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Old 11/15/2011, 10:40 AM   #1
Sk8r
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Cyano: everybody gets it: how to get rid of it safely

Understand, without cyanobacteria, Earth would be a dead planet.
It gave us oxygen after the Permian Extinction, before there were dinosaurs.
It travels in the air. It's the ancestor of the chloroplasts (photosynthesizing element) in every green plant on Earth.
So don't curse it.

But when it decides to help out in your tank, you'll find a red or brown film (depends on your lights) staining your sand---and growing to a half-inch thick blanket over everything, distinguished by little bubbles of oxygen. THAT's a problem.

Solving the problem is easy: and this process imitates a natural process on the reef, when storm rolls over an area. Draw the room curtains and turn out your tank lights for 3 days. If using metal halide, bring up actinic on the 4th day, regular lighting on the 5th. And WHILE your lights are out, SKIM. A good skimmer really helps. Be sure it's 'tuned' to work its best. This process will not hurt corals or fish! You may have to do this once monthly for several months running---like about 3 months. But it WILL get it. Do not do it more than once a month. And yes, your fish will appreciate being fed on schedule: they'll sleep mostly, but will wake up to eat.

Cyano is midway between a plant and an algae: it has characteristics of both: some kinds even crawl...a bit. It won't exit the tank at night and do in the poodle. It also is amazingly adaptable: you'll hear advice about turkey basters (actually a good idea if it's very, very thick: the more you can suck out, the better: but suck, don't blow!) And about nitrates and phosphates and all sorts of things---but that's actually not true, when it comes to ridding your tank of cyano, since all it REALLY has to have is light, water, and carbon. Carbon is an element present in everything alive, so there's no way you're going to rob it of nutrients just by tossing out nitrate and phosphate, desirable as that is to do. All we can do that it doesn't like is to turn out the lights.

Will it come back? Just about inevitably. It loves odd-spectrum light, so slanty sunlight reaching your tank from a window or bulbs in your light-kit that are expired or expiring are both situations it loves. Check your bulbs, see where the sun-track from that side window is for the season, but if it does come back, just do the lights-out thing and you'll see it less and less often.


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

Current Tank Info: 105g AquaVim wedge lps reef: 3 firefish, yellowhead jawfish, yellow watchman, 3 chromis, tailspot/starry blennies, pink margin fairy wrasse, mandarin, kalk, radion pro, gyre, Eshopps s-200 skimmer, basement sump.
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Old 11/15/2011, 11:10 AM   #2
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Good stuff Sk8r. They are truly amazing organisms.

Cyanobacteria are generally believed to be one of the first life forms to evolve on earth. They have been around for 3.5 Billion (with a B) years. They pretty much had the planet to themselves for almost half of the history of the earth. They have survived all of the natural disasters that wiped out so many other species.

Cyanobacteria have evolved through every type of environment conceivable. They can live under aerobic or anaerobic conditions. Given light they can make their own oxygen. Without light they can live on organic carbon like any other bacterium. Under anaerobic conditions, they have any number of final electron acceptors to use in respiration. They can even reduce elemental sulfur to do their respiration. They can fix their own nitrogen if they need to, making the nitrate that they need directly from nitrogen gas. They can obtain phosphate from organic sources when there is none in the water.

Cyanobateria are found in every ecosystem you can imagine. There are species that live in ice, in hot sulfur springs, freshwater, saltwater, dry earth, mud, or any other thing you throw at them. After three and a half billion years of survival, you pick up on a few tricks.

With all of that said, it is a wonder to me that we are able to grow anything other than cyanobacteria.


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Old 11/15/2011, 11:36 AM   #3
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Lol. And---nothing we keep eats it. I've seen the little Hector's goby nibble at it, but it's not really a good food source.
A real good thing it responds to such a simple fix, or we'd have nothing but it.


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

Current Tank Info: 105g AquaVim wedge lps reef: 3 firefish, yellowhead jawfish, yellow watchman, 3 chromis, tailspot/starry blennies, pink margin fairy wrasse, mandarin, kalk, radion pro, gyre, Eshopps s-200 skimmer, basement sump.
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Old 11/15/2011, 12:27 PM   #4
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Thanks Sk8R....muchly appreciated for your write up. For us new people..this right here brings it home right to the punch of the Cyano problems people worry about. What a great write up...Thank you! Very well done.


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Old 11/15/2011, 12:33 PM   #5
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What are the consequences for not dealing with it as you suggest (mainly the 3 days lights out method)? Is this just an aesthetic problem, or are our reefs really in danger of being harmed?

Is there a risk to our reefs if we just do the base minimum addressing it (i.e. change bulbs and physically remove large mats of it)?


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Old 11/15/2011, 01:04 PM   #6
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Well, in general a light case does no harm whatsoever.
Even if it's half an inch thick and draping everything in the tank in sheets of bubbly russet slime it doesn't hurt the corals or the fishes physically---people believe their tanks are destroyed and their corals are dissolving when they see this turn up, but actually nothing at all is harmed. The harmful bit is that it shuts out light for the corals, when it completely shrouds them, and the corals are damaged by want of light, NOT by the cyano, which is remarkably benign, otherwise.
You usually see it go away by morning, then reappear by afternoon. Except the really thick sheets, which just look as if someone had thrown dark red pancake batter atop all your rocks and corals. It's probably pretty disgusting to the fish, too, since nothing will even try to eat it. The little goby I named couldn't begin to clean it up, since the fish is only an inch long at maturity, so it would take more fish than you have tank space to make a dent in it. It grows thicker by the day....really obnoxious looking.

The danger in it: it is subject to mass dieoff. The thicker you let it get, the more biomass hits the system when it dies back. So it can affect your sandbed/rock with overload. This is one serious danger in products that remove it chemically: they dose your tank with antibiotic, a bacteria-killer, which kills it instantly: and they claim it doesn't (much) affect your sandbed and rock. Much. But this huge biomass is dead, perhaps some of your beneficial bacteria are dead, too---throw them on the funeral pyre---and say you don't have the world's best skimmer: IT can't keep up with the load, and things go south from there. I used the chemical cure---once. It trashed my copepods, cost me megabucks feeding my mandarin with bought-pods, and generally created a chemical instability in my tank that annoyed me for the next 6 months. And I have a pretty good skimmer.
Some poor novice with no skimmer, or a very underpowered one---his tank can crash. And as a helper in the novice forum, I've had to advise people in the middle of such disasters, so, yes, it happens.

What I advise, and the safest route, is the one I outline above. No muss, no fuss, no drama, just a few months remembering to do it, and it'll not trouble you again for months. You'll see it now and again, in certain seasons of the year---same fix; gradually your tank matures, and you don't have the problem. If you tossed in that antibiotic fix for it every time it came back---well, it wouldn't be imho a good thing.

IF you want the technicals on the antibiotic: bacteria come in two varieties. There's gram-negative and gram-positive. Your general tank bacteria are one variety and cyano is the other. A broad spectrum antibiotic is one that kills both gram-negative bacteria, and gram-positive, at once. That would kill your tank, no question. The one the chemical fix uses is the one that kills the type cyano is, and doesn't touch the other kind. But by the reaction my tank had, I'm not sure the bacteria in a good tank ARE all the other sort. And it certainly did a number on the micro-life, which helps keep a tank clear of algae, and other benefits.

The lights-out method is imho the safest, the most long-term effective without doing collateral damage, and so that's my answer.


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

Current Tank Info: 105g AquaVim wedge lps reef: 3 firefish, yellowhead jawfish, yellow watchman, 3 chromis, tailspot/starry blennies, pink margin fairy wrasse, mandarin, kalk, radion pro, gyre, Eshopps s-200 skimmer, basement sump.
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Old 11/15/2011, 01:59 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sk8r View Post
Some poor novice with no skimmer,
Oh... Hi.

Quote:
gradually your tank matures, and you don't have the problem.
So this is something that once a tank ages, won't be a problem if treated with the lights out method? So there is a [prepare yourself for the horror of a bad pun] light at the end of the tunnel to cyano battling?


With respect to the remedy, you talk about closing the curtains. where I have my tank, we have some skylights with shades... do translucent shades block enough light to cause a condition to make cyano unhappy?

How blocked does the sunlight coming into the room need to be?

If I don't have a skimmer, is there anything I can do during the 3 days of lights out, short of buying a skimmer?
And this thread is perfectly timed, at least for me, I've been dealing with cyano for about 3-4 weeks trying to research remedies. thank you for this.


