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Thread: GHA Cure? Time will tell

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    Registered User SpaceOps's Avatar

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    GHA Cure? Time will tell

    So I've been struggling with GHA for a while. My nitrates and phosphates are zero. I have a DSB, algae scrubber, and am dosing VSV. Once GHA takes hold it's a bear to get rid of. Sea hares helped, but they don't live long after they eat all the algae, and it came back.
    So Itook to the Internet for help. Magnesium works for bryopsis, but no guarantees for GHA. I found a couple threads where people used hydrogen peroxide. Seemed extreme, so I continued researching. I found even more peroxide threads. People were using a 50/50 mix of tank water with peroxide to dip LR and corals, and said it worked beautifully. One guy accidentally left his SPS in pure peroxide overnight with no ill effects. So I decided to try it, but at a much lower dosage strength. I filled a bucket with 4 gallons of used tank water and added 64 oz of peroxide from Sam's. That's an 8:1 water-peroxide mix. I also had another bucket of tank water to rinse off the peroxide residue and leech as much peroxide from the LR before returning it to the aquarium. I didn't want to accidentally dose the tank. I removed the LR/corals from the right side of the tank and put them into the peroxide bucket for 2-5 minutes, then moved them to the water bucket for 10 or so minutes. You can only do that so long before you need to refresh the water or you end up with a second bucket of peroxide mix.
    I put the LR back into the tank and crossed my fingers.
    That was last weekend. I checked the aquarium yesterday and was thrilled! The GHA was completely gone! The coralline and corals looked completely normal.
    The reason I didn't dose the tank directly was obvious. The sand, clam, snails, sump could have been wiped out--maybe, I may need to experiment on a tiny scale. One green crab was dipped, but it's active this weekend.
    So far, I'm sold. I plan to dip the rest today.
    Northernmost SPS aquarium in the US.

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  3. #2
    Registered User SpaceOps's Avatar

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    One thing that crossed my mind was that maybe the algae scrubber could be the source of the outbreak. When I would clean the scrubber, minute threads would have been released back into the tank. I got rid of the scrubber and red/blue LED sump lights for now.
    Northernmost SPS aquarium in the US.

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    Registered User scrumpto's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by SpaceOps View Post
    One thing that crossed my mind was that maybe the algae scrubber could be the source of the outbreak. When I would clean the scrubber, minute threads would have been released back into the tank. I got rid of the scrubber and red/blue LED sump lights for now.
    Put a filter sock after your scrubber to catch anything coming from it. However, from experience, I don't think that's the problem.

    What follows is a bit long but important for anyone battling hair algae, Bryopsis, etc.

    After 18 years of keeping reef tanks, I finally ended up with some form of algae that wouldn't respond to anything. Up close it looks like Bryopsis but from everything I've read, there are so many different types of hair algae that it could have been anything.

    Over a five year period, I tried everything to get rid of it based on all my experience as I love testing theories. I bought a large expensive skimmer, ran the best carbons and filter medias, tried adding filter socks to keep the water pristine, created anaerobic zones with specialized media in the sump, changed water frequently with different salts and RO/DI water with 0 TDS and Phosphates, etc., etc., etc. I ran GFO, Biopellets, Phosban, Chemi-Pure and Purigen and some I can't remember the name of. I switched foods and raised Magnesium levels high enough to nearly kill everything in the tank and the stuff just kept growing.

    I resorted to pulling rocks and frags out of the tank and soaking them in 3% hydrogen peroxide for fifteen minutes and spraying them off with a high-pressure sprayer to remove all the dead algae, but the stuff kept growing back.

    Finally, after losing a bunch of corals to them being choked out by the algae, I got sick of the battle and decided to try the nuclear option. I pulled 90% of the rock out of the tank (which is all that had algae on it) and soaked it in a really strong bleach/water solution for a week. I then set everything outside in the sun to dry for several months.

    Meanwhile, the other 10% of the rock in the tank which never had algae on it started to become infested. Because these rocks had anemones on them I would squirt them down with the hydrogen peroxide several times over a half hour period and then put them back in the tank. What happened? The algae died and then came back.

