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View Full Version : So my cycle seems to have stalled at high nitrates. Help please? :D


Xyres
09-03-2012, 03:48 AM
It has been about 3-4 months since I have started my tank. It is a 55g with canister filter which I will be upgrading within a year. I have two cleaner shrimp, two clownfish, and emerald crab and some hermit crabs as well as 50-60 pounds of live rock in my tank at the moment.

Now that we have some background on my tank here is my issue. My Nitrates will NOT go down no matter what I do. I clean my filter, run a protien skimmer, do water changes and monitor food intake, have excellent water flow as well as use RO/DI water. What would be the reason for my nitrates still being around 25-40? It is really annoying as I have been doing everything I can to keep it down.

Here is what my water was at today:
Nitrates: 30
Ammonia: 0.1
Nitrite: 0.1
PH: 8.2

Any help would be great and I will answer as many questions as I can to help figure this out.

mseepman
09-03-2012, 03:57 AM
Not totally sure why your nitrates stay high, but I would start by verifying that your test kit is giving you good readings. Could you verify what you run inside the canister?

From there, you could look at chemical/filter based methods of reducing them. Several companies offer liquid nitrate reducing products. Biopellets are also very popular and can run from an external fluidized reactor for a pretty reasonable price.

Aquattro
09-03-2012, 04:00 AM
Sell the canister filter and use it for corals or something. There's no good reason to run a canister, and it can and usually will lead to higher nitrates.
50 pounds of rock and a good skimmer are more than enough for your bioload.

FragIt Dan
09-03-2012, 04:07 AM
The fact that you have any ammonia and nitrite is a bit of a concern. Essentially, your nitrates are the last stage in your nutrient cycle (not to be confused with your tank cycling). You need to look at what nutrients are going into, or are already in your tank. Perhaps over feeding? Perhaps insufficient water changes? How big and how often are you doing water changes into what size of a tank?
Dan

Enigma
09-03-2012, 04:10 AM
How does your salt water test after mixing? What ppm disloved solids is in your ro/di water?

gregzz4
09-03-2012, 04:43 AM
What brand of test kits are you using ?
What is inside your canister filter ?
How do you clean your canister ?
How often and how much water do you change ?
Did you cure your LR ? Where did it come from - a running system could give you lots PO4 and NO3 leaching that will take time to dissipate ....

Xyres
09-03-2012, 06:31 AM
Alright I will try to answer all these questions.

-I don't think overfeeding is an issue as I only give them what they eat a couple times a day.
-I am doing water changes everywhere from 1 week to 2 weeks and sometimes more often as I am trying to get the nitrates down.
-My salt tests at 1.024 using a refractometer.
-Not sure about dissolved solids in my water as I get it from a business who's line of work is purified water who's rep is well maintained with fish keepers.
-Inside my filter is bio foam, foam, biomax and carbon.
-For water changes I do between 20-40%. I have increased recently as I am trying to force water levels to go down.
-My live rock came from a supplier that my work deals with based in Vancouver. It was per-cultured.
-I use nutrafin for my test kits.

Any help and criticism are appreciated as I need all the help I can get.

Enigma
09-03-2012, 06:42 AM
You need to test your new saltwater for everything before doing a waterchange: but especially ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. You need to be sure that you've got zeros for all three in your mixed water.

If all three are zero, that eliminates one possible source.

If all three are zero . . . Something is decaying in your system: beyond what your bio filter can handle. It could be gunk in your filter, over feeding, dying critters . . . ?

Spyd
09-03-2012, 11:55 AM
I would remove the canister from the system and use a reactor to run GFO and/or carbon. The foam in the canister acts as a nitrate factory as it collects food and dietritus. Also, are the hoses going to and from the canister ribbed? If so, gunk and debris settle in these ribs and decay as well.

I agree, that live rock and skimmer should be sufficient for your bioload.

