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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Nitrates 9

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

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

Some NO3 is necessary for some types of life... but not much.

Not so mysterious nitrate mystery - 11/12/2005 Hello, <Hello.> I have nitrate problems! They are always 60ppm or more. <Whew...for a minute there I thought you said...oh wait...YIKES!>  If I do a water change the nitrates go down for a day? <Are these large (extremely) water changes? If you're properly aging/storing the water, you'd be safe to do another the next day.> This is my tank: 50gal saltwater 2 Fluval 304's (with bio-max, ChemiPure and nitrate sponge) <Hopefully cleaned regularly.> 1 SeaClone protein skimmer 1 402 powerhead crushed coral <At what size/depth? Could be part of the problem. Do you vacuum this with the water changes?> NO under gravel filter NO live rocks NO live sand <Both are quite helpful. Do research them here.> <<Um.. yeah, where do the nitrifying bacteria get to live?  MH>> 14" inch snowflake moray eel 2" humu trigger Just 2 fish? <Just two messy, high waste producing fish.> However I just took 2 porcupine puffers out of the tank 1 week ago they both were 5 inches long" then I did a 50% water change. Still have the problem. <Good grief man. This is a horrible stocking plan (for lack of a better word).  <<Oh, please do emphasize this.  No WONDER you've got such a problem!  MH>> Do take a read through the FAQs on this eel. Your skimmer is inadequate and your tank is undersized. I'm surprised you haven't had more problems than just water quality. - Josh>

Nitrates/coral  10/19/05 Hi team, Can nitrates at about 20ppm cause coral to develop a fungus and die? Thanks     Mohamed <Mmm, generally not... though, depending on what the underlying cause of nitrate accumulation is/are, this stress can/does contribute to lowered vitality, resistance. Bob Fenner> High nitrates no bioballs 10/18/05 Hello, I hope you can explain this. I have a 125 gallon tank, about 150 lbs. of live rock, crushed coral substrate, a good working protein skimmer (SeaLife systems skimmer putting out about 1/2 cup per day). Mag drive 7 return pump, Rio 2500 skimmer pump, 2 802 power heads, and a custom sea-life UV. I just added a Hamilton VHO 320 watt system Super actinic and 1 actinic white.  I started getting abnormally high readings of nitrate, with the AP master test kit. The test results were off the chart. I also used Reef lab test kit after noticing the reagents in the AF test kit were expired. The results with the newer test kit were almost zero ppm. The other reading are all good PH(8.3), nitrite(0),ammonia(0) and calcium levels are about 400 ppm. I went to my local pet store and purchased 1 torch coral and 1 hammer coral and a new test kit to replace the expired one. My new Reef Lab kit also reads a nitrate reading of about 250ppm. <Doubtful> I do monthly water changes of about 30 gallons. <I'd do more frequent partial water changes...> I use deionized water for changes and top offs and buffer PH. I vacuum my substrate with my water python. I have no bioballs in my wet dry and no filter pads over the sump. I only have 2 sponges in each of my overflow boxes and the foam block in the wet dry. <Might try removing these> I also rinse these of every 2 to 3 days. My livestock consists of 2 blue damsels and 1 freckled Hawkfish. I don't know why my nitrates are so high. Are my corals in danger? <Maybe... but I think your readings are spurious> My anemone, mushrooms, starfish and shrimp all seem fine. Any suggestions you may have would be appreciated. Thanks... <Take the time to read over the test kit instructions, test some of the water at your dealers... Bob Fenner> 

Re: high nitrates no bioballs  10/19/05 Hello, It's me again. I did have my water tested at my local pet store. The results were the same extremely high nitrate. <Hundreds of ppm? Strange> I now am able to see green hair algae and some liverock and glass sides. I removed the bioballs a week ago and nitrates the were about 50ppm have increased significantly. <...> I am getting ready to do yet another large water change (about 50 gallons). Do you think this level of nitrate will drop as the tank adjusts to the removal of bio-ball? <Please test your source/tap water, and the newly-made synthetic seawater... Are there terrestrial rocks in this system? Something is very wrong here> or should I wash and replace the balls? I have never had nitrate problems like this and think taking the balls out might have been a mistake. <Did you remove them over time? Not all at once? Not likely the plastic bio-media> The hammer and torch coral as well as my anemone and stars all OK so far. I need some guidance on this. Calcium was raised to 400ppm. and PH is still at 8.3 and zero nitrite and ammonia. Thanks in advance for your help. <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and the linked Related FAQs files above... hopefully in the process some"thing" will become obvious in what you have, have done... and do send along the results of tests mentioned above. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Re: high nitrates no bioballs  10/20/05 I read through the articles posted. I think I know the problem. I use DI water for changes and top offs. I checked my cartridges and saw that they were totally spent. I did my last huge water change with polluted water. The cartridges are not that old. My town is also working on the water mains, and guess what? That is what fouled my DI filter early. <Does happen> A fishy smell is water in a laser is a tell tale sign of fouled resin. Well now I am going to add some Poly filters and Purigen in my tank for now, while my new DI cartridges arrive. Is it possible that all pollutants in the dirty filter made it to my tank? <Yes> I do use a 1 micron filter before the DI cart. I will let you know. By the way I did take all of the balls out at once (more bad advice from local fish guy). I thought my liverock could handle it. Thanks <Interesting case... as you've found, there are instances in which (whatever the specific causes) high nitrate concentration is not (apparently very) deleterious. I do hope your filter media/cartridge switch-out does the trick here. Bob Fenner> Re: nitrate problem solved for now 10/25/05 Hi, A short while ago I wrote about fouled DI resin and high nitrates. Well Bob was right, the test kit I was using measures high range and low range nitrate. I was reading the wrong side of the color indicator chart.  My nitrate levels were really at less than 50ppm. I have performed numerous water changes of 30 percent and now my nitrates are down even further. I made a Denitrator coil to bring them down a bit further. I have a light bioload only 3 shrimp, 1 starfish 2 LPS corals and 3 small fish in my 125 gallon. " Well here is my question. When should I see results in nitrate drop from this coil? <weeks, months....dilution is always the solution to nitrate problems> I know they have to cycle and can take weeks. I have a very slow drip just short of a stream coming out of it. Do you have any experience with these or heard of any good results from using these DIY denitrator coils.  <have heard some success stories> I know they are no substitute for replacing trace elements during regular water changes. <agreed>  I also wanted to ask about calcium levels. My level is at 450ppm and has been there for a few days. I was under the impression that it is absorbed rapidly. <yes...by clams, LPS, SPS, etc>  I am adding F.O.R.M and Kent's buffer once a week. My coralline algae is amazingly dark and purple. Thanks for your advice.  <everything seems to be going fine, good luck, IanB>

Nitrate won't go away 10/18/05 Hey guys, <Hey Alex> I've read everything I could possibly read on your site about getting rid of Nitrates but I still can't get it below 80ppm.  I've done the following: (75 gallon marine tank by the way) - Changed 80% of my Eheim filter media about 6 weeks ago <<May need to be cleaned weekly... RMF>> - 15 gallons changed weekly for the last 3 weeks (approx 5 gallons every other day) with RO water - Introduce mangrove plant  <Should help> - Purchased PuraComplete (100 gallons worth)  <Never heard of this>  and introduced that over 1 week ago to attack any urine, proteins or copper  <no copper in tank I hope. That would reduce beneficial bacteria aiding to your problem.>  that does/may feed nitrate.  I am trying my hardest not to go with chemicals but I'm very close to giving up and doing it, <I don't recommend chemicals, its just a Band-Aid, doesn't get rid of the root source.>  if so, which should I use? I understand that using chemicals does not fix the problem it only holds it off temporarily.  <Yes> I fear that doing any larger water changes will be too much stress on my fish (there is currently only one hippo tang eating about a 4x6 inch sheet of dried seaweed every other day), <That's a pretty big hunk of food for one tang. I probably wouldn't use that in a week.>  so overfeeding or overcrowding is not an option for reasons of high nitrate, unless I have the worlds most waste producing hippo tang.  <That 4x6 sheet has to go somewhere.>  Is there a possibility that I have an extreme amount of waste sitting within my 55 pounds of live rock?  <Its most helpful when doing water changes to vacuum the substrate. I'm sure its loaded with detritus, a big nitrate booster. If you haven't, you won't believe the color of the water in your bucket. I do mine weekly and the water is always brown.> What should I do, introduce more mangrove plants? Get a second protein skimmer? Or will all this eventually catch up with the nitrate and just go away?  <What brand skimmer are you using? May be inefficient. Adding a hang on refugium with macro algae aids much in reducing nitrates. How is algae on the live rock, minimal or at outbreak stages? > Any help would be greatly appreciated.  <I'd continue with weekly water changes at 10% which should be done on a regular basis to start with. Try a couple of units of Chemi-Pure. This works well for removing dissolved proteins also. I think your biggest problem is in your substrate....detritus. James (Salty Dog)> 

Nitrate won't go away 10/18/05 Thanks for the extra quick reply!  <You're welcome> I'm currently using a Prizm skimmer, I believe it's a 150, anyway, it's the smaller of the two available prism skimmers, was about $170 CDN.  <Although the Prizms are effective, In my personal opinion they are not efficient enough for a tank your size. I use one on my 30 mini reef but would be hesitant about using it on a larger tank.> My goal with my hippo tang it to keep him from having that collapsed stomach look and I've previously hand a yellow and purple tang and didn't feed them every other day like I do with my hippo and they had that weak looking thin stomach, but I will take your advice and tone it down.  <Judge your feedings by the look of the stomach. You didn't mention how large the tang was.> I haven't given my rocks a shake for a while now (by a while I mean a couple of months) I will definitely do that, I imagine you'll prove accurate in saying that there's a whack of gunk hiding in there.  <Be more concerned with vacuuming the substrate you are using (sand/crushed coral).> Any ideas or links on how to get a hang on refugium , I have never come across one, or perhaps how to make a home-made version?  < www.premiumaquatics.com  sells the CPR brand which work rather well. Do a Google on our Wet Web Site, keyword DIY. I believe there is some info there. James (Salty Dog)> 

Found cheap base rock 10/9/05 Hi, I bought a couple of hundred pounds of limestone base rock mined locally here in Florida. It looks great but is definitely heavier per volume, as expected. I know that this type of rook is not as porous as other types used. But I was wondering if there is anything to do to improve its filtration? I've heard of drilling holes to improve surface area but didn't think that this would help lower nitrate levels. I know that nitrate is removed by anaerobic bacteria, and that this requires areas of no oxygen. From what I understand actual live rock aids in the removal of nitrate, but will the type of rock I have be efficient in this manner? <Mmm, not till "life" gets going in/on it> And if not is there anything I can do to the rock to cause it to be more efficient? Thanks Brandon  <Place it "loosely", with lots of space between the pieces, and place some real live rock about it (on top)... to inoculate the base rock... have time (months) go by... Bob Fenner>

RDP vs. DSB for NNR  9/24/05 Is there any research or literature that supports the following conjecture? "In a refugium, a reverse daylight photoperiod (RDP) macroalgae culture will remove nitrates at a faster rate per square inch of surface area than an unlit deep sand bed (DSB)." <Mmm, not as far as I'm aware... both phenomena (macro-algae, DSB) are general quanta, qualifications... how much of what would one use, measure?> I want to research this because I am still deciding whether to build a RDP refugium with an upward current to suspend Chaetomorpha or an unlit refugium with baffles to support an oolitic DSB.  To reduce maintenance, I do not want the refugium to house both macroalgae and a DSB. <I see... well, I would use both... but for experimental sake, you could utilize one, then the other, try to draw some conclusion/s re their comparative utility. Bob Fenner>

Re: RDP vs. DSB for NNR  9/25/05 Bob, What's your "gut feel" for whether a DSB or a RDP macroalgae filter is more effective for natural nitrate reduction (NNR)?   <Mmm, the macroalgae> Suppose you have a refugium chamber with a 12" x 12" surface area and a 12" depth.  You have a choice of stocking it 6" deep with either oolitic sand or Chaetomorpha.  Twelve hours of lighting per day will be provided for the algae but the DSB will be kept dark. Assume the DSB is already stocked with anaerobic bacteria.  In your experience which option will remove more nitrates? Thanks, Paul. <The algae... for a few "extraneous" other beneficial, more steady reasons. Bob Fenner>