    That's when I decided to build an algae scrubber and guess what -- no more problems. I've seen the algae try to grow back weakly a couple times but I've simply killed it off with the hydrogen peroxide each time and it never grows back in that spot again. So it's been about 4-5 months now and I'm algae free in the display tank.

    So what's my advice? Build a big algae scrubber, remove your rock and kill all the algae with bleach and if any new algae appear -- use hydrogen peroxide until the only place you have algae is on your scrubber!

    Enjoy!

    Pics follow:







    Last edited by scrumpto; 12-11-2015 at 04:42 AM.

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    Registered User Levi's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by SpaceOps View Post
    One thing that crossed my mind was that maybe the algae scrubber could be the source of the outbreak. When I would clean the scrubber, minute threads would have been released back into the tank. I got rid of the scrubber and red/blue LED sump lights for now.
    algae scrubber is not the source unfortunately. You have a problem with phosphates or nutrients and the scrubber is exporting those nutrients, but there is still excess which is causing them to be exported in GHA in the tank itself. Dipping LR does kill the algae, but it also kills the good bacteria on the rocks, so effectively if you end up dipping everything you have just removed one of the largest exporters of nutrients in your system and will unfortunately end up with GHA but most likely 10x worse than you had before. I have never read anything about SPS being dipped overnight in pure peroxide but I can say some of my hardier polyps have sat in pure peroxide overnight. Keep in mind peroxide gasses off turning into H2O in a short period of time, meaning that the polyps were sitting in pure H2O overnight.

    For anyone looking into this method, consider figuring out why you have excess nutrients and take care of that issue. GHA is a side effect and not the problem itself.

    Also running UV will do wonders for keeping algae at bay, but it doesnt fix the exportation problem that is the real issue. Really consider what scrumpto said as he has the right idea here.

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    Registered User SpaceOps's Avatar

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    No. As i mentioned in the beginning, my nitrates and phosphates were zero. They're still zero weeks after peroxide.

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    Last edited by SpaceOps; 12-11-2015 at 02:43 PM.
    Northernmost SPS aquarium in the US.

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    Registered User SpaceOps's Avatar

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    I have UV too.

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    Registered User Levi's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by SpaceOps View Post
    No. As i mentioned in the beginning, my nitrates and phosphates were zero. They're still zero weeks after peroxide.

    Sent from my XT1254 using Tapatalk
    your test is wrong or your equipment is not capable of exporting the nutrients without the growth of the GHA. Good luck though as it seems like you have it all figured out so I look forward to updates.

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    Registered User SpaceOps's Avatar

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    Yeah, I'm sure that's it. I'm new to salt water.

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    Nothing will substitute good water quality. I would suggest that the algae scrubber might help consume excess nutrients and grow the excess algae in the scrubber. Testing may be deceptive if the algae is consuming the nitrate etc before it's free floating and readable on a test.

    What kind of skimmer are you using and is it skimming at its maximum? How is the flow in the tank, increasing flow can help keep things from settling and get it filtered through the sump. Additionally, some water changes, removal of any detritus settled on the sand and slowing or cleaning the food will help.

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    Registered User Levi's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by SpaceOps View Post
    Yeah, I'm sure that's it. I'm new to salt water.

    Sent from my XT1254 using Tapatalk
    I find it funny that you say it so sarcastically that it isn't even remotely possible that your test kit is wrong. Your signature has this in it "Question everything. A know-it-all can learn nothing."

    That being said, we just had a similar situation earlier this year with a very well versed member that was testing and it turned out to be that the test kit was bad. Also lets break this down for a minute and try and understand the entire situation.

    1) GHA is the effect that is caused by excess nutrients either in the form of phosphates (typically) or something else. Usually with excess nutrients you see a spike in phosphates.
    2) saying that you have a GHA problem with 0 phosphates is an oxymoron of a statement because a GHA problem is from excess nutirents. If you remove the excess nutirents, the "food" for the GHA so to speak, then the GHA dies down and goes away.

    Here is a great article by Reefkeeping Magazine that I think you should read about GHA.

    http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2008-07/nftt/index.php

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    Senior Member fisher's Avatar

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    My test kit read 0 when I had gha and 0 when I finally got rid of it. So I'm pretty sure mine didn't work. Did a lot of water changes, changed feeding and light schedules. Eventually it all turned kinda white and went away.

