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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Nitrates  

Related Articles: Nitrates, NitritesAmmonia, Establishing Cycling, BioFiltrationPhosphate, SilicatesNutrient Control and ExportDeep Sand Beds

Related FAQs: Nitrates 1, Nitrates 2, Nitrates 4, Nitrates 5, Nitrates 6, Nitrates 7, Nitrates 8, Nitrates 9, Nitrates 10, Nitrates 11,  & FAQs on: The Actual Science Re: NO3 Compounds, Importance, Measuring, Sources, Means to reduce: NNR (Natural Nitrate Reduction, Anaerobic Bacteria), Algae, Other Biota, Physical Filters, Chemical Filters... NitritesAmmonia, Phosphate, Silicates, Biological Filtration, Fluidized Beds, Denitrification/Denitrifiers, Bio-Balls, Wet-Dry Filters, R.O./Distilled/Treated WaterChemical FiltrantsDeep Sand Beds

Don't feel too bad re having Cyano/BGA in your system... Happens even in the wild. 

Nitrate Levels After Reverse Osmosis? Are there nitrates existing in r/o water ? If so how much? And, is there any way of ridding nitrates before putting r/o water in your tank?  <Nick, if your membrane in the R/O filter is good, your water should be 97/98% pure. I would do a nitrate test of your tap water and see what the nitrates are out of the tap, if any. I would concentrate on getting the R/O filter working properly rather than incur extra expense in removing nitrates from R/O water. Nick, in future queries please watch your caps and abbreviations. It does save the editor work as these queries have to be corrected before they can be placed in the FAQ's. Thanks in advance. James (Salty Dog)> Thank you  <You're welcome> 

Nitrates Hello Bob and Crew, I have been reading all the articles on your site and am amazed, has to be the most informative site on the net, and I thought my old site was something, lol, just looking for a suggestion. I have a 130 gallon tank with a Picasso trigger, red coris wrasse (Bob's fave and mine), Naso and blue tangs, queen angel, tomato clown, cleaner wrasse (I know), long spine and pencil urchins, oh ya, and a volitans lionfish and snowflake eel, <You are or will be very overcrowded once these fish mature.> I have been changing 20 gallons a week, my nitrates have been at 10ppm, climbing to 20 at water change time, but now they have been at 20 climbing to 40 and above, I had a fluidized bed (Marineland) and got rid of it after reading some articles, but has not reduced the nitrates, I have a wet/dry running, <You W/D is contributing to your nitrate problem, but so is the sheer number and size of your fish. This is one instance where I like W/D's, for tanks with big messy fish.> a good protein skimmer, <This should easily be removing a cup per day.> a 16w U.V (Laguna), and recently have added an AquaClear "quick filter" into the tank for better circulation, could the filter attached to this be my problem? <No> this increase has started after adding this, coincidence? <Yes, coincidence.> I have floss as well as carbon and a phosphate removal pad in the first tray of the wet/dry, which I change regularly, <I would recommend cleaning the prefilter on the W/D daily. This would do a lot to remove organics and lower your nitrates.> and floss and bioballs in the main part which I do not change, <I do not like the floss in the W/D chamber.> this tank has been running 6-8 months, any thoughts are greatly appreciated, I do run tap water, <Another source of nitrates> age it for a few days in my salt mix container, with some "prime", our water here is not that bad I think, and all fish are doing well, with the exception of the blue tang that always has ich (hence the cleaner wrasse) thanks guys.....riotfishdude <Make sure your skimmer is putting out, clean the prefilters everyday, and perhaps switch to RO or DI water, and your nitrate levels should come down. You are going to have to work to keep this bioload in your tank. -Steven Pro>

Nitrates and other misc. ramblings Hello everyone, hope all is fine. <<And I hope all is well with you.>> I have been thinking about nitrates, since my predator tank always reads high, and how to reduce them. In a sump, say a 30 gal, would a deep sand bed or live rock be a better reducer of nitrates? <<How about both?>> Would this type of sump reduce nitrates? <<Not on day one, but over time, it would certainly help.>> Also if a tank has a high nitrate level and all the fish are removed, will the live rock eventually reduce the nitrates to 0.0 without any water changes? <<With a couple of other qualifiers, yes... high nitrates can have as much to with how you feed, as it does the fish you keep, which can influence how you feed - see the cycle here?>> If yes, does this process take a long time? (days -- weeks -- months)? <<I'd give it a month or so.>>  New subject; when preparing new water for water changes I use a water conditioner like Stress Coat or Start Right. <<Ok.>> I believe the main thing the conditioners remove is chlorine. <<Some also add chemicals to induce mucus production to help the fish's slime coat, others include other top secret ingredients... depends on the brand.>> Doesn't chlorine evaporate quickly from the water while it stands with an air stone for 24 hours and then another 24 to 48 hours with the salt mix? <<Something like that, yes.>> If it does, is it really necessary to use water conditioners as long as the new water is aged? <<Ah ha! You've just made an important connection - no bottled solutions required.>> Thanks in advance for the help. And I do realize the real answer to my questions is I need a bigger tank, more water volume, and/or fewer less hungry fish and better/more consistent tank maintenance. But I'm always looking for an easier less costly way to keep my fish and continue to find out there are no real short cuts. <<Nope, no real short cuts at all... Cheers, J -- >>

Nitrates... No. Big fish and a Shoehorn...  Hello Bob and Crew, I have been reading all the articles on your site and am amazed, has to be the most informative site on the net, and I thought my old site was something, lol, <thanks kindly!> just looking for a suggestion, I have a 130g tank with a Picasso trigger, red coris wrasse (Bob's fave and mine), Naso and blue tangs, queen angel, tomato clown, cleaner wrasse (I know), long spine and pencil urchins, oh ya, and a volitans lionfish and snowflake eel, <OK... first suggestion is to get a bigger tank ASAP. We must be responsible when planning for the adult sizes of our fishes without any unnatural, unhealthy or unrealistic hope of fishes stunting but not dieing prematurely. You have names seven fishes that approach or exceed one foot in length as adults!!! Yowsa, bud> I have been changing 20g a week, my nitrates have been at 10ppm,climbing to 20 at water change time, but now they have been at 20 climbing to 40 and above, <no surprise here... way too many fishes> I had a fluidized bed (Marineland) and got rid of it after reading some articles, but has not reduced the nitrates, I have a wet/dry running, a good protein skimmer, a 16w U.V (Laguna), and recently have added an AquaClear 'quick filter" into the tank for better circulation, could the filter attached to this be my problem? This increase has started after adding this, coincidence?, <no my friend... your fishes and tank are simply maturing. The nitrate is an inevitable by-product. Removing the fluidized bed was a good guess... it was the biggest "nitrate" producer in the system (besides the fish load...heehee)>  I have floss as well as carbon and a phosphate removal pad in the first tray of the wet/dry, which I change regularly, and floss and bioballs in the main part which I do not change, this tank has been running 6-8 months, any thoughts are greatly appreciated, <this is an easy one bud... thin the fish out or mother nature will do it for you. "Mysterious deaths" in the next year in your tank won't be so "mysterious"> I do run tap water, age it for a few days in my salt mix container, with some "prime", our water here is not that bad I think, and all fish are doing well, with the exception of the blue tang that always has ich (hence the cleaner wrasse), thanks guys.....riotfishdude <If you have a significant other, tell her I said it is OK for you to buy a 500 gallon aquarium :) Best regards, Anthony>

