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Nitrate’s high and stuff are dying.

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mrkelson View Drop Down
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    Posted: March 11 2003 at 4:16pm
Hi everyone.  I have been running a 50g with a double biowheel filter.  But lately my nitrate levels are through the roof, and my aquatic pets keep dying.  Does the biowheel filters filter enough, or will a wet/dry system work better to lower my nitrate and provide enough water movement for the pets to survive.  Please let me know.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jfinch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 11 2003 at 4:54pm

You didn't mention if it's a reef or not.  Since you mention bio-wheels I'll assume you've got a fish only system.  If that's the case you're only nitrate export is water changes.  I would suggest 10% per week til the nitrates drop to an acceptable level.  If nitrates are the only problem, I don't seen any need to go to a wet/dry, keep the bio-wheels.

If it's reef (I'm assuming you've got 40 - 80 lbs live rock and/or a DSB) then slowly get rid of the bio-wheels.  You still need to do water changes to get the nitrates under control.  Target 10 - 20 ppm doing water changes, then remove one of the biowheels, wait, remove the other bio-wheel, wait, remove any other biological/mechanical filter (floss, mats, ect).  Make sure you've got plenty of circulation in the tank.  Maybe a few more water changes.  Key is to do this slowly and test your water.  Most reefs operate near zero nitrate (certainly under 5 ppm).

 

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Sarnack View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarnack Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 11 2003 at 4:59pm

Biowheels and wet/dry filters do the same thing, provide a place for bacteria to colonize.  The bacteria convert ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate.  To get rid of the nitrate you have a few options: water changes, nutrient export by harvesting algae, deep sand bed or plenumn, or denitrator filter. 

Has it been a gradual increase in nitrate over time or a spike lately? 

Dave

 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Jared B Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 11 2003 at 8:57pm
How old is your filter media on the bio-wheel?  Your fish and system could be producing much more than your bio-wheel is able to pull out.  I would suggest looking into other means of nutrient export if you are experiencing higher levels of nitrates, etc in your tank.  On my own system, I have a 40 gal. tank, 15 gal. sump, with 120+ lbs live rock, 100+ lbs sand, a filter sock, Aqua-C skimmer, and an 8 gal. refugium.  On top of that, I do a 10% water change every week or so.  Everything is geared towards excess nutrient export.  As a result, I never experience any high levels of adverse nutrients at all and am able to keep a relatively high number of fish and corals together while maintaining great water parameters.  In my experience, I have found that bio-wheels are not as effective as more natural means of export.  Take this as you will - Jared.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rfoote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 11 2003 at 9:00pm

Question on bioballs and mat?  I purchased my setup used and it was previously used as a reef tank as well.  I hucked the plenum that came with it, but kept the bioballs and mat that are part of the sump.  Are you saying I should remove both of these?  My nitrates are a little high - 10-15, and very steady around there.  About a month ago I experienced my first bout with Cyano and have that under control now.  However, now I have this nasty brown long hair algae I can't get rid of.  Any suggestions?  Thanks!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarnack Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 11 2003 at 10:03pm

Jared - the age on a bio-wheel does not matter.  They do not "pull out" or export anything.  They are just a place for bacteria to grow.  The end result of filtration of a closed system with a bio-wheel filter is Nitrate.  If the bio-wheel was not doing it's job there would be ammonia and or nitrites. 

You do bring up a good point that I missed though if you don't want to deal with nitrates then try to get the waste out of the tank before mineralization occurs by skimming the ammonia containing waste before the bacteria have a chance to convert it to nitrite->nitrate.

rfoote - if you have a good amount of LR and LS and your tank is established then there really is no need for bioballs.  If you do decide to pull them make sure it is very slowly (like a couple of balls per day)  I'm not sure what you are talking about with the "mat" 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rfoote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 11 2003 at 10:08pm
There is a mat that the water drops onto first and then into the bioballs.  I generally replace the mat every month and it is nasty.  Dirty, smelly, messy, the whole bit.  I wouldn't mind if I got rid of it.  I have about 150 lbs of live rock as well as a DSB.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Jake Pehrson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 11 2003 at 11:10pm

As stated before.  Nitrate is only reduced in a low oxygen area (deep sand beds, etc.) and exported via other means (water changes, algae).

