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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Nitrates 13

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

Related FAQs: Nitrates 1, Nitrates 2, Nitrates 3, Nitrates 4, Nitrates 5, Nitrates 6, Nitrates 7, Nitrates 8, Nitrates 9, Nitrates 10Nitrates 11, Nitrates 12, Nitrates 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/Nitrate Control 11/18/09
Ok so I will try to make this my last question, at least for a while. Since I seem to have a Nitrate issue with levels of around 40 ppm fish only with some rock and fake corals. I have large aggressive fish, and am curious to help with this battle of higher nitrates then. I would like to get some sort of algae that I can put directly into the aquarium that will do well on it's own w/o calcium supplements etc. but not take completely over. I was looking into Caulerpa but after reading some of the forums it does not seem like a good idea. My current set-up does not have room for a refugium, however I do have a denitraor <denitrator>. I mainly just wanted to give my current setup a boost to help keep levels at there <their> best. Please advise on what my <might> work for my needs, there are so many choices out there on the net, and I am afraid of getting something into my tank that I will end up regretting later. I will say that I liked the idea at first of the Caulerpa for the added benefits of overall fish health and immunity, or at least that is what the site was trying to sell. If you do in fact have a recommendation could you also offer a place to purchase. Once again I do not want to get shafted by a place just trying to make a buck... Your site is very helpful and you guys are awesome to offer these types of services especially online.
<Without knowing your tank size, inhabitants, and their sizes, I'll lean towards thinking your tank is overstocked, you are importing nutrients faster than you can export them. A good investment would be a quality efficient skimmer.
Since I do not know your tank size or whether you use a sump, I cannot recommend one.
You can look here.
And you can learn more about controlling nitrates/nutrients by reading here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm>
Thanks again, =
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Re Nitrates/Nitrate Control... still not reading... give him the hook  11/18/09
Sorry I have a 220g tank with sump w/ bio balls, protien <protein> skimmer, and denitrator. I have a Lion Fish, Clown Trigger, Stars And Stripes Puffer, M-grouper, and a Snowflake Eel. That's it. I have spoken to
another person on your site and he stated that the load is fine, for my size aquarium, however I will be unable to add more which I am ok with. I only feed every other day. Hopefully this will help to better
assist with my question.
<The fish load may be fine for your tank, but these fish are all huge waste producers and your present skimmer (?) may not be up to the task. Do you clean your skimmer on a weekly basis, especially the riser/reaction tube where the gunk collects?
Goes a long way in maintaining skimmer performance. You may want to consider using activated carbon or Chemipure to help with this problem. Do read the information the link takes you too that I posted in the last
Thanks again.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Tank Relocation and Reconstruction (and Nitrates) - 10/27/09
Advice much appreciated!
<<Quite welcome, Liana>>
Quite sure that the RO unit is not the problem, I have a monitor on it that tells me the TDS plus I use the same unit to provide water for my 29 gal seahorse tank (up and running for about 4 years) that does not have the nitrate problem.
<<I see>>
I am planning on adding a couple Tunze 6065 power heads for additional water movement.
<<Excellent'¦and may also help with suspending accumulated detritus for removal>>
I am here every day (except weekends and vacations) and do all the care, feeding and maintenance.
<<Okay'¦but hopefully there is someone you have trained/trust to look after the tank on those occasions when you are not>>
Actually the residents keep a good eye out for me to make sure no one touches the tank.
<<Ah'¦very good>>
Do occasionally run into the overfeeding issue a bit on my vacations, but it is mostly manageable.
Will likely remove the Hippo per your recommendation.
<<Better for the tank and the fish'¦in the long term. These robust, active, and even 'twitchy' fish really do need more space to be comfortable and remain healthy>>
Any additional advice re the nitrate issue would be great.
<<You didn't mention before, any specific symptoms re the high Nitrates. You did mention that substantial water changes did not correct this (speaking of which, do also test your salt mix), but did they have 'any' effect? Have you confirmed the validity of your test kits? If your water source, overfeeding, or stocking levels are not the issue here'¦look to 'what' you are feeding (replace flake foods with New Life Spectrum pellets, drain and rinse thawed frozen foods prior to feeding, omit any food supplements for a while) or to the possibility that something added to the tank (décor, rock, etc.) is contributing to the high Nitrates>>
Thanks again.
<<Always welcome'¦ EricR>>

Baffling Nitrates: SW Nitrate reduction SW Nutrient Control.    10/7/09
Good Morning Crew!
<Hi Jéan>
As always I'm writing because I just can't figure out what is going on, and *I've* always said the best way to expedite an answer is to add a fresh mind. So, my father and I have been putting in some serious time on his 20 year old 55 gal trying to get things up to date with current industry knowledge. Not much background needed other than he's been running it with an UG filter, Whisper 6(?) and bleaching his 2-3 rocks during every water change( I think about once a year on average?) since about the early '80s. But, keep in mind, at the time this was common and dare I say, state of the art. So, foregoing any judgment on the readers part if this happens to get posted,
<Ahh yes, I recall answering a query from you before.>
I'll jump right into it. I've managed to convince him to make quite a few changes in the last 3 months. We've removed the UG and plastic plants which had started to break down and completely cleaned all of the gravel (crushed coral, about 2mm in size) during the last few months. I've provided him with premixed RO/DI water that I use from my favorite LFS, they use Red Sea (Bioassay Formula?) and we use that on 20% water changes weekly. Strict schedule at least for the last 2 months. Matched temp and ph and SG every time. Tested the make-up water for Nitrate, phosphate, ph, dKH (which was really high, but equalized in the tank) and calcium to make sure everything was on the up and up, but I trust the LFS all the same. Added his very first skimmer, a CPR BakPak which we've removed the 'bale and added Halimeda, it was currently the only macro I could get my hands on for free, I've since come into some Batophora and am waiting on some growth to replace that with.
<May want to try some Chaetomorpha http://www.wetwebmedia.com/grnalgselfaqs.htm You can grow it in your main tank - I just place it between two rocks and let it go, harvesting a clump or two every week.>
He gets about cup of dark green tea every few days, not perfect, but at least it's pulling something. We've also purchased 3-4 very pretty cured live rocks covered in coralline and added that to the tank. Cleaned the power heads of gunk, and replaced the filter pads with brand new ones which will be a weekly routine if I have a say. Added Rowaphos to the skimmer (holy crap that stuff works wonders, took the phosphate from off the charts down to about .25ppm in a week) All day long, his tank is so much happier!
<All good and excellent news so far.>
Yellow tang is out and about all day long ( though stricken with a very bad case of HLLE ) The 2 10"-12" engineering gobies aren't hiding anymore (which would explain why we haven't opted for a DSB yet) and he's even added a coral beauty who is done very well. His feeding regimen has since changed from feeding all brine shrimp (thaw water and all) to a small amount of balanced pellets, a small sheet of dried algae in the afternoon, and occasionally a treat of brine.
<Also very good.>
In my opinion I think his tank is lightly stocked and I applaud him on his feeding habits now. I just can't figure out why the nitrate won't come down!
They constantly hover around 60-80 on a API colorimetric test kit. I test before and after a water change, and I think I'm going blind looking for a change in color.
Using the same test kit on my tank at home reveals around 20 ppm before a water change, which infuriates my father after all we've done. Granted, I believe this to be quite the rags to riches tale here, but I just can't find the culprit and it's starting to really bug me. I would think after the last water change I would've seen some drop but I get nothing. I'm stuck and I hate to say it, but I think he might be at a breaking point soon. I need some fresh ideas, please help! :)
<You have a few issues that need to be addressed. First, while I use a lot of API test kits, I don't like the nitrate test kit at all, as it is hard to determine the color change, and if you do not follow the directions exactly your results will be off. You would do better to use a Red Sea or Salifert test kit Color changes are easier to detect and the test is a bit more user friendly. Secondly, you need to look at your nitrate levels mathematically. If your nitrate levels are at 80ppm, and you change 20% of the water with nitrate free water, you will reduce your nitrate to 64ppm - you will not see a real change on the test kit with readings like that - in the seven days between changes, it creeps right back up again as there still isn't enough in the tank to consume it.
Finally, are you testing your water from the LFS? Nitrate is one of the first things to creep back in if the filters are older.>
We'd like to try and get a good clean up crew, but with the gravel we can't very well get any 'sand sifting' animals, and with the water quality I'm very apprehensive on introducing anything new, especially inverts which puts me in a catch 22. He should have a good clean up crew, but can't implement. As soon as I have enough Batophora I'll gladly give him some which will be teaming with mini-brittles and copepods and bristle worms from my tank, but until then we're stuck. Is there anything I haven't looked at?
<You are on the right track, Adding some more live rock and some macroalgae will help. Also, for a period of time, larger water changes - 30 - 40% will help drive the levels down further.>

SW Nutrient\nitrate Control 10/2/2009
Hello folks,
<hi Frank, it's been a while.>
I had a few questions for you if you don't mind. First I should give you the details you need. I have a 75 gallon tank with about 110 pounds of live rock and 50-60 pounds of live sand (the sand is around 2 inches deep in tank). I have a CPR overflow that runs into a 20 gallon sump that I have divided into three sections using acrylic and aquarium sealant. The first chamber where the water drains from the display is where I have my protein skimmer, an ASM G1. The water then spills over into a small chamber where I have a small refugium with about an inch of sand, some live rock rubble, a chunk of Chaetomorpha, and my two heaters. It then spills over and under two walls into the return chamber where I have a bag of activated carbon and a bag of De-nitrate, a couple of the Algone pouches that I change out twice a week or so and the pump sends it back up to the display. I also have two powerheads in the display two increase water circulation. Lighting is two 10k and two blue actinic bulbs.
Now on to stock. I currently have two small clowns (1-1.5 inches), a coral beauty angel (3-4 inches), a psychedelic mandarin (2 inches), a Mystery wrasse (3 inches), I love this fish, a small chocolate chip star and a small brown brittle star. Lastly I have a snowflake moray that is about 8-9 inches long.
<All as I remember - nice to see you got a larger tank..
I feed the fish a frozen block of either mysis shrimp, marine cuisine, or blood worms that I first thaw in a little cup of tank water and mix with few drops of Selcon once a day. I feed the eel either freeze dried krill or thawed silversides soaked in Selcon every 2-3 days.
<All sounds good.>
Water tests:
Ph - 8.2-8.3 I use liquid buffer in top off water and add to tank to maintain level
Ammonia - 0
Nitrite - 0
Nitrate - 20-30 (one question pertains to this)
Alkalinity - 16 dKH
Calcium - 400-450 I dose with reef complete or purple up 2 times a week Salinity - 1.025
Temp- 79-80 degrees
<Nitrate a little high, but otherwise good.>
The tank has recently been set back up after bringing it home from my girlfriends house where it had been set up for around 5 months. I kept about 25-30 gallons of the water and used it along with new RO/DI salt water( that's all I use when doing water changes and I top off with RO/ DI fresh water)
Now a few questions!
I still get the brown diatom on the sand really bad if I leave the 10k bulbs on for several hours, so what can I do to stop it?
<Keep up with the water changes, have you tested for silicates?
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/diatomfaqs.htm >
Why can I not get my nitrates to go below 20? They stay about 20 even after doing partial water changes where I vacuum the sand bed!
<You may want to step up the water changes a bit, and cut back a little on the feeding.>
Have I overstocked my tank? I was thinking about adding a diamond goby to help turn over the sand bed.
<You are at the ragged edge of overstocking. I would make larger water changes - 20% per week - you will see the numbers coming down.>
Anyways, sorry for the endless email but I value your input and any suggestions you might have for any aspect of my tank will definitely be taken to heart.
<have a read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm >

what to do? SW NO3   9/27/09
Hey all,
<Hi Tina>
I am doing something wrong & just can't figure it out! I have a 95g saltwater reef tank, which has been set up for 3 years and have never been able
to get the nitrates under 20 for any length of time.
<Mmmm, "many roads"...>
I have written to you before & added more live rock (now 175 lbs) and live sand, it is now mostly 4"-5" deep except right in the front where it is 3"-31/2" deep, (area being 36"L X 5" W) I have a Lifereef protein skimmer & 2) Koralia 3 pumps & 1 maxi jet with the eco mod upgraded to 1600 gph. Fish are 2 clown blennies, 1 maroon W/BTA, 1 6 line wrasse, 1 false Lemonpeel angel, 1 lawnmower blenny, 1 firefish, 1 Arabian Pseudochromis, shrimp, snails, hermit crabs. Test stats: ammo - 0, nitrites - 0, nitrates - 20. PH 8.2, salinity 1.24, calcium 420, mag. 1140. A few weeks ago I tried AZ-NO3. starting off using the dosage for a 75g. tank. Nothing changed until the 8th day when I noticed my birdsnest frag was losing it's color. I stopped treatment (nitrates showed no change)
I have several sps frags but they never colored well, I am pretty sure this is because of the nitrates. (forgot to mention this I use R/O water which is tested every 3 months & shows 0 phos, nitrates, etc.) A friend uses sulphur in a canister & his nitrates are zero so I thought I would give that a try. But after the AZ-NO3 incident I decided to do a test first.
I used 5 gallons of water from my tank & put it in a bucket, added 2 cups of NO- NO3 to a Nextreef reactor & fired it up. Had the water flow at 1/3 cup water per minute. To my surprise the next day the nitrites were off the scale & the nitrates had doubled to 40. Good thing this was an experiment in a bucket & not my tank! I don't understand though why that happened since nothing was added to the water (fish food etc).
<Just chemical decomposition>
I am not opposed to using the bucket to fine tune or cycle the Nextreef reactor with the sulphur and then putting it on my 95, but would like to know what went wrong with the experiment, really thought it would just lower the ph (which it did to 8.0)
In fact what I would really like to know is what is this tank trying to tell me that I just can't seem to figure out. I don't think I have too many fish,
I think the circulation seems good, I blow the rock off with a turkey baster when I do a 20g water change weekly & since I added more circulation there is hardly anything coming off the rock when I do this.
The live sand seems well populated with all sorts of worms &copepods, I have 4 Tonga Nassarius snails, plus a bunch of little snails I have forgotten the name of to stir the sand. I have lots of small starfish (not brittle stars more compact) I have an option of getting a wet/dry with overflow & skimmer at a really good deal & thought maybe I could use that somehow (suggestions???)
<Yes! Modify this into a refugium. Read here re:
One other note I do not have any film on the top of my water which I did before I upgraded the protein skimmer. Also I have a 250 W 14K metal halide light. I also in the last 3 months have tried Brightwell Neozeo system with Microbacter which didn't do anything. And have tried Prodiobiotic.
I feed 1 time a day maybe 1/4 tsp of food, I give the BTA 1/3 shrimp every 2 weeks, Brightwells coral amino 20 drops weekly, Vitamarin C & Restor 1 cap each weekly, and 1/8 tsp coral frenzy weekly. What to do?
<For one... I'd definitely be "checking your checker"... Try another test kit... and read yours re whether it is testing for nitrate itself or nitrogen as nitrate... Something is indeed amiss here>
It seems for some reason I am at a stalemate with these nitrates I can go without a water change for a month & they are at 20 I can change 20 g of water weekly & within a day they go back to 20 I am really sick of 20!!!! Maybe 8 months ago WWB recommended more live sand or live rock, I added about 60lbs of sand over about a month but the nitrates remained firmly at 20 altho the brown diatoms reduced to almost nothing. sorry this was so long & hoping you can help
<And please do review our marine NO3 files:
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: what to do? NO3...  9/29/2009
<Mmm, where is the prev. corr.? You're starting out in media res... and I/we don't know what you're referring to>
Hi again,
Thanks for your quick answer !
<Who? There are a couple dozen of "us" here>
I read up on the sites you had linked.
The nitrate kits I have been using are Red Sea, API, and my most recent Salifert. When I was reading I noticed a person said that their skimmer only produced gunk on the inside of the collection cup not really spilling over, mine does the same thing. If I turn it up a little then I get a very light color water in the cup. WWM said that the RedOx was probably too low. I think that might be some (all?) of my problem also.
<Mmm, okay... but for what reason/s is the ORP low is the real question/solution>
I read the articles about converting the wet/dry into a refugium. Since I think I have enough live rock/sand I was thinking I would use Chaeto , would that be enough or should I add sand/mud/rock?
<Up to you>
I have a Current 18w Smartpaq that I can use for lighting if you think that would be enough for the Chaeto?
<Yes, posted>
My tank really does look pretty, no algae, crystal clear water, fish are fat & healthy, sand white, I only clean the glass once a week so no complaints about the "look" It is just the few sps frags that were so colorful when they came in are now mostly a muddy green, and that "look" is certainly not what I wanted. Do you think the refugium will turn this around?
<Should definitely help>
Is it just the nitrates doing this, or is there something else that I am missing?
<The NO3 concentration is simply a window into events here>
Your team was a big factor solving my original problems a year ago by suggesting I double my rock & sand, getting rid of my Filstar canister filter, and upgrading my protein skimmer. All of which is why I can now say the tank is pretty because it sure wasn't before I followed your advice. Thanks again to all the WWM crew
<Do please include prev. corr. when writing us. Thank you, Bob Fenner>

Tank and stocking questions, NO3, and lg. SW sys. stkg. f's  9/6/09
Hello. Here is the info I sent to Mr. Fenner last week. I thought it might be helpful:
<Morning John>
Hey Mister Fenner thanks so much for your help. It is most appreciated as always. I have another question for you, or whomever is there if you have the time. I read all your sites posts on Nitrates but I am still confused at why I keep having this problem. My 450 is stocked with about 500 pounds of liverock. 300 pounds originally and another 200 of lace rock
<Very often a source of too much ortho phosphate... See Marco's article:
added gradually to be seeded by the live rock. about 5 to 6" of live sand, added more as time passed. I am running a dual refugium 2 twenty gallon ones connected in the sump one with crushed live rock rubble and the other with green algae. I run a timed florescent light at night and natural sunlight during the day. The tank takes up the entire wall between 2 windows of my den and has great sunlight from all sides of the room. I have a top of the line skimmer rated for my system and electronic heating system. I run 8 powerheads front, side and back to create cross currents.
I do a 20% water change faithfully every 2 weeks. The system is terminally stocked and holds one 8" queen angel, one 8" clown trigger ( I watch him closely as advised by you years ago), one 8" niger trigger, one 6" Bluechin trigger, one 6" Aussie harlequin tusk, one 12" Atlantic blue tang, one 7" princess parrot, one 10" orange toadfish (fed once a week), one 8" lunare wrasse, and two golden morays, 15" each (fed once a week or once every 2 weeks). I feed the fish sushi Nori in the a.m., a small amount of spectrum large fish formula at noon and a small amount of chopped frozen octopus, squid, clam, shrimp, crab, scallop, (one of these) at night. My entire home is run on a r/o system and their are zero nitrates present in the water. I
use instant ocean as my mix and arm and hammer baking soda for the ph. My main issue is that after 4 years I just can't get my nitrates down to anywhere near zero. They normally run in the 40 to 80 range and are as high as 160. I am extremely frustrated as I put a lot of love, time and money into this hobby. I treat my fish like a dog or a cat. I read about a DIY coil denitrator as a possible help and have asked my LFS for advice but I seem to only get mixed opinions, none of which have worked. They did tell me I am overfeeding the fish so I am going to cut that back if you advise me to do so. I am exhausted spending 10 hours the last 2 days trying to lower the nitrates with massive water changes and cleanings. I would greatly appreciate anything you could do to help me. Not much saltwater help here in Michigan. Thanks again Mister Fenner or whomever answers this.
<We're glad to share>
My new questions are as follows: I am converting the other half of my refugium to algae as well so I will have 40 gallons of it for nitrate reduction.
the live rock rubble (40 pounds or so) is left now. I was wondering if it would be ok to put it into the holding tank for return water.
This is the only place in the sump i have room. Please advise me on this.
My high nitrates have been going on for 4 years now. I work so hard through big water changes once every 2 weeks and cleaning of the tank/aggressive skimming, but I cant keep them below 80 to 100. I started dosing with vodka with a formula I found on reefkepers.com last week. I just lost my 4 year old queen angel due to a mouth infection caused by the nitrates. When the tank gets where I want it through water changes, vodka dosing and the algae I want to replace the queen with another queen or other large angel.
<Start with whatever species at about 4 inches in length here>
With the fish I have listed i would appreciate any advice you have as to which would be the best fit.
<See WWM re large/r Pomacanthids...>
if not a large angel I would like to add a good sized Indian ocean Sailfin if you think the Atlantic blue would not kill it.
<Start with one about half the length of the Acanthurus coeruleus>
Lastly my aiptasia are out of control and I want to add a large raccoon butterfly to get them under control.
There is one at my LFS that they will save for me for up to a month. I witnessed him tearing up aiptasia and any foods they added. I would like any advice you have as far as adding him to the tank and his safety.
<During a day when you can be present, early in the AM so the lights are on... should be able to be introduced directly with what you list, have and the fact that the LFS has had on hand for a while>
I have heard they usually get along with other fish and vise versa.
<This is so>
I know this is a lot of questions but I am majorly stressed out about this entire thing. I treat my fish like dogs and cats and have had them and this 450 acrylic for 4 years now. As always i appreciate any help you guys give me. you have been a great resource for me for years now. Thank you.
<Mmm, I do want to say a bit more re the NO3 issue... is there space in your main display or room elsewhere to add another sump, tied in, to run a large DSB? Bob Fenner>

