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Thread: need help with nitrates

  1. #1
    Curious Reefer
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    need help with nitrates

    ok here goes.. i have a 72 bow with a 30 gal sump.. the 72 has roughly 110 lbs of LR and a 4 1/2 inch sand bed.. the sump has about 15 lbs of LRand has 1.5 inches of sand. The tank is completly cycled but the sand bed isnt establishing... I cannot find any worms in the sand and all the bugs are on the glass instead of in the sand.. I have had nitrate lvls around 160 for 2 weeks now even after water changes and de-nitrate in the sump filters my nitrate level isnt reducing.. What can i do to get my levels down?

    water readings are as follows (api test kits used)...
    ammonia - 0
    nitrite- .25
    PH - 8.2
    phosphate - 0
    nitrate - 160

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    Grand Master Reefer CarmieJo's Avatar
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    Hi gryffyn,

    Wow! 160 is awfully high !Are there any critters in your tank? Have you double checked your test kit for accuracy? How long has your tank been set up? I would propose with nitrite reading of anything except zero your tank has not completed the initial cycle. Did you use uncured rock?
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    Master Reefer poppin_fresh's Avatar
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    That definitely doesn't sound right @ 160ppm I doubt you'd have any life in the tank. I would have the LFS double check your measurement. Most of them will do this for free or a for a couple $$.
    I have Attention Defic...HEY LOOK, A FISH!

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    Grand Master Reefer Amphibious's Avatar
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    I believe your system has only been set up for a few weeks, Correct? Since Nitrate is the last element of the Nitrogen cycle we test for and it builds up very slowly (normally), I suspect something else is going on here. I use API test kits, too. I just read the instructions to be sure of the procedure. Here is what they say about additive #2 -

    Instruction #4 reads, "Vigorously shake the Nitrate Test Solution Bottle #2 for ar least 30 seconds. This step is extremely important to insure accuracy of test results."

    If you are following the instructions to the letter, then perhaps the kit is bad. I know this from experience, hobby level test kit instructions must be followed with great caution because of the very small water sample we use and the powerful solutions they use to implement the color changes. One drop, in any direction, can turn your test into worthless figures. In other words, a water sample smaller or larger than what is called for or an extra drop of additive is all it takes. Accuracy is totally dependent on following the instructions to the letter. Could that be the problem?

    It has to be that or a bad test kit. In 40 plus years of Marine aquariums, I have never seen Nitrate above 80 ppm. And, that was in the days of UG filters and CC. Nitrate factory conditions for sure.

    Dick
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  5. #5
    Curious Reefer
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    i follow all test instructions to the letter.. my LFS comes up with the same amount as i do.. he gave me a product called TLC for saltwater aquariums to make the nitrate less toxic... the tank has been up since april.. the tank cycled as normal water parameter wise until my wife let my kid feed the fish by dumping a whole bottle of fish flake food into the tank which i vaccuumed out as soon as i got home (less than 2 hours went by)... the tank has 2 damsels and a purple tang which are all doing perfect no stress marks, the dont look like they are having problems when they breathe, and they eat normally... i think one of my problems is the fact that i have no worm growth in the tank(i.e. no fireworms, and other sand dwelling worms).. and to let u know the color of the test it looks like cherry coolaid

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    Grand Master Reefer CarmieJo's Avatar
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    What was the nitrate before the food incident?
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    Assistant Moderator Skurvey Dog's Avatar
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    Hello Gryffin. When did the box of fish food get dumped into the tank? I am not familiar with TLC. It must be a product used to detoxify amonia, nitrites and nitrates. Please remember that it will not get "rid" of the nitrates, only help to detoxify them in an emergency situation, but should help the skimmer remove some of it. Water changes are the best way to lower levels of nitrates. When testing, the test vial should be clean and rinsed with the water you are going to use to test with, before you run the test. Do you keep a tank journal with your water quality readings? It is a very valuable tool for reefers as it allows you to see any changes in your water quality so you can make necessary adjustments along the way, before they become an emergency issue.

