Need Help With A Few Sw Tank Issues

  • #1
HI everyone,

So, I have started my Saltwater tank got it going for about 10 weeks now and am running into a few problems. My current setup is as follows:

90G display/35-40G Sump
2x 165W LED light
2x 1350 GPH Power heads
Mag Drive 950
Reef Octopus Skimmer (rated 250G)
130 lbs LR and 10 lbs of rubble in sump

Water Params:

ammonia - 0
nitrate - 10 ppm
phosphate - 0
PH - 8
SG - 1.025

So before I got into SW, I saw a few fish at the LFS that I really wanted and one of them was a Mandarin Goby/Dragonette. I researched about it and I figured I needed a supply of copepods or a well established tank. I bought 24 oz bottles of copepod online and poured everything into my sump/refugium once it arrived.

The next day I noticed this one red spot after I added the copepods and more spots formed daily. This is a pic of my refugium 2 weeks after adding the copepods.


I was just wondering if this was normal? The past week I googled "red spots in copepod refugium" and nothing similar to my issue came up but some people mentioning cyanobacteria? I was just wondering if anyone had experience with growing pods in refugium to see if these red dots were normal. They are all over the refugium now.

My second issue is my display tank. A few weeks ago when my tank was cycling, I had a diatom bloom issue. They were brown and on most of the LR but I could blow it away with a pipette that I used to feed. The diatom bloom went away after about 2 weeks. Now I have this green algae. It doesn't come off using the pipette so it's not diatoms.


The green algae is to the right, under white light. It is all over the glass too. Is this normal as well or should I be concerned? Some parts of my tank are starting to have coralline algae coming in spots at a time. Hard to notice it on some of my LR because I bought really cheap LR from someone closing down a tank. But on my power heads, when I do my weekly cleaning, I can definitely see coralline algae.

Also, would the spores of a bubble algae cause this green algae effect? What happened was one of my coral didn't open up for a few days and I was looking around the rock to see if there was a pest around them (even though I do coral dips), there was this "bubble" on the LR and I was feeling it to see what it was and I popped it. It felt plastic/rubbery. So I wasn't sure if this was bubble algae that I was reading about, that I popped or not. I didn't see any more since either.

Thanks for reading, any help is greatly appreciated!
  • #2

1) As for the red stuff, I am nearly sure that is Red Slime Algae, and is a cyanobacteria. Usually caused by excess phosphates and nitrates. Although it isn't uncommon, it is odd that your experiencing so much of it with no phosphates and at that high of a old are your lights? The spectrum have have shifted/weakened, promoting the growth of the algae. If it gets too widespread, you'll physically have to do water changes to remove the extra detritus or use a chemical treatment, like Boyd Chemiclean or Blue Life Red Cyano RX (reef safe) to reduce it. Speaking of which, what kind of copepods did you get? I am wondering if you got a cold water species that died from being in your tank, thus increasing the organic matter in the water. Anyhow, for feeding mandarins, its best to use the copepods that crawl rather than free-swim, otherwise, the mandarin won't eat it. The copepods with the genus Tisbe are a copepod that mandarins will feed on.

2) For the green algae, it usually is a precursor for coralline algae if it is becoming highly concentrated. Have you changed lights recently? Do you know the percentage of the colors that you're using? How long do you leave them on? They can also show up under intense lighting, which is most likely why you are seeing them under the direct whites. Coralline algae isn't a bad thing actually, with enough growth of it on your LR, it'll actually begin to outcompete your green algae problem, and, imo, I think there pretty to have in the aquarium.

3) As for the bubble algae, while it shouldn't cause the growth of the green algae, you actually might be in a bit of trouble. When you pop it, you release the spores, so you'll want to keep an eye out to make sure that no more of it shows up. Its best to do a water change anyways. They probably hitchhiked on your LR, so just keep an eye out.

So, for the general consensus, I think maybe your tank may be having having an upset between nutrients in conjunction with maybe lighting. Adding those bottles of copepods could have upset the nutrient balance as the bottle most likely contain a highly concentrated solution of something to keep the copepods alive, and dumping many bottles of it at once into your tank most likely upset it too quickly. It doesn't hurt to do a water change anyways (do you have RO/DI?) to help combat the increase concentrations of nutrients and help with any possibly spread BA spores.

