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Old 11-15-2006, 08:11 AM   #1
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Nitrates, in the danger zone!

Ok, so I now have complete responsibility of an 8 month established SW tank. I tested all my levels (all perfect except) the Nitrates were like the highest they could get on the little chart thingy. Is everything going to die? What can I do? Someone said water changes so..... I did a 40% change 3 weeks ago and a 20% change a week ago. No improvement. What are Nitrates and where do they come from? How do I get rid of them?!

Thanks for the help in advance
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Old 11-15-2006, 09:20 AM   #2
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no3 is the end result of the nitrogen cycle and is harmful to fish at 80+ ppm. It's more harmful to mobile inverts at 40+ ppm and harmful to corals/sea stars at 20+ ppm. Reducing the no3 level to 20 ppm or less within the next week or two is critical for the tanks health.

Most no3 test kits only test up to 80 ppm and if you are still showing 80 ppm after the 40% and 20% pwc then it was considerable higher then 80 ppm to begin with.

Need more info:
Size of tank?
How many fish and their sizes?
How much base/lr is in the tank (lbs)
Is this a reef tank with corals or fo/fowlr?
Is there a clean up crew? (snails, hermits, shrimp, ect...)
Is there a sump and if so how large.

Doing large pwc (50%) with no3 free water is the only way to reduce no3 quickly.

I don't like doing large pwc on tanks with inverts/coral/sea stars due to the risk of osmotic shock due to possible large swings in ph/sg/temp. If your tank does have any inverts/coral/sea stars then I'd recommend doing no more then 30% pwc every other day until no3 is reduced to 20 ppm or less. The other option is to remove them to a clean plastic
bucket and drip acclimate them for a couple of hours to the tanks new parameters. (don't expose sea stars/corals to air)

If the tank is fo without inverts you could do pwc as large as 70% but it's still risky unless you have a refractometer to very accurately measure sg levels in the pwc water to match the tank.

Either way you still want to mix your pwc for 24+ hours with a strong ph or pump and match the sg/ph/temp as closely as possible to the main tank.

Good luck.
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Old 11-15-2006, 09:22 AM   #3
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water changes are the answer to the problem. You arent doing them often enough to make a noticeable difference. Do you have sponges or other types of filter material? If so, they can be nitrate factories. Do you have bioballs as a filtration medium, if so, ditto on that one.

What types of food are you feeding and how often? This can also be a contributing factor.

What are the tank inhabitants?

Please take a few minutes to fill out the "my info" area and then we will be able to see what your tank situation is without you having to answer the question every time you post
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Old 11-15-2006, 09:37 AM   #4
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I have a 55g tank.
1 True Percula
2 PJ Cardinals
1 Damsel
1 of those ones with the little flicky thingy on top (sorry I am horrible at this) but its small.
1 Scooter Blenny
1 Brittle Star
75 small snails
2 red leg crabs
4 rose tip anemones
2 xnias (not sure on spelling)
and a lot of assorted mushrooms
I have 50lbs sand
35-40lbs LR.

The bigger bio-wheel filter
a protein skimmer for a 75+ tank

I am feeding them 10 of those lil round pellets 2 times a day (they get most and if any get to the bottom the snails and starfish instantly eat them up)

Every 3 weeks I feed the anemones some little (really tiny) pieces of that fish the LF sells.

1 a month I put a findernail tip size piece of syclopeeze in for food.


What are bioballs?


My anemones seems to be the only ones showing signs of stress (so far)..... They look aweful!

Ok and when I do pwc I usually use one of my ph and let the water mix for about 6 hours before I use it, not long enough? I use Oceanic salt.
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Old 11-15-2006, 09:48 AM   #5
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I think you are light on the filtration for one thing. I would ditch the biowheel and just fill the area with liverock rubble. I imagine the anemone's do look awful, they have very little tolerance to poor water conditions. Cut back on the feeding and do more frequent water changes. Yes, you really need to mix the water longer, but that is not causing the nitrate problems.
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Old 11-15-2006, 09:56 AM   #6
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Ok, so if I just do pwc every other day until they are maintained, do you think the nitrates would stay low for awhile while I cure some aragocrete rock for the tank? Will that stuff even help right away? I shouldnt take off the bio wheel till I get more LR though right? Also how much should my fish be fed? I always feel bad, they always beg for food So since its really cold right now should I put a heater in with the water to make sure it is the same temp before I am putting it in the tank during pwc? I always did so little time because I didnt want it to get cold. I guess it was bad that up until the last 2 months I was just dumping the salt and water in the tank huh? I noticed the mushrooms didnt like it, so I asked the LFS and they said not a good idea. I think this SW stuff is harder than taking care of kids.....
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Old 11-15-2006, 10:05 AM   #7
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Also have you verified the no3 levels with another test kit or with your lfs? no3 test kits will often show higher readings if over a year old IME. I'm amazed your star is still alive if the no3 is truly that high.

Pellet food is not best choice for SW tanks. They can be used occasionally but tend to foul tanks quicker then frozen. 10 pellets twice a day seems like a TON of food for your list. 1/2 a cube of frozen daily or 1 cube of frozen every other day should be enough IMO.

Check out this post on feeding requirements of SW fish.

In the wild fish are used to eating small amounts all day which is why it looks like they are begging all the time. Overfeeding fish will shorten their life and foul the tank both of which we want to avoid.

Iím shocked you didnít kill the whole tank by just dumping salt/water into it. Salt is very caustic to fish/inverts if not properly mixed. It only takes about 3-5 hours for the salt to appear to be dissolved/mixed but can still be caustic at that point. It truly takes 24+ hours for the sg/ph to settle out.

Ditching the bio-wheel before adding more base/lr could cause a spike in nh3/no2 which would be deadly. It will take 3 weeks for new rock to accumulate enough bacteria to remove the bio-wheel.
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Old 11-15-2006, 12:37 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ICEnVy
I am feeding them 10 of those lil round pellets 2 times a day
Well I think we found some of the problem. Cut back your feedings every other day. I have fed mine every other day for nine yrs now. They look like they are starving but they are not. They will be OK. As Micah said also that type of food is a problem also. Feed a variety of foods like Flake,Frozen and every once in a while what you are now but alot less. Dont let the fish run the tank. You run the tank.
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Old 11-15-2006, 01:03 PM   #9
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Quote:
Ditching the bio-wheel before adding more base/lr could cause a spike in nh3/no2 which would be deadly. It will take 3 weeks for new rock to accumulate enough bacteria to remove the bio-wheel.
I really don't think that a spike will occur, especially if the water changes are being done to combat the nitrates. ALong with cutting back on the feedings, less waste will be produced and although there is not alot of rockin the tank, the bioload is not that heavy.
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Old 11-15-2006, 09:26 PM   #10
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So frozen food as in like fish and squid and cyclopeeze? I didn't know they would eat that. Wow, I guess I am lucky nothing is dead- everything has been done like that for like 8 months now. Poor fishies, they are some tough survivors in my attempt to maintain a SW tank lol. I havent lost anything but one of those little peppermint shrimp. So now I just have to decide whether to take the bio wheel off or leave it on..... I will do my first pwc the RIGHT way tomorrow I am mixing it and letting it sit 25hrs. Thanks for all the advice guys.
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