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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Nitrates 5

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

Related FAQs: Nitrates 1, Nitrates 2, Nitrates 3, Nitrates 4, 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, Bio-Balls, Denitrification/Denitrifiers, Wet-Dry Filters, R.O./Distilled/Treated WaterChemical FiltrantsDeep Sand Beds

Low, though not really zero nitrate concentrations are desirable. Entacmaea quadricolor CU pic by DianaF, N. Sulawesi.

High Nitrates - 4/23/03 hello! <Hello Roger. Paul here>  i have written you guys before, and have had great answers come back to me, so i though I'd try it again. <That is why we are here! Glad to hear it> i have a 90g FOWLR that has several crabs, shrimp, snails, and other easy inverts (no corals or anemones or anything like that), a maroon clown, a snowflake eel, a lawnmower blenny, and a juvenile map angel. <OK>  i have about 45 lbs. of LR in my tank.  i will add another 45 lbs. or so in a month or two. <Be sure to cycle before putting in the display tank>  my question is as follows :  my nitrates are at 20 ppm, and i just wanted to know if that's safe for my current tank residents, and if not, how do i keep that at a low amount? <Well, it is high and I recommend looking at our FAQs on nitrate and nutrient export for ideas on reducing it. In the long run I believe it could be detrimental to your inhabitants health, but for now though, work as hard as possible to find the problem and fix the issue.> i do weekly 5 % water changes. <Do more>  should i do more water changes, or higher percentage changes? <Do more in the amount of water changed>  or how else can i reduce the nitrates? <See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm. Read through the article and then go through the links at the top of the page. Hope this helps. Paul> thank you!!!

Re: Nitrates >Hi Marina >>Hello, Simon. >Thanks for your help with this.   Nitrates seem to be coming down now (slowly)!  Regards  Simon >>You're quite welcome.  I knew it would come together, it just needs time is all.  Marina

Re: Nitrates >Hi Scott >>Marina here to help you today.  Scott V. is no longer with us, so I'm going to sort through all this best I can.  Hopefully, I won't be readdressing points already hit, or confusing things for you. >Thanks for your help with this and for your quick response.  Just to clarify those points that I was vague on.   1) The tank is 2 foot long x 1 foot deep x 1.5 foot height - So the fish are easy to find :) >>Ok, the way I know how to sort volume in rectilinear vessels is this way: multiply the three dimensions, then divide by 231 (the number of cubic inches in a U.S. gallon).  So, 24" x 12" x 18" = 5184/231 = 22.44 gals U.S. 2) The three fish are about 3 inches altogether 3) The filter is an Eheim 2211 4) The medium in the filter is called matrix. 5) The water we buy from an aquarium and is high quality - so it is definitely not a source of nitrates/phosphates. 6) The substrate is a sand. Not sure exactly but I think it is a reef sand. It was recommended highly by several people I spoke to. Its about 4 inches high. 7) Nitrates are at least 40mg/l 8) There is about 10kg of live rock which is cured 9) Since I have bought a skimmer, I have lost a lot of current in the water as I am using the air pump for the skimmer. There is a weak agitation of the water surface from the filter. Not sure if this could be a problem?! >>Surface agitation is key to allowing/enhancing the O2/CO2 exchange, as it is only at the interface of air and water at the surface where this occurs. >I have only recently and once removed a small amount of substrate - so this wouldn't be the source. 10) We are feeding the fish "marine green". As opposed to brine shrimp (when we started). Again, thanks for your help with this!  Hansel my starfish will be forever in debt ;)  Regards Simon >>Ok Simon, let's get this sorted.  First, your tank is still relatively new, and as such you *should* still be getting nitrate readings.  Skimming ALWAYS helps, but you've got to be sure you have it adjusted properly so as to get the NASTIEST, smelliest, most foul skimmate possible.  Please do have the source water tested, as phosphates don't just appear, they have to come from someplace.  If you are using (in addition to the "Matrix"--it's those ceramic noodles, yes?) activated carbon, this very well *could* be your source of nitrates.  Try removing it for two weeks, performing your regular water changes, and test again.  Phosguard will indeed remove the phosphates, but it's an additional expense that, assuming your source water is indeed pristine and NSW (near salt water) you shouldn't have to always use it. >>Now, as for the DSB, the biggest concern is that the sand grains are suitably sized.  Sugar (granulated here in the U.S., IIRC it's called castor in the U.K. and elsewhere) fine is what we're looking for.  It's preferable to use a calcareous sand, as it will perform two functions for you: buffer the water's pH above 8.0 and hold it steady, and it will over time release calcium into the water where it can be utilized by those organisms that require it (coralline algae, for instance).  However, this is not to say that you cannot use a silicate-based product.  You'll just not reap the other rewards.  One way that I've used to determine if something is indeed calcareous is to take a bit and put some vinegar on it.  It should froth or bubble, at least a bit.  Do you have live rock in the tank?  If not, it's always recommended, as it helps greatly, including with providing seed stock for your DSB. >>Now, I'm curious if you have a sump or refugium in use as well.  If not, please consider utilizing this technology (I really love the refugium, because you can situate macro algae that will sop up nitrates and phosphates, then you simply remove it and voila, eh?) in lieu of the canister filter.  Better oxygen saturation is one reason, as well as making it easier to add a more efficient protein skimmer in future.  In the meantime, add no more animals until everything comes to zero readings.   >>So, in summary, expect to have the nitrates for a while more.  The DSB will take the longest to culture, disturb it as LITTLE as possible, as these bacteria are a picky lot.  Watch the animals for stress, if you fear, then always do water changes.  Good luck!  Marina

Refugium sizes and nitrate reduction Greetings, I have a 300 gallon SW tank which has evolved over the past 8 years to the point where I would like to add a refugium, but have little room to do so. I bought the tank used, which was set up by the prior owner as a fresh water tank with overflow boxes to a wet-dry filter inside the cabinet.  I set it up after purchase as a SW, FO tank.  In doing so I removed the overflow boxes and drilled holes in the tank bottom and plumbed it with PVC pipe.  I thus have water coming to the sump at each end of the tank via the PVC pipe, and returned by a large pump in the sump to the tank.  I also have a large protein skimmer outside and next to the sump. Over the years the inhabitants of my 300 gallon have evolved from a community of very large fish to the following: a 12" horn shark, 7' sohal tang, a 7" niger trigger, a 4" flagfin angel, a 3" rusty angel,  a 3" coral beauty, a lineatus wrasse, and a few damsels.  I have two pieces full of mushroom rock that are doing quite well, and about 200 pounds of LR.  I would like to add some soft corals now but am concerned about my nitrate levels.  I change about 70 gallons a month, and my nitrates hold pretty steady at 40-50 ppm.  I would like to reduce that level before adding soft coral pieces.  From all the researching I have done, it appears that the best way to do this is with a refugium. Herein lies my problem. I have no room behind, above, or on the sides of my 300 gallon tank to add a refugium tank.  This leaves under cabinet space.  As things now stand, I have room only for a 10 gallon tank beside the sump (unless I put a 10 gallon refugium tank next to both the left and right sides of my sump --- the sump has 3 compartments: the center and right compartments is where the tank water drains into the sump, and the left compartment is where the protein skimmer returns water and the water gets pumped back into the 300 gallon tank).  If I replumb, which would be a pain considering the existing cut-to-size PVC pipe, I could fit a 20 gallon tank in the cabinet. Question: I know "bigger is better", but will a 10 or 20 gallon refugium make an appreciable difference in my nitrate levels to be worth the effort here?  Is there a better option available to me?  Thanks for your help. Elliot Segel <You need more biocapacity than 20 gallons to off-set 300 gallons. I wouldn't think it is worth it.  You make no mention of substrate, but if it's crushed coral, it and the wet-dry are the culprits, along with possible overfeeding/leftover food. I would look into more LR, a deep sand bed (like 5-6" fine aragonite) slowly weaning off the wet-dry and using the mechanical filtration in the W/D, perhaps with carbon but no bio-balls or wet/dry to produce nitrates. Clean all sponges, filter media at least bi-weekly to prevent nitrate production, rely more on rock and sand which will reduce nitrates. Also think of base rock in sump for de-nitrification, place to put more rock/sand. Hope this helps!  Craig>

- Pervasive Nitrates - <Greetings, JasonC here...> Hi, I have a 55 gal reef tank with low bioload (2 fish for a total of about 4" - fed sparingly, about two blackworms ea. per day).  The present tank has been running for about a year and a half, but live sand and live rock were moved from my older systems (going back about 5+ years).  About 3" of LS.  Tank is packed with LR - about 60 or 70 lbs. I use RO/DI water, and have a 10 gal. sump and skimmer.  No sand in the sump. All my water parameters are good except I've got pervasive nitrates in the 12 to 20 ppm range.  (Also have a somewhat low pH - 8.1, but alk is good at 9.9).  I have an airstone in my sump, and wonder if that could be contributing to my nitrate problem??? <Well, I wouldn't call 12-20 ppm of nitrates a 'problem' - typically this could be addressed with regular water changes. I would propose though, that your live rock needs some augmentation - usually after a couple of years it tends to lose its 'umph' and should be swapped out with some new live rock. You don't need to replace 100% of it, but perhaps 25-50% would do you some good. Cheers, J -- >

- Re: Pervasive Nitrates - Thanks, JasonC!!!!    <You are welcome, Sheri.> Good advice, but I did add new live rock (about 40%) about a year ago (should have mentioned it, sorry!). <Oh...>  My only issue is that I have to do 10% water changes weekly to keep the nitrates down in that range (safe for the corals, but not really optimum) - and consequently, have the cost of replenishing additives with the new water (as well as salt, which ain't cheap, either). <Hmmm... how about circulation within the tank? Perhaps a couple of additional powerheads would help move the system water in/around the rock.> I hear so much about people with zero nitrates who do water changes "only to replenish trace minerals", and wonder why I can't achieve that? <I'm not 100% convinced by such reports. You might also consider a deeper sand bed - 3" is in the realm of zero-effect - another inch or two would go a long way.> Like many reef keepers, I'm a perfectionist - always trying to make it the best I possibly can. Forgot to mention earlier, that I don't use bioballs or nitrate sponges or charcoal filters or anything like that. I do siphon off surface detritus, though I can't siphon it from under the LR, only in the open sand areas. <Perhaps add some brittle stars and Nassarius snails that would assist in keeping this clean.>  Am going to try a 'fuge and a deeper sandbed (slowly, little by little), but it suddenly occurred to me to wonder if the airstone could be a contributing factor and whether I should remove it??? <I don't think the airstone is a factor - if you have a decent protein skimmer, it's going to aerate the water about as well as it can be done.>      Also; I've got a question about a statement on wetwebmedia ( http://wetwebmedia.com/alkmarfaqs.htm) - it said; "...did you aerate the R/O water for 12-24 hours before buffering it (mixed completely) and then later salting it. If not, you wasted buffers in the salt mix by not off-gassing or neutralizing carbonic acid from R/O water... and your 2" sand bed is hardly a significant buffer." I've talked to other fish husbandry experts and chemists who've told me that "an airstone in 5.5 gal of salt water will become supersaturated with O2 in one hour at 80 degrees.  And, 15 min.s. is probably perfectly sufficient for aerating it."  After reading this, I contacted one of those experts to ask about it and he said "that statement (about carbonic acid) is ridiculous"  and "if there were carbonic acid in the RO water, it would show up in a pH reading, which it doesn't" (true, because my pH reading of my own RO/DI water is always a perfect 7.0). I'm stuck between two expert opinions and just want to find out what the truth is??? <I side with your friends - I'm not sure who gave out that advice, but I take issue with it on two counts: first, as your friends have stated, it takes very little time to aerate a container of water. Second, there is next to no carbonic acid in any potable drinking water, let alone water that has been through RO/DI. Most all drinking water is well above 7.0 pH and the presence of carbonic acid would make a higher pH very difficult. Now on the other hand, there is a valuable point - RO/DI water is devoid of buffers, so it does help to add buffer in some form before you add your salts. But again, it has nothing to do with carbonic acid.> Finally, Thanks a MILLION - for your help, advice and time!!!!  My corals thank you, too!! Cheers, Sheri <Cheers, J -- >

