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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Nitrates 11

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

Related FAQs: Nitrates 1, Nitrates 2, Nitrates 3, Nitrates 4, Nitrates 5, Nitrates 6, Nitrates 7, Nitrates 8, Nitrates 9, Nitrates 10Nitrates 11, Nitrates 12, Nitrates 13, Nitrates 14, & 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... NitritesAmmonia, Establishing Cycling, BiofiltrationPhosphate, Silicates, Biological Filtration, Fluidized Beds, Bio-Ball, Wet-Dry Media 1 Denitrification/Denitrifiers, Wet-Dry Filters, RO./Distilled/Treated WaterChemical FiltrantsDeep Sand Beds

Big fish, big wastes, ammonia/nitrates. Antennarius commerson pair pic in N. Sulawesi by DianaF.

urgent help... Killing marines through NO2 poisoning...       8/18/14
Hey Bob-
Since speaking to you a few weeks ago, I think I have had my worst time with fish keeping. Since restarting my tank using bacteria (I attempted to treat fish in 100 gallon trough), I have lost 16 of 19 fish.

Last night I had 6 fish, however, sometime during the overnight, I lost a 7 inch orange shoulder tang, 4 inch desjardini sailfin tang, as well as a fire clown fish.
I immediately measured water quality (1.023 sg, 82 degrees Fahrenheit, 0 AMM, 5 nitrites
<NitrItes? Incredibly high... WHY are you placing fishes in an uncycled system?>

) I understand the nitrites are high, but they have been high since I restarted the tank after putting fish in it. On Friday I did a 50 gallon water change, (1/3 water volume) and added more stability bacteria.
Do you believe in fact the elevated nitrites are what is killing these fish?
<.... Robert; are you joking? IF so, this is NOT funny>

Upon inspection of fish prior to last night, I noticed a string, white substance attached to the orange shoulder tang, as well as the clownfish.
The orange should also had blotches on him, it was not ich.
My lfs, upon similar description I am giving you, thinks its bacterial, and I should use formalin or quick cure. If it is nitrites, I know letting it run will eventually bring it down. If it is bacterial, when tank does cycle out, when does one know it is safe to add fish?
<.... ? Disappointing. LEARN TO USE WWM>

Also, if bacterial, will flipping on uv light help any? I have left it off in effort to help speed cycle tank, but I also understand where there is good bacteria growing, there could also be bad bacteria.
I am beginning to think I had way to many fish in a tank before, and that was the root of my issues. Going forward, if there is a such thing, I may just opt for less fish, more of the eye catching fish. Eel, lionfish, etc.
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marcyctrbfx2.htm
and the linked files above. Yes; all of them. Bob Fenner>
RE: urgent help      8/18/14

Well, no this is not a joke. I attempted a quarantine/hospital environment, and failed miserably keeping ammonia manageable. I simply had to
many fish. I attempted to eradicate the ich, restarting the tank. I felt, at the time, by best interest was to get the bigger body of water (my tank) up and running, use as much bacteria as I possibly could, and get them back in there tank. This was not by design. I would never advocate doing this, but given I had no where else to go with them, I had to do what I thought was right. My lfs would NOT take them in, and I do not know anyone well enough in my area to spare my fish.
With that said, and again, I know it sucked, and wasn't ideal whatsoever, moving forward, do these symptoms sound like velvet, brook, etc, or is that simply the byproduct of high nitrites? (again no ammonia) For what its worth, and maybe this is incorrect, according to an article by Randy Holmes Farley, nitrites in saltwater are not nearly as toxic as freshwater, and some fish can live in nitrites in the 100's.
<Not NitrItes; NitrAtes. KEEP READING>

My dilemma, or oncoming dilemma, is, is this a disease, that needs to be treated again, or something that needs time to cycle out and stabilize.
The highest ammonia level I have seen, measuring once per day the last two weeks, was .5, and it lasted 3 days, in which all of the remaining fish lived thru. Again, I know I screwed up horrible, should have let the fish and the ich be, and not attempt to keep that many fish in an uncycled environment. Moving forward, how do I know if right now I am dealing disease or new tank syndrome?

Nitrates, Phosphates, and Macro-algae question  3/6/07 Greetings, Crew! Hope everything is going well! <Hello Mina, sorry for the long wait.  This is the fifth time I have tried to reply, let's see if it works.> We are writing to you with hope of getting some of our questions answered.    Basically it has to do with nitrates.  Yes, we have read most of the Nitrate FAQ's, but we're still having some difficulty piecing things together, and hoping you would be able to shed some light on the right path to follow.  So, here goes: We have always understood that the goal is to reduce nitrates and phosphates as much as possible in a reef aquarium, but we can't seem to keep the nitrates down. System: 55 gallon tank (set up since August '06) 80 lbs live rock 25 lbs live sand 50 lbs crushed coral 500w Halide 220w PC (110w Actinic - always on, 110w 10K - off when halides on) 40 gallon sump (25 gallons of which is refugium) 50 lbs live sand small skimmer 110w PC (55 10K & 55 Blue) Parameters: pH 8.2 salinity 1.023 temp 78 deg F Alkalinity 10 dKH calcium 420 ammonium/nitrite 0 ppm phosphate 0 ppm nitrate 20 ppm and climbing Livestock:  Yellow Tang, Coral Beauty Angel, Diamond Goby, Copperband Butterfly <Fragile.  Watch this guy.  Beware of hunger strikes.>, Yellowtail Damsel, two Clarkii clowns (one in the main tank watching the corals, and one in the refuge (banished for stealing food and abusing other fish), chocolate chip star (refuge), black brittle star (main tank), coral banded shrimp (main tank), and arrow crab <Watch him with the clown.> (refuge).  Chaetomorpha in the refugium (medium sized piece). The corals have all been growing well (zoos, mushrooms, SPS, LPS, xenia). They had been dull in color under the PC lights, but now are showing intense colors since we added the halides and put in new actinic bulbs. We try not to overfeed the fish or the corals (0-2 times per day), in fact our sand sifting starfish just died (most likely from starvation). The orange diamond goby digs like crazy looking for food and the sand is very clean. The water looks clear as crystal, though removed water during water changes looks yellow. I've typically changed 15 gallons once a week, though last week I changed 40 gallons in an attempt to reduce the nitrates from 20 ppm. It only dropped to around 15. A week later it is back up to 20 again. <This is due to the activity of bacteria.> The algae in our tank grow very slowly (a small amount of hair algae   in the main tank, the cheto <Chaeto> in the refugium) except for the corraline <Coralline> (red and purple) which has been increasing on the live rock quite well. It is my understanding that green algaes <algae> require both phosphates, and nitrates to grow. The fact that our phosphate level is near zero (due to RODI water use?)<Possibly, more likely your Alk, and Ca levels, and the fact that the algae are using what is left.> probably explains the slow growth. Here is the question . . . if nitrate export through cheto <Chaeto>   growth is desired, isn't SOME phosphate required? <Yes, and the algae are using it.> Am I not fighting a losing battle with the nitrates <You said that you only had one piece.  How much damage can you do by yourself at a buffet?  Add more.> if the alge <algae> can't consume them due to a lack of phosphate? <The two are not interrelated.  The algae are fixing the NO3, you just have more NO3 than the algae can consume.> I know it sounds crazy to think about   deliberately adding phosphate to the system, <You do every time that you feed your fish.> but it almost seems that that's what I would need to do to get the cheto to grow and thus reduce the nitrates. What do you guys think? Does the tank need more time to mature? (The majority of the live rock came out of a matured tank) Do we need more rock? Or maybe we need to change the ground   medium (from crushed coral mix to all-sand bed?) <Adding enough sugar fine sand around the live rock to bring the sand bed to about four inches will help out with the NO3 consuming bacteria.  Clostridium I think?>  We're not looking  forward to breaking down the tank (nor do we want to) <Nor do you have to.>, but the corals need the nitrate level to stabilize below 10. <Corals use NO3 too.>  Any ideas?  <If you are using media like bio-balls, or bio-wheels slowly remove them, as they are NO3 reactors, also clean all filter media weekly.  Wash out the pads well with tank water.  This will preserve the bacteria on them.  Also use activated carbon, and PolyFilters.  Rinse these out weekly with tap water.  The Carbon two to three ounces changed weekly, and the PolyFilters can be replaced after three months.  This should help.> Appreciate the help! <Any time.  Brandon> Regards, Rich & Nina

High Nitrates   2/27/07 Hi there <Dave> I have just spent 2 hours reading your site on high nitrates.  What i  thought I was doing correct is not.  I have a 60 gal custom with 3 chambers in back of it.  I bought it used for $25 because it had a crack (acrylic) in the top.  I put a new top on it and it is working great. <Ah, good> I also have a CPR Bak pak that does great and a gamma UV that I just put on.  My nitrates are at 80. <Mmmm> Everything else is good.  The tank has been set up for 4 months.  It has 1 perc. clown, 1 hippo tang, 1 blue headed wrasse, 1 cleaner shrimp, 1 coral banded shrimp and a bunch of snails and crabs that my wrasse hasn't  had for dinner yet. <Unusual... this Thalassoma generally does eat such organisms...>   I have 62 #s of LR and 1 and a half inches of live sand.    After reading your site I realize that my bio-balls that are submerged in water are a no no.  My sand is also not deep enough.    <Yes and yes> I've started taking the bio-balls out and are planning on just replacing it with more LR behind the tank. <Good moves>   I just did a 25 gal water change with RO/DI water that I make according to your specifications.  My question is should I be able to get control of the nitrates by removing the balls and replacing with LR and not changing the depth of the sand.  Do you have any better advice.    Should I use a ceramic media to help? <Mmm, I think I would hold off on this media addition... and put the time, resource into at least considering the installation of an "accessory" sump... A refugium... with its own lighting, macroalgae, DSB... Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm the linked files above...> Thanks Dave <Welcome Dave. Bob Fenner>

Nitrate   2/22/07 I recently put in a hang on refugium (6 weeks ago), added live sand and live rock, to my existing 90 gallon fish only tank. The plants seem to be doing poorly in the refugium and the nitrate has spiked in the tank to a dangerous 60+. <Yikes... for what this portends> I am doing water changes and don't know what is the cause. Also, many snails have died, as well as several shaving bush. If my 50/50 light over the refugium an issue; if it is to close to the water, or if it is not on all night???? <Should not be on continuously... best that it alternates with your main tank illumination... can overlap> Do I need to add certain elements? <Mmm, not w/o knowing there is a deficiency (by testing)... better to not get involved with imbalance issues... better to try to "re-center" by water changes...> The reason for adding a refugium and more live products to reduce nitrate has become the problem. <Is there much substrate in the refugium or your display system? What are your values for alkalinity, calcium and magnesium? Bob Fenner>

Re: Nitrate     2/23/07 Thanks for the advice, and timely responses. I might try to convert my bio-ball area to a refugium area; I have a newer AMiracle 24 inches wet/dry (too expensive to toss). I will add to the sand bed, as well. Thanks again. <Ahh! Excellent choices. BobF>

Nitrate levels off the charts!  What to do.   2/6/07 <Hi Mike, Mich here with you in the 570 area code!> Wondering if you can shed some light as to the origin of my extremely high Nitrate levels...I have a marine 125 gallon tank which I recently switched over from a fish only to a reef system. I kept the original water but got rid of the bio ball mess in the false back of the tank. I decided to go with the water already in the tank as I had a few fish I did not want to relocate. I think this is probably the root of my problem, but read on... <I'm reading!  Also wondering what kind of substrate/sand bed you have.> The conversion is about 1 month old, I added a protein skimmer (never had one before!) <Is it foaming?> and am utilizing two canister (HOT Magnum) filters for Phosguard and charcoal purification. One of the magnums delivers water to a UV light. <OK> OK, all water parameters are good...Nitrites .1 <Prefer 0 ppm>/ph 8.2/ammonia nonexistent reading...everything is great except the Nitrates which read OVER 100! <Yikes!> Wow, 20% water changes each week had not reduced the levels...I do have a lot of algae growing in the tank which I believe is now on the downswing. <A good sign.> I'm thinking the tank has finally cycled. Lots of critters to help with the algae control (snails - various types - cleaner shrimp <Won't help algae>, emerald crabs, hermit crabs). Only 4 fish now in the tank, one large yellow tang, two medium size blue damsels, and one gold striped maroon clown medium sized. <How much are you feeding them?> Should I simply continue with the water changes, maybe every week rather than two, and let nature take its course, or would you recommend anything else. <I would do a couple of big water changes here and see if you get a reduction or at the very least increase the frequency of your water changes if a large volume water change is too much to handle.> I realize that a refugium would probably also be a good idea, but due to lack of room I'm hoping that the false back will eventually host some algae development...if not, I may have to MAKE some room! <I would think you should be able to set up a refugium in this space.  Definitely worth a try!> Thanks! <Welcome!  -Mich> Mike

