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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Nitrates 8

Related Articles: Nitrates, NitritesAmmonia, Phosphate, SilicatesNutrient Control and ExportDeep Sand Beds

Related FAQs: Nitrates 1, Nitrates 2, Nitrates 3, Nitrates 4, Nitrates 5, Nitrates 6, Nitrates 7, Nitrates 9Nitrates 10, Nitrates 11,  & FAQs on: The Actual Science Re: NO3 Compounds, Importance, Measuring, Sources, Means to reduce: NNR (Natural Nitrate Reduction, Anaerobic Bacteria), Algae, Other Biota, Physical Filters, Chemical Filters... NitritesAmmonia, Establishing Cycling, BiofiltrationPhosphate, Silicates, Biological Filtration, Fluidized Beds, Bio-Ball, Wet-Dry Media 1 Denitrification/Denitrifiers, Wet-Dry Filters, RO./Distilled/Treated WaterChemical FiltrantsDeep Sand Beds

Generally lower nitrate concentration indicates a more viable environment.

Nitrates Hello, I have a nitrate problem... please help. I have a 50 gal salt water tank -70 lbs of crushed coral -undergravel filter with 2 402 powerheads -a SeaClone 100 skimmer -1 Fluval 304 with just sponges and bio-max -1 Fluval 304 with sponges, charcoal, Bio-Max and Kent nitrate sponge. Fish:  2 porcupine puffers 4-5 inches long 1 humu trigger 1 snowflake moray eel Nitrates are 80-100 ppm What is your advice?    Thank you, Tony  <Two things, Tony. First, you have too big a fish load for a 50 gallon tank. Just the two puffers at 4-5 inches would be pushing it, let alone the trigger and the eel. Secondly, the undergravel filter isn't helping you. The gravel bed on the filter plate needs to be gravel vacuumed weekly along with a 10% weekly water change that should be done. The addition of a protein skimmer will help immensely toward lowering nitrate levels. James (Salty Dog)>

Nitrates Follow-up Hello, Is it best that I take the under gravel filter plate out? I will be moving in 2 or 3 months so I will have to break the tank down anyway.  <I'd take it out> Also what are my options if I want to keep the 4 fish that I have in the 50 gallon tank (fish: 2 porcupine puffers 4-5 inches long, 1 Humu trigger 2 inches long, 1 snowflake moray eel 12 inches long)? If I had to would I be okay with just taking the Humu trigger out? <Nope>  How big will the puffers get?  <This puffer can grow to 18 inches, the trigger to 10 inches. My rule of thumb is one cubic inch of fish per 5 gallons tank size. You will always have a nitrate problem with that big of a load in a 50. James (Salty Dog)> 

Submerged bio balls still nitrate factory?  I am trying to find out why bio balls are considered a nitrate factory. Is it because they are not submerged? <I really don't consider them a "nitrate factory". Some people seem to feel that using them will elevate the nitrate level some, but if proper tank maintenance and weekly 10% waters changes are done, it is not even going to be a factor.>  If they were submerged would that make them more like live rock without as much surface area and nitrate control?  <More benefit is obtained with the bio balls in the dry area of the filter. This sort of separates the water into thin films where the air/water exchange is most beneficial.>  Would dry rock also be nitrate factory if used in wet dry type system and not submerged?  <It would not be very effective to start with used in the dry section of the wet/dry. Mike, in my opinion the bio balls do far more good than harm. James (Salty Dog)>  (I still have boxes of bags of Thiel's bio balls from when he was only supplier of quality saltwater products) Thank You, Mike Petrizzo  <You're welcome> 

Knocking Out Nitrates! Hi there WWM Crew. <Hey there! Scott F. here today!>  Hope you don't mind, but I have a question, despite reading so many of the articles concerning wet/dry filters. <That's what the site is all about! Ask away!> I have a 55 gallon tank, with an A-Miracle hang-on wet/dry trickle filter. I'm also using a Whisper dual cartridge filter with carbon. The tank has about 20 lbs of live rock, and the inhabitants (Red Coris Wrasse, Coral Beauty, Algae Blenny, Sebae Clown and a Yellow Tang, with a few snails and a Feather Duster, with some paintbrush macro-algae) all seem to be doing quite well. <Good to hear!> I see so many references to the wet/dry filters producing nitrates, but my nitrates are about 20 ppm and have been at that level for about 6 months. My local fish store tested the water for phosphates and told me nothing to worry about. Yet, I keep getting green algae blooms and I'm going crazy trying to clean the tank every week or so. <Well, wet/dry filters excel at removing ammonia and nitrite, but they do little to keep up with and reduce nitrate, the "end product" of biological filtration. Nitrates and phosphates are a big source of nuisance algae blooms. In a tank with established nutrient export systems (i.e. deep sand beds, etc.), you should achieve nearly undetectable levels of nitrate.> Lighting is a total of 260 watts (2 x 55 watt blue actinics, one 50/50 40 watt, and 2x 55 watt 10000k bulbs). Initially, I was keeping the lights on about 10 - 12 hours per day. For the past couple of months, I have been keeping them on no more than 6 -8 hours per day, and still, green algae all over. <Well, light in and of itself is not the cause of nuisance algae. Light and available nutrients are the contributors.> Would it help to clean the bio balls at this stage (the wet/dry has been up and running well over a year. <I'd consider ditching the bioballs all together, and just relying on a deep sand bed, live rock, chemical filtration media, (activated carbon/Poly Filter) aggressive protein skimming, quality source water, and frequent small water changes to do the job.> The built in skimmer rarely works. <A reliable, productive skimmer really helps. It is your first line of defense against accumulations of dissolved organics. Do consider upgrading to a skimmer that really does the job.> I use at least 2 filter pads at all times, and I either change one and rinse the other every week, or rinse both weekly. <Good practice.> Still green algae blooms. What if I remove the bio balls entirely, and replace them with a good amount of activated carbon? <I wouldn't use carbon "in place of" bioballs. Rather; I'd use it in addition to any other filtration media/method.> Would I be better off removing the wet/dry entirely and going with a canister filter and better skimmer? <Just a better skimmer!> Or can I simply help solve the problem by pre-treating new water when I do my weekly 10 - 15 % changes, by using a phosphate remover before adding the new water to the tank?  <These are definitely helpful practices, but should be used in conjunction with other techniques.> Thanks so much for your help. I'm pulling my hair out with this, and I really don't want to go bald (I'm running out of time). <Hang in there! Try some of the ideas that I outlined here. Do a little research here on the WWM site and you'll find a wealth of information on this topic! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Ick and Nitrates Problems 3/8/05 Hi guys, Just a few questions I was hoping you could help me out with. First the background: I have a 42 gallon hex, Magnum 350 canister filter, and AquaC Remora skimmer. There are approx 30 pounds of live rock, and two damsels, two Niger triggers, one maroon clown, one porcupine puffer and a snowflake eel. The tank is kind of small, but they will be moving into my 75 in a couple months.  <Yowza! This is very crowded, and will be even in your 75, especially with all of those big eaters.> Right now, everybody's in the QT tank to get rid of some ich that was most noticeable on the puffer, but everybody else was rubbing on the rocks, so I put them in there also. I'm treating with formalin, and the spots on the puffer have gone away, but I'm hoping to get rid of it in the main tank before putting everyone back in.  <The key is to keep the display fishless for 30 days to ensure that all of the parasites are dead. See more info on WWM and here: http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-08/sp/index.htm> The second problem is high nitrates (~80) I've been doing water changes, but not getting anywhere. I'm wondering if the canister is helping or hurting me, I'm considering just making a sump from a Rubbermaid container and eliminating the canister if that would help. Any further tips are greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance and keep up the good work. Dane  <Canister filters will contribute to nitrate accumulation, especially if they are not cleaned at least weekly. However, the root of your problem is the high bio-load. I would eliminate the canister, but you must also address the bioload. Best Regards. AdamC.>

Ich and Nitrate Problems Hi guys, <Hello> Just a few questions I was hoping you could help me out with. First the background: I have a 42 gallon hex, Magnum 350 canister filter, and AquaC Remora skimmer. <Good setup for small fish> There are approx 30 pounds of live rock, and two damsels, two Niger triggers, one maroon clown, one porcupine puffer and a snowflake eel. The tank is kind of small, but they will be moving into my 75 in a couple months. <Wow you're not kidding, those fish won't survive in a 75 for long, much less a 42 that has very little surface area on the bottom, these fish need a lot of floor space, not a lot of depth per se. I hope you have room to store a set of 12-15" Nigers, a 18" porcupine puffer, 6" maroon clown, and a 2 foot eel. (Conservative size estimates in aquariums, they get bigger in the wild.) You need a 180 gallon at the bare minimum and to keep all these fish, look into a 240 or 300.>  Right now, everybody's in the QT tank to get rid of some ich that was most noticeable on the puffer, but everybody else was rubbing on the rocks, so I put them in there also, I'm treating with formalin, and the spots on the puffer have gone away, but I'm hoping to get rid of it in the main tank before putting everyone back in. <Well I hope you have a very large Q/T, also formalin is very dangerous on puffers in normal dosages, I use half dosages. and keeping all your fish in one q/t will be trouble as some are more or less resistant to the ich and to formalin.> The second problem is high nitrates (~80) I've been doing water changes, but not getting anywhere. <Well you have at least 4 very large at adult size, VERY messy eaters that can totally crash a marine tank that small. I am surprised it hasn't already...>  I'm wondering if the canister is helping or hurting me. < You need all the filtration you can get, though do clean the filter pads in old tank water to clean off the waste.> I'm considering just making a sump from a Rubbermaid container and eliminating the canister if that would help. <No, the problem lies within your incredible overstocking of a tank. You are trying to fit the equivalent of Mount Everest into a tank that couldn't handle these fish even by themselves for very long, maybe a month or so more. Please research fish BEFORE you buy them or you will be forcing these fish to endure being sick and in poor water for their shortened lives. get a big tank and a lot better filtration NOW or take them back. puffers, triggers and most other fish are way too big for this tank, even the eel is going to get too big for that 42> Any further tips are greatly appreciated. <keep the remora skimmer as it is a very good one, but these fish get a total of around 60 inches of fish in a tank that isn't even enough water to take care of any of them for longer than a month or so. these fish generally grow fast and put out loads of waste, more than any other fish, and your system cant handle that.> Thanks in advance and keep up the good work. Dane <Please look into trading these fish back or getting a very large tank 180+ for them ASAP to really care for them well, otherwise they will not make it long.> <Justin (Jager)>

Nitrate and algae advice - Mar 5 2005 Hi there,  <Good morning Jake, MacL here with you today.>  I've been enjoying your site and refer to it often.  <That's very kind of you.>  I have been struggling for a while with nitrate and algae and I hope that I might get some personal advice. Here are my tank parameters: 38gal FOWLR 1 4-inch lion 1 3-inch Huma trigger 2 damsels 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, ~20ppm nitrate Eclipse hood AquaC Remora skimmer I had been struggling with very high nitrate levels for awhile (40-80ppm), so I bought the skimmer, cleaned the whole tank, and thoroughly rinsed and dried the substrate. (I think it's crushed coral, but not sure as the tank set-up is a hand-me-down.) Right now everything is back up and running (skimmer, fish, etc...), except I have not yet added the substrate. Conditions are improved (nitrate 20ppm), but it did not take long for the tank to accumulate at least 3 varieties of microalgae that I need to continuously fight. My impression is that a 15% water change every week should be more than enough. Most recently I did a 30% water change, vacuumed the bottom, and nitrate was back up to 20ppm in a matter of days.  Water source is San Francisco municipal tap water, run through an Aquarium Pharmaceuticals tap water de-ionization filter (changing filter column regularly). I do not use any conditioners, and nitrate level is 0 upon introduction to the tank. I'm careful not to overfeed, although the trigger especially is a messy eater. I guess the next step is to get better mechanical filtration and circulation in there, in place of the Eclipse.  <You don't mention if you have any live rock, you might find that the live rock assists you in getting rid of the problem. I'm guessing that you are feeding live foods to these fish and you might want to consider trying to get them off to frozen foods instead. Just a couple more thoughts if you don't mind. When you took your tank pretty much totally apart to clean it you basically started the entire tank over. That being done there are some algae that naturally occur as the tank settles into place. This could also explain the high nitrates as the nitrates rising are the end part of a cycle. You could have gone through a small or additional cycle because of the changes you made. I probably wouldn't add the substrate back in if it was me. Simply because without it you can gauge the buildup of detritus in the tank. I'm not familiar with the eclipse filtration system. I'm assuming its a mechanical filtration system. If it has carbon in it then that could be a partial problem right there as it doesn't allow the system to build up all the bacteria that it needs to build up until the carbon eventually wears out. I'd also like to suggest that you check to make sure that you have a good ripple on the top of the water to have good oxygen exchange in the tank. With these types of fish you are going to need to have a lot of oxygen in the tank.> I know there are successively more elaborate ways of dealing with the problem, but it seems like I'm missing something simple. My only guess is that I'm inadequately managing the poo and debris that collect on the tank bottom. Is there some kind of scavenger/algae-eater that will thrive in this tank and help out with the table scraps?  <Not alive but a turkey baster works just get to get out the detritus.>  Perhaps one of the seastars you recommend? I know triggers are said to be unpredictable, but mine is the most timid of the bunch; I'm not too worried about him. Also, if I do get some kind of star, does that mean getting a porcupine or spiny boxfish in the future is totally out of the question?  <My concern with adding anything to this tank is that the creatures you currently house are going to outgrow your tank and very quickie. You don't mention how often you feed your fish. That might be something to look at, its very easy to feed fish like lions and triggers.>