Also, mandarin gobys are VERY difficult tot take care of; they eat up to 8-9K copepods a month, and constantly, and this is quite the cost on one's wallet. It can also be a problem if you don't have any copepods as they go skinny quite fast. And, they do much better in a very mature tank, so before you get one, be sure to rebalance your aquarium again! You'll also need a bit higher of a pH to accommodate them (8.1-8.4 is a good range, but 8.3 is very favorable to them). If you plan on tank mates, you have to make sure they are very peaceful with them, and won't actively compete with them for food (wrasses are one such example that will starve out your mandarin)

Hope this helps and best of luck!
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
HI KinsKicks!

Thank you for the replies - a lot of the information that you have provided was really helpful. I'll try to provide as much additional information as I can find/remember.

Everything in the system is brand new, the only "used" items that I purchased was the LR, because it was $200 for about 130 lbs or pay $10/lb at the LFS. So, the refugium lights are new and they are just a clip-on light under the sump. It is 6500K White light in a 25W bulb. The refugium is probably 5G.

Before I added the copepods, 2 weeks ago, the refugium was crystal clear with only some chaeto and caulerpa macro algae. As I mentioned in my opening post, when I dumped all the bottles of copepods and fed them with phytoplankton - the red spots showed up the next day. I wasn't sure if it was normal, or if I should be concerned. Each bottle of copepod contains:

"Copepods: 50% Tisbe copepods, Acartia, Parvocalanus, & Pseudodiaptomus
  • Rotifers
  • Moina salina
  • Phytoplankton: Nannochloropsis & Tetraselmis"

So, for the past 2 weeks, I have been really trying to see if I could see anything crawling in the refugium. I even turned out the lights and tried shining in a flashlight in the display and sump/refugium but did not see anything crawling or moving about.

Do you think there are any copepods or did they die when I first added them? So what is the mandarin eating now? It's been alive for 2 weeks and when I watch it move around I just see it pecking at the LR here and there. Also, if that is cyanobacteria - should I wipe down the refugium and get rid of the macro algae/LR rubble in the sump/refugium?

I don't think see any red spots in the display tank, so I don't think it has spread there yet.

As for the green algae in the display tank, I hope this is the normal process to getting coralline algae. I can't get it off the LRs easily. There are some green "spots" on the glass and when I do my weekly maintenance, I really have to scrub it down using a razor blade aquarium cleaner to get it off of the glass.

The lights are brand new as well, a little over 2 months old. LED are suppose to last long? I leave the display lights on opposite of the sump/refugium light. Both for about 12 hours. For the display - only blues for 1 hour before and after I turn on the white lights. I keep them at 50/50 blues and whites for 10 hours. Should I keep it less? I noticed that the corals really likes the blue, their colors are really nice in the blue as well. But, I have read somewhere that corals can't live on just the blues. I spot feed them as well, that might be why my nitrates are not lower.

I haven't seen anymore "bubbles" on my LR since that one. But is that how a bubble algae is? When I popped it, it looked like nothing happened to it - just that it became flat but still there. I tried looking for that same bubble today and was unable to find it.

All of my water changes/top offs are from using RO DI from my 100 GPD equipment. I think I would have had a lot more issues without it

On the site where I purchased the copepods, they said you could add all or half of your copepods and then refrigerate the rest and use within 1-2 weeks. So, I added all of them. I got the copepods to try and culture enough to sustain the mandarin goby because my tank has not been established for 1 year+ so, I thought a copepod refugium would work for it. Didn't think it would backfire.

They look so nice though, I don't know if I could give up the one I have now. But, I got into the Saltwater aquarium stuff because of the mandarin and bengaiI cardinals. Then I went coral crazy

Is there a natural way to raise PH higher? I don't want to use "PH up" bottles. Corals might do better with a bit higher PH as well too.

Thanks for providing answers to all of the questions that I had KinsKicks! I will probably head to my supplier where I buy most of my aquarium products from to fight the cyano since it is spreading quickly in the refugium. Almost wall to wall and all over the LR rubbles.
  • #4
HI Nestea,

The red dots does indeed look like red slime aka cyano. Have you tested your phosphates and nitrates lately? and what are they at?
As for your RODI, I am assuming you are producing water with 0 TDS readings correct?

What's your PH at? I personally would not go chasing a "perfect" PH number. PH fluctuates throughout the day.

As for your cyano, you can buy products to help combat it, but the best method is probably good 'ol water changes and gravel vacs till you fix the situation.
How often are you changing water?

Also, your tank is not ready for a mandarin unless you are prepared to culture copepods on the side and hatch baby brine to feed it daily.
You need phytoplankton to feed your copepods in your refugium. They reproduce every 7 days, you pretty much need to feed/dose phytoplankton to your DT and refugium daily. You should be able to see your tank/sump crawling with copepods, that's when you know your tank is ready for a mandarin. Otheriwse, adding a mandarin now, it will just decimate your copepod population, and the pods will not be able to re-produce fast enough to sustain your mandarin... which will mean you will need to culture copepods in a separate tank and feed baby brine daily.

Though, if you are already having cyano/excess nutrient issue, you should resolve it first before thinking of adding the mandarin. They eat and poop all day, which further pollutes your tank.
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
HI MightyNanoTank,

Thank you for the reply. I don't know what could have caused the cyano.

My PH is at 8.0, Nitrates - 10 ppm and Phosphates - 0 ppm. I have been checking water parameters every 2-3 days since they have appeared but nothing has been changing. Ammonia is at 0.

I currently have the mandarin in the tank. I read that copepods will try to find a place in LR and I see the mandarin pecking around the LR for food. It's been over 2 weeks now since I've had the mandarin. I got the copepods in the refugium to feed the mandarin and was hoping that from the refugium/sump that the copepods would travel back to the display tank. I was feeding the copepods with phytoplankton (dark green bottle) twice a day, a few droplets in the refugium. Next day after I first got the copepods I noticed the red slime and wasn't sure if the pods were reproducing or what it was. No experience with culturing copepods and the online store I bought the copepods from provided no instructions.

The red slime is currently on in the sump/refugium area. Not in the display, yet. I do water changes weekly about 10-15% water changes. I also read online somewhere that it is better to do bigger water changes, to get more nitrates and stuff out. Should I do 30% water changes every 2 weeks instead?

Thanks for the help. I will vac out the sump today and do a water change to see it helps before I add medication to the tank.

Edit: My TDS tester used to read 0 but now it reads 001 for my RO DI water. I probably did 500G worth of water using the RO DI. I have spare equipment to change the DI resin, should I do that? I have been holding it off because I read that some people have TDS readings of up to 010-030 and do well in their Saltwater tanks.
  • #6

Nitrates and phosphates don't seem too alarming. What test kits are you using?
Can you take some better pictures of your tank? Glass, sand, and rockwork. Some of it also looks like healthy coralline algae.

Mandarins will literally hunt for food all day. It's what they do in nature too. If you see his belly concaved in, that mean's he's malnourished and you need start supplementing the tank with extra pods and baby brine shrimp. If you know about white worms, that will fatten it up right away.
Check out my thread on page 4 in creating a baby brine feeder for the Mandarin: Mightynanotank's Im25 Lagoon Build
A few droplets of phytoplankton is not enough food. In a sump your size, you should put two capfuls, so about 10ml total of phyto. The problem with copepods, is that the baby pods tend to swim up towards the light, so if they get caught during that time, it will end the cycle of re-producing copepods, therefore you need a lot of pods in the tank to keep the mandarin busy. I seeded my tank with 12,000 copepods worth. Even then, it was not enough food at all... by Day #3, I could clearly see his horizontal rib cage line. So I had to do a lot of hands on work in supplementing him with food to keep him thriving.

Another problem now is, if you vacuum your tank and sump, you will be further reducing the number of copepods in your tank.
If you are able to create the baby brine shrimp feeder and or feed it white worms as well, you should do 20% water changes every week till your tank gets back on track. Are you growing chaeto in your sump? If not, I would recommend you do that, within 2-3 weeks you should start seeing a decline in the bad algae outbreak.

As for your RODI unit, many factor comes into play in producing water. Ideally you want 0 TDS for reef tanks.
What's your pressure to your RODI unit? What's your source water TDS? What's your TDS after it goes through the membrane?
If you don't have sufficient pressure, your RODI will not work efficiently, meaning, it's not using the sediment, carbon, and membrane at it's fullest and your DI is being overworked and overused.
If you find out your source TDS and the TDS right after the membrane, this will tell you if you need to change something before the DI. Water going out of the membrane should ideally get rid of 90-98% TDS for you and the DI handles the remaining percentages so you can achieve 0 TDS.
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
Hello again MightyNanoTank,

I'll take a pic of the tank without the actinic lights when I get home so that you guys can see the green algae. I didn't notice that there was green algae until I only had the white lights on, thought I was still in the diatom phase.

I have been using API and Salifert test kits. Should I bring my water to my LFS to have them test it?

My sump is about 35-40G but, the refugium area is much smaller, 5G maybe. I have a 3rd generation eshopps refugium sump and I noticed yesterday that on the cover of the area where the water is draining from the display into the sump, has some red slime there now too. I wiped that off yesterday when I saw it.