Re: Tank and stocking questions, NO3    9/6/09
Hi Mister Fenner. Thanks so much as always for your helpful and quick response.
<Welcome John>
I had the liverock rubble in a saltwater filled container with a heater on it and since you have given me the go I will put it in my holding tank. I read the article on rock you sent the link to. This is not the type I have.
I have actually 300 pounds of Fiji liverock and I have been supplementing it with the Texas holey rock used in cichlid tanks. It is thoroughly cleaned/soaked when put into the tank. I do not have an algae problem believe it or not. (one good thing going for me:). After removing the liverock rubble and vacuuming about 3 inches of detritus off the bottom my nitrates are now 20 this morning!.
<Wow! Great!>
My tank is so huge and the sump area is laced with 2x4 cross beams to help support the massive weight so I could not get to this area in the past. I could not siphon it as a hose was not able to run under the sump housing.
I knocked a panel off the back corner and finally was able to remove the rock and vacuum this muck out. Now that I have access I will keep an eye on it. The algae I have in the 40 gallon area now has 5 different kinds including the thick red type. I am running brand new fluorescent bulbs 24/7 until I get good growth.
<Mmm, I would leave these lights off for 4-8 hours or so during the tank "light period" (when the main system lights are on). Most photosynthetic systems need a dark period... can't function being lit continuously>
I really wish I had the room for another sump but unfortunately mine is full to the max.
<Could you add a good deal of fine sand to the main/display tank? Make the DSB there?>
To the right of the 40 gallon algae refugium is a 40 gallon connected sump that houses a very large reef octopus skimmer and my electronic titanium heater. The reef octopus pulls about 2 full quart containers of skimmate per day when I am wet skimming which I am doing now.
To the right of that is a 50 gallon holding tank. My sump is very full.
This tank is the centerpiece of my ground level den with the home entertainment center and sectional sofa. I think my wife would blow a fuse if I tried to connect anything outside of this lol.
<Good point>
I also started taking one of my 8 powerheads last night and blowing the detritus off of the rock last night. Huge clouds blew off of it. I was using a turkey baster before but this powerjet seems to be the ticket. The powerheads I have running at multiple levels front, side and back have a total of about 8,000 gph water movement. Please let me know if this is good for a 96x36x30 tank.
<It is indeed>
I researched large angels per your article and found my LFS has access to large queens and French's in the 5 to 6 " range. I have seen both of these many times diving in the Cayman Islands and all over the Caribbean and simply love them!. As far as the Indian ocean Sailfin (I think he is called a Desjardini, sic) the colorful one, my LFS has had one that was brought in by an owner because he was a terror. He is about 5" long and my Atlantic blue is about 10" long.
They will also hold him for me for a month if I want him. Do you think a bully like him would be a good fit for my tank?.
<They may well "joust" for a while, but I give you good odds that they will learn to live together here>
I spend hours and hours surfing your site and really enjoy your articles and those of all of your contributors. I really love how you push conservation and are an avid diver.
I am retired from the U.S. Marines as of a few years ago and have travelled the world as well. My favorite place to dive is the Great Barrier Reef by far!.
<A beautiful area.>
I have dear friends in Sydney and Perth and I visit when I can and we always dive:). I will let you know about the long term success or not of the vodka dosing in several months. Thanks again Mister Fenner for all you and your staff do for our hobby. You are life savers as far as I am concerned.
<Thank you for your kind, encouraging words John. Much appreciated. BobF>

Re: Tank and stocking questions -- 09/14/09
Hi there Mister Fenner. I hope all is well with you. I am giving you an update on my tank. My nitrates have been between 5 and 10 for a week now!.
I really think the combination of the vodka dosing, extra algae in refugium and regular power-jetting of the live rock is working in combination nicely. I introduced the raccoon butterfly yesterday and all went very well at first. Then the huge Atlantic blue tang saw him and chased him mercilessly around the tank. He has been a bully for some time to other fish as well. It took me 90 minutes to catch him and I put him in the 40 gallon return tank for now.
How long do you think I should keep him there, or should I simply take him to the LFS and let them find a new home for him.
<Give him a few days of "time out" and see how s/he does>
My next problem was a heart breaker. As soon as the clown trigger realized the only other fish his size was gone he began to take on the behavior you warned me about for years.
<Oh oh>
He chased every fish non stop all over the entire tank without rest.
Everyone was getting stressed to the max. I tearfully removed him and took him to the LFS to find a suitable home. Many shop there who have 1,000 gallon and up systems with sharks and the like so I know they will find him a good home.
I would like to know before I have to go through this heart break again if you think I could try another baby clown trigger or if he would probably just grow up and do the same.
<Ultimately... likely the same, with growth/age>
The fish in the tank are all at total peace for the first time in 4 years and I want to try and keep it that way. The raccoon is working on my aiptasia which is very nice. I do still want to add another queen or French
angel to replace the one I lost and am looking for one in the 4-5 inch range. I think if I do not get another clown and if the Atlantic blue goes back to the LFS I will consider my tank terminally stocked after adding the angel. Thanks again for all your help and advice mister Fenner. It is priceless to me.
<Am glad to aid your efforts John>
The fact that a man such as yourself takes the time to assemble a staff and help us all the time just blows me away. You are the unsung hero's in the fish keepers world and I salute you all!!!!.
<Certainly welcome. BobF>

Re: Tank and stocking questions, NO3 and ? f'     9/20/09
Greetings mister Fenner. My nitrates have been ZERO for the past 5 days now!!!!.
<And should remain so going forward... unless/until "something" changes>
I am so excited. No ammonia, no nitrite, 8.2 ph and 1.023 salinity. The water clarity is magnificent and the fish have never looked better. The raccoon butterfly is getting along marvelously with everyone and will even tail slap the bullies if they get too close. I had to put the Atlantic blue back into return tank as he wanted to be a bully still. It is odd but he seems to really love being in the 40 gallon return where he guards the live rock rubble the same way he does in the display.
<Ah yes... like a large, perhaps mean dog... Is fine being "king of its kingdom">
He eats great in there as well. Do you think I could keep him there a month or more as long as he thrives then try him in the display again?.
<Worth trying... but I suspect the one trial you've done will likely prove to be a permanent characteristic>
I joined the reef and FOWLR site where I learned of the vodka dosing because I wanted to thank them for the information and share my story. I have ended up keeping a running log there letting them know my progress.
<Ah, good>
I have also been able to help numerous beginners with they're questions as I have had 10 years under my belt now. I do not even remotely know what you and your staff do but it is nice to give back to others what I can just as you have done.
<Our efforts are confluent in intent and execution>
I have stopped increasing the vodka and my maintenance dose is 8.0 ml until I see I can lower it.
<Do keep a look out for the beginnings of "green hair algae"... often a result of such carbon addition; sign to diminish dose>
I monitor the nitrates daily. Lastly I would like your opinion on a wrasse question. I was wondering if you thought I could keep a red Coris with my lunare and Aussie harlequin in a system my size?.
<Likely so... Start with one of juvenile coloration... 3-4" overall likely... and it will likely get along, develop through female to terminal/male in a year or so>
If so how large should I buy the red Coris?.
<Ahh! I should read ahead of responding>
I will wait to hear back from you before making a move. The suggestion you gave on the 8 hours of darkness is helping greatly with my algae growth as well. Thanks again for everything. You truly make a huge difference in the hobby and the lowering of my stress level. I will keep you updated as time goes by.
<Thank you John. Bob Fenner>

Another High Nitrate Question/Algae Control 9/5/09
<Hi Bill>
I'm sure the subject line made you cringe but thanks for reading.
<Nah, get them quite often.>
I have a 55 gallon tank that I got from someone moving out of the country about 5 months ago. The tank has been running for about 2 years prior. I have been battling high nitrate levels (started well over 100ppm) since getting the tank.
Lost all but one fish (green bird wrasse) from what I think was ich or marine velvet (and stress from poor water quality). The tank only had a Marineland canister filter c230 when I got it. I added an Emperor 280 hang on filter and a Koralia 400gph power head after setting up tank in my apartment. Doing a 15-25 gallon water change every week has brought the n03 level below 100 but still higher then 50 (hard to be precise with either of the test kits I have been using). I can't seem to get below 50ppm. I added an AquaC Remora skimmer 2 days ago (has been doing well, at least from I what I can tell so far. I have had to empty the cup the last two mornings). After reading over your site last night I decided that a dirty pre filter, old media, and bio balls (although I'm not sure if they belong in a wet filter to begin with) in the canister aren't helping the situation.
<Correct, the bio-balls can be discarded if live rock is used in your tank.>
I 'overhauled' the canister filter this morning: cleaned course filter pads in train tray one. Replaced old carbon media bags with filter floss in train tray 2 (figured with two carbon media packs in the hang on, more carbon wasn't necessary). Replaced the bio filter media in tray 3 with new Fluval Biomax (leaving a few pieces to speed up new bacteria growth). And put Fluval Clearmax in the last tray to try and help with no3 removal, not sure if this stuff works but figured it won't hurt.
<The protein skimmer and weekly water changes will be the best aid in nitrate reduction.>
The big thing with cleaning the canister was all the 'gunk' that came out of it, so I was excited and figured I had finally found the source of the problem.
<Yes, these need to be cleaned weekly.>
Hooked the canister back up, cleaned some algae off the glass and did a 20 gallon water change'¦'¦..waited about 2 hours tested'¦'¦'¦..+50ppm. I am using two different test kits because I convinced myself that one was wrong a couple months ago.
I have tested the tap water I am using and it is 0. I think I am still on the right track with cleaning the canister and the addition of the skimmer.
I also removed the bio wheel from the hang on. I want to stock the tank again but I need to get this no3 under control first.
<Yes, do hold off adding fish, will just add to the problem at this stage.
Your Bird Wrasse requires more like a 125 gallon tank, a 55 is much to small for this fish, and the waste this fish produces in this confined space is contributing to your problem.>
I think the addition of more live rock will help.
<Not so much for nitrate control.>
I am not sure how much I have or how 'live' it is but it's about half way up the tank with enough room all the way around to get a mag float type algae cleaner around. the sand bed varies from 1 to 3 inches, so I think some more to augment the old sand and increase the depth a little will help.
<No more sand, your present sand bed may not be live and may be contributing to the problem.
May want to use a gravel/sand vacuum when changing water>
Will the nitrate level hurt or hinder any new live rock/sand growth?
<No, but it may become covered with nuisance algae making it unattractive.>
Should I do anything else with the canister besides clean it weekly?
<Might want to use Chemi-Pure rather than carbon, works much better in nutrient removal.>
Any help would be greatly appreciated. Great site by the way, a lot of great info.
<Thank you, and do follow guidelines on algae/nutrient control on our site and you should overcome this problem. Keep reading/learning my friend. James (Salty Dog)>

