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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Nitrates 12

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

Related FAQs: Nitrates 1, Nitrates 2, Nitrates 3, Nitrates 4, Nitrates 5, Nitrates 6, Nitrates 7, Nitrates 8, Nitrates 9, Nitrates 10Nitrates 11, Nitrates 13, Nitrates 14, & FAQs on: The Actual Science Re: NO3 Compounds, Importance, Sources, Means to reduce: NNR (Natural Nitrate Reduction, Anaerobic Bacteria), Algae, Other Biota, Physical Filters, Chemical Filters... NitritesAmmonia, Establishing Cycling, BiofiltrationPhosphate, Silicates, Biological Filtration, Fluidized Beds, Bio-Ball, Wet-Dry Media 1 Denitrification/Denitrifiers, Wet-Dry Filters, RO./Distilled/Treated WaterChemical FiltrantsDeep Sand Beds

Nitrates too high, 5/26/08 Hi WWM Team! <Hello> I will make this as brief as possible. Here is my set up: 75 gallon Oceanic tank with drilled downspout MegaFlow sump Model 3 (I removed the Bioballs as you recommend) 9.5 Magnetic Drive Pump (Rated for 950 gph but it is only opened up as far as I can so the downspout can keep up and the tank doesn't overflow -A very interesting predicament when I first started it up - good thing my husband installed a valve in the line!!!!) 1 - 280 Powersweep powerhead that doesn't sweep anymore :) :) 1 - Maxi-jet 1200 Powerhead Tunze 9005 Protein Skimmer (Located in the sump - see picture) <Ok> Filtration includes: 100 - 150 pounds live rock Filter pad in (Step 1) in sump (rinsed weekly and changed when needed) Chemi Pure in (step 2) in sump (rinsed weekly and changed every 3 months) Livestock includes: 5 Blue/Green Chromis (Eeny, Meeny Miney, Mo and Jo :) :) ) 1 Clown fish 1 sixline Wrasse 1 Lawnmower Blenny 1 Flame Angel 1 Orange spotted Goby 1 Mandarin Dragonfish 2 Turbo snails 3 Dozed + hermit crabs 1 Dozen Nassarius snails 1 Cleaner shrimp 4 Rose-tipped anemones (Small - they keep dividing I gave away two already) 1 Tiger-striped sea star ( he is now about 12 inches from tip to tip! Fascinating creature) <Lots of life here.> I replace 20 gallons of water every four weeks. All the fish are healthy and have a great appetite. I feed two times a day alternating Formula Two, Marine "S" (Hikari) and Frozen Mysis shrimp and Brine shrimp. I feed slowly, making sure all the food is eaten and none is wasted. Water parameters usually run: Ph 8.4 - 8.5 Salinity 1.023 Kh 196.9 Calcium 380 - 400 Ammonia 0 Nitrates about 20 - they used to be zero before I added the last couple of fish. I am not sure if it is a stocking problem or if the Bioballs and the stuff in the sump was a contributing factor. I removed the bioballs and cleaned out the sump today. I will see if that helps. The tank has been running for a little over a year. I also disassembled and cleaned the Protein skimmer and the main pump today. I am torn between more frequent water changes or converting to a refugium. <Both would be best, but definitely more water changes, I do 20% weekly on my tank.> The Mandarin fish has plenty of copepods and amphipods to eat and he also eats the food that I feed the other fish and so does my Goby, so I don't need a refugium for a food source. I have been toying with the idea of adding about 3 1/2 inches of sand to my existing sump and raising my Protein skimmer above the sandbed and protecting it from sucking up any sand and adding some macroalgae and lighting. Do you think this would work and maybe help the nitrates or should I buy a "Real" refugium of just do more frequent water changes to lower the nitrates back to zero. <Will most likely help along with less feeding and more water changes, a refugium with macro-algae would not hurt either.> Again - I am not having any problems with the health of the tank at this point but I want to avoid any trouble. I am really attached to all my fish and invertebrates I even have names for them ( I have spared you most of these details :) :)) My husband made the cabinet for me. <He does very nice work.> I have sent pictures so you can see the set up of the sump (IMG -0700) and be able to tell more about what I am talking about. Thanks for your input!!!!! I never thought I would get so addicted and attached to a fish tank. Your site has been invaluable. Thank you! Suzanne <Not sure there is enough space in the sump for a sand bed to be very effective, I would probably skip it. More water changes and cutting back on the feeding will probably do the trick here.> <Chris>

High nitrite and nitrate 4/22/08 I have a 54gal corner marine aquarium, fish only setup. I transferred fish from an old tank to this new setup, which I now know was a mistake since the tank had not properly cycled. <The root of your problem most likely.> All fish died except a yellow tang and a blue damsel. <Honestly, the tank is too small for a tang.> The tank has now been running for a month with a Megaflow sump filter system. I used BioZyme to help start the biological filtration. <Dried bacteria cultures are not worth much in my opinion.> My problem is I cannot get rid of nitrites and nitrates. <Nitrate buildup is a common problem in FO tanks, no deep sand bed or live rock for nitrate reduction so lots of water changes are necessary. Nitrites could be due to the tank still cycling, not enough filter media, or overfeeding. In this case I would guess the tank is still cycling.> Ammonia was high but is now back to zero. All other parameters are in good range except for the nitrite and nitrate. <Sounds like the tank is still cycling.> I have done 2 sets of 15 gallon water changes a week apart. <Needs more, nitrite is very toxic.> I am starting to get some brown algae growing on the sand/glass. <Normal for a new tank.> I am just at my wits-end. I cannot get rid of the nitrates.. What do I need. <Nitrates? Water changes is the only thing to remove them. Nitrites require the proper bacteria to be cultured.> Many thanks., <Welcome> <Chris>

Re: High nitrite and nitrate 4/23/08 Do you think I need a protein skimmer. <I personally would not run a tank without one.> My only problem with doing one in the MegaFlow sump is that I cannot put it before any filtration. Any suggestions? <Best bet is probably a hang-on-tank model, several quality units available in this line.> <Chris>

Nitrate... event... 03/19/2008 Help! <<Andrew "helping" today>> I recently broke a piece of live rock into 3 smaller pieces (yesterday, as a matter of fact) that was in my main tank to add to the middle chamber of my BioCube, and my nitrate has skyrocketed! <<Woopsy>> Before, my nitrate never got above 10 (it was 5 right before I did it) even after 3 weeks of no water changes, and it has jumped to 40! My corals don't show any adverse affects yet, but I fear for the worst! What should I do? <<water changes are your friend here. Do a couple of 20% water changes to get a portion of the nitrates out, then 10% weekly. It should all be fine and pass soon enough>> <<Hope this helps. A Nixon> Protein Skimming And Nitrates 3/19/08 Hello Bob and WWM Team, <Hi Eric> I have a question regarding protein skimmers and their ability to remove nitrates from an aquarium. <OK> I have had a moderate problem with BGA (Cyano) for some time now. It gets worse when my nitrates approach 5 ppm. My metal halide lighting (150 watt 14k) has something to do with it's proliferation as I have personally seen many similar sized tanks (50 gallon) with much, much higher nitrate readings without any problems at all. These tanks all have very low light (only 40 watts of fluorescents). All of my other measurements for the system including silicates and phosphates are 0. Currently I am not using a protein skimmer. I have been able to keep the water clean with aggressive filtration and water changes. However, the Cyano will not go away. Only when I have gotten my nitrates down to about 1 ppm did I notice that it wasn't growing any more. Reaching this low level took many water changes though and it doesn't stay there for long, rising up to 5 ppm over a 10 day period. More water changes are then necessary to reduce the nitrates. I don't mind water changes but am looking to not have to do as many. Will a protein skimmer remove the remaining nitrates from my system and keep them down at 0 or 1 ppm?  <Protein skimming will definitely decrease phosphates and dissolved nutrients and is highly recommended. The use of high quality chemical media such as Chemi Pure in tandem with skimming is ideal.> Thanks for the help. <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Oh, and Bob, have you ever snorkeled Electric Beach on the leeward shore of Oahu? <<Oh yes, I have. RMF>> <Eric, Bob is enroute to Malaysia and may not answer your above question. He vacations in HI quite regularly and I'm sure he has been there.> Eric

