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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Nitrites 1

Related Articles: NitriteAmmonia, Nitrates, Establishing Cycling, BioFiltrationPhosphate, Silicates, Phosphate

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

Nitrite presence is toxic to fishes, more deadly to invertebrates. Sepia sp., Cuttlefish.

Nitrites high in new aquarium Hi. I hope you can help me because no one has been able to. We have a 40 gallon salt water aquarium and it has been set up for about 6 weeks. The only fish that are in there are a Domino Damsel and a Clownfish. For the last 2 to 3 weeks, every time we do a water test the nitrite is very high but the ammonia is zero and nitrates are zero. We have done 3 10% water changes and have gotten water from a local fish store. (We tested that water before putting it into our tank and everything was perfect in their water.) The water is cloudy and we have rapid growth of brown algae. We have wet/dry trickle filter with a protein skimmer. We have tried using a certain sponge that takes out bacteria and have tried charcoal. We would love to add new fish but the water is always like it is now so we can't. We feed the fish flake food (half a flake per fish per day). We were told not to feed them for about 3 days to see if that helped, and we did that too with still no luck. We have had salt water fish years before and have never had this problem. We don't know what else to do and really hope that you can help or direct us to someone that can. We are eager to get the tank going. Thank you for your time. <Lisa, you don't mention if you have live rock, type and how much substrate, nor lighting. All can affect the chemistry of the water. Also, have you confirmed that your nitrite test is accurate? The skimmer should be getting a few cups of dark skimmate per week, if not it may need cleaning/adjustment. It may be time to try water changes in the 30-50% range waiting 4 or 5 days between changes. You can search WetWebMedia.com for high nitrites/cloudy water to see if you can get some info. BTW, the brown diatoms are pretty normal in a tank this age. Hope this helps, Don> Sincerely, Lisa

Fighting nitrite's in QT tank >Good afternoon crew, >>Good morning, Alex, Marina here.     >I've been doing 20% water changes every day to drop my nitrites down to 0, just like I had them when I first set up my QT tank (10 gallon QT). Right now they are at 0.50 ppm and holding, is that ok? >>NitrItes?  No, that is too high a reading.  I'm assuming you're using a decent quality test kit as well, something like SeaChem, Salifert. >The rest of my water is doing fine. Also I'm feeding much lighter every day...Maybe it could be that I only had my Skilter cartridge in my main tank for two weeks only instead of 4 so it can establish beneficial bacteria? >>Yes, without a full complement of nitrifying bacteria, this would be likely.  You'll get better results changing  50%, or better, of the water. >Right now I only have a Royal Gramma in my QT tank and he's doing great. >>Good to know, though he may like enough food to fill his belly.  Do some big water changes so you can feed him well.  This is all part and parcel of quarantine, my friend. >He's only been there for 1 week.  What can I do to get my nitrites down, or should I ride it with 50ppm and do 10% water changes every day until the QT is up??? >>50% and up is what's going to make a significant change in the readings.  While there certainly are fish that will survive just fine, it is taxing on their health, better to give them a boost during these stressful times.  Also, I'll suggest a regular regimen of added nutrition in the form of Selcon.  I hope this helps!  Marina

Nitrites a problem I started my 110 gallon fish only tank on March 15, 2003.  I started with crushed coral for the substrate, wet/dry filter, pump runs about 600 gph. <Ok> I started with 10 damselfish.  One died immediately and three died at weeks 2,3,4.   <Most likely from the cycle process. See here for more: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/biological/biofiltr.htm> (Side note, all of the Four Stripes died, the blue and blue/yellowtail are still going strong??? Does this surprise you???)   <Not really, blue damsels are very hardy> Our ammonia dropped on 4/21/03.  Our Nitrites spiked on 4/23/03 and have been at 1.0 ever since.  I called my LFS and they told me to put in some live bacteria.  We added 5 ounces of live bacteria and NOTHING happened.  I called another LFS and they said to do 25% water changes every other day until the Nitrites hit zero.  We have been doing that for a few weeks.  The nitrites have come down every so slightly, but is this just being diluted by the new water? <How often do you vacuum the substrate? The canister filter? Add these to your weekly (possibly daily for a while) list of things to do. How much do you feed and how often? I would recommend you look into an appropriate skimmer for your tank to help with dissolved organic wastes.>   My tank is beginning to become a money pit.   <Does seem to happen pretty quickly eh?> I don't want much, just a few clowns, a tang, etc.  Is this too much to ask?   <Not at all. If you stay diligent in your husbandry practices, you will find success.> Please help.  Someone said for us to add some live rock but we don't really like the look of it and would rather not if we can at all help it. <Yes, this an a skimmer would be the two things I would suggest next. Most tangs need a constant source of algae to graze on and this may be difficult to provide without live rock. But you can be successful without the live rock if you keep the tank and filters clean. An upstream, inline refugium with a deep sand bed would help as well with nitrite reduction. Check here for more: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/index.htm. Hope this helps, Don> Thanks for your help. Carol

Nitrites in aged mixed saltwater hi all, <Howdy> I mix 40+ gallons of saltwater mix at a time in adedicated Rubbermaid tuffy 44 gallon trash can with a lid.  it has a powerhead in it for circulation, airstones for aeration, and heater to keep it at temperature.  prior to adding the mix, I dechlor(am)ate the water and aerate for 24+ hours.   <Okay> after about 2 weeks, the mix shows high levels of nitrites. <Really?> I noticed this the hard way by randomly testing for nitrites after a change, finding high levels in the tank, performing a larger change and finding higher levels.  follow up testing shows nitrites starting to accumulate in the mix after about two weeks.  I've added large amounts of carbon to the container, it doesn't seem to help. luckily, the biological filtration in the main system is good; lots of live rock and a wet/dry filter.  Even the highest levels of nitrites accidentally introduced with the mix water disappeared within 24 hours.  I'm sure it's not good for the life forms in the meantime. interestingly enough, there's no ammonia present in the mix at any time I've measured it. <Time to check the source water, your test kit/s... and try mixing different concentrations of the salt mix to see if this renders different concentrations of nitrite... and maybe looking into another brand> I'm wondering what the cause may be and what I can do about it.  I've tossed a lot of well aged mix water over the last few months as the nitrites keep creeping back.  I clean the equipment well with just tap water (no ammonia or other cleaning agents), but it doesn't seem to help.  I'm resorting to mixing smaller quantities for 1-2 weeks just for my weekly change and disposing of the rest.  it's a terrible waste, though. is there anything I can do to rid the mix water of the nitrites instead of dumping it?  and what should I look for as a source of contamination? <See the above... one of these, likely the test kit being faulty... is at play>   is my protocol of aerating the mix constantly contributing to the problem?  could it be the tap water, and would an RO or RO/DI unit help solve the problem? <Possibly the latter, but doubtful... your tap should have almost no appreciable nitrite> any advice would be appreciated. thanks, Pete French <Please do get back with me re your investigations. Bob Fenner>

Re: nitrites in aged mixed saltwater hi bob, <Peter> since speaking with you last, I stopped aerating the mix water, but continued circulation and kept the carbon in the container.  within three days, the nitrites disappeared.  I don't know if this means it just took 1 week worth of carbon treatment to get all the nitrites out, or if the aeration was polluting the water.   <... bizarre> I tend towards the latter; the mixing container is in our basement, about 15' away from well established cat boxes, which could be a source of ammonia in the air. I suppose the ammonia could have led to a nitrifying bacteria population, and I was basically cycling the water mix.  but I never tested any ammonia in the mix, nor nitrates (even after the nitrite level dropped). <Interesting. I like this hypothesis> for the record, I did verify the tests with a dry tab test kit as well, the tap water shows no nitrites, and the mix would not show nitrites until at least two weeks has passed. <I wonder if there is some way to test... distance from the cat boxes... amount of air pushed through respective samples... to see if there is a connection here. Thank you for the input. Bob Fenner>