Re Another High Nitrate Question/Algae Control / Now, How Do I "Feed" A Fishless Tank? 9/14/09
<Hi Bill>
So its been about a week since my question on high nitrates and based on your response and some further reading on your site I feel much more informed but still a little lost. I have done 2, 16 gallon water changes in the last week with no noticeable change in nitrate levels with the exception of the length of time it takes my nitrate test to get to the same dark
orange/red color (about 50ppm).
<The source must be controlled also.>
I think I am going to take the Green Bird Wrasse which came with the tank (55 gallon) to a LFS and let the tank sit fishless then restock the tank when the nitrate is under control.
<A good start, your tank is/will be much too small for housing a Bird Wrasse.>
Based on your advice as well as my observation on the activity of the fish (not to large, about 4 in, but extremely active) the tank is to small for the fish.
So........here is my question: without the fish and daily feedings how should I go about keeping the other inhabitants in good health and population. I wasn't sure about how "live" my rock and sand were until putting a flash light on the tank the other night I found that it seems very "alive". There are countless small bristleworms, amphipods, and spaghetti
type worms on the rock and sand. I also have one Pencil Urchin, two feather dusters, and a handful of tube worms growing on the rock. There is very little to no algae on the glass and sand, and minimal hair and red coralline on the rock. I don't want to lose what seems to be a good head start on a reef setup (which is another plus of no bird wrasse...invert safe!).
<The Pencil Urchin may need to be fed occasionally, but on the other hand, it is a live rock grazer and will/can cause damage to the rock, corals, and other sessile invertebrates.
Would not be something I would keep/want in a reef tank. As for your other inhabitants (tubeworms, dusters, etc), occasional feeding of DT's Live Phytoplankton or similar food is suggested. Mobile invertebrates should be fine without feedings.>
Side note: Don't have any previous experience with skimmers but I can't believe what that the AquaC Remora is getting out over the last week or so.
<Yes, a good skimmer/investment. Will definitely help lower your nitrate level.
James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Queen Angelfish sleeping habits... Now, NO3   8/27/09
Hey Mister Fenner thanks so much for your help. It is most appreciated as always. I have another question for you, or whomever is there if you have the time. I read all your sites posts on Nitrates but I am still confused at why I keep having this problem. My 450 is stocked with about 500 pounds of liverock. 300 pounds originally and another 200 of lace rock
<Do see WWM re... this rock can be problematical>
added gradually to be seeded by the live rock. about 5 to 6" of live sand, added more as time passed. I am running a dual refugium 2 twenty gallon ones
<Mmm, larger, much larger, would be much better>
connected in the sump one with crushed live rock rubble
<With fine sand...>
and the other with green algae. I run a timed florescent light at night and natural sunlight during the day. The tank takes up the entire wall between 2 windows of my den and has great sunlight from all sides of the room. I have a top of the line skimmer rated for my system and electronic heating system. I run 8 powerheads front, side and back to create cross currents. I do a 20% water change faithfully every 2 weeks. The system is terminally stocked and holds one 8" queen angel, one 8" clown trigger ( I watch him closely as advised by you years ago), one 8" niger trigger, one 6" Bluechin trigger, one 6" Aussie harlequin tusk, one 12" Atlantic blue tang, one 7" princess parrot, one 10" orange toadfish (fed once a week), one 8" lunare wrasse, and two golden morays, 15" each (fed once a week or once every 2 weeks). I feed the fish sushi Nori in the a.m., a small amount of spectrum large fish formula at noon and a small amount of chopped frozen octopus, squid, clam, shrimp, crab, scallop, (one of these) at night.
<Sounds very nice indeed>
My entire home is run on a r/o system and their are zero nitrates present in the water. I use instant ocean as my mix and arm and hammer baking soda for the ph. My main issue is that after 4 years I just can't get my nitrates down to anywhere near zero. They normally run in the 40 to 80 range and are as high as 160. I am extremely frustrated as I put a lot of love, time and money into this hobby. I treat my fish like a dog or a cat. I read about a DIY coil denitrator as a possible help
<Would have to be JUMBO sized>
and have asked my LFS for advice but I seem to only get mixed opinions, none of which have worked. They did tell me I am overfeeding the fish so I am going to cut that back if you advise me to do so. I am exhausted spending 10 hours the last 2 days trying to lower the nitrates with massive water changes and cleanings. I would greatly appreciate anything you could do to help me. Not much saltwater help here in Michigan. Thanks again Mister Fenner or whomever answers this.
<There are a few general approaches to keeping NO3 at bay... they're pretty exhaustively covered by reading here: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Nitrate And Hair Algae Problems 8/20-/09
<Hello John>
I would like to ask some advice on my constant Nitrate problem (I attached some pictures of my tank and refugiums, sorry about the picture of the tank, I took it this morning before the light turned on).
<No problem.>
I have a 54 gallon corner tank with a sand substrate (used to have crushed coral), live rock (about 40 or so pounds? not 100% sure), protein skimmer, 250w halide (on about 8-9 hours), soft corals (mushrooms, yellow polyps, Kenya trees, zoas, star polyps) and 5 fish (tomato clown I've had for over 12 years, pencil wrasse, black neon line goby, pixie hawk and green chromis. I had a 15 gallon high refugium underneath the tank with a sand substrate, mangroves and Chaeto where the water from the tank go into the refugium, until the water level gets too low in the tank and the return pump turns on, putting the water from the refugium back into the tank. I recently upgraded the refugium ( a few weeks ago) to 2 refugiums, a 29 gallon tank with 2 baffles where the water goes in the 29 gallon on the left side underneath an undergravel plate through a mixture of sand and refugium mud where the mangroves are planted and over another baffle where it is pumped down into the 15 gallon x-high where the Chaeto is and then the water is pumped back into the tank the same way as before.
<I would not use the undergravel filter plate, can elevate nitrate levels.>
My question is, I used to have a lot of trouble with high nitrates and hair algae, so I got rid of the crushed coral (which almost everyone told me can cause high nitrates)
<Nonsense, crushed coral is actually aragonite.>
and replaced it with "live" sand (I don't know about the "live" part, but it was the only sand I could find at the fish store) and I thought between the new sand and the water moving between the 2 refugiums my nitrates would go down and it would starve the hair algae. However, when I checked it again yesterday, it was still high.
<You are not going to see changes that fast.>
I even added some clams to the main tank and both refugiums to help "clean" the water. I ordered some more macro algae in the hopes I may just need some more things that will absorb the nitrates, but I don't know where it is coming from.
<Coming from excess nutrients in the system somewhere.>
I only feed the fish once a day and usually it is a few marine flakes or a few pellets, which always get eaten and never sit on the sand. I do 10 - 20% water changes (probably not as often as I should, usually once a month or maybe even twice a month if I'm lucky, but I do use an RO system), but I can't seem to get the nitrates to go down and also for the hair algae to go away.
What am I doing wrong? Is there just not enough surface area in a corner tank? I am hoping, once I move, to get at least a 125 - 150 gallon tank, and still use the refugiums.
<I'm guessing the Tomato Clown is very large and being so, a high waste producer contributing to your high nitrate levels. I did not see any mention of a protein skimmer
in use, a must have for controlling nitrates.
Do read here for further help with your problem.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Nitrate and hair algae problems 8/21/09
Hi again James,
<Ahh, he's marked himself "out". BobF here>
Yes, I am using a protein skimmer (I thought I put it in my original message somewhere, if not I apologize) and although it doesn't get filled up with brown/green water as much as it used to, I still have to dump it out about once a week.
<A good interval>
Even though my Tomato Clown can probably now join the AARP, he has never really been in a large enough tank to get his full size, so he's only about 3 inches long and is probably the biggest fish in the tank except for the goby, but he's only about 4" long, not very girthy.
I forgot to mention in the first refugium the water from the tank pours through a 100 micron filter pad and a polyfilter which are sitting on top of a filter sock. My poly filter seems to be getting brown fast, although I'm not sure why since the 100 micron pad is on top of that and gets dirty fast.
I don't use the undergravel filter as a filter per se, I put it in to prop up the mud, so that when the water flows under the first baffle, it's forced under and through the mud to kind of "filter" it before it comes up and goes over the right baffle. I figured the mangroves might like it.
<I do agree>
I just don't know where the extra nutrients are coming from (the clams have only been in there for about 2 weeks, so I suspect it'll take them a while to filter through the water).
Thanks again for your help and for the quick reply.
<Will fwd. to James>
<Bob Fenner>

Re: Nitrate and hair algae problems 8/21/09
Hi again James,
<Ahh, he's marked himself "out". BobF here>
<<Back with a vengeance.>>
Yes, I am using a protein skimmer (I thought I put it in my original message somewhere, if not I apologize) and although it doesn't get filled up with brown/green water as much as it used to, I still have to dump it out about once a week.
<A good interval>
<<And very important to keep the neck/reaction chamber free of brown slime buildup, reduces efficiency of the skimmer very much. What brand of skimmer are you using?>>
Even though my Tomato Clown can probably now join the AARP, he has never really been in a large enough tank to get his full size, so he's only about 3 inches long and is probably the biggest fish in the tank except for the goby, but he's only about 4" long, not very girthy.
I forgot to mention in the first refugium the water from the tank pours through a 100 micron filter pad and a Polyfilter which are sitting on top of a filter sock. My poly filter seems to be getting brown fast,
<<Indicating a high organic load. Have you checked phosphate levels in your system? You may have better results using Chemi-Pure Elite which contains a high grade carbon, ferric oxide for phosphate control, and beneficial ion exchange resins.>>
although I'm not sure why since the 100 micron pad is on top of that and gets dirty fast.
<<Is this pad changed/cleaned weekly?>>
I don't use the undergravel filter as a filter per se, I put it in to prop up the mud, so that when the water flows under the first baffle, it's forced under and through the mud to kind of "filter" it before it comes up and goes over the right baffle. I figured the mangroves might like it.
<I do agree>
I just don't know where the extra nutrients are coming from (the clams have only been in there for about 2 weeks, so I suspect it'll take them a while to filter through the water).
Thanks again for your help and for the quick reply.
<Will fwd. to James>
<<John, do read the articles I linked you to previously. James (Salty Dog)>>
<Bob Fenner>

Nitrate Help Please 8/5/09
My name is Terry FL, I must say I have been a great fan of this site for a while and I have read a lot of great and accurate information. I have a 100 gallon predator tank, one 4" Clown Trigger, one 4" Undulated Trigger and a 14-16" eel, I have 80-90 lbs live rock, pumping 700 gph, two 1200 gph waver makers, two 1300 gph wave maker, Coralife Super Skimmer, Coralife UV, 15-20 gal refugium with 130 watts reef light (12-14 hrs per day). Salinity 1.025-6, pH 8.2-8.4 Ammonia 0, nitrite 0 and nitrate 20-50. I do 25% water change a week and one 50% a month. I have a RO DI pump. I have four mangrove trees, tons of Chaeto and other Caulerpa species and I can not seem to get my hi levels of nitrates under control. I am considering building a coil denitrator. I have researched and read a lot of good things about them as well as negative.
Have you or anyone you know had any experience in building one and if so what was the results? Thank you for taken the time to read my message and any help would be highly appreciate.
<Mmm, I believe Mr. Fenner was trying to build/market this device at one time. I can tell you that they work, but it takes quite some time before results are seen. With the protein skimmer technology available today, I'm thinking your best bet would be to replace the Coralife skimmer with a much more efficient one.
The AquaC, Vertex, and Octopus brands would be good choices. With a heavy waste load, I would suggest going one or two sizes larger in your skimmer selection.
Have you read here? http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm.
James (Salty Dog)>

Just Wandering
Nitrates... Not reading   8/5/09

<Hello Terry>
I was wandering if you have had any experience in building a Coil Denitrator? Someone at my LFS was trying to build and sell me one.
<Terry, please do some reading on the website and let us know any specific questions you have.
Start reading here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/no3chemfiltr.htm as well as other nitrate reduction related links at the top of the page.
Good luck, Josh Solomon.>