High Nitrate - 09/10/2005 Hello, I have a 39Gal FO tank. Currently I have 1 Ocellaris Clown Fish, 1 Royal Gramma, 1 Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp, and about 10 Blue Leg Hermit Crabs. The tank has been running for 8 Months. I am having a Nitrate problem. My Ammonia is 0, my Nitrites are 0, but my Nitrates are very   high ~100ppm (hard to tell with Aquarium Pharm. Test Kit). <Yee-IKES!> While am aware that some Nitrates are on for a FO tank, I would like to get them down some. Am surprised the Cleaner Shrimp is still with us. <Me, too.  Err, also, just for the record, shrimp and crabs aren't fish [grin]....  Not quite fish-only!  Any chance you might add about a pound per gallon of live rock?> I have a 1-1.5in live sand bed, a Prizm Protein Skimmer, <Better than nothing, but I'd recommend considering a more efficient skimmer if you can.> and a Biowheel 225 filter with the Biowheel removed (to try to slow down the buildup of Nitrates) all I have in the filter is the floss/carbon filter cartridge. <See if you can find the sort of cartridge that you can remove the carbon from.  There are a couple available; though one is discontinued and hard to find, a newer company has just started producing one.> I do approximately a 15G water change every 2 weeks or so, is there anything I should do differently or anything else I should do? <Larger, more frequent water changes....  Daily, if necessary, to get the nitrate down some.  Ditch that carbon, and keep the mechanical media relatively clean.> If I get some live rock will that help matters? <Yes; very, very likely.> I only have a standard 25W Fluorescent strip light will this be enough light for the live rock? <Sure.  More is better; if you can upgrade lighting, do.  You may have significant algae problems with so little light.> I don't plan on getting any corals or anything, alas my tank is a toasty 87-89 Degrees in the summer. <Yikes!> Well anything you can suggest I do differently or anything else I can do would be very helpful. <Just as above....  And possibly consider a refugium, or a bit more light and some in-tank macroalgae like Chaetomorpha.> Thanks <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> High Nitrate - II - 09/10/2005 Thanks for the help. Just to clarify why should I remove the carbon?  What exactly will that do for me?   <Carbon loses its worth in a very short time in a marine tank, usually becomes worthless in a day or so.  Then it's just a detritus collector.> Also I had a Current USA Power Compact light which from the day I bought it my algae was out of control, and since I decided I wasn't going to do a reef tank, I   switched to a lower wattage light. I assumed that a lower wattage light would discourage algae growth, why do you say I brighter light would be better for algae? <If you choose to add live rock and macroalgae, you'll want enough light to keep the macroalgae going, or algae that doesn't need the higher light will take over....  when adding live rock, there is always a great potential for adding undesirable algae, so you'd undoubtedly go through some cycles of different algaes.  Having something there to help soak up the nitrates (again, I still recommend Chaetomorpha - it's like a nitrate-eating-Brillo-pad) before the "bad" algae can will definately help.> Thanks <Lots of options available to you!  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

High Nitrate - III - 09/11/2005 Thanks again just one more question? You said get a more efficient protein skimmer. <If you can, yes.  Though anything is better than nothing.> What protein skimmer would you recommend besides the Prizm? <My personal preference is an Aqua-C or a Euro Reef, but I understand Turboflotors are great, as well.  An Aqua-C is probably going to be the least pricey of these options.> Am kinda on a budget :) <With skimmers, you really do get what you pay for!  Any of the skimmers listed are going to set you back quite a bit.  Try checking Reefcentral's forum of classified ads and eBay for used products, as this will save you some bucks for sure.  And again, something is better than nothing, so if price is a major obstacle, keep that Prizm going until you can save the cash for something better.> Thanks again. <Sure thing.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Nitrates a palooza!  9/1/05 Hello how are you doing. I have a 75 gallon salt water aquarium with Volitans lion, porcupine puffer, tomato clown and blue spot puffer. <Too much...> I have a pro clear sump with UV light on return to tank, a red sea Berlin protein skimmer and 750 gph pump returning water from sump. I have had tank going for 5 years and nitrates always have been 20 ppm. I checked nitrates Monday 8-29 and nitrates were 10 ppm. I checked nitrates Wednesday and they are 160 ppm. <Yikes!> I don't know what happened. <Your tank, substrate "got old"> Everything is the same in tank nothing new. I did 40 percent water change Wednesday night. do you have any suggestions. The ammonia is 0 ppm, the ph is 8.2 and the nitrites are 0 ppm. Great web site . thanks Joe t <Need to change out part, add to your hard materials... gravel, rock in the tank... every year... Capitalize the beginning of sentences, companies, products, your name... Bob Fenner>

BioWheel removal... nitrates 9/1/05 Thank you so much for all your help. One of your comments spurred a new question. You said "Sounds okay for this particular system. Removing the "bio-wheel" will help with nitrate issues a bit"  Do you mean removing the Bio-wheel system or just the rotating paper wheels?  How will that help with the nitrates?   <Hi again Judson! Remove the bio-wheel, do a search on the nitrification process. The bio-wheel/wet-dry has no way of 'eating-up' nitrates. It converts ammonia/nitrites to nitrates which will continue to build up. Focus on using your liverock, sand, skimmer and water circulation as your main source of keeping your water clean. - Ali> Anorexic Anaerobic Bacteria  8/27/05 Dear Crew: <Paul> Six months ago, I started a 75-gallon reef aquarium with an inline 29-gallon refuge sump.  My plan for natural nitrate reduction (NNR) was to reduce nitrates to nitrogen gas by cultivating anaerobic bacteria with a deep sand bed (DSB) and live rock. <Okay> During the first 5 months of this aquarium, I performed 25% water changes every week to keep the nitrate levels under control.  I want to be able to reduce my need for water changes with NNR but this does not appear to be happening. Last month, I decided to wait 4 weeks before changing the water. While the ammonia and nitrite levels remained near zero, I found that my nitrate levels had climbed to between 25 and 50 ppm per the Salifert Nitrate Test. <High> I can add macroalgae to my refuge sump for nitrate export but I'd rather do that as a last resort. <Why?> Currently, my refugium is only used for water changes and houses an Iwaki MD30 pump, a Jager heater, an Ice Cap fan, and a Remora protein skimmer with carbon filtration. I need your advice on what I must do to achieve NNR with a DSB and LR in the main tank.  The DSB is 4" deep on average and contains sugar-fine oolitic Pure Caribbean Aragonite from Petroglyph.   While it is full of bubbles when viewed from the side and contains feather dusters, I see no bubbles on the surface of the DSB.  Most of the main tank's volume is occupied by live rock covered with purple coralline algae and Pachyclavularia violacea but no observable bubbles.  The tank has a generous 10x water flow and 300 watts of DE-halide illumination with fluorescent supplements. Everything else in the tank seems to be thriving: 1 Condylactis anemone (left end of tank) 1 Ritteri anemone (right end of tank) 2 Green Fiji Trees Discosoma mushrooms Rhodactis mushrooms Pachyclavularia violacea Palythoa Assorted button polyps Halimeda algae 1 Maroon Clown 1 Flame Hawkfish 10 Blue Devil Damsels 10 Pajama Cardinals Asteroidea sand-sifting starfish Turbo snails Hermit crab cleanup crew (1) What more must I do to cultivate the anaerobic bacteria needed to reduce nitrates to nitrogen gas? <Perhaps add a couple more inches of substrate... I would> (2) Are there nitrate-reducing anaerobic bacteria cultures that I can buy? <Mmm, unnecessary> (3) Has anyone succeeded in NNR with a DSB and LR in the main tank without macroalgae and frequent water changes? <Yes> My anaerobic bacteria are anorexic! <Heeee! Do consider removing some/all of the LR from the refugium, adding macroalgae and a reverse daylight photoperiod there. Bob Fenner> -Paul.

Re: Anorexic Anaerobic Bacteria 8/28/05 Bob, <Paul> I appreciate your reply and wish to pose some follow-up questions if I may. <Make it so! (Pulls down his tunic)> You appear to be suggesting that oolitic deep sand beds (DSB) are more effective in natural nitrate reduction (NNR) than live rocks (LR). <In general they are> (1) Is this confirmed by published research? <Mmm, yes... a cursory search of pet-fish literature... by Bob Goeman's, J. Charley Delbeek, Ron Shimek... maybe Stephen Spotte, Martin Moe will likely show> (2) How do LR's compare with DSB's in ammonia & nitrite reduction? <In established settings, about the same... Initially the rock is more "active", important... per weight, volume... but with time, the DSB> (3) Does the type of LR matter (Florida versus Fiji)? <Oh yes... in general, Pacific "rock" is much more "full of holes" than tropical West Atlantic types... much more useful in terms of "biological filtration"> Currently, the size of my DSB is restricted only by the large amount of LR in the aquarium.  I can remove live rocks to increase the size of my DSB.  Is this how NNR is accomplished without algal filtration? <One way> To answer your earlier question, I do not want to add macroalgae to my refugium because of my bad luck in ordering it.  My order of Gracilaria parvispora from Hawaii arrived with Aiptasia.  My order of Chaetomorpha from the East Coast arrived with Caulerpa.  Unfortunately, there are no local fish stores in my corner of Colorado. <Mmm, I'd look around... local fish club/s or the Net... and get some small bit of "pure" culture from a fellow hobbyist... Or have you tried Inland Aquatics, Terre Haute, IN? Morgan Lidster has a mighty fine reputation...>   My refugium cannot accommodate another DSB because I designed it to provide an upward current to suspend macroalgae.  I want to make NNR work with LR and DSB in the main tank and would appreciate your suggestions. <Can be done... though am a big/ger fan of DSB's being remoted, outside of main/display tanks> Thanks very much.  I very much appreciate your forum and I think that is greatly advancing marine husbandry. <Wowzah!> Best regards, Paul. <Bob Fenner> DSB (and nitrates) Question 8/18/05 Good Morning Crew! <Andrew> I've got a question, which might not have a simple answer (What does in this hobby? )..... <Don't know... and am afraid to expand on...> My question lies in the necessary size of a remote DSB in relation to the "primary" tank for Nitrate control.  I've read every (And there are a LOT) query regarding DSBs on this board, and the info in the Reef Inverts book by Anthony, and Bob, but I'm still not sure I've gotten what I'm looking for. I'm in the process of moving my tank, and will be setting up a 72G bowfront tank, with a 20G sump, and (roughly) a 4.5G HOB CPR Aquafuge for Pod production/Macroalgae. If I don't go nuts on stocking levels, would a 5-6" DSB in the Sump (Probably 2/3's DSB, partitioned for water inlet from tank, and the Eheim 1260 return pump) and Refuge be able to control my Nitrates at or very close to Zero? <Mmm, will definitely help... only practice can tell how much> If you need any further information regarding additional circulation, filtration, etc, let me know.  I just hesitate to add the DSB to the display tank as a 72G primary Aquarium isn't particularly huge, and I'm not very fond of the 5-6" sand bed look, <Me neither...> but if it's necessary, function will prevail over form. I realize a lot has to do with maintenance, stocking levels, etc. but is there an effective "rule-of-thumb" ratio of Nitrate-consuming sump/'fuge size to aquarium size? <Not as far as I'm aware, or concerned... the bigger the better... but no minimum, matching value... Just too many other factors to place in a string of variables in such an equation... foods, feeding, lighting... chemistry... temperature...> (I have this really bad feeling you're going to say there are too many variables to tell) <Heeeee! It may well be time for you to join our Crew, start answering queries...> I'd just prefer to add the DSB from scratch, instead of stressing the heck out of the livestock by adding it later should it not be adequate. <Will be fine... I say, go ahead!> Thanks for your help with the question,  and for the amazing amount of help and information you provide! -Andy <Glad to share. Bob Fenner>