Lowering Nitrate... Your site is great, I hope you can help me. <I hope so, too!> I have a lot of questions. <Don't we all!> I have a similar prob. that someone wrote to you about. I have a green moray with a gray spotting on its belly. You said it could be a fungus and to try a Furan based med. What would be some Furan based meds.? <"Furan-2" by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals is a good one. So is "Furanace" by Aquarium Products. There are others, such as Maracyn, by Mardel Labs... <<Mmm, not this antibiotic, Erythromycin. RMF>> Do check out these medications> Eel is about 2.5ft. long. I was feeding him squid (from my local grocery store) only for a while, then octopus from my grocery store. I was thinking that maybe the squid and octopus from the grocery store may not be fortified with any vitamins my eel might need. I have decided to go back to squid and silver sides from the pet store. <Well, you could "fortify" these items with a vitamin preparation, such as VitaChem or Selcon (my two personal faves). These can do the trick> During the last couple of days he has been thrashing about in the tank a couple of times a day (that I witness), like he is throwing a fit, extremely violent. I do not have any other inhabitants in this tank. Is this normal behavior? <Really hard to say...I'd be concerned that there may be some kind of potential environmental problem, such as measurable ammonia, plummeting pH, loss of alkalinity reserve, etc., or a possible parasitic illness that is bothering the fish, causing it much discomfort...Do look for a cause> Tank is 75g (upgrading next year to much larger tank) water temp 76F salinity 1.024 ph 8.4 nitrite  0ppm ammonia 0 - .50ppm <Should be undetectable! Do recheck to confirm this! That could be the problem!> NitrAtes are very high 200+ can't control, tried weekly (5g) weekly changes, monthly water changes, Nitrasorb. No success yet. <Lots of ways to overcome nitrate accumulation in closed systems. You could employ a deep sand bed (like 5-6 inches) to help foster natural denitrification processes. Also, consider a more aggressive water change schedule (like 2 weekly changes of 5% of the tank volume). Work your protein skimmer hard! Make sure that it's pulling out at least a couple of cups of dark, yucky skimmate per week...Feed carefully, and only as much as the fish will clean up in a few minutes...Don't let any uneaten food accumulate in the tank>     My next idea is to try a coil denitrator, do you know where I can buy one? <Not sure who makes one...But you could make your own with a few hundred feed of small diameter plastic tubing in a bucket, and feed system water into the "denitrator" at a proper rate...monitor the "product water". Anthony describes an easy-to-make version in his "book of Coral Propagation". Do try the above methods first...then go for the homemade denitrator...They really work, and are not too difficult to utilize...> I don't know if alkalinity would be a cause of the gray spotting. I don't have a alkalinity test kit yet. If the alkalinity is off too high or too low, how do you adjust it? <Buffer, my friend....Do read about alkalinity on the Wetwebmedia.com site...And do get an alkalinity kit- it should be a basic part of your "inventory". > Thank you, Ronnie New Jersey <Keep on having fun, and do investigate these ideas! Regards, Scott F>

Raging Nitrates! Good morning all! <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> Thank you once again for the valuable information provided on your site and the always (well, usually) great answers provided by email - hehe.  Let me begin by providing tank info: Marine FOWLR, 50 lbs live rock & 3 inches sand, 55 gal, 15w AquaUV, Teclima chiller, Remora Pro skimmer, FilStar canister filter, 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, 25 nitrates, 8.3 pH, good alk, 1.022 sal. <Sounds good so far!> One month ago the tank started growing furry green algae and blue-green algae out of control.  I ran out to get a nitrate test kit and found the levels to be >100. <Yikes! And that's on a hobbyist-grade kit, which usually reads a bit lower than the actual level...!> After successive large water changes and levels have dropped to 25 but I cannot seem to get them lower than this.  I realize that water changes should keep bringing the levels down but they seem to be stuck here.  I use Catalina water for changes and RO fresh water to bring it down to the proper salinity.  The Catalina water tests 0 nitrates when I get it.  I am not quite sure of the source. I clean the filters in the canister every 3 to 4 weeks and the protein skimmer seems to be functioning adequately - about 1 cm worth of dark yellow water in the cup every 3 days. <Good to hear that! Try to tweak it to get it darker...like coffee> The algae problem is a bit more under control but still quite annoying. <As you see me say "ad nauseum"(!) on the WWM Site, "It's all about nutrient export!"- it really is...Keep working it!> Although, the fox face fish seems to love the green furry stuff. <I've got some ideas....> In an effort to rid myself of this nuisance I found a product from m3 called AZ-NO3 which I have seen used by some in the faq sections of this site.  It is stated, however, that a UV unit running at 50,000 microwatts - sec/cm2 or greater will negatively effect the efficiency of this product.  I am in that category.  I got the UV unit about 8 months ago when I was combating a recurrent marine velvet infection.  Whether the fish just gained immunity or the UV made a difference I do not know.  But, shortly after getting the UV the velvet went away.  I have been running it ever since. <UV can certainly kill free-swimming parasites/bacteria, so it's entirely possible that it did the job effectively!> Here is my problem/question, do you think I can safely disable the UV unit during the course of this treatment without causing ill effects to the fish through whatever biological processes will be given a chance to take hold? <If the fishes are otherwise healthy, I can't imagine that the interruption of UV for a period of time would lead to a sudden disease outbreak..> In other words, these fish have had UV cleaned water for 8 months now, do you think that turning off the sterilizer for a month will have negative consequences?  If so, should I consider cycling the UV in 12 hour shifts between doses?  Or, am I totally on the wrong path here at wanting this liquid to get rid of my problems for me? <Well, not the wrong path, but I would bet that if you added a 5" layer of live sand, that you'd see the nitrate plunge to undetectable levels after a few weeks. Properly configured deep sand beds really work!> Thank you again - I look forward to hearing your insights. John <I'm sure that you'll get things under control with a few minor adjustments...I wish you continued success with your efforts! Regards, Scott F>

Nitrates in new tank Hi, <Hello!  Scott V. here.> First, I just wanted to say that I'm a big fan of your website. <Thanks! We're always happy to help!> Second, I wanted to ask you about a Nitrate problem I am having. I have a 2 foot saltwater tank which I have had running for about 2 months. I also have a protein skimmer. <Two feet in which dimension?  Do you know the volume of the tank or the rest of the dimensions?> The tank has 2 clown fish, 1 Damsel, 1 Starfish and some turbo snails. The fish look healthy - albeit there is a bit of recent attitude in the tank.. <The attitude makes it all more fun, as long as nobody gets hurt of course :) Again, with only 2 feet for the tank description, you could be overstocked.  Or, maybe the tank is 8 feet long and you have trouble finding the fish :)  > I have no Ammonia or Nitrites. PH is about 8.  Phosphates were high, but I have added some Phosguard to the filter that should hopefully bring that down. <Be sure to check your source water for phosphate as well.  It may be coming from there.> I haven't added anything to the tank in about a month. That is because I have very high Nitrates. <How high?> Instead I have been doing weekly significant water changes - to bring Nitrates under control. However 4 weeks later, Nitrates are still high. <Just as with the phosphates, check your source water first.  Check it both before and after mixing the salt.  At only 2 months old, the tank may also have just not completed cycling, you may have added the fish too quickly, or may have just recently added them and caused the nitrates to spike again.  Do you have live rock in the tank?  If so, how much, and was it cured and the tank then allowed to cycle before adding anything else? > I got some advise from a local expert and he told me that I should change the medium in the filter. He gave me a different type. I'm not sure what it is) - but the rocks are bigger.  <Rocks? Do you know what kind of filter this is that you have? > And he said that the old medium was converting the nitrites to nitrates, and this new medium will convert straight to nitrogen. I might have these facts slightly incorrect - but the gist is the same. <I'm not aware of anything that can do that.  I want one if it does!  Most likely, you have a wet/dry filter. Are the "rocks" colored balls?> But that still hasn't fixed the problem. Also I have a thick layer of substrate. So I am guessing maybe that has something to do with it. So I am slowly removing the amount of substrate. Like about a cup of substrate every couple of days - which I started doing 2 days ago.  <That will likely make your problem even worse.  What are you using for your substrate?  Is it Aragonite?  How thick is thick?  If it is Aragonite, having it between 3 and 5 inches deep will help, not hurt, your nitrate problem.  There is a lot more info at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbfaqs.htm regarding using a deep sand bed (DSB) for nitrate reduction.  There are also links at the top for further FAQ's on DSB's.  Read up on them as much as you can. > Do you know how I can effectively get rid of my Nitrates ?  The standard advise of water changes does not seem to be working in my case. <Check the source.  If it's fine, then keep up with the water changes and read up on utilizing a deep sand bed (I'm assuming your substrate is Aragonite here).  If you have sufficient live rock, you would also be better off eliminating the media from your wet/dry (if that's indeed what you have). Here's a link for more information on live rock. Again, there are numerous links to further FAQ's at the top.> Your help/advise is much appreciated. <It's never a problem!  Look into the links provided above and let us know if you have further questions.  Just let us know a little more about what it is you have, how big the tank is, etc.  Good luck!  Scott V.> Regards Simon

Nitrates...   3/17/03 Hello,<Hey!> I have a 72 gallon saltwater tank that is about 9 months old. It contains about 75 lbs of live rock, a 6 inch porcupine puffer, a 3 inch juvenile imperator, a 3 inch maroon clown, 4 inch red coris wrasse, 1 1/2 inch mandarin fish and a 1 1/2 inch Arc Eye hawkfish.<FYI, your going to need a bigger tank for the puffer.> I also have a green brittle star, chocolate chip star, orange eye urchin and 4 turbo snails. It seems like no matter how often I do water changes the level of nitrates are high. I have tried doing a 15 gallon water change every 2 weeks and am now doing a 10 gallon change every week. I have an emperor bio-wheel filter system and a protein skimmer (I don't know what brand, I bought it used from my local fish supplier)<This could be a problem... A skimmer that does nothing is "an over-priced airstone".  Check our FAQ's for more info about good skimmers!> I also just bought a diatom filter which I am planning on using quite a bit. <<Not continuously... RMF>> I feed them twice a day only as much as they eat in about 3 minutes. I feed them a variety of foods, from marine supreme and flake food, but mainly a pellet food called spectrum Thera + A and freeze dried krill.<Flake/pellet foods can not be the only food that is fed to your fish.  Try feeding fresh frozen foods.  Search WWM for more info on foods.> Is there anything you can suggest to lower the nitrate levels?<Less feedings and more skimming...> I have been told that it is most probably because of the puffer.<Kinda, but not the whole truth..> I use a test kit made by "Jungle" and right after water changes it brings it down to 40 ppm.<IMO< you should look into a better test kit... it's better to have two.  So you can check your readings...> I would like for it to be at this level, at the highest, before water changes. Nitrite levels and all other tests come out fine. Thanks in advance.<Try finding out what skimmer you have!  And pick-up a new test kit..  Hope this helps!  Phil>

