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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Nitrates 6

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

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

Some fishes are more sensitive than others to the mal-affects of Nitrate poisoning... Tangs are such "canaries in a cave".

High Nitrate Follow Up Hi guys, <Hello! Ryan Bowen with you> I mailed you a while back about 40+ppm nitrate in my 72g reef.  Here's an update and a few more questions. <Great> * You cited overfeeding (yellow tang and percula).  I've cut back to 2" square of algae and 1/4 square of frozen brine shrimp every 3-4 days.  I can keep 20-40ppm nitrate (Aquarium Pharm kit-hard to differentiate colors at levels this high), but it seems like I'm starving them! (although they both look healthy, tang is just a little pale). <This is a healthy amount!  You may want to offer live macro algae as a supplement for the Tang's color.  (Tang Heaven from http:// www.ipsf.com works well.  20ppm nitrate is still pretty high for a reef, so keep working at it.) * I also went from 15W NO to 65W PC half-and-half 24/7 over the refugium.  A Caulerpa strand I bought (stem with long narrow "leaves" extending perpendicularly) grows under this light, but only so much, then the leaves basically disintegrate.  I've read algae can go into shock easily and I have some Cyano growing in the fuge and on the Caulerpa.  Is this the cause the die back? <Likely.  Time, nutrient control will help.  You may want to look for other types of macroalgae as well- many dislike Caulerpa.  See FAQs for reference.> * Lastly, I added a 5" DSB (170lbs Southdown + 30lbs Gulf View LS) 6 weeks ago.  Reading that you needed some sifting to avoid H2S, I put a 3" sifting star in after 2 weeks, but now I'm wondering if he's depleted the LS. <Highly possible> I haven't noticed the DSB "attacking" the nitrate, or too many bubbles coming up from it. <It's early> Is the star too much for a 72? <Yes, certainly at this age> Should I pull him and add nothing, a cucumber, more hermits (have about 10 now)? OR, has it not been long enough? <Pull him, reconsider in 6 months.> Oh yeah, I also ID'd the turkey wing bivalve from your site.  Several came on my last LR shipment.  Thanks again for all of your help by mail and online content, Jason. <Cool hitchhiker!  Have a great new year! Ryan>

- High Nitrates? - Tank Specifications - 200 gallon display (73"L x 24"W x 27"H) - Approximately 180 lbs live rock added on 6/25/03 - 3 ReefOptix III Metal Halide Pendants - 250W each with 10,000 K bulb - 2 VHO Actinic bulbs hung 3" from water -Circulation loop through sump - Iwaki 100 RLT - alternate flow between pipes with 3-way motorized valve on each side of center overflow box - Closed loop with GRI 520 alternate flow between pipes with 3-way motorized valve on each side of tank - 45 gallon sump - CS-12-1 EuroReef skimmer - 40 gallon refugium - Temp 79.2 - 80 - PH 8.05 - 8.2 - Salinity is approx. 1.025 - Calcium above 400 - DKH 10 - 11 - DI/RO water - No ammonia   a.. Nitrates 3-9 ppm   b.. Nitrites .4 ppm - Small amounts of Caulerpa in refugium Livestock 7 Fish Corals: a bubble, mushrooms, Ricordea, encrusting gorgonian, torch corals, Blastomussa, an orange Monti cap, lots of Halimeda, maroon mushroom, zoos, green/brown pulsing xenia, Lemnalia, an elegance, daisy polyps, tree coral and colt coral (albeit bleached), yellow polyps and a frogspawn Miscellaneous - Coralline algae grows well Halimeda grows well 5" DSB in main tank - oolitic sand 6" DSB in refugium - oolitic sand <My friend, three to nine parts per million of nitrates is not high. I'm guessing this system is relatively new?? If so, then even this trace amount will lower in time... might be sped up with enhanced circulation in the tank to get more water across those sand beds. But again, I wouldn't be concerned with that level of nitrates. Cheers, J -- >

- High Nitrates? Follow-up - Mistake, still getting used to new test kit, nitrites are .1 ppm, not .4 ppm. <No worries - within the margin of error, the 'real' reading is likely zero. Cheers, J -- >

- High Nitrates, Small Tank - Bob, <Another crew member, JasonC here...> Hope you can help me with a few questions. <I can try.> I have a 26 gallon saltwater tank with 10lbs of live rock, 40 lbs of AragAlive fine sand (1-1/4") a 60 gallon trickle filter with bio-balls (Purigen under bio balls). The tank is stocked with very small blue tang, clown, bi-color pseudo, cleaner shrimp, flame scallop, rose anemone, a few snails and crabs, bubble coral, green star polyps, metallic green moon brain coral. I am also running a 75 gallon protein skimmer. I am doing 20% water changes every two weeks. All parameters test perfect with the exception of Nitrates. My Nitrates are consistently between 20-30. Is this a deadly level for fish? <No, marine fish can usually take up to 50-ish ppm before they start to show the effect.> What about corals? <High nitrates are no good for corals and other invertebrates.> My brain coral has lost most of its color and has produced cobwebs that stretch out to my LR. I am quite certain it is dead or almost there. Blue tang and pseudo are battling ich. The cleaner shrimp is helping them through this. <I wouldn't rely on the cleaner shrimp - they can take care of day to day issues, but rarely can get on top of an genuine outbreak.> Tried dosing the tank with kick-ich twice but not much luck. <Wouldn't dose anything in your display - much better to remove the fish and treat elsewhere.> The cleaner shrimp alone seems to do as much if not more than the kick-ich did without the shrimp?? Any recommendations on an effective reef safe ich med? <That's an oxymoron - there is no such thing. Reef-safe ich medications are usually not safe or not effective - one or the other.> I am feeding my fish and inverts every other day. I am also adding Cyclop-eeze for the corals. Fish like too. Rose and shrimp are hand fed frozen food like fish. I think my high nitrate problem is a combination of issues. 1) Overfeeding <Always a possibility.> 2) Small tank  3) Bio Balls <Unless these are completely submerged, a very likely source.> 4) Not changing blue/white filter pad often <Another likely suspect - these should be cleaned/replaced very frequently - perhaps every time you change the water.> 5) Not cleaning foam block in sump often (how often should I clean these two filter media's?) <Same as the foam pad - at least once a week.> I am cleaning the pre-filter sponge every two weeks. I do have an issue with spot algae. I have to clean it weekly but believe this is due to high lighting I am using (8 hours of 165 watts - 5watts per gallon) plus blind filtered sunlight that comes in through blinds all day. It is enough light for star polyp to be half open. I don't want to spend much more money on my system then I already have so plan on adding a poly filter at bottom of egg crate and using denitrate chips below that along with current Purigen. The only other thing I can think of doing that wouldn't add to much additional expense is adding one of those mini CPR in tank refugiums. The one that suctions on the inside, putting some live sand and Caulerpa inside. What do you think? Any other recommendations? <Address those other issues first - then see where you stand. Perhaps speed up the water changes, perhaps 5% a week.> Thanks, Rob <Cheers, J -- >

Nitrate & such Hello WWM, I have a few questions, over the past year I have tried to find out a few things, the site & from CMA. Anyway I have a few questions & I am sorry to be long winded, but this will really help me out big time !! I have a 100 gal tank FOWLR, 60 lbs. of Fiji rock & only a 1" sand base, not sugar, but one step up. I use a EV-120 skimmer with a wet/dry filter sump. I also always use carbon or Chemi-pure as well.   I push a Mag 12 return & 2 - 420 gph powerheads in the tank.   I have a 5" French angel, a 5" Desjardini tang & 2 cleaner shrimp. I have had the same guys for about a year. I have a Nitrate problem which reads to about .50, I do a 5 gal water change, lately more, every week taking RO water from my 32 gal Rubbermaid. I used to have coralline algae on the back walls, but now I have hairy reddish brownish algae.  Do I wipe that out, or leave it? <I'd wipe it off the glass.> I also get a light tannish color on my sand, I clean it often, but it comes right back. <Sounds like BGA to me, Cyanobacteria. More information on this here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm > My fluorescent lights are almost a year old, maybe that? <Nah... light in and of itself isn't a root-cause of problem algae, even if the bulbs are a year old.> I feed the fish every day. Dry food in the morning, & some form of frozen greens, angel sponges, shrimp or squid in the evening. I use Selcon once - twice a week as well. Am I doing something incorrectly? <Perhaps feeding too much - try reducing the quantities just a little. May make a difference with the BGA.> Do I need a DSB that bad? <Not necessarily.> I have thought of a refugiums, but do I have other options? <Well, again... if your problem is nitrates, then the wet/dry filter is the most likely culprit. These filters are extremely efficient at biological filtration and producing the end result of the nitrogen cycle, nitrate. You may want to consider a sump/refugium as a complete swap out for the wet/dry.> Second question, My French angel has always had cloudy eyes (you can see his pupil, but just a bit hazy), I can not figure out why. <Could just be genetics, perhaps the high nitrates.> I feel I am meeting his diet needs, he has no parasite issue at all. He eats perfect & acts normal. Sometimes his eyes are not as bad as other days, and I have tried to figure out why, with no conclusions. The tang has always been perfect. My tank parameters are the .50 nitrate above, 2.5 alk. 0 amm. 8.4 ph, 0 nitrite, .23 sal. 79 degrees. I know he will eventually get to big, but 2 fish in a 100 gal. I don't believe would stress him yet. Anyway, any thoughts or ideas would be very very much appreciated!! <Consider a change in filtration.> D.Mack <Cheers, J -- >

Purigen for Nitrate Issues? >Was wondering if you knew anything more about Purigen?   >>Sorry, never heard of it, shall Google. >I currently have a 55 gallon fish only system.  My nitrates are through the roof, anywhere between 80ppm to 160 ppm.  I change 10 gallons of water about every other week.   >>Well, you won't see results using that method.  Do a 75% w/c (do test the makeup water both before and after you mix the salts for nitrate), then retest.  Then, address initial nutrient export and conversion issues. >I bought Algone to see if that would help with the problem, I've only had Algone in the filter for about a week now.  Does Algone even work?   >>HIGHLY doubtful, tossing in one chemical to remove another when we can utilize naturally occurring microbes doesn't make much financial sense to me, my friend.  Consider a deep sand bed (for its denitrification abilities using anaerobic bacteria to convert nitrate to nitrogen gasses and other components), as well as a refugium for initial nutrient export issues that are leading to such high nitrate readings in the first place. >I figured I would buy it cause for 8 dollars where could I go wrong.    >>I'm an exceedingly frugal woman, Scott, and you'll be hard-pressed to get me to throw away $8!  It makes more sense, in the long run, to address these concerns (have you skimmate?  If so, is it efficient?) via other methods, and in the short term do at LEAST one 75% w/c.  You very well may have to do two, back to back, in this situation, but honestly, if you're gonna toss the money into the Algone, it's better spent on fresh water for your wards.  Just Googled it, it's a Seachem product, and I DO like Seachem, but again, it makes MUCH more sense to address these issues from the get-go, rather than go to such a product.  However, being Seachem, I would expect it to do as purported. >Thank you again for your time.  Scott >>You're welcome.  Marina

Cyano and nitrate issues - chicken before the egg? - 11/24/03 HELLO I'VE BEEN HAVING A RED CYANO PROBLEM. I AM SLOWLY CHANGING MY BIOBALL CONTAINING WET DRY TO A LIVE ROCK CONTAINING LIGHTED SUMP. <A very good idea indeed!!!> EVENTUALLY I WILL INSTALL A REFUGIUM/LIVE ROCK SUMP WITH A MAJOR SKIMMER UPGRADE. <Awesome. Been reading', eh??> THIS IN THEORY SHOULD REDUCE MY NITRATES AND GET RID OF THE RED SLIME. RIGHT?? <Certainly will help. There are many contributing factors that don't bear repeating in this email. Check through our site. See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm and here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and here as well: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm >MY NITRATES HAVE BEEN AROUND 5PPM IF THIS WONT WORK WHAT CAN I DO. <Please read the above articles. It will take a multi-pronged approach. Frequent water changes will always help alleviate some of the symptoms. Might dilute the "bad nutrients" and give competing "good organisms" a chance to out-compete the "bad organisms". You also need to identify the source of the nitrate issue. (Not necessarily a bad thing but can be an indicator of why there is an algae issue) The new skimmer, bio balls being removed, adding and properly removing carbon and poly filters, adding live rock, feeding animals and organisms less (target feeding might help) this of this nature. Be sure to aggravate the algae and siphon out every water change. Use a soft tooth brush to remove from surfaces etc.> I'VE READ THE RED SLIME POSTINGS AND I AM NOT GONNA USE A CHEMICAL/RED SLIME ERADICATOR. <Very good to hear. Never a good idea WAY more harm than good> I WAS IN THE LFS LAST NIGHT GETTING WATER AND A FRANTIC WOMEN WALKED IN WITH MANY 5 GAL CONTAINERS ANGRILY SAYING THE READ SLIME ERADICATOR THEY SOLD HER WAS KILLING HER FISH <No surprise here!!! Maybe good you were there for that. Sounds like it had an affect on you….. ~Paul >

