High Nitrate and Phosphate

LukewarmTamales

New Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Oct 24, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
39
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Western Kentucky
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
I've been testing the aquarium water weekly, and the nitrates have consistently been 160ppm (API test kit) and phosphates have been at 3 (Salifert test kit). They have been this level since I started testing on October 7, and I've been testing weekly since then. A 30% water change was done October 10 with no change in values. We did another 10% water change October 22 and there was still no change. The tests only go up to these values - 160ppm nitrates and 3 phosphates - so I'm afraid the values are much higher than what the tests can read.

I tested the salt water we mixed up (RODI water and Instant Ocean reef crystals) and the tests showed 0ppm nitrates and 0 phosphates, so I don't think it's my testing technique.

I'm not sure what the values were prior to this, as the LFS was managing the tank (they are shutting down, that's why we're just now starting to do this ourselves). I asked the employee who was working on our tank and he said not to worry about it because the zoas like high nitrates, but we have other types of corals as well and they look very dull to me and are starting to close up and stay closed. We also have a foxface rabbitfish that has been dull colored since last month, and we've had at least one coral die since the middle of September.

What do you think we should do?

Other water parameters (taken this morning):
Salinity: 33.1ppt
pH: 8.4
Ammonia: 0ppm
Calcium: 410ppm
Nitrites: 0ppm
Magnesium: 1320ppm
KH/ALK: 12.8 (should I be worried about this too?)

Note: this is not my tank, but a tank at my work, but I can try my best to find out any information y'all might need. I would greatly appreciate any help you can give me. Thanks!
 
Top Shelf Aquatics

mdb_talon

2500 Club Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Dec 6, 2010
Messages
4,914
Reaction score
7,636
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Illinois
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
The alkalinity is pretty high and not an emergency but best to get it lower. What type of salt did you use on the water changes(some are much higher alk than others and may want to switch to a lower alk salt). I assume you are not dosing anything?

As for the N&P ya that does sound like you are above the testing limits since you see no change after significant water changes. However water changes are probably still your best bet for large reductions. If it is feasible I would try doing 40% water changes. Make sure temp and salinity are matched.

Longer term you need better nutrient export(skimmer,carbon dosing, mechanical, refugium, etc) and/or lower input(feeding). Can you tell us more about the current tank setup and livestock/equipments?
 

fishski13

Well-Known Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Nov 24, 2021
Messages
823
Reaction score
590
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
New Jersey/New York
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
For nitrate I would start by getting a better test kit as API is notorious for being unreliable. I recommend Salifert, Aquaforest, or Hanna. Even if API is correct, probably not, a 30% or 10% water change will pratically do nothing to lower 160 nitrates. You are only lower it by 30%. A bigger water of 50% will lower it to 80, etc.

For phosphates, water changes do not do much to lower them. You need to do some kind of media like gfo to absorb the phosphate and export.
 
Tidal Gardens
OP
L

LukewarmTamales

New Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Oct 24, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
39
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Western Kentucky
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Thank you so much!

We used instant ocean reef crystals. We are not currently dosing anything and we cut our feeding in half starting about 2 weeks ago. We were feeding 4 frozen food squares (2 twice daily) but now only feed 2 (1 twice daily).

It's an 80 gallon tank with a heater, wavemaker, uv sterilizer, a protein skimmer, and a light that says "reef breeders LED."

We have a rabbitfish, a goby, 6 cardinals, a tang, 2 clownfish, some snails and hermit crabs, a shrimp, 2 bubble tip anemones, and 3 rock anemones. Coral wise we have zoas, acans, duncans, whips and gorgonians. We've had the corals a couple of months now and I haven't noticed any growth, and we lost 1 acan and another is looking pretty bad. I was feeding the corals twice a week but I haven't been feeding them since I realized how high the nitrates were.
 

mdb_talon

2500 Club Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Dec 6, 2010
Messages
4,914
Reaction score
7,636
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Illinois
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Ok great. I would personally try to do some 30-40g water changes every few days until those numbers start coming down. Phosphates will start leaching from rocks so they may initially start coming down and then go back up. Can use lanthium chloride(cheaper but a bit riskier if not done right) or gfo for the phosphate.