Nitrates solved! - 3/10/2003 Hello everyone! <Hello!  Scott V. here> Hope this finds you all happy and healthy...and hopefully warmer than I am in Michigan! <Thanks for the hope, but being in Northeast Wisconsin I doubt I'm much warmer :)> Well...here is a quick update on my situation.  I doubt you will recall this...but I had written a week earlier about my 30 gal reef tank having a nitrate problem (I know, this sounds like tons of other letters. LOL!). <Luckily, I haven't read that many yet!> It would not drop below 12.5 mg/l and I was going out of my mind!  Well, to make a long story very short (if possible): I have found what I think is the culprit!  We had tested our source water before for nitrates, ammonia etc....source water was "clear" by the tests...HA!!!  When  I bought a new ammonia test kit and tested our tank water, our tank was showing a reading of .25 mg/l, when just the day before it was reading 0 mg/l from the old test...funny...I am thinking...a sudden spike...hmm...o.k....... Nothing to really panic over, just do some more water changes and drop the level down, no big deal right?  After a series (3 in a 7 day period) of 25% water changes, the reading never reduced, but it never went above .25 mg/l....curious...I figured if it was a spike it would shoot up much higher than that, or at the least with all those water changes should have fluctuated some.  But it got me to thinking about how it stayed at the same level.  So on a hunch I checked our source water for ammonia, and TA DA!  .25 mg/l was the result (that explained the ammonia suddenly showing up) but I got to thinking about it even further. <That's always a good idea!> If the tank cycles: ammonia>nitrite>nitrate, would it be possible that because we have ammonia in our source water, and kept adding it to our tank during water changes  and top offs that it could be the reason why I cannot drop my Nitrates below 12.5 mg/l no matter how many or how much of a water change that I did?  I think I am on the right track here.   <Sounds right to me, too!> In the mean time...we have done another 25% water change with water bought from our LFS and have dropped the ammonia level to 0 mg/l and our nitrate level is decreasing as well YEAH!!!!!!   Since a RO/DI unit is not in our financial future any time soon, to help combat the problem, I have added an air stone to our bucket where we age our water. When I tested  the levels today and the ammonia is  0 mg/l, is this going to be a feasible thing to do so we don't have to get an RO/DI unit?   <Whatever you need to do to keep it down.  You might want to look into also using a tap water purifier.  I could never afford a REAL RO/DI unit myself, but the tap water purifier at least removes much of any other harmful substances.> Also...I have a quick question on algae (even though I have read a ton on the FAQ's I could not find anything on this).  I "scrub" the tank walls weekly, but I have just  noticed (today) a green algae growing on the front wall of my tank.  It is small (the size of a grain of sand, maybe a little smaller) and a light green in color, and it is speckled all over the front of my tank. They are smooth, not fuzzy or filmy or hair like.  Is this the beginning of Coralline algae starting to grow on my tank walls?  Or is this the beginning of a potential problem?   <I can't say for sure without seeing it, but it sure sounds like coralline algae to me.  Just keep an eye on it, but I think you're fine.  You might want to get it off the front though, because that stuff isn't easy to remove!> I have read a ton of info today on algae...but cannot seem to find what I am looking for.  Thank you again for listening to my tank problems and thank you all for having such a great site where people can come and get the answers to their problems!   <Thanks!  I'm the newbie of the bunch and I think I spend more time reading answers myself.  I probably always will :)> Also...I gave our local LFS people the web address to your site!   They posted it on their walls for reference!  I saw several people copy the address down!  You guys are awesome!!  Kindest regards,  Lee <Thanks again!  Your kudos are appreciated.  Oh, don't let the tank slide after spring gets here!  I know how that works :)  Have fun, and good luck!  Scott V.>

NITRATES !!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHH !!! Hi WWM crew … <Howdy, Don with you tonight> I have a 40 gallon FO Marine tank with 5 damsels, one snowflake eel that jumped out for the first time and seems, so far, alive after putting it back, and 1 tomato clown. The fish have been thru a lot, I mean a lot, with Ick and PH fluctuations and temp. fluctuations but now all is good and dandy. I have everything under control now with the PH, the sickness and the temp. thanks to u. BUT I have one problem. My nitrates, all along, are shooting thru the roof. I mean, I can't seem to get them down for nothing. My Ammonia is 0. My nitrites are 0 also. And my Nitrates are around 60ppm !!! I have an Eheim Ecco canister filter, crushed coral as my substrate and a Berlin skimmer (that I had just bought 2 days ago). The reason why I have the skimmer is because I have read on WWM that it would essentially get rid of the Nitrates or at least decrease the amount. The liquid I'm getting is light beige color, out of my skimmer. Is that true? and what else do u think I should do to get this Nitrate situation under control? And when and if I do get this under control, could u provide me with a link that I could read up on how to convert my FO tank to a reef/coral with fishes. <The skimmer will help. Beige? Maybe the color of tea? Sounds OK. Looking for dark color and good daily output. Try to cut down on the amount of food and perform 10% water changes for a few days. The canister filter needs to be kept very clean (like daily). The crushed coral can trap a lot of detritus so you want to keep it clean as well. For more reef info, check here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/reef1.htm.> Thanks Guys. I really am bad with hobbies and I usually lose total interest in hobbies that are complicated and boring. But honestly, the subjects on WWM and help that u guys give us hobbyists is unbelievably awesome and has helped me thru a lot with this hobby and keeping me interested and I'm sure with all the support u guys give, I will most definitely stay in the hobby for a long long long time. <Glad to help, Don> Regards, Ash

Re: nitrates Hello, I am writing today with a question about lowering nitrates. I have read many of your articles and FAQ, and I'm confused. Let me tell you about my set-up. I have a 55gal. , (2) emperor 280 filters, (1) hot magnum filter, and a Prizm skimmer. I have about 2 and a half inches of crushed coral and about 25 - 30 pounds of live rock. <Here's the problem. A deep course bed of crushed coral traps detritus and wastes contributing to nitrate production. Also the biomedia in the filters produce nitrates. These need to be cleaned very regularly (weekly to biweekly) and simply not enough live rock for bio-capacity and for your mandarins, which need at least 75 lbs of well established live rock per fish to survive. This is completely inadequate for these fish. Please read about Mandarins at WetWebMedia.com.> My inhabitants are 2 percula clownfish, 1 pair of mandarin Dragonettes, 1 pair of green spotted Dragonettes, 1 scooter blenny, 1 Sailfin tang, 1 long horned cowfish, 1 pair of seahorses, and some xenia coral. I also have 1 coral banded shrimp, and 2 camelback shrimp. <An unusual mix. You are mixing fish from completely different environments, current needs, etc. Seahorses generally have specialized needs compared to high current fish like Sailfin Tangs, which incidentally get to be 16", WAY too big for a 55.> I change 10 gallons every other week. I cannot seem to lower my nitrates, I have tried chemicals (prime - works for a short time) so I thought the problem was in my tap water, so I bought a tap water filter for changes. Now my question; I have been reading a lot about DSB, should I replace my coral with sand? <Very disruptive and stressful to your current inhabitants. Some of these fish are hard to keep, esp. in such circumstances. I would change substrates, but this would require a great deal of effort regarding established/establishing the needed food supply for mandarins, etc. Real serious vacuuming would be a good start, too much crud in substrate.  Not enough live rock to provide bio-capacity/denitrification.> I am trying to understand Plenum Systems, should I put sand on top of my coral with a screen in between. <Definitely not!!! a bigger waste trap. Do you see, wastes are the problem, and nitrate is the end game unless you have the live rock and sand to process it naturally.> Or maybe I should just increase my live rock. <Deal with substrate and more rock definitely!  A larger tank would be the ideal for the Tang and Mandarins. Please read about Sailfin Tangs (and any other fish) at WetWebMedia.com.> Nitrates are my only problem, I have no ammonia or nitrite. Also I feed my fish live brine shrimp and frozen Mysis everyday. ,I would use the brine to get them eating if difficult to feed, then wean to Mysis only. Brine shrimp are the Hostess Twinkie of fish food. Pretty much junk food.> This is my first marine tank, and I am looking for a cure not just a quick fix. <You have a nitrate factory in your substrate and filter media, take care of those and increase bio-capacity with LR and perhaps LS with proper precautions. (be wary of releasing toxic wastes by disturbing dirty substrate without vacuuming wastes in doing so). Also, larger water changes with above maintenance will help, maybe 10% per week according to water tests to get to desired levels.> Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thank you for taking your time to read this letter.  Sincerely, Linda <Our pleasure Linda, hope this gets you on track! Craig>

Media Replacement And Skimmer Choices (Pt. 2) Thanx again!  Now changing the foam media on a weekly matter will in itself help keep down the Nitrate levels in the tank would it not? <Yep! That's the best reason to do this! It's a viable "nutrient export" mechanism, as you're literally removing undesirable substances directly from the system. If you are a serious fish nerd, like me- you'll get a few of these foam media inserts and rotate 'em out several times a week...Scary- but really an easy way to keep nasty stuff from ever accumulating to begin with!> Also have you heard of the Back pack skimmer (doing a search right now on them but your opinions also appreciated)?  They seem to be sold in abundance at one of my local shops. <Yep- The CPR Bak Pak is a great hang-on-the-tank skimmer, IMO. Productive, simple to clean, and reliable. Another fine choice is the Aqua C Remora Pro. In my opinion, you can't go wrong with either of these models, if serviced regularly! Good luck! ScottF>

Arrrgh! Nitrates Hi guys.. <Yo!>    Thought I could make it another month without asking (begging, pleading!!!) for your input and advice.  I have a 20gal hex, UGF, BioWheel and about 13 lbs of live rock. Substrate is about 3" crushed coral, which I vacuum when I perform maintenance on the tank.  Only inhabitants are a cleaner shrimp, false perc clown and a yellowtail damsel.  Feed once a day (alternate flake and frozen brine) kind of sparingly.  My water chemistry is as follows. ammonia, zero...nitrite (unsure--sorry!) and my nitrates are through the roof.  I am diligent in water changes (about 10% every week) but I cannot seem to get my nitrates down.  All fish are doing great. eating, swimming and developing their own little personalities (my shrimp likes to check out my arm while I'm doing tank maintenance).  Also the water smells of cucumbers.  Any thoughts or advice?  Thanks again, you fish-gods! Maureen <Plenty. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and the related FAQs (in blue, above). Bob Fenner>

Nitrate Test Accuracy Crew, A quick question.  I have been fighting Nitrate levels in my tank for some time and have made many changes.  I normally use AquaLab IV test strips from Mardel and get readings of between 20-40 ppm.  Yesterday I tried a different testing procedure from Red Sea Fish pHarm and received readings of Zero.  I repeated the process and again received a Zero reading.  I would not be surprised to find that the Nitrates in my tank are now under control since I have added a sump, upgraded the skimmer to an Aqua C Urchin pro, and have been very careful feeding.  Long story, but my question is how reliable are the test strip products verses the test tube type that use regents?  Given the crews vast experience, how should I feel about the Nitrate levels in my tank given the disparate readings? <Hi Bryan, sounds like you have a nice setup. I would guess that the strip tests were the problem. I would recommend one more test (reagent based) maybe from a friend or a LFS just to confirm the Red Sea tests. Don> Thanks! -Bryan

