Reefing newb
I have a 55 gal reef tank that has been up and running for 2+ years. For the past six months I have not been able to get the nitrates to stay under 40 ppm. Most of the time the water is reading 60 ppm to 80 ppm.
Tank: Contains aprox. 75 pounds of live rock with a 2 inch sand bed. 1 each; Ocellaris Clownfish, Yellow Tang, Coral Beauty Angelfish, Six Line Wrasse, Clarkii Clownfish, Sally Lightfoot Crab, Porcelain Anemone Crab, Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp, Sand Sifting Star, Serpent Star, Rock Flower Anemone, Long Tentacle Anemone, Mushroom Anemone, Brain Coral, Porite Hard Coral, Starburst Encrusting Polyp Coral, Button Polyp Coral, Yellow Polyp Coral, Glove Polyp Coral, Bumble Bee Snails, Astraea Conehead Snails, Turbo Snails, Cerith Snails. The fish and inverts are fine. The corals are opening up and spreading.
Mechanics:Eheim filter with 2 baskets. Bottom is filled with Eheim Substrat Pro. Top has 2 bags of Purigen, Eheim porous filter and filter floss. Bio-wheel with charcaol cartridge. Protein skimmer that runs 24/7. Arctica chiller with pump. Tank has a lot of water movement. (Purigen added 3 months ago to help lower nitrates.)
Additives:Iodine weekly. Selcon once daily added to food. DT"s Reef Blend Phytoplankton every other day. Minimum amount of food for fish. Oceanic Salt with reverse osmosis water.
Husbandry:Replace filter floss and change 10% water weekly. Every 2 weeks clean out skimmer. Once month siphon sand. Replace Purigen as necessary. Using Aquarium Pharmaceuticals nitrate test kit. Ammonia and Nitrites are 0ppm.
Last week, in desperation, I moved all the rock, siphoned all sand and blew off rocks with power head. Nitrates lowered to 10 ppm for 24 hours then started rising again. Today is is at 80 ppm. I have tested the water before adding to tank and no nitrates. I am stumped. If you have any suggestions please let me know. Thank you in advance.
Hi Traci,
Welcome To The Forum. Well First Off You Need To Try And Determine Where The Nitrates Are Commiing From. Start By Checking Your Makeup Water And Your Fresh Saltwater Used For Water Changes, Evaluate Any Additives You Are Adding In The Form Of Food. Then If Nothing Seems Obvious, Increase Your Water Changes To 20 % Weekly In The Short Term, Blow Off The Rocks Once A Week Sort Of Like A Storm (turkey Baster/small Pump With Hose On End), Do Not Blow Hard On The Corals, If You Continue To Get Detritus In Suspension Keep It Up And Do It Just Before Water Changes, Then Clean Out Your Canister Filters At Least Once Every 10 Days And Also Carbon If You Run It 24/7. Never Use Ro/di Water From Your Ro System If It Has Set For More Than Several Days, Always Run It Long Enough To Purge The Ro System Before Collecting For Your System, Bio-wheels Are Nitrate Producers Also, Something To Consider. Two Little Fishes Has A Denitrate Reactor For Apprx. 40 Bucks, And Phos-ban For Specifically Removing Nitrates. We Have Had Feed Back Of Good Results From Members On Our Site. Now Even If You Identify The Cause Of The Nitrates, What You Are Experiancing Is Not Uncommon For The Nitrates To Initally Go Back Up. Just Keep After It And Eventually The Nitrates Will Lower And Stay Down. Nitrates Could Be Saturating Out Of The Rock And Will Take Some Time To Clear Out To An Acceptable Level. Clean All Detritus Out Of All Equipment Weekly Or At Least Every 10 Days. If You Keep Up With A Maintenance Schedule Extrodinaire For The Short Term It Will Pay You Back In The Long Term, Naturally Keep An Eye On The Animals And Corals, As A Drastic Reduction In Nitrates At One Time Can Affect The Animals. So Just Keep An Eye On Everyone And Keep Good Notes When And What You Do So If Your Animals Do Not Respond Favoralbly You Can Figure Out What You Did And Correct From There. Hope This Helps. Also Please Visit Our Helpful Articles As There Is A Lot Of Information There That Will Help You . Hope Something Here Helps. Hope You Find The Site, Inforative, Fun, And Helpful. Good Luck And Happy Fishin.
Thanks for your suggestions. I have been reading everything I can come across online and some people are using sugar to reduce nitrates. They are saying it works. I have never heard of this. What are your thoughts?
I have heard of it but have no experiance with it. My opinion is if it is not marine dont put it in your system. bandaids abound out there, long term success is based on balancing the bio load of the system with the systems capabilities of supporting the bio load. if you do decide to use the sugar method you will need to educate on its pros and cons. adding something to your system just because it works in the short term is a formula for long term difficulties, especially if you do not understand why you are adding it and the long term affects. I CANNOT RECOMMEND THE SUGAR METHOD AT THIS TIME DUE TO MY APPROACH TO THE HOBBY AND LACK OF PERSONAL EXPERIANCE WITH IT. sorry not much help but I'm sure some others will weight in here also.
It may be obvious, but how often are you feeding your fish? Try feeding your fish once every other day, and back down on your additives. How many inches of fish do you have per gallon? Could have too much bio-load for your tank. Wish I could be more helpful.

-Dr Marco
I am feeding twice a day. I thought that is what I was supposed to do. I think I have one two many fish for the bio load. The problem is that I am now attached to them and I would not know what one to get rid of. I would appreciate knowing often you feed your fish.
To add to the above Aquarium Pharmaceuticals test kits expire and give false readings. There is a date code on the bottom of the bottle. Have had your LFS test the water to see if the results are the same. Also with a large bioload you might want to increase your percentage of water change maybe %15.A good way to reduce is though dilution with some like a refugium.The macro will take up the nitrates. Also the deep sand bed will help reduce the nitrates as well
Ahhhhhh. you are right, THE SOLUTION TO POLUTION IS DILUTION. Then determine how to keep it down, larger, more frequent water changes, a nitrate reactor, etc. good luck keep us posted.
I like the water change idea if your bioload is too large. I do about 15% weekly cuz I have messy eaters (lionfish, moray eel, Triggerfish). I feed my boys (girls, who knows) every other day a half a cube of frozen fish preparations. I vary between emerald entree, mysid shrimp and angel food preps. I also add every fourth day three medium silversides for the eel and lionfish. My nitrates are at 0. I also have tons of water flow so the waste and excess nutrients are kicked around the tank and give the overflow box a better chance to gather up the yuckies... Hope that helped.

-Dr Marco :sfish: