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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Nitrates 14

Related Articles: Nitrates, Nitrites, Ammonia, Phosphate, Silicates, Nutrient Control and Export, Deep Sand Beds,

Related FAQs: Nitrates 1, Nitrates 2, Nitrates 3, Nitrates 4, Nitrates 5, Nitrates 6, Nitrates 7, Nitrates 8, Nitrates 9, Nitrates 10, Nitrates 11, Nitrates 12, Nitrates 13, & FAQs on: The Actual Science Re: NO3 Compounds, Importance, Sources, Means to reduce: NNR (Natural Nitrate Reduction, Anaerobic Bacteria), Algae, Other Biota, Physical Filters, Chemical Filters... Nitrites, Ammonia, Establishing Cycling, Biofiltration, Phosphate, Silicates, Biological Filtration, Fluidized Beds, Bio-Ball, Wet-Dry Media 1 Denitrification/Denitrifiers, Wet-Dry Filters, RO./Distilled/Treated Water, Chemical Filtrants, Deep Sand Beds,

Angels are very susceptible to metabolite accumulation disease stress

Nitrate...      10/6/17
For Neale Monks and Bob Fenner
Hello again friends,
I’d appreciate your comments and reasoning about a question involving lowering nitrate. I will start by saying that I understand that nitrate like ammonia and nitrite is toxic to fish, though at much different levels/exposures and depending upon species or age of the fish (fry being more susceptible) [please correct me if I am incorrect here or anywhere else].
<This is correct; though the mechanisms, pathways if you will, for poisoning/toxicity of these nitrogenous compounds are different. NO3 in particular can be accommodated; i.e. much higher concentrations can be tolerated with long exposure>
Consequently, if one discovers nitrate levels in an aquarium are high, say 160 ppm [I am using an actual case from my work on TFF, and this is a stable state not something sudden], immediately reducing the nitrate to safe levels (under 20 ppm) is not in itself going to harm fish.
<Usually; yes>
I have been challenged on this, with the suggestion that the nitrate should be lowered gradually over days or weeks, similar to other adjustments.
<Mmm; no. Immediately lowering NO3 concentration is advised>
The idea apparently is that “old tank syndrome” is dangerous and rapid changes can be fatal; but I would respond that the danger with this is due more to pH, and ammonia being ammonium in acidic water and the sudden change to basic pH (pH shock, plus ammonium converting to ammonia) is the problem, not nitrates decreasing. My argument is that nitrate is not like other adjustments (GH, pH, temperature, or whatever) and being toxic the sooner it is lowered the better.
<I concur>
I maintain that any toxin in the water, be it ammonia, nitrite, very high nitrate, substances released from wood or rock that are detrimentally affecting fish, etc, are best corrected rapidly via significant water changes.
Comments please, with thanks.
Byron Hosking.
<Will ask Neale for his separate response here. Bob Fenner>
Re: For Neale Monks and Bob Fenner: Nitrate         10/7/17

Byron, Bob,
I don’t have any real insight into this. But I do wonder if there are differences between species and when comparing marine with freshwater fish. My point being that generalist freshwater fish are able to handle bigger water chemistry changes than more specialist species (or most marines) given they’d be exposed to such in the wild. For example, the pH of a pond can vary between around 7 to as high as 9 once photosynthesis kicks in and dissolved CO2 is used up.
<A useful point/speculation. I do think there are differences between salt/fresh, young/old, acclimated and not species, specimens. Have been to public aquariums that fed huge amounts of food to very large animals... that had thousands of PPM of NO3>
I’ve read before that the idea we can meaningfully acclimate fish to slight pH changes is actually erroneous anyway. The “float them in a bag for an hour” or “drip water into a bucket for an hour” approaches sound good, but supposedly the actual physiology works far more slowly than this. So for fish to actually adapt their blood chemistry (or whatever) actually takes far longer, and what we’re really dealing with is the degree to which fish can tolerate abrupt changes (i.e., shock) and then slowly adjust across days or weeks. Does this sound familiar to either of you?
<Yes; it does>
I do believe, Byron, that there’s a hierarchy of stress factors, and sometimes to minimise a severe stress (such as nitrite, ammonia or extremes of temperature) you may have to increase a mild stress (such as small pH or hardness changes) simply through doing water changes. Of course the standard advice should remain that water changes need to be made with water as similar to the conditions in the tank as practical.
So far as I know, nitrate toxicity hasn’t really been studied across a wide range of ornamental freshwater fish, but experimentally with things like goldfish you really do need quite high levels (100+ mg/l) to cause immediate health issues. In such situations, I think doing moderate water changes across a few days, rather than one giant water change, might be safer in terms of minimising sudden pH, temperature or hardness changes. But that said, if the new water was similar enough to the old, doing 90% water changes has been demonstrated to be perfectly safe in and of itself.
Anyway, keep me posted with what you learn!
Cheers, Neale
<And you, BobF>
Re: For Neale Monks and Bob Fenner        10/7/17

Thanks Neale and Bob.
So what I take from both of you is that with the proviso that parameters (GH, KH, pH , temperature) are close enough to be called the same, a large water change to reduce nitrate from 160 ppm down to 10 or 20 ppm is not going to harm the fish, and is more advisable than doing smaller changes over weeks. I will assume my understanding is correct unless you say different.
<This is a good summation>
I do appreciate the benefit of your experience and knowledge on these issues.
<Welcome. BobF>
Re: For Neale Monks and Bob Fenner    /Neale        10/7/17

I would 100% agree with this.
Triage of any kind is about balancing the big dangers against the minor stresses.
Cheers, Neale

Xport NO3 Product; Sulfur        7/1/17
I was in my LFS yesterday and was told about Brightwell aquatics Xport NO3 product which comes in a few shapes and sizes. It is a porous media containing sulphur which sits in a low flow area of a sump and denitrifies they tell me.
<Well-stated; and yes to there being such sulfur products. Best used in reactors... where they receive more circulation>
I can see no references to it in the wetweb pages and though there are threads on it elsewhere the question of does it actual make a significant impact on NO3 remains largely unanswered. I do not want to waste my money as this hobby is full of 'miracle' products.
<I think what little we/WWM have is likely archived here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/SulfurDenitratrF.htm
I have a 180 gal FOWLR which despite water changes always has high NO3. I want to eventually keep some soft corals which requires me to sort out my water parameters.
<There are a few approaches. Am a bigger fan of natural methods... deep DSBs of fine material, RDP refugiums with macro-algal culture....>
I have tried vodka dosing and biopellets in the past, Cyano loved them, no other change. I have a good skimmer too, Bubble Magus curve 9. I have reduced my tank PO4 to 0.5 ppm with ferric oxide which greatly reduced the
nuisance algae but though the PO4 is not rising the algae seems to have found a new lease of life. I have read this can be due to PO4 leaching out of my live rock but I'm not seeing PO4 increases when testing?
<Likely being "scarfed"/scavenged readily by the algae/Cyanobacteria... a dynamic process>
With denitrifying media low flow is desirable but no flow is pointless.
<Ahh; again; well-stated>
As sump space is limited I was wondering if putting such media in the bottom of the overflow chamber is an option?
<Yes; tis one... though do read the citation above, consider a chamber with directed flow>
I have no idea what the water turnover is there though as the weir pipe draws from the surface of the overflow chamber about 1.5 ft higher up. Thanks for your time and help,

Re-stocking after fish death     3/8/17
Hi there.
<Hey Les>
I hope all is well with all the crew.
<Thank you; yes>
I have had my 350 litre FOW(some)LR for over 10 years now. It's a "planted" tank with several species of macro algae. I had six lovely fish in there (clown, yellow tang, flame angel, royal gramma, diamond goby and a blue Chromis). About four or five weeks ago I added another macro algae which came with a mushroom!
I haven't kept corals of any sort as my nitrates are always a bit too high for them, however, as this little chap had made his way in, I wanted to do my best for him and came across Red Sea's No3 PO4
<Mmm; how high was NO3? I would NOT use this product>

in my local LFS, which claims to lower nitrates and keep corals looking at their best. The LFS said it was a good product so I bought it and I added a lower dose than the recommended one for my tank size - that evening. The
next morning all of the fish were dead :(
I was, and still am, completely devastated. I can't remember the last time I cried so much. They were such lovely little personalities and always came to greet me. I can't believe at how stupid I was to add this stuff.
I feel like a murderer.
Anyway, I have since done some research on this product (I know I should have done this before adding it to my tank, but hindsight is 20:20 as they say) and discovered that this product can reduce oxygen levels in the water! I think my fish suffocated, especially given that this is a planted tank and I assume that macro algae would give off CO2 during the night, reducing the oxygen level still further?
<Yes; tis so>

We've removed all the dead fish but I still have the macro algae, the mushroom and loads of snails and little worms and other life forms in there which are all fine (presumably, due to smaller oxygen requirements).
Obviously, I want to restock my tank but I would like your advice as to how to go about it and what to do in the meantime to keep the other life forms (and bacteria in the filter and on the rocks etc.) alive meantime.
I have been adding a little flake food every morning since this happened (Sunday morning - 5th March). Is this enough?
I don't want to lose anything else, and I want to keep the beneficial bacteria alive so the tank doesn't end up cycling again.
Also, how soon can I re-stock? I miss my fish :( I am hoping to get the same fish as I liked them so much and they all got along.
<Then this is what I'd do>
Should I add all six at the same time while there is sufficient beneficial bacteria and, if so, when? They will be smaller fish than the ones I lost as mine were mature specimens and the LFS stocks "babies", or should I add
three one week and then three the next week?
<Either way will be fine. Add as many as you can find good specimens for; the others when you come across them>
Any advice you can give would be much appreciated.
Thank you.
Kind regards.
Lesley Saxton
<The species you list are fine to introduce in any order. Anima bona fac/Life to you. Bob Fenner>
Re: Re-stocking after fish death     3/8/17

Thanks Bob
<Welcome Lesley>
Yes, I won't ever be using that product again!
The nitrates hover around 40ppm, even with water changes, and have done for years. I know is too high for corals so I've never kept them.
<The value, measures of Nitrate concentration alone aren't that indicative of bad conditions... their change, rate; what they may portend is. There are assuredly "corals" (e.g. Goniopora) that live in water of hundreds of ppm of NO3 for instance>
I would certainly like to add all the fish at once to save any bullying issues, but am I ok to add them this week or should I wait a couple of weeks? The water is fine (apart from the nitrates of course!)
<Either is fine; no need to wait>
Thank you.
Kind regards.
<And you, Bob Fenner>

Nitrates gone wild!       3/6/17
Hello, and thank you for what you do.
<Hi; welcome Karen>
You've been a great resource to me over the years - but shamefully, not in the last few. which is why I am
writing today. I will try to give a bit of history without writing a novel.
I have a 225 gallon tank with probably a 30 gallon refugium and an additional 40 gallon sump. I say probably, because I upgraded from a 90 gallon in 2009 and I truly don't remember all the details. Tank has
approximately 300 - 400 lbs of live rock and maybe 200 lbs of sand (all was purchased from a company called Tampa Bay Saltwater). There's between 2 - 3 inches of Miracle Mud in the refugium along with some of the above mentioned live rock. I was very involved in the hobby until probably 2013 or so when a number of things happened (including the earlier death of my husband) to draw my attention away.
At some point, all of my corals died and I was left with a fish only tank - some of the fish having been in the earlier tank.
We (the fish and I) kind of limped along until last September 2016 when my lighting system failed. I had one of the first LED systems - you may remember the Solaris? - and it finally bit the dust. At that point I had these 8 and 9 year old fish (Regal Tang, Saltwater Tang, GSM clown, 2 Ocellaris clowns, One Spot Foxface, and a foot long Engineer Goby) and I had to make the decision as to whether to rehome them and dismantle everything or sink some money into the tank. I chose the latter and replaced the lighting system and had my local LFS who has helped me throughout the years, come and do a thorough cleaning and reboot (so to speak) of the system.
The LFS is also using my tank for some of their larger soft corals in hopes of later fragging them - or maybe they're just being nice because I've been with them forever.
Of course, within two weeks of replacing the lights, both my skimmer pump and main pump also died and had to be replaced.
After all that happened, and after several water changes within a couple of months, my Regal Tang got a mild case of ich. Acting on the advice of the LFS, I treated the tank with Kick Ich
<Ughh! A placebo at best. See WWM re this sham/scam>
and upped the feeding, varied the diet, added Selcon and VitaChem to keep the tang's immune system up.
<These will help>
I realize that's not the treatment of choice but I've been out of the hobby for a long time and, well, insert whatever excuse you can think of. At the time, the water was tested and everything was within normal limits but the
nitrates were very high (around 100) but that was attributed to all the stirring up and the feeding.
<Likely so>
Added Chaeto to the refugium and a carbon/GFO reactor and UV sterilizer. Ultimately the tang cleared up and presumably all was well for the next 3 months. I added a little ORA Orchid Dottyback and she's doing great - except that she was so small I continued to overfeed to ensure that she was getting food. Please note that during all this there wasn't any further water testing going on, but all the fish (even the Regal eventually) were fat and happy, the mostly soft corals thriving, and the water looked great. I'm running a skimmer, the UV sterilizer, and the carbon/GFO reactor. I have a moderate CUC consisting of a couple serpent stars, 50 -100 various snails, and a few Peppermint and Skunk Cleaner shrimp. So that's the history, and here's the problem.
I purchased a Mandarin and placed him in the tank, thinking that an 8 year old tank with lots of live rock, etc. would surely support him. He's a big guy, approximately 3+ inches. But I started thinking that he was looking
thin. So I bought some pods and put some Chaeto in the refugium. Then I bought some more pods. Then I bought an additional 50k pods and some phytoplankton and he still looks thin to my mind.
<I'd place the Mandarin in your refugium for now; likely interstitial fauna there... AND I want to make sure and mention that I'd increase the depth of the DSB there, AND run the lights/lighting there alternating with the main/displays (RDP)>
So I had an epiphany (I know, I know) and tested the water and the nitrates were very high (100 ppm). and I'm now freaking out because there's no way to know how long they've been that high - could have been for a long time or since I started paying more attention to the tank and began way overfeeding to bolster the tang. I also don't know if the Kick Ich treatment killed a lot of the beneficial bacteria or the existing pods or ..
<Perhaps... but... I would NOT obsess re the high NO3. It by and of itself is not a major concern; how to put this: OFTEN what such readings "co-interpret" is an abundance of other ills; high dissolved organics period, low DO, high BOD, low RedOx...>
Thus far I've cut back on feeding, am upping my water changes (but am somewhat at the mercy of the LFS who does my water changes)
<Mmm; I'd take all this back. Do the maintenance myself>
and I started the Prodibio Bioclean S on Friday. I've also added more flow and I took some of the live rock out of the display and put it in the refugium. And now the Regal Tang has started flashing on the glass and acting
differently - but only when the lights are on. Appetite is still good and there are no spots, but she's banging up her head a bit. I don't know if that's oncoming disease or just a stress reaction to the change or both.
<Can't say>
The guy with the LFS that's doing the water changes is concerned about the tank because the rock is sitting on egg crate and he believes that that is contributing to the nitrate issue by allowing detritus to accumulate, especially under the rock.
<Possibly.... I might well remove it in sections; even half during one maintenance interval, the other next>
So now I'm at a place where I don't know if I should dismantle the tank and try to remove the egg crate - and likely stress my elderly fish beyond the limit; add more sand on top of the existing sand; add a sulfur denitrator, or ..?
<Or all three...>
I know I need not take a scattergun approach and randomly try a bunch of different things (I already feel like I'm starting to go down that rabbit hole). Parameters today (water change about 48 hours ago) are: Ammonia and nitrites 0, pH 8.2, Alkalinity 11.2, Salinity 1.25, Calcium 480, Magnesium 1280, Phosphate .25 and Nitrates 160. Attaching a few pictures of the tank so you can see the amount of rock, sand, etc.
<Actually; looks fine macroscopically>
Any guidance you can provide would be very much appreciated. I'm sorry for the long email, but I was trying to cram in 8 years. And again, thanks so much for all the valuable help you provide.
<Thank you for writing, sharing. I would proceed as mentioned and hinted at. PLEASE do communicate if this message is not clear, complete and/or you have other concerns, developments. Bob Fenner>

Re: Nitrates gone wild!      3/7/17
Thank you so much for your quick reply, and thank you for easing my panic. I've read through this several times and I'm trying to come up with a plan - additionally, as I'm sure you saw in the pictures - I have a Sailfin Tang, not a Saltwater Tang �� I also have a few further questions, if I may ask?
<Go ahead>
I'm thinking that prior to moving the Mandarin to the refugium, I should increase the depth of the DSB as advised, and since it's completely made up of Miracle Mud, is that what I should add rather than sand?
<I would CAREFULLY (with the sand washed, damp... in a plastic hand-sized container) lay the new sand atop the mud. The latter will dissolve, decompose for the most part in time; and do some good here>
I mentioned three possibilities (removing egg crate, adding sand, and adding a sulfur denitrator) and I interpreted your response to mean that it would be a good idea to do all three?
<Yes; any or all>

Removing the egg crate can be done although it will be a major undertaking, particularly since some of the rocks are huge (probably 30 -40 lbs). I'm worried about the stress on the tank and the stress on the fish in proceeding in that direction... but if it needs to be done, so be it.
<Doesn't "need" to be; just would be better. The other measures mentioned above/prior would do ninety some percent of what can/could be done to improve water quality here easily>
My preference would be to add more sand without removing the egg crate,
<Then that is what I'd do>
but I don't want to waste the money or the effort in adding new sand if I'm only covering up the problem.
The sand in the tank is not quite a crushed coral but looks a bit like it, only a tad finer ... as described by the website where I purchased, it's ..." harvested well offshore in the ocean to be clean of pollutants and silicates. Live sand collected in this manner will be a mixture of sand, shell bits, corallines, bivalves, starfish, snails, and many organisms not visible to your eye". Would you suggest ordering more of the same or using another sand?
<More of this, finer in grade if available... most under 1 mm diameter>
And the third option is the sulfur denitrator. I've been reading up on them - but is there a specific model that you would recommend?
<Mmm; hold off on this till the other work is done and a month or two has gone by. Again; this is what I'd do>
Is there anything I have missed?
<Not that I perceive>
Again, I'd really like to thank you for your assistance with the tank. I get ridiculously attached to these little creatures and I really do want to provide an appropriate environment for them, despite appearances to the contrary as evidenced by my neglect the last few years.
<A pleasure, indeed honor to share with you>
Despite that, they've hung in there with me ... the Foxface is actually the first saltwater fish I purchased well over 10 years ago.
We all thank you.
<And all are welcome. BobF>

low PH and High Nitrates.       1/31/17
Hello, I have read a lot on your site regarding this issue, but still not sure on what to do. I have a 30 gal salt tank that's 5 yrs old with live rock.
<Mmm; have you switched out any rock or substrate during this five years? The soluble parts largely go away in a year or two...>

the last month or so my ph which has never been higher than 8.0 is now at 7.7. in the last 2 weeks I have done four 5 gal water changes, and today did 10 gal
<Mmm, part two; what does your salt mix brand, or natural water if using... read in terms of pH AND Alkalinity?>
water change. and the ph is now at 7.8. I know I have a severe nitrate problem, could this be the issue I assume, I started using the poly filter a few days ago. I don't know why
<... I'd be reviewing Alkalinity... at least on WWM. There are a few ways to bolster>
all my water changes have not made the nitrate level budge. my fish seem ok so far. my skimmer failed about 6 months ago. have not replaced, probably another part of the problem.
<Yes; it is>
other than getting a new skimmer any suggestions,
<Switch out some/most of your substrate... have this a few inches deep; finer grade. Replace/renew a few lb.s of your LR. Check into a better salt mix, look into supplements that will add carbonate... am a huge fan of the SeaChem line here>
I don't have a sump. also I have a fluidized bed filter by Lifegard that I have not hooked up yet. would this be good for nitrates/phosphates.
<Will likely solve a good deal of issues with these>
can you recommend a good hang on skimmer.
<I really like the Aqua-C brand...>

thanks a lot great site.
here are my parameters:
temp- 77
salinity - 1.023 - 1.024
PH 7.8 - salifert.....
calcium- 500 ppm – salifert...
<I'd allow this to drift down to the mid 400s ppm>
.alk- 12.5 dKH- LaMotte.
<Mmm; surprising>
Mag- 1340 ppm-red sea
phosphate- 0.25 ppm - API
Nitrate- 100 ppm - salifert
<Yikes; both NO3 and PO4 are high; much too high... Hook that Lifegard up and add some buffer to your change water... vacuum out most of the old "gravel" and replace with a fine crushed coral... Bob Fenner>
Toronto, Canada.
re: low PH and High Nitrates.      1/31/17

thanks for reply
I have never changed substrate only vacuumed/added Carib sea fine sand.
<I would change this out for new (all) at this juncture>
salt brand I use is instant ocean reef.
isn't my Alk OK ,or too high using a good test kit.
<Is fine as tested>
I am using ro/di water.
zero chloramines/ chlorine. Zero tds
what do I use to buffer my RO water baking soda?
<Mmm; no... this is only sodium bicarbonate.... Read here
: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/alkadds.htm
I have never tested RO water for alk or pH
should I and what should it be
<No need... after setting, possibly aeration, the pH s/b about 7.0>
thanks again
<... Welcome. BobF>
re: low PH and High Nitrates.      1/31/17

<... Your grammar...
hi I want to but the aqua c remora skimmer
is there any real difference between the remora and the pro model's

High nitrates. Using WWM
Good afternoon,
<Yawnnnn; AM here in Madagascar now. Howsit?>
I have a 500 gallon salt water tank with live rock in the tank as well as the sump. I also have a protein skimmer running with a uv. I have two sharks
<Foods? Amount, interval?>

that are about a year old with about 8 medium sized fish. I constantly have high nitrates no matter if I do atleast 100 gallon water change a month. I have changed salt mixes from instant ocean to red sea and have added more live sand to the aquarium. In the sump
<How big, how deep and size, and make up of the sand... for denitrification?>
I have live rock in there also where I run the lights on the live rock approximately 10 hours opposite the main tank. I do not know what else I can do to lower the nitrates. Not sure if I need to do more water changes each month or add more sand to the tank since I read pros and cons or add something to remove nitrates.Any help would be appreciated.
Thank you
<All gone over and over on WWM. Start reading here:
and the linked files at top. Bob Fenner>
Re: High nitrates      11/28/16

Mr. Fenner,
I feed my sharks twice a week giving them several silversides each .
<Mmm; I'd definitely expand this diet... see WWM Re; bagged/frozen "seafood mix" for humans is a good choice... and read re the use of (Mazuri .com) vitamins... Dangers of B vitamin deficiency are eminent>
My sump is 4 feet long by 24 wide. I have live rock in an area in the sump approximately 17 long by 24 wide and 10 tall. I do not have sand in the sump under the live rock
<I would definitely add the fine sand... at least four inches... six is better>
no just have a light over the live rock approximately 10 hours. I have several inches of sand in the tank with the live rock but should I add some in the sump under the live rock.
I read the article and I am moving my intake of my water for my skimmer from the end of the sump to the beginning of the sumo before the filter socks and live rock.
Thanks for the help
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Nitrates Control & a Tank Upgrade. Mar. Substrates f' as well <All covered on WWM>      5/5/14
Hi -
I am about to transfer the contents of my established 110 gallon SPS reef tank to a 225 gal reef tank that I am currently cycling with about 125 lbs of live rock. I will then move the approx 120 lbs of live rock & SPS from the 110 to the new 225. Recently I developed a nitrate problem in my 110 measuring about 20 ppm.
<Of and by itself; this isn't "much" of a problem. Put another way; I would not panic... To be expected in a new sys. w/ this much new LR>
I do 10-15% water changes every week. My Phosphates & Ammonia levels are at zero. I have added additional liverock to my Refugium which is housed in a 30 gal sump. I have reduced my feeding schedule even though I have Anthias that require twice a day feedings & made sure my skimmer is running effectively. Since then my Nitrate level has come down to 10 ppm.
While doing some research on your site, I have come across some conflicting information regarding the level of substrate in the display Tank vs. substrate level in my Refugiums. Most of what I read indicates a deep sand bed in the Refugium of 3-4 inches.
<This or deeper; yes... fine sand better than coarser>
However, I am also reading information that seem to indicate that a deeper sand bed in the Refugium may attribute to higher Nitrates. I am I supposed be syphoning or stirring the substrate in the Refugium?
<Mmm; I am a fan of occasionally siphoning, stirring part (no more than half)>
I have also been told it would not be a good idea to transfer the substrate in the my display 110 tank to my new 225 display tank.
<.... this is gone over and over on WWM; but there is a palpable argument for and against here... IF the substrate is very old, not much of it will be soluble... hence; not as much use... BUT if it isn't "too olde"; it bears rinsing and re-use>
I have also been told by my LFS to use as little new substrate in my new tank as possible
<Indeed; many systems do mighty well w/o any... i.e. bare bottomed>
They are indicating to put the liverock in first and then use just enough substrate to cover the bottom of the tank to avoid having a future nitrate problem. What is recommended level of substrate in the display tank if using a refugium in the sump?
<... Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/refugdsbfaqs.htm
I am also confused about
what is best for nitrate control, larger coarse sand or finer sand.<... finer; definitely>
Any help you could provide would greatly be appreciated.
<A real point here: STRIVE to understand the underlying rationale/science for the input you're considering... Your understanding en toto will increase logarithmically. Bob Fenner>

losing the war; High NO3; spinning
A few months ago I had asked you about nitrates and keeping them lower. You gave me some suggestions, and I have toured the WWB, RHF's articles, printed out info, keep a log book, and I feel I am losing the war.
I have added an oversized skimmer (RSO 3000), added about 30 lbs of live rock, did more frequent water changes.
I bought a salifert nitrate test kit, and they read today between 80-100.
This is after I did a 60 percent water change 4 days ago.
<Something amiss here... do you have crushed coral w/ muck galore embedded in it? A wet-dry or such?... I'd be looking into adding a very DSB; culturing macroalgae in an RDP sump/refugium; perhaps even using chem. filtrants, the Kalk trick...>
There is no detritus on the sand, as I have find sand, and 20x flow per hour.(VorTech and return pumps)
I am looking at bio pellets, or a denitrator.
<Worth looking at>