Nitrate and algae advice - Follow-up Hi WWM Crew,  <Hey Jake.> Thanks for your detailed response, MacL. Actually I do have about 35 lbs of live rock. Sorry, I'm a little new at this; I thought that's what "FOWLR" means? <Its what the general meaning is yes indeed but you'd be amazed at what people do put into takes they label as such. I always find that rather then just guessing its MUCH better to ask and refine.> When I cleaned the tank I mainly scrubbed all the algae off and replaced about 75% of the water, removed substrate and re-acclimated the fish accordingly. Given that there is live rock, I pretty sure the tank did not re-cycle, but let me know if I'm mistaken.  <That depends on multiple things like how long the rock was out of the water, how much die off of the bacteria occurred. Once again this called for clarification. I just assisted a gentlemen who totally took his tank apart and bleached everything. Different circumstances do indeed require different answers.>  I don't feed live foods, but rather a variety of frozen foods and occasionally flake & seaweed, and never more than once per day, and not more than they can consume in about 60 seconds or so. Like I said, it's mainly the manner in the which they eat that irks me.  <I know my fish get over fed. The simple truth is that what they consume has to come back out and that's a pretty accurate gauge of the total amount they consume.> Thanks for the advice about oxygen, I'll look into that, but what do you mean by having a "good ripple" on the top of the water? Will the skimmer in combination with an airstone suffice?  <By a good ripple there should be lots of movement in the water. All the areas on top of the water should be moving and there should be no dead sections on the top of the water. I personally prefer not to use airstones in saltwater tanks (unless used inside a protein skimmer for skimming purposes) I have know of people with problems caused by the bubbles irritating or causing problems for the fish. But the idea is to encourage the exchange of gases in the tank with the surface movement.> Also, I'm aware of the overstocking issue -- actually they're not growing that much, but if one of them does get too big my fish store will take it for trade or I might even get a larger tank.  <Definitely sounds like you planned ahead. I wanted to caution you though a lot of times the fish stop growing and then after a couple of years they mysteriously pass away. These fish should have a life span for the most part of twenty-ish years or even more in some cases. Remember to that the advice I am giving you is not just for you but perhaps for someone else in your situation who reads this post. Being prepared, as you obviously are for the future is definitely the way to go.>  Given that I plan to eventually get a larger tank, I don't mind investing in a good filter -- would you recommend one of the Fluvals in my situation?  <I like the Fluval filters as a supplement to the live rock and live sand. I find that if I use the live sand and live rock as my primary filtration methods and then use the Fluval or something similar like it as a supplemental filter I'm able to add PolyFilters or carbon etc as needed. Hope that helps, MacL> Thanks again  <Sounds like you are on track Jake.>

Controlling Nitrates Hello, Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. <You're welcome>  I really appreciate the advice! I have a 125 gal FOWLR set up that I have had for a little over 1 year. I have 2 Fluval 404 canisters on the tank and a Berlin HO skimmer rated for a 250 gal tank. I have about 50 pounds of live rock and a 1 1/2 inch - 2 inch sand bed. From what I have read, I know I need more live rock and that my sand bed is in the depth range that is not recommended. <No more than two inches unless you have sand sifting critters.>  I do not have a drilled tank and do not have the means for a sump system. <Sure you do. Use an overflow box.>  All my equipment hangs on the back or sits behind the tank. The livestock includes 1 large blue hippo tang, 1 yellow tang, 1 Sailfin tang, 1 Pseudochromis, 2 clowns, 3 cardinals, 1 lawnmower blenny, and 2 blue damsels. Most of the inverts that I had have "disappeared" probably due to the high nitrate level. But I have a few hermits, a turbo snail, and one feather duster that have hung on. My problem is that my nitrates want to stay around 80. I do water changes of 30-40 % every couple of weeks and the nitrates stay up. (I did test my tap water and it tested 0) I added Purigen to the filter a month ago, which is supposed to help absorb the nitrates, but I haven't noticed too much difference. I am getting very frustrated. I can't just go out and buy everything I need at once due to the expense, but I want to fix this potentially lethal problem. My sand bed gets a reddish/brown algae(?) coating on it after a week or so and I vacuum it out with water changes. Should I do this? <Yes, very good idea>  I feed the fish brine shrimp every other day and Aquadyne Marine Mix on the other day. I only feed enough that they eat it all within a few minutes and I don't usually see remnants floating around. (Should I be giving them Mysid shrimp or something other than brine?) <It's good to have a variety.>  I also supplement with Seaweed Salad. Please give me your suggestions on how to resolve the nitrate problem. I figure I need more sand (or less)... <It wouldn't hurt to get the level to 1 1/2 inches.>  ...and more live rock but I can't do this all at once. <Understand>  Which would you recommend I add first? And how much?  <Another 100lbs wouldn't hurt if your planning on your live rock as the biological filter.>  I read that the canister filters need frequent cleaning to keep the nitrate level down. Exactly what does that mean? Should I replace the foam blocks... <You need to rinse the foam blocks of organic matter weekly in your discarded saltwater. They should be rinsed/cleaned in saltwater or the bacteria you do have on there will die using freshwater.>  ...carbon... <With your present condition, I would replace the carbon with Chemi-Pure. This will aid in removing organics that the skimmer cannot remove.>  ...and/or prefilter media or just rinse them? <As above>  How much of it can I do at one time? <I would alternate weekly between filters.>  What exactly do I need to do to get my nitrates down with what I currently have until I can get all the LR/LS etc that I need?  <What means are you using for biological filtration? If your using ceramic rings, etc, in the Fluvals, I don't believe that is going to be sufficient for the fish load you have. Basically, your system is out of balance, that is you are importing more waste that you can export. Don't waste your money buying nitrate removers as it is just a Band-Aid. If you don't correct the reason why you have high nitrates, the nitrate levels will just rise again.>  Water changes only work for a day or so. How much water can I safely change at one time? I usually change about 50 gallons at a time. <That's fine, not necessary to change more. If your system were in balance, 10% weekly would be sufficient.> Also, where can I get more information/help with my skimmer? <This is another item that needs to be cleaned weekly, especially the riser tube. I would go right to Red Sea for this. www.redseainfo@redseafish.com.   It is a Berlin HO that I mail ordered (new). (I replaced the SeaClone that I had and hated) The booklet that came with it is very confusing as it discusses both the hang on and the sump variety at the same time. I am not exactly sure what it should look like when it is running properly. I haven't gotten any foam. I can't seem to adjust it to work properly. I don't know if it should have the "tornado" inside the canister or not. I either end up with a cup of water overflowing or nothing at all. <You need to call Red Sea at the 800 number and ask for "Pinky", He will see to it that you are setting this up correctly.> There doesn't seem to be an "in between". Also the airline from the pump to the canister sucks water out of the canister and then I get no "action" in the canister. When I disconnect that airline, I get the tornado effect in the canister and it looks more normal to me, but I am not getting anything in the cup. I definitely need help figuring this thing out. (I spent $200 on the "better" skimmer and I can't make it work!!) Thank you so much for your info. I am getting so frustrated I have considered selling the whole set up for the sake of the fish! (But I really don't want to do that! I love my fish!) <Whew! Here is a link on nitrate control I would like you to read, and also read the FAQ's on nitrate/nitrate control. You will find that others have had similar problems. You will learn much here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm. James (Salty Dog)>

Controlling Nitrates Salty Dog, Thank you for such a quick reply! <You're welcome>  You have given me hope again!  I plan to call "Pinkie" at Red Sea on Monday. Thank you for that referral! My Fluvals do have ceramic rings in them. What do you suggest I have in them instead?  <The problem using canister filters for bio-filtrations is that there is not enough gas/air water exchange available. Although bacteria does grow on the rings, In my opinion it isn't as efficient as a wet/dry or live rock. One way you can help the problem is to install spray bars on your filter outlets. Keeping the bars above the water level where the return water breaks the surface water will help much in gas/air exchange.>  I will replace the carbon with Chemi-Pure per your suggestion. What else should I have in the canisters to handle the fish load? <See above. I base fish load on one cubic inch (not length) of fish per 10 gallons of water.>  I plan to order another 45 pounds of live rock in the near future. If I cure (or re-cure it rather) in a large trash can for a couple of weeks (with air stones, heater, doing water changes, etc.), how much can I add to the tank at a time?  <When it is fully cured, no ammonia reading, you can add it all.>  When the water in the trashcan has no ammonia, etc, can I add it all at once to my tank?  <Above>  I have heard some say that you can put the live rock in a fresh water dip to remove unwanted pests and I have also heard of putting the rock in a very salty dip to remove unwanted pests. Do you recommend either one?  <No. You will remove wanted animals along with the unwanted.>  Thanks for all your help!  <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog). Regina, Forgot to add. Pinky is a woman who is pretty knowledgeable in skimmer operation. James (Salty Dog)> 

High Nitrates from Feeding/Overstocking Hello Guys, Hope you're all well. As you can tell I have nitrate problems and it being such a common headache for newcomers like myself, I searched your archives for answers. Found some answers but I still can't figure out the exact cause & remedy so I'm asking you guys...I've a 40g FOWLR (3 mushrooms came with one of the rocks). I've over 100lbs of LR which I've added gradually over the past 3 months since I first set up the tank. Below are the order in which I've added livestock at 2 wk intervals since the set up: 14" Zebra Moray & 3" Spiny Burrfish Medium sized Cleaner Shrimp & one turbo snail Small Camelback Shrimp Small Red Hermit 3" Maroon Clown All are doing very well. Ammonia and nitrites have always been zero.  pH consistently at 8.5. Salinity consistently at 1.025. Nitrates started out ok averaging 40ppm. In the past 3 weeks, It has spiked to as high as 100ppm. I've been doing 33% water changes fortnightly. Since the spike, I've increased it to weekly (aging the water for 2 days) but the nitrates are still around 100ppm. I don't feed the invertebrates at all. They do a pretty good clean up. I feed the clown flake food daily. I feed the Spiny Burrfish daily with 2pcs of small krill. I started feeding the Zebra 3" of frozen crab leg every 4 days (first 4 weeks) but lately he seems to be always hungry (chasing after the Burrfish's krill) So I started feeding it daily. Changed his diet to frozen shrimp (2" worth every feeding). This is when I noticed the spike in nitrates.  So I'm guessing the spike is from overfeeding or from the juices of the frozen foods? If so, how often should I feed them? Btw, my LR generates lots of debris which I vacuum away with every water change. Could this be a cause as well? Or am I overstocked?  <Desmond, you are very much overstocked. Your moray alone is too much for this tank. These fish are large waste producers. Your going to have to find a home for the moray, or get him a bigger home.> What can I do to reduce the nitrates?  <You need to eliminate the moray. Until then, you will be fighting a battle you can't win.>  I can't afford to do water changes everyday! Salt mixes are expensive! As is a denitrifying coil!  <I don't like the coils and this is just a band aid. The only way to be successful in nitrate control is to control nutrients. Your system is way out of balance.>  And I've no more space for more LR! <You stated you have over 100 lbs of live rock. How much actual water capacity do you think you have in that 40? Desmond, I'll post a link here. Scroll down this link and there is some info here on stocking levels. You will be surprised.  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/stocking1.htm >

- Nitrates and DSB - Hello! <Hello.> I have a question about adding a deep sand bed in my 125 gallon FOWLR aquarium that is a little over one year old. I have been doing research on your site about how to get the nitrate level down in my tank. I think I want to try a DSB, but I am concerned about maybe a too heavy bioload for it. I am so confused right now!  My tank has 1 large blue hippo tang, 1 yellow tang, 1 sailfin tang, 1 Pseudochromis, 2 clowns, 3 cardinals, 1 lawnmower blenny, and 2 blue damsels. Most of the inverts that I had have "disappeared" probably due to the high nitrate level. But I have a few hermits, a turbo snail, and one feather duster that have hung on. The nitrates are usually between 80 and 160 on my color scale. (Ouch! I know.)  <Ouch indeed.>  I do large water changes and it doesn't seem to help much or for long.  <What is a large water change for you? With any number of gallons, you'd need to change half the water to get a drop of 50% in nitrates.>  I recently added Purigen to my canister filters and it (along with a water change) has brought it down to between 60-80. I have two Fluval 404 filters on the tank and one Berlin HO skimmer rated for a 250 gallon tank. I have about 50 pounds of live rock (which I know is not enough in a tank this size). I eventually want to add more live rock.  <This would help.> I can't decide if it would be better to add more sand for a DSB or take some of the current sand out to a depth of 1/2 inch. The sand is aragonite 1-2mm. Right now the sand depth is about 1 1/2 - 2 inches. >From my reading, I have determined that this could be the reason for my high nitrates.  <Hmm... not sure I agree, unless you meant centimeters... 1-2mm shouldn't cause you too much trouble. In fact, I would examine your current filtration. More live rock would really help, but unless you clean both your Fluvals every week, I think you may find that these are what help keep the nitrates high.>  I would like to be able to eventually add some inverts such as feather dusters, anemones, starfish (no corals), but I have to get the nitrates under control before I add anything!!  <Correct.> If I do add more sand, I cannot move the current inhabitants out of the tank, so how would I go about adding it without really messing everything up?  <No easy way... you're going to mess everything up.>  Could I move my sand around to end up with it on top of the new sand or would that stir up too much stuff?  <It's going to stir up a lot.>  I figured I would get the sugar fine sand when I add more, so it would probably defeat the purpose to put the current sand on top. With the cost of adding the new sand, I don't want to do it and then be sorry later.  <Having a deep sand bed will certainly help you, but it needs to be DEEP - more than 10cm. Also, it will not be an instant cure, but will need several months to mature. More live rock will help this all along.>  Thanks a lot for the advice. Regina <Cheers, J -- >

