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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Nitrites, Measure/Testing 

Related Articles: Nitrite, Ammonia, Nitrates, Establishing Cycling, BioFiltrationPhosphate, Silicates, Phosphate

Related FAQs: Nitrites 1Nitrites 2Nitrites 3, & FAQs on Nitrite: Importance, Science, Sources, Control, Chemical Filtrants, Troubleshooting/Fixing & Nitrates, Ammonia, Phosphate, SilicatesChemical Filtrants

Some Better Brands: Hach LaMotteSome Good Ones: Aquarium Systems Salifert SeaChem Tetra Tropic Marin SeraSome So-So: Aquarium Pharmaceuticals (liquid) Hagen/Nutrafin Kent Marine Enterprises Red Sea

This one's got me!! Nitrogenous test kits  -- 06/07/07 Crew, <Michael> I have had a 20 gallon saltwater system set up for about 4 months. I ran into a problem about a month ago with high nitrites and nitrates. I moved the livestock to a QT tank and most of them made it (didn't have much since I just started, just 3 clowns, <Better to just have two... a third will be brutalized in time...> 1 flame angel <... not enough room for this species here> and one red mushroom remain) I know, the flame angel will eventually go to a 200 g when we finally get that going, hopefully soon). <Wait till then> At the time I decided to upgrade the 20 g and install an internal overflow and hard plumb it to the 10 gallon sump below. <Good practice> Finally got that done about 2 weeks ago. For equipment I have the 10 g sump, a 4.5 g hang on back refugium with miracle mud and Chaeto, a Remora skimmer and about 25 lbs of LR. When I set up the new system I put in a new substrate of CaribSea Arag-ALIVE. The LR is fully cured and when I set up the new tank, I used about 16 gallons of water from the QT tank (55 g) to get the 20 g tank going again. Since I had a new substrate I figured the tank would have to cycle again. <Likely so> I have been testing everyday with Salifert test kits and it has shown Nitrites .5 - 1.0 <Hopefully sans livestock presence> and Nitrates 5 - 10. Getting low on those test kits, I found a Hach Saltwater Master test kit direct from Hach for $58 which included 50 tests each of Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate and pH (what a steal I thought). <...!> Got the new tests yesterday and of course had to try them out. The Hach test kit shows undetectable amounts of Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate on the 20 g. Being puzzled, I did the same test with the Salifert kits which showed Nitrites around 1 and Nitrates around 10. So, I did the same testing with the QT tank. Same results, Hach undetectable, and Salifert show Nitrites 1 and Nitrates 10. Trying to get the bottom of it, I decided to test my pre-mixed saltwater which I use RODI water with a TDS of 1 and Bio-Sea Marinemix which I just mixed it last night. Hach shows Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate undetectable, and Salifert shows Ammonia 0, Nitrite 1 and Nitrate 5. So, is the pre-mixed salt water supposed to be 0 for Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate? <Yes, though some will show nitrate and some do register some ammonia initially> I assume it should be since there is no bioload. I just want to make sure my new test kit is the "bomb" before I return my livestock to the 20 g display. Do you think my tank is ready, or should I wait until Salifert shows I have 0 Nitrites (which could be never). Michael Svehla <I would "check the checker" here... take both kits to a dealer, have them test their water with them. I read the Salifert's as being off here. Hach is a MAJOR manufacturer of many other companies' reagents... Bob Fenner> Those Pesky Nitrites - 11/12/06 Hi Eric, <<Hi Ken>> How is the diving? <<It's excellent mate!  