Nitrates, nitrates, nitrates!!


I failed Kobayashi Maru
Hi everyone!

Here's what is going on. I adopted a 45 gallon marine tank from my brother. It's pretty old. Maybe 15-20 years old. Here's what I took from what he had:

Live Rock (although apparently not enough live rock for the size of the tank)
Some existing sand (maybe 1 cup?
5-10 gallons of his original water to keep the rocks alive in transport
sump (might be just 7 gallons, so not very big)
pump (I'm not sure of its specs) with return hose
overflow box with pre-filter -- but it was so old and brittle it fell apart, so I replaced it
bio balls --I've rinsed these out, and put back 3/4 since I'm phasing them out slowly. I'm hoping to set up a refugium later on
salinity tester

Here's what I bought and are in use/in the tank:
API saltwater test kit
1 pre-cured live rock from a reputable aquarium store
10 hermit crabs and 10 snails for starters
a bag of live sand
Crystal Sea salt (not sure of the name...bag's downstairs)
a penguin power head, just to keep the water flow going in the lower part of the tank -- safety basket around it to keep fish from getting sucked
Purigen in the trickle part of my sump to help with the nitrates

I also bought, but haven't hooked up:
used Berlin Red Sea skimmer--I still need to buy hoses since it didn't come with any
Rio pump, new, that they said will work great for my needs

OK. I'm familiar with an aquarium's cycle, since I have experience with freshwater tanks.I have not put any fish in there because... I am at a total loss at why my nitrates are at 160+ppm!!! I've never had that sort of problem. My ammonia and nitrites are 0PPM and holding steady there. I've been doing 10-20% water changes for the past 4 days, and I would have thought that at LEAST the levels would go down even just a little...but it doesn't seem to be helping. I know it will take a while, but hasn't gone down at ALL. Now, I did check the saltwater before I put it in my tank, and I detected maybe 20ppm of nitrates already (straight from the tap, and I treated it with Prime for the ammonia, chloramine, and chlorine). Could that amount be causing my difficulty in lowering my tank's nitrate levels? I didn't think nitrates would be THAT HIGH during the cycle process.

I'd like some insight on this. My brother had stopped really caring for the tank a year ago after losing his last fish to ich. He just maintained the water levels and salinity, but nothing else. I rinsed out the sump, rinsed the live rock a little in salt water to shake off some of the bad growth, I've rinsed out the filter sponge in the sump. What could it be?
The nitrates in the tap water aint helping none.
You'll need to either invest in a RO/DI filter,get RO/DI water from your LFS if they have it,or use distilled water.
And you'll probably have nitrates leaching out of the rock for a while since they are so high.
Could also be a faulty test kit.Might be a good idea to have your LFS test the parameters,just to double check.
Yeah, I figured about the nitrates in the tap. I know my LFS charges $.50/gallon of freshwater, and $1/gallon of saltwater. It looks like I'm in for a lot of partial water changes...

So I'll have my LFS test my water, and if it confirms my home tests, the partial water changes should hopefully lower it if I do it with distilled or RO water. Like you said, it doesn't help that my tap has detectable nitrates. That sucks cuz I've been using up salt. LOL I didn't think to test my tap until day 3 of water changes. DUH.

So as far as my LR goes, is there anything I can do to get them to stop spewing out nitrates, if that is what they're doing? and is it worth it at this juncture to get some mangrove to help with the nitrates?
Replacing old nitrate rich water with new nitrate rich water during a water change doesn't help. You can buy RODI water in any grocery store and even Walmart for really cheap. But in the end, buying an RODI unit usually pays off, especially if you plan on sticking with this hobby.

I've had my nitrates that high before (and this was while I had fish and corals, eek). It takes MONTHS of water changes to get levels like that down. Ideally, you want your levels below 20, and you may just end up having to bite the bullet and do 10 to 20% water changes daily or every other day until it gets there.
Does this make's late and i'm
You are removing water that's 160. So if you took out 20% and replaced it with pure water, it should drop by 32 (20%) to 128. But that's if you used water that was 0. You are using water thats 20. Looks like your are lowering it, but it will take a long time and lots of changes with tap water to make a dent in that #.
If you can't find RO or DI water a good carbon filter will help a lot but carbon will not take out phosphates. Water filtered by both RO and DI is the surest bet though.
Everyone's got you covered, but I will throw in my 2 cents.
Take your water to the LFS for a 2nd test.
Depending on how long your test kit was sitting (even if new from a store), it could be bad.
I have had 2 kits bad on me....showing blood red nitrates when I was actually at zero!!
I tested premixed water straight from a prepack bottle and it was blood red too!

Just another thought for you.
You'll do MUCH better when the skimmer is hooked up. The skimmer removes the dissolved organics BEFORE they can be broken down by the nitrogen cycle. Removing those organics will be a great start at controlling and reducing the nitrates.

Another thing I'd do is add more live rock to the tank. 1lb per gallon is the minimum. I started out with 2lbs per gallon in my 30g and as I filled the tank with corals over the course of a year, I slowly took about 10lbs out and put them in the nano. I think you should buy small quantities of live rock and put them in the tank. The reason I say small quantities is because you have an existing tank here. It's alive and you want to avoid killing the livestock as much as possible. It's frowned on in the hobby. :mrgreen:

If you put in 5lbs and wait for it to cure--say 2 months? -- then you can put in 5lbs more and wait for that. You will experience a small cycle with each new bit of live rock. It's the nature of the beast. But those cycles will begin to have less and less impact because there is always more and more rock to take up the cycle from the newest bit of rock.

It will take time to load up on the rock. I'd even consider taking the current rock OUT if you have any suspicions it may be leaching. Just do it slowly. Add 5lbs of new rock and wait a month. Take out 5lbs of old rock. Wait a month. Add 5lbs again and take 5lbs out again. In a year you'll have it all changed out.

I'd also modify that wet-dry and put 6" of sand in it. There's a million DIY ways to mod a wet-dry into a nice sump/refugium. Drop your skimmer on the sump or inside the sump. You're going to take the bio-balls out of it anyway. There has got to be a way to add a baffle and put some sand in there. Do some searches here in the equipment forum. If you don't find anything there, try reef central.

I'd take the previous advice and spend the $100 for a good RO/DI unit right away. Then get the skimmer going. Then mod the sump and get a DSB and cheato in there. After that you can start messing with the live rock. I'd do the rocks last. Thats the part that will require the most time. You'll create mini-cycles each time you add or remove rocks. If the DSB, skimmer and RO unit are all doing their job, you'll have minimal headaches when you start on the live rock. RUSH to get the RO, skimmer and DSB. Go SLOW on the rocks.
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