Re: Nitrates I do have 160 pounds of mainly Fiji and Indo rock, about 35 pounds of it is Florida rock, I run a return pump in my sump (Laguna again), pumps 1000g an hour, just incase of any importance, thought I better add this <<Ahh well, that does make a difference - I didn't think you had any live rock at all. So, I suspect your wet/dry - that and the floss you don't change - is this a wound bio bale? Could be it needs a rinse in fresh saltwater just to make sure there's no detritus collecting in it, but do also consider the "load" your fish put on the system, you've got quite a few of them in there. Cheers, J -- >>

Re: Nitrates Thanks for this Anthony, actually, I own an aquarium store (large,350 tanks) here in Burlington, Ontario (before you gasp, I do not run it though), <heehee... too late. I sucked in a fly on that last gasp> down the road I do plan on bringing large specimens back to my store to put for sale, at there present size I do not believe the tank is overcrowded (the largest is a few inches), <agreed, my friend. Our advice here is proffered to serve the masses. In such cases where an experienced aquarist truly has the means to move such fish (and is not just dreaming of a big tank one day like most of us are..) then I am quite comfortable with it. I'll call my cousin Joey Bag-O-donuts and tell him to turn the car around. He's going to be disappointed but I feel confident that you are competent my friend and do not need a knock on the door from the Aqua Mafia> I have been using an aqua. Pharm. nitrate kit and in talking with one of my store managers think that the kit might not be any good though it is new, <very possible... I have had this experience verified> a 20ppm jump in a day is very high, and I just changed 20g last night and have a 20ppm drop, which to me seems like a hefty drop for a small change, what are your thoughts on these readings, <the sudden increase is doubtful but the drop from the water change is believable if only temporarily. If both prove to be true... then there is a flaw in the filtration dynamics> also should I be changing the "permanent floss" I have over the bio balls?, <not often... just rinse in aged aquarium water that is about to be discarded from a water change (no tap water)> I wonder of this being a nitrate producer, and your thoughts on the best "kit" or system for accurate nitrate readings, <no brand seems to have a full line of reliable kits without spending bug bucks for lab reagents (hundreds of dollars). I have always like Aquarium Systems test kits> thanks again, best site on the net, will be mentioning it to customers when at the store.....riotfishdude <I admire your faith in the educated consumer! It is the very thing that will keep us all in business. Kudos to you... what is the name of your store my friend? Anthony>

Re: Nitrates Thanks J, <<You are quite welcome.>> I am leery of this floss I keep over the bio balls that I am told "never to change". I change the floss and other media kept in the tray above it, but do suspect I would need to change this other floss at some point, <<At some point yes - probably not too often as the prefilters should keep out the worst gunk.>> would the rock not provide the bacteria that this floss is supposed to provide?....riot... <<It absolutely would but if you removed that floss wholesale, you'd likely kick the tank in the head because your "system" is based on the biological filters in both the rock and the floss. It would take a little while for the biological filter in the live rock to take over the duty, but as I recall you have a pretty good quantity. If you can, remove the bioballs and the filter roll a little at a time. Cheers, J -- >>

Re: Nitrates Wow, thanks Steve. I didn't know I would get a reply from all you guys. That is great, the more experience the better. <Really just a lack of communication on our part, but glad to be of assistance.> So you suggest removing the floss that covers the bioballs <If this floss never gets cleaned or replaced, yes. It will, in time, become clogged with detritus.> and cleaning the floss in the first tray? <Yes, daily would be best. It would export a tremendous amount of material.> How would I clean floss? <Rinsing in tapwater would be fine.> Thanks again, I really appreciate it....riot... <Good luck! -Steven Pro>

Ok is this nuts? (Nitrates, marine) Hi again. Someone gave me an idea. Since my nitrate reading is above 160 ppm I've been looking for a drastic solution I guess. They told me to remove my 2 fish and all my water and leave my rock, substrate and skimmer media (Bak-Pak) and replace all the water with freshly mixed saltwater. Then slowly acclimate my fish again. Now I thought my water quality would be all out of whack after that change. They say no because of the bacteria left behind on the rock and such. Are they nuts or am I? <The process you describe above can be done, I have done it myself for new clients in extreme situations, but it is not to be recommended. I would much prefer to see you perform several 50% water changes over the course of a few days.> Below is a recap of my setup.. thanks for your response...I feel like a foolish rookie right now :( I have a 55 gal tank with a 6 inch porcupine and 4 inch yellow tang. I have 35 lbs of probably not live anymore rock and 1inch of aragonite substrate that is 4 years old. I'm running a CPR Bak-Pak skimmer with bio media along with 3 powerheads (one with a quick filter) for water movement. As for lighting, a 96 watt compact flash canopy with a 10,000 and an actinic bulb. <Good luck! -Steven Pro>

Ok I give up...aarrgh! (Nitrates...) Hi! Thanks for taking the time to read this. <No problem.> I have a 55 gallon tank with a 6 inch Porcupine Puffer and 4 inch Yellow Tang. I have 35 lbs. of probably not live anymore rock and 1 inch of aragonite substrate that is 4 years old. I'm running a CPR Bak-Pak skimmer with bio media along with 3 powerheads (one with a quick filter) for water movement. I recently transferred a 33 gallon tank to this new size. These questions would have been the same if I didn't buy the new tank. As for lighting, a 96 watt compact flash canopy with a 10,000 and an actinic bulb. My problem? Nitrates! Always have been high. We're talking in the 160 ppm range....yikes! <Yes. Yikes!> All other readings are fine. <Really? I would be very interested in your pH and alkalinity.> I've tried the 50% water changes, praying, screaming but to no avail. I feed the fish once a day. The Porcupine has lived in these conditions for 3 years. <A very tolerant fish, but was your Yellow Tang shown any symptoms of poor water quality; getting paler or the beginnings of Head and Lateral Line Erosion?> When I transferred the old 33 gallon of water to the new tank and over a week added the 22 other gallons of clean water, the nitrate was still 160! <Check a few things, one test just your source water (tap, well, whatever) for nitrates, then next test your new saltwater. This will tell you if you problem is from the source water, slat mix, or confined to the aquarium. Also, have a sample of your tank water double checked at your local fish store to make sure your kit is accurate.> Should I maybe remove the bio media? <Maybe, but this will not effect a cure just yet.> My pH is also a little low (7.7- 8.0 ish). <As I suspected it maybe.> Can that be that the substrate is old? <No, you are probably not doing enough of large enough water changes or your source water is contaminated. If your nitrate is 100 ppm and you do a 50% water change with water that has zero nitrates, the best you can hope for is lowering the level to 50 ppm. If you are not seeing a difference with large water changes, something is amiss.> Should I just buy a dog instead? <I have tanks and a dog.> Thanks a million... <Good luck to you! -Steven Pro>

