Fine tuning the daily NoPoX dose

rocknut

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 9, 2014
Messages
214
Reaction score
52
Location
Arizona
So, this is basically a follow up post to a thread I started a few weeks back on the Red Sea forum, and more or less resolved. That resolution brought up a few more questions/clarifications I was hoping to get more information on, however, regarding the balance of nutrient levels, and how they pertain to the daily dose of NoPoX.

Here is the nutshell version of my previous post: I was using a media reactor with Seachem Matrix that ended up getting clogged up with detritus, and I believe raising my nitrates from the stable level they were at of around 8, up to somewhere between 16-32. I pulled this reactor offline, and did four large, 25% (40 gallons each) water changes, and was able to bring my nitrate level back to 8. With that in mind, I have always had an issue with unbalanced nutrients, having zero phosphates, and higher nitrates, which has made carbon dosing a little tricky. Now that I am looking at a nitrate level that would require a dose of 2/ml per 25 gallons, but a phosphate level that would require a much lower dose, what is the best course of action going forward?

As was suggested in my other thread, I am dosing some phosphate (Brightwell NeoPhos) to push my phosphate up to 0.03, and balance the nutrients to allow the NoPoX to work, which will work for now, but doesn’t seem like a long term fix. As soon as I don’t dose the NeoPhos, my phosphate is back to zero, and by zero, I mean ZERO on the Hanna Phosphorus checker. So, I understand that the nitrate level of my tank dictates a NoPoX dose of 12ml/day (150 gallon water volume), but the Phosphate level dictates a level of 6ml/day (or less). I know that I have read somewhere that the NoPoX will eventually bring the nutrients into balance, but I believe I am correct that if there is no phosphate, the carbon dosing can’t really work (redfield ratio)?

At this point is it basically a trial and error sort of thing? Lower the NoPoX dose until I can get the phosphates to show up, but try not to overshoot this so there is enough of a dose to bring my nitrates down from their current level of 8? Before I inadvertently bumped my nitrates up I was able to get my phosphates to just register at about 0.01 on the Hanna Phosphorus checker, but this didn’t do anything to lower my nitrates from hovering around 8, with a total dose of 3ml/day of NoPoX, for my total 150 gallon water volume. Since I am trying to move forward running the whole Red Sea SPS Dominant recipe, I know that I need to bring my nitrates down closer to 1, so not sure how to proceed.

I feel that it’s easy to just read the instructions on the NoPoX and dose “x” amount if nitrates are “x”, but think there must be more of a nuanced approach when fine tuning things, which I’m not sure I totally get.

Thanks in advance!
 

HolisticBear

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 17, 2017
Messages
1,846
Reaction score
4,419
Location
NYC
Thinking aloud. On the issue of being PO4 limited, but not NO3 limited. There is an separate import/export for both PO4 & NO3. Is the issue that you aren't adding enough P04 (food types), you're exporting PO4 too efficiently (GFO/Phosguard), you're creating too much NO3 (too much food, filter media vs liverock, source water high in NO3), or exporting NO3 too inefficiently (water changes, live rock, chemical products like zeolites or purigen that capture it before breaks down, dirty filter socks, not enough skimming, detritus).

It would be interesting to see what you have for import/export of each. Are you running GFO/Phosguard to remove P04? The other issue is whether P04 is really that low or is it actually sort of high and it's getting consumed by algae.
 
OP
rocknut

rocknut

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 9, 2014
Messages
214
Reaction score
52
Location
Arizona
Thinking aloud. On the issue of being PO4 limited, but not NO3 limited. There is an separate import/export for both PO4 & NO3. Is the issue that you aren't adding enough P04 (food types), you're exporting PO4 too efficiently (GFO/Phosguard), you're creating too much NO3 (too much food, filter media vs liverock, source water high in NO3), or exporting NO3 too inefficiently (water changes, live rock, chemical products like zeolites or purigen that capture it before breaks down, dirty filter socks, not enough skimming, detritus).

