my observations. Not conclusive of course, but I think it's something worth considering 


Okay want clear that it was just based your own ancedotal observation. If you looked at orp, you could also argue that maybr dinos/cyano causes reduced oxygen levels . In my case I have not seen that happening though. Activated carbon has had no impact on cyanos or dinos.
Also aside from just correllation how would you explain organics causing dinos?




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52 minutes ago, peedeers said:

dinos/cyano causes reduced oxygen levels

Yes. Correlation does not imply causation for sure. But in this case,  I would think they increase rather than decrease oxygen levels though. 

52 minutes ago, peedeers said:

how would you explain organics causing dinos?

There are many researches on how dinoflagellates are able to utilize organics phosphates (Yang,2020) so there is basis to this hypothesis. 

53 minutes ago, peedeers said:

Activated carbon has had no impact on cyanos or dinos.

Not directly, no. But it can adsorb dissolved organic compounds, leave less available for dinos or cyanos.  One has to realize it's unlikely going to be a situation of quick resolution.  Dino and cyanos are extremely adaptive, and share many similarity with bacteria and algae alike. so an aggressive approach can also disrupt the other parts of the ecosystem. It's the deliberate shift in the aquarium enviroment which work for me every time. 

 

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Not directly, no. But it can adsorb dissolved organic compounds, leave less available for dinos or cyanos.  One has to realize it's unlikely going to be a situation of quick resolution.  Dino and cyanos are extremely adaptive, and share many similarity with bacteria and algae alike. so an aggressive approach can also disrupt the other parts of the ecosystem. It's the deliberate shift in the aquarium enviroment which work for me every time. 
 



You said dinos and cyanos decreased your ORP levels earlier ?

Heres a study that phosphates enhance the growth of toxic dinos

https://res.mdpi.com/d_attachment/sustainability/sustainability-12-04992/article_deploy/sustainability-12-04992.pdf

Heres a study that shows uptake of organic and inorganic N on Ostreopsis- the kind that we usually deal with in our tanks

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316157113_Uptake_of_dissolved_inorganic_and_organic_nitrogen_by_the_benthic_toxic_dinoflagellate_Ostreopsis_cf_ovata








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13 minutes ago, peedeers said:

You said dinos and cyanos decreased your ORP levels earlier ?

What I was saying is when the aquarium have higher amount of organics,  the orp tends to be lower,  and dino/cyano thrives better under this conditions.  Not the other way round. 

 

15 minutes ago, peedeers said:

Heres a study that phosphates enhance the growth of toxic dinos

https://res.mdpi.com/d_attachment/sustainability/sustainability-12-04992/article_deploy/sustainability-12-04992.pdf

Heres a study that shows uptake of organic and inorganic N on Ostreopsis- the kind that we usually deal with in our tanks

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316157113_Uptake_of_dissolved_inorganic_and_organic_nitrogen_by_the_benthic_toxic_dinoflagellate_Ostreopsis_cf_ovata

N and P are both needed for all sort of algae to grow. Just that different algae have different(additional) mechanism to uptake the said nitrates and phosphate. For example, cyanobacteria can fix dissolved nitrogen.  On the other hand,  many species of dino takes up organic phosphates effectively.  

P. S.  The first cited article also show how the nutrients level of the system can affect the proliferation of some species of algae. 

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N and P are both needed for all sort of algae to grow. Just that different algae have different(additional) mechanism to uptake the said nitrates and phosphate. For example, cyanobacteria can fix dissolved nitrogen.  On the other hand,  many species of dino takes up organic phosphates effectively.  
P. S.  The first cited article also show how the nutrients level of the system can affect the proliferation of some species of algae. 


Yes thats my point. Does not matter whether organics are high or not for them to trigger.


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I would avoid using the word trigger,  because they do not just "come into existence" once the organic phosphate reaches a certain level. 

What happens is that a higher proportion of organic phosphate causes a shift of "algae" population such that the proportion of dino becomes much greater. That's the dino outbreak. 

 

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I would avoid using the word trigger,  because they do not just "come into existence" once the organic phosphate reaches a certain level. 
What happens is that a higher proportion of organic phosphate causes a shift of "algae" population such that the proportion of dino becomes much greater. That's the dino outbreak. 
 


At the end its semantics, but shifts or trigger can happen at low or high organics.

Good write-up btw, dont see anything other than classified posts on the forum, so this is great.


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26 minutes ago, peedeers said:

low or high organics

Interesting point because reefers mostly don't assess the organic level of their aquarium. So if there are aquarium with low organic level,  and starts a dino bloom. That would be interesting to study. 

 

29 minutes ago, peedeers said:

Good write-up btw, dont see anything other than classified posts on the forum, so this is great

Thank you. What I find even better is this kind of discussion. Which is much more valuable than just my one person's perspective. 