High Nitrates cant find the source/Nitrate Control 6/17/09
Hello all you experts at WWM! I love the site.
<Hi Amy and thank you.>
This is my second time submitting a query to the forum. My husband and I are going into our 6th month of our 75G marine aquarium. We love it but I do have to say that I am so discouraged by the issues we are having with the tank right now I want to cry or sell the whole get up and be done with it! (sorry just my frustration talking a little).
<Does happen.>
First I will give you the info on my setup then we will delve into the issue at hand.
T5 lights which run from 2pm to 9:30pm (so they are on when we are home)
155lbs live rock
100lbs sand
2 Hydor #4's
Fluval 405 filled with live rock rubble
Sea Clone 150 skimmer(air stone added) now skims like crazy working great!
2 False Percula Clown Fish
1 Yellow <yellow?> Sail Fin Tang
1 Kole Tang
1 Lawnmower Blenny (so far this is my biggest fish)
1 Watchman Goby
1 brittle starfish (died 2 days ago)
3 Mexican turbo snails ( died 2 days ago also)
(hand full of other small snails also found dead at same time)
1 Cleaner Shrimp died 2 weeks ago.
quite a few hermits and various snails and other tiny organisms living in
live rock.
1 frag Pineapple Coral, 1 colony of zoos, Xenia, a few small Yellow Polyps, 1 4in diameter brown Leather Toadstool.
We have tried to do everything according to the book with our tank.
Patience we know is a must. My water chemistry has been ideal until recently. Within the last two weeks I have watched my nitrates go from staying at 0ppm to 20ppm +. The entire duration of our experience with this tank we have been fighting green hair algae which is why 3 turbo snails resided in our tank, and have never gone hungry. We also have constant Cyano outbreaks. Regular water changes, always with RO/DI water cleaning substrate rolling Cyano sheets up like carpet and removing it from tank, cutting back feedings to once a day which we were feeding very small amount in the morning and small amount in the evening. Now just evenings all of this to no avail. Reduced our light cycle and we have all new bulbs.
We thought the old ones may have been a contributing factor since we bought the fixture used. I have great water chemistry with the exception of nitrates! HELP! I don't know where they are coming from. Two pet stores have also been regularly testing my water so I can verify my test kit isn't faulty. My chemistry is consistently been since week 8: Salinity 1.022-1.023, Calcium 440, Hardness 11-12, pH 8.0-8.2, Phosphates 0ppm, Nitrates 0ppm. We have the two Koralia Hydor #4's because we thought that the Cyano on the substrate was possibly from inadequate water flow. (my Xenia loves the current). I am having trouble believing that my bio-load is the problem for this size tank and I am so very frustrated with never having pretty clean substrate. It is always green or red with Cyano and the live rock towards the top of the tank is just covered in hair algae. My Coralline algae growth is even fabulous. I have added extra beneficial bacteria to try and supplement my biological filtration, used carbon, phosphate sponges even though readings for those were zero. It has certainly become like one of those who dunnits on TV. LOL. I am totally stumped. Even the local fish stores that I have been to are stumped. We have a friend with a tank who never does proper maintenance on his tank and adds water straight out of the tap for crying out loud and his tank is beautiful and has never done a water change! YIKES. It is frustrating to watch someone who does everything taboo to their tank and have success and for us to do more what is supposed to be "Good" for our tank and constantly fail. I even tried a chemical solution for the Cyano once and it didn't do anything but make all my coral angry for two days. That was just out of sheer desperation that I even resorted to that. Would a sump/fuge help me with my issues or should I just throw in the towel. The amount of money I have invested in my tank was not spent lightly and I cannot afford to start losing fish. They are all stressed now with such high nitrates and I am at my wits end. Nothing sort of draining the tank and starting over seems to be viable at this point since I feel alternative methods have been futile at best. I am desperate please help. I have not enjoyed the tank at all since we have had it. It has been so much work and to never have a pretty display because of ugly Cyano and hair algae problems is just not much of a reward for all our effort. Thanks in advance for your help. You guys are wonderful and your site has helped me tremendously since diving into this hobby about six months ago.
<Amy, first off, your 20ppm nitrate level isn't high enough to cause death to your fish and/or your other lost animals. Your problem at hand lies with excessive nutrients in the water that are not being removed.. I'm also betting your ORP is at a low level. Basically ORP (Oxygen Reduction Potential) is a measure of the ability of a system to eliminate wastes. It is measured in millivolts and the higher the reading the better (now don't run off and buy an ORP meter). We need to get more air/gas exchange into your system for starters, and the best way to do this is with a sump/refugium, with the later helping much in eliminating excessive nutrients and waste. Secondly, I strongly suggest getting a more efficient protein skimmer which can also be placed in the sump and sumps should be sized to accommodate such. You did not mention the size of your tangs, but in due time, your tank will be too small as these fish grow, as I'm thinking your tank is four foot in length. I am going to post a few links I'd like for you to read, which will help you get a better insight in controlling your problem.
Do read related articles in the above links that are posted in the header.
James (Salty Dog)>
Amy E. Cox

Nitrate levels: Nutrient control/stocking 4/10.2009
Good morning crew,
<Good Morning>
I have a Red Sea Max 34 gallons. My filtration includes a Tunze nano skimmer. About 25 lbs. of LR. Livestock is as follows; 1 percula and 1 Valentini Toby Puffer. ( Yes, I know) The puffer, so far, has been harmless to the inverts.
<So far....>
There are a large assortment of mushroom coral. Also, Pulsating Xenia, Sun Flower Coral, a few small feather dusters, one open brain coral, two blue leg hermits and about 10 snails. I change and test the water every week. SG is 1.24. Calc is normal as well as Alk.
Last night Nitrites near 0, PH at 8.1.
<Near zero is not good, Nitrites need to be zero, something is amiss. pH is a touch low as well.>
And for my question/ problem, my nitrates were in the 40 to 50 ppm area.
(Wow!) Is this possible or did I make a mistake with the testing?
<If your nitrites are > 0, yes, it is a real possibility.>
I've only had the tank for 6 to 8 months but it is about 2 years old. Took it over for my friend who had to move to the east coast. I've never had that high of nitrates since I have had the tank. It seems like the Xenia
and the Brain coral are not doing well at all.(Because of the nitrate level I assume?)
<Nitrite and nitrate.>
I feed the Xenia (iodine) and the Brain Coral (small piece of raw table shrimp) weekly and target feed the sun flower every other day.(Mysis) Mushrooms are doing great. My question still remains the same. Why do you suppose the nitrate level is so high and what should I do in addition to weekly water change?
<Your system is not efficiently removing wastes. This is usually the result of overfeeding, overstocking, or insufficient filtration. In this circumstance, I would cut back on the feeding and increase the water changes. You can read more here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm >
Please help! Thank you for your time and the wonderful website!
<My pleasure.>

Re: Nitrate levels: Nutrient control/stocking 4/11/2009
Again, Good morning to all,
<Hi Jeremy>
One more question regarding my Red Sea Max.
I realize I need more sufficient filtration for the export of wastes. In your opinion, what would be the most beneficial addition to my tank? A sump, refugium or a larger more versatile skimmer? Or a combination?
<You cannot go wrong with a larger skimmer and a refugium.>
Would you suggest a canister filter and or a UV sterilizer?
<Canister filters are useful for water movement and light mechanical\chemical filtration, but the must be maintained regularly, otherwise they become a nitrate factory.>
Please advise. And again thank you for your time and knowledge.
<My pleasure.>

Nitrate Control, SW system. 4/1/2009
<Hi Robert>
I am having a problem with nitrate levels in saltwater aquarium.
<You've come to the right place.>
I have a yellow Tang, Tomato clown, coral banded shrimp, 4 snails, bi-colored angel, chocolate star, and a diamond goby.
<Heavy bio-load, and the Chocolate star is harder to keep than most people realize.>
The filtration consist of a Fluval 305 canister, whisper filter which hangs on the side, and a back pack 2 protein skimmer, which I have removed the blue bio-bale from. The Fluval and whisper are opposite ends of the tank.
The tank is 45 gallons, but odd shaped (longer than normal 63" long 8" wide).
<Hmm.... 8 inches wide, this is going to be very tight for your Tang.>
Nitrite 0, Ammonia 0, Ph 8.18, nitrate 40, and Salinity 1.025. Parameter have been like this forever. What am I doing wrong or how can I lower my nitrate. I do water changes every three weeks (about 25%). I use
distilled bottled water because regular household tap water is horrible. I have about 20 pounds of live rock and I placed live sand when the tank when set up.
<Well Robert, you do have a rather heavy load for a 45 gallon tank. That said, since your tank is a FOWLR with the exception of the starfish, has nothing too demanding on water quality, I wouldn't be overly concerned with a nitrate level of 40ppm, provided that the system is stable. As far as methods of reducing it, if possible, given your tank's odd shape, I would add some more live rock. Further, I would step up your water changes to 10 - 15% per week. Lastly, I would consider returning the Starfish and the Tang.>
<My Pleasure, Mike> 

Re: Nitrate Control, SW system. 4/5/2009
<Hi Robert>
Thank you for the reply. Just out of curiosity why would you recommend getting rid of the chocolate chip.
<They generally do not do well in many systems, can eat some of the creatures on your clean up crew>
I have had all of these fish/star for several months (4 or more) except the coral bandit and they seem very hardy.
<Very good>
I can see your rationality as for the tang because of the size he will grow.
As for the bioload I have never had any problems or spikes in any of the other parameters.
<Except for your nitrate...:-) A high bio-load will contribute to the nitrate levels. Essentially, your system is producing more nitrate than it can eliminate through live rock, etc.>
Was just worried about the nitrate never reducing past 40ppm. You have seemed to ease that problem in my mind. So, it pretty much isn't the size of the tank it is the water capacity when determining the amount of fish.