Can't lower nitrates Hi Bob, I love your book. Superb illustrations. <Thank you> After much research I am still having problems with nitrate levels. I sure hope you can assist me. <I'll try> My tank FOWLR and a few inverts is a 55 gal that has been running for almost one year now. I'm using the same brand of test kit (JungleLabs) and have tried a few new sets in case one got messed up. I've also tried a powder kit (sorry, can't think of the name). When the tank cycled Nitrates started low 5 to 10 ish. They have progressively got worse and worse. I've added Caulerpa, more rock, and recently added AZ-NO3 which claims to get rid of nitrates in 30 days. It didn't work. It did bring them down from 80 to 100 to about 40. ( the powder kit says the nitrates are 10 to 20) Sad, but I'm real excited about that. For specifics I have a AquaC urchin skimmer in a 10 gal sump. I'd guess about 90 lbs of rock. About 55 lbs of substrate ( like 2 inches worth). I've added a huge wad of Caulerpa. The fish are 1 yellow tang ( about 1.5 inches) a Pacific blue tang ( about 1 inch ) two percula clowns ( less that 1 inch each). 2 Sand sifting stars, 1 cleaner shrimp, 1 camel back shrimp, 1 peppermint shrimp. A handful of hermit crabs and Astrea snails. 1 sea urchin. I do a 20 % change weekly. After the change I see NO difference in the reading.  <Would you please test the source water with your kits? I am suspicious... not of the tapwater, but of the assay devices> I have a R/O system, but only get about a gallon a day - after the wife and kids. So I get water form one of those water dispensers at the grocery store - Glacier brand. I've tested those sources for nitrates and it shows none. <Oh? Does it seem odd to you that you're diluting the tank water by a fifth, yet not registering a commensurate drop in nitrate concentration? It does to me> I've even tried a LFS that sells salt water - with no adjustment in nitrates after cleaning. I usually siphon the water without disturbing the bed except to pick up big things. In the past year I've vacuumed the bed once. One side one month, one side the next month. More about the tank. I have a penguin bio wheel 300?? (dual wheel) filter. After reading about bio wheels being nitrate factories I pulled them. AZ-NO3 mentioned pulling poly bags, and I recently pulled the pads - so that filter is essentially circulating the water. Feeding. I give them 3/4 cube of Formula one or Formula two. I tried cutting that back and someone started eating the hermit crabs and snails. ( I think I am missing a shrimp too). So now I have an automatic feeder that gives them a pinch of flake formula two ( algae) in the am, and their 1/2 to 3/4 cube at night. One of the shrimp has molted 3 times, and they all look content - although I do see a big increase in activity since the AZ-NO3. I tried e-mailing those guys and haven't heard back from them. <Unusual... MMM/Marine Monolith Monsters are fine fellows... perhaps they've been on vacation...> I hope I've covered everything. I really hope someone can shed some light on my problem. It's a sickening feeling not being able to help the fish and control the environment, and almost makes me want to go back to fresh water. One last tidbit - Tank is by a window, but never gets any direct light. My lighting is one of those "Glo" tubes - the one with the highest temp. I turn on the light about 6:00 pm and it goes off at about 11:00. <Shouldn't be a factor here> I should mention about the AZ-NO3. My skimmer ( which I added to my setup about 3 months after I started the tank) went into over drive. I cannot keep up with it. I clean it daily, but when I get home the sudsy crap has oozed out and all over the sump. Before AZ-NO3 which was into the just this month, I has really not getting much of anything out of my skimmer. <Ahh... a useful clue/insight> Could all this be from that missing shrimp? He was only about an inch and a half long. If so, how long can I expect the effects of his death to linger on? <No, but the loss of the animal and accumulating nitrates are likely linked...> I'd like to hear your thoughts on using ocean water for water changes. I live in Monterey, CA. It is a marine sanctuary. I got a sample yesterday and tested with every test I have. PH, nitrate, salinity, Ammonia. All were perfect. The reason I'm bringing this up is because, people keep mentioning my water as the source ( but like I said, I test it before I add it and it shows 0 nitrates). <In general not worth the effort... to store, clean... buffer... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seawater.htm and the FAQs linked> Thanks for your time, MikeG <Now, re the root cause/s at play here. Do test your alkalinity... I strongly suspect it is dangerously low... this, and/or a serious imbalance of two alkaline earth elements (Calcium, Magnesium) are out of balance (about 1:3) would explain all the above cleanly (including the loss of your shrimp). Do take a read through the sections posted on WetWebMedia.com re the issues. Bob Fenner>

Re: Can't lower nitrates Hello Bob, Thanks for the prompt reply. Until today I thought an alkalinity test was a PH test. I got a kit on the way home and tested the tank. It read 2.2 which converts to roughly 6 something. From my reading today, that is just about right. <Actually, a bit low... 8-13 meq/l would be better> That test kit was a Red Sea. It measured both pH and alkalinity. The PH test read 8.6 where as my usual test (tetra) reads 8.0. This bugs me and got me thinking. <Me too> So I got a Aquarium Systems nitrate kit (powder) and that one tells me my nitrates are just above 10. My LFS uses Jungle Labs test kits, so they will probably show me the same results as my kit ( my 3rd kit ) of 40 ish. <No... that Junkle test kit is off> I also tested the source water and it registered 0 nitrates. <As it should> Are there any other tests I should try? You mentioned Calcium and Magnesium. <Calcium might be of interest, use... especially should you "get into" biomineralizing life (e.g. stony coral) culture> Do you know of a source that I could send a sample of my water to for a complete/better evaluation? <Not really "send away"... as the sample can/will change over time for many variables... I would be satisfied with "checking the checkers" with other reliable test kits... For now, re nitrate, pH, I wouldn't be concerned. Bob Fenner> Thanx again, Mike