It would be interesting to see what you have for import/export of each. Are you running GFO/Phosguard to remove P04? The other issue is whether P04 is really that low or is it actually sort of high and it's getting consumed by algae.
Thanks for taking the time to read, and respond to my thread. Here are my responses:

Regarding food, I only have three fish in my 150 gallon display tank (one 5 inch Orange Shoulder Tang, one small Kole Tang, and one Flame Hawk fish). I feed two half sheets of Nori once or twice a week, and feed my own homemade fish food each night (about a 1" square piece - the food is made from a bag of fresh, raw seafood, bunch of Mysis, blended to the appropriate size, then frozen). So, I probably don't add a whole lot of PO4 via my fish food to the tank. That being said, I don't run any sort of GFO. When the tank was first set up about 18 months ago, I did use it for about 2 weeks after the tank cycled to bring it down initially, but haven't used anything since then. Also, no refugium or macro of any kind.

I currently am using a 30" venturi skimmer from Lifereef, although I did have a Bubble King SM 200 before. I believe both of these are at least slightly oversized for my bioload/system size. I do run filter socks, and change them out every 2-3 days (been changing them daily, recently). Also vacuum out the sump and overflow regularly of any detritus.

I have about 120 pounds of really good live rock in the tank (aqua-cultured rock from Tampa Bay Saltwater), and I have a ton of flow to move the water around the rock (3 Apex WAV pumps, and a Tunze wavemaker).

I use BRS RO/DI filters to get zero TDS water, and have checked my filtered water for NO3, and have always come up as undetectable.

Regarding the true level of phosphate, that is a good point. I will say that I only clean my glass once a week, and that just has a light dusting after seven days. Also don't have any green algae on any of the rocks, pumps, etc. So I think that is pretty accurate?

Like I mentioned in my original post, I have had this exact same issue in several different tanks I have had, so clearly I am missing some really basic bit of knowledge, or ? Feel like I was out sick during the day they covered nitrate in reefing class. :)

I do think that my most recent jump in NO3 up to 16-32 was because I had been running a large media reactor with about 5 liters of Seachem Matrix filter media. I think I was pushing too much water through the media, and not getting any sort of denitrification, in fact, getting the opposite as detritus was definitely noticeably building up. However, the reason I started to run this reactor and media in the first place was because of high NO3, so it was still a problem before that.
 

HolisticBear

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 17, 2017
Messages
1,846
Reaction score
4,419
Location
NYC
If the actual PO4 was higher (but it was bound in algae) then the NoPox would compete with the algae for PO4 (potentially reducing algae). However it sounds like you limited by real low levels of P04. Something I've quoted from Randy alot, because it was insightful to me, was that typical P04 added from foods is about 0.02 to 0.3ppm per day. That's a huge range.

TBS has great rock and it's a mature system, so you'd assume you're reached peak denitrifying populations. I'd expect the addition of Matrix might make NO3 worse, assuming you have plenty of rock and the rock is better at denitrifying than the Matrix, plus the Matrix will quickly populate the bacteria that create N03, but it takes months (???) to get the bacteria that converts NO3 to N.

When you stuck with NoPox for a few months, did the NO3 drop faster than P04, meaning it did start to balance itself out? I might have been tempted to add something like Purigen / Carbon to remove organics before they became NO3 rather than add more media to grow anaerobic denitrifying bacteria.

I am curious what's others say.
 
OP
rocknut

rocknut

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 9, 2014
Messages
214
Reaction score
52
Location
Arizona
If the actual PO4 was higher (but it was bound in algae) then the NoPox would compete with the algae for PO4 (potentially reducing algae). However it sounds like you limited by real low levels of P04. Something I've quoted from Randy alot, because it was insightful to me, was that typical P04 added from foods is about 0.02 to 0.3ppm per day. That's a huge range.

TBS has great rock and it's a mature system, so you'd assume you're reached peak denitrifying populations. I'd expect the addition of Matrix might make NO3 worse, assuming you have plenty of rock and the rock is better at denitrifying than the Matrix, plus the Matrix will quickly populate the bacteria that create N03, but it takes months (???) to get the bacteria that converts NO3 to N.

When you stuck with NoPox for a few months, did the NO3 drop faster than P04, meaning it did start to balance itself out? I might have been tempted to add something like Purigen / Carbon to remove organics before they became NO3 rather than add more media to grow anaerobic denitrifying bacteria.

