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FAQs on Marine Water Quality involving Nitrates 1 

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

Related FAQs: Nitrates 2, Nitrates 3, Nitrates 4, Nitrates 5, Nitrates 6, 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, Fluidized Beds, Denitrification/Denitrifiers, Bio-Balls, Wet-Dry Filters, R.O./Distilled/Treated Water Chemical Filtrants Deep Sand Beds

Excess, any nitrate presence mal-affects fish life.

Bailing On Bioballs? (Nitrate Reduction)  10/6/05 I have a 54 gallon 3-4 month marine tank with 55 lbs of Fiji live rock. I have 1 maroon clown, 1 Yellow Tang, 4 Eel Gobies, 1 Black Star Damsel and 1 Maroon Clown Fish. All the fish are very small-2-3 inches. I have a wet/dry trickle filter with bioballs. I am using a AquaC Urchin protein skimmer in the sump. I also have 3 powerheads in the tanks and am using a current USA power compact with dual 65 watt bulbs- one full spectrum daylight and 1 blue actinic. I have about 2 inches of crushed coral aragonite as a substrate. Water parameters are Ammonia zero-Nitrite zero-Phosphate zero- calcium 400-ph 8.0 and salinity 30 * Total Nitrate levels are NOW at 80*. <Yikes...> I have easily maintained my Nitrates under 10 with a weekly 3 gallon water change. 2 weeks ago my Phosphate levels were 2.0. I added a phosphate sponge to the trickle filter at that time. This is the only thing different I did to my setup. Within 2 weeks the Phosphate levels dropped to Zero and the Nitrate levels sky rocketed. (Is this coincidence or does this Phosphate pad have something to do with it?) My well water used for water changes has zero phosphate and zero nitrate. <Glad to hear that you have great source water. That's usually one of the leading causes of nitrate and phosphate in closed systems. The phosphate in your system, of course, was coming from somewhere...The most likely source is feeding. It's often a good idea to revisit husbandry practices which could have lead to this problem in the first place. I'm glad the phosphate has been eliminated...Keep up the good work.> I am unsure why my Nitrates were below 10 for 3 months and then skyrocketed in 2 weeks without increasing the bioload. My question is should I remove the bio balls? <I would> Will the live rock and protein skimmer be enough. My thought is that maybe this nitrate build up is from the bio-balls. How about replacing the bio-balls with live rock. Will this prevent nitrate build up that occurs from a bio-ball type filtration system? I do not want to do a Refugium at this time. I will purchase a Nitrate remover if necessary. Thanks, Wayne <Sounds like you're on the right track, Wayne. I'd avoid using a nitrate removing product until you've tried other controls. Do remove the bioballs, as they are extremely efficient removers of ammonia and nitrite, but nitrate tends to accumulate faster than it can be removed in bioball-based systems. Victims of their own success, so to speak! Also, if you are using any mechanical filtration media (such as filter pads, "socks", etc.), be sure to replace/clean them very frequently, as the organic matter and detritus contained within them can degrade water quality. Also, If your intent with the sand bed was to foster denitrification, you probably need to go deeper (3 inches plus). Otherwise, no worry. Just keep up with good husbandry and observation, and you'll be fine! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.> Green hairy algae and high nitrates 7/26/05 We have a 45 gallon, 16 month old reef aquarium which until about six months ago was perfectly balanced chemically.  Oh yeah, live rock, live sand, and Aqua Clear wet./dry filter, a CAP 1800 pump, an unknown protein skimmer, and some charcoal.  Then, around January, the nitrates went really high (200+), but now they are in the high O.K. range and we are getting a lot of green hairy algae.  I've been reading your chat board and you have mentioned the protein skimmer should put out a couple of cups of sludge a week and ours doesn't even need to be dumped but every couple of weeks.  The skimmer was suggested by the aquarium shot where we got our tank, I think it is locally made (Jacksonville, FL), it wasn't expensive ($100), and is installed in the sump as per directions.  I'm thinking we should get a better skimmer due to the stupid algae.  We have 6 fish, one clam, one spiny oyster, and four corals.  Any suggestions?  Thanks. <Depending on size, six fish could be a bit much for a 45 gallon tank.  For skimmers to work efficiently, they must be cleaned weekly by removing the brown sludge that builds up on the riser tube.  For algae control Google "algae control" on the Wet Web Media.  James (Salty Dog)> Kim New Tank Won't Start Cycling 07/23/03  Dear Crew <Hi Dave, PF with you tonight> I am still relatively new to this hobby (6 months) and have been very successful with my first FO tank (20 gallons) because of your site and this is the first time I have had to write in (which is a good thing). I have now upgraded to a 90 gallon system with sump and overflow system.  The tank has been set up with salt water for 5 weeks and I added 60 something pounds (32kg) of cured live rock 4 weeks ago. I also added with the live rock some bacterial starter along with a 10 litres of water and a cup of substrate from my 20 gallon. After the first 2 weeks that my rock was in I tested every 2 days and the ammonia stayed at .25, nitrite 0 and nitrate 5 never seeing a rise in Nitrite. Temp 26 degrees Celsius, ph 8.1 and sg 1.024, skimmer running. So I added my two clowns from my 20 gallon tank to see if that would spike the ammonia (planned to remove once ammonia started rising) and still two weeks later the ammonia is flatlining at .5, Nitrite 0 and Nitrate rose to 10. I have removed the clowns and am stumped as to what to do to get the cycling process started. pH is still 8.1, temp 26, and sg 1.024.  Thanks, Dave <Well Dave, start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm there's a lot there to learn about. Instead of using your fish, you can use pieces of raw shrimp to pump up the ammonia levels. A lot of it also is a matter of time. Also try adding a little more substrate from your other tank, you could use the water from your 20 when you do water changes on the new tank. Good luck, PF><<Is done... RMF>>

Question (Urchins... danger of "Internet" learning/knowing...) Hello there, I have a few more questions for you if you don't mind. The first, my water seemed a little cloudy Sunday so I tested it. All the #'s were off except the ammonia. I changed 20 gallons of water (have 125). The nitrate never went down so I got this nitrate sponge to reduce it. The bottle says it takes a couple weeks to make a significant change. The water is still a little cloudy today. do I need another change or do I wait or do I need to buy something because all my #'s are OK except the nitrate. <How much "off" is your nitrate?... I wouldn't change any water till your system clears... and I would not rely on a sponge to do anything here. Please read over the FAQs on NO3 on our site: http://wetwebmedia.com/no3probfaqs.htm> Do I not feed them for a few days?  <Feed what? I would continue to feed... and look into countervailing strategies for avoiding nitrate accumulation, culturing organisms that utilize these compounds> It's irritating. Also my friend brought me some sea urchins the other day. Another friend said to get rid of them because they let off a zillion babies. Well, now around them crawling all over the glass are these little things. Babies?  <No... please read over the WWM site re Urchins, Echinoderms in general...> well how do I get rid of them? I wouldn't think it's too smart to have all those things in there. Your input will be greatly appreciated. Thanks again Jenn <You really will be happier and your system more successful by "taking a few steps back" here... do get a good reference work or two, and stop "doing" anything with this system till you have a better grasp on what is going on in your tank. Bob Fenner>

Live Rock, Nitrate I am very new to saltwater tanks, and I have a few questions. <Okay> First off I have a acrylic hexagon tank (about 18 gallons) with one porcupine puffer, about 4.5 inches long, and one blue damsel. The porcupine puffer is a very messy eater and the damsel doesn't seem to help much. <Not "its" job> Do you know of any small scavengers that wouldn't be eaten by the porcupine puffer? <Not really... in this setting... the size, shape of the tank... are too limiting... it's too small for the puffer alone in reality> I have about 1.5 pounds of live rock. I was wondering if it really does remove nitrate from the water, and if you would recommend getting more live rock. At what nitrate level do you recommend doing a partial water change? Thanks, Ariel <More live rock would help, and I would do regular water changes (likely 20-25% every two weeks, with pre-made water... Please read over the following parts of our website on water changes, puffers...: http://wetwebmedia.com/diodontpuffers.htm, http://wetwebmedia.com/water.htm And live rock, nitrate FAQs... Bob Fenner>

Toadstool help and Aqua Medic Hi Bob, Once again I am emailing you for some more help! My fish tank is the one at http://www.cia.com.au/winone <Nice pix, layout... Anthiines sold to you as "starter fish"? Yikes> I have since added a lot more rock to the fish tank but I have not updated my pictures yet. The reason I am emailing you is because I have no idea when it comes to corals. I brought some corals that inflate (e.g. bubble corals) and they are doing great :) <Yes, Plerogyra are great beginner corals> I purchased two toadstools and shortly after I put them into the fish tank they shed their skin and every few days to a week they shed their skin again.  <This is normal> I use a turkey baster (it's like a big eye dropper) to gently blow water on the toad stool so that the loose skin comes off. This makes a mess in the fish tank as there is dead skin and what looks like white powder everywhere. This settles and disappears in about 30 min.s. Today, to my horror, one of the heads on one of the toad stools fell off. I picked up both stalk and head and disposed of them. The other toadstool looks fine. It is a different looking toadstool to the one having problems. The one that had problems had a short stalk and the one doing fine has a long stalk. The heads are about the same size. <Shape more dependent on physical conditions (circulation, lighting) and nutrition than species...> Can the dead skin coming off the toadstool pollute the fish tank?  <Yes, if too much in too small a volume of water, or if quality is otherwise compromised... These soft corals can produce considerable terpenoid pollution... engage in real chemical battles with other stinging-celled life forms...> Why is there dead skin coming off these corals? What can I do to keep these corals happy? <This is a "cleaning mechanism"... not to worry> What corals are good for a beginner? <Please see the beginnings of coverage of the soft and hard/true corals posted on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com and the associated FAQs files, and in particular the references listed there> Many thanks for your help :) Warmest regards Lucien Cinc PS: I had to remove the de-nitrator because it started to smell bad. <Yikes, good idea. Am not a big fan of these units due to these unpredictable qualities...> I tried my best to get hold of the orb computer to control the de-nitrator, but even AquaMedic themselves in Europe ignored all my attempts to contact them. I was NOT very pleased with Aquamedic at all :( <Really? Am very surprised... this is a great company (saw their German representatives at Aquarama in Singapore a couple of weeks back... Would you mind if I forwarded this message to their U.S. division?> PPS: I have also removed the UV light as I believe it is doing nothing. I was wondering, if the corals are filter feeders, would a UV light kill the food that the corals need to eat? <To some extent yes... if your system is otherwise "going well" and firmly established I would eschew the use of U.V. as well. Bob Fenner>

