So my husband just showed me how to clean out the skimmer (apparently he had been slacking a little) so I'll start doing that more often and hopefully it will help.
Regarding the fuge, my current set up involves a separate 8 gallon acrylic tank with a deep sand bed, a ball of chaeto, and a light on 24/7. There is a small pump that sends water from the sump into the fuge and a drilled hole that allows water to trickle back into the sump. I feel like it is so indirect that I'm skeptical that it is doing much of anything. Aren't fuges supposed to be part of a continuous chain of water chambers? Is having a separate fuge good enough? If so I'll add another ball of chaeto, there's certainly enough room for twice as much.
I'm going to start feeding every other day, and straining my Rod's foods. Some of the pieces are so small that the fish have no chance of finding them. The brine shrimp are big enough that I don't think they need to be strained.
Lastly, there is some organic matter that has settled in the sump. I got some out with a turkey baster today but there has to be a better way. I can't use a syphon because the sump sits on the floor in the stand so I can't get below it to use gravity. I can't use a python hooked up to the sink because a) I don't have one and b) I have a septic system and don't dump salt water down the drain, I dump it in the yard. Suggestions for vaccuming out the rest of the sediment? I'm assuming the cleaner I can keep the sump floor the better.
I AM DETERMINED TO CONQUER MY NITRATES!!!! Thanks as always for your help.