Re: Nitrate levels off the charts!  What to do, part two   2/6/07 Mich, thanks very much for your reply!...to answer your questions: <Hi Mike!  You are quite welcome!> - sand bed is medium grain 3-4inches deep/I put in about 110lbs all together, 30lb live sand/80lbsdry I forget the brand...along with a bunch of live rock (at least 50lbs) I had some other live rock in the fish only tank that I left in as well... <OK.> - skimmer is a hang on Bermuda type, yes it is working, getting gunk out, not loads of skimmate, but I'd say about a fifth to a fourth of the container/day is average amount (dark green) <OK.> - I am feeding the fish once every three days... they are a bit hungry, I see them nibbling on the algae a bit...but they aren't starving...I spot feed the maroon with Mysis shrimp/brine for the tang and some flake for the damsels...I take care not to overfeed them for sure. <OK.> Also, I am putting in Bionic Part1/Part2 (30ml of each every other day), and started feeding the few corals I have (green star polyps/yellow polyps/one zoo colony and one candy coral frag) some live phytoplankton (sp?) <Mmm, I would stop this, at least temporarily, if not permanently.  These corals are photosynthetic and don't require additional foods.  Though, the Candy Cane (Caulastrea) might appreciate a few meaty bits placed near the oral opening.  The phytoplankton can be very polluting.>   I will start doing more water changes as you suggest, I'll beat this thing yet! <You can do it!> Thanks for all your comments! <You're welcome!  Hope they help!  -Mich> Mike Fluval Canister Filter for Sump Intake? Not Safe... 12/2/06 Hi Bob, <Hey Laura, JustinN with you today.> My husband and I have a 150 gallon tank with approximately 60 lbs of live rock.   <I would add more rock to this, for natural filtration.> We have had a recurring problem with nitrates and find ourselves doing 30% water changes weekly.   <10-25% weekly is recommended anyhow.> Our filtration system consists of a Fluval FX5 canister filter.  We do not have a protein skimmer but we plan to purchase one soon.   <This combination is likely your source of nitrates. The canister filter, unless cleaned thoroughly and frequently, will tend to become a nitrate farm. Add to that the lack of waste proteins being removed by a protein skimmer, and you've got nitrate issues.> Our bio load is relatively small in relation to the tank size.  A tang, an angelfish, a couple clowns and two sea anemones currently inhabit the tank.  We would like to install an in-sump protein skimmer, but we want to continue utilizing the canister filter instead of purchasing a wet-dry filter.   <A live rock filled sump would likely provide better results than a wet/dry here anyhow.> We were wondering if there is a way to use the canister filter's intake/output in conjunction with the sump.  Would it be possible (and effective) to place the canister output hose inside the sump (instead of the tank) and then use another pump to push the water from the sump back into the tank?   <Not practical (or safe!) to do this. Without drilling the tank, an over-the-back weir will be your only practical solution. It would be nearly impossible to keep the canister flow matched to the return pump, eventually leading to an overflow somewhere in the line.> We were hoping to avoid the use of a weir or a protein skimmer that hangs off the side of the tank.  I have done some extensive Googling but I haven't seen much documentation on the topic.  Any advice/suggestions you can provide would be greatly appreciated. <I would suggest using hang-on-back weirs, as you're unfortunately wishing not to do. If you choose this solution, do use a pair of weirs per drain, for redundancy. You're simply too likely to run into severe problems with your proposed setup.> Thanks in advance for your help, Laura <No problems, Laura. Glad to be of service. -JustinN>

The usual question; high nitrates  12/1/06 <Hi, Mich with you today.>  Very informative forum, please keep it going.  <Thank you for your kind words.>  I have a 72gal with approximately 40lbs of live rock and about 3 inches of live sand substrate.  <May want to consider slowing adding a little more live rock, just a piece at a time.>  I have been doing 12gal water changes per week for the last three weeks using pre-mixed salt water.  I check the nitrate levels of the new water being introduced and they are zero.  <Very good.>  This is a very new tank at six weeks and I have one tang (med), one tomato clown (med) and a Pajama Cardinal.  <I think a little on the heavy side for such a new tank.>  Also in the tank are about 50 various cleaners, crabs and snails.  <Good.>      The nitrates are coming down but very slowly (about 5ppm with each water change) and currently they are around 30 to 35ppm.  I am using an in sump protein skimmer and wet/dry filter with bio balls.  The protein skimmer seems to be working well in that I am emptying the canister every other day and there is a lot of particulate bi-product.  Also changing the filter weekly.  <I know it's not the most practical, but daily changes would be better and will help reduce your nitrates>      I have reduced feeding to three times per week and only what they consume in a five min time frame, removing anything that is left.  <Very good.>      My question is do I need more patience and give the tank more time to cycle through, or will eliminating the bio balls be beneficial?  <Patience is a requirement for this hobby, that being said I would eliminate the bio balls.>  I have read that the bio balls can be a nitrate factory.  <Tis true.> Thanks for the advise. <Welcome.>

Nitrates... source, cure   11/30/06 Hi, <Hey Jim, JustinN with you this morning.> I was told to do a 15% weekly water change out to lower my nitrates and some how with each water change out the testing using the aquarium pharmaceuticals test kit reading shows the same very high nitrate level. The level does not drop.   The only chemicals I added to the tank was Prime water conditioner, Aquariums Pharmaceuticals pH 8.2 buffer, Stress Coat, Seachem Reef Complete. <Prime and Stress Coat are both dechlorinators and serve the same purpose. I would stick with Prime here. Stress coat also has aloe Vera extract in it, which is of questionable use. Also, all company and product names are to be capitalized.> I ran a test with the nitrate kit on a bucket of fresh water and it had zero nitrates.  I then added the salt and again zero.  I then added the ph buffer to the bucket water and again zero.  I added the prime water conditioner and again zero. <Are you adding salt to untreated tap water here? If you are utilizing some sort of filtered water, such as reverse osmosis/deionization sourced water, Prime and Stress Coat are completely unnecessary here.> So this brings forth my question.  Can adding calcium to the tank cause the nitrate test kit to give false reading? <No> All my fish seem healthy but I know the nitrate level should be lower than red lined.   <What is 'red lined'?> I have a 55 gallon with five small fish in it.  None are above two inches long.  I have about 45 lbs of live rock and two bags of live sand.   This brings to mind another question.  Can the rock or sand cause the high nitrate levels? <Mmm, no, would be a consumer of the nitrates. You don't mention what 5 fish you have, either. Some fish are simply larger waste producers than others, regardless of size. It may be that you have 5 larger adult-sized fish and signs of overcrowding/overstocking are showing themselves.> I am running a Unimax pro 250 canister filter and a small bio wheel filter.  From what I read it is important to have good bacteria given media to live on and the good bacteria eat the ammonia and at the end of the chain is nitrates.   <DING DING DING! We've found our sources! While its true that the beneficial bacteria needs a place to live for it to do its job, canister and BioWheel filters simply are not a good solution for this in a marine tank, in most cases. Your live rock and sand will house more than enough beneficial bacteria to maintain your tank. If you're dead set on keeping these filters in place, do be sure to clean out the canister filter at least once a week, as these will usually become nitrate farms. This canister is likely the single-handed source of your nitrate woes.> I am running a Berlin Air Rise skimmer to help remove the proteins in the upper water level and am running three power heads fro extra current.  So why the high nitrates that don't seem to lower even with water changing????   HELP Jim <Simply put, Jim, inappropriate technologies at use. Removal of your canister filter will likely make a major difference in the quality of your tank's water. Hope this helps you! -JustinN>

Skimmer vs. Filter. and a whole lotta nitrates! 11/25/2006 Hi I had a small accident with my Skilter filter and no longer have a skimmer as a result.  My question is do you think I can get away with just the Unimax pro 250 canister filter and my small bio wheel filter on my 55 salt tank or must I replace the skimmer. <<A skimmer does not do the same job as a filter, so yes, you should acquire a skimmer. I am not a fan of the 'skilter' types, and would opt for a stand-alone skimmer. I love Aqua-C's.  A would also phase out use of the canister and bio-wheel on your tank, as I see below you are utilizing live rock.>> I have the intake to the Unimax filter about five inches below water level.  I am also using two power heads top side/water level and I do not see any foam build up when I use them as aeration. <<This is not an appropriate test of the need for a skimmer.>> My tank only has live sand and rock and five fish. <<Only 5 fish could mean only 5 Chromises, or only 5 barracuda!>> I was feeding flake food twice a day but now have gone to once a day and plan to lower it to once every two days. <<Try to vary the diet as much as you can, providing frozen as well.>> My Blue spotter puffer <<Are you feeding your puffer flake foods?  To grind down it's beak and be in good health, your puff needs crunchy foods like crabs legs, snails, cockles, mussels, shell-on people shrimp, and anything else (except fish) you can get in the seafood department in your grocery store.  Come visit www.pufferresources.net, for any info you need, or to just chat about your awesome pet!>> And fire angel as well as sand sifting goby are grazers <<They are not only grazers, although they may pick at the rock, that is not where all their nutrition can come from.>> however puffer and goby and maroon striped clown as well as yellow tail damsel like the flake food but I think they can survive the lower flake food feeding. <<Please do amend this diet.>> It is also my hope to lower the waters nitrate level with the lower feedings as this level is in the red zone on the testing chart. <<Get on some large water changes in the meantime,  Your tank really is overstocked, not by the number of fish, as that number means little, but by the adult size, aggressiveness, and waste of your fish. An upgrade is in order.>> I used Prime water conditioner when I last changed 50% of the tanks water and  immediately retested the nitrate level and still it shows the same reading about 160  Did I do something wrong or is prime the cause? <<Prime would not affect this reading.  Likely that the nitrates were even higher off the chart before.  Re-test to be sure.>> I use Instant Ocean as the salt source and it says no nitrates.  The Unimax pro 250 has only been running going on two weeks.   Will this canister filter help lower the nitrates? <<No.>> James <<James, start looking at daily water changes of ~25% until your nitrate problem is resolved. In the meantime, look into acquiring a larger tank for your fish. Hope to see you at www.pufferresources.net! Lisa>>

Cell Pore/Nitrates  11/21/06 Hi, guys, <Hey Al, JustinN here with you today.> Great website. <Thank you, is quite the collaborative effort (of which I am still getting used to!)> My question concerns Cell Pore (Dr. Smith product).  I found links (concerning Cell Pore) on your website, but the links have led me to hours of reading without any mention of the product. <Mmm, an internet browsing tip: if you search Google, with site: wetwebmedia.com after the search phrase, you will receive results only from WWM. Furthermore, if you click "Cached", after the summary of the result for any given page, Google will present the page, with your search terms highlighted. Simplifies the sometimes otherwise cryptic method of dredging for information.> I'm currently running a 120 gallon reef tank with 160 lbs. live rock. There's a 40 gallon sump that is loaded with Cell Pore.  I'm getting ready to upgrade to a 180 tank with a much larger sump. <Very nice> Is the Cell Pore a nitrate factory or is it also a denitrator such as live rock?  I don't want to keep this product around if it's only going to add nitrates into my new reef tank. Either way, I will be utilizing much of the new sump for macro algae.  Do you think this product would be better suited for a FOWLR tank? Thanks! Al <Well, Al, I don't have personal experience with Cell Pore, and while it appears to be a good product, based on what I found when searching Google re WWM for Cell Pore, I would tend to lean towards the natural side. If you're going to be utilizing the sump as a macroalgae refugium, I really see no need for the Cell Pore. Seems more maintenance work than necessary to me. That said, if it were me/mine, I would also add live rock rubble to my sump, to act as another form of denitrification. Hope this helps you! -Justin> Power filters a possible nitrate factory?  11/18/06 Hello. Great website! < Greetings, the Crew appreciates your praise! > I have a 55 gal. FOWLR saltwater tank and I am using an Emperor 280 and  Aquaclear 70 as my filtration device. My question is, will the BioWheel of the Emperor and the ceramic balls of the Aquaclear become nitrate factories? < You did mention LR, but not how much. Skimmer of proper size and quality? With a decent amount of LR, a decent skimmer, and good husbandry (water changes, not overfeeding etc) your power filters may not become nitrate factories. Diligent maintenance is a must with these filters to ensure they don't acquire too much gunk. If you have at least 50lbs of LR, a good skimmer, and are not overstocked/overfeeding I would recommend removing one or both over time. > Thanks for your time. < Most welcome and best of luck -- Emerson >

