Dinoflagellates - The new paradox

Reefkeeping, Coral, Fish and Invertebrates.

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Dinoflagellates - The new paradox

Post by snoopdog »

This morning I figured it was time to create a thread on the new phenomena that has developed, dinoflagellates. Of course dinoflagellates are not some new algae, they have been around for millions of years. What is new though is the widespread reports of them in current setups. I had just gotten back in the hobby and they appeared in my tank. The setup I purchased had what I would basically call dead rock, no matter what marketing calls it. I was very apprehensive of this rock because of what felt like a high density internal structure. When I actually started seeing dinoflagellates I had to look it up, this stuff was new to me because back when I started reefing I did not once hear of a person that got it. Sure we got green hair algae or cyanobacteria, but not this.

After weeks of trying to manually remove this stuff, which is just impossible, I was at my wits end. It is weighty enough to not make it up a tube without also getting your sand, not to mention it disperses when touched. To deal with a problem you have to know what your are dealing with first and then find the cause. My first step was to look at the actual cells under a microscope so I purchased a low end Amscope microscope. Low and behold I had the flavor of dinoflagellates that is easier to eradicate, ostreopsis.

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While all of this was going on some small measures I did were not helping. I had purchased some aquacultured live rock from KP aquatics. I think the live rock did help some, but most things in a reef tank do not happen quickly so I think long term the live rock would had helped more. I had been battling to keep my phosphates and nitrates elevated but either the dead rock or dinoflagellates were absorbing it faster than I could bring it up. Also I think the dinoflagellates were taking a toll on the tank, I was starting to lose a clean up crew and what few corals I had were starting to die. Another observation was that I did not have one amphipod or copepod in the tank, nothing observable. This is when I got serious about ending the battle.

I purchased two green killing machines from Amazon. I put one inside the display and one in the sump. It was total overkill but it worked. On day 2 or 3 I noticed a drastic reduction. I then started loosening the dinoflagellate mats when I saw them form, so they could go through the uv lights. By day 5 I could not find a live dinoflagellate mat in the tank. I have yet to put the water under the microscope again but my best guess they are still in the tank, but under check now. I have left one of the ultraviolet lights in the sump just because they also help from letting something like ich gain hold on a tank.

Another interesting observation though. Two weeks after the dinoflagellates left I had an explosion of copepods and today just saw my first amphipod. Since dinoflagellates are toxic to copepods it makes sense why I never saw any. I hope this post helps someone in the future. In my honest opinion the thing that has changed in the hobby causing this is not the increased usage of LED lighting but the reliance on dead rock. Do yourself a favor and just buy live rock. These sterile tanks are likely the cause of the new problems arising in new tanks. Sure you may use dead rock and never get dinoflagellates but you will probably have a healthier tank much quicker by just starting with live rock.
"When they was no meat we ate fowl, when there was no fowl we ate crawdad. And when there was no crawdad to be found, we ate sand."--Cellmate
"You ate what?"--H.I.
"We ate sand."--Cellmate
"You ate sand?"--H.I.
"That's right."--Cellmate

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Re: Dinoflagellates - The new paradox

Post by dondante »

Interesting. I had a 10 year hiatus and got back in the hobby 2 years ago. Started with "real reef" and some other fake rock. Had an outbreak. Purchased a few prices of live rock from rich when he was still open and turned up the flow and syphoned it out. Also had a huge explosion of copepods. At that time I just chalked it up as part of new tank syndrome and it came and went like normal algae problems associated with a new tank.

After reading this and Thinking back I had never seen that type of algae in my 30 years of salt water keeping. Reefs and Fish only.

I upgraded a year ago and had a few minor problems. Over the last several months my tanks has settled in and doing great. I'll make a post about something that's really helped my tank over the last few months.
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Re: Dinoflagellates - The new paradox

Post by snoopdog »

So what is the deal with Rich anyway? Does anyone know what happened? I never visited the new store, back when I saw Rich he was still operating in that shop located next to his house.
"When they was no meat we ate fowl, when there was no fowl we ate crawdad. And when there was no crawdad to be found, we ate sand."--Cellmate
"You ate what?"--H.I.
"We ate sand."--Cellmate
"You ate sand?"--H.I.
"That's right."--Cellmate
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