- Nitrates, Calcium & Alkalinity - Dear WWM, Thank you for all the great information you have provided on your site. I have spent many hours reading about various topics. I used to go into my LFS with all kinds of questions, but rarely did I ever get any answers. I would probably still be very lost if I hadn't found the site. I have a 75 gallon FOWLR. I have a couple questions for you. I know that you guys have gone over these topics extensively, but I can't seem to find what I'm looking for. I have a very large lionfish, a large snowflake eel, and small Picasso trigger. My nitrate level stays high ranging from 25-50 ppm. I change 20% of the water weekly and have even changed 20% two times a week for about 3 weeks, but the nitrate doesn't seem to go down. I have large fish in a small tank and I have a wet-dry so I'm sure this is what keeps the nitrate up. Do you think that I have anything to worry about with these levels. Are my fish too messy to consider taking out the bio-balls. I have about 25 pounds of live rock and could add some more, but not a lot because the lionfish wouldn't have any room to swim. I would love to get a bigger tank but right now I just can't afford it. <As you guessed, your high nitrates are a result of the wet/dry filter and continued exposure to these isn't good for the long term health of these fish. My suggestion to you would be to lose the wet/dry and put in a proper sump where you can have additional live rock without sacrificing the space for the lionfish. Likewise, a good quality protein skimmer would help deal with those excess wastes.> My next question is about calcium and alkalinity. I have read almost everything about this on the site and also purchased Anthony's book, which I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was signed, but I can' t seem to understand a few things. I have been trying to raise the calcium in my tank to get some coralline algae growth. I have been using the slurry method to dose Kalkwasser to raise the calcium and also to keep the pH up. Without using Kalkwasser it stays between 7.9-8.0 and with it about 8.18. <Really much too low for pH.> For some reason the alkalinity of my tank stays at 13-14 dKH. <What is your calcium level?> I have tried to get it to go down with water changes, but it doesn't seem to work. <Could be an issue with the test kit - seems to me with an alkalinity that high, your pH should be closer to the normal range [8.2-8.4]. Likewise the Kalkwasser additions you've been doing should also boost the pH to some extent.> I just want to know if I should keep using Kalkwasser or what I should do. <I would, if only because your pH is so low.> I don't want to cause a snowstorm but I want to continue to use Kalk. What should I do? <I'd haul a water sample down to your local fish store and get a second opinion on the results. Cheers, J -- >

- UV Sterilizer and Other Questions, Follow-up - I have both a wet/dry a skimmer and a UV. <The wet/dry filter is likely the source of your increasing nitrates.>  Should I do a 30% or more water change to cure the 20 ppm nitrate? <You'd need to do a 50% change to get a 50% drop in nitrates or several smaller changes. Cheers, J -- >

Lowering Nitrate Hello <Hi there! Scott F. at the keyboard today!> I am having some nitrate problems. I currently have a 150 gal wet dry with bioballs. With WWM's help I have determined that the bioballs and the wet dry are contributing to the problem. I am going to slowly remove the bioballs and replace with 15 lbs of live rock and some sand and Halimeda. Not a lot. I will light the old wet dry for the benefit. <Good thoughts...Just do it slowly and monitor water chemistry parameters during the process...Should be fine> Should I leave the prefilter pad in the drip tray?? Remove the drip tray and let the raw water into the rock/sand area because the filter pad may be helping to raise nitrates. <Bingo! You hit it right on the head! Filter pads are great, and I do recommend them for mechanical filtration. However, you need to be able to clean and/or replace these pads regularly (like a few times a week, IMO.> I need to get the nitrates down Joe Culler, <Well, Joe, with those minor adjustments, and a little "tweaking" of your husbandry techniques (like water changes, skimming, etc.)- you should be on your way! Regards, Scott F>

- Lowering Nitrates, Wet/Dry Woes - Hi I cant seen to get my nitrates down below 5ppm.  I have a 90 gal soon to be reef. It has a Kole and hippo tang along with a cinnamon clown, royal Gramma and scooter blennies. I have a traditional wet-dry and a SeaLife systems 150 skimmer. <Hmm... quite possible the wet/dry is responsible for the small amount of nitrates - is the nature of these filters, very efficient at producing nitrates.> This is my first marine attempt and I should have done a few things differently. Bigger umph from a bigger skimmer. Refugium instead of  a traditional wet dry.  But that's water under the bridge. I don't want to replace the wet dry with the refugium and I don't have much room in the cabinet area to add one. <You should really re-consider this stance - do think the wet/dry may end up working against your reef plans. A refugium would be the way to go.> I do 5% water change twice a week. I have been changing my prefilter pad weekly, rinsing my sponges, etc etc. I have some red slime going on and I added some Halimeda which my tangs are "reorganizing" to try to lower nitrates. <Don't think this will help - you are working in the wrong place, and as long as the wet/dry filter is present you will have detectable nitrates.> I have seen in Dr. Fosters fish stuff a little "in tank" refugium. It is 7x7x4. Will that help if I put some sand, couple critters, Caulerpa in it right in the tank. <Don't think it will overcome the nature of the wet/dry filter - as long as that is inline.> I can prune the Caulerpa and feed it to the tangs. The real question is will it help? <I don't think so.> I don't want to waste the $$$ if it wont make a difference.   Joe <Cheers, J -- >

- Lowering Nitrates, Wet/Dry Woes Follow-up - Well, that kinda stinks. The thing that scares me about adding the refugium is the shock to my system. <Perhaps you can run one on the side of the tank before you remove the wet/dry... giving a chance to get the refugium going and to slowly remove the bio balls.> Disconnecting the wet dry and adding the refugium can be done but the shock to the fish and other life. How bad will that be?? <Bad if you do it suddenly - much less drastic if done slowly over many weeks.> Is the 5ppm on the nitrates a killer for the corals?? <Not entirely, but I'd be willing to bet that sooner or later 5ppm will become 10 which will become 20 and so on.> Or can the water changes and diligence overcome this. <You'd have to be doing a lot of water changes, and you still can't alter the nature of a wet/dry filter.> Can I replace the bioballs with live rock?? <You can, but quite typically the wet/dry sump really isn't designed to keep the rock submerged but yours may be different - would be worth investigation. Cheers, J -- >

Denitrification Device?  Hi Scott, how are you doing, hope you're doing great.  <Doin' great, Juan! Hope all is well with you!>  Surfing the web, and a little bit worried about my "Nitrate" problem, it's not critical, but still I am making 30% water changes every week and I still can't get it to 0.00.  <I guess the word "undetectable" would be better. Hobbyist test kits aren't usually sensitive enough to give a true "zero" reading; "zero" on a hobbyist-grade test kit is outstanding enough!>  I run in to these site: http://aquaripure.com/   they talk about "The denitrator", assuming that these device reduce and/or eliminates water changes. I truly don't believe that it can eliminate them but maybe it can reduce them.  <Uhh-ohh...>  Have you ever heard about these device??, and does it really works???, Tank you for your time, and advice.  Att. Juan Santos.  <Well, Juan- I had not seen this device before, but after a very cursory glance at the web site, it looks like a "coil denitrator", which essentially provides a long coil of tubing (like a couple hundred feet) to accommodate a very slow flow of water from the display tank. The water becomes essentially devoid of oxygen in the tubing, and is denitrified by anoxic processes when it leaves the tubing. You can adjust the flow of water to create the desired reduction...The key is keeping the flow slow enough to foster denitrification. By the way, you can relatively easily build a passive denitrification system like this, as outlined in Anthony's "Book of Coral Propagation". It's a proven concept, but it is not a "cure all", nor a substitute for good overall husbandry (no mechanical devices are). If it were me, I'd concentrate on fostering denitrification processes and nutrient export in a properly constructed deep sand bed, and utilizing aggressive protein skimming, water changes, and activated carbon/Polyfilter pads to assist. Hope this helps. Good luck! Regards, Scott F> 

-Nitrate: It's what's for dinner. Hi guy's <Hey there, Kevin here.>  Need your help. I have a 110 gallon FOWLR tank with 7 inhabitants...3 damsels, clown trigger, dogface puffer, Volitans Lion and a snowflake eel... About a week ago my eel stopped eating which of course sparked all kinds of activity around the tank to try and figure out what is wrong with my system <ok>  Possible problems are that I have about 1" substrate on the bottom (can't remember the name of it...it is crushed coral/sand) as well I only have about 5 lb of undoubtedly dead rock that I have probably killed off when treating with copper about 3 mths ago) another story in it's own right. Lastly I have the filter floss in my trickle filter that undoubtedly needs to be changed and will do so this week. Anyway, I tested the water for Nitrates and found them to be over 100 ppm. <There's your problem, eels don't stop eating for no reason.> Naturally began water changes in an effort to rectify, ..have done 2 changes at 5% over the past 4 days and have managed to bring the nitrates down to around 80 ppm as well reduced the amount of food being fed <You can do much better than this, how bout a few 50% water changes? You can change large amounts of water provided you are extra careful to make sure the water chemistry and temp are the same and that you aren't disturbing the biological filter too much.>  I believe that the root of my problem is that my skimmer is not working properly...Call me new but I have been having a problem getting the skimming levels down (had actually emailed you guys for help and was told that I should have a fine mist of bubbles about halfway up the neck of my skimmer...What I am finding is that I am either getting a ton of water in the collection cup, or very little with guck forming at the top of the cylinder. <Interesting, I'd try and give you some advice but that is dependant on the make/model of your skimmer. Try contacting the mfg or the place you bought it from, you didn't pay all that money to have a useless piece of plastic draining energy.>  I see it mentioned in your articles that you should work the skimmer hard...can you elaborate on this what should I be doing ?? Keeping the water level lower with maximum bubble activity ?? <You want to fine tune your skimmer to produce the darkest, driest foam possible consistently. You do this by getting the largest amount of the finest bubbles possible with the longest contact time. That's the theory, but every skimmer operates different, so how to get these things done depends on what you have. I hope this helps! -Kevin>  Thanks in advance for your help, Chris 

Nitrates (11-5-03)  Hello,<Howdy, Cody here today.>  I have a 90-gallon fish-only with live rock marine system with the following set-up.  Wet-dry filter w/bio-balls and additional 20-gallon overflow. Protein skimmer, UV-sterilizer, 3 power heads in tank for additional flow, HOT Magnum filter (that is only used as a water polisher a few times a year).  The tank is currently stocked with only 3 fish, a large yellow tank (6 inches), a large miniatus grouper (6-7 inches) and a medium Picasso trigger (4 inches) - the tank contains about 65 lbs of live rock and about a 4 inch base of finely crushed coral.   I purchased the system about 3 years ago and used the knowledge that I gained from reading your website and a colleague (marine biologist) at the university to set the tank up 'successfully'.  Over the past 2 years, I've had a few trials and tribulations stocking the tank - but have only lost a couple of fish (generally because the grouper and the tang attack anything that is added to the tank).   All 3 of these fish have been in my tank for about 18 months and appear rather bullet-proof (including surviving an Ammonia outbreak 12 months ago caused by my wife using Windex to clean the tank…. She has since been issued with a 10 ft restraining order from the aquarium).<Glad to hear they made it!>  My current water levels are as follows (tested today): pH 8.1-8.2, ammonia 0 ppm, nitrite 0 ppm, nitrates 30 ppm, SG 1.023 and total alkalinity of about 280.  These values have been stable for the last 6-7 months, and rarely fluctuate.  Obviously, the nitrate level does increase over the course of the weeks, but I find that doing a 25-gallon water change every 3-4 months keeps it down to 20-30 ppm. In the beginning, I used to change the water 5%-10% every 2-3 weeks and found that I was losing fish on a regular basis. Often, it was very visible that their slime coat was being removed and looked like they had spots all over them. Initially I thought it was a disease, but the marine biologist at the local university (who has been a marine aquarist for 30+ years) came to take a look and informed me that the "spots" that I thought was a disease was actually being caused by the fish losing their slime coat, and the "spots" were tiny particles of debris in the tank (food, sand etc) attaching to the skin of the fish - causing much stress.   I was instructed by my colleague to reduce the frequency of the water changes and this totally solved this problem and, as I mentioned earlier, the only fish I have lost in the past 6 months were a yellow wrasse and coral angel (both eaten by grouper). The more frequent water changes were actually causing stress to the fish as a result of a continuously changing environment.  My question to you is in regard to the nitrate levels. Many, many people write in to your website, reporting 0 nitrates? How do they do get this reading, or should I not believe that this is the case. I am a professor of chemistry, and understand the nitrogen cycles in biological systems - but cannot fathom how aquarists can maintain a reading of 0 ppm nitrates, since it's the final product in most of these continuous cycles. For chemistry research purposes, you can purchase nitrate absorbing columns, but these are generally very expensive (in excess of $800 per column) and also remove  chloride, phosphate and some carbonate ions - so probably shouldn't be used in a marine aquarium. Theoretically, nitrates are always going to be produced (by appropriate bacteria) from waste products like ammonia, some proteins etc. Is there a way to reduce nitrates effectively, other then skimming, plants and water changes?. My understanding is that plant life can control nitrate between 30-40 ppm, but not any lower. Obviously water changes dilute the nitrate levels, but it seems to be quite problematic to the livestock to perform several changes over a short timeframe.   Or is 30 ppm nothing to worry about? I have been told many differing opinions on this. Some enthusiasts claim 10ppm is the max allowed, some say 150ppm isn't a problem for fish-only systems - what is the truth? Or is it more a case of - whatever works for your system.<I would not be worried about 30ppm in FO tank. Many people that have the 0 nitrate have deep sand beds and use a RO machine and once they get past the initial cycle are careful of how they feed, keep up on water changes, running good protein skimmer helps also. The bio balls will also raise the nitrate a bit but I would not worry about it in your case.>  Finally, in the coming weeks, I want to add one or 2 or 3 more fish to the tank. Given the fact that the grouper and tang can be very territorial (putting it mildly) how should I add these fish, and which fish would you recommended to add. My favorite species are the tangs - are any other suitable for this system. Should I remove the yellow tang and grouper before adding the new fish - then reintroduce these 2.< I wouldn't add any more fish to this tank. Anything that is big enough to survive will likely put too much of a burden on you filtration. No more tangs this tank is too small! All three of these fish will require bigger quarters in the near future. Better start thinking of some good excuses to get a 180J. Hope this helped, Cody.>  Any help you could provide would be very much appreciate.   Cheers, Jeff 