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    Registered User SpaceOps's Avatar

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    Yes, I absolutely question everything when it comes to keeping a few grand in corals alive. I question myself and the word of anyone who insists they're right (remember when everyone said 3200K was considered the best light for corals?). Thank God for the Internet, because that's usually where I start and finish. I actually replaced my test kits and got the same results, but I didn't bother posting that. Most experienced reefers would eventually question their test kits. I remember a year ago when I did have detectable nitrates and phosphates, and that's when I established a DSB, started dosing VSV, and set up the scrubber. Eventually, everything dropped to zero.

    I was sarcastic because you tend to come across as "the" expert. I apologize if that's not your intent, but that's how I read it. There are some things that you have to give an experienced reefer credit for, such as checking water chemistry, knowledge of test kits and equipment, filtration, source water (mine is 0 TDS, confirmed by an input/output meter and a handheld TDS meter), food (I feed the absolute minimum), supplements, etc.

    I didn't post initially to say, "Look at this. This is how everyone should get rid of GHA." I realize that it was just part of the solution. I'm still trying to get to the root cause. I was saying this is what worked for me based on what I read on the Internet. I also experimented a bit by decreasing the H2O2 concentration to reduce any collateral damage.

    Yes, I also wondered whether the decaying GHA would reintroduce N and P back into the water. So far, it looks like the answer is no. I tested before and after the treatment and was a bit surprised at the results. I think the DSB and VSV and the skimmer are getting it done.

    I agree that the H2O2 would have killed bacteria indiscriminately. That's why I didn't dose the tank directly, and why I only treated half the LR for a very short period, and then soaked them in tank water to leach as much out as possible so I wouldn't inadvertently dose the tank and cause the tank to cycle.

    In ref to:
    "1) GHA is the effect that is caused by excess nutrients either in the form of phosphates (typically) or something else. Usually with excess nutrients you see a spike in phosphates.
    2) saying that you have a GHA problem with 0 phosphates is an oxymoron of a statement because a GHA problem is from excess nutirents. If you remove the excess nutirents, the "food" for the GHA so to speak, then the GHA dies down and goes away"
    All I can say is that N was and is zero and P was and is zero--even with new test kits.

    One major change I've made is to the lighting. I've disabled all of the white LEDs, and covered the reds. Both emit wavelengths that can help green plant growth. If nothing else, the corals are looking better.

    So I guess I'm somewhat in agreement with you, but there's only so much you can test for.
    Northernmost SPS aquarium in the US.

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    Registered User SpaceOps's Avatar

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    Forgot to add...I even questioned my bio-load. None of the fish are large (yet). 2 tangs, 2 chromis, flame angel, scooter, 2 bangaii, some snails, a couple small crabs. All in a 110G plus sump.
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    Registered User Levi's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by SpaceOps View Post
    Yes, I absolutely question everything when it comes to keeping a few grand in corals alive. I question myself and the word of anyone who insists they're right (remember when everyone said 3200K was considered the best light for corals?). Thank God for the Internet, because that's usually where I start and finish. I actually replaced my test kits and got the same results, but I didn't bother posting that. Most experienced reefers would eventually question their test kits. I remember a year ago when I did have detectable nitrates and phosphates, and that's when I established a DSB, started dosing VSV, and set up the scrubber. Eventually, everything dropped to zero.

    I was sarcastic because you tend to come across as "the" expert. I apologize if that's not your intent, but that's how I read it. There are some things that you have to give an experienced reefer credit for, such as checking water chemistry, knowledge of test kits and equipment, filtration, source water (mine is 0 TDS, confirmed by an input/output meter and a handheld TDS meter), food (I feed the absolute minimum), supplements, etc.

    I didn't post initially to say, "Look at this. This is how everyone should get rid of GHA." I realize that it was just part of the solution. I'm still trying to get to the root cause. I was saying this is what worked for me based on what I read on the Internet. I also experimented a bit by decreasing the H2O2 concentration to reduce any collateral damage.

