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  1. #1
    Senior Member drummer89's Avatar
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    Serious Nitrate Issues

    I recently discovered that I have not been properly testing for nitrates in my marine tank. I thought my nitrates were very low, but unfortunately I found out that they are very high (40 ppm.) A friend of mine showed me how to correctly test for nitrates, and I realized why none of my new fish have lived more than a couple of days.
    I have an ocelaris clown and a blue tang that must have become acclimated to the high nitrate levels over time, but in order to add new fish to my tank, I obviously need to lower the nitrates.
    I've been doing small water changes (15-20%) over the past few days, and I havent seen any change in nitrate levels. I also added Seachem's Purigen and DeNitrate to my power filter's media container. I've also been skimming quite a bit of skimmate out of the water.
    Is there anything else I should be doing? What is the source of all the nitrates? Any suggestions? :help:

  2. #2
    Senior Member Ricepicker's Avatar
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    nitrate or nitrite?

    mine constantly sits around 125ppm and everything is fine, 40 is not that high, though 0 is obviously most ideal

    nitrite at 40 would kill fish ya

  3. #3
    Senior Member drummer89's Avatar
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    It's Nitrate, and yes it's at 40ppm. That's pretty high on the color chart in my test kit. I've always heard that you want to keep Nitrates very low in a marine setup.
    My Nitrites, on the other hand are at 0 ppm.

  4. #4
    Moderator cres's Avatar
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    Uh, yeah, you want your NitrAtes lower than that. Preferably under 10 PPM for a reef tank.

    The best solution is dillution. Water changes. Increase your water change schedule as you have done. Perhaps a larger single change, more like 30-40%. If your Nitrates don't drop directly after a water change, you are either adding Nitrate with your water change (possible but unlikely) or you are at the top of the effective range of your test kit and simply not detecting the changes yet.

    Now, why are you here? Well, one thing is your water change schedule. I don't know what it was until now, but, it might not have been enough. Another is, perhaps you moved too quickly adding bioload faster than the natural filtration ramped up. Another is feeding, if you add too much food regularly it will lead here.

    Keep up the water changes. Test your change water to be sure. You can also take a small amount of tank water, dillute it 5:1 with new change water and test it again. The Nitrates should drop in that Ratio. i.e. if you take one part of tank water at 40 PPM, add 4 parts new water, you should end up with 8 PPM Nitrate. This will confirm that your test kit is in the right ball park.
    Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

  5. #5
    Senior Member drummer89's Avatar
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    Thanks for the help Cres.
    I was also wondering if the nitrate problem could be caused by too much detritus building up in the crushed coral substrate? I try to vacuum it every once in awhile, and I end up sucking up a lot of grey/brown stuff. I haven't removed my live rock to vacuum underneath it, because I have lots of live rock. Do you think I need to take the rock out and vacuum the crushed coral underneath?
    Will the nitrates go back up after I lower them with water changes? I've tested the source water (RO water) and detected no Nitrates at all. I also tested the water after I mixed in the salt. Still no Nitrates. The source is still unknown. Thanks again

  6. #6
    Moderator cres's Avatar
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    You shouldn't vacuum a reef sandbed the same way you do a fresh water tank gravel bed. The various critters that will inhabit your sand bed (which you want for food and as detritus eaters), will be diminished. You can try to flush the detritus off the sandbed and syphon it out.

    But, yes, excess detritus in the sandbed can be broken down to become Ammonia/Nitrite and Nitrate. This would be a symptom of too much feeding, and / or insufficient low level current to keep the detritus suspended for the skimmer to pick up.
    Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Ricepicker's Avatar
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    also its possibel that stirring up the sand bed will release the trapped nitrATe in the substrate

  8. #8
    Moderator Krugar's Avatar
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    The nitrates are high, but I doubt that's what's killing your fish. The LD50 on nitrate is insanely high. You're definately irrating the hell out of the fish, but I don't think this is what is killing them.

    What's the rest of your water chemistry like? How are you acclimating the fish? Fish can die several days after you put them in the tank due to damage done during acclimation.

    You still need to get the nitrates down, but you also need to figure out why they're so high. It could just be a build up from not exporting them fast enough, but there could also be an issue in the tank that needs solving.

    Cheers!
    There is nothing so permanent as a temporary measure.

  9. #9
    Senior Member drummer89's Avatar
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    Now that I think about it, it wasnt just the new fish that have died recently. Some of the other tank inhabitants died as well, but that was a long time ago, and again I didn't realize that my nitrates were so high.
    I won't vacuum the crushed coral anymore now that I know some of the stuff in it can be beneficial to the tank. I don't overfeed, and I have lots of scarlet hermits and turbo snails grazing on the rocks and substrate (hopefully picking up excess food and detritus.)
    I'll just keep doing water changes and see what happens.
    Thanks for the help all

  10. #10
    Senior Member drummer89's Avatar
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    I did a 25% water change this morning and just recently tested again for Nitrates. The levels have dropped by about 40%, and hopefully they'll keep dropping as I change water. Nitrates are currently at about 25ppm.

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