Re: toadstool (and Aqua Medic) help Sure. If there is a chance that I can purchase the orb computer + probe + solenoid + black tubing + Deni-balls I would be willing to give the de-nitrator another try. I am not sure if the orb computer requires main power? <Hmm, me neither... have you checked their website? It's on the WWM sites links page> In the US it's 110v but in Australia it's 240v. If it's just a simple A/C adaptor down to 9v or something similar then I would be happy to purchase all the above from the US. <Not a big deal as you know> I even called the Australia distributor with no luck at all. They did not even want to talk to me, instead they wanted me to ask my LFS to call them. Every LFS I have asked tell me it's an impossible bit (i.e. the orb computer) to get. I was told there is going to be a 4 month wait just to get Deni-balls! What was I supposed to do in the mean time? <Contact the manufacturer... I am going to ask their US rep. to respond to you> How is AquaMedic supposed to sell things in Australia when they can not get any stock over here? <Got me...> Thanks for all the info on toadstools. I'm pleased the skin shedding is normal. When the head fell off the other toadstool I was very distressed. I will check on WWM web site for more beginner corals and stick to them for the moment :) <Ah, good> A very warm thank you for all your help, my friend :) <You're certainly welcome. Bob Fenner> Warmest regards Lucien Cinc

Re: Aqua Medic assistance Dear Bob, thank you for sending me a copy of this mail and giving me a chance to take care for Lucien. I have pushed our Australian Distributor to help him. <Outstanding! Will post your timely, positive response after his on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com. My appraisal of your products, Aqua Medic, AB Aqua Line stands. Excellence. Bob Fenner> best regards Manfred

Re: AB Aqua Medic U.S. Dear Mr. Cinc, I received an e-mail from a friend of yours Mr. Fenner. I understand that you are having trouble finding equipment to work with the nitrate reducer. The egg smell that you referred to is hydrogen sulfide this is caused by over feeding the unit and the Redox potential is to low to correct this reduce the feeding rate and increase the flow rate of the unit. As to where you can purchase the Redox controller and probe. There are 2 types of probes that we carry for the Redox controller one is for a low pressure system this unit has 2 clips that hold the top on and then one for a pressurized system this unit has 8 clamps holding the top on. Where to purchase the Aqua Medic line of products customaquatic.com this is a company I have been dealing with for some time and has a good reputation. You can call 1-800-397-7238 and ask for Todd and he can answer most of your questions as well as give you prices. If you have any other technical questions about our products please contact me directly by phone at 1-866-419-0086 or e-mail at AquaMedic@ev1.net or jutley@ev1.net. Thank you John Utley AB Aqua Medic Customer Service AquaMedic@ev1.net Toll-free 866-419-0086 Phone 281-419-0086 Fax 281-419-0502 <Again, outstanding. And do want to second the referral to Todd (Gabriel) of Custom Aquatic. I know him to be professional/very customer service oriented. Bob Fenner>

Help (Nitrates) <Tom, Lorenzo Gonzalez here standing in for Bob whilst he's in Asia.> I hope you can help I have a 55 gal tank, using a emperor 400 filter, a sea clone skimmer, 2 power heads, and 40 lbs of live rock My tank is about 8 mos. old I change the water every 1 1/2 about 11%. I have 3 green chromis,1 coral beauty,1 tomato clown,1 panther grouper and 8 hermit crabs. I recently had problems with elevated Nitrate levels once as high as 100 ppm, what can cause this and what can we do to bring down the number?? <Nitrate is the final by-product of the nitrogen cycle, and can only be removed by anaerobic bacteria, or water changes. So you need either more live rock (best long term option), a plenum (impractical in an already-established tank), or more frequent/larger water changes. (Do this right away, if the Nitrate is still so high) > Please Help.. tom :) <As a side note - your panther grouper will eat all your Chromis, and probably your clown unless it's huge, as soon as he gets big enough. (They easily get a couple feet long in captivity) Best regards, Lorenzo>

Ex-established... <Lorenzo Gonzalez, 'playing bob', who's underwater in Asia somewhere> First off thanks for the awesome Q&A site!!! As a beginner I have really found your site to be extremely helpful. My problem is this... <We're glad you're enjoying and appreciate it - it's a lot of work on Bob and Mike...> Four days ago I purchased an established 55 gallon tank from a private owner that has been established for a year and a half. <Sounds like it's not so established anymore...> The gentleman I purchased from had aprox 4+ inches of live sand, plus live rock in the tank. When I set it up at home I only installed a 2 inch sand bed and did a 14 gallon water change. <Depending on how much live rock you had, tossing all that sand must've really done a (bad) number on your nitrogen cycle...> I have a sump and a wet dry with this system. This tank contains both fish and soft corals. Fish are              common clown              Mandarin goby              yellow tang              blue spotted Jawfish              green Chromis              coral beauty              blood shrimp Coral are              assorted mushrooms My problem......          pH           =  8.2          Ammonia = .5 - .10          Nitrite      =  0          Nitrate     = 160+          Specific gravity  = 1.029 @ 78 degrees My problem as you can see is the nitrate levels. Should I do a large water change? (20%) I don't want to stress everyone out but this can't be good!! <Do it anyway. Get a water aging system going, bucket and air-pump, or something similar, so you can do 5-10% water changes everyday until the system gets more stable again.> The original system did not have a protein skimmer and I have purchased a Aquarium systems VISI-JET-PS. I would like to install this in the sump but it is to big. The manufacturer says that I can cut the bubble tube to fit but wont that decrease the efficiency? <Yes, it will. But just about any skimmer is better than none.> Everyone in the tank seems to be doing alright. (except the Jawfish who hasn't come out of his corner which he's been sharing with the blood shrimp since the move). <Think of all the work a Jawfish puts into building a home, and you'll understand why he's so grouchy... that, and 2 inches isn't nearly enough sand for this fish. That's probably why the original setup had such a deep bed. The fish needs to be able to dig a tunnel at least 50% deeper than he is long, preferable twice as deep... consider making the fish (and shrimp) an hospitable 'mountain' or some such -regards, Lorenzo>

Quick Biology Question on Nitrate Bob So my tank has cycled. Everything tests zero except for nitrates, which using the low range test of my Salifert kit, I get between 2 and 5ppm. I've done a 50% water change. At one point during the cycle, nitrates tested off the scale of my test kit (>100ppm), but they have obviously dropped off dramatically over the last three weeks. So I assume my rock has organisms which break down nitrate, correct? <In a manner of speaking, yes> This is the only explanation for the drop in nitrate. And to think, my parents spent $80K on my degree in biology from Johns Hopkins..... <You're making my evening> I have since added a couple of damsels and a small clean up crew. Amazing what a few turbo snails can do to a tank full of algae. So my question is with a tank full of organisms so adept at breaking down nitrate, will I ever see a rise in nitrate beyond say 10ppm?  <Yes, all being unequal... the "forward" reaction of nitrification (ammonia to nitrites to nitrates) "tends" to be more prominent in captive systems... with the conse- make that subsequent accumulation of nitrates> Is my low nitrate do to a new tank or the live rock?  <Hmm, both> I assume if I added a bunch more fish and fed heavily, I could get the nitrate up. But then I only plan on adding a couple of clowns, a couple of shrimp and a couple of anemones. <You are correct...> I wonder about this because I hear people mention much higher levels of nitrate and I only got to see that during the cycle. <A typical anomaly...> Thanks for the input Paul <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Success (reducing nitrates) Bob, after continual trate problems in my reef (with a plenum 60ppm, and a Turboflotor skimmer), I added a refugium several weeks ago. I am very pleased that the trates have dropped to 30ppm w/out water changes. Can I expect this to lower into invertebrate safe ranges?  <Yes> Also, I have a 160 with way too high trates, and would like to add a refugium, however, the tank is coppered (I am trying to bring it down now). Is Caulerpa copper tolerant at all? <To an extent will take the copper out of the water... more yes than maybe> I am doing a 40 gal water change, Chemi pure, and a product by SeaChem that absorbs copper. I would really like to get these trates into the 20 (FOWLR). Once again, thanks a million, I have some very happy corals because of your book and web site!! tom <My friend, your successes thrill me. Bob Fenner>

Broomtail wrasse/NatuReef's denitrator Bob; I regularly peruse the WetWebMedia website and go through old and newly posted FAQs. I find most interesting even the questions that don't necessarily apply to me or my systems.  <Yes... a useful mechanism of "making known" what needs, might well need be> I currently have a 45 gallon reef tank and a 180 gallon fish only both of which I'm thinking about increasing in size. My questions are twofold. You have no information on broomtail wrasses other than they are two big for aquarium use.  <Splendour, Cheilinus wrasses... can be very hardy aquarium specimens... as you/I state... for very large systems only> Since I have acquired I find that they are a splendid looking species with a easy going community personality. No subversive behavior with my other fish consisting of varying sizes between the smallest flame hawk and the largest emperor and queen angels. I realize that the fish will all grow and hence my plans to upgrade the size in the future. How quickly do the broomtails grow? I would imagine it would depend somewhat on the quantity of food that they eat? <Hmm, yes... a few inches per year, especially initially... something like this is my best guess for "average" size at the end of 1 year: 6-8", 2 years, 8-12", 3 years 9-15"...> Second question is the NatuReef Denitrators. I've been running one since I started a little over two years ago with the original 125 since upgraded to the 180 I currently have. Why no suggestions to people with fish only tanks to use these products to help improve water quality between changes? <Many pitfalls to avoid here... in dealing with such units and describing their practical use on the Net... as I'm sure you do appreciate... most Denitrators are wildly inconsistent in their performance... requiring almost constant checking and feeding (most with sugars, some with alcohols... other stocks), adjusting flow rates... The best "ones" are those that are used redundantly... with people not fooling with them (good luck)... Hence my alacrity in promoting any but the "more passive" live rock, deep sand beds, real plenums sorts of approaches... > Fish are happy and healthy. Keep sg @ 1.018 and temp around 82 and they appear to flourish. All fish beside broomtail and emperor have been with me for 1 1/2yrs emperor (6-7") has been for 1/2 yr. Thanks for your input. <Thank you for yours. Bob Fenner>