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Old 11/15/2011, 02:24 PM   #8
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Ah, I see your situation. Sounds like a beautiful room. And the lack of a skimmer is a big problem. I can foresee a problem from those skylights if you don't take some measures, because that's a situation this stuff is going to love.
Can you possibly do a HOB skimmer like a Remora, even temporarily? That would help.
I'm torn between the need to skim and wondering how much of it you dare kill off at once...because I don't know how much you have in your tank. Can you use your phone to provide a photo of your situation? Shrouding the tank in sheet can block the light and kill it. But skimming is how the die-off protein gets out of your tank. Let's see how bad it is before we make a recommendation.


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

Current Tank Info: 105g AquaVim wedge lps reef: 3 firefish, yellowhead jawfish, yellow watchman, 3 chromis, tailspot/starry blennies, pink margin fairy wrasse, mandarin, kalk, radion pro, gyre, Eshopps s-200 skimmer, basement sump.
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Old 11/15/2011, 02:36 PM   #9
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I'll take a picture tonight.... the latest one I have is two weeks old (click for link). You can see some of the bubbles and cyano on the rocks, however there's some relatively thicker mats now on the sand (no where near a 1/2 inch though) that I've been removing via a turkey baster every once in a while.

It's a 29g biocube, so I'm not sure what hang on back skimmer options are available as I am trying to grow cheato in the available back chamber (#2) where I could install a skimmer. Never thought about the hang on back ones though. But that's another topic.


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Old 11/15/2011, 02:51 PM   #10
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That's not bad. I look forward to tonight's pic.
What I'm leaning to is a week of removing the stuff by turkey baster, not blowing it off, but actually getting shreds of it out of the tank, which does much the same thing as a skimmer; plus maybe some mechanical filtration to catch any escaping bits; then shrouding the tank in tented sheeting during the day, taking it off in the evening (with lights off) and doing that for a few days, once a month. It is a question of age, mostly. The older your tank, ime, the less problem. You might also try a nassarius snail or two: they live under the sand and help keep it in good condition: I don't know if too much sandbed load helps promote this stuff, but having a nicely policed sandbed is a good thing on general principles.

That is a very pretty tank, btw.


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

Current Tank Info: 105g AquaVim wedge lps reef: 3 firefish, yellowhead jawfish, yellow watchman, 3 chromis, tailspot/starry blennies, pink margin fairy wrasse, mandarin, kalk, radion pro, gyre, Eshopps s-200 skimmer, basement sump.
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Old 11/15/2011, 04:12 PM   #11
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If you are diligent, siphoning it off does help. Eventually. Skimmers are very desirable in our tanks however; I would never run a tank without one.


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Old 11/15/2011, 04:32 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sk8r View Post

IF you want the technicals on the antibiotic: bacteria come in two varieties. There's gram-negative and gram-positive. Your general tank bacteria are one variety and cyano is the other. A broad spectrum antibiotic is one that kills both gram-negative bacteria, and gram-positive, at once. That would kill your tank, no question. The one the chemical fix uses is the one that kills the type cyano is, and doesn't touch the other kind. But by the reaction my tank had, I'm not sure the bacteria in a good tank ARE all the other sort. And it certainly did a number on the micro-life, which helps keep a tank clear of algae, and other benefits.
A technical note for ya Sk8r.

There are a number of both gram positive and gram negative bacteria in your tank. For the most part, you would find gram negative bacteria. These tend to be the older genera evolution-wise. Gram positive bacteria have evolved a thicker more durable cell membrane and a large part of that was the move out of the sea.

Cyanobacteria do not retain crystal violet in a Gram stain and so are technically gram negative bacteria. But only in the sense that they are not Gram positive. The actual taxonomy of cyanobacteria is under much debate and species of "blue-green algae" can be found scattered out all over the place. That goes back to the fact that they are the ancestors of nearly every living thing on Earth and that 2 billion years of head start they got on evolution.




Some more of why I think they are so fascinating...


A quote from the wikipedia article on cyanobacteria. (emphasis mine)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyanobacteria


Quote:
Cyanobacteria include unicellular and colonial species. Colonies may form filaments, sheets or even hollow balls. Some filamentous colonies show the ability to differentiate into several different cell types: vegetative cells, the normal, photosynthetic cells that are formed under favorable growing conditions; akinetes, the climate-resistant spores that may form when environmental conditions become harsh; and thick-walled heterocysts, which contain the enzyme nitrogenase, vital for nitrogen fixation. Heterocysts may also form under the appropriate environmental conditions (anoxic) when fixed nitrogen is scarce. Heterocyst-forming species are specialized for nitrogen fixation and are able to fix nitrogen gas into ammonia (NH3), nitrites (NO−
2) or nitrates (NO−
3) which can be absorbed by plants and converted to protein and nucleic acids (atmospheric nitrogen is not bioavailable to plants).


