HELP! Advice for getting rid of cyanobacteria, tank details enclosed

Discussion in 'Marine Algae & Plants' started by bugmenot, Oct 12, 2019.

  1. bugmenot

    bugmenot New Member

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    Hi, I've read a lot of the suggestions on the internet regarding containing cyanobacteria. I'd like to give more specifics about my tank so that I can choose the right treatment, because I have been unable to get it under control.

    What I have:
    - marine tank, 32g biocube (given to me by a friend)
    - live rock, unsure if it's been cured, i think not.
    - nitrates/nitrites near 0ppm
    - ammonia at 0ppm
    - ph ~8.1
    - lights on from 11:30am - 9:15pm
    - tank temp is usually ~80F
    - have used ultralife red slime product 2 times over a month.
    - running a protein skimmer and carbon? filter's meant for the biocube
    - carbon filter is ~3 weeks old.
    - Have tried a 3 day 'brown out' (did not black out the tank, but did not turn on the light for 3 days, then used ultralife).
    - Livestock: 1 choco chip starfish, 1 turbo snail, 1 Green spotted puffer
    - Likely not overfeeding. I feed the green spotted puffer a little bit of frozen krill every other day, from tongs. Barely any waste other than from what he spits out of his mouth (very little).
    - Phosphates at >= 10ppm

    Red slime accumulates in areas that get light. On top of rocks, on substrate. Does not accumulate on substrate under rocks. This stuff will come back in 2-3 days after cleaning out the tank and scrubbing it off or taking it out with a turkey baster.

    I've narrowed my problem down to the following:
    - phosphates from rocks/substrate? I haven't checked levels, don't have a means to test.
    - probably not overfeeding/nitrates/nitrates (3 tests at different times, all near 0).

    Is phosphates likely my problem? If so, what should I do to reduce the amount? I'd rather not take the rocks out at this point if possible, I've read about phosphate-depleting mixes I could use, but I'd like to get this cyanobacteria out for good so want to make sure I choose the best solution. Thanks for helping out!

    Images:

    https://ibb.co/Tvh4kTm
    https://ibb.co/MhPTkVK
     
    #1
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
  2. Uncle99

    Uncle99 Well-Known Member

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    That's really hard to say, cyano is usually associated with a tank which is less than 1 year old in maturity and an imbalance in nitrate and phosphate. Treatments are OK but they do not address the problem, this, cyano returns, sometimes more than ever.

    Cyano can be a resultant of using non 0 TDS RODI water to make saltwater. Some believe it's the silicates in the water, I don't know.

    In a reef tank, always maintain nitrate at 2-5ppm and phosphate in the 0.03-0.07 range.

    Flow is just as important, make sure there are no "dead spots" of flow in your system.

    If you maintain these levels at all times, at one point in the tanks maturity, cyano will go and not return.

    Until this time, blow it off, suck it out, keep water changes up to date.

    So the answer "depends"

    Feel free to tell us more and yes, certainly test that phosphate number.
     
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  3. DaveK

    DaveK Well-Known Member

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    Here are a few things to check and what I would do in your case.

    Stop using any red slime remover products. Unless you correct the source(s) of the problem the cyano will be right back.

    You most likely are overfeeding. Just because you have low nitrate / phosphate readings, does not mean you don't have a problem here. All those nitrates and phosphates are being consumed by the algae and it's growing.
    What live stock do you have in the tank? If you have too many fish your coing to have a lot more waste products to deal with.

    I've posted this next part before, but it's worth repeating.

    DaveK's Standard Lecture #2 - Algae Control

    Algae control comes down to controlling nitrates and phosphates. If you have a problem with algae it is because these two nutrients are out of control. Do not think that just because your test kits read zero or low values that you do not have a problem. In many cases the algae is removing the nutrients and growing. This is why there is a problem.

    Here are possible sources of nitrates and phosphates -

    Feeding, especially flake food and not rinsing frozen foods before feeding.
    Using tap water to mix salt. Always use RO/DI water for this.
    "Dirt traps" and "nitrate factories" in the system.
    Low quality carbon can leach nutrients.
    Low quality salt can sometimes add nutrients. This is unusual today.
    Livestock load on the system

    Here are possible ways to remove nitrates and phosphates -

    Water changes. Change 1/2 the water and you reduce the nutrients by 1/2.
    Skimming. Remove the waste products before the biological filtration need to break then down.
    Nitrate and phosphate removal products.
    Deep sand beds.
    Refugiums.
    Algae Scrubbers.