Skimmer for 29 gallon reef/fish tank- nitrates 8/17/05 Great Website. <Thank you> I just started my first reef/fish tank about 6 months ago. <Great> Currently I use a Skilter 250 on a 29 gallon tank.<mmmmmmmmmmmmm> I have about 35lbs of live rock, live sand, 130 watt power compact lights. I have a tomato clown, blackcap Basslet, torch coral, button polyps, open brain, carpet anemone, blood shrimp. Everyone is doing well. I do weekly water changes of 5 gallons.<Good> Recently my Nitrates have gone up (past two weeks). Currently are at about 20, previously always b/w 5-10. Algae has also been an issue.  All other parameters are fine. I do not feel that the Skilter 250 does an adequate skimming job. <It's not>I have decided to switch to A Bak-Pak 2R. I also have a PowerSweep powerhead. My question is can I use the Bak-Pak and powerhead only- or do I need additional filtration. I'd rather not use the Skilter at all if possible.  <Anthony, with the live rock present, I think you would be fine with just the Bak pak and power heads.  I would like to see a total flow rate of 300gph in your tank.  Keep in mind for skimmers to be effective, they must be cleaned weekly.> Thank you ahead of time for your help. <You're welcome, James (Salty Dog)> -Anthony

Re: skimmer for 29 gallon reef/fish tank- nitrates rising 8/20/05 Thank you for your quick response. I realize small systems like mine are not advisable. However, I have started it up and everyone is doing OK right now. At this point, I want to create the best system for my livestock since I did not start exactly right (Skilter 250). My nitrates are at about or slightly below 20. This concerns me b/c I have always kept them b/w 5-10 at most. I want to be proactive. With the Bak-Pak 2R and the power head of 160gph would it benefit my system to run the Skilter also? <Yes> Would a bio-wheel filter be advisable? I had heard that bio filtration could actually bring up nitrates. <Can... but I would use, run this, these with Marineland's products unless the side-issues you hint at became real issues> Or is it best for me to depend on the liverock, powerhead, and protein skimmer? Is there something else that I have not mentioned that would be more beneficial? <... there is much to discuss here... and conditional on what you know... aren't aware of yet... which I/we have little opportunity to assess... Hence the articles, FAQs files that are WWM> Also, at this point I was planning on increasing my water changes to 5 gallons (out of 29 gallon system) to every five days or so until the nitrates come back down (was doing 5 gallons every week). Is this OK? Should I do more? <Up to you, but more volume, and more frequency is what I would do as well as implementing contravening methods... Refugium/s, macro-algae, DSB/s...> Thank you again for your advice. I love this website. Very helpful and informative. -Anthony <Glad to share. Bob Fenner>

High nitrates with a wet-dry? Of course! - 8/13/05   Hi there,   <Howdy, Ali here>   I have enjoyed your website and reading through all the advice. I've told everybody even the LFS. But despite all the reading I wanted to see if  you can help me with my situation. <Sure> I have: 29gal. mini reef 30"x12"x18", approx. 52 lbs. Live rock, 30lbs.  live sand,  Coralife PC one 65watt 10,000K daylight and one 65watt  actinic, ProClear Aquatic System 125 wet/dry with 266 Bioballs in Biotower, CA  2200 return pump at 685gph, Aqualine motorized protein skimmer in sump. Two  Lifetech powerheads 295gph each on timer one for 6hrs in one direction then the  other in opposite direction for 6hrs and so on. <I'd keep your powerheads on simultaneously and take them off of the wavemaker device.> Adding Kent marine's Essential Elements, Tech-I, and Purple-up according to directions on each bottle. <All are unnecessary. A good two-part calcium/alk. supplement would be all you truely need. Bi-ionic or C-Balance, do a search on these.> temp. avg 78,  LFS tested water parameters and all was where it  should be except for NITRATES >200ppm said one LFS. So I was told to do a  water change and I did a 30% water change. Next day LFS tested water and  this time Nitrates where at about 40ppm. Did another 30% water change and I  tested my water for nitrates and still high>40ppm. I was also told to siphon  the sand which I did before the water change. LFS said that it could be the  Bioball sand advised to take some out but you guys have said to remove them  all out slowly and replace with LR. <Unfortunately my friend, you have been receiving bad advice from your LFS. This is not uncommon so please don't feel singled out.> Livestock: 1 Pair of (not mated) Gold Stripe maroon clownfish one  is 1.5" the other approx 3", <Not a good choice for this size tank. A healthy pair of clownfish do make for a really pretty, calming yet humorous display. Unfortunately, the maroons not only get big - but very aggressive. Look into a pair of A. percula, A. ocellaris or some neat skunks.> 1 diamond watch goby, 2 Brown colored BTA purchased together because both were and still are occupying the same rock so I bought the rock and the Anemones. Clowns have gone into anemone and enjoy it. 1 blood shrimp. I have read the articles and seen the FAQs but concerned for my tank crashing with the high nitrates. <Unless you enjoy doing daily water changes, remove the wet-dry system ASAP. Look into doing a tank renovation, with a 3" fine grade aragonite sandbed layer (CaribSea Aragamax Select works perfect for this, and given your tank dimensions 1 x 30 pound bag should get the job done.) Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/reef2.htm  >   I have read about turning the wet/dry to a sump Refu. but not sure how to do it with the DSB and the pump in there as well as where to place the live rocks with this kind of "generic" or  "standard" wet/dry? And how do I position the light for the LR and the  DSB in the wet/dry because at the top of the Bio tower is where the water  from the tank comes in? <With a little creativity, you can make all this work Felix. If that is not possible, consider removing the entire wet-dry filter unit and purchasing a standard Berlin style sump or utilizing an empty aquarium.> If I make a DSB in the sump would I still need to siphon  that sand as well? <No need to do this Felix> Also the bottom of the wet/dry has white spots or fuzz  along the walls. <These are harmless critters. Don't worry about them. :) > Sorry about the length but I wanted to make sure I gave as much information as possible. Please let me know what my next course of action should be. If left  any missing info please let me know so I may provide it for you. Thank you so much for your time and keep up the good work thank you Felix <Good luck and make sure you read the provided links Felix, all of the set-up, filtration, sandbed, answers you are looking for are thoroughly explained. - Ali> Goin' On A Hunger Strike - 08/11/2005 I have a 150 gallon marine tank.  My dwarf lion (D. zebra) has not eaten in a month (frozen krill).   <Disturbing....> Have tried many ghost shrimp, crab, shrimp, etc. to no avail.  My 8" snowflake eel seemed to be having trouble eating also and recently died.   <A major concern....> He did not seem thin and actually seemed swollen.   <An excellent clue....> My 5" porcupine puffer quit eating for 3 days but now is eating fine. frozen krill).  My powder blue tang and other herbivores seem to be unaffected.  No change in appetite or behavior.  The lion appears to try to suck in the food but cannot.  My water quality seems good.   <Seeming good is not enough info....  Be certain ammonia and nitrite are ZERO, pH 8.3, salinity 1.021-1.024....> But my nitrates are high.   <Also of concern.  How high?  Above 20ppm can be an issue.> I have done additional water changes (more than normal), I run a UV sterilizer, protein skimmer and do regular filter changes.   <Try to find the source of your nitrates....  I would be concerned that the tank may be overstocked if you cannot keep nitrate down with reasonable water changes.> No fish in the tank have bad fins, color or any abnormalities.  And there have been no recent illnesses or fish additions.  I would appreciate any suggestions. <My first guess is purely environmental issues.  Get more water changes done, pronto, if anything is mildly amiss there.  Try feeding foods soaked in garlic extract to stimulate an appetite.  If still unsuccessful, you might want to consider the possibility of internal parasites....  the swollen eel, after having not eaten, may be an indicator, here.  Are any of the fish excreting long, clear-ish strands of poo?  You might consider offering a food medicated with Metronidazole or Praziquantel, or treat these fish in a quarantine tank with either of those in the water.> Thanks. <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> Nitrate Problem Please Help!!...Overstocked Tank - 08/02/05 Dear Crew, <<Evening>> Firstly I would like to say what a great job you all do on this site, a real wealth of information and help. <<Thank you for this>> I wonder if I could ask some assistance with a Nitrate problem I have. <<Ask away...I'll try to help.>> Firstly my setup: 100 Gall Minireef system 2 x 150 watt MH Lighting 1 x 38 watt Blue 100lbs Live Rock Turboflotor Multi SE 1000 Skimmer Temp 76 - 78 Nitrite 0 ppm Ammonia 0 ppm Nitrate 60 ppm <<Yowza!>> PH 8.2 day 8.5 night <<?>> 2 x Aquaclear 5000 powerheads for flow 9000 Galls per hour <<Mmmm...more like 2,000 I believe.>> Corals : 1 x Sun 3 x Finger Leather 4 x single Ricordea Red Mushrooms Brown Mushrooms 3 x Star Polyps 1 Large & 1 Small Zoo colonies 1 x Xenia tree Fish: 1 Regal Tang 1 Naso Tang 1 Yellow Tang 2 Firefish 1 Clown (Ocellaris) 1 Coral Beauty 5 Chromis 1 Pyjama Cardinal 2 Cleaner Shrimp 1 Peppermint Shrimp 10 Turbo Snails 25 Hermits I have had a Nitrate problem with my tank for over 6 months now. <<You're overstocked my friend.  The Naso and the Regal tangs both require larger tanks than this individually...much less together.>> I am regimental with my water change routine. I have 3 x 4 gallon water bottles from the water coolers you see in offices.  I change 4 galls on Monday, Thursday, & Saturday and make up a fresh bottle of saltwater after each change which then sits being aerated for 7 days, so I always have 12 gallons of saltwater ageing at any one time. <<very good>> I use only RO water which is tested once every month and this shows no sign of any nitrate. ( I use Instant Ocean Salt) <<good again>> After spending hours looking through the FAQ's on Nitrate I came to the conclusion that my Trickle filter which is the OLD DLS type with a rotating spray bar, was my Nitrate Factory. <<Possibility...these can have a tendency to trap detritus.>> I also had a floss filter in the overflow, this is cleaned after each water change, but the main DLS filter was inaccessible.  So following the advice on the FAQ's about letting the live rock and skimmer do the work, out it came (And boy was it dirty) to be replaced with 15lbs Ocean Rock, hopefully this will become live rock with time. <<Mmm...not really/never as good as the "real thing.">> That was 3 days ago and I still have not seen any reduction in the Nitrate in the water, despite a 4 gall water change yesterday, and another one due Thursday. <<You need to do larger water changes...typically 30%-50% of tank volume.>> It also has to be said that Nitrite & Ammonia have remained stable at 0 ppm so the live rock must be doing the Biological bit.  Skimmer is producing around 40ml of dark brown, foul smelling goo each day, but that is about the same as it did before. <<ok>> Could any of you please shed any light on why I cannot get my Nitrates down. <<Removal of the DLS material is a start...do a "couple" large water changes a few days apart and assess.>> The fish are fed 1 2x3 inch strip of Nori daily and 1xcube of frozen food, I also feed the Sun Coral some Gamma Shrimp every other day by using a turkey baster, which obviously does not all go to the coral, the fish do steal some. <<And love it I'm sure.>> Any help would be greatly appreciated as this is really beginning to frustrate me, what am I doing wrong ??? <<You don't mention what type of substrate you have...make sure you're not also trapping detritus there...and do those LARGE water changes.>> Best wishes Robbie <<Regards, EricR>>

