High Nitrate and Phosphate

MaTTeD

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I am a pretty new reefer. I've got a 32G Biocube AIO that's about 7 months old. It cycled beautifully in a month. I had zero phosphate and nitrate for the first month after cycling as I added some fish and corals. I then had a cyano outbreak which got a bit out of control (not too terrible), and a course of chemiclean fixed it right up. I started dosing Microbacter 7 to rebuild my good bacteria afterwards. Immediately after the bought with cyano, my nitrate (~40ppm) and phosphate (~1ppm - not a typo - no decimal) levels went up and nothing I do is making them budge from those levels. I've been trying 3 months to get the levels down and nothing seems to work. I've done many water changes (25-50%, vacuumed out different parts of the tank, daily dosing of NOPOX, added skimmer, etc...). Fish and softies have been fine, LPS and SPS are dead or not looking good. I've got a healthy population of pods and a few "neutral" pests like bristle worms and an asterina star, but no nuisances like mojano, aiptasia, crazy worms, etc)

Initial Setup:
Stock 32G Biocube
Aragonite live sand
~15# Live Rock (purple corraline already populated)

After cycling:
Added Cleanup Crew - Hermit crabs, different snails, serpent star, peppermint shrimp
Slowly added fish: 2 clowns, yellow watchman goby, 2 blue gudgeon (one died after a month or two), lawnmower blenny - other than the gudgeon fish are all happy and healthy from what I can tell
First corals/anemone - all doing well: a couple zoa, rose bubble tip anemone (now 4 of them), GSP, kenya tree, mushroom.
Also (still alive): Ricordia, duncan, blasto, acan. I've had my frammer polyp bailout - still alive on the sandbed.

Nothing added in last 2.5-3 months except replenishing some cleanup crew as I try to stabilize values.

In the back of tank:
Compartment 1: Biocube protein skimmer - emptied every other day, heater
Compartment 2: Stock rack: Biocube filter, Chemipure Elite and Purigen, Chaeto (and light).
Compartment 3: spongy filter (cleaned regularly)

I did use bio-pins initially, but took them out as they seemed to harbor detritus.

Current Levels (all Red Sea test kit, except phosphate):
Salinity - 1.025
Temp - 79.1 F
pH - 8.2
NH3 - 0 ppm
NO2 - ~0 ppm (very faint pink indicator, maybe 0.05 ppm)
NO3 - 40 ppm? Hard to tell, but a higher than needed level)
PO4 - 1 ppm (Salifert, again, hard to tell, but very high reading)
Alk - 9.2 dKH
Ca - 410 ppm
Mg - 1340 ppm

These values are STABLE. Even a day after a water change, values change very little. Temp increased as we transitioned from winter to spring. I was keeping it at 76-77. I cant keep it that cool now, but it stays 79-80F.

I'm using Red Sea salt, purchased from LFS. I have tested "new" water and found low NO3 and no PO4, so my testing technique/kit does not seem to be the problem.

I've dropped feeding to once daily:
1/8 tsp of TDO Chroma Boost Small pellets
~1/8 cube frozen mysis shrimp or frozen fish stuff
About 2x per week I'll feed the corals with TDO Chroma Boost B

I've also started growing phyto and add ~10mL daily. (this hasn't improved or hurt the NO3 or PO4 levels).

Using NOPOX for the past 6 weeks with no improvement.

Any thoughts? The PO4 is the primary concern - I just do not know where it's coming from. I'm looking for solutions which fit in a biocube. I don't have a large refugium or space for reactors.
 
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kados

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I will say for a new member/poster you absolutely nailed how to create a post with all of the necessary information. Having all of the information upfront will help other members provide feedback.

+1 on cross validating with another test kit. I recently invested in Hanna checkers for Phosphate and Nitrate and was surprised how much higher the numbers were than expected. GFO worked wonders. Small amounts at a time - even in a media bag can help.. Good luck. I hope you're able to have this resolved.
 

mrlavalamp

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I was having issues with reading/accuracy using the salifert phosphate kit as well.

Highly recommend the hannah checker, HI 774.