Cal_stir
09-03-2012, 01:55 PM
Remove the foam from the canister filter and keep the biomax and carbon.
The bacteria that eats nitrates is anerobic and only lives in very low oxygen enviroments like a denitrator or deep sand bed, my personal experience says that DSBs are useless and more problematic than they are worth(I'm sure some will argue), the other method is to grow aerobic bacteria(lives in oxygen) with a carbon source ie, biopellets, vodka, sugar or vinegar dosing, by growing the bacteria nitrate and phosphate are used are used up building the cell walls of the bacteria, the bacteria dies and gets removed by a skimmer thus removing the nitrate and phosphate from the system.
You must have a good skimmer for this method. Growing macro algae will work to, but that requires a lighted refugium and is somewhat limited to amount of nitrates it can take up.
I think the simplest most effective method you could employ is vinegar dosing, read this.

http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2008-08/nftt/index.php

IMO sulphur denitrators rule.

Myka
09-03-2012, 04:14 PM
-Inside my filter is bio foam, foam, biomax and carbon.
-I use nutrafin for my test kits.

These are your two problems right here.

I agree with Brad (Aquattro) that there is no good reason for the canister filter. If you insist on using the canister filter use it only for carbon and/or phosphate reducing media. IF you must use some sort of "foam" to reduce particulate matter in the water column use polyester filter media that is made for quilt making (J&L sells it called Aquarium Filter Media (1-5 units) - 36" x 18" for $4 a roll) and very importantly, throw it out weekly. Do not rinse it, do not reuse it. Another option is to buy machine-washable filter media like Pure Flo 100 Micron Filter Pad or buy filter socks and cut them up. Wash them in HOT water in the washing machine with just bleach and/or baking soda. No soap. This will remove all the detritus so that it can't be converted to nitrate. The biofoam, foam, and biomax are all freshwater items and are biological filters designed to populate nitrifying bacteria that will convert organic waste (ammonia) to nitrate as quickly as possible. In a saltwater aquariums you want to remove organic waste before it can be converted to nitrate. This is the main purpose of a protein skimmer.

As far as test kits go, if you're looking for something affordable go for the API test kits. I find them to be much more accurate than Nutrafin/Hagen. I don't trust your Nutrafin kits if they are both saying 0.1 for ammonia and nitrite. Also, fwiw nitrite is not toxic in saltwater like it is in freshwater so you can save yourself a few bucks by not buying a nitrite kit. You can save yourself money on a pH test kit too because they are not very accurate in general, digital pH meters are the only readings I would trust. Essentially, if you're covering all your basic bases (waterchanges, using a skimmer, open your windows occasionally, etc) there is no reason for your pH to be out of whack anyway, so don't bother testing it. So for fish only tanks just buy ammonia and nitrate kits, and for reef tanks buy ammonia, nitrate, calcium, alkalinity, magnesium (use Salifert or Elos for this one), and phosphate (use Hanna or Elos for this one).

As far as anaerobic bacteria processing nitrate, that is true and most is found in the live rock. Some can be found in some sandbeds (although that often causes more trouble than good). Between a good skimmer, good maintenance, reasonable level of livestock, and good quality and quantity of live rock you should be able to keep nitrate near "0".

Aquattro
09-03-2012, 04:23 PM
I don't trust your Nutrafin kits if they are both saying 0.1 for ammonia and nitrite.

Pretty sure that 0.1 is the standard lowest reading for Hagen kits. My RO water has 0.1ppm NH3 according to Hagen kits. Either toss the kit or just accept 0.1 means 0.

Myka
09-03-2012, 04:24 PM
Pretty sure that 0.1 is the standard lowest reading for Hagen kits.

That's what I was thinking too...

Enigma
09-03-2012, 04:35 PM
I'm going to play devil's advocate . . . And I'm going to say that there is a good reason for the canister filter. ;)

Seeding, or keeping it running, on the main display system could be extremely beneficial. In doing this a QT or HT could be set up very quickly, by simply moving the canister over to the QT/HT system. Of course, I would only run Matrix (or similar bio filtration media). The same could be said, of course, for a bio-wheel filter.

That said, it is obvious that the canister filter is not required in the capacity it is being used.