High Nitrates/Algae problems, & fdg. "corals"   2/29/08 Okay, I guess I should have gone to school to become a marine biologist because the more I read about maintaining a reef tank, the more confused I get. Anyway, here are some questions. My system: 160 gal tank w/20 gal sump, no refugium yet, about 150 lbs live rock, 3-4 " DSB, various corals and fish, protein skimmer, UV sterilizer, chiller, high end coral lighting with metal halides, filter currently inop and being sent for repair. <What sort of filter?> I was paying someone to maintain tank but had to let him go. So I am now learning. Water is testing great except for nitrates being 20-40 ppm. I read from Bob Fenner that "...there are two common ways of expressing nitrate concentration by various assay methods. Nitrates as ppm, and nitrogen as nitrate in ppm. Due to the latter's consideration of the three oxygen atoms atomic weight per molecule, measuring nitrate ion by itself results in 4.4 times as much. Do check your test kit though almost all are nitrate ion types on the market nowadays... ". So, with that said, I checked my test kit, API, and it does read the ions. So, what does that mean? When it tests out at 20-40 ppm, does that mean my result is really a lot less than what I think it is? <Mmm, no... really is this range> All my fish and corals seem to be doing well. Since I was paying someone else previously, I don't know if my nitrates are different than before. I think that I may be adding to my nitrate problem when I clean my tank. I have a lot of algae sitting on the top of the sand, so I have been cleaning the sand and I am wondering if I am stirring it up too much and disturbing the denitrification process. <A possibility> I have read about it on your site but get too confused. Too much detritus on top of sand is a bad thing, but isn't disturbing the sand too much also a bad thing? <Yes, can be> I have a lot of detritus in places that I can't get into with the vacuum. I've tried reaching it with a slim tube or stick to stir it up for vacuuming but not sure if this is the best thing. <Mmm, I'd hasten on to adding the refugium, increasing your circulation in the main tank... perhaps some internal pumps... Look into the Koralia, Hydor brands...> Also, any advice on the algae bloom problem? It is only on the sand and was rust color at one point, then pink, and now mostly dark and bright greens. <See the above> I am also totally confused on what to feed my corals (sea fans, zoas, Shrooms, colt coral, torch coral, flowerpot coral, brain coral, sun coral). My tank guy had me feeding only Marine Snow. <Garbage... the emperor's new fish food... Of no nutritive value> Everything was thriving fine, except the sun coral which I learned to feed mysis. I've read and have had many folks tell me Marine Snow is only "fish poop" <More like wall paste> and that I should be feeding something else. Since I have 3 bottles of Marine Snow stocked up, I have been mixing it with Kent's Phytoplex and some Liquid Gold. I was feeding twice weekly and lately have only been able to feed once weekly. If the Marine Snow is only "fish poop", could that be adding to my nitrate problems? <Yes, definitely> Thank you for your time. Wouldn't know what to do without you guys. <Do take a read re the "corals" you list on WWM. Their foods/feeding/nutrition is gone over there. Bob Fenner> Enjoying success and a few questions FOWLR Livestock Selection and Nitrate 2/17/08 Bob, <Scott V. with you tonight.> I am finally on the other side of the process in getting my main tank situated after several years of learning and using the right techniques. I now have the livestock that I've wanted to put in there and it appears to be parasite free. <Great to hear!> Most recently I had a case of saltwater ich and after letting the tank run fallow for nearly six weeks I returned the livestock only to have them show signs of infection. I decided I would install a UV filter (Vecton, per your advice) and it seemed to alleviate the problem almost immediately. It has been about 3 or 4 weeks with no symptoms showing. And this with a powder blue tang (which I was rather apprehensive about even trying to keep). <And for good reason.> I feel my FOWLR is fully stocked with fish now and I am finally enjoying the fruits of lots of labor! <Sorry to say, but the labor never seems to end!> I tell you all this to say thank you to you and your helpful staff for all the information on your site and help with my questions. It is invaluable to a marine fish keeper. I would also like to seek some advice going forward. <Very welcome, we are all more than happy to help out.> Here is my tank that I've had running about 7 years now: 90 gal with plenty of live rock 2-3" aragonite substrate Eheim canister filter <Canisters are known to contribute to high nitrate, more on this below.> Remora skimmer Vecton 600 UV filter 1 submerged power head Livestock: lunar wrasse passer angel powder blue tang <Your tank is too small for the long term survival of this Tang or Angel.> arc eye hawk fish Toby-type puffer a few scarlet hermit crabs <Not for long with some of the fish on your list.> All the fish are healthy and eating well (including the PB tang who is thankfully an aggressive eater) and aside from a little bit of aggression towards each other, everyone one is happy. They all have enough attitude to rebuff one another. <And this will grow as they do.> With the addition of the angel and tang, I of course now have to feed more. <No doubt.> Nitrates are higher as a result, about 60 - 80ppm on average. I am doing water changes regularly. I'd like to know what can be done with this system to naturally keep nitrates down and clean up detritus and any uneaten food. <Increased circulation and the addition of a refugium will help the situation. You will still be doing many large water changes to keep up.> The scarlet hermits seem to fair well and I was thinking of adding a few more and trying a few snails. <Not with the Wrasse/Puffer.> Would adding a brittle star be advisable? (I know not the green one). I would like to add a little more beneficial life to the system for aesthetics and utility. <You could, but with little to no effect on the nitrate situation.> As for the substrate, I have always done regular vacuuming with the water changes and it just doesn't seem very "live", nothing visible anyway. It is the 1-2mm type aragonite. Is there anything more I can do there outside of replacing it all to sustain some life and benefit the system? I was thinking maybe if I don't vacuum as much or add a bag of live sand... <I would add more sand, to increase to 4'+ to aid with processing the nitrate. Your above statement is correct in that you will want to leave the sand be alone more than constantly vacuuming. A periodic surface agitation is all it should need at most, but I suspect your fish, the Wrasse in particular aids in that. The increased circulation will help keep the detritus from accumulating in the sandbed.> What else can I do to optimize the system and add a little more diversity? <Adding more sand, creating a true DSB and giving it time to colonize from your rock will increase the diversity immensely. The refugium will have the same and many other positive effects; it is highly recommended you consider its addition. Also, consider either removing the canister filter (it is not absolutely necessary with the live rock), or at the very least cleaning it frequently (at least weekly). The canister filters can easily and quickly become detritus traps and in turn nitrate producers.> Thanks, Tim <Welcome, you need to do some more research in regard to what is in your tank and what it takes to keep them alive and well. I have included some links of pertinent reading to start you out. Good luck, Scott V.> http://www.wetwebmedia.com/thalassoma.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/puffcareinfo.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/fishes/angels/pomacanthus/zonipectus.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marcanfltfaq3.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm

SW questions, Cnid. comp. and NO3 reduction  -- 1/26/08 Hi Crew, My first question is about lighting. I have a 10 gallon which is almost 5 years old. It has 4 different candy canes with a total of about 40 heads. Also four hairy mushrooms (browns with blue lines) that are from one original. <Would be very big trouble if introduced all at once...> All my other mushrooms (reds, greens and blues) have shrunk and just disappeared. <To be expected> In fact there always seems to be one that does great and the others either just hang in or start shrinking. <Bingo> I have 65w PC's. The bulb I currently have is 10k and it will need to be replaced soon. Should I continue with this or can I go with a 50/50. <I would not change> I plan on staying with candy canes and mushrooms. <And not add any more/other Cnidarians> I have lots of coralline on the glass and very little on the rock although it has started to increase on the rock lately. My second question relates to nitrates. I am under the impression that it takes a DSB to have bacteria to process nitrates and if I do not have a DSB then water changes and/or a skimmer will help reduce it, water by dilution and a skimmer by eliminating the source pollutants. <Actually, not so... for biological conversion (denitrification) requires some/any sort of hypo- to an-aerobic setting/media, very low flow rate through, thereabouts... Doesn't have to be... a DSB> The first 3 years that I had my tank my nitrates were usually around .20. But for the last 2 years it is zero and I do not have a skimmer and I change 1 gallon every week. Does that mean I do have some nitrate eating bacteria or is my test kit on the blink. I use one of the cheap test kits (AP's master kit). Thanks <Likely there is no appreciable NO3... Bob Fenner>

Power Head placement and Myth? Nitrates... PLEASE HELP 01/24/2008 Hello there, <<Hello Ashley, Andrew here>> I currently have a 65 gallon tank with 2 types of filtration a Rena Xp3 filter and a Tom's Wet/Dry Filter. I also have a 5 gallon refugium powered by a Maxi-jet 400 and 3 other power heads (600 Maxi-jet and 2 Hydor Koralia 1's). <<All for the refugium? Or the display tank??>> Recently I purchased a fish that wasn't what I was told. After research I realized I had to get the fish out of my tank. To do so I had to take my live rocks and Corals out. Once everything was accomplished and I caught the fish. I put everything back in. Then all of a sudden it was like my system crashed. I had to give my friend my corals to keep until I got my tank back in order and lost some fish. I now have gotten my tank relatively back on track. My PH, Ammonia, Nitrite and Salinity are all great; however I can't seem to get my nitrates down. <<This will be due to the major disturbance of the system as a whole>> I have done routine water changes the latest dong a 40 gallon change. And I also added 100 gallons worth of Nitrate sponge. <<Give the system time to settle, keep up with water changes, it should return to normal given time>> Everything I read seems to contradict each other. One say to do frequent water changes- which I've done but has no long term fix, it only offers a quick fix. <<It is a quick fix solution, however, if there is a source in the tank which is generating high nitrates, that source needs to be discovered and rectified>> Another says to much water changes kills the bacteria in your tank that eat the nitrates - which is making me thinking about buying a bottle of liquefied bacteria and dumping it all in my tank. <<Please don't go dumping bottled bacteria in your system. The bacteria will generate itself again. Patience is the key here>> And now I just read that excellent water circulation stirs everything around so much that it kills Nitrates so to speak. <<Water circulation itself will not kill off nitrates, only filtration and adequate bacteria levels>> It talks about the "Turn Rate of a Tank", how can you find the rate for a 65 gallon tank? Currently right now after I totaled all my GPH everything in my tank combined I put out 1862 GPH. Is that good a good amount of rate? <<Water turn over with the reef tank is very important as it keep detrius, food etc suspended in the water column to enable it to be removed via filtration. Actual circulation within the a reef tank is on average 25 x the gallonage of the tank. In this scenario, with a 65 gallon tank, your required circulation per hour should "AT LEAST" 1625 GPH (65 gallons X 25 = 1625 gph). Your combined rate of flow in the tank is adequate in my opinion. On tanks which are heavily dominated by SPS coral, people do tend to higher into regions of 40 and 50 x water circulation per hour>> If it is true that the circulation can lower nitrate levels, what type of placement of the power heads would you suggest working with 3 power heads, a surface skimmer and an output filter tube aprox.24 inches. Even if it's not true what you suggest to establish a good current for a reef tank? <<Powerhead placement is always a difficult one to comment on as every tank is different. All your after achieving is disruptive flow with surface water agitation to aid in gas exchange. Most tend to place powerheads opposite each other on the ends of the tank aim in the general direction of the middle. Its a matter of playing with placement, monitoring the system for dead spots and adjusting as necessary>> I do a lot of researching but when I can't come to a resolution or unsure, you're the place I turn to. <<We all try our best here>> I truly do enjoy reading your Q & A's. I must say after reading and going on a lot of sites, this is the one I keep coming back to. Seriously thank you for everything you provide to us hobbyist both beginner and experienced. Ashley Sadowski <<and thank you for being part of the marine community. Hope the above helps A Nixon>>

Nitrate/nitrite 12/17/07 Gentlemen, <Hello> As always, I'll start with a thank you for all the useful information. I have a bit of a dilemma on my hands. I've been away on business for a few months and my wife was caring for my 75 gallon FOWLR. She did a great job I might add because there are also three little ones running around my house. The tank has been running for two years. At the time I left, my nitrites, nitrates and ammonia levels were zero. During the time I was gone, the tank experienced a bloom of red slime algae and green algae. The red slime algae is under control and the green algae is getting there. Upon my return, two days ago, I did a large water change (30 gallons). <Good> In the past I did 10 gallon water changes every other week. After the water change, my levels went up. <Suspicious.> Nitrites - .25 ppm, nitrates - 10 ppm, Ammonia - 0 and PH - 8.0. I have 1 blue damsel in the tank (lost a Naso Tang and Yellow Tang before I left and didn't want to replace them until I returned) and a number of hermit crabs and snails. Does this mean the tank has to cycle again ? <No> Do I stock the tank with damsels or Chromis for cycling purposes or do I wait this out ? <Only if you want those particular fish.> Was it my water change ? <It sure sounds like it. Your numbers were higher after the water change. If that is indeed where the nitrite came from I would expect it to be processed by your live rock fairly quickly. As for the nitrate, keep up the water changes, after you test your make up water and source better quality water if need be.> I have a wet/dry 150 gallon filter. <Could possibly eliminate the biomedia to help with the nitrate issue. How much live rock do you have? Best Regards, Scott V.>