Marine Nitrates...Not Such a New Twist - 11/13/06 I have a 55-gallon saltwater tank, with about 45 to 50 pounds of live rock in it and about 1 to 1-1/2 inches of live sand in it.  For filtration I have a Super-skimmer (with very good skim), two powerheads, and finally an Eheim 2229 Pro-II.  I have a semi-heavy bio load (yellow tang, coral beauty, false clown, blue damsel, brittle star, two cleaner shrimps, and a feather duster). <<Mmm, yes...and I would submit to you that this tank is too small for the tang>> OK with that said, of course I have a high nitrate problem. <<It would help me to know/have a test result of what your nitrate level is.  If this is a FOWLR system, nitrate levels of below 20ppm are generally considered acceptable...if this is a reef system, nitrate levels below 5ppm are usually fine (most corals require "some" nitrate>> My question though is a little different because of my ignorance on how to get rid of nitrates. <<Not different mate...see these type questions quite often.  Have you read here ( http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm) and among the linked files at the top of the page?>> But my Eheim has an option to where it does not have to be WET-DRY but it can always have a flow of water through it, never having any air in it.  Would this benefit? <<Possibly.  The live rock does better/has the capacity to further process the nitrate...something the wet/dry can't do>> Would I have to change my media in it (standard Eheim media substrate)? <<No...but if you're going to do this, I would recommend just using the filter for chemical filtration>> Is there any other way you would recommend using this piece (if this is not a good idea)? <<Ah yes, as just stated>> I don't really have the money for a new system or I would go with a sump set up. <<I see>> Thank you in advance and sorry for bringing up an old subject but I couldn't find an answer for this one. <<No worries...but please do read through the information at the links provided.  Regards, Eric Russell>> Re: Marine Nitrates...Not Such a New Twist - 11/16/06 Well I wanted to thank you for letting me bounce ideas off of you. <<Always welcome>> I did change almost everything to live rock rubble (about 6 pounds worth) in the Eheim, all except the bottom layer of Eheim media, and changed it to where it was only wet - it never fills with air. <<Very good>> I also added the Fluval surface skimmer to my protein skimmer and it made a HUGE difference; almost doubled my output!! <<Indeed...an excellent addition/modification>> Well all this said, my nitrates went from 50 ppm to 10 ppm literally overnight and no spike in nitrite or ammonia (fingers crossed we hope it stays). <<Yay!>> As far as the Yellow Tang goes, it is something I have to consider.  I am in the process of trying to get a 75gal, do you think that will be okay. <<Much better, yes>> Also I know some things can take a while but he has been in there for about eight months and he is still very bright yellow no signs if fin degradation or LLR. <<As you stated...can take a while.  I can't offer you any true scientific data, but my own experience/observations, and most recently, the unending number of queries we get concerning problems relating to these fishes, has convinced me that many/most tang species suffer behavioral/developmental retardation from being kept/gown up in "too small" systems>> When we first got him he was being kept in a small tank, 12 gallon I believe, and was very sick (bad ich) and very dull in color.  It took him a while to recuperate but he seems to being doing well, eats VERY WELL (lol). <<Excellent to hear>> Well thanks again, your site is an absolute wealth of information, I don't know what I would do without it. <<We're all very pleased you find the site useful.  Regards, EricR>> Bio Balls & Nitrate Question 11/12/06 Hello Crew <Howdy> Prior to purchasing any soft coral for my 55 gallon tank I wanted to ask your opinion on filtration.   <Ask away> I have about 70 lbs of life rock and a 3 inch live sand bed.  I have an Aqua C Remora skimmer, 2 Hagen 30 power heads and a Hagen 50 power head in the middle that has a rotating wave maker head on it. <Sounds good so far> I currently have an Emperor 400 filter with bio wheels and the nitrates are around 20.  I know that I need to lower them and was wondering if I should just use the Emperor as water movement and remove the bio wheels from it as well as the filter cartridges.  The skimmer has the pre - skimmer attachment and I can add activated carbon in that.  I also currently have a lot of fake decorations.  Would they be Nitrate traps? <If not kept clean, yes> Any advice is much appreciated. Thank you for your time. <I would consider the bio wheels as unnecessary rather than a nitrate trap.  They are too small to really make a difference with that much rock.  I would take them out.  I'd also make sure your pre filter and skimmer are kept clean.  Cheers! -- Dr. J> Nitrates   11/7/06 Hi Sir (can I call you James?) <Certainly.> I am back with another question. It's about the nitrate levels in my tank. It is only when you mentioned it is preferable to keep nitrates at about 10 ppm that I have attempted to bring them down. I did what you recommended and increased my weekly water changes to around 10% (about 6 gallons). However, I can't seem to achieve this goal.  In fact I have increased changing the water from 6 to 10 gallons twice a week for about 2 weeks now and still the nitrate level continues to hover between 20 to 40 ppm.  My Saltwater Master Liquid Test Kit seems to be ok as I tested it on aged water that I use for my water changes and got a 0 nitrate reading. What could be causing this? <Make sure that the test kit is not measuring total nitrogen (N).  If so, you will have a higher reading. We are interested in NO3-N.  If your kit does measure (N), your actual NO3 reading would be about 10ppm.> Please note that: I no longer over feed my current fish load (two false percula clown fish, a purple firefish, and three green Chromis). My frogspawn and hammer coral have tripled in size. Just by looking at them, I can tell that they are doing fine. This by the way is the only coral I purchase so far. It is also worth mentioning that there are two button polyp, a mushroom, and a lot of feather dusters (I count 11) growing from the live rocks not to mention 2 serpent stars that I just recently discovered. There is also a gorilla crab (I think) that I am still trying to get rid off. I have a 4.7 gallon (total water volume) refugium section in my DIY sump that has a 5' deep miracle mud as substrate, about 5 lbs of live rock rubble, and Green "Spaghetti algae" Chaetomorpha that now had double in size (from 10 to 20 ounces). It currently covers the entire top portion of the refugium and is about 4' thick. It is lighted by a home depot 13 watt 7000k pc lighting. <Is best to thin some of the algae out from time to time.> My ammonia and nitrate are all undetectable. I am still having few outbreaks of hair algae even with just an 8 hour lighting period. I pull them individually every time I see them. Doing this annoys me. It is probably like pulling the hair off somebody else's nose (jesting). <Do you have an algae clean-up crew such as Astrea and/or Turban (Turbo) Snails along with some Blue Leg Hermit Crabs?> I have a 125 gallon Coralife Needle Wheel Super Skimmer. It runs 24/7 and produces almost a cupful of black stuff every two to three days (dry skimming). <Do clean the reaction chamber weekly for best efficiency.> I do not have filters like sponges, bio balls, etc. I currently am using the Chemi-Pure product as you recommended. By the way, is running Chemi-Pure and GAC 24/7 an overkill or should I stop using the activated carbon? <I would not use the GAC.  Phosphate is used in the process of carbons and can leech back into the water.> My current water flow is about 11.86 times my tanks total water volume per hour. I am still having difficulty with reef aquaria lingo but I think it is what reefers describe as detritus. Why do I mention this? You see I keep seeing detritus being blown away from my live rock. And I mean continuously. It never seems to end. I use a turkey baster to help my powerheads (2 maxi jet 1200) blow them off the rock. I have sugar fine oolitic white sand that is about 3 inch deep and about 1/2" of live sand on top of it. Having said this, do you think if would be best to strip my tank, clean everything or should I just add another powerhead to increase circulation? How about an AZ-NO3 Nitrate Remover? <You should use a gravel/sand cleaner siphon and remove as much of the detritus as possible during your water changes.  In using one of these, you will have to control the output hose by squeezing with your fingers to still suck up the detritus but minimize the sand being taken out of the system.  Better to get one with a small diameter hose and not one sized for your tank.  I do not recommend nitrate removing products as they are just a band-aid.  Much better to eliminate the source of the problem.> I have been dying to bring my current nitrate to 10ppm so that I can start adding corals. Thanks again sir for being there. <You're more than welcome.  Do search our site re nitrate control if you have not done so already.  James (Salty Dog)> Jon Glorioso

High nitrates  10/24/06     Hi Bob, Let me start by thanking you and the rest of you for such a wonderful site! I have spent countless hours reading through articles an faq's. (as a matter of fact my fiancé calls herself a fish tank window) lol. <Heee! Have you ever noticed the similarity between the words fiancé and finance? Reef and grief?!>     Now to get to the point. I have a 55 gal want to be reef. I say this because right now it is FOWLR. This is my first attempt at trying to keep inverts. The tank has been up and running for about 8 months and it has about 60lbs of LR. I have a 260 watt pc lighting setup (130w actinic 130w 10k) the blue light runs for 11hrs and the white for 7hrs starting 2hrs after the blue and turning off 2 hrs before. I screwed up by adding fish first. I have a blue regal tang <Mmm, needs more room...> a neon blue velvet damsel a scooter dragonet and a lawnmower blenny. About 15 blue hermits and 6 unidentified small hermits. DSB about 4-5 inches deep, Eheim pro canister and home made filter that I use for charcoal, Chemi-pure, and power-phos also a SeaClone 150 protein skimmer. <You'll want to upgrade...> I recently purchased a RO/DI unit to purify my water. I use IO reef crystals for salt mix. I am thinking of changing this do to the fact that when I make the saltwater the dKH is at 12 right away. <No worries... this is intended> (RO/DI water is 0dkg)This way I could dose with Kalkwasser and not raise the dKH too high. <Mmm....>   My problem is that my nitrates are about 30-40ppm. I only feed my fish once a day and only about half of one cube say 3/4 in. square of frozen meaty foods. The dragonet only eats the live food in the tank (copepods) and the lawnmower has done a very nice job of taking care of my hair algae and diatom problem. The tang and damsel eat a lot of Caulerpa which I have planted in the tank. Now when I do my water changes (10% weekly) obviously my nitrates go down but within two days are right back up to 40ppm. I clean out my filter every other week with my water change. I suspect that the filter is the cause of my nitrates but do you think I could run this setup without the filter? <Mmm, not as it presently set up, no> I plan on adding one more fish (Scott's Fairy wrasse) But I would like to keep mushrooms and some soft corals that don't require to much light but I must get my nitrates down. Please help I am at a loss. Thanks in advance and keep up the good work. P.S. I love your books they are great! <Mmmmmm, much to contemplate... I would read re switching out the canister filter, definitely upgrade the skimmer here... and very likely add a live sump/refugium... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and as much of the linked files above as you deem useful. Bob Fenner>

Re: Nitrate hell.. :)... toward redemption   10/29/06 Thanks so much Bob! <Welcome Cory> O.k. I re-read through the articles on nitrates and the FAQ section of DSB's.  My current sand bed is probably about 2-3" of medium grade sand.  From what I read, it seems the best method would be to create a DSB from what I currently have in the display tank would be to slowly vacuum out my current sand to remove as much detritus as possible without polluting my water chemistry too bad.  Then add 2-3" of fine grain aragonite slowly a few scoops at a time and mix it with the sand I currently have rather just laying the fine grain on top of what is there. <Sounds good> Does that sound like a reasonable plan? <Yes> Thanks again, Cory Workman <Welcome. BobF>

Nitrates at 20ppm  10/4/06 Hello crew. I am having a problem with nitrates in my 120 gallon (want it to be a reef tank). As of Right now my setup is 150 pounds totoka live rock, (this stuff is so porous and lightweight its like having 200 pounds in my system) and 40 pounds various base rock, TurboFlotor 1000 multi skimmer (producing great skim-mate very nasty) 40 gallon sump. As for biologics two ocellaris clown fish sixline wrasse 40 astrea snails and 15 scarlet reef hermit crabs. For three months this systems nitrate level was at 40 ppm and then settled to 20 ppm 2 months after. Since then it has held steady and I can not get it to drop. I am performing two water changes a week at 10 gallons each Nitrates of source water are zero. I use ro/di water. I also use Algone for My chemical filtration this works really well it is also supposed to reduce nitrates. But it has definitely help with diatoms and it keeps my water crystal clear. And I am telling you it really picks up nutrients you should smell this thing after being in the water for five days. Anyways I know you can't put any coral in until nitrates are below 0.5ppm but I cant get them to drop. I was thinking about adding a phos reactor with some nitrate sponge from Kent marine but I thought this would be just like adding bio balls. And then a second thought was to add a refugium to the system but I am not sure of how to do this. Any ideas would be great. thanks. <<Higgins: In my experience, once of the best ways to control nitrates is to have macro algae growing in a sump.  I used to think that only a protein skimmer would do the trick.  However, like you I couldn't get it down to zero.  Then I put a clump of Chaetomorpha "Chaeto" and tuck it into a corner of the sump and clipped an outdoor power compact light above it.  Chaeto is easy to control and when it grows too big you can harvest some and share it with another reefer.  Within a few weeks, nitrates were at zero.  Then, after several months, I noticed one day that my protein skimmer wasn't working.  I freaked thinking that my nitrates would be through the roof.  They were still at zero.  Best of luck, Roy>> Filter Problem Caused High Nitrates   9/16/06 Dear Crew My 100g saltwater tank has been up and running since 3/2006.  I currently have 2 yellow tang, 1 coral beauty, and 1 clown fish.  I had 3 more fish prior to this disaster.  My problem is last week my filtration system was not working properly.  I tested the water on Friday, and tests were good.  Several days later I noticed the fish were not acting normally.  I did another water check and found nitrates to be 80+.  I looked around and found the filter was running, but not filtering the water.  I did a 20gal water change.  The following day I did another 20gal water change.  Between the 2 water changes and the filter working properly, nitrates dropped to 10.  During the period of high nitrates, I lost 2 fish.  Last night one of my clown fish died, and now the other one is not acting normally.  I am very concerned for the remaining fish.  The 2 tang and angel seem fine, but the clown fish that died also seemed fine.  They seem to be eating, but so were the fish that died.  Are the remaining fish in danger even after lowering the nitrates? Thanks for your help!! <<Catherine:  Normally, once you reduce nitrates, everything should be OK.  But, you should continue to monitor the situation and be prepared to do additional water changes.  Best of luck, Roy>>