Re: nitrites in aged mixed saltwater > <I wonder if there is some way to test... distance from the cat boxes... amount of air pushed through respective samples... to see if there is a connection here. Thank you for the input. Bob Fenner> I'd like to identify if this is the cause, otherwise I'll be testing nitrites before every water change. <Or... maybe running a sponge or other biological filter in your new water bucket...> I could take two 5 gallon buckets of the existing nitrite free mix, put one on another floor of the house well away from any kitty by-products and put the other one near the cat boxes in the basement, aerate them both and test for ammonia and nitrites on a schedule (every couple of days perhaps).  that should be relatively painless to do, especially if I go snag another couple of SeaChem am-alerts to do the hard part of the testing. <Yes! A worthwhile experiment> I don't have two identical pumps, so this wouldn't allow us to factor the volume of air being pushed. <Mmm, I do think this is a key factor> perhaps it would be better to use the same pump and do the experiment at two different times?  I could then repeat the experiment on samples that show nitrites with a higher volume of air. <Worth trying... at least twice, while switching the pumps, and little else. Bob Fenner>

Nitrite Issues, Cycle Question hi,  <Hello! Ryan with you today.> I have a specific question on tank cycling.  <OK>  I tried searching the forums for answers but I couldn't find a satisfactory answer so I thought I'd ask you.  <No problem-But I do ask that you make an earnest attempt at using decent capitalization and grammar next time so that other can use your question for reference.  We need to correct these by hand!> I'm 9 days into the cycle. The thing is I'm not sure if my ammonia levels has peaked. The levels have been consistently at 0.5mg/l since day 2 (I don't know what the ppm equivalent is, I think it's the same isn't it?  <Milligram and parts per milliliter are not the same- But equally effective ways of measurement.> - on my test chart 0.5mg/l is the next reading next to 0mg/l - test kit expiry date is 2008). At day 1 I only had some dry coral in the tank (55gallon). I suppose it had some die off in it hence the 0.5mg/l reading on day 2. day 3 I introduced 3 small damsels as suggested by my LFS. days 4-6 still at 0.5mg/l. day 7 I put in a cocktail shrimp. days 8 & 9 still at 0.5mg/l.  <Nothing strange so far.> Nitrites started at 0 and climbed to 3.3mg/l on day 4. day 5 it went up to 16mg/l. it's been at 16mg/l since. is my cycle ok? Should I just leave it or intervene? Thanks in advance for your help! Desmond  <No, you've got to leave it alone and wait for the nitrite to be converted to nitrate...Then you're set to add livestock.  Good luck! Ryan><<Actually, this nitrite concentration is so high that it is likely poisoning the microbes... Less source protein (smaller piece of shrimp) and water change to dilute currently... RMF>> Nitrites <<Greetings, JasonC here.>> I'm new to the hobby and found your website through a link on the reefs.org site. I'm sure glad I did because I've been searching for a site with this level of technical knowledge on the subject of marine closed systems since I first starting planning to undertake the hobby about a year ago. After reading several books on the subject and searching for information on the web, I bought a 150 gallon aquarium in June of this year (2002). I added damsel fish to the water once the specific gravity and water temperature were within the recommended ranges which was June 24th. My ammonium level peaked and went down to zero however my nitrite levels are still too high (around 2.0) and my nitrate level is at 10.0. <<I would suspect the test kit here... nitrates don't typically kick in at this level without an accompanying drop in nitrite - down to zero.>> I have three damsels which are doing fantastic, seven feather dusters which are also doing great, a flame scallop that has been in my tank for seven weeks, eleven turbo snails, six blue and red leg hermit crabs, a cowry, and a pincushion urchin. All are doing great. I have four hundred pounds of 1-2mm CaribSea aragonite live sand approximately four inches deep, approximately eighty pounds of Fiji live rock, a Eheim Professional II canister filter, a Emperor 350 Canister filter with two bio wheels, a 20 gallon sump with two sponges and one sock filter (sock filter is 50 micron and catches the water coming from the skimmer sump in the tank and the sponges are set up to remove any debris before the submersible pump in the sump). The water temperature is a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit (I have two tungsten sump heaters even though they have not been on at all this summer), the specific gravity is 1.024 and does not fluctuate. <<Are you trying to run a sub-tropical system here? 72F is quite low, you'd be well advised to keep your temperature between 78 and 80.>> I have the lighting that came with the aquarium set-up which is florescent (two 30 watt General Electric AquaGlo Bulbs). I have a greenish-blue algae on portions of the live sand that gets direct lighting (algae on the live rock gets eaten by the snails), the live sand against the glass sides of the aquarium has small air pockets (obviously some sort of microfauna or other life form) within the sand. Some of the air pockets resemble a cutaway of an ant farm with its' little connecting tunnels. <<As far as the algae goes, this tank will benefit from more circulation - perhaps three or four good powerheads - MaxiJet 1200's come to mind.>> I started doing weekly partial water changes (fifteen gallons at a time) but was told not to until after my system cycled by my local aquarium store. <<That is correct - I would do 10% every two weeks.>> The last piece of live rock I put into my aquarium was about four weeks ago and it wasn't fully cured.<<Not wise... likely stalled or reset the biological filter, but no worries - will all work itself out in a while.>> I have yet to add a foam fractionator (protein skimmer) as I was told not to add one until after my system cycled. <<Not actually the case when cycling with live rock - the rock and the tank would benefit from the protein skimming.>> It's been ten weeks now since I added fish to the water. I just wanted to check with the experts and see if there is something I should be doing differently. <<See the above comments.>> Any assistance you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for your time and considerations. Respectfully, Anthony Franchetti <<Cheers, J -- >>

Fish & Nitrites Hi, I have a problem and I need your help. I have a 125 U.S. gallon tank, about 100 pounds of LR. However, my tank (more than month old) is almost ready : Ammonia is 0, Nitrite 0.2, and pH is 8.2. My friend came last night with an Emperor Angel (he had a BIG problem in his tank, everything is dead. The Emperor was lucky cause he was in QT tank.). I didn't know what should I do, so I added him to my tank. <Your friend should have left his fish in the QT tank. He now was about a 50-50 shot of losing this fish too!> He seems healthy but I am worried about the ammonia & nitrite cause there is a little bit increase in ammonia and as I said nitrite is not 0 yet. <You should be worried. This was a horrible idea.> Why, shouldn't there be enough bacteria? <Because the liverock is still curing. One another note, we routinely get two copies of your emails. We get over 50 emails per day and would appreciate it if you did not send us multiple copies. Thank you! -Steven Pro>

