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Big Nitrate spike


drfu

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So I'm having a nitrate spike over the last 4 days and am guessing on what could have caused it. Its up to 25 ppm!!! Its usually around 2.5-5ppm!

 

What i have done so far is 2 20% water changes in the last three days, removed all algae from back water column, vac sand-bed, did a search for dead livestock.

 

I have two guesses on why:

 

1) I stirred up the sand-bed & live rock with my powerhead before my first water change 3 days ago?

2) i haven't seen my two Trochus snails for a couple of days, may be dead? Maybe others

 

What i think i have ruled out:

Over feeding of fish

I use ro, not tap water

 

What i am planning to try next:

Another 20% wc tomorrow

Replace purigen & cpe as they are about two months old.

 

Im at a loss as to why this might have happened as i have had little issues with my water chem except for a bit of phosphorus. Below is my set up.

 

Equipment:

IM Nuvo 8, running ff, cpe & purigen

Added small ball of cheato wiith InTank submersible grow light

 

Livestock:

Two juvilelile o clowns

Two sexy shrimp

Cuc consisting of nerites, trochus, nassarius & ceriths.

 

Chemestry: 3 month average

Sg 1.025

Ph 7.8-8

No detectable copper, ammonia, nitrites

Alk7-11dkh

Ca 500

Phosphorus 6-20ppb or phosphates between .03-.1

Nitrates 2-5-5ppm

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Stirring the sand bed can release trapped organics and nutrients. Plus, if one or more of your snails died in the tank, that would add more nitrate too.

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Stirring the sand bed can release trapped organics and nutrients. Plus, if one or more of your snails died in the tank, that would add more nitrate too.

 

Those seem to be my concludions as well, thanks for the reassurance. Now comes how to deal with it and im not sure how.

 

First if i had my two trocus snails die due to nothing left to eat should i get a hermit crab to take care of what ever remains are left? I can not see either of the shells from the banded snails, nor can i remove any live rock to go digging for them?

 

Second will another water change help this out? Should i change my media anyways?

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Only get a Hermit Crab if you want to keep it long term. I happen to like one or two in my tank to add interest. However, your tank should be fine without one.

 

A 20% water change will drop nitrate from 25ppm to 20ppm, so don't expect to make great strides with a few smallish sized water changes. A couple of 50% changes would bring them down faster. However, nitrate isn't usually something that you have to worry about much.

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Nano sapiens

I'm dealing with a similar issue due to too many pellets being auto-fed for two weeks while on vacation, plus I found a frag plug of zoas that were dying under the sand. Any organiic material, whether detritus, snails, fish, etc can cause a nitrate spike (especially in a small pico or nano tank). I don't use the larger snails at all in my small tank since they can really add a lot of nutrients to the tank when they die.

 

Nitrate is not 'toxic' in the usual sense, but higher levels can cause changes in coral coloration (zooanthellae growth) and other tank algae/cyan to proliferate. Really high levels can be more problematic.

 

Since I've dealt with this before many years back I know what to expect. I take a long-term and perhaps more subtle approach which is to slowly decrease inputs of food (without starving the fish) while increasing WC amount a bit and removing detritus via vacuuming (especially under the rocks). I have found it best to vacuum sections of the tank every week or two instead of trying to vacuum the whole SB all at once. I also, turkey baste the rocks a couple times a week and use a filter sock on my outflow for an hour or two whenever I stir things up via vacuuming.

 

This can be a long process (months), but there comes a tipping point where within a day or three the SB algae just 'disappear'. This is a nice place to be :)

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Only get a Hermit Crab if you want to keep it long term. I happen to like one or two in my tank to add interest. However, your tank should be fine without one.A 20% water change will drop nitrate from 25ppm to 20ppm, so don't expect to make great strides with a few smallish sized water changes. A couple of 50% changes would bring them down faster. However, nitrate isn't usually something that you have to worry about much.
I thought nitrates of levels over 20 were bad and you want a tank to be under 5ppm. So what your saying is relax and not to stress over it then. Also i seen one of my Trochus snails so i don't think its something dead, must have beens the substrate being blown. Thanks

 

I'm dealing with a similar issue due to too many pellets being auto-fed for two weeks while on vacation, plus I found a frag plug of zoas that were dying under the sand. Any organiic material, whether detritus, snails, fish, etc can cause a nitrate spike (especially in a small pico or nano tank). I don't use the larger snails at all in my small tank since they can really add a lot of nutrients to the tank when they die. Nitrate is not 'toxic' in the usual sense, but higher levels can cause changes in coral coloration (zooanthellae growth) and other tank algae/cyan to proliferate. Really high levels can be more problematic. Since I've dealt with this before many years back I know what to expect. I take a long-term and perhaps more subtle approach which is to slowly decrease inputs of food (without starving the fish) while increasing WC amount a bit and removing detritus via vacuuming (especially under the rocks). I have found it best to vacuum sections of the tank every week or two instead of trying to vacuum the whole SB all at once. I also, turkey baste the rocks a couple times a week and use a filter sock on my outflow for an hour or two whenever I stir things up via vacuuming. This can be a long process (months), but there comes a tipping point where within a day or three the SB algae just 'disappear'. This is a nice place to be :)
Thanks, i will keep up with 20% changes and stop stressing about it.
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Nano sapiens

Seems the accepted 'norm' these days is to have a little nitrate in our tanks, so less than 5 ppm (Nitrate-Ion) is considered good with 1-2 ppm being excellent. The reality is that there are plenty of tanks with very healthy coral with 10 ppm or more nitrates. I have 15 ppm or so right now and some of my LPS and Rics are looking even better than when I had '0' nitrate. Only coral issue I've seen is a bit browning on a green Acropora millepora frag.