- Nitrates and Skimmer Inefficiency - Hi Bob and Crew! Hope this email finds you all well.  <So far, yes.> I have a question about nitrates in my tank and potential skimmer issue. Research has not given me to much to go on, so thanks in advance for your input.  My tank setup is a 55 gallon FOWLR tank (no sump), including about 60 lbs. rock and 5-6 inches of live sand. The tank is minimally stocked with a clown, damsel, goby, Gramma, fox face, small puffer, and green anemone.  <That doesn't sound minimally stocked to me - between the puffer and the anemone, you've got two excellent sources for nitrogenous wastes.>  I have a AquaC Remora Pro hang-on skimmer, Filstar canister filter, and chiller keeping the tank at a constant 78. Nitrites are at 0, nitrates are at about 40, ammonia is at 0, pH is at 8.2. I use Catalina Water (ocean water sold by aquarium stores) for my water changes. I tested it last night and found it to be at about 20 on the nitrate level. Additionally, the Catalina water is a bit salty due to evaporation so I dilute it with filtered drinking water (not RO). Again, this water tested last night at about 20 for nitrates. So, I see that this is where some of my nitrates are coming from. I perform water changes of 10% every 1.5 weeks. Should I switch to RO and make my own water?  <I would because I do.>  I have gotten lazy just buying bottles of "pre-made" water - is making my own difficult?  <Not at all.> The tank have some algae, but not much. I clean the glass during each water change and use a tooth brush in the rocks to remove the whitish sort of film from the hard purple coating. The fish seem healthy and the anemone has been great for years. The nitrate issue has been ongoing for years as well. It will climb until I bring it down. What I have been doing is using the AZ-NO3 product from MMM for a long time and it actually does a pretty good job. However, the tank is almost acting like it is addicted to the stuff. Recently, I have gradually decreased the dosage to wean the tank from it. Unfortunately, the less I put in, the less the skimmer works. Now, I am down to 1mL per night and the skimmer is not working at all. If I increase the AZ-NO3 dosage, the skimmer starts up again. It has not been skimming for over a week and nitrates are increasing. Do you have any ideas on what can cause a skimmer to not work in this way?  <Well... it is very typical for mature tanks to stop skimming. Could be this is where you are at this point - skimmers don't remove nitrates directly, only the products that may one day become nitrates.>  Some type of chemical imbalance maybe?  <Don't think so.>  Oh yes, I also use one of the large blocks of Sea Lab #28 every time I do a water change.  <I'd stop adding this stuff... not necessary if you start making your own water. I'll recommend that you do two things - start making your own water, and stop adding stuff - the AZ-NO3, SeaLab slab - leave these out of your regimen, wait a couple of weeks and see if things don't change for you; both the skimmer and the presence of nitrates.> Thanks for the advice! John <Cheers, J -- >

Hello, my name is Bond. I Need Help Dropping my...  Hello Chaps <David> Great website and a fantastic source of information. <Glad you find it useful> Just thought I would drop you a line to see if you could help me drop my nitrates. I have an 40 gallon Jewel Rio 180 with the following inhabitants: two clowns, two Chromis, one yellow clown goby a few soft corals and a flame angel. I use the internal jewel filter and a CPR BakPak for skimming. I also add a bag of activated carbon in the internal filter. I change 5 gallons of water weekly and change filter pads religiously. <Good... may want/need to rinse them more frequently> This water I mix up a few day in advance using instant ocean. I also use a couple of powerheads in the tank for extra circulation. I have replaced the jewel lighting with a t5 unit. The system has been up and running for two years with no problems, or indeed any sign of a problem. I would like to get my nitrates down though. I use a Sera test kit which measures 20 ppm and has done for the last months. Four weeks ago I added a further 20 kg of cured Fiji live rock to the existing 13 kg (I now have 33kg) to try and bring the nitrates down slightly but this has not happened yet. <This should help> Am I being impatient? <IMO? Yes... things take time...> Also, could you suggest any other alterations to improve this set up with regards to nitrates and in general. After reading lots of info on this site, and in Bob's book I know I probably do not have much to worry about but it would be good to get it down slightly. Thanks in advance and keep up the good work. David Bond <Mmmm, I would "stay the course" per your described set-up, added LR... maybe add a bit of macro-algae... and a living sump (refugium) addition would be GREAT here... with a DSB... but the LR, rinsing the filter pads twice, thrice a week will likely drop the NO3 about half. Bob Fenner>

Old live rock and sand, nitrates Hey folks !! <Hi Victor> Been reading the info on your site a lot lately....if my boss only knew.  <Perhaps they do> I wish I knew about this site along time ago when I was first mesmerized by the reef tank I saw in my LFS about 4 years ago. I have a 55 gallon, with approximately 55 pounds of live rock and a 1.5 to 2 inch live sand bed. <You may want to make this deeper, shallower...> Only things in the tank right now are 1 feather duster, 3 Mexican Turbos and bout 18 or so Astreas (which have done an amazing job getting my algae problem, which of course goes hand in hand with a nitrate problem, under control. My yellow tang of which I've had since I originally set up the tank 3 years ago just died. Out of all the fish I had in there at one point or another its managed to stay alive to boss around the tankmates it had. Needless to say I'm very upset and was going to pack it in but I enjoy the hobby way too much so I've decided to stick with it and do my best to get it right this time. When I first started up the tank I ran a Magnum 350 with carbon in it and a Fluval 304 with the usual media. I have decided to go the DSB route aiming for 4 inches maybe 5 in the display tank and a sump with some live rock in it. <Ah, good> ATM I'm running the sump (which was a wet/dry till I yanked out the bio due to your wonderful site schooling me on what a nitrate factory it can be as well as any filter media) and have ditched the magnum and Fluval. I also run a SeaClone (I know I know) until I can get a hold of a remora which will be soon. It seems to be doing a pretty decent job with skimmate ranging from a light green at times, to a dark green almost black color other times. I plan on running the Magnum again either bare for the extra water volume or with carbon or nitrate sponge in it. I have also read about a product named Siporax that supposedly helps reduce Nitrates due to material its made from and its properties.  <Yes> Figured I'd give this a shot in the Magnum as well if I can get a hold of some but this will mainly be to help keep them it in check once it's under control. I'm running extremely high nitrates.. 200 or so according to the test kit I use at the moment. It's been about 2 weeks since I ditched the bio balls from the wet/dry and have done a 45% water change (while the tang was still alive) and recently a 15% change and I still get the same readings from the Nitrate test kit. I intend to take some water to my LFS that I've gotten to be a regular at and have them test it for me for piece of mind. I use bottled water when I do my water changes and I cant seem to lower the nitrates. I've tested the bottled water and it shows 0 Nitrates, but I'll have some of that tested as well by the LFS. Last test I did the results were: Ammonia - 0.25 Nitrites 1.0 and Nitrates the reddest red the kit had as a key(200). pH results come out @ 8.2. Am I correct in assuming that if I take the actions I've stated above it will help lower my nitrates along with say 5% to 10% twice a week water changes? <Yes, all will help reduce nitrates greatly> I have the same live rock and sand that I had when I set up the tank 3 years ago. Is it possible that the rock not so much the sand isn't doing its job anymore? <Yes... it should be added to, or a good part replaced... every year or so> I tend to see a lot of what looks like dust from the rocks on the sand around the rocks...I clean off the sand trying not to disturb the sand too much but a day later its on the sand again.  When I add the new sand to the tank is it ok to add it directly on top of the old sand and around the rocks or do I have to remove the rock then lay the sand. I'm asking cause if I don't remove the rock a good 2 to 3 inches of it will be under the sand. Does this matter at all as far as the rocks ability to do its thing?? <Can be added directly> I plan on keeping 4 maybe 5 fish... some hermits and some snails.  I thank you in advance for taking the time to read this email, I just needed to ask for myself cause reading so much info that I found on your site gets overwhelming and confusing at times. Victor <Take your time... consider all bit by bit... you'll do fine. Bob Fenner> 

He's Got Chronic (nitrate issues - S/W) Hello Chaps Great website and a fantastic source of information.  Just thought I would drop you a line to see if you could help me drop my nitrates. I have an 40 gallon Jewel Rio 180 with the following inhabitants: two clowns, two Chromis, one yellow clown goby a few soft corals and a flame angel. I use the internal jewel filter and a CPR BakPak for skimming. I also add a bag of activated carbon in the internal filter. I change 5 gallons of water weekly and change filter pads religiously. This water I mix up a few day in advance using instant ocean. I also use a couple of powerheads in the tank for extra circulation. I have replaced the Jewel lighting with a t5 unit. The system has been up and running for two years with no problems, or indeed any sign of a problem. I would like to get my nitrates down though. I use a sera test kit which measures 20 ppm and has done for the last months. Four weeks ago I added a further 20 kg of cured Fiji live rock to the existing 13 kg (I now have 33kg) to try and bring the nitrates down slightly but this has not happened yet. Am I being impatient? Also, could you suggest any other alterations to improve this set up with regards to nitrates and in general. After reading lots of info on this site, and in Bobs book I know I probably do not have much to worry about but it would be good to get it down slightly.  <David, any relation to James?. Here is a link that will help you. Please read all of it. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm  Good luck, James (Salty Dog)> Thanks in advance and keep up the good work. David Bond 

Nitrates and Ich Date: Thu, 3 Feb 2005 Thank you very much for your response to my last question I really appreciate your site. I have a few more questions to ask if you don't mind about nitrates, ich and ph. I know bacteria breaks down ammonia into nitrite and then another type of bacteria will turn the nitrite into nitrate. My question is what to do about the nitrate.  <Chris, if your system is in balance, nitrates will be released in the form of nitrogen. They would never be at zero, but in the low range.>  I know that you do water changes to take the nitrates out of your tank but is there another way to control nitrate levels. <Yes, watch your feeding and stocking level of the tank along with weekly 10% water changes.> The reason I'm asking is because my tank got a little thrown out of balance. 37 Gal Ammonia .03 Nitrate: 60 ph: 7.7 (I know this is really bad) temp: 79F 1 blue damsel, 1 coral beauty, and 1 sand sifting sea star (I know). The tank has a 4 inch sand bed and 4 lb of live rock. I just recently added some live sand to the aquarium (25 lb) to bring the sand depth up for my sand sifting sea star. Before I did this the readings on my tank were fairly normal. .01 ammonia, Nitrate: 10 ph: 8.1. My question is basically how the ph could get so messed up like that in a matter of 3 days. <Well, as I read it doesn't appear your tank is overloaded. Probably when you added the live sand you probably had some die off in there and the increased organic load dropped your pH.>  I decided to do a 10% water change and added a little baking soda mixed with water to raise the ph. <You need to check your alkalinity level. Should be between 8-12DKH. At this level the ph should stay normal providing there are no other problems in the tank.>  The other question I have is about ich. My blue damsel has been acting a little weird lately. He has been rubbing himself up against the heater, the glass, and the live rock in my tank. I checked him out and there are not visible spots on him. He has approached my cleaner shrimp a few times and allowed the shrimp to clean his mouth. I've been told by my pet store that this could be Ich but wonder if he is acting weird because of the pH. <The damsel family are pretty hardy and I doubt seriously they would react to a drop in pH unless it was dramatic.>  I was also told to treat it I should not feed my fish for 3 days so that there energy is spent on fighting the infection rather than digestion. <The fish do need the energy to help resist the disease.>  Personally I'm a little suspicious since energy kinda comes from food and the fish need energy to fight the infection. <Amen again>  Also I was told that I don't necessarily need medication to treat the ich and that I should be able to run its course naturally. <One thing you need to do Chris is get yourself a 10 gallon tank to be used for a quarantine tank. Your new additions should be placed in there for three weeks for observation before they go into the main tank. Do a search on the wet web for quarantine tanks and you will find all the info you need.>  Also where does Ich even come from?  Christopher Swanson <Usually from dealer's tanks. If a fish is healthy they can normally fend this off. Poor water quality actually increases the fish's chance of becoming infected. A 10% water change weekly is most recommended. You won't see overnight results, but in a month you should notice a healthier tank. James (Salty Dog)>

Knocking Out Nitrates! I have been doing some research on this about how I can reduce my nitrates. I do weekly water changes. <Excellent practice. Do make sure that you are using RO/DI source water, as many people overlook the fact that their tap water is coming in with significant nitrate levels right off the bat!> I have been encouraged to maybe add a sump/fuge to my system along with a closed loop system. <Sumps/refugia do give you the ability to grow and harvest macroalgae, create a deep sand bed, or place a protein skimmer, all of which can help export nutrients and provide an environment in which potentially detrimental organics don't have the chance to build up and degrade deteriorate your water quality. A closed loop is an excellent way to increase circulation...> I believe that I am getting my higher nitrates from a lack of water flow in certain areas of the tank. <Well, I don't think that lack of water circulation in and of itself is causing the nitrate accumulation. However, if you are thinking that lack of flow can keep detritus from staying in the water column, where it can be removed mechanically, you're on target. All in all, of course, increased circulation is a good thing.> In some of the caves in my aquascape, I see the muck piling up, and I see some muck on some of the surfaces of my rockwork. if I pick up a piece a rock the rock the was underneath is just full of crud. How can I rid this problem? More water flow? <Well, as discussed above, circulation can certainly help. Perhaps even adjusting the existing flow to avoid having detritus end up under the rocks can help a great deal. Careful feeding and attention to the bioload in the tank will also help prevent the detritus from accumulating in the first place.> How do I get the stuff off of my sandbed. I can not use my gravel vac, it will just suck up all my sand. I can't use a powerhead to blow it out of the caves and rockwork, since I was told it is a big no-no to disturb a sandbed like that and it will probably just increase my ni trates higher. <Well, you can use a smaller diameter "slow" siphon, carefully removing detritus from the top 1/2 inch or so of the sand bed. You don't want to disturb the deeper levels, for fear of interfering with the very biological processes that you are trying to foster.> So what should I do here? <DO keep doing what you're doing...Regular water changes with quality source water, careful feeding, mechanical removal of detritus, aggressive protein skimming, use of chemical filtration media (activated carbon or Poly Filter), and just good old hard work will help do the job! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.> 

Rising nitrates Dear Mr. Fenner, I am getting seriously concerned with my nitrates. My tank has been set up 10 months now. I do weekly water changes, and on Tuesday I re-tested my water and this is the major ones that I tested: Ammonia 0 Nitrites 0 Nitrates 20ppm!!! I have never been over 10ppm even at the end of the week before my weekly WC.  Nothing has perished and all livestock has been accounted for.  Here is my equipment: 46 g bow front CPR BakPak 2 skimmer Penguin 330 hob filter (minus the BioWheels) 2 Maxi 900s 55 # Fiji live rock 3 - 4" sandbed These are some of the things I have noticed and was wondering if they could be the cause of the rising nitrates: 1. I am seeing some debris collecting on the sand inside some of the caves, maybe where there is not a lot of water flow. <Yes, that is one possibility.> 2. I see some debris in the chambers of my penguin hob filter. 3. I see some debris in the bio bale chamber of my skimmer. <I would recommend washing the filter pads with a little tank water and put the pads back in or just replace the pads.> Could these cause the rise? Would I be safe to clean out my hob filter and skimmer chambers and safe to scrub my powerheads clean?<Yes, that would not be a problem.> I was looking into maybe getting a Filstar or an Eheim pro canister filter, will this help my nitrate problem? I really like the Filstar XPs because it has a spray bar attachment and I am in need of some more surface ripples.< I would suggest staying with what you have.  Adding a canister filter will require daily cleaning from you and that can be a pain sometimes.> The debris in the caves I can get out maybe with my MJ 400 but I don't want  to disturb the sandbed and having sand flying all over.... what would happen if I put my bio wheels back in my penguin?<Your nitrates will rise even higher.> So, what would you suggest I do to get these down? I am very precise with my maintenance and do it weekly. I just thought of something, there are 2 carbon pillow pads in the penguin 330 and have never changed them. Maybe I should change them what do you think? Thanks! <Hello, MikeB here.  I think that if you were to do regular weekly water changes with R.O. water that will help with the nitrates along with keeping your filter pads clean/new.  I don't think you should change your filters.  They are sufficient.  Good Luck. MikeB.>

Rising Nitrates Thank you for you advice....<Sure, No problem.> A suggestion was made to me about using a wet/dry filter in place of my Penguin hob filter. What do you think about this??<I think that it would make a significant difference. I didn't suggest it because they are usually pricey and generally people don't want to purchase one after they have bought other filters recently.> I was told that a wet/dry can also be used a sump where you may grow algae to reduce your " malnutrients" in your main display, is this also true that you can do this with a wet/dry filter?<No it is not true. You would be able to modify your wet/dry filter to create a refugium but that would not be a true wet/dry filter. If you have the funds and install a wet/dry filter with refugium to your tank and keep up with consistent water changes your fish will thank you and your life will be much simpler in regards to fish keeping. Good Luck. MikeB.>Fanning Sand Damsels, Nitrates Hi There WWM Crew. <Hello Marilyn> Happy New Year.  Love your site and have gained my knowledge from just reading. <Ah, good. Much better than errant experimentation> Also learned I did a few things I shouldn't have but that's before happening upon your site by accident.  Things are going well in my 60 gal. reef tank except that I can't seem to lower my nitrates 20 - 25 ppm even with l5 - 17 gal water changes weekly.  pH 8.2, CA 400-425, dKH 10-11 and alk. 3.7.  I have a CPR BAK-PAK 2R (reef skimmer) hanging on the back of the tank and a EHEIM 2215 canister filter running with approx. 100 lbs of LR and 2-3" of live sand.   Tank inhabitants:  2 ocellaris (Nemo), 2 green Chromis, l blue hippo tang (dory), l Neon Goby, l Orange Spotted Goby, l cleaner shrimp, l Peppermint shrimp, frog spawn frag, 2 different heads of candy cane coral frags, l Montipora capricornis frag, l fox coral frag, l really small Blasto merleti frag, l pagoda coral frag., several Pulsing Xenias and one 4 - 6" RBTA! Learned about  not "mixing" from your website after the fact but this RBTA has stayed put since it's introduction to the tank.  Thank Goodness.   <I see> My question besides above Nitrate problem is:  I've noticed my two Chromis for the past 2 days swimming from one end of the tank to the other together and then last night, together, fanning the sand front and center.  This happened maybe 2-3 times.  Why are they doing this?   <Social, pre-spawning activity. No worries> Also, swimming with them or close by is the hippo tang. Should I be watching out for anything. <You will see, everything>   I've never seen them doing this before.  My ocellaris uses it tail and body to clear/clean a spot in back of the tank but not like this.  Any help/advice re nitrate and this problem would be much appreciated.  Sorry to be so lengthy but thought you might need all the info/background. Thanks. Marilyn <Ahh, the nitrates (if they bother you) can be dealt with in a number of complementary ways. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and as far as you want on the "Related FAQs" (linked, in blue, above)... until you understand your options. The behavior you can also cover on either the genus' (Chromis) coverage or "Damsel Behavior" on WWM. Bob Fenner>

Nitrate Levels Hi, <Brian> I have a 55g reef tank that is about 2.5 years old... 80lbs LR, AquaC Remora, 260w PC.  All is going pretty well but over time some corals really have never fully opened or even 50% for that matter.  From reading I figured it was the Anemone and I got rid of him about a month ago.  Although I have not seen much change, things are a little better. <Things... take time>   Anyway, after reading again :)  I decided to test my Nitrates (haven't done that since the first year)... Ouch!!! off the charts >100ppm.  Now I am on a mission to lower that bugger.  I have increased the DSB from 1"-2" (I know, I know) to 3"-4" and have cut way back on feeding.  I feel I am starving the poor dudes. :)  I am doing large water changes and all is helping but I feel this is for the short term.  You guys always speak of fine tuning the skimmer to get a cup a day of dark skimmate. <I wish such blanket statements weren't made... some folks are NEVER going to get this much... or even any!>   There is no way my Remora is giving that and I don't see anyway to 'tweak' it.  I have cleaned it and the pump many many times. Any ideas there?   <There very likely isn't much to remove in your mature, otherwise well-maintained system> One last question, I also had trickle filter early on but removed it since it could be a nitrate trap.  Was this a good idea? <Yep> Now I have no way to run any Polyfilters or carbon to help out. <Mmm, you could place this material in a Dacron filter bag, just situate in an area in your system that gets good water flow, but what you've stated doing will solve your nitrate issue over the next few to several weeks>   I also have a lot of detritus accumulation and the skimmer alone doesn't really take it out.  thanks for any help! -Brian <Oh! Then I would likely add some circulation. Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/circmarart.htm and the Related Articles and FAQs (linked, in blue, above)... Bob Fenner>

Nitrate Soup Hello WWM! You might have the best website out there for this hobby!  To start here are my marine tank specs: - 55 gal setup - Amiracle wet/dry filter - 25 lbs of LR (working to get more!) - SeaClone 100 Skimmer (will be upgrading to a Aqua C Remora after reading your site) - 1 power heads for circulation. - Turbo Twist UV Sterilizer The tank inhabitants are a porcupine puffer, clown trigger, peacock puffer, choc. chip star fish, and a gold damsel. All of the water tests are fine (0.00) except the nitrates.  The reading is always between 20 - 40 ppm.  I do a 10 gal water change every 3 weeks, and also put a carbon filter in the sump 2 wks on/2 wks off. As a last effort I bought some of the Nitrate Sponge and put that in the sump as well, and the nitrates haven't decreased.  I should have read on wwm.com about the stuff before I bought it. I will be adding another powerhead to the set up to increase the water flow in the tank, buying more LR, and upgrading my skimmer.  I will also be changing water every week instead of every three as well (5% a week). Is there anything that you would also recommend to get my water quality down to all 0.00? <The skimmer will help a great deal...But there is really nothing wrong with that nitrate reading.  In fact, it's quite satisfactory for the animals you're keeping.  The regular water changes are really the key to maintaining a healthy nitrate reading.  Now, for the scolding.  No trigger belongs in a 55, it's just too much fish for too small an area.  The puffers also will need the largest of aquaria in their adult years...Think of the long term health of these animals, as well.  Good luck! Ryan> Shane

Nitrate: Remove the bio-wheels, problem solved!??? I built a 120g in-wall, see though tank with about 120lbs of live rock (not so see though any more!) with a hang-on skimmer rated for 150g, two 400 BioWheel filters (one on each side), and 900 gph pumping though a 40w UV sanitizer. I do a 12g water change every week and my nitrates are 20ppm. My kids 20g long that I don?t touch and is overgrown with, you name it, has an undetectable ppm, so that made me check out your Q&A about Refugiums. Then I came across the question below and I am now wandering if my bio-wheels are causing a problem? Should I remove my bio-wheels? Thanks, Frank from the Philadelphia area. <Hello I don't believe the bio wheels are causing the problem unless they are clogged up.  If you add another 50 to 80 lbs of live rock you can do away with the bio wheels.  I am assuming you are using a Marineland Emperor of some kind.  You really need at least 1200 gph of flow in this system.  That includes the gph of the power heads. The Marineland filters do work good, but the filter cartridges last about a week, so it gets expensive replacing these.  I switched over to a Marineland Hot with the washable sponge filter which wraps around a media container that will hold 8oz of your favorite media. James (Salty Dog)>

DSB with high nitrates Hello all, I have a 75 gal. saltwater FOWLR tank. It has about 80 lbs of live rock, a 4" to 6" DSB, 10 gal. sump with an AMiracle protein skimmer, and a Rena Filstar xp2 canister filter which I run carbon and phosphate pads along with the sponge pads. For fish I have a 5" Picasso trigger, 5" yellow tang, 5" maroon clown, and a 3" volitans lionfish. I have had the tank going for almost a year and have not had any problems with nitrates until lately (within the last month). I have an idea that my tank is overstocked, but why would the nitrates be low for so long then all of a sudden go up? <Mmm, very likely (well, most likely) has to do with interaction with more easily soluble components of your substrate... they've been absorbing, completing more...> They always stayed at less than 5ppm but now are going up to 20 ppm consistently. All the livestock (except for the volitans) have been in there pretty much from the beginning. I got the volitans for Christmas after my Radiata (who was about 6") choked on a turbo snail shell. <Not uncommon... Lions will/do ingest most anything!> I do also get red slime and have lots of hair algae within the last month. Could my DSB be going bad or am I destined to do many more water changes? <Maybe both, perhaps neither... have you considered adding a live sump/refugium?> currently I do 20% twice a month. I also have a 45 gal reef tank using a Jaubert system with soft corals, 2 clowns, a small regal tang, algae blenny, and mandarin. The nitrates have been below 5 ppm always. What I am planning on is to move the reef tank over to the 75 gal. and move the inhabitants from the 75 to a 180 gal. in the spring, but for now I am kind of baffled and thinking of switching the 75 gal. over to a Jaubert system to possibly help with the nitrates. Any help would be happily appreciated and taken seriously, even if its something I didn't want to hear but know to be true. Thanks <Mmm, am very tempted to encourage you to join all these systems together... you would find the nitrates greatly reduced in short order... Bob Fenner>