Nitrite in my aquarium Dear Bob, I write this separate mail to you, cause it concerns a totally different matter. <Okay, thanks> I suddenly realized that I have a Nitrite level of 5 ppm in my aquarium. I made the test today, because I have a strange bed smell coming from my tank since one week. <Yikes! An American/English expression of surprise, alarm.> Just to give you some more facts about my aquarium: - Since 12 days I have been treating my aquarium with copper (SeaCure by Aquarium Systems) in order to get rid of Oodinium (plus freshwater dips for my fishes). Could the smell be caused by the copper? <Not directly, but indirectly yes... the nitrifying bacteria in this system are either dead or their metabolism slowed tremendously... You should change out a good deal of the water, likely add a source of bacteria. Please see the WetWebMedia.com site re the probable sources> - Since 2 weeks I have been running a new Wet-Dry filter (EHEIM 2229 Wet-dry, circulation cap. 550 L/hour). My aquarium is 210 lit. Before this filter, I have been using the external filter EHEIM 2224, which proved to be insufficient. Now I am running both filters at the same time and I am thinking of stopping the 2224 after two months (?). <Don't stop any filtration until the nitrites are zero, none, non-existent> Could the operation of the new Wet-Dry filter cause the increase of my Nitrite because it is not yet biologically mature, i.e. has nitrifying but no denitrifying bacteria? <Not nitrite... but nitrate... are we talking about Nitrates with an "A"?> - Since 12 days that I have started the copper therapy I have my skimmer out of function, in order not to remove to copper from the water. Can this be the reason of my high Nitrite through the loss of biological balance which is caused by the absence of the skimmer? <No. It may well be the copper itself that is the cause of loss of nitrification, or the lack of substrate for bacteria in the treatment tank. Do try to contact George (Reclos) here as well... he is very well-versed in marine aquarium filtration matters... and speaks Greek! Bob Fenner> Best regards, Thanassis

High Nitrite Level Hello I am very happy to find your sites. I have a tank about two months old. The original fish purchased with the tank are still living through the chemical changes. All new fish have expired. I finally found out it is because of high nitrite levels. I have done a 50% water change and tested still high. Then a 25% change, tested a bit lower then I just did a 75% water change and will test again in a few days. What do you suggest. <I would archive the WWM site for information on tank cycling. Try to keep the fish load to a minimum and do not overfeed.> The levels are not decreasing as I have anticipated. <Not unusual to take several months depending on tank size, bio-load, feeding, etc.> I am trying to remedy the situation before I lose any more fish. The ammonia level tested fine. The nitrate level tested fine. Just the nitrite level is the problem-or so I have been told from the pet store after testing my water. Please help. I am trying to keep them living during these changes. <Nothing much to do at this point but continue water changes when necessary. Most people run into these kinds of problems when adding too many fish, too quickly.> Thanks, Thia <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Re: high nitrite level hello Robert, thanks for the info. in the past two days I have lost two more fish. how often should I do water changes? <Once a typical captive aquatic system is fully cycled, anywhere from once a week to once a month. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water.htm and FAQs> is every day a 25% too much? <Yes> I am trying like hell. not many fish left, about 5 small to medium. if (god forbid) they all die should I keep the tank running and testing or should I start from scratch again? <Please read through WWM> is this nitrite level problem normal in setting up tanks? should I have set up an empty tank and waited to add fish? any info you will offer is greatly appreciated. thanks again Thia <Please read through WWM. Study my friend. Then act... through knowledge, understanding. Bob Fenner>

Nitrite Hello Bob, I am having trouble cycling my 130 gallon tank. It has been over 5 weeks and I still have high levels of nitrite. Ammonia is zero, and nitrate is currently 5 ppm, but last week it got up to 20ppm. I currently have 1 black molly in the tank which has been doing fine. There is an outbreak of diatom growth, but apart from that nothing else. <Diatoms are completely normal.> I feed sparingly, almost not at all (diatoms are keeping him fed). The tank is kept at about 25 degrees Celsius, <That is ~77F for the Metrically Challenged.> with 9.5 hours of two 150watt MH per day as light. I have changed 60 liters at the most and this seemed to have no effect. <~15 gallons, would have a minimal effect on 130 gallons, about 5%.> Just yesterday I modified my trickle filter so it had some biospheres as well as the plastic hair rollers in it - I thought perhaps there wasn't enough substrate for the bacteria. Apart from these observations, the only thing I can add is that the pH is a little high - 8.6, as I was dosing baking soda a while ago ( learnt from my mistake). Could you suggest any reason for the prolonged wait for Nitrobacter to proliferate ? <Nothing to worry about. One to two months is normal. -Steven Pro> Cheers, Andrew Hough

Nitrite problem Hi, how are you? <I am doing quite well, thank you.> I have a 55 gal. tank, fish only. The tank as been set up for 3 months now. I have 5 damsels a 4 Astrea snails in it. My problem is, since the cycle is complete, <It sounds like your tank has not completely "cycled" just yet.> the level of nitrite have gone up to 1,0 Mg/L twice for no reasons that I can figure. This have happen the first time I've add 2 snails on my tank and now, 1 month later, when I add the 2 others. My level of ammonia is not measurable and nitrate is always between 5-10Mg/L. The last time that this happen the high level of nitrite remained for about 2 weeks before reaching 0... Anyways, as I've said I have absolutely no idea what's happening. I don't have a protein skimmer for the moment but its the next thing that I'll purchase. I'm planning to change these damsels for some other fish but, is the level of nitrite is going go up again..? <Possibly if the bio-load of the new fish is greater than the damsels.> What can I do to make it drop fast? <Nothing. Please read http://www.wetwebmedia.com/biofiltr.htm> Thx for your concern Charles, your dedicate fan :P <We are always eager to help. -Steven Pro>

Clownfish broodstock tanks Bob, Hope all is going well for you and yours! I was hoping to run a strange question or two past you?  <Let's see how unusual, or bizarre> I'm attempting to cycle my 5th clownfish broodstock system. As clowns will hopefully be spawning in this system I'm limited <limiting> to decor and habitat. Live rock is out of the question as retrieving larvae becomes a back breaking chore!  <Could remove the parents> Live sand only complicates cleaning. As a result of the aforementioned I'm forced to use wet dry filters with bio balls as a primary means of filtration.  <Mmm, wouldn't use such a recirculating system... maybe a gentle overflow (through a fine mesh/netting) to waste... and sponge filters while young are tiny...> The last four systems, which are identical, cycled in about six weeks. This system has been cycling for since the last week in November. I've been using two 5 inch groupers as an ammonia source, and with the system being 200 gallons I have never had any problems in the past. The ammonia portion of the cycle took about a week. Nitrite went way, way, up so I did a massive water change. It was over 60 ppm at one point.  <Wowzah! Unheard of> I was also getting a reading of 100 ppm on Nitrate so I figured a massive water change was warranted. It brought everything down but I'm still getting a nitrite reading of .02 - .05 ppm.  <Should be zip, zero, nada... definitely before stocking> It has been this way for almost 4 weeks. Was the water change necessary?  <Not generally> I read once that after nitrate reaches a certain level it breaks down and becomes nitrite, is this true?  <Mmm, not always... denitrification processes can result in some detectable nitrite under some circumstances> I've never used any chemicals, other then pro-biotic on this system. These groupers have cycled all my tanks and I always take 20 or so bio-balls out of an established tank. I just can't figure it out. Any thoughts are always appreciated. Jeff <Mysterious for sure. Would first check your test kits (the 60 ppm of nitrite is spurious). And would consider rigging up a small lighted sump/refugium with some live rock, perhaps "mud" and macro-algae per culture system... to "soften" and mask these changes. Bob Fenner>