We did a 118' dive at Two-Step a few days ago to see some Bicolor Anthias and Stenopus shrimp, and we just came back from a dive at Kaloko a couple hours ago.  Air temperature is averaging about 87-degrees, water temperature is 81-degrees (even at depth)...amazing>> Hope all is going well for you. <<Indeed it is...!>> Well, I am still waiting for the nitrites to read zero. <<Patience, Grasshopper>> In my past experience, once they drop, they drop like a rock and that's it. <<Perhaps something deep in the rock...>> The tank has been set up for 2 weeks and 2 days.  I still have low levels of nitrite. <<Will pass in time...cycles can be as long as 8 weeks or more sometimes...especially if the rock has not been pre-cured>> On LaMotte Colorimeter, which has a digital readout, it says I have .040 ppm.  This is expressed as Nitrite Nitrogen (NO2-N). To get ppm nitrite (NO2) you have to multiply the test results by 3.3. So, my readings over the last few days have been .046, .037, .040 (NO2-N). Multiplied out I get: 0.1518, 0.1221, 0.1320 ppm (NO2). Is it normal to still have nitrites at this point? <<Oh yes>> I thought with live rock all is cycled in about a week. <<Absolutely not.  This is a possibility, but certainly not an absolute.  Perhaps this rock was not as "mature" as you thought/were told>> Does this say anything about the quality of the rock? <<Hard to say...  Very good rock, if fresh from the ocean, would have a considerably longer cycle period than not-so-good rock that has been sitting in a dealer's tank for a couple months>> Any reason you can think of why it has stayed at basically the same level for many days? <<Mmm...the presence of decaying organic material in the rock>> Also, which is the correct way reading the result, NO2 or NO2-N? <<Can use either, the goal still is to reach 'zero' regardless>> In other words, when using other test kits such as Fastest, Salifert, etc, which way do they use so that I can compare apples to apples. <<NO2>> I used Fastest today as well and there was a very, very faint tint of pinkish. <<I'm not a big fan of these test kits (Fastest), but even so...still pink <grin> >> My nitrates are 1.89 ppm Nitrate Nitrogen (NO3-N).  I have to multiply by 4.4 to get Nitrate (NO3).  This is then 8.31 ppm. Typically which way is used to read nitrite: (NO3-N), or (NO3). <<NO3>> Same question for nitrate.  I am trying to figure out my readings. <<Understood>> By the way, is it a good idea to put any flake food or frozen food in the tank to continue the cycling? <<Not necessary...is obvious to me the rock is still producing/processing decaying matter>> Thanks and regards, Ken <<Two weeks is not a long time for a tank to be cycling/to be where your tank is now.  Typically, 4- to 6-weeks is "very" common...it will 'get there'.  Eric Russell>>

