View Full Version : 120 gallon having issues... Help!

10-05-2009, 11:03 AM
Hi all, just signed up after alot of reading on Algae Scrubbers on this site. I took the plunge but am having an outbreak of huge proportions. My setup is a 120 gallon tank, 48x24x24. I had a 29 gallon sump on it with a turboflotor 1k Skimmer and a Fluval FX5 I had from when I had a freshwater tank (originally had carbon and foam only, now running empty to just have flow in the tank)

the tanks ben running for a month+, I only have 2 turbo snails in it and a coral band shrimp. I put up the scrubber last Thursday. 2 pancaked screen, 2 42w CFL spirals 2700k based on the recommendation here within 4 inches on each side. my overflow is rated at 600gph (probably getting around 500) and my return pump is 500gph. I get good flow on the screens (13x11) but as you can see minimal growth yet. When I was running the sump, etc. I didnt have this obscene amount of green haze and algae all over the place, I'm cleaning the glass everyday for the last 3 days. Any advise please? I have 5 pieces of liverock in the tank that have been there for about 3 weeks and were fine and covered in coralline, the rest are dry rock. The sand is marine sand with about 15 pounds of live sand. the Top lights are 2x 250w Metal Halide and 4x t5 actinic. All readings for water parameters are as they should be (I don't have a phosphate test so that may be high?)

I use RO water and Reef Crystals, this will EVENTUALLY be a reef tank. Any advise would be greatly appreciated! Heres pics I took just today before posting this, put the protien skimmer on last night as a "gotta try something" tactic, I'm sure it's moot though... thanks!


10-05-2009, 02:26 PM
Hello rahjelli. Welcome to the site.

Thanks for the well thought out, picture backed question too.

Don't lose heart, this is the fun part of tank keeping! :lol:

For starters. My turfs always take quite a while to build up a head of steam. Usually at least two months. Others may have faster results but I often wonder if they have actual turf algae or just some other free loading stuff that just got going first.

For your situation I would douse the MH immediately. You have no citizens that want any light at this time. Tons of light is like massive feeding to a tank. Off with the MH! The top algae is competing with your turf and could be winning since it has more photon power than the turf. You want the turf to climb to the top of the winning pile. Then it will stay there at the expense of any new attempted growth in the tank.

Secondly if you are having lots of growth on your glass you need to fix your lighting so as little light as possible lands on your glass. Having light hit your glass provides everything your algae needs for rapid growth which equals lots of glass cleaning.

Once you turn off your MH you'll see the growth screech to a halt. Anyway, you want to eliminate as much light as you can from hitting any of your glass. Do this thru added bits of shading material in your fixtures. Try to add reflector until you can cause a shadow line on the bottom in front of the glass. Then back it off until it just merges with the glass bottom interface. Because MH lights and fixtures are 'extended sources' this is not going to be perfect but anything will help with glass maintenance.

You will find the tank looks much better because your front glass and anything on it (inside or out) will tend to disappear because it will no longer be brightly lit. This will bring the inside of the tank more into view. If you pull it off well, the glass will disappear when the room is dark. This is what they strive for in commercial public aquariums.

So again, douse the display lights until the turf gets going.
Get some test kits as you will live by them once you head to coral land anyway and you need to know how to use them and what you can expect.
Keep a log of your chemistry readings.
Shade your glass.
Run your lights no more than 16hrs ON in 24.

BTW your screens are looking great for the short time so far.

10-05-2009, 03:00 PM
Thanks kcress! No sooner that I read this than I ran down to my basement, cleaned the glass yet AGAIN, and killed the MH and t5's. I do have 2 luner clusters on the light (dark blue) thats so dark it looks like all the lights are off so I will leave it like this for a couple weeks, I'm sure the snails and coral band won't mind :D

My basement is light controlled so the tank can pretty much be in total darkness aside from the scrubber lights. I had gone to home depot and bought a timer and set it for 18 hours on for the CFL's but I'll change it to 16 based on your recommendation. I was trying to get the coralline up before I started stocking but it's come to a standstill, no new signs anywhere on the dry rock (then again its only been a month). I was still dosing the tank with B-Ionic daily with the recommended dosage. Calcium tested high but has come down, Alk and magnesium is good. Ammonia, Nitrate/Nitrite and PH are all good to go at zero and 8.4, I can imagine phosphates are off the wall when I get a test for those. Should I do any water changes or should I just let it rock for now and just add top off as needed?


10-05-2009, 04:02 PM
Coraline is all about having the right minerals in the water available for building. Light wise I actually don't know what coralline wants. I do know that a lot of coralline is evident in dark cold water tanks so I think it doesn't need much/any light but I'm not sure.

Yeah your blue lights are fine being on.

Now with the MHs off you should see things pick up dramatically on your screens.

10-05-2009, 06:51 PM
Interesting idea about shading the front glass. Sure couldn't hurt.