Collapsing Coral And Rising Nitrate  Hi,  <Hi there! Scott F. here today>  I talked to ya'll last week. I now have finger leather that looks like its insides have been sucked out of it. It is just lying there almost flat and is a brownish color. It had been looking so good.  <It might be history...Not to be too premature here, but it may be beyond salvaging at this point. You could potentially try cutting out any salvageable parts of the colony and placing them in on rubble to re-attach... The reason for this collapse is not entirely understood. Eric Borneman, in his book "Aquarium Corals", suggests that salinity variations, physical trauma, or injury may play roles in this condition>  Now I never did find that thing that was on my mushroom leather that you thought might be some kind of nudibranch.  <Hmm...the "thing" might have been the source of the "trauma"?>  Also there is something on my rock that I have just noticed in the last few days. It is shaped kinda like a mushroom, they are really small, the stalk is so small I can hardly see it and the round top is a lot smaller that a dime maybe the size of the tip of a small persons finger. I can't tell the color of the stalk very well but it appears to be kinda a brownish color, the round top has little things standing up all around its edge and these and the top is clear. If my shrimp or fish get close to them they suck themselves back into the rock and you can't see the at all, you wouldn't even know there had been something there.  <Hmm, I'd love to see a photo and I could attempt an ID on this animal>  I did another 10% water change and vacuumed Sunday, my nitrate is still high around 60 I can't seem to get it to go down and stay everything else seem to be ok.  <Well, consistent water changes over time, combined with solid husbandry techniques (skimming, use of chemical filtration media, etc.) over time will do the trick. Initial, larger changes can help get things started>  I really need some help and I hope you guys can tell me what to do. Like I have told you I am just starting and I love my little ocean friends and want to really take care of them.  <Keep reading up on the WWM site concerning nutrient control and export techniques, and you'll see the water chemistry factors improve>  My sail fin tang ate out of my hand the other day; I thought that was really cool.  <Gotta love that!>  If I could just get my leather healthy and nitrate under control and these other things.  <Hope I gave you some places to start!>  Thank so very much, Teri  <My pleasure, Teri! Let us know if we can be of further assistance! Regards, Scott F>

Bubbling Trouble- Or A Good Sign?  Hello WWM crew,  <Hi there! Scott F. at your service!>  I have 360 litres reef tank, 7 months old and now I have lot of bubbles every where in the coral sand and on the live rock, is this because of the denitrification, or is there something else going on ?? Ph is 8.35 Temp. 26 C. Nitrite and Nitrate is almost 0. ( with Salifert tests only hint of colour). Ammonia is 0.  <Sounds like evidence of denitrification processes occurring within the sand bed. Very good sign!>  Also the leather coral (colt coral ??), is not opened like it was before.  <Well, this could be due to many factors...In the absence of obvious water chemistry problems, it could simply be the coral sloughing off period accumulations of mucus. Do continuously monitor water chemistry parameters to assure that everything is nice and stable in the system>  Things look quite same but there is something happening I just cant find out what.  <As above- keep testing and observing...>  I have 3 fish at the moment, and I feed them once in a day. So I think it is not too cloudy.  <Keep doing regular frequent water changes, and exercise good common-sense husbandry, and you'll be fine!>  Well that all for now, Thank you and best regards, John Hyttinen  <Hang in there, John! Let us know if we can assist you further! Regards, Scott F> 

Nitrates, Crushed Coral, and DSBs. Hi, I am a 14-year-old fishkeeper, and I just saved up enough money to buy a complete setup from a guy. The tank is a 90 gallon show tank (6 feet long by 1 foot wide by 2 feet tall).<nice> It came with absolutely everything. Lighting (6 x 40-watt), Prizm Pro Deluxe protein skimmer, Rena XP3 Canistar Filter, at least 100-120 pounds of live rock, and a 1-2 inch bed of crushed coral.<sounds nice> The creature list is: 1 Blue/Hippo Tang, 1 Scopas Tang, 1 Koran Angel, 2 Percula Clownfish, 1 Tomato Clownfish, 2 fire cleaner shrimp. 1 banded coral shrimp, 1 large green brittle star, an African Red Knobbed Sea Star, 15+ snails, 3 crabs, 1 bubble anemone, 1 carpet anemone, 1 tube anemone, frogspawn, torch coral, numerous mushrooms and Ricordea, and I think that's about it. I bought the setup 3-4 weeks ago, and obviously the crushed coral was stirred up pretty well during the move. I think it's the detritus in the crushed coral causing the nitrates.<yea and the loss of some denitrifying bacteria.. but expected> I want to remove them, but there is so much live rock I don't want to stress the fish again (they are still getting over the stress of the move).<agreed> I've been doing weekly 30% water changes with thorough gravel vacuums. The previous owner never had a nitrate problem. Chemistry is: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, pH at 8.2, and the nitrate is at 80 ppm. <just continue performing water changes>The fish and inverts are all fine at the moment, but the tank seems like a ticking time bomb if I don't get a DSB or something in there. How can I switch the crushed coral to a DSB with as little stress to the fish as possible, how much sand will I need, and where can I get sugar grain sized aragonite sand for a reasonable price? <You don't need a DSB...the crushed coral is fine. It would be too much of a hassle for you to replace the gravel, especially with a large bioload which you already have, just keep performing water changes until you get the nitrates under 30ppm. Your aquarium will eventually "balance" and you should be fine. Don't take your gravel out and replace it with fresh gravel because you will loose a great deal of the denitrifying bacteria which lives and reproduces in the sand bed and then you will have a HUGE problem, Good luck, IanB> Thanks so much for your help, Zack

Can a Protein Skimmer Really do That? >Hello again Mr. Bob, >>Ms. Harding in his place today. >As my previous letter, now I become one of the salt water aquarium moderator in my country, I know even though I have experience for about 10 years in keeping marine fish, but I still believe that my knowledge is still novice.  My question is does PROTEIN SKIMMER REMOVE AMMONIA, NITRITE AND NITRATE (later I write ANN)?   >>No, it doesn't.  It removes much of the waste that would later decompose into these compounds. >Because one of my senior told in the forum that this thing remove the ANN.  But, I strongly opposite him and told the forum that he was wrong, protein skimmer doesn't remove and never remove ANN, may be it will remove a very small part of ANN but ANN can only be remove by the Nitrogen Cycle process. >>This is correct, as I said, the best that can be hoped for with a foam fractionator is removal of waste products that later decompose. >Later he told to the forum again that he have a solution that can make water crystal clear and also remove ANN, so we do not need a Protein Skimmer. >>OH MY!  (I am laughing now.)  His nickname doesn't happen to be "saltcritter", does it?  (Search reefs.org for this individual, you will get a great chuckle.) >And at this point I opposite him again, I told to the forum that Nitrogen Cycle process can't be deny in marine aquaria, AM I CORRECT? Please advice and suggestion. >>Yes, remain confident in your assertions.  My own suggestion, as someone who's involved in another board's forums, is to state simply that the purpose of the board is to disseminate GOOD information, and if he has proof (scientific) of his claims, please make it available.  Otherwise, I might treat him as a "troll".  Enjoy!  Marina

- NITRATE!! - Hi guys, I've read all about controlling nitrates and discussed with many other hobbyists, but I can't seem to apply this to my own system to get it under control.  Please let me know what you think is the ROOT CAUSE and if you have any advice. TESTS:  1.022 SG, 80degF, 8.3pH, 0 AM, 0 NO2, 40ppm NO3 steady (all Aquarium Pharm tests), 2.5meq/l alk, 325ppm calcium, 44+ppm NO3 (all LaMotte) - I know alk and calcium are low but I've been focusing on what I think is the main problem, nitrate. TANK:  72G with 400gph going to an 18G sump with an EV-180 skimmer.  The return is spit between the tank and a 12G refugium with 6" of aragonite sugar sand which empties into the sump.  In the tank is ~90 lbs live rock on 1/4" of crushed coral (no other filtration).  2x175 MHs and 2x55W PCs. CORAL/FISH:  colt coral (not well), leather toadstool (ok, not great), mushrooms (good), zooanthids (good), frogspawn (good), yellow tang and perc clown (only 2 fish!), peppermint shrimp, lots of snails and micro-hermits. The system has been running about 15 months with no new additions for about 6 months. ROUTINE:  I use Coralife salt with RO/DI and top off automatically with RO/DI.  I've been doing 30G changes and vacuuming the CC every week for months (for a while I did a 30G twice a week) and within days the nitrate is back up (new water mix reads 0ppm).  I feed a couple small squares of algae daily, 1/4 cube of frozen shrimp every other day, and 1.5tbs of DTs daily. I added the refugium over the summer to help but I've not been able to get Caulerpa to grow well even using a 10W plant growth lamp. <Likely need a little more light - small compact fluorescent lamp left on 24 hours a day.> I'm thinking the nitrate is coming from my LR. <I think it's coming from overfeeding, although it probably doesn't seem that way to you - I would think with the stuff you have you could cut back all by half.> About 1/3 of the rock is from a fish only tank with about the same level of nitrate.  Is this rock "saturated" and leaching nitrate into the water? <May have less of necessary fauna, but isn't usually the case.> If so, will water changes EVER bring it down? <Hmm... might I recommend you try another salt perhaps, something consistent and reliable like Instant Ocean.> I'm also considering * removing everything and adding a 6" sand bed * building DIY nitrate reactor * getting an 800gph overflow * returning coral and sticking to fish Please let me know what you think and if you have any advice.   Thanks, Jason. <Cheers, J -- >

- Swapping Bioballs for a Sand Bed - Several months ago I walked into my LFS and bought a SW tank. I knew nothing and just blindly bought and set up the system to their specifications. I got lucky for the most part however I have been since spent many hours researching trying to rectify  my lack of knowledge.  I have this massive wet dry sump that is rated for a 200 gal tank( mine is 58 gals) probably overkill. I have read that bio - balls will not allow you to reach the really low nitrate levels that are optimal for corals which I do want to keep once the tank matures.  In my tank I have a 2" sand bed with a sand sifting sea star and a horse shoe crab both of which I now know have probably rendered my sand bed lifeless. 85 lbs of live rock a protein skimmer in the sump and loads of bio balls and filter pad.  I wanted to know if it would be a good idea to slowly pull out my bio balls and put in a deep sand bed on the bottom of the sump and then above that in the compartment where my bio - balls now resides base rock with a piece or two of live rock. <That would work, but the design of your sump really isn't optimal for the sand bed. Water pouring in from the tank will likely disturb the sand bed which will rob you of any potential benefit. If I were you, I'd work with the store you bought it from to see if you can trade it in and hopefully get into something more useful.> In your valued opinion would this be better then the bio balls? <In the ideal world, yes - is how I run my tank [DSB in the sump] but my sump was designed for that purpose. I don't think a DSB will work well in the sump you sent the picture for, unless you can address the incoming water's ability to wreck the DSB.> I have approx 40 lbs of base rock just sitting in my back room so I thought I could put it to use this way. I have included a pic of the sump I have. <Cheers, J -- >

