Nitrates are BAD...no no no they are GOOD!! Wait, What?!?!

Are nitrates in a reef tank a bad thing or a good thing? (see the thread)

  • Yes good depending on the levels

    Votes: 650 88.6%
  • No they are bad

    Votes: 26 3.5%
  • I'm undecided

    Votes: 58 7.9%

  • Total voters
    734

revhtree

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So I'll keep this short because I want you to drive this conversation and I have a lot to earn myself. I once took a class at the "Old School of Reefing" that said the correct answer is that all and any Nitrates are bad. But now the "NEW School of Reefing" and especially sps keeping says some is good. How much and why is what i would like to discuss. So my question is the following:

Do you believe Nitrates are actually a good thing and if so how much and why?

image.jpeg

Image via @Ryan Rioux
 

VSVP bet

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I run a mixed reef, and my nitrates stay low. I have 8 fish in a 90 gallon that i feed regularly. I have a great clean up crew of sea cucumbers and hermit crabs which do a good job at cleaning up any waste. So my consistent feeding doesn't translate into dangerous levels of nitrate. However, as not everything is processed, food particles and fish waste provide food for my corals. I have SPS of all kinds, LPS of all kinds, and softies of all kinds. All of which grow well. My nitrates stay low, but just enought to show that there are organics in my water that can sustain the corals. For me, i think my clean up crew does a good job at preventing dangerous levels of nitrate, and the little they dont process, goes to the coral.
 

andrewkw

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I used to try and try and try and get 0 nitrates but never could. Nowadays it sometimes happens in my lighter stocked systems but I generally run things anywhere from say 2-10ppm. If you still want a pastel sps system then you probably want 0 nitrates. Anyone else likely wants some in their system, at least a modest amount will not have a detrimental effect. I still do things like carbon dose to reduce nitrates but I don't let things get too high or low. Unlike say alkalinity there shouldn't be too much of a swing. I test No3 maybe once a month on my main tank and less on the others. If I'm feeding roughly the same amount, my fish are pooping the same amount and I'm exporting the same amount it's very unlikely to see a drastic change. Of course I know my tanks well if you have a newer setup and are constantly adding fish and changing what you are putting in, it's probably a good idea to monitor more.

This is certainly confusing, but it's like anything else, red wine is good for you, then it's bad for you, coffee the same ect. The food guide in Canada just completely changed this week. So we still don't really know what's good for the human body, let alone our reef tanks.

In my opinion the best thing to do is not stress about it. If your tank is 0 don't start pouring in nitrates - you see this a lot of the time with people who want to grow macro algae so desperately but their systems don't produce enough nutrients for it to thrive so they add just for the macro. Now if your corals and unwanted pastel that's another story, but this is trying to correct a problem where none exists. The same can be said if you have really high nitrates, if you don't have a problem why make it into a problem?
 

Andrewalex11

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Nitrates tend to be misunderstood in my opinion. If you have nitrates above 10ppm you may want to re-evaluate your nutrient export methods, at the same time if there is absolutely perfectly 0 nitrates (I'm talking tested with lab grade equipment) then i'd be concerned on how that is. Considering waste should be constantly produced by food, corals, fish, inverts, and all the living things within your rock work and sand bed down to the microscopic level there should always be some trace of nitrates in the tank even if it is extremely small.

Also there are plenty of people out there who report great growth and coloration of SPS corals when nitrates are kept generally around 3-5ppm.
 

Crabs McJones

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I think nitrates are a good thing. It's been proven that corals use nitrates. But in excess they can be bad. I am currently in the process of trying to bring mine up and keep it around 5 to 10 PPM, and as i'm doing this i'm seeing my SPS color up more.
 

Blu

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My Zoas always reacted well to moderate nitrates. SPS, not so much.
 

scriptmonkey

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I am so confused. SO now Nitrates are good? I think I am going to adopt a screw it approach and let the chips lie where they fall.

I will follow along. Guess I need to get my first coral and get all mad scientist on it.
 