Re: Nitrate/nitrite 12/18/07 About seventy pounds of live rock that was once covered with coralline algae. Unfortunately, that beautiful pink/purplish color has faded to white/grey in many areas. <It will surely return. I would pull any biomedia out of the wet/dry.> A good portion of it still has a greenish /brown colored "hair" algae on it. Is that an indication of something I could attempt to fix or has my live rock died off ? <Indicates your nitrate is high. You are measuring 10 ppm and that is just what the algae has not used.> Does live rock die off ? <Possible, doesn't sound like the case here.> I apologize for the basic questions but I still consider myself a beginner and really want to get this right. With only one fish (the blue damsel) left in the tank I'm open to any suggestions. I certainly don't want to add any fish until I know it's safe. Thank you for your time and patience. <Water changes and time. As you get the water quality under control and the algae dies off it will necessitate more water changes. So in a way you are curing your rock again. Please test your source water and feed the remaining damsel very sparingly. Best regards, Scott V.>

Coursework... on NO3... experimentation protocol, work    12/5/07 Heyhey I am doing an A level (English school qualification) in biology and wish to investigate the effects of nitrate concentration on brine shrimp hatching rates. Do you know what concentration of nitrate in the water is lethal and what would be a suitable nitrate to use? I'm thinking maybe ammonium nitrate.....? any help as fast as you can would be greatly appreciated. will <Hello Will. Aren't you lucky to have someone replying who has actually taught A-level biology. And I can tell you precisely what your teachers and examiners are expecting from you, and exactly how you'd get an A-grade from this piece of work. I also know that I'm not going to tell you! You are expected to do all the preliminary research and experiments yourself. The only clue I'll offer is that I wouldn't start by using ammonium nitrate, but sodium nitrate (ammonium is toxic, but sodium is likely not, since Artemia live in salt pans in the wild). Run up a set of incubation tanks at a series of nitrate concentrations and then see what happens, using suitable controls and numbers of runs to make the statistical analysis you do meaningful. What concentrations should you use? Here's where you visit the library and look at some aquarium books to find out what levels of nitrate are toxic to what sort of organisms. These data are quite well known. You know what major taxon Artemia belong to, so you could extrapolate from that, at least for a ball-park idea. You could also research aquaculture, where similar tests to what you propose have been done extensively for trout, shrimp, and other sorts of farms. Do bear in mind that your examiner will expect to see you have done INDEPENDENT research. You will get no marks for saying someone told you various things to do. I've marked A-level and GCSE coursework and can ASSURE you teachers and examiners can spot lazy students a mile off. Finally, if you're going to ask people to do your work for you, do try and be polite. Using greetings like "Hey" is very rude to anyone over the age of 17, and then telling them to hurry up is even worse. Now we're done, and you can get up onto your hind legs, walk to the public library, and ask the librarian to point you to the sections on aquaria and aquaculture. Seek, and ye will find. Have a nice day! Neale.>

Hi Bob, it's Niki...again. NO3 in Wholesale Marine Life facilities  -11/27/2007 Howdy Bob! Well you did say I could write you when I had a question.<smile> I just didn't tell you I have aloooot of questions. Hope I'm not bugging you too bad. I have an issue with NO3 in my invert system here, <Not unusual... in a wholesale setting> and have found out that there are a copious amount of bio-balls that are in a very hard to reach place. They have not been cleaned in a very long time. I know there are differing opinions on whether or not these are a helpful means of filtration. <In a changeable, large/ish facility with vacillating bio-loads... something like them... or fluidized bed technology is really a necessity. Must have something that can/will rapidly ramp-up to convert nitrogenous wastes. Unfortunately such mechanisms overdrive nitrification... resulting in excess nitrate> I did read through your FAQs but did not find any situation that correlated with mine. I don't like them, personally, I have seen a great number of tanks in my maintenance calls that have been helped tremendously by their removal and subsequent replacement with live rock. <Yes... this has been my experience as well> I don't have any experience with such large systems like ours (8500) <Yes... gallons...> so maybe there is a reason I don't know about that keeps them here, but my suspicion is that they were just designed in the bio-ball hey-day. <This is indeed the case. I was there for all the fits, retrofits of Quality...> My question is this..should I a) Not worry about my around 35-40 ppm of NO3? <Mmm, if it were me/mine... I would try to address, reduce this... Have you spoken w/ ChrisB re your concern here?> b) Rip out all the bio-balls and replace with live rock? keep in mind the bio-ball chambers are highly inaccessible, being underneath the holding tanks. <Yes, I know... requiring the dismantling of all above them. A pain in the keester> I would be concerned with a drain becoming blocked with the live rock. c) Break down the tanks and just clean the bioballs? d) Remove the bioballs and don't add anything? or e) some really obvious solution that is staring me in the face that I haven't realized, which is why I contact the guru's A.K.A. You! <IF there were room, I'd opt for placing LR in some large container (even pressurized like a big Tahitian filter or two) outside the existing... BUT if you're going to take the invert. system apart... the addition/replacement of the plastic media for the LR in part or en toto will likely be a good route to go... and last for quite a few years...> Anyway, I have some pretty unhappy coral (but some very happy clams!). Help? Thanks...you're awesome and way cooler then a bristle worm - Niki <Don't know... have seen some very gorgeous errantiate polychaetes in my time... Cheers, Bob Fenner> to Bob Hi Bob, Thank you for your reply, and yes I spoke with Chris yesterday and he explained to me the need for bio-balls in a wholesale setting. Thanks again for your input. Niki Englerth :) <Ah, good. BobF>

High Nitrates with a New Sump/Refugium 10/17/07 Folks: <Hello Tim> I hope that this is a new question - I tried to search your good Q&A before submitting a new question. I have had a 75 gallon FOWLR marine aquarium for about 18 months now. I have been foolishly maintaining this tank with only mechanical filtration and a small HOT refugium with a DSB and macroalgae. As you could expect, nitrates have been a consistent problem. Two weeks ago, I finally installed a large sump and refugium under my tank. I filled the bottom of the sump with mineral mud and have a large, football sized mass of Chaetomorpha and red Gracilaria macroalgae. The sump is well lit with a clip-on "plant light" on a flexible neck that I can point right at the macroalgae. On the side of the sump with my powerhead and protein skimmer, I have ten black mangroves at various stages of maturity. I have not done any water changes since kicking off the new sump because I wanted to be able to tell if the sump was lowering nitrates. After two weeks, I am seeing no improvement! My nitrates are still ridiculously high - at least 100 ppm. Is it time to search for problems? How long will it take for this sump to begin to reduce nitrates? Thanks, Tim <My first recommendation is to continue with water changes and stay on a maintenance schedule. The sand bed should be about 4" deep or greater. The flow should be less that 2000gph and closer to 1500gph. Too swift of a flow impedes the reduction of nitrate. As far as the time frame...I would judge progress after 60 days. The nitrates are removed by obligatory heterotrophic bacteria and their colonies take time to be established. Other chemical processes also take place and those functions also take some time to reach equilibrium. I would also strongly recommend the use of Activated Carbon and an Iron Based Phosphate Resin like Warner Marine's phoSar. This will help maintain water quality by removing additional dissolved organics (DOC's). If you are not using a protein skimmer, I would suggest the use of one rated for a 200g system. A protein skimmer will also remove additional DOC's. Hope this helps-Rich aka Mr. Firemouth>

Nitrate and Canister filters, Nitrate Sources 10/2/07 Hi, <Hello> So I've recently decided to add some corals to my 3 month old 65 gal with a 6" DSB, (green star polyp, a brown mushroom and a waving hand). My set up is a marineland C-360 canister filter filled with carbon, phos-guard, Purigen and filter sponge, I took the bio-balls out because they were adding to nitrates. <The nitrates are still being created in the same amount, now just hopefully in an area more conducive to nitrate reduction such as LR or your DSB.> I also have a 15 gal refugium with Caulerpa lit 24/7, which is growing nicely, an Aqua C Remora, a mat of Chaeto growing the main tank to supply food for a Mandarin, <You are aware that Mandarins do not eat algae?> and a submersible UV sterilizer. My nitrates have been constantly at around 10-15ppm for a few weeks now, after dropping initially following the introduction of the refugium. Everything is fine otherwise, my ammonia, phosphate, nitrite are 0, pH-8.2, calcium 380-400, alkalinity 10dKH, and my corals seem to be doing great, all opening and waving nicely in the water. So my question is this: I was considering getting rid of the canister filter, because I read that they can become nitrate factories, and figuring that this may be where the nitrates are coming from, was wondering if my tank would benefit from switching the canister with a Tidepool II from Marineland. <Will be in the same boat, both just trap detritus instead of removing it from the system like skimmers and water changes do.> I do regular feeding of three flakes of ocean nutrition (about 2" in diameter), and every other day replacing this with some frozen foods soaked in garlic. <I would switch to pellets from flakes, they hold their nutrients better, especially water soluble vitamins.> My tanks inhabitants consist of 4 perculas, 1 coral beauty, 2 Chromis, 1 blue tang and the mandarin goby. <Think you are going to have trouble with this mix.> I do not think I am overfeeding them, because they are constantly hungry, and seem to be pretty healthy with this feeding schedule. I do a 10gal water change bi-weekly. I was also wondering about De-Nitrate from SeaChem, which I am currently using in my refugium. Does it really do as it says, because it looks just like small porous rocks, which would most likely house aerobic bacteria along with the anaerobic, and create nitrates as well as remove them. So I guess the point of this rambling question is should I remove the canister and De-Nitrate? Or do you think something else may be contributing to my nitrate levels? Thanks, Dan <I would not use the De-Nitrate, only a bandage over the problem, not the cause. At your current nitrate levels I think if you do weekly water changes that would be enough. On a side note please take a second look at your stocking, I think you are headed for trouble here.> <Chris>