- Unusual Nitrites - Hello, I am just entering the world of saltwater aquaria.  A LFS, gave me some bad advice and told me to cycle my 29 gal with damsels instead of live rock.  Since, ammonia rose then fell quickly, as for the nitrite it is a different story.  It has been three weeks and the nitrites have stayed off of the charts.  Took a sample to a better store and their results agreed with mine.  They advised a 25% water change to help dilute the nitrites.  After the change, nitrites were still off the chart.  At the same time the 2 blue damsels seem fine.  If nitrites stayed this high for this long would it not have killed these fish. <Well... would suspect two things. First, if you are using a mixed-use nitrite test [for fresh and salt water] then it may in fact not be a good test for nitrites. Have had personal experience with certain kits giving false readings on nitrites. Would consider trying a SeaTest kit or better to recheck your results. Another sanity check you can try is a test for nitrate - if nitrate is present in a reasonable quantity, then your nitrite test is producing a false result.> Also, I am buying live rock as soon as my new store says it has finished curing.  What should I do about the nitrites? <I'd get the live rock and let it cure in your tank.> Should I detoxify it with Prime, or just let the live rock do its thing? <Do the test for nitrate.> What could be causing the high nitrites when ammonia has been zero for the period as well. Any help is appreciated. Thanks, Eric. <Cheers, J -- > Nitrites rising? Lionfish dead? 7/26/05 Great site crew! I truly appreciate all the  incredible information. Now for my problem; I have had a fish only marine setup  for 5 months. 220gal with approximately 225lbs of live rock. Natural sand  substrate (approximately 1" deep). Current inhabitants: 1    Yellow Tang 1    Purple Tang 1    Hippo Tang 1    Juvenile Emperor  Angel 1    Green Bird Wrasse 1    Harlequin Tusk 1    Panther Grouper 1    Stars and Stripes  Puffer 1    Snowflake Moray *** 1 Lionfish - just moved to quarantine today -  Had not eaten in 3 weeks and simply floating around the top in the current. Have  not treated yet as looks dead with exception of his HEAVY gill movement. No  signs of parasites, etc....**** After the first month of setup, began slowly adding  the above. Everything tested perfect (on Sea Test test kit)! Ammonia &  Nitrite were "undetectable" and Nitrates ranged between 25 and 50. pH steady at  8.2-8.3. With the exception of a few outbreaks of Ich on my Hippo, everyone is  extremely healthy. However, 2 weeks ago I ran out of tests with the Sea Test  test kit so purchased a Red Sea Marine Lab test kit. Nitrates still run 25-50  and Ammonia is still undetectable. However, the range on the Red Sea  Nitrite test is much lower (0.05 increments) than the Sea Test Nitrite test  (0.20). The first test with the Red Sea test the Nitrites read 0.1 and has  remained this way for 2 weeks now. I have done 25-50% water changes every other  day for the last week or so and still no improvement. Should I be concerned?? Is  it a "bad" test? <Mmm, how to put this? For what you have invested I would have better test kits. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/martstkitfaqs.htm... Salifert, LaMotte, Hach...> I went back and picked up a refill on the Sea Test Nitrite  test and it shows "undetectable". Everything continues to do well (with the exception  of the Lion Fish) and am simply stumped. Could this affect the Lion and nothing  else? <Possibly> Any suggestions for the Nitrites or the Nitrite test?? What is your  recommendation for potential treatments for the Lion now that he is in  quarantine - I had read copper is not a good option for a Lion?? Thanks for the time!!! SLOVOG <For what? Starving? Please read on WWM re Lion care... Bob Fenner> Nitrites, Nitrites, Nitrites Bob, My nitrites have been running zero since I cycled the aquarium and now I have a .4 level in the tank. <Not good... first, do have your "checker checked"... that is, try another test kit> I have a 6 month old,110 Gal Reef tank with 75 lbs of live rock, the substrate is crushed seashells & live sand about 1" deep. I am using an Oceanic trickle filter and Emperor skimmer. I also have a U.V sterilizer (the brand escapes me). I also have 350watts of compact lighting. <Mmm... no sudden death, overfeeding incident?...> Fish are: 1 Niger Trigger 1 Snowflake eel 4 blue damsels 3 yellow Tangs 1 mandarin goby 1 Fiji puffer 2 Percula clowns 1 tomato clown 2 crabs All the rest of my numbers are great. (Ammonia 0.0, Nitrates < 10 , PH 8.1, PO4 < 0.03, CA 450, ALK 2.9) I can see no visible signs of stress in the fish. I am beginning to see some coralline algae form on the back of the tank. <I would bolster your alkalinity here if you want the corallines to excel> I recently have been working on the alkalinity using Kent Superbuffer but I haven't had to add any for over a week now. I use "c" balance for ion replenishment. My last water change was 20% done two weeks ago. I have been trying to get the water right so that I could raise Inverts. Recently, I added a small stalk of Xenia and a Sebae Anemone with purple tips. My LFS recommended that I feed the xenia some phytoplankton and I feed the Sebae Kent's Microvert. I have each of them only once by "dosing" them with the food. Would either of these foods cause the Nitrite spike? <Possibly could trigger such... you shouldn't have to feed the pulsing coral in this set-up per se... and would use solid meaty pieces of food for the anemone... as gone over on WetWebMedia.com> What should I do to remedy the situation? <Test your kit first, then some water with the Microvert squirted into it... hold off on feeding much of anything till your nitrites are assuredly at zero ppm... and start shopping for a/nother, or larger system!> Thanks, in advance, for your advice. <Chat with you soon my friend. Bob Fenner>

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