However, before I invest the money, and take the risk, (have heard bio pellets nuking tanks), I want to try one last option. I have two overflows on the tank (tank is 155), and each overflow has a sponge on the drain pipe. Each week when I do a water change, I clean each sponge,
<Sponges and similar mech. media may need to be changed out/cleaned daily>

which is loaded detritus. (uneaten shrimp, Nori, krill etc) I am thinking to remove them, to allow nutrients to reach filter sock, and eventually skimmer. Could this be worth a try, or is that not a significant cause.
<VERY worthwhile. B>
** I copy and pasted your reply email, to more easily answer the concerns you had.
You will see (()) around my responses:
Hey Bob,
A few months ago I had asked you about nitrates and keeping them lower. You gave me some suggestions, and I have toured the WWB, RHF's articles, printed out info, keep a log book, and I feel I am losing the war.
I have added an oversized skimmer (RSO 3000), added about 30 lbs of live rock, did more frequent water changes.
I bought a salifert nitrate test kit, and they read today between 80-100.
This is after I did a 60 percent water change 4 days ago.
<Something amiss here... do you have crushed coral w/ muck galore embedded in it? A wet-dry or such?... I'd be looking into adding a very DSB;
culturing macroalgae in an RDP sump/refugium; perhaps even using chem.
filtrants, the Kalk trick...> ((No crushed coral, sugar sized sand. It is 2 inches in some spots, 4-5 inches in other (thanks to VorTech))) ((It was a wet dry with bio balls, but I took them out, and the sump is spotless as far as detritus goes. Sump is just filter sock, skimmer))
There is no detritus on the sand, as I have find sand, and 20x flow per hour.(VorTech and return pumps)
I am looking at bio pellets, or a denitrator.
<Worth looking at>
However, before I invest the money, and take the risk, (have heard bio pellets nuking tanks), I want to try one last option. I have two overflows on the tank (tank is 155), and each overflow has a sponge on the drain losing the war pipe. Each week when I do a water change, I clean each sponge, <Sponges and similar mech. media may need to be changed out/cleaned daily>
which is loaded detritus. (uneaten shrimp, Nori, krill etc) I am thinking to remove them, to allow nutrients to reach filter sock, and eventually skimmer. Could this be worth a try, or is that not a significant cause.
<VERY worthwhile. B> ((I will remove these, just hope the noise from gurgling. The way the glass tops and canopy are mounted, it is not very feasible to clean them every day))
chasing numbers... and now NO2

Hello again,
In my 155 FOWLR, I have been showing a .5 nitrite
<... what?! D>

for a few weeks now. The tank has been running for 15 years, so I consider it established or mature. I have done big water changes, added stability bacteria, and cut down on feeding, still to see .5 nitrite.
It could very well be a false reading, however, I stumbled upon an article Randy Farley, and it stated UV light can cause nitrates to break down into nitrite. Is this true?
<... not appreciably>
Could this be why Im reading .5 nitrite?
And in regards to my last email, what is your true opinion on bio pellets?
<Can be of use; though not a panacea>
I see articles and FAQs on them, but nothing about how you feel they function, and the risks involved. I am afraid if my nitrates are @100 now after a large water change, they will keep reaching for the sky if I don't implement something.
nitrate update... Ongoing iatrogenic confusion       4/22/14
Hello there, Bob
I emailed you a few days ago, regarding my 100 nitrates in my FOWLR 155. I have looked into different avenues for nitrate removal, and after some few hours of research, may have found a reasonable course of action.
I will most likely get a SMR1 media reactor, using ecoBAK bio pellets, with a maxi jet 1200 pump.
I understand this takes some time to colonize, so in the mean time I will do 25 percent weekly water changes to bring them down. I have contemplated utilizing 60 percent water changes, however an lfs near me in Pennsylvania told me anything over 50 percent change, will cause tank to cycle.
I have never heard of this, and cant find anything on that. Is this something you find to be true?
Overall, how does my course of action look? Ultimately the best course of action would probably be to rehome half my fish. Obviously I am trying not to do that.
<Dang the torpeedees>
RE: nitrate update      4/22/14
Torpeedees? Not understanding...
RE: nitrate update      4/22/14
Ah..yes I see. Continue with the aforementioned plan. Sorry I am used to reading your scientific lingo, not history lol.
I am afraid of one aspect of bio pellets I have read about, and that is the dreaded oxygen depriving bacterial bloom. Hopefully starting slow with 1/5 dose will counteract that.
And lastly, I will, as you put it, march on with the plan, however does >50% water change cause tank to recycle?
<No sir... not... likely>
I was under the impression the bacteria was insignificant in water column, and contained in the surfaces, tank walls, rock, sand etc.
RE: nitrate update      4/23/14
Thanks, Bob.
And in your opinion, being my nitrates are hovering @100, realistically, once the pellets are established, what number should I expect. I do not believe for a second, with my given nitrate stat, and remaining bio load, 0 nitrates are in my future. However, if I can get them down to 40, would that suffice, or does more modifications need to follow to lower them further?
<Please read, Re-read what is posted on WWM re Nitrates, their control...
and NOT get confused via what you're reading elsewhere>
And...off topic, but girlfriend and I are looking to book a Caribbean trip for the summer. Any destinations better than others as far as wildlife diversity? I have snorkeled Cozumel, and don't have anything else to really compare it to.
<A bunch of possibilities. Have you been to the Caymans? A bigger fan of the smaller islands. Bonaire in the Lower Antilles is a great favorite. Belize, esp. to the south (Placentia)... Do either of you have a predilection for culture/archaeology? Botany? Food tourism? B>

Fowlr tank with high Nitrates        4/10/12
HI everyone.
I have two questions. The first is about the marine water I get from my LFS. They use a RO/DI machine to keep a 1500 gallon plastic tank of fresh water and then they use that in some very large industrial style drums to mix Instant Ocean water and then they pump that into a 1500 gallon plastic tank of marine water that has a 24/7 circulation pump. I get the water in
5 gallon jerry-cans and take them home to fill up an 18 gallon Tupperware tub of water, in a darkened closet with a tint circ pump and a heater.
<I'd be making my own>
Approximately every 10 weeks I end up draining that tub completely and when I do, there is a brown sediment on the bottom. It wipes off easily enough but it has a faint and I do mean very faint smell of the sea shore. What, if anything, am I or my LFS doing wrong?
<Can't tell w/ the information presented. Reads as if there's some biological contamination here... from somewhere>
I have an 80 gallon FOWLR tank with a 50 gallon sump plus a canister filter and a CPR BakPak skimmer. I house 2 clowns, 1 hippo tang, 1 yellow tang, 2 Chromis and a Rose Bubble Tip Anemone about the size of a large fist.
I've had this static setup for 8 years and all seems well except Nitrates. I have zero ammonia, zero nitrites but 80+ppm Nitrates.
<Mmm; not likely problematical of/by itself>

Some weeks I've done 4 30 gallon water changes and there isn't enough difference in the Nitrates to even see with the API, Red Sea or Seachem test kits.
<.... There are several means to limit NO3... READ here:
and the linked files above>
Other than the fact all seems so well I'd be tempted to start suctioning my live sand at say, 1/4 a month and washing it in new marine water.
Can you give me any insight on these two things that won't go away?
<Read on! Bob Fenner>

nitrate question; SW; rdg.       1/29/14
Hi again, Bob. I had another question which I felt was better not crammed into my shark question. Given the set-up I have, 155 bow, 50 gal sump, mtc protein skimmer, two return pumps providing nearly 1400 gallons an hour combined. 80 lbs total live rock, in display and in sump, siphon cleaning sand every two weeks, weekly 15 percent water changes, what next gradual step should I do to eliminate nitrates.
<Not likely to eliminate, but help reduce/control... there are a few possible avenues... avoidance by stocking, feeding... absorption, export, denitrification... all gone over on WWM. Use the search tool or indices>
I have an API test that shows 40, and another test that shows 20. I do get 80 readings from time to time, but after retesting, it shows 40 (looking into getting the most accurate, consistent test, if one does exist to the home aquarist)
<Check what these kits are actually measuring... some do "Nitrogen as Nitrate"... rather than [NO3] itself>
The sump has two sections, a trickle down part, with bio balls,
<Part of your/the induced problem. See WWM re this media... change it out for something else>
where the in sump protein skimmer exists (water is pushed in protein skimmer, via return pump) and then the return section. The only mechanical filtration is tank are the two sponges (socks)
<These need to be cleaned/switched out for pre-cleaned daily>

 in the over flows (one in each over flow) as well as a block pad that sits in between the sump divider. (water has to run through it in order to make it to the return section. (I clean these weekly
<Need to be done every day>
 during water changes with seawater to maintain bacterial colonies.) My skimmer is always on, and produces maybe a cup a week.
I do not really have the space for a refugium, and was told by various lfs owners that Chaeto would not solve my problem.
<Could help though... this and/or Ogo/Gracilaria would be my choice/s>
Should I start with some sort of carbon source?
<Not likely helpful in the long/er term>
I also read vodka dosing is risky, and also not a long term solution to my issue. They also market a block that is 8x4x4, that supposed to be good for growing the denitrifying bacteria to rid nitrates. Any word on these?
<Can help IF your issue is carbon limitation>
As far as detritus is concerned, about 6 weeks ago I swapped out my crushed coral, which was nearly ten years old, for sugar sand in anticipation of the marbled cat.
<A good move for sure>
To prevent detritus from entering the water column, I removed all the fish I had at the time into a garbage can, with 50 gallons of seawater from tank, along with live rock. Once they were out, I drained out 100 gallons of tank into drain, till there was nothing left in tank. I then used clean seawater to wipe clean tank of debris. I placed new sand in, and added 100
gallons of new water (water I would normally do a water change with, temp was spot on, salinity etc) added fish and live rock in, and finally the 50 gallons that was holding the fish. I also siphoned out debris in overflows as well as the little detritus that was in sump. Whole process took me about two hours. as I wished to maintain bacteria in sump, pumps etc as
much as possible.
<Sounds/reads great>
So there is little to know detritus in tank now that I would think could fuel nitrates. I do not think my situation is a problem, it is well maintained, however in the long run I wish to lower them as possible. Thank you, Bob
<Try the reading for a bit; keep good notes, and we'll be chatting. Bob Fenner>
bio balls follow up     1/29/14

Hi bob. I agree 100 percent with what you said about the bio balls possibly being a factor in my nitrates. However, the sump I have, which was custom built folwr by MTC (marine technical concepts) is completely sealed, with no access to them. I suppose the only way would be to cut the sump open itself (not sure if that ever is a good idea)
<Up to you; denitrifying media can/could be placed downstream...>
With that said, are they that detrimental, that a new sump should be in the works?
<Depends... as nitrate is produced; is that an issue?>
 I can tell you when I observe the bio balls with a flash light, they are as blue as they were the day they went in there, with no build up of detritus. There is no pad above the balls, so the flow that goes to them is heavy water, which according to MTC, helps prevent dirt from settling on them. Detritus does build from time to time, but it is under the bio balls after already falling through them. What do you think? Respectfully, Bob
<... Posted. B>
help needed; Formerly nitrate question; SW; rdg.       1/29/14   Now, NO2 poisoning...  1/30/14

Hey Bob, its bob again. Yesterday was the day from hell, I had mentioned the new lionfish has passed the night before, which was in my tank for four days, and never ate. Chalked it up to stress, non-eating specimen. Coming home from work that night, I noticed my grouper, who was eating krill like a champ, dead under the rock. Upon observation, he had no signs of fighting on him, and you can tell he had some girth to him and he was a strong feeder. Later that evening, my rainbow wrasse, was laying on side, occasionally flapping his tail. Didn't think anything of it, because I know wrasses like to perch and lay, but a day later, and he is still in same position, with minimal movement.
Had my parameters checked again last night, no ammonia, trace amount of nitrates, where my trusted lfs said he believed that would not kill a fish.
Nitrates between 20-40.
<...?! What is your dissolved oxygen here. ONE last time: CHANGE WATER. Add aeration, slightly depress (a thousandth or two) spec. grav. DO add activated carbon or such product (Chemi-pure e.g.)>
What step should I take from here. All other fish are doing really well, eating, no signs of distress other than my rainbow wrasse flapping under a rock. My lfs said to dose copper in there, seeming to believe it is a parasite.
I have not done anything yet. Could it be flukes that killed the grouper and killing the wrasse? (maybe that is wrasse behavior, not sure)I purchased some SeaChem stability last night because of the small spike in nitrite, but have not used it. Could it help/hurt?
<Not at all likely. B>
 RE: help needed     1/30/14

never measured dissolved oxygen before.
<See WWM re DO>
 I have two return pumps running at combined 1500 gallons an hour. I did a 15 percent water change Tuesday night, I can do another if you recommend tomorrow.
As far as trace nitrates, I meant trace nitrites. Less than .5. And through no implication, do not add copper correct?
<I would definitely not>
puzzled fish loss... Ongoing... NO2, 3 f's     1/31/14

Hey bob. As I said two days ago, I lost a new lion fish, (believed to be stressed, small and not eating) and lost a 3 inch miniatus grouper two days ago as well. Was eating like a horse, then dead. My gf, who felt bad, took it upon herself to get me a 1.5 inch miniatus grouper as well as a medium 4 inch lion fish yesterday. The grouper died within hours, I did not see it,
but my mom said the trigger (humu) chased him non stop until he was dead.
<... likely>

I came home and removed him, and you can see physical wounds. Too small for tank, my gf did not know any better, was trying to  be nice.
Today as I was observing the tank, the bigger lion, who went from swimming around one minute, to literally upside down within 5 minutes of me seeing him swim.
I checked the parameters again, and everything was fine, with exception of .25 nitrites.
<? Toxic. Why would anyone add to this trouble?>

That is four fish lost (rainbow wrasse is still laying on bottom flapping occasionally) I told all members of the household no more fish, or replacement of fish till we find out what is happening.
My other fish, sohal tang, clown tang, spiny puffer (burr fish),  humu trigger and marbled cat shark are all fine. I have made the decision to remove the sohal, and trigger tomorrow and return them to my lfs. I believe the grouper was killed by trigger, and also believe sohal chasing everything is adding stress.
<I agree>
I will wait at least a month before adding anything at all. Question is, are these mystery deaths just fish not meant to be, or do you believe there is a parasite lurking in the water. I would have thought if it were a parasite, all fish would have been affected.
I am really puzzled, and my lfs shrugs his shoulders when I tell him. I know I can not use copper with presence of shark. I did add some carbon matrix to sump, as well as pulling some water from tank and replaced with r/o water to lower salinity. Which is now a 1.24 from a 1.26.
<... missing a zero>
What else can I check for? I did do a 10 percent water change this morning.
Really struggling and frustrated.
Thanks in advance.
RE: puzzled fish loss    2/1/14

ORP oxidation reduction potential. I know what it stands for but don't know anything about it in relative terms to my tank. Or what that means going forward.
<... use the search tool... found on every of the 14 plus k pages on WWM>
As far as the .25 nitrites, that is what they tested today after the dead fish were removed from aquarium. They were checked daily the passed month, and did not see any spike in that nor ammonia.  I would not blatantly add fish to my tank with toxic byproducts.
And what is TBC? To be checked? not familiar with that acronym.
<Total bacteria count... A very interesting proposition with aquariums:
Just how much role does a given concentration of "bacterial population/s" play in determining, influencing livestock health in our systems? Their metabolites, analogs... just the bit they add as BOD? I have oft-wondered if microbial content period was important in such cases as yours... Oh, and this measure and CBC are often gen. measures of potable water quality>
Lastly I wanted to ask you, at night when the lights go down, (I lower led lights to 0 white light, 5 percent blue light for an hour, then totally off) my shark over the past few nights is starting to show more of himself.
<Ah good>
  Is now the time to stick feed, since is barely visible during the day?
Part of me says if he's hungry he will come out, the other part of me says I need to be proactive.
<Not until there's no detectable nitrite>
And yes, I did forget the 0. it is now a 1.024 sg.
Thanks, Bob
<Welcome. B>
RE: puzzled fish loss... NO2, 3   2/2/14

Will certainly look into that.
<Oh yeah; reading>

I received this email this morning, so last night the shark actually came out and was swimming around the live rock. I tried stick feeding a silver slide, which he ignored, but then I tried a piece of cut scallop, and he nibbled on it a bit. I then turned the room light off and walked away.
After reading what you just said about waiting for nitrites to go away, I will do so now and wait till its 0. I decided to keep feeding minimal until it clears out to play it safe.
Also, I will search the WWM site again, but do you have an opinion on the MTC HSA 250 Becket style protein skimmer? I am not getting much skimmate at all weekly, maybe a cup or so, and my lfs said he had those skimmers before on his display and reef tanks, and threw them out. He said I should look into getting a reef octopus. Any thought?
<See WWM re skimmer selection (FAQs)>
Re: skimmer question... too much chatting. NOT what WWM is      2/7/14

Great, thanks Bob.
Too give a miniature update, its been two days since I removed the bio balls in one shot. Only choice I had really unless I broke the case open, and pulled a portion of the bio balls out.
I've tested the nitrite, nitrate and ammonia, twice a day, and have had no rise in ammonia (0), nitrite (0), and nitrate have gone from 40 to 20.

The nitrite has been down since Saturday, no rise at all. So the balls being out two days have caused no ill effect. If they were too, say since a lot of bacteria come out, is that something that would cause a spike right away, or is it like a butterfly effect, that happens later? I did a 15 percent water change yesterday.
<... please stop writing: And start searching, reading... all of this and MUCH more that is related, will be of interest, use to you is archived on WWM>
Lastly, my marble cat shark came out as soon as the lights went out, and was actually swimming a lot along the sand bed. I said to myself its been almost a week with zero nitrites, time to feed. I defrosted a scallop, used stick feeder, and he immediately attacked it aggressively. Looked as if he had a hard time chewing swallowing it. The piece was probably a 1/4 inch by a 1/4 inch. I assume he ate, for I had to walk away because I know light in the room and he goes to hide, which I did not want to disturb. I suppose next time I can cut the scallop up even smaller.
I told my lfs about this, and he said, if I keep stick feeding at night,
the shark is only going to eat at night, and not learn to come out when
food is present during the day. In my mind, I want him to eat and stay
healthy,  but is his belief true, should I feed during day hoping he
associates day, and not night, with food? Or at this point with new baby
shark, (7 inches or so) is anytime I could get him to eat, better than
risking not eating at all?
my sump     2/7/14
<Search, read>

Hey there again Bob. My sump, with the removal of the bio ball case, is now
pretty bare. I am ordering a skimmer today, which will be here by Tuesday.
So on Tuesday, my sump will have the two drain lines coming into left side,
with protein skimmer, a filter sponge that fills that gap between the
skimmer area, and return pump section. The only other form of mechanical
filter in my tank other than that sponge, are the sponges in my overflow
box, where a sponge sits around the drain pipe.
Again, its a 155 tank, with 2-3 inch fine sand on bottom, and 50 lbs of
live rock. (dead rock which was added months ago, hoping its "live" now) .
What would you suggest I add to my sump to increase surface area? It does
not have the compartment for a fuge or Chaeto growth. I was thinking a mesh
cloth bag, for two drains lines to go into to help polish water, collect
detritus. I also think that the bag will help debris from getting into
skimmer pump.
I was also thinking a carbon source, as well as some type of bio ball
replacement, something that can be submerged to increase surface area for
the bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrite, nitrites to nitrates.
Please help me finish the sump.

Help With High Nitrates     1/10/14
Hello and thank you very much for this amazing service that you offer! I want to assure you I have read through the site, but I still have a couple of outstanding questions, that I am hoping you can help me with. I have a 300 gallon FOWLR that has been up and running for several years now and I am in a constant battle with nitrates(almost always blood red/160PPM, even with bi-weekly 80 gallon water changes.)
<There are a myriad of techniques for controlling...>
I have a 40 gallon sump, which contains a drip tower, which houses a large volume of bio-balls and then another section with around 4 gallons of large sized Matrix stones. I also have the largest model Fluval canister which houses more Matrix and some carbon.
After much reading of your site and the urging of my LFS, I have decided to ditch the bio-balls and replace them with live rock, which brings me to my first question. If I simply replace the bio-balls with live rock in the drip tower, will I get the benefit of anaerobic bacteria, or will the rock
function similar to the bio-balls (aerobic only), since it will not be fully submerged?
<This change-out will provide anaerobic (denitrification) benefits>
My second question is about the amount of live rock in my display tank.
Since my tank is very large, I decided to mix several large pieces of normal live rock with about 150lbs of the Caribsea, super porous base rock, which is now, I assume alive, after a couple years of being in the tank.
With normal live rock being weighed wet and the dry rock, obviously weighing far less, my question is, do you think I have enough rock in the main tank?
<Enough... for what purpose/s? Looks you'd have to decide; habitat: depends on your livestock...>
I can't imagine adding a whole lot more, as a significant portion of the tank is consumed by rock and adding much more, would take up room for the fish to move around. Included is a pic from when I first added the rock, to give you an idea of how much I have.
<No pic attached>
I have also ordered a HOB 24" refugium, which I plan to hang on my current sump, light 24/7 and pack full of macro algae, in hopes of lowering the nitrates that way,
<Read on WWM re refugiums, RDP lighting... Only Caulerpaceans can "do" photosynthesis continuously... you want an alternating light/dark cycle w/ your main/display>
but I fear it will not be able to keep up with what the bio-balls are producing, if they are left in place. I have removed fish, drastically reduced feeding and even tried weekly 80 gallon changes, but the nitrates come back within 24 hours, so I am desperate for a long term solution.
<... what you have planned will go a long way... Perhaps adding a bunch of fine sand/DSB in addition>
Thanks in advance,
Ryan Makelky
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Help With High Nitrates     1/10/14

Thanks for the quick response. I had pasted the pic inline, but this time I attached it. My question about if I have enough live rock, revolves around the typical suggestion of 1LB/gallon and whether or not my amount of rock is sufficient to filter the tank on its own?
<Mmm, in many, most cases; yes. However, I do encourage you/all to add to and/or change out 10-20% a year (in two six mo. increments) with new/fresh... for reasons gone over and over on WWM>
As for the refugium and lighting, would you suggest Caulerpa 24/7 or macro algae with alternating lighting for the sole purpose of removing nitrates?
<.... Please learn to use the search tool... Read here:
and the linked files above. BobF>
Thanks again,
Ryan Makelky


QUESTIONS; Re NO3 accumulation       11/13/13
Hello Mr. Fenner,
I have some questions that I hope you can advise me. This is my equipments:
1.       210 gallon reef with 3  250W (MH 20K) and 4 PCs (96W each).
2.       29 gallon refugium with two T5s (24W each)
3.       20 gallon sump.

4.       Octopus skimmer rated for 250 gallon.
5.       7 power heads.
6.       Two pumps rated at 2100 GPH.
I recently had a huge nitrate spike (90+) (due to a canister filter that I did away since then) and changed water to get down to 40. I emailed you last week about doing another huge water change but you advised me to wait for the Nitrate to stabilize. Last night I did the test and now it is up to 70!
So these are my questions:
1.       How do I about changing water to get nitrate to acceptable level?
<Will cost a bunch of money and time to just change the water to dilute...
That is, this is NOT the route I would take; there are other methods...
Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm
and the linked files above>
 In the past I was consistently at 10.  Can I do 80 gallons every day for three days?
<You can, could, but again, this is not the route I'd go... Won't solve the ongoing NO3 accumulation issue... YOU SHOULD search, investigate re the source/s here... SOLVE them, add more purposeful denitrification, users of Nitrate... perhaps chemical filtrants>
2.       I have lots of fuzzy pink cotton balls in my refugium. They weighted my cheatos down so how do I combat this? Increase lights or flow in the refugium?
<Worth trying both>
3.       My corals are NOT thriving. Even the hardly GSP barely open. I threw away all my toad stools but the problem still existed. Likely due to high nitrate?
<... Likely the high nitrate is reflective of overall TOO MUCH metabolite period; and this is an issue>
4.       Do I have the right stuff for acceptable coral growth?
<... "Right stuff?"... the system, lighting is likely fine; but the overall filtration is wanting... too much nutrient being poured in, insufficient users, removal, cycling mechanism/s...>
I look forward to your reply. Thank you very much! Dai
<DO the reading Dai... consider your possibilities. Just changing water won't do it. Bob Fenner>
Re: QUESTIONS      11/13/13

Thank you for your reply. In the meantime, can I do 10% a day to get nitrate to 20?
<If you'd like; sure>
 Of course I will cut feeding way back too.
<Also a good idea>
 I use to give
a Nori sheet a day. Dai
<Do you have much fine substrate in the tank, 'fuge, sump? I'd increase all to about 4 in./10 cm. depth. BobF>
RE: QUESTIONS,NO3 control       11/13/13
I do not have any at all in the refugium. But I will place a 4 inch live sand this weekend.
<Ahh! This will help... in a few weeks, you should see a great drop in [NO3].
 I will do a video and let you see my set up. Dai
<I thank you. BobF>
RE: QUESTIONS       11/13/13

I forgot to tell you that I have sand in my main tank along with live rocks. You will see on my video. Dai
<Real good. B>

PWC QUESTION... NO3 in reef maint.       11/5/13
Hello sir,
I have a 210 gallon reef with 29 gallon refugium connected to a 20 gallon sump. The tank is 1.5 years old. I recently had a nitrate spike due to a cleaning " overdue" from the canister filter (Fluval FX5). The reading was almost blood red! Since then I did away with the canister and changed water of 70 gallons each weekend (twice) and now the reading is 40.
<Mmm, ppm... even as Nitrogen as Nitrate, not a problem...>
Is it OK for me to do a 100 gallon water change this week or this is way too much stress on the corals?
<I myself would hold off for now on changing (more) water... the NO3 will likely "go down" on its own a bit here. I would have you read on WWM re other methods, avenues of metabolite control:
and the linked files above>
 I would like to get the nitrate to
about 5 as it has been in the past. I only have easy to keep corals such as GSP, mushrooms, xenia, pipe organ, zoos... Thank you for your reply.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Nitrates    8/24/13
Hi Wet Webbers: my problem is that I can't seem to get my nitrates to zero.
<Zero is not desirable (nor realistic)... you need a few ppm to support much of the life in/on your LR, elsewhere; that is desirable>
They range between 5 and 10 ppm

 and I have tried adding additional live sand and cutting back on feeding.
We do a 10% water change weekly. Tank details: 125 gal, FOWLR, approximately 125 lbs of live rock, Remora skimmer, Fluval G6 Hydrotech, Fluval 205 and 2 hang on the back Emperors (I removed the BioWheels from the Emperors because I read where they are bacteria breeders). Fish: lawnmower Benny, cleaner Wrasse (rescue), ruby red Hawkfish, royal gramma, raccoon butterfly, clown fish, flasher wrasse, powder blue tang (small), long-nosed Hawkfish, yellow tang, flame angel and Picasso trigger - all get along great.  Also have a hermit crab and several snails of various sizes.
Any suggestions to get the nitrates to zero?
Thanks, Diann
<Mmm; I wouldn't do this. Please read here:
Bob Fenner>
Re: Nitrates      8/24/13

Hi again - think I might be a little confused about your last comment. Did you mean I should put my BioWheels back in?
<If all you have is 5-10 ppm [NO3], I well might>
Read the link and am still confused. My sand bed is about 1 1/2 to 2 inches.
<... Am a huge fan of fine sand DSBs... somewhere; a tied-in sump/refugium perhaps>
 There seems to be a lot of conflicting info out there on BioWheels so I welcome your expert advise. Thanks.
<Our information is rarely conflicting... Seek to understand the underlying science to decide for yourself. BobF>

Nitrate Reduction     8/18/13
I currently have a shark aquarium with following statistics.
7ft x 7ft x 3ft

1000 gallons in the tank (center overflow box)
Custom sump measuring 6ft x 3ft x 2.5ft (about 150-200 gallons)
<Mmm, a bit larger... 45 cubic feet times 7.5 gal./ is about 337 gal.s (if filled all the way)>
Natural filtration
900lbs of live sand
480lbs of live rock
Wet dry filter
<Mmm, nitrate factories as you're very likely familiar>
that runs through three floss pads
<These... are hopefully re-use-able... I'd remove/switch out daily... wash, bleach, rinse, air dry... three sets>
 before hitting SeaChem matrix (enough for a  2400 gallon tank)
2 - AquaC ev1000 skimmers
1 - uv filter
1 - Aquaripure denitrator xl
1 - phosphate reactor
<Loaded w/ what? GFO?>
1 -  carbon reactor
1 - bag of Purigen
<A, as in single bag?>
My tank houses the following.
1 - lunar wrasse 6 inches
1 - yellow tang 5 inches
1 - Niger trigger 9 inches
1 - blonde Naso tang 11 inches
1 - sailfin tang 6 inches
1 - harlequin tusk 5 inches
1 - red stripe squirrel fish 4 inches
1 - big eye squirrel fish 4 inches
1 - hippo tang 6 inches
1 - spotted Foxface 4 inches
1 - African Red Sea star 6 inches
2 - sand sifting starfish 3 inches
1 - zebra eel 3 feet
1 - spotted bamboo shark 2ft
1 - banded houndshark 2ft
1 - coral Catshark 2ft
100 - hermit crabs
200 - assortment of snails
<Surprising that the sharks, Choerodon, Thalassoma, Odonus haven't consumed the snails and hermits>
2 - 72 inch beamworks led racks
Water readings
Ammonia - 0
Ph - 8.0
Salinity - 119-120
Nitrites - 0
Nitrates - 50-60 (can't keep them down)      8/18/13
<This actually IS kept down
... from what you have fish wise, filtration gear wise... would be well over a hundred w/o>
I currently feed twice per week. I make sure they eat everything.  If anything is left (very rare) then I pull it out.
<I'd feed the sharks just twice weekly, but the other fishes, twice daily>
I do a 100-150 gallon water change every week religiously.  I never miss it   I use RODI Water only.  I use high grade reef salt only
<Sure; not the issue/source of NO3 here>
Water temp
Stays between 73-76 degrees always.
Everything is perfectly healthy now for over a year and I have only lost two fish due to stress and being picked on. Everything eats no issues at all. Just the nitrate level. 
How do I get the nitrates down or  is my tank over stocked.  Please give me your help on the matter.   Thanks.
<Mmm, well, there are a few changes/additions I'd make, in addition to the notes above re your mechanical filter media.
How much (fine) sand is in your sump? I'd add a bunch; as in several inches of depth... And install an RDP light configuration (more LED is fine), and do macro algal culture there. All this is gone over and over on WWM. Let's just have you review; here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratennr.htm
and the linked files above; and/or I'd search on WWM (the tool's on every page) for "shark system filtration", "RDP", "Macro algae culture"..... Bob Fenner>
Nitrate Reduction, ongoing, shark sys f' as well      8/18/13

> I currently have a shark aquarium with following statistics.
> 7ft x 7ft x 3ft
> 1000 gallons in the tank (center overflow box)
> Custom sump measuring 6ft x 3ft x 2.5ft (about 150-200 gallons)
> <Mmm, a bit larger... 45 cubic feet times 7.5 gal./ is about 337 gal.s (if filled all the way)>.
> (I fill it a little over one third for precaution incase power goes out so it won't over flow)
<< I'd add another transit volume sump for back up... tie in, through put, plumbing... the existing to it should the power fail or pump quit>>
> Natural filtration
> 900lbs of live sand
> 480lbs of live rock
> Filtration
> Wet dry filter
> <Mmm, nitrate factories as you're very likely familiar>
> that runs through three floss pads. These... are hopefully re-use-able... I'd remove/switch out daily... wash,
> bleach, rinse, air dry... three sets>
(They are the blue and white disposable and I have been changing them twice per week without missing a day. I will go to every day if you think it will help. I buy it in industrial bulk).
<<Yes; I'd change more often, or better still retrofit Dacron bags in their place... my choice? Emperor Aquatics or CPR>>
> before hitting SeaChem matrix (enough for a  2400 gallon tank)
> 2 - AquaC ev1000 skimmers
> 1 - uv filter
> 1 - Aquaripure denitrator xl
> 1 - phosphate reactor
> <Loaded w/ what? GFO?>
(Loaded with SeaChem PhosGuard)
> 1 -  carbon reactor
> 1 - bag of Purigen
> <A, as in single bag?>
(Yes a single bag. Fairly large. Enough for 1200 gallons)
> My tank houses the following.
> 1 - lunar wrasse 6 inches
> 1 - yellow tang 5 inches
> 1 - Niger trigger 9 inches
> 1 - blonde Naso tang 11 inches
> 1 - sailfin tang 6 inches
> 1 - harlequin tusk 5 inches
> 1 - red stripe squirrel fish 4 inches
> 1 - big eye squirrel fish 4 inches
> 1 - hippo tang 6 inches
> 1 - spotted Foxface 4 inches
> 1 - African Red Sea star 6 inches
> 2 - sand sifting starfish 3 inches
> 1 - zebra eel 3 feet
> 1 - spotted bamboo shark 2ft
> 1 - banded houndshark 2ft
> 1 - coral catshark 2ft
> 100 - hermit crabs
> 200 - assortment of snails
> <Surprising that the sharks, Choerodon, Thalassoma haven't consumed the
> snails and hermits>
(The sharks don't but the tusk and wrasse do as well as the starfish I am constantly replacing these)
> Lights
> 2 - 72 inch beamworks led racks
> Water readings
> Ammonia - 0
> Ph - 8.0
> Salinity - 119-120
> Nitrites - 0
> Nitrates - 50-60 (can't keep them down)
> <This actually IS kept down... from what you have fish wise, filtration gear wise... would be well over a hundred w/o>
(That makes me feel somewhat better. But I am shooting for zero)
<<Not realistic... under 20 ppm would be my target>>
> Maintenance
> I currently feed twice per week. I make sure they eat everything.  If > anything is left (very rare) then I pull it out.
> <I'd feed the sharks just twice weekly, but the other fishes, twice daily>
(Will do)
> I do a 100-150 gallon water change every week religiously.  I never miss it
>  I use RODI Water only.  I use high grade reef salt only
> <Sure; not the issue/source of NO3 here>
> Water temp
> Stays between 73-76 degrees always.
> Everything is perfectly healthy now for over a year and I have only lost
> two fish due to stress and being picked on. Everything eats no issues at
> all. Just the nitrate level. 
> How do I get the nitrates down or  is my tank over stocked.  Please give me
> your help on the matter.   Thanks.
> Shea
> <Mmm, well, there are a few changes/additions I'd make, in addition to the
> notes above re your mechanical filter media.
> How much (fine) sand is in your sump? I'd add a bunch; as in several inches
> of depth...
(No live sand in the sump. Would be hard with so much flow and the skimmers are in the sump so I am afraid it would toss the sand everywhere. Can I use rubble instead or would that be useless?)
<<Not pointless; but an order or two magnitude less effective... I'd divert/diffuse flow, and/or build/install baffles to distribute water, put in the fine oolith for sure... That/this and/or in the main/display tank>>
> And install an RDP light configuration (more LED is fine), and do macro algal culture there. All this is gone over and over on WWM.
(Would you recommend using an algae filter or scrubber. Never seen one and are they affective with Chaeto. Also if so, do you know a company that makes one large enough for my tank.)
<<See WWM re such... too much fooling; and side effects to avoid, counter... there are other/better technologies... READ>>
> Let's
> just have you review; here:
> http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratennr.htm
> and the linked files above; and/or I'd search on WWM (the tool's on every
> page) for "shark system filtration", "RDP", "Macro algae culture".....
> Fenner>
> Shea
<<Keep reading... including re the addn. of Ozone/RedOx. BobF>>

High nitrates! Help!! Sm. SW, rdg.        5/11/13
I've been scouring your website as I frequently do for help and tips. And I'm in desperate need of help tonight. Our nitrate levels in our tank are off the charts!! Between 20 and 40 ppm.
<Mmm, this isn't all that high>

This is a fairly new tank (2-3 months old) and this is what we are working with: Biocube 29 gallon. 20 lbs live rock, live sand substrate. No skimmer.
(We were told at the LFS on a tank this size we didn't really need one. I'm now second guessing that.)
<I'd add, have a skimmer for sure>
Our creatures include a Banggai cardinal, two Percularis clowns and a fire shrimp.
The readings for Ph, ammonia and nitrites are where they should be. All good. Except for the nitrates. Bad.
We did a 20% water change and tested again, and the reading results still showed the same number. I've read it isn't an instantaneous change, so how long should I expect to wait before I start to see a change?
<Won't by simply changing water...>
Should I do another water change? Will a skimmer help to keep nitrate levels down?
<Yes... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm
the linked files above... There are quite a few tried and true mechanisms for countering NO3 accumulation>
I'm new to all of this and to be honest this is kinda freaking me out!!! I want all my inhabitants happy and healthy, and my water to be stable.
Help me please!!!! I consider you folks as my "go to" guys and gals for all things fishy!!!!!
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: High nitrates! Help!!      5/11/13

I been reading since last night and I'm wondering, should I get rid of the bio-balls that come with the Biocube?
<Yes I would>
Will this help to drop my high nitrate levels?
(20-40 ppm) And if so, what should I put in their place? What would you recommend?
<... perhaps a bit of live rock, Siporax, Ehfi Mech...>
This is all quite overwhelming for me being a new hobbyist.
Oh, and if it makes a difference, I have almost no algae growth in my tank.
Is this a factor as well?
<Likely is related>
Thanks again!!!
<Welcome. BobF>
Re: High nitrates! Help!!      5/12/13

I been reading since last night and I'm wondering, should I get rid of the bio-balls that come with the Biocube?
<Yes I would>
Will this help to drop my high nitrate levels?
(20-40 ppm) And if so, what should I put in their place? What would you recommend?
<... perhaps a bit of live rock, Siporax, Ehfi Mech...>
This is all quite overwhelming for me being a new hobbyist.
Oh, and if it makes a difference, I have almost no algae growth in my tank.
Is this a factor as well?
<Likely is related>
Thanks again!!!
<Welcome. BobF>
Re: High nitrates! Help!!     5/13/13

Thank you so much for your helpful advice. My game plan to get my nitri<a>tes down: replace the bio balls for Siporax, install a protein skimmer (which is daunting because I don't even know where to begin with those)
<Ahh, start w/ the Skimmer Selection FAQs on WWM>
 and add more live rock to the 20lbs I already have. This small overhaul will take place this week. Should I do another 20% water change as well after the new products are added?
<Am a huge fan of frequent (weekly) partial water changes>
Keep in mind we did a 20% change Friday (5/10)
Thanks again!!! Sorry to be a pest.
<Not a bother. B>

Nitrates. SW     5/3/13
Hi Bob, Thanks for the answer in regards to pH/Alk. My tank runs Nitrates at 20ppm and apart from huge water changes which incur other problems how keen are you on products like Seachem Denitrate/Matrix etc or can you recommend a process to decrease Nitrates, or perhaps even better tell me that 20ppm should be ok for inverts, anemones etc.
<All gone over and over on WWM... can you find via the search tools, index?
 I read on the internet and people out there are saying that they keep anemones in 60ppm, granted there are many types of anemones my tank seems to have struck a balance at 20ppm over many months but I would like to tip it in my favour down to 5ppm, I guess Zero in any tank with bioload is dreaming. Regards, Adam.

Filter start in new tank, causing high nitrate?     4/22/13
I am a new to saltwater aquariums, as recommended by family owned store I used their filter to start the nitrogen cycle.  I also used their tank water and cured live rock (with purple and green colors).
<Not all water is to be created equal>
I bought live sand.  So, in my 4 day old, 29 gallon BioCube I have live sand, (their) cycled tank water, cured live rock, used filter from their tank, and a 3 inch Coral Beauty (added on day 2). 
<What make and model of filter? New or old cartridges?>
I tested on day 4 and everything was in normal range, except Nitrate was high.
<How high is "high"? #ppm? Other test results? Kind of test kits?>
What could cause this?  I was thinking maybe the filter is to much because the water was cycled. 
<Too much?>
When I feed the Coral Beauty (2-3 times a day), I scoop out what pellets it does not eat within 5 minutes. 
<I would not feed a tank that young, this frequently or with that much food. Having to depend on removing uneaten food is not a good practice. Feed much slower. Add 2-4 pellets at a time and stop when: the fish stops eating or you reach a minute or two.>
Which leaves me to believe it isn't the extra organics in the system from left over food.  Fish is active and colorful,
eating healthily. 
<For all we know the nitrates in the "cycled" water could have been high in nitrates>
I have read water change is fastest way to correct imbalance, but only ready water would be from same shop owner.  Would that be wise or should I make my own?  A water change would fix the problem but I am also interested in preventing it.
Thank you for the assistance
Jeff R.
<Very good. Prevention is very very good. If you have the means I would make your own. Do some reading on how to do so. -NateG>
Re: Filter start in new tank, causing high nitrate?      4/23/13

> <What make and model of filter? New or old cartridges?>
> Being a new BioCube I am trying out Bioballs (will switch if needed). My
> mistake, it was an old cartridge for a filter that I was given to place in
> tank, to add bacteria to the new system.  I do not know the make of the
> cartridge, just that it is 4x5 inches approximately.
<OK. Bioballs have their uses. Its easy to put bioballs in a biocube and simply forget about them. If you have enough liverock in your tank i would remove the bioballs all together>
> I tested on day 4 and everything was in normal range, except Nitrate was
> high.
> <How high is "high"? #ppm? Other test results? Kind of test kits?>
> Using Tetra 6 in 1 test strips I am getting these constant results over 3
> days- Nitrate(160-200 ppm (mg/L)); Nitrite(0-.5 ppm (mg/L));Alkalinity((300
> KH (ppm)); pH(7.8)
<Yikes! High indeed! When you get a chance try and get yourself some drip based kits>
> What could cause this?  I was thinking maybe the filter is to much because
> the water was cycled.
> <Too much?>
> By to much I mean to much nitrifying bacteria since the water was
> precycled and because it is large 4x5 cartridge.
<Nah not too much -NateG>

Moved FOWLR Aquarium = huge Nitrate readings     10/10/12
When searching the moving section there seems to be a lot of talk about the physical transportation and not much about
things that can happen to water quality.
Now to my story/question:  I purchased a 55 gallon aquarium that has been running for 5 years.  It has live rock, 1 damsel, 1 urchin, and various snails and crabs.  I moved it maybe 40 miles.  I left the sand bed (3” deep) in the aquarium with enough water to keep it wet.  I moved the live rock in totes with the aquarium water.  When setting it up I had two issues… one was the filter/pump was leaking so I couldn’t use it overnight and I had to fix it in the morning.  I did have an air stone and pump for water movement.  The second was the heater they gave me stopped working, so everything endured temperatures in the mid 60’s for 3-5 hours.  I’ve had the aquarium for 5 days.  My nitrates are off the chart, which is above 160.  I did a water change
enough to get them down to 80, but the next day they were 160 again.  Ammonia and nitrite are at 0 ppm.  What do I need to do?
<Mmm, a few choices... vacuum the substrate mostly... other ameliorative processes. Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm
the linked files above>
 I assume that there is die off in the sand, on the rock, or in the filter.
<Mostly just the stirring of the mulm, muck in the sand>
 I can think of two courses of action.  One being that I just leave it alone and pull out snails and such as they die, and
hope the system stabilizes. 
<Mmm, it will, but I'd make some changes, additions....>
The other thought is to drain it into buckets, put the live rock in buckets.  Empty out all the sand to rinse and clean it thoroughly.  Clean out the aquarium and the filter.  Then start the setup as though it was brand new.  Do either of these have merit? 
<Yes they do... but I'd add a fuge, DSB, RDP macroalgal culture....>
What is your suggestion please?
<To have you read for now>
You assistance is greatly appreciated,
<Glad to assist your understanding, efforts Nick. Bob Fenner> 
Re: Moved FOWLR Aquarium = huge Nitrate readings    10/10/12

I appreciate the response.  I’ve read through that link and several of the other sections there.  It seems I still can’t find anything closely relating to my situation
<Mmm, no; not re moving and registering high NO3... have added your input to the f'>
 or the boneheaded solutions I thought up.  I’m stressed like my aquarium.  Bob, I do appreciate your response, but you are often so cryptic I could flip a coin to determine whether your response is a yes or no.
<Sorry for the lack of clarity>
 lol  I’m familiar with freshwater cycling, and I’m a research junky… so, I’ve gathered tons of information before trying this
saltwater endeavor.  Although, it appears I’ve created a terrible situation for myself and livestock.  I guess I’ll try to move as many inverts to a quarantine as possible,
<Mmm, I wouldn't do this (is this clear?). I'd leave all in the display/main tank, and work on reducing the [NO3] over time... the exposure will not be as detrimental to your livestock as sequestering in a smaller, uncycled, hard to manage volume/system>
and then figure what to do with the main tank.   To your suggestions… I thought 3” was considered a Deep Sand Bed, is it not?
<Actually, this is borderline... depending on the grade/s of substrate... better four inches/10 cm. plus>
In freshwater I vacuum gravel but try not to disturb too much.  Should I deeply vacuum and disturb/sift through the sand bed?
<Yes; I would, do>
 Assuming I am not able to buy another piece of equipment like a fuge, what is another way to reduce nitrates quickly other than macroalgal culture in a fuge or 100% water changes?
<The former means are vastly better... akin to turning/steering a large ship w/ a small rudder...>
  Is waiting and watching things die my only other option?
<Of course not>
  I am a patient person and I understand there is a need for that in aquaria, however, I use patience only after I know there are no immediate solutions.  Are there no immediate solutions?
<Yes; vacuuming, and/or removal of hard substrates and washing, even replacing...>
 Thank you so very much for your response!
<Welcome. BobF>
Re: Moved FOWLR Aquarium = huge Nitrate readings    10/11/12

Bob, thank you for your help.  When I got home yesterday to test my water, the Nitrate level is now around 50 ppm.  I guess the live rock and sandbed must be working. 
<Ah, yes>
I was very surprised to see a drop from 160 ppm down to 50 ppm.  Lower stress on the tank, and lower stress on me.  Now we're heading in the right direction.
<Welcome. BobF>

Re: PH questions, discovery of NO3, API test protocol     8/20/20
Hi Bob,
I do have Nitrates.  The more I have read on WWM the more I puzzled over my low Nitrate readings.  I finally decided that something must be wrong with my test (API liquid).  I took some water to a LFS store and they got a different reading.  They suggested my test might be past expiration.
<Does happen>
 I had gotten as part of a master test kit, and it didn't have a date stamped on it, so I didn't know.  I bought a new test (another API).  On a whim I decided to read the directions for the new test.  I was shocked and embarrassed to discover that I had been doing the test wrong for a year!!!!
<This also is quite common>
When I first got it I must have misread the directions.  Instead of shaking bottle number 2 for 30 seconds, I was shaking the test tube (after adding bottle #1) for 30 seconds.  When I performed the test the right way, I discovered Nitrates around 60 ppm.  What a difference!
<Ah yes>
I'm going to do a decent sized water change and THOROUGHLY suction out the sand.  I'm going ahead with my plan to build my DSB (going from 1 to 2 inches to 4 plus).
  I've ordered my sand, but it hasn't arrived yet.  My question is, do I need to do anything other than the water change/suction before I start adding sand (multiple water changes/suctions, something else, etc.)?
<You need do nothing>
 I'm concerned (after reading) about the possible high nutrient content of the sand and that putting more sand on top of it will cause a problem down the road.
<Possibly, but doubtful>
<Welcome, and thank you for your further report. BobF>

Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/11/12
Hi James,
<Hello Jim>
Jim hear again. Ok So I have been battling with high nitrates for about three weeks now, and now low pH.
<Caused by high nitrates.>
My Nitrates or <are> between 20 to 40 ppm. My pH I cannot get to budge 7.60.

<Is this reading with a comparator test kit or pH meter? Comparator kits for the most part are ball park figures.>
Buffer wont raise it nothing well <will>. I just did a water change and my pH is now 7.49. About three weeks ago I added will <well> recycled live rock about 150lbs out of a very well established tank about three years old. I also added 150lbs of live sand. It was new right out of the bag. This is where I think I did something wrong. Every since I got rid of my 400watt metal halides My tank has gone down the crapper.
<Other than a possible reduction in algae growth which uptake nutrients, the lighting shouldn't affect the pH to that degree. I'm leaning toward the live rock you added. It may be nutrient bound.>
I have been watching my pH go down and down. I have two 6' VHO 454 bulbs on it now and just ordered two VHO aqua sun bulbs. I will have a total of four bulbs. I am hoping that will raise my pH.
<Wishful thinking but no cigar.>
My lion fish, morish <Moorish> Idol, Tusk and Angels have been really stressing bad the last week.
<What size tank are these nutrient producers in?> I went through a 160 gallon bucket of salt doing water changes. I am almost tapped out and ready to give up. I have not enjoyed my tank in two weeks. All I do is go to work and come home and spend a few hours on my tank everyday. Getting tired of it. I got a sweet Bubble Magnus Skimmer rated for 550 gallons so cheap I almost felt like I stole it. I tried to get my old Reef Octopus <out>, but the way my sump is set up I would have to cut pipes to get it out. So I left it. I have been using them both. My s.g. 1.023, nitrite 0, ammonia 0, Nitrate as of now after the water change 5.0ppm. I don't have a alkalinity test kit, but I am sure its up and I have stop adding buffer.
<The 20-40ppm nitrate level would cause more stress than a pH of 7.6, if that reading is correct. Changing water is a temporary measure, it will not correct the source of the nutrients. The bacteria that consume dissolved nutrients die off quickly without a carbon source. The carbon contained in salt mixes is quickly used up and must be replenished to maintain a nitrate reducing bacteria colony. One cost effective product I've been trying for three months works very well and the technology is very similar to a bio pellet reactor but without the need of bio pellets and a reactor. Take a look here.
I also suggest reading here and related articles found in the header.
<James (Salty Dog>
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/11/12

James, Thanks so much!
<You're welcome.>
I am going over night that Tropic Marin today.
<But do not expect overnight results. Will take a week or two for the bacteria colony to develop. Most important, do not miss a dose and follow the instructions to the letter. The tank will have a slight cloudiness to it initially but will clear up within an hour.>
Well I have to use that product forever or will my rock eventually catch up?
<It should catch up in time but the product is a great complement to a protein skimmer. I am still on the first bottle so it is very economical, especially for what it does.>
Do you think I should use that salt too? I use Instant Ocean.
<Ugh! Instant Ocean has been notorious for inconsistency in the last couple of years. This is reported information, not mine. I have used Instant Ocean for years but discontinued use about two years ago. I use the basic Tropic Marin blend although there are other good salt mixes as well. The new Red Sea salt is a good mix as well.>
I was using Reef Crystals but switched to Instant Ocean since I have a fowlr tank. The reading for pH <small p, large H.> is from my Neptune system.
<And the probe has been calibrated with low and high pH solution?>
As far as the size tank are these nutrient producers in. Its a 180. I think that's what your talking about?
<Yes. How many angels and their size are we talking about here?>
Have a good day, Jim
<And you as well. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/12/12

James, Is there anything I can do for right now to relieve the stress? Water changes are not helping. My tank is crashing. I pulled my Moorish Idol and lion fish out and put them in my quarantine tank.
<That should help by itself and do not overfeed. Weekly 10% water changes will also help with stress and a Polyfilter will help in removing dissolved nutrients. Within a couple of weeks of using Reef Actif you should start seeing a drop in nitrates. What type foods are you feeding? Frozen foods can be a source of excess nutrients. Do you have a clean up crew?>
As far as the Angels goes, I have 7"
Emperor, 6” Blue Face, and 8” Annularis Angelfish.
They all get along too, believe or not?
<Great. Eventually, if not already, your 180 will be too small for these fish.>
This is only a temporary palace for now. Until I upgrade to something over 300 if I don’t give up the hobby before then.
<Hang in there.>
I really love my tank and want to get passed this huge bump in the road.
<It didn't happen overnight and it will not go away overnight....patience my friend.>
Thanks for help,
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
I have calibrated my pH with the low and high.
I am going to get my Emperor next out. Other than that everybody seems to be ok for now.
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/12/12

Hi James,
No I don't have a clean up crew. I have a tusk, porcupine puffer, Picasso trigger. If there is one you recommend that won't get ate, please let me know?
<Is no wonder your nitrates are high, you have quite a few large waste producers in your system. I wasn't aware of your tank size until after I recommended Reef Actif. This product will likely not be economical for a tank that size. If this product helps lower the nitrates, do consider a bio-pellet reactor which would be more economical in the long run. Are you getting a lot of waste production from your skimmers?>
As far as food goes. I normally feed spectrum pellets in the morning, green algae in the afternoon, and krill or Mysis at night.
<Frozen krill and Mysis contain a lot of waste in the packing water. Is best to thaw and then rinse through a net.>
Now I am feeding spectrum pellets for now.
<An excellent choice. Spectrum is the only food I've been feeding my fish for the last year or so. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/12/12