Cyano + Nitrates = I am freaking out! 10/2/07 Hello all, let me first start by saying I respect and value your opinions and have gathered a large amount of knowledge from your site, and I truly appreciate the resource. I have two issues to discuss. <Lets discuss then.> #1 I have read everything I could find about Cyano bacteria and Nitrates, have done water changes, tried treatment ( never again ), more water changes, etc and am still having problems. Let me give you some background before I get to my issue. 125g tank 4 power heads ( 2 802s? a MaxiJet 900 and a Koralia #2 ) 1 Fluval 304 and 1 Fluval 303 canister filters <Need to be cleaned very often, weekly at a minimum, which is one reason why mechanical filters like canisters are not terrible popular in the sw side of the hobby.> undergravel filter witch was disconnected form the uplift tubes about a month ago as per what I have read for UGF producing ridiculous amounts of nitrates. <I would get it out of the tank, the amount of detritus trapped under it makes it almost impossible to lower the nitrates. It will require a lot of work but pay off in the long run.> crushed coral substrate <I would replace this if/when you remove the UG filter, use a aragonite sand as a replacement, it traps less biological waste and will offer some nitrate reduction.> approx. 70 lbs of live rock 72" 4x96w power compact fixture with half actinics and half daylight ( cycles through dawn dusk night with moon glow LEDs and is on for 9 hours a day total ) Livestock: stars and stripes puffer 5" <Messy, definitely not helping the problem.> Blue face angel 5" 4 damsels yellow tang 4-5" flame angel 3" Recently lost my zebra moray ( tail was bitten off and head stuck into the CC, I think the Puffer may be the culprit, and a damsel that got stuck in the intake of one of my powerheads. <Both probably victims of the water quality, which gave the puffer and ph a chance to finish them off.> Neither fish was in the aquarium for more than overnight before being removed immediately upon discovery. ) Water parameters Nitrites: 0 Ammonia: 0 Nitrates : 180 ppm + ( very dark red test tube ) <Dangerously high as you know.> I tested the salinity and ph, do not remember the readings, but there was nothing abnormal there. I have read everything I could about the Cyano bacteria, initially I treated it with red slime removal powder ( never again will I do this ), <A double hit, doesn't really help get rid of the problem and attacks the biofilter.> and it went away but came right back. I then disconnected the up tubes for my undergravel filter, then I removed the top 1" of the crushed coral as I was told it was slightly too deep ( over 3" ). After this I decided that since the canister filters were most likely causing the nitrate problem I would modify there function. <The UG filter and trapped detritus is what I would consider the most likely cause.> I decided along with the consensus of my LFS that I would remove all the media and replace it with live rock. My thinking was that a sump is basically a container of water that has live rock and whatever else in it that the water flows in and out of, so in a sense I turned my canisters into mini sumps. ( please correct me if I am way off base on this ) I would think that the biological filtration of the live rock would be better than the detritus build up in the sponges and ceramics that were there before. <Yes, at least to some degree.> Over the course of the last month while I have been doing all these things I have done 3 25% water changes, and every time I vacuum almost all of the cyano out, but it always comes back sometimes within a week. There is no dead fish, and I can't figure out where to go next. I am intending to do a hang on overflow with a sump in the future, but I would really like to get everything balanced before I make any drastic changes. ( money and sanity have a lot to do with it as well ) What would you recommend? I am starting to think a more significant water change may be in order or something else that I cannot think of or have yet to read about. <A bit drastic and definitely some work, but I would get that UG filter and cc out.> #2 I recently purchased a CoraLife digital power center to run my power compact on a smaller tank I have just set up, and for some reason I cannot get the timer function to work properly. Do you have any experience with this product? <Only with the single timer model, I gave up and bought a normal digital timer, and just use it as a powerstrip.> Any tips you can give me? I tried to program it, but after numerous attempts, and even setting every program to the same setting ( 12pm to 9pm ), I turn it to auto and at 11 am the light is on when it shouldn't be. I don't get it. I am not sure why there are 7 programs, but only 4 programmable outlets, it doesn't logically make sense, but I am probably missing something crucial. The instructions are no help as they just tell you how to set each program, and I have looked online and found nothing. I tried to go to the CoraLife website, and it just has their logo and no menus or anything. What can you suggest for this? <I would try e-mailing them, maybe get someone of the phone, I have not had much luck with this and found it easier to just go out and buy a timer.> Obviously the Cyano/Nitrates problem takes precedence over my timer issues, but I would appreciate some insight into both if you can help. Again I truly value your opinion and appreciate you taking the time to read and respond to my letter. Thanks again, <Welcome> Your red cyano covered crushed coral guy in distress Douglas M. Payne Jr. (DJ) <Test of phosphates as well, may also be fueling the cyano. Unfortunately I think you are in for a bit of work here.> <Chris>

Re: Cyano + Nitrates = I am freaking out! 10/2/07 Thanks for your timely response, I appreciate the advice. I was wondering, is there anything I have to worry about when I remove the crushed coral and UG filter plate?? I would really like to avoid losing any more livestock if possible, and love the way sand looks anyways. <Oh yes unfortunately, you will need to take everything out of the tank to do this, the amount of nasty stuff I suspect is trapped in there would likely cause harm to anything living.> I know the puffer is getting messy and quite large, I fully expect to have to trade him out at some point. I checked my other levels like PH and Alk last night, and again without having the results in front of me all I can say is that they read normal according to the card, although the PH was a little under the optimum of 8.2 I think about 7.8 or so ( is this correct? ) <Could be and something you will want to address, it is quite a large change.> On a side note, I turned all of the timer programs on the digital power center to the same program, and it seems to be working right as of yesterday, apparently the timer is not as cool as I though it was because you would think that you could program each outlet separately, but apparently you cannot. <I find I am often disappointed like this, I think the products are grander than they turn out to be.> Thanks again for your help, and as long as there is nothing too difficult that I have to watch out for when pulling the UG filter and CC and replacing it with sand ( how much would you recommend? ), <Less than 1 inch or more that 3, depending on if you want a DSB or not.> I am going to get to it this weekend and then do another water change. Does the sand have to cycle at all, or can I just put it in in the bag and dump it out slowly on the bottom? <You will be removing much of your biofilter in this process, so expect to see an ammonia/nitrite spike, and be ready for water changes. Also, I do not see you mention a skimmer, this would benefit you greatly I think.> You guys are extremely knowledgeable and helpful, I was almost ready to be completely disappointed because of the ugly cyano, but I think with a little elbow grease, and the right advice I can get back on track to a healthier aquarium. If anything ridiculously bad happens, I will be asking for more advice, but keep you fingers crossed for me that this works :-) <I wish you luck, I think it is going to be quite a bit of work, but will pay off in the long run.> <Chris>

Nitrate Problem -- 10/1/07 <Hello, Brenda here> I did a 6 gal water change in my 75 gal reef tank. It is still close to 40 nitrates. I can't find a dead fish in there. I also did a 10 gal 2 weeks ago. That's my somewhat steady routine. The only one not accounted for is a 3 inch diameter starfish. He's hard to find. What should I do to get the levels down? <I need some more information on your equipment and livestock list, including clean up crew. Also, how old is your system? Do you have a refugium? I do recommend a 10% water change weekly and reduce feedings. More information found here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm > Thank you! Kristie <You're Welcome! Brenda>

Nitrate/ hair algae  9/27/07 Hey Crew, <Hey!> Long time reader first time writer. my tank is 75 drilled, 30 gallon sump, 125 lbs live rock, 3" sand bed, CoraLife 125 super skimmer,2x 150 watt 10k MH + 2x 54 watt 20k blue actinic t5 + 2x 54 watt 14k daylight, cascade 1500 canister filter filled with poly fill only. for motion extra motion in tank I have a Hagen pro 420 power head 360gph the main return pump is Rio 17hf, I have approximately 35 lbs of live rock in sump, along with 1" refugium mud and 1/2 lb various Caulerpas growing; lots of amphipods and copepods, calcareous sponges all your typical fuge creatures. for live stock I have 1 lawnmower blenny, 1 fuzzy dwarf lion , 1 Fiji blue devil damsel, 1 yellow Chromis, 1 bullet goby, 1 sixline wrasse, 1 nine inch leather toadstool coral, 1 aprox 8 inches across frogspawn coral, one 6 inch Tridacna crocea, 4 sand sifting stars, 1 pair of breeding coral banded shrimp, 2 black brittle stars, nerite, Nassarius, Trochus, astrea snails between 1- 20 of each plus whatever is breeding i have baby snails from time to time. i think that covers it. I have been doing 5 gallon water changes on Tuesdays and Thursdays I use only distilled water that i treat with ph 8.2 and once a week purple up. <5g water changes twice a week on a system as big as say, 90g total water volumes is not enough. Work for water changes in the range of 25% to increase nutrient export and to replace trace elements, and stability.> salinity i keep @ 1.023.<1.025 is better for micro faunas and is more like Natural Seawater Levels.> water tests consistently show as follows calcium 450ppm, ammonia 0-.01,nitrite 0-.05, phosphate typically between 0,0.25- and .05ppm, most of these are moderately acceptable no? <NO. Phosphate levels should be maintained below .02ppm and better if they are not detectable on a hobby test kit. The use of a phosphate resin is advised. Remember to change the resin every 30 days if iron based.> but my dark nemesis is nitrate It has gone from 2.0 to 50+ ppm I have my lights on timers. the fuge I was keeping on when the main tank was dark now after tip from a reef guru I will try keeping fuge lights on 24/7to keep the plants going nonstop. the problem with this tank and my nano (same test results same problems) is the hair algae and nitrates I feed once a week to ten days PhytoPlex, frozen red Cyclop-eeze TM, and for fish and inverts frozen Mysis the occasional fresh clam or raw shrimp . the nitrates and the hair algae. what am I doing wrong please help. I know your the crew to go to. thank you for all you guys do. respectfully, Dan <Dan, the feeding is not the problem, per se. The real problem is the source water may contain nutrients that you are continually adding to the system. You also didn't mention if a strong protein skimmer is being used. For now, increase water changes and add Kalkwasser to your Evap replacement water. This will help to precipitate phosphates. I personally use a quality Activated Carbon and a phosphate resin on all my SW systems. Try to find RO/DI water or possibly purchase a unit. This will also help. Finally, the nitrates are a little high at 50ppm but that is not really bad. Maintaining this level at zero would be yet another benefit to strive for. I would think thru larger water changes with quality source water(0 TDS) and some resins the tank will really come around.-Rich aka Mr. Firemouth>

Thanks... Letter of Gratitude   9/25/07 Hello all! <Hi Ryan, Mich here.> Hope your doing well. <I am indeed.> No question, just wanted to write in and say thanks for all the help you guys/gals have given me. <Nice to hear! We thank you for these kind words.> My tank has been set up for about a year now and I have struggled to keep my nitrates down. I did manage to keep them under 10 ppm by doing 20-25% water changes weekly. Through researching your site and writing in to ask a question here and there, I knew that I needed to add a sump/refugium and finally managed to get one set up about a month ago. Well, I checked my nitrates tonight and for the first time ever I got a reading of 0 ppm. <Yay! Is a good feeling isn't it?> Anyway, most of my knowledge has come from you guys/gals, so being a little excited this evening, I just really wanted to say a big THANKS! for all that you all do. <You are most welcome! I am very glad you have the help you were seeking! Mich> Ryan