I would also start carbon dosing. Can use a commercial product(ie nopox) or can use vodka, vinegar, etc. If you Google "reef vodka dosing chart" can find some info on dosing. This works great but does take awhile to build up but can be great longer term and allow you to feed more.
 
OP
L

LukewarmTamales

New Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Oct 24, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
39
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Western Kentucky
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
For nitrate I would start by getting a better test kit as API is notorious for being unreliable. I recommend Salifert, Aquaforest, or Hanna. Even if API is correct, probably not, a 30% or 10% water change will pratically do nothing to lower 160 nitrates. You are only lower it by 30%. A bigger water of 50% will lower it to 80, etc.

For phosphates, water changes do not do much to lower them. You need to do some kind of media like gfo to absorb the phosphate and export.
Thank you! The fish store was doing 30% water changes once a month (sometimes it was more like once every 6 weeks), and we're still working on our maintenance schedule but we talked about doing a 10% or 20% water change once weekly. Should we do a larger water change now, or do you think it would stress the fish too much? Maybe a smaller water change a couple of times a week?
I'll go ahead and order some of the gfo media.
We have a Salifert nitrate test kit too. I just checked and it also showed the nitrates at the highest level it would read (100ppm).
 
www.dinkinsaquaticgardens.com
OP
L

LukewarmTamales

New Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Oct 24, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
39
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Western Kentucky
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
The alkalinity is pretty high and not an emergency but best to get it lower. What type of salt did you use on the water changes(some are much higher alk than others and may want to switch to a lower alk salt). I assume you are not dosing anything?

As for the N&P ya that does sound like you are above the testing limits since you see no change after significant water changes. However water changes are probably still your best bet for large reductions. If it is feasible I would try doing 40% water changes. Make sure temp and salinity are matched.

Longer term you need better nutrient export(skimmer,carbon dosing, mechanical, refugium, etc) and/or lower input(feeding). Can you tell us more about the current tank setup and livestock/equipments?
Thank you so much!

We used instant ocean reef crystals. We are not currently dosing anything and we cut our feeding in half starting about 2 weeks ago. We were feeding 4 frozen food squares (2 twice daily) but now only feed 2 (1 twice daily).

It's an 80 gallon tank with a heater, wavemaker, uv sterilizer, a protein skimmer, and a light that says "reef breeders LED."

We have a rabbitfish, a goby, 6 cardinals, a tang, 2 clownfish, some snails and hermit crabs, a shrimp, 2 bubble tip anemones, and 3 rock anemones. Coral wise we have zoas, acans, duncans, whips and gorgonians. We've had the corals a couple of months now and I haven't noticed any growth, and we lost 1 acan and another is looking pretty bad. I was feeding the corals twice a week but I haven't been feeding them since I realized how high the nitrates were.
 
OP
L

LukewarmTamales

New Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Oct 24, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
39
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Western Kentucky
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Ok great. I would personally try to do some 30-40g water changes every few days until those numbers start coming down. Phosphates will start leaching from rocks so they may initially start coming down and then go back up. Can use lanthium chloride(cheaper but a bit riskier if not done right) or gfo for the phosphate.

I would also start carbon dosing. Can use a commercial product(ie nopox) or can use vodka, vinegar, etc. If you Google "reef vodka dosing chart" can find some info on dosing. This works great but does take awhile to build up but can be great longer term and allow you to feed more.
Thanks! I will probably go with gfo media if it's safer and will see about carbon dosing. Would you recommend the commercial stuff or does vodka work just as well?
 

mdb_talon

2500 Club Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Dec 6, 2010
Messages
4,914
Reaction score
7,636
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Illinois
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Thanks! I will probably go with gfo media if it's safer and will see about carbon dosing. Would you recommend the commercial stuff or does vodka work just as well?

I have used both at various times and honestly never noticed a difference between the two, but that's just anecdotal. It might be easier to expense a bottle of Nopox with your boss though than convince her you need to buy some Vodka....for the tank.
 