New Set up w/o NO3 Gentlemen, Great web site, first visit. I used to have a 55 gallon reef tank with old style wet/dry and skimmer. Now, as I am setting up a new 72 gallon bowfront with overflow. My internet research indicates that the w/d, trickle filters are too efficient at removing ammonia and nitrites and that the resulting NO3 might have been responsible for the algae that I fought in my old system. <Correct> I tried nitrate and phosphate sponges, etc but is a lot of expense without too much results. <Agreed, not cost effective.> Although, I have already purchased most of the equipment for the new tank there is nothing there that cannot be listed on eBay with good reason. I plan to have 120-140lbs of LR in my tank. Based on my research I think I want to go with some sort of Berlin/LS combo. But I do not want any sand in my tank! I like the bare glass and easy removal of debris. How do I practically place sand in my sump? <You can create what is referred to as a refugium in your sump.> I would like to go the Rubbermaid route for the sump as my old acrylic one from the w/d is kinda small. In the sump, I will also have Berlin Turbo skimmer and Mag-Drive 9.5 pump for return to the tank. My concerns are that I do not want sand going through the skimmer, pump and into the main tank. <The best designs I have seen using tubs were to have two tubs, one mounted slightly higher than the other. The higher tub having sand and liverock and gravity feeding into the lower tub with your skimmer, heater, and return pump.> Also, that denitrification needs a slower flow than what will be found in my sump. My idea is to fill a 1 gallon Rubbermaid bucket with aragonite sand and run a drip tube with valve from my return hose to drip into the top of the bucket of sand, which would sit inside my sump. One side of the bucket would have a hole near the top that is screened by a filter pad from the inside so that sand would not escape but a slow flow of water would? <Ok> I am hoping that this rig would have areas of both aerobic and anoxic activity. Would this set up complement my LR with enough no3 removal or would it be a bigger risk for h2s? <You should be fine. Anthony Calfo actually details this method in his book "Book of Coral Propagation."> Would I need critters besides bacteria in it to keep it aerated or would the highly oxygenated water from my sump be enough to prevent excessive anaerobic activity. <Worms and possibly some snails will do the work you want.> I am starting anew. Your insight and recommendations would be welcome. Thanks for your time. Mike Sorry, additional information is that I was planning on using a tidepool three w/d but will go another route if its going to be no3 problem. <The tub or even another tank would be a better choice.> My lights are 6 x 55w pc. I would like most natural, least maintenance, non-chemical additive filter system. I would like my cake and eat it too. Thanks again, Mike <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Nitrate cycling? So I was pondering the finer details of biological filtration last night (Is this a cry for help?) <It sounds like you are a perfect candidate for membership to the local marine aquarium society. All you need now is a pair of sweat pants and you are all set.> and came up with an interesting question: As we know, there needs to be a significant spike of ammonia and nitrite to establish the proper colony of nitrifying bacteria. But then we get nitrates and it's usually recommended to do a massive water change. If the life cycles of nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria are at all similar, wouldn't this stunt or prevent the development of good denitrification in our live rock and deep sand beds? Wouldn't this cause a cycle of high nitrates --> water change/removal of nitrates --> poor development of denitrifying colony --> high nitrates....etc? <This is a very good question, very interesting. It is a nice change of pace from the one thousand questions we get about shoe horning a shark into a relatively small aquarium. Ok, enough wasting time thinking of an answer, the thing you have not considered is all the other things associated with high nitrate levels that we wish to correct with large water changes; dissolved organics, depressed pH, etc.> I could think of no better place to look for insight than my favorite team of experts, the WWM crew. Please, enlighten me. Travis <The long story short, there are many other things we are concerned about and wish to address with water changes, but still a very unique and interesting question. It shows you are thinking. -Steven Pro>

Re: Nitrate cycling? Thanks for the reply Steven. Being a rather staunch proponent of water changes, and one of those people who are never wrong, I wasn't trying to conclude against water changes. I agree that many other nasty things should go out with a good water change. But what if we DIDN'T add livestock and DIDN'T do a water change until the nitrates were gone or nearly gone, just as we do with ammonia and nitrite? <I would guess the denitrifying bacteria would cycle, too. I just have no idea how long the process would take and the nasties may fuel nuisance algae in the meantime.> I'll take your advice on the sweatpants- and the DFWMAS. See you at MACNA? <Of course! Anthony and I will be attending, manning a WWM table, and promoting Bob, Anthony, and my new book "Reef Invertebrates", due out this spring. It is the first in a new series from WWM, The Natural Marine Aquarium Series.> Thanks again, Travis <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Liverock & Large Predators IV (sumps, removing bioballs, nitrate) Greetings Steven Pro, I hope all is well. A quick follow-up. As I am about to add a 2nd sump, change pump, etc., I am faced with a space challenge in my 72" stand. My tank is in my living room so all the plumbing must be hidden in the stand. My sump #1 (a converted wet/dry) is 24 inches long, followed will be followed in series by approximately 8 inches of connections to sump #2 which is 24 inches also. This leaves only about 16" for connections to my pump and the pump itself. I can fit it all in, but this limits my potential to add another item in series (I'm contemplating a small refugium someday). <Before you add on yet another vessel, I would urge you to buy one big tank/sump and use it for all your needs; sump, refugium, protein skimmer box, etc. Much safer than all these connections/potential spaces for leaks.> I believe I have read somewhere that you cannot place an elbow before the inlet to a pump such as the 1200 gph Iwaki I just purchased. Can you confirm that this would be a bad move? <It will restrict the flow.> If I could use an elbow it would allow me to place my pump sideways and free up some extra room. <You are going to be using some additional powerheads or something else too anyway, as your 180 will need more circulation than the Iwaki can supply alone. If the elbow helps you, go for it and just compensate with the additional added flow.> Thank you for your advice. BTW, you guys have been giving me great tips. I am preparing for the addition of a lot of live rock in the next month or so, and have been slowly testing the biological capability of my "dead rock" that I've had for years in the meantime. I'm now down to 1/4 of the bioballs I originally had in my wet-dry, and my nitrates have steadily dropped from 40 to now 5 this week. The only thing that dropped further was my jaw when I re-checked the latest test. I've never had such low readings before. And all this before adding the live rock and a Euro Reef skimmer I just ordered. Pass on my thanks to all -- more good news to come I'm sure! Steve. <Glad to hear it! -Steven Pro>

Nitrates & More Hi all--- Hope you are all well. I haven't decided if this is a simple or complex question, so here goes. I have a 55 gallon FOWLR aquarium, with a Eheim canister filter, CPR Bak-Pak II skimmer, UG filter with about 3 inches of crushed coral gravel and conventional flow powerheads. Inhabitants are a Koran angel (~ 4 inches), cardinalfish (~3"), moon wrasse (~4 inches), yellow tang (~2-3 inches) and two striped damsels. I have about 25-30 pounds of live rock, and just switched from standard fluorescents to a 260W PC light (only running the two 65W daylights for now, as per your recommendations). <Ok> Up until about two months ago, nitrates were nice and low; now, they're running 80ppm or thereabouts. I did a 15 gallon water change a week or so ago and have noticed little or no change in nitrates. <If you do the math you will see that a 15% water change with, lets assume zero nitrates in new water, could only yield a change to 68 ppm nitrate.> The fish do not seem to be acting out of the ordinary, and perhaps they have acclimated to the increased nitrates (as I'm assuming the levels got to where they are gradually). <Correct about the gradual part. The nitrate level and more specifically the level of total dissolved organics has a slower effect yon the fishes' health. Your Angel will probably be the first to suffer, showing HLLE.> Yesterday, I added some Gracilaria, and have made sure that the skimmer is functioning properly. I will be adding some more liverock, but was not excited about what my LFS had to offer (very small pieces). Also, as I am planning to move my tank in a few weeks (with advice from you as well...don't know where I'd be without you), I am going to add a refugium (the CPR Aquafuge) at that time. <Ok> My questions are: 1. Should I decrease the depth of the substrate to less than 1", and/or switch to live sand instead? <Go with the livesand or make no changes.> I was always under the impression that with a UG filter the substrate depth should be 3-4 inches, <Correct, to work properly 3-4" is best. Thinner and not effective, thicker and too easily clogged, too hard to keep clean.> but I'm wondering if the depth is adding to my nitrate accumulation (since it's getting vacuumed lightly with water changes). <The UG is what is adding to your nitrate problems.> 2. Can I afford to wait with the refugium until I move the tank and still reduce nitrate levels in the meantime (planning on moving to have the floor redone the last week of August)? <Yes, there are other options; larger and/or more frequent water changes, possibly purified source water (RO or DI), etc.> 3. Any further suggestions on nitrate reduction (I have also severely cut back on the feeding, on your advice)? <See notes above.> I've read thru the FAQs and read what I could...didn't know if you had any suggestions for this specific case. Thanks again for all your help. You guys are great. All good wishes, Daryl Klopp <Thank you! -Steven Pro>

