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Innovative Marine Aquariums

Help with Nitrates

Dave MN Nano

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Dave MN Nano


This is my first saltwater tank. It's been up and running about 8 months. Not exactly sure if I am doing anything right.  I wonder if I should be worried about nitrates??? Here is my setup:
20 gallon long tank
HOB Aqueon filter
HOB refugium with chaeto
No skimmer
Current USA Marine Orbit IC LED dual lights set on 14k color (par should be from 50 - 175 where my coral are)
Fish: 2 oscellarus clowns, firefish goby, yellow watchman goby. Bengai cardinal
Inverts: pistol shrimp, skunk cleaner shrimp, 5 hermit crabs
Corals: zoas, palys, 1 hammer, 1 xenia, GSP, bubble coral, duncans, Ricordia mushroom, candy cane, toadstool leather, 1 acan, 1 favia, 1 clove polyp
water test: amonia = nitrite = nitrate = 0, calcium = 420 and dkh = 9 (API test),   phosphate = 0.03 ,(Red Sea test), salt = 1.025
Fish all look good. YWM Goby and pistol shrimp paired (very fun).
My xenia has really gone downhill since I got it (my first coral about 3 months ago) looks bad now. Shrinking and moving less and less. I know these should grow like weeds. Zoas and Palys and hammer and gsp and toadstool and candy cane have grown. Not much change in any of the others.
Question: Should I worry about my low nitrates? Is my xenia doing bad because of this or something else? Would my coral grow faster if my nitrates were 5-10? I think this is a full load of fish for this tank and even after a month without a water change, maybe my phosphates get up to 0.05 and nitrates still 0!!!! I have turned my refugium light down to 5 hours a day. I feed more dry food and less brine (supposed to increase nitrates more than phosphates says BRSTV), still no luck. Should I stick with what I am doing and call this relatively successful, so far, or do something different to get nitrates up????
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I would always aim to keep nitrates at least 5-10 in a tank with softies.


If you have a light over your chaeto you can try reducing its light cycle...by a lot. 


Xenia are very sensitive to low nitrate and will decline very fast if its too low.

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My tank was low on nitrate I did smaller water changes and laid off vacuuming the gravel I started to target feed corals just a lil more and added a power feeding day for the fish and crabs I finally got my nitrate from barely detectable to 10ish I know the tank looks better with higher nitrates I vacuume the gravel when my nitrates start to creep up higher than I want I run gfo to keep phosphate in check

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Chaeto will reduce nutrients because it uses nutrients and then corals use it as well. 


Phos shouldn't be low, as the chaeto grows and corals grow they will use it up more. So its 0.05 now but that can quickly drop to 0


 nitrates should be 5-10


Brine shrimp is a treat, not as nutritious as other foods. mysis would be better

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Dave MN Nano

Feeding mysis shrimp and pellets twice a day. About 2x the food I was feeding. Also now feeding coral every other day, reef roids and brine shrimp. Planning not to do a water change until I get nitrates and phosphates higher. Also watching calcium to make sure it’s not depleted. I think I will try the more food approach for a while before I think about dosing nitrates. 

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  • 3 weeks later...
Dave MN Nano

Still at about 1 ppm nitrates. Got a Salifert kit to measure that low. Took most of the chaeto out. Got maybe a hunk the size of a golf ball left. Lights on 1 hour per day just to keep it alive in case I need it again someday. Phosphates still 0.03. My target is 5 ppm nitrates and 0.05 phosphates.

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  • 6 months later...

Hey Dave...or anyone else... feeding heavier help get your nitrates up? I'm trying to do the same...


don't have a fuge, but running carbon and purigen. maybe I need to pull the purigen? 


I have mostly Soft corals...if my nitrates are low, should I feed them directly to get them a little juice?

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1 hour ago, emmysnewtank said:

Hey Dave...or anyone else... feeding heavier help get your nitrates up? I'm trying to do the same...


I had 1 fish in a 10 gallon.  Extra feeding with adding another fish has caused my nitrates to go up.  I was stuck at zero for 9 months and has climbed slowly to 2 within a week.  I think it'll keep climbing but I can not confirm that just yet. 


Got a big clown and a Talbot's damsel who is a little piglet and so far can eat any time of day many times a day.  I'm sticking to twice a day feeding though.  I'm feeding a little more dirty but not too much.



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