Knocking Down Nitrate!  9/15/06 Hi ... and thanks for your help! <You're quite welcome. Scott F. here today!> I have inherited a 75 gal tank with about 80lb live rock and 2" sand base. I've had it about 6 months.  It has an overflow with poly filtration which feeds into a drip bioball sump  which then feeds into the protein skimmer ... from there is a UV filter which loops back into the skimmer sump, , a denitrate gravel filter canister (Eheim), 2 separate carbon filters canisters (Rainbow Lifegard)  and  finally the heater (Rainbow) before feeding back into the tank.   <Wow- it's the late eighties/early nineties again...Where's that Nirvana CD??? Seriously, this is proven technology, but there is a lot of "mechanical" media that an act as a detritus/nutrient trap...a "nitrate factory".> It is FO - 5 Blue green Chromis, 1 Foxface Rabbit, 1 Sixline Wrasse, 1 Banggai Cardinal and a featherduster, two oysters, some Cleaner and Peppermint shrimp, a Linckia Star, a Serpent Star and various snails and hermit crabs. The problem is that I cannot get the nitrates down ...It is 20 -40 mg/L. <I had a feeling...> The poly overflow filters get dirty quickly since any food that floats to the top gets sucked right into the overflow ... and below the bioballs is an area that is virtually inaccessible and seems to have quite a bit of detritus. You'd have to disassemble the piping and take all the bioballs out to clean it). I've been doing a lot of reading about the pros and cons of the bioballs and about changing/rinsing the poly filters often every other day?)....I'm doing weekly water changes (about 10%) and changing the poly filters but the nitrates are still very high... <When you say "poly filters", are you referring to PolyFilter, a chemical filtration media by Poly Bio Marine, or do you mean "polyester filter floss" or other mechanical media? I think that you mean the latter, right? If you are using these types of media, you will need to change these pads almost daily, or you will have lots of stuff building up in them.> I had a nice FO tank and added that "one more fish" - a blue tang-  without  quarantining it and got a terrible case if ich in the tank and lost more than half of my fish ...tough lesson to learn! ... since then I bought a quarantine tank, treated the remaining fish for 30 days and moved them back. <Glad to hear that! Nice procedure!> I  want to slowly build my fish population back up...but I really want to get this nitrate problem solved before I add anyone else to the big tank...The LFS recommended one of those newer denitrate filters (They use vodka! or sugar!)..What do you think? <I would avoid these types of "fixes", and concentrate on the root of your nitrate problem- excessive dependence upon mechanical filtration media and peripheral equipment that traps detritus and organics. I'd start by ditching the bioballs in the sump. Use the sump as the "nexus" of your water quality system. Get rid of the polyester filter pads, unless you can replace them every couple of days. Rather, have the water enter the sump and let detritus "settle" in there, where you can easily siphon it out on your small (5% twice weekly) water change regimen that you will now adapt (10% is great, but make life easier on yourself with two smaller changes, at least until the nitrate starts going down. Smaller changes help you dilute nitrate and organics and prevent them from accumulating in the first place!) Use RO/DI or other high quality source water. Carbon filters are great, but be sure to change the carbon every 2-3 weeks. In fact, I'd just go for one carbon canister at a time, and change it more frequently. Instead of the gravel denitrator, I'd utilize a deep sand bed in your aquarium...easier, IMO. Get some more live rock to help provide some natural denitrification. Place a small PC or fluorescent light over your sump, and light it on a reverse daylight schedule, growing some macroalgae, such as Chaetomorpha, which you can harvest regularly and use for natural nutrient export.> And here are some other questions... Should I reconfigure this filter set up?  Get rid of the bioballs altogether? <As above...make life easier- as author John Tullock so beautifully put it, "More biology- less technology"> Should I break down the bioballs sump and get the detritus out and rinse the bioballs? <Yep.> How often/ how much water can I change to get the nitrates down to 0 to 10 mg/L?     <2 smaller water changes per week is a great way to start, IMO> I do not pick up any left food (Plankton, Mysid shrimp, etc.) because I have the shrimp and serpent star to feed ... I was told that they and the hermit crabs clean everything up ...I was feeding just enough for the fish and the serpent started to look shriveled so I've increased the evening feeding (I usually feed dry flake Spirulina and /or pellets in the AM and either a frozen plankton, Mysid, sponge etc in the PM)  is that correct? <Yes, IMO. Even though they perform a "scavenger" role in our aquaria, they need to eat regularly. You are correct in trying to feed them. Just don't overdo it, of course.> Thanks again, Beverly <Glad to be of service! Regards, Scott F.>

Please help me! what are the symptoms of high trates on Acro's?   9/4/06 Dear Mr. Fenner, <"Ralph"> after going nearly insane for months, it "appears" that I have found my problem with my Acro tips receding, bleaching, or sloughing, & then, eventually dying. The test kit that I was using over the past year was showing 0 trates for the last 9 months. (It was showing nitrates in the 5-20 range the first 3 month, however). I tested trates about 3 weeks ago with Salifert, and it showed 25!!!!!! So for the past 6 months, I can only guess that my trates were between 25-80!!!!!! trates are down to 5 right now, & I expect them to be 0 soon as I am using AZ-NO3. other params are as follows: temp: 80 Salt: 1.26 <Missing a zero here> phosphates: .008 Calcium: 440 Alk: 9.0 / 3.2 Mag:1500 2 questions: 1) would sky high trates cause the tips to do that? <Mmm, could... or perhaps better put, whatever the cause of this high nitrate reading might well be involved> 2) if you have used AZ-NO3 before, what do you think? Also, were all fish, Acro's, inverts ok? <Maybe... is a good product... generally "works"> Thanks A lot for your feedback! Ralph Scheriff Hobby Experience: 08-23-2005 Current Tanks: 55 gallon Reef, AGA mega-flow II sump, ASM G-2 Skimmer, 2 x 150 HQI & LED, fuge, 65 #LR, reactor w/ ROWA, Tunze 6060, Seio 820, Seio 620, Various SPS, 1 Pagoda, 2 Clowns, 3 Chromis, Gamma, Talbot, & YWG. <You should see some improvement in your SPS within a few weeks if the high nitrate was a direct cause. Bob Fenner>

08/25/06 NitrateLock Hey crew, <Hi there! EricS here> Does anyone there have any familiarity with a product called Pure NitrateLock made by Magnavore? <No. But this is just one of many magic potions out there.> I have a tank that has been giving me trouble with nitrates lately, and I've haven't been able to determine the source of the problem yet.  I went to the LFS yesterday to buy a nitrate reducing agent to help improve the water quality as a quick solution while I continue to do water changes, clean power heads, etc. Anyways, I was looking for Purigen because I've heard that it works well, but the guy at the store really insisted that NitrateLock was much much better and would fix all of my problems.  It is a bit pricey, costing $30 for 500mL which claims to treat 50 gallons.  I purchased 1L worth of it and put it in a reactor in my sump and let it go to town. I searched the internet for this stuff and didn't find many hits, and cant find any testimonials from users.  I just wanted to see if anyone at WWM has used it?  Does it work as well as promised or did I just throw money down the hole? <Most likely it may help just a bit.  But what you need to do is find the real cause.  Do you have any sponge type filters or sleeves that are in the water not getting changed thus causing a nitrate buildup? Or is there in adequate flow to help make sure the left over food is being processed by your filtration devices?  Do you have a skimmer?  Are you using good quality water to mix with your saltwater? Or are you using tap water that may have nitrates in it?  Sorry to ask some of these but we need to start there to figure out the real cause. > If nobody has any familiarity with it, I'll send you a review in a few weeks. <Yes definitely let us know! Good Luck EricS>

Nitrates 8/28/06 Hi Bob, <Hi Aaron, Leslie filling in for Bob this evening> You're a great help to me and my fish. <Glad to hear and will pass it on.> I have a 55 gallon marine, Seaclone 150, Emperor 400, 18 watt Turbo Twist UV, 50 lbs. live rock, with 1 small Saddleback Clownfish, and 1 small Blue Tang, a couple small snails, and crabs. I am having trouble keeping my nitrates down below 10 ppm. <10 ppm is not a problem.> I do 10 gallon water changes every two weeks.  I just put the Tang in about 4 weeks ago, and I have a small bicolor angel that I have in my QT, that I am wanting to add but I don't want to if my nitrates are to high. <They are not to high> I know <30 ppm is acceptable but I don't want to kill my fish by adding another. <Should not be a problem.> Should I get some kind of nitrate remover media for my emperor, or do you have any other suggestions. <No, would not recommend any of those. Small frequent water changes, some additional live rock, live sand if you do not have any and some macro algae should help. Please do have a look at the following article and FAQs http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm Thank You, Aaron <Your most welcome, HTH, Leslie>

Re: Nitrates... (follow up 9/1/06) Hi there, Hi Aaron> Continuing my letter I added my bicolor angelfish, and every since I added him he has been underneath a piece of live rock and not coming out. I can see him, he is not breathing heavy and is swimming in place fine. <Good signs> Is he just being shy. <Most likely> Everything else is fine. All of my levels are ok.<Great> Nitrates are at 10 maybe a little more ppm. Way less than 30.  everything else is just about at zero. <Excellent>   Is there anything I can do to make him feel safer and come out. <Give him his space and a little time.> Leaving lights off for a day? <Sure, can't hurt and may help.> I tried putting a lettuce clip in front of the rock. <That's fine as well.> I am just concerned he's not eating. What is your opinion. <He is most likely adjusting to his new home. If he was eating and in good weight before you brought him home a couple/few days without eating should be fine. Mine snacks on goodies in the sand and rock, so he may very well be doing that when you are not peeking.> Thank You, Aaron <Your very welcome, Leslie>

Nitrates... follow up 9/3/06 <Aaron> One last update.  My angelfish died 2 mornings after I last wrote you. <Oh I am so sorry> Still under the same rock.  No signs of distress the night before.  Water parameters were fine.  Other fish are fine.  Do you have any ideas of what may have happened. <I wish I did. It's really hard to say. Hiding and not eating for a couple of days for a new fish without any other symptoms does give us much to go on.> Thanks <Your welcome. Sorry I could not be more help, Leslie>

DSB/Wet-Dry/Nitrates - 08/28/06 Hi there! <<Hello!>> How are you all today! <<Don't know about the rest, but I'm doing fine, thank you>> I hope I am not bugging you with a repeat question. <<No worries my friend>> I have read thru all your FAQs on sand beds and am getting confused. <<Oh?>> There seems to be many contradictions and I really want to get it right. <<Indeed...differing methodologies/opinions...>> I have a 220 gallon setup that is about 8 months old.  I used 220 lbs of live rock to set it up as well as about 120 pounds of CaribSea live sand.  That gave about an inch of sand on the bottom. <<Ok>> I also have a wet-dry running and am not sure if this is necessary and will contribute to higher nitrates. <<The wet-dry filter is not necessary, or even desirous, if this is a reef system...but can be beneficial to a FOWLR, though these days my preference when additional bio-filtration is needed is to turn to a fluidized-bed filter>> My nitrates are around 50. <<Mmm, you have a problem then, in my opinion.  Nitrates should be <5ppm for a reef and <20ppm for a FOWLR>> I have an ASM G3 protein skimmer and a Blueline 40HDX pump.  After the first few months of losing several fish, my tank seems to be settled and I have had luck with my fish for the last 4 months without any casualties. <<Won't last with nitrate readings this high.  Though maybe not immediately evident, the high nitrate level will have/is having an effect on the fish and will cause problems/deaths in the long-term>> I'd like to get my nitrates to 0 and am wondering if I should increase the sand bed to at least 4 inches and get rid of the bio-balls. <<One approach>> I could also add some more live rock. <<Sounds like you have a lot of rock in there already>> Would you advise this or should I stick with my 1/2-1 inch sand bed (I lose some sand every week when I vacuum as it's fine sand)? <<I'm a fan of DSBs...I would try increasing the depth of the sand bed...and stop the weekly vacuuming as this will be counterproductive to the DSB.  If detritus accumulation is a concern, then increase water flow in the tank>> If I made it a DSB, how would I go about it with all the fish and live rock in there? <<Considering the current depth/weekly vacuuming, simply add the sand until you reach the new desired depth.  Pre-rinsing will help to reduce the associated cloudiness>> Can I purchase a different kind and put it on top? <<You can>> I would like to add some pink. <<Won't stay "pink"...I recommend a sugar-fine substrate, though you can go a bit larger if you wish (1mm-2mm)...or even go with a mix of these>> Also, would the LR need to be removed if I was adding 3 or 4 more inches? <<Nope...in fact, I prefer to place my live rock on the tank bottom and fill around it with the sand for better stability>> What about the fish? <<If you go to the trouble to pre-rinse the sand to reduce the "fines" suspended in the water column they should be fine.  If you wish, you could even add the sand in stages (a day or two apart)>> I really have no where else for them to go as it's a 220.  Maybe knowing my fish would help determine what sand bed is best for my tank.  I have a Bluefaced angel, a maroon clown, a purple and sailfin tang, a fairy wrasse, a Twinspot wrasse, a zebra moray and a few gobies.  Also 2 anemones and a couple starfish and hermit crabs. <<Yikes!  Anemones and 50ppm nitrates?  Maybe you should try testing with another brand of test kit (Salifert, Seachem) to validate this reading>> I have had a little trouble with red Cyanobacteria and have been physically suctioning it out every week as well as weekly water changes.  I can't get it all off the rock but do blow some of it off with a bulb syringe.  I was wondering if increasing the sand bed would help get rid of that as well as hair algae which I have a little of? <<The DSB will provide numerous benefits, one of which will be the reduction of nitrogenous compounds (algae fuels), but an increase in water circulation will also help with the Cyano>> Any help in resolving the sand bed issue once and for all for my setup would be greatly appreciated. <<I think a 4"-6" sugar-fine DSB to be a worthwhile addition.  As for the wet-dry, you might try replacing the bio-balls with fist-sized pieces of live rock and see if that helps with your nitrate.  Adding some carbon/Poly-Filter somewhere in the filter path will also prove beneficial>> I want to do the best I can for my fish and make it as healthy in there as I can for them. <<Then address/determine the source of nitrate and bring that reading down.  Do have a look here and among the links in blue at the top of the page:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm >> You have such an awesome website and I read it often. <<Were pleased you find it of use>> Thanks so much for all your help. Heather <<Happy to assist.  Regards, EricR>>

