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nitrates shot up after removing biowheel

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brandonp View Drop Down
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    Posted: August 02 2015 at 10:01am
Hey everyone i need some help on my nitrates. I received some advice from someone on the forum who told me to ditch the wheels in my biowheels. Did as advised and noticed my nitrates shot up quickly after doing that. Went from barely detectable to somewhere between 30 and 50 (test with low range red sea nitrates kit). I have since added a product recommended by my lfs that has tiny bits of carbon and something else that helps with nitrates that comes in a media bag and is good for 4 months. It wasn't helping with nitrates the first week of using it. Then i purchased denitrate, changed filter pads, put chaeto into the biowheel canisters and have light on the chaeto during the day about 14 hours (need smaller less bright lights so i can run them at night and not bother the fish). I have also noticed either detritus or something else floating in my water which I'm sure i kicked up while vacuuming the sand (should mention system is 2 years old and former owner didn't vacuum). So the crap in the water is my fault I'm sure. But could the biowheels being removed have caused such a change as to affect my nitrates like that? One person who seems very knowledgeable says yes. Just wishing i had left them in now even though most say ditch them. Seems like trying to prevent nitrates caused them in my case. So now that my water quality went to crap how do i deal with this. Changing around 25% water a week seems to do nothing for me. Should i get a filter sock and use my little circulating pump i mix water with to pump water through the sock and clean up my water? Maybe it's detritus causing nitrates? Any advise would be extremely helpful. No refugium hence the chaeto in the biowheel canister and I am running a little hob protein skimmer. Please help before my corals get too unhappy. Thanks in advance to everyone. Forgot to mention there is about 70 lbs live rock in my 55 gal.
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Mark Peterson View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 02 2015 at 9:24pm
I asked quite a few questions in my response to your PM about this. Feel free to answer them here.

As you discovered, vacuuming disturbs the biofiltration contained in the Live Sand. Nitrogen pollution becomes noticeable if the filtration cannot handle all that the tank is producing. In a way, food is the culprit. Assuming that Ammonia and Nitrite were not tested, you can be sure they have risen too. 

The stuff floating around in the water is not harmful. In actual fact that stuff is mostly clumps of bacteria that have been stirred out of the sand. I wouldn't worry about it too much. It will settle.

Feeding less is the best answer in the short run. Developing more biofiltration capacity is the best long term fix. Evidently there was more than one biowheel running. Removing all at the same time would not have been advisable. We give the same advice with regards to bioballs; removed slowly in steps. The reason for this is that it takes time for biofiltration to catch up to a sudden change. The way I see it, the problem with using biowheels is that if something happens to that electrical unit, there is nothing to replace it. We have also seen that biowheels actually retard the development of an efficient biofiltration within the tank. In my opinion and experience, it's better to develop the tanks biofiltration to take care of the pollution. This is also why I have been heard to say that a Skimmer is not a necessary part of reefkeeping, because the tank can become overdependent on it. 

Anyway, there's no sense crying over spilled milk, now that the biowheels are gone, the issue is what to do now Question

As an important note, a temporary spike in N compounds will not seriously damage the animals. Many tanks run just fine at Nitrate levels above 20 ppm and Nitrate levels approaching 50 ppm is not necessarily a serious emergency.

Best thing to do right now is to stop feeding completely. This will allow N to drop quickly as the tanks biofiltration catches up and processes the current waste. I look forward to the answers to my questions so we can help you improve the situation with a long term fix.

Aloha,
Mark  Hug

P.S. Fish and coral will be just fine without feeding for a week or so. They actually appreciate the improved water quality that quickly cleans up and feels fresher when feeding is suspended. The fish then eat what they find in the tank. This makes the entire tank look cleaner. Smile
Also, as you have noticed, large water changes are not the answer. A 25% water change may reduce the pollution level by 25% for a few hours or a day but if nothing else is changed/improved the pollution levels often rebound to previously unacceptable numbers. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote brandonp Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 02 2015 at 11:41pm
Thank you mark. I have pm'd you. Look forward to picking your brain. Thanks again
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote brandonp Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 03 2015 at 3:45pm
To anyone who may be removing bio wheels or bio pellets. After Mark Peterson and i talked he mentioned that i should update anyone who may be reading this post as far as what to do if you plan on discontinuing the use of either of these products. Mark advises anyone who is phasing either of these out to do so slowly. I have 2 biowheel units and both have 2 wheels in them. Instead of removing all 4 at once i should have stretched it out. Lesson learned
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 04 2015 at 5:54am
It was good to talk with you. I hope our conversation was beneficial. By the way, I was speaking of bioballs needing to be removed in steps, slowly, the same as biowheels.  Biopellets are different, but that's another topic.

Aloha,
Mark  Hug
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote brandonp Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 04 2015 at 6:34am
Thanks for the clarification Mark. And yes it was very beneficial. Thanks again kind sir.
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