Nitrates and a cold water tank -- 09/21/07 Hi, <Hello Ross.> A year and half ago, two students set up a 100 gallon, cold, <approx. temperature?> saltwater tank for my classroom as a project. Since those students have now graduated, I have inherited the tank. <Nice. I will set up a similar tank in the future, too, in order to keep some species I see regularly in large subtropical-temperate systems.> As a result, I'm not quite up to speed about all there is to do to maintain the tank. Currently, there is a Magnum 350 canister with Biomax, a protein skimmer, and, I believe they are called, bioballs (round, blue, spiky plastic balls). The tank had two scup and hake (along with a few crabs) for a year. The nitrites and ammonia have been zero since the original cycling. Toward the end of the last school year, the nitrates started creeping up. I removed all the fish over the summer (just leaving two crabs) thinking that the bacteria would have a chance to take back control of the nitrate problem. Unfortunately, that didn't really happen. I've now added a number of invertebrates to the tank because I want to use them in the classroom. The nitrates are really off the charts now. <A number would be good'¦> (nitrites and ammonia still 0 ppm). So I have a couple of questions: 1. If the ammonia breaks down to nitrite and nitrite breaks down to nitrate, what removes the nitrate? <Anaerobic bacteria, but those primarily live in deeper sediments as well as inside of porous rock material. Anaerobic bacteria turn nitrates into gaseous nitrogen that leaves the system.> 2. What do you think created this problem? < Nitrates are what accumulates when feeding the fish. Most proteins in the fish food are ultimately turned into nitrates. That's no problem, can be handled.> I can do a partial water change (which I have done) but it doesn't seem to get to the root of the problem. <Of course regular partial water changes should be done in any tank (at least 5% per week), but a water change of 30% can only decrease your nitrates by 30%. As a consequence large water changes are expensive for marine tanks due to the costs of the needed salt. What you probably want is natural nitrate reduction (also known as de-nitrification). Possible options for you are (order of my preference in this case): DSB (deep sand bed), live rock (see below for more detail), a refugium with cold water algae, a small sulphur filter. Those can be combined. You also should optimise the output of your skimmer and clean it regularly. Some recommended reading: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm.> 3. Finally, one of the posts I read on your site said to use more live rock etc. But live rock etc. seems to be associated with warm water tanks, how do I go about getting it for my cold water tank? <It's not only bacteria that make the rock live. More recent studies come to the conclusion you also need all the other filtering organisms, critters like feather dusters and such to transport water inside the rock. Current and diffusion alone are not sufficient. Therefore, you'd need rocks from approximately the same temperature as your tank to have critters that can survive in the tank. I think most tropic critters would not survive, but that depends on the actual temperature.> Do I need to add new Biomax? <Am not a fan of such nitrate removers except for emergencies maybe. Of course new Biomax would remove nitrogenous compounds like nitrates, but it has limited capacity and if your nitrates are through the roof it will likely only help a short time until you need to get a new one.> Can you simply buy the bacteria you need? <Anaerobic bacteria will develop 'by themselves' in an anaerobic environment. In contrast to nitrifying bacteria I think they are not sold in bottles.> What can I do to reduce the nitrate levels? <Hope the suggestion above help. I'd start with a deep sand bed (can be seeded with sand from the unpolluted sea) and some porous rocks (read about curing live rock) in addition to regular water changes.> Any help would be appreciated. Thanks. <Cheers, Marco.> Ross.

Re: Nitrates and a cold water tank. Nitrates and a cold water tank, follow up -- 09/21/07 Thanks so much for your quick reply. <You are most welcome.> Of course, after I sent the email I realized I should have told you the temperature of the tank and the number and amount of invertebrates. The tank does have a chiller. The temperature is around 66-68° F. <Okay, thank you for the information. Tropical live rock creatures would probably not like these temperatures, it would be best to get sand and rocks at the coast.> There are about 4 small sea stars, 5 brittle stars, eight hermit crabs, 3-4 sea urchins, one Asian shore crab, couple of snails. (there were some small sea cucumbers but I think they were eaten by the sea stars). By the way, I live in the Boston area. I wanted the tank to be a close approximation of our coast so I could easily gather inverts and keep them for classroom use. For DSB (deep sand bed), should I just collect some sand from a local beach? <Sand from an unpolluted beach is fine. While sand grains, which are coated with beneficial bacteria, and all sorts of tiny inverts are desirable, detritus is not. I would put a few pounds of sand in a bucket, fill the bucket with water, stir the sand, remove the dirty water and repeat until the water stays somewhat clear while stirring. In addition I would not add all the sand to your system at once, but prefer adding a few buckets at a time. Finally it would be good to aim for at least 4'/10 cm of substrate. See http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm and the linked FAQs. Typically it will take some weeks until stable bacteria populations, that remove nitrate, have established in the anaerobic zones, but once the deep sand bed is active it can be very effective.> When doing a water change, I guess I shouldn't vacuum deep into the sand bed as that might expose what anaerobic bacteria I do have to oxygen. Or am I misinterpreting that? <You are absolutely right. Just vacuum detritus at the surface if necessary.> I do have a little bit of macro algae (Chondrus crispus). I've only been leaving the tank light on for about 2 hours a day though. A year ago, when the light was on longer, we had a problem with undesirable algae growing. Remove the light, and the problem went away. Will more light help my nitrate situation? <It could, if the Chondrus crispus is growing fast enough to compete with the nuisance algae for nutrition. I'm sure the invertebrates would enjoy more illumination, too. As soon as the nitrates are low again, chances are not too bad that nuisance algae grow is limited and a somewhat more natural lighting can be introduced.> Thanks so much for the recommended reading. They were very helpful. <Thank you for sharing your most interesting project. Marco.> -Ross Nitrates in new tank, reading    8/15/07 Hi All, I just set up a 65g saltwater tank, 65lbs live rock, 3" aragonite bed, <Mmm, I'd make deeper or shallower... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm and the linked files above> one 850gph powerhead, positioned at back right of tank and facing towards front left, a Marineland C-360 canister filter in the back left, its water flow directed towards the front right. I also have a Aqua C Remora in the back middle of the tank, with its water flow directed at the area where the two others converge. Is this water flow setup adequate? <For? Likely so...> Or is the powerhead too much for this tank. <Not likely... but do take care re the intakes... depending on what livestock...> I have also been having some nitrate problems, due to the tap water quality I started with, which is around 20ppm, <Yikes... I would NOT drink or cook with this... Please see WWM re RO...> but have switched to distilled water for water changes now. <Too much money, unnecessary...> I cannot seem to get the nitrate count below the said 20ppm. <Is not the source water... see WWM...> The nitrites are at 0 and ammonia almost at 0 also. Any suggestions? <... read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/maintenance/index.htm scroll down to the Yellow tray> I switched out some of the media in the canister, <Part of the answer here...> adding a 200ml of Purigen, I took out the bioballs and put 1L of SeaChem Matrix in instead, and 250ml of SeaGel. Maybe I just haven't waited long enough for the biological part of the filter to cycle, could that be the reason the nitrates haven't gone down yet? <Possibly... though the vast majority of this/these process/es are anaerobic to hypoxic...> I was also thinking of getting a hang-on refugium to house mangrove plants, would this help? <The former yes... but no Mangroves in such... no> The only fish I currently have in this tank are 4 percula clownfish (all small) and a small green spotted pufferfish (2" or so). I am new to this, and could use all the advice I can get. Thank you so much for your time, Dan <Keep reading Dan. You'll do fine. Bob Fenner>

Re: Nitrates in new tank  8/16/07 Thanks for the reply! I will take you advice and add some more aragonite to make a 4" bed or so. Is the aragonite substrate too coarse for anaerobic bacteria or would 4" of it promote nitrate consumption? <Depends on "angularity" and grade... smaller, rounder would be better...> Sorry about not clarifying about the water flow, I was hoping to add some soft corals at some point, and read that laminar flows tend to hurt more than help on such species, so i thought that facing the flows from my canister, powerhead and skimmer towards each other, so that they hit and hopefully create random dispersion instead of 3 separate laminar flows. <A good thought> The nitrates in the water are pretty horrible around here, my biggest mistake when setting this tank up was thinking that it was safe enough (I recently moved, my hold house had great water quality). <Look to reverse osmosis for your aquarium and potable uses> This tank has only been set up for about 2 1/2 weeks, and the skimmer is just recently hooked up. Because of the lack of nitrites and ammonia, I don't know where all this nitrate is coming from, <Is cycled already> and I can only assume that it is the water supply I started with. <Doubtful... the EPA et al. don't allow this concentration in potable supplies> Will the skimmer reduce the nitrate levels? <Possibly some> Is it possible that the canister filter has not set up biologically yet and therefore hasn't removed the nitrates? <...? Won't do this... almost certainly a source... net producer of such> On another note, after reading through WWM, I've come across alot <No such word> of anti-canister feelings, and am worried that the canister might hurt this nitrate problem more than help it. <You are correct here> Should i remove the ceramic rings and Matrix pieces from it so that it only contains the mechanical and chemical parts? <Try it and see> Would the 65lbs of live rock be enough biological filtration to keep water quality in this tank? Thank you so much for your time, and your site has taught me immeasurably on the fine art of aquarium keeping, I can only hope I'll get a little better at this, Thanks, Dan <Better all the time Dan. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Re: Nitrates in new tank -- 08/17/07 Thanks for the response, Maybe I should get a new nitrate tester, because the test kit shows the levels of my tap water to be at 20ppm. <I would have this tested...> I am inclined to think this is probably correct because the water source is the third most polluted river in the US, the Iowa River, and after the rainy season we had, untold amounts of nitrate probably entered from the fields. My sand bed is now 4" of aragonite, with some live aragonite sand to seed the rest of it, and all the fish seem happy and are eating well, I think the best course of action is probably just to let things go for a bit and see what happens. Thanks for all the advice, Dan <I do agree with your point of view... Best to trust your observations, judgment, livestock behavior over all "testing", other opinions. Bob Fenner>