Re: DSB/Wet-Dry/Nitrates - 08/31/06 Thanks Eric for all your great advice so far. <<Is my pleasure>> I did add a Poly-Filter. <<Always beneficial>> I change my carbon monthly and I clean out my filter pad as well as protein skimmer at least every other day. <<Excellent>> I was all set to order 150 pounds or so of sand when I decided first to take your advice and try another nitrate testing kit. <<A good move...and the cheaper route no doubt>> I bought the one the LFS had which was SeaTest and got a reading of 10 or less while the Red Sea by Marine Lab reads at least 50. <<Mmm...>> How can there be such a discrepancy? <<Many reasons my friend...differences in quality/age of reagents, contamination, inaccuracy of the gauge/scale/benchmark...even human error <grin> >> It seems odd that two tests can be so far apart. <<Is advisable to keep fresh test kits of good quality (Hach, LaMotte, Salifert, or Seachem...to name some of the better ones available)>> It makes me angry after spending so much money on my setup and continually trying to find ways to bring my supposedly high nitrates down.  Which test should I believe? <<I'm inclined to believe the SeaTest over the Red Sea kit>> I prefer my shallow sand bed and would rather not add 4-inches or more to it if my nitrates are under control. <<Indeed, maybe you don't need the extra denitrification the DSB would offer after all>> I plan on this being mostly fish therefore the bioload will be higher than a reef tank and I worry that in the long run the DSB might not be best for a FOWLR tank. <<The DSB would be fine...though a fluidized-bed filter will react more quickly to fluctuating bioloads and is likely cheaper and easier to install>> I will remove the bioballs and put LR in the wet/dry like you suggested.  I appreciate all your help. <<Happy to assist>> I now have a dumb newbie question. <<Ok>> You mentioned that I might want to increase the flow to my tank. <<Yes>> My 220 has two overflow boxes predrilled and I have a Blueline 40HDX pump which I was told was more than sufficient for my tank. <<Mmm, about 1200 gph "before" head loss..."sufficient" for feeding the sump yes, but not likely to provide "sufficient" flow/elimination of dead-spots/suspension of detritus...in my opinion>> However I don't think it pumps your recommended 10-20 times per gallons. <<Likely not even 5x your tank volume, after head loss>> How would I add more flow to this system without it looking ugly? <<Perhaps addition of a couple Tunze Stream pumps, or a "closed-loop" with a multi-nozzle return manifold (see here and the links in blue: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/pbretfaq3.htm  and   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/circmarart.htm >> I know this is a stupid question and probably very basic but I'm not really sure how to go about increasing the flow. <<Not stupid, and not always "basic", but do read the link/links provided and learn/choose your options.  Get some ideas of what you want to do and come back to bounce them off me if you wish>> I do have a deep tank at 30 inches and some Cyano on the sand.  It is also only 8 months old and I don't know if this is a phase or something I should address? <<If your only source of water flow is your sump return, increased water circulation may indeed help>> Thanks for all your great advice. <<Always welcome>> I don't trust my LFS very much because when I told them I thought my nitrates were around 50 they said I was crazy to worry as their fish only setups have nitrates of over 300. <<Mmm, well...while it's true that in most FO/FOWLR systems Nitrates "alone" may be no real worry, 300ppm will certainly cause harm.  The fact this store claims no ill effect is largely due to the "transient" nature of the livestock ...though their customers are likely not so lucky do to the harm/further insult to health imposed by this store on their livestock with this kind of water quality.  In my opinion, it is irresponsible (and probably just plain laziness/ignorance) to subject the livestock to these nitrate levels no matter how long the duration, and even more irresponsible to advise customers that this is "OK">> They seem to think I'm a bit crazy and that I overreact and worry too much about my fish. << (sigh)  Maybe it's time to find another LFS...>> That is why and how I found your site and am a true fan. <<Yay!>> Thanks! Heather <<Be chatting, Eric Russell>>

Re: DSB/Wet-Dry/Nitrates - 09/01/06 Hi Eric! <<Hello Heather!>> I think I'm becoming your groupie. <<Hee-hee!  Cool, I think you're my first!>> Thanks so much for your speedy reply. I was shocked how fast you wrote back. <<A matter of timing/luck for the most part>> And it's nice to converse with someone who cares about this hobby and doesn't roll their eyes at me when I ask too many questions. <<Mmm, indeed...too bad your LFS doesn't see the value in education/keeping their customers in the hobby...or maybe they just don't have the capacity re>> (Well maybe you are but I can't see it at least like at my LFS) <<Ha!  I'll never tell! (and spoil my image <grin>)>> I've been reading and am considering the Tunze Turbelle Stream pump. <<An excellent choice...I use these for water movement in my own system>> It's around $190. <<Not cheap, but excellent quality/engineering/performance>> Is it all inclusive or do I need to buy anything else with it? <<Based on the price I'm guessing you're looking at the model 6080?  This is a synchronous-motor pump (does not run on a controller/wavemaker) and is ready to go out of the box.  But, depending on your tank design/bracing, you may need one of the holding device extensions (3000.244 or 3000.260).  These should be available on the site where you purchase the pump (if not, they can be found at MarineDepot.com), just review the information on each and determine which is needed (if any) for your tank>> The internet stores don't really say much but they talked about timers and wave controllers.  Is any of that necessary? <<No...and not possible with some pumps/powerheads>> Where is the best place to put it in the aquarium? <<Hmm...distal from the sump return line...and positioned toward same for creation of a random turbulent flow pattern>> Would one be good since it says it pumps about 2250 gph on top of my 1200 gph I'm already getting? <<If this creates enough water movement to keep detritus in suspension/eliminate dead spots, yes...will likely take a bit of experimentation to determine the optimum position (or number of powerheads required)>> I have a feeling that more gph would definitely help with the Cyano. <<Me too, though other factors to consider as well.  Have you read our articles/FAQs on blue-green alga?  Here's a good place to start: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm>> I always worried 5X wasn't enough flow but again my LFS disagreed with me. <<You must evaluate the needs/requirements of the livestock, but it is likely an increase in flow will be appreciated...even "enjoyed">> I'm trying to find another LFS but I live in Melbourne Beach Florida and unless I want to drive 90 minutes there are only 2 close by.  I'm not too happy with either. <<I see...best to arm yourself with "your own" knowledge/research>> You were right about the 300 ppm nitrates hurting fish.  When I sat down and worked out where all my fish losses were from, they were all from that store. <<Indeed...as if the stresses of capture/transport weren't enough already...>> I think I lost 8 out of 10 of the fish purchased there for a loss of about $500. <<a pity>> All my other fish purchased elsewhere have done fine. <<Hardly a scientific analysis...but does seem rather telling>> I guess they only care about the bottom line. <<Unfortunately there are stores out there with kind of short-sightedness>> Neither store carries live rock and the store that did and had a conscientious owner (shocking), went out of business. <<...why does it always have to be the good one's...?>> Do you recommend any internet sites for quality cured rock? <<Some of the members of my local reef club have been raving lately about the rock offered at Reefermadness.us >> I guess that is it for now.  I'd like to purchase a quality pump that gives good gph and add some more LR and see how that goes. <<Sounds fine>> I read the links you sent me as well as Anthony's report on pumps and like the Tunze like you suggested. <<You won't be disappointed>> Thanks so much! Heather <<Cheers my friend, Eric Russell>> Nitrates in Salt Water Aquarium  - 08/26/06 Have a 100 gallon salt water fish only live rock aquarium. Have had it for six years or so. Never had major die out until recently. Now I have four fish in it--a marine Betta, a yellow tang, a Valentini puffer, and a stingray. All of my readings are great, with the   exception of nitrates, which are 200 or above. I have been doing water changes like crazy--- two a week for the past month. I use RO water. They tested my RO water to see if it had nitrates--none. I do have a protein skimmer, but my aquarium guy says its too small for my 100 gallon tank. (Even though I bought it there from someone who knew what size tank I had.) Today I added two bags with nitrate sponge material, but my aquarium guy says he is still stumped as to why I have high nitrates. He recommended I email you. Hope you have a suggestion. Thanks, Gini <<Gini:  At this point, I think you should double check your test kit.  A nitrate level of 200 would be unusual if you are doing regular water changes.  I once was freaked out by nitrate readings with Jungle test strips.  The strips were unreliable.  Best of luck,  Roy>> Re: Nitrates in Salt Water Aquarium  - 09/01/06 They were using strips. I just bought a two bottle test kit. Same results (Even after a day of running the nitrate sponge.) Any other ideas? Thanks, Gini <<Gini:  Based on my experience, if you are using RO water that has no nitrates and you are doing frequent water changes, I don't know how your nitrates could consistently be so high (which is why I thought you might have a faulty test kit).  Can you take a sample of your water to a local fish store for yet another test?  One of the most reliable test kits is made by Salifert.  If you have a sump, you can grow some Chaetomorpha algae to help with Nitrates.  For me, it drops nitrates better than a protein skimmer.  Best of luck,  Roy>>

Old tank syndrome   8/19/06 Good afternoon guys,     After stumbling haphazardly onto this site, I believe I've literally spent days now sifting through the FAQ's, to the interesting glances from my significant other.  Great site, which I see you hear a lot, but i wanted to put my two cents in. <Always enjoy hearing/reading it/this>     Anyway, onto my little problems.  I've had a 37 gallon reef set up for 5 years.( besides one move of a mile and a half, which the tank weathered perfectly)  I'm very conscientious with my husbandry, doing water changes of !0% every two an a half weeks.  Water has always been good, though in the past year, nitrate levels have crept up ( old tank syndrome) and have led to a breakout of filamentous algae, which, at first I did not have a problem with...(nor did my herbivores)  I haven't seen any stressors on the fish, but have noticed some astrea deaths and a lone sally lightfoot death as well,  in the past month or so, which leads me to believe it's on the verge of a downhill run.     Last weekend after a bit of research, I've taken out both bio-wheels in my hangover <Heeee!> Penguin, as I've seen  recommendations on this (same effect as bio balls in the wet-dry, nitrate factory) <Can be> Just to be sure, since I didn't test for it, I added one pouch of phos-sorb and also renewed my Chemi-pure pouch.  I am also going to change my protein skimmer (which I don't even remember what I have, it's that old)  to either a Seaclone 100 or CPR Cyclone (any ideas which?) <Likely the latter of these two>   Are there any other courses of action you might be inclined to recommend? <A bunch... posted on WWM re Nitrates...> (adding grazers, more often water changes) As you can see by my tank info, I've tinkered with the set up a lot, cut out the eclipse filter (crap) and such. I've been contemplating going to a wet/dry, but the system has been outstanding to this point.  Thank you for your time and a great site. Rob B.,   FL. Tank Bio (original set up November 2000) 37 Gallons, standard 46 Lbs live rock Live sand, 1 1/2 inch base Penguin Emperor hang on filter (two bio wheels, 4 media slots) Coralife 50/50 retrofit for eclipse hood  (timer, 8 hours) Custom Sealife Power compact w/actinic (sep timer, 5 1/2 hours) unknown protein skimmer R/O water Additives: Chemi-pure Seachem Reef-Plus "           " Reef Builder     "           " Reef Advantage Magnesium "            " Reef Advantage Calcium Natu-reef Iodine plus Natu reef LIFO Species: Hammer Coral Torch Coral Several Ricordea Sp. (orange, green) Leather Coral (which is showing some stress lately) Mushroom Sp.   1 Haw. Sailfin (4 year resident, happily munchin on new algae) 1 Maroon Clown (5 year resident) 1 Royal Gramma (3 years) 1 Blue Chromis (original resident) 1 Sixline Wrasse (final resident, 1 1/2 years) 5 Mithrax, green emerald approx. 10 Astrea 3 Nassarius <Mmm, if you'd consider adding a wet-dry, I'd install, run an live sump (refugium)... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm "and the linked files above" Bob Fenner>