Oh My Nitrates Too Many!/Nitrate Control 3/20/09
Dear WWW Person,
<That would be James here.>
I have been a long time fan. I have a 75 gal coral (SPS, LPS and softies mixed, yeah I know not a great idea) and Fish (reef friendly but growing and some need to be returned to "rent a fish" aka LFS for smaller versions soon).
I have good lighting, water movement, UV and two Protein Skimmers. I use Polyfilters, Phosban and a good charcoal. I have a 29 gal sump below with Chaeto and grape Caulerpa (religiously harvested).
<Sounds good.>
The age of the system is approximately three years. Over that time, I  have done several "harvests" of Xenia and other soft corals for resale at LFS.
<Mmm, a self supporting hobby.>
The stonies have been growing slowly right along (and grown quite well I humbly add).
I have introduced nothing new to the tank in over 6 months so the current dilemma not related to recently introduced anything (I think).
In the tank I have a mix of various grades of gravel oolitic up to 2 mm aragonite at a depth of about 3 " on average. In the sump, I have used a deep sand bed approach consisting of almost all oolitic aragonite at about 4 inches.
All parameters fine except . . . . nitrates off the scale (50 ppm +, hard to tell but the darkest color on two different kits Salifert and Seachem.)
I became so comfortable with the stability of the system month after month that I had stopped checking nitrates!
I have been doing 20 gallon water changes about every two week and using Sea Chem Reef Builder and Advantage Calcium to maintain dKH and calcium levels. Typically able to maintain dKH around 11 - 12
<More than enough.>
and calcium a little on the high side around 460 ppm with regular additions of these two and checking each time.
<I'd keep the Ca level around 400ppm, high Ca levels can have negative effects.>
Maintaining dKH has been more of a challenge lately. It seems to fall more quickly than before.
<Yes, the acids from the high nutrient levels.>
But back to the nitrates. I knew something was wrong when my green Montipora (the kind that spreads in thin circular sheets, started to die.
Not all of it mind you, just one of the newly grown "cups" sticking out from the main piece. All other stony corals are currently OK, some even seem to be thriving, so I haven't completely ruled out allelopathy <allelopathy>.
But with nitrates so high, the nitrates would seem to be a more likely reason.
Whew! A lot of background, but felt you should know what the heck I am asking you to opine upon.
<The more info, the better.>
I plan to address the nitrate problem as follows ( and am asking if you think this is wise and for any suggestions you may have):
1. 20 Gallon partial water changes 3 times per week
2. Take out poop-a-holic Fox Face Tang
<related, but not really a tang.>
(grown too big, very neurotic, freaking all the other fish out).
<Yes, tank too small for this guy now adding to your problem.>
3. continue to harvest Caulerpa
4. change Poly filter and charcoal ASAP
<You might want to try Chemi Pure Elite, a mixture of high grade carbon, scavenging resins, and phosphate remover. A good product.>
5. Feed less, and start draining the fluids off the frozen mysis and brine shrimp.
<Should always do this.>
And last but not least, and this is something I am really hoping for guidance on. I have noticed that the both the gravel in the display tank and the sand bed in the sump appears to be packed" down and very solid. I am currently reading Anthony Calfo's Coral Propagation vol 2, and I believe he recommends that deep sand beds should be regularly stirred or stirred up.
I have never done this. I am hesitant to just go in and start poking and stirring. I have been told that I could release some nasty chemicals into the water if I shake things up a bit.
<Yes, I wouldn't be doing that now. When changing water, use a gravel cleaner type siphon to remove detritus from the sand bed. It will take some getting used to as you will have to pinch off the return to a point where you are still effectively cleaning, but not removing all the sand in the process. May not be a bad idea to remove and replace the sand, a small section, say 10%, during every water change.>
So, in addition to your thoughts on the five steps above, should I stir or not stir? And If stirring is to be, how much, how often etc ?
<I wouldn't, not after all this time. You will be opening the proverbial can of worms.>
This tank represents the longest-lived, most successful tank I have had to date. I am wondering if it might be suffering from some kind of old tank syndrome I have never encountered before.
<Me thinks the sand bed was not maintained, not enough critters in the bed to keep it loose, is now compacted/fused and cannot breathe. Stirring it now will likely unleash hydrogen sulphide and
would not be a good move on your part.>
My apologies for the length of this thing,
<Not lengthy, informative.>
but I really did want to check in
with you guys before tackling the problem and any advice would be greatly appreciated..
<May want to read here along with related articles.
<You're welcome, Scott. James (Salty Dog)>
Scott Erickson

Nitrates, SW, reading...      2/3/09 Good evening. <And to you Howard> I started my first 90 gallon saltwater. After years with doing African Cichlids I decided my next tank is going to be a salt water. About 2 weeks ago I set up a 90 and put 90lbs of LR and 100lbs of LS in the tank. My salinity is 1.022 and my ammonia and nitrites are at zero but my nitrates are starting to climb. After posting on many forums some say don't do anything let it cycle and others say do water change. I have a BS in Biology and I realize that when the nitrites and ammonia go to zero my tank is cycled. But after doing two water changes. One was 10 gallons and no change occurred and the other was 20 gallons and again no change occurred with the nitrates. They were at 10ppm at the time. Well today 3 days after the 20 gallon water change my nitrates are now at 20ppm. Should I continue to do water changes even higher say 50 percent. Since I used RO water I don't have any alga blooms to help take the nitrates out of the water. Im using a EuroReef RC80 and a Berlin filter. Can you please offer me any other suggestions as im boggled if I should do higher water change or just let things be? <Mmm, not water changes... There are a few tried and true approaches to Nitrate control. Please read here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

I can't seem to stop high Nitrates  1/1/09 <Hello Chris, Minh at your service.> I have a 120 gallon tank, with two overflows, 2" Plenum with a 5" deep sand bed on top, 185 lbs of live rock (105 Fiji, 77 Tonga), LifeReef Skimmer, a 20 gallon Refugium filled with Chaeto and housing a 2x40 watt lamp system, and all are served by a Mag-Drive 9 (950 gph) pump and 4 Maxi-Jet 1200 pumps in the tank to push water around which was filtered by a Kent Marine 4 stage RO/DI system before entering the aquarium. All of these systems are currently employed on my saltwater system which houses the following fish: * 1 - Yellow Tang * 1 -- Niger Triggerfish * 1 -- Coral Beauty * 1 -- True Percula Clownfish * 3 -- Green Chromis * 2 -- Flameback Angel Fish * 1 -- Piston Shrimp * 1 -- Red Banded Goby * 1 -- Peppermint Shrimp ....and I still have high Nitrates. I have I have done 20%, 40% and 60% water changes and within a week my Nitrates are back up to the high mark, or over 80ppm on my test kit. I've used different kits, and even had the measurement done by the LFS all with the same results. All other measurements are at the low end as expected. I have no measurable Ammonia or Nitrite, and my PH level is correct. What am I doing wrong? I have heard of people finding out they had some live rock with dead sponges in them causing problems, but I don't think I have this problem. My main tank has no algae problems but I had intended to include corals and anemones in this tank and the high Nitrates are preventing me from turning this fish-only system into the Reef tank that I originally designed this to be. It's been 2 years of struggle and we're going to be moving next month, so if I need to redesign anything, now is the time. <Based on the description of your system, the methods you've employed: deep sand bed, foam fractionation, algal based refugia and RO/DI source water should all work in concert to maintain proper nutrient control. However, if the desired result is not being achieved, these methods may need to be fine-tuned. First, understand that the primary source of nitrate in marine aquaria is food added to the system. All proteins contain nitrogen, as do a wide variety of other biomolecules. Other inputs can include the die off of organisms or accumulation of detritus (non-living particulate organic material), which also degrade and add to the nitrogen cycle. Finally, the use of unpurified water can lead to significant addition of nitrate to aquaria. Knowing this, one can systematically tune the nutrient control methods already employed to minimize nitrate: -Reduce the inputs of nitrogen to the aquaria. For example, be very cautious when feeding. Multiple smaller feeding sessions would be much better than one large feeding session. Ensure that the majority of the food fed is eaten by your fish and also ensure that any left over is quickly consumed by an adequate cleaning crew. This way, no excess food is left to degrade. Another important area to look into is the maintenance of RO/DI filters. Using a TDS meter, ensure that the output water reads zero TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) otherwise, the filters and/or membrane may need to be replaced. -Improve refugium efficiency. By increasing flow and using a proper light source (http://www.melevsreef.com/fuge_bulb.html), one can maximize macro algal growth/harvest and subsequently minimize nitrate along with phosphorus and other nutrients. -Improve deep sand bed efficiency. A proper deep sand bed can be a great tool in nitrogen conversion, however, its success may depend on the size of the bed, it's composition (sand type, particle size distribution, and life forms in it), and the demands put on it in terms of nitrate processing. More info on improving deep sand bed performance is detailed here: http://www.ronshimek.com/deep_sand_beds.html. -If maximizing the efficiency of those tools you've employed does not get the desired result, you may look into adding one or a combination of the following tools: *Carbon or Sulfur Driven Denitrator *Nitrate Absorbing Solids *Polymers and Carbon that bind solids These tools and methods are discussed in detailed in this excellent article, "Nitrate in the Reef Aquarium": http://www.advancedaquarist.com/issues/august2003/chem.htm.> -- Chris Charette <Good luck and cheers, Minh Huynh>

Re: I can't seem to stop high Nitrates  1/3/09 Many thanks...I just bought a gravel vacuum and I also removed a foam filter from my sump that I was cleaning weekly that may be contributing to the capture of detritus and creating a location to create Nitrate. Not sure why these sumps include and recommend using something that can cause the kind of trouble the sump is meant to support preventing. <Such filters do a fine job of processing ammonia to nitrite to nitrate, but do nothing with the nitrate. So slowly removing them and allowing more of the nitrogen processing to take place on and in the live rock and sand can be beneficial. In short, these sumps and filters may work very well in a fish only or fish only with liverock scenario. However, they may not work well in the over-all scheme of a reef environment. I hope the change you've made will be fruitful.> Anyway, thank you very much. Your well respected suggestions will be heeded. I think I've included all of the known solutions available except the vacuum and the filter removal so I'll try this additional step. <You're welcome and good luck with your move. Cheers, Minh Huynh.>

Trying to lower nitrates, reading   11/16/08 Hello, I just wanted to let you know the service you provide is greatly appreciated. I currently have a 125gal reef set up. I have a mated pair of tomato clowns, Bluechin trigger, hepatus tang, coral beauty and 1 CBS, with about 200 pounds of liverock. I can't seem to get my nitrates below 20ppm. I change at least 25% of the water a month and top off with ro/di water. I don't think its overfeeding and I do rinse out my prefilters and my skimmer puts out a decent amount of scum per day. I was wondering if you thought it was a bioload issue? <At least this...> I just made one of those Denitrator coils with a tightly sealed old salt bucket and a 100ft coil with some bioballs in the center. I had one of these in the past, but I am not sure if it will lower them further from 20ppm. <What does the water measure as on the discharge end?> Any advice on the denitrator would be great. I just set it up and do not expect any results for a few weeks. Any ideas on how to reduce my nitrates lower than 20ppm? Thanks for all you do...See ya <Posted here: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Dentrification Question - 11-8-08 Hello all, <Mike here this evening> I currently have a 125 gallon reef setup. No bio-balls in sump and about 250lbs of live rock. I also use crushed coral as my substrate. I am interested in implementing a remote deep sand bed to help get my nitrates lower than 20ppm. <Easily and effectively done> I know the crushed coral doesn't help but I do vacuum and stir during my water changes. The idea is to incorporate the coil denitrator design in conjunction with a deep sand bed using Aragalive or similar. Will this work? <Sure will> Can I run the 100 foot coil in the bucket and feed the deep sand bed from the bottom using oxygen depleted water from the coil? I have read many threads from your site but cannot find what I am looking for. Should I just use the coil or the DSB not both? <I would just use a remote DSB, because if you use a coil denitrator and a remote DSB you'd have a tiny amount of water movement through/over the remote DSB and would be forced to use a circulation pump in the DSB container. I've used a 20 gallon tank as a remote DSB with a 5" sandbed to effectively eliminate nitrates in a messy fish only system> I also heard somewhere that you can rid liverock from Aptasia by submerging the liverock in old cold seawater overnight in a dark closed container. What do you think? <Haven't tried it, but there are many products sold for killing Aiptasia, though the safest and most effective is quarantine to prevent them, and nutrient control to prevent their spread if you already have them> Thanks, John <Anytime - M. Maddox>

