How do you know if you are "over-filtering" your tank?

BRS

Have you ever had problems as a result of "over filtering" your tank?

  • YES (tell us in the thread)

    Votes: 111 39.5%
  • NO

    Votes: 163 58.0%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 7 2.5%

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revhtree

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One BIG mistake we have seen over the years, and have more recently been educated on, is that you can "over filter" your tank. Or your reef tank can be TOO CLEAN! So let me get this straight. Don't filter and you run the risk of an algae explosion, over filter and you run the risk of an algae explosion? Seems about right for keeping a saltwater reef aquarium! :p Let's talk about it!

How do you know if you are "over-filtering" your tank and how do you keep a good balance?

image via @Roberto Denadai
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saltyhog

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I voted yes. Two problems....first was not a severe one, just that all SPS were very pale and not colorful. Second was much worse. Aiming for zero NO3 and PO4, I achieved it through carbon dosing, water changes and GFO. The result was Ostreopsis dinos which wiped out all my SPS and most of my LPS before I ID'd them and found a way to treat them. Never again will I attempt nutrient levels below 5 NO3 and 0.06 PO4. Currently running NO3 of 10 and PO4 of 0.1 with my tank growing and healthy.
 

shakacuz

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I voted yes. Two problems....first was not a severe one, just that all SPS were very pale and not colorful. Second was much worse. Aiming for zero NO3 and PO4, I achieved it through carbon dosing, water changes and GFO. The result was Ostreopsis dinos which wiped out all my SPS and most of my LPS before I ID'd them and found a way to treat them. Never again will I attempt nutrient levels below 5 NO3 and 0.06 PO4. Currently running NO3 of 10 and PO4 of 0.1 with my tank growing and healthy.
how did you beat the dino's?

in my case, i have under filtered my tank resulting in algae blooms/patches and cyano. and over filtered leaving room for dino's. have overcome both situations, luckily.
 

Crustaceon

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I voted yes. Two problems....first was not a severe one, just that all SPS were very pale and not colorful. Second was much worse. Aiming for zero NO3 and PO4, I achieved it through carbon dosing, water changes and GFO. The result was Ostreopsis dinos which wiped out all my SPS and most of my LPS before I ID'd them and found a way to treat them. Never again will I attempt nutrient levels below 5 NO3 and 0.06 PO4. Currently running NO3 of 10 and PO4 of 0.1 with my tank growing and healthy.
Exactly. I think the only way I'd ever attempt nutrient levels near zero again is if I had a bare bottom system with 150x tank turnover flow and ran a large UV filter. Other than that, there has never been a time when I haven't had a dino outbreak the moment nitrates dip under 2ppm and Po4 under .02ppm. It's like clockwork for me and is why my system is sitting at 5ppm nitrates and .08ppm phosphates.
 

GARRIGA

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Wouldn't that depend on nutrient input and frequency? For example, tanks fed heavily and frequently probably couldn't be over filtered because there's a constant influx of nutrients. Chances are one couldn't get around to changing out filter socks often enough and detritus starts breaking down rather quickly which helps to ensure there's a constant influx of nutrients to be processed. Although rollers would remove that detritus quicker and something I'm considering since I'm not a fan of changing socks or too much maintenance.
 
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revhtree

revhtree

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Not too many years ago it was a common belief that your tank should be as clean of nutrients as possible! I made the mistake and what ensued was a 1+ year of dino hell!
 

bradleym

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I have a Hannah ULR Phosphate meter that will never read zero. This caused a lot of trouble because I keep SPS and so I kept pushing my filtration up and my feeding down. At some point I'm sure I hit zero phosphates but I couldn't see it. My nitrates were at a dead zero but I was afraid to feed because my phosphates showed 0.08 or higher and my corals looked terrible (starving). I started dosing nitrates and added a GFO reactor, but it never went away. My anemones started shrinking and dying, my zoas and palys almost all died... it was insane, and the whole time I thought it was caused by high phosphates, so I would try more things to bring them down, unknowingly adding to the problem.
 

MoshJosh

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I voted “other”, I’m not testing frequently enough to say anything for certain. . . yet. But, as of my last testing I had bottomed out my nitrates and phosphates. . . Not a terrible problem I guess, and I’m sure my sps don’t mind, but I have a number of softies too. . . I’ve upped my feeding a bit And will test again soon
 

Zach B

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Not too many years ago it was a common belief that your tank should be as clean of nutrients as possible! I made the mistake and what ensued was a 1+ year of dino hell!
+1
 

fish farmer

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I said other.

Several years ago my tank was nutrient rich, high nitrates and phosphates, lots of GHA.

I was successful at getting them down, WC, oversized skimmer, chaeto.

For some time now using Salifert and Hanna LR, phoshates register 0 and nitates with Salifert were not showing color. The tank is a 29 gallon with softies and LPS and in the last few years been growing corals very well. I recently had a brain coral recede and die back, it was doing well for a couple years putting on skeleton. Other corals that were put in around the same time were doing fine.

This forum screams not to let those two parameters drop, so I pulled my chaeto, run the skimmer dry and have started feeding more, even adding reef roids to the mix. I'm still waiting to see my params jump, my nitrates have come up to around 5ppm, but haven't budged the phos number in the last month of increased feeding.

It could also be something completely unrelated like a alk dip which happened this spring.

No dinos though....at least not identified....maybe there is a little whisp or two.
 

ClownSchool

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One BIG mistake we have seen over the years, and have more recently been educated on, is that you can "over filter" your tank. Or your reef tank can be TOO CLEAN! So let me get this straight. Don't filter and you run the risk of an algae explosion, over filter and you run the risk of an algae explosion? Seems about right for keeping a saltwater reef aquarium! :p Let's talk about it!

How do you know if you are "over-filtering" your tank and how do you keep a good balance?

image via @Roberto Denadai
Reflection2.jpg
Nano tanks are a great example. Many don’t realize that adding something like a Protein Skimmer to a small tank can cause more trouble than it’s worth when water changes will export built up nutrients just fine.
 

Seymo44

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I only said yes because my skimmer is oversized on my 65g. I can only run it for about 8 hrs a day or my phosphates and nitrates bottom out. This tank is under a year old and is not fully stocked yet, so the skimmer will likely be just fine after I finish stocking it with fish.
 

DerpFish

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I underestimated how many nutrients a little Aquaclear refugium could pull out on my 10 gallon. I thought things were going great because I wasn't seeing any algae. Then I started noticing my Montis color fading, then losing tissue. Did a phosphate and nitrate test and they were both undetectable. I started feeding more and dosing nutrients, which of course led to dinoflagellates. After about a year I'm finally getting things stabilized and corals are starting to recover.
 

rhostam

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My tank inhabitants are visibly unhappy when I over filter. They are less vibrant and never fully extended.

Why did I start over filtering? I was trying to slowly deal with high phosphate introduced as a result of a unnoticed feeding mistake about a year into the tank’s life.

So on the one hand I had too high phosphates and that made some things mad and die. I started the months long process to reduce via filtration and other means of export. Inhabitants look happy, but I’ve had trouble being the tank back into balance partially because I’m sure PO4 was absorbed by the rock and still leaving back out. NO3 remained nearly undetectable.

Now I’m fighting GHA and dinos occasionally cyano as I navigate these treacherous waters towards system recovery.
 

((FORDTECH))

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I have a Hannah ULR Phosphate meter that will never read zero. This caused a lot of trouble because I keep SPS and so I kept pushing my filtration up and my feeding down. At some point I'm sure I hit zero phosphates but I couldn't see it. My nitrates were at a dead zero but I was afraid to feed because my phosphates showed 0.08 or higher and my corals looked terrible (starving). I started dosing nitrates and added a GFO reactor, but it never went away. My anemones started shrinking and dying, my zoas and palys almost all died... it was insane, and the whole time I thought it was caused by high phosphates, so I would try more things to bring them down, unknowingly adding to the problem.
I’m pretty sure they sell V Hannah tester solutions to check the calibration you should look into them they’re fairly cheap at least this way you know your tester is good
 

1979fishgeek

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I think it depends on what you are filtering.

I don’t think you overdo biological filtration as nitrifying bacteria colonies can’t exceed their food source, no matter how much media they have they will just be less densly populated over excess media the food source is the limiting factor, you can however have not enough media to support your bacteria colony for example in a bare bottom tank with hardly any rockwork.

I think you can very easily mechanically or chemically over filter your tank, for example all the pods and beneficial organisms etc in the water column are being mechanically removed, killed by UV/ozone or if you add too much GFO or overdo the carbon dosing totally eliminating NO3 and PO4.

so IMO you can’t overdo biological filtration but you can overdo other methods mechanical/chemical etc.
 
BRS

Is there such a thing as an "easy" acro?

  • YES (tell us about it in the thread)

    Votes: 110 44.7%
  • NO

    Votes: 55 22.4%
  • Not sure

    Votes: 78 31.7%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 3 1.2%
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