BTW, I think Kcress meant 16 hours for the display lights. Scrubber should be 18.

BTW 2: I see you used a clear tube for your pipe. Keep an eye on it... it may grow algae and clog on the inside. Your flow is good. I hope you ROUGHED UP all sides of both layers of the screen.

Now, here is my guess as to what's going on. Here are the facts:

o New tank, new rocks, new sand.
o Few (almost none) livestock.
o Algae on rock AND (this is important)... the glass.
o Little scrubber growth.
o Coralline started, then stopped.

First guess is that the rocks and maybe the sand are still cycling, and or, they came loaded with phosphate. Usually, if rocks have phosphate, the algae will just grow on the rocks (and not the glass). But when you are getting algae on the glass too, it means the phosphate is in the water. This tells me your RO topoff may not be pure. So, you need a complete test of the topoff water, especially for phosphate. Of course, test the tank water too. The fact that coralline grew, then stopped, lends to the notion of topoff adding phosphate.

If the topoff water is not bad, I say the rocks are cycling/leaching so much that the phosphate is getting into the water too. If this is the case, it will fix itself in about 3 to 16 weeks, depending on how strong your scrubber is.

The scrubber will not grow too much until you start feeding more. But it will start up faster if the screen is rough. I just switched my old single screen to a never-used double-layer screen, rough up like a cactus, and the green hair algae was one inch thick by day 7. But the old single-layer non-rough screen would take much longer.

You are right that the skimmer won't do anything. It doesn't remove Inorganic Nitrate and Inorganic Phosphate at all, and that's what you need removed. You also are not really feeding, so there is not even any protein to remove. The phosphate is coming from the rocks, or the topoff. Need those tests.

10-05-2009, 07:54 PM
Thanks for the input SantaMonica, I think a little more detail is needed on my part:

Original tank fill up was done with normal tap with Instant Ocean, hence the IO bucket in the pic (didnt have an RO unit yet) since then a full empty and refill through a Fluval carbon (no phosphate) bag and a switch over to reef crystals (no phosphate) bring me to my current setup, for awhile I did top off with tap since thats what I had. Now at this point the rocks and sand and everything else was probably saturated with phosphate that didnt show up because I didnt have the MH on that much, mostly ran the actinics and lunar only to try and get some coralline going from the live rock I had in there. I never had any new coralline growth, the tank has been up since 8/31 so I'm probably scratching my head for nothing since technically its still new, but based on what you said the rocks and sand are most likely indeed leaking out all that phosphate that the tap put in (I'm in NYC).

My screens are roughed up pretty good, had to use a jigsaw blade I had since I dont have a hole saw. I am using an old python syphon tube for the overflow since thats what I had and wanted to get it going quickly since I had taken down the sump, it will be replaced soon with 1" pvc pipe.

I have had the RO unit for about 2.5 weeks and all top off and a 23 gallon water change have been done with it since then, but this could be the result of the damage already being done and I will just need to sit back and let the scrubber do its thing.

Your right the only feeding I am doing is frozen squid cubes to my coral shrimp, about half a cube every 2 days. I will purchase a phosphate test soon and test the tank water and the fresh out RO water and bring the results here.

10-06-2009, 01:28 AM
Yep, 18hrs sorryboutthat.

You should measure the TDS of your RO water. You really need a TDS if you want to run with an RO. Otherwise you won't know when your membrane has gone south. I have seen some RO units messed up for various reasons and the user not realizing it.

A TDS meter also lets you watch the membrane's performance slowly degrade and lets you get a new one lined up without a hurry up issue.

If you can't afford a TDS meter then take a sample somewhere. You want to see something less than 10ppm.

10-06-2009, 11:53 AM
hmmm, just thought of something. I recently started storing water into these Rubbermaid "Slim Jims" they hold 23 gallons but are rectangle shaped and tall and thin, perfect space saver to hold that amount of water. wonder if thats leaking phosphates into the water while its being held a few days at a time. I'll test that too when I get the TDS, doe's a TDS also measure phosphate or is it just metals, etc?

My RO unit is a 5 stage from purewaterclub, rated at 150gpd. I've only had about 100-150 gallons go through it so far.

10-06-2009, 05:54 PM
Problem is definately the tap water you used. Anything else is minor by comparison.

10-06-2009, 07:31 PM
Yes I would agree with that.

Tap water = evil

TDS is really about dissolved 'inorganic chemicals'. It doesn't tell you about what's dissolved only that there are conductive ions floating about. It could be salt, NaCl, or fluoride, or Cu, or Fe, you really don't know. It also tells you nothing about dissolved organics. You can infer things about the organics by knowing what the inorganics are doing but that's about it.

10-08-2009, 01:11 AM
Ahhh tap water! Prolly FULL of phosphates depending on your location and water quality could be very high. (Agriculture areas can have lots of phosphates from farm runoffs.) Def agree 86 the Tap water, do water changes ASAP 50% to start and maybe in another two weeks another 50%.