Nitrates high, marine WWM - <Sir yes sir!> I have a 58 gallon tank with the following equipment: * (2) Coralife Power compact lamps, total of 4x96 watts, 2 actinic and 2 10K * Remora hang on skimmer * Wet/Dry Trickle filter with live rock as the media (removed bio-balls) use PolyFilter in the chamber above the live rock * 9 Watt Coralife U/V sterilizer * Fluval, packed with Chemi-pure, no filter pads or ceramic material <No experience with this media, do you like it?> * Substrate is live sand, 1.5 inches thick * 2 Rio 600's for water circulation I have approx. 80lbs of live rock in the tank with the following animals: * 1 purple tang <your aquarium is too small to be a permanent home to any tang!  I would look into new homes> * 1 Potter's Angel * 1 Maroon Clown * 1 Green Mandarin <Is it eating prepared foods?  If not it will slowly waste away over 3-6 months> * 1 Green bulb anemone <Nice> * 2 soft corals & some polyps My problem is nitrates.  They are very high, like 100ppm according to my tetra tests and obviously I am seeing some adverse effects on my corals. The NH4- registers zero and my nitrites 5-10ppm.  What can I do get the nitrates under control apart from doing a 50% water change?  I am changing 10 gallons once a week with RO/DI water, but they just seem to creep back up to a high level.  I do not believe that there a high level of dissolved organics in the water as they remora is functioning correctly, but it only produces about one cup of skimmate every week or so.  Anything you can do to help me would be so greatly appreciated.  <Hmm...is the live rock in your wet\dry the only live rock you have in the system>  I would have 60-70 lbs total in your system, if you don't it that could be why.  If you do, take the LR out of your wet\dry and place it into your main tank, and possibly use your wet\dry as a refugium.  Your tank has a fairly high stocking level, I'm surprised the remora isn't producing more skimmate.  Tweak it or clean it, as it should be doing better than that.  Nitrites are not a good sign, and will kill off your livestock rather quickly if something isn't done.  In the meantime, do large water changes (25%-50% a day) to drop both the nitrites and nitrates (make sure you buffer the RO water).  Do  you feed heavily?  Is there the possibility that something died and is decomposing in your water?  Do you have any pets that could get into the aquarium while you're gone? Those nitrites are there for some reason...let me know how much live rock you have, and the GPH going through your wet\dry> Best Regards - <You too> Bryan J. McLaughlin <M. Maddox>

You say nitrites, I mean nitrates? Thanks again for the quick response!!   No, all I have is a Bio-Wheel 330, an AZOO powerhead, and the filter that came with the tank.  I bought a cheap protein skimmer, and it never would even skim, never had anything to empty. You said Nitrites, just wondering,  I think you meant nitrates? Just making sure.  Do you think the Picasso is too much for the tank?  All my other parameters seem fine, so maybe not. Thanks again! Jon <Jon, I meant nitrates but typed nitrites (Oops!!)  I would consider investing in a decent protein skimmer.  I like the CPR SR2 for your size tank.  In the mean time keep running with the filters you have and doing the water changes.  High nitrates are not detrimental but can be over time. MikeB.> New Tank Setup, Nitrate Issues After searching, I couldn't find any discussion to my own particular situation and I really want specifics. <Very good.  Ryan with you today.> Quickly, a month ago I set up a 90 gal. FOWLR aquarium.  I have used only distilled water.  We have a Tidepool wet/dry with filter pad, Kent Marine chemical resin, and then cell-pore bio balls.  Pre-filters on everything.  Have a SeaClone skimmer on it and plan to also add an 18 Watt UV.  I added 45 lb. Of Fiji live rock and 60 lb. Of Lalo live rock.  With no fish in the aquarium, I used this to 'Cycle" the aquarium.  It worked as the levels rose:  all 3, ammonia went very high, then dropped so I couldn't detect it.  Then followed by nitrite and nitrate together.  They both were off the charts.  Shortly after, the nitrite was not detected and the nitrate dropped to about 40.  And I have been waiting and waiting.  Will it ever go down?  I don't want it there! <You can keep the nutrients processing quickly by increasing circulation and skimming.> I have scrubbed all prefilters and siphoned substrate, pulled all live rock out and scrubbed with new toothbrush, and 25% water every 4-5 days. <Hmm...I'd say that's a lot of work! Half as much is just fine.>  It will drop that day (of all that cleaning) to 20 then drive back up a little less than 40.  Did I make a mistake in cycling with live rock?  What is my source of organics? <Dying sponge, algae and micro-organisms that are slowly polluting the water.> I have one damsel and try to be sure he eats every flake or brine shrimp or I am in there with a net! <OK> Is it that live rock?  How often do I need to take apart all the aquascape and scrub with toothbrush? <About once every three years once you're setup and ready.> I am discouraged as I want to get more fish but don't want to start off on the wrong foot. <Slowly, be patient.> I want that nitrate to be close to zero!  Will you please help?  <Please increase your circulation, make sure that your skimmer is pulling some good gunk!  Good luck, and sometimes it takes time!> Renee' Dodson High on Nitrate Hi guys, been reading and loving your site for two years now!!  Got to a probably redundant question.<O.K.>  I have a 42 gallon hex tank with a magnum 350 and a BioWheel, and an additional 317 gph power head.  My Ammonia is 0, nitrite 0, but my nitrate is HIGH.<How high is that??  I have a Bi-color angel, a Sebae, and 3 stripe damsel. I have about 60# of sand, and about 50# live rock.  The tank has been there about 2 years.  I helped a buddy, set up a 100 gallon tank.  He started testing the nitrate, so I tested mine.  It is at least 80mg/l, but probably a little darker.<Oh, I see.>  I added deNitrate to my magnum 350 about 5 days ago, but haven't noticed a large amount of difference.  All my fish seem fine.  One more thing though.  I have 90 Watt lights, and have been having a high temp problem, can't get it to maintain under 81F.  That's with me running the lights only 2 hours a day (to help with algae I hope).  I replaced the heater, and the new one made no difference.  Any help would be appreciated, and again............You are my heroes!!!! Jon <Jon, here is what I recommend.  Start by doing 25% water changes every three days to get the nitrate down.  I would then purchase a protein skimmer for the tank.  Regular cleaning will help with the nitrate and the algae.  When you change the water use R.O. water.  There is much less nutrient in it and will help control the algae.  Good Luck. MikeB.>

Nitrates and water changes (reef) Hi Crew, thanks for taking time to help people. I have two quick questions for you. The main one is about nitrates and water changes. I started a reef 4 months ago. I started slowly and took my time I learned that with freshwater planted tank). <A good lesson, place to start> I have to say that up to now everything is going smoothly and still got now major problem. My tank is 90G with a 20G sump. I think the fish load is quite light : 5 Chromis, 2 tank bred ocellaris (why buying wild caught?), 1 bicolor blenny and 1 yellow tang (I bought it a week ago). I also have 2 cleaners shrimp, and a bunch of blue legs hermit and snails. I'm not planning other fish in the short term, I think it is ok like that. I had a little bit of nitrates at the end of the cycle process, but since then, nothing. It always reads 0 (SeaChem test kit). I compared with my FW tank, I used another test kit (aquarium pharmaceutical), it really seems to be 0 :) I don't feed a lot (learned that in FW). Up to now I only do 5% water change every 2 weeks. My question is : Since all my parameters are ok (nitrates, calcium alk, iodine, magnesium) and everyone seem happy and active, should I bother doing more frequent water changes ? (I know you suggest bi-weekly water changes) <Bi-weekly should be fine here... as you state, due to low bio-load and feedings> My other quick question is related to my 2 cleaners shrimp. Last week when I got my yellow tang, I think it got cleaned something like 50 times by the cleaners on the first day. I did not expect that the first day :) Since then, nothing. Every time the tang is coming by the shrimps, they seem to ignore it and refuse to clean. I'm not really upset but it looks strange. It went from total cleaning to no cleaning. I just wanted  your opinion on that. By the way, the shrimps and the tang are very active. <Don't be dismayed... they will "get together" when this benefits both of them... Likely the tang is now "very cleaned up" and does not require their service> thanks a lot !!! your site is great Philippe St-Onge Montr?l, Qu?ec
<Merci my friend, Bob Fenner>

Nitrate Problems in 220 Gal Reef - Please help Hi Guys, Firstly - Thank you for always being there to help. I am a big fan of this forum. Now for my problem - I am getting extremely frustrated with the Nitrate levels in my tank - here are the details -- 220 Gal Reef Tank w/ 0 Nitrites, 0 Ammonia, 8.2 PH, 1.023 Sal, Calcium ~ 380, Alk ~ 10 and Nitrate 10ppm. (using multiple test kits) I have almost 200lbs of Fiji Live rock in the tank, along with ~ 3 - 3.5" deep sand bed of live sand. I have two Tidepool sumps connected at the bottom of the tank, with the bio-wheels removed. One sump has all the pumps etc., and the other is full of free floating Chaeto and Caulerpa Algae with a 7x24 light cycle. I have a turbo-flotor chugging in the sump, and it produces at least one full cup of deep brown gook (highly scientific term) every day. I have 650W of MH (10K light) and about 200W of blue compact light on the aquarium. I use RO/DI water with 0 nitrates in source water. The primary water circulation is around 1800 - 2000 gal/hr. I do have a UV on a separate Fluval canister filter (with all filter media removed) with a circulation of around 300 gal/hr. I have a bunch of powerheads around the tank to create water movement. I change filter media once every two - three weeks and clean all the overflows etc. I recently added a small hang on refugium also (~12"x12"x6") which holds about 3 gals of water. I moved a small part of my Chaeto algae and very small pieces of live rock into the refugium and introduced Mysis shrimp into it -- and they are all over the place now -- I drip calk at night and buffer during the day. I have the following life in the tank: Fish: 1 Naso Tang ~ 6"; 1 Purple tang ~ 3", 1 Yellow Tang ~ 4", 1 Fox Face ~ 4", 1 Sailfin ~ 4", 1 Majestic Angel ~ 5", 1 flame angel ~ 3", 2 small ~ 1" blue Chromis, 1 princes wrasse and 1 Royal Gramma and 1 small ~ 2 - 3" gold stripped clown. Every now and then the fish chase each other or so -- but in general they have been living harmoniously for at least the past 6 months with most of them living in this environment for over a year. Coral: 1 big toadstool, 1 Rasta, many polyps that are all over the tank and a few different colonies of mushrooms that have grown like crazy, (that just propagated into two a couple of months ago), 1 Bubble, 1 Large brown/white Lobo, 1 red brain, 1 Wellsophyllia, 1 small pineapple brain (I think it may be called something else too), 1 Colt. All the soft corals are on one side of the tank and the hard are on the other side. All corals are doing well except the colt which over the past 3 months has looked progressively worse and now is just drooping over - very limp (I fear that it may not have too long to live -- and this was my oldest coral - almost 2 years old). The Wellsophyllia was my most recent addition -- opened well for a couple of weeks -- but seems to have totally shrunk up now -- so I am not too optimistic about that too.. oh and I have two small (~ 3") clams that are really gorgeous. Other inverts - I have over 100 small red and blue legged hermit crabs, over 50 or so snails, a sand star that has been in my tank for almost 2 years, 4 cleaner shrimps, a couple of peppermint shrimps and 1 serpent star that shows itself every now and then -- just to show me that he is alive. o.k. -- Now for the problem -- No matter what I do -- 20 - 30% water changes every two - three days, I can't bring the nitrate below 10. They did go down to about 5ppm a couple of months ago -- but came right back up. I feed the fish ~ 4 cubes of Mysis/angel formula etc., and a couple of pinches of sea veggies every day -- I target feed the hard corals Cyclop-eeze every two to three days - but that's it. I have tried everything else -- I take a small handful of algae from the sump every two to three days and put it in the main tank for the fish to eat (and they love it) -- but what else can I do -- I am running out of ideas to reduce the nitrate to below 10?? I have tried everything I have ever even remotely heard off to reduce nitrate -- and it is not working. I still have to do continuous 20 - 30% water changes every week to keep the level at ~10ppm. I am assuming that it is because of the nitrate that my colt and Wellsophyllia are in bad shape -- but can't be sure -- since everything else is flourishing?? Do you think its the nitrate -- should I be worried about the 10ppm level? <Not much> Help / guidance / advise would be really really appreciated -- Have a great thanksgiving -- Take Care -- and as always - Thank You. Azim pictures attached: Colt Coral, Overall Fish Tank pictures (different views) <You could do a few things that are relatively simple that would improve conditions... Add another skimmer (don't know the model of your Aqua-Medic product, but likely a "1000" series... too small for this application... a Euro-Reef Model, or adding an Aqua-C might well drop the nitrate concentration to half.... Change out the Ocean Nutrition foods... even making your own... Adding some new LR... to the tank, perhaps the refugium... adding another inch of new aragonitic material to your DSB... Other things might be tried, but these are the best, easiest to start with. Bob Fenner>