Knocking Down Nitrate! Hi everyone :) <Hey there! Scott F at your service!> I hate to be a pest but I couldn't find the answer to my problem on the web site and I am losing my mind trying to solve this problem. <That's why we're here!> I can not get my nitrates below 20 ppm in my 100 gal tank.  I have 100+ lbs of live rock and a 2" live sand bed, I do 5-10 gal water change weekly and have the following equipment on the tank: a Rena Filstar canister filter, a fluidized bed filter and a Remora Pro skimmer.  I have 3 scissortails, a purple and a red Firefish, a true percula clown and bubble tip anemone, a pair of scooter blennies, a mandarin goby, a colt coral, an open brain coral, mushrooms (many mushrooms), polyps, a devil's hand, a hard coral, an urchin, turbo snails, shrimp, crabs - both hermit and emerald, a sand star  and a Christmas tree feather duster. <Bioload doesn't seem too bad at all.> Does live rock and live sand lose its' ability to biofilter after time? p.s.- Bob- I love your book, "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" Andrea Brown < I love that book myself...It's the I Chi of the hobby- the sum of all knowledge...the- well- you get it- It's my favorite, too!!!!... Well, if the sand bed is constantly being stirred up and the beneficial infauna (creatures that reside in the sand bed) are being decimated, the processes occurring in the sand bed could certainly be disrupted, if not completely shut down. Also, one problem I see right off the bat is your sand bed depth. The rule of thumb for sand beds in closed systems is 1/2" or less, or 3" or more. 2 inches is sort of a biological "no man's land", too shallow to be capable of reducing nitrate, and too deep to be aerobic...This is a recipe for nitrate accumulation and potential problems down the line. I'll bet that if you kick up the sand bed depth to 4 inches, and follow other diligent husbandry techniques, you'll see a rapid reduction in the nitrate level!> About 30 lbs of rock is new but the rest is a couple of years old. So is the sand.  How can I get the nitrates down?  I use B-ionic in the tank and feed frozen brine and Mysis - as much as they can eat in 3-5 min.  I feed filter feeder food to the rest.  Please give me some advice as to what I need to do to reduce nitrate levels. <A few tips here: First, examine your maintenance practices. Try performing small (5% of tank volume), frequent (twice weekly) water changes, using quality source water (RO/DI). This helps to dilute many organic compounds before they have the chance to accumulate and affect water quality. Utilize aggressive protein skimming, and keep tweaking your skimmer until you're getting at least a couple of cups a week of dark, yucky skimmate...and clean the skimmer often- a clean skimmer works better! The Remora is a great skimmer, so really work it! Also, try utilizing chemical filtration media, such as a high-quality activated carbon and Poly Filter media (I love them), and replace them often. Reduce or discontinue the use of liquid invert foods...If not properly administered, they can add enormous amounts of nitrate and phosphate to the water...Consider growing and harvesting some "purposeful" macroalgae, such as Chaetomorpha, Gracilaria, etc. in a lighted section of your sump. They will help utilize some of the nitrate for their growth...In the end, nitrate reduction is all about nutrient export. Try a few of these tips, and I'll bet that you'll see that nitrate start to decrease. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>  

- De Nitratibus Quaestiones Selectae - Dear crew, <Good day, JasonC here...> I have a problem with my new tank, I wonder whether you can offer some enlightenment. <I wonder too... I will do my best.> My tanks is: 5'x2'x2', Deltec AP 850 Skimmer, well matured live rock - Caribbean - about 60kg,sump but no DSB yet, Autotopup, Tunze wavemaker with 2 Turbelle 4002. I also add Kalk, strontium and some Iodine regularly. When it was set up by a reputable LFS the skimmer produced some dark skimmate, but there were no nitrites as the rock was fully cured to perfection. Ph was always 8.3 and only RO water was used from the start. Calcium is around 450 and alkalinity suitably high. Lighting is 2x250 Arcadia 3 MH but following the advice of my LFS I only started with 2 hours a day, increasing 15 minutes every week to avoid algae growth. I am now in the third week and on 2 and 1/2 hrs light a day. Now my issue: my nitrates are around 10 mg/l in a Nitrate-Nitrogen calculation - using Fastest and SeaTest - which as I understand it is 44ppm in real nitrates. I understand that that is  way too high and I don't want to endanger any invert by introducing them, so no turbo/hermit crew as yet. The only inverts that are in the tank are the occasional hitch-hiker on the rocks and 2 clams - 1 derasa and 1 maxima both under 2 inches- that I introduced because I understand they don't mind nitrates too much, or they might even help reducing them and in any case represent negligible bioload. Evidence of this is that my skimmer, albeit being on full and as full of bubbles as ever, it is producing very little skimmate. Now for my question. Is there anything that I can do to reduce the nitrate? <There are options, sure.> Can I speed up the process in any way or is it just matter of time and how long? <No way to 'speed' it up that I know of.><<Read on my friend. RMF>> What is your take on aragonite sandbeds - I was told to put in one a couple of weeks from set up? <Well, better to start off with one, as adding one now will cloud the tank and dust your live rock, but deep sand beds are quite effective at reducing nitrates - should be at least four inches deep - five or six would be better.> Could it help or should I increase the amount of Live rock? <That would also help - you could do both.> Some people might think that nitrates are not that harmful or have seen Acropora-full tanks with nitrates as high as mine, but I don't want to take any risks and prefer to be a bit of a perfectionist. <Well... often these opinions are drawn from a one time viewing - a snapshot in time, and without follow up, it's impossible to say how successful such an effort would be. Experience has shown that high nitrates are disastrous for reef systems - you are wise to try and deal with this now.> Thanks for your help. Your work is greatly appreciated. Massimo, Brighton UK <Cheers, J -- >

High nitrates - 2/18/03 i have a 50 gal tank with a wet/dry system. i use filtered water & have about 45 lbs of live rock. all my chem. readings are good except my nitrates (40-20ppm)<Whoa> i ve done 5 to 10 gal water changes but cant get it any lower.<Sounds like it could be a lot of things but start with the source water. Have you tested the source water?> I've been told to change my bio balls but that just does not sound right.<Definitely the bio balls can be removed. See here for more information: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bioballfaqs.htm> any suggestions ??? <Well, start with testing your source water, and check the bio ball Faq. Also, be sure that other maintenance/husbandry issues may not apply here. Frequent water changes weekly of 20% with good source water (tested R/O). Be sure not to overfeed. Skimmer should be pulling out about 1/2 cup to a cup a day of dark skimmate. Be sure to clean the skimmer weekly as well. Any and all additives should be phosphate, silicate, and nitrate, free including salt mix. How deep is your substrate? 1 inch or less or 4 inches and above is the rule of thumb. You get the idea. Start with ensuring the water being used is not already high in nitrate.  Go from there. Good luck>       thanks for your help  

Nailing Nitrate Hi guys. <Hey! Scott F. here today> I'm setting up a 40 gal reef with an overflow, a great deal of live rock and MH lighting. In the sump I intend to escape the problem of creating a nitrate factory by only having water that has passed through the skimmer entering the wet/dry filter. What do you think? Thanks in advance, Tom. <Well, Tom, your intentions are good. However, by it's very nature, the wet/dry filter produces nitrate as the "end product" of the biological filtration process. Yes, skimmers do help export some nitrate, but, in my opinion, you will still be producing nitrate with the wet/dry, regardless of where the skimmer is located in the system. You should locate the skimmer where it will receive raw source water from the tank, for maximum efficiency. Also, it is best to utilize other means of nutrient export to help eliminate nitrate, such as using quality source water, regular small (like 5% twice weekly) water changes, use of a deep sand bed, chemical filtration media, and eliminating the plastic media in the wet-dry filter. These steps will go a long way towards helping reduce or eliminating nitrate in your system. God luck! Regards, Scott F >

Using chemical nitrate removers - 02/17/03 Hello all: <Hello! Ananda here…> A question I'm a little embarrassed to ask as it seems rather simplistic; but in regards to chemical filtration (if that's the correct term) I currently use 2 products: Chemi-Pure and Cleanwater.  (Opinion on second?  I know the first is recommended on this board) <No experience with it whatsoever - the only information I could find on it was on a Spanish-language retailer's site. Thank goodness for online translation pages…it sounds like it's a souped-up carbon replacement, if the manufacturer's claims can be believed.> My big question is proper placement and application. For instance: My big filter is the nitrate king Penguin 400. <Hmmm. The Emperor 400 has the spray bar; the Penguin only goes up to 330. I have one of each, with the Emperor on a freshwater system and the Penguin on a brackish system. Nitrates are easily removed via water changes.> My placement here was to move the carbon filters forward a notch so that there was room to place the bags of above product behind them (in other words they are second in the flow) of course they promptly sank out sight... note these are not in any sort of cartridge - should they be?? <It would keep them from sinking out of sight…I would try putting them in the open-topped V-shaped media bins if you have them. The water will still move through them.> The other bag (total of 3) is in my Skilter (modified) and it is in front of the carbon filter there as there was no way to move the filter from it's slot.  It also sank right to the bottom, so I pulled the top of the bag up a little and hooked it on the Skilter lid so that the bag hung in the middle instead of them bottom, but there seems to be no way of "flattening it" as the Manuf. Suggests... <Is there any room in the Skilter to hang a (possibly modified) refillable media cartridge made by some other manufacturer? That's about the only idea I'm coming up with.> So - point me in the right direction here if I'm off Next:  Am I wrong with thinking these things are effective at controlling nitrates? Or are they a sink in themselves??   <Some might work, some won't - and I suspect most could be a nitrate sink if left in place too long.> I ask because I pulled my carbon filters from my Penguin the other day to rinse them off and upon reinstalling them I had to lift the Cleanwater bags up a bit since they had slid under the slot where the filters go, and when I looked down in my tank there was a cloud of "junk" like detritus floating around... a "Quick Dip" nitrate test showed them up to 160!!  (Up from about 40 the night before) <The detritus not caught by the filter cartridges and the carbon in the filters are both potential nitrate sinks. You might consider rinsing them more frequently.> I have a very lightly stocked 55g FOWLR so I would have noticed if something died - I accounted for all of them - there was no overfeeding, etc. as well. Could these things have dumped all this in my water? Xeones <Could be from the filter cartridges not catching the stuff… but the original source is your fish and their wastes. You don't mention how much live rock you have, or what you are using for substrate, so I would suggest you do some reading about deep sand beds and live rock. And do consider a skimmer upgrade. -Ananda.>

