This is what I stare at every time I test for nitrates. I cannot get it below 20ppm no matter what I do. It is very infuriating as I have been doing this for 8 months now and have been wanting to start my reef building for at least 6. As my activity on the forums indicates, I am trying to do everything and trying to do everything right!
So, I will explain the set up, in detail, and what I do, in details, in hopes someone can shed some light on this problem.
Firstly, I use only RO
water. This tests 0 TDS
(just tested tonight). Tested that pure water, 0 nitrates.
I use Instant Ocean Reef Crystals salt. Tested that after mixing, 0 nitrates. I aerate/mix for a full 24 hours using a pump and heater. I make and mix in a rubbermaid tote that I use only for water mixing. I like to keep my water at 1.024.
I change roughly 30% of the water every week on sunday (though with an 18 gallon sump holding probably 15 gallons, that would make it 70 gallons.. with me changing out 15-20 gallons that would be around 25%). During this nitrate problem, I have changed 30% twice a week on more than a few occassions.
My stocking is as follows
2 blue/green chromis
2 b&w clownfish
1 bicolor dotty back
1 coral beauty
1 kole tang
sizeable cleanup crew - as far as i can tell they are all alive, haven't spotted any that i can't see moving at one time or another
I have 50 lbs of base rock from reefcleaners.org. I never bought any live rock, just made this rock live through the process of cycling.
I don't have any decorations in the tank.
My filtration consists of an 18 gallon sump. An eshopps 300 gph
overflow box and a flex tube that enters the sump.
The first sump container contains a filter sock at the end of the drain tube. 100 micron. I used to have a 200 one that I rinsed out every couple of days. But for the last month or maybe a little longer I have been using a new 100 micron sock every week when I do my water change.
Then I have the water skimmed with a HOB
reef octopus BH-100 hanging onto the side of my first sump chamber. This cup fills every 2-3 days and I empty it. So far it's never spilled into the water. I also have just added a media reactor with activated carbon and GFO
The second chamber is my fuge. It has about 2-3 inches of sand, 5 lbs of rock (again, base rock made live), and chaeto macroalgae.
The third chamber used to contain a bag of carbon, but that's been removed since the addition of the media reactor. In this third chamber I have an auto top off system (only use RO
water in there). Then the return pump sends it back up to be repeated.
In the sump I have two small foam blocks and a block of filter floss, in case I need to set up an emergency tank sometime.
Also, the return pump has a sponge inside to keep debris out.
I feed once per day. I rotate between pellets, veggie flakes, brine shrimp, and formula 1 cubes. I make sure that the fish eat all of the food I give them (except the meaty ones, they kinda go everywhere. i'm sure my clean up crew gets the leftovers, though).
For the tang, he has a veggie clip that I alternate between Ocean Nutrition garlic marine algae, red seaweed and green seaweed.
If I left anything out, or you see anything that might be causing my problem, please ask or comment!
I am desperate!
EDIT| I have some pond filter floss between the second and third chamber of the sump to break the waterfall noise and trap microbubbles. I rinse this out every week with cold tap when I do the PWC
Also, I used to have 3 chromis, one disappeared. It's possible he's rotting somewhere (i'd never find him!) but I think the cleanup crew has eaten him by now. I have searched a lot.