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Old 02-13-2005, 11:09 AM   #1
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protein filter help needed

Ok, Im new to the whole saltwater fish tank thing, but I will give you some basics of what I have. I have a 55 gallon tank with a total of 5 fish. The 5 fish are a 2.5 inch clown fish, 3 inch yellow tang, 1.25 inch yellow tail damsel (2), and a 3 inch angel fish (cant remember the type), and 1 shrimp, and about 3 descent size snails. I am running a wet dry sump with bio balls, and my sump has a in built protein skimmer. I have live rock as well. I bought the tank used, and fully established, and the previous owner did regular water changes (10 gallons bi weekly). The tank has never had fish disease, and has only had 1 fish die in the tank which was about a year ago. After moving the tank (kept about 90% of the existing water), I bought a saltwater test kit which tests PH, amonia, nitrite, and nitrate. My Ph level is 8.2 which i understand is ok for the most part, my nitrite, and amonia levels are 0, and my nitrate level was 160 ppm 8O . After finding this, I started trying to determine what might be causing the skyrocketing nitrate levels. I have had the tank up and running for about a week now, and I amazingly havent lost any fish due to the high nitrate levels. I found that my protein skimmer did not seem to work properly, and was not collecting anything. I determined that my rio 800 was not pumping enough water. I took a used power head, and modified it so it works as a venturi style pump. After putting that pump head in, the protein skimmer seemed to be working, and I started getting foam inside the cup. After the foam settled, and turned back into water inside the cup, the color of the water was a yellow/brown color. My understanding is thats how its supposed to work, but after a day I cleaned out the skimmer, and now the bubbles stopped rising in the cup. I still get a small amount of the discolored water in the cup, but no bubbles actually rise inside the cup, and its not working like it did the first day that I put the pump head in. While trying to figure this out, I went an bought a different model protein skimmer that I can hang on the back of my tank. I have been told by multiple local shops that the built in style skimmers are not very good, and dont seem to work well. The new skimmer Link here I bought does not seem to be getting anything out of the tank. It does have a very very small amount of discolored fluid in the cup, but after running for 2 days, I still havent had enough to even notice. Even turning the air level up and down does not affect it. I have to take the cup off, and tip it sideways to see the water in it. I have also replaced the pad filter in the sump, and made a few corrections to the way I had the sump set up, as well as cleaned the over flow prefilter. The bio balls were fully submerged when I set the tank up, but now, only about 1/4 of them are actualy in water, and now the water actually trickles over the balls.

I have done a 12 gallon water change on the tank on wednesday of this week. The nitrate level seems to be between 40 and 80, which is better, but still bad, and I really need to get these levels down so I can start adding coral in the next few months. I am going to be doing another 12 gallon change in a day or 2 to try and lower the nitrate levels more.

Since I have 2 protein skimmers running and neither of them seem to be getting a large amount of protein from the water, is it possible that my tank just does not have enough waste to fill the cups fast, or should I be concerned. Is it possible that because the protein skimmer wasnt working properly that it got a large ammount out of the tank, and now has tapered off? I plan on running a 24 hour test that I am going to start tonight to see how much actually collects in the cup, and measure the amount.

I also feed my fish frozen food once a day, and only 1 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch piece. The people before me fed the fish more than I did, which also may have contributed to the high nitrate level. I feed them in the late afternoon/early evening when they are active that way the food gets eaten, instead of disolving and decomposing.

Does anyone have any suggestions, or advice?
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Old 02-13-2005, 11:26 AM   #2
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Any idea what brand of skimmer your first one is?
You can do more water changes to help reduce nitrates more. How much live rock do you have? I would swap out the bioballs for live rock rubble. A little at a time.
Are you using sand as a substrate?
Make sure you are draining the liquid off the frozen food before feeding.
And, just as a FYI for the future, your gonna wanna ID that angelfish before adding corals. Most angels aren't considered reef safe.
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Old 02-13-2005, 11:35 AM   #3
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The bio balls are your source of your nitrates. you really need to remove them, but as fluff said you must NOT take them all out at one. Remove 1 or 2 a day to let you fio filtration keep up.

As far are your skimmer. Seaclones are without a doubt one of the worst skimmers (I bought one and made a huge mistake). They are inefficient and create microbubbles ugh . You can get a better skimmer for about 210 dollars. Check out captive reefs they have the ASM skimmer, which are great! It may be a bit over powered, but the price is right and I think they are a "set it and forget it" type skimmer.