Nitrate Problem   8/18/06 I have a 44 gallon tank that looks like a rectangle on its side--it's deeper than it is wide.  This tank has been running for one year.  I have two maroon clown fish, one bubble tip anemone, some snails, crabs & a cucumber along with mostly hard corals, zoos and a couple leathers. The lighting is metal halide, Aqua C Remora protein skimmer, three power heads, and a hang-on filter box with a bio-wheel (the kind with the little square filter with some carbon).  I have been doing probably a 30 to 50% water change weekly for a long, long time. Each week, I have to do the large water change due to the nitrate problem.  Don't get me wrong, I would do one anyway, just not so large. A couple weeks ago I took the bio-wheel off, thinking it would create nitrate just like the bio-balls. <Mmm, not much here> Again, within seven days, the nitrate is too high. I have also been experimenting with feeding the fish, and I know I'm not over-feeding.  I'm thinking that it is the lack of adequate filtration with the hang-on filter box.  Do you agree?   <Yep> If so, what kind of filtration should I get for this size of tank?   <An added on unit... a refugium> Just so you will know, I have a 110 gallon reef tank, a 55 gallon with live rock and three fish, and a 10 gallon QT, experimental reef tank. I've been in this hobby for two years now.  I also have nitrate trouble in the 110 gallon; however, I recently put in a refugium with a deep sand bed, etc. and am just waiting for this to help the tank. <Ahh! It will... I'd replicate something like this for the 44> Any help would be appreciated.     Robin <BobF> Concern Over Nitrate Levels 8/12/06 My favorite site, but it is going to be my first question. <Well, that makes it our first answer (to you at least).> The system is 5 months old a; 150g display tank with 50g sump, 10 small fishes, 1 anemone. 150 pounds of LR. 2MH and 2 Fl lighting.  Resun chiller. 2 ViaAqua (Atman) SK388 and 1 Aquamedic TF1000 skimmers in the sump. I know they are not good skimmers but all three are working constantly. No bioballs, or no other substrate for bio or mechanical filtration. Main pump turnovers over 2500g/hr. There are 2 powerheads in the display and 1 in the sump, 500g/h each for the circulation. I feed them once every other day with small amount. Temp is 25 degrees C. Ammonia and Nitrite levels are = 0 but Nitrate level has never been under 15ppm (Aquarium pharmaceuticals, Inc).  I know you are against bioballs and Zeolith but those are the only things that I haven't tried. <Not really against bioballs, just not appropriate for most set-up.  Zeolith is another story.> I will appreciate any suggestions. <What is your water change schedule?  That is by far the best way to control nitrates.  A deep sand bed would also help.  In reality 15ppm isn't cause for much concern.  It wouldn't cause me to do anything drastic other than increase my water changes a little.  With 10 fish, even in a 150, 15ppm is kind of expected.> <Chris> Saltwater Query from Dubai, Nitrates and Bioballs   - 8/9/2006 Hi, <<Hello. Lisa here today.>> It's a great website you have put together and provides loads of information to the new as well as advanced aquarists. <<Not my site, but I enjoy it much as you do.>> I need some help I¹m very much impressed with the help I found from the articles on your site, but since I read a lot now I'm confused. <<Aww, don't worry, it can be overwhelming at times.>> I've been keeping a saltwater aquarium for around 2 years now, it is an only fish and live rock system; no corals or invertebrates. Its got around 3' of coral sand as base, 2 power heads for circulation and a protein skimmer. I'm also running an Eheim canister filter with bio balls and ceramics. My trouble is that I've been fighting nitrates for a long time in my aquarium I managed to only keep it in control from the danger zone but as your articles suggests there are possibilities to achieve 0% nitrates. My doubts is that it could be the bio balls and ceramics that are causing the nitrates to store up but before I go do something stupid like remove them all out and depend on the live rocks to take action I need some professional advice. <<I agree that the removing the bio-balls will help here, as will reducing your sand bed depth significantly.>> I read some articles where they say deep sand beds reduce nitrates, then there is a plenum, etc so I don't know which I should choose. Also many suggest keeping the live rock as a main biological filter.  Does that mean I can cut off my canister filter here onwards? <<Alright, here is my take.  On a tank like yours (FOWLR) I would not worry too much about achieving 0 nitrates, but trying to get close is important.  I also don't think you should have a DSB in the display-all of mine are in remote vessels.  This can be an undertaking though, and have a whole new set of problems.  My advice for you is to slowly remove the bioballs over the next few weeks, replacing it with live rock (cured of course).  I do not run canisters on any of my saltwater tanks.  I would also increase the flow in your tank, depending on how small your tank is and how large the 2 power heads you have now are.  Lots of water changes, live rock, lots of flow, and a powerful skimmer are my best tools for keeping successful FOWLR tanks.>> Please advise. Thanks Vinesh, DUBAI <<Hope that helps. Lisa. CANADA.>> Nitrate Problems 8/2/06 Hi guys.   <Hi> After scratching my head for a few months now I am running out of hair and need some help. <Maybe that's where my hair is going.>  I read your site most days and have huge chunks printed out that I read and re-read through to make sure I am not doing something stupid. <Best way to educate yourself.>  If you could spare me 5 minutes to help it would really be appreciated. <Sure> Here we go.  Sorry if the list is long and apologies if anything is wrong -- I am still learning. <We all are.> I have a 180 litre (around 50 US gallons) Juwel Vision 180 marine tank. It has been running for about 8 months now.  Set up as follows:- 2 lights in the hood.  T6. 1 actinic and 1 marine white.  25W I believe. On for 12 hours a day.  Lots of live rock -- bought in stages so I cannot say exactly how much but enough to go from one end of the tank to the other and pile up to the top in the middle.  Cost a fortune. Internal Jewel filter. External Tetratec EX700 filter. Small internal powerhead. Red Sea Prizm skimmer. The tank was filled with a large bag of live sand and a small bag of crushed coral giving a sand bed at the bottom of around 1 to 1.5 inches deep. I have 1 fish.  A yellow tang (which I now realize is in a too small tank -- no thanks to the shop I got him from not helping me). <Yep> 1 Sally lightfoot crab 5 hermits (2 red legged and 3 blue legged)  All quite small. 2 cleaner shrimps (doing well -- see below..) 1 small crab that appeared in some live rock. 2 Turbo snails. Loads of other life in the tank -- a few tiny slug like creatures -- plenty of small worms -- loads and loads of small and not so small feather dusters.   Pink/red algae is growing all over the place and looks lovely.  Diatoms came and went in the first 4 -- 5 months.  A small patch of pulse coral is growing and pulsing well. <Xenia?>  Water is lovely and clear.  Skimmer is adjusted but does not produce much (I guess there's not too much load for it) I empty about a quarter of a cup a week. <May be a good part of the problem.  This skimmer is fairly underpowered for this sized tank.  Please read http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/cav1i1/protein_skimmer_impressions.htm for more on skimmers.> I change about 20 litres (around 10%) of the water a week with RO water from a local supplier.  I clean the filters every 2 weeks by rinsing the filter pads in water taken out when I do a change -- alternating the internal filter one week and the external one the next week, I do not scrub them clean -- just squeeze them out a few times in the water. <Good method.> After reading your site I have removed the bio balls. <Good>  I have carbon in a bag in the internal filter and it is changed once a month. <Rinse this out periodically too, may be trapping detritus.>  I feed the tang  Nori on a clip and she also loves Mysis shrimp which I feed once a day.  Not much -- in small doses and it is eaten before it hits the sand bed. <Most people overfeed, its easy to do.  Feed half what you normally do and see if that helps.> Any left she will either pick up and eat from the floor or the shrimps will have. Levels are as follows. Ammonia -- 0 always is. PH 8.0 -- never changes. <Little low but ok.> Nitrite -- 0 -- always is. Nitrate -- too high.  Always around 80. <Yep> Salinity. 1.023. I seem to have a nitrate problem. I have taken a sample to the local store who have confirmed the high nitrate with their test kit and have said it is not a major problem for the tang but needs to be lowered for other fish. <High enough for concern for any fish.>   Trouble is -- I cannot get it down.  The RO water I put in has very little nitrate in it -- it just about measures 10 from my test kit.  I believe I am changing enough water and I think I am doing the correct things from all the reading I have done from your website. <Sounds like it.> Am I doing something wrong? <I'm guessing overfeeding, a underpowered skimmer, and nitrate in the source water.>  Do I need to do more frequent water changes? <Weekly is good.>  Do I need to do bigger water changes? <Could go as high as 20% without negative consequences.>  What can I do before putting more fish in?  The tank looks lovely and clean -- no brown patches now the diatoms have gone.  Can you please offer any help at all as I do not want to put more livestock in if it is not healthy? <The responsible thing to do.> The cleaner shrimps are doing well -- shed their skins every month. One has green eggs on her and the other let the eggs go about a month ago. If I move some of the rock around there are small (about half an inch) baby cleaner shrimps in holes in the rocks which I was not expecting as I have read they do not grow well unless well looked after. <More likely a copepod or Amphipod.> After 8 months you thought I would have given up but I am sure you can help.  Many thanks and keep up the good work. Ben <I would attack this in three ways.  A better skimmer, the Prism is underpowered for that sized tank.  Cut back on feeding.  And finally change you source water.  Good RO water will have 0 nitrates.  Sounds like the pet shop has old filters that need to be changes.  The easiest way to do it is just get your own.  A good RO/DI unit isn't too expensive relative other marine equipment and lets you control the water quality.  There are several good manufactures, my personal favorite is www.airwaterice.com.  Otherwise it sounds like you are on the right track.> <Chris> Nitrates...Suitability of Wet/Dry Filtration for Reef Systems - 07/31/06 Hi, WWM folk. <<Hello Daniel>> Thanks for all your help. <<Welcome>> Here's my current situation for my 9-month young reef tank:  50 gallons, 55 lbs LR, 3-4 inches crushed coral.  Fishes, Bubble-tipped anemone, shrimps, snails, and a few corals (pulsing xenia, green zoas, yellow button polyps).  I noticed that the green zoas, which are the newest addition, have slowly dwindled in size and number over the past 2 months. <<Mmm, generally fairly hardy once acclimated.  Perhaps an environmental issue you've missed...>> I'm embarrassed to say that usually I've been only following pH, ammonia, and nitrites, all of which were appropriate: pH 8.2, zero NH3 and nitrites.  Today I checked my nitrate and it's off the charts! <<Aha!  There's your culprit.  But don't beat yourself up too bad.  Is not uncommon for hobbyists to gear their attention toward what is perceived as the "greater evils" of water chemistry.  I have known many aquarists who don't measure nitrates unless/until a problem is perceived.  Perhaps a "once monthly" check in the least, will now become part of your routine>> I've done a partial water change already today (10%). <<30% would be better...done a couple/few times a day apart as needed to bring your nitrate reading down (needs to be <5ppm)>> I have a skimmer running in series with the drip plate/bioballs combo. <<Mmm, a source of controversy re their suitability for reef systems, but this may be your source for excess nitrate...especially if your system is a bit "overstocked">> I've read conflicting statements about the bioball-nitrate connection, and I'm wondering if you think this might be a good time to take the bioballs out of the system... and if so, what would you do with the chamber they're in? <<As you have noticed, there is debate over whether this type filtration produces more nitrate than others.  My take on this is this...the wet/dry type filtration with plastic media is VERY efficient at converting ammonia to nitrite to nitrate, but that's where it stops.  Whereas live rock/DSBs can take this further to convert nitrate to nitrogen gas, thus allowing the nitrogenous compounds an avenue of escape from the system...rather than continually "building" as with the wet/dry plastic media system.  The point here being that a reef, with its lower tolerance for nitrate can't be as easily "adjusted" through simple water changes and is more quickly affected, as say a FOWLR/FO system with a higher (<20ppm) tolerance for nitrate.  Therefore a careful "balance" between live rock and stocking density is the better way to go for a reef rather than the plastic media of a wet/dry...in my opinion.  So yes, remove the plastic media.  You can replace this more live rock...or utilize the space for chemical media (carbon/Poly-Filter)>> Should I vacuum the substrate? <<Might help considering the course nature of the crushed coral.  It would probably be of some benefit to replace this with a finer-grade media of the same depth to increase its efficiency as a DSB>> Thanks in advance. Daniel <<Regards, EricR>>