I was thinking of getting geo nitrate reactor.
I heard these things are awesome. What do you think? I just don't have the money for one right now. boo!
<Similar technology to bio-pellets. The nitrate reducing bacteria grow on the sulphur beads.>
Do you know any good sites where I could find one?
<Premium Aquatics sells them. http://premiumaquatics.com/aquatic-supplies/PA-GEO-NR418.html>
I have a charcoal and phosphate reactor do you think these would work for nitrate reactor?
<Yes, as long as it is an up flow design. You would have to buy a pair of inexpensive screens to prevent the bio-pellets from getting into the tank. See here. http://premiumaquatics.com/aquatic-supplies/GEO-BP-SCR.html>
I was also thinking of doing another water change and rinsing live rock with sea water in the bucket and try to clean it. What do you think?
<I don't think it would be worth the effort. Would be better to vacuum your sand bed during water changes using a gravel cleaner type siphon.>
Yes my skimmers are pulling a lot of crap out. Do you Think I should cut feedings back to every other day?
<Mmm, if you read the articles I linked you to earlier, there are suggestions made for lowering nitrate levels/dissolved waste.
James (Salty Dog)>
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/13/12

OMG! I think I saw crack of sunshine in my aquarium. ph 8.21, and Nitrates 40ppm!
<And today is Friday the 13th!>
Hopefully that means things are picking up.
<Hopefully, a little soon though.>
I truly can not stress how good it is to have you and the crew to talk to for help.
<Is what we do.>
I am trying to save money to buy a Nitrate reactor. Do you think I should get the bio-pellets or a Nitrate reactor? I really want to get one of those and I think it would make a huge difference in water quality.
<With your type of fish load it would be beneficial. As far as which one to get...I'd search for user reviews on the Geo Nitrate Reactor, see what actual users report before making a decision.>
Today my new attack game plan is, I am going to vacuum the bottom of my sump out and try to get as much waste as I can out. I got some poly filter pads, and I am going to replace my charcoal. I think I am going to wait a few weeks before I bring everybody back upstairs to the main tank until I get the reactor. Unfortunately I will have a to do a few water changes a week in my 55 quarantine for a while. I am definitely going to thaw frozen food out for now on and rinse it. I wish I could get my puffer and long nose hawk fish to eat pellets, because I would drop frozen food period.
<Would be nice.>
Thanks again and will keep you updated.
<Good. In the meantime send me a photo of your filtering system. I like to have a look/see. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/13/12

I sent you a small video. Let met me know if you get it?
<Not yet.>
My Moorish idol died yesterday. That was heart breaker because he ate everything, and I don't like to see these beautiful fish die.
<I understand. Idols do not appreciate high nitrate levels and stress likely was involved here.>
Yesterday I pulled out all my rock in my sump. It was pretty bad I took out 15gallons. I am sure that was where allot <a lot> of nitrates were. My pH 8.14 and nitrate 40ppm. My Annularis is stressing pretty bad, but I cant put him in my 55 with the Emperor. So hopefully I think its to small for two large Angels. I am still waiting for the light. All I see is a shadow.
<The problem isn't going to go away overnight as it did not occur overnight.>
I think I am going to break down and get the Nitrate reactor. I have tried everything. What do you think about pulling all the rock out?
<I'm sure your sand bed is a nitrate factory. I'd be more concerned with vacuuming a portion of the bed during each water change. With your system you need a means of mechanically removing uneaten food, waste, etc. Do you incorporate such, as in filter pads or socks? These will also have to be cleaned or replaced weekly, You cannot allow the waste to break down and turn into dissolved nutrients further adding to your problem.>
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/14/12
I have about reached the end of my rope. My tank is not getting better. My quarantine tank does not even seem that good either. I am running out of money, and patients. I have spent at least two hours a day on my tank. I went through a full bucket of salt in week. I have done everything possible to make my water better. I have probably changed 500% of water. The tank should be better. I came home and my purple tang, blue reef Chromis and Annularis are covered with ick. I am truly not seeing a the light only the dark.
Lost, depressed, and heart broken in Idaho.
<Likely stress related, too many changes too fast. Again, this will not correct itself overnight. Don't waste your money changing water every day, obviously the nutrient source hasn't been attacked. It appears to me you are looking for a quick fix and other than completely tearing down and starting over, this isn't going to happen.
James (Salty Dog)>
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/14/12

James, Hopefully these pictures will help. I wondering if you could give me a call? Not sure if that is policy too, but maybe we could talk about it and get my tank figured out better if we could talk about it on the phone.
<Mmm, we really aren't tutors but point folks in the right direction. I just do not have the time to get into this...sorry.>
My Wife keeps telling to sell my tank because its costing so much money, but I am not selling my tank. I vacuumed my sand and there's nothing coming out. Its seems to be clean.
<Actually, your tank looks much better than I envisioned it. The rock appears a little nasty and you may want to power wash a few pieces per week. Set this up so that all the rock is eventually cleaned in a four week period. Doing this in intervals will allow the "clean" rock to become colonized with beneficial bacteria. That power strip laying over the sump is an accident waiting to happen. That would make me nervous.>
There has to be something where all this Nitrate is coming from. It should be getting starting to get better now?
<Have you compared your nitrate readings with another test kit, perhaps your dealer's test kit? I'd like to eliminate the possibility of an outdated kit. One of the reagents in all color comparator test kits must be shaken well for at least 30 seconds. Are you doing this? Will have an effect on the accuracy of your reading. Are you dosing the Reef Actif yet? One other suggestion is that the riser tube of your skimmers needs to be cleaned weekly. The brown skim mate film must be removed as this will reduce efficiency considerably. The film is acidic and can cause the waste laden bubbles to burst prematurely before they reach the waste container. I believe you are on the right track and again, this will take some time to correct. Cut your water changes down to about 15% weekly. No need for the massive water changes if no long time improvement is noticed. Concentrate on keeping the skimmers clean and do not overfeed. Better to feed small portions a few times a day rather day douse the tank with food a couple times a day. What is the total flow rate of your system? Should have a strong enough flow so it can be exported to a filter pad or sock which can be removed and cleaned/replaced weekly.>
I have hardly any fish in there now.
<And do not add any fish until this problem is corrected. James (Salty Dog)>

Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/14/12
James, I just went down to check on my fish in my quarantine tank. All my Angels are dead. Thank you so much for your help and words, but I am not smart enough for this hobby. I can't kill anymore of these beautiful animals. Take care.
<Sorry for your loss/to hear this.
James (Salty Dog)>
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/16/12

<Hello Jim>
 Sorry about my breakdown a few days ago.
<No problem and quite understandable.  I've been through a few wipeouts in my early years in the hobby and I know the feeling but  never gave up, just learned as much as I could but unfortunately information wasn't as readily available as it is now.  The few books available then were primitive compared to today.>
I saw a new episode of Tanked and it made realize that I am obsessed with the hobby and I will never be able to quit it. The money part about loosing these animals is not the part that hurts. It is more like loosing Family member. I have kids and all the fish are named.  Something crazy happened in my quarantine tank. I went down Saturday afternoon to check on my tank. Two angels were dead and everybody was laying on the bottom breathing really heavy. All there eyes were clouded over its was a bad scene. Before I did a water change I check all levels in the tank. nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia. Were all at zero. S.g. 1.023 temp 74. The day before that I moved The Annularis down stairs to the quarantine tank because he was covered with ick and was not going to treat my main tank.  All the fish were fine a few Ick spots here and there. I decided to treat the ick in the tank. I have two Wal-Mart back filters on the tank and airstone. I pulled filter cartridges with carbon out and replaced them with Aquarel filter fiber. I had a lion fish down in there and did want to use copper so I used Kordon ick attack.
<Worthless in my opinion.>
Did everything by directions turned lights off and walked away. The next day is when I found the angels dead. So after pulling the Angels out I did a 25% water change and added carbon. I was thinking maybe the ick attack poisoned them.
<Unlikely, it's makeup is organic herbs.><<RMF disagrees>>

 That night everybody was swimming around still seemed a little stress, but seemed to be getting better. Yesterday same scene. Foxface, and Sixline wrasse dead. Small porcupine puffer, clown trigger, lion fish, and small tusk. Were laying on the bottom eyes clouded over all ready to die.
<I believe an ammonia spike is what killed them.>
I moved them upstairs and they were all dead by this morning. Yellow tang died in main tank today too. I have a small majestic angel in my main tank, and purple tang that is looking pretty bad now. My blue face angel and Tusk are stressing, but are still eating. My blonde Naso, Picasso trigger, clown fish, green Chromis, blue jaw trigger, and starry blenny all to seem stress free. I have somebody coming bye to test my water today. If my water is fine then I am starting to wonder if my ro-di system is the cause. The filters are a little dirty, but seem to be fine.
<The only sure way to tell is with a TDS meter and they are very inexpensive, Mmm like around 20 bucks at Premium Aquatics.>
I am all out of Ideas, and afraid to do a water change.
<You need to slow down and regroup.  James (Salty Dog)>
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/18/12

James, I have dumped so far today in the garbage, blueface angel, majestic angel, starry blenny. I am sure my purple tang will be next. These fish have all been hanging on for over a week. I have lost a little over $2000. Is there anything that I can do for the remainder that are hanging on?
<At this juncture I couldn't recommend a treatment without  knowing exactly what the problem is and in their weakened condition, any effective medication will likely finish them off.  I have gave you several recommendations/suggestions in previous emails and I am at my wits end at present.  Perhaps Bob may comment here.><<Move them elsewhere. B>>
I just feel I could of saved these fish for as long as they had hanged on.
<James (Salty Dog)>
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/18/12
James, All my rocks are covered with brown slimy hair algae.

<Are we starting over now?  I believe I covered nutrient issues quite a way back.>
 I lost my saddleback and a Chromis today. I have only fed my fish three times the last week.  I have been thinking of treating my tank with CopperSafe. I am all out of options. I slowed down done everything that I was suppose to do and everything is still dying. Every fish will be dead by the end of the week.
<If the fish are still eating good and swimming normally, then CopperSafe may be your only option as it appears to me that these fish will likely die anyway.  It is important to use a compatible copper test kit to be sure the dosage level is maintained at the proper level stated in the CopperSafe instructions.  I might add that I believe this event was triggered by overstocking. James (Salty Dog)>

Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/18/12
James, Thanks for help with everything.
<You're welcome.>
 Was just trying to save my last few fish.
 I think overstocking and a combination of a few things caused my tank too crash. I am going to shoot for copper and try to save the last bit of fish I got. I am also going to replace my sand with crushed coral so I vacuum it out a lot easier. I am also going to put a nitrate or bio reactor on my tank.  I still have not decided which one yet, but I am going to find something that can handle a heavy bio-load. Thanks for words and patience! JimDogg out!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/19/12

James, I decided not to treat my main tank. I got my quarantine going again and moved everybody downstairs.
<Good move.>

 I am hoping for no ammonia spikes this time. My tank is empty now. Lights are off and I turned the Uv off too. I am going to wait 45 days and return my fish.
<Now your talkin'.  In 45 days you likely will not have enough nitrification bacteria present and you will need to go through the nitrification cycle again.>
Hoping all bad will be out by then.
<Should be.>
I decided to invest in a Lifeguard Fluidized Bed and not to remove my sand. From what I read that will help a lot with my heavy bio-load.
<Mmm, money would be better spent on a nitrate reactor and controlling your fish load.>
 I will keep adding the Trop marin to system and quarantine. I will hit you up with a update in a month or two. Once again thanks for your words and patients again.
<You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>
 I will keep reading in the mean time, Jim
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/19/12

James, Well I found every fish dead today except my eel. I put him back upstairs hopefully that does not mess anything up?
<Sorry to hear this Jim.   James (Salty Dog)>
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 4/30/12

Hi James, How's things going?
<Hello Jim.  Things aren't going too bad, just getting over a bout with the flu.>
I did a water change today in my main tank. I have a really large shell and skeleton coral that I bleach every time I do a water change.
<Do you soak/rinse this shell in freshwater before putting it back into your system?>
Today I noticed hundreds of little bugs coming off the shell in coral. There are very tiny. You almost need a magnifying glass to see them. They are brown, tarnish color. Just wondering if you might have a idea of what the are?
<Mmm, likely amphipods or other micro life.  Without a pic it's just a guess.>
 Also wondering if that might of had something to do my tank.
 My snowflake eel and blue devil are still alive. I added the Lifeguard sand filter today. I am going to get the nitrate reactor when I get some more money. I hope all is well.
<Everything fine here.  James (Salty Dog)>
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control    4/30/12

Hi James, Glad your getting over the flu, but on a higher note its then a three week cold! ;)
<And when you're older it's a little tougher to fight off, especially when I don't get the rest I should be getting to be rid of this.>
 Yes I rinse everything and fill the sink with freshwater with conditioner. Damn I was hoping that was my problem.
<Have you ever smelled this shell after the rinse, any detection of bleach?>
The tank has been about the same. Eel and damsel have been fine. I am getting the test results back from my water today on my tap and r.o. I live on a golf course so I am sure the water fine, but just curious. So I am slowly replacing my live rock in my sump with bio-balls. I know they hold nitrates, but the Nitrate reactor should take care of that.
<They do not hold nitrates, they accelerate production of nitrates because bio balls are very efficient at denitrification.  That is why I earlier suggested a nitrate reactor rather than the fluidized sand reactor.  The reactor will be similar to the bio balls.  Suggest you read here.
It's just a lot easier to clean the live rock for me.
<Should not have to clean the rock in a well maintained tank.  The attached photo is of a tank (my own) that has been set up for nearly one year.  Take a look at the rock, no cleaning needed here.>
 I am going to start up my quarantine tank. I got a canister filter for it. I had that thing loaded with fish before. Sometimes not even to doing a water change for a few weeks and never had the problems that I have been having.
<Wouldn't be a bad idea to refresh yourself on the basics.  Sometimes we take too many things for granted and slack off on maintenance when everything appears fine.  In this hobby bad things happen fast and good things happen slowly.>
Any hoot hope you feel better,
<I'm fixin' to poison these nasty germs with a dose of Jack Daniels every four hours, not to exceed four doses per day.
James (Salty Dog)>
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 5/1/12

James, Yes I do smell it before I put it back in my tank. It may seem like it, but I am truly not that dumb. I know your just trying to cover all the bases.
 I do agree with you about going back and reading the basics. Your rock in your tank looks great. So does mine. The little bit of hair algae I had went away.
 From turning my lights back on and water quality getting better. I have never had such good coralline as I do know. I was just thinking it would be a little easier to keep my sump clean with the bio-balls. I do admit I never cleaned my sump ever. I know now. I got the test results back from my water, My tap water is all good. My Ro has Coli form in it, but they could not tell me how much. it looks like a pretty normal thing in r.o.'s. So I admit it. It was operator error. I truly do feel terrible about those beautiful fish dying. I am going to do it right this time. Thanks for everything! Have a extra shoot of jack for me.
<Will do and sounds like you are back on track.  James (Salty Dog)>
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 5/2/12

 So yesterday I completely emptied my quarantine tank. I filled it up with my regular water from my tap. I added a small Naso, hawk fish, and a dwarf lion. I also added One And Only Nitrifying Bacteria by Dr Tim. All my fish are alive today. I done this twice a few weeks ago and filled up with my r.o. Both times a complete wipe out or almost a complete wipe out. I think I truly have a some kind of bacteria in my r.o. So I think I am going to stop using it. It just makes a lot of sense why water changes never made the fish feel better in both tanks. Especially the quarantine tank. Let me know your thoughts?
<An opinion for one day isn't meaningful enough for me to comment.  Lets see where your at in two weeks. James (Salty Dog)>

Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 5/14/12
My Naso, Hawkfish and lion, Have all been doing great in my quarantine tank! I have been thinking about putting them back in my main tank in a week or two . I  still truly think that there is bacteria in my r.o. or trash cans. I stopped using them and everybody has been stress free. Nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia all zero. I am worried that what ever killed my fish is still in my main tank. Do you think I should bleach it out, or Will it cycle itself out?
<If this was/is the case, carbon or a Polyfilter should remove any toxins present.  I'd choose the Polyfilter.>
 I have a snowflake and a damsel that is in there now.  They have been doing fine so far, but I know they are very hardy and can handle a lot of stress. I things are good for you!
<Fine.  James (Salty Dog)>
Re Nitrate up pH down James Please Help/Nitrate Control 6/2/12

James,  My Naso, Hawkfish, and lion have been in my main display for over a month now. Everybody is doing great! I have not used my ro-di since my tank has crashed. Its for sale in your interested? I will even throw in a couple garbage cans.
<I've got a large enough aquarium related archive, do not need any more for sure.>
lol  I got a nitrate reactor. My ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite are all zero! I have been using tap water with prime conditioner. Coralline is beginning to show on my rocks. I am going to rebuild my tank now. Thanks for help and all you words of wisdom.
<That's great news and you're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>

Water Changes and Overfeeding 4/2/12
I read the article located here
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/scottsh2ochgart.htm and so I thought to myself... if two is good, then three is better! So, I started doing 1 gallon water changes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then my tank's levels went crazy - ph 7.8, ammonia .25, nitrites have always stayed at 0, nitrates possibly 40 (it's kind of hard to read that one, API saltwater master kit). So I had the fish store test my water and they said I was probably over feeding. I was doing two different flake food products, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. I have 1 yellow tail damsel, 2 peppermint shrimp, 5 hermit crabs (red and blue legged), a Nassarius snail and other algae eating snails. I also have 2 candy cane corals, four or five groups of Faviid corals I got on live rock and some soft corals including some Zoas and star polyps. To feed the corals I used dried krill or frozen shrimp three times a week and would put some phytoplankton in about once a week. So the fish store suggested that I not do any water changes until the levels were better, which they are now (8.2, 0, 0, 20ish). And he also said that I should not change the water so frequently.
I also plan on feeding the flake food once every other day and krill once a week. Should I use the phytoplankton at all, should I get zooplankton?
I feel like I have to relearn everything about every couple of weeks!
Thanks for any input you provide.
>Afternoon Paul. You do not indicate the size of your tank so it is difficult to determine whether or not the water change process you are mentioning is helpful or harmful. In addition, this information will also help determine whether you are feeding too much. That being said, on the surface I would say that you are indeed feeding the fish, coral, and tank in general to heavily. Please let me know what size tank>
Re: Water Changes and Overfeeding, NO3 4/3/12

Thank you for the reply.
<You are welcome>
As soon as I hit the send button I realized I didn't say what size tank I have! Anyway, it's 28 gallons.
<Based on this size, yes, you are overfeeding>
There's a 3 inch DSB, so 3 gallons a week is more than 10%. The fish store guy said that the less you do to the tank the better (i.e. change the water once a week, maybe twice, but definitely not 3 times).
<10% a week will be plenty to help replenish trace elements as well as export nutrients. Although in theory more are not harmful, in that small a volume of water, changing water that frequently may contribute to frequent swings in water chemistry if the water is not perfectly the same.>
But then again it seems there are as many ways to do things as there are people in the hobby!
Thanks again, Paul
<You are welcome, Bobby>

Struggling with nitrates and water filtration/Nitrate Control/Plumbing 3/4/12
Hail, fish gods,
<Hello Margaret>
I set up my tank about a year and a half ago. I'd like to get a bigger DT, but I'm struggling with my water parameters, and I'm concerned about going "all in" if I can't figure out a way to work this out. If you have time, I'd love to hear any suggestions you might have for me. I've attached a diagram of what I've got going on, but here's an overview.
My questions for you are regarding nitrates, water filtration, and one plumbing question.
I have a 60g cube tank, a 55g refugium, and a 150g sump. It currently contains the following.
DT equipment:
about 50 pounds of live rock
4 Tunze 6015s
130W (I think) of PC lighting
I also have an Ecoxotic LED Retro 36 kit with 5 stunners sitting next to the tank that I haven't gotten around to installing
1/2" mixed substrate (some coarse, from before I learned not to use that, and some fine sand)
DT Livestock:
2 mated Ocellaris (black and white clowns)
5 Apogon leptacanthus (threadfin cardinals--beautiful little fish)
1 Centropyge acanthops (African flameback pygmy angel)
1 Lysmata wurdemanni
1 pencil urchin, I think--it came in on some LR
1 polyp of some variety, about 3"x5", it's orangey brown with green highlights under the actinics
2 mushrooms that also hitchhiked in
a handful of snails, some of which are breeding
6" DSB
2 Nassarius snails
AquaC-EV400 -- this has been installed for a year and has never produced anything other than scum in the tower. I'll call the company again for help, and then buy a different one if I can't get this one going. I think the lack of a skimmer is a big part of my nitrate problem.
<Yes it is. There are three items you need to address in the skimmer. The air intake valve will slowly build up a deposit and will drastically reduce air flow to the skimmer.
The spray injector eventually clogs with debris. Both of these need to be cleaned.
Directions for doing this are in your skimmer manual. The third item it to check the pump impeller housing for any build up and I'm assuming you have the correct pump size for the EV400.>
75# LR
Water readings:
SG 1.025
Ph 8.4
KH 18
<Why are you using a KH test kit. We are interested in dKH which measures carbonate hardness
(buffering capacity of your water). KH measures total hardness and is geared more for freshwater tanks.>
Temp 80-81
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 25, up from about 10 last week... sigh.
Ca: 410
Magnesium: 1500
<Little too high.>
Phosphate: 0
Silicate: 1
Problem #1, Nitrates
A couple of months ago the nitrates spiked to almost 100. I've gotten them down doing tons and tons of water changes. The nitrate spike killed two peppermint shrimp and a cleaner shrimp, as well as everything in my fuge. :-(
<Why didn't you address the skimmer problem?>
I feed the tank about a pinch of Spectrum pellets two out of every three days and on the days when I can feed more than once they get about a pinch of formula 2 flakes as well. With the pellets, I make sure none of them fall all the way to the sand and I stop feeding as soon as a pellet falls by a fish who doesn't chase it down. The flakes are a little harder to control, but I never see them swirling down below the surface after anyone is done eating. I'm certainly open to the idea that I'm still overfeeding, but, gosh, I'm trying really hard not to. I sometimes feed frozen glassworms and Mysis, and in perusing the FAQs I did discover that I should be rinsing this food first, which I hadn't been doing. Still, frozen food 1-2 times a week doesn't seem like enough to give me these readings.
<Over a period of time it will especially without the use of a protein skimmer.>
Nothing that I put in the tank has died in the tank and not been removed promptly. Nothing that I've observed has died, either. <?>
I did discover a lot of build-up of some sort or another (detritus?) in my sump and fuge. I've siphoned all of this out. Do you think THIS was my problem?
<Quite possibly. DSBs can be a double edge sword. If micro fauna is not present to consume detritus/waste, DSBs will then turn into a nitrate factory. Is your DSB teeming with micro fauna?>
Maybe just yet another part of it? I'm at work re-seeding my fuge now. I get some more pods and other critters from IPSF on Tuesday. I've had Chaeto for a year that never grew, and I recently got some Caulerpa which I thought I'd try until I get the nitrates under control and then I'll try to get something safer growing. I just have some Home Depot clamp lights with plant lamps over the fuge. Do you think this was too little light for the Chaeto?
I know that the lack of a skimmer is a problem, but with this volume of water and light stocking (relative to the water volume, not the tank size) I thought I would be okay until I got around to dealing with the skimmer. I guess I was just wrong?
<Yes. If the above skimmer suggestions do not cure the problem, do contact Jason at AquaC. He will not rest until your skimmer is functioning properly.>
Problem #2, Water Filtration

I have some pretty major problems with water filtration. My source water is very, very hard (KH 18) and I don't have enough water pressure to run a reverse osmosis system. I've been using a Kold-Steril system, which is incredibly easy to use, and being able to make 60g of water in 30 minutes is fantastic. When the water comes out of the Kold-Steril, the KH is still 18. The KH in my system water is also 18. I've tried a bunch of different solutions for bringing down the KH, but only one
thing worked but it created lots of phosphates.
I recently discovered that there are RO booster pumps
however, which has got me excited. Do these work?
If so, maybe I could switch to RO and get my KH down.
Do you think I should go this route? Any chance this would help with the nitrates?
<Unlikely. The Kold-Steril should remove any nutrients from the source water.>
The Kold-Steril system doesn't remove the silicates that are in my tap water, so I get diatoms (only in the DT though) that I have to clean off everything every 7-14 days. I do not, however, have any nuisance algaes at all, which makes me grateful to have diatoms instead of worse things as I struggle through this nitrate problem. Do you agree? If I install the Ecoxotic lights now, with the nitrates, do you think I'll start growing nuisance algaes like wildfire?
<Many quality LED companies design their LEDs to favor the spectrum corals prefer and will help reduce algae growth by limiting the wavelength algae prefer.>
Plumbing Question, refugium

I'm wanting to set up a dedicated tank for high-flow macro-algae for nutrient export that is separate from my refugium, which I believe should have a much slower flow. Would you advise that I plumb it inline or parallel to the refugium? If inline, before the fuge, or after the fuge? I was actually thinking that I would situate it above my huge sump and have the bleed line from my return pump feed the algae growing center.
<I believe what you depict in your attachment is fine. Just add a ball valve to control flow into the refugium.>
If I take the algae out of the refugium, is there anything else in there (the fuge) that would need light?
<Why would you want to do that, the algae is helping to reduce nitrates.
You need to export the nutrients out of your system. Get that protein skimmer
working, no need to buy a new one, the AquaC EV400 is an excellent skimmer.>
I've got a shipment arriving Tuesday of pods, worms, snails, and other critters to get the refugium going again.
<Please do.>
There's nothing alive in the fuge right now other than the sand and the 2 Nassarius snails.
Will my current nitrate reading kill all these animals?
<No, 25ppm isn't all that bad for these animals.>
If so, I can run the fuge independently from the other tanks until I get the nitrate problem under control.
<Leave as is for now and concentrate on exporting nutrients.
I would also get that Ecoxotic LED fixture up over the display tank, will also help control algae growth.>
Thanks so much for your feedback. I really appreciate your time. I hope you don't tell me to "learn to/use the search engines" because I tried really hard before I wrote in.
<You need to take action after reading helpful information.>
Since this is a common mantra for you, however, I thought you may appreciate the "Let Me Google That For You" site (www.lmgtfy.com). Here's the example you can send back to me if it turns out I haven't done enough research. Click here
http://lmgtfy.com/?q=nitrate+reduction >to see how funny this site is. :-)
<I don't see anything funny, just links to helpful information.>
Thanks again.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Cycling - Nitrates too high for live rock?/Nitrate Control 3/1/12
Hi Crew,
<Hello Dave>
Is there a nitrate level that is too high for even live rock?
I acquired a tank recently, and saved as much of the water as possible. Base rock came with the system. I am guessing the water was very neglected at the end of the last owner's tank maintenance process, and the base rock was also left to dry for a few days.
<Are you using the same substrate that was present in the tank?>
The tank has been up and running at my house for a week, with full circulation but no skimming yet.
I plan to seed the base rock with a few new pieces, to hopefully bring the base rock back to life. I also will restore the skimmer functionality.
I tested the water with a kit that only read nitrates up to a ">100ppm" reading. I hit the highest reading.
Please let me know what level you think is too high for live rock, and I will test and change water to reduce the level to what you believe is acceptable (i.e., with a more precise test kit that shows exact readings over 100). Then, I will add more seed pieces of live rock.
<A nitrate level of 100ppm is too high for a system, period. It will lead to excessive algae growth and most fish will not tolerate that level of nitrate. If you are using the old substrate
which likely has never been vacuumed/cleaned, I would discard and start anew. I also suggest replacing at least one half of the water with newly mixed salt water and get your skimmer up and running.
Do read here as well. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm>
Thank you!!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Cycling - Nitrates too high for live rock?/Nitrate Control 3/1/12