Nitrate Problem Please Help!! (More Info) - 08/03/05 HI Eric <<Hello Robbie>> Thanks for all your advice. <<welcome>> Agree with the rating for the powerheads at 2000 galls an hour, misread the booklet.  I assume this is sufficient for a tank this size? <<Mmm...what is "sufficient" depends on different factors (livestock requirements, aquascaping, type substrate, etc.), but as a general rule, 20x tank volume is considered sufficient, yes.>> Substrate is about 2 inches crushed coral and sand mix, but this is cleaned once a week with a power gravel cleaner and whilst cleaning this does produce some detritus it is not really a lot. <<The weekly maintenance is good...but were me, I would reduce this to 1" or less and forget about vacuuming.>> I don't have an Algae problem which I know usually goes with high Nitrates, and I have plenty of Coralline growing. This is why I am so frustrated, maybe my test kit is wrong !!! <<Tis a possibility...easy enough to verify...>> I also have a 5 inch DSB attached to my sump which has Caulerpa growing in it.  It is fed by gravity from the main return and an overflow back into the main sump.  It is also lit at night.  This is why the PH reads 8.5 at night, photosynthesis of the Caulerpa ? <<Ahh yes...but let me suggest you light the Caulerpa 24/7.  Lighting Caulerpa intermittently (day/night cycle) increases the risk (if not outright guarantee) of it going "sexual" and causing a release of many bad/harmful elements in to your system.  Do have a look here and among the related links: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/caulerpaalg.htm>> I always thought that doing small water changes on a regular basis was better than doing large ones as this did not upset the stability of the tank ? <<Several schools of thought here...but if your test kit "is" accurate, you need to reduce your nitrates quickly (dilution), and a large water change is the most efficient means of doing so.  Once you have the problem licked you can go back to your current regimen...though I feel larger (20%) water changes done less frequently (bi-weekly) to be more beneficial on a tank such as yours.  But again, have a look here and among the indices and see what you think: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water.htm>> I do still have some mechanical filtration attached to the Aquaclear pumps and this is cleaned on a daily basis as they are very easy to attach / detach and it only take a couple of minutes, I do this at the same time as I empty and clean my skimmer collection cup. <<very good>> Will persevere and see how we get on after doing some bigger water changes <<Excellent...do let us know how things progress. EricR>> Thanks for all the help Regards Robbie

Nitrate test kits 7/25/05 I have been caring for saltwater aquariums for many years now and have recently (about two years ago) started to maintain reefs. I have used a variety of different test kits from dry tabs, to liquids, to strips. I know that it probably depends on the brand but which kind is considered "the best" or the most accurate? <I like Aquarium Systems test kits.  Reasonably priced and reasonably accurate for our needs.>Also, I remember reading something about multiplying the number you get by three or four or something like that to get the true nitrate level. It had something to do with what the test kit was actually testing for. Do you know of anything like this? <You need to know what the test kit is measuring, nitrate as an ion or as nitrate nitrogen.  Total nitrogen is the result of the 4.4 multiple.> I am very confused on that subject. Now any time I get a reading of any nitrate I feel that it is to much especially if a reading of ten really means forty.<For our purposes, a reef tank should not exceed 20ppm of NO3-N.  For fish only 20-40 is acceptable for most species, although we don't like to keep nitrates that high as they do increase nuisance algae growth.  Hope this helps.  There are FAQ's on this subject on the WWM, keyword "nitrate testing".> Thank you for your help, Andy <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Nitrate test kits 7/28/05 Even after I find out from the manufacture what the test is testing for, the question still remains. Do you multiple by 4.4 if the test is testing for nitrogen ions or do you multiple by 4.4 if the test is testing for total nitrogen? Thanks, Andy  <Total nitrogen.  James (Salty Dog)> <<What? RMF>>

Nitrate Test Readings, Bob's go 7/28/05 Hello wise wizards of the wet watery world (please forgive the alliteration): <Monstrous, but okay> After reading both the article regarding Nitrates and the numerous FAQs that address this topic, I would like to impose upon you to clarify my confusion, hopefully once and for all.   <Go ahead> I use the saltwater master test kit made by American <Aquarium> Pharmaceutical. I went on their website and confirmed that their nitrate test kit measures the nitrate ion. My reading using this test kit has been consistently around 60 ppm. Now, if I correctly understand the article, I need to divide this result by 4.4 to arrive at 13.6 for nitrates as ppm. So, are my true nitrates only 13.6 ppm as opposed to 60 ppm?   <Mmm, not to be disingenuous... but if the measure is stated by AP as nitrogen in or as nitrate... you would actually divide... but I suspect you actually have about 60 ppm of nitrate> As always, your sagacious words of wisdom are eternally appreciated. Regards,    Mitch <... think about what you're measuring, the molecular weight of nitrogen, oxygen... nitrate ions as NO3... stoichiometry... Bob Fenner>

90 Gallon Reef Tank, nitrate 7/23/05 Hi Guys, I have a 90 gallon reef tank that has been up and running for over a year. All is well other than my feelings about my livestock and a possible overstocking issue. I currently have 5 small Green Chromis, 1 Neon Dottyback, 1 Lawnmower Blenny, 1 Malaysian Clown, 1 medium Hippo Tang, 1 Medium Sailfin Tang ( I know, but they seem to get along just fine :), 1 Six Line Wrasse,  1 Jawfish, 2 Black Ocellaris Clownfish, 1 Blackcap Basslet, and 1 Blue Chromis. That's right 16 fish in all. My corals include 1 HUGE Toadstool Leather, Ever reproducing POM POM Xenias, 1 Devils hand, 2 clusters of Sun Polyps, some star polyps, 1 Large Sebae Anemone, 1 Leather finger coral, Several Ricordea rock and mushroom rocks, some Seamat, and 130lbs of coralline encrusted liverock. I also have a cleaning crew of several Brittle/Serpent/Sand Sifting Starfish, many hermit crabs, a Sally lightfoot, Porcelain crab, Turbo Snails, 2 Cleaner Shrimp & 20 or so Nassarius Snails. (Hope I got that last one right :) <Quite an assemblage> I change 10 gallons of water every week religiously using R.O. only. My Ammonia and Nitrites are 0. PH is 8.4. Alkalinity is in the 200 range. Nitrates are currently in the 30ppm range most likely due to the bio load. I use the quick dip test strips several times a week. The corals are acting normal, Sun Polyps open in the P.M. all others in the A.M. when the actinics kick on. I feed sparingly, maybe too sparingly but I want to keep my water as good as possible. My question is, are my Nitrates too high? Should I downsize my bio load or change more water weekly. What do you think??? Thanks in advance..... Doug- <Sounds like a very nice, well-maintained/operated system... Nitrate concentration, as an abstract, concept... is "over-rated" in terms of its "importance"... I don't think its presence here is indicative of trouble, much stress. I've written re, following up on Tom Frakes (now out of Aq. Systems) piece/ideas re "Nitrate Menace" (in their qtrly. infomercial SeaScope)... not to worry. Cheers, Bob Fenner> Nitrate mastery 7/19/05 After three weeks of running my 90g tank fallow, I began testing the water in preparation for new arrivals. I was shocked to find all conditions ideal (pH, salinity, copper, ammonia, nitrite) but the nitrate was comfortably above 100ppm! In the past, I have had difficulty managing the nitrates with this tank setup, but usually kept them in the 25-35 range. I've read most of the nitrate pages on your site and a stack of books, but the totality of information is quite inconstant. <Heeee!> Assuming water changes and filter cleanings are performed regularly -  what is the best long term solution for keeping nitrates controlled in a FOWLR tank? <.... the use of a sump/refugium, DSB, purposeful macroalgae...> While my own tendency would be a mechanical solution, the mission is to keep the fish healthy and I will pay any price, build any device, and maintain whatever is suggested... <Take it easy!> (90g tank, Fluval 404 w/Biomax, carbon, & Purigen; Deltec MCE600   skimmer, 2" live sand, 10% live rock Travis Neal <Keep reading. Bob Fenner> Bioballs vs. Live Rock - 07/13/05 Dear All; <<Greetings>> Thanks for the great site! It has been a truly valuable source for me.  I am new to marine aquaria, but I have had fresh water systems for many many years.  It has been somewhat difficult making the transition, if not for your site it would have been an even more daunting task. <<"Thanks" from the crew...gratifying to know.>> I have been reading on WWM about the use of bioballs in a reef tank.  The general opinion seems to be that they should be avoided and the use of just live rock/sand bed in a refugium should be implemented. <<Agreed>> However, I have not read a sound, convincing argument about why bioballs act as "nitrate factory" and live rock does not. <<Really?>> Could someone offer a concise self-contained sound argument. <<Not asking for much, eh? <G> >> If a system has both live rock and bioballs then how does having the bioballs convert ammonia eventually to nitrates differ from the live rock doing the work? <<Ok let's see...concise...hmm...  The process is essentially the same for converting ammonia to nitrite to nitrate whether it's done by the bioballs or the live rock, as you have already surmised.  The difference comes after the conversion of nitrite to nitrate... The pore structure of the live rock (or the grain-size/depth of a sand bed) creates anoxic zones; not commonly associated with bioballs, that foster bacteria which can/will process nitrates converting them to nitrogen, which is then liberated from the tank as the bubbles you see rising from the rock/sand bed.  The bioball/wet-dry filters are referred to as nitrate factories because their end product is just that...nitrate...and they are so efficient at it even when used in conjunction with live rock they can overwhelm the live rock's ability to convert same to nitrogen.  Thus, most prefer to exclude bioballs from reef systems...though they can be quite handy for dealing with large/fluctuating bioloads in FO/FOWLR systems that can handle a higher nitrate load.>> Your time is sincerely appreciated. -Kenny <<Regards, Eric R.>>

Nitrate ??? 7/7/05 I'm writing to get clarification on a couple of items mentioned in your FAQ's. I won't lie and claim that I've read them all since there are just far too many. <... just read till you understand...> I did read them extensively, however, and did spend quite a while intimately learning your search feature trying to find the answers. <Is it that hard? It's Google's...> I'm having problems controlling nitrates. I've been doing 25% water changes weekly to keep them in the 20-25 range. I missed one week of changes and they shot up to the 60-70 range. Since this aquarium is a training tank for a 480 gallon I'm planning to install next year, I want to get this one licked before I'm doing 150 gallon weekly water changes on the big tank. The tank I'm referring to is a 75 gallon reef setup with a 48" Orbit 4x65 watt PC fixture with 2 dual spectrum daylight bulbs, (10,000k and 6,700k), 2 dual spectrum actinic bulbs, (460nm and 420nm), Magnum 350 canister filter, Amiracle SR200B wet/dry with bio balls removed, Aquafuge 5.5 gallon hang on the back refugium, AquaC EV120 protein skimmer, and 3 approx 280 gph powerheads. The protein skimmer is driven by a Mag 5 pump, and I've got a Mag 7 pushing water from the sump back to the tank. There is approx 80-85 lbs of live rock and a 1-2 inch substrate of crushed coral. In the refugium, I had about a 3 inch substrate of Miracle Mud and am growing 3 strains of Caulerpa. With a 24" Aqualight 65 watt fixture, the Caulerpa was growing well. Lighting was set for the same 13 hour cycle as the display tank. <Sounds like a very nice set-up> The following inhabit the tank: 1 Sohal Tang <Can be a bruiser in such a small system> 1 Flame Angel 1 Blue Devil Damsel 2 Black Domino Damsels <Biters> 40-50 various snails and hermit crabs 3 Peppermint Shrimp 2 Skunk Cleaner Shrimp 2 Emerald Crabs 1 Arrow Crab <Predator> 2 Feather Dusters Sinularia Xenia Zoanthus Montipora confusia Caulastrea furcata Favia adbita Trachyphyllia geophryii The tank is 10 months old, and everyone seems happy. I've got nice coralline algae growth and nice growth on the corals for the short time I've had them. Polyp expansion on all of the corals looks very good, especially the Trachyphyllia. Just after missing the weekly water change, my parameters were as follows: Temp - 80 Sg - 1.0265 pH - 8.2 Ammonia - 0 Nitrite - 0 Nitrate - 70 Phosphate - .5 <A bit high... your source water?> Alkalinity - 3 Calcium - 435 Iodine - 0 To combat the nitrate buildup, I've cut back on the amount I'm feeding, bumped the Miracle Mud depth to 4-6" in the refugium, changed the lighting on the refugium to 24x7, added some ceramic biomedia to my sump, and am doing daily 25% water changes. I'm also slowing increasing the alk as I know mine is a bit low. I figure right now is a good time to do it since the extra Miracle Mud will spike my calcium anyway. The two items I'd like clarification on are the ceramic biomedia and lighting live rock. I was always under the impression that the ceramic biomedia was much like bioballs, but it's suggested in your FAQ's that they help reduce Nitrates. Can you provide info about the similarities and differences between ceramic and bioballs? <Well-made sintered glass or ceramic "beads", rings... actually are useful for anaerobic processing of nitrates... denitrification... the opposite, if you will, of the reaction series of bio-balls> Second, I'm considering converting the wet/dry into a refugium of sorts by sealing off bottom opening, drilling some holes at an appropriate height, and filling it with live rock. <This conversion is a great idea... but I'd skip on using live rock here, and instead install a deep sand bed... and maybe a Chaetomorpha or Gracilaria culture over it... with lighting that alternates with that on your main system... this should "do it" for the nitrates and improve overall water quality here> Unfortunately, the wet/dry has a blue colored drip tray and cover that would block most light from a fixture. <Toss it> Will adding live rock without lighting help control nitrates? <Will, but the DSB and rhodophyte would be much better> If you have any other suggestions for controlling my nitrates so I can get closer to 10% water changes per week, I'd be grateful. Thanks in advance. Hope to meet Anthony this weekend in Lancaster. Bob Mocarski <Might. Bob Fenner> Nitrites, Nitrates, Chemistry, Oh My 07/01/05 Hello, crew: Dum-dum here. <That would make me Twiddle Dee Dee> So, I've read a great deal about ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and the nitrogen cycle, as pertains to aquariums and ponds. Only, something isn't clear to me. When we test for "nitrite" and test for "nitrate" are we really testing for NO2- NO3- /ions/? <Mmm, yes, for the most part> Or are the tests detecting things like NaNO2 or KNO3, and so forth. In other words, are we literally revealing the presence of the ions, or rather the presence of molecules bound to the ions? <With the simple colorimetric assay kits for aquarists mostly the ions> Next, if it's really the ions, are NO2- and NO3- soluble gasses? <Mmm, yes...> Finally, any pointers to something that talks about this in true detail, for a non-chemist? Joe Kraska <... the Net... NO2, NO3 gases... and a large pot of coffee, 2 liter diet soda, time. Bob Fenner, ex H.S. chemistry teacher>