    Yes, I also wondered whether the decaying GHA would reintroduce N and P back into the water. So far, it looks like the answer is no. I tested before and after the treatment and was a bit surprised at the results. I think the DSB and VSV and the skimmer are getting it done.

    I agree that the H2O2 would have killed bacteria indiscriminately. That's why I didn't dose the tank directly, and why I only treated half the LR for a very short period, and then soaked them in tank water to leach as much out as possible so I wouldn't inadvertently dose the tank and cause the tank to cycle.

    In ref to:
    "1) GHA is the effect that is caused by excess nutrients either in the form of phosphates (typically) or something else. Usually with excess nutrients you see a spike in phosphates.
    2) saying that you have a GHA problem with 0 phosphates is an oxymoron of a statement because a GHA problem is from excess nutirents. If you remove the excess nutirents, the "food" for the GHA so to speak, then the GHA dies down and goes away"
    All I can say is that N was and is zero and P was and is zero--even with new test kits.

    One major change I've made is to the lighting. I've disabled all of the white LEDs, and covered the reds. Both emit wavelengths that can help green plant growth. If nothing else, the corals are looking better.

    So I guess I'm somewhat in agreement with you, but there's only so much you can test for.
    The pot calling the kettle black hmmmm....

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    Registered User SpaceOps's Avatar

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    Lol. Touche!

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    A quick before and after and then some discussion...





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    Registered User scrumpto's Avatar

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    If you two are finally done with the chest thumping then it's probably time to continue the serious discussion :-P

    In January 2016, my youngest will turn 18 and that marks the first anniversary of my first saltwater tank as I was cutting holes in the wall for an in-wall tank on the first week she was home from the hospital. Does that make me an expert? Eh, H*ll no. During those 18 years, I had the opportunity to meet and befriend some of the serious experts in the industry and lean on their advice. Now, does that make me an expert? At the risk of repeating myself... you already know what I'm going to say.

    The reality is that there are so many variables in keeping a reef tank that nobody really has the answers. And just about the time you think you do you run into something like Old Tank Syndrome which screws with everything you thought you know. I remember visiting the Dallas Aquarium in the late 90's (if I remember correctly) for a conference filled with expert speakers. During our time there we were walking through the aquarium and commenting on the seriously poor health of the Purple Tangs who all had a terrible case of HLLE. The experts I was with were all talking about how this was related to the low quality of the food they were being fed (talk about an assumption!). Fast forward to 2011 where they start realizing this might actually be directly related to the use of GAC (Granular Activated Carbon) as a filter medium. http://www.advancedaquarist.com/2006/5/aafeature2

    Wait -- what? Fish were exhibiting poor health quality because of a filter medium everyone uses? Think about that for a second -- the assumption, made by people with Phd's -- was most likely wrong. Why did I say "most likely"? Because until it's proven beyond a shadow of a doubt -- it's just another assumption regardless of the number of degrees someone has. And that's the problem we face -- assumptions.

    Much of what we know about keeping reef tanks is based on our own assumptions and the assumptions of others. We think we know what bacteria live in the tank because someone told us so or wrote an article about it. We think we understand the nitrogen cycle, what lives in live rock and how that benefits us but at the end of the day, we really don't know squat -- we simply have assumptions, anecdotal evidence, and some well thought-out theories.

    Let's take a few assumptions and tear them up...

    The solution to pollution is dilution.
    In reality, this is a sound theory and it makes sense that the more water volume you have in a system the less pollution/nutrients you will have in PPM. The idea then is that if you have enough water volume you'll never have nuisance algae. I lived on Maui for five years and went diving, at least, every two weeks. What I found is that despite the gigantic water volume, live rock everywhere and the deepest sandbed in the world filled with bacteria -- nuisance algae still grew but only in certain areas. I don't care how you diluted that pollution -- nuisance algae still thrived. So the principal is sound but doesn't really help us.

    If your water parameters show zero nitrates and algae there must be something wrong with your test kits.
    How about -- the test kits simply aren't sensitive enough to show what you really have in the tank. Compound this with the fact that GHA seems to thrive with nearly zero nutrients and you can throw any test kit away as it's now useless.