Blu

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I am so confused. SO now Nitrates are good? I think I am going to adopt a screw it approach and let the chips lie where they fall.

I will follow along. Guess I need to get my first coral and get all mad scientist on it.
Some Nitrates CAN be good. But they can also be damaging. Depends on the organism and ppm. Like salt. Sodium is necessary for humans to live, but harmful in even moderate amounts, and fatal in excess. But some organisms cants tolerate sodium even in low/moderate quantities.

All comes down to your organism.
 

dylana407

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@VSVP do you dose or use chaeto reactor to keep your nitrate low? Doesn't your skimmer help in this respect?
 

sixty_reefer

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If 0 nitrates were good we would all have been successful in this hobby. I’d say anything above 25 and anything lower than 1 is a good reason to be worried. What keeps the hobby interesting is finding the sweet spot and keep it stable.
 

dantimdad

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I honestly never measure nitrate after the initial cycle. Never had a reason to.

If I see more algae on the glass, I either reduce feeding or up my skimming. If I see corals losing color and I think it's not enough nutrients, feeding goes up and the skimmer cup comes off a few hours a day.

To me, it's all about how your tank looks, not numbers. But, then again, I am old school and apparently the younger crowd knows better than I. ;)
 

kendavjac

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I killed off a lot of corals by trying to reach 0 PO4 and NO3, now I feed heavy and hardly ever change my water(tank is 5+ years old). Everything is looking better, but still struggle to keep NO3 in my system. I'm going to add more fish to help raise the junk in my water
 

dantimdad

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I agree about adding more fish. I like a heavy fish load for aesthetic purposes but feel like the corals are healthier with more fish as long as nipping is kept at bay.
 

siggy

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A while back I had Zero N & P and all SPS colors faded so I laid on the food, oyster feast that is a liquid with chunks in front of the power head daily, the half that faced the flow and received direct feeding (frag) colored back up in 2 days, the half that did not stayed faded until I started dosing Neo-Nitro/potassium nitrate or Stump-Grinder;) Sense then I now have high Phosphates as a source of food and still no nitrates:confused: I'll try to find the pic. and post.
 

NotASpammerDude

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I look at Nitrate as another step in the "expanded nitrogen" cycle... ideally you want it stable, because many organisms utilize nitrate to grow (including chaeto) and microalgaes (which then feed copepods etc). So a stable Nitrate level implies any new nitrate indirectly produced by feeding animals is being taken up by other organisms in a stable rate too (algae etc). Generally my rule about Nitrates IME is that you don't want it "to grow" over time, but remain relatively stable and low (5, 10, 20 at most for example).
 

Flippers4pups

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I'm going shock you, so hold on to your test tubes!

180 gallons total water volume, 125 gallon DT.

I'm running, successfully I should say, N03 at 30ppm to 50ppm. WHAT? Can't be right, right? No, it's correct!

Yes, for nearly a year. I have unsuccessfully tried carbon dosing, HUGE water changes, bio pellets.....etc with no avail. ( Yes, all done absolutely correctly, to be honest, little reductions where had, but none reducing to 5-10)

With that said, I do and have ran a refugium with chaetomorpha for months successfully, pulling a gallon or so out a month. Nice green and healthy.

I do run my DKH high at 10.5 and calcium around 500. Mag around 1400. Kalkwasser in my ATO reservoir top off. Tons of flow and PAR at 300 at the tops off my aquascape.

The other value that will "SHOCK" you is P04. It's at 0.12! WHAT? it's correct!

No pest algaes, DT is free and clear of them.

All my SPS are growing, healthy and colorful. LPS is nuts in growth and color. I have to frag soon!

Water changes are 10 gallons a week with regular Instant Ocean. No dosing anything except alkalinity once in a blue moon and kalkwasser.

Skimmer and occasionally a filter sock.

So, yes you can have a healthy, thriving, colorful reef with insanely high nutrients, but it needs export and needs to be done in a mature reef (12+ months old) over time.
 

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