Question about Nitrate problem, SW   8/22/07 Okay the new tank has not been set up long so I might just be overreacting. But I thought going to this set up I was going to reduce my nitrate issue alot <... no such word> more than I have. I wonder if these could be my issue still [url]http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/detailed_image.cfm?pCatId=15433&large=/images/Categoryimages/larger/lg_27246_36844D_fish.jpg[/url] <Mmm, Fluval's BioMax media? Nope> I had a lot of this type of media in my old filter, and to help seed the new tank I put a bunch of this old media in the first spot in my sump where the water comes in, thinking it would be beneficial. Is it supplying the nitrate problem? Are they just nitrate factories on each one? <Quite the opposite... the very fine, deeper spaces in this media sponsor denitrification...> I only have a handful of Chaeto in the sump. There is plenty of room for more, do I need more? <Maybe...> If my lighting is on the lower side in my sump will that cause part of the problem. <Ditto> I have a 72g BF with a 30g sump, about ten pounds of live rock rubble in the sump along with about 5 and a half inches of live sand and the Chaeto. In the main tank is about 80 to a 100 pounds of live rock, and a three inch live sand bed. I get a pretty decent skim on my skimmer. But I am still at about 20 PPM on nitrates!!! <Time, patience my friend...> I keep alot of LPS (Frogspawn, Hammer, Galaxea, Pearl Bubble, Candy Cane, Blasto) Softies (Leathers, Kenya tree, GSP,) Zoos and Paly's (various) RBTA, GBTA <A real garden mix here> Livestock consist of Two mated Clowns, Three blue/green Reef Chromis, Yellow Tang, Yellow tailed Blue Tang, and a Skunk Cleaner Shrimp along with various snails. Sorry for the long message but I was sure somebody here would be able to give me some advice! <Give this area a (re) read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/no3sources.htm and the linked files above... Bob Fenner>

Nitrates, canister, BioWheel -- 07/26/07 Hello, <Hi.> I'm writing to you today, because I have a problem with nitrates in my tank. I have a 46g Bowfront that is currently a FOWLR setup. For filtration I use a Coralife 125 SuperSkimmer, 15w Gamma Ray UV Sterilizer and a Magnum Canister filter. I know high nitrates are stressful for fish and I'm also in the process of converting my tank to a reef, so lowering nitrates is a priority. Ammonia and nitrites are 0, but nitrates are 50ppm. The only fish in the tank are a harlequin tusk and 3 damsels. I believe the canister filter is the cause of the nitrates and I want to know if it is possible to run my setup without it. <Yes, if your skimmer is working properly and you have about 45 pounds of live rock and enough current. I'd use the canister only for additional flow and mechanical filtration with easy to clean foam (needs to be cleaned often, at least weekly) and for carbon if needed. Carbon can be quite beneficial in a future reef setup.> It keeps the water clear, but the constant maintenance of replacing the carbon is a real hassle. I was considering adding a double BioWheel hang on filter in place of the canister. <Is possible. I'd prefer live rock, DSB, a small mechanical filter (if you really want to replace the canister) and, if possible, a sump or refugium, but it's your choice. See http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm and http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/biological/biofiltr.htm for further opinions. And don't forget partial water changes to decrease the nitrates.> My concern is that this will cause a mini cycle while the bacteria establishes itself on the BioWheel. What is your take on this? <Can happen. Therefore, I'd add the BioWheel hang on (if you decide to use it) while the canister still is connected and can deal with unwanted nitrogen compounds from the BioWheel. Dirt from the canister can be used to seed the BioWheel.> Thanks for reading, I'm looking forward to some great advice. <Hope you like it. Cheers, Marco.>

High nitrates -- 07/25/07 Good Afternoon, <Good evening.> I have a 210 gallon tank that has been established for a bit over 4 years. It has about a 3 inch sand bed with approximately 200 lbs of live rock, the sump is about 30 gallons. I am running a fluidized bed along with an 18 watt UV sterilizer. 20% water changes are done just about every 3 weeks, and I can't seem to reduce my nitrate. It always seems to be about 120. <Way too high.> The tank has about 20 fish, about ½ of them are small (6 chromis, 1 Pseudochromis, 2 clown fish). 3 of them are large (annularis angel about 8", French angel about 6" and a zebra eel about 3 feet long), the rest are medium sized fish between 3 and 5 inches. I use a poly filter on top of the sump, is there any thing I can do to reduce my Nitrate, or does it even matter that my Nitrates are high <does matter, especially for the angels and the moray and will affect their health and life expectancy.>, as I have not had many casualties in the tank? Paul <#1 You do not mention a skimmer. If you do not have one, an appropriate skimmer would tremendously improve water quality and could solve your problem alone. If you have a sufficient skimmer, is it calibrated perfectly and produces a reasonable amount of dirt? #2 Clean your mechanical filter frequently, at least once a week, preferably more often. The live rock should do most of the nitrogen cycle (ammonia->nitrite->nitrate) and the mechanical filter should only be good to remove organic material before it is decomposed by the bacteria. #3 Thaw any frozen foods before using them and don't let the thawing water get into your tank. Do never overfeed. #4 You may want to grow some macro algae (e.g. Chaetomorpha) in your sump and/or tank. By harvesting some every 4 weeks a significant amount of bound nitrogen in the algae will leave the tank. #5 A deeper sand bed (5 inch) might increase the natural denitrification capability of your system. A larger or additional sump with a DSB would help, too. I hope that helps. Marco.>

Most Common Nitrate Export Method at LFS   7/2/07 Dear Crew, <Pablo> At local fish stores (LFS), I notice that very few tanks seriously employ refugiums, DSBs or live rock. Sand and rocks appear to be ornamental in most tanks. They seem to use a variant of the "bare bottom" method. What is the primarily means of nitrate export at an LFS? <Mmm, likely water changes... replacement of such with bagging, selling the livestock... Some shops do incorporate various means of filtration that incorporate nitrate reduction/export... LR, DSB's, lighted algal et al. refugiums, chemical filtrants... physical devices like UV, ozone that affect such nitrogenous accumulation... What would you do? Bob Fenner> Thanks, Paul. High Nitrates of over 20ppm consistently - 6/25/07 Hello WWM Crew, <Hello Jessica> I hope your month has been better than mine. I have a 24 gallon AquaPod that consistently tests with Nitrates of 20ppm and I am at my wits end. <First off, 20ppm nitrate isn't recommended but it isn't the end of the world either> I¹ve had it for about 3 months now. Here are the ³stats² Ph= 8.0-8.1 Ammonia =0 Nitrites = 0 Alk- 13.8dKH / 4.91 meq/L- Although I have reason to believe my Salifert test kit is reading high....my friend tested with his kit and it was only 4 meq/L <I would suspect the kit also if calcium is 400ppm and pH is 8.0 or higher than alk should be below 4.0meq/l> Calcium ­ 400ppm I mix my own water with Instant Ocean salt and RO/DI water. <First thing I would check is RO/DI output post DI with a TDS meter. The reading should be zero. TDS meters are sold by all the RO manufacturers for less than $20USD> I¹ve been doing frequent water changes (2 x 5 gal weekly on average, sometimes more) and only feed what I consider small amounts. -1/2 cube of brine shrimp or a pinch of flake food once a day -A tiny pinch of zooplankton or 1/4 squirt of BioPlankton 2 times a week. Filter: 30+ lbs live rock 1.5² sand bed Purigen 1 bag Chemi-pure for 10 days now. <I would remove the Purigen product and replace it with 150g pouch of iron oxide phosphate remover like "phos Ar" or similar product. Iron oxide coupled with Chemi-Pure will remove many DOC's> Livestock: 2 Osc Clowns 1 sixline wrasse 2 Emerald Crabs (added last week for red hair algae growth) 1 Peppermint Shrimp 2 Turbo snails (added last week for red hair algae growth) 15 Tiny (.25²-.5²) Nassarius Snails 8-10 Margarita snails <Seems OK> Corals: Frogspawn Trumpet Coral Sun Polyp Various Zoas Various Mushrooms GSP Baby Fungia Toadstool Red Cap Kenya Trees Xenia Montipora Digitata frag Unidentified purple Gorgonia Frag (Menella maybe) 3 Orange Ricordea and 1 Green Ricordea Bubble Coral that isn¹t doing so hot. Only 3 bubbles plump up. But I got this already in bad condition and Nitrates were already 20ppm for weeks before. <I am suspecting high phosphates and contaminated source water causing your problems. Please check the RO/DI unit and replace all cartridges necessary> 2 weeks ago added some red branching macro algae and Chaeto to my main display in a makeshift refugium to counteract the nitrates to no avail. I have B-Ionic but haven¹t dosed it because my Alk and Calcium have been so high. <Great!!! Never dose anything without testing whether or not it is needed!!!> Put a few drips of Iodide concentrate in once a week. About 6 weeks ago I had a large (8 inches long) feather duster de-tube and I tore my whole tank apart to find it. It disintegrated because I looked in every rock and sifted all the sand and no worm. I¹ve done at LEAST a 100% water change since then, but my nitrates will not go down. I did a 50% water change last week, it dropped to 10ppm and the next day back up to 20ppm. Water changes seem to do nothing. Please let me know how to fix this problem. AquaPod don¹t come with skimmers, and I have considered shelling out the $100+ for a Sapphire Skimmer that will fit in the back compartment and still let the hood close, but I wanted to save that as a last resort. Please help me. My tank isn¹t suffering too bad other than diatoms on the sand, close to 0 coralline growth, and algae growth on rocks. But I know my corals and other tank inhabitants would be so much happier with 0 nitrates. <Once again, Diatoms are feeding off of something in your make up (evap) water and from your water changes. If you change at least 10g a week there is no need for a skimmer on the tank and if your RO/DI filter is working properly then you should not be experiencing these problems. Flake foods ad to phosphates, but resins can counter. Also please change your resins (Chemi-pure) every 30 days! They will exhaust or at best be less efficient, so change them once a month! Even if your RO unit is new it can produce water with higher than expected nutrient levels. A faulty o-ring or exhausted DI cartridge can cause these problems too.> Sincerely hoping for guidance, Jessica <Hope this helps, Rich aka Mr. Firemouth>

Water parameters help! -- 6/12/07 Hey all, I am currently battling the Nitrate level in my tank. My parameters for the past 3 weeks have been as follows pretty much without fluctuation: Nitrates: 40ppm Nitrites: 0ppm Alkalinity: 240 to 300ppm pH: 7.8 to 8.2 depending on when I test The tank has been up and running now for about 3 months. I have a 14g BioCube and I took out the sponge in the sump about 3 days ago and I haven't noticed any changes in my nitrate level... I was told that if I were to take the sponge out it should lower my Nitrate levels. <Um'¦ No.> I dose once a day with a 2 part system as recommended on the bottles. 1 part calcium, the other part for the alkalinity and pH. <You didn't give the results of your Ca test.> I feed a mixed diet of flake, Brine shrimp, and mixed frozen foods once a day but never more than the fish can eat in a couple of minutes. <Good. It is essential in a tank this small to not overfeed.> I have a small true perc and a small purple orchid Dottyback and a green emerald crab and a blood shrimp. <14G is not enough for all this. Hence the high nitrates and future worse problems. Please read on stocking levels of nano reefs on WWM> Corals: various zoo's, xenia, maze brain, open brain, toadstool leather, hammer coral, various Ricordeas, small branching coral (unidentified). All of the corals are a manageable size now and as they grow I have a 60g reef tank to put them in. Any help you guys can offer me would be greatly appreciated as I am beginning to get frustrated with my Nitrates. Thanks so much in advance. <Ok. You didn't say anything about changing water. This is the number one easiest way to lower nitrates. It sounds like you need to read up on the nitrogen cycle. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/biological/biofiltr.htm Nitrates are the end result of nitrification (conversion of ammonia and nitrates). The aerobic bacteria in the tank convert the toxic nitrogenous compounds to the less toxic nitrate. Nitrate levels will not go down unless they are removed by water changes OR they are chemically converted again into free nitrogen by anaerobic bacteria. It is difficult to accomplish this in a tiny tank, because a deep sand bed is not practical, and there is not much room for significant live rock. The bacteria that would remove the nitrates would live deep in the sand or rock. If you can not accomplish this natural reduction, then water changes are your only solution.> Chris <Alex>