-Rising nitrate levels...- let me just say have just found your site and it is very helpful GREAT SITE tank has been running for 6 months with no problems until now no3 gone up to 25mg/l  no2 is 0 running 2 Eheim filters 1 thermo prof 2 with Ehfisubstrat & Ehfimech <If these are bio and/or mechanical filters, this is likely the root of your nitrate accumulation> and the other 1 model 2222 pro with just active carbon and running threw a UV  2 power heads red sea protein skimmer 25 kilos of live rock I use ro for water changes have been doing water changes weekly last 3 weeks since it went up <Oh, only up for 3 weeks? If the rock was cured in the tank, and just finished curing, a nitrate level of 25 would be expected.> do you think I am using the right media in thermo filter. <You really don't need/want anything in the filters besides a periodic stash of carbon.> new to marines so any advice would be great, regards john <I hope this helps, also check out http://www.wetwebmedia.com/no3probfaqsii.htm and the four (count em!) other nitrate FAQ's, you're not the only one! -Kevin>

-High nitrates...- I've had my 100 gal reef tank running for over a year now, but despite weekly water changes of 10 gals I'm still suffering from high nitrates (around 50mg/L total nitrogen). <Ooo, ok, let's check it out...> As well as a mixture of (mainly) soft and some hard corals I have Blue Trigger, 2 Melanopus clownfish, 1 Chromis, 2 Gregory's Damselfish, Yellow Tang, Cleaner Wrasse <In the future, don't support the capture and trade of these critters as they very rarely live for long in captivity (starvation) and are very needed in the wild.> , Blue Cheeked Goby and a Copperband Butterfly. All fish seem well, the Melanopus are spawning roughly every 2 weeks and have been for the past 3 months (no luck at catching the fry yet!) so I think they may have acclimatized to the high nitrates. <cool> I've had no luck with Xenia coral (dies within 2 weeks) and Acropora declined over a similar time. <Hmmm, check your calcium and dKH for the Acro death, xenia is sometimes tricky to acclimate and a horrible shipper.> But the soft corals, hammer, brain, 2 bubble corals, trumpet coral and a Galaxea are all doing well. The major parts of the set up are : Aqua Medic Turbo Flotor 1000 skimmer <A bit undersized for this set-up. Disregard the 250-300g rating, it's good for a 55 and not much more.> Ocean Runner 6500 on closed loop for circulation Prime 30 canister filter <Likely problem number 1> Eheim 2226 canister filter <Likely problem number 2> 15W UV sterilizer About quarter by volume LR The canister filters both have a mixture of mechanical and biological media as well as some carbon in the Prime. <That's where the bulk of the nitrate is probably coming from. Sounds like you have enough live rock where you could safely remove ALL the mechanical and biological filter media permanently. If you're a little hesitant to do that, do one canister at a time a week apart.> I'm saving up RO water for a multi-step water change to try and bring those nitrates down over a few days, but my fear is that they will rise again. <It will, wait till u dump the canisters, then do the water change.> From reading about denitrators I'm not convinced that one would be worth the trouble. <Yeah, no need for a denitrator here, just kill it at the source. Use the canisters solely for chemical filtration where applicable, and look into upgrading your skimmer.> I've been reading about how canister filters can become nitrate factories and am wondering whether I should remove at least the Prime (leaving the easier to clean Eheim)? Also I feel I need to add more LR? What are your thoughts on this?  Any help would be very much appreciated. <Adding extra live rock would be good, as would installing a deep live sand bed and/or refugium(s). I hope this helps! -Kevin> Great website - lots of very useful information. Kind regards Tony Fenton England

Going Deep (Sand Bed For Denitrification) I am looking for help with rising nitrates.  Current conditions: 90 gal tank, 20 gal sump, AIS-90 skimmer, Mag 9 pump, 2 - 401 power heads, wet/dry filter (used just as a sump) with all the bio balls removed, 50 micron filter pads on the drip plate, carbon and chem pure in the first baffle, 96 w power compact, ph 8.2, alk 300, nitrite 0, nitrate 40+, salt 22ppm, 78-79 degrees temp, 1 med hippo tang, 1 med yellow tang, 3 sm. green Chromis, 2 clowns, 1 med Betta, 1 med hawk fish, 1 green polyp, many plate and disc mushrooms, 1 sm xenia, 2" of LS, 75 lbs LR, lots of crabs and snails, did I miss anything important? <Water, maybe? Just kidding, LOL- sounds good! Make sure that you rinse and/or replace the micron pads often (like weekly, or twice weekly). Also- get the sand bed up to at least 3 inches. Two inched is too shallow to foster complete denitrification processes, but too deep to be fully aerobic...Not good for the long run...Go deep!> Nitrates were at about 60, 10 mo.s ago when you recommended removing bio balls and 25% water changes weekly, it worked.............. down to about 10. <Cool...>   Recently, over 3-4 mos.,  the nitrates have slowly risen from 10 to 40 - 60 range again.  I am doing 15 - 20 % water changes weekly, using Instant Ocean salt. <A good strategy, IMO>   Make up water is RO, bare bones, no phosphates.   I vigorously vacuum the LS when I change the water. Is that a problem, am I screwing up the LS by removing the good stuff? <Good insight...You might be disrupting the beneficial denitrification processes that are taking place in the sand bed. A deep sand bed (like 3" or more, minimum) can realistically reduce nitrate to undetectable levels in an otherwise well-managed system, if left undisturbed> Feeding is about a tablespoon of flake, every other day.  Skimmer output is erratic and I want to change the sump to keep the water level constant to the skimmer. <Excellent thought- it will make a noticeable improvement in the quantity and quality of skimmate (funny that I used the word "quality" to describe a bunch of crap, huh? LOL). Thanks.......Mike C. <Well, Mike- I think that you're on the right track. Kick up the sand bed height, keep up your otherwise good husbandry practices, tack up a "Do not disturb" sign over the sand bed, and I'm sure that you'll see nitrates head south in due time. Good luck, and hang in there! Regards, Scott F>

Three Is Definitely A Crowd! Hey, guys I have a question with regards to stocking my 55 gallon tank. <Fire away! Scott F. here today> Right now I have a Naso tang approx 6", a purple tang approx. 7" and a black edge moray about 13". <Wow! Way too much life for a 55 gallon tank. I'm sure that you want the best for your animals; do consider a MUCH larger home for them in the future...Like 150 gallons minimum, preferably 240-300 gallons for the long-run> I don't have much live rock at all, and I started my tank with dolomite as a substrate. My first question is: If you guys think I will be able to make any additions to my tank. I was thinking of purchasing a Huma Huma trigger, or bursa trigger, since I know those two mentioned are the smaller of the trigger family. <Not to be to harsh- but absolutely not...I wouldn't even think about it at this point. Really. Start saving for a much larger system...That's the best thing for you and your animals...> I have a 25 watt UV sterilizer, wet/dry filter and protein skimmer that came with the wet/dry, but my nitrate levels seem to always be a little elevated around 60-80 ppm. <Not surprising, with a full bioload of very heavy metabolite-producing fishes...Nitrate reduction is possible, but will be a true struggle in this tank...> There seems to have been an increase since I got the eel. I know triggers are messy eaters as well and figure this will only contribute to elevated nitrate levels. <Good thought- you are 100% correct!> My ammonia levels are always at or near 0 and nitrites are also at or very near to zero (this seems to depend on me cleaning filters (pre filter and filter cloth), or adding removing ornaments). <These factors should always be undetectable in a well-established, properly-maintained tank...> My salinity is approx 1.022. I have always had algae growth, but now seem to constantly get red algae in addition to the diatoms and green algae. <No doubt due to a high load of metabolic waste in the water.> I use a deionizer to treat the tap water, and that is what I use for water changes. <Excellent prep) I use Instant Ocean Sea Salt and it claims to not have any phosphates. <Your phosphates may be coming from...food! Feeding is one of the biggest contributors to excess phosphate levels in closed systems..> I also wanted to know if you thought the addition of live rock would help to stabilize my nitrate levels, and I thought about changing my substrate to sand to make it more natural, I wanted to know if that would help. <The addition of sand and live rock may provide bacteria and microfauna that can help process additional nutrients. If properly maintained, they can help. However, the tank is still overstocked for the long-term..> Also reading some of your articles I see that some of you guys talked about removing bio balls from filters, Is there anything wrong with bio balls? Also I've had my tank for a couple of years, should I be doing anything to the filter itself in terms of maintenance, cleaning, washing, etc? <There is nothing wrong with bioballs. They help foster bacteria that can very efficiently break down ammonia and nitrite. However, they are so efficient at this initial work, that they come up short in the denitrification department! A "victim of their own success". They will do good work, but you will see an accumulation of nitrate...> Thanks Neville <My pleasure, Neville. I'm sure that you're going to be successful with your system. You just need to make some adjustments and consider the long-term needs of your animals. You have some great insights and thoughts, so keep on working on your system. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Plagued with Nitrates <hello! Ryan with you today> I have a 55 gallon fish only marine tank.  I have a Clown Trigger and a Sohal Tang in it. <Hmmm...have you made future plans to expand?  That Sohal alone is going to require at least twice the volume that you're currently running.> I'm currently having a big problem with my nitrate levels. <Not exactly shocked> Which are at 80ppm.  I don't know how to lower it I've bought more live rock and I've used R/O water that I got from my local fish store.  The water here in my city straight out of the tap has anywhere between 40-80ppm of nitrate in it already. <What did the local fishkeepers do to deserve that?> That's why I've been buying the R/O water. <Very smart> I just changed 10 gallons of water using R/O water and my levels are still the same. <Yes, you need to keep fish that are well suited for your setup.  You're trying to do too much.> I don't have the money to buy the nitrate reductor. <And, you'd likely have just as many problems.> Will a better protein skimmer work? <Yes, it will help prevent the nitrates from rising, but it certainly won't solve the problem.  The one I have isn't all that.  Any suggestions would be great cause I really don't know what do about this problem.   <Well, it's back to the drawing board, my friend.  You've got 2 "gross polluters," and something has got to give.  Please either seriously consider upgrading, or take these two magnificent specimens back to the LFS that shouldn't have sold them to you in the first place.  If you're set on keeping one of the two, the clown trigger will do better in the short term, but eventually also will need a bigger home.  Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!  Ryan> Thank you for your time                                          Scott

- Nitrate Accumulation - What are some ways of lowering my nitrate levels. I've done like two 30% water change outs and it really hasn't done anything dramatic to the levels. What chemicals can be used. And would a protein skimmer help out with the Nitrogen cycle??  Thanks, Nic <A quick wetweb google search reveals: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm ta da! -Kevin>

Accumulating Nitrates >I was wondering if you could help me out. >>I'm wondering, too.  Let's see, shall we?   >I have a 330 gallon reef tank with about a 60 gallon sump with bioballs. I am constantly fighting nitrates with only a very limited stocking of fish for this aquarium. I have about 400 pounds of live rock 300 from Kaelini and 100 from Fiji. The fish I have are as follows: 4" Sohal Tang 2" Flame Angel 4" Sleeper Goby 1.5" tank bred Percs x 2 2.5" yellow tail damsel I have two inch tubes in both overflows to the sump with prefilter and a prefilter in front of return pumps. Both return pumps are Mag 2400s. I can't seem to understand why I am having a problem with Nitrates in this size tank.  What is the best method for a reef aquarium for reducing nitrates? >>Well, normally I'd say water changes, SIGNIFICANT water changes would help.  I would also say (and am/will) that setting up a refugium would be your very best bet.  Combine the 'fuge with a deep sand bed (DSB) and after a while (these do take a while to "kick in") you will reap the benefits of natural nitrate reduction. >How could I convert my sump for such? I attached a drawing of my system for you to look at. I am confused on whether to use a DSB on one side of the sump and leave bioballs on the other or remove both and have a DSB on both sides. >>ALWAYS be careful and go slow when removing the bioballs.  You have an excellent amount of live rock, so I would first slowly remove the bioballs, combining with large (on the order of 50% or better) water changes.  Then, I would suggest setting up a separate refugium, though it may certainly be set up within your sump, but it makes for a bit of down time that the tank may not tolerate well.  Please look here for information on refugia and natural nitrate reduction: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/index.htm   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm >>Also, besides the large w/c's, to help get a quick handle on the high nitrates (which, by the way, you've never 'fessed up to!) you may want to install a good foam fractionator in the current sump setup.    >Have live rock as well, or even a refugium. Which way am I going to have the greatest success for removing nitrates? I have about 60 corals, LPS, SPS, Leathers, Clams, etc. Please help make my reef a better functioning habitat for my livestock, Thanks Ian >>My personal opinion is that you'll have best and most long-term luck setting up a separate refugium, and you may be able to eventually "wean" your system off the current sump setup.  Do follow the links within the links I've provided.  Marina