Re: Nitrate Problems in 220 Gal Reef - Please help Thank You for your quick response -- I do have the Turboflotor Multi SL which was rated for tanks between 125 - 250 Gal. I have it modified overflow the waste to an empty Pepsi bottle. It fills up the Pepsi bottle, in addition to its' own cup with dark brown stuff in less than two days - I do have another smaller Prism deluxe that is setup on the back of the main tank (a residual component of my old 55 gal tank) -- It does not get much waste out, but I figure something is better than nothing -- <Do save up, look in to a Euro-Reef... well worth the investment> I will get some more live rock. I actually cured and added about 50lbs of new live rock about a month and a half ago - to bring the total live rock to about 200lbs. I will place an order for another 50lbs right away -- also, when you say "Change out the Ocean Nutrition foods" - do you mean the frozen foods? <Yes> The way I currently prepare the frozen foods is - I drain out all the water, add a couple of drops of vitamins, wait a couple of minutes and then feed with a spoon into the water. Am I doing it incorrectly? <Yes, good technique> Is there a link you can point me to regarding making my own food? <Think there is some info. on this posted on WetWebMedia... here? http://wetwebmedia.com/feeding.htm or the Related FAQs (linked, in blue, at top)> Also, to add another inch of sand, would I have to break down the whole tank -- remove everything and then add the sand -- or can I just drop some sand in the exposed areas of the tank? <No... just add on top (will mix in time) of the existing> Once again -- thank you so much for your advice. <Thank you. Bob Fenner>

Re: Nitrate Problems in 220 Gal Reef - Please help I am totally perplexed - I just did a 50% water change to address the issue below -- and then tested nitrate within 30 minutes of the water change --   and guess what -- the nitrates are reading 10 -- The source water read 0. The original reading was 10 -- It just doesn't add up that after a 50% water change the reading is still 10 -- and I used two different test kits -- Do you think both test kits are flawed??? <! Does seem strange... maybe you can come out with me... and when I pay bills with half the cash in my wallet... Bob Fenner> Nitrates and water change Dear crew, Wonderful website you have here!  Hope you could help me with my query.  I'm from Asia and water test kits here are quite expensive and not too accurate as most of them are near their expiration dates.  As a result, most hobbyists here don't use them at all!  (me included :-).   <I don't either anymore...shhhh! :D> I have a 75 gal marine FOWLR system running for a year now.  Filtration is provided by a protein skimmer powered by a powerhead supplemented by a powerhead connected to an external overhead filter box whose media are some ceramic rings, bio-balls, foam and filter floss. <The filter and bioballs are unnecessary and will contribute to any nitrate problems you may be having.  The live rock and sand are capable of being the sole filtration.>   I have 60 kg.s of live rock and white sand as substrate.  Inhabitants are:  2 yellow damsels, 2 sergeant majors, 1 blue velvet, 1 blue damsel, 1 Foxface, 1 powder brown tang, 1 cleaner shrimp, 1 coral banded shrimp, 4 dancing shrimps, 14 turbo snails, a scallop and 3 tube worms.  I feed once a day with either flakes, pellets and occasionally some frozen bloodworms. <A heavy bioload, but not unmanageable> Incidentally, the Foxface just died a few days ago after being in the system for 2 and a half months but I plan to put in another one .  I top off evaporated water with freshwater every week. <TAP water?  Or RO/DI water?>   I do a water change of 25 gals every 3 months.  I have no idea what my nitrate level is before water change!  With the above information, would you say that my water change program is satisfactory?  Or can I still push my luck and do it every 4 months or perhaps even 5 or 6? <I would bet that you have a pretty high nitrate level.  33% WC once every 4 months is not much at all.  I do 25% water changes monthly on all my FO tanks, and sometimes 50% monthly on the ones with heavy bioload.> Thanks, Carlos Nitrates and water change Dear crew, <Hi there Carlos> Wonderful website you have here!  Hope you could help me with my query.  I'm from Asia and water test kits here are quite expensive and not too accurate as most of them are near their expiration dates.  As a result, most hobbyists here don't use them at all!  (me included :-).   <I don't either... unless something behaviorally seems awry> I have a 75 gal marine FOWLR system running for a year now.  Filtration is provided by a protein skimmer powered by a powerhead supplemented by a powerhead connected to an external overhead filter box whose media are some ceramic rings, bio-balls, foam and filter floss.  I have 60 kg.s of live rock and white sand as substrate.  Inhabitants are:  2 yellow damsels, 2 sergeant majors, 1 blue velvet, 1 blue damsel, 1 Foxface, 1 powder brown tang, 1 cleaner shrimp, 1 coral banded shrimp, 4 dancing shrimps, 14 turbo snails, a scallop and 3 tube worms.  I feed once a day with either flakes, pellets and occasionally some frozen bloodworms. Incidentally, the Foxface just died a few days ago after being in the system for 2 and a half months but I plan to put in another one. <Mmm, might be that your system is too small, has too much Damsel-aggression for a siganid> I top off evaporated water with freshwater every week.  I do a water change of 25 gals every 3 months. <Mmm number two... I'd do more frequent, smaller changes...>   I have no idea what my nitrate level is before water change!  With the above information, would you say that my water change program is satisfactory?  Or can I still push my luck and do it every 4 months or perhaps even 5 or 6? Thanks, Carlos <I'd switch some out, vacuuming the substrate, at least once a month... or even twice... or weekly. Please read Scotter's excellent piece re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/scottsh2ochgart.htm Bob Fenner>

How to control high nitrates Good Morning Bob/Gang! Again, thanks for the valuable information you provide. I have recently battled ick and won.  The remaining fish are healthy and still in the Q-tank.  I left the main tank fallow for 5 weeks and then added snails and hermits to battle the algae.  I want to move them back into the main tank but am not sure if I should or not.  I have been monitoring the water quality and have had a reoccurring nitrate problem, 40ppm to 80ppm. << That is high. >> Even with water changes weekly the problem still exist. << But what are you doing for filtration?  Do you have a deep sand bed? >> There has not been any food added during the entire fallow process.   I have a Aquaclear 125 wet/dry filter.  I also have my skimmer in there as well.  I have read several postings about wet/dry's being "nitrate factories".  The WWM responses have been to take out the bio balls and add bio rock.  Will this help out with the nitrates? << Certainly.  But I'd consider making a sump/refugium with some deep sand. >> The bio balls have the constant trickle of water on them, and are not completely underwater.  Will the bio live rock need to be completely covered, or can they still work with the trickle? << It needs to be covered, but that isn't too difficult to do.  Just add more water to your system. >> I do not have any light under my main tank, will I need light to help promote bacterial growth?  How much bio rock do I need?  1/4 full, 1/2 full....etc.... << Well I'd say you don't need light.  It is nice to have and many people add lights, but it isn't needed.  I think a deep sand bed with a few pieces of live rock will go a long ways in this area. >> Thanks again for your help!! Jeff <<  Blundell  >>

High nitrates   I have had a 55 gallon saltwater aquarium set up for almost 2 years now with a few damsels, little crabs, brittle star and choc chip star. My question is I can't get my nitrates to go down and they are very high like around 80-160. Everything else checks perfect. My water temp stays at 78 degrees and salinity at about 1.021 or 1.022  How can I get my nitrates down and will this cause any harm? I see no sighs of stress in fish and all eat and are very healthy looking. If you need further info let me know. New at saltwater but not to freshwater. Had freshwater tanks for many years.                                                                                Please help,                                                                                     Mr. Leslie Roach >>Something is causing the high nitrates and we need to figure out what it is. What kind of filtration are you running and what are the other details about your system? How much, how often and what are you feeding? Rich>>

Re: nitrates I am using a Fluval 404 canister filter plus an aqua tech 30-60 filter with 2 bio wheels. >>How often do you change out the media in the Fluval? If you don't do it weekly, it is probable that they are collecting waste and allowing it to rot and that is where your nitrates are coming from. I suggest weekly cleaning of the Fluval. Also, the bio wheels have a tendency to raise nitrates.>> I also have 2 power heads in tank circulating water and a 6 inch airstone. I feed every other day flake food and shrimp pellets and I don't believe I over feed at all. I do a 20% water change monthly. >>Rich>>

Future denitrification in dead rock. Hi I have one short question. Can (or will) live rock that has been dead be fully functional again? I understand it can when it comes to invertebrates (if other live rock is present) and nitrification, but how about denitrification? Thank you for your help. Anders <Yes... does become repopulated, function as a denitrifying field quite quickly... often within weeks. And re-populated with other life from some live live rock within a few to several months. Bob Fenner>

High nitrates Hi Crew, I have a 10 gallon with a six line wrasse, 2 PJ cardinals and a clown goby, a few snails and hermits and 2 mushrooms. It is about 18 months old and the current population is about 6 months except for the mushrooms which were added last week. Thanks to the crew it is in good shape and besides feeding, all I do is change 1 gallon a week. I  test for nitrates (10-20) and PH (8.2-8.4) once a week and since ammonia and nitrites are always 0 I test for them once a month. << Odd that your nitrates are so high. >> I have a sand bed (very fine) of 2 to 2.5 inches. Since it is not a DSB would you suggest removing some sand. << No way, I'd consider adding more. >> So far I see no problems. I have not suctioned the sand for over a year because it looks fine to the eye. Am I headed for trouble? << Not trouble, but with nitrates in that range I'd either add more sand, feed less, do more water changes, or all of the above. >> <<  Blundell  >>

Marine nitrates issue Hi Crew, <How goes it?  Michael here, answering a few before class>     Just a quick question. <sure>  I have a 230 Gallon FOWLR with about 200 lbs of live rock.  The fish inhabitants are large eaters and create a lot of waste. <What all do you have in there?>  I do regular water changes of 50-60% monthly and have never had my nitrates over 20ppm.  My question though hovers around the fact that for 15 months or so my regular reading was about 10 ppm. I cannot seem to get them under the 10ppm no matter how much water I change the last few months.  What should I do?  I have a great skimmer <A great skimmer being what kind of skimmer?  Is skimming plenty of dark skimmate?>, plenty of live rock and a denitrator <A commercial denitrator, or a DSB, or a coil denitrator?  Have you tested the output water for nitrates?>.  I have heard I should gradually remove my bio balls.  What if I cleaned them?  <If you have enough water flow inside the tank you can remove the bio-balls slowly because the live rock provides enough surface area for denitrifying bacteria to grow on.  However, if your wet\dry filter provides your mechanical filtration, you may want to leave it hooked up just for particulate removal. Don't clean the bio-balls, because this will kill the beneficial bacteria living on them.  If you have a large bio-load you may need to change more water (25% weekly is my usual regime, and I have a very low bio load in my reef).  Give me some more information on your fish and skimmer, and I'll see if I can help you out more> Your help would be greatly appreciated, Matt <No problem.  M. Maddox> PS.  Have you any information on the keeping of a Tinkers Butterfly and a Goldflake Angel?  Are they well mannered and hardy?  <No experience with either, but for the most part butterfly fish are not hardy and require specialized feeding. I believe the tinker's Butterflyfish requires zooplankton, such as copepods, amphipods, or other similar live foods.  Didn't see anything on fishbase under Goldflake angel, could you get me the scientific name?>

Nitrate issues, marine, pt. II Thanks for the reply. Currently my tank has 2 Lineatus Wrasses, 3 small Pakistani Butterflies (per Mr. Fenner's Recommendation, Smart Guy) a Navarchus Angel, A Personifer Angel, and an Emperor Angel  These fish have been together since they were an inch or two long.  They get along great and have no squabbles what so ever.  I have a custom made Oceanic skimmer which produces a heck of a lot of skimmate.  My denitrator is commercial grade, made for a 500 gallon system. Hope this clarifies, Matt <Before we go any further, what test kit are you using to test your nitrates?  Is it testing Nitrate Ion?  Let me know - M. Maddox>

Bioballs and Protein Skimmer, nitrates Hello Bob, <Hi there Neil> I just recently got into saltwater fish about a year ago.  I've had a lot of success with Freshwater for about 11 years and now wanted to move on to more exotic fish.  I've been a big fan of your website since I've gone to saltwater.  Now here is my specs on my FOWLR tank: -90 gallons 60x18x20 acrylic -Over 90lbs of Live rock, mostly Fiji some Marshall -3-4 inch of crush coral on the bottom of tank -15 gallon sump with bio balls -Prizm Protein skimmer hanging from sump <You may want to upgrade/size this device... particularly with your stocking below> -Livestock: -3" Porcupine puffer -1.5" Niger trigger -2.5" yellow tang -3.5" blue tang, king of the tank -1.5" Kole tang -1" clown fish, Nemo -.5" damsel, can't catch him -.5" Vlamingi tang, will give him up once he gets too big for tank <Likely so> I feed them flakes twice a day (Formula 2 and Nutri Max), feed them frozen shrimp, Nori,  and assorted Formula cubes (3) once every week.  So far they look healthy and get along.  The tank has been up for almost 11 months now and all the fish hiding places due to the live rock set-up.  I routinely change 15 gallons of water every two weeks from LFS. Now here are my Questions: 1. Is it a good idea to remove bio balls since nitrates are slowly creeping up or is it more beneficial to keep them. <Very likely better to remove them> 3.  Will pulling out the Bio-balls make the protein skimmer work more efficiently, if so 2.  Will getting a better Skimmer make a big difference, like aqua c remora pro, because right now my skimmer does pull out gunk.  But not a 1/2 cup everyday. <Will not make "more efficient", a good idea to replace... and I wish folks wouldn't emphasize "so much volume" as a measure of skimmer function/utility, but quality, possibilities of other events... In any case, I definitely WOULD replace this skimmer... you will likely find a much darker skimmate, much more apparent better water quality, diminished maintenance consequently> Currently nitrates are ranging between 20-40 ppm.   Last test getting closer to 40. <As you seem to indicate, this is too much> Any help with these questions would be appreciated. Neil <Maybe use the Prizm on your quarantine/treatment/hospital tank. Bob Fenner>