Nitrite and nitrate Hi Bob, <Actually Steven Pro this morning.> Why is it always a Sunday when the problems seem to show up....!? I am cycling my rock in a new 75 gal tank. (I've written to you before about muscles and education) I had a 55 fish only tank that was fine with live rock and substrate etc. Only 1 clown and a yellow tail in it. I am concentrating on the new tank. Anyway we have been using the water from the fish only tank to help cycle the new 75. All was really going well with ammonia down to nothing and nitrite down etc. We added new rock to the tank last Tues and the clean up crew from Tampa Bay......All was good....by Friday all ammonia still at 0 etc. Then the fish only tank let go. Friday AM bright and early...pouring on the floor..... <Oh no!> Had to think fast so we took probably 25 gal from the fish only tank and the live rock and put in in the new tank....we didn't know what to do about the fish but 2 weeks ago a fish hitchhiked on a piece of rock that we moved from the fish only to the new and he seemed fine so we took a chance. We put our fish in it too This AM ... Ammonia .5 Nitrite NO2-N between 1 and 5 NO2 between 3.3 and 16.5 Nitrate between 50 and 100 PH 8 KH 9 LFS said yesterday (I saw the readings were starting to creep up) do nothing....maybe a little water change to help the fish but I'm actually prolonging the stress and I may as well get it over with..... <Not quite correct. You might prolong the cycling process by doing water changes. Not stress.> What do you think? Should I do a massive water change like 30 gal or a small one like 10 gal. Or sit in front of the tank and bite my nails.....skimmer is running like mad.....we have 2 charcoal filters on the sump and all life in the tank looks fine.....Thank you Helene <Do mix up and aerate some water to keep on hand. Keep a close eye on your fish and the test kit readings and be prepared to do a large water change (30 gallons). Good that you skimmer is performing well. Best of luck. -Steven Pro>

Re: nitrite and nitrate Thank you Steven, <You are quite welcome, Helene.> I ran in from feeding the horses and checked the email and there you were. I appreciate this so much. Not sure if I understand correctly. Should I do the water change now? How much worse should the nitrite and nitrate get before the 30 gallon water change? Or should I wait until the fish act funny and then change and check the readings.....Hope that you are having a nice Sunday...I'm about to entertain a friend from Ca that I've only seen 1 time in 30 years...She told me that she has a fish phobia.....this may either send her into orbit or cure her, huh? What a day for a visit.....Thank you again. Helene <I am going to make a few assumptions before I give you my advise. First, it sounds like you are going to be very busy and may not be able to watch the fish real closely. No offense intended, we all have busy lives. Plus, tomorrow is Monday and you may be going back to work. In that case, I would do the water change now, if you have the time and have good, aged water to use (mixed well and aerate for at least a few hours). Also, try to mix up some more water when you are done for future use if things get worse. You should get your friend to start the siphon hose. Ha-Ha! -Steven Pro>

Re: nitrite and nitrate Thank you and I'm beginning to think that you're never too busy to watch a fish....That's the problem and why (and I discussed this with Bob) the IRS gives you a tax break on the whole thing....I work at home....You pay your employees to watch the darn things too. Their heartbeat goes down and yours goes up!!! <I own an aquarium maintenance business. Everything I have fish related is a write off.> We are going to do a 15 gal water change now and make up a whole 32 gal trash can for later if we need it....sound OK? <Sounds fine.> Hope my friend doesn't need to shower after the siphoning 'cause that can is in the shower! <That made me laugh out loud!> Thank you. Helene <You are welcome. I hope you can enjoy the rest of your day. -Steven Pro>

Lingering Nitrite Robert: I have been reading the FAQ's & Articles your web site so often, it inspired me to buy your book. <Glad to hear it. I will pass along the compliment to Bob. You are talking to Steven Pro now. Anthony Calfo and myself are filling in for Bob while he does some traveling.> I have a 10 month old reef tank with a NO2 problem. The stats are as follows: 110 Gal oceanic Emperor Skimmer UV sterilizer 75 LBS Live rock Oceanic Wet/Dry NO2: .14-.15 S.G. 1.20 PH 8.1 NH3 0.0 CA 470 Temp 78 NO3 20 ALK 2.5 I have 375 watts of compact lighting for 10 hours per day. Water changes : 20% monthly. Last change 2 weeks ago. I have a mild diatom problem so I reduced the lighting period to 8 hours and it seems to be better. I am using a Salifert test kit for the Nitrate at the 10X precision mode. My LFS suggests something may be amiss with my wet dry. I opened it up and found the balls to be moist with no particular slime on them as he suggested. I did notice the plate above the balls wasn't really distributing the H2O well so I adjusted it to make it a little better. I also took the discharge for the UV and fed it into the distribution plate to send its discharge through the balls again. Any Ideas? <There are a few possibilities. Sometimes UV's are capable of converting nitrate back to nitrite. You might want to try bringing your nitrates down close to zero and/or removing the UV for a while. See if things change. Also, do be sure to check your nitrite test kit against another tank or test kit to verify the results.>

Nitrites, Nitrites, Nitrites Bob, My nitrites have been running zero since I cycled the aquarium and now I have a .4 level in the tank. <Not good... first, do have your "checker checked"... that is, try another test kit> I have a 6 month old,110 Gal Reef tank with 75 lbs of live rock, the substrate is crushed seashells & live sand about 1" deep. I am using an Oceanic trickle filter and Emperor skimmer. I also have a U.V sterilizer (the brand escapes me). I also have 350watts of compact lighting. <Mmm... no sudden death, overfeeding incident?...> Fish are: 1 Niger Trigger 1 Snowflake eel 4 blue damsels 3 yellow Tangs 1 mandarin goby 1 Fiji puffer 2 Percula clowns 1 tomato clown 2 crabs All the rest of my numbers are great. (Ammonia 0.0, Nitrates < 10 , PH 8.1, PO4 < 0.03, CA 450, ALK 2.9) I can see no visible signs of stress in the fish. I am beginning to see some coralline algae form on the back of the tank. <I would bolster your alkalinity here if you want the corallines to excel> I recently have been working on the alkalinity using Kent Superbuffer but I haven't had to add any for over a week now. I use "c" balance for ion replenishment. My last water change was 20% done two weeks ago. I have been trying to get the water right so that I could raise Inverts. Recently, I added a small stalk of Xenia and a Sebae Anemone with purple tips. My LFS recommended that I feed the xenia some phytoplankton and I feed the Sebae Kent's Microvert. I have each of them only once by "dosing" them with the food. Would either of these foods cause the Nitrite spike? <Possibly could trigger such... you shouldn't have to feed the pulsing coral in this set-up per se... and would use solid meaty pieces of food for the anemone... as gone over on WetWebMedia.com> What should I do to remedy the situation? <Test your kit first, then some water with the Microvert squirted into it... hold off on feeding much of anything till your nitrites are assuredly at zero ppm... and start shopping for a/nother, or larger system!> Thanks, in advance, for your advice. <Chat with you soon my friend. Bob Fenner> Paul

Nitrite level (Re: Lemonpeel angel & Kole tang) Bob, Do you think adding live (advertised) "cured" rock to an established system would cause a nitrite spike?  <Can... yes, this happens... often such "semi-cured" LR undergoes mini-recycling. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/morelrcurefaqs.htm> This morning my nitrite is 0.25, ammonia 0, & pH 8.2(these readings are closer to normal). Also, it was suggested to me by my LFS to add BioZyme in order to bring down my nitrates currently at 5-10ppm). I did add some of it with no effect though. Do you think that stuff works? <Not under all, these circumstances. I would just wait on the nitrates at this point. Read over re such on WWM. Bob Fenner> Thank you for the advise. D.

