Can't shake trace of nitrates


Alright... I've been fighting this for like three weeks now and I'm almost ready to give up. I thought a dead starfish caused a small rise in nitrates and ammonia in my tank, but I can't imagine it would still be an issue.

I've been testing every couple days for at least 3 weeks now and I keep getting low levels of both nitrates and ammonia. A few days ago the nitrates were almost undetectable and ammonia was zero. I thought things were finally settling down. Now the nitrates are back between 2-5 (0-5 is the lowest color on my result chart), and ammonia shows the same (somewhere between zero and the lowest result color). Neither has tested higher then the lowest reading, but its showing a trace, and I don't know what to do.

The only reason I think there is an issue is my nem died. Everything else in the tank Is thriving. Actually, my corals have been growing faster the past few weeks than they ever have.

I've been doing 30% water changes every week. I've been feeding less and less to the point where I'm probably not feeding enough.

I'm not sure of the timeline, but the only thing that has changed in the past month or two is the new larger sump. Maybe stuff that's settling at the bottom of the Rubbermaid bin is causing it? Maybe the stuff that's collecting at the bottom of the refugium is causing it? Both? The stuff that's settling is a light tan color, I don't know if its harmless or detritus that needs to be removed. There's decent flow in the sump, but the only way I could stop stuff from settling is tossing a few power heads in there. I've not read of anyone else having to do that.

To double check: Should the cheato / liverock bin have fairly low flow so it's not tossing the cheato all over the place?

I don't have too many fish based on water volume - I've gone over my list several times. With all fish full grown I'd be at max suggested capacity per 5 gallons (beginners limit). Right now it's quite a bit less then that since most of my fish aren't full grown. last resort is to start removing fish.
Yeah no big deal. Many people never reach zero nitrates. It's impossible in a lot of tanks. For an anemone, they should be as close to zero as possible. Less than 20 for sure. I suspect the ammonia reading is a false positive. Ammonia test kits are prone to false positives and often the lowest reading on the chart is actually a zero if everything else is checking out okay.