Lobed Brain Coral puffy and removal of refugium

You may not know me personally, but know I like long convoluted posts. I will try to be brief.

For years I have never been able to grow acans. I have complained about it too. My new lobed brain coral came to me puffy from a neglected tank. Within a few days it deflated and rarely showed signs of puff. It was also receding. I also never had good polyp extension on my corals - past tense because they all died. A frog spawn of 10 years mysteriously stopped growing, receded, and never recovered. The bad stuff happened about a year ago.

In an effort to change things, I switched many things, including some chemistry, light height, etc. I learned that my lights were too close to the water (now at 9 inches with an 6 bulb ATI.) I even switch from chaeto to caulerpa in my refugium. For the last 20 years I have had a refugium and strongly believe[d] in them. The caulerpa grew very well, but had cotton candy algae. After talking with a reef member, he suggested that the caulerpa and cotton candy may be releasing a toxin and causing a problem that the carbon is not handling. For what it's worth, I had hanna checker phosphate reading of 0 - 0.02 for the longest time. The highest I recall seeing over that last year was .08. In the history of any of my tanks, I have never had a phosphate or nitrate issue. Never.

So, I pulled out all of the caulerpa and did confirm that cotton candy algae and perhaps hair algae was in the mix. The red refugium lights make it difficult to see the true color of things... So, I yanked it all out and did a 20 percent water change. Within a day, the lobo got puffy and has stayed that way for the last 10 days. Oddly, my phosphate levels have remained in the same range - 0.00. Nitrates tested at zero, per Red Sea pro test. I recalibrated my dosing pumps and salinity refractometer. I still haven't changed my carbon... Ok, so what is consuming the phosphates and nitrates now? There are virtually no plants. Protein skimmer is up and running.

At the same time as I cleared my refugium, I added four corals which all have kept their polyp extension - which is new to me. I added a montipora, a green slimer, a red forest fire digitata, and a blue stylophora.

So what was happening? I think that together with the protein skimmer, both the caulerpa and chaeto in my refugium were extremely efficient about removing every trace amount of nitrate and phosphate in the tank. With the introduction of a clam, which also filters water, the water became extremely devoid of phosphates and nitrates. The clam has growing well so clams probably filter better than macros. I originally purchased the clam because I thought I had a dirty tank - not clean. In a months time and assuming things remain in check I will obtain an acan to see if it remains puffy.

I feed a frozen food cube each day, with 5 fish in an 75 gallon tank.

Takeaways -

? If you think you tank is too clean, instead of over feeding, cut the refugium in half...or eliminate it.
? If you don't have polyp extension, consider making the refugium smaller.
? If lobed brains don't stay puffy, cut refugium.
? Refugiums by themselves can clean the tank too much. (I had the same results with the protein skimmer off)

Anyways up to discuss things...

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