Salty Dog,
Thank you for the comments, and the link.
<You're welcome.>
I did give the substrate a (heavy) cleaning before putting the whole setup back together. I will follow your advice, and understand that the tank is not ready for my first fish entry until Nitrates are reduced as low as possible (and not exceeding 20ppm for my hardy fish only system).
<Might also want to see if your kit is reading total N or NO3.>
That said, do you think I should do the water change before the new live rock seed is added, or after? In other words, is there nutrient benefit to getting the live rock system re-established from the seed by allowing the high nitrate levels for 5-10 days at the beginning of the cycle? Followed by big water changes, possible vodka dosing, etc?
<I would remove one half of the water before doing anything. Then remove the rock and substrate and siphon the remaining water out and discard. You can then rinse the new sand, place in tank with the saved water and continue on with topping off the system with new salt water. I would hold off on carbon dosing until the tank gets stabilized and has a functioning
denitrification filter along with a couple of hardy fish such as Yellow Tail Damsels. You are using a reactor for the bio pellets, correct?
James (Salty Dog)>
Re Cycling - Nitrates too high for live rock?/Nitrate Control 3/2/12

Progress continues. I discovered today that I had a bad, old nitrate tester. Using a new kit, I found the nitrates to be 40ppm. Wow, a far cry from 100+. However, I will get nitrates managed way down before the fish are added.
<Good. I suspected something may have been amiss with your test kit.>
I did put fresh carbon and a live rock seed in the tank (covered with coralline algae etc). Tomorrow, I will leave on a 2 week road trip, and will have someone watch the tank, empty skimmate, etc. I will also have lighting cycle on the rock.
<I would not do this with nitrates at that level. You will just be promoting nuisance algae growth and may keel over when you get home.>
When I get back, I will do a 30% water change to start...and continue at that level until the tank readings are consistently low.
<Sounds good.>
Tonight, I noticed some life springing from it, including a brittle star and a clam. Do you think the rock's life will survive the 2 weeks of nitrate levels?
Also, do you think I should put a small piece of raw shrimp in the tank before I leave?
<No, you have enough waste in the system as is. If anything, put a Yellow
Tail Damsel in there to fuel the denitrification bacteria. They are rather peaceful fish and you will not have to remove it when you begin stocking the tank.>
Finally, I don't see that the skimmer has been pulling any brown skimmate from the system over the last several days. Why do you think that would be?
<Several possibilities; dirty reaction chamber/neck, blocked air line, pump too small for skimmer....
Quite often, venturi inlets become clogged with calcium deposits and can easily be cleaned out with a
proper sized drill bit. May want to skim through here.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Fish Tank Problem/Nitrate Control 12/15/11
<Hi Sara>
I am having a problem with my saltwater tank. I have a 125 gallon with 90 lbs of live rock and 1 dogface puffer 1 clown fish I and 1 Foxface. I have had my setup for 8 years it has a 40 gallon sump with a protein skimmer a wet dry with bioballs and a canister filter. The water temp is 76 salinity is 24 and ph 8.2 my nitrates are at 50 I cant get the nitrates down I use r/o water tested the nitrates and ammonia in my r/o before putting it into the tank and it reads zero I have done 3 40% water changes in the last 3 weeks have gradually cleaned all the bioballs the canister filter and skimmer I have also cleaned the sand bed 3 times vacuuming it and stirred it up a little and still the nitrates are high the fish seem fine but for how long I am at a loss I shut of my canister filter yesterday to see if that would help no change.
<Best to start by reading here and related articles/FAQs found in the header.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Help...Please!/Algae/Nitrate Control 10/15/11
<Hello Branden>
I will start out by giving tank specs. to get them out of the way.
<I have read your query and will insert my comments as I go along.>
-55-gallon glass tank
-Aqua C Remora skimmer, it has a Quiet-One 1200 pump.
-216w T5 fixture with two 10,000k and two actinic bulbs
The lights are on from 10:00-8:00
<With your present problem, and having no light requiring invertebrates, I would knock about four hours off your daily photoperiod.>
-Rena XP3 canister filter with only carbon, GFO, and ceramic rings, and I put filter pads on the intake for ease of access, and hopefully helping with nitrates.
<Some brands of carbon can release appreciable amounts of phosphates. I'd replace your carbon with two units of Chemipure Elite which includes GFO.>
-650gph of tank flow not counting the skimmer. I had 825gph but have not replaced the pump yet.
<This should be fine providing there are no dead spots in the system.>
-3 to 5 inches of deep sand bed. The sand is sugar-fine white sand from the beach.
-40lbs of live rock
-ammonia: 0[undetectable]
-nitrite: 0[undetectable]
-nitrate: 20-40
<Yikes. Did you test for phosphates?>
-temperature between 74-77
-use reverse osmosis water for water changes and top offs
-5 gallon weekly water changes
-feed pellet and sometimes a small amount of frozen brine shrimp
<Once thawed, brine shrimp should be rinsed of packing water which does contain waste which
can raise nitrate levels.>
-one Firefish
-one Scarlet shunk <Skunk> Cleaner Shrimp
-five red and blue leg hermit crabs [I know I need more:)]
<Yes, about 20 more.>
-3 narcissus snails
-system is 16 months old
Now on to the problem...problems. I started out dreaming about a beautiful salt water aquarium with coral, fish, and the whole nine yards; so I did all the research I thought could. I asked local fish stores read on the web for several months until I thought I was sound in my knowledge to set up a saltwater tank. I read that live sand was the best and that 3-5 inches was good for nitrate control, so down to Florida I went and brought back a tub of white sand.
<That was your first mistake. Not a good idea to use beach sand, you take the chance of importing unwanted organisms into the system.>
Then proceeded to put this in my newly acquired 55 gallon tank, and my dreams were starting to come true. Found a guy selling his live rock directly from his tank, my tank was cycled within a week. I then started with a Yellow Clown Goby <Please capitalize proper nouns in future queries.> which is a neat little fish. To my surprise Green Star Polyps hitchhiked, in to my tank, but so an enemy HAIR ALGAE [found the id on your site and thus found your site]. The hair algae spread, but my tester strips and my LFS both said nitrates of 20ppm were in
acceptable levels.
<My idea of acceptable levels are 10ppm or lower and test strips merely provide a ballpark figure.>
I now say they were only perfect for the hair algae because it took hold on my tank, and as it took hold the nitrates increased to <too>. About this time I had a Cyano outbreak and "treated" it with ChemiClean Red Slime Cyano remover. After that crises subsided I was able to refocus on the hair algae. I rearranged rocks to a more open aquascape and got the protein skimmer.
<The skimmer should have been installed when you set up the system.>
This seemed to help a little and got the nitrates down some, and the hair algae seemed to grow more slowly.
<Do you clean the combination collection cup/reactor chamber weekly?>
I had also read that lighting could affect algae, and that good light is not liked as much as "bad" light. I then replaced my standard 30w of regular florescent lighting with the above mentioned light.
<A good move.>
Some time between the addition of the skimmer and the light I added an Ocellaris Clown Fish[I forgot to mention adding the firefish and the shrimp.
<Another bad move, you just added another waste producer to the system thereby increasing fuel for algae growth.>
I added them after the Cyano outbreak. At the same time I added the light I had
started feeding frozen brine shrimp because my Clown Goby had a hard time eating the pellets I was feeding. Aware of the nitrates in the brine shrimp feeding happened a little at a time as I watched the fish eat to be sure it was all being eaten.
<As I mentioned above, do rinse the shrimp before feeding. A brine shrimp or fine mesh net works well for this.>
About 3 days after these two changes I noticed a green algae growing in my sand so I did a water change in it subsided a little then with in the week whatever it is got to the intensity it is now. I thought that it would go away with water changes but it only grew. I then was gone for a couple days and while I was gone the Clown Goby died, and my mother is convened <convinced> that the clown killed it because we later saw it chasing and attacking the cleaner shrimp. Since I like the shrimp more the clown had to go.
<And do not add any more livestock until the algae problem is under control.>
Correct me if I'm wrong but I think he got aggressive because he was the "big Dog," and would be better if I had some bigger fish. Do you think I could add a Yellow Tang, and put him back in?
<No more livestock, you do not need to add any more waste to the system.>
Any way I have no idea what this stuff is and I have attached some pictures. I know that 0ppm of nitrates is possible an preferred
<Some nitrates are desired if keeping certain invertebrates such as clams.>
but I can't find where they are coming from! Ever since my tank has been set up there has been little enjoyment because of the headaches, and am at the point to make it better or brake it down.
Oh, and I have something that I hope are brown feather dusters and not Aiptasia. I could not get a picture but these have brown tubes that they draw in to.
<It appears to me that your sand is emitting hydrogen sulphide gas due to excessive waste in the sand bed and is not good. You can verify this by picking up a handful of the sand and smelling it. If it smells like rotten eggs, it's hydrogen sulphide gas. When you change water it is a good idea to use a gravel cleaner type siphon
which will remove some of this waste. Do read here and take action.
Thank You so much.
<You're welcome. When sending photos, do resize to a couple of hundred KB before sending. Large files can quickly fill our server up. James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Lowering Nitrates 9/28/11
I've been discussing this subject with you guys off and on for a few weeks now and need a bit more guidance. I've made some meaningful changes to my feeding routine to help with my nitrate problem. My next step of investigation is my use of biological filtration efforts.
Currently, I run a skimmer and have added 2 liters of Pond-Matrix (SeaChem)
in a high flow area of my sump. In my sump, I use a sponge filter that traps gunk, etc. prior to flowing into the refugium and sump. I clean the sponge (rinsing in cold water) every 2 weeks. I also clean the skimmer every 2 weeks when I do about a 15 to 20 gallon water change.
What I'm confused about is the balance between maintaining an anaerobic environment while avoiding a buildup of gunk in the sponge. This just seems like a coin-toss for me.
<Mmm, more to the point, what is often at question here is the type of "media" that is anaerobic... Organics vs. not really in most all cases>
I've read a number of articles on the biological filtration and don't know if cleaning the sponge is robbing my system of the beneficial bacteria or if leaving it will create a nitrate factory.
<A bit of both... more one or t'other depending on content make up and type and flow rate>
I have about 125 pounds of LR in my tank along with a well stocked refugium with macro algae.
Thanks for any clarification and guidance you can offer on this topic.
<Mmmm, well... there's a bunch more to state on the topic... Have you read
here: http://wetwebmedia.com/denitrification_erfaqs.htm
Bob Fenner>
Re: Lowering Nitrates 9/28/11

Thanks for the link, Bob. After reading through most of the posts, I've reached the conclusion that I'm doing about all that can safely be done.
<Do you have a DSB Gene? Any place to put one easily? Perhaps an external sump.>
I almost bought into the idea of a denitrator purchase -- but read too many questionable comments from you and your staff. Seems that a good refugium with macro algae, LR, skimmer and proper husbandry (feeding and water changes) should actually do the trick.
<... plus the Deep Sand Bed>
I have all that in place and now it seems I just need to be patient.
<Well, let's wait and see. Cheers, BobF>
Re: Lowering Nitrates 9/28/11

Sand bed is about 2 to 3 inches
<... of what grade, make-up chemically? I'd make much deeper... or another... remoted>
Never vacuum it. Bad??
<Not as good as...>
<Do read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm
and the linked files/topics of interest above. B>
Re: Lowering Nitrates 9/29/11

aragonite sand
<Mmm, keep reading... fine crushed coral is better functionally. B>

Nitrate Problem 9/6/11
Hi Bob, I am having a really hard time getting my Nitrate down. I did a 25% water change two days ago. My nitrate was at 100%
<There is no such unit/s for concentration here. Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm
and the linked files above. BobF>
before the water change. It went down to 50% after the water change.
Yesterday it was at 25%. Today I checked it and its 80% to 100%. My local fish store guy told me to add Bio bail to my sump. I was wondering if that is causing my problem? I have probably replaced 75% of my water if not more in the last week and a half. I removed all my fish from my tank except two
fire gobies, three Chromis, one blue devil, and a flameback angel. All the other fish are in my quarantine tank have Ick from the stress of my main tank. I have several soft corals. My devil and finger leather coral is really stressing. I added one cap full of reef snow yesterday.
<... worthless>
Maybe that is the problem? I have a 180 gallon tank. Octopus for skimmer, 40 gallon sump. All water perimeters are good, Nitrite 0.3,
<Deadly toxic...>
ammonia 0, ph 8.2, salt gravity 1.0025. The tank is three years strong. Thanks, Jim from Idaho

Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates 8/23/11
Hi crew,
You have been most helpful with my previous queries and I was hoping to get your advise on an issue I am facing with my Aquael ReefMax system.
A bit of background on the issue - I set up the tank completely stock with a 1 inch sand bed and live rock. The tank is flourishing with all livestock looking and behaving healthy. I knew from early on that the skimmer was the weak link so I have been doing weekly water changes (15%-20%). I was initially using drinking mineral water but have since moved to RO (4-6 TDS). The tank is setup as a reef and stocked as such.
Based on my previous queries to you about my stocking, I understand that I am okay on stocking though, if anything, topped out. This is okay since I don't plan to add anything.
Parameters - SG. 1.025, Temp - varies between 25 and 26 degrees C depending on the lights. Ammonia - 0, Nitrites, - 0, Nitrates - "the issue", PH - 8.1, KH - 9, CA - 450
The issue I have been facing is that I cannot seem to get my nitrates under control. I moved to RO in an attempt to do so but to no avail. As a result, I have green hair algae popping up in the sand. My nitrates rarely read under 70 unless measured the day after a water change.
<Have you tested your source water just to make sure it isn't adding to the problem, even with an RO/DI it can sometimes add to your problems.>
I have come to the conclusion that aside from the skimmer (which I cannot upgrade because of space constraints in this all-in-one setup),
<The downfall to these all-in-one systems.>
the problem lies with the sponge filter cartridge that the manufacturer recommends be changed every six months. This I assume is a nitrate trap?
<I would guess it is definitely not helping, rinse it out every week with your water change.>
Since the tank is based on a flow system whereby the filter cartridge compartment is on the back-right and this is where the water renters the main tank, I was considering few alternate options if this is indeed the 'source' of my nitrate issue:
1) Keep the filters but replace them much more often.
<Could do but may get expensive, a good rinsing may do the trick.>
2) Convert it into a refuge of sorts my adding some macro algae. My concerns here are that if it grows like crazy, it may impede water flow.
Also, the area is not well lit so this might not work (would perhaps even have the inverse effect if the algae died?). I could address the lack of lighting quite easily.
<Probably too small an area to do much good.>
3) run it completely empty and use it as my syphon area so I can get the dirt out regularly. I have fine sand so cant really siphon the sand much. Soak the cartridges in old tank water for a while and then return them to their spot.
<The easiest way to go, as long as you have adequate live rock the filter isn't really helping much so just getting rid of it may be helpful.>
4) seek chemical intervention in this compartment. Have done a lot of reading but to be honest I am confused and skeptical about the options (Bio-Pellets or Seachem Denitrate etc.).
<These are just band-aids, won't really help solve the problem.>
What has me even more confused is that my phosphate readings are nowhere near as bad. Typical reading is 0.2. Have seen it at 0.5 but not since I moved to RO and revised my feeding of frozen foods.
<The algae may have it tied up.>
Few insights on my feeding routine (which I assume is of relevance here)
- I feed a mix of mysis, brine and Cyclops once every day. Each cube lasts me almost 3 weeks. I dice the cube into daily helpings while still frozen and put it in individual containers that remain frozen until they are to be used. In addition, I feed the Perculas around 3 dry pellets every morning.
<How quick is the food being consumed? What animals are you feeding?>
Would really appreciate your thoughts on what I should do about the sponge filters and what else I might not have thought of to help control the nitrates.
As always, thanks for entertaining queries. It is incredibly encouraging to know one has a place to go when stumped.
<I would just lose the filter pads and see if that helps.>
Re: Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates 8/23/11

Hi Chris,
Thanks for the quick response. I currently have 2 Perculas, a purple firefish and a clown goby. Also have a cleaner shrimp and fire shrimp and 3 turbo snails. The Perculas are tiny and one will move to my new 65 gallon in 3 weeks. The food is consumed almost instantly (2 minutes tops). All the coral I have is photosynthetic.
<I would probably leave out the frozen food for the time being if all the fish are eating pellets, just make sure you are using quality foods.>
From your advice below, it seems like getting rid of the filters completely may be worth a try. I will remove 2 per week so in 2 weeks they are all gone. I have over 25 pounds of rock in the system and am happy to add more if you think it is needed.
<I think you should be ok as is.>
I wonder what the manufacturer's rationale for these pads was. Should have used the space for a better skimmer perhaps.
<Filters are necessary for fish only systems, plus skimmers are expensive, the filters not so much, add you get to buy replacement pads all which put money into the manufactures pockets, which is the name of the game.>
Oh one other maybe relevant fact; I lose almost 750ml of water a day to evaporation so need to top up every day. The source water tests 0 for nitrates (desalinated water here)
<Sounds normal.>
Thanks again!
Re Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates 8/23/11
Hi Bob,
In regards to Simon's statement below.
"Have done a lot of reading but to be honest I am confused and skeptical about the options (Bio-Pellets or Seachem Denitrate etc.).
<These are just band-aids, won't really help solve the problem.>"
In my opinion, Simon is incorrect stating Bio-Pellets are just a band-aid. They may not solve the nutrient producing problem but they will definitely lower the nitrates/phosphates. There will always be some carbons present in newly mixed seawater but they are quickly absorbed by the bacteria that converts waste into nitrogen gas. Increasing the bacteria by feeding a carbon source increases the bacteria population to effectively remove nitrates/phosphates from the water. This is not an overnight process as it
can take three to five weeks (depending on the nutrient load) to develop a large enough bacterial colony to effectively do the job.....but it does work. Just my two cents Amigo.
Let's ask him to elaborate. One's Band-Aid may be a lifesaver to another.
Re Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates 8/23/11
Hi James and Bob,
Is this a statement that you think came from me? Is there another Simon in the crew? I did not make this statement, I am fully aware of how carbon dosing, be it vodka or pellets works... it is related to the 'Redfield ratio' that was originally described for plankton... ie a take up ratio of C:N:P 106:16:1. So by dosing 106 parts carbon you will encourage bacterial growth that reduces nitrogen (nitrate) by 16 parts and phosphorous (PO4) by 1 part.
This is my view on the subject not the one stated below.
Re: Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates 8/23/11
Hi James and Bob,
Is this a statement that you think came from me? Is there another Simon in the crew? I did not make this statement, I am fully aware of how carbon dosing, be it vodka or pellets works... it is related to the 'Redfield ratio' that was originally described for plankton... ie a take up ratio of C:N:P 106:16:1. So by dosing 106 parts carbon you will encourage bacterial growth that reduces nitrogen (nitrate) by 16 parts and phosphorous (PO4) by 1 part.
This is my view on the subject not the one stated below.
Re: Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates 8/23/11

Bob, Simon,
Accept my apology. Why I thought Simon wrote this is beyond me. Was actually Chris that answered this query. Sheesh!
Your very gracious apology accepted James, no hard feelings!
Well, let's ask Chris then. B
Re: Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates 8/24/11
Hi all,
Yes it was me causing problems again. I am not opposed to carbon dosing through the addition of alcohol or some other method, although around my house there is rarely spare vodka for the fish. It's just that in a small FOWLR tank there is little need to feed heavily like a coral heavy or heavily stocked tank thus creating higher nitrates. Plus I hesitate to recommend carbon dosing to someone who's experience level I don't feel is very high, next thing you know they are doing shots with the clownfish, and if you have ever experienced a Premnas biaculeatus after a tequila bender you never want to do that again. While Bio-Pellets and Denitrate are better and safer alternatives in my opinion, in this particular case unnecessary where a little better husbandry would probably do the trick. Anyways, just my 2 cents, and if you think I'm wrong then just continue to blame Simon for the response.
In an unrelated note, James did you finish the LED review, I was at a local shop yesterday looking at a couple of systems, but the kid working there couldn't give me any relevant information other that "they don't get hot or use much electricity". He said testing it with a PAR meter was too expensive so I have nothing to go on there.
And in a note unrelated to the previous unrelated note, Bob I think I found a new WWM crew recruit, I'll put you in touch with him shortly, he has several nice tanks and seems to know what he is talking about. He was also interested in writing articles for the mag, so that could be helpful.
So long and thanks for all the fish,
Thanks Chris. B
Re: Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates 8/24/11
Just my 'two penneth worth' also... I would agree with Chris and hesitate myself to recommend carbon dosing to reduce nutrients (although it is a valid method of doing so) until all other more traditional avenues had been explored, and especially to inexperienced aquarists... there is always the danger that with the advent of low nutrient systems due to these methods, the casual or inexperienced or UN-conscientious aquarists (of which there are many) are encouraged to overstock their systems with inappropriate fishes.
You can continue to blame me if you like, I am married and quite used to it, and also guilty so never mind!
Cheers, Simon
Re: Aquael Reefmax question, Nitrates & C use 8/24/11

I can agree with you somewhat Simon, but if an aquarist has a serious nitrate problem, this is likely the best and safest way to lower it, although it can take a few weeks.
Poor husbandry is another matter to deal with.

Long Term Planning ... Pesky Nitrates/Nitrate Control 8/10/11
Hello again!
<Hello David>
I corresponded several weeks ago with James and got great advice about rejuvenating our "old tank." Long story short is that we've had a 125 gallon fish-only tank since 1997, mostly on autopilot until earlier this year when we figured we'd better fish or cut bait with this hobby. So we've plunked down a bunch more cash to upgrade some equipment, the lighting, and purchase some new inhabitants. We're trying to take things slow and, so far, things seem to be going well. All of the animals seem quite happy. However, we've been struggling with one chronic battle for months: unacceptably high nitrates (40-80). I've been reading your site copiously day and night and working to take action wherever we can. So far, we have:
Deep cleaned or replaced all tubing, parts and pieces that touch water.
<Will do little for nitrate control.>
Removed any pre-filters inline before the skimmer.
<Good move.>
Added a bacterial supplement (StressZyme).
Converted the wet/dry filter to more of a sump/refugium by removing the bio balls and bio bale and replacing them with live rock and 20lbs of live sand.
I'm writing to you because I'd value your input on creating a more coherent, long term plan for upgrading our tank, especially in light of our nitrate problem. Up next in my plan was to perhaps:
Add more live rock to the tank (currently curing 30 pounds and awaiting shipment of 90 more from LiveAquaria.com which seems terminally backordered. Do you recommend any other retailers for live rock if they cannot fulfill this order?)
<You may want to call them and ask them when they expect to have your selected rock back in stock. Might want to try Premium Aquatics if the delay will be lengthy.>
Replace our crushed coral bed with a deep sand bed.
<Would not go deep, no more than a couple of inches. DSBs can be a double edged sword.>
I vacuum the substrate bed with most every water change and it seems excessively dirty. I have to think this is a lot of our nitrate problem?
<I'm with you on this. May want to remove some sand with every water change and gradually replace with aragonite sand. I prefer the Tropic Eden aragonite sand available through Premium Aquatics. This sand requires little if any rinsing.>
Anyway, I've done a lot of reading about DSBs and while we might need to remove some of the invertebrates in our tank (see below), it sounds like the benefits could be worth it in the end. Based on what I read, I was thinking 30lbs of live sand (to seed), 200lbs of something like Aragamax oolitic, and perhaps a crew of detritivores from IPSF <http://www.ipsf.com/> .
<This is where the double edged sword comes into view. DSBs can and do lower nitrates provided the sand is teeming with micro fauna. Should the fauna gradually be eaten by other organisms or dwindle in population, the DSB can quickly become a nitrate factory.>
What do you recommend? Would you replace the substrate and place the live rock all at the same time?
What else would you do? What would you do differently?
<Gradually removing/replacing the sand is a good move but would not do it all at once. I'd do about 25% of it every two weeks and add an equal portion of the new live rock. This will allow the new live rock to teem up with beneficial bacteria.
You must understand that even if you ordered cured live rock, some curing process will still be necessary as some organisms will die during shipment.
Foster/Smith does furnish how to's with all their live products including rock.
After you have completed this task, monitor the system parameters for a week or two and note the results.
Do report your results to us. Keep in mind that your nitrate problem did not happen overnight so do not expect sudden results. I would also add a couple of units of Chemipure in your sump which will help in removing dissolved organics.
Protein skimming will remove the vast majority of wastes produced by your aquarium inhabitants but some of these organics known as dissolved organic carbons (DOCs) are too small to be picked up by the protein skimmer causing a build-up which gives water a yellowish hue. Chemipure will absorb these impurities from the water.>
Here are the details on the tank if it helps complete the picture:
125 gallon tall
30 gallon sump/refugium/wet-dry with protein skimmer, producing about two gallons of skimmate weekly.
<Wow. May want to adjust the skimmer for a dryer foam.>
Rio 2100 pushing a flow rate of 264 GPH (!) due to head loss and in line UV sterilizer (I know this needs to be upgraded! - please suggest something)
<You need a total circulation of at least ten times your tank volume. I believe you are a ways off here.>
(2) circulation pumps in tank.
Stats: Temp 78, Salinity 1.024, Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 80,
<What type of test kit are you measuring nitrate with? There are a few that measure total nitrogen (N) which will give you a higher reading. Ensure your test kit measures NO3 and not N.>
pH 8.4, Alkalinity 10.9, Phosphate 0.5, Ca++ >520 (we've been using Oceanic salt mix only to discover that it can apparently cause high Ca++ levels.
<You have very little if any animals to absorb the calcium. Best to use a product that isn't labeled as reef salt, the calcium level is generally lower.>
We switched to a different brand and hoping that will help). I currently do 10-20% water changes biweekly but sometimes more often depending on the nitrate readings.
I'm currently feeding twice a day and given the aggressive nature of a couple of the fish, I actually target feed a couple of the animals because I worry they get left out. So I don't "think" overfeeding is a problem.
Our current residents are:
French Angelfish (6")
Blue Hippo Tang (5")
Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish (3")
<The above fishes do not appreciate high nitrate levels.>
Flame Angelfish (1")
Diamond Watchman Goby (4") - moving rocks, moving rocks, always moving
Algae Blenny (3")
Yellow Damselfish
Yellowtail Damselfish
<I would not add any more fish until your nitrate level is under control.>
(2) Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp - who fight like a married couple!
<Not a pair, mated pairs will not fight but get along like newlyweds. :-)>
Banded Coral Shrimp
Peppermint Shrimp
Emerald Crab
Electric Blue Hermit Crab
(6) Dwarf Red Tip Hermit Crabs
<I'd get about 20 more of these guys to help out with cleaning duties.>
Fighting Conch
(3) Turbo Snails
(6) Bumble Bee Snails
(4) Nassarius Snails
Spider Decorator Crab -so good at what he does that we have not seen him in a week.
Chocolate Chip Sea Star
Thanks, in advance, for any insight you can offer!
<May want to read here and related topics found in the header for more help.
<James (Salty Dog)>
Re Long Term Planning ... Pesky Nitrates/Nitrate Control 8/10/11 - 8/12/11

