High Nitrate and Phosphate

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Dan_of_Earth

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Hey guys, new to the forum, and for the sake of simplicity id consider myself a novice in the hobby as well, despite having had a tank prior to this one. My current 60 gal tank is just a few months under a year old. I haven't been in a huge rush to stock the tank so I currently have 2 clowns and a hippo tang, and no coral. Was just about to start getting my stocking underway but my nitrates and phosphates are pretty high. Nitrates were in the 50ppm range and phosphates in the 0.4 range when i started testing a month or 3 ago. At the recommendation of an LFS I started dosing ESV B-Ionic transition elements plus as per the directions on the bottle. I used it for a little over a month without any change in my parameters so I have since stopped (unsure if the right thing to do).

What I find bizarre is that my tank (to me) looks and seems pretty healthy. The tank is spotless aside from the sand browning a bit between water changes, all my cleanup crew guys SEEM great, my fish seem active and healthy. I do a 10% water change each week fairly consistently though I have missed a week a few times. I change my filter sock every 3 days, my skimmer seems to be producing well. I have since started to feed every other day to see if that helped, which i don't like the idea as i feel like im starving the fish (maybe not).

i test with Hannah products, and to illustrate my current timeline, on Nov 13th my nitrates tested at 54.3 and phosphate at 0.26. I missed last weeks water change. After doing the water change this past Sunday my reading as of today are 57.4 nitrate and 0.48 phosphate. The only thing i did different was i disturbed the sand bed quite a bit with this weeks water change so maybe i released some stuff, but im not sure that would explain the consistently high numbers.

After reading through similar issues I've seen lots of people saying to shoot for equilibrium and not chase numbers which makes sense. Am i in that equilibrium since everything seems healthy? Or should i continue attempting to reduce these numbers before stocking more fish and coral? Any advice would be greatly appreciated as its stressing me out lol. Thanks in advance.

Todays Readings:

Temp: 78.7
PH: 7.89
Alk: 6.73
CA: 640
MG: 1185
Nitrate: 57.4
Phos: 0.48
salinity: 1.024
 
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There are lots of ways to manage nitrates and phosphates, I like chaeto in the sump when my levels were elevated like yours.

You calcium is high, your alk is low, your pH is low, your mag is low. Your salinity could be a bit higher as well. I would address those numbers before adding coral.
 
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There are lots of ways to manage nitrates and phosphates, I like chaeto in the sump when my levels were elevated like yours.

You calcium is high, your alk is low, your pH is low, your mag is low. Your salinity could be a bit higher as well. I would address those numbers before adding coral.
Would it be as simple as just tossing some chaeto in or would I have to prepare a proper fuge? I have a apex system, my alk was way higher initially, so I just stopped dosing for a few weeks, ill def make adjustments for those. My PH fluctuates, rarely peaking at 8.0. Im planning on running the air intake to outside my house in an attempt to raise that. Thanks for the suggestions!
 
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Are you dosing anything?

Fish are not nearly as strongly affected as corals from nitrates and phosphates. Mine run really high in my predator tank.

I dose Seachem Fusion 1 & 2 for Alk, Cal, and Mg. I dose homemade No-Pox to control nitrates and Brightwell Phosphate-E to control Phosphates.

Chasing numbers and establishing equilibrium are kind of different. For most corals you are going to need lower nitrates and phosphates. Try to get and maintain 10-15 nitrates and .01 phosphates. Smaller fluctuations in these numbers short term shouldn’t be a problem. Chasing numbers IMO is the hobbyist who changes their approach daily, weekly or whatever trying to keep the numbers at an exact measurement.

What you don’t want to do is make huge changes, frequent changes, or bouncing around from one method to another.

With fish only, you can probably be more aggressive to reduce your nutrients, but put some method of nutrient control in place.
 
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Are you dosing anything?

Fish are not nearly as strongly affected as corals from nitrates and phosphates. Mine run really high in my predator tank.

I dose Seachem Fusion 1 & 2 for Alk, Cal, and Mg. I dose homemade No-Pox to control nitrates and Brightwell Phosphate-E to control Phosphates.

Chasing numbers and establishing equilibrium are kind of different. For most corals you are going to need lower nitrates and phosphates. Try to get and maintain 10-15 nitrates and .01 phosphates. Smaller fluctuations in these numbers short term shouldn’t be a problem. Chasing numbers IMO is the hobbyist who changes their approach daily, weekly or whatever trying to keep the numbers at an exact measurement.

What you don’t want to do is make huge changes, frequent changes, or bouncing around from one method to another.