    If your nitrate reading is correct, and I surely hope that it is not, you need to start doing some serious water changes over the next few days. If you do not, you stand the risk of losing all of the livestock in your tank. I have personally never heard of a nitrate reading that high. I am surprised that anything is living in your tank if that reading is accurate.

    I would not worry about lower life organisms such as bristle worms and pods at this time. When a tank has good husbandry skills applied to it and the water quality is good, all of these things come naturally.


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    before the food incident 2 weeks ago the readings were:

    ammonia - 0
    ph - 8.2
    phosphate - .25
    nitrite - .25
    nitrate - 10

    ive done water changes they are not working...

    yes the TLC just detoxifies the nitrates and doesnt remove them...

    after reading some other posts on this forum i have removed the cascade 600 filters from inside the tank and installed 2 strait powerheads for water movement, which removes 2 sponge filters from the system...

    and as i said the nitrate reading looks like cherry coolaid so it might not be as high as 160 but it is at least 100+

    i also did a 15% water change...

    oh and BTW this is the only tank im having this issue with, the 90 and the 155 bow are fine however the 72 bow is the reef tank the others are FOWLR setups

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    Assistant Moderator Skurvey Dog's Avatar
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    Wow Griffyn, it just blows your mind to know that an accident like that can get out of control so fast! I know you hate that, but what can you do? It was an accident. It does look like a mini cycle though with the remmants of extra nutrients from the box of fish food. Didn't realize that you were experienced. I would look at anything that could be a possible nitrate factory. Make sure all mediums and mechanical devices are clean. If you were able, you might want to add some nitrate filter medium also. Very good water circulation is an excellent idea as it will keep everything in the water colomn so the filter can do it's job. Just keep doing those water changes. Personally if my nitrate reading had of been that high, I would have done at least a 30 to 40% water change if I could of to start. But of course, that's just me. I wish I could find that table that shows what percentages of water changes to the vollume of water and how that will decrease the nitrate equation. I've just never heard of nitrates jumping so high so fast.


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  10. #10
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    neither have i but they did.. this is my first dsb so im having issues getting it to layer properly..

    when it first started spiking i did a 50% water change every 2 days for the first week and it just wasnt coming down so i got the de-nitrate and slowed the water changes as well as adding the tlc to detox the nitrates.. i was hoping someone on here mightve known a secret remedy for this spike but i guess im just gonna have to ride the storm out..

    thnx all for the help and concern..

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    Assistant Moderator Skurvey Dog's Avatar
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    Well, stay the course Gryffin until the big dogs can get here like Amphibious, Reef Keeker and a few others that are experienced with disasters/DSB. CJo/CarmieJo is well versed also. If you could give a brief rundown of everything right before the box of fish food to the present would be awesome so someone can evaluate your problem w/o having to scan through all the replies. When people surf through the threads it can be difficult to keep going back and forth to figure out all the details and lowdown on the tank in question. Trust me on this. Just stay on top of those water changes though. I'll bump this thread to keep it at eye level.


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  12. #12
    Grand Master Reefer CarmieJo's Avatar
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    Are you running a skimmer? Do you use any bio-balls? What brand of salt are you using? What kind of water are you using in your tank? Have you tested your FW and new SW for nitrates? Did you have an ammonia spike after the food incident?

    I think there are a few things. The first is nitrite that has not zero which says your cycle is not complete. Has it ever been zero? Either way I would not add anything else to your tank until it falls.

    The second is the surge in nitrate following an oopsie. It takes several months for a sand bed to become established and efficiently convert nitrate to nitrogen gas. Although your reading is through the roof I would have not been surprised to see nitrates rise after a can of food was dumped into the tank.

