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Old 04-04-2006, 04:30 PM   #1
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High nitrates & pads - what stays and what goes? (w/pics

I've not been active in the forums for several months... life has been busy and the tank has been plodding along fine in the meantime. No new problems I haven't always had... no new real developments, either. I'd say I've just been "maintaining" things while I've been absent and not making any kind of progress. I'm starting to get time, though, to turn attention back to some issues and goals. The problem I never resolved in the past was high nitrate levels. pH, ammonia and nitrites are and have always been perfect...

So I checked my nitrates today for the first time in a while and discovered that they are still as high as ever... though my fish, shrimp, hermit crabs and various little snails (hitchikers from past LR purchases) all continue to seem perfectly happy.

Whatever the case... I want to get the levels down to zero if at all possible. This was an established system when it was given to me about a year ago. The original owner had some LR (I added about another 50 pounds myself bringing it to about maybe 80 pounds worth). Some of it is in my sump as rubble and last year I started removing the bio-balls in an attempt to make a transition that might reduce the nitrates.

I had only a fraction of the bio-balls in there as today and have just removed the remainder. Again, nitrites and ammonia are nil... but nitrates are as bad as ever.

The substrate is CC... that has always bothered me. I'm thinking of moving to sand and am currently on the hunt at my local stores for the Old Castle (or other) non-silicate tropical sand. If I get lucky, I'll buy a bunch and start working on a transition... That is not today's topic, though.

I got to thinking about the various types of pads that exist in the tank. I've cleaned the few blocks of porous foam that exist in parts of the sump and am doing so again today.

--- Major question number one: the big ugly overflow box pad:

What really got me wondering, though, was the "out of sight, out of mind" roll of padding that's in the overflow box wrapped around the standpipe that connects to the sump. It got moved with the system when it was given to me and I've never touched it... nor am I aware of the original owner ever touching it.

I decided to pull it out today and it's rather nasty... as one might expect.

My question here is: can this thing be a major contributor to my nitrate problem? If so... do I really need it? Is it best to rip it out entirely or leave it in place but clean or replace it with regularity?

To help... I've taken some photos of it and of the now naked standpipe that is normally hidden behind a removable baffle (which I took out of the way so I could get the picture).

The pad:


The pad end:


One key thing I've found is that removing the pad lowers the water level in the overflow box and I found that the pipe has holes in it that I never knew existed. Because of this, the water is draining into the sump from only the lower portion of the pipe rather than gushing down the top of it like normal. I gather this is due to altering the displacement in the box from all the bulk of the pad being missing.



So... with the pad out (for now... maybe forever depending on the answers I get here), I think I've reduced my flow rate slightly. Maybe not... but I can't imagine the few holes in the lower part of this pipe can compete with the drain I was getting through the top of the pipe when the outbox water level was higher. I also say this because the level in my sump has gone up slightly since doing this... and that is despite pulling some other foam pieces and other things that would have created displacement out of the sump. I'm also getting a micro-bubble problem... but I think I can work that out since it's related to the outflow of the skimmer with the water level now higher... etc., etc...

Any thoughts on this overall? Keep the pad or not?

I also took out one of the pads from the sump. Does this kind of pad present nitrate problems?



-- Major question number two: bio-balls out... filter sock in:

Having removed the final bio-balls today, that side of my sump now just has the LR rubble that I've had under the bio-balls for about eight months. I figured this means I can now ditch the plate with holes in it that showered water over the bio-balls. This certainly makes things quieter now since I can put the hose down below the water level on top of the rubble and leave the top of the sump open.

I also added a 100-micron filter sock to the end of the hose. So, in a nutshell, the overflow box is now feeding down the original flexible tube to the sump but going through a filter sock first with the end of the tube resting on top of the LR rubble below the water line of the sump.

Any issues here? How often do I clean the sock? Do I clean it or replace it? I've seen mention of people tossing the sock in the wash... but wouldn't that introduce some funky chemicals from the cleaning agents? How do others handle this?

Any thoughts from this long and rambling post would be appreciated. My goal is to eliminate the nitrate problem, so I'm going after every possible culprit. With the tank being well established and a decent amount of LR combined with a fairly light bio-load and a functional skimmer, all I can think to do now is tackle the CC substrate by replacing it with sand and remove these pads if people think they are also a problem.

Thanks!
- Aaron
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Old 04-04-2006, 04:47 PM   #2
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Welcome back

Is your “myinfo” up to date? What is your current pwc schedule? What is the no3 level at? What/how often do you feed?

Any filter media will/can contribute to increases in no3 due to trapping waste and personally I'd eliminate all filter media if possible and clean in old sw or replace if I can’t.

The stand pipe could either be replaced with a Durso Standpipe or you could put the filter back on and clean/replace as needed. I think you would be happier with the Durso. Is your overflow louder since you removed the pads?

Glad you got rid of the bio-balls. If keep clean or if you have a pad to catch all waste before hitting them they do fine. Most don’t though and just use a drip plate and they accumulate a ton of waste and can drive your no3 though the roof.

For no3 reduction along with heavy pwc with no3 free water (ro/di if possible) I would also checkout this post.
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Old 04-04-2006, 04:53 PM   #3
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A mechanical pre-filter on your over flow box is always a good thing to have, besides that, I wouldn't worry about having all those pads, etc.

The pad that went around your overflow box seems extremely old and I would suggest you replace it.
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Old 04-04-2006, 05:34 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geckofrog
A mechanical pre-filter on your over flow box is always a good thing to have, besides that, I wouldn't worry about having all those pads, etc.