Re: Dentrification question -11/11/08 Hello again, <Yep> I decided to add a 4" bed of Aragalive to my sump, but I have some simple questions. I have a run of the mill wet/dry for my 125. I removed all the bioballs and trickle tray a while ago. Is the sump area in a typical wet/dry large enough for a DSB? <Well, it isn't so much a measure of "large enough" but of the amount of nitrates and how much you want them reduced, but in the spirit of your question, yes> If so, I guess I should reinstall my trickle tray, remove the filter floss in my overflows, right? <Up to you...> I have your typical foam block in the next compartment where I have my in-sump skimmer, return pump and a small separate pump for my UV. Would the foam block serve as a good divider between the DSB and my pump area? <Maybe...typical open cell foam blocks will probably "leak" sand> Or will the sand pass through the floss and get pumped in my skimmer and return pump. <See above> I am kind of nervous about doing this as you can probably tell. I also thought about making a denitrator coil and feeding it from my sump via a small water pump. The mind boggles...Thanks for your input..Ciao <You have several options here, just choose which you think will be easiest - M. Maddox>

Lowering Nitrates 9/8/08 Hi Bob, <Hello Ash, Scott V. with you tonight.> I have a 55 gallon marine tank with a Rapids Pro PS4 filter with a built in skimmer. The tank started recycling about 3-4 weeks ago because I moved and changed the filter. Ammonia and nitrite are 0, pH is 8.4, and nitrates are 40. I would like to get them as low as possible, at least 20 or below. Do you think it just needs more time or is there anything I can do. <Water changes, time will only accumulate more nitrates. It is the end result of the nitrogen cycle, nowhere for it to go. You must provide a means to export it: water changes, macroalgae refugium or a DSB can even help to a certain extent. Steps can be taken to limit the nitrate production to a minimum. Careful feeding, proper flow and even keeping the wet/dry filter clean will all lead to a slower accumulation of nitrate.> I have live sand and live rock, but I am thinking of adding more live rock. I only have 3 clownfish, 1 Hawkfish, a Firefish, and some hermits and snails. Thanks so much, Ash <Welcome, do check the following link for more information.> http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm

High Nitrate And Too Many Fish? -- 08/26/08 I have a 65 gallon tank, with 4 green chromis, 1 blue chromis, a sally lightfoot crab, numerous snails,2 Banggai cardinals, 2 clown fish, 1 yellow tang, <<This tank is 'marginal' in size for the Tang. These active roaming fishes really need more space'¦and some species more than others. For the Yellow Tang, a tank of more than 75g is best>> plus 1 feather duster cluster, a bubble coral, a colt coral, small brain coral, a bubble tip coral (very small), spray polyp. <<'¦?>> My nitrates are high and my pH a little low. <<Mmm'¦what is 'high' and a 'little low' I wonder?>> I've done numerous water changes, added tap water (no chlorine) to bring up pH, <<What is your logic for adding the Tap water to raise the pH? Do you live in an area that has a high pH? Have you tested/do you know the pH of your Tap water? My Tap has a slightly acidic pH (about 6.8); if yours is similar and you are adding the Tap water to the system without buffers it will only serve to lower your pH further. The unfiltered Tap water may be the source of pollutants/Nitrates as well. Perhaps I do not understand what you are trying to convey'¦perhaps if you provide more information/a better explanation'¦>> and also added "Cycle" to help balance. <<Why would you need to do this? Is this a new/un-cycled system?>> Filters have been cleaned as well. Nitrates are slowly coming down; Nitrite is balanced as is calcium and ammonia. <<Again'¦need real values'¦please. I hope 'balanced' means Nitrite and Ammonia are 'zero!'>> ph is starting to come up. Have a little red algae from nitrate imbalance, have dealt with this before. <<'¦>> Most of my fish are still small, none fully grown. I have a blue tang waiting to come but not until everything is balanced. <<Mmm, no'¦not with the Yellow Tang'¦and not even in a 90g tank. The Blue Tang requires even 'more space' than the Yellow Tang>> I am looking at a 90-100 gallon tank in the future, <<The 10g difference means little here, but the extra length of the 100g tank (5' vs. 4') would be of benefit re the Tang>> no more fish but would like more corals. <<Okay>> Feed twice a day, cut down to once, <<I do not advocate this'¦feed your fishes>> tang ate my starfish so give a little a night now. <<Good>> I changed and test every week, up until now-no water problems. At present do I have too many fish? <<Not 'too many''¦just an inappropriate species for the current tank size (the Yellow Tang). Look elsewhere for any water chemistry issues. Perhaps your salt mix/mixing methodology, your source water (unfiltered Tap water), or husbandry/maintenance practices are at fault here. But I can only guess based on the dearth of information provided>> Your help would be appreciated. <<Well Marilee, other than the stocking question I'm not sure what you want help with. I really don't have much info to go on, but here's a list of links to look through. Have a good browse and feel free to come back with more specific questions if needed:: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_4/V4I2/Water_Makeup/makeup_water.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i4/RO_systems/reverse_osmosis.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marphalk.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/maintenance/marineMaint.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marineSetUp.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_3/cav3i4/Advances/Advances.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_3/cav3i3/Salt_Impressions/Salt_Impressions.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water.htm Marilee <<Regards, EricR>>

Water quality/nitrate control 8/7/08 My salt water reef is having some trouble. I checked the levels last week and I had high nitrates. So I did a 20 gallon water change and when I rechecked the levels later this week they were still high. The tank is 140 gallons has around 140 lbs of rock as well as 140 lbs of sand. The tank is stocked with a couple of corals as well as 5 fish. I had heard that bioballs contribute to nitrates and I was wondering if I should remove them, any info would be great. <Factors for high nitrate are many. The rock/sand possibly curing, filtration accumulating detritus (yes, including the bioballs), overfeeding/stocking, bad source water, and the list goes on and on. A little reading through WWM will give you your answers. A place to start: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm> Thanks Tom <Welcome, Scott V.>

Nitrates:)....Sending again in case you missed it:)  8/5/08 <Mmm, no. I responded to before> Nitrates:) Hi Bob/Guys hope you are well, I have started reading your sight alot <... no such word> of late and have found it great and informative reading, <... formatting issues... where are the spaces...?> but however has raised a few questions which I hope you can answer. My set up consists of a 125G tank 30G sump, I have 55 Kilos of Fiji/Tongan liverock ,Instant ocean 1200 skimmer in sump with a Deltec pump set up for ROWAphos, PolyFilters etc,Deltec Kalk stirrer,wavebox set alternately powering 4 1000lph powerheadsMy tank is just over 2 years old and consists mainly of my favourite stony corals including G.Stokesii,Branching Alviapora,Elegance,Frogspawn and Hammerhead Euphyllia,several Caulastrea,one Acanthastrea and a lovely now softball sized red Closed Brain. I also have several rapidly growing species of Caribbean Gorgonians( strictly Photosynthetic ones of course). Fish include a 5" Zebra Lion, 4" Sailfin Tang, Pair of Leopard Wrasse, pair of Emperor Cardinals,3" Marin Beta. Now to my problem, well actually its only been a problem since reading your site but pretty much from the word go my Nitrate readings have been 30 ppm I do 12% water change per week with r/o and test water weekly keeping a log of readings typically 1.024 salinity 430 calcium 1300 Magnesium 0 phosphate/nitrite/Ammonia KH 10,PH 8-8.3My nitrate has been 30 or sometimes slightly less for well over a year even though I have added no fish or Coral in more than 16 months and to be honest the tank looks great. <... I wouldn't "sweat" the nitrate then, here> I understand from a fair bit of research that quite a few stonies like more lagoon like nutrient rich water, the question is is this why they all seem to be growing and happy or am I awaiting disaster ?Assuming disaster is around the corner I have 14 x12 x 10 space in my sump which I could either turn into a Mud refuge I think I have read every faq on this site) or I could fit about another 15kilos of rock in the sump. So in short am I playing with fire with nitrates and if so which is best use of the sump in your opinion. Thanks for your forthcoming reply and your great work on this site. <No problem here... the poritids "need" the nitrate (and phosphate... I'd give the Rowaphos unit the heave-ho)... See WWM re NO3, HPO4... enjoy the process. Bob Fenner>

High Nitrate 7/27/08 Okay I know you're probably tired of this question but I've searched everywhere and can't find an answer. <Okay> I have a 40 gallon reef tank with 3 inches of live sand 40 pounds of Fiji live rock a Jebo 180 2 protein skimmer, a Jebo 13 watt U.V. sterilizer and a Penn Plax cascade 1000 canister filter with 2 trays of carbon, the coarse filter pad, a polishing pad and a bag of Phos lock and a bag of Chemi pure. <That is a lot of chemical filtration. I would lay off the Phoslock and Chemipure until tests show either is indeed needed.> I am using Prime water conditioner and Instant Ocean salt. <Do consider skipping the additive and storing/aerating the water prior to use instead: http://wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm> I am using tap water, however I've checked it and has no detectable nitrates in it. My U.V. is ran inline on the exhaust of the canister filter. My problem is I am having extremely high levels of nitrate, however all other levels are perfect. Ph8.2, ammonia 0, nitrite 0, sg 1.025, calc. 450. Nitrate 40-50ppm. <Do be sure to test your alkalinity also. Your Ca is on the high side, this alone can lead to low Alk.> I do water changes twice a week to no avail. <How large a water change? Filter cleaning?> I only have one clown fish in there right now and a flower pot coral, a green star polyp and some xenia. About 3 weeks ago every fish I had in my tank died for unknown reasons, but all the corals were fine. My water checked out fine. Now my nitrates are through the roof about 40ppm <To be expected with such a wipeout.> and my clown is showing signs of stress. I have 2 turbo snails, and about 8 of the blue legged hermit crabs as a clean up crew. <Feed sparingly, leave little to clean up!> I have noticed in the morning when I turn the light on my clown fish is breathing heavily, however after an hour of the light being on he seems fine. What is the ideal setup (other than a sump/refugium) for my tank and what should I do about these darn nitrates. <A refugium is a strong tool here, do it if you get the chance. Otherwise, do be sure to clean all mechanical filtration quite frequently; the detritus you mention below is also trapped in your filter, leading to the nitrate. Also, it will be worth your while to increase your sand bed depth and inch or two to aid in some NNR.> I have noticed there's a lot of detritus and stuff in the corners and behind the rocks is that what's causing my prob? <It is definitely contributing, indicative of what is going on. If all the flow you have is from your filtration, it is not enough. The minimum 10X turnover rule can be misleading. You need adequate flow throughout the system to keep the detritus in suspension. This will allow it to be collected by the aquarium's filtration, hence the need for frequent cleaning.> Should I vacuum the tank? <I would at least be siphoning out the detritus with the water changes.> Oh by the way the light is a 150 watt MH and has 2 54 watt T-5 actinics on it as well as the lunars. Please help . <Without maintenance, feeding and water flow specifics, it sounds like a bit more filter cleaning (you have a lot of mechanical filtration), increased or more distributed water flow and highly likely less feeding will lead you to success.> Thanks, Devin Haney Louisville Ky. <Welcome, good luck, Scott V.>

Re: High Nitrate 7/28/08 Okay, over the weekend I siphoned most of the loose detritus out and cleaned the filter / replaced carbon etc. Also cut down on feeding and cleaned my U.V. Everything looks good now, Clown not showing near the amount of stress. <Good.> While cleaning I did see a pinkish colored bristleworm on my back glass. Very small though he was about 1/4 inch long. Is this anything to be worried about? <No, the majority of bristle worms are beneficial despite their reputation.> What do you recommend afar as water changes, I've been doing about 25% twice a week trying to get the nitrates down and now there around 5 parts per million. Should I continue with the 2 times a week or can I start spacing them out now? <I would cut back to once a week (accompanied by filter cleaning) and continue to watch the nitrate. You can always do more if need be, let your water tell you (but do keep at least one weekly change).> I really appreciate all your help on this and am still wondering what wiped my tank out in the first place. <No way of really knowing on this end. It could have been any number of things or a combination of what we discussed before.> Thanks, Devin Haney <Welcome, good luck, Scott V.>