- Bioballs and Nitrates - Hello WWM Crew, I just recently got into saltwater fish about a year ago.  I've had a lot of success with Freshwater for about 11 years and now wanted to move on to more exotic fish.  I've been a big fan of your website since I've gone to saltwater, which I've gotten great advice, but I'm a little confused.  First here is my specs on my FOWLR tank: -90 gallons 60x18x20 acrylic -Over 90lbs of Live rock, mostly Fiji some Marshall -1-2 inch of crush coral on the bottom of tank -15 gallon sump with bio balls -Prizm Protein skimmer hanging from sump, want to change to Remora pro -UV sterilizer Sealife 9watt - ph @ 8.3 - salinity @ 1.022 - nitrates fluctuate between 20-40 Livestock: -3" Porcupine puffer -1.5" Niger trigger -2.5" yellow tang -3.5" blue tang, king of the tank -1.5" Kole tang -1" clown fish, Nemo -.5" damsel, can't catch him -.5" Vlamingi tang, will give him up once he gets too big for tank I feed them flakes twice a day (formula 2 and Nutri max), feed them frozen shrimp, nor, and assorted formula cubes (3) once every week. So far they look healthy and get along. The tank has been up for almost 11 months now and all the fish hiding places due to the live rock set-up. Luckily I haven't lost any fish, yet. I routinely change 15 gallons of water every two weeks from LFS. Now here is my Questions: 1. Is it a good idea to remove bio balls since nitrates are slowly creeping up or is it more beneficial to keep them? <Well... in the long haul, you'll be better off without them, but you'll need to remove them slowly.> LFS advises me to keep them in. 3.  Will pulling out the Bio-balls make the protein skimmer work more efficiently? <Doubt it.> Currently the water hits the bio balls then goes to skimmer.  if so: 2.  Will getting a better Skimmer make a big difference, like aqua c remora pro, because right now my skimmer does pull out gunk. <Perhaps... the Prizm is somewhat undersized for this job.> But not a 1/2 cup everyday. <There are no absolutes in this department. It is quite possible that even with a Remora Pro you won't get that much effluent from your skimmer.> Currently nitrates are ranging between 20-40 ppm.  Last test getting closer to 40. Any help with these questions would be appreciated. <Consider upping either the size or frequency of your water changes.> Neilio in the Bay Area <Cheers, J -- >

NITRATES/FILTRATION Hello. I am still currently somewhat of a newbie.  here is my current set-up and maybe you can help with my nitrate problem.  180G reef-ready tank, wet/dry filter (w/bio-balls), foam blocks (mechanical filtration), <These two elements, the W/D and foam blocks are your principal sources of excess nitrates...> knock-off of bullet downdraft skimmer. tank flow 900G/hr---skimmer flow 465G/hr.4x40W 48" FL lighting (planning to upgrade), LS, 90lb LR.8 small damsels, 2 med tangs, Condy anemone, crabs & snails, 1 white sand sifter. water conditions: pH 8.2, alk is high, Ca 400ppm, phosphate 0.5ppm,nitrite zero, nitrate 30ppm,salinity 1.024, temp 80F.I do weekly water changes, I'm not shy. I keep reading to move to reef-set-up nitrates need to be less 2ppm. how is this at all possible??? <A few ways...> what can I do to get my nitrates way down??? my wet/dry/sump is 36x16x16.12" holds bio-balls& gas exchange area leaving 24x16x16.my skimmer takes up a good deal of room but works great but also puts a lot of tiny air bubbles back into my main tank which drives me insane. the more I read the more confused I become.  how can I change my sump set-up (plants, sand,??).my skimmer outflow is very turbulent, I'm afraid it would just swirl any LS through the pumps back up into main tank. I am pretty ingenuitive but I need some help to get started on some kind of plan/plans. please help? Thank you. <Read on my friend: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and the many archived FAQs files (linked, in blue, at top)... you can modify or replace the wet-dry, add a refugium, more live rock, a DSB, macro-algae... many avenues to consider... all well-documented at the link I've sent you. Bob Fenner>

Can't seem to find my NITRATE answer in the FAQ Good Morning Mr. Fenner; <Good morrow to you Randy> You have done such a great job documenting the many multiple scenarios for Nitrate problems that I feel bad asking for personal attention but I hope you can provide some quick insight as I am truly at a loss.  I'll try to provide some background so that you have enough information to assist.  I have a 90 gallon tank running 5 power heads for water movement, darn near close to 220 lbs of live rock which is well encrusted with coralline a Tide pool 2 for filtration along with a Berlin protein skimmer. Tank inhabitants are limited to 2 tomato clowns, a yellow tang, several soft corals ( xenia, star polyps, mushrooms, clove, leather ) a few snails, and 4 emerald crabs.  The tank has been established for 4 years and most inhabitants seem to be okay although I have noticed the turbo snails are dying.  My substrate has varied over the years, I started with crushed coral, moved to what I thought was a DSB only to realize that what I defined as deep wasn't deep enough and have since moved to about 1/4" of sand for the substrate.  I do water changes regularly (10/20% every couple of weeks).  I top off  with tap water, the readings for nitrate from the tap are low <10 ppm so I haven't been in a big hurry to go RO/DI.  My nitrites, ammonia, phosphate are at <10 ppm and PH sits at about 8.1 - 8.2. <Okay> The tank has forever had problems with nitrate ranging well above the 100 ppm level and as I try to learn more I've tried various things to bring this number down.   First, removing the BioWheel on Tide Pool 2 as your assessment that these bio filters are essentially nitrate factories makes sense to me.  I took that out about a year ago.  I was hoping the live rock along with the carbon and protein skimmer would act to carry out the nitrogen cycle including the removal of the nitrate.   Not so, hasn't worked. I've tried everything possible to get the detritus removed from behind the rock which is quite the chore without pulling such a massive of live rock out of the tank.  What I am current faced with is heavy hair algae along with some Cyanobacteria.  It seems as if the growths of these algae are worse where I don't have direct water movement,  even with 5 power heads I am having problems covering all areas of the tank with water movement I am now wondering if in the area below where the BioWheel use to be on the tide pool 2 I should load up with Siporax Beads. <A move definitely in the/a right direction>   It seems that you feel these beads could be helpful, if so how many should I place in the sump? <A quart or two> If I pursue this I want to make sure my placement in the sump is okay and also need to know if the beads should ever be pulled out and cleaned once they are placed ?   <Not likely or very often... perhaps annually> Anyhow, I greatly appreciate your help and any insight you might provide. Have a great day. Randy <I encourage you to do at least two things: switch out a good quarter of your live rock (it isn't so after four years, and the diversity, vitality replacing part of it will be measurable), AND look into an inexpensive tapwater treatment device... either reverse osmosis or deionization... You have a basal source water nutrient problem that isn't worth fighting after the fact. Get it at the beginning... before you add the water to your system. Bob Fenner> Siporax retailers ? Quick follow up Thanks for the response,  just a quick follow up.  No one locally (Cincinnati Ohio) sells Siporax and I can not even find a US company selling the product on the web.  Any idea where I might be able to purchase the product? Thanks again, Randy <I would try marinedepot.com and customaquatic.com Bob Fenner>

Last question, I promise - placement of Siporax Thank you all so much for the help.  I have read tons of the FAQ's and articles and am getting just a bit confused with filter and media placement on my system. <A common effect... I generally encourage each to keep reading, contemplating/reflecting till some clarity occurs> I am using a Wet/Dry system (Tidepool 2) with the water flowing out of the tank through a coarse prefilter into the actual sump after passing a tray with a  coarse filter and 2 trays of the blue bonded padding. <Do watch this last (colored batting material) as it can be the Dickens in the way of nitrate production. Try leaving out for a few weeks to see if it makes a diff. in NO3 concentration, water clarity.> The bio wheel has been removed so after the water passes through the coarse filters and pads the water then is run through a Berlin turbo skimmer.  I've extended the turbo skimmer outlet pipes with standard PVC to run into a separate 10 gallon tank ( did this so that skimmed water did not end up back in the sump) <Good move> the water flows out of the PVC and over 2 bags of Chemi pure where it slowly trickles into the 10 gallon and tank and from there is returned to the tank using a Mag pump with a flow control placed into the tubing so I can adjust and equalize water levels in the sump and the 10 gallon tank ( hate this part, really tricky trying to get the flow control opened just right so that both the sump and the 10 gallon tank keep the pumps submersed. <I don't like this in the least... would NOT do... arrange so that gravity provides the return, please> Too much open and the 10 gallon tank goes dry, to much closed and the sump with the skimmer runs low ).   <This will ultimately cause you real trouble> Anyways, I have 2 liters of Siporax being shipped, when it arrives do I, add the Siporax to the sump area where the bio wheel use to be and have it in front of the skimmer OR do I place it beneath the carbon in the 10 gallon tank which is after the mechanical, skimmer, and carbon filtration ? <Could go in either spot, but better in front... do look about for a large Dacron bag (Emperor Aquatics has the best) to put the Siporax in.... enough flow through and much, MUCH easier to periodically take out, give a rinse to...> As always, the help and great advice is appreciated.  The FAQ's are great but it is easy to get lost trying to understand how each of the previous FAQ's mate up with my particular scenario. Thank You, Randy Morton <Yes... as time goes by we make progress in writing "complete" statements re groups, aspects of husbandry (as articles)... Bob Fenner> So close to being all set / you brought up a great point I just need to understand Mr. Fenner I know I am driving you nuts and really apologize but I feel like I am so close to having this tank set up perfectly.  You made a point about Allowing gravity to feed the sump and using the outlet tubes on the skimmer to fill the 10 gallon tank holding the Siporax and return pump. I'm not sure I understand how gravity can control the flow out of the tank into the lower sump and then on to the 10 gallon tank. <Mmm by one tank being higher than the other. The point am trying to make is that I would NOT rely on pumping mechanisms... w/ or w/o float switches to keep any part of this mix of volumes from over-underfilling>   I know the water flows down (gravity) into the sump from the main tank but if the water flows into the sump quicker than the skimmer pushes the water into the 10 gallon tank how do I keep the sump from overflowing ? <A simple solution might be to drill the tanks, install a line between them to insure equal levels... a less satisfactory approach is to make/buy and install a "U" tube (a siphon) between the two tanks...> How can I regulate the flow out of the main tank to the sump using gravity ? <By pumping up to one, allowing gravity to overflow through a fitting into the other> If  the flow out of the skimmer pushes water at a rate different than the rate the water leaves the 10 gallon tank back to the main tank I'm in a bind and thought only the flow control would correct this.  You are right, this is a disaster waiting to happen but I have no idea how to get gravity to do the job of adjusting water levels/ flows from the main tank to the sump and then onto the 10 gallon return tank. <Hee heee! Am starting to be confused here myself! If you can't raise, lower these tanks relative to each other, consider the equalizing solutions mentioned above> Just to refresh your memory and keep you from reading all of this again, here was your comment. <<Thank you for this. Does the above make sense to you? Bob F>> I've extended the turbo skimmer outlet pipes with standard PVC to run into a separate 10 gallon tank ( did this so that skimmed water did not end up back in the sump) <Good move> the water flows out of the PVC and over 2 bags of Chemi pure where it slowly trickles into the 10 gallon and tank and from there is returned to the tank using a Mag pump with a flow control placed into the tubing so I can adjust and equalize water levels in the sump and the 10 gallon tank ( hate this part, really tricky trying to get the flow control opened just right so that both the sump and the 10 gallon tank keep the pumps submersed. <I don't like this in the least... would NOT do... arrange so that gravity provides the return, please> Too Re: I get it (,,,) Yep, I now see,  the sump and the 10 gallon tank are at the same heights underneath the main tank, sounds like another pump is in order to drive water from the sump into the 10 gallon tank to offset the varying rates of flow. <Mmm, not another pump... either a change in height or an equalizer line> You my friend are a lifesaver.   Thank you Randy <Clarity is pleasurable. Bob F>

Nitrate problem I just recently found your website and it absolutely rocks. <Very kind of you to say>  There is a ton of information. I've done a lot of research to help solve my current problem but I figured it can't hurt to hear the recommendation right from the pros: Here's my story.  I used to be a freshwater aquarist and had some success. I just purchased a 75 gal tank and decided to get into the saltwater hobby.  I convinced myself that I could run my tank with an Emperor BioWheel filter and an undergravel filter. <Many people in the past have run their tanks with just that filtration system.> I also made the mistake of purchasing 60 pounds of the coarse coral gravel. The problem I have now is with Nitrates. The tank has been up and running for about 10 weeks and the nitrates (despite a 10% change weekly, sometime twice weekly) stays around 20ppm. <My guess is that you are overfeeding your tank.> I know, from your site, that this is because of the filters I have chosen.  I wish I found your site BEFORE I jumped into this.  I did some research from aquarium books at the local library but didn't consider how I would denitrify. <Here's the thing, you have a fairly low stocking level but my guess is that your are feeding your fish multiple times a day. The food gets caught in the gravel and then nitrates> I have a yellow tang, 3 perculas, 2 damsels, a flame angel and a Sebae anemone. So I think stocking levels are still within range.  I also (now that I've read your website) clean my filter cartridges more often (weekly) What do you recommend as the next step or two to help my long term goal of keeping down nitrates. <First cut back on feeding, I personally skip a weekend day or two with the food because I'm bad bad bad about over feeding.>  Should I cap off my UGF? <You can cap it off and replace your sand with live sand or you can fix the system you have.> Remove it altogether? What about the sand bed--should I remove the coarse and replace with a 3 inch fine sand bed? What about a protein skimmer? <Personally I think a protein skimmer would be helpful> I know all of these would be helpful, but I'm reluctant to jump right into all of the steps--I've just spent all this money to get up and running and I think I'm too stubborn to just switch it all.  Out of all of these steps, which do you think is the most critical? <First, cut back on the food for a week and then see what the levels are. Also how often are you feeding your anemone?> I test the water 2 times /week and have no nitrites, no ammonia--so the filters are doing what I've asked of them, the problem is removal of the nitrates, I think. Do you have recommendations other than what I have self-diagnosed. <There are nitrate removers including live rock. Which is something you might want to investigate, simply adding live rock into the tank.  I think there are multiple things to do and I'll be glad to help guide you through it but first I'd see what happens if you simply cut back on the foods. MacL> Thank you for your help, and thanks for the great website. Regards, Al Ulrich