I am curious what's others say.
Thanks again for your response. I do believe that my tank is truly just limited in PO4, as you suggested. Also believe you are correct about the Matrix. I had planned on it taking a good six months to develop denitrifying bacteria in this media, but looking back, I think I was pushing too much flow through the reactor, so those bacteria never developed.

I have actually been using NoPoX for about a year, but in very small amounts. Had to look at my notes and Apex log: rebooted the tank with the TBS rock in April 2016. By August 2016, mini cycles from the transport die off where over, and I was left with high NO3. Initially, the whole idea behind rebooting the tank was to find the best live rock I could find, and couple that with a good skimmer, and not carbon dose at all. Because of this I did run some GFO in May or June 2016 but haven't run any since then.

By the time I got to August 2016 I was tired of having NO3 at around 40, and after starting several threads on Reef2Reef came to the conclusion that maybe having a tank limited in carbon was my issue, because this limitation wasn't allowing my denitrifying bacteria to do there thing. So, I started with NoPoX. Also came to the conclusion (based on lots of feedback) that it would likely take FOREVER to bring my NO3 down with only carbon dosing, so I did some daily 25% water changes, and manually brought the NO3 down to 8. At this point I still had a touch of PO4 and noticed that if I dosed too much NoPoX, I could tell just by looking at the tank that I had zeroed my PO4: the Montipora would have that drained, pale, brittle look. So I would reduce the dose of NoPoX to bring the PO4 up, but I could never budge the NO3 number...

So, I have been running the tank with 2-3 ml/day of NoPoX since then (until the past few weeks). It was the huge bump in NO3 recently from the Matrix that has me looking at this again. Up until this recent NO3 spike the tank had been doing ok. Decent colors and growth, but I certainly didn't feel like it was anywhere near "dialed in". Kind of felt like it was luck if my nutrients were at levels that supported growth/color in the tank. Would like to get things more to the point of understanding this better so there isn't so much luck involved.

I feel like I am in the same position now as I was one year ago: zero PO4, with 8ish NO3. Personally, I feel like until I get a handle on these nutrients, and by that I mean understanding how they work, and how to balance them, I will really have limited success with my tank.

Thanks again for your posts - they have given me a lot to think about.
 

HolisticBear

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 17, 2017
Messages
1,846
Reaction score
4,419
Location
NYC
Are you doing regular WC to remove NO3? That's the upside of WC that they remove N03 far more efficient than PO4.

I understand not wanting to carbon dose. It doesn't sound like you are running a fuge? Wonder how much Macro-algae would help? Running zeolites, purigen, or carbon would be interesting.

Some people happily dose PO4, but that feels more logical when you dose both N03 & PO4, rather than dealing with high N03.

I wonder if Vibrant is more effective than NoPox in a low PO4 environment. Or the other bacteria products (dangerous path)

I personally would try more WC and either Rox Carbon or Purigen, and hope with extra media you can back off the WC
 
Last edited:
OP
rocknut

rocknut

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 9, 2014
Messages
214
Reaction score
52
Location
Arizona
I do a 10% water change every weekend, and I'm sure that does help. I don't have any sort of refugium, or macro algae. Honestly, even though I used to resist the idea of carbon dosing, once I realized that really what you were doing is adding the missing piece to the nitrate and phosphate equation, it made sense, so no issue with it any more.
I don't really have an issue doing water changes to remove NO3, but feel like if I have to rely on big water changes, what is the rest of my filtration doing? :) I would think that having a relatively small bioload in a tank with a lot of good live rock, and a good skimmer would be enough to keep the NO3 in check...Anyway, thanks again for your help, really appreciate your time.
I would still really like to know what Red Sea says about this, officially? I e-mailed their tech support, so we will see what they say.

Still not 100% sure about reducing my dose of NoPoX to match the low PO4, or keep it higher to match the NO3, and dose Reef Energy and keep adding PO4. Would welcome any additional first hand experience on this.
 
OP
rocknut

rocknut

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 9, 2014
Messages
214
Reaction score
52
Location
Arizona
Been thinking about this, and I guess I will do what the NoPoX instructions say, and reduce my dose by half if the phosphate drops below 0.02, so will reduce from 12ml/day to 6ml/day. I figure having totally zeroed out phosphate is probably more damaging to my corals than slightly elevated NO3.