Nitrates & Follow-up If I switch to live sand, should I get rid of all the crushed coral and lose the UG filter? <Yes> (any concerns about bacteria, or will there be enough in the livesand) <You should have enough with your liverock and BioBale in the CPR.> I've been using RO water for water changes. <Good, make sure the unit is in good working order, prefilters changed on schedule, etc.> I'll assume that I should do that maybe twice monthly instead of monthly for the time being? <That and larger volumes, 15% is barely making a dent.> Thank you again, Daryl Klopp <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

High Phosphates and Nitrates Hello, I am posting this for a friend from my salt club, can you help? <I'll try> “I have been having some water chemistry problems lately that I can not figure out, so I am going to put it out there for you all to help with. About 2 months ago, I started getting high nitrate readings along with moderately high phos. Everything I have tried to get these down has failed or only worked for a short time, which equals failed in my book. I have nothing missing in the way of livestock, most of my corals are now doing fine, with the exception of the birds nest frag I got at the swap. I have tested the makeup water and it does not read any nitrate or phos. either. Tank readings this am are. pH. 8.0 (buffer added), Nitrite 0mg/L, Nitrate >110 on one kit >120 on another, Phos. 1.0mg/L, Ammonia, 0 on both kits, KH 110, CA 300 (today is Kalk day). <Elevating the pH with the Kalkwasser to about 8.5 (temporarily, it will drop soon on its own) will precipitate out most of the soluble phosphate here... But its source?...> Tank is a 55 gal with 4-5in DSB, HOB BakPak skimmer, 4 Powerheads for circulation, Temp. remains at 78. Inhabitants: 2 tangs, 2 midas blennies, 1 blue damsel, 1 lawnmower, emerald and sally lightfoot crabs, 2 conch with multiple babies, 5 starfish of different varieties with multiple baby ones. About 70lbs LR, Multiple corals of all varieties (SPS, LPS, Softies). Coralline growth is great. No nuisance algae. I have been struggling with red Cyano, but it appears to be controlled now. <Here's a clue> Photoperiod is 14hrs, first and last 2hrs are actinic only from 220w pc lighting. Any ideas? Suggestions?” <It may well be that the measurable nitrate, phosphate are coming from the dissolving Cyanobacteria... or perhaps a mineral source in the system (substrate, rock...), overfeeding... Please have your friend read through this section of our root web: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and the linked FAQs files there. Bob Fenner>

High Phosphates and Nitrates Hello, I am posting this for a friend from my salt club, can you help? <I will try.> “I have been having some water chemistry problems lately that I cannot figure out, so I am going to put it out there for you all to help with. About 2 months ago, I started getting high nitrate readings along with moderately high phosphate. Everything I have tried to get these down has failed or only worked for a short time, which equals failed in my book. <Agreed. This type of problem needs to be attacked at the root cause, not by attacking the symptoms.> I have nothing missing in the way of livestock, most of my corals are now doing fine, with the exception of the birds nest frag I got at the swap. <Phosphate is a known inhibitor of calcification.> I have tested the makeup water and it does not read any nitrate or phosphate either. <Is this some sort of purified water, RO or DI? Either one is preferable to tap water.> Tank readings this am are pH 8.0 (buffer added), Nitrite 0 mg/L, Nitrate >110 on one kit >120 on another, <Indeed, quite high.> Phosphate 1.0 mg/L, <This will fuel nuisance algae, if not now, soon, particularly Cyanobacteria.> Ammonia 0 on both kits, KH 110, CA 300 (today is Kalk day). Tank is a 55 gallon with 4-5 inch DSB, HOB Bak-Pak skimmer, 4 Powerheads for circulation, Temperature remains at 78. Inhabitants: 2 tangs, 2 midas blennies, 1 blue damsel, 1 lawnmower, emerald and sally lightfoot crabs, 2 conch with multiple babies, 5 starfish of different varieties with multiple baby ones. About 70 lbs LR, multiple corals of all varieties (SPS, LPS, Softies). Coralline growth is great. No nuisance algae. <Surprising!> I have been struggling with red Cyanobacteria, but it appears to be controlled now. Photo period is 14 hours, first and last 2 hours are actinic only from 220w PC lighting. Any ideas? Suggestions? <Many possibilities. Over feeding, feeding inappropriate foods, inadequate nutrient export processes, not large enough or frequent enough water changes, etc. Not enough information given at this point for a definitive answer. -Steven Pro>

Nitrates We have a 75 gallon salt tank that we have never been able to get the Nitrates down to a reasonable level on. They are always around 80 or higher even with water changes, a protein skimmer and 2 filtration systems. We did take the bio balls out of the one system on the advice of a student in marine biology. We have 4 fish in the tank. A sail fin tang, yellow tang, a damsel and a sand sifter goby. Also a snail. We have about 40 lbs of live rock. Any suggestions? <<Greetings, Susan. My suggestion would be to double your quantity of live rock, and if possible triple it and jam the excess into your sump. Live rock is probably the best solution out there for natural nitrate reduction.>> Susan <<Cheers, J -- >>

Nitrate Removal Hi Bob (or whoever), <Hello> I have written to you before regarding a v'small marine tank I had setup, which may I say was very successful indeed. I have now converted my brackish tropical tank to full marine (after removing any fish that wouldn't tolerate a full salt mix). I am trying to use the same method in which I succeeded in with the v'small tank i.e. not interfering with it as much as possible. <Good approach> Before with the v'small tank the only thing I ever did was top up the water and feed tiny scraps of food for the corals and for the blenny (excellent suggestion you made to get one for algae clearance, not a lawnmower type but sufficient). My next question is this: Now the 2 foot tank has been converted and has all the coralline contents of the v'small tank I am having a problem, the no. of fish (approx 1/2 pound of fish poss. a bit more very excessive for a tank this size, minimum feeding though) in this tank now outweighs the amount on nitrate the rock can accommodate. Currently there is 0% ammonia 0% nitrite and the tank has been cycled for ages, using the method as before I do not wish to constantly cycle the water to remove nitrate and other such toxins, please tell me which of the following would be the most natural way of reducing nitrates (and other possible toxics and poss. introduce some trace and calciferous elements). I would like to emulate nature as much as possible (i.e.. not use protein skimmers and chemicals). should I use 1. a live sand bed (along with all the setup difficulties) with slow trickle feed and plenty anaerobic bacteria (possibly in separate 12x10x10 tank full of sand). or 2. a v'slow trickle filter filled with a material that will support anaerobic bacteria. <Mmm, in order, the above... I'd use 1, then 2, then 3... or perhaps all three. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm for my expose on nitrates in marine systems... and the many FAQs linked. Bob Fenner> Thanks in advance Alex. (Sandgate, Kent, UK)