Nitrate Reduction... Hey Crew, <Scott F on call today> I think I have finally got my head around the nitrogen cycle involved in an aquarium.  I was hoping that you could confirm it and also give me some helpful hints.  I will use my tanks filtration setup as an example.  I have a tank with a built in trickle filter at the top. The first section just contains prefilter wool. <Don't forget to replace the prefilter material regularly and often...If neglected, it can become a nutrient "trap" that will degrade water quality> The water then runs under a small baffle into a section filled with Seachem Matrix (last time I wrote to you I asked you about this Matrix and you informed me that it had to be replaced. I have since found that this is only the case with Matrix carbon, which is a relief as I can't really afford that on top of everything else at the moment).  The Matrix surface when matured contains aerobic bacteria which breaks down ammonia into nitrite and nitrite into nitrate.  It also contains anaerobic bacteria in the porous area found inside the matrix.  This bacteria breaks nitrate down into nitrogen by extracting the oxygen out of the nitrate (hence if the 3 parts of oxygen are extracted from NO3, nitrate, then you are left with N, nitrogen gas that is simply gassed off at the surface).  Is this correct,  or am I a bit of track?   <You pretty much got it, dude> Also, I want to lower my nitrate level, would the introduction of more live rock help since it contains anaerobic bacteria. <Live rock certainly functions as a natural biological filter, but I would not rely solely on the rock to remove excess nitrate. And- utilize small (like 5%) water changes twice weekly with high-quality source water...this will discourage organic accumulation before it becomes a problem> Also would live sand help? How thick should the layer be?  Thanks in advance. Amon <Well, Amon- I think that a properly constructed "deep sand bed" (one that is 4 to 6 inches deep) will provide very significant nitrate reduction, and the nitrifying bacteria residing in the sand bed will also help compete with algae for the available nutrients! Be sure that you are using a fine grade of "oolithic" aragonite, such as CaribSea's "Aragamax Sugar-Sized" sand. The fine sand will also dissolve over time, providing some degree of natural pH maintenance and buffering. Read all about sand beds on the WetWebMedia.Com site, as well as Bob Goemans' saltcorner.com site. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

- Questions about Water - <Greetings, JasonC here...> I started my water cycle about 9 weeks ago the first 4 weeks I add salt to the water, and then I put like 10 damsels for 5 weeks. 1st question is, a few days ago when I went to the fish shop, and I bought a clown trigger and a puffer, but I took a water sample from my tank and the guy from the store told me that the nitrate was very low, so I sold me a bottle I think is called "Nitromax" that are like two bottles attach, I think one of them is oxygen and the other one is bacteria I said to add like one teaspoon for every ten gallons (which I did). Today I took another sample of water to another store (octopus's garden), and they told me the nitrate was very high??????? so my question is if its low there's not enough bacteria, and if its high its dangerous to the fishes???? <Low nitrates aren't an indicator of a lack of bacteria... this is a very new system, I wouldn't expect a high nitrate reading in a tank of this type.> every body is giving me different opinions???? <I don't see it quite that way... I think perhaps you are misinterpreting the data. The tank is new... nitrates build up slowly. The Nitromax was not necessary, but by adding this and the new fish you increased the bioload which would also increase the amount of nitrates - none of these things are a surprise.> so I guess the more convenient thing to do is buy the NO2 Profi Test Nitrate Kid, and the PH Profi test kid and hope You might give me the correct advice....... <My friend, you should do some reading and learn to trust your own instincts rather than be swayed by other's advice.> what they last told me is that the nitrate test should appear white  0.00% of the purple color chart, and that the PH should be in the 8.3% that is the green color on the color chart. <In the ideal world... there is a range to these things and also a little give and take. For pH, a reading between 8.2 and 8.4 is ideal - 8.5 or 8.1 is not a disaster. Likewise, depending on the type of system you 'want' to have, a reading of zero nitrates may not be practical, and even 10 ppm would be just fine. Give these things time... this is a very new tank.> PLEASE advice me which is the correct information?????? <Actually, I will plead with you, read this link and inform yourself: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/biological/biofiltr.htm > My second question is I already both the Marine buffer "SeaChem" brand to maintain the correct PH since it was like 7.9,  and the Nitrate was 4 that they told me it was extremely high should I do a water change or there's some chemical that can lower it down if needed  (please tell me which of the information I received its correct the one that the bacteria is low, r the one that the bacteria and PH is high)... <All the information you have gotten so far is subjective - it all depends on the information you give the people who are giving you the advice. If I were you I would relax, breathe deeply, and let the tank do it's own thing. Don't be so hasty to add any/everything that come in a bottle.>  I really appreciate all of your help and information. 3rd question I herd that in the la Jolla aquarium they give you perfect salt water for free, is it better to go and get these water or is the same if you make it correctly with purified water (bottle water) adding the salt correctly????? <Well... it is true that there is a filtered seawater spigot at the Scripps pier, and this is the same water they use in the aquarium. BUT... unless you are prepared to let this water sit for as long as a week, and then filter it before you add it to your tank, I wouldn't recommend it. In fact, at this stage in the game for you, I wouldn't recommend it at all - this same water has been responsible for wiping out entire tanks to those who didn't handle the water correctly. Stick to mixing the store bought salts. In the meanwhile, please read this link and better inform yourself about using seawater: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seawater.htm You might also want to consider joining our local marine aquarium society where you can meet other people with similar interests: http://www.sdmas.org/ > thank you for replying. <Cheers, J -- >

Nitrate Reduction Hey Crew, <Scott F. your Crew Member today> I need a bit of help trying to lower the nitrate level in my tank. I have a Aqua one AR620 tank which is a tank with built in filter at the top and in built lights.  I am running a marine setup with fish, corals and live rock and have recently swapped the noodles that originally came with tank for Matrix. <If you're referring to the product by Sea Chem, this is good stuff, but it does exhaust like carbon, and needs to be changed regularly> The level has dropped a bit but I still want more filtration as I am having to perform a water change once a week and I only have 3 fish. <Well, there is nothing wrong with a once a week change. In fact, I tend to recommend 2 smaller (5% of tank volume) changes a week...my mantra (hear that Anthony?) is definitely "Dilution is the solution to pollution"!> The tank is roughly 80 litres (I think that's about 20 gallons) and a protein skimmer is out of the question as the top is fully enclosed. <Is there any way that you can adapt any skimmer to work in this system? A skimmer is an invaluable ally in fighting nutrient accumulations. Try to see if there is any type of skimmer that would work here> I am not a very experienced marine aquarist and would like to know more about live sand. <Well, in a very small nutshell- "Live" sand essentially is a fine sand which has a population of nitrifying bacteria, worms, and other "infauna", which work to process nitrogenous wastes in you tank. Deep live sand beds have been repeatedly proven to reduce nitrates in closed systems. You'd want to go for a 3-5 inch bed of sand...obviously, in a small tank, this will take up a considerable amount of space...> Would it be useful? <I certainly think deep sand beds are useful!> The fish shop where I live is useless and I can tell them more about it then they can, which is a bit scary. <Well- you seem pretty sharp to me...Give yourself a little credit! You're doing fine! Read up more on these sand beds by doing a search under "deep sand beds" using the Google search feature on the wetwebmedia.com site.> Anyway thanks in advance for your help. Regards, Amon Masters <Our pleasure! Regards, Scott F>

Nitrates Crew, First of all thank you for the site, I am addicted to it and read daily!  Anyway, since I have been reading and researching I have almost completely changed my system and I just have a few specific question I hope you can help me with. First of all the stats, 55 gallon salt tank with approximately 50 lbs of live rock, bout 1/2 inch crushed coral in front only, I have two Rio 1400's pumping water through the back and surface (no coral sand back there) My fish include one yellow tang (small) one small Basslet 2 inches, two 1 inch perculas, three hermits crabs, one coral banded shrimp, a lawnmower blenny, and 1 1/2 inch mandarin goby, all small. I have a BakPak 2 skimmer, Fluval 404 (all filter media) no balls. I had an emperor 400 till today. I have two 96 watt power compacts as well as one 40 watt actinic ro light. When I realized I wanted to get away from wet dry and go to LR I slowly took out my crushed coral (started with a bed 3-4 inches deep) added live rock over the course of 12 months, Fish have done well, I am just as lazy as precautionary (tank is two years old btw) I checked nitrates today and they were about 10pp.  Today I removed the emperor and will let my tank go for about a month while adding  5 pounds of live rock a week till I get to bout 70 lbs (my target).  Just wanted to get you up to speed.  Now the questions. <Got it!> I would like to add live sand and rid myself of crushed coral (possible nitrates there, even though I break it up on water changes) But I DO NOT want to keep a deep bed for fear of dead spots.  I would like to keep about 1/2 to one inch in front only, is that beneficial or don't bother? <If you're going for a shallow sand bed, use the 1/2". Neither will help your nitrates but 1" may be a nutrient sink. In this case, shallow is better. In order to get natural nitrate reduction, one will need at least 4" of sugar-fine sand and 5" is optimal. Yu could also use a plenum> Secondly, I have newborn and do not even want to think about a sump under tank for obvious reasons, (very inquisitive little guy)  but I want to keep nitrates low eventually want 2-3 corals and one more small fish, prolly an angel. <Our newborn is now 2.5 years old. He went through a stage where he threw everything he could get his hands on in the sump! He ruined several remotes, numerous musical toys, a camera, and the list goes on. I can't hardly believe this experience didn't kill the whole tank! Fortunately, he outgrew this phase about 6 months ago and the sump is no longer a big thrill. Ha!> My tank is not overcrowded, but I was thinking a bit of Caulerpa? <In a sump yes. But if it ever gets in your main tank, you will never get it out> on one side of the tank? <It won't stay there. I guarantee it> Any other suggestions, I would even consider more live rock? <Wouldn't hurt> Or would adding second skimmer on other side be beneficial. <Also a good idea> I am not too high now, just want to keep it that way. <I'm not concerned about your current levels at all. There is no reason to do anything hasty> Thanks again.  BTW emperors are full of gunk all through plumbing as well as wheels.  I really think they are counter productive unless you have huge fish? <Wet/dries work best when the tank is fish only and overstocked> I love the site, and have learned much, you have done your part to reduce wasted ocean life, that is for sure. <Thanks. That is indeed our purpose/challenge. David Dowless>

- Controlling Nitrates - Hey guys, <Hello, JasonC here...> I have a question regarding high nitrates.  Let me give you the specs first.  I have a 75 gallon tank FOWLR (about 70 lbs of live rock).  I am using a Eheim canister filter (rated to 94 gal which I clean monthly), a BakPak2 protein skimmer, and a Aquaclear 300 power filter.  I have taken the "BioBale" out of the skimmer and run it without this material (should I replace it or use something else in there?). <Is fine either way.> Also, I run the power filter with Polyfilter, carbon (which i change bimonthly), and Kent nitrate sponge (does this stuff really work). <Based on the information you list, it doesn't sound like it.> Ammonia-0ppm Nitrite-0ppm pH-8.2 salinity-1.023 nitrate>80ppm 1 small Sailfin tang, 1 flame angel, 1 2.5 in. Bluespotted Jawfish (my favorite), 1 purple Firefish, a cleaner shrimp, a few assorted hermits, and a few turbo snails (I used to have more of the snails and crabs but they seem to have slowly disappeared over the last year (because of nitrates??)) I have always had a slight problem with diatoms which just required some scraping, but recently I have had a large outbreak of some sort of dark brown algae that covers my live rock in a slimy film. <It sounds like Cyanobacteria - BGA - more information about that here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm > I couldn't find it in the FAQs, but I may not have looked hard enough.  I assume that this is due to the high nitrates? I typically perform a 20% water change with vacuuming of gravel weekly, but I admit sometimes it's 2 weeks between water changes. <That's ok.> In an effort to decrease the nitrates and prevent the algal blooms I have been diligent with weekly water changes of 25% for the last month and significantly cut back the feeding to once a day. <Yeah... but how much once a day?> Also, as mentioned above, I removed the BioBale from the skimmer and I don't run the power filter with a foam insert.  I thought that all of these things together with the canister filter might be a big nitrate factory. <I don't think so.> Is this assumption correct or am I mistaken?? <You clean it regularly... would prevent that problem.> Also, I noticed when vacuuming the gravel there is a huge accumulation of junk underneath the live rock, but I really don't want to tear apart the whole tank to get to these places.  Is that ok or should I get under the rock as often as possible as well. <No, you can get away with a good gravel clean about every six months.>  The skimmer only gives me about 1/4 cup of tea colored skimmate with lots of gunk in the collection cup neck.  I have never seen dark coffee like skimmate from this unit and was wondering your opinion of this unit? <That's about standard for this unit - it's not really a very good skimmer.> I should probably get another skimmer and was thinking of a Remora Pro when I get the money unless you have a better suggestion? <Nope, the Remora pro is what I would recommend.> Is there anything else I should do other than the water changes and decreased feeding to get the nitrate down? <You might consider increasing the flow in your tank to get some of that detritus into the water column and subsequently into the filter system... likewise, the increased flow would help get that water in/around/through the live rock which should help quite a bit.> Though I am not a fan of adding all sorts of chemicals I saw a product from Aquamarine called Nitrate Reducer which claims 97% reduction in nitrates in 7-14 days.  Such claims certainly can tempt the average aquarium keeper. <And I'm sure they do.> What do you think about such a product?? <Never tried it, never will.> Thanks in advance for your help.  You have a great site. Jeff P.S. After over a year of placing Bob's CMA on birthday, Christmas lists, etc I finally got it from my fianc?this past holiday.  I love it! <Cheers, J -- >

