Stringy while bacterial bloom - My experience with it


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I restarted my 210 display (500 gallon total water volume) reef tank after being neglected for several years due to extreme bryopsis and dino outbreak I could never get under control. I removed all the rock, sand, etc, cleaned it all up and started my reef system back up in March this year. I had all the survivors in a 20 gallon tank while I restarted the system. I filled the tank with the dead rock and dead sand and filled it with saltwater made from my RODI filter.

Shortly thereafter, bryopsis broke out EVERYWHERE while running only blue LED lighting. Little 1/4" stalks of bryopsis on every surface. Since I had no life in the system I decided to eliminate the bryopsis with AlgaeFX. That worked perfectly. Around that same time, I was measuring around .02 PO4 so I fired up some GFO which knocked that out in a week. I also started up a bio-pellet reactor to keep the nitrates away (never measured Nitrate, just set this up for long term Nitrate management.

The tank was now clean and running with the Halides for several hours without growing algae of any type so I added the survivors to one of the holding tanks (Coral Beauty, 4 heads of blastos, bunch of mushrooms and a leather coral). This was May.

In June, still no algae and the survivors were doing fine so I added a bicolor blenny and several LPS coral frags. Still no issues.

In July I added more LPS, a clown tang some Zoas, pair of clowns.

In early August I added some various coral frags.

Around the second week of August, my bio-pellet reactor plugged up stopped for a couple days. I cleaned it up and put it back in service. At that same time, I noticed my skimmer was foaming over with bubbles that would not break in the skimmer cup. I also noticed small areas of white strings that look similar to Vermetid snail web but that was not it.

Over the next couple weeks, the skimmer would get filled up with foam in a few hours, no matter how wet I set it to skim. The skimmate was the color of watered down milk. The white strings didn't get much worse but were still developing in several spots around the display.

Research indicated it was a harmless bacterial bloom that some people said should go away on its own. Other reports were it stuck around forever.

I found many threads on RC but the most helpful information was in this article:"></a>

The article indicates that one of the causes for the sudden outbreak of this bacteria is Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) found in air fresheners, alcohol, etc. Turns out I have an empty bourbon barrel (decorative) right next to my reef tank that does indeed smell the part of a bourbon barrel. I thought that was the cause and moved it to the other side of the basement. A week later, no change.

I decided to order some of Dr Tim's Waste-Away as outlined in the article posted above. I started dosing a week ago at a lower level than outlined in the article since I had a lot of water, but not a large bio-load or extensive waste in the system. I contacted Dr Tim's customer service department and they agreed that would be OK in my situation.

A week in to dosing Waste-Away, the bacteria isn't receding but I have determined another source of VOCs - solder flux. Another hobby of mine is repairing arcade games and one night after working on a monitor chassis earlier this week, I noticed the bacteria volume had grown almost before my eyes. A little research and indeed common rosin flux contains VOCs! No more soldering at the table next to my reef tank!

Several days later now and today is the first day the skimmer has not overflowed with foam. The skimmate is breaking down in the cup. No real difference in the amount of bacteria in the system but I'm hoping the change to the skimmate is a sign that Dr Tim's bacteria is working. Time will tell.

I'll update this thread with my progress and try and answer any questions you may have. I'm also open to anyone's advice that has experience with this stuff.
The bacteria is hard to capture in pictures but here is one string of the 100s around the tank.
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Reminds me of an issue we had in a 125 in a school once. The bloom appeared in the sump, and at first we thought one of the kids had put something in the sump, it was slippery and stringy - like a huge ball of snot (sorry...)

We removed it, and had child-proof locks put on the cabinet, and a few days later the stuff reappeared.

It didn't seem to harm anything but it was gross. It stayed in the sump. Eventually it subsided but we scooped out a BUNCH of snot-globs.

Funny what we encounter in these small ecosystems!