With fish only, you can probably be more aggressive to reduce your nutrients, but put some method of nutrient control in place.
I'm currently dosing ESV B-Ionic alk and calc buffer. I was dosing to establish a baseline prior to adding coral. And for about a month i was dosing ESV B-Ionic transition elements plus for the nutrients. I stopped dosing that when i didn't notice the numbers dropping. Maybe I should just continue dosing it?

I guess my concern is WHAT is causing the high nutrients. To first try and gain some idea of the cause prior to putting some method of control in place. Im not sure if that makes sense but id like to try and understand the mistakes I'm making to try to mitigate them.
 

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I'm currently dosing ESV B-Ionic alk and calc buffer. I was dosing to establish a baseline prior to adding coral. And for about a month i was dosing ESV B-Ionic transition elements plus for the nutrients. I stopped dosing that when i didn't notice the numbers dropping. Maybe I should just continue dosing it?

I guess my concern is WHAT is causing the high nutrients. To first try and gain some idea of the cause prior to putting some method of control in place. Im not sure if that makes sense but id like to try and understand the mistakes I'm making to try to mitigate them.
The high nutrient numbers could be feeding/fish load, make up water having high nutrients, old rock and sand from previous systems. I noticed you started testing recently, so not having numbers from start up might not give you the "smoking gun" on when the elevation happened.

If you have a section in your sump that you could put a hand sized piece of chaeto and a cheap grow light, could bring those numbers down over a couple months.
 
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The high nutrient numbers could be feeding/fish load, make up water having high nutrients, old rock and sand from previous systems. I noticed you started testing recently, so not having numbers from start up might not give you the "smoking gun" on when the elevation happened.

If you have a section in your sump that you could put a hand sized piece of chaeto and a cheap grow light, could bring those numbers down over a couple months.
with just the 3 fish there's is a high probability that I was over feeding a tad, however I have been feeding every other day for the last week and a half or so, expecting the number to drop at least a little, but they have instead gone up lol. The rock and sand were completely new, but I did carry over a little previous tank water. So the system probably DID start with the nutrients high. I have a small area in the corner of my sump prior to the return section where there is some sponge I think for microbubbles, ill post a pic. Woulds this be a sufficient area for some chaeto?
 

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with just the 3 fish there's is a high probability that I was over feeding a tad, however I have been feeding every other day for the last week and a half or so, expecting the number to drop at least a little, but they have instead gone up lol. The rock and sand were completely new, but I did carry over a little previous tank water. So the system probably DID start with the nutrients high. I have a small area in the corner of my sump prior to the return section where there is some sponge I think for microbubbles, ill post a pic. Woulds this be a sufficient area for some chaeto?
How long are your lights on for each day? The longer you have your lights on the more algae can photosynthesize and use up nutrients. Do not just jack your light schedule up but over the coarse of a month or so it can help to get algae growing more which it sounds like isn't really happening in your tank. if you grow algae you can lock up the nutrients within it, scrape it off and remove it via the protein skimmer. Literally the same thing people are trying to do with chaeto. I run my lights for 12 hours a day to give you a reference. Just my two cents.
 
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with just the 3 fish there's is a high probability that I was over feeding a tad, however I have been feeding every other day for the last week and a half or so, expecting the number to drop at least a little, but they have instead gone up lol. The rock and sand were completely new, but I did carry over a little previous tank water. So the system probably DID start with the nutrients high. I have a small area in the corner of my sump prior to the return section where there is some sponge I think for microbubbles, ill post a pic. Woulds this be a sufficient area for some chaeto?
That area would probably work for chaeto. Get a light that you could suspend or even place on top of that area of the sump.
 
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How long are your lights on for each day? The longer you have your lights on the more algae can photosynthesize and use up nutrients. Do not just jack your light schedule up but over the coarse of a month or so it can help to get algae growing more which it sounds like isn't really happening in your tank. if you grow algae you can lock up the nutrients within it, scrape it off and remove it via the protein skimmer. Literally the same thing people are trying to do with chaeto. I run my lights for 12 hours a day to give you a reference. Just my two cents.
yea i dont actually have much algae growth at all. I have my lights on a 12 hour cycle as well, I run them at about 50% overall strength.
 
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That area would probably work for chaeto. Get a light that you could suspend or even place on top of that area of the sump.
now if i were to try this id run the grow light at opposite hours of the display lights correct?
 
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Several things to add to this conversation.

1. You added new sand and dry rock, I assume you went through a cycle at this time. You may have made the same mistake I made when setting up several of my tanks, in that once the cycle was completed I didn’t do a large water change. With just the fish you have right now, I would not be afraid to do a 50-75% water change to dramatically reduce your nutrient numbers. This will not dangerously shock your fish. More of an issue with corals and anemones.