Steady As She Goes! Re: New SW tank I just set up a 75 gallon SW tank on12/26/02.  I started it using a Fluval 404 canister filter.  I also used 80 lbs of Aragalive sand on the bottom of the tank.  I have not been very patient with the cycling, I suppose.  I currently have approx.60-65 pd.s of live rock.  My nitrates seem to be a little high. <Well, high nitrates are common in newly-cycled tanks, with their abundant nutrients caused by live rock and an influx of animals, etc.> I have even went to buy some Sea-Chem de-nitrate material.  I put it in the 404, Has not seemed to help. I even ordered another Fluval  304 just to help. <These types of media can be effective, but it's better to get to the root causes of nitrate accumulation, such as excess organics, lack of export mechanisms, etc. Make sure that you regularly clean and/or replace the filter media contained within the filters, or they will further contribute to the nitrate level. Another idea  would be to increase your sandbed to 4-5 inches, as deeper sand beds have been proven to assist in natural denitrification> I am using the provided biological substrate in both with 2-3 packs of Chemi-pure in each to clear the water.  I also have the Prizm skimmer on the back of the tank. <Make sure that the skimmer is pulling at least a couple of cups of dark, yucky skimmate from the water on a regular basis. An effective skimmer is your first line of defense in reducing organic accumulation> I would have preferred the wet dry filter but my wife did not like the gurgling noises it makes.  Ammonia and nitrites seem to be ok. <Should both be undetectable> I have about 6 snails, 7 hermit crabs, 1 colt coral, some xenia, 1 old mans hand, 1 yellow tang, 4 damsels, 1banded goby, 1 watchman goby, 1 banded coral shrimp, 2 peppermint shrimp, and 2 camel back shrimp, 2 bubble anenomes,  I had a few more fish but they are dying. <Wow- that's quite a load for a tank that's less than a month old! You really need to slow down just a bit, okay? You have some good ideas and the equipment to make this tank work well. However, take a bit more time to let your new acquisitions settle in...observe them carefully...proceed slowly...> I have done  several water changes with r/o water I get from where I work. <Excellent- try to perform smaller (like 5%) water changes twice weekly- they will go a long way towards preventing buildup of organics.> I also have four VHO lights powered by an Ice Cap 660.  Should I be adding something to the r/o water besides the salt? <There are buffers and "reconstituting" preparations that you can use before mixing the salt> Should I remove the biological substrate in my canister filters and just run carbon and de-nitrate materials? <I'd let your live rock and (deeper) sand bed do some of the work...naturally. You certainly can utilize activated carbon or PolyFilter media in the Fluvals. Make sure that you change them regularly> Do you think the higher nitrate reading is causing my fish to be ill? <The nitrate reading is probably not killing your fish...but any traces of ammonia and nitrite might be the culprit...Another reason not to rush when adding animals to the tank...> Other than my patience, I consider myself really trying to do well at this. <You are doing well...you just need to develop a bit of patience...Remember, the goal is to maintain your aquarium for many years...there's no need to rush and get everything into the tank in the first couple of months. You'll get so much more enjoyment out of the hobby if you take it slower...> I am not real impressed with the Prizm skimmer, and should I consider converting to a wet dry filter with a better skimmer? <I'd consider upgrading the skimmer, if you're unsatisfied with your current model's performance. If you are going to use a wet-dry filter, consider omitting the bioballs, and letting the rock and sand do the work...keep some carbon in little bags in the sump, add a good skimmer- and you've got a simple, effective water processing system for your tank> Or will what I have work to keep things healthy. <It will work- but it is necessary to change and clean mechanical media regularly> I have some phosphate remover also in my Fluval 404. Right now I am starting to get a good bit of brown algae, but I also just put my VHO's on 4 days ago.  Probably running them to long. <Probably due to the accumulation of organics- light alone is not a cause of nuisance algae> Up to 11 hours a day. <Those anemones need a lot of high-quality light every day...> I guess my biggest question is the biological substrate in canisters good or bad, but could use all advice you can give.  I have bought several books and mag.s, they all seem to point to different things.   <Yes they do! I'd keep the system simple, natural, and easy to maintain. Rather than reach for various chemical media to eliminate phosphates, etc., employ simple, regular water changes, aggressive protein skimming, a deeper sand bed, live rock, careful feeding, and a healthy dose of patience. Keep reading and learning on the wetwebmedia.com site. You'll be fine! Steady as she goes! Regards, Scott F>

Re: nitrate problem/ livestock I have a 90 gallon reef tank well established overall everything has been great.  all the water chemistry is perfect except for the nitrates they are through the roof like 180 to 200.  I tried water changes and nitrate sponges I bought a sea clone skimmer from marine land the bigger it can do up to 150 gallon capacity <This is a "junk" product. Replace it. Please read through our skimmer selection FAQs starting here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/skimselfaqs.htm and continuing on> still no better the collection cup fills up with dark clean matter real disgusting over all the corals are good not great but good.  What else can I do to correct this problem. <Many things. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and the FAQs files beyond (linked, in blue, at top)> Second question is regarding my live stock. I have a lunar wrasse, purple tang, orange tail damsel, yellow tail damsel, tiger goby, marine Betta, royal Gramma, dwarf lionfish and a  Naso tang.  All of these fish I have had well over 2 years and have grown considerably in particular the lunar he must of been the red sea variety, because when I got him he was not too colored no tail trailers about maybe  3 inches he has grown to 9" full blown ultra colored bright green fuchsia long Anthias tail just a killer specimen. <Neat> In regards to the nitrate problem I am thinking about adding some clams I have the lighting metal halide 250 watt and 2 4 ft compact fluorescents with straight actinic 55 watt Coralife bulbs total I've got 470 watts of lighting on my 90 gallon.  The problem is I have had clams before crocea, maxima, deresa all died the first two I did not  have the halides the store said the flo's would be good "wrong" the last one I have was doing fine for about two months then I killed it by depleting the nitrates down therefore depleting his food supply and inevitably the lunar when to town and ate the clam up.  I did notice that the lunar nipped at the mantle from time to time can I control this with feeding to where I can add say 3 to 4 clams and let the bivalves do their worth after how do they survive in the wild right. <I would not place tridacnids with this Lunare Wrasse. Bob Fenner>

Re: nitrate problem/ livestock This is my second skimmer I heard it was pretty good so I gonna leave it be for now, reading the faq's everything is the same that I have read before, I have done the massive water changes 20 30 or ever 40% for my trouble I got the nitrates down to 100 ppm and killed various corals via shock. <... you're wasting your time, livestock's' vitality, money on water replacement by using this puny skimmer... Please send a note to our chatforum: http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/ or others on the Net... or read where I just sent you...> I have another idea because the water thing is not working, I have a AMiracle wet dry on this tank what if I changed out the bio balls to some other matter like some of the CPRs ribbon material I have also seen other products like cell pore blocks from Kent and so on.  Or would I be better off converting the bio ball chamber to a refugium with mud and ruble. <Removing the plastic media would be of help, and it would be even better to do the refugium conversion.> I am assuming I would have to let the bio balls float for a good 30 days in the sump so that I would not interrupt the filtration before switching what's your opinion. <Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bioballfaqs.htm A note. If you don't want to read where you're sent, pretend that you have, disregard our advice out of hand, please don't waste the bandwidth, our time by writing us. Bob Fenner>

Reduced Nitrates indeed, coming from somewhere, I sent bob an email yesterday in regards to tossing the rest of my bio-balls in my W/D, was running 20ppm nitrates yesterday,18 hours after removing the balls, I've tested 0-5ppm nitrates, that's great and another thing off my list in this battle, the Naso tang and lion are likely going tomorrow, cutting down on fish load should help, I will get a yellow tang to see if he helps, thanks for your help here Jason, and tell Bob thanks for assuring me about the balls, <You're welcome> very happy to see trace levels of nitrate now, btw, if I'm running such low nitrates now, does this mean i can/should cut back on water changes?, was doing 20g a week but this is because of the nitrates, now am wondering if this much is needed......riot... <Frequent, partial water changes are a good idea... but twice a month is fine for these. Bob Fenner>

Re: Nitrate problem Oh well, maybe the attachment was lost. To restate: David mentioned that the filter I am currently using (Penguin Emperor) is a "Nitrate Factory" I was curious as to why that would be and what you would suggest as an alternative? Thanks again <Ohh, I moved that answered FAQ a while back. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/no3probfaq5.htm and the FAQs files "ahead" of this page (in blue, linked, above). Bob Fenner>

- Defining the Nitrate Factory - <Greetings, JasonC here...> Thanks for the great web site. It is the most useful and informative site that I have found on  any subject, period. Coming from fresh water I am having trouble understanding the Nitrate factory view of filters. <You know what? So am I... I personally think it's something that is being blown out of proportion.> I am just getting ready to set up a 90gl .FOWsomeLR and will add more LR later. It seems to me that a high flow/oxygenated media would remove Ammonia and Nitrites quicker then live rock, but would do nothing for Nitrates. How can a filter be too effective at getting the first two out since they are so toxic to fish? <Well, any biological filter doesn't really 'get rid' of those nitrogenous wastes, it just breaks them down into less-harmful compounds; nitrate is the end product.> A wet/dry couldn't actually make more Nitrate from the same biological input than LR (could it?) <It could... wet/dry filters are highly efficient and would be able to process more waste sooner.> If was just using a DSB and LR for anaerobic processing of Nitrates how does a wet/dry impede this ability? <It doesn't, the nitrate would still be resident in the system, and the DSB and live rock would help keep the levels low.> Much thanks for any Help. Jeff Mahan <Cheers, J -- >