    You obviously have a nutrient problem and you need to solve that problem.
    I've spent 18 years searching for that nutrient problem across more tanks in more states than I care to talk about. I've used just about every piece of filtration equipment, filter medium, water source, salt mix, salinity, additive, etc. and GHA has always been an issue to one degree or another.

    Shall I go on? Let's not and I'll see if I can sum this up.

    Algae appears to be a part of the natural ecosystem in the wild. If bacteria alone could solve all the nutrient problems there would be zero algae in the ocean. When I consider this I have to realize that there's a place in my reef system for algae but that I also get to choose where that alga resides. The problem I found (and have since solved) is that the algae in a scrubber cannot seem to outcompete the algae in the display as the display is an ideal place for the algae to thrive due to the lighting and readily available nutrients (read: fish poop). So the trick is to kill the algae in the display tank and replace it with algae in a sump (e.g. macroalgae or chaeto) or to build an algae scrubber and grow GHA. Even as I write this though I see a small patch of GHA growing under a coral which I'll need to deal with or it will grow and spread.

    After 18 years of experimenting based on more assumptions than are believable, I've finally found a way to keep my display tank relatively algae free (with some maintenance). You can do what you want but if you look at the previous post you'll see what a bottle of bleech, some elbow grease, and an algae scrubber can do.

    Now, to address one lingering issue. If you have a light fish-load, are feeding small amounts of quality food and yet have a GHA problem WTF could be going on? I strongly suspect detritus has built up in your live rock and sand and is causing nutrients to constantly leak out into the system. The levels are generally really low because the GHA is utilizing these nutrients so you have a beautiful algae factory. My advice is to feed those nutrients to algae outside of the display tank, but that's just my advice.

    Disagree with the above? Feel free, it's all just an assumption ;-)

    [The following is NOT directed at any one of you -- it's meant to be humorous]

    Note to those of you who have pristine tanks with zero algae -- congrats -- we envy you. However, your sanctimonious advice rarely helps the rest of us. As such please continue to post beautiful photos which encourage the rest of us to strive harder to achive what you have ;-). If you're feeling really smug -- I'd like to give you a bryopsis infested piece of live rock and see how long before you pull your own hair out and all your theories about pristine water conditions being the cure go out the window. Okay, you've made your point -- an ounce of prevention (quarantine tank!) is worth a pound of cure!

    Enjoy!

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  22. #18
    Registered User SpaceOps's Avatar

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    ***thump, thump, thump...cough, cough, cough, wheeze, hack, hack***
    Detritus...hmm. Maybe. The gyre creates a massive current, but I should look for any dead spots.


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    I have the gyre and I know where my dead spots are. That is where I siphon, when I feel like it. Back to the phos issue. It is totally possible to get a 0 reading on a test kit as the GHA is sucking it up as fast as it is being put into the tank. One thing Scott referred to is Old Tank Syndrome. I honestly believe that was the issue I was having with algae (not GHA) for 2 years. Rock absorbs phos, holds it. You put in water with no phos, rocks release phos till amount of phos in water = to amount of phos in rock. I did like Joe and went with lanthanum chloride, a chemical that bonds to phosphate and then is precipitated out through the skimmer or filters socks. That is the only thing that killed off the funky algae I had growing.

    And on another note, for those of us considered "expert" aquairist, I have made more dumb a$$ rookie mistakes, having been in the hobby for so many years, just because I don't think it could be something so basic.
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    I have the gyre and I know where my dead spots are. That is where I siphon, when I feel like it. Back to the phos issue. It is totally possible to get a 0 reading on a test kit as the GHA is sucking it up as fast as it is being put into the tank. One thing Scott referred to is Old Tank Syndrome. I honestly believe that was the issue I was having with algae (not GHA) for 2 years. Rock absorbs phos, holds it. You put in water with no phos, rocks release phos till amount of phos in water = to amount of phos in rock. I did like Joe and went with lanthanum chloride, a chemical that bonds to phosphate and then is precipitated out through the skimmer or filters socks. That is the only thing that killed off the funky algae I had growing.

    And on another note, for those of us considered "expert" aquairist, I have made more dumb a$$ rookie mistakes, having been in the hobby for so many years, just because I don't think it could be something so basic.
    The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. - Jacques Cousteau


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