Nitrite problems Two weeks ago, I added two small common clownfish to my 180l tank, where they joined my small pajama wrasse and small hermit crab. I have a Sanders maxi-skim 400 which I added 10 days ago. I have an internal Juwel filter. <All good products> I made a 10% water change yesterday with R.O water. Nitrite 0.25 and trace ammonia. The reading haven't gone down since they went up after I put in the clowns. I would appreciate your help, James Matthams <Hmm, do take care here. I would feed the clowns only sparingly if at all... Important that the system cycle completely. Please do read through the FAQs on ammonia and nitrite in marine systems:  http://wetwebmedia.com/nh3marfaqs.htm http://wetwebmedia.com/no2probfaqs.htm posted on our site. Adding some live rock (cured) or ready-made nitrifying bacteria culture may be in order here. Bob Fenner>

Re: Ich Treatment Mr. Fenner, The nitrite is over 1.0 ppm. The only clue I can think of is maybe from lowing the salinity from 1.023 to 1.010. This spg lowering was done slowly, maybe too, slow. <What? No such thing as too slow... and you don't state how over how long this period was...?> I was even shock with this high nitrite level that I used two different test kits. Sure enough, it was high on both kits. I am doing a 10% water change tomorrow. <Don't feed anything in the meanwhile. Bob Fenner>

Re: Ich Treatment Sorry, I didn't explain myself correctly. What I mean by slow is, it took me ten days to come down to 1.010.  <Ah! This time frame should have been fine to sustain nitrifiers.> Started taking a gallon of tank water and replacing with same amount with RO water. Four days later 2 gallons were taken out but notice that spg was not going down much. Finally, I stated taken 5 gallons out and replacing with 5 gallons RO water. When I got down to 1.010, I added the total gallons, to my surprise I took out 33 gallons from a 46 gallon tank. Now I am realizing the reason the nitrite is high. <Hmm, well, for whatever reasons, appreciable nitrite is bad news. Would not feed the system and be ready to move your livestock should other negative events occur. Bob Fenner>

Nitrites hi bob, Ok I tested my water in my 240 F.O tank. Here's the results ammonia= 0 nitrites= <0.3mg/l - 0.3 mg/l nitrates = 25 mg/l My question is that on the nitrites the color chart for the test kit doesn't start from 0 it starts from <0.3 mg/l to 3.3-33mg/l So does that mean that nitrites are ALWAYS present in a healthy system???  <No my friend... should be undetectable... as in zero ppm or mg/l in a fully "cycled" up and going system... Any appreciable nitrite (or ammonia for the matter) is cause for concern... either the system is insufficiently filtered (aerated, circulated), and/or over/mis-fed, something is dead/dying in it, it's over-crowded/mis-stocked... Please read: http://wetwebmedia.com/no2probfaqs.htm> And also do you think its a good time now to hook up my ozone generator to my skimmer??? <Yes> My tank has been running for 4 weeks now. Thanks again your fan, Lee <Direct your focus, ability, interest into study here... You'll soon be answering these queries (thanks in advance!). Bob Fenner>

Re: nitrites Bob, my Tetra Nitrite test kit graph/chart STARTS at <0.3 mg/l. When I testedmy water it was at the <0.3mg/l. Which is the lowest on their chart. This is what the Tetra test kit instruction says. Ill punch it in for you in exact words . " Ideally nitrite levels should be kept below 0.8mg/l." <Hmm, do agree... I generally state "1.0 ppm" out of laziness, assuredness that this value is most easily remembered...> " If nitrite levels is above 1.6mg/l, carry out a partial water change".  <Well... this doesn't seem logical (to me obviously)... I caution folks to do such a change at or above "1.0 ppm" (or mg/l)... for the same expedients mentioned above> "Biologically active and efficient filtration will keep nitrite levels at a very low and safe level". So to me Bob it sounds like Tetra is saying that there will ALWAYS be some presents in nitrites. Yet you told me that nitrites should be at 0mg/l. What is your opinion regards to this . Your big fan. <Still a fan? Well... I'm still of the opinion that they (nitrites) should be zip, zero, zilch... Do query the various electronic bulletin boards, chatforums (here's WWM's: http://talk.wetwebfotos.com/), or published works... S/b nada, none... Bob Fenner, who IS a big fan of Tetra/Pfizer... but not their English inserts. labeling at times.> Lee

Yellow tang hi bob, Im writing to tell you that we lost one of our fish the damsel, the yellow tang seems to be doing ok but he is breathing fast I think a little. unfortunately I got your email about not feeding them after I fed him but he hasn't been eating at all (the tang) the ammonia is gone apparently but there is still some nitrate in there we also put in a live plant in there its one that starts with an a (lol) what do you recommend we do from here to get the nitrate gone and the fish to be healthy the tank is now in the high 70 s thanks for your time. <Please read through our site re nitrite, not nitrate... set-up, maintenance of marine systems: www.WetWebMedia.com Bob Fenner> zero cool

Oh the inexperienced but lucky ones!! (?, too much livestock, nitrite...) Hi Bob, New to saltwater tanks and I wanted to run this past you for suggestions. This is my current situation: 90 Gal tank Full UGF with (2) sweeping powerheads 125 gph each 100 lbs crushed coral substrate 30 lbs lava rock <Do test this for iron content...> 20 lbs ornament rock <Not live?> air curtain (3) Damsels (1) Porcupine Puffer, 2" (1) Valentini Puffer, 2" (1) Cowfish, 3" (1) Black Volitans Lion, 2" (1) Longnose Tang, 4" (2) Eclipse 3 hoods w/functional bio-wheels Seaclone protein skimmer <You could use a bigger, more serious skimmer> ph 7.8, ammonia 0.25, nitrite 5.0 (yikes!!) <As in five parts per million? not 0.5? Stop feeding! get ready to execute a large water change... no more livestock added...> , nitrate 10 salinity 1.019 system running for 5 weeks <What? When did you place all this livestock? Should have been later, much> feeding 3 times a day (I know now after reading your site to go to every other day) <Don't feed at all, zero for right now... till the nitrite goes to zip> I hope you can help me establish a balanced system for my fish. Thanks!!! Paul. <Yikes! We need to take a bunch of steps back... I would STRONGLY encourage you to read through all the marine set-up and maintenance sections on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com, and join our chat forum and read a good general marine aquarium book or two (for more rounded opinions than you can get from yours truly). Do start reading NOW! And join: http://talk.wetwebfotos.com/  where there are many fine folks who will help you as well... And do consider adding live rock, pre-cured to your system... it has not cycled completely and could well toxify your livestock to the extent of death. Bob Fenner>

Sick fish??? How are you? Somehow I just knew I was going to end up writing you for something. <This happens> I just recently was given a saltwater startup system as a gift. It has been running for a month, and is just about at the end of its cycling time..... it is a 38 Gallon glass aquarium, Fluval 204 filter, crushed coral substrate. I have a 6 inch airstrip running constantly. It has 2 pieces of coral (non-living) as well as some shale rocks I used to build a few caves for the fish. I have a striped damsel, domino damsel, 4 inch grouper and a baby Picasso trigger (who I added 2 days ago ... I know, I shouldn't add fish until the cycle is done, but I couldn't resist the little guy) <A "grouper" and a triggerfish in a 38 gallon system? These species are likely too big psychologically and will be too large physiologically...> in the tank. Measurements are 0 ammonia, 0.5 nitrites, 80 nitrates.  <Hmm, the last readings are high... and the shale concerns me> PH running steady at 8.2, and the temp at 79. All was fine until the last few days. The grouper has stopped feeding 3 days ago (prior to the added trigger), and in the last 2 days or so has taken to hiding in the caves. He rarely comes out. We have observed him scratching himself on the rocks, but do not see any white spots, so I don't think its Ick.....His eyes reddened a few days ago, and I have been doing daily 30% water changes since..... The domino seems to be injured from the constant attacks of the striped damsel ,who has been nipping him badly lately. Otherwise the fish are doing well.  <!> They continue to eat ravenously although we stopped feeding 2 days ago (per the FAQ's we read on your site) to bring the nitrites down. They were hovering at 2.0. <Yikes!> This morning I gave them a light feeding. The grouper showed no interest at all. Any suggestions/ideas what can be ailing the grouper?  <... don't feed anything until the nitrites are at zero, zilch, nada... the fishes you list will not starve... and are in much more danger of dying from poisoning otherwise... and start either looking for a larger system or trading the bass and trigger in> We have not lost a fish for about 2 weeks now..... we had another damsel who got very weak during the beginning of the nitrite spike, and became a late night snack to the grouper. I appreciate any insight you can give, and also want to say thanks for all the knowledge we have gained reading your site. Steve D'angelo <Ah my friend... you are on the very steep side of a learning curve here... best to take all slow for now... cease feeding, remove the shale, look to adding a few pieces of live rock... this is what I would do. Bob Fenner>

