Last spring I took on the ridiculous task of rebooting my reef aquarium while expecting a newborn. I am way overdue in writing update. Why the delay? Well, three reasons really. For one, life got really crazy after the baby was born. I underestimated the impact a second child would have on my free time. Second issue was my day job. We took on some pretty insane work projects in 2015, with strict deadlines. And when I finally came up for air during the holidays, the reefing gods decided to take a dump on my reef. But more on that later.
Sometime in the summer, I decided I hate having a canopy. I found it a pain to deal with and it trapped heat. Adding fans didn’t help much and only added more noise. I missed the open top and hanging light of my old tank. I also decided to switch to an ATI Sunpower. Beyond that, not much else changed.
The corals thrived the entire summer and fall. Coloration and growth rates were stellar. But sometime in November, all of my Acropora started to recede very slowly from the base upwards. I lost colonies in slow motion, no matter what I tried. The strange thing was that only Acropora were affected. My Stylophora, Pocillopora, and Montipora continued to thrive. Other corals outside of the “SPS” family did well too. My fungias even spawned.
The fact that only Acropora were affected seemed like a good clue. My initial suspicion was a parasite. Lengthy inspections turned up nothing. No AEFW or anything else. Maybe my alkalinity levels were out of whack. I’ve seen some corals bothered by Alk fluctuations while others aren’t bothered. But Alk turned out fine as well. I looked at my additives. The only things I dosed were TLF’s Acropower and Dr Tim’s Waste Away. Waste Away is just a bacterial additive. I stopped dosing both, but nothing changed.
After a month of dead ends, I decided a synergistic attack was needed. My former tank was bomb proof. Corals grew in spite of my careful neglect. Therefore, the first question I asked was: What am I doing different in this tank? The major difference is that I had added a shallow sand bed. I initially thought about keeping some wrasses that needed a substrate to bed in at night. I never ended up adding wrasses, and the removal of the canopy meant jumpy fish were out of the question. One morning, I cranked up the music, brewed a cup of coffee, and proceeded to yank the sand out. I had opted to add a cutting board bottom during the intial build, in case I decided I hated sand. I was glad I did that, as it gave me something more than a glass bottom to look at. I doubt the sand bed was the culprit. There are plenty of nice reefs with sand. But removing it allowed me to crank up the flow even more which may have helped.
I also took on the task of some massive water changes. Finally, I considered the possibility of toxins. I inspected my pumps and magnets for cracks or rust, to no avail. Water tests turned up nothing. I still threw in some Polyfilters, Seachem Cuprisorb, and Two Little Fishies MetaSorb. The combination was probably overkill. The other major step was increase the temperature a bit. I was hovering in the 75-76 range before. If my thermostat was off by a few degrees, then 75 could actually mean I was really too low. I felt that 78 was a better target, since a degree or two off in any direction was still in good territory.
It has only been a couple of weeks, but the tissue recession seems to have stalled. I will not declare victory until I see actual growth. At this point, I’m still not 100% sure what the issue is or was. I’m currently leaning towards a bacterial thing or a temperature issue. It is strange that only Acropora are affected. The recession was at a strange pace too. It wasn’t an overnight thing, and wasn’t super slow either. The living portions always looked fine with good polyp extension during feeding.
The action plan for this month is to order up some Triton tests to rule out anything I’m missing in my own tests. I will also hack out the dead portions of Acropora. Healthy branches will be remounted.
So there you have it. My apologies for such a late update. But when I did have a little free time between the family and work, I didn’t really want to write about corals suffering. If you have experienced something similar or have ideas, I would love to hear from you. Hopefully I will have better news when I come up for air again.