I still hope that I will hear back from someone at Red Sea to get the opinion of the actual designer of this supplement.
 

SPR1968

Fish & Coral Addict!
View Badges
Joined
Feb 21, 2017
Messages
5,832
Reaction score
33,210
Location
Nottinghamshire England
Hi Rocknut

I'm in a similar position in that I can't get my nitrates to drop below 12 ish ppm. Phosphate shows 0 on Hanna checker and I have been dosing NoPox for over 12 months. Just for a picture I run Rhowaphos in a reactor (phosphate crept up with NoPox and wouldn't drop and I had hair algae outbreak which has now gone), and I have just added in the last few weeks Purigen in The Bag (my theory being to pull out nutrients before getting to Nitrate) and also a Brightwell Xport NO3 brick to increase bacteria action etc in low flow.

I have a lot of rock but also high bioload with fish. I also run activated carbon and follow the entire Red Sea Reef Program, Coral Colours Reef Energy etc. My build thread is below if of interest so you can see the bioload which is probably over stocked!

Yesterday I have halved the feeding amount, so my fish currently hate me, but I will see what a difference that makes as well.

I think its unlikely, though possible, that you have 0 phosphate in reality with feeding etc., and just bear in mind the Hanna checker has a margin of error of +/- 0.04/4% of reading so we're it says 0 it could well be more, so basically you want to be dosing NoPox based on the level of nitrate in your tank as per the instructions. The low phosphate part I believe, is for when your in a low nutrient enviroment under the enhanced colour program.

I dose around 16ml currently of NoPox which is based on 3ml per 100 litres and having spoken to Red Sea (i have the tech support manager on speed dial for my times of need as i'm in UK!) I've also been to 4ml per 100 litres but things didn't feel right at that level so I dropped back to 3ml but I do tweek this as I feel fit so anywhere from 15-19ml per day depending on my thoughts for that week!

You can tell a lot from the colour of the skim mate about nutrients and any tint of yellow or green ish shows nutrients and one piece of advice Red Sea have given me to reduce nutrients is to 'wet skim' to drag out the nutrients. When things are about right the Skim mate I believe is a week tea colour as I've been there before at the lower levels.

To be honest my tank is thriving with no algea or issues and I have loads of corals etc so I'm asking myself the question why do I want to drive down the Nitrate level lower and chase the numbers just because that's what some say is right. I think it's because I want to be in control and be proactive rather than reactive, but it's just the being in control.

If you read Tanks Of The Masters few have low Nitrate, some are higher than us but most have low phosphate and from my own limited experience keeping the phosphate level near 0, has been the best thing for my tank certainly. And I'm beginning to think so what if Nitrate is 12 and not 5 or less. Everything including SPS are happy so I should stop chasing the numbers....... well for today anyway!lol
 
Last edited:
OP
rocknut

rocknut

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 9, 2014
Messages
214
Reaction score
52
Location
Arizona
Hi Rocknut

I'm in a similar position in that I can't get my nitrates to drop below 12 ish ppm. Phosphate shows 0 on Hanna checker and I have been dosing NoPox for over 12 months. Just for a picture I run Rhowaphos in a reactor (phosphate crept up with NoPox and wouldn't drop and I had hair algae outbreak which has now gone), and I have just added in the last few weeks Purigen in The Bag (my theory being to pull out nutrients before getting to Nitrate) and also a Brightwell Xport NO3 brick to increase bacteria action etc in low flow.

I have a lot of rock but also high bioload with fish. I also run activated carbon and follow the entire Red Sea Reef Program, Coral Colours Reef Energy etc. My build thread is below if of interest so you can see the bioload which is probably over stocked!

Yesterday I have halved the feeding amount, so my fish currently hate me, but I will see what a difference that makes as well.

I think its unlikely, though possible, that you have 0 phosphate in reality with feeding etc., and just bear in mind the Hanna checker has a margin of error of +/- 0.04/4% of reading so we're it says 0 it could well be more, so basically you want to be dosing NoPox based on the level of nitrate in your tank as per the instructions. The low phosphate part I believe, is for when your in a low nutrient enviroment under the enhanced colour program.