Nitrate Problem (8-24-03) Sounds crazy- but we had a recent catastrophe when tank temp was at 95F for two days when our ac went out (live in FL). By the time I hooked up the chiller I had been prev contemplating, all corals most fish were dead. I had two clowns and a clown trigger still alive. LFS said the rock/sand might still be alive- we hooked chiller up and went thru many water changes, spikes etc. Finally some 2 months later, water seemed to stabilize, saw algae growing, some coral growth came back from some rocks. Purple coralline still looks purple, not sure if that means it is alive though. Tank actually looked really good. The three fish survived all. Thought we were out of the woods. Added some fish/corals- all ok. Added more- and major nitrate problem that I cant seem to get rid of. All other water params good/great. nitrates fluctuating from 50 to 100 despite water changes nearly every other day. sometimes 10 % sometimes as much as 50% depending on the nitrate level. <I would be helpful to add some new LR to the existing stuff to seed the old with whatever was lost.> LFS said maybe the rocks/sand are harboring nitrates and causing the levels to go right back up. Suggest using a denitrification product of no harm to corals/inverts. What do you think?<I would not add any of these chemicals.> I don't have the best protein skimmer set up, but I cant imagine this is causing the prob to a value of 100.  I rinsed the bioballs with system water, cleaned every bit of detritus I could find, discarded every pad/filter pad/foam block that could be contributing, and still nitrates rise. Any suggestions?<Get rid of the bioballs.> 90 gallon reef tank, 6 fish, anemone, cleaner shrimp, 120lbs rock, wet/dry (set up for 2 yrs), marine life aquatics Aggressor -AIS150 skimmer that I can't seem to get to produce much gunk (overflow goes to bioballs first unfortunately), chiller, Mag pump that turns water over 4x/hr. ph 8.2, sp gr 1.023, ca 400, 10 dKH, PO4 .2, 0 amm, o nitrite, 100 nitrate, temp 86F. <I would slowly get rid of the bioballs slowly, like a handful every couple of days.  Also look into a RO unit or see if your LFS sells this water.> Thinking about adding a few new live rocks to accelerate, changing water flow to go to skimmer first, maybe trying the denitrifying product, want to buy the Euro-reef skimmer. <I would do all these except adding the denitrate.> Someday want to get rid of the bio balls- but am afraid to do that right now. Your thoughts on what to do? Thanks. Your site has been such a great source of info. <A deep sand bed would also b helpful for reducing nitrates.  You can learn more about all this at our site.  The Euro reef skimmer would also be a very good idea.  Cody>

Nitrate problems II (8-27-03) Thanks very much for your help- it feels good to have confidence of being on the right track. Am getting rid of those bioballs slowly. <Awesome!> Added a deep sand bed. Am pretty set on the Euro-Reef CS6 skimmer even though its footprint is too large for my wet/dry. What do you think of attaching another, larger sump that first receives the tank water and houses the skimmer - this water would communicate with the former wet/dry (24 x 10 x 18 ) which could be sectioned into part refugium and part return pump/additives area? If you like this idea- how should I connect or plumb it?  And do I need to put he Euro-reef in a overflowing box to keep the head pressure steady or is it possible to have the overflow water hooked directly in?<The sump would be a excellent idea.  As for plumbing check the WWM website.  The Euro Reef will need to be in its own compartment where the water level stays the same.> Recommended RO- I live on Sanibel Island which utilizes RO in treating its city water (uses water direct from the gulf)- thought that might be pretty good (yes- our water is very expensive), but in testing it found rather high phosphates. So, should I proceed with an RO or stick with tap and battle the phosphates with an absorbent? <The RO would be most efficient but you could try absorbents but I have never had much luck with them.  If you do use absorbents I would get like a pad type instead of a liquid.> Lastly- I used to have great water turnover- about twice what I have now, until I placed the chiller in-line of the return to the tank. This has dramatically slowed the turnover. So, I was thinking of letting the mag pump send water directly back to the tank again. And have a new, probably smaller pump circ water to the chiller- where should that water then go? Back to tank (and thus get rid of the powerheads I have in the tank)? or back to the sump? <The water flow is a very big component with getting rid of nuisance algae and for your corals health.  I would definitely put the chiller on a smaller pump and use the mag for flow or return from sump.>Another quest- would the chiller negate the benefits (plankton etc) achieved by adding the refugium? <Don't see what your worried about here.  Let me know what you decide to do.  Cody> Thanks again!

All the Wrong Moves: Reality Check on Stocking - Staggering stocking/ nitrate issues  Hey guys, <howdy> Okay I got a question for ya - let's see how you do.   <we're volunteers and don't need to take tests <G>> I have been in the saltwater hobby for about a year.  I spend way too much time finding info and doing research about keeping a saltwater tank, maintaining, the inhabitants and blah blah blah. <"blah blah blah" - great attitude... I would have never guessed> Anyways, I have a 25, a 46 bow front, and a 120.  The 25 is our iso tank, but became our shark weaning tank, the 46 is our reef and the 120 is our aggressive tank.   <shark weaning implies that you have a shark (or more)... yet you only note a 120 as your biggest tank (too small even for adult cat/bamboo sharks). Problems in store for you in the future here. Poor planning. Kudos for setting up the QT tank though> Now the first and big question is how do we solve our problem with getting down our high nitrates?   <much to say here even without knowing what the actual nitrates are (define "high"). Are you using any chloramine water conditioners that alter test kit readings (Nessler's reagents used? - do read your reagents in the kit)? Have you used two or more different types of test kits to confirm accuracy? Are you testing for nitrate as nitrogen or as the ion?> We feed every 2 to 3 days and only what they can consume in minutes, we have filtration for at least 3 times the amount of water, protein skimmers, plus we do water changes of 10% once a week. <the water changes are waaaaaay too small IMO. That means 90% of dissolved urine, feces etc. is left behind every week. The filters do not magically export such matter... they simply convert them... to nitrates... if they are good/ample enough> Even after water changes the nitrates never go down.  We have had a constant 120 reading.   <if not read as the ion, your actual nitrates are 4.4 times 120ppm... doh! Over 500 ppm> But at the same time, the fish are happy, colorful and better off then they were when we bought them.  Plus they are growing.   <how many fishes, how much food, what kinds, etc> Now we have tried running extra carbon with frequent changes and that has done nothing.  I put a quarter what is recommended of all supplement.  Any ideas why nitrates are still high?  All we use is RO water and Red Sea Salt.  Every other level we test for is good.   <doh... are you also using Red Sea test kits? Not my favorite brand based on customer feedback and experience. Not the worst either... but there are much better choices - LaMotte, Hach> We never have any nitrites or ammonia levels.  We keep a salinity of about .019, Calcium is at a steady 420 and ph is at 8.2.  In the 25 we have a baby banded shark (just hatched) and a clown trigger.   <good heavens...> In the 46 reef I have 2 convict blennies, a perc, a fairy wrasse, a parrot fish, 3 cleaner shrimp, 4 peppermint shrimp, a sand sifter, 8 or 9 soft corals, a serpent star, who knows how many small hermits (like 20 maybe), and about 25 snails.   <ahhh... parrotfish... in the reef. A juvenile no doubt. Yikes. Do know/watch in time for destructive behavior (ethics aside for keeping such fish that grow too large for home aquaria)> I have no die- back in the tank. Filtration is a Penguin 400 and a wet-dry rated for a 75 gallon tank with protein skimmer. <hoping the skimmer is tuned well enough to produce 3-5 cups minimum of dark coffee colored liquid weekly. A good way of reducing nitrate> I have about 75lbs. of live rock and a 3" base of fine sand. I do have couple of secluded patch algae growing in the tank but the tank is really clean and crystal clear. (hell its looks better than some of the show tanks around town that are in a few of the fish stores)  Now the 120 is our aggressive tank.  We have a ( we think it is) a brown banded reef shark at about 1ft. (he looks like a brown banded, but he has leopard spots on him), a Huma huma, a Niger trigger, a yellow line sweet lips, 2 maroon clowns, a blue line snapper, a yellow tang, a orange shoulder tang, a V-tail grouper (gorgeous fish), a couple of large damsels ( about 6"), 2 x-large hermits, and 3 6" chocolate chip stars. <my friend... you need to stop buying so many fishes so fast and research their needs before you buy them. The Sweetlips is not destined long for this world in captivity and will grow too large for home aquaria even if it does. 2 sharks  and a parrotfish in your possession are also very poor choices (tank size/availability). Add to that a snapper, grouper and several triggers that do not have a prayer of living together past 5 years captive in the aquaria you have available (adult sizes, and a potential lifespan of well over 20 years). Many bad choices here.> We run a wet-dry rated for a 125, and two power filters that are rated for up to 75 each. Plus a protein skimmer rated up to a 250 gallon tank.  We have about 145lbs. of live rock and about a 2.5 inch base of semi fine sand.  In all three tanks I run 2 to 3 powerheads for counter-clockwise circulation including the return flow. <you clearly are a passionate (good) but perhaps impulsive hobbyist. The money you have spent in less than a year on all of this livestock and hardware was way too much, and way too fast. Your local pet stores must love you <G>. Do slow down and research more before you buy. We have an enormous archive here at WWM... all free and all waiting for those willing to help themselves. Not to mention, show respect for the living charges in our care> Now I said this before, but all of our tanks are crystal clear with no problems. <ahhh... OK> As in healthy fish, great colors, everyone is happy, no parasites or infections, everyone is eating and flourishing.  The only tank that shows notice of something being wrong is the reef and that is only because none of the corals are multiplying, spawning, spreading, etc.  Now I know this is due to the high nitrate level.   <not only/entirely> So any suggestions, comments, concerns?  Please let me know.   <as per above... start here: www.wetwebmedia.com and work your way through the archives on some of the issues addressed above: stocking densities, adult sizes, ethics(!)> Thank you for your time and help.  Hopefully you might be the one person that can actually give me an idea that works. Well give me an idea and I will see.   <I hope you will take the advice to heart... but suspect you will take exception. I have been consulting the public for over a decade, and have a vibe here. I do hope to see you succeed!> I have tried most of what dozens of people have suggested and some have just suggested after they were at their wits ends and nothing seemed to work or more that everything seems great and that the high nitrates are just there and weird that if all is healthy and great just keep doing what I am doing and hope for the best since that is the only problem but it doesn't seem to be a real problem so I should not worry about it. Thanks Rich <"dozens of people"... yikes. Better to consult all but not try all <G>. Information gather, and then make a judicious decision based on an intelligent consensus. Consult www.fishbase.org to see the adult sizes of candidates before you buy them... and please (!) seriously consider reading Bob Fenner's "Conscientious Marine Aquarist". What you need are much larger water changes, perhaps better skimming, certainly larger aquaria or less fishes (if only for longer view 1-2 yrs plus. Reality check here, my friend. If you gave up every other fish you own now and kept only one shark... that still leaves an animal that grows 3 feet long to live in a tank only 2 foot wide. Not sensible. Summary of stocking density/potential: 2 sharks (30-36" each as adults), 3 triggers (over 24" cumm. as adults), a parrotfish (1-2 feet), a snapper (holy cow... to be measured in pounds?!?!), 2 tangs (the orange shoulder has an adult size of over 12"), two clowns and fours damsels (6" each... two already there), a grouper... ughhh, other small fishes. And these are just the ones mentioned. All for a 120 and a 46 gallon tank. Staggering... just disappointing. Please take their welfare to heart. You have allowed yourself to be misguided by your locals... and oversold on fishes while undersold on hardware (tank size). You are essentially a cash cow at this point for the LFS waiting for the tank(s) crash and opportunities to sell it all to you over again. Be an educated consumer, mate. Anthony... hoping for an enlightened reply.>