Re: Some questions about reefs (Eheim Wet-Dries, overflow mechanisms...) Hi Bob, Today I accidentally ran the Eheim filter dry while I was siphoning water out of the sump. I did not notice that the filter was running dry for over and hour and by then it was too late. I will buy a new Eheim wet/dry filter tomorrow. I hope fish will be okay over night while I get the new Eheim wet/dry filter. Which one is the best one for me to get? <Actually... I don't care for Eheim wet-dry filters... would just use one of their canisters... the bigger the better> After I did this I was so upset that I installed an on/off switch in the sump area which switches everything off in the sump. Now when I need to do something, everything goes off and there is no risk that this will happen again. <Good idea> I have also decided to replace the tank with one that has an overflow built in. The hang-on overflow has lost it siphon once and water start dripping out the top of the tank. Not a funny thing when this happens.  <Decidedly not... built-in overflows are better... more reliable... though not fool-proof either.> Now I check the overflow every day. I have ordered another 6 foot tank, but this one is going to be 2 inches taller and give me another 12 gals of water volume. So after the tank gets delivered, hopefully in a weeks time, I will move everything into the new tank and retire the old one. Is there anything I should know about, when moving everything over to the new tank? <Not too much... please see the notes on "Moving Aquariums" posted on the www.WetWebMedia.com site... The same as replacing a tank.> I purchased 3 green chromes fish and they are great! They eat everything I put in the fish tank. I had to train them at first but now they come running over when the lid goes up and they wait for the food to fall down into the water. My cleaner shrimp just molted and has come back out to play after about 3 days (which was today). I was concerned that he was dying when he disappeared, but I'm happy to say he has not. I also found his malted shell. <Yes... leave it in there a week or so... this animal may ingest it in part... to make its new exoskeleton... it won't pollute your water.> I measured nitrates and they are up around the 5ppm. The algae just keeps growing. I have read the information on your site and I will try a few of these. I do have some questions about some of the things I have read else where. What one person has done to lower nitrates is to dose sugar water into his sump. About 1 table spoon is mixed into 1 gal of water and then slowly dosed into the sump over a period of about 12 hours. The nitrates go down to 0 after dosing but when they come up again, he repeats the dosing. I have found many references to people doing this. Do you know about this? <Yes... these carbohydrate additions boost denitrification... can't be done continuously... and some downsides... potential filamentous algae profusion... which you can see happening> What do you think about doing this? I have also read many times that people that use de-nitrators to control nitrates simply put in a small amount of sugar into the de-nitrator as food and the unit does it's thing. I have a Aquamedic de-nitrator unit which comes with Deni-balls which provide the food and it lasts around a year. Will the freshwater de-nitrator that I have work with saltwater? Is it just the same thing? <About the same yes... and same anaerobic processes involved, with sugars...> After I get my new tank, the only thing that I would have not replaced from my original freshwater setup would be the cabinet. Everything thing else has been replaced or changed. If I knew this was going to happen I would have brought a hole new marine setup and just kept the freshwater tank running with freshwater fish in it. It's really funny how things turn out! <Yes... indeed> While I am in the replacing mood, is there anything that I should have that you recommend, before the new tank arrives? <Nothing comes to mind... but do read over a couple hundred of these messages per day...> Many thanks for your help. I really appreciated it :) <You're welcome my friend. Bob Fenner> Warmest regards, Lucien

What (Fish) next? Thank you in advance for answering my (and many others') questions... <You're welcome> Tank Info: 55 Gallon Fish only, 45lbs live rock, 20 lbs. live sand (1/2 inch), CPR BakPak 2R skimmer, RIO 1400 and 800 pumps for circulation, JBJ Venice JD1 lighting (combo 10,000K and Actinic). Inhabitants: 2" Canthigaster Valentini, 1" Rhinecanthus aculeatus, 1" Premnas biaculeatus, 3" Genicanthus melanospilos and 1.5" Centropyge loricula <Yikes... this system is going to be getting tight, psychologically and physiologically... soon if not now!> I'm kind of in a position where I'm done adding fish (don't want to overcrowd, unless you think I can squeeze in a small Niger Trigger or Blue Throat Trigger) and want to "enhance" the tank. <No more fish life... you already will have too much> I was thinking along the lines of constructing a basic sump for added water volume and increased water quality. My current setup is running perfectly, with the nitrates levels rising to 10-15 ppm as it nears time for a water change. I would like to add "something" to automate the reduction of nitrates in my system. <Hmm, this sounds good> Will the addition of macro algae (which do you prefer) lower my nitrates? <Decidedly yes> If so, where should this macro algae go? Into a sump/refugium? <And in your main system... yes, where your livestock will eat a good part of it> I don't really mind the CPR BakPak hanging off the main tank, so a sump for the purposes of removing my protein skimmer/heater to an unseen sump is not too important for me. I was thinking I could leave the CPR where it is on the main tank, add a CPR overflow to my main tank, send water down to my refugium where the macro algae will be housed, then send up the "nitrate-free" <let's settle on 'nitrate-lessened'> water via a RIO 800 back to the main system. What type of lighting is required? Will this really lower my nitrate? <A small compact fluorescent is best... Home Depot, Lowe's or pet fish sourced... and yes> What other "stuff" do I need in my refugium? Live sand? Live rock? Mud? <Rock is best... and not to clean out too much, too often> Thanks again. Since I'm mostly done setting up and stocking the tank, I'm looking for new projects to keep my busy... I love this hobby. <Me too. Be chatting. Bob Fenner, www.WetWebMedia.com> - Eugene M. Lee

Nitrates bob thank you for taking my email! I just brought your book conscientious marine aquarist. <Sure you will enjoy, benefit from it> my problem is I have a 55 gal tank, using a emperor 400 filter using standard filter no extra carbon), a sea clone skimmer18 watt uv ster., and 2 03 power heads, 60 lbs of live rock, 60 lbs of live sand, using reef crystal mix and or water. my tank is about 6 mos. old, water changes 20% weekly. and RO top off. I have 1 naso,1 yellow tang,1 purple tang,1 dragon goby, 2 cardinals, 2 damsels, 35 shrimp, <thirty five? I'll assume either three or five> 2 starfish, 3 emeralds, 20 blue legged hermits and 20 snails, 3 anemones, <What types? Could be trouble...> 1 leather, 2 corals. I feed once a day lifeline for the tangs and formula 2 for the others. I do not use phytoplankton or should I? <I would... and be carefully observing this mix... a lot of life for a fifty five gallon tank...> I use reef complete for my calcium levels. no matter what I do I can not get my nitrates down, there running 80+ and very consistent. no matter if I do more water changes or what , tried a nitrate sorb in my filter with no change, I added another filter which is a Rena to help with the standard carbon sponge and fiber media. with no help! my amm. 0:, nitrites 0:, ph 8.2:, calcium 400:, phosphates .1:, I'm getting good skimming from my skimmer and clean the canister once a day and the tube once a week change my filter on my emperor every 2 weeks and clean the Rena once a week. I need help!!!!!!!! should I take out the bio wheels in the emperor? <Maybe... but I wouldn't... you need their help, steady, back-up nitrification here... There is much more you can/should do...> I just bought a 29 gal tank I was going to make a sump out of it with no bio balls putting my skimmer down there and use some live sand bed with plants so the water can run across and then return to tank is that good think it will help? <Of a certainty yes... this is a very good plan.> I'm at the last line now this is my goal in life to reduce my nitrates, LOL I'm at my wits end and really don't no what to do next. thank you , Gary Williams Abington, Va. <Do read over the "Nitrates FAQs" posted on our website: www.WetWebMedia.com, as well as "Algal Filtration FAQs" there... You're well on your way... and seem to have a good and growing grasp of what you might do here. Bob Fenner>

Nitrate problem Greetings from Texas! <Howdy> I need immediate help. My fish-only tank has recently experienced a cycling event, and I think it's because we have a heavy livestock load and my husband and I have been overfeeding them (unintentionally, at different times of the day).  <This is all-too common> Plus, we were only doing monthly water changes and should have been doing bi-monthly water changes. As a result, the ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates went up and are now in the process of falling (the ammonia's at 0 and the nitrites are at .25), but I have a dilemma. I have a FFE order coming in tomorrow for some Linckias and an XL Fiji bubble anemone, and my nitrates seem to be spiking at 140 ppm!  <Call and cancel the order, now! or find other quarters for these new animals...> Aarrgghh! (I know you're shaking your head right now!) <No... at least you know what's going on... seem to be aware of the need to do what it takes to remedy the situation...> We did a 20 gallon water change last night and replaced the filter pad in the overflow, which was quite nasty, as well as thoroughly vacuumed the crushed coral gravel. The fish (a yellow tang, a purple tang, 2 percula clowns, 2 green Chromis, 2 blue damsels, a flame angel, a coral beauty angel, a juvenile imperator angel, a juvenile Koran angel, and a Heniochus butterfly) were moved into a 60 gallon quarantine tank and are being treated with copper for a light ich infestation. (Once the copper/quarantine period is over only half the fish will be going back into the main tank.) The only inhabitants in my main tank are some shrimp, hermits, a snowflake moray eel (about 14" in length and as thick as a thumb), and a Pacific cleaner wrasse (which I now know I shouldn't have bought, but I got your book, The Conscientious Marine Aquarist, after the fact -- and as an aside, he's been with me for over a month now but I think his health is declining...his color's not too good, and I can see his little ribs or some other anatomical vertical striations under his skin...what would be the best thing to do for him now?  <Really... hope... if the fish becomes too emaciated to sacrifice it (euthanasia) by freezing in a bag with some water...> I didn't know whether to put him in the coppered tank so left him in the main tank.) Back to my main problem -- it's a 75 gallon tank which has been running for about 15 months, and has an overflow box with BioBale, a trickle filter with 5 gallons of bioballs, a protein skimmer, and a 15 watt UV sterilizer. How can I immediately bring down the nitrates in my tank? By removing the bio-material, <Yes... and adding some live rock, growing some macroalgae... Please see the "Nitrate FAQs" on the "Marine Index" of our website: www.WetWebMedia.com for much more here> what will serve as my biological filter since I do not have live rock?  <All the other surfaces in your system...> I guess I should order some, but it will take a while to cycle and all that, so it's not an immediate help for my current situation. I have some Cycle in the fridge; should I use that? <Yes> What about activated charcoal or something similar? <Polyfilter and activated carbon may help to offset some of the mal-affects of the chemical problems here, but there are no chemical filtrants that will do what you are seeking outright... your system needs to cycle completely (with or w/o live rock help) and be returned to "center" with the removal of biomass, effects of overfeeding... completion of cycles via enhanced denitrification, use of nutrients...> Thanks in advance for your help! Sherri J. <Do read over the WWM site... Bob Fenner>