I dose around 16ml currently of NoPox which is based on 3ml per 100 litres and having spoken to Red Sea (i have the tech support manager on speed dial for my times of need as i'm in UK!) I've also been to 4ml per 100 litres but things didn't feel right at that level so I dropped back to 3ml but I do tweek this as I feel fit so anywhere from 15-19ml per day depending on my thoughts for that week!

You can tell a lot from the colour of the skim mate about nutrients and any tint of yellow or green ish shows nutrients and one piece of advice Red Sea have given me to reduce nutrients is to 'wet skim' to drag out the nutrients. When things are about right the Skim mate I believe is a week tea colour as I've been there before at the lower levels.

To be honest my tank is thriving with no algea or issues and I have loads of corals etc so I'm asking myself the question why do I want to drive down the Nitrate level lower and chase the numbers just because that's what some say is right. I think it's because I want to be in control and be proactive rather than reactive, but it's just the being in control.

If you read Tanks Of The Masters few have low Nitrate, some are higher than us but most have low phosphate and from my own limited experience keeping the phosphate level near 0, has been the best thing for my tank certainly. And I'm beginning to think so what if Nitrate is 12 and not 5 or less. Everything including SPS are happy so I should stop chasing the numbers....... well for today anyway!lol
Hello Shaun,

First off, thanks so much for taking the time give so much great information! I really appreciate it.

I will definitely check out your build thread as soon as I am done here. Very curious to see how your tank has progressed using the full Red Sea Reef Program. I have the Reef Energy and Coral Colors ready to go, but want to make sure I get this other stuff in check before I go too crazy dosing those. Although, if my phosphates are truly low, maybe the Energy would be helpful.

I also added a Brightwell XPort NO3 brick, seeding with Microbacter 7, just yesterday, so we will see if that does anything in the long run. I am also skimming pretty wet: I have a skimmate collection container and am definitely going for the watery skimmate as opposed to the mud on the skimmer neck. Regarding the color of the skimmate, I have read that before (but hadn't thought about it in a while). I do agree that once nutrients are lower there is definitely a different look, and smell (that I can't quite describe - almost a mildew smell?).

After reading your helpful post, and MrMichaels from yesterday, I think I have a plan with moving forward. I came to the same conclusion yesterday that not being able to get nitrates to 1 or 2 is probably not the end of the world. I think the part that was bothering me the most is that I was kind of baffled as to why they were slightly elevated to begin with, and that I couldn't really do anything to bring them down, other than water changes. I think you and I are on the same page about the control part, and trying to be proactive instead of reactive. After reading tons of Tank of the Month threads over the years, it seems that one thing these reefers have in common is the ability to have some degree of control over their tanks. Knowing why things are happening, and knowing how to change/correct them. For me anyway, up until this point, I seem to have a perpetual cycle of having things rolling along and looking great, then about once a year, something goes out of whack, and some corals die, all stop growing, and you go into the mode of reactively trying to "fix" things to get back on track.

So, I think that I will do a few more large 25% water changes. Of course, that is the frustrating thing about reducing nitrates with water changes: its kind of like that theory that if you start at a certain distance from a wall, and every day move exactly half the distance to a wall, in theory you will never reach the wall. :) The first few 25% water change make a big dent in the nitrates, but now that I am at 8, another big one will only take me to 6, and another to just under 5, etc...But, I think if I can get my nitrates to around 5, I will be okay with the lower dose of NoPoX (1ml/day per 25 gallons), which will hopefully allow the phosphates to come back up a little, and make things a little more balanced? At least this will eliminate the question about dosing 2ml/day per 25 gallons, or 1ml/day. I know I have read several times that carbon dosing is better at maintaining a low level of nitrates, than trying to massively lower them.

All that being said, I will definitely jump on your thread because I am very curious about your experience with the full Red Sea program. I am hopefully that implementing a true "system" can help keep things more consistently on track.
 

SPR1968

Fish & Coral Addict!
View Badges
Joined
Feb 21, 2017
Messages
5,832
Reaction score
33,210
Location
Nottinghamshire England
Hello Shaun,

First off, thanks so much for taking the time give so much great information! I really appreciate it.