If you want to reduce the nitrate naturally keep these in mind.

 

Jake Pehrson

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coralplanet.com

:)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jfinch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 11 2003 at 11:32pm

I think you'll find there is a variety of ways to operate a successful reef tank.  In my opinion, there is no need for any bio filtration where the end product is nitrate i.e. bio wheels, mats, bio balls, even the filter sock seen on a lot of sumps.  IMO, 10 - 15 ppm nitrate is high.  Your corals most likely won't suffer too much from these levels, but you're more likely to have bouts of nuscence algae.  

rfoot, try this:  remove the mat first.  Let it sit a week (check for NH3/nitrite), then start removing bioballs one every day or two.  Keep checking NH3/nitrate.  You may have to do a water change or two after you're done before you nitrates drop.  If at any time you detect NH3/nitrite just stop and hold there until the tank cycles again.  Then start removing media again.

(if you're running your overflow into a sock, next time you change it, turn it inside out and examine.  It makes me sick to see all the little critters stuck in the sock...without a sock at least they have a chance to make it though the return pump and back into the tank.  It makes me almost want to stop skimming )

 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarnack Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 11 2003 at 11:45pm
rfoote - then the mat is acting as a mechanical filter removing the debris before getting to the bioballs (imagine how gross the balls would be after a few months with no pad)  so I would say that even if you pull the bioballs keep the mat just to keep junk from floating around in the water column.  If you are concerned that the pad is becoming a biological filter and creating nitrates then you can replace it more frequently like every other week or you can wash the pad weekly in hot water to kill the bacteria and rinse out the junk then replace the pad every month or so.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rfoote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 12 2003 at 5:41am
sarnack and jfinch - I thought the one good thing the bio balls were helping with is adding oxygen to the tank.  Is this not true?  I understand Nitrate can't be broke down where high levels of oxygen are present, but I also thought oxygen was essential to a reef. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rfoote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 12 2003 at 6:35am

mrkelson - sorry haven't meant to take over your posting here.   Another question - Obviously when setting up my tank I was given some bad advise in a couple different items.  Another one I'm thinking at this point is I went with a crushed coral substrate - about 4" deep.  From everything I've been reading and stuff by Ron Shimek - you need to go with a fine sand.  I've had my tank up a little over a year now and been very slow about things, and other than slightly high nitrate my levels are good.  I don't know how I would go about replacing my crushed coral or if it would cause more harm.   Here are my levels;

Salinity 1.025

Alkalinity 8.5

Phosphate 0

Nitrate 10-15

PH 8.2

Calcium 440

 

Thanks!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rfoote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 12 2003 at 7:30am

Been thinking about it and I'm thinking my best option is probably to throw on a refugium with a real dsb in it.  Only problem is it would have to go in the basement.  I'll have to figure out a way to get the water back up and into the tank.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jfinch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 12 2003 at 8:02am
Quote: Originally posted by rfoote on 12 March 2003
sarnack and jfinch - I thought the one good thing the bio balls were helping with is adding oxygen to the tank.  Is this not true?  I understand Nitrate can't be broke down where high levels of oxygen are present, but I also thought oxygen was essential to a reef. 

The bioballs, on there own, do not add significantly to oxygen levels (the trickling water would though).  Bio balls were meant to be used in a wet/dry sump.  The bacteria that process ammonia to nitrite to nitrate need oxygen for this reaction.  When you let the water from the tank splash/trickle over a bed of bio balls you have an ideal nitrate producing situation...high surface area (bio balls) for bacterial growth and high oxygen levels since the water is falling through air.  As far as oxygen levels in the reef, if you operate a skimmer there will always be ample O2 in the water.  If you don't have a skimmer, you should have good water movement at the surface of the tank (and plants help too).

Bio balls (wet/dry, trickle filters) are the bomb in fish only systems, but IMO, are not needed in a reef aquarium.