Re:  Nitrites, Nitrates, Chemistry, Oh My  07/02/05 > Finally, any pointers to something that talks about this in true detail,... > <... the Net... NO2, NO3 gasses... and a large pot of coffee, 2 liter diet soda, time. >> Bob Fenner, ex H.S. chemistry teacher Hey. You know, if my high school chemistry teacher had told me that you could get a degree in /explosives/ chemistry, I bet my life would have been a whole lot different. *grin* Anyway, from at least one statement, it would appear that the effect of air pressure on the solubility of gases in water is linear for all gases. <Yes... an extension of universal gas laws> For example, dropping air pressure to half an atmosphere impacts O2, CO2, NO2-, NO3- equally. Is that about right? <Yes> Anyway, using google on things that contain special characters (NO2-) is a pain, because it often wants to overlook the special character. And searching for "nitrate" on google produces a large number of hits on "potassium nitrate" and so forth. Add Anacin with that coffee, man. :) <Toss in the word "aquarium" along with that acetyl salicylic acid. BobF>

Marine system nitrates Thank you in advance for helping me with a small problem. <Welcome> I have a 125 gallon reef tank, it was a fish-only tank until about 4 months ago. I had little problems with my tank-only water parameters. Now that I have switched to a reef tank with minimal fish (one False Percula, one Kole Tang and one Lawnmower blenny), my nitrate seems to creep up very quickly even with minimal feedings. My system consists of 60 lbs of live rock, 50 lbs of live sand, 35 gallon sump with a 100 micron filter, <This mechanical filter is likely a large source of your nitrates> Euroreef CS-6, 1500 gallon per hour cir., under 400w 12K MH and four 40 watt Actinic. Livestock include a Crocea Clam, two polyp corals, colt coral, small devils hand coral, 50 snails, sand star and black long-spine urchin. What could be causing my nitrate to jump? <Mmm, a lack of the conditions for reverse, reductive chain of reactions to "un-do" it, and the gunk-accumulating mechanical filter/media... I would remove the cartridge (likely won't make much difference) and read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and the linked files above... until you reach nirvana, or at least sufficient edification. Bob Fenner> Thank you for you assistance. Robert

150 Gallon Fish Only Tank...Adding A 'Fuge - 06/19/05 Thanks for the info. <<My pleasure.>> On another note, I am looking for a way to bring down my nitrates and I am going to add a small refugium system in my sump.  My main goal is to bring down nitrates, would Miracle Mud be the best option as the substrate for this goal or will live sand with live rock work just as well.  Along with the Caulerpa of course. <<Do research the Caulerpa for proper lighting/harvesting technique to avoid the pitfalls associated with this macroalgae.  For simple nitrate reduction a refugium with 6" sugar-fine sand bed and Chaetomorpha algae is hard to beat.  The Miracle-Mud and rock/Caulerpa can work as well...but my vote goes to the sand bed and Chaetomorpha for reasons of expense, simplicity, and ease of care/maintenance.  But either way you go..."good on ya!" for using a refugium, so many benefits to doing so.>> Thanks for your time <<Regards, Eric R.>> Nitrate Reducing Media...Which One Is The Best? Has any testing ever been done on the Nitrate reducing properties of the many over-the-counter filer media? Do any of the following products reduce nitrates? 1.  Matrix 2.  Cell Pore 3.  Bio-Glass 4.  Nitrex 5.  De-Nitrate 6.  Purigen 7.  Nitra-Zorb <I am not aware of any systematic scientific study done on these media and their ability to reduce nitrate. However, some of the products you mention are biological filtration media designed to provide an efficient and hospitable surface for bacteria to inhabit, and others (i.e. Purigen) are chemical filtration media which do have some absorptive capabilities. I think the bottom line is that no one media can do the job alone. Nitrate reduction is the end product of a number of things, particularly good overall husbandry. If your husbandry habits are good, then these products can be a valuable ally in your fight to reduce nitrate and improve water quality. Always look at the big picture! Regards, Scott F.>

- Nitrate Reduction Hypothesis - Hi, last question for a while. My situation: 100 gallon tank 5 carnivore fish totaling 29" think this is in fact too much for 100 gallon tank.> 2 emperor 400's 1 AquaC Remora Pro with Mag 3 (just bought after this site's endorsement) w/375gph 1 CPR Bak-Pak with RIO 600 w/200gph 18 Watt Turbo Twist UV with RIO 600 1/2" crushed coral substrate ammonia is always 0, nitrites always 0, nitrate 20-50 between weekly 25% water changes. I want to rid the tank of nitrates, my idea: only carbon in the baskets  for the 400's, no Polyfilters (no debris trap) New RIO 600 installed to keep bottom water from slowing/settling With these 2 skimmers and no Polyfilter to ferment the water, and a great deal of water flow, and carbon baskets kept fresh, shouldn't the junk stay adrift allowing the skimmers to catch it? <To some extent... but think it would be better to be careful how much you feed, vacuum your gravel during every water change (weekly), and swap out the filter media in the Emperor filters weekly. With 29" of growing carnivores you're going to have a lot of nitrates.> Conclusion-greatly reduced nitrates? <I'm putting my money on "only slightly reduced nitrates".> Your thoughts please. Dan <Cheers, J -- >

- High Nitrate Problems in Reef Tank - I apologize in advance if I provide you more information than needed, however, I feel more is better than less when it comes to solving these types of problems. My wife and I moved to North Carolina two year ago and left behind a Saltwater Fish Only, 125 Gallon Aquarium. About a year and a half ago we decided to set up our 'Ultimate': aquarium in our new house.  We hired a local, well respected Reef/Saltwater Fish establishment to build us a custom (not the tank but all of the cabinetry and plumbing) 140 Gallon, reef and Saltwater Setup.  The setup is as follows: - 140 Gallon (24'x48'x 28½) Glass Aquarium - 2 @ 250Watt Metal Halide Lights (10,000ºK) - 2 @   96Watt Super Actinic VHO Fluorescents - 2 Small, Fixed power heads to circulate water within the tank - 2  5/8' output tubes from output pump to return water and further circulate water within the tank - 2-3' of Aragonite Substrate Material covering the tank bottom - Approximately 150lbs of Good Quality Live Rock (not sure about how much) - Reef Concepts Model 624 Aerofoamer - Reef Concepts Model CA700 Calcium Reactor and associated pump, monitor CO2 tank and bubble counter - Kent RO Water system which automatically fills a 40 Gal reservoir which is used to auto fill evaporating water in tank and create new Saltwater for water changes - Unidentified Circulating pump which is moving at least 1400 gallons of water per hour - Custom Made Sump for the Protein Skimmer and Calcium Reactor Approximately 60 gallon capacity which is filled to about 30 Gallons - Red Sea 200mg/hr Ozonizer and ORP Monitor - Aqualogic 1/3HP Aquarium Chiller and Cooler/Heater Controller The system was fully functional about a year ago at which point we added about 5-10 soft corals and several Tangs. Initially I relied on the Aquarium Maintenance Guy to do all of the parameter monitoring (big mistake!).  Gradually over the past year we now have the fish/coral/invertebrates: - Approximately 15 Soft Corals, Leathers, Bubbles, mushrooms, etc - The following Fish  -  3' Yellow Tank, 4' Sailfin Tang, 3' Fairy Wrasse, 1¼'  six-line wrasse, 3' engineer goby, 2 fairly larges fire shrimp, 2½ Kole Tang, 2' Scribble Rabbit, 3' Hippo Tang, 4' Pink Sea Cucumber. - Until about 2 months ago when 'trouble began' I also had a 3' clam and approximately 3 hard corals. The clam died and the hard corals also lost there polyps. I have the Fluorescents turned on at 2:00PM and turned off at 10:00PM, I have the halides turned on at 3:00PM and turned off at 9:00PM.  A 20 -- 25% water change is done every three to four weeks, mostly four weeks lately. <This is the clue... you really shouldn't wait so long to do water changes. I know there are many out there who would say, "I haven't done a water change in a year." But these folks are hovering over a disaster and I'd much prefer to see you change at least 10% every two weeks, or even better 5% a week.> There is virtually no coralline algae or even dark green algae buildup (very strange). The temperature is maintained at a steady 77º, the PH in the reactor typically between 6.7 and 6.9. About 2 months ago, I first noticed the clam had 'passed away'. Next I noticed the hard corals had bleached which was confirmed by the maintenance guy.  I next noticed that the some of the soft corals where 'drooping' and is some cases not standing up at all. I don't think any are gone but they are not looking anywhere as good as they did 6 months ago. I then decided to check some of the tank parameters myself with the following results -  Nitrate level    -  80ppm  (yes, I said 80!) <This would not have killed you clam, but will certainly cause trouble for other invertebrates.> -  Specific Gravity  -  1.0125 -  Ph level  -  8.4 -- 8.5 -  Nitrite Level   .5ppm -  Calcium -- Approximately 400 -  Alkalinity -- Approximately 250 I called the maintenance guy who swore he never read more than a negligible level of nitrates. He came out and realized that his reagents were bad and confirmed the 80 ppm level.  He did an immediate 50% water change and the nitrate level dropped to 45 -50ppm.  The next day I took another reading and it was back up to 80 ppm. I do believe I have been overfeeding this tank for quite a while I feed them approximately 4 cubes of frozen food a day, formula 1, formula 2, plankton and Mysis shrimp! <This would be a problem.> When I reported this to the maintenance guy, he said we would have to replace the entire aragonite substrate, I task I'm not looking forward to because of the work involved, but more importantly the effect on the biological process. <Better to just use a gravel vac and let it remain for now.> I contacted someone else who told me not to take this extreme measure. <I agree.> When we vacuum the substrate we can only get to the front 1/3 of the tank because everything else is under rock. <Time to move some rock around so you can clean that gravel.> Perhaps the debris is being swept behind the live rock where is now building up. I can try and take a power head and blow out the stuff behind the rock but I'm afraid it will be difficult to get anything other than surface debris. Any thoughts, ideas or suggestions as to what I should do. The fish are doing great and some of the corals look OK but I want to head off a disaster if that is what is on the horizon I would appreciate any recommendations or suggestions on anything else that might be going on here.  Why am I not growing any coralline (purple/lavender) algae <Well... think we need to address the nitrates first. Do absolutely step up your water change regimen... this will be the best way to reduce nitrates. Also, think about moving some of that live rock around so you can better clean the gravel. This won't harm the biological filtration and will also help reduce the nitrates. Finally, cut back on the feeding - I'm sure you knew this already but these things combined will address the accumulating nitrates and once those are below 10ppm, then see how the coralline and corals do.> Lew <Cheers, J -- >