You can put GFO in a bag and add it to your rack. Start with a tablespoon or two.

You can also use lanthanum chloride dripped into your skimmer. I have use Phosphate E with good results. I recommend an IV drip bag for this. Easy to setup and use.

Be careful with lanthanum though, it can strip the phosphate FAST if you use too much/go to quickly. If you go this route, follow the directions carefully on whatever product you use, good idea to start with a half/quarter dose and see what happens to your livestock/levels. You can loose livestock very easily going too fast with this, gfo is safer but slower.
 
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BanjoBandito

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I've been using AquaForest PRO BIO F in my nano. It seems to help keep everything in check. It's a bacteria culture (I know, I know...SNAKE OIL) designed to keep Nitrate and Phos. down in smaller tanks. Tropic Marin makes the BACTO line which is designed for the same thing, but I've never used it.

Carbon dosing could also help...the ol' vodka trick? But I'm no master of carbon dosing, I'd wait for someone more "qualified" to detail that process to you.

Get some hannas. Makes it much easier than reading "tea leaves".
 

anthonygf

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Up you dose of phyto to 20, i was dosing 40m in my 75. When I ran out of live phtyo I started using my backup not so live phyto and po4 and no3 are on the rise. Waiting on my new Phyto to arrive. lanthanum chloride works but do not follow their directions, like mrlavalamp says go slow, I dosed lanthanum chloride exactly as directed and po4 dropped to zero, dose half recommended in directions and into filter or skimmer inlet.
 
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MaTTeD

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Thanks for the tips so far.

I never check nutrient levels immediately after a water change. I give it at least 24 hours to reach a new equilibrium. I have run the battery of tests on new saltwater just to make sure it isn't the source of phosphate nor nitrogen.

I don't worry so much about the specific values with the color tests - but do look at it from a low/hi standpoint. The salifert test kit is definitely showing very high phosphate and has consistently for 3 months. (Freshsaltwater reads low / none). The same for NO3 using the Red Sea test. The Hanna checkers may be more accurate and easier to read, but I'm not sure they will help direct my efforts anymore than I am currently trying. Hanna checks are definitely on my wish list.

It sounds like I shouldn't worry about the source of phosphate right now, but go for something to reduce it.

I am already running carbon with the Purigen and Chemipure Elite.
I am already dosing NOPOX (2mL daily and cleaning my skimmer every other day)

GFO in a media bag sounds like the "easiest" solution for longer term. Perhaps lanthanum chloride can be a short term fix. I'm not sure about the vodka method. I think the Pro Bio F is very similar to the NOPOX.
 

BanjoBandito

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Thanks for the tips so far.

I never check nutrient levels immediately after a water change. I give it at least 24 hours to reach a new equilibrium. I have run the battery of tests on new saltwater just to make sure it isn't the source of phosphate nor nitrogen.

I don't worry so much about the specific values with the color tests - but do look at it from a low/hi standpoint. The salifert test kit is definitely showing very high phosphate and has consistently for 3 months. (Freshsaltwater reads low / none). The same for NO3 using the Red Sea test. The Hanna checkers may be more accurate and easier to read, but I'm not sure they will help direct my efforts anymore than I am currently trying. Hanna checks are definitely on my wish list.

It sounds like I shouldn't worry about the source of phosphate right now, but go for something to reduce it.

I am already running carbon with the Purigen and Chemipure Elite.
I am already dosing NOPOX (2mL daily and cleaning my skimmer every other day)

GFO in a media bag sounds like the "easiest" solution for longer term. Perhaps lanthanum chloride can be a short term fix. I'm not sure about the vodka method. I think the Pro Bio F is very similar to the NOPOX.
MAKE SURE YOU RINSE THE GFO REALLY WELL FIRST!!!!
 
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mrlavalamp

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Thanks for the tips so far.

I never check nutrient levels immediately after a water change. I give it at least 24 hours to reach a new equilibrium. I have run the battery of tests on new saltwater just to make sure it isn't the source of phosphate nor nitrogen.