Nitrate problems dear crew, I have a question about my mini reef aquarium water condition. when  I test with SERA NO2 testing kit, it is 0mg. but when I use SERA NO3, the result show that my water is very high of NO3. what should I do beside I change my water about 20%? << Well that isn't uncommon.  You need to rid Nitrate by some sort of denitrification process.  I think the easiest way to do this is to have lots of live rock, and also a deep sand bed (like 4 inches).  Also, don't stir up the sand. >>  I also put SEACHEM product "Removes NO2 and NO3" liquid into the water. doesn't it help? << It may, but that isn't a fix, just a temporary hold over. >> and also does the 'CORALIFE NO2,NO3 Controller' rock that put inside the filter is more useful to remove NO2 and NO3 from my aquarium? if NO3 is high, is it affect the coral especially my milk leather doesn't open wide since 1 week and it's color become white and not brown? << Yes NO3 is the end product of the ammonia cycle, and it is bad for corals.  I recommend some reading of basic aquarium books, because they discuss this subject in just about all books.  It is the denitrification process that you need to worry about. >> what I can do about my coral? thank you very much sir. hope can hear u very soon. thanks a lot. << I'd increase your biological filtration.  Do you have live rock, and how much? I'd say you need about a pound per gallon. >> from, << Hope this helps you out. >> Loo Chee Seng, Malaysia. <<  Blundell  >>

Nitrate problems >Hi I have a few questions regarding my saltwater aquarium. First its been set up for about 9 months and am having serious nitrate problems. The first person I asked said to add live sand that had lots of bacteria about 25 pd.s to my 30gal aquarium. All of the reef inhabitants are doing fine even thought the nitrate are above 200ppm. When I added the live sand the nitrates went back down to about 80ppm and are now back up I have done 3 water changes in the last two months and with not prevail. Would a solution to the problem be a nitrate reducing reactor or something less costly. >If you would like send reply to XXXX@hotmail.com >Thanks for your time > >>Hi, it sounds like you are overfeeding the tank. If you could let me know the details of your system (how big, what animals, what and how often are you feeding, etc) I could be more helpful. Nitrates should be about zero, so we need to figure out what nutrient is being added to the tank and is causing your nitrate to go up. >Rich >My tank is a 29h with about 20 lbs of crushed coral and 20 lbs of live sand and about 30lbs of live rock. I have a Coralife light that has 2 50/50 65watt bulbs. There are 2 false percula clowns, 1 coral banded Hawkfish, 1 decorator crab, and a northern Atlantic starfish (so I've been told). As for corals I have 1 bubble coral, 1 soft leather, mushrooms, star pulps, and an open brain. I only feed my tank 1 a day with about have a cube of marine cuisine( basically brine shrimp) and I feed my starfish a whole oyster or mussel once a week. For filtration I have a Berlin 60 airlift, 3 powerheads ( 2 powerful and 1 not so powerful), and a tank hanging canister filter I guess you would call it. And also some snails to rid me of algae. For the corals I use the no 28 trace element block for nutrients but was using Kent marine coral accelerator and calcium concentrate solution for nutrients. Could one problem be having to much substrate? By having to much substrate would this cause the nitrates to be trapped among it? >>I would pull the Sea Lab 28 block - the tend not to be used because we can't control the rate of release (some people like them, I am not one of them. You generally don't have to add any trace elements at all to a reef if you are doing regular water changes. At the very least, a great rule of thumb is - if you can't/don't test for it, don't add it. >>The canister filter may be the problem. Detritus and other goo get stuck in the media and rot. Canister filter media and bio balls (which you aren't using) have been called 'nitrate factories'. You can still use the filter, but most of the time run it empty, just for circulation. Once and a while you could put media in it, but it shouldn't be necessary in a reef. >>Feeding the whole oyster or muscle may also be causing the problem. That's a whole lot of bio mass going into the tank. Perhaps you could feed the starfish in a separate container. >> Is the skimmer producing a good amount of skimmate? >> I would make the above changes and do a water change and see what happens. >>Keep us posted! >>Rich

Are these problems caused by high nitrates? 9/27/2004 I apologize in advance if these questions and concerns are ignorant, but I don't fully believe everything my local fish dealer says.  Greed and all.  I have searched your website which is fantastic, and I have read numerous books. I am new to the marine/reef aquarium and I am having some problems.  Bet you hear that a lot! My tank is a 29 gallon glass tank. << I have that tank as well. >> I have about 40-60lbs of cured live rock, and about two inches of live sand substrate. Also, I have some small pieces of coral skeleton and I believe two pieces of Tufa rock. I have a Skilter 250 filter/protein skimmer and a Top Fin 30 Power Filter (I change the filters every 3 weeks) . Also 3 small sized powerheads keeping the water moving.  For lighting I have a 50/50 (6000K/Actinic) 18 watt bulb and a Marine-Glo 15 watt bulb set on a timer. << That is nowhere near enough light for most coral tanks. >> I am learning to keep the Temp down below 80, a little difficult in NJ these days.. The tank has been cycling for about 4 weeks, and the Ph is around 8.2, Specific Gravity 1.022/023, Ammonia and Nitrites are at good levels.  BUT the Nitrates are through the roof; on the NO-3 scale they are about 100 ppm.. << Very bad.  I'd give it time.  Are you sure you have "live rock" and "live sand"?  If so, then not disturbing the sand bed and waiting a few weeks should do the trick. >> The conversion between the NO-3 and the NO-4 scales are a "little" confusing.  I do believe this is TOO high..  I am getting green bacteria growth all over the glass.  Normal with high Nitrates??? << Yes, and normal for any new tank. >> I have my tank stocked with 3 hermit crabs, 8-10 turbo snails, 2 Sally Lightfoot crabs, 1 brittle seastar, and 2 serpent seastar, 1 small tiger-tail sea cucumber, 1 medium Coral Banded shrimp, 1 Sebae Anemone Heteractis Malu, 2 Clarkii clown fish (each an inch long) which bonded with the Anemone, 1 large Feather Duster, Sabella magnifica, and 1 medium Green Galaxea coral (I believe, wife picked it up and never got proper name).   Most of the inverts seem to be doing well.  They are active and feeding. I feed the reef freeze dried Brine shrimp twice daily in very small amounts, Tetra marine flakes occasionally and in small amounts, Kent Marine ZooPlex once or twice a week, and Corallife calcium supplement once or twice a week. << I wouldn't feed the tank for a few days.  Or at least feed less as to not contribute to the nitrates. >> This is my tank in a nutshell.    First are the Nitrates..  I cannot get them down.  I am even trying Phos-X that traps Nitrates and Nitrites.  I have changed over 60% of the water in the last three days..  I used tap water and used Amquel (removes Ammonia, Chloramines and Chlorine). << I wouldn't do such large water changes yet, and I'd probably switch to RO water. >> I have also tested the tap water for Nitrates and it comes up clean..  I have tested it many times and the same results.  I will start using Purified water from now-on.    Second- How should I be feeding the Anemone?  I have been giving it sliced shrimp once a week. << Sounds good. >> It seems to open and close at random times. But more closed. The fish still with it.  How can I tell if it is sick or worse? What does it mean when the Anemone puffs-up/inflates its lower half? Third- the Feather Duster.  Should it stay open most of the time, or does it pull in for awhile. << It will pull in. >> It was open yesterday but I haven't seen it open today yet.  It is only 2 days with the tank.  I placed near a nice current, not too fast and not too stagnant. Fourth- Tiger-tail Cucumber.  It has been with me for a week and it has crawled into a small hole/crevice and has not come out since.  I can still see and I have full access to the rock.  It seems to peer out a little and stick its head into the sand.  I figure it is feeding. Right?? << Most likely, I wouldn't worry. >> Is there something I should be feeding it or doing?  Should I put a piece of sliced shrimp, really sliced, next to the opening for it to eat?    Fifth- The Green Galaxea Coral??.  It is a dome-ish rock with little green polyps that can retract.  Bright neon green.  The polyps are coming out, not fully yet but it is only a couple of days in the tank.  Will the Shrimp, Hermit crabs, or the Sally Lightfoots bother or eat the coral. << I don't think so. >> I see the Sally's and the Shrimp sometimes climbing on it.  It retracts then later comes back out. Any words of wisdom in general? Sixth- Green algae/bacteria is growing on the sides of my tank.  What does this mean?  Should I wipe it off; should I be worried?  Anything??? << I'd probably wipe it off, but it is normal and will pass. >> Seventh and last-  Is my tank balanced?  Do any of these animals not get along like good little children, or will I have to remove any? << They sound fine, but I'm not sure I would have added those fish yet. >>  My wife wants to add a Coral Beauty, Mandarinfish, and/or a Royal Gamma when the tank is stabilized; would that be okay? << Not the Mandarinfish, tank is too small for him. >>    Tanks so much.  Hahaha.  Sorry- I really appreciate any advice, wisdom, warning, congrats, or anything at all.  I really like the hobby and want to stick with it..  Just need some good advice and a little encouragement. Thanks again. Mark Ryan- <<  Blundell  >>

Nitrates, filtration, confusion, frustration Hi Bob and crew! Thank you for giving your time to those seeking answers to some pretty confusing situations.  I have some general things nagging at me and am finally getting around to addressing them. Tank background: 55 gal glass w/o sump (no drains), AquaC Remora Pro Hang-on skimmer, Filstar canister filter with sponge media and carbon only (no bio bed pieces), Teclima CA200 chiller with Iwaki pump for circulation, 50 lbs live rock, 3-4 in "live" sand, 6 small to medium fish, 1 green (now brown) anemone. I have an ongoing issue with nitrates.  They are vary between 25 and 50.<I would try more water changes or feed a bit less than you are now>  All other levels are appropriate - nitrite=0 ammonia=0, pH=8.2.  As a result, I find that the tank seems to grow algae at a faster rate and my live rock now looks like crap. <also try running the lights a few hours less a day for a while until the algae goes away> This is not to mention the continual effort I must put in for cleaning and water changes.  Here's the background...  This has been an issue for at least 2 years now.  Actually, it was much worse in the past.  In an effort to get it under control I started using a product called AZ-NO3 to reduce the nitrates.  This actually does the trick at controlling it at a lower level but does not bring it to 0.  At this point, every time I try to wean the tank off of the stuff the nitrates go back up high.  It's like the tank is addicted - quite annoying!  I am stumped at both finding the source of the nitrates and finding a solution to control it.<again....feed the fish less...do a larger weekly water change, use RO/DI water and it should help tremendously> I considered replacing my Filstar canister filter with an Eheim wet/dry filter but read on your site that this might actually increase the nitrates.  Thoughts? <yes, that could actually increase the nitrates> I currently use a chemical in my canister filter called bio Chem Zorb - it is a mixture of carbon and a nitrate absorbing material.  I clean the canister filter, sponge media, and replace the chemical every month.<ok>  It is always full of a brown, mucous good in addition to the sponges having a lot of waste build-up.  I can't imagine having to clean this thing more often - it will drive me crazy.  Could this be affecting the nitrates? <yes...undissolved organic waste will cause excess nitrates> What do you think about replacing it or extracting it from the system?<maybe replacing every couple of weeks might help>  Should the skimmer be doing most of the work here instead of the canister?<they both work together as a team> I know that you recommend a big sand bed and lots of live rock to help here.  What would the definition of this be for my tank?<refugium? DSB?>  Does sand need stirring to keep it active and living?  Is it possible that my sand is full of "crap" and creating nitrates too?<siphon it>  Here's another question, does live rock die? <yes, technically when all of the denitrifying bacteria dies it is considered dead> I ask this because it seems covered with algae.<then it is very much alive lol...>  I brush it to keep things under control (another time consuming task) and it does have some purple covering, but will the algae growth eventually smother it?<yes if it is not taken care of...the purple stuff you are referring too is called coralline algae> Sorry, some strange questions here.  Basically, just looking for some troubleshooting advice and ways to make my life with the aquarium a little easier.  I love the hobby but if there are ways keep the nitrate control from taking over my life that would make me even more happy.<yea there are...just try some of the things that I advised> Thanks again!
John<welcome, IanB>

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