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Old 12-30-2010, 11:20 AM   #1
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Sump needed for reef tank?

I have a 55 gallon tank that has been fully cycled for about 2 months, give or take. The tank currently has a Rena XP3 canister filter, two Koralia circulation pumps with 2,150 GPH flow, along with about 45 pounds of live rock, and 40 pounds of live sand. When I set the tank up, the LFS recommended the Rena to me, that is why I purchased it. Now I find that most SW aquarist do not use or recommend canister filters. I've read that they are nitrate factories, due to trapping detritus and converting it to nitrate through the nitrogen cycle.

At first I was unsure what direction I wanted to go with this tank, FOWLR or reef. Now I have decided to go the reef route, and have ordered two True Percula Clowfish. I also want to do corals, and for that you need low nitrates, and mine always seem to be 20ppm or so.

1. Is there anything I can do to reduce the nitrate producing capability of the Rena?

2. I have read that I don't even need to run the Rena, that my live rock and sand will do my filtration, is this true? If so, is 45 pounds of live rock enough?

3. Would a protein skimmer help with nitrates? Are there any good HOB skimmers out there?

One local fish shop recommended taking out the Bio Stars and ceramic rings in the second tray, and replacing that with filter floss, he said that it would help with nitrates. I would like to do a sump, but just don't have the $$ at this time.

Jared
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Old 12-30-2010, 12:08 PM   #2
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While most saltwater folks do seem to shy away from canister filters, having one does not doom you to high nitrates. As long as you rinse out the media that traps gunk on a weekly basis, you should be OK. However, if you want to take it out, with 45 lbs of rock I wouldn't expect your biological filtration to be effected much.

Yes... a protein skimmer will help with your nitrates. They won't extract the nitrates out of the water, but they *will* pull stuff out of the water that will eventually break down in to nitrates. Plenty of good HOB skimmers are out there depending on your price range. Octopus skimmers seem to be all the rage now. I have an AquaC Remora that I'm happy with, but it often gets a bad name because of the simplicity of it!

Replacing the biomedia (stars/rings) with floss would probably be OK... as long as you replaced or rinsed the floss well on a weekly basis.

There's no need for a sump with a reef tank. They're nice for the added water volume, and as a place to hide equipment... but they are by no means a requirement. They definitely complicate matters when it comes to getting water out of the main tank, into the sump, and back again. It really just gets down to personal preference and how much space you have available.
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Old 12-30-2010, 12:13 PM   #3
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I see that Kurt has you pretty well covered on the subject. I'm not sure why you want to run filter floss. It's just another item to trap detritus that needs to be removed and cleaned regularly (weekly).

Doing 10% - 20% PWC's every week will also help to keep nitrates low, as will underfeeding and under stocking the tank.
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Old 12-30-2010, 01:18 PM   #4
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So, aside from adding a protein skimmer, what else should I do?

Should I continue to run the Rena, or only as need to clean up cloudy water?

Adding more live rock should also help correct?

Jared
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Old 12-30-2010, 02:25 PM   #5
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Cloudy water is a different issue... a canister filter really won't help with that, unless the cloudiness is actually coming from particles that can be removed with mechanical filtration (sponges, floss, etc). But often times, cloudiness is from a bacterial bloom, when your bacterial population are trying to catch up with your bioload. Once your bacterial population stabilizes, the cloudiness goes away.

What are your nitrate levels now?

Normal things to do to reduces nitrates are water changes (easiest thing), don't overfeed, rinse out on a weekly basis any debris traps, and don't overstock the tank... pretty much what cmor said! Adding rock won't really help lower nitrates.
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Old 12-30-2010, 03:16 PM   #6
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"Cloudy water is a different issue... a canister filter really won't help with that, unless the cloudiness is actually coming from particles that can be removed with mechanical filtration (sponges, floss, etc). But often times, cloudiness is from a bacterial bloom, when your bacterial population are trying to catch up with your bioload. Once your bacterial population stabilizes, the cloudiness goes away."

Sorry, I meant sometimes when I do maintenance and the sand gets stirred up. The Rena seems to clear the water up in that scenario. Currently the tank has no residents aside from 4 small coral frags, and whatever might have hitchhiked on the live rock. I have two true percula clownfish on the way, they should be here soon I hope. I don't anticipate much more in the way of fish than those, maybe a peppermint shrimp, or a small crab. I would think that is not too much bioload for a 55 gallon?

As far as adding more live rock, I thought that the live rock was the main filtration in a reef tank, so more rock = more filtration, or the ability to handle more bioload? I realize that the bacteria that thrive on the rock do not consume nitrates, but generate it from ammonia, and nitrites.

I have been doing a 10 gallon water change every week, there is 43 gallons in the system. But was told to only clean the Rena once per month.

So my question will only running the Rena to clear up sand in the water help with the nitrate problem? Or should I just run it full time and clean it every week?

Jared
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Old 12-30-2010, 06:09 PM   #7
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I realize that the bacteria that thrive on the rock do not consume nitrates, but generate it from ammonia, and nitrites.
That's actually incorrect. Coral LR has the deep recesses that are naturally anoxic and therefore home to nitrate eating bacteria.

The sand will actually settle regardless of the pump or filter. The bacteria that coat the grains of sand makes it heavy enough to settle. Stir up the sand in a new tank and it will take days to settle. Do the same in an established tank and it will be clean in minutes. That would be for a handful of sand. I've had a power head fall and blow sand all over the place. Once it was put back in place the sand storm cleared up in a couple of hours.

How did you come up with your 55 only having 43 gallons of water?
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Old 12-31-2010, 12:22 AM   #8
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"That's actually incorrect. Coral LR has the deep recesses that are naturally anoxic and therefore home to nitrate eating bacteria."

I didn't know that, good to know that.

"How did you come up with your 55 only having 43 gallons of water?"

When I initially filled the tank, it took 43 gallons to fill it to the frame, I have added stuff that take up space since then, so I'd imagine that it has even less water now. Unless I miscounted the number of 5 gallon buckets I put in, it is possible.

Jared
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