    Each of these has advantages and disadvantages. Most people that control algae will use many of the above methods.

    There are also other items that can effect algae growth rates.

    Good clean up crew.
    Other livestock that eats algae.
    Low general water quality, especially when the readings are off.
    Lighting, sometimes you can reduce it, especially in FO or FOWLR systems.
    Old light bulbs. Colors change as they age and this can be a factor.
    Water flow. More flow will often help keep algae down.
    Manual removal. Very important, especially when there is a big problem.

    End of standard lecture.

    To work on this problem, I'd first start by cutting way back on how much your feeding. I'd also do some water changes, about 30% -50% a week, for about 5 weeks. Make sure your using RO/DI water to mix the new SW.

    Get a good clean up crew. Typically this will mean 1 or 2 snails or hermits per gallon of water, but don't start that high. Get about 10 snails and 10 hermits and ramp up from there as needed.

    Cut the lights on time back to about 8 hours. Once you resolve the problem you can increase it.

    Use one of the phosphate removal products.
     
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  4. bugmenot

    bugmenot New Member

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    Thank you for the detailed reply. I've updated my post with some more findings. Phosphates seem to be the problem, and these could have come from either the rock or possible overfeeding before the tank was given to me. Flow in the tank is good, except for where the cyano collects (the substrate). I don't want to add flow down here because the puffer chills in this area and seems to enjoy the peace. I purchased a phosphate remover. I buy the saltwater from my LFS, premixed.

    Two remaining questions:

    1. Should I take out the rock and bleach it, or will phosphate removal media do a good enough job for me? I guess I should add the phosphate remover, then re-test phosphates?

    2. There's no good answers on the internet of how much cyano (within an aquarium) is toxic to a. fish and b. humans. The outbreak isn't terrible in my aquarium, I siphon it as much as possible, but there is a musty smell and I wonder how toxic this is for myself and my fish, at noticeable (yet not alarming) amounts? Articles like this scare the shit out of me.

    Thanks again
     
    #4
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
  5. DaveK

    DaveK Well-Known Member

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    If you going to buy premixed SW, always test it first. A lot of LFSs do a really poor job of making it, often using tap water or the RO/DI unit isn't working correctly or using a low quality salt. I highly recommend you invest in your own RO/DI unit and mix your own SW. That way you know the quality of your water is good.

    Bleaching your rock will kill everything on it, making it necessary to recycle the whole tank again. Don't do it under normal conditions. This is something you do only when you have a total disaster of a system on your hands, and is considered very extreme. By disaster, I mean a really bad disease, or something similar and it's necessary to sterilize the entire system.

    I can't give you an answer to how much cyano is toxic. However I have seen tank really loaded with it and the livestock in it seem to be doing good. Of course it can choke off things like corals. I don't think you'll have an issue here.

    When your dealing with algae control, ramp up what your doing slowly. I know we all want it go go away right now, but long term success is based upon putting in the work and giving the system enough time to see results. Also, new systems can often go through algae blooms of various types for almost a year after the system is set up. The key is don't panic.
     
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  6. Uncle99

    Uncle99 Well-Known Member

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    In your pics I see not a trace of Cyano, are these the wrong pics?

    Cyano is mainly darker red and comes in sheets, do I miss something here?

    Your phosphate is 10ppm? Really?
    If your number is correct, that's approx 300 times the amount we like to keep for our corals. Corals would certainly die from that excess.

    What I have a hard time understanding is the age of this tank.
    Cyano is a temporary situation in tanks, running normal levels of nutrients, which are 1 year or under. If you get cyano after this period, something has changed dramatically.

    If your Phosphate was 10ppm, you should have a ton of the richest, deep green hair algae ever seen, maybe you mean 1. Or .1 but can't be 10ppm

    GFO can reduce phosohate. But anything north of .2 is too expensive to reduce with GFO, here, I would use an LC product direct to the DT, it will cloud your DT for an hour, but this will only work if you have filter socks which trap the flockulent created.

    Only after the phosphate measures less than .1 would I use GFO and if you have corals, never lower than 0.03.

    After looking at the circled parts your pics, I see some Diatoms on the sand and some algae in the rock. Doesn't appear to be abnormal.

    Diatoms are normal in the tank maturity process, they feed on silicates in the water until no more silicates, then, they just go away.

    I would scrub that algae off the rock, maintain nitrate at 2-5ppm and phosohate at 0.03-0.07.
    Also, make sure absolutely no outside light hits that DT at anytime.
    It will go on its own as the tank matures.

    Maybe that helps?
     
