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Old 11-30-2008, 10:11 PM   #1
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Trouble controlling nitrates

I have a 55 gallon FOWLR tank that I'd like to turn into a reef tank but I'm having trouble getting my nitrates down low enough and could use some suggestions.

I bought the tank in September. It was set up about 6-7 years ago and has 110 lbs of live rock that is covered in coralline. When I moved the tank, I used new live araganite sand, at about a 3" depth.

The tank has a 20 gallon sump in which resides a heater, a protein skimmer, and a UV filter. Water goes back and forth from the sump to a chiller, from the sump to a separate 8 gallon refugium, and from the sump to the main tank.

There are currently no fish in the tank (they are in a hospital tank being treated for ich) so this should be a great opportunity to get my nitrates down without the bioload being a factor. Current occupants include nassarius snails, hermits, a sally, an emerald, a brittle star, a fire shrimp, and some banded trochuses. And the usual hitchhikers - asterinas, feather dusters, bristleworms, stomatellas, etc. There are also three zoas and a xenia that all appear to be doing well.

The tank came with some red bubble algae that I have been siphoning off whenever I get a chance. I have a ball of chaeto in the refugium, about the size of a large grapefruit.

Since I got the tank in September I have been diligent about doing 10% PWCs every week. The nitrate level was hovering around 10 ppm until a few weeks ago when I lost a torch coral to brown jelly disease. Possibly a coincidence but the nitrate level spiked to 20 ppm and I haven't been able to get it down from there.

I feed once a day and rotate between three frozen foods (two Rod's mixes and vitaminized brine shrimp).

What's the best approach here - big PWCs, add more chaeto, start feeding every other day??? Suggestions would be VERY much appreciated.
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Old 11-30-2008, 10:38 PM   #2
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whats your source of water for the pwc's? are you using ro/di water? test your incoming water for the waterchange and see if you have any problems outside the tank.
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Old 12-01-2008, 11:06 AM   #3
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Sorry, I left that part out. I'm using an RO/DI unit - I have a 20 gallon rubbermaid bin that I fill with RO, throw in a heater and powerhead and Seachem Reef Salt. My nitrate test kit is API and while I don't think it's way off, it's not the easiest to read. What do people like, Salifert?
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Old 12-01-2008, 11:28 AM   #4
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Dont get me wrong the ultimate is 0 when it comes to nitrates but 20 is not a killer. I know several folks that wish they could have 20 ppm as nitrates. Now that no fish are in there then I would not add any food for your CUC except maybe once a week and that being to keep your nitrifying bacteria going. Your CUC will get theirs but you just need a small ammonia source to keep your bacteria going while there is no fish in there. I use API and they do good for me but if you want a double check then take it to your LFS and see what his test kit says.
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Old 12-01-2008, 11:36 AM   #5
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I thought corals were very sensitive to nitrates? Are some more tolerant than others? I have PC lights so I was thinking about soft corals, mushrooms (reg & ricordia), and zoas. Maybe an LPS - torch, frogspawn or hammer. I was hoping to get my nitrates down to the 5-10 ppm range.
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Old 12-01-2008, 11:55 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newbieNY View Post
I was hoping to get my nitrates down to the 5-10 ppm range.
By all means try to get them there. As I said 0 is the goal but I dont think you will wake up one morning and all your corals are dead from 20 ppm nitrates. IMO If it was was 20 or lower then you`ll be OK but as you said by all means go for the desired goal. That will be better. I remember when I had my 55 gallon tank and I had a wet dry. I had a hard time getting them to 80 but after I got a denitraitor it was hovering around 10-20 ppm and the corals did fine. Now on my 125 I have a fuge full of grape calerpa and they stay around 0. Go for that goal of 5-10 ppm.
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Old 12-01-2008, 03:51 PM   #7
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For those of you with 0 nitrates (or nearly 0) were they always that low, and if not what changes have you made that were effective in reducing your levels? I suspect that feeding every other day (instead of every day) and adding another ball of chaeto to the fuge will probably help me. It's so frustrating to have been SO good about doing water changes EVERY week and still have high nitrates. :-(
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Old 12-01-2008, 03:58 PM   #8
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I feel you man. I am down to feeding every FIVE days and doing 25% water changes ever weekday and I still can't get the nitrates under control. I have pulled out enough algea to easily equal 100 times the biomass of the food I have ever put into the tank. That shouldn't even be possible!
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Old 12-01-2008, 04:17 PM   #9
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For those of you with 0 nitrates (or nearly 0) were they always that low, ...
Except for a brief period after my cycle, I've always had very low nitrates (0.5-1.0ppm). I feed once a day, but only feed what they'll eat. 10% water changes every week.

Agree with melosu... I think your main nitrate issue right now is that you're feeding a tank daily, that really has nothing in it. And a *little* of Rod's can go a long way. Just for the cleanup crew and bacteria, a very light feeding once a week should suffice.
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Old 12-01-2008, 06:05 PM   #10
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I found this to be interesting reading. Any of you more experienced reefers care to comment?
Nitrates! « Joe Jaworski’s Weblog
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