- High Nitrate Problems in Reef Tank, Follow-up - Thanks for the response. <My pleasure.> Just two more questions: 1) Should I remove the substrate entirely and replace with 3 - 4" of new substrate. <I wouldn't.> This was a recommendation but it is a big job and I am afraid of destabilizing a system which is still very healthy for all fish. <My concern as well. Better to just rearrange things so you can give that gravel a good cleaning out. May require more than one session, which would be fine, but you could clean the gravel just by moving the rock around.> 2) Should I be concerned about the little gunk coming out of the Skimmer. <No... I'm sure it will pick up on the day you clean the gravel.> I just took another reading and it looks like the nitrates went down to about 50 Lew <Cheers, J -- >

Retail Fish-Only Tank And Nitrates - 05/28/05 I have a fish only tank, 150 gal. with a 2" CaribSea sand bed, PM Bullet 2 skimmer, and T5 lighting, heavily stocked. What can I do to keep my nitrates down? This tank holds fish for retail so I want to keep the conditions as best as possible. <<Mmm...gonna make a couple assumptions here. Since this is a retail sales display, reducing the stocking level is probably not going to happen, and for the same reason, adding a quantity of live rock is also not feasible (makes it too difficult to catch the fish). Depending on the grain size of the substrate in this tank and the fact that it is only 2" deep, as well as you stating the tank is "heavily stocked," I suspect this to be a large part of your problem. So...my first recommendation would be to remove the substrate to allow you to easily siphon out (weekly) accumulated detritus. Else, increase the depth of the sand bed to a minimum 4" (6" would be better) and employ DSB methodology to help with the nitrates. A simple keyword search on this site will yield much info on deep sand beds (DSB)...as well as on nitrate reduction for that matter. The addition of a sump packed with live rock and/or a vegetable refugium with a DSB, along with very frequent large partial water changes, will also help keep nitrates down.>> Should I use a denitrator coil? <<I don't have any first-hand experience with these, but my research on them in the past has shown them to be "fiddly" to get/keep working effectively and thus I choose alternate methods for nitrate reduction.>> I do not know where to find a good set of plans to make one! <<Really? A simple GOOGLE search yields lots of possibilities. A good place to start is ozreef.org>> Or is there a better suggestion that you would have? <<Yes, as stated previously.>> Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks <<Regards, Eric R.>>

35 month old tank - Nitrate levels are very high Mr. Fenner,  <James, today> My nitrate levels are off the chart!! I have a 30 gallon w/ 2 clowns, 1 lawnmower blenny, assorted blue leg and Zebra hermit's, 40 lbs of live rock with almost complete coverage of coralline algae and feather dusters, crushed coral bottom and one Kenya Tree (new resident). I'm running a Orbit 130w PC (14 hours on) w/ a Prizm protein skimmer, 2 penguin 550 powerheads hooked up to a UGF and a bio-wheel external filter. My levels are all in line except the nitrates: PH 8.0 - 8.2, Ca 410ppm, 1.023 gravity, > 0 Nitrites and > 0 Ammonia. The nitrates are over 100 ppm. The tank seems to be doing fine, there is some undesirable green algae growth but the fish and the LR are doing fine. The Kenya Tree has only opened slightly and I believe this to be cause by the high nitrate levels (based on my FAQ readings).  My question is, in order to control the nitrate levels - should I cap off the UGF all together? If so, I would just like to cap it and bury in under some additional CC. In the mean time I have placed Purigen in the collection basket in the Prizm protein skimmer - that was about a week ago as well as a 25% water change out w/ RO water. The numbers have not fallen off - so I can only assume it is the UGF that is keeping the nitrates high.  <William, UGFs, not properly maintained are nitrate factories. Capping it won't solve any problems. It needs to be dismantled completely. Fish will need to be moved. A thorough vacuuming of the substrate will need to be done. This will probably result in a 50% water change in doing so. Skimmers also need to be cleaned on a weekly basis along with 10% water changes to aid in nitrate control. James (Salty Dog)> 

Alkalinity Test kits, Canister filter inserts and Nitrate 5/24/05--Part3 - (And No Shills Necessary!) Thank you for the quick response to my questions below (and the free "keeping spouse happy with tank" advice)! <Glad to! As for the spouse... I am glad that others can benefit from my failures! Ha! Actually, my wife is very tolerant.> Per your advice, the lava rock is removed, and I'm planning on adding the remaining live rock in one batch (after confirming it is cured by keeping it in tub in garage). I'll also buy a better alkalinity test. I've been using Jungle Quick Dip strips, but they have always been "off the chart" in the "ideal" range. I've been questioning their accuracy. Any recommendations on best test? <Always choose an alkalinity test that is a titration type. Titration tests require you to add drops of reagent until a change from one color to another is observed. The value is calculated from the amount or number of drops of reagent that are added. Test kits for alkalinity that use dip strips or compare to a color chart are very unreliable. I am fond of Salifert and Tropic Marin alkalinity kits, but many good ones are available.> I'm going to go with selling the Fluval, but keeping the Eheim for the great water movement it gives me. I had heard--LFS--that filling the Eheim completely with the Eheim filters would "polish" the water without creating nitrates. Do you agree? Or would I be better just having the Eheim completely empty? (I'm the guy who knows there is no way I will be doing weekly maintenance on the canister--most likely just every month or two.) Thanks again for your help and great site. Greg  <I disagree with your LFS, but there is no harm in trying. If you observe nitrates after a couple of months, I would either step up the maintenance or remove all media from the canister filter.> P.S. I'm going to shill for you. I made an Amazon Honors Payment to you guys and was surprised that more people don't do the same. I'm always buying stuff from the LFS when I go in and pick their brains because I feel their time is worth something and they're in business to make money. More so for you guys who are doing this site free of charge to the fish-keeping world. Not everyone is made of money--although this isn't the least expensive hobby I can think of--but I'm still surprised people don't throw a bit more change/bills in your electronic glass jar. <Thanks for the contribution! It is refreshing and uplifting to cross paths with someone who is willing to voluntarily support something they find value in. Best Regards. AdamC.>

Blue Tang looks powdery and nitrate levels Hi guys,  <Hello, Mike> I have a 75 gallon Sea Clear II system that has been up for almost one year. I am currently running two in tank circulating pumps (one in each corner) and have stocked the tank with approx. 70 lbs. Of live rock (it is hard to remember). Presently it is running as a FOWLR set up my current residents are a pacific yellow tang, mandarin goby, (3) fire gobies, orange spot goby, convict goby, black percula clown and my newest addition is a blue tang.  He seems to have adjusted to the tank well enough and he has been with me for about three weeks now but recently I have noticed that he is scratching himself frequently on a large shell and he appears to look kind of powdery on some angles. So my first question is from my humble description do you have any wisdom to bestow on me about my Blue Tang?  <Mike, part of your problem is that your tank is overstocked. You really don't have 75 gallons of water after you put in 70 lbs of live rock. Tangs are very prone to ich and the overcrowding isn't helping matters. Seven gallon weekly water changes are almost a must in keeping tangs healthy along with an algae rich diet. I would get an iodine supplement such as SeaChem's and dose weekly. It should help the fish out some. You also might want to try a garlic supplement added to the fish food. My answer to helping the tang out is that you would have to try and net the tang out and treat in a quarantine tank, or take your chances. In doing the later, you may lose all your fish.> My second question is do you have any advice on lowering my nitrate levels? I have never been able to get them below 45 ppm. I 'blow' the LR approx. once a week and do a 10 gallon water change every two weeks. My protein skimmer in an HOB Red Sea Prizm (not the greatest I know). Two weeks ago I built a denitrator coil and installed it; also at the recommendation of a fellow enthusiast a replaced my bio balls with live rubble rock (seasoned for many years at the LFS). As of today my nitrate levels are down to approx. 35 ppm (still high I know) but this is lower than they have ever been. I would love to do some coral but my level most obviously be much much lower.  Can you help me with my misery?  <Mike, with the overstocking you have, you are importing more nutrients than the system can export. Find homes for two or three of your least favorites. I'm guessing the tangs are probably at least three inches long? My rule of thumb is one cubic inch of fish per five gallons. I'd start by doing the later and employ weekly 10% water changes. This is something I do on a regular basis, problems or not.  Add a couple units of ChemiPure to help get rid of some of the nutrients. This filtering media employs excellent scavenging resins and aids water quality both visually and chemically. When doing water changes, do use a vacuum type siphon to suck out detritus in the gravel. Blowing the live rock just puts the mess in another place. If you are using filter pads, change weekly. Hope this helps you out, Mike. James (Salty Dog)> 