If you don't see the evolutionary significance of the line that I made bold, then please go read it again until you do. Essentially what it is saying is that some of the filamentous cyanobacteria can have more than one cell type in the colony. Some of the cells are handling photosynthesis while other cells are handling nitrogen fixing. That is one of the very first steps towards becoming a multicellular organism.


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Old 11/15/2011, 04:46 PM   #13
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Even more fascinating, and another good reason not to just kill them all with antibiotics.

From Chapter 2 "The Control of Trace Metals in Seawater" in Volume 6 of "The Oceans and Marine Geochemistry": KW Bruland, MC Lohan 6.02.5.1

(emphasis mine)
Quote:
Moffett and Brand (1996) have shown that cyanobacteria
when stressed with slightly elevated [Cu2+] can
produce a ligand with a similar conditional
stability constant. It appears that, somehow, the
phytoplankton of the open ocean, particularly
the prokaryotic phytoplankton, are controlling the
external concentration of free copper by producing
a strong copper-binding ligand that reduces the
[Cu2+] to levels that are no longer toxic.

There are a number of other great examples of cyanobacteria taking control of water quality. They are even used by man for those purposes sometimes.

I don't think it is really advisable, or even possible to completely eliminate them from an aquarium. We can only make conditions not so favorable for their rapid multiplication and keep them in balance. We only need to stop them becoming colonial and making strings and sheets and balls. The individual cells that you don't see, as well as that stubborn little pocket of cyano in the sump may actually be doing your tank a considerable amount of good.


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Old 11/15/2011, 04:47 PM   #14
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Really interesting, Disc1. I searched this stuff some time ago to try to figure it, and I was just amazed by what a strange creature it is.
It considerably pre-dates the dinosaurs. And one has the extraneous thought of what really early planetary life might be, where all the ecosystems are wide open, but the geological pressures are completely wild and frequent: a lot of extremophiles, perhaps with pretty scary adaptive capacities. And when whatever blitzed the Permian got others, it left us with the ones that don't like oxygen, and this one that produces it; and what we've got left---an oxygen atmosphere---says pretty well who won. That little line you highlighted is enough to have you thinking about it, for sure. I confess, I actually love this stuff. It's so weird.


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

Current Tank Info: 105g AquaVim wedge lps reef: 3 firefish, yellowhead jawfish, yellow watchman, 3 chromis, tailspot/starry blennies, pink margin fairy wrasse, mandarin, kalk, radion pro, gyre, Eshopps s-200 skimmer, basement sump.
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Old 11/15/2011, 05:09 PM   #15
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What if you cycled a tank with live rock and you didn't have a cynobacteria or a hair algae outbreak? I did have cynobacteria in my old 60 gallon reef tank at the start, but I didn't have either one in the 20 gallon tank I have now. How did I dodge that? Don't tell me it was luck...


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Old 11/15/2011, 06:37 PM   #16
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Quote:
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Can you use your phone to provide a photo of your situation?
Ok, here's some photos that I took tonight. Note, that I changed my PC white bulb on Sunday, and it has helped a bit. the cyano was a bit thicker before Sunday. But there are a couple of spots it's relatively dense.

Under the frogspawn and under the rock on teh front right are some relatively dense patches.


Here's a picture of a patch in the back... I don't usually siphon this area out much as it's a bit hard to get to. I've often times watched the tailspot blenny poo here... not sure if that's related.


Here's that small patch on the sand and rock in the front right:


Here's the full photo album I took tonight of cyano:
Cyano Photo Album

I'm sure there's people out there with way worse problems with it that are laughing at my "problem". I've been siphoning out with a turkey baster some big patches, and during water changes use a gravel vacuum on it (although it usually doesn't get removed, it gets broken up enough for me to then use the turkey baster on the bigger loose packages).

I think there's a decent population of people running nano tanks without skimmers, however if one is required to have the highest chance of battling it, I'll look into it over running a refugium with cheato. I'm not a fan of any external equipment (nor am I sure a hang on back will actually fit between the tank and the wall).

Thanks for any suggestions/tips (and thanks for the kind words about the tank Sk8r).