Nitrate problem Hi, first of all, thanks for the great website - almost all I know about marine tanks I've learned here.  (Also had to "unlearn" a whole lot from my LFS) <Fabulous!> My tank: 55g FO with Penguin Emperor filter containing standard carbon filters and "Clearwater" bags (supposedly absorbs nitrates? - we'll see.) <If it sounds too good to be true...> Inhabitants: 1 Yellow Tang, 1 Hippo Tang, 2 Perculas, 2 Cleaner Shrimp, 2 Turbos and a "Host of hermits" Materials in tank: 5 or 6 big pieces of dead coral (The nifty kind with the hole in the middle that you buy so "cheaply" from the LFS) and some "Sea Garden" Plants. And one decorative piece of stag coral that the hippo calls home. Age: Approx. 8 mos. Fish are all about 6 mos. old (Tangs growing like Crazy!) everyone gets along great - only had one casualty - a flame Angel that did fine for about a week, then woke up one morning see her floating upside down dead as could be. <Okay> Problem:  High Nitrates and Cyano. <High nutrients and use of a nitrate factory for filtration (Penguin)> Every other test comes back fine, but nitrates are in 80-100ppm range. I changed out 8mo. Old bulbs to 2 15w Power Glows and they stay on for12hrs/day. <Bulbs do not affect this problem> My floor is about 2 inches of crushed coral, really coarse - I seem to have read a post in here that may be too deep? <Yes. You need less than an inch...1/2" is even better> Should it be changed to sand? <The filter is where the nitrates are coming from...+ the nitrates produced in the too deep substrate> If so, how? <Changing to a DSB likely will not help if you are using the Penguin> I am cutting back on feeding for awhile to attempt to reduce nutrients as well. <Should help. Do you have a good skimmer that produces daily?> Your advice is greatly appreciated! David <You're welcome! David Dowless>

Re: Nitrate problem David, Thanks much for the quick reply!  This is a first for me hearing about the penguin nitrate factory!  (Again, a product highly recommended by my LFS <Hey they must be good sales people...you almost bought it!> -the same one that recommended I cycle my tank with a copper banded butterfly <HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHHAHHAHAHHAHHAAHAH!!!!! It's sad how many people will actually buy the copperband and then return to buy another one when it dies. That is sad :( > :o)  (I didn't do that) Could you 1. Explain why the Penguin is this way, <Not just the Penguin but all forms of canister and wet/dry filtration. It's due to the efficiency of this type of nutrient processing. These types of filters can handle a lot of nutrients and the nutrient processing is very fast.  Nearly all filtration produces nitrates in one way or another but the amount of nutrients that can be processed through a wet/dry (for example) is way more than could occur using "natural" filtration. Therefore it produces excessive amounts of nitrate that cannot be used up in the aquarium. If an aquarium is lightly stocked this isn't nearly as much of a problem> and 2. Suggest an alternative? (I will remove the excess coral tonight by the way) <Okay...Have you studied any about DSB's or natural nitrate reduction? They are all the rage these days. Also a plenum system (cheap and easy to build but be sure to set it up correctly). You can find information about this at saltcorner.com Then add a good protein skimmer and live rock and you will have all the filtration you'll need! Or you could just use lots of live rock and a good protein skimmer with no special sand beds. It'll work. Doesn't need to be complicated...just efficient. David Dowless>

- DIY Denitrification & Anemone Feeding - Crew, <Howdy, JasonC here...> My nitrates are now super low,  between 0 to 5ppm in just 3 weeks on my 180 gallon Fish tank! The new DSB with live rock that I set up is working great!  Before the DSB,  I was getting nitrate readings of about 80-100ppm with my current fish load. I was doing approx. 15 gallons a week in water changes. Now I am doing only 7 gallons per week in water changes. About the setup... I siphon water down from the main tank into the DSB box , (approx 15 gph). using a very long 1/2" tubing, (approx. 30 ft. of tubing; 'coil method'). The out end of the tube is submerged directly in the DSB water column. By the time the water reaches the DSB there is very little to no oxygen in the water which allows the Anaerobic de-nitrification process to take place. I suppose the same process can be accomplished through the use of an expensive Coil Denitrificator Unit, (from what I read these units can tend to be troublesome, high maintenance , periodic feeding of bio media & cleaning required, very slow water drip rate). <You are correct.> I just wanted to let you know that I have had great success with my DSB de-nitrification installation and would recommend it highly to others. The total cost was not bad ... just around $93 and it's very natural. All the fish are all very healthy and I feed twice a day. <Time will tell... need to have the thing running for at least a year to call it an unqualified success.> $35 - 10 lbs fine live sand mixture with 5 lbs. Aragonite med. course crushed coral. $7 - Plastic 12"L x 16"W x 8"H  box that fits nicely in my expansion sump. Cut holes in each side for water out at the 3 inch water mark above the 6 Inch sand bed. $4 - 25 ft 1/2" tubing $20 - 5 lbs of totally cured live rock (small pieces) $10 - 1 dozen Large Mangrove Plants (1-2 '  tall) $12 - 24 Hour Lamp $5 - Batch of Caulerpa (Taxifolia) Total - $93 On another note, I have a question about a large Bubbletip Anemone I just purchased to host my 5" Gold Stripe Maroon clown.  I have read that it is only necessary to feed the Bubbletip anemone once a week? Shouldn't I try to hand feed it 3 times a week or is that too much? What is the best foods for this anemone and should I use Phytoplankton ... and if so, how many times a week. <Actually, a meaty food, diced up to small particles would be much better. Do check out this page on our site: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/anempt2.htm > The fish store guy did not seem to know that much about the Bubbletip and feedings. Also, I have 2 large Actinic Blue bulbs and 2 large 10,000 k standard fluorescent bulbs on the side of the tank with the anemone. Is this enough lighting for this anemone? <No.> Do I need to purchase the more intense lighting and spend big bucks? <If you intend to keep it for the long haul, yes.> I could not get good answers from anyone about anemones. <I would suggest reading through the multiple pages of FAQs on the WetWebMedia site as many of these questions have been asked and answered before and are documented there for your perusal.> Thanks! Chris <Cheers, J -- >

Lowering Nitrate Hello all!, <Hi there! Scott F. in the HOUSE!> It's been a month or two since I last Called for help. Quick equip list: 55 gal corner tank 70+ lbs liverock Eheim 2217 w spray bar across surface right to left Fluval 304? in tank for movement, rear corner blowing to front center 450 gph powerhead in rear corner blowing down to rear base 2" crushed coral (coarse) Prism skimmer 24/7 Top lighting 96 watts 25% actinic plus the original hood for kicks. Livestock: 1 five inch Lion 2 small maroon clowns 1 small blenny 4 small hermits 2 big Turbos 4-6 small Turbos Tank started on 9-7-02 No algae problems, no real chem swings after cycle. NO2 and AM consistently 0. Feeding 1 silverside to Lion and maybe a gram of homemade frozen puree to all else once per day. All animals in good health (and spirits) and please don't scold me on the tank size for the Lion; will have much larger tank in 6 months. <I wouldn't scold you for that...would I? Yeh, I guess that I would...LOL. No problem- glad his moving to bigger digs soon!> My problems are Nitrate creep and PO3. over the last six weeks nitrate moves from 10ppm to 40 ppm over 12-18 days resulting in 50% water changes about every 2 weeks. I am positive I am not over feeding and have used multiple tests for nitrate. Is it simply bioload? <Really a combination of factors, in all likelihood. Remember, even if you're not overfeeding in the classic sense, you've got some rater hearty eaters there, all of which release a copious amount of metabolic products into the water (i.e, they shi-shi and doo-doo a lot!> I tend to rinse the fibrous filter material in the Eheim at this time but take care not to destroy the bacterial cultures in the other media. <Good. Detritus build-up in mechanical filtration media is a major cause of organic accumulation and increasing nitrate. Systems utilizing mechanical filtration systems require very frequent (like a couple of times a week, if possible) cleaning and/or replacement of media.> I also vacuumed the gravel while siphoning the water out and clean the foam pads in the Fluval. All this maintenance would be fine but for having to break down and move around the rock. Possible solution? <A few thoughts here. First, you can simplify your life by employing smaller, more frequent water changes (like 5% twice a week-practically painless! These frequent small changes will help dilute organics before they have a chance to accumulate. Those 50% changes are really aggressive...it could even be argued that they do more harm than good. Next, consider employing a deeper sand bed (at least 3, maybe up to 5 inches, comprised of finer "oolithic aragonite" sand.) to assist in denitrification. Deeper sand beds have been proven time and again to help reduce nitrate levels in closed systems. I think that 2 inches of coarse substrate is problematic for the long run, as it can trap detritus extensively. Also, 2 inches is sort of a biological "no man's land", too deep to be fully aerobic and too shallow to foster complete denitrification processes. Finally, please make sure that your skimmer is producing at least a couple of cups of dark, yucky skimmate per week. Aggressive, productive skimming can make a HUGE difference in your tank's concentration of dissolved organics. One more thing...do look into your source water...RO/DI water is of very high quality and could really help.> PO3 is something I only tested for yesterday and have not studied yet.  I forgot to mention 4 softie corals, button, mushroom, xenia... I was wondering why I didn't have any coralline growth despite adequate (380-440)calcium levels, alk of 12.5, decent lighting, and low nitrates. <Give it some time. You'll see it start to grow.> LFS mentioned Magnesium and PO3 likely off. Sure enough PO3 is at highest reading on scale greater than 2ppm (deduced that dilution and retest for accuracy not so important when already this high) Local tap water before aeration has no Po3 reading at all (at least it didn't yesterday) so where is it coming from? <Well, a good portion of the phosphate in closed systems comes from the foods that we feed...no kidding! Yes, source water can also contain enough phosphate to become a problem over time, but most phosphate accumulation is related to food> Am going to move corals to 20 gal quarantine tank and set up for softies. Much work ahead. Will move half the rock over there and 55 gal will be fish only removing clowns and blenny and adding Niger Trigger And Fiji Puffer from 20 gal (again very small fish that will have a much larger home in 6 months) <Good- because you knew that I was gonna say something about that!> Last question, is a 110 watt 50/50 Helios light ok for the 20 gallon tall with softies only? <Depends on the particular species that you are contemplating, and how they are placed in the tank. Probably should work for many undemanding softies> Thanks again guys, am wholeheartedly enjoying this hobby, I particularly enjoy seeing xenia pop up unexpectedly here and there and new life, plate like green algae where none was apparent that the clowns nibble on, tiny filter feeders, feather dusters, etc. on the liverock. Way cool world. Kevin <Well said, Kevin! And with a few minor adjustments and continued attention and observation, you'll continue to see success! Hope these tips help! You can read a lot more about nitrate reduction in the wetwebmedia.com FAQs! Good luck. Regards, Scott F>