Enigma
09-03-2012, 04:35 PM
Pretty sure that 0.1 is the standard lowest reading for Hagen kits. My RO water has 0.1ppm NH3 according to Hagen kits. Either toss the kit or just accept 0.1 means 0.

Well, that's just useless.

Aquattro
09-03-2012, 04:44 PM
The same could be said, of course, for a bio-wheel filter.


Do they still make these? Yes, if you have one of these, sell it too. :) Any long term media that breeds aerobic bacteria will contribute to NO3 accumulation. Unless the media is cleaned weekly in fresh water, I don't think the benefits are worth the downside of NO3 buildup.

Enigma
09-03-2012, 04:58 PM
Do they still make these? Yes, if you have one of these, sell it too. :) Any long term media that breeds aerobic bacteria will contribute to NO3 accumulation. Unless the media is cleaned weekly in fresh water, I don't think the benefits are worth the downside of NO3 buildup.

You're so cheeky!

I keep a bio wheel seeded in my sump at all times. :) I give it a rinse and shake in fresh saltwater every now and then.

I just don't want Xyres to think her filter is garbage. There is a job for it . . . Just not the one it's presently doing.

Coralgurl
09-03-2012, 06:23 PM
I use a fluval 305 canister filter on my 55 withy the same media, plus rowaphos with no issues. In fact this tank is spotless, no pest algae. I also do not have a skimmer on this tank. I clean the canister (rinse all media, clean foam pads, scrum the container) fully every 2 weeks and change the media monthly. I think they can be used successfully if maintained properly. For the first maybe 6 months, It maybe got cleaned every couple of months and ya, had issues, once I went to every 2 weeks, not a problem. I absolutely can not run a sump on this tank, and don't really care too. I also find this tank easier to maintain than my other tank with a sump. The amount of equipment in my sump to do the same thing the canister does, fine tuning, etc and still have issues in the tank kinda boggles my mind when everyone says canisters are bad. I completely disagree.

Myka
09-04-2012, 03:54 AM
Unless the media is cleaned weekly in fresh water, I don't think the benefits are worth the downside of NO3 buildup.

Freshwater doesn't kill saltwater nitrifying bacteria. Not significantly anyway. Frank Hoff figured this out unintentionally.

Aquattro
09-04-2012, 04:16 AM
Freshwater doesn't kill saltwater nitrifying bacteria. Not significantly anyway. Frank Hoff figured this out unintentionally.

Go figure! :) So then I'd completely remove it.

Xyres
09-04-2012, 04:45 AM
Thanks for the continued support everyone! I have a few things to say as well as ask a few questions. Today I removed my foam in my 305 and added more carbon as unfortunately a sump is not an option with this tank. I also started vodka dosing today so i hope this helps as well.

Now my question is about a GFO/carbon reactor. Is there one that will work without a sump? In the past I looked at the BRS GFO/carbon reactors but they seem to be for sumps only. Any ideas?

FragIt Dan
09-04-2012, 07:01 AM
Thanks for the continued support everyone! I have a few things to say as well as ask a few questions. Today I removed my foam in my 305 and added more carbon as unfortunately a sump is not an option with this tank. I also started vodka dosing today so i hope this helps as well.

Now my question is about a GFO/carbon reactor. Is there one that will work without a sump? In the past I looked at the BRS GFO/carbon reactors but they seem to be for sumps only. Any ideas?

The TLF ones hang on the glass, they should work without a sump, bug if I recall the BRS ones are much the same. As for the vodka dosing, look into Vinegar instead and save yourself some headache down the road with cyano blooms.
Dan

reefwars
09-04-2012, 07:07 AM
i personally wouldnt be vodka dosing without a skimmer running.

Xyres
09-04-2012, 09:08 AM
I am running a skimmer in my tank. Also is a cyano bloom a big deal? This is my first salt tank so I am very new still. My 200g is going to be a way different setup when I save the money for it haha.

Aquattro
09-04-2012, 03:11 PM
I am running a skimmer in my tank.

