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Old 07-06-2004, 01:01 PM   #1
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Quantity of Bristleworms / Nitrate Levels

Heya folks,

Thanks for the great forum here - I've already learned a lot.

Here's the deal:

A buddy who was moving gave me his fish tank. It's a 30 gal. SW tank - they've had it for years. Used to have more fish, but then their crab at all the fish. Then the crab died. Then they got two clownfish, which is what has been passed on to me. There was a bunch of LR as well, which I'm not so sure has anything living on it. That is, besides about a zillion bristle worms. Maybe not a zillion but a lot. I've read a lot in the forums about how people get one or two and they're really big - well this tank has a whole lot of small ones. And they're not shy about coming out when it's light - they'll crawl around and especially like to come out when it's dark or when I feed the clowns. From most of the posts on this forum, people seem to say they're ok to have and in the tank - but is having so many (they're in most of the live rocks and the gravel) OK? Should I get an arrow crab or some wrasse to try to "control" their population? (and would the crab go after the clowns??)

Tank water seems to be pretty stable with just a "regular" filter - pH, ammonia, and nitrite levels were all great...nitrate levels were pretty high though (160PPM!). Most suggestions for that seem to be partial water changes and maybe not feed so much? Any other ideas?? Is there some fish/invert I could get to help with this? The clowns seem to be ok with the nitrate levels but I worry about when I try to add something else to the tank that the new fish/invert wouldn't like it... This tank doesn't have anything fancy (no skimmers/powerheads/high powered lights/etc) just the filter and a bubble bar for the clowns to play in.

Thanks!
Jeff
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Old 07-06-2004, 01:09 PM   #2
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160ppm of nitrates? that's beyond 'pretty high'...more like 'ludicrous'!

I think the max nitrate you really want is 30ppm, but ideally under 20ppm. for an actual reef setup, you'd want nitrates as close to zero as possible.

I think a good skimmer would help the tank. If you plan to keep it that lightly stocked, something simple like a Prizm deluxe should suffice. not the best skimmer, but it's cheap and keeps up with light fish loads.
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Old 07-06-2004, 01:31 PM   #3
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Maybe the test kit is bad. Take a sample to your lfs and ask them to test it.
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Old 07-06-2004, 02:07 PM   #4
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I'm sure it's just a case of the previous owner not performing the required water changes. You should definitely avoid adding any livestock till you get the nitrates to a reasonable level. The clowns may have acclimated somewhat but any new life will not be able to adapt quickly enough.

I wouldn't worry about the bristleworms, they are pretty useful to have around. You can always remove some if they start reaching plague proportions.

I agree with Gerald on getting a second opinion on water parameters. The test kits you have may well be old and unreliable. Also have you given the filter material a good clean in aged saltwater? This could also be contributing to the nitrates.
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Old 07-06-2004, 04:03 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies.

It is possible that my test kit is bad - it is definitely old. I'll take a sample in to my lfs

Regarding a protein skimmer - don't the bristleworms help with some of the protein/organic material already? Ideally I would not like to keep it so lightly stocked, but I would like to make sure everything is OK and stabilized before adding more fish. If a protein skimmer will make the tank better (especially when more fish are added) then I suppose I should spring for one. Would an AquaC Remora be a good choice?


Quote:
I'm sure it's just a case of the previous owner not performing the required water changes.
I bet you're right.

I'm kinda scared to do the water changes as I'm a rookie to this stuff, but I'll read all I can before I do it and then just hope for the best. I do have some instructions from the previous owner so that should help.


Quote:
Also have you given the filter material a good clean in aged saltwater? This could also be contributing to the nitrates.
No I haven't. I just got the tank this weekend. The previous owner said she changed the filter about once a year and that she had changed it a couple months ago....and she didn't mention any special procedure for changing the filter. It's just a regular hang-on-the-tank-and-suck-water-thru type filter - I can't imagine it's that effective...but I suppose it's been working for x? years now. Maybe it helps to keep the top of the water moving and not stagnant - I only have that and a bubble bar for the clown fish (they love it ) - think there's a need for a couple Maxijet 600s or a different filter?

Thanks again,
Jeff
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Old 07-13-2004, 04:04 PM   #6
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Turns out my test kit was bad. LFS guy tested it and said Nitrates were OK - and even though I watched him do the tests I really don't trust him. I have a SeaChem test kit on the way - hopefully that will set the record straight.

All these LFS people cringe at the mention of bristleworms, but the bristleworms don't seem to do much harm....

The clowns are feeding really well now - at first I guess because of stress they never even seemed to notice when I fed them. But now they're little piggies - can't seem to get enough !!!

Jeff
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Old 07-15-2004, 07:45 AM   #7
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Did your lfs actually tell you what your 'trates were, or just say they were ok? If you're running a mechanical filter that only gets cleaned once a year, your nitrates will be sky high. Off the scale high really considering you have a years worth of fish poop etc. sitting there rotting. Some hardier fish will tolerate the high nitrates, but most corals won't (not counting zoanthids and briarium).

As for the bristleworms, unless you have a massive infestation don't worry about them. They were long thought to be detrimental to a reef tank, and may have been with barebottom setups. But with the popularization of dsb/lr filtration they have been found to be beneficial as sand stirrers and detritus eaters. I know I've got them in my tank and only rarely see them around my corals. Except for the one's in my fuge, they stay hidden most of the time.
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Old 07-15-2004, 10:55 AM   #8
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I'm not sure what the exact nitrate levels are - he didn't tell me. I have a new kit coming so I'll know then.

I really have no idea what to do with my HOB filter - the sponge is new but the filter and what's in it are unknown. Would it be safe to use a new filter with some carbon like I use in my freshwater tank? And then how often should I change it? I'm having trouble tracking down definitive advice for this part of saltwater tank maintenance.

For the bristleworms - I pretty much have a massive infestation. They're in most every rock and don't wait for the night to come out and crawl around. I've only seen one that's more than 1-2" and he was like 3", but most are small. I would guess there's 50-100 in there... I don't mind em - but can I still get a cleaner crew (snails/small crabs/shrimp) or will the bristleworms eat those?

Jeff
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Old 07-15-2004, 11:41 AM   #9
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I have a wet/dry filter but still use one HOB filter also. It has 2 filter pads that stack up infront of each other and then 2 more next to them for a total of 4. Everytime the water starts to spill over the filter instead of going through them I take the filters from the front and put them in the back and replace the the front ones with new media. This usually takes place every month to 4 to 6 weeks. If the filter media they were using before hasn't been changed in a while then it probablt isn't doing any good to your tank. I run carbon in only 2 of the filter pads instead of all 4, it seems to do OK and it saves on carbone anyway.

I am using a Tetra-Tec PF500 filter (HOB) along with the wet/dry filter. I hope this helps you out some. This works for me and is by no means the only way to do this. I am sure there are others here that have even better ways to do this. I have only been into the SW for less than a year, so I am really still a Newbie myself..LOL

Mike
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