- Lowering High Nitrates - Hi Bob and the crew, <Good morning, JasonC here...> I'm afraid I have a serious problem with my tank. <Uhh oh.> I have a 29 gallon saltwater tank with a 10 gallon sump, Bak Pak skimmer, refugium with grape Caulerpa and about 28 pounds of live rock with 3-4 inch sandbed.  My tank had a long cycle and has been cycled for 2 months. Remaining inhabitants are a six line wrasse (seems healthy and eating), 2 cleaner shrimp (the larger molted yesterday), a brittle star, sand sifting star, tiger cuke, and hermits and snails. My problems started with the introduction of 2 clowns that I received in not so great shape, to my tank containing the six line wrasse and purple Pseudochromis.  I did a lot of research and read the Conscientious Marine aquarist several times to know that I was adding too much livestock too fast but the clowns were an unexpected well meaning gift that I couldn't turn down.  Anyhow for a week the one clown wouldn't eat a thing so I stupidly over fed the tank I'm sure trying to get him too eat.  Not long after that I started having water quality problems.  My ammonia levels rose to 0.25 but dropped and now I'm battling rising Nitrite levels and high Nitrate levels of around 40 ppm.  I've been doing a lot of 10-15% water changes a day or two apart and it has helped to bring down my nitrite and nitrate levels some.  To make matters worse both the clowns took a turn for the worse and got what I suspected to be Brooklynella and died.  They also infected my Purple Pseudochromis which I removed from the tank yesterday and disposed off because he was in terrible shape and I didn't want him to die overnight in the tank and make matters worse.  I did another 15% water change and today when I tested my nitrites they were up to 0.5.  Ph is 8.4 salinity, 1.024, ammonia between 0 and 0.25 (but not 0.25) and nitrates were under 50 ppm. <With nitrates at 50ppm, I would call the nitrite and ammonia readings an error... once the bacteria to reduce nitrite to nitrate are present in numbers to produce 50ppm of nitrate, you shouldn't have any testable ammonia or nitrite.> I've read conflicting information on other sites and now I'm just not sure what to do anymore.  I'm very worried  and stressed out about the health of my inverts and Six line wrasse.  Should I continue to do water changes, should I just leave things to work out by it self? <I would consider perhaps one or two larger water changes - 50% or so a couple of days apart. That should get you back on the right track.> Thanks for the help <Cheers, J -->

Help with NO3 >Hi there I was hoping that you guys could help me with an NO3 question? >>Good morning, I'll do my best.  Marina here. >I've read thorough a bunch of the FAQ's but still can't figure out what's going on.  To give you a brief history of my aquarium, I have a 540L salt water aquarium with and overflow sump filter of 90L. I have coral rock in my sump for filtration and I have the Berlin Turbo protein skimmer.   >>Not sure what you mean by "coral rock for filtration".  If you were utilizing a deep sand bed (DSB), then the for filtration bit would make more sense (it would also naturally reduce your nitrate into its base components, not the least of which is good ol' nitrogen gas). >The tank has been set up a little over a year. I had about 15 fish in my tank and a couple inverts, but reduced it to about 5 fish when the others started to get too aggressive. I had to take out most of the live rock to catch the fish to take them back to the store which stirred up the water quite a bit.   >>I assume you put it back immediately, yes? >About couple weeks after I removed some fish I noticed that my NO3 had skyrocketed to between  10-50 ppm and the respiration of my Juv emperor angelfish had increased quite a bit. Every other water test was fine just the NO3 was high. My redox is at 370. I did a partial water change (50L) >>VERY insufficient to reduce nitrate. >which resulted in no change in the NO3. I then mixed up about 100L of new water and let it sit over night and then changed that water as well sucking up a lot of detritus from the bottom. >>Still insufficient.  50% or MORE is what will make a dent in nitrate readings, unless you're doing dailies of 25-30%, and even then, they won't be as helpful as a couple of 50% changes. >Still with no change.  I then mixed up another 100L and then cleaned out half of the filter media in my sump.  After that for about 1 afternoon the NO3 dropped to between 2.5-12 ppm but the next morning it was back up to the same level as before.   >>Well, it seems your nitrifying bacteria *are* doing their job, the issue is you're not getting a handle on your total nutrient export.  If the skimmer (I would think that model should give you good results) is NOT producing truly foul, dark, awful-smelling skimmate it must be adjusted until it does.  We want a "dry" foam, as well. >Then I phoned my LFS and the guy there said that because we are getting into summer and the temp of the tank is up to about 29 degrees I should shorten the burn time of my metal halide lights and put in some aeration and do whatever I can to lower the temp to about 25.   >>That's all well and good advice, but what has it got to do with your high nitrate readings?  Also, consider your test kit--quality and age make a world of difference. >I did what he said, I put in a power head with a fixture for aeration and put in a fan over my sump.   >>Eee...I know exactly what the fixture is (the venturi fitting), and it does NOTHING to increase "aeration" (which is usually meant to describe optimizing O2 saturation levels).  What WILL optimize O2-CO2 exchange is pointing that powerhead to the surface of the water to *agitate* it--the surface is the ONLY place where this exchange occurs.  What would be better still to reduce tank temps is to get a muffin fan (many folks retrofit a computer fan in their canopies, others use those cheap Chinese clip-on fans) and set it to blow across the surface of the water.  THIS will do MUCH more to reduce the temperature. >That was a couple weeks ago and my NO3 is still at the same level and in total I have changed about 400L  of water with no change.  I have moved my emperor to a smaller 60L tank for now but what do you guys think is the problem and how can I fix it?    >>Your experience is a study of facts in practice--you changed a total of 400L, but if you had done this change all at once you'd be waiting a long time to have a rise in nitrate again.  However, each change was small, and  thus it was merely a small dilution.  What you must do is get a handle on your nutrient export.  If you weren't doing regular water changes before, and you do not or will not have a DSB and/or (I like them best used in concert) refugium, you have no means of NATURAL nitrate reduction.  This means that you have basically one option left to you to keep nitrate under control--water changes.  25% weekly (once you get the readings down to acceptable levels) should keep it under control.  I do have some other questions though, mostly around the mention of an Imperator angel and metal halides.  Why?  One would deduce that if an aquarist is using MH lighting, they're doing so to grow photosynthetic invertebrates.  Yet, you have in the same tank an animal known for *eating* such invertebrates.  If you aren't growing photosynthetic inverts, you really don't need those MH lights, and I'd suggest you reconsider your lighting.  If you are growing photosynthetic inverts, then leave the angel (and all other coral-eating fishes) OUT of that system.  Also, if you are growing the photosynthetic inverts, you really must consider utilizing both DSB (can be used both in the display and in the sump/refugium) and a refugium.  Please *know* that metal halide lighting has little to nothing to do with nutrient export unless you are growing such animals (Tridacna and Hippopus, for instance) and non-vascular plants (algae--usually/most desirably. is that a word? Macro-algae) that would utilize wastes, and then could be harvested (especially in the case of macro-algae) to physically remove nutrients.  If you're interested in such setups, go into our site's "Marine Aquarium Articles" section, then look into "Set-up" and "Non-vertebrate life" for MUCH information.  In the meantime, be sure you have a good quality test kit--around here we like SeaChem, Salifert, and LaMotte kits (there are others, their names escape me)--that is NOT out of date.  Heat and moisture will adversely affect kits.  Also, begin a regimen of 25%-30% (more is better at this point) water changes weekly.  Be certain your skimmer is adjusted properly so as to achieve that awful skimmate, that way you'll KNOW that it's doing its job.  Consider the purpose of the MH lighting, and stop using the venturi on the powerhead(s)--simply point them at the water's surface.  And get the fan up, too.  Best of luck, John!  Marina

Re: Help with NO3 >Hi Marina, Thanks for your help with my NO3. >>Quite welcome, John. >When I wrote coral rock for filtration I meant crushed coral gravel, the same as my substrate. But after reading your reply I'm thinking about changing one of the sections in my filter into a DSB thanks. >>I would encourage this. >It's an up/down overflow filter ( does that make any sense?) >>Well...I think you're describing a Durso overflow, yeah? >Yes I did put the live rock back in once all the fish were caught. The reason I have MH lighting, actually it's a one piece bar with 2 MH lights and one fluorescent in the middle is because I have a sea anemone which is being protected by a couple anemone fish plus I love the shimmering effect the light makes at the bottom.  The angel has showed no interest in the anemone FOR NOW! :) >>Ah, they like polyps, so should be no worries.  An anemone will appreciate LOW nitrate levels, so a DSB would be very helpful for that.  I would SLOWLY trade out the crushed coral for bioballs, as the cc will hold much more detritus, which we know will lead to...(tah dah!) a buildup of nitrate. >Anyway thanks again for your help, Sincerely, John Perry >>Most welcome, again, and best of luck John.  Marina

Point-Counterpoint... Thanks for your time on this. <Our pleasure- we love this stuff! Scott F. here today> I have been doing a lot of research on marine aquariums (books and internet searches) and what I am finding is that there are a number of diametrically opposed views about the aquarium. <Different views? On marine aquarium keeping? Really? LOL> I have read enough articles on WetWebMedia to know what you believe and I would like your opinions on some of these differing thoughts. <Sure- I'd be happy to!> 1) It is a universally accepted principle that aggressive protein skimming is a must (1 cup a day) for nutrient and allelopathy export.  In addition, to successfully grow corals, micro-organisms such as zooplankton, phytoplankton, etc., (whether grown in a refugium, a reactor and/or green water additives) is also a must.  However, protein skimming removes these micro-organisms from the system and there some thought that protein skimming is as harmful as helpful.  The no-protein skimmer belief rests upon refugium/Caulerpa/seagrass and/or clams as a more natural mechanism.  Plus, there are less impellors killing the organisms (including powerheads). <Well, I am of the opinion that a well-tuned protein skimmer is absolutely essential for long term success in closed marine systems. I have heard from a number of people who yanked their skimmers-some have been successful for a while- many have gone back to skimmers. I like to think of the long-term with reef tank maintenance. Skimmers remove many noxious compounds and dissolved organics before they have a chance to degrade water quality. I have yet to see a very successful reef system that has been maintained for years without skimming. I do not consider  one or two years a success...The bottom line on skimmer use, in my opinion, is that if you are going to omit skimming, then you need to compensate somewhere- either with a much lower bioload, very aggressive water change schedule, alternative "filtration" techniques (like Steve Tyree's Sponge/Sea Squirt Cryptic Zone concept, etc.). It is a trade off, and one that I do not feel is worth it. As far as the impellers in pumps destroying valuable plankton is concerned- I have heard a lot of thoughts on this, and, quite frankly, I feel that the threat-although legitimate, is highly overstated. Most reef systems simply don't grow and support large enough populations of plankton for this to be a legitimate concern, IMO. Even with productive refugia and other supplemental systems, I just don't think that the impact is there> 2) To remove allelopathic compounds from the system, weekly carbon changes are suggested.  However carbon also leaches vital trace elements out of the system.  Once again, harmful and helpful. <I am a firm believer in the continuous use of small amounts (like 2-4 ounces per 100 gallons of tank capacity) of high quality activated carbon. Good grades of carbon, such as those offered by Seachem (my personal favorite), Two Little Fishies, or ESV do not leach phosphates into the system. Yes, carbon can remove small quantities of trace elements from the system. However, if you are following one of my other favorite practices in marine husbandry, frequent small water changes- you will be replacing trace elements on a regular basis. In fact, you will probably not experience a deficiency in trace elements if you practice these water changes> 3) Another universally accepted principle is weekly water changes.  When you have a 55 gallon tank, a 10% water swap is no big deal.  When you have a 125 with a 30 gallon refugium and 10 gallon sump, it is a much greater effort, requiring a large garbage can sitting in the living room overnight to allow the salt to fully aerate and mix before doing the swap.  Plus the swap tends to be somewhat stressful on the fish.  I am planning on buying a 300 gallon at the end of the year and turning the 125 into a large DSB/Live Rock sump. A 10% water swap on 425 gallons will be a huge effort! <As a fanatic about regular small water changes, I can tell you that the process is simply not that difficult. One of my systems has about 200 gallons total capacity. I change 5% of the water twice a week. This amounts to 2 10 gallon water changes, which I perform on Wednesday morning before work, and on Sunday mornings (unless the surf is good- in which case it's usually Sunday afternoon!). I will generally mix up the saltwater in a Rubbermaid container about 24-48 hours before, and then perform the change. I also perform minor maintenance tasks, such as a little extra algae scraping (if needed), coral pruning, etc. on Wednesday. This will take about 20-30 minutes to perform. On Sunday, I take a little more leisurely pace, and will clean the skimmer, replace carbon or Polyfilters if needed, change micron socks, or any other little things that have to be done. Maybe it takes about 45 minutes to an hour of pleasant labor. I have always done the additions of new water "manually", by pouring it into the tank from a pitcher. If I really wanted to do it quicker, I'd hook up a Maxijet 1200 powerhead to some 5/8 ID tubing, and "pump in" the replacement saltwater...it's a lot quicker. Frequent small water changes need not be a chore. Rather, look at them as an opportunity to regularly assess the situation in your tank. Anyone who maintains their own garden can relate to the labor involved. It is part of the "price of admission", IMO, and is simply not that difficult. And, when you see the difference in your animals, you'll realize that it's all worth it!> Lastly, I have and read about many a aquarist who has been very successful for years with minimal swaps, minimal effort by maintaining proper trace elements/calcium/alkalinity. <I have to quote Anthony on this: "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes!". It's just not something that you'd want to do. We are talking about living creatures here- which require us to provide the highest level of care. Closed systems are just that- closed, and unlike the ocean, do not afford the animals a constant influx of clean water. To those hobbyists who think that water changes are not required, I respond, "You wouldn't let your dog live in the same room for 5 years without cleaning out the waste, would you? Don't do it with your fish!"> 4) Bio-wheels and Bio-balls are sold in virtually all LFS and internet dealers.  They add a tremendous amount of stability to the system but also contribute nitrates because there is no anaerobic area for denitrification. Once again, stability vs. water quality, harmful and helpful. <These media are, in essence- "victims of their own success": They are so good at removing nitrites and ammonia, that they cannot provide a bacterial population to keep up with accumulating nitrate. Yep- it is a tradeoff. Frankly- I like to keep things simple, and use a more natural approach: Let the live rock and sand do your filtering, along with use of macroalgae in refugia, and protein skimming, water changes, and regular use of carbon and/or PolyFilter media.> 5) Allelopathy is another subject, not discussed at LFS trying to make a sale.  Some people claim that pictures of beautiful coral displays that are all over the internet will be very different a year from now because of allelopathy and others claim success for years in spite of pictures showing many corals side by side, touching each other.  Another subject in dispute. I have purchased very aggressive corals (not knowing better at the time).  I have multiple leathers, Ricordea mushrooms, 5" genitor, frogspawn, colt and bubble corals.  Is this a toxic soup, a ticking time bomb, or as others claim, no big deal. <Well, I would not call it a ticking time bomb, but it is not an ideal situation. This is an aggregation of animals that are rarely, if ever found in close proximity to each other on natural reefs, so there will be a certain amount of allelopathy. However, these animals can be maintained together in a certain "stand off" with use of aggressive nutrient export mechanisms (the aforementioned skimming, water changes, and use of chemical filtration media). It's much more ideal to develop a stocking plan that utilizes animals that live together in nature. However, as we often state, this is a closed system that we're talking about. It can be done-and done with some possible success, but it is not ideal. I have seen many successful "garden" reef systems over the years, so I can't say that it's not possible to do this. just not recommended!> As I plan for a big expansion of my system, these are the thoughts that come to mind.  Natural (refugium/Caulerpa/seagrass and/or clams) vs. mechanical (protein skimming).  I currently have both.  Is chemical filtration needed? <I believe that a "natural" approach, with a few technical props (skimming and chemical media) is the best approach for most systems> Are water swaps absolutely mandatory, which would dampen my enthusiasm for a larger tank.  Would removing some of the aggressive corals reduce the allelopathy problems or would the bigger tank mitigate them? <Yes, removing some of the aggressive corals could help, as would reducing the proximity between corals. However, it is still important to change water. I would have to say that it's mandatory! Please understand that it just is not that daunting a task...Small amounts often is not that difficult!> Long email.  Apologies.  Thanks for the time. <My pleasure! These were some excellent, thought-provoking questions that have stimulated many a late-night fish nerd conversation at a MACNA conference! I hope that you will be in this year's MACNA in Louisville so that we can discuss these things in more detail! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Nitrates Crew, Thank you for the quick response. Should I stir the sand bed to mix the Fiji Pink and Reef grade sands together? <If you have enough critters in the sandbed, they should mix it over time.> There is a layer and I think I read one of the responses that was not a good thing. Do I need to get the pH up and if so, how? <pH at 8.1 is fine, if you really want to raise it, try using some buffer according to the manufacturers specifications> Thanks again, Roy <best, Chris>