After the water change (or now if you choose not to do a large water change) test you levels every two days and determine your level of nutrient production. That will give you an idea of how aggressive of a program you need.

2. I have not had great success with just a refugium and grow light to control my nutrients. Some mentioned a natural way to combat nutrients, I made the decision to do carbon dosing after a discussion with @Randy Holmes-Farley the reef chemist here on R2R. I considered no-pox to be a chemical fix, but found out from him it replicates natural events in the ocean.

3. I would be avoid “growing” algae in DT to control nutrients. If you don’t have an algae problem now, you don’t want to start one.

4. I would be feeding at least daily. The hippo tang burns a lot of calories and shouldn’t be denied food. That being said, I shut down my return pumps so that when I feed the food stays in the DT and gets eaten. I feed what the fish can consume in 1-2 minutes.

5. Once you have your nutrients under control, it will be easier to maintain desired levels. As you add corals and they grow, you may have to do less control as corals use nitrates and phosphates as food/fuel.
 
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Several things to add to this conversation.

1. You added new sand and dry rock, I assume you went through a cycle at this time. You may have made the same mistake I made when setting up several of my tanks, in that once the cycle was completed I didn’t do a large water change. With just the fish you have right now, I would not be afraid to do a 50-75% water change to dramatically reduce your nutrient numbers. This will not dangerously shock your fish. More of an issue with corals and anemones.

After the water change (or now if you choose not to do a large water change) test you levels every two days and determine your level of nutrient production. That will give you an idea of how aggressive of a program you need.

2. I have not had great success with just a refugium and grow light to control my nutrients. Some mentioned a natural way to combat nutrients, I made the decision to do carbon dosing after a discussion with @Randy Holmes-Farley the reef chemist here on R2R. I considered no-pox to be a chemical fix, but found out from him it replicates natural events in the ocean.

3. I would be avoid “growing” algae in DT to control nutrients. If you don’t have an algae problem now, you don’t want to start one.

4. I would be feeding at least daily. The hippo tang burns a lot of calories and shouldn’t be denied food. That being said, I shut down my return pumps so that when I feed the food stays in the DT and gets eaten. I feed what the fish can consume in 1-2 minutes.

5. Once you have your nutrients under control, it will be easier to maintain desired levels. As you add corals and they grow, you may have to do less control as corals use nitrates and phosphates as food/fuel.
Thanks for the advise. I am not opposed to doing a large water change and have been considering it so I will start with that. For feeding that's generally the case, I have a feeding cup for my lid where the food defrosts. the clowns pick on it through the cup and then the hippo helps clean the rest up after my flow pump turns back on when the feeding mode expires. They generally seem to be well fed and clean up anything that would otherwise make it through the overflow.

As for algae, with this high of nutrients I cant really understand why I have no algae. As I said my tank is spotless. so that has me a little stumped. But I will do a big water change as you recommended and see how that goes. Thanks again
 

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Thanks for the advise. I am not opposed to doing a large water change and have been considering it so I will start with that. For feeding that's generally the case, I have a feeding cup for my lid where the food defrosts. the clowns pick on it through the cup and then the hippo helps clean the rest up after my flow pump turns back on when the feeding mode expires. They generally seem to be well fed and clean up anything that would otherwise make it through the overflow.

As for algae, with this high of nutrients I cant really understand why I have no algae. As I said my tank is spotless. so that has me a little stumped. But I will do a big water change as you recommended and see how that goes. Thanks again
Do you have any kind of clean up crew?
My DT is pretty nuisance algae free. However I tried doing frags in the additional sump on my S1000 and it is growing all kinds of algae. I think it is just that my CUC is maintaining the DT.
 

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Do you have any kind of clean up crew?
My DT is pretty nuisance algae free. However I tried doing frags in the additional sump on my S1000 and it is growing all kinds of algae. I think it is just that my CUC is maintaining the DT.
I do have a clean-up crew, but they'd be working overtime I feel. Spotless doesn't describe my display. Very weird having nutrients this high with zero signs of issues. The only thing I have nusence-wise would be vermetid snails, which I read usually flourish under these circumstances.
 

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I do have a clean-up crew, but they'd be working overtime I feel. Spotless doesn't describe my display. Very weird having nutrients this high with zero signs of issues. The only thing I have nusence-wise would be vermetid snails, which I read usually flourish under these circumstances.
I have a problem with them as well. It has taken a while (but I have deliberately moved slowly) but I’m finally getting my nitrate and phosphate in line.
 
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