Nitrates quickie question Hi Guys <Cheers, dear> Just a quickie - we cannot get an accurate reading for nitrates in our marine tank. Currently we use three - a tab test, powder and liquid. The results are: Tab test - 100ppm + Powder - 50ppm Liquid - 10ppm! Quite a difference! All tests are relatively new. Which would you rely on? <well as a rule, dry reagents are more reliable and longer lived (shelf life) than liquids. Have you checked the dates of all reagents to be sure that they are fresh? Also know that test kits may read nitrate as an ion or as nitrate-nitrogen and there is a difference of 4.4 with the multiple. So.. a reading of 10ppm with a multiple factored in could very well agree with the 50ppm reading (one in the same). Do read your test kits more closely to determine what form of nitrate they are actually reading and if the reagents are actually not expired> Thanks Lesley <kindly, Anthony>

Nitrate levels Hi guys <Cheers, Andy> I hope you can advise me, I have just returned to the hobby after a 15 year break. <excellent... welcome back!> I am starting up a marine tank, and going through the cycling process, ammonia has just dropped off the scale and nitrite is peaking now BUT the nitrate level is huge,  <yes... to be expected from the conversion of the large nitrogenous spike on cycling> despite several 10% water changes. <ahhh... too small for exchanges to reduce nitrate. Best to wait until the very end of the cycle and do one very large water change IMO (properly conducted with water that is pH, temp and salinity adjusted carefully)> I have no livestock, 1/2 inch of coral sand and some ocean rock.  <are you cycling with a batch of uncured rock which provides the material for cycling (decaying organic material)? Else, what are you using to cycle?> my filters consist of a Fluval 3 and a built in unit, both with sponges for biological and the built in unit with floss, a PolyFilter and carbon.  <excellent> my skimmer is a red sea 'Prizm'  <hmmm... definitely will want to add a second skimmer or simply upgrade from this model very soon. Much info to be heard about this model on the message boards. May I suggest a Euroreef, Aqua C, Turboflotor or Tunze instead? Euroreef being perhaps my first choice.> Due to the high level of nitrate (my tapwater shows minimal - and I use nitrogen so the freshwater is around 2-3 ppm) I tried clean water ion exchange resin to no avail. <do save your money on such products. "the solution to pollution is dilution". Water changes, my friend. Also, if you had a skimmer that performed consistently and well ( a full cup of coffee dark liquid every day) then you would have a lot less nitrate to handle> The only possible polluter is the 1/2 a fish stick I put in the tank to start the maturation process off (3 weeks ago), but the water changes have not really made much of an impact on the nitrate level. my questions are 1/ how to reduce dramatically the nitrate level <yep... biggie water change> 2/ when can I introduce living rock ( I will be putting around 45 pounds of it in when I feel the water parameters are safe for the life on the living rock)  <actually if the rock you buy if local and fully cured... the sooner the better! Else if air shipped, the curing process will take some extra weeks> I know that the rock will reduce nitrate but will the high level of nitrate and still high level of nitrite bar me from putting it in at the moment. <no impediment at all> 3/ once the tank has finally matured, and , when I can afford it, I want to add a fluidized sand filter - do I have to mature it separately or can it be hooked up straight away and allowed to mature in situ. <unless you are planning on large fish or overfeeding... the fluidized bed (or any other biological filter at this point) will be overkill and contribute to even higher nitrates. You will have plenty of bio filtration from the live rock and the Fluval sponges are a fine backup. The extra filter is more harm than good. Spend your money on a second/better skimmer and enjoy much better water quality for it> Thanks in advance Andy Davis Ashford Kent UK <best regards, Anthony Calfo>

Wet/Dry? Love the site...learning lots daily. Quick question regarding nitrates and removing bio balls. Nitrates are high...even with 12% weekly water changes. 65 gal.. hex...pair of perc clowns, coral beauty, bicolour angel. and that famous "giant pink wig" Caribbean anemone...colt coral, zoanthids. Wondering about removing the bio balls and having the water flow through filter bag. Will this help with the nitrates or will I need more live sand...1 to 2 inches now. <Somewhat helpful if you clean the filter bag very frequently, almost daily, but adding more sand would be better.> If I put live rock in the sump will that help also? <Yes> I read over your site and am a little confused with the removal of the bioballs. Do I need to go with a deep sand bed? or is the current set up cool. <Under 1" or over 4" is my rule of thumb, which I picked up from Anthony. You may also want to check your source water for nitrates.> Aloha for your help. POG <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Re: ich freaking me out. Denitrification hi again, since I only use a wet, dry on my main tank, can I fill a Fluval 403 with a bunch of crushed coral or sand to create an anaerobic environment.  <not large enough and even if so, it would be too difficult to monitor the flow so that it didn't become aerobic and biological. Deep sand beds and live rock are much better for denitrification> this would decrease my nitrates, no? <through the Fluval it could add nitrates if the flow was too fast!> if so, how should I do it, and what to use?  <deep sand bed is first choice for nitrate control> I have no live rock. if this is better, where should I buy live branch. <wow! live rock is indispensable for most marine aquaria for so many reasons... do research and review its merits and buy some. If the LFS does not stock a satisfactory product, order from any of a number of online suppliers (Check forum/message boards for a current referral) and be sure to cure it separately on arrival (even if they claim that it is cured). Review WWM archives for protocol on curing live rock please. Best regards, Anthony>