I will definitely check out your build thread as soon as I am done here. Very curious to see how your tank has progressed using the full Red Sea Reef Program. I have the Reef Energy and Coral Colors ready to go, but want to make sure I get this other stuff in check before I go too crazy dosing those. Although, if my phosphates are truly low, maybe the Energy would be helpful.

I also added a Brightwell XPort NO3 brick, seeding with Microbacter 7, just yesterday, so we will see if that does anything in the long run. I am also skimming pretty wet: I have a skimmate collection container and am definitely going for the watery skimmate as opposed to the mud on the skimmer neck. Regarding the color of the skimmate, I have read that before (but hadn't thought about it in a while). I do agree that once nutrients are lower there is definitely a different look, and smell (that I can't quite describe - almost a mildew smell?).

After reading your helpful post, and MrMichaels from yesterday, I think I have a plan with moving forward. I came to the same conclusion yesterday that not being able to get nitrates to 1 or 2 is probably not the end of the world. I think the part that was bothering me the most is that I was kind of baffled as to why they were slightly elevated to begin with, and that I couldn't really do anything to bring them down, other than water changes. I think you and I are on the same page about the control part, and trying to be proactive instead of reactive. After reading tons of Tank of the Month threads over the years, it seems that one thing these reefers have in common is the ability to have some degree of control over their tanks. Knowing why things are happening, and knowing how to change/correct them. For me anyway, up until this point, I seem to have a perpetual cycle of having things rolling along and looking great, then about once a year, something goes out of whack, and some corals die, all stop growing, and you go into the mode of reactively trying to "fix" things to get back on track.

So, I think that I will do a few more large 25% water changes. Of course, that is the frustrating thing about reducing nitrates with water changes: its kind of like that theory that if you start at a certain distance from a wall, and every day move exactly half the distance to a wall, in theory you will never reach the wall. :) The first few 25% water change make a big dent in the nitrates, but now that I am at 8, another big one will only take me to 6, and another to just under 5, etc...But, I think if I can get my nitrates to around 5, I will be okay with the lower dose of NoPoX (1ml/day per 25 gallons), which will hopefully allow the phosphates to come back up a little, and make things a little more balanced? At least this will eliminate the question about dosing 2ml/day per 25 gallons, or 1ml/day. I know I have read several times that carbon dosing is better at maintaining a low level of nitrates, than trying to massively lower them.

All that being said, I will definitely jump on your thread because I am very curious about your experience with the full Red Sea program. I am hopefully that implementing a true "system" can help keep things more consistently on track.
Your more than welcome.

Your right about the skimmate, when it's yellow/green is pretty horrid and when it's the tea colour it's slightly less horrid! Lol. Not that I tend to stick my nose in the drain container!

The Reef Energy is very good and you should see a difference in days. I dose between 20-40ml (total - half of each) per day. The Coral Colours I manually dose at the rate of 'when I remember' but roughly 5ml of each ever 3-4 days. I have got a log for recording this as I read to much is very bad. I just use the calcium uptake dosing method. I did purchase the test kit but never used is as just looking inside the box made my head hurt!!

I also add around 20ml of liquid phytoplankton with the reef energy probably 2 times per week. You don't need to but I 'like to' and I have a growing number of corals and also a clam.

From my experience with NoPox, for what it's worth, I would just dose according to the level your nitrates are at. It is much slower at reducing phosphates and in my case, probably because of over stocking, feeding etc it couldn't keep the phosphate in check on it's own. Phosphate hit 0.16ppm and I had hair algea forming which I had in the tank for months. I added Rhowaphos which stunted it immediately and phosphate is locked now 0-0.03ppm, so low within the margin of error.

For reference I finally cleared the hair algea with Vibrant which destroyed it within 2 weeks, although I lost a couple of very nice Elegance corals, but that's a different story.

I'm hopeful of the Xport NO3 brick which I also seeded with Microbacter7. I have a lot of live rock anyway but these seems to have a massive surface area and although I haven't seen a difference yet, I guess it will take some time so I shall try to be patient, and think about something else.....
 
Chaos Aquaculture
MAXSPECT
Top