High nitrates and hair algae  7/25/06 First, briefly, your site is awesome. I devoured Mr. Fenner's CMA and followed it as closely as I could when I set up my tank this past Feb, which thus far has been a resounding success. My system: 50 gal salt water, four months old. 42 pounds of live rock, twin Whisper 40 hang on power filters, SeaClone 100 skimmer. 150W heater, Twin 24 inch bulb fluorescent light, (one 20W Hagen Sun Glow (4200K) and one 20W Marine Glow (Actinic) bulb), on a timer, and on for about 7 hours a day. Occupants: one 2 inch Huma Huma trigger, one coral beauty, and one yellow tang. There are about half a dozen surviving tiny blue legged hermits, the remnants of an early attempt at clean up crew of 15, thanks to the trigger slowly crunching them away (knew that would happen), These six hermits are pretty wily and only come out at night when the trigger is sleeping (Darwin at work). Five green mushroom anemones and a one feather duster fan round out the cast. I also recently added one small piece of pulsing xenia way up high close to the light on the pinnacle of one of the LR, and it appears to be doing fine (I guess that changes it from a FOWLR to a mini reef) Testing results: Ammonia and Nitrites at zero. pH steady at between 8.2, thanks to adding 2 tsp baking soda weekly with top off water.  Specific gravity hovers at between 1.022 and 1.023. I have been doing bi-weekly water changes of 5 gallons at a time religiously since I started the tank. My dilemma: Nitrates are high at 40 ppm and holding there. I think overfeeding was the culprit, as I went on vacation for a week and my stepdaughter fed the fish one whole frozen cube of Mysis at a shot, on a mon/wed/fri schedule the week I was away. When I got back, all was well but I now have high nitrates, (though to tell you the truth they have been creeping up for awhile) and a thick mat of hair algae on the top of the LR closest to the lights. I will cut back on the food and start weekly 5 gal water changes to bring down the nitrates, in addition to changing out one of the 2 filter cartridges weekly on an alternating schedule to get some fresh carbon in the system for chemical filtration. My question: should I leave the mat of hair algae as a check against nitrates, or should I remove it? Is hair algae micro or macro algae? I figure since I can grab it now that makes it macro, which lends me to think I might want to keep it as some sort of algal filtration. I keep the front and sides algae free with a scraper and magnet. Should I let start letting the back glass grow? Not sure. Also, lots of bubbles are forming in the mat, my guess is oxygen after reading some of the other FAQ. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I don't mind the hair algae mat, but don't know if it is good or bad. One more thing, the whisper power filters had a sponge-like part in addition to the changeable filter media, designed to foster aerobic bacteria for bio-filtration (what the box says). I thought is was good at first, but after reading many nitrate FAQ's, I removed it as I thought it would be a nitrate factory and figured I had enough LR in the tank for bio-filtration. Was that the right move? Thanks for all you do, you folks are super! Rob Trepeta <<Rob:  Since your tank is still new, you are still going through the process getting the right balance between algae and clean up crew.  If it were me, I would remove the rocks and brush off the hair algae as there very few critters that will eat it and it can get out of hand.  Going forward, you have to also strike the right balance between feeding and lighting.  When nitrates are too high, you can increase the size and frequency of your water changes to help control it (say 20% every week).  It can also help to remove the sponges (or clean them frequently).  In my experience, once of the best ways to control nitrates is to have macro algae growing in a sump.  Since I don't think you have a sump, you could get a clump of Chaetomorpha "Chaeto" and tuck it into a corner of your tank.  Chaeto is easy to control and when it grows too big you can harvest some and share it with another reefer.  If you have hair algae growing on the back glass, I would scrape it off.  Eventually, coralline algae will probably establish itself on the back of the tank.  Best of luck, Roy>> Does using tap water with neutralized chloramines increase nitrate production?  07/21/06 Hi Crew -- <<Hi, Phil. Tom>> I have a quick question on nitrates.  I read somewhere that using tap water containing both chlorine and chloramines -- as opposed to just chlorine -- results in increased nitrates even if the tap water is properly neutralized by a water conditioner prior to use.  The article (can't remember where I read it now) suggested that even though the chloramines or their harmful components were neutralized, the neutralized stuff still had to be converted by bacteria and that ultimately generated more nitrates.  Is that true?   <<Technically speaking, Phil, yes. Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia (used in water treatment because it's less volatile than chlorine, i.e. doesn't dissipate as quickly) so, yes, there would be additional ammonia to be nitrified/dealt with. Quantifying this would be impossible without an analysis of your tap water including, obviously, the amount of water changed. (I'd love to see the article but my gut feeling is that someone tried to get a lot of mileage out of a little information. Just my opinion.)>> And if that is true, will there be a significant difference in nitrate production in my 20 gallon and 10 gallon tanks if I use reverse osmosis water, i.e., will I be better able to keep the nitrates down?   <<In a word? No. My former statement notwithstanding, there wouldn't be enough ammonia introduced into your tank via a "typical" water change with city water to warrant the change to R/O water where nitrates, ultimately, are involved.>> I have never used R/O water because my fish (guppies, Corys and dwarf Pleco) have done fine in treated Houston tap water, but I am always fighting to keep the nitrates down under 20 ppm with, of course, the dreaded weekly water changes.  I know I cannot avoid these water changes, but anything that will assist in the nitrate war is helpful.   <<Personally, I wouldn't mess with something that works but you'll do no harm by giving R/O filtered water a "go". The conventional thinking, as I'm sure you know, is that it's better to use your tap water for water changes - for stability purposes - than to "toy around". If you already have an R/O system, try it. If you don't, save your money.>> By the way, I read your frequently asked questions daily and have learned more from the WWM site than all other resources combined.  Thank you all for your diligence and commitment.       <<Thanks, from all of us, for your very kind words, Phil.>> Phil Houston, Texas <<Tom   Macomb, Michigan>>

Nutrient Control...High Nitrates   7/6/06 Hello, I've been reading your site and its great! <Hello Robert, and thank you.  Glad you enjoy.> My name is Robert, I am new to the hobby and I am having problems with high nitrates, according to the test it's at 80 ppm. I currently have a ph of 8.2 a temp. of 80 and nitrites and ammonia are at 0. <Is your test kit reading total nitrogen or NO3?> My tank is about a month old and has already gone through a diatom bloom, which is starting to go away, and small amounts of green algae are starting up. <Not uncommon for new tanks.> As far as the tank goes, it's an 80-gallon with a Tide pool 2 wet/dry sump that has three compartments for different filtration and a bio wheel. I currently have Chemi Pure in one, <A good product, use myself.>a regular mechanical filter and one compartment has Seachem denitrate. <Won't do much good in this regard, requires a slower flow rate than your system is providing.> I have read the some sumps are nitrate producers. <If filter pads are changed/cleaned on a weekly basis, this should not be an issue with using a sump.> If that the case what should I have in the compartments for the tidepool? I also have an ASM g1x skimmer, which gets at least a cup a day of skimmate. <Mmm sounds like quite a bit, excess nutrients comes to mind here. >I had a Seaclone 150 before but it was a pain to get adjusted. <Yes, can be problematic. > As far a fish load goes I have 4 assorted small Damsels and recently have added 2 small Clowns, about 6 turbo snails and 3 hermit crabs. <Overstocking isn't a problem, relatively small load for an 80.> My local water company has nitrates in the water at 11 ppm, which I originally used to fill the tank with water conditioner added. Since then I have bought a RO and have been using it to change water. I don't think I'm feeding them too much, I have been putting enough for them to consume in a minute or two. I did a 16-gallon water change about an hour ago with no change in nitrates. <Should have seen some reduction here.  Leading me to believe your test kit is reading total nitrogen.> I also read that some nitrate test kits will test nitrates and nitrogen giving a false reading. <Not a false reading, just reading total nitrogen.> I use Red Sea and Jungle quick dip strips are these ok or is there a more reliable test I could get. <I'd go with an Aquarium Systems or Salifert kit, much more accurate than the strips.  Also read here and related links above. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm> I appreciate your time and love your site! <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Nutrient Control...High Nitrates   7/6/06 <I would increase that to at least 80 pounds; James (Salty Dog)

I forgot to also add that I have about 30 lbs of live rock.

High Nitrates... perhaps more, other...  - 06/30/06 Hi crew, First off, just want to thank you for all your help, past and future.  You're a lifesaver! My problem.  I have four saltwater tanks-- two 55 gallons, and two 29 gallons.  My problem is present in all of them, but I'll start with   the 55 gallon reef tank.  It's been up and running happily for about 18 months.  Fish included are: 1 blue tang (about 3 inches), 2   clowns, 1 six-line wrasse, 1 lawnmower goby, 3 engineer gobies (about 4 inches long each), one cleaner shrimp, one brittle star, corals   (green star polyps, brown polyps, xenia, and zoos), four featherdusters, one deresa clam, and assorted hermit crabs.  The tank   is setup with a 1000 multi Turboflotor skimmer, 3 inch sand bed, and about 80 pounds of live rock, a hang on refugium, metal halide   lights, an appropriate heater, and powerheads for circulation.    Currently I have no sump.  I've been planning to upgrade to a larger tank (I know its heavily stocked in the fish department), and was   holding off for that.  Normally I test regularly, do weekly waters changes and keep a log, but due to increased work, I've fallen off a   bit in the last few months.  My normal water tests were: Ammonia 0, Nitrites 0, Nitrates normally between 5-8.   Then came the problem.    About a month ago I bought four more feather dusters. They popped their tops, which I understand isn't unusual and starting growing new   ones.  I wasn't concerned.  Then the tang started picking on them, I mean really being a pain, pulling them out of the sand and dragging   the new additions all over the place (though she left the original feather dusters alone).  I rescued two of them by placing then in one   of my 29 gallon tanks.  The other two she'd pretty much destroyed, then her aggression was turned on the "old" original feather dusters   and the clam.  I got the message.  Put me in a bigger tank and I won't terrorize the invertebrates! <Heeee!> During this time, and probably not wisely, I also purchased 2 Condy anemones.  With all this going on, I assumed the feather dusters climbing out of their casing was simply a reaction to the tang's pestering, along with the clam closing.  Then I tested the water!  All was 0, except the nitrates,   which were at 20!  Yikes!  I immediately did water changes, about 20% that day, and another 10% daily for two more days, then work   intruded.  I failed here because I didn't test the water, but everything "seemed" happy.  Two days later one of the anemones   disappeared, and a few of the xenia were kinda shriveled.  I tested the water again, and the nitrates were still at 20.  More water   changes followed and this time I was religious, 10-15% every day for five days.  The nitrates failed to drop.  During this the clam died,   xenia starting melting and more and more of the green star polyps stopped coming out.   My system was in major crash (although the   nitrates never spiked above 30, and ammonia and nitrite remained undetectable). <"Something" else was going on... but what?> My LFS (a good friend) told me to pull the corals, along with the live rock and fish, etc and put them in a 55 gallon   hospital tank, which he loaned me.  He also brought over an extra skimmer so I could transfer the TurboFlotor to the hospital tank. <Good move, advice>   Okay.  Crisis averted.  The residents of the hospital tank seem happy, what corals survived are recovering (all tests come back 0).    Since the nitrate levels of 20-30 weren't dangerous to the fish, I left about half of them in the "crashed" tank--they seem fine too, (the nitrates remain at 20-25). My question.  Why didn't the water changes drop the nitrate levels?    <A few percent change doesn't really dilute a few tens of ppm of something... and whatever the source/s of the nitrate, they "just made more"> I realize the "melting" xenia, etc. would have perpetuated the problem, and for a while I blamed the missing Anenome (which undoubtedly crawled in a corner somewhere and died) <Yes to both> but I'm having a similar nitrate crisis in my 55 FOWLR tank, and both of the 29 gallons, which makes me think I'm making some consistent error. <Mmm, could be a rapid, debilitating change in your source water... perhaps your salt mix...>   I've been doing serious water changes on them, 15-20% three days in a row, so far, and the nitrates stay the same.   I've cut meals by almost   two thirds (much to the snowflake eel's displeasure.  He's in the 55 FOWLR ) but its made no difference.  There are no nitrates or   phosphates coming from the tap water or the salt--that was one of the first things I checked. <Ah, good... but could still be something else there... triggering a negative effect on the life in your systems... this in turn resulting in increasing nitrate (et al.) effects> Reading through your articles, I stumbled upon a snippet of information regarding undergravel filters generating nitrates.  I   have these on all of my tanks, with powerheads plugged into them, except for the reef that crashed.   The undergravel filter in the 55   gallon reef is there, but not hooked up to anything.  However the engineer gobies dig right down to the undergravel filter.  Could this   be compromising the biological filtration, and generating nitrates?    <Mmm, possibly... could be upsetting an otherwise semi-balanced hypo- an-oxic situation> The 3 inch sand bed includes the depth of the undergravel filter.    Should I remove the undergravel filters and/or add more sand? <Worth trying. Re the first, I'd just pull the risers, means of water movement, leave the plates themselves in place>   I was looking into bioball media until reading your FAQ.  Thanks by the way, that's saved me a bundle!  I also read something about the sand   bed needing to be replaced periodically, something I've never done.    Do you think this would help? <Yes, but... the fact that all your systems are thus affected... leads me back to the wonder re the source water, salt mix... Do check your RO membrane, contact filter/s... What salt brand do you use?> I love my tanks, but they're driving me nuts! -Blythe.   <I understand, and agree... I would definitely proceed with your plans for larger systems... adding a live sump/refugium there... Bob Fenner> Using Seachem's de*nitrate - 06/27/06 Hi Crew, <<Hello Tim>> I decided to try Seachem's de*nitrate.  In order to maintain a low water flow as recommended to grow the anaerobic bacteria, I opted to use a cheap corner filter dedicated for this purpose, with an air pump of 150 liters per hour to draw water through the filter. <<Okay>> This filter is filled with mostly de*nitrate, with some filter wool at the top (which is where I understand water is drawn in). <<Yes>> However, now I am not sure whether this type of set up will be any good for anaerobic bacteria.  Could you please advise? <<Should work fine...as long as the filter holds the recommended amount of media for your system.  As you indicated, this media works best with a low flow rate (less than 50gph) which should be achievable with the filter you describe.  As an alternative, you could place the material in a mesh bag and drop in to your sump (if you have one)>> Thanks, Tim <<Regards, EricR>>

Nitrate Control  6/15/06 Hello once again oh watery wise ones! <Hello Eric> I have a 3 month old 75 gallon FOWLR with about 85 lbs of live rock, a sand bed ranging from 0 to 3 inches (thank you mister damsel), a Coralife Super Skimmer 125, an Aquaclear 110 with sponge and 2 bags of Chemi-pure, Seio SuperFlow 620, MaxiJet 900 with Hydor rotating flo adapter and a nitrate problem. This tank is a "grow-up" tank for fish to go into my 180 (and a 200 if the wife let's me.) The 75 currently contains the following: 3 inch Humuhumu trigger (Rhinecanthus aculeatus), 3 inch yellow tang (Zebrasoma flavescens), 4 inch tasseled filefish (Chaetoderma pencilligera) and a yellow bellied damsel  (Pomacentrus coelestis - I think).   Ammonia and nitrite are at 0 ppm, but the nitrates are around 50 ppm. Temp 79F, SG 1.025.  I do weekly water changes of about 25 gallons using aerated and aged saltwater (RO/DI water with Tropic Marin salt). I realize that this is a large bioload (I try to feed some or all of the following at least 1x per day and usually 2x - mahi mahi, cherrystone clams, frozen formula 1 and 2, silversides, shrimp in shell, Mysis, krill and superveggie flakes).  I'd rather not cut down on the feeding unless there are no other alternatives. <Feeding schedule is fine providing little or no uneaten food is left.> The fish are growing nicely and have gorgeous colors . <Good.> I was considering purchasing a HOB CPR refugium (compact lighting, live rock rubble, ChemiPure and Chaetomorpha; maybe some Caulerpas) in place of the Aquaclear filter, but am not sure if this will help.  I'd appreciate your opinion on this strategy. <I would not replace the AquaClear, just supplement it with the refugium.  Will go a long way in lowering nitrate levels.  Do read here and related links above, on nitrate/nutrient control.  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm.> Thanks again, <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Eric