Nitrates and Unhappy Inhabitants -- 6/11/07 Hi Alex, Josh here again. <Hey, Josh.> Thank you for all your help in the last reply. Since then, the starfish died (that was ugly) <I bet. Yuck.>, the diamond goby in the quarantine tank died, <Aww'¦> (it looked like the infection spread into his gill since it was closed to begin with), my 2 turbo snails died, and all seven small snails. <gosh!> Not a good weekend... The four remaining fish in the tank and the tang in the quarantine tank are still OK. The Ich treatment says it gets rid of it in 2 days. It has been about 4 or 5 and it still has one of the spots on the top edge of his fin. Should I keep him there for several days after it is not visible at all? <Yes. There needs to be a few weeks of symptom free before believing it is truly gone. Plus, it is in your tank also, so it does need to be fish free for a few weeks also, and all the fish need to be treated elsewhere. Read here'¦ http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ichartmar.htm > Is there anything significant with all my snails literally dying at the same time? <Yes, as you are aware, something is amiss in the water chemistry that is affecting all the inhabitants. It could be simply the high nitrates caused this cascade reaction. The possible disintegrating sponge could be a factor, as well as allelopathy between the corals (search WWM on this topic). Introducing the polyps and mushrooms which may have been irritated by the nitrates and then been extra noxious also probably contributed.> All hermit crabs are fine too. <Well one piece of good news! They are tough buggers.> By the way, I did mean 1.021 for the specific gravity in the last email (not sure where I really came up with that). <Ah. Do strive to move this toward 1.025 over time. Stop topping off with fresh water for several days. When you change water, match whatever the current SG is in the tank to avoid shocking any inverts.> Also, I could put the two damsels in with the two small clowns in my wife's 12G tank but my two big cinnamons would tear the small clowns up. <Yep! And you don't want to infest your 12 gal with ich either.> The quarantine tank with the tang would be the only place those two could go and that is a lot of fish size wise for that ten gallon tank especially with the type of filtration on it. <Those don't sound like safe places for them, I agree. Any chance you have room for one more tank somewhere for a few weeks? The cheap aquarium kits at the pet store chains (20 gal or so) are about the cost of one fish, so would be a good investment, and then you have a bigger quarantine tank for the next time you buy something new.> Is it OK temporarily if I do maybe a 10% water change every other day or twice a week? <The toxins in the tank do need to be diluted ASAP.> I'm going out to get an RO unit tonight. <Good!> Should I do some big water changes while the fish are out? <Yes! When the nitrates have come way down you will know you have also diluted whatever other toxins had built up. Give it some time to be ich-free and let the water chemistry restabilize, any recycling to complete, then slowly add back your fishes.> Thanks again, Josh <Hope things get better soon'¦ Alex>

Nitrates and Unhappy Inhabitants -- 6/8/07 Hi, <Hello.> I'm sorry I have a lot of questions here, but there is a lot going on in my tank right now. I'll try to keep all of this as organized as I can. I have a 75G tank with about 35 - 40 lbs of live rock. Salinity is .0021 <If you mean the specific gravity is 1.021, then this is too low. If the salinity is 21 ppt, then it is WAY too low. Tanks with invertebrates need to be kept at natural sea water SG near 1.025. Raise this sloooowwwwly.>, Nitrite - 0, PH - 8.4, phosphate - .05 and nitrates - 40 (more on that) and I don't have test kit at this point for ammonia. I have a green brittle starfish, 2 - yellow tail damsels, 2 - cinnamon clowns and just bought a diamond Goby and a yellow tang about 3 weeks ago, then just bought a button polyp coral rock and a mushroom coral rock two weeks ago. Within the past week, it seems like many thing in my tank are going downhill. It seems like it may be possibly coincidental with just putting in a megaflow sump w/ UV sterilizer and AquaC EV-90 skimmer (replacing the crappy RedSea Prism). <These additions should only help, unless there was a problem with the installation, perhaps adding a large quantity of unaged water, or introducing some contaminant from the manufacturing of these items.> When I put the polyps in, within about 3 days, they wouldn't really open up anymore...and now they are closed up really tight, the mushrooms just shriveled up about 4 days ago and won't open up. I have moved them in and out of different flow/lighting (260W PC lighting now and upgrading to 500W MH very soon) to see what would make them more happy and so far no luck. <Unhappy with lighting or flow will not cause them to close up. They have to be irritated by chemicals or harassment to close up like this.> Then I noticed the yellow tang started to develop Ich. I also noticed the diamond Goby developed a bacterial infection (hole in the side issue) and started looking pretty bad. I since put both the tang and the diamond goby in a quarantine tank and am treating for Ich and bacterial infection. About 4 or 5 days ago, my brittle starfish seemed curled up tighter than normal under a rock and I tried to feed him and couldn't have cared less about the food and still doesn't. I also noticed yesterday that he is starting to loose his spines along some of his legs. <Not good.> Also, his central disk was kind of caved in and it looked like he was moving things around inside of there. Not today it looks kind of bloated. He also keeps standing with his body arched up which he never did before. Believe it or not, of all the things in the tank, I don't want to loose him. I don't know if putting him in the quarantine tank would be a good idea or not, or another possibility is in my wife 12G nano tank temporarily. <Once starfish start to go, they can go very quickly and messily. I would move him out of the main tank to avoid contaminating it if he doesn't make it. Match the salinity closely and acclimate carefully, but I would get him out, it does not sound good for him.> My tank has always had higher nitrates (about 30) and I could never get rid of them. I just tested the water 2 days ago and the nitrates are at 40. I don't know why, but I only thought now to check the tap water. My tap water yesterday showed nitrates at 40 <Aha!> ....so I guess I am never going to get rid of them when I am putting new nitrates in every week with the water changes. <This is true!> Will a RO/DI remove nitrates? <Yes, definitely, and if you get a system and put it in the kitchen, you can drink it too, and protect your health along with the fishes.> Or can I get away with just a DI unit. <This will remove the nitrates, but at those levels, you will use the resin very quickly. A quick test if you have $30 to experiment is the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Tap Water Purifier. They are available at most large chain pet stores in the aquarium section. Very convenient and easy, but I find the resin does not get me but about 30 gal of clean water, so at $25 per cartridge, that is over $1 per gallon. A RO/DI unit is much cheaper for me.> Also when having these systems, how do you typically aerate the water, just with a power head and air tube or something more elaborate? < Just moving the water in a semi-open container for a day or so will aerate it. > Any advice on getting my nitrates down quickly/temporarily till I get another filtration device for the tap water? <When I have been too lazy to premix enough water for a water change, I go buy it from the LFS. It is 75 cents a gallon here. Freshwater (RO) is free. It requires some containers and lots of hauling, but is cheap and quick. The only way to get the nitrates down quickly is to do big water changes.> Also, any advice on what to do with the starfish to help him out would be greatly appreciated. <As you already said, move him to a happier private tank without shocking him too much.> Are the nitrates what is keeping the corals closed up? <This is not helping but it sounds like something more sinister to me. Either introduced chemicals, or something dying or warring in the tank.> Also I noticed some of the bluish-purple foam looking stuff (don't know what it is) <an encrusting sponge?> on the side of the rock that has the polyp coral on looks white now and is about half its original size <Aha!! A dying encrusting sponge!! Remove that rock, scrape all the remaining sponge off. This could be the problem. Perhaps he did not fare well in the transfer to the new habitat. Unhappy sponges can be very toxic.>. Is the Ich and bacterial infection in any way related to all of this? <The high nitrates and apparent chemical warfare of unhappy invertebrates will suppress the fishes' immune system and allow the Ich to gain a foothold.> I really never had any problems with my tank before this and now it seems like everything is taking a dump. <This too shall pass'¦> The other fish that I mentioned are doing great and do not seem to be affected at all - yet. One other thing, since the Tang has Ich, I am assuming that means that my tank is infested with it, <That's right.> How do I get rid of the remaining Ich in the tank before it affects the other fish? <You have to remove all the fish (you may leave the invertebrates) from the tank for several weeks to break the cycle. The fish will need to be treated, but the tank will be ich free after several weeks without hosts. Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ichartmar.htm especially the paragraph 'The Real Deal'¦' Thank you guys <and girls> so much in advance, Josh <You are welcome. Alex>

Nitrates suddenly rise, SW    5/25/07 Hi Folks, Regular testing indicates no other abnormalities in pH 8.4; Nitrites and ammonium are 0; phosphates test 0, alkalinity is kept at 5-7 range and salinity is maintained at 1.024. It is a 55 gal, show with 140 lbs of live rock, remora pro h-o skimmer etc. I think the bioload is rather small... a 6-line wrasse, 2 PJ cardinals, a key hole dwarf angel, clean up crew; a rather lg finger leather, Galaxea coral, some shrooms, and quite a healthy colony of zoanthids. The tank has been problem free since a Cyano bloom last year about this time. I noticed two things at the same time. My skimmer failed to concentrate as it had in the past. Rather than a soupy pea-green liquid, I was getting something much thinner in consistency and notably clearer. I believe it is an explanation <Perhaps a providing consequence rather...> for the sudden rise in nitrates. ( I must say though, I never saw rises in any other water parameter tested). Surprisingly, the skimmer is free flowing. There is no loss of water flow through the skimmer system to imply a clog. So, I am a bit uncertain, what I need to do. <Likely nothing...> I have stepped up the frequency of water changes and expected to see a drop but haven't. It is only 10 maybe 15 by reagent. Recommendations??? <This reads like a "succession incident" to me... some populations of some microbial life winning out over others... changing water quality... I would likely "do nothing" extraordinary here... the usual good maintenance out to see a diminution of NO3 over time. You could avail yourself of "appropriate technology" of a refugium (with DSB, macroalgae, lighting...) or try purposeful chemical filtrants... Bob Fenner>