Thank you James for your input and perspective.
<You're welcome.>
Bingo on your prediction of a yellow hue; it's been driving us crazy for weeks.
<Mmm, not a prediction, a statement.>
I'm feeling more and more panicked about trying to do everything possible to get this gunk out of the system and lower these nitrates. Will keep plodding along here with the plan. I did another 10% water change and vacuumed the gravel last night but the NO3 reading remains 80. I put two units of Chemipure in the sump as you suggested and I slowed down our skimmer. I ordered a beefy new recirculation pump last night that'll push at least ten times tank volume.
Any other "emergency measures" you recommend for getting the nitrates down in the short term while we get the longer term plan of action rolling?
<You may want to consider adding a chemical reactor along with polymer bio-pellets.
I have heard excellent reports on this combination reducing nitrate levels to a very low level. It's basically a dry form of vodka/carbon dosing and you must follow the manufacturer's instructions to the letter. A Google search should lead you to all sorts of information.>
On the issue of switching from our current crushed coral substrate bed (it's not sand but coarse grade crushed rocks/corals) to a deep sand bed, you've got me a little conflicted now! Which, given all the pro's and con's I've read about them is probably not a bad thing. Do I understand you to suggest that we should put in less than the conventional 4"+ DSB?
<As stated in the last email, do read again.>
Is that because this is a FOWLR set-up versus a reef tank?
And as far as doing it in increments (25% every couple of weeks like you suggested), I'm assuming this
can be done while all the animals are living there?
<Yes, just be sure to use a gravel cleaner/vacuum. You do not want the waste in your system which will
occur by removing the sand manually.>
(Duh?) Should I anticipating any problems with the fine sand permeating the water prior to
settling that it distresses the wildlife?
<Should not be a problem, just ensure the sand has been rinsed of the fine powder. The Tropic Eden sand is very clean and you could add this right from the bag by pouring into a 4" PVC pipe (cut to suit) held slightly above the bottom of the tank.
There will be a little cloudiness but this should clear up within an hour.>
Thanks again for your help so far. It's been very valuable. Have a great weekend.
<And you as well. James (Salty Dog)>

Nitrate and Alkalinity Issues 8/9/11
Good evening folks,
<Good morning Rob!>
I have a couple of real conundrums on my hands I am hoping you might be able to provide some possible answers too.
<I'll try, this is quite a message you've sent here!>
First for the set-up:
54gallon Corner Bowfront (Photo 1) Set up for about 6 months.
24" Outer Orbit Light hung about 8 inches above the tank (1-150 W 10000K MH running an 8 hour cycle, 2 - 26 watt 50/50, and 2 -26 watt Actinics running a 12 hour cycle, 6 blue and 6 white LEDs the other 12 hours)
<Do you mean that there are lights on the tank 24hrs a day? If so, then I would not do this - your fishes will suffer for it>
All the bulbs are about 6 months old.
My tank cover is made of the white grate type light diffuser because I was having heat problems with the glass canopy.
I have a Remora Pro C Protein Skimmer running with a Mag-3 pump connected to a home made over-flow box. (Photo 2).
<A fellow DIY-er! Nice!>
In the box I have Fluval BioMax Biological Filtration Media Bio Rings that have been in there for about 2 months.
<If you have live rock then I would remove these - Google 'Berlin Method'>
Above that is a Polyfilter, which is cleaned at 3 weeks with hydrogen peroxide (The manufacturer says you can do this up to 4 times so you can get 4 months worth of use out of one. I am not comfortable with that) and replaced after six weeks total.
<This is a good product but is expensive. I would probably save it for times of emergency and utilise a good carbon product instead. Also, it is better cleaned weekly as it can act as a sponge and trap debris leading to a rise in nitrate>
In this case it was replaced 2 weeks ago. Above that is a 40 uM pore size foam filter that gets swapped out for a clean one every week when I do tank maintenance.
<Ok. Do you have problems with debris in the water column? If you do not then I would leave out these sponges et. Al and use the skimmer w/ good circulation to remove this>
I have a home made in tank refugium that has a Rio 50 power head dialed way down to a trickle.
<Yes! I love this!>
I have a couple of pieces of live rock in it and some Chaetomorpha (Photo 3) and one blue tip hermit crab
<Remove him from here - a refugium is no place for predators>
and a Nerite snail that I believe has made his escape over the wall. I stocked it with a culture of amphipods and copepods, which have moved out into the main tank as well.
I have two maxi-jet 1200 power heads with Hydor rotating water deflectors
<These are great>
in the front corners that face each other and are on a wave maker and alternate at 2 minute intervals. I have a third Maxijet 1200 at the back of the tank on the bottom that blows into the back corner and around the side that comes on and goes off every 3 minutes as well.
<Mmm, am not a fan of such devices. 1) The constant turning on and off of Maxijet-type powerheads leads to premature pump wear & failure. 2) They inevitably reduce total system flow as the pumps are not on all of the time.>
There is approximately 4" of aragonite sand on the bottom.
<Would increase this an inch if you can, for DSB deeper is better>
I have about 50 pounds of live rock. There is a second clump of Chaetomorpha in the tank itself behind the live rock.
I have two Visi-therm 100 Watt heaters and maintain temps between 79 and 82. It has crept up above 82 on occasion lately to 83 because of the heat wave we have been experiencing and my home A/C unit can't keep the temp in the house down. A few times (not many maybe 3-4) I have turned my MH light off early, by an hour or two, because of the temp being too high.
<Yes. The photoperiod of the MH could be turned down to 4 or 5 hours here to help. Are you utilising fans over the tank? These will make a difference.>
Ocellaris Clown
Six-line Wrasse
Royal Gramma
Lawnmower Blenny
Blue Hippo Tang (Yes, I know he is too small for this tank. I was going to trade him in when he got bigger but I got a deal on a 90 gallon so once he gets a little bigger he will be moving on up!)
Coral banded shrimp
Peppermint shrimp
An unknown but not massive quantity of Astrea starfish
2 small Zoanthid frags
1 small open Brain frag
1 small Pineapple Acropora frag
1 small and 1 large Ricordea
A rock covered in an encrusting Gorgonian
A yellow polyp rock
4 small Mushrooms
A medium sized Star Polyp frag
I have a about 12 various hermits
<This is a lot.. Keep your eye on these they can be trouble. This many will have an impact on the life in your DSB also>
(dwarf zebras, blue legged, dwarf
red tip, and a Halloween), 3 Nerite, 2 turbo, and 3 Nassarius snails, and a tiger conch.
I also have a container in the corner with some coral rubble and a red mushroom my 6 year old daughter cut up this weekend. :-)
<I see this -- many hours of fun, eh?>
There is also a single (that I saw) bristle worm in the refugium that does not seem to be causing any problems.
<these are usually beneficial>
There are some Star Polyps on the live rock in there and a few other unidentified critters and they are fine (so live and let live!).
I feed the fish a varied diet and target feed the inverts twice a week. I really do not over feed and what little left over there is the snails and crabs seem to make very short work of!
I do a weekly water change. I change 10%. I use RO water I buy from my LFS. I used to use their salt water but they use regular Instant Ocean and I prefer something more balanced for the reef from the get go so I make my own using the Reef brand salt. I add Reef brand trace elements by the recommended dose every Wednesday (Per advice from the manufacturer, given the frequency of my water changes).
<Mmm, if you are using a good reef salt, and changing 10% each week then there should be no need to add additional trace elements. Be wary of marketing ploys, a good salt should contain all that you need>
All other additions are added after testing the water.
I seem to be developing a pattern where I need to add Iodine about every two weeks.
<Really? Don't get hung up on this'� most iodine test kits are unreliable to say the least, and most foods contain a lot of iodine, especially Nori if you feed this, so you are probably adding it every day anyway. There are instances where iodine supplementation might be necessary or appropriate, but it is the animals that are likely to tell you when, not a test kit that quite frankly is IMO a waste of time and money. See here for a great article: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/IodineSWArt.htm There is also a really good one by Randy Holmes-Farley on reefkeeping but I can't load it up for some reason>
I also add some type of Alkalinity supplement because I can't seem to get it where I want it (although I am not sure I need to get it where I think I want it!)
<I go for 10dKH>
I clean the front glass only and leave the sides to grow whatever they will.
<This a healthy approach>
I have good growth of mostly green coralline algae but there are also some spots of red. There are also lots of snail eggs and little Pineapple Sponges.
I vacuum the surface of the gravel when I siphon out my water. I rarely get much in the way of detritus. I do get molts, mostly from my coral banded shrimp that seems to molt every three weeks or so, but also from the hermits.
<You can leave these or remove. It is up to you>
I wait a day and then check all my water chemistry.
This weeks readings:
Salinity (S.G.) - 1.026 (Refractometer)
Temp - 80.5 (I read this continually)
<Double check this with a good mercury thermometer>
API Test Kits
pH - 8.0 (I can't seem to maintain any higher no matter what I add!)
<this is fine>
Ammonia - 0 ppm
Nitrite - 0 ppm
<No need to test these now the tank is cycled, unless you spot a problem>
Nitrate - 20 ppm
Ca - 440 ppm
KH - 8

Seachem Test Kits
Magnesium - 1335 ppm
Total Alkalinity - 2.8 meq/L
Borate Alkalinity - 1.2 meq/L
Carbonate Alkalinity - 1.6 meq/L
<Mmm, I have heard of this Seachem test, but confess you are the first person I have heard of using it. For most, a single alkalinity test is fine. The Salifert one being a favourite, but your API one is probably ok. There is an article that describes this test on AA: http://www.advancedaquarist.com/2003/9/chemistry>
Iodine - 0.02 mg/L
<I don't want to discourage you from testing your water, but IMO this is a waste of time, as it is not clear which forms of iodine are being tested, and the result cannot be trusted anyway>
Recent events:
When I did water testing this week my Nitrates were at 20 ppm. I NEVER run this high. I usually read between 0 and 5 ppm on the API test and just figured it was an anomaly until I checked some distilled water and it was in fact reading 0 ppm. I don't know why I seem to always have a little nitrate but I was never above five before and everyone was doing fine so I didn't worry. But now I am at 20 ppm and just a day after I did my water change. Normally I check my chemistry in the afternoon. This week I did it in the morning so I figured maybe the plants needed to get cranking, so I repeated it in the afternoon but it was still between 10 and 20 ppm. I immediately did a water change and got it down to 5 ppm.
<this is fine>
Here is conundrum 1. I had very little algae on the glass this week, almost none in fact. I also noticed some of my green coralline on the rear glass turning gray. Which, from what I can recall, corallines can die off and come back for no apparent reason so I was not concerned.
<It is usually a lack of calcium/ or carbonate (alkalinity)>
The decreased algal growth could explain why the nitrates went up, no one is using them.
But if the nitrates are going up why didn't the other algal species take off?
<Would look to another reason>
There is plenty of light and obviously plenty of nutrients? Everyone still seems to be doing fine except the
mushrooms seem a little deflated right now. I also seem to have had an amphipod and perhaps copepod die off, but that too seems to happen occasionally.
<Those pesky hermits! I would thin these down to one or two max if it was my tank >
Any thoughts or ideas on what happened and what might have caused it?
<The sponges in your filters?>
Should I be worried about the coralline die off or the amphipod and copepod die offs? Thoughts on the droopy mushrooms when my more delicate animals are doing well?
<I would not be too concerned here. Your obvious diligence will see you through. There is a chance that the rise in temp could be a factor>
Conundrum 2: My pH is pretty consistently 8.0. My KH on the API kit seems to vary between 8 -11. Depending on what you read some people suggest trying to get it as high as 14.
<I have not heard this.. but then again I'm not active on any of these trendy forums, so I don't know what people are experimenting with. 8-11 dKH is fine, but I would try to stabilise it a little better around a 1-2 digit drift>
The API test kit recommends 8-12 (140 - 200 mg/L Carbonate or 2.9 -4.3 meq/L Carbonate). I have some variability with the Seachem test as well generally my Total Alkalinity is between 2.5 and 3.1 meq/L, with Borate Alkalinity accounting for 0.6 - 1.3 meq/L and Carbonate accounting for 1.6 - 2.4 meq/L. Seachem recommends a Total Alkalinity of 4 - 5 meq/L with Borate accounting for 1.5 - 2.0 meq/L and Carbonate accounting for 2.0 - 3.5 meq/L (KH = 5.6 - 9.8 or 100 - 175 ppm)
When I do my readings I am in the OK range for the API kit although I "think" I would like to be around 12. When I read the Seachem test I am low although their recommendations are for an aquarium they say my numbers are close to natural sea water. So because of the "low" pH and "low" alkalinity I have tried adding all kinds of buffers. Reef Builder, Reef Buffer, Carbonate Buffer, but nothing seems to get the pH up above an occasional reading of 8.2 and my KH (API) has never been over 11 and my Total Alkalinity (Seachem) has never been over 3.1 meq/l and my Carbonate Alkalinity (SeaChem) has only once been over 2.0 meq/L.
<Ok'�. hold fire a bit here! pH 8 is absolutely fine, especially if you go for a highish (9-10) dKH. It's that simple. In a small system with no sump, pH 8 is a really good number.>
So everyone is doing fine with what I have been doing, which tells me don't mess with a good thing, but "I think" I want to get my pH to 8.2 - 8.4 and my KH to 12 and Total Alkalinity to 4-5 meq/l with a Carbonate level around 3 meq/L. What do you think? What am I missing? Am I over thinking this?
Should I put the Seachem test away and not worry about measuring Alkalinity that way and breaking out the Borate and Carbonate?
<I would>
How can I get that pH up?
<I wouldn't>
I can't tell you how much sleep I have lost over this!!!
<Trust me It's not worth it!>
Finally, do you think given my level of water changes that I need to test for strontium or anything else.
<Not with a 10% water change a week I don't, no. Strontium is something I have never in my life dosed or tested for>
Those kits are expensive, as was my Magnesium kit,
<The Mag kit is worth it. The Strontium one is not.>
and I have never had to do anything with my Magnesium levels. They are always over 1250 ppm.
I know this is long but I know the more info I can give you the better <Info is good, it lets us get a better picture of what is going on, so don't worry>
the answer I can get and this, to me anyway, is a complex problem.
<The hobby can be as simple or as complex as you make it. For a great book on keeping things simple try Tullock's 'Natural Reef Aquariums'>
As always thanks for all you guys do to keep the rest of us from going crazy and killing more animals than we should!
<It's a pleasure Rob, and thank you for writing so well and taking the time to write properly. I have made only two corrections throughout the whole message!>
Addendum: (sorry!)
I forgot to mention that the amount of skimmate my skimmer produces usually varies between a pint to half a gallon a day.
<This is a lot>
Its touchy about how the collection chamber is set as to how wet or dry the skimmate is.
<It wants to be dry>
The last few days though I have gotten almost nothing maybe a cup over a 3 -4 day period.
<The amount of skimmate will depend on many things including your livestock, system size, skimmer size, feeding regime, other filtration being used etc. etc. Statements that you read such as 'your skimmer should be producing one cup per day' etc. is utter baloney. Just make sure that it is working, cleaned regularly and producing a foam that sticks to the cup>
I have even lowered the collection cup. The skimmer seems to be functioning properly there just isn't much foam at all.
<Have you taken this apart to check it is functioning as it should and there are no blockages? Have you cleaned the pump & impellor?>

Re: Nitrate and Alkalinity Issues 8/10/11
Dear Bob,
<Simon with you Rob as Bob is away talking fish>
First, thank you (and Simon) for all your input and the great references.
<No problem>
I already ordered the book. I really appreciate your time and advice. I do have a few questions about your responses. I hope you don't mind. (It would be great to sit and discuss these things in more detail than we can do by email, but we work with what we have and its better than nothing for sure!)
<No problem>
With regards to the bio-rings, would leaving them there not just provide additional surface area for nitrifying bacteria similar to having more live rock?
<Better to have live rock, for all of the additional benefits it brings, than artificial media. These will trap debris and lead to higher nitrates as well>
The rationale I have used in putting the Polyfilter in on a continuous basis is, in my experience, once things start to go bad its often to late to fix the problem. So while the Polyfilter is a bit expensive, its is not prohibitively so. To me this is an instance of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
<This is fine>
I was running activated carbon (AC) but the recent research that indicates it likely causes HLLE,
<It was certain types of low quality dusty lignite carbons that were implicated here. http://www.coralmagazine-us.com/content/activated-carbon-hlle-smoking-gun-found . Using a good quality pellet carbon is not 'likely' to cause HLLE at all, and most marine aquarists use these good quality carbons not poor ones. There are many other causes for HLLE which are far more important than carbon, mostly inappropriate housing, diet and care with carbon often used as an 'excuse' for the aquarists poor husbandry of their fishes>
coupled with some data the manufacturer provided me with and input on the WWM forum, swayed me to using the Polyfilter over AC.
<Polyfilter is a good product and it is fine to use continuously if you can afford it>
I totally agree with you that leaving this filter in for a relatively long period of time would result in it trapping a lot of debris. That is why I put the filter on top of it. I do change this upper filter once a week. This prevents the Polyfilter from trapping debris and gets the larger organic matter out of the tank once a week.
I do not have much of a problem with particulates in general, but I feed New Spectrum pellets a couple of times a week, and although it is supposed to sink, a lot of it floats and ends up in the skimmer box and I definitely don't want it going through my pump.
<All this will do is go through your system and feed the 'critters', and/ or be pulled out by the skimmer. Not a problem>
This arrangement also allows me to suck out the vast majority of the food that ends up in the skimmer box with a turkey baster. Removing it from the system before it even has a chance to break down.
<This is good practice>
Given my use and rationale would you still change the set-up?
<I would do whatever you are most comfortable with. These medias and sponges are often the cause of high nitrates however, and you wrote in stating a problem with high nitrates>
Also I read the articles you suggested regarding the Berlin Method. I have noticed most sumps/refugia produced these days have a wet/dry component or filter sock in the first chamber and the protein skimmer in the last chamber (essentially equivalent to my current system).
<The Berlin method is live rock and protein skimming, this is the basis for 99% of all reef tanks today. For the best way to set up a sump/ refuge see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm. Nowadays the skimmer is usually placed first, so that it does not remove any beneficial plankton produced in the refuge. Filter socks are optional, if you have problems with sedimentation in your water. If not, then leave them out.>
This is counter to the article. Has anyone done the research to see if this makes a difference?
<Yes, plenty of people have tried every configuration under the sun>
I ask this not just because of my current set-up, but also because as, I mentioned, I just got a 90 gal and want to put a sump/refugium under it. If the article is correct, and the skimmer should come first, do I need to put my DIY skills to work for the sump/refugium for the 90 instead of buying a commercially available product? (I'm kind of hoping you say yes because I think it would be a fun project).
<I would, definitely yes! DIY sumps are cheaper, and if you do them right, better>
I have more questions about the filtration for the 90 but I will save that for another time.
<I can answer them now in one sentence... live rock and protein skimming with a refugium>
With regard to the hermit crabs. I removed the one from the refugia per your suggestion. Thank you. From what I had read, I was under the impression that particular species was an herbivore.
<No such thing as a herbivorous crab. They are all omnivorous>
With regard to the main tank, again, everything I have read seems to give fairly large numbers of hermits for the cleanup crew.
<Many people put hundreds of hermits in their systems.. why I don't know, all they usually do is cause trouble by eating things they should not.>
I have already decided when the 90 is up and running that Halloween is moving on up
<Cue lady with big hair and voice...>
along with the Blue Hippo.
<I have two Halloweens in my tank, I like them>
He is a demolition machine in this small reef tank. Would just a couple of dwarf hermits be enough to keep up in that size tank?
Thank you for the compliments on the writing. I try to do the best I can to make life easier for you and because I think the art of composition is dying in the computer age.
<Heee! Along with the advent of poor handwriting>
I hope I have maintained my good standing with this letter.
<Yes, it is great, thank you>
Thanks to you and all the crew for doing all you do, and all the knowledge and information you provide. You are making me a better aquarist and reef keeper. That also means my daughter will be a better aquarist and reef keeper. Thus you are not only helping this generation, you are helping the next to be successful, and saving many many animals in the process! That's a nice legacy!
Thanks again,
<No problem, Rob. Simon>

High Nitrate And Not Surprising/Nitrate Control 8/3/11
Hello my name is Andrew and this is my first time asking a question, but have been reading everyone else's for a while.
<Hello Andrew>
I'm having problems with some crazy high nitrates it's at 160+!!
It seems like it was their <there> over night because I tested the water the day after servicing the filter and the nitrates were at 40ppm so I changed 20 gallons as usual thinking it would go down. The next day I checked it again and it was WAY up.
<Not one bit surprising with the degree of overstocking you have.>
<<And lack of methods for their removal, avoidance. RMF>>
I have had the tank up at my new house for about 7 months and not had any problems. I have a 125 gallon FOWLR with 130lbs of live rock a 2in sand bed. I have an FX5 filter(serviced every month),
<Too long a span, at least two weeks.>
Super Reef Octopus Lx 1000s skimmer (now that is I switched from the SeaClone that I had when I had a 75, but I never had any problems with it and yes I know everyone says their horrible.),
<Actually, the Octopus line of skimmers are pretty decent.>
18w uv sterilizer, 2x Current USA dual T5HO Nova Extreme lights, 2, 1500 gph circulation pumps, and a grounding probe. I keep the tank at 1.023 ammonia: 0, nitrite: 0, ph: 8.3, and the nitrates: 160+. I first remove all my fish and took them to my work and put them in a 170 gallon. Then changed 60 gallons In my tank it did not go down at all. The next day I changed 40 more. I then bought the Lx 1000s and place carbon in the return baffle to have more carbon in the system. I just changed 30 more gallons today and still nothing at all I have not had any algae outbreaks of any kind no crabs or snails died and the only fish that started acting funny was my little Fiji Puffer. Before I forget this is my live stock list:
Panther Grouper: 9"
Black Volitans Lion Fish: 9"
Magnificent Fox-Face: 8" and 4"
Emperor Angel: 4"
Harlequin Tusk: 5.5"
Clown Trigger: 3.5"
Niger Trigger: 4.5"
Stars & Stripes Puffer: 5"
Powder Blue Tang: 5.5"
Fiji Puffer: 3.5"
Yellow Head Moray: 1.5'
Yes I know this may be over stocked
<"May be" is an understatement
, very overstocked and is the reason for the high nitrate level and poor water quality as evidenced by the yellow tinge in the photo. Your skimmer is rated for up to a 125 gallon tank and I would not expect it to lower nitrates to any significant degree with the fish load you have in there now.>
but I will continue to upgrade tank size and equipment as needed.
<And soon. Your Powder Blue and Emperor will be the first to stress out and very soon if not already.>
I feed once a day and ensure their is no excess food I do a 40 gallon water change at least 1 time every month and have always done this and never had any problem with the nitrates.
<As fish grow they produce more waste and you have some large waste producers in that mix.>
Oh and before the last water hangs <change> I did I took one of my circulation pumps and blew off all the rocks to ensuer <ensure> their <there> was not any buildup of waist <is waste, I have a buildup of waist> in them. I am now out of ideas
<Out of ideas??? It's staring you right in the face.>
and have asked all the owners of the marine stores in town as well as the owner of my work where I take care of all the saltwater aquariums that is also a local pet store. Thank you for any help you can provide.
<You need to relocate some of these fish and/or get a very large tank, and soon....easily a 300+ gallon system to accommodate that group. I might add that the triggerfish aren't really compatible with that group. In the five years I've been here, this has to be the worst case of overstocking I have come across. You need to act, and soon. James (Salty Dog)>

Nitrate Spike, please some advise on how to proceed 7/9/11
<Hello Dirk>
2 days ago trying to put some tube anemones in my tank I have been disturbing my sandbed quit a bit.
This is not a DSB by any means just about 2" deep.
First could this be the cause of a nitrate spike?
<It very well could.>
Anyway since then my Nitrate has spiked from about 5 to into the 30-40 range??
Now what would be a short term solution for this? or can I go the slow way just water changes etc....?
<No short term solution. I'm guessing the tank has been set up for some time and the sand bed became a nutrient sink.
During your water changes, use a gravel cleaner type siphon which will remove a great deal of waste trapped in the sand bed. You will be surprised at what the siphoned water looks like.>
All fish and coral are behaving like nothing happened so far. Even my clams and Anemones acting normal extending nicely.
<For now.>
(What would be the first signs visible be?)
<Excessive algae growth, Cyano, lack of expansion of anemones.>
I have Carbon and RowaPhos running right now.
All other parameters are good except from my KH and Carbonate being low.
<High nitrate levels do tend to lower dKH.>
I am currently waiting for my water to do a 75Gallon water change.
By the way tank is a 165gallon DT with about 90gallon sump/fuge.
As for now I also adjusted my skimmer skimming a bit more wet not sure if this would help any though?
<Won't help much. May appear that the skimmer is removing more waste but the waste will be diluted.
Read here for additional advice/information.
James (Salty Dog)>