Mmm... also...Instant Ocean? Is it Instant ocean REEF Chrystals now?? I see a bucket there... Well if so then....there's your problem! lo.... JK. maybe not, but you should be aware they have had quality control issues in the past, I would be WARY of using that product. Go with SeaChem or Oceanic salt mixes. Some have had no problems with I Ocean others stay clear of it..I have heard people having problems with that Oceanic salt mix a few years in the past... Bad Batches with too high phophates and or HIGH ALK killing the tank and or causing EXACT problems like this. Not saying this is your cause, but could be.. Do a phosphate check, it bet they are high

http://www.reefland.com/forum/reef-aqua ... blems.html (http://www.reefland.com/forum/reef-aquariums/10637-caution-instant-ocean-salt-problems.html)

I have had good success with both Oceanic and SeaChem, you might consider switching salts too, and by ALL MEANS as other say only USE RO/DI WATER.

SM is also right about even the SAND and LR having and leaching phosphates, and also he is right about your tank being young...still cycling....

Do a water change with a different salt product using RO water.. If you cannnot make it BUY it at local water store. Just make sure its RO.. if you can get RO/DI ((de ionized- de ionization helps remove excess minerals) RO/DI is even better to remove the minerals (most water stores dont always use DI filters) Some will hook you up with temp bottles too if you give them right back.. I have a local store that will DELIVER me 10 5GA bottles I dump in clean new 40 Gallon trash can with new salt, then i aerate, then use small pump to pump back into tank.

Salt Prices are pretty much the same too. Might have to buy online if your local store doesnt carry SeaChem or Oceanic.. Try marinedepot.com

Also, your tank is also pretty young and you can have spikes of growth like this early on no matter what you do so give it some time, youll be fine

10-17-2009, 06:34 PM
Update! I use reef crystals, the IO is the first salt I tried but I have since went to reef crystals, I kept the bucket because its handy lol. Thanks to the advice here my algae in the tank is gone from the glass, some is still on the rocks (light green haze on the rock, no hair) and I have since changed the screen out to 2x2 pancaked screen roughed with a hole saw. I will post pics. I also changed the reflectors to 10.5 inch which spreads the light more. I can literally SEE pods crawling all over my glass now, literally overnight, its unbelievable. there are also new "things" showing themselves from my live rock, I always had 1 polyp type but now there are 3. I will try to get some clear pics up soon. looks like I am om the right track, just need to populate slowly. Thanks all again :D

10-21-2009, 04:02 AM
Great to hear things are improving. Sorry for the length of post - apologies if it's saying stuff you already know but even then it can be nice to get some reassurance.

I just wanted to echo the thoughts re the tank being young. It's only 5 weeks since live rock went in to the system (yes - I know this feels like an eternity :)). Many tanks are still going through their first cycle at that point. I can't imagine the tap water start will have helped speed up this process. To what degree it may have impacted is difficult to say without an expert (not me!) looking at a full chemical analysis of the water. I would have thought any residual chemicals (Chlorine derivatives?) used in the water treatment plant wouldn't help the bacterial colony in the live rock. Albeit a number of weeks on it may be worth running some carbon and/or something like polyfilter for a while to make sure any compunds still there is stripped out.

Have you been monitoring Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate for their respective spikes? I'm sure the scrubber will suppress these to some extent if it is exporting algae (maybe this is not the best thing at cycling stage? Will start a thread on that I think) but you should still be looking for ammonia, and nitrate to be dropping to undetectable to show that the biological filter is up to speed before adding livestock.

You don't mention how much the live rock in the system weighs. Remember the 1 to 2 lb per gallon guidelines (dependant on planned stocking level) and that it will be a while (months, not weeks) for your dry rock to colonise. So stock really steadily. If you don't have the total weight of rock requried in the tank now (with some allowance for rock that corals come in on) my advice would be to get it now so it cycles before more livestock is in there. Adding more rock later can kick off another (mini) cycle. IF you have very local access to well cured live rock it clearly minimises this risk.

:!: Personal view warning - based on my opinion and approach, not 100 research papers and 40 years experience.... :!: . When stocking, for the first 6 months while the rock is colonising, you could base stock limitations on the amount of cured live rock put in and forget about the dry rock used. So, if you used 40lb of live rock it would normally support a 40gl system and size the fish accordingly. Still stock steadily (several weeks to a month between additions) up to that level

I can but dream of a 120gl (mines about 50 plus a 10g sump - most I can fit / afford). I'm sure if you are patient (think first do later!) and stay well informed it will be an awesome tank. Best of luck (we all need some :lol: )

10-21-2009, 04:15 AM
To be honest only really usefull for the UK Scrubbers here but I did find a fantastic link for United Utilites which you put your postcode in and it gives you the FULL breakdown of your tapwater!


Think i might even start a new thread!