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Old 11/16/2011, 09:21 AM   #17
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Oh, that's not too bad at all...(compared to what I've seen: the half inch thick stuff draping every surface.) Siphon it off first for a week. Get a nassarius snail or two to help clean. A pearly jawfish or yellow watchman would be a nice addition, and would help with the sandbed. Vacuuming anything but the extreme surface is dangerous: it can cause more trouble, including tank crash. But fish and snails work little patches at a time. Do the lights-out drape once a month, and see if you can get some sand cleaners of your choice (snails and fish) You'll beat this. Keep me posted on this. It's a pretty tank, and you've got an interesting situation with those skylights. But I beat it, in a glass-walled room, so it can be done: we just nurse this tank toward maturity, get some sand cleaners, and I think it'll be fine.


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

Current Tank Info: 105g AquaVim wedge lps reef: 3 firefish, yellowhead jawfish, yellow watchman, 3 chromis, tailspot/starry blennies, pink margin fairy wrasse, mandarin, kalk, radion pro, gyre, Eshopps s-200 skimmer, basement sump.
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Old 11/16/2011, 09:31 AM   #18
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question,

according to disc1, cyano can live with, or without light.

so how is removing light for 3 days going to help ? it will just change the type/property of cyano, right ?

[please dont get me wrong, not saying it wont work I have been using this method to control mainly hair algae in my FOWLR tanks. no lights for 3 days, with sides of tank covered in dark, and on 4th day I do a huge 40% water change as everything is dead and released its nutrition]

just wondering if there is more on it


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Old 11/22/2011, 01:25 PM   #19
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So, I followed what you said here Sk8r and the only thing that is having trouble recovering is my pulsing xenia. The bacteria was exactly the same after the 5th day as it was before i started and i followed this exactly.


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Old 11/22/2011, 01:45 PM   #20
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Sorry, missed that query on dark: that's why it may take several months of once-a-month attack.

Kasasah, sorry to hear it's impacting the xenia. It divides easily, so you might want to put a small frag of it into a lighted tank for safekeeping the next time you do this: repeated hits may hurt it worse. Xenia's easy to get to attach: just lay it on the sand and lay a light bit of dead coral atop it for 12 hours: by morning it'll have attached, if its conditions are otherwise good.


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

Current Tank Info: 105g AquaVim wedge lps reef: 3 firefish, yellowhead jawfish, yellow watchman, 3 chromis, tailspot/starry blennies, pink margin fairy wrasse, mandarin, kalk, radion pro, gyre, Eshopps s-200 skimmer, basement sump.
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Old 11/22/2011, 01:59 PM   #21
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nice thread....I've never tried the lights out method, I see a lil showing up now...hmmm

for minor out breaks, changing the circulation pattern in the tanks does seem to help my tanks, if only temporarily anyway... but more often than not I do nothing and it seems to go away eventually,


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Old 11/22/2011, 03:06 PM   #22
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In others experiences, does the cyano appear to turn black in color when it is on the retreat? Particularly after the lights have been off?


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Old 11/22/2011, 03:44 PM   #23
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I'm suspicious about any 'black' algae involving the sandbed, because if you have a black pocket in the sandbed that can be lethal hydrogen sulphide, the rotten eggs smell---and very bad for a tank. If you do have a problematic sandbed situation don't try to clean it: let nature---get a couple of true nassarius or one fighting conch per 50 gallons, and let them go to work. They burrow and get to things safely.


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

Current Tank Info: 105g AquaVim wedge lps reef: 3 firefish, yellowhead jawfish, yellow watchman, 3 chromis, tailspot/starry blennies, pink margin fairy wrasse, mandarin, kalk, radion pro, gyre, Eshopps s-200 skimmer, basement sump.
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Old 11/22/2011, 03:44 PM   #24
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ive been haing a cno problem for the past couple weeks and diatoms aswell ill syphon out what i can and it will eventually come back, as sson as i read this i cut the lights and covered the tank with a thick blanket hopefully it works!

Do you think it could kill of the diatoms too?

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Old 11/22/2011, 04:06 PM   #25
Meshmez
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mockmo View Post
ive been haing a cno problem for the past couple weeks and diatoms aswell ill syphon out what i can and it will eventually come back, as sson as i read this i cut the lights and covered the tank with a thick blanket hopefully it works!

Do you think it could kill of the diatoms too?
Make sure that doesnt cause the tank to overheat... and im not sure what kind of impact that blanket will have on the oxygen transfer into your water...


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