Knocking Out Nitrates! I have a 55 gal saltwater aquarium. It has been up and running for 2 yrs now. In it is one Yellow Tang, 3 Damsels, 1 Chocolate Chip Star, one Brittle Star, one Coral Banded Shrimp, and a few shell crabs (small). I am running a Fluval 404 canister filter, a Penguin 170 with Bio Wheel and a Penguin 330 with 2 Bio Wheels and have 2 powerheads to help with water current. I have about 15 lbs of live rock, and sand and crushed coral (about 1- 1/2 to 2 inches thick) for bottom substrate. Lighting is a satellite power compact light the one with 2-65 watt SunPaq with lunar lights.  I cannot get my nitrates to go below 40 and they sometimes go very high. I do monthly water changes of 30% and clean all filters monthly. I also run a SeaClone 100 skimmer. What am I doing wrong or do I need to do to get this under control? <Well, there are a few ideas I can think of here. First, the maintenance practices that you are utilizing are good, but they can stand a bit of improvement. I'd utilize a more frequent regimen of smaller water changes (I've long advocated two 5% water changes per week, but you could even try 10% once per week.  My feelings are that frequent, smaller water changes with high quality source water are a great habit to develop. You'll be removing organics before they have a chance to accumulate. Nitrate won't fall over night from this practice, but it will help trend down over time. Be sure to use high quality source water (RO/DI), or you may be starting with measurable nitrates...not a thing that you want to do! Another thought I have is a more frequent media cleaning/replacement schedule. Your system is rather dependent upon mechanical media, and they absolutely need to be attended to very frequently (weekly is not to often, IMO). I'd also consider the sand bed that you are working with. By most standards, 2" is sort of a biological "no man's land" - too deep to be fully aerobic, but to shallow to foster complete denitrification. Lots of research still needs to be done to confirm the effects of such sand bed depths, but denitrification seems to be most successful at depths greater than 3 inches. Otherwise, you may want to lower the sandbed to 1/2" or less...just a sprinkling.  Are you using chemical filtration media, such as activated carbon or Poly Filter? Such media are highly efficient at removing organics, and they can improve water quality relatively easily. Of course, like all media, they need to be replaced frequently to do the best possible job.  Other things to look at: Use and harvest of macroalgae, such as Chaetomorpha or Gracilaria, which can also utilize excess nutrients found in the water. Review your feeding practices-are you letting the "packaging juices" from frozen foods get into your water during feeding? These juices are packed with nutrients that can deteriorate water quality over time.  Finally, consider the work being done by your protein skimmer. If it's not producing skimmate on a regular basis, tweak it until it does, or consider a more efficient skimmer. These are just a few ideas for you to consider, there are lots of other methods that you can use to successfully reduce nitrate; I hope these hints give you a starting point! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Canister filter inserts and Nitrate 5/16/05 Greetings WWM Denizens! Thank you for all the advice, info and time spent accumulating it! You have gotten me from freshwater to saltwater, which may explain my configuration and question/problem. (I've searched the forums and can't find my particular query.) My problem is nitrates (surprise, surprise), and I wanted to know if my solution would work . <Thanks for the kind words! Glad you have benefited from the info here.> Tank is converted from freshwater, about 9 months old with salt as follows: 100 gallons, Aqua C Remora Pro, with the larger skimmer, about 50 pounds of live rock--adding more slowly; 40 pounds of lava rock, which I am hoping will slowly become live rock (it has only been in saltwater tank); 3 powerheads knocking water around; my good old Fluval 403 from the previous century; an Eheim 2217; I also have about an inch of crushed coral for cushioning and prettiness.  <Sounds reasonable, although adding live rock slowly is often a problem since each new piece has to cycle. I strongly suggest setting up a small tank (even a plastic tub) to cycle new rock in before adding to the tank. Also, lava rock can be unpredictable in composition and is a risk for introducing contaminants (especially metals). I would personally lean toward removing this in favor of live rock.> The problem is nitrates. No matter how careful I am with feeding and how much goop my skimmer picks up, the nitrates will not drop below 15-20. (Ammonia always 0, pH 7.8 to 8.0, treating with 1 Tsp washing soda each 25 gallon water change.) I use RO water from a nearby ice and water store (about $60/year at 25 gallon change every four weeks), which I test for nitrates every now and then, so that's not the source.  Forgot livestock--one perc, two yellow medium sized tangs, one dwarf coral beauty--that's all!  <Your stocking is reasonable, but your pH is a bit low. I would urge you to check alkalinity (especially if you are adding washing soda). You nitrates are likely a result of two things... since your ammonia and nitrate are being processed in the highly aerobic canister filters, nitrate is being produced away from the live rock.  When the nitrate is produced on/in the live rock, it can be further reduced to nitrogen gas in the anaerobic zones in the rock. You probably have enough rock now to completely take over biological filtration. In any case, such a small amount of nitrate is probably not a problem.> The long term plan/solution is to add a sump/refugium, but until I can figure out how to explain that to my wife, I'm stuck with the canisters.  <The sump/refugium will have many benefits, but in the mean time, keep those canisters squeaky clean! A good rinsing of the media in a small amount of tank water weekly will help a lot. Also, I have found that many expenditures can be (mostly truthfully ;^)) be rationalized to your spouse by explaining that it will save money in lost livestock.> From reading the posts, I think I understand you all agree that weekly--yikes!--changes/cleaning of the foam/pads would help with reducing nitrates. Although I spend time every day with my beloved tank, opening those things once a week (or every other week) isn't going to happen. (See previous comment about wife and add "traipsing water across the living room" and you'll understand why.)  <If you aren't going to maintain them, I would get rid of them or gut the media from them and use them only for water movement. Even when perfectly maintained, they aren't providing you with much benefit and you could sell them for money for more live rock.> So here's my thought: How about just using no foam, poly filters, or pads in the canisters and only leaving the Eheim pre-packaged materials, plastic pot scrubbers, and other "hard" porous materials that I have in there other than foam? Would that reduce the nitrates without losing all the benefits of the filters? (If so, I would like to do half plastic pot scrubbers on top and half the rock-type stuff that is in there now, if that would work.) Then, would 2-3 month cleanings of the rock-stuff/pot scrubbers be adequate? I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Other than the nitrates, everything in the tank seems to be quite happy (including some very full Xenia and a couple of mushrooms). Thank you again for your assistance. Greg  <The nitrates are a result of both the accumulated organic matter and the highly aerobic nature of these filters. The media supplied with these (and plastic "pot scrubbers" make great high surface area, aerobic media. I would maintain them properly or gut them completely of all media.> PS I would like to chime in that Sally Lightfoot crabs, in my opinion, ARE killers. I lost a bunch of damsels and a cardinalfish to one before figuring out what was going on.  PPS Since this is my first question posted, I have to say again, you guys are great!  <I couldn't agree more! In my opinion there are no completely safe crabs (including hermits). Best Regards. AdamC.>

Phosphate and nitrate removal Hi,  <Hello> I understand there is a filter available for treating new water and goes by the name of NITRAGON or similar can you please tell me where I can buy. Thank You  <I haven't heard of it, doesn't mean it's not out there. Personally I think you would be wasting your money. I'm assuming "treating new water" means your top of water or water for water changes. In that case, you would be further ahead buying a R/O unit. James (Salty Dog)> <<... http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2004-27,GGLD:en&q=nitragon+filter RMF>>

135G FOWLR follow-up, cutting glass, overflows, LR over the Net, plumbing and WWM pix Thank you for the reply Bob, I have just a few more questions and then I should be good at least until I get this thing set up.  I talked to a bunch of glass shops in the area, and they all said they would drill the sides, but no one will touch the tempered bottom (can't say I blame em)  With that, they also told me they cannot guarantee the sides will not break while drilling, but they will do it.  That worries me.  If it would happen to anyone, it would happen to me (I know Murphy very well)  So that leads me to overflow boxes, which also worry me. <I'm more worried about the latter than the former in terms of potential for trouble> But then I stumbled onto Lifereef.com, telling me that he hasn't had one malfunction in fifteen years. <Wow! Well, maybe "he" hasn't... but how about their customers?> I value your opinion very much and was wondering which route would you take?   <In almost all scenarios to have the tank pre-drilled if possible before assembly, or drilled after...> Actually, in your experience, are these custom glass places known for busting even annealed walls, or are they just covering there butts? <Methinks the latter> Secondly, I was planning on Caribbean rock for Dr. F&S, and then I found a listing on eBay, Item number: 4381101282, can you please take a look and tell me if this stuff is any good?   <Mmm, did so... out of Ft. Lauderdale...> I emailed them and asked about size pieces and they said to just let em know what I'm looking for.  Too good to be true? <... do you want Caribbean, Florida rock? The South Pacific sources are better for general purposes... cheaper per volume, function> Finally, please don't laugh, but in your last reply, you mentioned nitrate bottle necking.  I don't understand what that means.  Can you please explain it to me?  Thank you. <Sure... by "driving" the forward reaction/s of nitrification... lots of aerobic space, oxygenated water, water flow... nitrate tends to accumulate in high/er concentrations... the means, mechanisms for nitrate conversion into other matter are impeded... and hence "bottle necking" (backing up in the reaction series) occurs> P.S.  I would like to send a couple of pics of my DIY wet/dry, but I don't know what you mean when you talk about file size. <Kilobytes, megabytes... we prefer a few hundred Kbytes size maximum... jpegs, bmps preferably>   Oh yeah, that reminds me, if I have only one 8" baffle right after the bio ball chamber, will the other side of the baffle remain at a 8" depth, even though the bulkhead for the pump is only about 2" high?  Thanks again, I love you guys.               Mike <If your water flow is not too fast and I understand what you mean here, yes. Bob Fenner> Nitrates and Canister Filters Hello,  <Hello David> I have a 55 gallon tank with 75 lbs of live rock, and approximately 3 inches of live sand (no plenum). I am using an Aqua-c remora with a Maxi-jet 1200 for protein skimming, and have another Maxi-jet 1200 for circulation. In addition, I have been running a FilStar Canister filter (300gph). The canister filter, however, only contains foam filter pads.  Marine life in the tank consists of two Clarkii clowns, a yellow tang, bi-color blenny, six line wrasse, and some assorted snails and crabs for house-cleaning. Nitrates in the tank tend to hover around 20-30, despite 20% water changes every two weeks. I am also very conscious about not over-feeding. Is it possible that the canister filter is contributing to higher than normal nitrate levels? Would a larger protein skimmer bring the levels down, or is this just the reality of keeping a relatively small reef-tank? Much of the reading I have done suggest that under-tank refugiums can be very beneficial in reducing nitrates. However, I want to make sure there is not something in my current set-up causing abnormally high nitrates, before investing all that additional money. Any thoughts or suggestions would be much appreciated.  <The use of canister filters requires religious cleaning of the foam pads weekly. The detritus it traps leads to higher nitrates levels if these pads are not cleaned weekly. The waste is still in the water, just in a different place. I would suggest the use of Chemi-Pure in the filter for improved water quality. I've been using this in a canister filter for quite sometime, and changing pads weekly. My nitrates are barely detectable and I don't have as efficient of a skimmer as you. Give it a try. James (Salty Dog)>

Bio-Bale question Hey guys. Love reading your stuff. Quick question, Does CPR's Bio-Bale hold nitrates like the bio-balls do? Thanks in advance. <Am pretty sure this stuff is just polyethylene (turnings, like from a drill bit working a solid piece)... Will definitely encourage the forward reactions of nitrification... but not "hold" nitrates... more likely to experience more/higher concentration with its use than not... I have mainly removed this material from CPR's products... Bob Fenner> 

Saying "No" To Nitrate (Nitrate Reduction Strategies) Not a huge problem, but one I would like to resolve. I have a 90 gallon reef tank with about 90 pounds of live rock, about 4 years old, with 7 fish, 2 crabs, about a dozen or so snails, and about 18 different types of corals. My nitrate levels are typically between 10 and 20 (I usually do massive water changes if it hits 20). I change about 20 - 25 gallons every other week. If I change 40 - 50 gallons over a 2 day period, I can get my nitrate level down to around 5, but only for about a day.  My ammonia readings are zero, as well as my nitrite levels. I have a protein skimmer (not sure of the make/model, but it is the same model that the dealer used on their main show tank), and it is working properly. I would like to get (and keep) my nitrate levels down to zero. <A worthwhile goal!> Would the solution be something as getting a 5 gallon bucket, putting about 5 - 6 inches of live sand, some live rock, and some Gracilaria macroalgae as a refugium? <A refugium is definitely helpful, but it will not do the job by itself. There are several other things you can try in conjunction with the refugium. First, you should re-visit your skimmer. Although there is no absolute rule about skimmer productivity, it is my experience and personal rule that a well-tuned skimmer should yank at least a couple of cups of dark, yucky stuff out of your tank every week.  A well-tuned skimmer is your first line of defense against accumulating organics.  Next, consider your source water. Most untreated (and by that, I mean water that has not been run through a reverse osmosis/deionization process) water has significant nitrate levels right out of the tap. So, if you don't pre-treat the source water before you mix up your salt, you may be starting with 5-10ppm nitrate right off the bat! Your regular water changes would simply be putting the nitrate right back in!  Consider investing in a decent RO/DI unit, or find a store that sells RO prepared water to use. Another important, but often overlooked source of nitrate and organics is mechanical filtration media. Although prefilters, filter "socks", and other media are a big help, the detritus that they trap can accumulate large amounts of nitrate if left unserviced for extended periods of time. If you use such media, clean/replace them very frequently- like a few times a week!  Although controversial to some, a deep sand bed is a proven way to reduce nitrate. There is much literature on the net regarding deep sand beds and their nitrate-reducing properties, so read up! Finally, utilize a smaller, more frequent water changes. I am a geek that likes 2x 5% water changes per week, but you can certainly get by with once week. Massive water changes are not only disruptive - they are a pain in the neck! Smaller changes will not have the immediate impact of nitrate reduction, but if done regularly, they will serve to prevent the buildup of organics that can degrade water quality. Try 'em! Note the word "regularly"- that's the key here! > Could it really be something as simple as this, or am I messing something with potentially catastrophic results? Would it be recommended to cycle the refugium for a month or so independently before incorporating it into my system? I was planning on using a small pump to supply the refugium out of my sump instead of letting 650 gph cycle through it, and then having the water from the refugium gravity return to the sump. Would it be better for the return water from the refugium to be drawn from the top of the refugium, near the bottom, or it really doesn't make a heap of a difference? <Doesn't really make a difference, IMO, but I'd consider drawing near the middle.> I think that I have heard that some mushroom and leather corals don't do as well with 0 nitrates. I have a leather about the size of a Frisbee and a few different types of mushrooms that are doing well; I wouldn't be too upset if their growth rate slowed, but I certainly wouldn't to do anything to cause them to decline. Any thoughts on this? <Well, the general consensus is that these corals will do better with some nitrate in the water...In fact, some SPS and Tridacnid keepers in Europe have been experimenting with ADDING nitrate to their "nutrient poor" systems to help provide nutrition for their corals! Although, in my own system, I had a magnificent Sarcophyton that absolutely thrived in water with undetectable nitrate, so I wouldn't be adding the stuff any time soon, myself! Shooting for undetectable nitrates is fine with me!> Feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns. Mark A. Kaczynski <Hope these tidbits were useful to you, Mark! Regards, Scott F.> 