I don't worry so much about the specific values with the color tests - but do look at it from a low/hi standpoint. The salifert test kit is definitely showing very high phosphate and has consistently for 3 months. (Freshsaltwater reads low / none). The same for NO3 using the Red Sea test. The Hanna checkers may be more accurate and easier to read, but I'm not sure they will help direct my efforts anymore than I am currently trying. Hanna checks are definitely on my wish list.

It sounds like I shouldn't worry about the source of phosphate right now, but go for something to reduce it.

I am already running carbon with the Purigen and Chemipure Elite.
I am already dosing NOPOX (2mL daily and cleaning my skimmer every other day)

GFO in a media bag sounds like the "easiest" solution for longer term. Perhaps lanthanum chloride can be a short term fix. I'm not sure about the vodka method. I think the Pro Bio F is very similar to the NOPOX.

In the beginning, just estimating by the colors like that works well enough for a status check. When you start to narrow down your possible sources, and treatments, the specific numbers Hannah gives you can help dial in what you are doing and the effect it is actually having.

For example, I run GFO and treat with lanthanum weekly, I can see my gfo becoming exhausted when the number starts ticking up from .40 (where I am at lately). If I turn GFO reactor off, the next day my test will be .7ish, turn it back on and I go down to .5 or a little less the next day and back close to .4 again the next.

My sources, I feed a little heavy as evidenced by nitrates also being high, but I believe I have phos leaching from my rocks as they were dry and previously used and I did not acid dip them before. The rocks previous owner was getting out of the hobby because he hated cleaning algae all the time and couldn't figure out where it was coming from, so I consider it highly likely they are pretty well saturated in phosphates that I am working to remove now.

High nutrients in your situation could be a result of feedings and domino effect of treating the cyano. You listed your feeding schedule and livestock but I am not well versed in matching those up with what is appropriate and considering the nutrients/quality of the foods. I go by how my fish look and results on my tests, both have led me to increase and decrease feeding amounts at times.
 

jp_75

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I only trust the Hanna UL Phosphorus checker for phosphate, my Salifert always colour up to .25ppm, when in fact it’s 0.06ppm via the checker and ICP.
Is it the only Hanna checker to trust? I have regular Phosphate one and not sure i can trust at all….
 

Lost in the Sauce

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I only trust the Hanna UL Phosphorus checker for phosphate, my Salifert always colour up to .25ppm, when in fact it’s 0.06ppm via the checker and ICP.
I've been maxed on that thing since I owned it
PXL_20210729_215155902.jpg
 

vetteguy53081

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A safer and sure bet is addition of chemipure Blue which will lower and keep it in check. Chemipure elite will work quicker as it contains GFO.
Tropic Marin Elimni-NP works excellent but short in supply at this time.
 
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Uncle99

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I've been maxed on that thing since I owned it
PXL_20210729_215155902.jpg
Mine has worked flawlessly through more than 100 tests, and very close to ICP. I have had a couple zeros, but everything else is coming up as expected.

Either your over 200 or something is interfering with the test.

I get the same great results with the Alk checker.
 

Lost in the Sauce

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Mine has worked flawlessly through more than 100 tests, and very close to ICP. I have had a couple zeros, but everything else is coming up as expected.

Either your over 200 or something is interfering with the test.

I get the same great results with the Alk checker.
I'm not saying my checker is wrong, I'm saying I run 35 nitrates and over limit phos
 

Uncle99

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Is it the only Hanna checker to trust? I have regular Phosphate one and not sure i can trust at all….
It’s the only one “I” trust.
More than 100 tests over two years and always close to ICP.
I can add 10ml of Brightwell Neophos which will increase my 180g by 8ppb, and when retested, I can see that addition as a 7 or 9.
Tried all else, this one works for me just like the Alk checker.
 

Uncle99

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I'm not saying my checker is wrong, I'm saying I run 35 nitrates and over limit phos
Ha! Sorry!
I’d have to assume you have maturity in your system, then, elevated nutrients is a big plus.
I too run a bit elevated in nutrients, I have to dose both daily or they can easily get zeroed out.
 

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