Nitrate Reduction in Marine Aquarium Bob, <Steven Pro this morning.> I've read through all of your Nitrate FAQ's, but cannot decide how to best address the high Nitrate levels in my 75 gallon Marine Aquarium.. I moved my established tank a few months ago. W/in a few weeks all of my fish died from some kind of parasite. <Sorry to hear about it.> I hooked up a UV sterilizer and ran the tank empty for a month. <Good protocol> I then added 3 damsel fish. They survived for several months, so I decided to add a Yellow Tang, then a small Spotted Puffer and finally Dragon Wrasse and 3 small Hermit Crabs.. After several months of neglect, I did some water tests and found my Nitrate levels were at 40 - 60ppm ... I've had virtually no algae growth, but that may be due the UV sterilizer. <No, UV's only affect things that flow through them. You may not have enough of some other condition (phosphate, lighting, etc.)> I've since turned it off. In the last 2 weeks, I've changed 30 gallons of salt water out w/premixed salt water from my local pet store. However, the level has not dropped and I'm at a loss of how to get them down. <Is the saltwater from your LFS RO water mixed with a clean salt mix? Does it test zero for nitrates?> I eventually want to add a few invertebrates, so I have to get these Nitrate levels down. My System Consists of: 75 Gallon Aquarium Under gravel filter powered by 2 penguin 1140 power heads. Seaclone Protein Skimmer Fluval 202 Canister filter which returns to the aquarium through a UV Sterilizer. 30 lbs of Base Rock & 10 lbs of Live Rock. 3 inches of crushed coral substrate. I've researched several methods of reducing the Nitrates. Mangroves will not work, because I have a canopy w/lights mounted in it. <Mangroves do not usually grow fast enough to remove a significant portion of nutrients. Caulerpa is the "plant" of choice for this application.> A glass cover, is directly over the Aquarium. An external refuge for Mangroves or other Nitrate consuming plant life scares me, because it may flood my house if the power fails. <Not if designed and installed properly.> Live Rock is prohibitively expensive so a Berlin System is not likely to be an option. I'm left w/ two options. Option #1 Create a live sand system, by shutting down the UG filter and capping its lift tube holes. Remove all but an inch of substrate, put down a nylon screen and top w/another 2 - 4 inches of substrate. <You should not leave any of the old substrate.> Add my base and live rock back into the system and run only w/the Protein skimmer. My questions here are, will the UG be enough of a Plenum area? <Yes> Wouldn't shutting down the UG cause a large die off of bacteria creating a huge Ammonia plume? <Yes> I have no where else to keep my fish long enough to cycle the tank, so they would have to be able to go back into the tank w/in a day or two. Would my SeaClone protein skimmer and live sand/rock system be sufficient to support my live stock? <No> Option #2 Add a coil DIY denitrification filter between the Canister filter return and the Protein Skimmer. What would be your suggestion? <The coil denitrator would work, but is highly hands on as far as adjustments go. My preference would be to add a remote tank/sump with DSB and Caulerpa.> Thanks, Glenn <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Nitrate Reduction in Marine Aquarium II Steven, Thanks for the advice. I did a 50% water change this weekend, which dropped my nitrates down to 10ppm. I'm going to do another this weekend. You said a new Plenum System and my Protein Skimmer could not handle the bio load in my tank. Did you mean just during the cycling phase or at all? <At all with the amount of liverock you have.> If it is just during the cycling, would running the canister filter be enough filtration for the cycling phase? <Probably not as a Fluval 202 is going to have limited biological media/surface area.> If a Plenum system will not work at all, then I will start considering how to do the sump option. <Even with the sump, you are still going to need more liverock. Another 30 pounds or so should do to reach a total of 70 pounds.> The problem w/ that is I can only put it under the stand, which is an oak cabinet stand. I'm limited to the size of sump I can put under the stand w/out tearing down my system. The wall is not long enough to support another tank and stand. Will a 10 gallon aquarium be enough? <Seems pretty small for a 75 and probably will not be effective.> If not, can I use a Rubbermaid container? <Yes, a nice, cheap alternative.> Is a Deep Sand Bed the same as a Jaubert Plenum System? <A plenum system has a DSB, but a DSB is not necessarily a plenum system.> Sorry for all the questions, I just want to be sure I do this correctly. Could you direct me to some good DIY Sump plans? <Check out the links page for one to Oz Reef something or other. They have a lot of good DIY plans and links.> Thanks Again, Glenn <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Nitrate reduction Well, Anthony. here I am again, making my self perhaps a little tiring, but the fact is that the more I read about our hobby, the more I realize that my knowledge is really poor... <not poor at all, just "young"... we learn every day. Gandhi is quoted as having said (to paraphrase)... live like you will die tomorrow and learn like you will live forever> My nitrates are stable at 100, going a little down with the water changes. My tank is FO for the moment, but still I know that reducing the nitrates would mean a lot for the health of my fishes.  <yes... agreed> On the other hand I am very attracted to crustaceans (shrimps, etc) , which need 0 nitrates (?). So, I have been reading in your site about the several ways to reduce them. After all this reading I have come up with the following questions: What is the best in my case? - Buy live rock? Has the live rock any kind of problem with the existence of wet-dry filter that I am planning to buy? Should I buy it after I drop the nitrate or before? <this will help the system in many ways and is highly recommended...however, it will not significantly reduce nitrates> - Make a deep sand bed ? (6 '' +) ? Only with one material - fine aragonite sand? How can I have "live sand"? Do I buy it ready "live" or the fine aragonite sand turns to be "live" by itself after some time ? <yes... the best solution! you can get dry sand at 4-6" or more depth and add just a little bit of live sand (a handful literally would be fine) or live rock to seed it. It will all become biologically live in a few weeks> - Buy a denitrator? <expensive and laborious... hold off on this if we can manage fine with only the deep sand bed> Please do not bother to give long answers, cause you see I have placed too many questions. You can answer only with a yes or no, or just the right thing I should do, just to give me the direction in which I should move. Thanks REALLY and please forgive my grammatical or syntactic mistakes, I hope you understand the meaning of my sentences. Regards, Thanassis...Greece <no worries at all my friend. We are pleased to be able too help. And your command of written English is actually very good. I understand you perfectly each time! Best regards, Anthony>

Marine testing Dear Bob, <Anthony Calfo in your service> I have kept marines for over 5 years now but I have a problem with managing my nitrate level, this may not be linked but I am also plagued with red algae.  <indeed... both are associated with high nutrient levels (lack of daily protein skimming, overstocking/overfeeding, etc> The red algae appeared after I bought some rock from a friend of mine - the algae now predominates to a point where virtually no green algae will grow. I water change every two weeks (roughly 20%)to keep this down but if left it will spread over the crushed coral sand and the glass where it appears as a dirty brown covering. <good water change schedule... you may simply need better performance from a skimmer (getting 4-8 oz of dark skimmate daily to prevent such nitrate and nuisance algae> At every water change I check for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, the ammonia and nitrite are virtually 0 but the nitrate is somewhere between 25-50ppm (the test kit is not too accurate), I'm sure this is why I have problems with inverts, especially anemone's. They appear to thrive after going in, e.g. feed well, move around, strong color, but after a few weeks they begin to go downhill and look sick, e.g. flaccid tentacles, stop feeding, loose their color and most eventually die.  I suppose my major problem is my nitrate level but I cannot get this a manageable level even if I water change weekly - I just put three tubs of Tetra's nitrate minus in last week (between the calcium plus and the coral sand) but as yet with no effect. I work in a chemistry laboratory in the University, so have access to general reagents, I spend a fortune on test kits so I wondered if you know what chemicals are used to test for nitrate, all our methods require spectrophotometers. <I cannot offer advise here... will defer to Bob> Any advice you have would be gratefully received - Kind Regards Jeremy <best regards, Anthony>

Trickle Filters as Nitrate Factories I am a newbie and just found your site a couple of days ago. I can't leave it alone and can't tell you how much I've learned in a short period. <Glad to hear it.> Anyway I had a question that's been bugging me. I have read several places that trickle filters are nitrate factories. Wouldn't any biological filter stop generating nitrates as soon as the supply of ammonia and nitrites is depleted (which is what I want anyway)? <Ammonia is produced constantly in our aquariums. The thing is when your tank is completely "cycled" the ammonia is converted/consumed nearly instantly into nitrate so that at any given time you get a zero reading from your ammonia test kit. Pretty much the same thing happens with nitrite, too. The main drawback to trickle filters is their incredible ability to nitrify many dissolved organics and turn them into nitrate too. You would much rather see your protein skimmer grab a hold of these compounds and export them from the system instead.> Thanks, Darrell <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Nitrate Reduction in Marine Aquarium III Hi again Steve, I've given some serious thought to adding a sump/refugium to my system. I've decided to go the DIY route. Attached is a diagram of my idea. Basically I'm going to tear down my existing system. A local glass shop will drill two holes in the bottom of the tank, for the over flow box and sump return. I'll be doing some serious praying that my tank survives. <Please double check that your tank does not have a bottom made of tempered glass. Tempered glass is undrillable and will shatter.> Next, I'll build a DIY internal over flow box. My sump and refugium will consist of two 18 gallon rubber made containers plumbed together. As you can see water will flow from the tank to the sump.. Some water will hopefully gently flow into the refugium and be returned to sump via power head. <Far better to have the refugium pump located in the sump pumping up to the refugium and gravity feeding back into the sump.> The pump in the sump will return it to the tank. I'm hoping the return will distribute through out the tank to create some wave action. I'll move my protein skimmer and heater to the sump. That's basically the plan. I'd appreciate any thoughts you might have to making it flood proof. <See notes above.> Since, I'm losing the UG filter, I've also thought of adding a small wet/dry filter to the sump to keep Ammonia and Nitrite in check. It would probably be a DIY system made from a small container filled w/BIO balls and a sponge. Do you think that will be over kill? <Not really overkill, but will be unseeded and useless for the first month. Not able to handle all the wastes that the UG did previously.> Remember, I'll need to be able to return the live stock ASAP. Oh, I'll also have activated charcoal in the sump too. I forgot to add that to the drawing. <I would add the extra liverock that I mentioned in a previous email and then set about removing the UG, drilling, etc. That should give you plenty of biological filtration so that you can remove the UG.> Thanks again for the help...Glenn <Good luck on your ambitious project. I am sure your pets will be happy when it is completed. -Steven Pro>

Nitrate Reduction in Marine Aquarium IV Hi again Steven, <Hello Glenn> I added an additional 35#'s of cured Fiji LR to my 75G system this weekend. Can I shut down my UG and run w/just the LR, skimmer and canister filter, until I'm ready to add my sump and refugium. <Not just yet. I would wait about one month before shutting down and removing the UG and crushed coral.> Thanks again, Glenn <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Nitrate Reduction in Marine Aquarium V It's me again Steven, I hate to be such a pest, <No bother at all. I would prefer to have you change your setup and be successful rather than not get all of your questions answered and write back later with disease and water quality issues.> but the more I research converting to DSB filtration the more questions I have about it. I read in the FAQ's on WWM. On several occasions I think Bob suggested to someone to mix the aragonite sand with the CC. Do one side one week then the other another week. <Not really mix. Perhaps remove one side of the UG and crushed coral and replace it with sand. Wait one month and then do the other side. That way you still had the benefit of the UG's biological filtration.> Like you, he does prefer completely removing it. I read on another message board I found by using Google, that some people removed all the CC and replace it with dead aragonite sand. Southdown I believe is the product they used. <I know it well, have used it before in customers' tanks and have a bunch for my new aquarium.> They suggested seeding that by placing some of the CC in the feet of nylon stockings and setting them on top of the aragonite sand for a few weeks. <Better to allow good quality liverock or some lives and to seed the dry sand bed.> Even w/that method they had an ammonia spike. <Yes quite possible in you do not have enough liverock to effectively function as your biological filtration.> I guess now to my questions. When I finally convert to DSB filtration ,removing the UG and CC, some water will be left over in the bottom of the tank. That water will be very dirty, but it will it also be full of free floating bacteria. Is that correct? <No, the bacteria you are talking about prefers to grow attached to a substrate and only free floats in unusual situations.> If so, could I not save that water, add 3" of Southdown sand, then add the water and another 2" of Southdown? Would this help seed the sand w/nitrifying bacteria? <No> At the moment I'm planning on a 5" DSB in the display tank and a 6" DSB in the refugium. You did suggest having a DSB in both the tank and refugium, right? <Sure> FYI the LR looks great. I'm going to try and add another 20#'s. I added 3(6 total) more hermit crabs last night and a Sand Sifter Star. <Not a fan of the starfish, eats too many beneficial little critters.> Hopefully they will help keep the substrate clean.. My tank has been running for years w/out a clean up crew.. Poor husbandry on my part. I never thought the inverts would survive the nitrates.. <Add the rest of the intended liverock. Wait one month. Remove half of the UG and CC. Wait one month. Remove the other half and you should be set.> Well I guess it's off to work I go. (Oh Joy!!!!) Thanks Again, Glenn <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Questions about Nitrate Reduction Bob, <<JasonC here, taking a break from "tank day" to check Bob's mail - he's away diving.>> I'm working on reducing a Nitrate problem in my 75 gallon tank. I have a few damsels, a small Sailfin tang, some cleaner shrimp, and a few soft corals (bubble, xenia, green start polyps, mushroom leather). I purchased the system with a wet/dry filter with about 30 pounds of live rock (nicely covered with coralline algae), but in an effort to improve water quality and control nitrates have converted to a Berlin style system. I added an aqua C EV-120 skimmer, another forty pounds of live rock, and mixed in another inch of live sand with my existing two inches of crushed aragonite substrate in the tank (the existing sand has been in contact with the live rock for nine months, so I'm assuming it was also "live"). After an initial elevation in the ammonia and nitrite levels they are moving asymptotically to zero (both are between 0 and .25 at the current time and the colors appear to be lightening each time I test the water). However the nitrate levels are still off the charts at 140 ppm. <<this will change in time... give it some time.>> I typically do a 10 gallon water change weekly (I mix the make-up water with 10 cups of old water then age it for a week with a power head and heater before adding it to the system). I'd like to do a massive water change to attempt to reduce the accumulation of nitrates from the old system and get everything closer to being in balance. <<you'd probably have to do a couple of large changes to drop a level that high.>> However based on my reading of the FAQs I'm not sure that this would be a good idea until the tank finishes it's secondary cycling and the ammonia and nitrites have returned to zero. <<I don't think that will be too long from now.>> Can you clarify for me if I should wait or if I can move on the water change immediately? <<Wait. Let the tank stabilize and let that live rock kick in.>> As a corollary to this question I was wondering if "cycle" would help a Berlin environment? <<the stuff in the bottle?? - don't bother with it.>> The label mentions increasing the levels of aerobic bacteria and says nothing about anaerobic bacteria. I'd love to do something to help the tank achieve balance as quickly as possible for the sake of the livestock in place. <<I think the live rock will do this for you.>> They're looking as if nothing has happened so far, but the sooner everything is where is should be the better. After reading all of the FAQs on the WetWebMedia site it appears that the best options to speed up the process of reducing the nitrates would be to add ceramic media or Caulerpa algae to the sump. <<even those would not take immediate affect. I urge you to wait a little while and see how it goes.>> I'm leaning toward the ceramic media as I have little space in the sump after the filter bad and skimmer to place algae where they could get any light. I'm assuming that the ceramic media will populate with anaerobic bacteria in a dark environment. Is this correct? <<over time, yes>> Thanks for your help, Phil <<No problem. Cheers, J -- >>

Re: Lowering Nitrates II I took your advice and removed the Caulerpa from my tank , it really had taken over the tank .  <very prone to do so...best in moderation> I did however put some in my new refugium.  <fine, indeed> I was told that activated charcoal will also help with my nitrates,  <incorrect. but very useful and necessary. Change a small portion twice monthly for best results...say 2oz per 30 gallons of tank water twice monthly. This will prevent fluctuation in water clarity from yellowing agents from being so severe to corals (and the light they receive> I thought that it would strip the water of needed nutrients.  <a little... but takes out more bad then good> I really want to improve my water quality so I can introduce some more delicate corals. <do keep reading internet/books and join a local aquarium society...very good camaraderie and advice. Anthony> Thanks NICK NY  

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