Brownian Motion not yet Resolved with General Relativity - Flow of Nitrates to DSB Dear Crew, <Paul> In a new tank, I am building an oolitic deep sand bed (DSB) for natural nitrate reduction (NNR). Without a plenum, how do the nitrates reach the lower layers of the DSB where they can be consumed by anoxic and anaerobic organisms? <Brownian motion/kinetic energy, molecular density/gravity. Bob Fenner> 

Marine dip & bath and chemical uses therewith, and nitrates Dear Bob, <Howdy> I have been marine fish ( mainly angels and tangs ) hobbyist for almost a year now. <Congrats> Having read your article dips/baths and acclimating livestock; guerilla techniques, plus faq, confusion still arise, thus, question need to be address to clarify. <Okay> You mentioned fresh water dip ( 5 to 10 minutes ) most effective. Thus, one hour bath with extra medication (malachite & erythromycin) only as an alternative? <Mmm, this is a bit long for almost all marine species> Since fresh water dip eventually shock the fish, no need to acclimate the water chemistry, only temperature (warmer preferably). Is PH necessary need to be adjusted? <Yes to pH adjustment... this is mentioned in the articles and FAQs repeatedly... match the bag water... elevate over time... usually simple sodium bicarbonate will do...> You mentioned Methylene blue only act as an oxygenating agent, meaning if I use aerator, I can skip Methylene blue? <You can... but is a safe, worthwhile addition> However, you also mentioned Methylene blue and fresh water eliminate itch, velvet, fungus, flukes, etc., is the fresh water do the part? Or the Methylene blue? Or the combination? <Mostly the freshwater... the Methylene Blue does help however. Have you read this: http://wetwebmedia.com/methblueart.htm> I had many reading saying both itch and velvet cant be eliminate during the hosting and dividing up period.  Only at the time they swim up to find a new host it can be eradicate / kill with most medication.  So, is it the osmotic shock that really kill the itch and velvet even during their hosting period? <Yes... given these are not "too" embedded, too numerous...> I tried fresh water dip often time (without Methylene blue) with duration of minimum 6 minute, a lot of times I saw those parasite still attach (already dead or still alive?) to the fish, and multiple at later time. Is this mean some parasite survive the osmotic shock? Even fungus remain after the fresh dip, why? <The most important factor here... the state of health/disease of the host fishes at that time... they were too challenged> Contaminated from else where ? <Yes! From collection, holding... a lack of feeding, water pollution, too long in the bags, in transit> I think I am careful enough to separate tools, wash the quarantine tank after use, start with new water. <Yes... it reads/sounds like you know what is going on> The one hour bath you mentioned eight drop of Methylene blue can be added to one gallon of the saltwater. You mentioned malachite green and erythromycin can be added as well, but did not mention how many drop? <Please see WWM re the issues of actual treatment concentrations... for Malachite here: http://wetwebmedia.com/malachitegreen.htm> And with all these mix up together I can still bath the livestock for a minimum of one hour? <With attention to aeration, temperature control, yes> Having been almost a year of marine hobbyist I have been able to keep most fish alive nowadays (after so many dying fish at the early stage). There is one thing I still unable to manage, the nitrate level remain quite high 150 level. <This is too high...> I change water every 3 week with 15% water change.   <Mmm, well... you need to change much more, and more frequently> I tried Sera bio denitrator, but has to feed everyday. I skip using it, now trying Seachem denitrator with canister filter running at slow flow, but has not been success so far.  Can I start feeding the nitrate bacteria with sugar? If so, how much  Should I put? <... these anaerobic digestion units rarely work... I would look to other technologies, techniques... am sure you've read this: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm > Or can I use Sera Nitrafluid as it do the same purpose as sugar?  But I read Sera instruction not to pour Nitrafluid direct into the tank. <I would not put either directly into the tank... these need to be drip-fed into the anaerobic chamber (the canister filter) to be of use... you can experiment here... but I would go with a refugium, DSB, more live rock....> Appreciate your attention, Regards, Sumadi <Keep studying my friend. Bob Fenner>

Nitrates, testing Your Mother-in-law lives on Jewel?!? <Yes... and has a place in Belmar...> Wow! Small world! Again, the book is phenomenal. <Glad you are enjoying, gaining by its reading> Yes, the nitrates could be lower but I am not completely certain as to how low or high they really are. I felt the test strips were a good quick way of getting a reading while not removing much (5 gallon tank) water and saving some money (I am forever amazed at each new thing I seem to 'need'). I usually use these strips every other day and then take the water every third or fourth day and use a chemical test to verify. One of the local fish store owners recommended the nitrite and pH test kits from Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Inc. He seems more on the minimal side as to how much you really need to enjoy the hobby. <I am in agreement with this philosophy in practice> The test strips are from Jungle Laboratories Corp and I got them through the Dr Fosters Smith website. Perhaps I will invest in a more accurate nitrate test kit.  <The cost per test with colorimetric solutions is quite small... turns out, less than strip testing> Thank you so much for responding to my email. James Zimmer Garfield, NJ <And you for yours. Bob Fenner>

Nitrates through the roof 3/30/05 Found your site about 2 months ago, you guys rock! I tell everyone I know that follows the hobby about you. I always find great information for whatever I'm looking for, sometimes TOO much which only makes things more confusing. <Thanks for the kind words. Hopefully we can clear up your confusion!> Anyway, I have a few questions and know you will be able to straighten me out. I'm rebuilding my 90 gal system after a severe outbreak of Cyano that got completely out of control. All my little buddies are safe in quarantine tanks while the new tank is developing. I have a SeaLife wet/dry (bioballs removed) with a Mag-drive 700gph pump, 1 Hagen 802 and 1 Zoomed 228 for circulation. 89 lbs live rock curing in the tank.  I just added a Fluval 2+ this week for more circulation. I do not have the space to cure the LR in bins and found info on using LR to help cycle the tank. What I didn't find until yesterday was that it is best to cure it with a bare bottom tank. I have 80 lbs of aragonite sand in the tank! It's only been 10 days now, and I think everything is moving along as expected, with die off and ammonia and nitrite spikes.  However, my biggest concern right now is how high should the nitrites spike? Two days ago, pH=8.0 Ammonia =1.5, Nitrates = 40, Ca = 240 and Nitrites = 4.0! So I did about a 60 - 65% water change over two days. Yesterday's results were pH = 8.2, Ammonia =0, Nitrates = 80, Ca = 350, Nitrites still at 4.0! <I don't see any problem with cycling rock with sand, in fact it will help seed the sand. The one disadvantage is that any undesirable critters may be able to hide better with the sand, but they are so rare that I wouldn't worry about it. I would check your Nitrites with another kit (of another brand). You may just be having an especially rough cycle, but it is a good idea to verify a questionable test result. If the test is accurate, I would just be patient and keep up 20% weekly water changes until the cycle is complete.> I am also using Kent Marine Liquid Calcium trying to boost calcium for the coralline algae on the new LR. Appears to be working. Finally bought a KH/GH test kit today, and according to the conversion calculator on Hagen's website my dKH is 13.44. Does any of this sound normal? Any direction you can give me at this point would be greatly appreciated! Many thanks!   <That alkalinity sounds high without supplementation. I would double check the conversion. Alkalinity should be 9-12 dKH or about 3-4 mEq.>

Nitrate and filtration follow-up (3/31/05) No worries Steve. I will see how I go with cleaning the Eheim out every two weeks when I do a water change. Hopefully this will be enough and I will keep an eye on the nitrate levels over the next few months. If I find that nitrate is still rising, I will start removing the media slowly and eventually leave only the filter floss in the canister for mechanical filtration. Thanks for your helpful advice. Regards, Gianni.  <Sounds like a fine plan to me. Good luck, Steve Allen.> 

AZoo BIO Denitrator 3.28.05 Well I been using AZOO BIO Denitrator for about 2 month now, and my problems are the NO3 level still at the dangerous level. Even I change 50% of the water every week using RO water and I even add 10ml of the AZoo activator to the Denitrator every single day its still the same, like no effect. Is there any way I can do to reduce my NO3 level? Hope yo u guys can help me out...  <Jae, please provide details of the tank's bioload- What animals, and other types of filtration utilized. This just isn't raising any flags with the amount of info. Thanks, Ryan>

Nitrate Removal Canister filters are normally used for aerobic bacteria to grow in oxygen rich water to break down of ammonia to nitrite to nitrate. An anaerobic variation of this theme is the construction of a coil denitrator which is essentially a canister with a long inlet coil for the water to become more anoxic before it enters the central bioball mass for anaerobic breakdown of nitrate. This is controlled by regulating the flow through the canister. If the flow is too fast it becomes too aerobic. If the flow is too slow it becomes too anoxic leading to hydrogen sulphide. Is there any reason a large regular canister filter can not do the same thing? Just fill it with bioballs, and slow down the flow but putting a valve on the outflow tube so that water just trickles out, and do water tests on the outflow water. The slow flow should make the bioball mass work under low oxygen conditions to break down nitrate. Is the theory sound, and has any one tried this?  <Mike, sounds like it may work, won't hurt to give it a try, you've nothing to lose. James (Salty Dog) >

Should I add nitrate to my reef tank? My water consistently tests 0 nitrates. I have a crocea and a couple of soft corals. I read in Anthony's book that there should be some level of nitrate, and recommends preparing a solution of sodium nitrate and using it to raise the level to 2ppm. Since the "state of the art" is always evolving, I want to make sure that recommendation is still appropriate.  < I think that is a terrible idea. I'd prefer to just feed my tank before adding nitrate. >  I've searched around the web and can find "laboratory grade" sodium nitrate from Sargent-Welch in small quantities at a reasonable price.  < A local chem. shop should have this item in stock. But again, I wouldn't do it. >  I've not had any luck in finding it at garden supply stores. Now I just need to hope that ATF isn't tracking sodium nitrate purchasers!!  < Take a look at your fish load and feeding schedule. If you are feeding once per week, maybe feeding 3 times per week would accomplish what you are looking for. > Thanks Ken Baker < Blundell > 

Nitrate Problems (3/23/05) Hi there,  <Hi. Steve Allen here.> I have had my FOWLR setup for approx 6-8 months and have a question about rising nitrates. I have approx 12in of fish in a 55 Gallon tank  <Inch-per-gallon rules are worthless anachronisms because they do not take into account the volume of each fish.>  ... and have been told that my rising nitrate level (now 20 on the scale) is due to the canister filter storing nitrates and returning it to the tank. I feed twice daily, flake in the morning and frozen food in the evening. If it is true that the canister does store nitrates, I would like to move the biological and mechanical filtration onto the 40Kg of live rock and 3in sand bed, along with the existing protein skimmer to "remove" organic waste rather than the canister media "mineralizing" it. I am currently " trialing" Purigen by SeaChem... <Don't bet on this really making a meaningful contribution.>  ... to hopefully aid in the removal of nitrate in conjunction with regular partial water changes. My questions are: 1. Does the canister really store nitrates - and if this is true - why does this occur?  <It does not "store" them. What it does is get clogged up with rotting organic gunk that gives off nitrates. If you clean it out every week (sometimes twice a week is needed), you can minimize this problem. That's why most marine aquarists do not like canisters--they're too high-maintenance. There's enough work to do without having to clean a canister. If you're willing to do the work, you don't need to get rid of the canister.> 2. If the canister is storing nitrates. is it safe to remove the ceramic noodles, filter pads and biological media completely, all in one hit, from the Eheim and move the bioload onto the rock, sand and skimmer?  <If you want to remove the canister you don't need to "move" the bioload. Your sandbed and LR already have biofiltration capacity. There is a risk that they don't have enough to cover for the sudden removal of the canister, so it would probably be wisest to remove the 1/2 of the filter material and leave it that way for a couple of weeks before taking the canister out. Of course, you are then without mechanical filtration. Do you have a sump with a filter sock? If you have space on the back of your tank, you could consider replacing the canister with a hang-on power filter such as an Emperor 240. The filter pads take only seconds to change and will provide excellent mechanical filtration.>  Regards, Gianni 
<Hope this helps.>

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