NITRATES Hi to all fish folks, I really enjoy your site and hope you can help me with my first reef tank. I have a problem with Nitrates off the scale! I have searched the web and read The Reef Aquarium Vol I, Marine and Reef Handbook and many others but am now on information overload!     Tank: 29gal, 130 w CF lighting, Prizm skimmer, Aqua clear 200, 2 maxi jet 600, small internal refugium with sand, LR and macro algae, 35 lbs purple Fiji LR. Sand bed is 50/50 Fiji pink and reef special live sand around 2"-3" deep. It is all not mixed together (might be part of the problem? layers? Should I mix?) Livestock: 1 blue Damsel 1 Chalk Bass 1 Firefish 1 Watchman Goby 2 peppermint shrimp at least 10 each hermits and snails. Corals: 1 large encrusting Georgian 1 large xenia 2 mushrooms 2 small polyps 2 feather dusters 6 assorted SPS 1" to 2" frags All parameters are good except for Nitrate is off the scale ( Seachem test Kits) SG 1.022, temp 79, pH 8.1. I have done 3-12 gal water changes over last 3 weekends. Was using Instant Ocean, switching over to Red Sea salt. Nitrates down a little but still around 50 mg/l. I was adding Seachem Reef Plus and Complete, but have stopped with the water changes. I feed Frozen Brine plus and Omega Flakes. I might have been heavy handed and have tried to decrease amounts. I also can not get the pH to move past 8.0 or 8.1 using Seachem Reef Buffer. Alkalinity is ok. Am I over stocked? does the sand bed need more time to mature? <yes and yes> Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. <water changes, sandbed maturation, and try using a different test kit to see if the Seachem is suspect...> Thank you, Roy <best, Chris>

Knocking Out Nitrate! Hello, Great site, best one I've seen. <Glad that you like it! Scott F. here with you today!> My first Q to you. I have joined this great hobby 3 months ago. I would like your advice on my set-up and ideas on improvement, please bare with me. <Sure> Let me give you my basics. Have a 75g FOWLR, with built in overflow that goes down to a sump with bio-balls, I have a "G1" skimmer (I think it's supposed to be a copy of Euro reef) that sits in the sump (skimmer pump rated at 250GPH), I have bags of carbon and poly filters, for chemical, in the sump. Then a "little giant" pump supports the whole system (rated at 500-600gph including hose travel), then this goes through a 15W UV 24/7, and back to the tank through two flows on each of the corners. I have 40 lbs of live Tonga rock, and about 2" of fine LS. <All sounds great! However, you may want to increase the sand bed depth to 3 inches or more, or reduce it to 1/2" or less..2 inches is sort of a biological "no-man's land"- too shallow for full denitrification, and too deep to be fully aerobic..> The system has been running for 3 months. I have one instance of ich lost 2 fish, and ran the tank w/out fish for 3 weeks. Currently have 2 false Percs, hermits, 1 turbo, red and cleaner shrimp. Ammo 0, nitrite 0, calcium 350, KH 12, nitrate ++50ppm (tetra and Salifert kit), 1.023 salinity, 81F. I started out with tap water and have been using RO for water changes, 2 of 15 gal so far, vacuumed gravel and rocks. That's that. <Sounds good> My concern are the high nitrates, even though this is a FOWLR, I do not think it's a good indicator. So What do I do? I have about 2" under the bio-balls where I could fit some more LR (flat piece). But don't really have the space for a refugium, but will work something out if I really need to. What else could I do, Should I do anything different? I know that you don't recommend the "nitrate reductors", anything new on this topic? My salt mix has no nitrate. I feed little, mostly frozen and bit of flake, once sometimes twice a day. I have brown algae growing on glass, would like some coralline instead. For about a week the temp went up to 85F, ammonia and nitrite spike after this, no fish (this was before the Percs). This was 3 weeks ago. <Well, here are some of my suggestions: First, increase the sand bed depth to at least 4 inches...A well managed DSB will provide superior denitrification; you'll notice the results quite soon. Second, dump the bioballs, and rely on the live rock and sand to do your biological filtration. Bioballs are great at breaking down ammonia and nitrite, but they do little to export nitrate... Also, keep using RO/DI water or its equivalent for all top off and new water. It is just another thing you can do to help ensure that you start out with lower nitrates...> I plan on getting more clean up crew, a goby, long nose butterfly, small angel, and 2 more small compatible fish over the next 2 months or so.  I hope this is not to confusing, I tried to make it as compact as possible. I am just trying to make sure I am okay here and the fish will thrive. I need a stable environment as I travel  sometimes for a week at the time (I have somebody to feed, but nothing else). So, what do you think? improvements needed/recommended? <Well, I think if you enact some of the suggestions outlined here, and modify you system just a bit, you should be just fine. I'll bet that you'll notice measurable results soon after you make these changes> Thanks a mill and keep up the good work. <Thanks for your support! Be sure to check out the many resources that we have here on the WWM site...Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Knocking Out Nitrate! First I want to thank you for great website, I read the daily FAQ's everyday (now I have my LFS asking me questions) <Glad to hear that! We're proud to bring it to you! Scott F. with you today!> I have a 180 AllGlass reef w/200lbs. live rock. 200 lbs. sugar sized aragonite, Kent Nautilus TE skimmer, Kent Bio Rocker, 2 Sen 900 return pumps, 2 Rio 1100 pumps, 3 Ice cap 175 w/10000k MH, and 2 96w actinic power compacts. I use Kalkwasser daily (2.5 gal), DT'S twice weekly, Weiss DNA twice weekly, and Weiss Combo-vital twice weekly. I have 1 yellow tang, 1 regal tang, 1 coris wrasse, 1 pygmy angel, 1 dragon goby, 1 tomato clown, and 5 green Chromis. How could I forget the Spanish hogfish. My question is about a refugium, I have a 50gal acrylic tank that I would like to use. My plan is to plumb this tank to the sump, small pump (Rio 1400, Mag 3 ) from sump to refugium via 1/2 pvc, with check valve. Return gravity feed via 1" pvc. I would have a DSB and stock from IPSF. Now the question. Is this overkill? I feel there is some risk with the plumbing, would using a small portion of my sump (12" x 18") suffice? <A lot of people who don't have a dedicated refugium simply light a section of their sump, "plant" some macroalgae, and enjoy a miniaturized version of a refugium...> My nitrates are high even with 3) 35 gal. water changes per month. Thank You <Well, I have a few thoughts on this. The water changes that you are doing are good, but to create a long-term positive trend on the nitrate problem, I'd switch to a frequent, small water change regimen (I like 5% twice a week). You will not see an immediate drop in nitrates, but it is a good long-term strategy to get into. It will yield measurable results in time. If you have not done so already, do consider increasing that sandbed to at least 3 inches or more. This may create a more efficient processing area for nutrients. The other thought here is the additives. Quite honestly, I don't see the need to dump in a lot of extra nutrients unless you are doing this for a specific reason (i.e.; you're trying to grow non-photosynthetic soft corals, certain clam species, etc.). In my opinion, most systems do not require additional nutrient or trace element supplementation. You're already doing it with regular feedings! Those regular, frequent water changes can help replenish trace elements and other minerals. Your mantra: Kalkwasser=good! Nutrient laced additives=bad! Also- work the protein skimming hard...pull out lots of dark yucky stuff a couple of times a week, and you'll see dramatic improvements. Check out some of the FAQs on Nutrient Control and Export (in fact, I wrote an article with the same title- a frightening coincidence, huh? LOL), and you'll find a number of ideas that can help reduce this nitrate level...Good luck! Regards, Scott F>     

Adding Live rock to F.O. system... >Good day Wet-Webbers, >>And good day to you, Lenny.  Marina here. >I have a 140 gal. F.O. system using Bio-balls/Protein Skimmer w/ 50/50 Actinic fluorescent lighting.  I have an aggressive tank w/ lion, purple tang, emperor angel, Foxface, harlequin tusk and Clown trigger.  Is it possible to add a large piece of Live Rock to my tank without changing lighting (or if so, enLIGHTEN me)  I thought doing this would help bring my nitrates down and secondly allow my herbivores to graze on the rock.   >>Of course you can.  Live rock generally requires no lighting unless it has photosynthetic animals or algae upon it that you wish to grow.  However, do know that if it is encrusted with such, it will quickly be consumed.  Also, please know that in order to reduce nitrates, you will need an amount of live rock equal to 1-2lbs./gallon of total tank volume.  A more efficient way to garner natural nitrate reduction would be to plumb in a refugium, where you can put in live rock, a deep sand bed (a.k.a. DSB), and grow macroalgae cultures that will help sop up excess nutrients, and they'll be removed via harvest of said algae.  Please search our site for all articles and FAQ's on refugiums (I do prefer this methodology to plenums) for complete setup and maintenance information.  Also, don't let anyone try to tell you that the wet-dry filtration method is a "nitrate factory".  You will end up with nitrates no matter WHAT method of nitrification is used, and their reasoning is logical fallacy, true sophistry.  What is needed is a method by which the nitrates can be further reduced to their components, ending with nitrogen gas.  This is well-executed utilizing the refugium with DSB. >Right now my tank has lava rock and skeleton coral with Puka shell (Aruba) substrate. >>Begin on our homepage http://www.wetwebmedia.com -->go to "marine aquarium articles" -->go to "set-up" -->go to the sections on natural nitrate reduction, plenums (you'll see what a PITA they are), deep sand beds, and refugia articles.  There's more information there than you can shake a stick at, and by the time you're finished you'll practically be an expert (ex-spurt?)!  Best of luck to you!  Marina