Orphek OR3 reef aquarium LED bar

Kristopher Conlin

Valuable Member
Review score
+1 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Mar 29, 2019
Messages
1,716
Reaction score
9,179
Review score
+1 /0 /-0
Location
Michigan
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Just be careful with gfo as it can strip phosphates extremely quickly especially if used with a reactor. You will want to test often while using it and start out with about half the recommended amount in my experience. When you get into the phosphate range you want you can lessen the amount of gfo to maintain at that level.
 
Last edited:
OP
L

LukewarmTamales

New Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Oct 24, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
39
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Western Kentucky
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
following... are you doing more water changes or Nopox? Keep us posted on results.
Hey! I'm doing more water changes. The first 2 weeks I did a 12% water change 4 times a week, until I could see a little improvement in the nitrates. It got down to 80ppm nitrates and still 3 on the phosphate, then I started doing once weekly water changes. The numbers are still dropping with each water change! The nitrates are at 20ppm and the phospate is down to 0.5. Still not where it needs to be, but it's definitely an improvement.

The fish - especially our rabbitfish - are much less stressed looking and the corals look much better. The zoas are actually spreading a little and the acans aren't as dead looking lol. Some of them look pretty bad and I don't see them recovering, but a few are actually opening up sometimes. Our duncan corals have grown significantly since we startes doing all this. I feed the corals directly (I think that's what it's called) reef roids once or twice a week. The duncans are big enough that they eat shrimp sometimes too.

We had a sea whip that was almost dead when we started doing all this, and now it's blooming back out. Most of it is black and only a few inches of color and blooms are present, so we're thinking about tossing it anyways, but I take it as a good sign that it stopped dying. We also have a bunch of baby snails now! They hatched last week, and there are tons of them. I'm hoping that means the tank is starting to thrive.

We switched to red sea reef salt from instant ocean and when we did that the alkalinity and pH started dropping and we ended up dosing with some buffer to keep the alkalinity above 8, but other than that the water changes are the only things we've done since my first post. We were going to buy the Nopox but everything improved so much with just the water changes that we are holding off for now. Even before the tests were able to measure a difference in the numbers the tank was improving. It was amazing.

We hit one snag when our salinity checker became inaccurate and I didn't notice. I thought I was having to mix more salt than I should have been, but didn't think much of it for about a week until I checked the parameters and the calcium and magnesium were really high. We got a tank refractometer and the specific gravity was like 1.035 and I panicked a little, but we were able to correct it within a week and I don't think we had any lasting damage from that (although I'm sure it didn't help things).

Overall I'm feeling good about it and I'm starting to feel really confident in managing the tank. And my boss said she'd leave it to me in her will, so that's fun lol.
 

Neptune 555

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Aug 7, 2016
Messages
377
Reaction score
165
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Great news... So just water changes no NOPOX. 180 Reef: My Nitrate was 160(probs+) BUT no algae and my fish had no fatalities my coral mostly softies took off... BUT I know water this bad is ready for a crash..... (For a few reasons my water changing ability was ruined now fized)

I have changed 150 gallons of water and cleaned my sump and my nitrate is at 100 OMG. I can't really say if fish are better or corals are better... BUT I can't add in my next round of fish with such bad water quality.

I am starting nopox mid December b/c I have some travel in the next week and need to have eyes on my tank 100% during this phase as I understand if done wrong the fish die b/c of lack of oxygen b/c of bacteria blooms.

I think long term I need a better solution for nitrate as I believe in feeding live fresh foods and am 100% sure that is the reason for my nitrate issue.

BTW - I have a sand sifting star and he is thriving.... and every thread I read says they can't live w/ Nitrate either?
 

What are the benefits of a cube aquarium?

  • Better light coverage

    Votes: 45 58.4%
  • Viewing from more angles

    Votes: 46 59.7%
  • Positive flow patterns

    Votes: 20 26.0%
  • Unique aquascaping

    Votes: 36 46.8%
  • Other

    Votes: 8 10.4%
Reef Diaper
Top