NO3, WWM, read it, use it, live it  7/18/08 Hi, I have a 29 gallon bio cube the nitrate levels has been at 20 ppm for a couple of months now, the ammonia is at 0 nitrites 0 and Ph is 8.3. I've tried everything to get it down so I was wondering if you could suggest anything that I could try. Also I was wanting to change the bio balls in the back into a refugium any suggestions on how to do that? Thanks for your help. <... this is all posted. Start here: http://wetwebmedia.com/WWMAdminSubWebIndex/question_page.htm Bob Fenner>

Nitrate reduction, Marine  7/13/08 Hello all, thanks in advance for your help, yet again. <Hi> I've been keeping aquariums for years, and have a 46 bow reef tank with a regal tang, flame angel, frogspawn, zoos, Kenya tree, some leathers, button polyps, anthozoa spp, among other things. The tank has an established cleaner crew consisting of hermits, cucumbers, sand sifting stars, etc. <Both the tang and angel need larger quarters to live out their potential lifespan. The sand sifting star will most likely starve within a year, and sanitize your sandbed of all microfauna beforehand.> My question is, how can I get my nitrates low? I realize this is covered in depth on your site, but I have tried everything, and cannot get my nitrates below 25ppm. My tap water has 3ppmish- very low, so I do not use DI. I do regular water changes, and do not overfeed. I have a powerful SeaClone skimmer, and am running several canister filters (Fluvals), as well as many powerheads positioned to eliminate dead spots. I also have 3 mangroves. <Mangroves are of limited use here, macroalgae in a refugium works much better. The SeaClone does not have a very good reputation, are you getting good production out of it. The canisters may be the ultimate source of the nitrates, how often do you clean them. If they are not cleaned at least weekly the biological material they collect will build up and decay, producing nitrates, hence why they are sometimes called nitrate factories.> My tank is filled with well established live rock, and I have a 4 inch sand bed of fine-medium particle size. I tried Seachem DeNitrate, but it adversely effected my corals. I have not tried using a plenum, what are your thoughts on this? <Will not help is my guess, the DSB is already processing as much nitrate as it can.> Help! Thanks, Whit <Chris>

Trying to knock out the nitrates 6/19/08 Hey Crew, <Hello.> It seems am writing you guys once a week. I have a 10 gallon reef nano am working on right now (WOW what a challenge....but I LOVE it) and am having nitrate trouble. <One of the struggles with a small system.> Am running it with a 150 watt SunPod lamp with no fish and just 3 small corals. I just did a 50% water change in my tank and the nitrates show zero on my test kit , but I still have brown algae right on the sandy bottom, what's up with that? <If nitrate is processed by the algae as it is produced you will test 0.> Does it take some time to starve this thing to death? <Yes, at least a few days, as the algae does disappear you will need to keep up on the water changes to maintain the favorable water quality.> Or could this be the HQI lamp? <No, the halide will definitely grow algae, but not without other controllable factors.> It seems that when the lights go out at night the brown disappears. <Not to sound like a smart alec, but it is dark!> And then in the morning when the sun turns on the brown comes back. I've put some more Black diamond carbon in my cartage for my Emperor 280 and it seems to help a little. Should I try a nitrate sponge next or should I wait a couple more days? <Wait, fight it with water changes in a system this size.> What could I do to KO this problem? <Many things, of which I don't know what you are already doing. Controlled feeding, good circulation, cleaning your filter(s), etc. Follow this link for more information: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm> Thanks so much for all you do <Welcome, thank you, Scott V.>

Nitrate levels, Marine 6/16/08 Hello crew! <Hi> This website rocks, huge amount of useful info. Question...I just recently set up a 75 reef. 75 lbs of live rock finished the cycle (ammonia and nitrite both consistently 0) about a week and a half ago. I did a 10 gallon change and added 80 lbs of arag-alive sand. I then added 3 blue damsels which I just finished trapping this weekend (my LFS said they would pound on anything new I put in the tank). <Yes, and I would avoid cycling the tank with live fish in the futures, all sort of problems lurking there.> I added a Maroon clown yesterday, is doing great and begging for food today (still trying to feed a minimum). <If you were worried about the damsels causing problems you just put their bigger, meaner, and tougher cousin in the tank.> Also added a pulsing xenia....seems to be loving life so far. Pulsing like crazy. I have 432 watts of T5 lighting by the way....there's the background! My question is my nitrates...they were around 40 before a 15 gallon water change this weekend. now at about 25(this is the reason I chose the xenia first, <Still too high.> LFS said they can tolerate and sometimes will help to lower nitrates. <Tolerate...a bit, but not much if any help lowering.> Is this the remnants of the cycle? <Not really, nitrates are the end result, and much be removed through water changes, DSBs, algaes and such.> Will it eventually fall to 0? <Not without your intervention.> My filtration consists of my live rock, <Will reduce some nitrate to nitrogen gas, but most likely not enough to counteract the new nitrate created by feeding, life processes in the tank.> two maxi-jet 1200's with the sure flow upgrade, and a Remora Pro skimmer with Mag 3. It's been consistently producing skimmate (more during the cycle) but it's always a light tea color...has yet to get dark and thick. <Give it time.> Should I expect these nitrates to fall soon? <Not on their own.> Thank you, <Welcome> <Chris>

Re: Nitrate levels, Marine 6/16/08 Chris, thank you again for your help. <Welcome> Are you saying the solution is another good size water change? Or maybe a 10 gallon change weekly instead of a 15 gallon change biweekly? <Weekly is better.> Do I need any other forms of filtration? <Sort of a trick question, filters actually create nitrate by allowing ammonia to turn to nitrite and then nitrate through bacterial processes. Nitrate is usually the end product in aquariums and is then removed through water changes. DSBs allow for areas where bacteria can turn nitrate into nitrogen gas which is then released out of the system, but do not eliminate the need for water changes, which are the most efficient way of removing nitrate from the tank.> My LFS told me originally that the LR, powerheads, and remora pro would be sufficient. Would you agree? <Yes, as long as a water change regiment is followed, 10 gallons weekly would be ideal for a 75 in my opinion.> <Chris>

Nitrite/nitrate issues 05/31/2008 I am an intermediate-experienced hobbyist with a 54 bowfront corner fish only saltwater aquarium. I have had this current setup for about 3 months now and am having trouble getting the tank properly cycled. I have a Megaflow 1 sump below which water runs thru the prefilter media. then bioballs, then bubble diffusing sponge and back to the aquarium. <<Ok>> The first month was terrible. I did a number of 10 gal. water changes. Now, my ammonia is OK. but I have lingering nitrite and nitrate issues. I am having trouble getting them back to 0. I also have a Prizm protein skimmer that is removing a fair bit of yellowish/brown liquid on a regular basis. <<How did you cycle the tank? I.E what did you use as the ammonia source? Uncured live rock, a raw shrimp/prawn, pure ammonia? Water changes should not be done at all until the cycle has completed, as you need the ammonia in the tank to promote growth of nitrite bacteria>> Current parameters are: pH: 8.2 Ammonia: 0 Nitrite: 0.50ppm Nitrate: 5.0ppm This has been the situation for about 3-4 weeks now. Just tonight, my local pet store owner said he read something about bioballs not working as well in saltwater setups as they do in freshwater and pond setups. He suggested replacing the bioballs with lava rocks. Do you agree? <<I agree, bio-balls are not good in the marine environment, and I would switch them to "live rock" rubble, not lava rock rubble>> Or will it make that much difference? <<Bio-balls usually go bad because people do not realise they requires maintenance, I.E partial washing et cetera every so often. With live rock rubble, no maintenance is needed. Yes, I believe using live rock, instead of bio-balls, does make a big difference.>> Any other advice? I have tried cutting back on feeding every other day (flakes) to see if that would help. No noticeable difference. I thought sure by adding the protein skimmer a month ago would help. I guess it has with the junk it is removing, but I am just clueless on what to do now to try to get those levels back to zero. <<I would say you have a stalled cycle, and I would suggest you need to start again from the beginning, using a good ammonia source. Please do read more on cycling here and linked articles and FAQ's http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm >> Many thanks for your insight and suggestions. <<Thanks for the questions, hope this helps. A Nixon>> Knocking Out Nitrates with System "Tweaks" 5/27/2008 Okay, here I am again. <We're glad to have you back! Scott F. in tonight!> I have added a refugium. <Always a benefit, IMO.> Hopefully I haven't missed anything important. Here is what I have: 110g est for 3 yrs w/ puffer and damsel, about 50 lbs live rock, about 40 lbs sand, with a 10 (?) gal sump. 29g est for 4 yrs w/Yellow Tang, Coral Shrimp, Choc Chip Star, 20 lbs live rock, 30 lbs of sand/crushed coral (tried to remove most of coral and replace with sand 2 yrs back). Recently removed all bioballs from sump and added ChemiPure Elite. Added a 10 gal refugium with 30lbs (5 inches) of sand and 15lbs base rock and 10 lbs of live rock and connected them all together like so using hang on overflow boxes: 110 to 29, 29 to refugium, refugium to sump, returned with existing pump in sump to the 110. They are all gravity/vacuum feed so they hopefully won't overflow in the event of a power failure. <You might want to test that by doing a "power off" test with a lot of buckets and towels at the ready!> Here is the question (finally): Will all this help me with a huge nitrate problem? <It certainly won't hurt, IMO. However, you need to also address the root causes of your nitrate problems. Over feeding? Insufficient water changes? Use of lower quality source water? Glad you yanked the bioballs; they are definitely a contributor to accumulating nitrates.> My next step will be to buy a protein skimmer and put it in the sump. <Ahh... Didn't know that you have not incorporated a skimmer into this system. A skimmer is really a first line of defense against accumulating organics and other contributors to degraded water quality. You'll see a marked improvement in your water quality once you get a properly functioning skimmer into operation.> My ammonia and nitrite are 0 (should be after all these years) but my nitrates are off the scale and have been for about 6 months. I am forced to use city water so a large water change is not practical as I can't treat more than 30 gal at a time. <Smaller (like 5% of system capacity) water changes once or twice a week would go a long way towards increasing water quality.> Long story short: I need more prevention and less water changes. <Umm..more prevention, and continued small water changes!> I have heard of those who go years without water changes using various methods of filtration and hope to find a happy medium between the weekly changes (which barely make a dent in the nitrates) and yearly changes. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks Beth <Well, Beth, I think that your on to something here. Incorporating a protein skimmer, frequent smaller water changes, use of chemical filtration media, and overall good husbandry will contribute wonderfully over time to higher water quality. Infrequent water changes is not an acceptable practice, IMO. I cringe when I hear hobbyists boast that they "never change water". It seems absurd..>All that waste has to go somewhere, right? In the end, your system tweaks are going to work for you. Hang in there, and the results will come over time. Regards, Scott F.>  

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