Nitrate problems...:/     I have a 80 gal bowfront system with under system sump wet dry with the biologic type ball (spiked plastic),  The setup is 2-3yrs old and I have only 3 inhabitants (fish only system) a Purple Tang, a Emperor angel and a clown trigger. <You will need a larger aquarium ASAP, I don't recommend housing large angels in anything less than a 6 foot aquarium> Generally all fish do fairly well although purple Tang with episodic hole in head type problems off and on over 2 yrs now, but otherwise eats well etc.<Could be that the nitrates are too high, You need to keep them under 20ppm. I also would add vitamins to his food> I feed lightly (I think) twice a day with prime reef, formula one and two, type products and a small piece of seaweed selects green marine algae in a clip.<sounds ok>     I cannot seem to get the nitrate levels down no matter how much water I change.  Often 20 to even 30% every to every other week.  I use a Euro reef skimmer, good salt and R/O water and run a magnum outboard into the sump with a Boyd Chemipure medium bag.  I have been very tempted by the NatuReef denitrification and phosphate removal system, but have noted that you don't hold them in high regard.<agreed>  My setup is in my professional office and so the idea of a refugium etc are not likely that practical. <maybe one of the hang on the back ones?? Check Liveaquaria.com for more details.> Caulerpa (sp?) would likely get eaten by the fish and not sure would have room in the sump secondary to the submerged Euro reef skimmer?  I also don't like turbo snails and the like,<why, very helpful creatures> in this fish only tank and have the usual micro algal problems     1)  Can I safely add live rock to this setup? <Definitely> Doesn't this in some way make for more work in maintaining?<No, actually it helps your tank a great deal>     2)  Can the biological strata balls add to the nitrates (think I read this somewhere)? <Can, many people take the bio-balls out and replace them with live rock> If so how do you clean them without loosing the denitrifying bacteria.<It is a slow process, you take small quantities out and replace them with liverock. Maybe a handful a week, etc>     3)  My major concern is the hole in the head as it relates to "generally poor water quality" and the micro algae problem<Yes, I also would be concerned. Could be that the nitrates are too high. As stated above I would keep the nitrates under 20 ppm, and would add vitamins to his food. These fish grow quite large so this small aquarium might also be the problem-(too much waste, not enough swimming room, etc)> Help!! Thanks in advance<your welcome, IanB> Mitch O'Hara

Control of nitrate and algae Hey Don, <Back atcha' Louis> Thanks for the info!  Just a few quick clarifications on your response. <OK> If I am not keeping sensitive corals at this point (heck I don't even know where to begin with those and am not even going to attempt it just yet) are the readings for SPG and Nitrates acceptable for fish and some simple inverts?  Are regular water changes the only route to lowering Nitrates? <Nitrate of <20 no ammonia/nitrate and SG of 1.023 should be just fine for fish, inverts (snails and stars) should have 0 nitrate.> I understand the skimmer issue.  I got the royal screwing when I bought the damn thing.  Just cannot afford another one right now.  What do you suggest (affordable) so I can work towards it? <I feel your pain as I did the same thing my self. The Aqua C Remora gets high marks as a hang on with the Aqua C and EuroReef for in sump. Do a search for Protein skimmer on the WetWebMedia.com and you will find all kinds of opinions and info> In reference to the calcium and alk questions you suggest water changes with aged water that has been supplemented.  What were you suggesting specifically as supplementation? <You can use a two part supplement like Two Little Fishies or B-Ionic. You can use powdered reef buffer and reef calcium, I like SeaChem. Stay away from calcium that has chloride (most liquids and some powders) as the chloride will cause a problem over time. Remember, if you do regular twice weekly water changes this may be a moot point as the change water will 'rejuvenate' the tank water and keep the levels up.> When you mention clean sponges do you refer to the pre-filter sponge in my overflow and the post filter sponge in my sump? <Exactly> As for siphoning the algae and organic gook off the coarse substrate, the algae has adhered to the granules and when I pull it up, then entire surface layer of coarse sand it attached with the algae.  Any suggestion here? <Manually remove as much algae from the substrate and put the substrate back. Or toss and replace.> Is it a good idea to use a turkey baster and blow the detritus and gook into the water column so the filters can pick it up? <I use a 300gph powerhead to pump water during changes from the bucket to the tank via 1/2" clear tube. I use the flow from this to 'blow' the gunk from the rock and this happens 2 times a week. So, Yes! <G> Once you make this a regular occurrence, it will produce less and less gunk and clear up more quickly> I will ditch the magnum filter this weekend as suggested. <Don't misread here, if you keep it clean it will work very well. Again, look on WetWebMedia for FAQs and Articles on algae control and supplements. Good luck, Don> Louis Nitrate accumulation... Hi <Howdy!> I just got started reading the conscientious aquarist looks like a great book so far <It's an EXCELLENT book, get it right dude!> I have a 74 gallon bow drilled with a ecosystem sump,  Caulerpa prolifera , Ev 120 skimmer, 100 lbs live rock , plenum with 4 inch deep special grade sand by Carib sea (plenum was installed 2 weeks ago) and 1 400 gph power head I have some zinnia <ouch, it's spelled Xenia>, Goniopora <Goniopora>, star polyps and only one 6 inch vlamingi tang that I'm taking out when I find it a home <Good idea, if you think it's big now, wait till it hits 2 feet!!!> and adding a hippo tang and clown fish everything is 0 except nitrates always at about 40 I am planning on adding more coral is nitrate a problem? <Yeah, with your setup there's no reason that you should have any nitrate> should I take the bio balls out of the sump completely or leave only a few in? <Take them all out, all at once. You have more than enough live rock to handle your bio-load. Enjoy! -Kevin> thanks in advance for any info Manny

Nitrate Problems!  6/18/03 <You got Cody today!> I am having a problem with my nitrates.  My ammonia and nitrite levels are at/near 0, my nitrate levels are around 80 ppm, my ph stays around 8.0. I had 5" crushed coral and I now have about 1.5" which helped lower the nitrate levels for a little while.  <It would be best to get this under 1">I am using a product called Purigen which says it is supposed to help.  I have a SeaClone protein skimmer; Filstar 2 canister filter which I have activated carbon, 1/2 litter of ceramic rings and I have taken out all mechanical filtration in it as guided by the specialists at Petwarehouse.  <Upgrading the skimmer would be a good idea and would help a lot.  Also that canister is probably producing a ton of nitrates.  In fact if you upgraded the skimmer your live rock and skimmer should be able to run the system just fine.> I have about 75 lbs of live rock. I have 6 fish including 2 clownfish, sunset wrasse, 2 damselfish, squirrelfish.  I have a small amount of Caulerpa which is growing very slowly.  I have a UV sterilizer that I run 24 hrs once a week.   I feed about 1/8 tsp once a day.  I do 10 gallon water changes once a week using RO water using instant ocean sea salt at about 1.021.  All of my fish appear to be doing ok. What can I do to lower my Nitrates? I have had this problem for about 2-3 months.<See above info and also check the archives on the wetwebmedia.com site.  Cody> Help!!!   Thank you

Knocking Out Nitrates Dear Sir, <Scott F. here tonight> I have some queries. <Glad to help!> Firstly, how do I reduce nitrates & phosphates in my tank? <Well, lots and lots of ways to accomplish this. You could employ regular, small water changes (like 5% twice weekly), use of a deep sand bed, aggressive protein skimming, growth and regular harvest of macroalgae, etc. Lots of techniques, all of which are discussed in depth on the WWM site> I frequently buy some rock cultivated with sea weed algae for my fishes to consume. Does the algae help to keep the nitrates at an acceptable level? <It's one of the things you can do, as outlined above> What are the problems/ symptoms associated with high nitrates & phosphate levels? <Well, high nitrate and phosphate readings can lead to lower overall water quality, potential nuisance algae outbreaks, lower pH, declining appetite , and other possible physiological problems for fishes> Is stunted growth one of them? <Certainly possible> I have a 3 in Majestic Angel and despite eating a lot, it remains the same size. How long will it take to grow to 5 in (a rough estimate) ? <Varies depending upon tank size, tank mates, feeding, water parameters, etc. Could take 6 months or so...Maybe, up to a year> How often should I conduct a 10% water change? Once a month or once in 2 weeks? <As mentioned previously, I favor small, twice weekly water changes, which really helps to dilute organics before they have a chances to accumulate...> Is there anyway I can cut down on the frequency of the changes as some of my livestock perish 1-2 days after a water change. <Certainly not a good result! Stability of all parameters is very important. Temperature, specific gravity, etc., etc. must be constant...Strive for consistency> Lastly, I would like to ask the compatibility of an adult colouration blue-faced angel with my 3.5 in regal angel Should I get a larger or smaller specimen of the blue-faced angel if I absolutely must have one? <Well, I'd avoid this combination of fishes in all but the largest aquariums...there are many potential problems. Yes- if you mix the fishes, the new angel should be smaller, IMO, so as not to be a threat to the existing fish> Regards and hope to hear from you soon <My pleasure. Keep reading and learning on the WWM site, and you'll be fine! Regards, Scott F>

When It's Time To Change... After my tank has been fully cycled using the household ammonia, if my nitrates are not very high, do I need to do a partial water change before adding fish?  It will be a fish only tank.  Thanks again.  James <Good question! Personally, I like to do a moderate water change after the tank cycles, but it certainly is okay to defer it until after you get some fishes in there. I like water changes...a lot! I am sort of weird...But- water changes are cool!!! Do get in the habit of small, frequent changes, and you'll be fine! Good luck! Gotta run- time for a water change...LOL. Regards, Scott F.

Re: metal halide cover hello, <Hi Eric, PF here tonight> I am building a new canopy for my 55 gallon tank. It will house 2 175 w MH with Ushios and a 55w actinic power compact. My question is should I have any glass protecting the bulbs from splash <I'd say yes, and as UV filters too.>, and how high should the halides be off the water? <10" - 12" is standard from what I've read/done.> Also I am switching over from all fish to a reef, I had 65 lbs of live rock and a tomatoe clown in this tank, I have a sump with 10 lbs of miracle mud with bio balls in the water. I cannot seem to get nitrates under 40 <Yipes!> I do regular water changes, the tank has been set up for about 2 years, thanks <Well, MM should be used with a nutrient export method: i.e. macroalgae. The official Ecosystem method advises Caulerpa, but I'm not fond of Caulerpa as it causes to many problems. IMO Chaetomorpha is a much better choice. You didn't mention a skimmer on your system, also you might want to look into using a DSB to help reduce your nitrates.>

Nitrates Hi Guys, <Hi Joe, PF here tonight> I have searched through the Faq's and via the chat rooms.  Unfortunately I get conflicting advice so I thought I would come to the source. <Well, the only reason it won't be conflicting is because I'm the only one answering your email. All of us here have our own little quirks as far as keeping tanks goes. Our hobby is still very much an art. Back to the program at hand.> I have a FO system without live rock since I don't particularly care for it. I have a wet dry running with bio balls, sponges etc as well as a Euro reef skimmer. Do a bi-weekly water change.  Now comes the question that you know is coming. <Only because the subject gave it away> My ammonia, nitrites are zero, PH 8.3 and here it comes, nitrates fluctuate from 10-20.  Is this an acceptable level of nitrates or do I need to reduce them? <Well, they're ok for FO. OTOH, your animals will be happier if they're lower. Sort of like a person tolerating a foul smell. You can live with, but you'd rather not.> If so, other than introducing live rock, what would you suggest. <Well, I know you don't like LR. But you could replace the bioballs with LR, bioballs do tend to produce nitrates as they trap large particles. I know some people flush out their bioballs to remove debris, but IMO you'd be better off slowly replacing the bioballs with LR. Just my $.02.> Thanks as always. Joe <Your welcome>

Re: Nitrates PF Following up on the previous e-mail: <Hello again Joe, back this AM> ("Well, I know you don't like LR. But you could replace the bioballs with LR, bioballs do tend to produce nitrates as they trap large particles.")   Are you suggesting that LR can be placed in the wet dry in place of bio balls?  <Yes, about a cup a week of bioballs can be replaced with LR. That's the ratio I've seen used by a number of people.> If so, is lighting necessary? <No, not necessary at all. The nitrate processing occurs mostly inside the LR, and since you're not interested in it for aesthetic reasons, you don't need the light for the coralline. The larger particles that the bioballs trap will be eaten by the hitchhikers on the LR (various kinds of 'pods, worms, etc.) so there will be less material to cause a nitrate buildup.> Joe <Hopefully that clarifies things. Have a good day, PF> 

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