Also. I never use frozen food since it usually contains PO4, which will lead to a lot of nusiance algae. I make my own food using clams,shrimp and scallops.

Good luch HTH
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Old 02-13-2005, 11:46 AM   #4
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im sure the angel fish is reef safe. The fish store i go to has one, and they told me its one of the few that are coral safe. I have about 50 lbs of live rock. I am not sure if I am using live sand because honestly, I dont know the difference. I have heard the term substrate but I dont know what it means. please forgive my ignorance, but I have sand (actually looks more like small pebbles) on the bottom of my tank, and its kind of a white/yellowish color. I have heard that bio balls are not the best, but all of the fish stores I go to say they work fine, so I dont know if im going to look at changing them just yet. My sump i believe is made by US aquatics, and the skimmer is part of that.. It is different than most sumps i have seen in that the water does not come in on the top from the over flow, and then trickle down over the balls. Mine comes in the side, which fills the chamber that my skimmer sits in. The chamber fills, and water spills over the seperator wall onto a flat piece of plastic with holes, then through the flat blue filter over the bio balls then its pumped back into the tank via a rio 2100. I was worried about doing water changes more frequently because i was afraid it would shock the fish. My plan was to change 12 gallons a week for 1 month to try and get the levels down. Once I get the levels down, I am going to monitor the levels closely, and cut back to about 12 gallons every other week, depending on the levels, and hopefully the nitrate will remain low/nonexistant.

Also why do people say not to use bio balls? seems odd to me that they come with just about every sump you buy, but people dont use them....

The food seems to have 1 consistant color so I dont know if there is any fluid on top of it... its not noticeable if it does.
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Old 02-13-2005, 02:15 PM   #5
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As far as I know all the angel fish are a ticking coral eating time bomb.

Are you sure that the nitrate level is that high. Did you test a couple of times to make sure? Try to get you LFS to test it to just to make sure your test kit isen't screwed up. It seems really high for the fish to be happy.
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Old 02-13-2005, 02:33 PM   #6
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Ohhh about the bio balls:

If you don't wash them every once in a while the will do more harm then good.
(Nitrate or Nitrite build up, I always get messed up)
You should wash about a 1/4 of them every 3 month and you'll be fine. But never
wash all at once because you'll wash all the beneficial bacteria off.

I'm no expert in Fish Tank chemistry (if fakt I never understod chemistry) but there are some verry kowlegable people in this forum who can tell you all about it.
I hope they will chime in
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Old 02-13-2005, 02:38 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swissfish
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As far as I know all the angel fish are a ticking coral eating time bomb.

Are you sure that the nitrate level is that high. Did you test a couple of times to make sure? Try to get you LFS to test it to just to make sure your test kit isen't screwed up. It seems really high for the fish to be happy.
ok, i was right... it is an angel fish, and here is what it looks like
[center:7bafa23fde][/center:7bafa23fde]
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Old 02-13-2005, 02:43 PM   #8
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I'll agree about getting rid of the bio balls, used lr rubble and you will see your nitrate levels go down rather quickly and stay that way, Do a few water changes to lower the no3 levels.
I understand that you have full faith in your lfs but as bad as I hate to be the one to tell you their not always right, as a matter of fact in my experience in lfs about 20% of the time their right and the quicker you realize this the better off you will be. The cc bed and the bio balls together are the reasoning of your high numbers. The angel is a ticking coral eating bomb, if you research them you will find that they are reef safe if closely watched and under ideal circumstances, but will nip corals. HTH but your at the right place for great info.
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Old 02-13-2005, 03:49 PM   #9
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ok, so I want to make sure I understand this. I should remove the bio balls slowly and replace them with crushed live rock? So then I am assuming that it should be alot of live rock that is broken in smaller peices like maybe the size of a golf ball? Should I continue to let the water trickle over the live rock in the sump like it does with the bio balls?

If i am correct, is it safe to pull all the bio balls out, at once, add some live rock, then put the bio balls right back over the rock? Each week i would like to do the same thing, adding more rock, and less bio balls until all the bio balls are gone, and there is only live rock in the sump.
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Old 02-13-2005, 06:03 PM   #10
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Welcome to AA!! I, to would look at the bioballs as a source of nitrate. When you moved the tank did you keep the exsisting substrate? How much LR do you have? Have is your feeding shedule? Are you using RO/DI water for water changes?
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