Good Old Nitrate Question/Nitrate Control 4/4/2011
<Hello Richard>
Thanks in advance for any ideas on my question,
<You're welcome.>
this is the only place I ever actually post questions in that it seems to be the best source of solid information. I have been fighting nitrate problems now for several months with little to no success. I am VERY stingy on my feeding, to the point of starving the critters in my tank. I have a 80 gallon tank, 10 gallon sump/refugium, two Fire Gobies, two small Tomato Clowns,
<Not a good mix here.>
medium BTA, two small Emerald Crabs, two small sally crabs, a couple of leathers, small amount of Zoa's. I started out doing about a 10% water change per week, watched the nitrates (and only the NO3's) keep rising. I have steadily increased the water change quantities to the point of 50% and still can't get the NO3's to stay down. I have good coralline algae growth, the Zoa's/fish/crabs/tube worms seem to be okay although not much growth on the soft corals. I use a power head to stir the crushed gravel substrate while doing the water change and also use a tube type gravel "sucker" to help deep clean it.
<I would not "stir" with the powerhead, just adding to your problem. Use the tube type gravel cleaner and the detritus will be removed with the waste water and not mixed with the tank water.>
My sand bed in the 'fuge doesn't show much or perhaps no bubbling from nitrogen gas in the sand, there are plenty of bristle worms in the substrate in both the main tank and the 'fuge/sump. I have a small clump of Chaeto in the sump. There is virtually no algae in the system anywhere, and what there is seems to be restricted to a small amount of brown algae growth that I see on the glass. Just as a desperation move I tried a 2ml vodka dose, once per day for 7 days and never saw any noticeable increase of algae
<This is not enough time and this method of control can have risks if the procedure/process is not followed to the letter.>
I have stopped that and will be doing a water change today. My nitrates stay in the 20 range, everything else stays close to 0. My pH runs around 8, my water temps stays on 80.3 F and my salinity hovers around 1.025.
<I'd compare your readings with that of another test kit to verify and eliminate that possibility.>
Am I doing to large of a water change, and in doing so pulling to much bacteria out of the system which is allowing the nitrates to stay high?
Should I leave it be and reduce down to 5% and ignore the Nitrates until the bacteria can start doing its job?
<The bacteria is doing it's job, nitrates are the end result. Water changes will not
result in a loss of bacteria. You did not mention the use of a protein skimmer, a necessary device for reducing/controlling nitrates.>
This tank is about 9 months old, and I also have about 80lbs of live rock, and am using a 1600 gpm no tube overflow with a 1200 gpm return pump.
<I suggest reading here and related articles found in the header.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Nitrates, reducing, reading 1/28/11
I know this is a subject that has been covered over and over again, and I have tried to find an answer both at your site and elsewhere. I have a 80 gallon tank, about 8-10 months old, 100 -125 lbs live rock. I have a small refugium which is holding about 5 gallons of water (want a bigger one but the tank stand precludes it right now).
<Perhaps another can be placed to the side, above?>
There is about 18lbs aragonite sand in it. I have a high capacity tubeless overflow and a 1200 gph return pump in the 'fuge. Right now there are several fan worms, 2 porcelain crabs, 2 sally crabs and a brittle star for "Live" critters". I have a couple of colonies of zoa's, one medium colony of Galaxea, and two good sized leathers. Lots of copepods are growing everywhere (guess they count as "live" critters too).
<Oh yes>
I feed about 10 cc's phytoplankton once a week to the fan worms, and of course it disperses for everyone else (forgot to mention handful of snails and small hermits as well). Once every other week three small pieces of raw shrimp go to the crabs and brittle star. My tank water runs at 1.025, Ph 8.1, temp 78-81, nitrates will not go below 15 and climb fairly quickly.
I do at least 12 gallon water changes every week and when the nitrates get really bad I have done around 35 gallon changes being very careful to match the salinity and temp with the fresh stuff. What am I doing wrong that I can't bring down the nitrates ( nitrites are 0 as are phosphates).
<There are a few approaches...>
I have used Coral reef salt and Red sea salt with the same results. The substrate in the main tank is crushed coral. I run a 260 watt T-5 HO light and have two 175 watt 12K Metal Halides that I run for about two hours each day. The T-5's stay on a little too long each day, my leathers will start pulling in by the time it is turned off each night so I know I need to cut that back. Any suggestions would really be welcomed.
This picture is 5 minutes after lights on in the morning.
<Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm
and the linked files above labeled "means to reduce".
Bob Fenner>

Lowering Nitrates/Nitrate Control 10/27/10
Good morning
<Hello Gene>
I was reading an article online concerning keeping nitrates in line. The author made the following statement:
"it is essential to never clean or change all of the filter media at the same time. Plan a monthly schedule where you clean one component each week (or once a month)-this will allow the biological filtration to be relatively undisturbed. The exception is to clean the filter sock (if you use one) several times a week."
<I believe this is dated information, not true with today's filtering methods, live rock, etc.>
Read more at Suite101:
< http://www.suite101.com/content/lowering-nitrates-in-a-marine-aquarium-a84900#ixzz13Z67Sbdz>
Lowering Nitrates in a Marine Aquarium: Low Nitrate Levels is Critical to a Healthy Saltwater Aquarium
< http://www.suite101.com/content/lowering-nitrates-in-a-marine-aquarium-a84900#ixzz13Z67Sbdz>
I currently perform water changes and clean my system every 2 weeks in my 125 display with 30g sump/refugium. The cleaning consists of removing and thoroughly cleaning the skimmer and the sponges I use for filtration (don't use a sock).
<I'm not fond of the socks as well, too difficult to clean. I did not believe it was very energy efficient to wash two socks in the wash machine as this was the only way I could get them clean, and then only when my wife was not home.>
According to the above reference, I should not clean everything at the same time. Does your experience suggest the same thing?
<If you have a typical reef system using live rock, this will not affect your biological filtration.
Same goes for fish only systems using bio balls in the wet/dry filter.>
I have 3 sponges in the sump, I could leave one and clean the other 2.
<I'd clean them all at once as long as you have one of the two aforementioned filtering means. I
much prefer disposable filter pads.>
Thanks for your thoughts.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Lowering Nitrates/Nitrate Control 10/27/10 - 10/28/10

Thanks, James.
<You're welcome.>
I do use LR as well as a mature refugium. Thanks for sharing your experience using the sock. I had been considering one -- but based on your experience, I think I'll stick with my multiple sponge setup and continue to clean my system as I have been doing now for over 2 years.
Why mess with what works?!
<Exactly. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".>
<Ditto. James (Salty Dog)>

Question for you Scott... high NO3 - 10/21/10
The banner fish is still hanging in there. Not eating yet. Recently he has loss two of his fish. I am convinced it is because of malnutrition. He loss a Tomatoe Clown and a Scooter Goby. Currently in his 537 gallon he owns a Dog face puffer, Koran Angel, two dijardi tangs, scooter goby, moray eel, few damsels. He only feeds his fish cooked shrimp or raw shrimp and smelts.
I keep telling him he is stupid for doing so and is causing himself so much Nitrates for doing it but he wont listen to me. I have also told him that neither one of these foods is nutritious for any of these fish. What is
your opinion on this?
<I agree, a more balanced diet is needed.>
He seems to start listening to me as his stuff is dying.
<So he should be listening to you now then eh?>
I tested his water and his salinity is 1.023, PH 8.2, Ammonia 0.0, Nitrite 0.0, Nitrate Over 160ppm. I know Ridiculous right!!!! Look forward to your response.
<That high of a nitrate reading may also negatively impact fish health.>
Also a question for myself. I am moving out to the country so I can be a hillbilly. lol. I may have live with well water. I do have an R. O. Unit. Is well water a problem with saltwater fish?
<Well water is usually great water. Unless the gas companies hydrofrack near you. An RODI does make really nice water. Use more sediment pre-filters in a well-application. If you make lots and lots of water, a
KATI ANI unit will make less waste, and be cheaper in the long run.>
<Scott T.>
Re: High Nitrates - 10/21/10
What is that? Explain? How much?
< http://www.thefilterguys.biz/kati_ani_di-onizer.htm >
< http://www.wetwebmedia.com/katianidifaqs.htm >
< Check out Kold-Steril units also. I suppose there are a few options for water filtration. It's best to read about them all and then make a decision. Feel free to ask if you have any questions once reading.
Scott T.>

Lowering nitrates, reading -- 10/20/10
hello again crew.
Been cycling my tank and I am happy to report that I think I am almost done. Nitrates
and ammonia are both zero. Problem I am having now is that I the nitrates have never started to drop back down.
Equipment I am running on is a 75 gallon FOWLR, with 60 pounds of live rock(want about 40 more) and 90 pounds of aragonite sugar grade(about 2-3 inches). My filters are an AquaC remora pro w/ Mag 350 and a Marineland HOT canister, both of which I was recommended on this site.
I have two Koralias # 4s that I alternate from day to day because using both just kicks up too much of the sand. I did one water change of about five gallons and I think they came down a little. It seems to be between 40 and 80 ppm. I am going to do a few more water changes before I start stocking, but the other day I also noticed some reddish brown growth on the walls of the tank. Its mostly around the bottom. It would wipe away and didn't feel slimy, but it wasn't big enough to really tell. I am guessing it is some kind of algae and I am pretty sure it has something to do with the high nitrates. Just wanting to know what I can do about this. I am also worried that dead spots in the water could also be causing it due to the fact that it
wasn't really a problem until I stopped using both the powerheads at the same time. I also have an Aquaclear powerhead with an adjustable flow rate I could throw into this mix. Oh and I bought the Marineland pro that comes with the bio wheel. I am not currently running the BioWheel but was wondering how beneficial that would be?
<For? NO3 reduction? Not at all>
Thanks again for all the help you have given me and thanks in advance for future help.
<... read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Re: lowering nitrates -- 10/20/10
Hi again Bob,
Sorry about the typo. Yes, I mean the ammonia and nitrites were at zero. The nitrates then spiked to about 80 ppm. They cleared up a little with a small water change but are still between 40-80 ppm (best judgment from the test color). I was figuring on doing a good 20% water change this weekend.
<Won't fix this issue>
I have read a lot on the site but must have missed what you sent me, thanks for pointing me in the right direction. What I meant on the bio wheel is in general do you think it would be beneficial to the tank to use it?
<Yes; but won't lower nitrate>
I have seen mixed reviews on them. It was a free option with the filter. One last question/observation from the link. " A brief mention that there are two common ways of expressing nitrate concentration by various assay methods. Nitrates as ppm, and nitrogen as nitrate in ppm. Due to the latter's consideration of the three oxygen atoms atomic weight per molecule, measuring nitrate ion by itself results in 4.4 times as much. Do check your test kit though almost all are nitrate ion types on the market nowadays... " - I will have to check on this, using an old API test kit that came with the used tank. I will probably just pick up a new kit. That one is probably way past the expiration. Not sure how much that matters?
<The age of test reagents can be important>
Thanks so much for this site and your book. Been using both a lot.
<Real good. BobF>

Sump Questions/Nitrate Control 9/22/10
Evening Crew,
<Hello Chris>
During the setup process of my reef, I had picked up a sump from a fellow enthusiest <enthusiast> along with a customized protein skimmer.
I have had the system up and running for approx 8 months and I am attributing my nitrate problem due to the fact that there is no mechanical filtration in place.
<Is your present nitrate level a secret? Would help to know the level.>
The sump is designed with 3 intakes on the one side. One is feeding a small chamber which in turn feeds the refugium on the back end of the sump through a slit near the bottom. The other 2 feed an intake chamber. which feeds the main area of the sump which holds the skimmer and in turn baffles on the other side prior to the return Up until now I have had waste accumulating at the bottom of the sump which I suction out periodically. I think that this may not be done frequently enough which is probably the cause of my excessive nitrates 20 - 40 ppm.
<Is likely one of the problems. Do read here and related articles/FAQs found in the header.
In your opinion, what should I do at the intake point? Should I McGiver a tray and place a sponge on it for easy cleaning? Should I pick up some of those filter socks and place them on the down spouts and set up a cleaning regiment?
<All these will work well in removing potential nitrate sources providing the pads are changed/cleaned at least on a weekly basis. Nitrates are the result of dissolved nutrients and waste needs to be removed before it gets to that stage.>
There has to be an easy way to do this!
<Hah! Patience/diligence my friend.>
On another note, I have an aptasia <Aiptasia> infestation in my sump and overflows along with a bunch of tube worms in the fuge area. I had the Aiptasia in my display tank, but picked up a Copperband Butterfly and this problem has now gone away.
I'm sure these animals are killing the life that is supposed to be coming from the fuge. (just to clarify the fuge consists of live rock and Chaeto working on the reverse lighting principal). Should I be looking to
tear down the sump, scrub it clean and then start again? Is there an alternative/better way.
<I would not. Reading/implementing where the above links take you will be your best bet.>
Thanks for your time and suggestions.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

YIKES NITRATES!!!!! 8/6/10
Hello everyone!
First I would love to thank you so much for the site!! It has helped me so much in starting my adventure with my a saltwater tank that I love so much.
But I do have a problem, hopefully it's small but I doubt it. I have had my tank set up for over a year now it's a 55 gallon tank, I have a protein skimmer as well as an aqua clear filter that uses activated carbon. I also use a bubbler (the Percs like to play in it). There is about 15 lbs of live rock with the parameters as follows:
Salinity : 1.022
Temp: 79F
Nitrites: 0
Nitrates: 200ppm
<Very high.>
Ammonia: 0
PH: 7.8
Alkalinity: 120
My nitrates shot through the roof over night!!! This is something I have never had problems with. I have done a 25% water change, as well as vacuumed the gravel/sand and cannot seem to bring them down at all.
<How often do you normally do water changes?>
I am stocked as follows:
1 Bi-colored Angel
<Would benefit from more live rock,
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/c_bicolor.htm .>
1 Hippo Tang
<Needs a much larger tank, will not last long here.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/paracant.htm >
3 Perculas
<Will likely end up as just a pair at some point.>
3 Blue Tailed Damsels
1 Mandarin Goby
<Needs a larger and more mature tank as well.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mandarins.htm >
1 Blue/Green Chromis
<Does best in groups.>
1 Cleaner Shrimp
3 Feather Dusters
4 Red Legged Crabs
I only introduced the last fish about 5 months ago. I have noticed that the Bi-colored Angel has started to lose it's color and I have had him/her for 6 months now, I also have 2 Percs that sit on the bottom of the tank and are
very lethargic.
<Crowded, water quality and aggression issues likely.>
They all have great appetites and eat like little piggies,
I feed seaweed, flakes and brine shrimp.
<Brine shrimp is the equivalent of potato chips, switch to Mysid.>
They all greet me at the front of the tank whenever I come into the room. So most of their behavior is completely normal I just have no idea what is going wrong. I have never had any problems with this tank. I have inspected them all and there is no ich or any type of sores, scrapes, etc. . . just anything out of the norm. I have grown so attached to every little living thing in the tank that I couldn't bare to loose anything!!! Please if you can help me I would appreciate it so very much!!! Thanks again for the amazing site, and a thanks in advance for your help!
<Something either died, (snail perhaps?) or the tank has been overfed. Water changes are best for immediate relief, perhaps think about adding more live rock and/or deep sand bed to help combat nitrates in the future.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm .>
Re: YIKES NITRATES!!!!! 8/6/10
Hi Chris,
Thank you so much for answering my e-mail so fast, I really appreciate it.
As to your question, I do water changes at least once a month for tank maintenance, as well as top off the tank with pure reverse osmosis water when the level gets and inch low.
<Not often enough in my opinion, I do about 15% weekly on a similar sized tank but much more lightly stocked.>
I do have to say that I did have, yes, a snail die a little while back, however, my LFS told me to just leave the
dead in the tank as it is part of the natural cycle and will not hurt anything.
<I would remove anything dead whenever possible, just adds more fuel for algae blooms and increases nitrates. I have heard snail referred to as nutrient grenades, because once they die and begin to decay, boom an explosion of extra, unwanted nutrients.>
I'm going to guess this was the wrong information. I do have another 10 lbs of live rock on the way from the LFS. However, I do have to ask, will adding another 2 inches of sand mess anything up?
<Add slowly to allow life in the sand bed to migrate up, no more than 1/2 inch at a time.>
I have thought about it but have been afraid of something going terribly wrong, although I wasn't sure what.
<Unlikely unless you really go nuts.>
I understand that you said the Mandarin needs a more mature tank, however he is the fattest one in the tank. (ha-ha) so I must be doing something right . . . right?[?]
<Hope so, if he eats prepared food then you are in better shape.>
I will definitely switch the food to Mysid on your response though. Again, thank you so very much for the help. I will let you know how things go.
<Sounds good.>

Refugium/DSB/Nitrate Control 6/21/10
Dear Crew,
First and foremost, thanks for the wealth of information, advice, reading material. As you may have guessed, I have some questions.
My setup is a 1/2 cylinder 130 gallon tank. The main tank has maybe 75 to 100 lbs of live rock, and 4" DSB. Circulation is handled by Koralia pumps two size two, and two size 4. The largest of which are on the back wall,
and the two smaller are built into the rock-scape. There are mostly soft corals, and a few SPS. Lighting is 2 - 250 MH's in a Current Outer Orbit fixture. Below the tank is a 5 gallon refugium unlit. It houses the protein skimmer (an ETSS downdraft rated for 250 gallons), a few filter pads (cleaned regularly), some carbon, and phosphate bags here two <too>. There are two Mag pumps in here also, one for the return to the display and a 7 for the protein skimmer.
<Hard to believe you have all this stuff in a 5 gallon tank, me thinks a typo here.>
I also have a MaxiJet 1200 that is supplying the calcium reactor, as well as the refugium. The refugium is 29 gallon tank. It has about 6 inches of a DSB. There is some more liverock and also some Chaeto in this tank.
I change 5 gallons of water, every three days.
Livestock: 1 Blue Chromis, Yellow Tang, Tomini Tang, Coral Beauty, Maroon Clown pair (which I paired myself and am quite proud of :-), Pajama Cardinal, one small clam, and a Coral Banded Shrimp.
My concern is the nitrates. I cannot get them below 10. I wondered if perhaps increasing the flow to the refugium tank may help with their reduction.
<Yes, depending on the current flow into the refugium. I would not use one pump to supply both the refugium and the calcium reactor, but one for each, much easier to control flow rates.>
I just don't feel that I am seeing the results that so many on your site have raved about.
<If the DSB is not teeming with microfauna, the DSB can have a reverse effect. Do read here and related articles/FAQ's found in the header.
I am also seeing a terrible outbreak of red slime algae.
<Again, read here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm>
I check for phosphates, but I don't get any reading on my test kit.
<Not unusual, are generally absorbed as quickly as they are formed.>
(I use RO/DI top off and change water). I am hoping that finding a way to reduce the amount of nitrates in the tank will in turn kill the slime algae.
<Much information on this already exists on our site and can be found here.
I had bought some ChemiClean two weeks back and dosed the tank. This was a last resort, as I hate to add this type of thing...but after weeks of water changes, and frustration...well...you get the idea. The ChemiClean worked
pretty good...and I changed out gallons of water 2 days after dosing.
Sadly, not all the algae died, and now it has started working its way back very strong.
<A Band-Aid is all, must control the nutrient source for the algae.>
I am sure that there are several questions buried in here somewhere. Please help with whatever advice seems applicable.
<Reading the articles I linked you to should get you off to a good start.>
Again, many thanks from a dedicated reader.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Trouble With Fiji Leather/Nitrate Control 5/21/10
<Hello Jason>
For the last eight months I have been struggling with nitrates in one and a half year old system. I have a 125 gallon display tank and a 30 gallon sump with about 20 gallons of water. I've had nitrates as high as 80+ and I do a 15% to 20% water change each week.
When I started to get concerned, I took the sand out of my refugium and then I took the sand out of my display tank (I only had 3" to 4" of sand in the DI, and I thought it wasn't deep enough and could have been releasing waste due to the high flow in my tank). I have done everything I could think of to remove any sort of dissolved waste in my tank. I even got a bigger skimmer (Reef Octopus Extreme 200) and I run my overflow water through a
filter sock, which I replace every three or four days. I've even been dosing vodka!
<I wouldn't let this problem cause me to drink.:)>
But I still have nitrates between 20 and 40.
<Still too high.>
I lost all my SPS and LPS corals, but my soft corals are doing pretty well. At least, they look nice, but I've noticed that they aren't growing much.
<More tolerable to water conditions than SPS/LPS.>
Even my mushrooms really aren't spreading. I've started to wonder if my large Fiji leather coral could be causing problems.
<Is likely the other way around. Your mushrooms are semi-aggressive if they are near another coral.
They will/can cause other corals to loose tissue, recess, possibly die.
Acroporas for one, will not grow in aquariums with large mushroom populations.
Be sure to leave 5 to 6 inches between the mushrooms and your Leather Coral.>
It has been in my tank for almost a year and is about 10" in diameter when fully open. However, even though it has pretty good polyp extension, it doesn't get bright yellow. Kind of a golden yellow. And the crown doesn't stand up, but lays pretty flat, like a large shitake mushroom.
I have noticed in the past some small holes in the base of the colony, but I never really worried about it. Could this coral be doing something that is keeping my nitrates up?
Right now it isn't in direct water flow, but I do have two Koralia 4 pumps moving water, and a Quiet One 4000 for circulation. I also have 175 watt MH lights over the tank.
BTW, I don't think the tank is too heavily stocked. I have a 5" Foxface, a 5" Yellow tank <Tang>, a 4" Red Sea Sailfin tank <Tang>, two ocellaris clowns and four Chromis. I also have a serpent start <star> and a couple
handfuls of blue-leg hermit crabs and an assortment of snails. I feed a sheet of Nori and some flake food every day, and I feed Mysis and Cyclop-eeze every other day.
<Do rinse all frozen foods through a net before feeding. The waste water is a source of nitrates.>
My other water parameters are pretty good. No ammonia or nitrite and really low phosphate. Ca is 480+, dKH is 9, and Mg is 1200+. SG is 1.025 and pH is between 8.2 and 8.4. Only thing that isn't ideal is that temp fluctuates during the day between 78 and 80 degrees.
<No problem with that.>
Is there anything I should do? I don't have a quarantine tank. Should I find a new home for my coral? Or should I keep looking for the source of nitrates?
<My first action would be to reduce the substrate depth in the display tank to no more than a couple of inches. Deeper sand beds can cause nitrate problems as they age if a healthy population of micro fauna does not exist in the sand bed.
Minimize stirring up the sand bed when doing this, is best to siphon out the sand during your water changes. I would add some Caulerpa in the refugium if you have none, can/will help in removing nutrients from the system.
May also want to read here and related articles/FAQ's found in the header.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm >
Thanks for any help you can offer!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Re Trouble With Fiji Leather/Nitrate Control 5/21/10
Thanks, James.
I've got some Chaeto and bits and pieces of Caulerpa in my fuge. Periodically I thin it out and feed it to my tangs.
As I mentioned, I actually took all the sand out of my tanks.
<Ah, I see that now, missed a line.>
I took the sand out of my display tank about 6 weeks ago. I'll put an inch or so back in the tank once I get nitrates back in line. At the moment, all I have in my system, besides the livestock, are about 150 lbs of rock and the aforementioned Chaeto and Caulerpa.
<Have you ever compared your nitrate reading with another/different test kit?>
I'll read the FAQ you recommend. If the big leather isn't causing the problem, can you think of anything else that might be causing the high nitrates? I'm really stumped...
<I'd make sure your kit is reading correctly, and to concentrate on your feeding regime. Best to feed small amounts a little more often and only feed what the fish will eat in no more than a five minute period. Uneaten food over the long haul can lead to nitrate problems.
Even with a clean up crew, food can get into crevices/areas where no critter can get to. You may want to take
a nitrate test of your source water if not using a R/O device. And, do read the
article I sent along with related items found in the header.>
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Marine tank Nitrates keep rising - help. -- 5/4/10
Hi, I wonder if you could help me out a little- I know you might have covered this topic before, but I must be doing something wrong with my tank, I'm confused.
I have a 4ft square x 1ft deep (water surface down to sand) reef tank of around 400ltrs and a sump tank around 70ltrs.
In the main display, there's three power heads, two of which are connected to a wave maker and there's a large spray bar pushing out water from the sump below..
I have a 50/50 mix of fine coral sand and live sand about 1.5" deep
<Too shallow to be of any use really>
and approx 100kg of live rock. In the sump I have 4kg of live rock and Bio Balls
<... trouble. You didn't search, didn't read...>
combined with filter floss and active carbon in a filter bag positioned under the inlet pipe from the tank above. The middle section of the sump is a refugium with about an inch deep of Miracle Mud and piles of various types of Caulerpa algae. The refugium is lit 24/7. An Ocean Runner 3500 return pump sits in the end section pushing the water back to the main tank. I did have a Deltec MC 600 skimmer running but turned it off because it wasn't doing anything at all - the collection cup had some water in it but it was nearly clear rather than full of foam.
I changed 50ltrs of water every two weeks - the water had PH, Calcium and Magnesium buffer added. I also feed the corals once a week with Marine Snow,
<Worthless... a "scam" product>
Frozen Cyclops, Phyto and I buffer strontium too.
The water param.s were perfect, 0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrate, virtual no Nitrate, Calcium 420, PH was 8.4 and salt at 1,023ppm. Phosphate has been slightly high and never seems to increase or decrease.
Temperature is around 26c but raises and lowers slightly dependent on Halides on or off over the main tank. To me, this was all normal and the fish and corals were doing brilliantly.
I should have listened to that old saying "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" but I didn't. About 10 weeks ago, I took out about a quarter of the Bio Balls in the sump and replaced them with a couple of KG of live rock, left it for 4 or 5 days then removed another quarter of the Bio Balls and replaced with live rock. Kept doing this until all the Bio's were gone and live rock, about 10kg's worth was in place, over a two week period. I
monitored the param.s and they were all good. However, over the past two weeks, I have noticed that Nitrate keeps building, even though I'm still doing the same water changes as before, tested Nitrate again today and it had risen to 25 on my test kit, which is too high.
I have started to put back some of the Bio Balls now but kept the live rock too. I can't think what could really be causing the Nitrates to rise. Fish stock at the moment consists of 6 Blue Chromis, 2 cleaner shrimps, three star fish, 1 sand sifting start fish, several hermit crabs and turbo snails so there's no real load on the filtration. Corals: mostly softies, leathers, mushrooms, a couple of Zoas, feather star polyps. A hard Plate coral and a hammer coral.
In the past, fish stocks have been quite heavy with 30+ Chromis, 3 Sohal Tangs, Yellow Tangs x4, large Maroon Clown, 8 Wreck Fish, large Mandarin, to
name a few, at one point there were 10 medium sized fish plus the Chromis
I've steered clear of Anemones, they're too unpredictable. I have slowly removed most of the fish in case the load they were creating was too heavy for the system but it doesn't seem to make any difference in lowering the Nitrate.
So with this in mind, do you have any ideas why the Nitrate is going up, even though the system is older and more established now and is so under stocked with fish?
Hope you get a good idea from the description above - any help or advice would be very much appreciated.
<Have just skipped down. Read: http://wetwebmedia.com/no3sources.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Huge Mistake, Copper treatment, Cu removal, NO3 contr. 4/12/10
I have been reading your site for information on CopperSafe in the main tank. I didn't find you until after going by the advice of the LFS. And when mentioning what I have read I was told I should not read so much because most of the information is outdated.
<Have heard this myself from several pet stores, sad attitude.>
Now I'm devastated and trying to pick up the pieces. It's a 90 gallon FO tank and I understand that I should replace all of the sand and the live rock is pretty much shot.
I have two clowns, pj bottom, and green Chromis left. Tried to add other fish but they all die within a couple days. Could it be copper from the rocks?
<Doubtful if copper is not showing up on the test kit, more likely something else, do you QT your fish?>
Ammonia and Nitrite 0, Nitrate 5, Copper is not showing up on the test and PH is 8.2.
I have a protein skimmer and using a wet/dry. I'm told this is a good set up for a fish only tank this size but just don't trust anything I've been told any more.
<Wet/dries can be problematic for nitrates but you seem to have these under control.>
What about a bare bottom with live rock? Is that a bad idea? Is it time to give up?
<Bare bottom with live rock can work, so can sand, all depends on what you are looking for. Don't panic.>
Wishing I never gave my 29 gallon away....it was a lot easier. Never one problem.
<Would make a nice QT as well.>
Re: Huge Mistake, Copper treatment, 4/12/10
Chris thanks for getting back to me.
I guess I am working myself into a panic.
<The ulcers aren't worth it.>
I'm tired of tossing money out the window.
<Been there, done that.>
Yes, I do QT my fish.
I didn't at first which is why CopperSafe was in my main tank but I think a lot of us have learned that the hard way.
After two weeks I introduce into the main tank using a slow drip for 2 to 3 hours.
<I would extend the QT period to 4 weeks for most fish, gives a little longer for problems to become visible. Acclimation time seems fine.>
I do 9 gallon water changes every other week with bought water. I've tested that too.
<For long term cost savings and to be able to better control water quality I would investigate purchasing your own RO/DI unit. Far too often I have seen store RO/DI units improperly maintained and producing poor quality water.>
I have read that if it is a Fish Only Tank with NO live rock then a wet dry with bioballs is ok and shouldn't be a problem.
<This is fine, but to me live rock is so key that I would consider using it whenever possible, it really makes life easier.>
Is this a myth?
<No, but it can still cause nitrate problems as organic material is not removed from the tank, just held in the filter where it will still decay.>
If this is true would it be safe to say that I could remove the live rock....well sort of live rock looks pretty bad right now....from the tank and just put base in there adding a piece of live rock every week or so?
<This should be fine, but don't remove it all too fast, make sure the wet/dry can keep up biologically.>
I'm not sure I want to ditch the sand either. I kind of like the look.
Its not a deep sand bed just about an inch to two.
<A thin layer is fine, you won't get the nitrate reduction but doesn't seem to be a problem for you.>
Basically I'm looking to keep a fish only tank and would really like it if the new ones wouldn't die. Its by no means over crowded and no aggressive fish in there.
<You seem fine livestock wise.>
So if its not copper leaching out from the rock and all my other tests have come out fine then what is killing the new fish that come in? I'm really lost here and don't know what else to check. The last thing I want to do is go back to LFS. Have any ideas on where to go from here?
Thanks for the help.
<I am assuming your fish are doing ok during QT and only have problems once introduced to the new tank. What other fish have you tried to add? Since you have a QT at this point I may consider moving all the fish to QT and
starting the main tank over since you are thinking of getting rid of the rock and sand anyway. This would eliminate any disease that your current fish may have some immunity too or whatever toxic conditions that exists.
Nothing obvious jumps out at me that would be causing this issue, and it may save you some headache and work to just get the new base rock, a little sand, and a little live rock and new water and start over. >