    Water changes should have reduced the nitrates. Since they did not there has to be a source that is introducing more into the tank. That persistent nitrite level would be a source of some nitrate but not at the level you have. The bioload is 2 damsels and a purple tang, right? They don't account for it either.

    So we need some detective work. Was your LR cured or uncured? Was there a lot of die off on it? Is there an unaccounted for fish? What and how much are you feeding?

    The third is the lack of worms. I would not worry too much about them. But, have you looked for them at night after lights out? If you haven't I would first try looking with a red flashlight or under moon lights if you have them. You may find that they are there. Also have you picked up any of the LR off the sandbed? Mine often hide under things. If you started with LR you should have received free worms with it.

    On another topic, many people read these threads and I always like to take the opportunity to educate people on good husbandry. I believe the 72 bowfront is a 48" tank. If so it is too small for a purple tang. I Googled <purple tang tank size> and every site except Petco (not a good source of SW info IMO) recommended a minimum size of 100 gallons which is a 72" tank. I know you also have a bigger tank so you may be planning on moving it but some people may not read the whole thing.
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    Grand Master Reefer CarmieJo's Avatar
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    Carmie


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    Grand Master Reefer rroselavy's Avatar
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    How well did you vacuum up the fish food? I am thinking that a good amount of it may be in your sand bed or stuck in recesses. Doing WC will help, but the excess nutrients are probably concentrated in the substratum. I would make sure you have sufficient flow (1500gph-3000gph total) in your DT to keep things suspended, and blow out the top inch or so of your sand and the recesses of your LR to liberate embedded nutrients before your water changes. You can do this in sections so as not to disturb your sand bed too much, but I would be more aggressive with levels that high. Don't forget about the sand in your sump...a 1.5" SB can be more of a trap than a processing center.

    Check areas of your sump for trapped material, especially socks, remaining sponges and settlement on the bottom of your sump and inside the skimmer. I do not use any socks or sponges, but do vacuum out settled debris/detritus in my sump with each WC.

    Dick had a good post in his thread about how he blows out his sand. You may want to try this.

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    ok to hopefully answer all the questions yall have asked lol here goes..

    yes my tank fully cycled i had 0's accross the board before i put in my first fish in which were 2 blue damsels, i had a very minor spike in ammonia after the incident..

    i use a skimmer inside the sump, i change 15% per week on all my tanks

    yes the tang is going to be moved into the new 155 bow in my new fish room but im still cycling it and im making sure the sand bed layers like it is supposed to before any fish go into the tank.. i feed that tank a little each week to keep the bugs in there fed..

    i vaccuum the sump sand when i change water and use 2 socks with de-nitrate inside them so water passes through it...

    LR was fully cured i tubbed it for about 2 weeks with a bubbler, and some of it came from my other tank that this one replaced...

    i havent lost any fish at all i only had 3 and they r still there...

    i feed once per day
    mon - frozen, that has been filtered clean from its packaged water
    tues - shimp flake
    wed - veggie flake w/garlic
    thurs - no food
    friday - sunday the cycle repeats

    i have 1000 gph flow from sump, and 2 powerheads in the tank moving roughly 250 each

    like i said this is my first reef so the positioning of my heads may be wrong and my sump may be set up wrong..

  16. #16
    Grand Master Reefer CarmieJo's Avatar
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    I am perplexed. You should be seeing a reduction due to water changes alone.
    Carmie


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  17. #17
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    yep i havent the foggiest why it wont go down..

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    Grand Master Reefer CarmieJo's Avatar
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    If it was mine I would be changing 10% of the water daily. How long is the de-nitrate stuff supposed to last for?
    Carmie


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  19. #19
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    its just like carbon.. it goes into the filters.. im gonna empty my sump tomorrow and pull all of the sand outta it so ill let u know..

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    Grand Master Reefer Amphibious's Avatar
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    This is certainly perplexing. Curious, what kind of sand do you have?
    Amphibious

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  21. #21
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    oolite sized aragonite sand from caribsea

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