Re: Nitrate problem Mr. Fenner, Thank you for your lightning-quick response. I retested the nitrates, and 12 hours after reading 140 ppm, they have fallen to 80 ppm. Hopefully, the removal of the bio-material, addition of Cycle, another 20 gallon water change tonight, prayers, and time will help. :-)  <Yes... they will> It's too late to cancel my invert order as they're on the plane as I type, but if things look bad tomorrow, I know several people who will baby-sit them in their tanks if need be. <Ah, good plan> The first thing I do when I have a problem or question is check your website, but there is no article for copper use nor nitrates.  <Yes... only the FAQ files as of yet have been placed...> The FAQ's are there, but no article. I'd like to segue way into a copper question I have: I read that tangs have intestinal microbes that are adversely affected by copper treatment, and I have two tangs being treated right now (it's only been 24 hours since the initiation of treatment). Is there anything I should watch for or is the duration of treatment different for these guys?  <Hmm, just to limit the treatment period to a maximum of two weeks> Additionally, should I still provide them with Nori on which to graze or try to cut down drastically on feeding during treatment? <Do feed them> The less waste, the better, I know, but how much of a feeding reduction is dangerous to their health? <Always trade-offs in this universe... I feed my livestock ahead of myself...> Thank again most kindly for your guidance, Sherri J. <You are certainly welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

Nitrate Filter Questions Hi Bob, Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and life's work both on-line and in the Conscientious Marine Aquarist. I've found your site to be a wealth of knowledge and I frequent the Salt Water Fishes section. <Ah, very gratifying. Exactly what we desire> I have a large 280 Gallon Fish only Marine Aquarium that I built modeled after GARF's Do it yourself instructions. I have a large DIY Wet/Dry, Skimmer, and Nitrate filter w/ a 30 watt Aquanetics UV Filter. My question relates to the Nitrate filter. After a little research and understanding of what I would be able to reasonably maintain, I decided to try a Coil nitrate filter similar to the one described on the following URL: http://saltaquarium.about.com/pets/saltaquarium/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site= http://www.aloha.net/%7Ehqf/indexdondenitrator.htm <Yes, am familiar with these designs> I have the input of the Nitrate filter connected partially to the output of the U/V filter. I left the U/V filter off for a day in case it was needed to 'Seed" the Nitrite filter w/ bacteria. It's been about 2+ months of dripping and I have found that the output of the nitrate filter shows the following: Slow Drip rates: Ammonia = 0, Nitrites = 5ppm+, Nitrates = 5ppm ish Extremely Fast Drip Rates: Ammonia = 0, Nitrites = 0, Nitrates = 60ppm <Okay> I understand that in the second case that I am not creating the anaerobic conditions to decompose Nitrates. However, in the first processes I find that the colors of the Nitrates test by AQ.. PHARM results in colors that are slightly off from the color chart, but they nonetheless result in colors similar to the 5ppm color range. <Yes, don't let this throw you... some nitrites produced and an artifact of the test kit itself> my question is as follows: Specifically, which strains of bacteria become anaerobic and decompose nitrates?  <Hmm, not "become" but "ones that live/proliferate in the environment of your making which is hypoxic (oxygen limited)... "Nitrobacters", others...> Are these the same as the Ones that are involved in the conversion of Ammonia to Nitrites? or the ones that decompose nitrites to nitrates? Or Neither? <Neither> Can you hypothesize why I might be getting high nitrites?  <A few possibilities come to mind... bacterial and other microbial digestion/predation going on the surfaces of the "coil" areas... most likely> The quantity doesn't bother due to the size of the tank and effectiveness of main wet/dry filter. Nonetheless, I ask because I am wondering if I should speed up the drip process and develop a strong colony of bacteria, similar to a wet/dry, and then slow it back down. Any comments you have would be much appreciated. Sincerely, Jeff <Best to disengage the UV from this pathway, slow the drip down to just that... a few drops per minute... and leave it all as that... Do investigate other (in all frankness vastly superior) methods of encouraging denitrification, use of nitrates... deep sand beds (best in a sump/refugium) w/ or w/o a dead space/plenum, use/culture of live macro-algae... somewhat touched on in "Nitrate" FAQs and elsewhere on the site: www.WetWebMedia.com Bob Fenner>

Nitrate and conversion from fish to reef Dear Bob, I have a 90 gal. fish set up with 40 lbs. of live rock and 30 lbs of dead live rock having been treated with copper 6 months ago) and a wet-dry with a Berlin protein skimmer, also a uv with an Eheim canister filter. I would like to convert to a reef system so I took the advice in your many articles and took the bio-balls out of the trickle and added 40lbs of live sand. After 5 50% water changes my nitrates are still between 5 and10. Why can't I get them to ZERO. Please help. one frustrated reef wannabee <This may be the "zero mark" for the gear, type, amount, age of live rock and substrate you now have... You can/could very likely edge closer to zero ppm with the addition of: more substrate, possibly a plenum, the addition of live macro-algae... as well as adding the photosynthetic life you intend to as a reef aquarium... these will all easily "work"... and are detailed on the WWM site... under "Nitrate" and associated FAQs files. Don't be overly concerned now with the readings of 5-10ppm of NO3... not that high, easily lowered by the stated means. Bob Fenner>

Timed Denitrator? would the addition of a timed denitrator work? a local LFS has a used on for 300 (usually sells for 900), I am very tempted <What? What is a "timed denitrator"? Please read through the "Nitrate" sections FAQs posted on www.WetWebMedia.com re methods of control. Bob Fenner>

Previous aquarium setup, with high Nitrates Hello Bob, Many thanks for clearing up my lighting disillusion/confusion. Before I pick your brain I want to get your opinion on which of the following lighting would be most beneficial. I found some VHO lamps using the iceberg transformer, I think they were Formosa lights, a 2x110 watts 47" in length. How do these compare to the 4x65 watt Power compacts? Any advantages either way? <Unfamiliar with this make/model... but Very High Output fluorescents are the next best thing to CFs in general. Maybe search for "Formosa", "Iceberg" on the net, get the address, more info. from labels on the unit?> Now for my pondering of my current situation. I have the 55 Gal Show style aquarium that I have been running for about 5 years. I could never keep a yellow tang, but otherwise I would generally get about a year out of other species except for a spotted scat which I had for 4 years. About two months ago I bought a Coral Beauty Angel and a Saddle Back Clown. I put them in with the only fish I had at the time, the Spotted Scat (he/she had been alone for about a year). The two new fish seemed to be doing great, very active, no quick breathing, and ate well. Three weeks later, from the closest Fish store I have, I purchased a Powder Brown Tang and a Arc Eye Hawk(?), along with some sort of anemone that was according to the fish store on of the cheapest available. After about two weeks, everyone had been doing fine, eating, sleeping, reading, etc., the fish were doing OK as well. (humor). Then it appeared I got a good/bad case of Marine Velvet. Lost everything in a matter of 2 days. I suspect possibly coming from the locale (new word)<a good one> fish store, not very attractive. This is why I am going to start things from scratch, going with LR and so forth. <Yikes> My question is originated around Nitrate levels, they were always exceedingly high, like according to my test kit around 140 ppm. I'd do regular water changes about every two weeks, using pre stored tap water and then storing the mixed salt content a couple of extra days, about 5 gallons at a time. My floor bed consists of crushed coral approx. 2", and landscape was the new synthetic Lava Rock. I gather that I probably had to much crushed coral, has it because it was what the fish store told me to get. My filtration in this setup was a Marineland 330 Bio, and a Visi-jet skimmer (undersize and very busy). <y Nitrates were never at 0, but they were less than .25 ppm.  <I suspect you mean nitrites... and the nitrates and this value lead me/you to understand the system was "under filtered" nitrogenously...> My pH is at roughly 8.2-8.6, color of test water always seemed to be in between those two color chips. My Ammonia is 0 ppm, and my SG is around 1.021-22. From this, what would you say the Nitrate problem was/is?  <Insufficient skimming, insufficient denitrating (lack of depth in your substrate, not enough live rock), possibly over or mis-feeding, not enough photosynthesis (too little light, absence of algae...)... many more...> I am in hopes of going with LS or a minimal coral bed with LR that things with decompose more stabile, aside from being more esthetically pleasing. I even had the high nitrates when it was the Scat alone and I fed him about three times a week. <Well, now you know why they're called Scats (family Scatophagidae), "Dung Eaters"... Live in scatological conditions in the wild... > Generally I keep a couple of flake foods, some frozen shrimp and blood worms, along with three varieties of the algae that packaged as dry in the cartoon. I am going to retain the Marineland 330 Bio for use in a quarantine tank, but I'll keep it on the main system when not in use in the QT. My main filter now is a Rena Filstar XP2, and was told by Chris that I should probably just run the floss filters and carbon in it and let the LR do the bio. I am also getting, on Chris's recommendation, the Remora skimmer, it's rated for a 75 so I assume that would be plenty for the 55, unless you think that you cannot go over kill on the skimmer, then I would opt for the Remora Pro. I will also add three powerheads for water circulation. One thing I am not sure if I need is a UV sterilizer, what do you think on this? <Leave off the UV, the rest is a sound plan> I really appreciate your help, I want this next system to be sufficient in it's life supporting capabilities. I'm sure I'll be talking to you again soon, Rod <Ahh, good. Look forward to it. Bob Fenner>