When I first started my Saltwater tank, my TDS was reading 0 when I did the RODI water. It went up by 1 after almost 2.5 months of using it. I have a new membrane, DI resin, sediment and carbon filter for the RODI, should I replace my old with new? Just didn't think 0-1 TDS reading matter too much. My source water for TDS is 162.

I'm going to stop by the supplier that I bought most of my equipment from later today and see what he thinks. He was the one helping me set up the tank.

Thanks for the quick replies MightyNanoTank, really appreciate it. I'll update you with the better pics later today.
  • #8
Looks like your tank is just going through it's normal motions of diatom bloom and algae. Do you have some clean up crew in there to help out?

I am not certain, but a +1 TDS may also be a factor in your cyano algae, because who knows what that 1 TDS is in the water?
Also, only 2.5 months use and 500 gallons of water seems awfully quick to go from 0 TDS to 1 TDS, but I mean, it also depends on your source water that wears out your RODI a lot quicker.
You should get a pressure reading for your RODI unit, ideally, you want around 60 psI to efficiently use a RODI unit.

It's not a bad idea, to have your LFS double check your Nitrates and Phosphates before you start any dosing for red slime. I'm not an expert with dealing with red slime, so you will have to seek some expert for that. If your LFS is using API to test for you though, forget it. Ideally you want them to use Hannah, Red Sea, Salifert.
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
Hello MightyNanoTank,

I hope it is "normal". Would cyano be normal? I called into the supplier today and was going to stop by after work but the person who owned the place wasn't there and his partner didn't seem to be as knowledgeable as he is. His partner said that since I have had livestock for almost 2 months, it is possible I could have cyano.

This my tank and rock work that you wanted to see earlier. White lights only, no coral lights on for this pic.


This is my refugium tonight:


And my Mandarin:


Would you also know what these tentecles are on my zoa colony?


Thanks a lot for your advice/suggestions MightyNanoTank. I did a 30% water change today, hope it helps some. Will go into the LFS with a sample tomorrow too.

I used almost 500G through the RODI unit because for the first 4 weeks of cycling system and LR I was told to do 50% water changes per week. The initial amount of Saltwater needed was 90 + 40 = 130G already.
  • #10
You're mandarin looks skinny. I would look closely at MightyNanoTank 's thread and do everything you can to fatten your mandI up, or get her to an LFS that can. I love these fish but don't own one because I am not up to the task of feeding it. I'm not trying to be hard on you, really I'm not, I just feel bad for the species in general. I killed one in my first Saltwater tank.

The tentacles near your zoas look like aiptasia to me. There is more than one method to take care of them, which you'll want to do. They are a pest and can hurt/kill corals. I've seen a few videos on it but my current tank is new so I don't have recent, personal experience yet. I would suggest you watch/research ways to kill it and decide what's best for you.

Your tank is very nice, I particularly like your rock scape.
  • #11
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm the cyano seems to only be in your sump. My guess is that you have a goo amount of detritus built up. By the way, do you run the sump lights opposite of your display tank lights? If not, you should, it helps with keeping the PH stable.

Like what Stella said, it looks like aiptasia, and it also looks like it's stinging your zoas. Either take care of the aiptasia manually or get some peppermint shrimps to help eat it.
50% water changes with live rock for the first 4 weeks, seems a little excessive, but hey, your tank is cycled, so that works. Here's a great video by Tidal Gardens in how to combat Cyano outbreak
the guy knows his stuff, don't skip steps, and follow it to the T.

as for your Mandi, it's beautiful!
I can't see it's belly to see it's side horizontal lines. But if you are going to continue and gravel vac your sump and clean it religiously to get rid of the cyano, your copepod population will take a hit. I encourage you to look into white worms to supplement it during that time to feed the mandarin or, just buy more copepods and toss it in your tank at night. Algaebarn is a great seller for copepods.
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
Thanks for the tips you guys.

Sorry, been working and fighting the cyano and aiptasia. I think I have 3. I might have gotten 1 with scolding hot water through a syringe (I saw someone with success on YouTube).

Thanks for the video MightyNanoTank, I did see that video already and thinking about ChemI clean. I don't overfeed, twice a day feeding and fishes eat everything that I squirt out from bottle within 2 mins.

I think KinsKicks was correct with the initial post about maybe my copepods died in the fuge? That might have introduced a load of nutriets/bio load?

I'm trying to clean out my sump. I have chaeto and caulerpa in there as well, should I toss them out? Do I rinse my LR rubble in RODI water?