Re: Sick fish??? Thank you very much for the reply. Kinda knew that was the answer, sometimes my stubborn self overrules the logical one.. <Happens to everyone I've ever met> Sorry....the rock is not shale, its slate. I have added 5 pounds of live rock, and looking to get another 5 - 10 pds this week. The LFS has a batch curing, with some very nice pieces, and won't sell any of it until later this week. How much live rock do you think is necessary? <Don't recall how large your system is, shape... about a pound per gallon> Again, thanks for the help. Just sign me "not feeding in NJ".... <Hmm, am off to the airport in a bit to drop off friends who are returning to Garfield, Belmar... They were feeding. Bob Fenner>

New tank Setup Questions? I was looking through www.WetWebMedia.com and didn't find any suggestions on my problem. <Okay> About 8 weeks ago I began cycling a 60 gallon tank with about 6 damsels. Right now, my ammonia level is zero, my nitrites are at .6 mg/l (have been there for about 2 weeks), and my nitrates are at 0 mg/l. I have a wet/dry and remora aqua c skimmer. Do I have a problem with my setup. There are only 2 fish left inthe tank, a damsel and an arc eye Hawkfish (seems to be doing very well - a guy at the pet store told me that he was a very hearty fish and could take a lot of abuse). Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks Steve <Likely your system is still cycling, establishing itself... and will be fine. Don't add any more fish or other livestock for now, and be very conservative in your feeding till the nitrites go to zero. Bob Fenner>

Hi Robert! (recycling event mystery... solutions) G'day Bob - I've been browsing your sites for the last 2 days with immense gratitude - I'm having a mini panic - I'm a total neophyte with extreme enthusiasm - I have a 105 gal tank with 2 anemones, a small parrot, 4 damsels, a x-eyed squirrel, a rabbit and a 3'' imperator angel, a couple of cleaner shrimp and a crab. The tank is 5 months old - I think it's re cycling - I've lost an anemone and several fish in the last week - My nitrites are .1 to .2 ppm, Ph 8.0, Temp is 80'F. <Hmm, we need to discover why here> I've added charcoal to my trickle filter? Dropped the salinity to 1.02 and reduced my feeding to minimal and now I'm totally buggered if I know what to do next - I'd really appreciate your help and advice - thanks - regards - Graeme <Thanks for the lucid input... Would do about what you've done... and add a bit more aeration, circulation to the system... particularly directed at whatever spots you might have that don't have much water movement (like behind decor, live rock...). Otherwise, of course, continue with the limited feeding, and do your best to keep water quality stable. These problems have ways of resorting themselves out... usually by evidencing some sort of "dead protein" (a "mysterious" lost organism, die-off in the system somewhere... like a succession/turnover of mix of organisms in the substrate, live rock...) and recycling as you state. Bob Fenner>

Nitrites I have a 50 gallon tank with a built-in wet-dry system. It has been running continuously since 11/98, but I periodically have a nitrite reading--it fluctuates between 0 and .2. This is a fish only tank and contains only three fish--a royal Gramma, a flame Hawkfish, and a Lamarck angel. I change around 10 gallons of water every two weeks. What could be causing the periodic fluctuations of nitrite (pH, ammonia and nitrate readings are invariably good)?  <Perhaps best described as "periodic microbial wars"... with succession, varying populations dying off, being consumed by others...> The tank obviously cycled a long time ago and I have added no new fish in the past 8 months--but my latest water test (yesterday) was .2 nitrite again. I am using a Fastest test kit. Would a stronger powerhead to the built in wet dry help? Linda <More life, more surface area, and yes, more circulation and aeration would make these periodic recycling events more transient, less concentrated. Bob Fenner>

Question on Nitrites I did a water test on Nitrites yesterday ( just bought the test kit) and it is very high. <Ummm, what's missing here? How high is very high?> My ammonia level is zero. I read that water changes can help the high level on nitrite. Today is the day that the water change was due so I did it and both test came out the same as yesterday.  <Yes, water changes will likely forestall cycling... only temporarily dilute nitrites> I have 3 green Chromis and 1 yellow shrimp goby. Could this be cause by the liverock and how can I lower this level ? I have 45 lb of Fiji liverock in a 55 gal tank and I filter my water. Lianne T Carroll <Yes to the possibility of causes... Lowering really a matter of time going by... don't feed at all, or attempt to alter water chemistry, physics if the NO2 is anywhere near 1.0 ppm... Read over the "Biological Filtration" FAQs on www.WetWebMedia.com Bob Fenner>

Re: Question on Nitrites Sorry my mistake. By very high I meant between 2.0 and 5.0 ppm. The color is hard to tell which one it is. Either way deep purple is bad and light blue is good. Someone else also told me that not feeding for a while is good. Thanks for the info I'll read the FAQs. Hey I deserve this for being new to the trade. haha Thanks Bye Lianne Carroll <Yikes, this is VERY high indeed... please review what I have stated, chat with others, look through your reference works... and DO NOT feed or attempt to alter your water chemistry... other than executing a large (if you have the water pre-mixed) water change... like 50% soon... and again in a few days if the nitrites are still above 1.0 ppm. Bob Fenner>

Nitrites Mr. Fenner, First of all, thank you so much for your help through FFExpress and now this great site that I enjoy! (And also your book that I just got!) <Ah, you're welcome my friend> My question is concerning my 44gallon corner pent. that always seems to have a little bit of nitrite (occasionally a high of .1ppm but averages about .05) and my frustration with not being able to get them to go to 0. <I understand... wonder why this is so?> The tank was set up in mid November and cycled with 2 damsels. It was pretty well cycled about a month later and a mandarin (more on that bad choice later), pygmy angel, bubble tip anemone, anemone crab and cleaner shrimp were added. 2 weeks later I purchased about 20-25lbs of pre-cured LR through FFExpress and kept it in a separate tank for 2 weeks then slowly added it to the 44 gallon. I've since removed the damsels, added a clean up crew and over the last couple of weeks added 2 small false Perculas and a small brown Scopas tang (he will be moved to my larger tank when needed!) There has been no problem with any of the livestock I've listed and they seem to be flourishing, except the mandarin who now that I know better and should be left to the sea and is starting to thin.  <Yes, unfortunate... perhaps you can culture some more in-sand fauna elsewhere and add it to, attach your 44 to the sump/refugium?> I have a 75 gallon that has been up since end of December and has now cycled and has about 60 lbs of live rock. I'm thinking the mandarin may find more food in there and have a better chance! <Ahh yes! A very good idea.> The bubble tip lived for a month under an overhang where it got almost no light and lost a lot of color so I turned it's base rock 3 weeks ago and it is now in the light (128watts of power compact smart lights) and appears fine and gets a small piece of silverside once a week. However it is a pale color, with slightly bubble tentacles and pink tips. <Very typical... have hope... sometimes they "recolor"> I religiously underfeed and have no ammonia, average ph of 8.3, temp steady at 78, salinity steady at 1.023 and no detectable nitrates. But for some reason I always have a little bit of nitrites! I want to add some soft corals and another anemone for the clowns, but not until nitrite goes away. <Good idea... do try increasing "complete circulation" (in and amongst your live rock...) like with a small submersible pump (the "mini" ones by Aquarium Systems are excellent here) to move water along the back, amongst the live rock... there are still some "non-cycled", "die-off" areas there...> My system is filtered by a fluval404 canister filter with carbon and BioMax rings, a whisper 4 and a red sea Berlin airlift skimmer (I'm working on a sump and better skimmer).  <Ah, good> I have about 2 inches of coral gravel for a substrate. is this too deep?) <This is fine.> I change the carbon in the Fluval and the bag/carbon in the whisper every 4 weeks and they are staggered by 2 weeks so I'm not changing too much at once. <Couldn't/wouldn't have expressed this better> I also change 5 gallons every 2 weeks using pre-made filtered tap water. Anyway, sorry for the lengthy e-mail, but any suggestions you have as to what could be keeping my nitrites just barely detectable would be greatly appreciated. Is it necessary to have nitrites at absolute 0 before a tank is considered fully cycled and more delicate life can be added?  <A good idea... as this "window" of looking at water quality parallels other "stressful" conditions... In other words, yes... best to wait> I see in your book the parameter you should shoot for is nitrites below .1ppm. I was always told they should be 0. Anyway, thank you again for all your help and willingness to share your knowledge. Kris <You're welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