Re: Previous aquarium setup, with high Nitrates Hello Bob, Little snip here (below), and I did mean Nitrates as you assumed. Busy day, both ways I'm sure. To answer your <y to my undersized and very busy skimmer, I live in a rural part of Kansas and I purchased the original setup through the closest store, it was the best they had. <I understand. This is... now> At that time, the internet was not accessible in my area, so my access to knowledge of this type of aquarium was very limited. This time I plan on using the places available on-line to do my equipment and aqua life purchases. Mostly FFE, I figure if you respond from there Q&A they must not be to bad? <No, but one of many fine places... do shop about> <Insufficient skimming, insufficient denitrating (lack of depth in your substrate, not enough live rock), possibly over or mis-feeding, not enough photosynthesis (too little light, absence of algae...)... many more...> Do you mean 2 inch of Crushed coral was not enough? I had been told lately if I go with live rock to use just enough crushed coral to cover the bottom. <Not "deep enough" to function as an effective denitrator (to use up those excess nitrates), no... Would have to be a few inches deeper depending on grade, composition...> Should I definitely use Live sand instead? If Coral is OK does it need to be replenished? The Coral in my aquarium is the original 5 year old coral. <Your live rock will make the sand live... and yes to replenishing, replacing older carbonaceous substrates. Please read the areas posted on the site: www.WetWebMedia.com about "Marine Substrates"... need to be augmented after about a year and a half...> Ah, I just thought of something else, what type of testing supplies do you recommend, based upon ease of use and dependability? And are they dissolving pellets or liquids? I got a list of the type of tests you like to have checked on one of your Anemone FAQ's. <Ah, good... and there is a "Test Kits, Use" area on the site as well.> Thanks, I knew I'd talk to you again <And soon enough again my friend. Bob Fenner> Rod

Nitrates and Wet/Dry Filter Hi Bob, Once again I need some advice. The unbiased advice you give out is hard to come by.  <I try to be objective... but as you know "attention is narrowed perception" and no one can hope to know but a bit of what is currently understood... and this pales to what is unknown...> I appreciate it very much, as I'm sure do all of the other visitors to your site. I have read through the web site information and all the FAQ's in regard to wet dry filter setups. I have an AMiracle wet dry setup (good bad or downright ugly)?  <I think an okay unit... seem to be well-built, last... I don't especially endorse them for their wet-dry components...> of last years design, with a protein skimmer , 8 watt UV and four powerheads on a 40 gallon tall tank. My nitrates rarely spike over 20 mg/L as tested by Hagen's kit. They are usually under or in the range of 10mg/L. Now my confusion over nitrate factories as you call them is this: I have had some problems with nitrates in the past. As a solution, I tried lowering the level of water in the filter as to create more air space. My filter now has just enough water in the bottom as not cause the pump to draw air or cavitate.  <Interesting...> According to your writings, that should cause a spike in nitrates, No?  <Not necessarily... a few other factors could/can easily sway an/the equation (nitrification back and forth to denitrification...)> I also removed some bio balls and replaced the empty space with a fibrous high surface area filter board.  This board rests just below drip plate at the top of the filter box and the remaining bio balls, out of the water all of the time. Is this the reason my nitrates went down? <Good idea> Or was it simply the removal of the bio balls.  <Perhaps an experiment with just this one tank could prove out the answer here> This brings me to my next question. Uh-oh you say. Does the live rock in the tank act as denitrifiers?  <Of a certainty yes... but how much? Would your "nitrate spikes" be more frequent, persistent without the live rock... I think so> In the tank I have approximately 50 pounds of live rock with a few pieces of lace rock as building blocks on a bed of only a couple pounds of live sand. I have almost no algae growth save for the back glass which I allow to grow and is green. And finally, I know you suggest removal of the bio balls. What do I place in the filter then? Live rock? More of the fiber board? Coral, ground or skeletal pieces? More water? <My choice? Live rock and/or the skeletal pieces... Caulerpa algae and lighting... and more water... as much as is "safe" (for when the power goes off, or your pump fails...> If more water is part of the solution, what percentage of the filter medium should be submerged full time? Why do I feel my filter is about to morph from a wet dry to a wet wet?  <It may well do so... submersed or not media with air, dissolved atmosphere will drive nitrification... the forward reaction ammonia to nitrites to nitrates...> As I read in another query, should I place the bio balls in the down tube to subdue the gurgling of the filter?  <I wouldn't, unless...> Does it matter, will it help? <Only to reduce noise...> I really can't afford to upgrade to new filter at this time, so how can I work with what I've got? <Read over the Algae Filters piece and FAQs and Caulerpa and FAQs on the www.WetWebMedia.com site... think you're moving in a right direction... you're obviously concerned, thinking, caring about your livestock, system... I'm with you> Thanks for expert help. By the way, all tank mates which include fish, inverts and corals are healthy. All other tank readings are within normal ranges with no anomalies. I do a five gallon change weekly or thereabouts. All water starts as RO. Thanks again. Brett <Sounds good. Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Re: tank problems/ Induced Nitrates Hi Robert, I wanted to give you an update on my tank problems. I've been doing 50% water changes daily. I borrowed my brother-in-laws wet dry from his 55 gal. tank, set that up, have the Magnum canister filter going with carbon and a Poly filter in it. I'm using the "New tank set up" dosage of Cycle. I've been taking a turkey baster and squirting the live rock a couple of times a day loosening any dead debris or sucking up any obvious areas that are disintegrating. I'm cleaning all filters twice a day. As of last night the Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates were within tolerable levels for the corals and inverts. <Ahh, does sound like you've been industrious, likely have "saved the day"... congratulations.> I'm going to continue doing 20% water changes according to the levels and how they're maintaining and using the Cycle. I've also added De-Nitrate in my wet dry to try and keep the Nitrates down as they convert. Does it sound like I'm on track for a full recovery? At this point the corals, especially the elegance is looking much better. Any other suggestions that would help? Am I doing too much? <Not too much, and yes... stay the course you're on... intelligently, and all will be fine. Bob Fenner>

Nitrates, Public Education, Stores I can not seem to get the nitrate lower than 40 in either one of my aquariums. I do frequent water changes and one of the aquariums I have used nitrate sponge. Is it okay if it does not get lower than 40. <Please read over the FAQs section on the Marine Index on the site: www.WetWebMedia.com re Nitrates... not hard to reduce by getting rid of nitrification over-driving mechanisms (fluidized beds, plastic bio media in wet dry filters...) and culturing Green et al. Algae...> everything else is at 0 and ph is usually 8.1. Also I talked to the pet store about a mandarin goby and they say they are bottom feeders and they are not hard to keep but everything I read on the computer says they are hard to keep because they usually starve to death. In your opinion which is correct?  <The vast majority of these fishes do starve to death in captivity... see the section re them on the WWM site> It is very confusing when you get different information. If the salt gets high will this kill a fish that is not hardy like I read about a mandarin. Would he more likely die from starvation or if the salt is high. A mandarin goby died and when they checked the salt it was high but I wondered if that is what killed him or starvation. <Perhaps there is a synergistic effect.> People I have talked to say they have only been able to keep a mandarin goby for a month, one said seven months but the pet store people talk like they do fine. No big deal they just eat what the other fish do not eat and the green algae. What is your opinion? Thanks for your help. LS <My overall opinion? Find another store to shop at. Bob Fenner>

Salt Water Aquarium addict Robert, Hello again... The facts again... I currently have set up: 55 Gal SWA w/ UGF w/ 4 power heads (250 MaxiJets) w/ 1 Eheim 2213 CF w/ 1 Sea-clone Protein Skimmer 40 lbs crushed coral 15 lbs crushed shells approx. 50lbs of live rock In the tank are: 3 Yellow-tailed Damsels 2 False Percula Clown (one is new addition) 1 Porcupine Puffer (new addition - one week, so far, so good) 1 Yellow Tang (new addition) 1 Banggai Cardinal (new addition) 1 Mushroom rock( 6-8 Mushrooms) Clean-up crew include: 3 Emerald crabs 15-20 Scarlet hermits 10-15 Blue leg hermits 4 Trochus snails 2 Astrea snails Questions: Regarding feeding, What, how much and how often? (I have frozen formula-1, frozen brine shrimp, brown marine algae, flake food) <Twice a day... while the lights will still be on for an hour in the latter part of the day... try to fake the Puffer out or it will eat most everything> I looked for compatibility charts on your site, but with no luck. <Mmm, these are of limited validity/utility... unless down to the specific/species level... at least> Can you tell me what invert is compatible with a porcupine puffer, specifically? <Absolutely speaking, none. Will likely sample most everything in such a small system> For my particular situation with nitrates at ~15PPM, should I increase live rock, add macro-algae (if so what type), and/or increase amount of time lights are on per day? <They'll be higher with the puffer, your too-small skimmer... yes to more live rock, check the algae coverage on the WWM site... for species of Caulerpas, Halimedas...> As always, your help is greatly appreciated. Thank you, Brian Bottarini <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