 

I just can't stand the SB algae, so I'm shooting for a low enough nitrate level where this stuff disappears.

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Seems the accepted 'norm' these days is to have a little nitrate in our tanks, so less than 5 ppm (Nitrate-Ion) is considered good with 1-2 ppm being excellent. The reality is that there are plenty of tanks with very healthy coral with 10 ppm or more nitrates. I have 15 ppm or so right now and some of my LPS and Rics are looking even better than when I had '0' nitrate. Only coral issue I've seen is a bit browning on a green Acropora millepora frag.

 

I just can't stand the SB algae, so I'm shooting for a low enough nitrate level where this stuff disappears.

 

As do want to keep mine down around the 1-2 range and have my phosphorus under 10 ppb which would correspond to around .02-.03 ppm.

 

I too have an issue with green algae on my glass that i must clean almost every day as well as replacing my ff. Its easy enough to do with my Two Little Fishes Nano Mag and the fact that i buy pillow stuffing from Walmart by the bag full but would prefer not to have to. I am going to use your approach, cleaning up small sections at a time vs the whole tank @ once!

 

After the tank running for over 3 months i didn't think this would still be going on hence why i was repositioning my powerhead to get rid of the crud pilling up on my sand bed in the first place.

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your options to reach the nitrate levels you want are increased water changes up to 90%, done commonly on a million threads to search for, not a big deal if you want to...or nitrate beads, adsorbtion media and various forms of plant refugiums. simply pick one and install if you prefer.

 

its also a nice option to put away your nitrate test kit and never use it again, free yourself up type of thing. Im test kit free since 2001. if you enjoy maintaining tedious levels thats an option, or the option exists to just do very large water changes weekly and not ever test it for any parameter including calcium, alk, ph, po4, no3, etc. Tedious testing is only one way, it is not the only way but if you want to attain those low level nutrients that can be done as well. The point of my post is that in a nano your size and smaller, any form of testing other than salinity and ph is optional and has been demonstrated for quite a long time now as a viable mode of reefkeeping. the hands off method. vodka dosing can specifically get you the nitrate measures you want if you like the detailed mode.

 

nobody has to switch from testing to a non testing mode if it feels awkward, you can use the big water change and cleaning option to catch your tank up to where its not leaking waste...then start the tedious prevention modes and go back to your normal wc methods. moving fish and rocks to a holding bucket, so you can clean the main tank, doesnt cause a mini cycle if you do it right. it allows you to actually clean the tank, mainly rinsing out the sandbed purely clean of detritus.

 

storage of detritus in your sandbed will likely make those low numbers impossible without some media binding, straight chemical binding of that nitrate, in place imo.

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The point of my post is that in a nano your size and smaller, any form of testing other than salinity and ph is optional and has been demonstrated for quite a long time now as a viable mode of reefkeeping.

Why are you testing pH? With that sort of maintenance schedule, you only need to be testing temperature and specific gravity.

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Good points brandon, it is my feeling that i will only testing once a week once everything is stable, and it was till i made the mistake of moving around my powerhead causing the sandbed to get stirred up. As Seabasssaod do small areas at a time i think will be my plan only if i get any build up. I hope then i also get rid of the green algae on my glass as well

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Nano sapiens

Good points brandon, it is my feeling that i will only testing once a week once everything is stable, and it was till i made the mistake of moving around my powerhead causing the sandbed to get stirred up. As Seabasssaod do small areas at a time i think will be my plan only if i get any build up. I hope then i also get rid of the green algae on my glass as well

 

The kicker with the SB is that people think "I'll leave it alone since I don't want to have it explode nutrients into the tank". This actually works for a while when the tank is relatively new and that's when the "I never clean my SB and my tank is doing great!" comments pop up. But over time, the SB and LR gets less and less efficient and the system gets increasing eutrophic...until it becomes an algae mess and possibly crashes. Cleaning up a dirty SB, even in small sections, is often not pretty as detritus is released into the water column which then typically causes more algae blooms. Persistence is the key and when enough detritus is finally removed, the algae will not have the nutrients that they need if the tank feeding is properly controlled.

 

A light 'dusting' of algae growing on the glass after a few days is generally okay and indicates phosphate availability in the tank. Many reef aquarists use this as a bio-marker to determine tank conditions, as do I. Corals and other organisms need to have some phosphate to thrive, so a little bit is okay.

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Well after my panic attack of having levels hitting almost 100 ppm I'm back down to 10 tonight! Since its just an 8 gallon tank i have been doing 15-20% wc 3 times a day, being careful too match ph & temp to my tank water. Will be doing a couple of more tomorrow and should have it down back to 3 by the end of the weekend then will check the rest of the chemistry to make sure nothing went out of whack! Lesson learned!

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Nano sapiens

Check your nitrate levels regularly after you are done with your large WCs. If you notice a steady rise, then you still have to reduce in tank nutrients.

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Check your nitrate levels regularly after you are done with your large WCs. If you notice a steady rise, then you still have to reduce in tank nutrients.

 

Good call, thx

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