Thanks again, sorry for the trouble.
  • #13
It couldn't have introduced that much excess nutrients due to a copepod die off. I jammed back my system with baby brine shrimp for a month straight with no ill effect.

Good luck with it though. Keep us posted.
  • #14
I'm having algae issues like this, I also get bubbles on my sand but its not cyano its weird, you also have cyano I can see but I'm convinced mine is something to do with the new sand, I upgraded my tank and the only thing I added was new sand and now I'm having an issue, I never had it before. Ive been looking everywhere on other forums and everything and all every body is saying is that its cyano, its not its like a mixture of diatoms and bubble algae. Ive threw loads of the sand away and changed lots of water and done lots of vacuuming and its still coming but not as bad.There is something going on maybe its your sand too? Maybe the copepods did tip your nutrient balance I don't know its also a new set up, id get rid if some sand too if I were you as that's deep and will retain nutrients, I started off with a bed like that and its since been took right down to one inch if that, it still looks good.
be6726a347c4e8fbbea74097d4dccda3.jpg also can I see a pic of your light unit?
  • Thread Starter
  • #15
It couldn't have introduced that much excess nutrients due to a copepod die off. I jammed back my system with baby brine shrimp for a month straight with no ill effect.

Good luck with it though. Keep us posted.

HI NART, thanks for all of the suggestions previously.

I wiped down the entire refugium and got rid of all the LR and macro algae in there. It has been cleaned for about 3 weeks now. The cyano is not present on the walls of the refugium anymore. Is that odd? It only took a cleaning to get rid of the cyano. Sucks that I am unable to keep the copepod culture in my refugium.

I got a separate tank to culture the copepods in and about every 2 weeks I would scoop out some pods from the culture tank to feed the main tank. Has been working well and my mandarin goby is still alive and well.

As for grantm91's question about my lighting - for my refugium? It's just a simple clip-on light of 25W.

I am wondering what else can I use the refugium for now? It's pretty empty besides a few balls of chaeto.
  • #16
You can always buy copepods to seed the refugium and it should start populating. DOn't forget to also get phytoplankton to feed the pods too. You can always toss rock rubbles in it, but asides from chaeto and rock rubbles, that's all I would do for now.

How's the cyano doing? If it is still present, what's your Nitrates and Phosphates at?
  • Thread Starter
  • #17
The cyano is completely gone from the refugium. It was only ever in the refugium and never in the display tank.

Phosphates are at - 0
Nitrates - 0

I reduced feedings to once per day frozen food + 1 clip of veggie/MinI marine grazer (by Vitalis) alternating every other day.

Buying pods is expensive and from what I read and have been told, Mandarins eats a lot. I thought that the copepods in the refugium would last a while. Now I need to start learning how to culture Phytoplankton for the pods.

Oh btw, how are adult copepods suppose to look like? When I cleaned out the entire refugium, I found a few critters - they looked like tiny shrimps curled up on the LR, but I was only able to find 4 of them that large during the cleaning process and I checked/rinsed all the LR and macro algae.
  • #18
Ah okay - awesome. Glad to hear you've defeated the cyano.

Yes buying copepods can be expensive, but if you buy a decent amount of pods, and feed it phytoplankton, or a tank your size you shouldn't have to buy more as the copepods will be able to re-produce quick enough to sustain your Mandarin. How is your Mandarin doing by the way? If you see the horizontal line on it's stomach and the stomach is concaved in then it means it needs more food.

What you are seeing is just a shrimp of some sort, I forgot the name for it. The adult copepods are like 1/10 of those shrimps you see. You'll still see adult copepods, but you won't be able to spot baby copepods with just the naked eye.

But yeah - you can buy a few bags of copepods to seed back your refugium and by a month your refugium will be swarming with them. Just remember to feed phytoplankton a few times a week for the copepods to eat as well.
  • Thread Starter
  • #19
Thanks Nart!

I see these "white" copepods all over the the glass on my separate culturing tank. I just wasn't sure what those shrimp-looking things were. Then I saw no adult copepods when I cleaned out the refugium.

Should I move the culture back to the refugium? I started the copepod culture in the refugium and within 24 hours of adding all of the copepods that I bought, I noticed those red spots. Not sure if I want to kill my copepod culture again.

What's the difference between the "Reef Phytoplankton" (by Seachem) and the Phytoplankton from copepod distributers? I used both before and remember that the Seachem one was kind of brown and was used for my reef coral additives. The phytoplankton that I buy from copepod sellers are green. I was wondering if I could use the Seachem to feed the copepods? Only reason is that it is 1/2 of the cost of phytoplankton from copepod sellers.

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