NITRATE hi bob, how are you doing? <Fine> I have emailed you previously about a sea anemone of mine. I really am grateful for your advice. I have a few questions about steps I need to take. in my tank right now I have 3 percula clowns, 1 maroon clown, 1 high fin cardinal, 2 red shrimp, 1 starfish, 1 purple pin cushion, 1 snail, 10 small hermit crabs, 1 medium hermit crab, and 15 pounds of live rock. I did a small water change this weekend. the nitrate rose from 20 ppm to a raging 60 ppm. <Yikes> the make up water test negative for nitrate. ammonia and nitrite are at 0. my angelfish died two days later. I have only lost three animals in five months. the question that really intrigues me is, the fish and anemone lived for three months before dying? do you think this is because of the nitrate explosion?  <Yes, or related more definitively to the cause/s of the nitrates...> do you have any ideas on what made it rise so dramatically? <Possibly a massive die-off on nitrifiers... or an infusion of proteinaceous material... food, some off-set by your livestock... An overactive imbalance between aerobic/anaerobic microbial life... for instance, wet-dry plastic media, fluidized bed filter, clogged particulate type... mis-supplementation with sugar-based additives...> currently I add Phytoplex for the live rock and essential elements to make up for the skimmer and carbon filtration. do I need to start adding calcium or any other water additives to help the live rock? <Who knows? You may not need to add anything... do you test for biomineral, alkalinity concentration?> if I do, how should I start? what speed should I start at? what does it mean when the product says for fish, invertebrate and reef tanks only? <Take ten (or more) giant breaths... and get ready for a bit of "brain sweat"... you need to step back a bit... from the situation and your current understandings... Do read over the set-up, maintenance sections posted on the site: www.WetWebMedia.com... esp. those on pH, Alkalinity, Calcium... in part. the FAQs areas... And avail yourself of a read through Baensch Marine Atlas v.1 and v.1 of The Modern Coral Reef Aquarium... no sense proceeding here not having a thorough grounding in what you're doing...> I only run two 18" 50/50 at this time. I do not plan on adding anything else until I get a new lighting system. I plan to go full reef in the future. I appreciate any advice you can give to me. Thank you for your time. James <Read, reflect, understand James. Bob Fenner>

High Nitrates, Large Letters  I have a 55 gallon salt water tank fish only, nitrate levels are at 140ppm. Running a small wet and dry filter, protein skimmer, Eheim canister, 4lbs of carbon., 50% water changes every four weeks and nitrates are still at high levels. Would adding live sand and bio balls help? <Yes to the live sand... no to bioballs... Do consider more live rock, macro-algae, possibly adding a refugium... maybe with a plenum there... increasing aeration, ditto Redox by ozone, uv use... Take a read over the Nitrate area on the www.wetwebmedia.com site> Thanks Louis I was not aware that caps meant I was shouting sorry was not meant that way. <Oh, and not to worry. Not admonishing you (have mercy!), but the "shouting" term is Net-parlance... Appreciate the re-keying... much easier to read. Bob Fenner, the bleary-eyed pet-fish man>

Nitrate filter hello Robert I have purchased a Coralife denitrator that is connected to a canister filter I ran it flat out for 24 hrs and left it shut off for 3 wks the nitrates exiting went up to 100ppm then decreased to 10ppm I opened the drip valve to 2 drips per min the next day checked nitrates back up to 100ppm this has happened twice HELP. KEN. <Help with? These types of "anaerobic box" Denitrators are finicky... requiring steady feeding of carbon (usually a sugar prep. solution) and are definitely NOT reliable... I have consistently NOT endorsed their use for more than three decades of writing for the pet-fish hobby and business press... Would encourage you to rig such a device (if using at all) to (in/out) of a separate sump/refugium with live rock, macroalgae, lighting of its own... and possibly a plenum type situation there... to afford you some greater measure of control, safety from nitrate swings. Bob Fenner>

Not a query ... more of a discussion Hi Bob, No query this time .......... just thought you might be interested in a little mini project. It concerns no3 accumulation, and how water changes effect it. For example, what effect will doing two 20 gal changes have compared to doing 4 10 gal changes and so. I know the "little and often" premise, but the question is "how little" and so on. <Interesting, intriguing and very useful experiments/information> So, I have wrote a spread sheet using MS excel 97, which allows the user to enter 1) Initial no3 level, (2) the amount of no3 which tends to accumulate in one week, (3) the sizes of water changes performed, and (4) How often i.e. one ever 2 weeks etc. <Okay> It will then estimate the level after any amount of water changes ............ say for example you knew that after one week your NO3 level would rise from 20 ppm to 25ppm .........a rise of 5ppm, and say you had records which show this to be a typical value over a period of time. Now say that you read your level, and you find that the water changes you are doing are not adequate to keep the level below say 20 ppm. Well, if you enter your details into the sheet, it will allow to you estimate how many changes of what size to reduce you system no3 level to the desired range. You could then enter your desired range as an initial value, and see what water changes are necessary to keep it at this level. This was all brought on by recent discussion with fellow aquarists over the net, and an article on the link below http://www.animalnetwork.com/fish2/aqfm/1999/jan/bio/default.asp No need to click onto this site, it just here for reference. But, the tables on the link do not account for the fact that waste is constantly building up .... it only works it out on the basis of how many changes at a certain amount to reduce to a certain level, "and that assumes that no additional nitrate accumulates in the system during that time", where as mine attempts to compensate for that. If you feel interested, have a look, and see if you can use it. That parts where you are required to enter values are at the top of the screen, and highlighted in red / blue. Then, to see the results, scroll right down to the end of the page, and there is a box with "results" wrote over it, and they show the results. If you are not interested, I do not mind ....... sorry to have sent set a large file. If you are, then great, I would appreciate any views you might have on it. Regards Matthew Silvester (Co. Cork, Ireland) << NO3accumulation.xls >> <Interesting indeed... As a designer of such... am wondering what other "factors" come into play here other than dilution and time effects... Like the impact of the water changes, change mechanism(s) like gravel vacuuming et al. that might well effect nitrification... and the various different make-ups of gear, aeration, circulation... utilized... These are not empirical, anecdotal accounts/tallyings... but more mental exercise by author/investigator Craig Bingman... The upshot of which his opinion that a few more massive water changes are better than more frequent smaller ones... I do disagree... as there is certainly more at play here... namely "human nature" and the mal-affects of what massive water changes can/do imply... Instability and shock to livestock... much more than just serial dilution of a given material... Bob Fenner, who is ready for further discussion> 

High Nitrates Bob, First of all, thanks for maintaining such a great site and being such a great source of information for all of us. You've answered one or two of my questions before, and I appreciate it. <You're welcome> Now, to the tank: I have a 55 gallon fish only tank, onto which I've recently added a 18 gallon sump, for the purposes of hiding all my filtration from view. <And more I surmise> Currently, my filtration consists of ~30 lbs of base rock (formerly live rock brought out of storage) and ~5 lbs of cured rock (another recent addition), a 3" live sand bed with a 1.25" plenum, a CPR Bak Pak 2 Skimmer, two Fluval canister filters running as permanent biological filtration (bio balls, ceramic media), an 8 watt UV sterilizer, a Bio Wheel Pro 300, a lifeguard fluidized bed filter and a submerged internal filter running carbon and phosphate remover media. I've recently added several large specimens of Caulerpa to the main tank, and they seem to be doing well. I've also recently begun using PolyFilter to remove a large amount of copper that I had previously used to treat ick, and while I haven't tested my copper levels since, the pads no longer come up blue. I also haven't tested my phosphate in a while, but I have some confidence that the levels are low due to the lack of algae growth and the recent introduction of the phosphate absorbing materials. My test parameters follow: pH: 8.3 specific gravity: 1.021 ammonia: 0 nitrite: 0 nitrate: 120+ ppm!! In reading through your site I see you have little positive to say about either fluidized bed filters or bio wheels, calling them "nitrate factories" and saying that they overdrive the nitrification process.  <Yes, well-stated> My question (besides the obvious reduction of nitrates) is this: how can these filters overdrive the nitrification process if they don't have ammonia and nitrite to process?  <Hmm, well, no... but they "get", "scrounge", "scavenge" sources of these essential materials from many sources... besides the starting points of "wastes" of fishes, non-vertebrates... such as peptides from foods directly...> Aren't these the only sources/precursors of nitrate in the home aquarium? It would seem to me that one couldn't overdrive the process, as it only happens as fast as ammonia and nitrite are created. Is there something I am missing?  <Perhaps... it may well be that you're accustomed to thinking linearly about these matters... e.g. A leads to B than to C... the living and non-living world is much more complex... with ammonia coming largely through catabolic processes from the "breaking down" of peptides... but not always via microbial shunting of ammonia then nitrite then nitrate... with the microbes waiting to do their bit... they may well be skipping some steps, shortcutting in your cycles...> I would agree that my test results show that nitrification is occurring much faster than denitrification, but is the answer really to slow down to forward direction of the reaction? <Hmm, not necessarily... you/we can speed up denitrification as in adding more hypoxic substrate (like live rock, plenum, deep sand space...)utilize biological agents to "use up" available nitrate (like the Caulerpa you've added), slow down the "forward reaction" of nitrification by limiting inputs of nitrogenous foodstuffs, using ones that are more nutritious, palatable, feeding in ways that they make their way more into the intended livestock... Adding, encouraging predators (other microbes, protozoans, even types of algae that consume, displace nitrifiers... Even pull their homes or circumstances (wet-dry media, spray bars/drip plates...> Please help me understand.  <I think you do, will now.> Finally, after several water changes, the nitrates still remain at this toxic level (I guess the fish are acclimated at this point), so should I add some nitrate sponge for temporary relief? <These levels are not likely (very) toxic... I would not lose sleep, or use chemical filtrants. Clean your skimmer cup and contact chamber... maybe upgrade it, add an ozonizer, maybe a desiccator for the ozonizer... Definitely consider adding more live rock, better lighting, possibly some lighting and rock plus Caulerpa in your sump... Cut back on feeding (especially proteinaceous foods), and try not to over worry. You're obviously sharp and determined for your livestock's welfare... and all will work out> Thanks for all your help, Josh <Again, you're welcome. Bob Fenner>

Nitrate reduction.... Hi Bob, I have had my 40gal tank running for a few months now, with about 45lb or LR, a CRP Bak-Pak 2 skimmer (with the bio-bale removed) and a Fluval 303 canister filter. I recently reduced feeing to once every other day in an effort to lower nitrates, they have come down to 5ppm (from 10ppm) in the past week. (I also did a 10% water change)  I've been reading a bit on refugiums as a good source of natural nitrate reduction, and was considering adding one to the tank with the intention of (eventually) removing the 303. Is this wise ? thanks, Rich. >> <Possibly to most assuredly. Would add a refugium, with maybe an anaerobic deep sand bed area, or at least live rock and probably Caulerpa or Halimeda genera macro-algae... and either alternate lighting cycle fluorescents or continuously on. Please take a look through some of the particulars and specific q and a's on refugiums, sumps, plenums... stored on our site: Home Page  Bob Fenner