Perhaps a review of the nitrogen cycle in in order:  All aquatic animals produce ammonia (NH3) and dissolved organic matter (DOM).  The DOM can easily be broken down to NH3 or removed in a protein skimmer.  In an evironment with oxygen present, the NH3 is consumed by bacteria and dumped back into the system as nitrite.  Another bacteria consumes the nitrite and expells nitrate.  It's the enzimatic oxidation of nitrogen.  Nitrate is fully oxydized so no further reactions take place.  The tradional way to get rid of the nirate is water changes.  In an environoment without oxygen, the reactions occur in reverse.  Nitrate is reduced to nitrite, nitrite is reduced to ammonia then the really nice reaction takes place.  ammonia is converted to nitrogen (N2) which just degasses from the aquarium.  This is what happens in plenum and/or deep sand bed and will also happen in slightly porous rock (live rock).

In reality all these bacteria are present in all aquariums competing for dominance.

From this model, it seems logical (to me) to want to reduce/inhibit the oxidation steps as much as possible by skimming the DOM and letting the live rock convert the ammonia to nitrogen.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Firefish Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 12 2003 at 9:04am
That is NOT a bad nitrate problem if you could call it a problem.  10-15 is not bad at all.  When you get up to around 60 or more I would start worrying a little.  My nitrates remain around 30 and my fish thrive.  I would seriously look at other possible problems.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rfoote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 12 2003 at 9:28am

Things are healthy - Corals are thriving, I've only ever lost one fish - due to the dumb wrasse jumping out of the back of the tank.  I had the tank up for about a year and had my first Cyano attack.  I have gotten rid of that successfully naturally.  Now I just have this nuisance green/brown algae on a good portion of my rock.  Firefish - you say to look at other possible problems - what would you suggest?  I am tedious about water changes and testing water.  Including my ro/di water.  The only thing I have not tested it for is TDS.  Jon - thanks for the info.!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jfinch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 12 2003 at 9:49am

rfoote:  How did you get rid of the cyano?  increased water circulation? (I've never had cyano...knock on wood).

firefish:  IME, Fish can survive very high nitrates indeed.  Much higher then 60 ppm.  I have not had experience keeping corals above 10 - 15 ppm.  I have seen tanks in that nitrate range with fine corals but always fighting hair algea.  I've always attributed this to the nitrates (I don't know how high the phosphates were).  If you have nitrates you have "food' for algea, put some nice looking macro algea in the tank and see if it will out-compete the hair. 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rfoote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 12 2003 at 9:59am

jfinch - where can I pick up some nice looking macro algae? 

 Getting rid of the Cyano was not easy.  I did several things - First of all I left my dsb alone - When doing water changes I would clean down I believe now too deep into the dsb - bringing up crap that had not completed its anaerobic cycle.  2nd - Over a months period I did a 75 gal(50%) water change every week.(major pain).  3rd - Replaced Mh Bulbs with new ones.  4th - Almost daily pulled up all Cyano with a turkey baster that I could.  5th - Bought two large Conch's - they have done wonders!  6th - Started dosing with ESV B-Ionic Calcium Buffer System to bring PH and Alk up.  7th - During this time held feeding and lighting to a minimum.

Sorry for the novel - Not sure which exactly addressed the source or if it was a combination of all.  However, it is gone and no traces - 4+ months later.  Just now this crappy brown/hair algae left behind.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rfoote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 12 2003 at 10:00am

Sorry - yes also increased water circulation - Originally I just had one 3/4 inch sea swirl.  Added 2 - 1200 and 2 - 900 Maxi Jets on timers.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote paulataylor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 12 2003 at 10:18am

 Just wanted to add my two cents worth, in my 90 gal tank i have no skimmer, no sock, no bio wheel, I do have bio balls in the over flow and some in  the sump to keep the culerpa from where it should be under 24 hr light.

7 month old system, 0 nitrate, 0 nitrite, 0 amon. no problem algea yet.

It may not last but is doing great so far.

check out www.ecosystemaquarium.com for more testimonials.

 

Paul A. Taylor
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