Tank setup problems-nitrates Hello WWM crews, Best wishes and happy new year. My tank recently is experiencing an increasing NO3 (about 40ppm) and I'm wondering how I may improve the situation.  My tank is a 80G tank with a 30G sump.  The sump is divided into several areas with about half of the area working a refugium.  The refugium is growing Caulerpa lighted by a 150W MH in reverse hour as the main tank.  The tank has 100 pounds of live rock.  The tank has one 5" powder blue tang, two 3" goby and one firebird and a couple of soft corals.  However, since I also got a few sea fan, I feed the tank with 4 spoons of ESV Phytoplankton every day.  The fish is feed twice: one with dry food and another with Mysis shrimp. I'm considering several options: (1) Decrease my feeding of both fish food and phytoplankton.  Is one meal a day sufficient to my fish?  Will this affect my sea fan? <I would reduce the phyto feeding and only feed small amounts of fish food that can be eaten immediately.> (2) Add another protein skimmer.  I'm now using Schuran Jetskim 100.  Will it help if I add another Jetskim 100?  For your info, the skimmer did extract DOC but they are not very black and not very solid.  Also, it seems only effective when the light on the refugium is on. <I am not familiar with this skimmer but it should be producing a cup or so of dark skimmate per day. If not, it needs to be adjusted or replaced with a more efficient skimmer.> (3) Replace the protein skimmer with a more effective one, such as AquaC. Will AquaC suffer from the same problem as the Jetskim that it only effective at a specific PH value? <Your pH should be 8.3, if not or you are having difficulty with water chemistry, you should get this in order as it can and will affect skimmer efficiency. I highly recommend Kalkwasser use to maintain calcium, support alkalinity and maintaining proper pH.> (4) Run the refugium 7 X 24 so that the skimmer works at its best all day long. <This could be done but with the refugium on an alternate cycle, your pH should already be stable 24 hours a day.....unless something else (water chemistry) is amiss. I'm beginning to suspect this is your problem. What is alk, calcium and pH in the late PM? Also check magnesium.> (5) Use chemical filter to absorb NO3 and PO4.  But it seems to me that this is only addressing the symptom but not the root problem. (6) More water change.  Now I'm changing 2% water every other day. Which option should I choose or are there any other better way? Thanks and regards, Manus <Test source water first, you may introduce nitrogen and ammonia in replacement water.  If so, you need RO/DI etc to eliminate.  Clean sponges, skimmer, filters at least weekly and perhaps daily for sponges.  What sort of substrate are you using? Coarse substrates trap detritus and wastes and produce nitrates. Keep vacuumed if this is the case or replace with fine aragonite. Reducing nitrates can be a multiple issue problem, overfeeding, inadequate waste export, retained wastes, etc. You may need to look at several causes.  Craig>

Tank setup problems-nitrates Where can I find information on adjusting the skimmer?  I find it very difficult to proper adjust the skimmer.  Sometimes it produce to water that is not thick enough and sometimes the foam just collapse. <Look to the owner's manual and keeping the water level constant with a skimmer box. Check out WetWebMedia.com for these, also Anthony Calfo's book.> (3) Replace the protein skimmer with a more effective one, such as AquaC. Will AquaC suffer from the same problem as the Jetskim that it only effective at a specific PH value? <Your pH should be 8.3, if not or you are having difficulty with water chemistry, you should get this in order as it can and will affect skimmer efficiency. I highly recommend Kalkwasser use to maintain calcium, support alkalinity and maintaining proper pH.> (4) Run the refugium 7 X 24 so that the skimmer works at its best all day long. <This could be done but with the refugium on an alternate cycle, your pH should already be stable 24 hours a day.....unless something else (water chemistry) is amiss. I'm beginning to suspect this is your problem. What is alk, calcium and pH in the late PM? Also check magnesium.> Actually, I got a calcium reactor, so I believe alk and calcium may not be the problem.  What's the best method to increase my PH to 8.3? Also, how is magnesium related? <You didn't mention this before, but with the reactor it depends on if you are using CO2 or not and how the reactor is set up. Your alk/calcium/mag is likely good with the reactor, combined with high nitrates points to acidic wastes in the system perhaps combined with an improperly adjusted or set-up calcium reactor contributing to depressed pH. What is the pH before the lights go off? It should be at it's highest then. The answers are : Better husbandry including better nutrient export, (skimming), vacuuming fouled substrates, feeding less, cleaning sponges and filters, using chemical media if needed. Your skimmer should be producing a good deal of skimmate daily.> >Clean sponges, skimmer, filters at least weekly and perhaps daily for sponges.> The sponges are only clean every two weeks.  The substrate are the fine one.  Maybe the sponge is part of the problem. <Very likely! Keep them cleaned out, improve nutrient export and check out your reactor functioning correctly.  Craig>

- Nitrates Be Gone! - Hi Bob/Crew, <Hello, JasonC here...> Just a quick question. I wonder if you heard of a denitrifying gizmo called Nitragon and produced in the UK. <I have heard of it, but have no experience with it.> I hear it gets rid of about 90% of nitrates and phosphates, but nothing else. <I wouldn't expect much else with a name like that.> Purists here in the UK advocate the use of RO units instead of it - Nitragon ok for LPS and soft corals but not LPS-, and as I am getting a new tank I wondered what you thought, whether they are worth it, or if I prepare the water in advance- a week or so- that would be ok to get rid of chlorine/-amine and other toxic stuff. <Nitrates in your mix water are really the least of your problems. Typically they come from natural processes in the system and your job is to make sure they don't accumulate. This can be accomplished via more natural means - a deep sand bed or large quantities of live rock. Both methods are discussed in our FAQs here and beyond: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbfaqs.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/liverock1.htm As for preparation of mix-water, that is also discussed in our articles and FAQs but I will quickly add that RO does have its uses, but is not essential unless your tapwater has got other things in it not easily removed by aeration over a couple of days. Do check out this article: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm > Thanks, Brightonreefer <Cheers, J -- >

Reducing Nitrate Hi guys, <Scott F. your guy today> It's me again with only a few questions this time.  I have a 20g hex, UGF, BioWheel, 12lbs (or so) of LR and powerhead in my tank.  Ammonia, nitrite are zero, salinity is 1.024, water is crystal clear.  Livestock is 1 false percula clown, domino damsel (the clown is king) and a cleaner shrimp. I would like to add 2 Firefish, but my nitrates are still hovering around >25ppm.  My tank has been up and running now for over 2-1/2 months, and I cannot seem to drop the nitrates below that level.  My other fish and shrimp and healthy, colorful and active.  I've done small water changes but it doesn't seem to make a difference.  I read that even with a UGF there will always be nitrates (is that correct?), so how can I lower them so I can add a few more fish? <Well, first of all, nitrate, in and of itself, is not toxic to fishes at the level which you are measuring. It is, however, useful as a water quality "yardstick". Maintaining a low nitrate level in your aquarium can help reduce nuisance algae problems and help improve overall water quality. There are a number of ways to reduce nitrate in captive systems. First, you can check the source water that you're using for water changes-if you are using tap water that already contains 5-10ppm of nitrate, you're starting "behind the 8-ball" as they say. Try using a purified water source, such as RO/DI water. Keep up those regular small water changes (like 5% twice weekly) with quality source water-they can help reduce nitrates and keep them from having a chance to build up. I didn't see that you are running a protein skimmer in this tank. Protein skimmers help remove organic compounds from the water which can degrade and accumulate, contributing to nitrates. Another option is to use a deep sand bed (3 to 5 inches or more), to assist in nitrate reduction...You'd want to use a fine grain of sand for this. Do read up on deep sand beds on the wetwebmedia.com site for more information on their function and implementation. Still another idea is to use a "purposeful" macroalgae, such as Chaetomorpha, Gracilaria, or Halimeda, which utilize nitrates as part of their nutrition...> Also, my substrate is crushed coral and when I execute the water changes I stir up the first top inch or so (maybe a little more)....the crushed coral is of medium grade, would this substrate be okay for Firefish as they like to burrow? <Quite frankly, I have not experienced Firefish burrowing in the substrate before, myself. Most of the Firefish that I have kept seem to like having a cave or "bolt hole" in the rockwork to retreat to when threatened. I think that you might want to keep just one specimen in your tank, by the way. Often times, keeping more than one, particularly in a smaller tank, results in one fish chasing and possibly killing the others. You really need a larger tank to keep more than one, in my opinion, providing at least 20 gallons per fish...This will definitely increase your chances for success> Thanks again...you guys rule! Maureen <Nah, Maureen- our readers rule! It's great to be of assistance to people like you! Thanks for stopping by! I hope that you can get some ideas here that help you succeed even more! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

High Nitrates and Cyanobacteria Issues Hey guys, <Hello Jeff!> I seem to have a problem here with high nitrates (running 20 to 30 ppm) in my 215 gallon reef. I have made very frequent water changes in the last month with good RO/DI water, but that seems to only lower it for a day or 2. There is no obvious dead or decaying stuff. Nitrite is 0 and ammonia is 0.5. I have about 100 blue leg hermits seemingly very busy, also 4 brittle stars, and 50 or so Astreas (although we seem to have lost a dozen or so lately). What the heck do you think is going on here? <There are a couple of possibilities: over stocking, over feeding, lack of skimming, but one thought in particular came to mind, how deep is your sand bed now. They tend to dissolve and after a while not support the same amount of denitrification we have come to rely on.> I am going to throw some Halimeda and Caulerpa in the sump tonight, any other thoughts? <Turn that skimmer up, double check your new salt water, and watch all other aspects of proper husbandry.> Also, in a separate system, I am experiencing mucho Cyano (I think) on the sand bed, despite very low no2, no3, and nh3. Ideas here? <I am leaning towards something wrong with your new water. Perhaps your RO/DI needs some maintenance (prefilters or mixed resin bed need changing). Thanks and HAPPY HOLIDAYS, Jeff Yonover <The same to you guys! -Steven Pro>

High Nitrates Hey guys! <Hello!> I'm having a nitrate build up in my 215g reef system....its been up since early may, and has been going along great, but in the last 30 days or so, the nitrate has been rising from around 10ppm to about 40ppm now...all of the inhabitants seem fine, but this seems like a scary trend... <Agreed> I've been doing regular 35g h2o changes every 2 weeks....skimming aggressively....don't think I'm overfeeding....about 300lbs live rock....plenty of snails and crabs, no2 is near 0 ammonia near 0.... <You need zero for both of these. Has something died in the system recently?> Ideas? btw, Anthony or Steven, did you guys ever receive that article about sexual reproduction of e. quads ??? <Not enough information. We need to know more about your filtration. Off-the-cuff, I would say something has died in the system or you're feeding too much> Happy holidays ! <Happy holidays to you and yours!>

Nitrate Problem Thanks for the reply.  As far as the live rock goes we are running 60lbs of live rock in the tank.  We do change filter media every 3-4 weeks depending. As to the stocking level there is not a great amount of fish in the tank mostly of them are smaller and we do have a decent cleanup crew with many crabs. I have a 72 gallon Salt tank setup for over 18 months now and during that time have had an incredible problem with nitrate levels in the tank.  I am currently using 2 Emperor 400 filters and a Fluval 280 on the tank as well as a red sea skimmer for protein. <Bodda boom bodda bing! I think we may have found the source of the nitrates. Are you replacing the filter material in these canisters regularly? If you're slack with the maintenance of the filtration equipment that you mentioned, you will definitely have nitrates> During the time that we have had the tank we have always had a problem getting nitrates under control: at best we did have the nitrates down to 5ppm but then again the nitrates spiked to over 150ppm. <That is excessive. This could also be a sign of overstocking. Is the stocking rate of the tank realistic?> We have tried everything from water changes every 3-5 weeks to at this point I am running nearly a lb of Denitrate in the various filters. <I feel reasonably sure the problem is the old filter media. Change the media regularly (weekly) but don't remove all the media in all the filters at once. Have a rotating schedule...do water changes weekly, and analyze your stocking level. This should take care of it. Oh...I also see no mention of live rock> This does seem to be helping as now the nitrates are starting to fall but I was curious as to any other suggestions that you may have.  Thank you. <My friend, you are correct. As you seem to realize what good does it do to treat the symptom without finding the cause? Check out wetwebmedia.com for more information. David Dowless>

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