Fish and invert tank Dear Bob: I have a 90-gal. salt water tank with a 110 BioWheel hanging off back and an undergravel filter covered with crushed coral. The water falls through 3 holes in the bottom and is pumped back in by a little giant. The lighting is a 47" JBJ Formosa power compact. There's also an oldish skimmer and a power head for circulation. Livestock: 2 clown fish, 1 med yellow tang, 1 med Sailfin tang, 1 small blue tang, 1 large Naso tang, 1 blenny and 1 shrimp; 5 pieces of live rock, 1 star polyp, 1 devil's hand coral, 1 brain coral and 2 anemones. Here's the problem: Changing 20 gals of water every couple of weeks with RO water, and feeding the fish every other day, I'm still getting nitrate levels between .20 -.40  <Probably 20 to 40 ppm, eh?> I like having fish and invertebrates together, but its extremely high maintenance. And I'm still getting a light covering of algae on the glass unless I clean every day. Do you have any suggestions on ways to keep nitrates downs or make the system a little less maintenance intensive? Thanks.  >> <All sorts... the best approaches involve a multi-prong attack at growing macro-algae in the main tank or attached sump/refugium, to limit nutrient availability, produce chemical antagonists to the undesired algae forms, AND spiffing up skimming (like with a larger, more efficient (like needle-wheel technology) fractionator, AND the periodic use (monthly) of activated carbon to remove dissolved organics that aid the problem algae... Please take the good read of the materials placed here: Home Page on these ideas. There's a bunch, and, thanks for asking. Bob Fenner

Re: New Problem << Your nitrates are what? About 80ppm? And you have to add something to adjust pH? It sounds like your water chemistry is directly related to the Tangs stress... I would review your set-up and maintenance, and work out a plan where the nitrates are reduced to ten or less ppm, and your pH stays stable without having to add buffer...> >> Bob,  I guess my next question would be How??  I change 10-15 gallon every other week - I clean the Tide Pool, Pumps, hoses, I vacuum the bottom of the tank. I clean the skimmer cup twice a week, I did not in the past clean the rest of the skimmer because the aquarium shop here said not to, I have now done that.  I use RO water when making new saltwater, I have a powerhead running in the reserve water and a heater.  I don't think I overfeed the fish, I feed one cube of bloodworms, 1/2 cube of Formula One, 1/2 cube of Pygmy Angel food, a small piece of seaweed for the tangs. I have 75 gallon tank with 3 green Chromis, 1 baby Blue Tang, 1 Yellow Tang, 1 Coral Beauty, 1 Flame Angel, 2 sleeper gobies, 3 shrimps, 1 clam and 2 anemones. I also have at least 60 pounds of rock and 60 pounds of sand.  I have noticed that the reserve water has very low PH so prior to doing a water change I always add buffer so as to not shock the fish. Could this be caused by the salt mix?  <To a large extent yes> I use Coralife Salt, if there is something better that you would recommend let me know because I have to order salt.  <Yes, this is actually a poor product... inconsistent, often with varying amounts of alkalinity, calcium... I'd switch to Instant Ocean...> Other than the anaerobic media which is on order, what else would you suggest? <Many possibilities: macro-algae, a Caulerpa algae filter, mud-filter, reverse daylight photoperiod system in a sump... Many ideas covered in various articles here: Home Page > One note to mention, most of the fish in tank is less than 4 inches, only the Yellow tang is larger. You didn't say whether I should leave the algae on the back of the tank or remove it - it does appear to be green algae and the fish do graze on it. <I definitely would leave it!> Thanks, again, Annette >> <You're welcome. Bob Fenner>

Nitrate factory Hi Bob, I've noticed that you are not a big fan of "trickle filters," stating that they are a nitrate factory. What is your opinion of the "bio-wheel?" Isn't that the same type of effect as a trickle filter? Are they also considered a nitrate factory? Thank again for your excellent advise and your daily Q&A - you've helped me tremendously. >> Yes, both wet-dry media and the type of wet-dry media called "wheels" over-drive nitrification. In the absence of sufficient nitrate-using life, anaerobic media (live rock, plenums, Siporax Beads, Ehfi-Mech... ) they can/do cause accumulated/ing nitrate anomalies. Bob Fenner

Re: Anemone & Nitrates in a saltwater tank Bob,  I read your reply regarding the nitrates in my aquarium - I haven't done anything yet because I have multiple questions and because I have to order the anaerobic media that you suggested, it appears that the stores here do not carry any. <I understand> Anyway, to start with my questioning  1. I thought that the reason for the bio wheel in the tidepool was to create the same anaerobic media that the other stuff was for. This was just supposed to be a simpler way of doing it. What is the purpose of the bio wheel? When we do take out the bio wheel and add the other material - how do you suggest that we do this? Where do we put the other material, in the bottom of the sump where the bio wheel was or in one of the trays that the water flows thru? Do we put it in a bag or leave it loose. Do we do it all at once or gradually? <The BioWheels (tm) and other aerated (water and air mixing) devices of aquarium use are nitrifying mechanisms... a "forward" reaction if you will... promoting aerobic (oxygen using) microbes to change ammonia to nitrites to nitrates... The "opposite"  reaction direction denitrification only occurs expediently in low to no (anaerobic) conditions... Hence the use of plenums, thick sand beds, live rock (with lots of little nooks and crannies), anaerobic filter media... The BioWheel is intended to drive nitrification... which is does exceedingly well... too well in your case. Making excess nitrates and all the bad things that come with them... excessive algae growth, complexing of other chemical reaction pathways... The wheel can be removed... or water path redirected to exclude it. The anaerobic filter media can be placed in the trays, and or bottom of the sump... without bags... all at once or as you acquire it... > 2. You suggested that we add more live rock - we currently have approx. 60 pounds of Fiji rock in a 75 gallon tank - how much more would you recommend? <Up to a pound and a half of "average" size, density Fiji rock is about right, optimum> 3. You stated that we need to get a bigger skimmer - the skimmer that we have runs on the same purpose of the CPR Cyclone Bio filter only on a much larger scale, it stands approx 24" tall and has two chambers, one being the bio filtration. It also has a 2100 Rio pump. Is it possible that this might also be part of our nitrate problem? <Possibly, or that it just needs cleaning... About once a month, do turn the unit off, scrub and rinse (freshwater) the contact chamber and collector cup... Also, please look into the possibility of upgrading your Rio with the later generation "needle wheel" impeller...> 4. I also read in your web site that a peppermint shrimp will help take care of the glass anemones, will they bother any of the other anemone's or polyps?  <Not initially, or preferentially... Lysmata wurdemanni almost always first consume Aiptasia... but one needs to be diligent, and remove them at some point of balance or be careful in terms of stocking density... should not be difficult in such a large system...One or two for you> Will the peppermint shrimp get along with the Skunk Cleaner shrimp or the Fire Shrimp (current residences in the tank). Since it appears that every shrimp goes by a different name, Is the Peppermint shrimp the small one that is like a dark brick red with little tiny lines on it - not nearly as showy as the other two shrimps?  <Yes, and yes... will post the two animals sold as the Peppermint Shrimp... and my pix of these in better resolution is part of an article in the hobby magazine FAMA's April issue> P.S. What exactly does a glass anemone look like anyway - the one that I have in my tank that I am suspicious of is almost invisible in the rock because its color blends in with the purple - his tentacles appear to have bubbles or stripes in them (magnifying glass) He is still very small, maybe 1/3 to 1/2 inch. He also appears to look like several anemones that I saw in another pet store that they said was a striped anemone, keep in mind that this pet store does not have a good reputation for honesty. The anemones that they had were considerably larger 2" or so. <There are a few species of Aiptasia, and some other "pest" anemone groups... Again my images are in FAMA and Home Page ... Most have narrow columns with light brown-clear, narrow, pointed tentacles> 5. You also mentioned that we should increase the intensity of our lights - currently we have two 36" fluorescent lamps - 1 Interpet Triton and 1 Coralife Actinic 03. We have an acrylic tank with a wood canopy over the top, what would you suggest we use to increase the lighting - would another double strip work?  <Yes... if it was my 75 gallon tank though, I would seriously look into compact fluorescents... You need much more light than four 30 watt lamps will supply> I really appreciate your help, it's nice to get other ideas as we really only have 1 aquarium store here that is even worth looking at. I have spent a lot of time on your web site reviewing your notes and find it very informative, hence more questions. <Glad to be here and help you with your self-discovery and learning> Thank you again for your help, I am sure I will have more questions for you later. Annette >> <Looking forward to it, Bob Fenner>

Nitrate I recently lost a finger coral and my mushrooms constantly stay shriveled. I found a high level of nitrate in my system. I have been doing about a 20 percent water change about every 2 days. The nitrate seems to be gradually dropping. I added some Nitra-sorb to my sump. Will doing this much water changing effect my system and what other suggestions would you have to lower my nitrate and keep it low? I have a 125 gallon tank with about 150 pounds of live rock a 2 inch sand bed, a 20 gallon sump with bio-balls and an AMiracle protein skimmer which is air driven and rated at 130 gallons, all lighting is VHO. >> Hmm, a very common complaint... with the usual lack of key information... Just how much is a lot of nitrate? Do agree with you re the probable cause of problems here... metabolite accumulation... as detected and pinned on the nitrate reading (whatever it is/was)... and lots of ways to rectify the situation: Let's briefly state them and refer you to more detail: 1) Remove the plastic bio-balls from the sump... They're driving nitrification too much, too fast... they're the direct cause of the nitrate over production. 2) Spiff up, upgrade your skimmer. Make cleaning the contact chamber, skimmer cup part of your monthly maintenance regimen... If the skimmer is too puny, look into a better, more efficient one (a needle-wheel type like a Turboflotor in your skimmer is what I'd use). 3) Look into the benefits of culturing some purposeful macro-algae, either in the main tank out of the way, or in a/the sump... with a light on continuously or in a alternating light cycle with your main system... Some Caulerpa and/or Halimeda would work wonders. 4) How about building a plenum or adding some anaerobic filter media to your/another sump? Siporax beads, ceramic filter media really help speed up the "opposite" rate of denitrification... getting rid of the nitrates naturally... 5) How about speeding up the use of the rate of nitrate uptake with your present photosynthetic life? By increasing (duration, intensity) lighting? Are your lamps still within their useful lifespan?  Please do take a look at the growing mass of literary materials on these aspects of water quality improvement stored at the site: www.wetwebmedia.com Bob Fenner<<

Anemone & Nitrates in a saltwater tank I have a 75 gallon saltwater reef tank, with a tidepool trickle filter, large skimmer and 2 florescent lights. We have 2 sleeper gobies, 1 yellow tang, 1 yellow tailed blue tang, 1 flame angelfish, 1 coral beauty angelfish, 3 green Chromis, 1 skunk shrimp, 1 fire shrimp, 1 clam, 1 Condy anemone and 1 Haitian anemone. One of my questions is - I have a problem with Nitrates, it never falls below 80, I never have ammonia or nitrites, but I do have Nitrates. I do a 12 - 15 gallon water change twice a month. I add nitrate reducer, but the nitrates never go down. I do have live rock in the tank, approx 60 pounds - I feed the fish 1 cube of bloodworms and 1/2 cube of Formula 1 and 1/2 cube of the green formula daily. The Tangs get a small piece of seaweed daily as well. I feed the anemone's a very small piece of shrimp twice a week each.  Any suggestions? <To reduce the nitrates? Sure. Remove the "wheel" <the principal cause>, to reduce/use up the nitrates: add some macroalgae to your system, increase the amount of live rock, add some anaerobic media to your sump (Siporax Beads, Ceramic like Eheim's Ehfi-Mech), attach a better skimmer, increase your lighting intensity, duration.> The other question is - the Haitian anemone is supposed to be pure white with a bright orange/pink bottom - he appears dirty - the Condy also appears  dirty - why? <Water quality> I have recently lost 1 Condy anemone - but I thought that might be due to the Urchin that was in the tank, the urchin appeared to be picking on that particular anemone - the urchin has since been executed. He was neat until he started picking on the other inhabitants I would appreciate any suggestions that you can give me.  Thank You, Annette >> And I appreciate your participation in this forum, thank you. Be chatting, Bob Fenner, who offers further explanation of the above terms, concepts... posted in articles and more at the site: www.wetwebmedia.com

Nitrates Bob, I just started my saltwater aquarium three weeks ago. I introduced 45 lbs. of live rock and 2 lbs. of live sand 2 weeks ago. My ammonia level is a little high  <How high? More than 1.0 ppm?> and the nitrate level is real high. <Again, imagine you're a pet-fish type of guy, wishing to help folks like yourself over the Net... receiving this sort of information... How much is "real high"? tens of ppm?>  I was told I needed to do a 20% water change and this would help. Guess what? It is still the same.  <This would have been my guess...> By the way I have 5 snails in the tank and they are fine. What can I do to correct this problem  <What problem? Some ammonia? At three weeks this should be... going... and I would only "do" something like a water change... if "it" was over 1.0 ppm or much of whatever life (on/in the rock, sand) was obviously dying... otherwise, such changes only forestall complete cycling (i.e. marked by the absences of ammonia)... If you're only seeing some single digit, or even a few tens of ppm of nitrates, don't worry... We can talk about this topic on and on... but this is not of/by itself dangerous, problematical... in point of fact, this is a desirable, expected result of new set-ups of your kind...> where I can introduce fish to my aquarium? <When the ammonia is gone...> Richard Pierce "New hobbyist" >> <Please try to be patient... "things" are progressing in your system... the die off of some of the life that is producing the ammonia will cease soon... Do check over what reference materials you have, and try to understand that (here's something easy to state that for once everyone CAN agree on), there are MANY, disparate opinions on how to go about most all procedures in the marine aquarium hobby... You will need to become an informed hobbyist, and make your own decisions (as in "nothing is decided till it's done) re alternative opinions (mine inclusive). Bob "too philosophical this AM" Fenner>

Question... why high NO3? I recently purchased around 40lbs of rock, got 15lbs on a Tuesday, stuck it in the tank, and another 25lbs the next Tuesday, stuck it in the tank. I was under the impression it was cured, but now am not so sure.  <I am... it's not... entirely... but on its way> My ammonia levels are zero and have always remained at zero. Somewhere along the line, probably before the rock, my nitrates level went high, like around 80ppm. Now, they will not come down. <They will... patience> I have a skimmer and have changed water, several times, no effect. I think the skimmer made them come down a tad, but not too much. I did around a 25% water change today, and removed probably 15lbs of rock or so,  <Why?> and I got them down to somewhere around 40-60ppm. My tank has been set up since Dec. 26 of 1999 and everything seems to be doing great and seems very healthy. I have lots of inverts and have put fish and inverts in the tank with the high nitrates. I was told they wouldn't survive, but everything seems fine. I'm puzzled,  <I'm not... and you "just" have to wait... do nothing and your "nitrate problem" will cure itself... and become very clear to you> FFExpress is puzzled, other people I have talked to are puzzled on why everything seems to be ok with the high nitrates. Now, could my test kit be wrong, or something, what is going on here?  <Nothing wrong here... your tests are likely accurate... time needs to go by... the animals you have are bio-acclimated to nitrates and tolerant otherwise (the damsels)... wait another month... without changing water, moving your rock...> Why won't my nitrates come down and why is everything so healthy if my nitrates are high.  HELP!! >> No help necessary... relax and enjoy your system Bob Fenner

Fix the env. first... Mr. Fenner,  thanks for the response, I do have another question if you do not mind. I am very concerned with the 160, I have huge angels, and all seem to be slowly getting worse (scraping on rocks, jerky movement). I have been treating the tank with light doses of Maracyn, but I think the high trates are the source of stress (i.e. plastic bio-balls, fluidized bed, and feeding them VHP food). After performing a 30 gal water change, the trates are right at 80ppm, my ultimate question is this, SHOULD I COPPER THE TANK? Or should I try Maracyn2 first? It is FO tank, with some live rock (not worried about that), but I am concerned I might kill off the bacteria bed, and ultimately kill the fish with high trites as the tank recycles. I am afraid to try fresh water dips, would they help? thanks >> No to coppering the tank, using any more/other antibiotics... look to the causes... you know what they are... and solve the source of the high nitrates themselves... See our previous interchange below... Do you know what I'm getting at? Work at reducing your nitrates... remove the plastic media, put in a denitrating bed, Siporax beads, Macro-algae... more live rock... Bob Fenner   Siporax Bob- A couple of weeks ago, you mentioned a product called Siporax. What is it, is it worth getting, and how much do you use? <Search WWM for this sintered glass bead filter media and its applications> What do you recommend for a check valve for the return from the sump? Thanks. <If you can, no check valve at all... Just an "air break" at the discharge point to disallow back siphoning... If your return is drilled and discharges through the bottom... and you have to have a check valve, my favorite in order are "Ball", then "Spring/plastic", then lastly "Swing" types. (an article about these, and some images posted?, maybe not yet, under the "Pond Article Index" at my www.wetwebmedia.com site> Andy Lange PS. I did end up tearing down my tank after the mysterious prolonged dying of fish, you helped me with. The 'new' tank recently 'popped' and I will try again. >> <Ah, good to hear... probably best. Good luck my friend in fish, Bob Fenner>

The 160 is reading 80ppm for nitrates I have two tanks, one 160 (fish only), and one 55 (reef). The 160 is reading 80ppm for nitrates, even with Chemi pure in the sump, and the 55 is reading about 50ppm, way to high for inverts. I have been doing water changes once a week, at about a 30% replenishment rate for each month. Should I increase the amount of water changed, and/ or are there any truly reliable products (reactors or sponges) that can eliminate this stress to the tanks? While I am at it, is Maracyn safe for treating infections with out harming the denitrifying bacteria? Thanks, Tom Griffith >> Do look into more "biological means" of addressing your nitrate concentrations/excess... Do you have much in the way of live rock, macro-algae... have you considered setting up a natural nitrate reduction area... maybe in a sump... with some Caulerpa algae and a light even? Where are your excess nitrates originating? Do you have plastic wet-dry media, a fluidized bed filter? Overfeeding highly-proteinaceous foods? No to larger water changes, and the use of chemical filtrants for this purpose (lowering nitrates). And Maracyn (tm), erythromycin won't harm nitrifying bacteria. Bob Fenner

Nitrates I'm having trouble keeping the nitrates down (they are very high) in my 55gal. It's been set up for about a year now. I'm doing a 5gal water change every two weeks and adding CombiSan. The mid Blue face angel-Purple Tang- & small Imperator <These fish species are mis-placed here... all/each needs more volume than a 55>  seem to be doing fine but I'm sure they would be happier if the nitrates where down. I've tried adding Chem-pure with no success..........HELP.......Lou >> The Chemipure and CombiSan will do little to nothing to effect the nitrate condition in your system... You can (and should) approach nitrate control from the angles of limiting production and eliminating it through biological uptake: Do you have wet-dry media? A fluidized bed filter? These are nitrate factories by themselves. Do you have any live rock, macro-algae, room for putting in a denitrating sand bed or algae-mud filter in a sump? These are some of the best "nitrate users"... Bob Fenner, who says (as usual), "how high is high?"

High Nitrite Question I have a 60 gallon tank with 40 lbs. of live rock, Fluval 303 filtration, and a Bioskim600. I had two damsels in the tank to help cycle it but removed them last week. All that remains are 10 Red legged and approx. 20 left-handed hermits (and 2 or three snails). All of my readings (pH, Ammonia, gravity, etc.) are all right on except for the nitrite. It's off the chart! I've conducted 10 gallon water changes every five days for the past month but there is no change. The skimmer is also foaming out of the cup. I have to remove the cup at least twice a day to keep the foam in check. I'd like to start stocking my tank with more invertebrates and fish but am worried about the nitrite level. Any ideas? >> All sorts... Of course, the usual precautionary statements: don't add any more livestock... and don't expressly feed the "cleaner uppers" you have... Do you have a friend, friendly shop that can "exchange" or give/sell you about ten pounds of substrate out of a system that is clean and fully cycled? Sprinkle this material on top of that already in the tank, and extend the time the lights are on to a full sixteen hours a day... And no more water changes unless the snails, crabs start dying.

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