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Regular Water Change 

Many new reefers are drawn to the idea of no water change, and tries many different methods while fixated on that goal. In my opinion,  is misguided. 

Regular water change with RO/DI water and a quality salt mix is one of the most fool-proof ways to maintain the water quality of an aquarium. 

Reefers today are blessed with reliable salt mixes which are easy to mix.  Many of them are even batch tested with ICP to ensure the macro, micro and trace elements are right where they should be. When properly mixed,  this water is a good foundation for the aquatic lives we keep.  When using RO/DI water to mix the new water,  we avoid introducing additional elements: copper rust from pipes,  residue bacteria, or any of the trace elements already in our utility water. This ensures the final mixed water is exactly like the manufacturer intended. By doing this water change regularly, aquarists attempts to shift the water parameters of the aquarium closer to the salt mix, and in doing so,  improve the water quality.  

In many aquariums,  regular water change can help the aquarist manage the nutrient levels. Just like a much needed nap in the weekend,  water change removes some excess, accumulated, nutrients.  It also replenishes,  or better still,  adjusts the trace element levels,  and nudge it closer to the ideal ranges, without even needing any expensive water tests. 

 

Limitations

Just like any tool in the reefer's arsenal, regular water change has some limitations. 

If the nutrient level is significantly elevated, a small water change of 10-20% does not meaningfully corrects the problem. 

Secondly, in many reefs,  one cannot count on using water change to replenish the reef building elements.  If the consumption of those elements are high,  they need to be supplemented on a daily basis. Topping them up once per week through water change is not ideal. 

Having said that,  regular water change is still a cheap and effective method for reefers to upkeep their aquarium. 

 

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But...  I don't do Regular Water Change 

I'm not an advocate for no water change,  but I do believe that reefers need to understand the value of their actions. 

If the nutrients in the aquarium remains stable at the desirable level,  and the reef building elements are stable at the desirable level.  The benefits of water change becomes greatly diminished.  

 

Trace Elements? 

In many aquarium, the trace elements are poorly measured and understood. Other than dosing of trace elements,  the food we feed,  the products we use,  all contribute to the trace elements in the aquarium. ICP gives us a glimps of the amount of trace elements in the aquarium. However, it's limit of detection for many elements does not paint us the full picture. Fortunately,  slightly elevated trace elements levels dose not immediately cause problem in our reef aquarium. 

 

In the Long Run

We can managed the nutrient level,  as well and the reef building elements reasonably well in the long run (years),  but what we can't do,  is to prevent thr slow build up of some unknown substances after a long period of time. Take for example,  the pellet may contain some trace additives,  in the long run,  these may accumulate in the aquarium system.  So although I have no plans to do regular water change at this moment, I would probably do a 50% change every other year. 

 

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My Acropolis today

PSX_20210402_134322.jpg.abb7a6ff600e1a825952cfb32b50df4c.jpg

Actual tank looks much brighter. HDR is needed to capture the details of bright and dark places. (Just like how it is outdoors) 

 

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What camera you use for that shot? Stunning!

 

 

There's nothing to see here. 

But do check out my articles! https://www.sgreefclub.com/home/

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/floratiaracoral/

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  • 3 weeks later...

A Month of Mishaps 

Several unfortunate events took place this month.  Here's  a run down. 

1. Bye-bye Achilles 

At the beginning of the month,  my achillies tang suddenly came down with a severe bacteria infection. It died after two days. 

The running of zeo system precludes the use of UV and Ozone,  that is one down side I have to keep in mind. This is an important consideration for me to stay away from some fishes as long as I'm using zeolite based filtration. 

Also,  for a system which is very bacteria driven,  I think its also potentially conducive for pathogenic bacteria to replicate rapidly. Therefore I will steer towards a lower fish load to give me larger margin. 

 

2. Unchin and Clam

One of my urchin fell on a squamosa clam,  and got stuck in the inhalent siphon. It's a case of mutually assured destruction. Very unfortunate. 

 

3. Compressor and Jinx

I was sharing with a reefer that compressors are very reliable.  The same night,  the compressor leaked. When I realised my birdnest corals are uncharacteristically bare, my aquarium temperature is at 30.5 degrees. 

What a case of global warming in my own living room. Fortunately, iwarna was able to help install a new compressor the next day.  My Acropolis endured with majority of it's inhabitants alive. 

The color of the coral is washed out somewhat. But if they survive, it is just a matter of time before the color comes back. 

The surge of temperature also wrecked havoc on my microbe population. There is probably some die-off,  as well as some rebalancing of dominant bacteria colonies. It will be a while before the system stablizes again. 

 

PSX_20210424_223802.jpg.522b2b1c0c464cbf38573863697a0fde.jpg

Nightfall on Acropolis, here is to a less eventful May. 

 

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