Nitrates and the overstocked tank   6/11/06 Hi Crew, <Hi> I have had a 30 gal long tank with about 20lbs of live rock for approx. 6 months now.   I also have a penguin 280 filter and  one powerhead opposite the filter for flow.  (good enough?) <A skimmer would be nice, and you are looking for at least 10X turnover with the flow, so 300 GPH.>  My tank parameters are temp 84 deg.s., ph 8.0, ammonia 0, nitrite 0 and nitrate 20ppm.  I currently have 1 sailfin tang, 1 snowflake eel, 4 hermits, knobby star, and a peppermint shrimp.  <Neither the tang nor eel belong in that tank, both will out grow it quickly.>  I am wondering how to lower my nitrate.  I have been doing partial water changes of 20% once a week and it hasn't changed. <Feed less, plus the tank is overstocked.> My LFS said I am stressing out the fish by doing this but I do not see a more suitable alternative.  <Weekly water changes are fine, not stressful for the fish.>   Furthermore, I am wondering if once I contain the nitrates of a suitable tank mate for the sailfin due to his pickiness or should I sit back and enjoy? <You should get the tang a larger tank and stock this one more appropriately.>  Furthermore, any help in a  varying diet for the tang?  I currently feed him frozen brine shrimp, frozen krill and vegetable flake food. <Nori would be nice, brine does not have much nutritional value, replace it with Mysid.>  I am also trying to lower the tank temp slowly.  Any suggestions? <84 isn't terrible, but a little high.  If you can get it down below 82 so much the better.> Thanks for the help I love the site!! Val <Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but the tank is not big enough for either the tang or the eel, both will need larger homes soon.> <Chris> Severe nitrate problem, plenums...    6/8/06 Dear WetWeb crew,   First let me apologize for this lengthy story, but I am at my wits end.     I have been having problems controlling nitrates in my tank. Here is my setup:     55g in dining room plumbed to a 90g in basement with a Iwaki RZ30 circulating water between the two, protein skimmer, 4 inch DSB in 55g over a plenum (approx. 100pds aragonite special grade substrate), 30g Rubbermaid container with another 80pds or so of plain sand about 6" deep no plenum-circulated at about 50gph to 90g tank, about thirty pounds of live rock. <Is this relatively new?> (Twenty-five more arriving in a week) There is about 130 gallons of water in system. I used R/O water until this week as with the amount of water changes it is becoming cost prohibitive. I am using PUR filtered water the last two changes.      Tank inhabitants are one porcupine puffer (approx 6 inches nose to tail, about 12 hermits of varying sizes, and 8 various snails. <The puffer IS messy... and will eat these invertebrates ultimately>      Parameters: Salinity 1.024, Nitrite 0, Ammonia 0, Temp 78-80, Ph 8.0-8.2, and the Nitrates keep going well over 80.    <Surprising>     Here is how this setup developed- I started keeping marine fish last summer and have a very successful 20g with sump that I have LPSs, SPS, and soft corals in that has given me none of the trouble the bigger setup has. While researching for my corals I came across GARF's website and followed their plan for setting up the new tank (55g- around Nov. last year ) which involved using a plenum <These are largely considered passé nowadays... more trouble, space lost than they're worth> with a riser tube and powerhead for the first couple months as an undergravel filter. I have read a lot about the cons of this concept since then on this site. After it was up about a month I added the puffer and after the ammonia and nitrite settled to zero I removed the riser tube and powerhead so that the denitrating bacteria could build. Within a day or two the ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates went through the roof. <Ah, yes... better to "taper off" water flow in such settings than going "cold turkey"... you killed off sizable parts of your populations of nitrifiers...> Also noticed that all the bristle worms that were prolific before disappeared. Lots of water changes occurred. After struggling with this for some time I reinserted the riser tube ( having found out GARF recommended keeping it in for six months) and everything settled down again with the exception of the nitrates which continued to be a problem. <Dissolving biota...>     This leads to my first question: Why did removing tube cause the sudden jump in ammonia/nitrite? <... the dying off of nitrifying microbes... accumulation of forward reaction products...> Bacteria die off? <Ah, yes... the initial cause> I also noticed that all the bristle worms died off after the spikes- which I am sure increased the problem. <You are correct here also> I ask because I am worried about removing the riser tube and having the same problem, but on the other hand I know it needs to be removed or I cannot grow denitrating bacteria. <Yes> This dilemma lead me to adding the Rubbermaid tub about 2 1/2 months ago with its own deep sand bed as a secondary filter. Ran across this idea on your site. <A good idea>    I have tried large water changes, 20% a day water changes, weekly water changes, etc. My nitrates refuse to drop below 80 for any length of time. The only thing that has worked thus far is SeaChem's denitrate, but at these levels the product quickly becomes exhausted and I do not like to rely on chemical media to begin with.    So now I am looking for suggestions on what to do. <Feed minimally, let time go by... Don't add more livestock> I appreciate your time reading and answering this- if you need more information let me know, I'm trying to think of everything but it is late and I've probably forgotten something. My apologies for any grammatical errors, incoherent ramblings, etc.      Thank you,   Jason Peck <Patience my friend. You're doing fine. Bob Fenner>

Nitrate Control  - 05/29/06 Hi Guys,  <Hello Patrick> I have wrote in once before and think you guys do a great service.  <Thank you.> I have been looking over the threads about Nitrates since I have recently made some significant changes to my aquarium like adding RO/DI and MH lighting (about 5 months ago).  My setup is a 350gal fish/live rock and some soft corals.  I want to get into more coral types but have had this nagging nitrate problem.  My levels seems to vary, from around 10 to maybe 50ppm. <Is your test kit measuring total nitrate (N) or NO3?> When I converted to the 350gal, from a 230 I added a refugium where I added a deep miracle mud base and macro algae.  IMHO, the Mud is worthless as I didn't see any noticeable changes as the seller claims.  <Not going to be noticeable until a few months pass.> Anyway, the macro algae grows very well and it feeds my tangs and angels nicely.  I do a 45 gal. bucket of RO water change weekly.  I don't use bio balls and have about 250lbs of rock.  I don't get why I can't get nitrate levels down.  <If your test kit is measuring total nitrates your level is not that high.> I have followed most advice, water changes, cleaning rock and substrate, watch feeding ( as a matter of fact I cut down to feeding every other day for a few weeks and really didn't see any changes.)  I may have a heavy load in the tank maybe to heavy to keep corals that require lower nitrates.  I have done some research on the sulfur denitrators especially a newer one on the market that seems very simple to use and requires little maintenance.  <A waste of money IMO.> From what I read it seems they are not very well cared for here, but if the case is that there is just to high a load in the tank, and nothing else seems to work, outside of the expense what other issues would there be with a denitrator?  I am not sold yet that these units even work and yes they are expensive.  I don't want to get rid of fish to have corals and have seen a number of reef tanks online smaller and bigger then mine that have heavy loads and many types of corals and they claim they have < 5ppm nitrates. What gives here?  Sorry for any lack of detail.  I didn't want to write a novel.  Let me know if there is any other information you think you may want. <Patrick, would help more if I knew what the load was in your tank.> Many Thanks <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Patrick

Re:  Nitrate Control  5/31/06 Hi James, <Hello Pat> Yes I have heard more than once they are a waste of money only due to the fact that there are other less expensive was to get nitrates down. <Indeed!> I don't want to waste money on corals that might die due to a nitrate spike.  Also, I am tired of seeing algae grow.  Not sure what kind, but looks like brown/green film on glass.  People without algae issues, does this mean they never have to clean the glass in their tanks or they just don't have excess amounts? <Patrick, my nitrate levels are not readable, but I have to clean the glass weekly.  You will never get away from this.> Anyway, given the units are expensive I would like to know if they work even if they are a waste.  <Yes, some of the units do work.  Given your large fish load, I don't think these will help much more than the water changes you have been doing.  You need to get the fish load down.  I've recently visited a business that has a 450 gallon reef and the fish load was much less and the tank is 100 gallons larger than yours.  To view, go to the WWW home page and click the CA magazine in the upper right corner.> Here is the bio load in my tank as of now: (2) medium to large hippo tangs (1) medium to large red sea Naso (1) small yellow tang (1) adult Queen Angel (1) small to medium split tail angel (1) flame angel (1) medium to large passer angel (1) small puffer (1) small goby (1) scooter blenny (6) assorted damsels (1) medium maroon clown (2) small false perc. clowns (4) shrimp, cleaner, banded, blood Corals: (4) soft coral types, leathers colt (8) Green bubble tip Anem. (was three, they split a few times) Unknown number of crabs and snails I use (3) 250 watt DE HQI's along with t-3's <If your HQI's are 10K or more, I'd eliminate the T-3's, not necessary.  Give your refugium time to develop.  This will help some with nitrate control, but your large fish load is the main problem.  Do clean/replace and filter pads you may be using on a weekly basis.  Also read here and related links above.  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm> Hope you could help... Thanks.. <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>

Re:  Nitrate Control  5/31/06 Hi Jim, <Hi Pat> Thanks...  I didn't mention my weekly maintenance, but it includes cleaning filter pads or replacing them weekly, along with cleaning the skimmer and cleaning the glass once a week.  I stay on top of this as it does not take long to do.  Just,  I have seen other tanks as I stated before that have around the same bio load and they have claimed 0 nitrates...  I don't have issues with ph or P04 or silicates.   My dKH and calc. is 9/420.  So I can only assume what algae growth I see is from the nitrates.  The refugium has been running for about a year like I said with Miracle Mud and Chaeto macro algae.  Should I introduce other types of algae in the refugium?   <I'd introduce some Caulerpa.  Keep in mind Pat, that phosphates do come from food also.  There is not too much food out there that does not contain PO4.  Overfeeding could be a problem also.  Now that you are determined to keep all your fish (I know, hard to give up), you have to concentrate on nutrient control.  I would begin using Chemi-Pure, an excellent supplement to a good skimmer.  You may also want to add a larger clean-up crew, you certainly have the room.>   I also get about 10-16oz of waste from the skimmer a week.  Photo period is as follows: Actinics on at 7am center MH on at 9am outside MH on at 2pm outside MH off at 8pm center off at 9pm Actinics off at 10pm Moonlights on at 10pm off at 7am <Moonlights are strictly aesthetic, do not have no effect on algae.> I auto top off with RO water only.  I test for other parameters as needed and add supplements  when needed.  I also run a Rowaphos reactor.  I also run an outside canister filter with Kent denitrator and Purigen.   I periodically add 3 units of Chemi-pure to my sump as needed. <Ah, you beat me to it.  With your fish load, I would use it continuously. No need for the Purigen then.> Thanks for all your feedback.  But based on what I have told you do you think there is anything else outside of reducing the fish load that you could pass on?   <As above, and do read the links I've posted earlier if you haven't already.> I think after this I won't be inclined to spend the money on a sulfur unit.  I would rather take those funds and invest in a calc reactor, which is going to be another big research project. Thanks <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Patrick Nitrate issues  - 5/19/2006 Hi crew, I need little help I set up a 50 gallon FOWLR tank about 4 weeks ago.  I have 30lb Aragamax sand mixed with 20lbs live sand. Fifty pounds live rock and the normal heater, skimmer, filter. My problem is that from the very beginning I have had an ammonia reading of 0.25 everything else was fine. <System just isn't quite cycled as yet... not surprising with what you list... Time, patience...> Four weeks later I still have 0.25 ammonia and my nitrates are at 80. <Might be worthwhile addressing this latter... along with pH, alkaline-reserve, biomineral content...> I now have brown algae growing every where. <Also typical> I have 130W compact fluorescents 50/50 I just started running for 10hours a day (I was hoping for something to grow but not that).  Is that what caused the brown algae? <This and the availability of nutrients, lack of competitors, predation...> Where did I go wrong in the cycling I was told that it could be the water I am using for the high nitrates and the steady ammonia so I tested my water 0 ammonia and the nitrates are at 40. <... I do hope/trust this last measure is erroneous. There should not be this much NO3 in your tap/drinking water> Is this my problem but if so why have I not seen a spike in ammonia. Besides the brown nothing else is growing that I can see anyway. Well thanks for your time and I hope you help me out some but if not thanks anyway.                    Brian <Much to relate to you... and is all posted. Please start by reading here: http://wetwebmedia.com/lrcurefaqs.htm and follow where you lead yourself on the linked files embedded and at top. Bob Fenner>  

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