Hi, how can I lower my nitrate ppm..I got 40ppm. -4/6/10
it's a 100 gallon saltwater.
<All you need to know requires just a little bit of reading. Start here:
and the linked files above.>
Thank you
<Welcome, Scott V.>

High Nitrates, comm., SW 3/27/10
Hi : I have not posted to the forums for some time, That being said I guess it indicates no problems! I still read the posts anyway as you are always in a learning process in this kind of hobby. I am writing for a friend of mine that works in a local pet store. He is responsible for the salt water setup.
I will give you the parameters that he has.
Nitrate: 110!
<Zounds! But not atypical in retail settings...>
P.H. : 8.0
Alk: 2.5-3meq/L
Calcium: 420ppm
Salinity: 1.023-1.024
Temp: 79-80
Volume: 290gal tanks/52gal refugium
Live Rock: 100-130lbs.
Aqua-Medic Ocean Runner skimmer 3500 with 950gal/hr.
This system is set up for retail and since inception (a few years now) he has always been faced with a high Nitrate problem. Tanks drilled and plumbed together. They use RO/DI water, I.O. salt, phytoplankton and feed about 3 times daily. The floss is changed weekly and a water change of approximately 50gal. He uses a wet/dry drip bio ball unit
<I'd get rid of the plastic media altogether... all at once... now>
in the refugium
<And add lighting, macroalgae culture here>
The fish stock is varied as you can understand on a retail system mixed with live rock and corals. Right now he is battling with fish with bulging cloudy eyes, dropsy or pinecone look and are dying off. Evaporative water is fed by an auto top of unit. As an outsider the Nitrate I would assume is the biggest issue at hand or perhaps not as the fish are dying.
<Might well be an important factor here>
Why is this system always plagued
with a high Nitrate count?
<Mmm, simply put, lots of production, orientation of the system to driving the forward reactions of nitrification, a paucity of removal mechanisms...>
Trace elements such as Strontium/Molybdenum and
Calcium are dosed regularly as directed. The system is generally not overloaded as per fish per gal. Recommendations. A quarantine tank is now being implemented for new stock; however this should have been practiced a long time ago. This still does not explain the nitrate problem. Should he be using carbon regularly or running a UV or would this even help?
<Some chemical filtrants are of help here...>
I would appreciate any suggestions you could throw my way to help my friend out.
Thanks for taking the time to respond to my questions. Regards, Bev
<Ahh, have you both read: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm
and the linked files above... particularly Sources, and all the "means to reduce" Related FAQs files. Bob Fenner>

John's 55 gallon nitrate factory 3/6/10
<Hi John>
3 months ago I bought an established 55 gallon reef tank. It came with a ViaAqua 3200 utc canister filter and Remora skimmer.
I upgraded the light to a T5 HO 8 bulb fixture. <Whoa! Some big lights there!>
I have 60 lbs of live rock and crushed coral substrate.
<Mmm, not a fan of this - how deep?>
Being that I am new to this, I did not know to buy a reef ready tank.
<It's not essential, and most 'reef ready' tanks are not reef ready at all because the holes are usually too small>
I have one powerhead and a UV sterilizer.
<Not enough flow I bet>
My problem is that I cannot get my nitrates below 20. I installed an RODI system because of the frequent water changes necessary just to keep my nitrates at 20. I would like to buy a sump but intend on upgrading to a 90 gallon (reef ready) tank in one to two years. I don't think a sump that would support a 90 gallon tank will fit in my cabinet. I don't want to buy two sumps if I don't have to.
Any suggestions would really be appreciated.
<Yes - make sure you are not collecting debris anywhere, especially where it is in areas of high flow like a canister filter - if your canister has sponges remove them. Take the canister off-line, or use it for carbon only.
Check your crushed coral - this should be an inch or less, or better an inch of fine grained aragonite will help better because it is friendlier to the critters, i.e. not as abrasive, so your nutrient cycling will be more efficient. Also the crushed coral tends to have a larger grain size, and detritus can more easily settle there. Increase your flow - add at least another powerhead set opposite to the one you have now, so that you can get those organics into the skimmer. If you don't want to purchase a sump, maybe go for one of those hang-on refugiums and grow some macroalgaes in there - this you can then move onto your larger system when you get it.
Also read here & related: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm>.
Even if it's not what I want to hear.
<I think there are a few tactics you can employ here>
I have fallen in love with this hobby <Me too!> but I would like to have more time to enjoy it and less work.
<Oooo, wouldn't we all? But success in this hobby does, I'm afraid, sometimes mean work!>
Thank you.
<No prob.s, Simon>

Re: re: John's 55 gallon nitrate factory 3/8/2010
<Hello John>
Thank you so much for the quick response.
<No Prob.s!>
I love your website and use it often. Some of the most practical information on marine aquaria on the internet.
<Thank you for your kind word, Simon>

Tank problem: Nitrate control in a shared water system. 1/6/2010
Hello all!
<Hi Gary.>
I am really hoping you all can help me, I am at wits end trying to figure out this problem. I have been doing reef tanks for over 10 years now and consider myself somewhat knowledgeable in the subject, but cannot figure out where my nitrates are coming from.
<Well, lets see what you have..>
Here are my tank stats:
I have a 75 gal bow front display tank with one-4� yellow tang two-2� clownfish and three-3� damsels (getting beefy) and around a 100 hermits working away all day :)
<Moderately stocked.>
On the other side of the wall, sharing the same
water is a 60gal coral grow tank and below it is a 30gal refugium. The main tank has about 100lbs of live rock, the coral tank has about 50lbs and the refuge has about 30lbs. There are NO fish in the coral tank or refugium.
Remember that all these tanks are sharing the same water thru plumbing.
The main tank has been setup for about 3 years, but was moved about 18months ago and was broken down at the time. It had a Cyano problem before it got moved, but now I have VERY little of it.
<Refugium is working.>
The 60 gal tank and refugium are only 10 months old but I didn't add them to the system until they cured for
3months. The main tank has 4 65w T5 lights (about 10months old) the 60gal tank has a 400w Metal Halide conversion bulb (the ballast is for a sodium bulb) and the refuge runs 2 18w VHO�s.
<All sounds good so far.>
I have a Precision Marine protein skimmer on the tank that is designed for a 250gal system. The part I can't figure out is how it pulls 2 quarts of dark green water out, about every 5 days.
I clean the skimmer completely every week. I only feed the fish a very small amount to keep them at a basic
health level. The skimmer defiantly pulls out more matter than I put in via food! That part makes no sense, where is the extra sludge coming from?
<Something amiss here.>
My calcium(385), nitrites(0), ammonia(0), phosphates(0.5), magnesium, and iodine are all normal. I don't has a silicate test kit. My nitrates stay consistent at about 20!
<Well, 20 isn't bad.>
I do a 5% water change religiously every week.
<May want to step that up to 10 - 15% per week.>
With my bio load and the water quantity, this should be an easy tank to maintain.
<I agree, >
I have over 6 large power heads moving water, and 2 large pumps (1600gal/hour each) moving water thru the plumbing. I use only RO water with a DI filter. All top off water is 0ppms.
The only 2 things I do weird are:
1: My refugium has a 5 gal reserve (Not connected to the main system) that automatically fills with water. I add the appropriate amount of salt and let it stir and aerate for a few days. With a manual switch, it drains 5 gals of system water and then adds the new water to the system. My design was somewhat flawed that when it empties new water into the main tank, it leaves about ½ gallon on the bottom the pump cannot reach, and that stays there till the new water fills the reserve in a half hour and I add salt within 3-4 hours. I do not every clean this area out, it just refills and I use it again. I checked the nitrates in this reserve and they show about 2ppm after the water sat for 3 days.
2: My top off water drip system doubles as my Kalk dosing unit. I mix a small amount of vinegar with Kalk and then add it to the 5 gal unit ever other day. This unit has an auto water top off and drips 24hours a day. My lights on my main/reef tank are on alternating times so the PH stays stable throughout the day. The Kalk does build up on the bottom of the unit, so I mix it up once and a while.
<You may want to give these a good cleaning.>
I KNOW THIS WAS A LONG EMAIL, but I wanted to make sure you had every detail so that you could help me make a guess as to the problem.
<Not too terribly long.>
I have not had any fish dies recently and all the live rock/sand has been in the tank for at least 8 months so I don't think this could be die off. Is it possible that there is some massive tissue item inside a rock that is slowly dying and this is why my protein skimmer is collecting so much sludge?
Thank you for any help and for the time it took to read this,
<First off, you don't really have a problem. I know everyone wants 0 ppm of nitrate, but in reality, it is difficult to keep it there and stable. You don't mention what you have in your refugium, but the addition of some macroalgae would be beneficial and help absorb some of these excess nutrients. Also, I would strongly consider stepping up your water changes to 10 - 15% per week.
Have a read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm >

Re: Tank problem: Nitrate control in a shared water system. 1/7/10
<Hi Gary.>
First of all, thank you for the VERY fast response. I will up my water changes to 10% per week for a while.
<Good. it will take a bit of time, but that should start bringing the nitrates down.>
Do you really think my fish stock is moderate and not light? Only 6 small fish in 165 gallons of water!
"One 4inch yellow tang / Two-2inch clownfish / Three-3inch damsels (getting beefy)"
<and 100 hermits in 75 gallons of space - that will be the 'dirtiest' part of the tank Tangs tend to be messy eaters as well..>
I guess I should have mentioned in the email, why I cared about my nitrates being at 20. In my coral grow tank (the 60) the corals are slowly shrinking! VERY slowly but still, I made this tank for growth, not shrinkage.
The nitrates are the only thing that I could guess it was.
<20ppm is still not that high Have you confirmed your nitrate readings with a different test kit?>
Could it be the Medal Halide conversion bulb then? (the fact that it runs off a sodium ballast)
<In theory, yes if it is not putting out enough light in the correct spectrum There are several variables for coral growth - calcium, magnesium, strontium, etc. it can be difficult to find a cause until everything is tested.>
I also do NOT have any macro algae in my refugium, it is hard to grow because of the massive pumps I have feeding my protein skimmer and returns they cause the algae to get blown across the refugium into the mesh
<Hmm.. perhaps you could put a ball of Chaeto in your display tank - tangs generally will not eat it and it grows quickly. I keep a small clump in my display tank tucked in to some rocks.>
I have guarding the inputs of the pumps. I have considered mangroves as they are sturdier and can handle the water flow.
<They work, but not as efficiently as algae would. Read here:

Fish Stocking in a 90 gallon Mixed Reef -- 01/04/09
Dear WWM Crew-
Here's a little background. My tank is 90 gallons and has been running with 110lbs of live rock with stable parameters since early August. I have a great skimmer, but I do 15 gallon water changes religiously each week. Also, the tank has quite a bit of open swimming space. That said, I'm interested in a moderately peaceful and completely reef safe community of fish. Here's my potential stocking list:
- Longspine Cardinalfish (Zoramia leptacanthus)
<A few of these... are very social as a species>
- Carberryi Anthias (Nemanthias carberryi)
<Again... in a group>
- Tailspot Blenny (Ecsenius stigmatura)
- Red Head Solon Fairy Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus solorensis)
I'd like to keep a group of 5-10 Zoramia lepacanthus (formerly Apogon leptacanthus). Along with the Zoramia lepacanthus, I'd like to keep a trio of Nemanthias carberryi, one Ecsenius stigmatura and one Cirrhilabrus solorensis. Based on my stocking plan, do you foresee any compatibility or overstocking issues?
<Mmm, no, not likely>
Also can you recommend an appropriate group size for the Zoramia lepacanthus?
<5, 7...>
I greatly appreciate your help. WetWebMedia is a fantastic resource, thank you!
<Welcome May. Bob Fenner>

New Tank and compatibility question(s) (SW Nitrate control, Stocking and compatibility 1/4/2010
My first question to the group (very recently setup a tank after a number of years without) however love the site and the excellent information it has provided.
Tank specifications (Fish only) been up for 4 months: 180 Gal, 76F, 1.023 SG, 0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite, 80? Nitrate
<Nitrates are a bit high.>
Livestock: 2 Ocellaris Clown, 10 various damsels, 1 CCS, 1 lawnmower blenny, 2 Sally Lightfoot, Spotted Hermit Crab, 2 Emerald Crabs, Turbo/Cat's Eye and Margarita snails and Red/Blue Hermits.
Environment: Crushed coral substrate, live rock (only ~15-20 pounds)
A) First, I know I need to increase the live rock and decrease my Nitrates (if this value is correct). I am using a master saltwater kit and the colors are so close for the Nitrates that it is difficult to accurately read.
<A common problem>
I have shopped for a digital tester for Nitrates (or any of the values I am currently testing) and most are very costly.
I took a sample to my LFS and they used the dip and read stripes and had three people read and each changed the values they thought the water was reading. Other than the potential high PH however they ended up telling me my water was fine. My good LFS is nearly an hour away and I do not make it there often however I plan on taking water with me the next time to hope they use something more accurate to at least validate or compare to the tests I am performing.
Any options for at least a more accurate, reasonably priced Nitrate reading I am not considering (I read Salifert tests may be better in terms of color variant)? (FYI, since the high values in month 2 I have not had any algae issues which I have read are complimentary to the high nitrates so another indication that they are potentially not as high as we believe they are reading).
<I've had luck with the red sea kits - you can dilute the sample using 1 part test water and 4 parts distilled water to get a 'better' read>
B) Trying to stabilize water in the second month, I added Thera-P at the suggestion of my LFS which did lower Ammonia/Nitrite but also pretty significantly changed my PH value (up to 8.4) where it stays today. I have asked LFS about the PH value and they indicated to let PH drop naturally over time. Do you recommend using Thera-P again in lower volume in addition to regular water changes, or accelerate funds to the purchase of a protein skimmer or just accelerate my addition of live rock to bring the potentially high Nitrate issue into check?
<I'm generally against additives to remove chemicals - skimming, and live rock will serve you better.>
C) I lost most of the snails I had in the tank around the time of adding the Thera-P and I thought this was due to the rapid PH change, however recently having replaced a number of Turbos I noticed I have lost 2 of them again this past week. I believe that the CCS may be problematic with them (and potentially the crabs) however he stays near the top of the tank and I have been trying to keep a pretty close eye on him and have not seen a problem with regards to the snails. Reading up more on the spotted Hermit Crab I am wondering if he may be the culprit (and perhaps also the perceived issue with less activity from the red/blue legged hermits)?
<Any of those are possible. CCS aren't the best 'starter' sea star read more about them here - they will be very predatory:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/chocchipstars.htm >
D) Last set of questions:
a. I have read a lot about your concern with CCS, specifically much on incorrect diet. I am currently rotating directly feeding frozen brine and algae sheets. Do I need to add anything further to his diet?
<Brine Shrimp are much like popcorn, Will need something more substantial - Mysis shrimp, small pieces of silverside, etc.>
b. Anything other than the above concerns noted that you see issue with the livestock/tank conditions?
<You did not mention what kinds of damsels you have, but some commonly sold become holy terrors when they mature.>
c. Eventual livestock I would like to add yet include Yellow Tang, Blue Tang (have read that tangs are able to singularly add as long as body types
are different and potentially need to add the YT last due to aggression/territorial), and an Angel (I know only one) perhaps a French.
Any concern with this wish list or anything else that you feel the tank is lacking for balance or your recommendation.
<What you suggest sounds fine. I would introduce both tangs together and last., and I would not even consider adding a blue tang without a FW and formalin dip, followed by at least 4 weeks of quarantine, as they tend to catch ich very quickly.>
Thank you very much for the board and the expert advice you provide.
<My pleasure.>

Moved tank around and now have sky high nitrates. 12/22/09
Hi there,
I have an Aqua reef 200 for over a year now. A few weeks ago I have removed the rear sump and put a new sump underneath. This was done over 24hrs.
All live stock was caught and put in QT. Rock was placed in buckets with tank water covering them and left by a radiator. The sand was done in the same way. After completing the changes the tank was put back in the same place. I have since had nitrates of 100+ using the Salifert test kit.
Ammonia and Nitrite are 0. I have done many water changes, minimum 10% max 30% and the nitrates haven't moved. I have cut back on my feeding, and still nothing. The tank is getting algae over the glass and over the sand.
I am removing the algae on the glass and syphoning out some sand when performing water changes. My friend who came over on the weekend to double check my results recommended I contact you.
Everything in the tank looks very healthy, fish appear happy as do corals (hammer, sun, Duncan, lobo, mushys, Monti, Zoas).
The tank has 4 X 24W T5
Running a small miracle mud bed in sump.
There is an Aqua Medic Turboflotor 1000 in sump and a Phosban reactor running Rowaphos.
<Remove this unit for now. Mmm, how much explanation is prudent here...?
You want/need the phosphate to help cycle out the NO3>>
I have been advised to start dosing with Vodka. I am up to 1.4mls/day and this is doses half in am and half in pm.
<Mmm, you could. I doubt that Carbon is rate-limiting/ed here>
I have recently added some mangroves to see if that helps.
<They won't>
I haven't lost any fish recently that would have caused a spike.
Do you have any advice for me.
<Mostly to take it easy, keep your skimmer clean/ed (the contact chamber and collection cup)... and be patient... this too shall pass, and likely w/o incident (loss of livestock health, vitality). Add some new macroalgae (my pick? Gracilaria/Ogo or Chaetomorpha sp.) to the sump, a RDP lighting arrangement, and punt>
Many thanks
Paul Christie
<As many welcomes. Bob Fenner>

Re: Moved tank around and now have sky high nitrates. 12/22/09
One quick question, what is RDP lighting?

<Oh! Reverse Daylight Photoperiod... the arrangement of having lighting on elsewhere/alternate sequence, with your main/display lighting. Aids greatly in discounting swings in DO (Dissolved Oxygen) pH et al... and in your
situation, the mineralizing of nitrates>
Ok two, what is punt?
<Sorry re... is a term referring to "kicking field goals"... as in giving up on other directions, allowing the "offense" as it were, their turn. In my poor vernacular, to "wait and see" rather than attempt more aggressive, overt means at this point... From the L., punctum... and in British parlance, to gamble I believe>
If you haven't have guessed I'm from UK
<No worries mate! BobF>
RE: Moved tank around and now have sky high nitrates.

Many thanks
<Do make it known how your progress goes here Paul... And a few words more re periodic exposure to "high nitrates": Turns out that of and by themselves, these compounds are not "that" deleterious... As a window into
water quality, it is actually "other things" that are associated with elevated [NO3] that are of concern... I fully suspect that with time going by, your usual and stepped up diligence at water changing, skimmer cleaning... that your nitrates will drop in weeks. BobF>

Re: Moved tank around and now have sky high nitrates. 12/23/2009
Hi Bob,
A quick question I wanted to include but forgot. Is the a max saturation point for nitrates in a tank?
<Do you mean is "there a max...?" Lower is definitely better... and chronic high [NO3] is to be avoided... Please peruse where you were referred to for a good grounding here. Bob Fenner>

Wet/Dry Filter Conversion/Nitrate Control 12/1/09
Hi Crew,
<Hello Jill>
Hope you all had a wonderful holiday!!
<A bit of a headache Friday but a good holiday.>
Well, due to the extra time off of work, I started messing around with my 125 FOWLR tank with two corner overflows. Each overflow goes down into the sump housing a BioWheel on each side along with the filter trays. I am soooo hoping I didn't mess myself up here. My problems have been high nitrates. Steady at 80 ppm.
<Yikes, are you measuring total nitrates or NO3?>
I use Chemi-Pure Elite along with foam filter pads and a protein skimmer I am not very happy with but that is another issue.
<But an issue that may help lower nitrate levels.>
After much reading of Bob's book and Wet Web, I decided to remove one of my BioWheels and replace with LS and LR. As I started adding in the sand, I realized I did not have room where the BioWheel was to maintain a DSB so now I have about 1 1/2" of sand with live rock on top and the foam filter pad.
So, basically one side of my sump has the filter pad, LR and sand, the other side still has the BioWheel along with the Chemi-Pure and filter pad.
My question is this, should I remove the sand as it is only 1 1/2 inches <deep> and should I keep Chemi-Pure
on that side as well? I may be way over thinking this but as the water is draining into the over flow,
one half is going on the side with the Chemi-Pure and 1/2 is going on the side with the LR so now I'm
worried since only 1/2 my water is being sent through the Chemi-Pure.
<If the foam pads are not cleaned a minimum of once a week, this can/will add to your nitrate problem.
If the water isn't being forced through the Chemipure, it will not be as efficient removing dissolved nutrients. More information from you would have given me the ability to provide a more informative answer.
Items such as your tank maintenance routine including frequency of water changes, fish load, types of fish kept, protein skimmer currently being used, amount of live rock in the tank, etc.
With your understanding that excess nutrients are the prime source of high nitrate levels, I will refer you here.
I know this is a FO tank but eventually, I would like to move up to a reef but I don't dare until I can resolve this nitrate issue. Thanks much and take care!!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Re Wet/Dry Filter Conversion/Nitrate Control 12/1/09
Sorry James for not providing more info.
<Is fine.>
I have a heavy fish load....A 6" dog face and a 2" Porc puffer, Harlequin Tusk, Copperband, Foxface, 5" Diamond Goby. The first 3 will be moving To a 180 gallon when it's cycled. I do a 20-30% water change every 2 weeks and
Replace the foam filter pads once a week at least...One side (the side I feed on)
Seems to collect more so that gets replaced about twice a week. The skimmer cup gets cleaned out every couple of days.
<Do you clean the reaction chamber? This is where the skimming "paste" will usually form and greatly decreases the efficiency of the skimmer.>
I've had this tank only about 4 months so I know I have a bit to work out. I don't know the brand of my skimmer, It's from Marineland.
My whole system came from them.
<Marineland makes two models of the in-sump skimmer. The model 100 and 300.
With your fish load, I'm hoping you have the later which is rated for 300 gallon tanks. The 300 has a height of
23", while the 100 has a height of 18" and is rated for 100 gallon tanks.
Go to this link, is this the type of skimmer you have?
I cleaned the skimmer real well last night as I found out sand got in it from all my messing around this weekend and it's starting to work much better. I also have about
100 lbs of LR in the main tank and just a couple of lbs in the sump area.
I just Purchased another air pump
<Air pump or powerhead? Powerheads are a much, much better choice for water movement.>
to put in the backside of my tank behind the live rock. I Believe there are dead spots back there and I'm hoping that will help.
<I'd be shooting for a 1200-1300gph total water movement in your system.>
Oh, ammonia, nitrite are 0, sg is 1.023 and phosphate < .5. I use RO water and Seachem salt.
I'm not sure if its NO3 or not. I use the API reef master test kit if that tells you anything.
<It's NO3, and 80ppm isn't good.>
Thanks again....I'll read more on nutrient control.
I think I get too heavy handed at feeding... :-(
<Doesn't help matters, much better to feed smaller amounts more often.>
Jill Johnson

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