High Nitrates!! Not hopelessly... 5/21/07 <Hello, GrahamT with you today.> I have been reading over your site and it's very informative. <Thank you.> I was hoping you could help me with a High Nitrate problem. <Me too...> I have a saltwater tank with: LR, Fish, Shells/LS, Canister filters & Skimmer. My nitrates are about 80 or more! <That's pretty high, but... what size is this system? How much livestock? How much and frequently performed are your water changes? These are considerations that largely affect the nitrate levels.> I do water changes & clean the canisters weekly. (Eheims- I rinse the media w/tank water, rinse the Chemi-pure, rinse or change the pads & fill with mixed water to start again.) When the water/salt is mixed & tested the result=0. (I use Instant Ocean) <Sounds good so far...> My fish have lived like this for over a year now. My LFS told me "sometimes you just can't get the nitrates down, it's ok"... After finding and reading your site, I realize it would be best for them to be lowered. <Agreed.> Can you please give me some advice or direction to acheive this?? <Well, I will assume you have a well-stocked, but not OVER-stocked medium-sized system? Hold off feeding for the week and perform some larger or more frequent water changes. Since the nitrates are the end-result of waste, both from breathing and eating, you can limit their production by limiting food input to the system for a while. If you are over-stocked, then you would naturally need to consider a reduction in overall bio-load. I will be happy to go over this in greater detail when you have sent back some system specifics. I would like to know the size in gallons and configuration (Hex, for example), frequency and amount of water changes, type and number of fishes and/or other creatures, and the amount of food they receive and at what interval they get it.> I have also tried nitrate products, but as you say they are garbage. Thank you for your time and help with this matter. <No problem, mate. Shoot me back a line! -GrahamT>

Nitrate Reduction 4/10/07 Hello Crew, <Hi> I am fairly new to marine aquariums as I purchased an established 55 gallon aquarium a few months ago.  I have about 60 pounds of live rock, approximately 18 inches of peaceful, happy fish, 2 cleaner shrimp, a Peppermint Shrimp, various hermit crabs and snails.  I have a few corals, and I'd like to add more.  However, my nitrates are too high (10-20 ppm) for a real reef tank, so I've been researching and implementing the ideas for nitrate reduction from WWM.  I have added a 10 gallon refugium with a deep sand bed, 10 pounds of live rock, and some Chaetomorpha.  I have been doing frequent water changes with RO water, and I have reduced the amount I'm feeding.  My sand bed was too shallow, so I am slowly adding more sand to get the recommended 4"-6".  I am running a CPR Dual BakPak 2 and Fluval 404. <The Fluval may be part of the problem, needs to be cleaned very often, once or twice a week, which is why I don't use one.>  Would it be beneficial to add live rock rubble to the biological chamber of the BakPak instead of the Bio-Bale media that is currently in it? <Yes, would help some.>  Would it be a good idea to begin to remove the ceramic rings from the Fluval? <Would also help, allow the live rock to do the biological filtration, and the Fluval for water movement and chemical (carbon) filtration.> On an unrelated note, I have been researching starfish and it seems as if they don't fare well in smaller aquariums.  Are there any that would be appropriate for a 55 gallon reef?  <Best bet would be one of the hardy serpent stars, although it depends on the fish in the aquarium.> Finally, I have read that I should quarantine anything wet. <Best way to do it.>  As I said, I'd like to add more corals, so I'm assuming I will need to upgrade my quarantine lighting to T-5, PC, or HO.  Correct? <Depends on the demands of the corals, would help though.> Is 4 weeks enough quarantine time for corals. <I would go closer to 6 as long as the coral can take it, 4 is the bare minimum for Ich, which is one of the main reasons we QT.> Does cured live rock need to be quarantined that long as well?  <Yes, can still hold nasties that would be better off not introduced to your aquarium.> Thanks for all of your help.  I'm addicted to WWM and my new saltwater aquarium! Sheila <Good luck with your new tank.> <Chris>

NITRATES, More info?   4/1/07 Hello <Hi there, Mich here.> Read for hours on WWM and found a lot of info. but no answer to my question. <OK.> Maybe you can help? <Hopefully.> I have a 150 mixed reef with a 90 gallon sump, the tank has a 4-5" mixed Arag-alive and Aragocrete bed the tank also has about 100-150 lbs. live rock, sump has about another 100 lbs of mixed Arag. All test fine <Vague, not helpful.> but Nitrates are off the chart, <Again vague, numbers are helpful.> I do about 1/3 water change every 2 weeks and just did a 50-60% water change and this didn't work. <A big water change, I'm surprised you did not see any change.  Perhaps your test kit is bad?> My skimmer is a ETSS 1400 puling some NASTY mud, I also run about 3 lbs. of carbon in the sump and change 1 every month, nothing is working my tap water is 0 ppm.  Mixed salt water is at 0 ppm. my tank has about 3000 gph.  Turn over between the sump and closed loop.  My 2 prized fish died from I'm guessing this.   <Sorry for your loss.  Though not certain that this is cause and effect.> Any help would be great. <More info would be helpful.> Thank you <Welcome, Mich> Jim

Re: NITRATES, More info?   4/1/07 Hi <Hi Jim, Mich here.> Hopefully this is the info. you needed: Temp-79-80.5 SG- 1.024 Ammonia-0 Nitrates-0 <Nitrites?> PH- 8.2 Nitrates- 160+ <YIKES!!!> Tank has been running for about 6 months very lightly stocked at this time a couple LPS and 3 fish. Had my LFS test my water (tank and tap) and the tank still 160+ and the tap 0. <Hmm, so two different test kits are in agreement.> Feeding is very minimal for fish and the only additives I use is Tropic Marin bio-calcium, what are your thoughts on de-nitrator filter towers? <I have not used.  I'm not sure I understand why your nitrate levels are so high. What fish are you keeping in your system?  What and how much are you feeding?  Do you grow any Macroalgae in your sump?  -Mich> Thanks again Jim

Re: NITRATES, More info?   4/2/07 Hey Mich <Hey Jim.> Fish are: <Hmm, I see we gained a fish!  Heee!> 2  blue damsels 1 copper band b-fly 1   Helfrich's firefish <Ooo!!!  Pretty!!!  Expensive!!!> Feeding for fish is once daily a small amount of Cyclop-eeze <Frozen or freeze-dried?  I find the frozen easier because the freeze-dried floats if you don't soak it for a good while.>   and every other day they get flake food. <Hopefully a variety of different flakes.> Sump has live rock and Chaeto, lots of life in there, pods, snails, stars. Do you think I have anything to lose by adding a de-nitrator tower? <May be worth a try I guess, as I said I'm have no personal experience here.  I just don't understand where all these nitrates are coming from.  I would be most concerned in finding the source of the problem.  Seems very anomalous.> Thanks again <You're quite welcome Jim, Mich>

Re: sick little goby - please help!! Crypt, NO3 red., Banggai comp.    3/11/07   Hello Bob and gang.   Thanks, Bob, for your response to my previous question.  Unfortunately, my little goby died about an hour after I sent the email.  After this entire ich experience I am definitely never listening to a word the folks at the LFS say, no matter how informed and smart they seem!!!  I did a lot of reading you're your site (sometimes it's tough to know exactly what to read and find exactly what you're looking for, even when using the search feature) prior to my last email, and I have done a ton more reading since receiving Bob's response. <The... non-Boolean logic of the present arrangement is about the best I could/can devise... the placing of the queries/responses, articles is intentional... We want folks to gather pertinent useful data, opinions, methods, attitudes... and "make up their own minds"... Reasonable?>   I will be removing all of the fish this afternoon and moving them to the quarantine tank'¦.but I have some questions before I do so.  I think I know the answers, but I don't trust my gut 100% in this area'¦.         I have 12 fish to house outside of the main system (sailfin, unidentified tang that looks like a Thompson's with a longer snout, 4 P.J. cardinals, 2 engineer gobies, keyhole pygmy angel, small pink skunk clown, large black and white clown, yellow tail damsel) while the system runs fish-free for a month or so.  I never expected that I would have to house all of my fish in the quarantine tank at once, so it is only 30 gallons. <Mmmm, may still work out... often, crowding all such animals all at once imposes a sort of "truce" amongst them...> Is it acceptable to house them all in this tank for a few days until I get a second tank up and running (I have to pick up a few things at the LFS to make the second tank suitable for them)?   <Yes> Also, just double checking, is 30-35 days long enough to have them out of the tank before putting them back into the main system? <Yes, should be> Do any of you have an opinion of Mardel CopperSafe (use or find something else)?   <It is a worthy product of a worthy company> Also, while I am here, I have a couple more questions regarding my system that are unrelated to the ich.  Again, my system is a 180 gallon tank that has been established for more than 10 years.  I have what I am estimating to be 250-300# of live rock in my tank, maybe more.  The system has a what looks like a 40 gallon sump (not exactly sure, <Easy to measure... multiply the dimensions, divide by 231... cubic inches per gallon or so...> and the previous owner is no longer speaking to me, so'¦.), but no refugium. <This sump could be converted... input re on...>   The trickle-down area of the sump has a 15'x12'x5' area filled with bioballs, and an area the same size filled with a carbon sack, phosphate removal sack and silicate removal sack.  I am running a Berlin 250 gallon protein skimmer.  My nitrates are pretty high (was one of the things that I tested frantically before moving the goby to the quarantine tank) -- well over 150 ppm. <Yikes... you need to address this... Now, what site could I refer you to...?> I am wondering if I should reconfigure the sump and add a refugium, <! Oh, yes> simply remove the bioballs with no refugium or try some Nitrate controller (came with the tank, but it's like medication'¦I don't want to use it if there is a better way). <There are... reading...>   I have read and read and read'¦.and now my head is spinning.   <Deep breaths... walks... pull weeds (my fave...)> I am contemplating removing the bioballs and reconfiguring the sump to include a small refugium.  This seems like a huge undertaking at this point, so I am just looking for another opinion before I get started. <This is what I would do>     To wrap up, just a quick fish question.  I have had the 4 P.J. cardinals for over a year.  One is slightly larger than the other 3, and I have recently noticed him nipping at the fins of the other three.  Is this normal? <Yes... not atypical behavior... likely a/the male of the group> Everything I have read says that they are peaceful fish.  Should I be overly concerned?   <Mmm, no... in a system of this size, this number of specimens... not really an issue>         Thanks again for such a wonderful resource!  I have been reading and researching on your site (I should have completely ignored the LFS guy'¦) since before I took over my system  2 ½ years ago.  This is the first time I have had occasion to write in; hopefully it will be the last!!  Have a great weekend! Susan <You as well Susan. BobF>

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