What kind of skimmer?

Aquattro
09-04-2012, 03:12 PM
i personally wouldnt be vodka dosing without a skimmer running.

I'm not sure I'd be dosing vodka without a lot of research and experience. I'm pretty sure it's one of those things that can go real bad real quick if you mess it up.

Xyres
09-08-2012, 04:27 AM
It's a BH-1000.
And I know, but it is just chemistry for the most part. It is either I try a desperate attempt to get the nitrates down or my tank ends up crashing due to nitrates.

As of today with the skimmer going full steam, day 5 of vodka dosing and no foam in my filter no changes have occurred. This is really frustrating.

Xyres
09-08-2012, 04:39 AM
I just did something that I hope will be the solution to my problems. There is a foam block in my protein skimmer... That hasn't been cleaned since I set it up... Let's hope that this works.

Cal_stir
09-08-2012, 02:51 PM
Problem with vodka dosing is that it requires more po4 than no3 to work, and if you don't have enough of one or the other available then the process stops and you are just getting the fish drunk.
Fish are very tolerant to no3, 100 ppm doesn't hurt them.
You should be able to bring down your no3 with water changes, if notthen I would suspect your WC as a source of no3 and test it before and after you mix the salt.
That foam in that skimmer is to prevent the bubbles from getting out.

Enigma
09-08-2012, 02:56 PM
Try Instant Ocean Nitrate Remover if you can find it. It will be a bandaid solution (you'll still need to get the nitrate source figured out), but I can tell you that it does work. It is a biopolymer that you add directly to your system water. It takes a bit of time to work.

http://www.instantocean.com/product-catalog/water-care/solutions/natural-nitrate-reducer.aspx

mrhasan
09-08-2012, 03:19 PM
Hello Shelly,

By how much can it reduce the nitrate? I think I currently have a 40ppm of nitrate and will be doing a massive water change and will add chaeto but would also like to have something that can work in reducing the nitrate.

Myka
09-08-2012, 03:37 PM
Problem with vodka dosing is that it requires more po4 than no3 to work, and if you don't have enough of one or the other available then the process stops and you are just getting the fish drunk.
Fish are very tolerant to no3, 100 ppm doesn't hurt them.

This is correct. I have a fish only system that nitrate is consistently 60-80 ppm. Nitrate bothers inverts (inc coral) much more than fish.

Vodka dosing did not a thing for my SPS tank, although it did manage to brown the corals out really well. ;) From chats with Randy Holmes-Farley, I think vinegar is the better solution, especially when combined with lime water (kalkwasser) dosing.

Enigma
09-08-2012, 03:39 PM
Hello Shelly,

By how much can it reduce the nitrate? I think I currently have a 40ppm of nitrate and will be doing a massive water change and will add chaeto but would also like to have something that can work in reducing the nitrate.

I only had 5ppm when I used it in my QT tank. It reduced those nitrates very quickly (overnight). I don't know how much it will reduce how quickly, but I do know that it works.

You should do the big waterchanges first (that's instant nitrate reduction). I'd only use this stuff if waterchanges weren't possible (or illadvised) or if the source of the nitrates couldn't be identified and stopped.

Myka
09-08-2012, 03:48 PM
That IO Natural Nitrate Reducer is essentially ground up biopellets suspended in a liquid.

Enigma
09-08-2012, 03:52 PM
That IO Natural Nitrate Reducer is essentially ground up biopellets suspended in a liquid.

I suspected as much. Good to have confirmation! As long as the dosages on the bottle are followed, an OD shouldn't happen. It is probably a good product for easing into the use of non-recirculating biopellet reactor, then. Do you think?

Myka
09-08-2012, 04:08 PM
I don't know anything about a non-circulating biopellet reactor, sorry. The IO product seems like a good choice for a nano tank or an application where there is no space for a reactor. Overdosing would be the same as biopellets (or any other carbon source) where the biggest problem would be bacteria bloom which threatens the tank with oxygen deprivation (lethal firstly to fish). So essentially not usually a problem with a functioning skimmer.