Update on my progress:

The Waste-Away wasn't making much progress in reducing the amount of bacteria but it wasn't getting any worse. So I decided to get some of Dr Tims's Refresh which is what he suggested starting with in the original article I read. I originally figured I could skip that step since my infestation wasn't very severe and my system was new and "clean". I thought that skipping that step might be the cause of my slow progress. The article also mentioned dosing food grade Hydrogen Peroxide as a way to weaken some of the bacteria.

So I picked up some 3% food grade Hydrogen Peroxide at my local Sprouts grocery store. It was the only place I could find food grade locally. DO NOT use drug store HP as it is stabilized with some chemicals that might be bad for our systems.

I dosed 1ml per 10 gallons (so in my case 50ml) once a day for 4 days. I suspended all dosing of beneficial bacteria during this time. I dosed it in all my tanks in proportion at the same time (my 210 display got 20ml, my 90 refuge got 9, etc) as to prevent localized overdoses. My ORP dropped from 300 down to 200 when dosed but would slowly rise back to 300 over 6-8 hours. None of my coral, fish or crabs seemed to mind other than the zoas that would close up as I dosed but would quickly re-open.

After 4 days of HP dosing the stingy bacteria was visibly less. It wasn't gone but you could see the HP had an impact. I also noticed my Acro frags were getting very pale. I wouldn't call it bleaching but they were clearly stressed. None of my other inhabitants looked any worse for the wear.

I dosed the HP in the mornings and on the last day (4th) of dosing HP, I added a full recommended dose of Dr Tim's Refresh 4 hours after the HP dose to hopefully replace the bacteria killed by the HP with "good" bacteria. I turned off my UV (it is still off) and turned off my skimmer for 12 hours to prevent skimming all the good bacteria out.

The dose of Refresh was about 24 hours ago and things are looking much better. The quantity of stringy bacteria is significantly reduced but it is not gone. My skimmer is still pulling bubbly slime but it is breaking down much better than ever. I only pulled 1/2 gallon of slime in the last 12 hours which is MUCH less than before. I was emptying milky colored skimmate about 2-3 gallons a day originally. I am skimming very wet so my skimmer doesn't get filled with slime bubbles and overflow.

I will add the 2nd dose of refresh tomorrow morning and update you guys in another few days.

Still keeping my fingers crossed! :)
Update: Is been 2 days since the last dose of Re-Fresh and the slime is really receding now. This stuff really works on this bacteria. It appears that none to very few new strings of bacteria are growing and only remnant pieces are left and randomly let loose, float around the system until getting skimmed. I can tell new strings from old as the older strings look ragged while the newer ones I've seen over the last several weeks are bright white and look like crisp, flexible strings.

I picked up another bottle of Re-Fresh and will be performing 2 more doses spaced 2 days apart to finish knocking this stuff back. Then the plan is to start with the Waste-Away.

I stopped dosing Hydrogen Peroxide since starting the Re-Fresh. I didn't want to kill the bacteria added with Re-fresh with the HP. Thought being HP kills whatever organic material it encounters, it does not know good bacteria from bad. For the same reason, I have left my UV off since starting the second dose of Re-Fresh. I also left the skimmer off for 30 hours (part of that time I was deep cleaning it).

So far so good, I'll update the record book after the next 2 doses of Re-Fresh.

I ended up adding one more dose of Re-Fresh (total of 3 about 2 to 3 days apart) and all the stringy bacteria is gone from the tanks. I have since dosed a couple rounds of 1/2 strength doses of Waste-Away after the 3rd dose of Re-Fresh. I don't see anything improving from use of the Waste-Away at this point. I'm moving to weekly doses of Waste-Away, just as a preventative.

For the record, I observed my Bi-color Blenny and Clown Tang eating the stringy bacteria. The blenny would over-stuff himself with it, the Clown Tang appeared to casually eat it if it was floating by but in no means was the tang aggressively eating it.

I'm calling it resolved at the moment! No further updates unless I have a setback or someone has any questions.