Nitrites Bob I am new to fishkeeping and having read all the material I could (except for seeing your website and book which I have just bought!) I have set up a 150l/40 g Juwel tank. This includes an internal Juwel filter with an additional internal Fluval 3 which my LFS suggested I would need as extra filtration for marines. <Yes, and these are very nice units> The tank went through its cycle after about 6 weeks (after struggling with a dicky immature). However, the Nitrite level is still not at 0 but less than 0.3 mg/l. I have just added a dotty back which has gone a week and has fed and appears bright and ok but I am still concerned about nitrite reading - It seemed to have diminished very quickly but never got down to 0. <I am concerned also... wonder what is forestalling the completion of nitrogen cycling here? Time will tell... do you have any live rock?> I intend to add keep the tank as FO and only to add 2 more fish -maybe a hippo tang and a valentini puffer - but only after solving out the H20 problem. <This is prudent> Any thoughts on water / fish combination -I really just want keep it simple for now - get some experience than look at something a bit more crazy. I know I need to invest in a skimmer at some point - my LFS suggested an internal skimmer that I could just switch on 1/2 times a month - would this do the job for a low stock system <Not really... investigate the skimmer issue more... you want a serious, full time unit. Read through the CMA book, the more updated/updateable elements on the WWM site that you'd like more on... and we'll be chatting.> Keep up the good work! Tom <Thank you. Will try. Bob Fenner>

Spiked nitrites Dear Mr. Fenner, We have a 75 gal tank with 2 small clown fish, 2 small dominos,  <Watch out for these... they get nippy, mean> 1 hippo tang, 1 gold fin tang, 1 rock beauty angel,  <The Gold Fin Tang and Rock Beauty are difficult to keep...> and 1 dog face puffer. We cycled our tank without fish then added the fish and all was well until recently. Our fish developed a case of ick which we immediately medicated with copper Cupramine. <In your main tank... not advised... Likely killed off your beneficial microbes...>  Now the fish are ick free but our nitrites have spiked and we cannot seem to get them down. It also seems as if we are not producing nitrates as well as we should relative to the amount of nitrites. Our ammonia remains at 0 so there is no problem there. We have done several water changes the past few days and vacuumed the crushed coral bed and continue to do so trying to fix the situation. We have an Emperor Bio Wheel system and a Magnum 350 for filtration. It seems as if we are starting all over again. Please help our fish we have grown quite fond of them. Thanks! M.Pena <Or starting "en media res", the middle of things... Be careful here... stop feeding entirely... as your system is in mid-re-cycle... There are a few things you can, should do to speed establishment of nutrient cycling along... first and best, to add some live rock... Don't feed your livestock at all until you have no as in zip nitrites... If the concentration approaches 1.0ppm do a water change with pre-made synthetic water of about the same specific gravity. Please read over the FAQs section of the site: www.WetWebMedia.com under the marine index. Bob Fenner>

Nitrite problem  Hello,  I have a 29 gallon tank that has been set up and running for about 45 days.  I started with a few damsels, chocolate chip starfish, live rock, crushed coral and salinity of 0.23. I later added 5 turbo snails and a few more damsels and two tomato clowns. Things seemed great so after another week I added a sea anemone and a scooter blenny. But low and behold the day after I added them my system crashed and I lost all but two damsels, the snails, the starfish and the anemone. My nitrites had sky rocketed. On the advice of the pet dealer, I added a protein skimmer and live sand to my tank and did water changes. The tank seemed to even out so we reintroduced a couple more damsels. They are acting fine but the nitrites are again creeping slowly. The pet dealer told me to do daily water changes but this doesn't seem to be doing much good. The test kit is putting! g the nitrites at 0.2 for the lowest reading I seem to be able to reach. I would greatly appreciate any help you can give me. I love my salt water tank but am feeling inadequate and frustrated. Also, I am having an outbreak of nuisance (brown) algae on my live coral that my snails can't touch. Any advice on this would also be appreciated.  Sincerely,  Ginger  <Thank you for writing, and I do indeed wish I could help you... all you really need is "time" to go by (out of my jurisdiction)... and to slow down... no more livestock additions, cut way back on feeding (original source of the ammonia converted to nitrites.... And do get your hands on a good reference book (or three) and read over the www.wetwebmedia.com site re aquarium set-up, skimmers, stocking, anemones... Your tank was pushed too fast, too crowded... it will recenter itself, and hopefully you will stay in our wonderful hobby. Bob Fenner>

Re: Nitrite problem Thank you for your help and advice. I will not be adding anything new for awhile and hope it will recenter itself. There were two things I noticed from your site and your email. The first being about my anemone. Unfortunately, I had purchased a sebae without realizing it. I didn't buy it for it's color but was told by the dealer that it was probably the only one I could keep alive as I only have the one 50/50 light in my hood. He told me to feed it daily on silversides and nothing about cleaning up regurgitated food. Perhaps that is part of my nitrite problem? <Yikes... daily feedings are too much and the animal must be cleaned up after as you know... Twice weekly food offerings (and more diverse meaty items) are sufficient. And yes to all this mess and stress being a very real source of your nitrite woes> Another question is about hermit crabs......I had been given one instead of a turbo snail from a dealer. It immediately went after my anemone so I put it in a brackish tank I have with larger fish it couldn't bother....would this be the best place for him rather than reintroducing him to the salt tank? <Perhaps... there is a very wide "lifestyle" range amongst the false crabs called Hermits... some almost exclusively detritivores, some algal feeders, some would pinch off your toe and eat it given the opportunity. Sounds like this one is a non-reef item. I would exclude it> In your opinion, what are the best cleaners of brown algae that has developed on my cat's paw coral?  <Actually none... these are likely diatom scums, and transitory in a developing system... best to outcompete them with other purposeful photosynthetic life... like the celebrated macro-algae, reduce the amount of available nutrient through clean new water use (filtering out silicates, nitrates, phosphates), good synthetic salt mix use, a good/clean skimmer, good maintenance practices...> I was told blennies, crabs, tangs and snails although my turbo snails aren't cleaning very well. <Perhaps a genus Ctenochaetus/Bristlemouth Tang if it will fit in with the rest of your system, livestock. Read about these and diatoms on the WWM site> I will try and get the book you recommended as soon as possible and have bookmarked your page. Thanks again for all your help. Ginger PS: I plan to stay in the hobby a long time:-) <Very glad to hear/read my friend in fish. Bob Fenner>

