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Old 08-06-2012, 02:29 PM   #1
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Phosphates: Issues and Theories

So I've been doing a little research regarding phosphates and why some have issues getting rid of them even when they are using RO water and have clean equipment. Apparently there is a theory that your live rock can absorb phosphates and when there isn't any present it can leech it out. In addition, I also read that phosphates can bind to your substrate as well as live rock. In one instance there was a guy that was using phosban with a new phosphate reactor and as it was pulling phosphates out he was getting green algae on his sand. He believed that the substrate was leeching it out causing the quick growth. The reactor eventually solved his issue with the phosphates over time and the algae died off.

So in doing more reading and research I am either going to need to undergo a process called "cooking live rock" and/or will need to remove my substrate and replace OR purchase a phosphate reactor...or all three if it comes down to it. From what I've read, I need the reactor to counter phosphate build up due to the inability to siphon the entire bed of detrital build up and will eventually pull all that may be bound to the live rock off.

My Dilemma

I've cut back on feeding to the point that my shrimp act starved. I keep everything clean. I use RO water. I have one fish (a clown) in a 56 gallon tank. I will purchase a reactor however I've still got a source. My question is this: is my bacteria within the sand itself, on the rocks, or in the filter predominantly? I'm seriously considering removing all of my sand (have 3 inch bed) except maybe a 1/2 inch on the bottom. In addition, the bed has some crushed coral towards the bottom (yes...i know its not the best thing and harbors old nutrients but in the "olden days" we used it a lot) Will the tank cycle again? I'm really tired of dealing with phosphates!!!

Sorry for the dissertation. Please comment advise. Thank you!
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Old 08-11-2012, 12:13 AM   #2
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All of that is true from what I've read, but the issue is where the phates are coming from. Speaking from experience, I stupidly used tap water setting my tank up, and yes my rocks and sand absorbed some of the phosphates which in turn makes it difficult to remove. But it will subside over time. Nikki, are you running GFO, or do you have a reactor? These are great methods, along with PWC's to help get phates down to below .03 where they need to be. But like everything in saltwater, you need to find out where the problem is, not just the fix...
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Old 08-11-2012, 05:46 AM   #3
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I was running gfo but stopped because I know that it's not getting the source. You are going to think I'm crazy, but here is what I did and I now have NO phosphates! I removed 1/2 half of my sand bed and cleaned all my equipment very well (this took me HOURS! LOL!). I'm sure the phosphates may come up again however right now they are at zero. I'm going to remove the rest in another week and go BB for a while. I rinsed out my filter pads but put them back in so I could keep as much bacteria as possible but not the yucky stuff. So far, no mini cycle and I'm ok. After I get the second half cleaned out, and all is stable, I have some additional live rock in QT that I'm going to add (just making sure its ready to go). I will let that sit in my tank for a week or two and then I'm going to remove my oldest pieces and "cook" them so I can get any phosphates out. I want to try a reef tank but that won't happen until my tank is 100% stable for at least a few months. Do you think cooking the LR is overkill?
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Old 08-11-2012, 07:19 AM   #4
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What are your phosphates levels at? And are you testing the RO water before it goes in the tank?
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Old 08-11-2012, 01:04 PM   #5
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They are 0 right now. I had tested my RO and it wasn't the source. I believe it's my substrate. Nothing I did before would bring them down until I removed part of it.
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Old 08-11-2012, 01:39 PM   #6
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I personally think it is overkill. As you stated, the phosphates will leach out over time. I would continue moving on as things are with the GFO.
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Old 08-11-2012, 01:46 PM   #7
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I had crazy high phosphates in my first setup which was cause I was using tap water. I firmly believe that they leeched into the rock work cause it literally took months of monster water changes to get them down. I mean like 90% water changes a couple times a week. lol I knew it was mathematically impossible for them not to get lower after that so I just went back to weekly larger changes and after a few months they came down with me using nothing but phosphate free water.
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Old 08-11-2012, 11:20 PM   #8
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I think y'all are right. I will just wait for the rock to leech it out on its own and in the meantime use what I've been using to keep them down. Funny thing is, I've always used RO water and had good tank maintenance but due to the theory of not cleaning a deep sand bed, only blew stuff off the top. I pretty much decided that unless you have fish or CUC that need a sand bed, I'm keeping mine to a bare minimum and using live rock for the main bacteria source. The sand looks good but I've been reading about people who have little sand to BB and they seem to have less issues with phosphates.
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