The pad that went around your overflow box seems extremely old and I would suggest you replace it.
By "mechanical pre-filter", do you mean the pad I removed? The pad that came out is a real nightmare to handle. How does my filter-sock compare to the pad's role since the outflow water is having to pass through it before it goes into the sump.

Just want to make sure I understand your meaning as I get my bearings here...

Thanks!
- Aaron
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90G acrylic/22G sump/TF100A skimmer
90lbs (45 liverocks.com & ~45 donated 14+ year old Fiji)
Imperator, D. Saddle Butterfly, 2 Percula Clowns, Cleaner Shrimp and an army of Hermits that never sleep
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Old 04-04-2006, 05:44 PM   #5
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Yes we are talking about the same thing

Generally in a system like yours you have a overflow box into a wet/dry or canister (im asuming you and went with the wet/dry)

The pre-filter (a.k.a. the pad you removed) catches any dry flake food you might feed your fish, or anything else that might get sucked up on the surface. So you don't have to squat and clean your wet/dry sump up, instead you can reach behind your tank and wash (with fresh R/O water) the pre-filter. Thats the whole basis of it, so anything "big" doesn't go into your sump. Because who wants to clean out their sump?

You might try drsfosterandsmith (petwarehouse) to get a new pre-filter.
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Old 04-04-2006, 05:54 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tecwzrd
Welcome back

Is your “myinfo” up to date? What is your current pwc schedule? What is the no3 level at? What/how often do you feed?

Any filter media will/can contribute to increases in no3 due to trapping waste and personally I'd eliminate all filter media if possible and clean in old sw or replace if I can’t.

The stand pipe could either be replaced with a Durso Standpipe or you could put the filter back on and clean/replace as needed. I think you would be happier with the Durso. Is your overflow louder since you removed the pads?

Glad you got rid of the bio-balls. If keep clean or if you have a pad to catch all waste before hitting them they do fine. Most don’t though and just use a drip plate and they accumulate a ton of waste and can drive your no3 though the roof.

For no3 reduction along with heavy pwc with no3 free water (ro/di if possible) I would also checkout this post.
I'll check, but my profile should be pretty accurate. None of the mechanics of the system have changed for sure (size, equipment, etc).

My water changing was all over the board in the last few months - but levels have remained the same nonetheless. I'm getting back onto a more regular schedule now with about 20% every two weeks... maybe even a tad more.

I have an extensive RO/DI system in place and generate all of my own water. I use Kent Marine salt. I've also had my water tested at a lab on the campus where I work and everything came out looking very good. My TDS meter shows zero on my RO/DI water and it has no nitrates. I think the water I have going into the system is quite good... but I'll check it all again to be sure.

You say to clean or replace but also mentioned eliminating the pads. For clarity, are you saying it's best if I can run the system without any need for any of these pads? That would be ideal - both for nitrates and maintenance - but I want to be sure I underestand your meaning. Is the filter sock I mentioned a problem or a benefit? It seems like it should filter the water as well or even better than these pads could do and it's a heck of a lot easier to clean or replace. Any additional clarity on this would be great.

I'm also glad I got rid of the bio-balls. With those gone, it's another variable I can scratch off the list. After a few good PWC's, I'm hoping to see a nitrate reduction. If I don't, about all I can start to assume is that the substrate is a real problem... and I'm planning sand for that if at all possible.

I have considered a Durso standpipe and will probably do that soon. In all honesty, I don't find the outflow to be much louder - if not quieter - than before. There isn't any of the funneling noise that I was getting when it went down the top of the pipe (which I also understand the Durso will eliminate). I'd be tempted to leave it this way for the meantime if, in fact, you're saying the pad that was in there can go.

Things are definitely quieter right now, though, without the drip plate and the cascading over the bio-balls that I had before. Again, this is another reason I hope this configuration is a good one...

Right now I'm fighting with micro-bubble issue. I'm fairly certain it's coming from the outflow of the skimmer injecting turbulence into the second half of the sump just prior to the main pump's return. If I turn it off a while, that half of the sump gets as clear as the rest and the tank becomes far less cloudy. I'm accustomed to the tank water being crystal clear... and, yes, I did stir up a lot of crap today making these changes... but I'm still trying to figure out why this problem has developed this afternoon when nothing that seems to directly affect the skimmer has been touched. Urgh...

Thanks!
- Aaron
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Old 04-04-2006, 06:09 PM   #7
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A good pwc schedule is recommended but I understand time constraints. I have a little girl who will not let me do it most of the time so once a week I go home during lunch to knock it out while she is in daycare. If you perform 20% pwc every 3 days 6 times your no3 would be 0. I know that’s 108 gal of SW to go through but depending on the no3 level it may be necessary. Just because your corals/fish/inverts seem fine a no3 reading above 40 ppm in a reef tank can cause havoc over time.

Eliminating all pads if possible would be my recommendation. Of course pre-filter pads should still be used on overflows (doesn’t have to be on the pipe, could be at the water level also) and power heads to keep fish/inverts/food from entering but cleaning them weekly in either ro water or old sw should keep your no3 straight. Any other pads will only allow waste to accumulate. The filter sock is ok but also needs to be diligently cleaned.

As for the micro bubbles do you use baffles or a bubble reducing sponge?

Also how is your po4 level doing? Notice any increase in algae?
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