Anxiously awaiting fish my salt water tank has had fish in it for about 7 weeks and ever since I introduced my fish into the tank the nitrite based on the fast test reading has remained at 0.4. And when I test it with the high range reading the fast test kit for nitrite reads zero. Should I be okay to put in two triggers and one porcupine puffer? let me know sincerely Chris Faiola >> <No my friend... best to wait till the nitrite reading is a flat zero. Bob Fenner>

Nitrite spike Hi Bob, Again I am faced with spike in nitrite now up to 0.5mg/l. Additional to the live rocks I have actually add a biological system with bio-ball and in the main tank I also add some coral bits in . <Leave this system be... if the NO2 doesn't approach 1.0 ppm, let it settle> Moreover, I also add it a poly filter ( just in case ) but it didn't stop it from spiking. I guess the system is not fully mature and also due to feeding again. I will stop feeding right away and monitor the problem everyday. May I know what is the immediate action to be taken? Partial water change or not? Add in fresh poly filter ? <Zip, zero, nada... don't do anything... including no additives, no feeding...> Bob, I heard that Seachem offer a product for lowering nitrite call "PRIME " IS it effective? And it also advice to add 5 times more during emergency, what is your view on this product? <No, don't use this... or anything... you're just forestalling the establishment of cycling> Also shall I add more live rocks ? <NO> Pls advise. Urgent. David. P.S Fish behave ok but notice small white patches on body and fin. >> <Likely due to whacked water quality... unless, until you can determine this is a parasitic problem, don't even move the livestock... more stress... Bob Fenner>

Nitrite spike Hi Bob, I again faced the nitrite spike in my 110 gal tank. The reading was app.0.3mg/l level. My only fish is a clown trigger with live rocks with a 15 gal sump. I use a Taiwan made skimmer and nothing else. I also faced high temp during the day at about 86 to 900c, is this causing the problem? Or the system is not stable yet? Is it true that the sump must be in total darkness or in a dark place for better bacteria growth? Thanks. David. >> <Hmm, no to the sump being in the dark, and yes to the system not being "stable"... I would add something in the way of bio-filtration to your system with a trigger... as this animal, when large, will produce variable and large amounts of wastes... that may inspire ongoing nitrogenous (et al.) anomalies. Bob Fenner

Another Nitrite Question? Hello Mr. Fenner, I am also having a nitrite problem with my established tank. It is a 120 gal. FOWLR. I have an SL-250 wet/dry, Berlin Classic, Fluval 404 with Chemi-pure only. Recently I have been getting readings of 0.1 - 0.2 ppm. I am using the Red Sea test kit. My pH is always 8.0 . I have about 1" or a little less of aragonite and approximately 50lbs live rock. The tank will be set up a year in October. Although it was established from my 75 gal. tank that had been up longer. My question, is the nitrite readings and pH readings at a level to be alarmed? From the previous post about maybe adding powerheads. What size would be sufficient for my setup? Any other suggestions that you might have to better raise the quality of my tank would be greatly appreciated. You have helped me tremendously in the past and I am looking forward to your expert advice. Thanks in advance for your assistance. Tanya >> <Glad to be of assistance... The bigger the powerheads or even "mini pumps" like the Aquarium Systems products, the better... and maybe some re-positioning into a "looser" arrangement of your live rock is in order. Do also have a friend come over and test your water (the sample needs to be fresh... so taking it somewhere won't work)... and/or look into a better test kit.. Maybe a Salifert or Hach brand. The transiency of the nitrite is either more/continuing die-off or a less-than accurate or precise test kit. Bob Fenner, who again encourages browsing on the Net, particularly the materials (esp. FAQs) on our site: Home Page 

Continuing Nitrites... hey bob, I have a very established tank (1 year), that has 2 Fluval 403's, an Amiracle counter current protein skimmer, and a U.V sterilizer, about 50 lbs of live rock, and crushed coral for substrate...I have never had my nitrites at 0... <Trouble... either bad test kit (wish), or continuous die-off of live rock...> I had a bubble tip anemone that died after 1 month, which I heard that anenomes have a low tolerance to nitrites (is this true?)... <Most species, yes.> I do a 5 gallon water change about every 1 1/2 weeks...what could I do to get the nitrites to 0?... <Actually no... source is continuous... so dilution will not work... need to figure out source of problem to get to real solution... more bio-filtration will/would help... something like a fluidized bed filter, porous media with water flow over it... like adding biomedia to your canister filters or outside hang on... You should check, increase circulation, maybe aeration around and through your live rock... maybe some powerheads in back, aimed at...> anything I could put in the Fluvals?... <Yes, Biomech, Siporax would be my choices.> I've also recently put a Knop calcium reactor to work on this tank, which after a month has my calcium at a steady 450, and good ph & dkh levels, so far I'm happy with it (just thought I'd tell you)...will the nutrients from the calcium reactor make the water conditions any better for an anemone?...thanks again...Jeff >> <Yes, the calcium reactor is a huge leap in the right direction... do add the particular media listed to your Fluvals> Bob Fenner

Nitrite Levels Question,  My Nitrite levels are really high, I've tried everything to bring it down. Changing water daily, weekly, cleaning waste every few days, adding Nitro Zorb in filter. etc. Can you help me figure out why my level is so high. I have 55 with 5 medium size fish. thank you. Danny Chan >> Hmm, lack of necessary microbes is the simple answer, but how to bring them on the tough question. Do you have live rock? I would get some, quick. Are you feeding your fish livestock? Stop! Don't feed them a thing till the nitrites drop to zip. Now, onto my usual tirade about sufficient information being offered. How high is high? What sort(s) of test kits are you using. Where is the pertinent data on the history of the tank? What types of filtration do you employ?  If someone gave you the above message what could you tell them? If it is nitrites (not nitrates) in your system that are "high" it is due to the tank not cycling (completely)... You need to find out why it hasn't, and leave it alone to do so... not place fishes in it. Bob Fenner

Nitrite readings Bob,  I have a 75 gal. saltwater aquarium that is being conditioned, it has been 35 days since I set it up. I recently checked the nitrite level, on the low range I got a reading of 6 ppm but on the high range it was 0 ppm what does this mean ? I am using "fastest" saltwater master test kit. >> Hmm, methinks you've got the reagents, colorimetric standards switched around... 6 ppm should be part of the High Range... and this is a bunch of nitrite... I would do a big water change (maybe half)... and hold off on the placement of any livestock till it drops to zero. Bob Fenner

Mr. Bob, Thanks for your column you help a bunch of us. I have two questions-unrelated. I have brown algae in my tank. Some say could be silicate or not enough lighting. <Or both...> But I have a spot of what look s to be pink algae too. Can I do something to get all Pink or at least a green? <Yes, and you should. More light (intensity, full spectrum) should do it> The second question pertains to a situation (55 gal Tank is 8 weeks old). I have three damsels and 2 turban snails. I bought a tang and it did great for two days. I tested before the tang was introduced and 0 Ammonia 0 Nitrites and looked to be 0 Nitrates. I found my tang trying to jump out of the tank on day two. Finally it went to the bottom and died. I tested the water again and showed .25 nitrites. Why? Other fish seem fine-but have gotten a darker purple/blue? Thanks <The nitrites might be "after the fact"... that is, the dying, dissolving protein which was the Yellow Tang might have overwhelmed the nitrifiers in your system... Or there may be some sorts of biological poisoning going on... maybe from your Pink (blue green) algae... leading to the Yellow Tangs behavior, loss and the darkening color of your other fish livestock... I would boost the lighting, probably effect a large water change, and add/change out your chemical filtrant (either carbon or Polyfilter). Bob Fenner

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