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    Last edited: Oct 19, 2019
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  7. bugmenot

    bugmenot New Member

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    Those are the right pics. Is that brown/red stringy stuff not cyano? It grows back after scrubbing it within 24 hours. It will take over all surfaces that get light within 3 or 4 days. All google searches drove me to cyano (but it's red, not blue/green). Maybe i'm wrong?

    The tank has undergone multiple owners, all which were unable to take care of the tank and passed it onto someone else. They weren't monitoring parameters. When I got the tank, nitrites, nitrates, ammonia, and ph were surprisingly all in check. phosphates was my latest test, and remarkably high. i do not have any corals.
     
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  8. Uncle99

    Uncle99 Well-Known Member

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    If you can blow it off completely with a turkey baster, then I'd say cyano, if it requires a brush, it's algae.


    Maybe another member can have a look, I don't see what I know as Cyano and it does come in several colour combinations, mine was always more red and came in "sheets" or "mats" yes on the rocks and for sure on the sand, little bubbles would become trapped and sometimes lift the mats.

    What I see is a weak hair algae, then to the right, green hair algae. Second pic I see brown dust, Diatom in my thinking.

    I understand this DT had been not maintained within reef parameters, but how long has it been maturing under your command?

    If the answer is less than 8 months or less, all looks normal, ugly stages diminsh after 12 months, provided nutrients are kept in check and remain stable and in balance. A cycled tank 3-6 months only creates the beneficial bacteria (nitrifiers) to process ammonia, the second set ( denitrifiers) take up to a year to be in sufficient quantities to process the N and P.

    While I am astonished by a 10ppm phosphate level, I can see by the green hair algae that phosphates would be on the higher end.

    You need to reduce that phosphate to limit the fuel for the algae.
    If you use T5 lighting, make sure bulbs are new, these turn more towards the red spectrum when they age, big algae maker.
    Use an LC to mop up most of the phosphates.
    Use GFO to maintain phosphate, without corals ZERO is OK.
    Maintain Nitrate at less than 5ppm.
    Make regular water changes.
    Reduce photoperiod and or intensity until all algae gone, fish don't care, then you can ramp it back up later slowly.

    Only time works with Diatoms, they will pass on their own.

    If you have a full tank shot, including sump area if any would help more.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 19, 2019
  9. bugmenot

    bugmenot New Member

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    Just about 1 month.

    FYI. Have been using phosphate medium, lights for 8 hours a day, and weekly water changes. Phosphate at ~5ppm now. Have used a UVc light in sump part of biocube. Red algae/brown dust (whatever it is) is still popping up within a day of tank cleaning, but it's less than before. Lights seem to be fine.

    Trying to reach ~0ppm phosphate, then I may nuke the tank with the red slime killer again.
     
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  10. DaveK

    DaveK Well-Known Member

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    I don't recommend ever using red slime remover products. While they do work on that, they also often cause more algae problems than they solve. If your tank is doing better, then you don't need it.
     
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  11. Uncle99

    Uncle99 Well-Known Member

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    1 month?
    Then do nothing at all.
    Ugly stages between 1-8ish months

    Slime remover products just mask the underlying causes.

    In this case, the cause is just young age.

    Just keep removing as much as possible.
     
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  12. Paul B

    Paul B Well-Known Member

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    Yup
    Right now I have a lot of red slime algae which I can easily blow off "and my tank is almost 50 years old".
    I know from experience that it could disappear for a few years, then for no obvious reason come back. I don't know why but neither does anyone else. It's a bacteria with a mind of it's own.

    If you run a tank long enough you will notice cycles, just like the sea has. I have had flat worms, cyano, bryopsis, hair algae, grape algae etc. They all disappeared with no help from me but you have to be patient, unless it covers your corals to an extent that they will die.

    It could very well be caused like the previous posters said from phosphates or other nutrients but sometimes those nutrients are off the scale and no cyano and other times they are zero and cyano covers everything. It's like hair algae, it is usually thought to be caused by excess nutrients, but it is not. It can grow in RO/DI water if you put it in the sun. My tank ran for years with nitrates of 160, corals flourished but no algae. Go figure.
    So the simple answer is, we really don't know what causes it but we can guess.

    It will normally leave on it's own when it gets bored. I would also not use chemicals to eliminate it as it will return, sometimes worse. I am doing nothing to mine and I know it will leave in a couple of months and I also know it won't poison me or my neighbors.

    It's just one of the interesting things that we deal with in this hobby.
    All of the previous ideas should be tried anyway and good luck.
    Have a great day.
     
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