Please help me solve my nitrite mystery!

thinktank

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OK, this is my first saltwater aquarium. I migrated over from 8 years or so of freshwater and I've never encountered this issue before. I'm going to give a timeline so it's easier to follow:

Mar 9th: Cycle started with dead grocery store shrimp.
Mar 9th - 20th: Ammonia spiked and went to zero (removed shrimp after 1st week). Nitrites spiked to 5+ppm. Nitrates spiked to 160+ppm (blood red on API test).
Mar 20th-25th: Nitrites continued to stay at 5-8ppm. Would not drop. Thought maybe cycle stalled.
Mar 26th: 70% water change. Dropped Nitrite to .5-1ppm or so. Nitrates 30-40is ppm. Added 1 peppermint shrimp and 1 hermit crab.
Mar 26th-Apr 2nd: Nitrite dropped to .25ppm. Nitrates rose and stayed around 100ppm or so. Ammonia stayed at zero. Shrimp and crab stayed alive.
Apr 2nd: Decided to add small clown, small yellow tang, and two small damselfish. By small, total inches of all four fish is about 4 inches.
Apr 2nd-Apr 5th: Nitrite shot up higher than API test could read. Diluted tank sample by factor of 16 with RO/DI water. Test at .5-1ppm. That's 8-16ppm!! Nitrates skyrocketed back to 160+ (blood red again). Added live bacteria to system (entire bottle, enough for 250 gallon system. Mine is 100). Brown Hair Algae started growing on all of my live rock and the glass of the tank. The hermit crabs are loving it.
Apr 5th-Apr 8th: Nitrite stays at 8ppm (have to dilute to even get a rough reading still). All tank livestock are alive and well, showing no signs of distress. They all eat like crazy when fed and swim freely through the tank. (I've read that Nitrites don't bother saltwater fish, so that may be why)

So here's what I don't get:

1) Why is Nitrite being converted to Nitrate at humongous levels, yet not going to zero? Obviously the Nitrite bacteria exist and aren't stalled, since they're converting to Nitrate. Why aren't the bacteria finishing off the Nitrites? They seem to bring it down to 8ish ppm and just stop...?? And since Ammonia stays at zero, even with a 4 fish bioload, there must be creation of Nitrite. Yet...the Nitrite stays at around 8ppm, neither rising or dropping, and Nitrate rises and rises, indicating conversion of Nitrites. This makes zero sense to me....
2) Why did Nitrite drop after the water change, indicating a completed cycle, yet it can't keep up now?

I used live sand during set up, I have 50lbs of live rock in the display, and 2 lbs of Seachem Matrix in the sump, along with 1 lb of activated carbon, a refugium with live sand, Chaeto in the refugium, and mechanical filter media where the water drains into the sump.

It can't possibly be that I don't have enough surface area for the bacteria to propagate. And it doesn't seem like 3-4 inches of fish would be too much of a bio load.

So...what gives??

Help!

I don't want to continue doing water changes and dumping $30-40 of salt into the tank every time just for it to continue.

I've considered removing half of the water, putting it in a trash can with 30 gallons fresh salt water and some media from my tank and letting the trash can cycle, and then slowly exchanging that trash can water with tank water at a rate the bacteria can handle.

Other than that, I don't know what else to do....
 
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Pockets

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So your tanks only a month old ? Your moving to fast way to fast its gonna take a lot longer than a month for things to settle down and balance out. I wouldn't add anymore fish or corals. When I got my first tank I had 5 pounds of rock in a 46 bow front and had it running for couple months and had lots of swings. Then a friend gave me a great deal on a bunch of rock and I was so pumped I didn't listen to any of his advise and ran home and packed the tank tight lol but I didn't have any coral yet just a clown and a damsel. but anyways my nitrates shot through the roof and I was bailing water like my ship was sinking, and couldn't bring them down so I ended up just letting it go stuck to a good water change schedule and as the tank matured everything started balancing out. I wouldn't panic give it time and keep up the maintenance.
 
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thinktank

thinktank

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So your tanks only a month old ? Your moving to fast way to fast its gonna take a lot longer than a month for things to settle down and balance out. I wouldn't add anymore fish or corals. When I got my first tank I had 5 pounds of rock in a 46 bow front and had it running for couple months and had lots of swings. Then a friend gave me a great deal on a bunch of rock and I was so pumped I didn't listen to any of his advise and ran home and packed the tank tight lol but I didn't have any coral yet just a clown and a damsel. but anyways my nitrates shot through the roof and I was bailing water like my ship was sinking, and couldn't bring them down so I ended up just letting it go stuck to a good water change schedule and as the tank matured everything started balancing out. I wouldn't panic give it time and keep up the maintenance.


This is a relief to hear, but still a bit perplexing. After my water change, my Nitrites bottomed out almost entirely, so I figured it was under control. Didn't realize such a swing could happen and I thought the live bacteria I added would have knocked it out completely, but...

Since none of the livestock seem to be having ill effects, I'll just keep up the maintenance like you said.

Thanks!
 

Pockets

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Well the good bacteria needs time to establish itself and every time you add something new that will upset the balance more food more fish poo so the tank will need to adjust to the new bio load. So throwing in a bunch of fish to an imature tank can cause drastic swings. Key is to make small changes gradually over time. But keep your waterchanges close together to bring down those nutrients before big algae blooms start there's lots of contributing factors buy in my opinion water changes on schedual will be your best friend blowing off all your rocks with a power head or turkey Baster getting all the settled detritus. Out of the tank. But like I said your tanks very young be patiant keep reading there's an endless supply of reading to do in this hobby. Master the basics and go from there good luck
 
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thinktank

thinktank

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I'd stop monitoring nitrite. Unlike freshwater, it is not toxic in seawater and is no concern.

Just follow ammonia for cycling purposes. :)


I had read that in several places, so that's a relief. Is the same true for corals, anemones, etc.? Or does it only apply to fish?
 

Randy Holmes-Farley

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I had read that in several places, so that's a relief. Is the same true for corals, anemones, etc.? Or does it only apply to fish?

Applies to marine systems in general. The very high chloride ion concentration (19,000 ppm) competes for the binding sites that nitrite attaches to when it exerts toxicity.
 

Harold999

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I'd stop monitoring nitrite. Unlike freshwater, it is not toxic in seawater and is no concern.

Just follow ammonia for cycling purposes. :)
One problem; when there are nitrites you can't do a nitrate test as far as i know (leads to a false reading), so you're in the dark regarding nitrates.
Or is anybody familiar with a specific brand nitrate test which isn't influenced by nitrites?
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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Thinktank

when you say live rock do you mean already cycled rock brought home wet from a pet store and added into your tank
 

Randy Holmes-Farley

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One problem; when there are nitrites you can't do a nitrate test as far as i know (leads to a false reading), so you're in the dark regarding nitrates.
Or is anybody familiar with a specific brand nitrate test which isn't influenced by nitrites?

Yes, that's a concern. If it is very importnat to you to know nitrate levels earlu in cycling you may need to perform corrections of soem sort.

But not knowing nitrate early on is also OK. :)
 
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NeonRabbit221B

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Put your test kits down and put them in a closet for a month while your tank matures. You are cycled and should maintain a weekly water change schedule, manual removal of the algae and just enjoy the fish. Depending on tank size you can add some additional bioload after a week without issue.

Nitrite bacteria is slow to establish but also nitrites are non-toxic. Ammonia misreads are super common and nitrate readings are skewed in Nitrate readings. Stick those test tubes in a drawer for a while until you think you want to add coral or sensitive inverts.
 

Harold999

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Yes, that's a concern. If it is very importnat to you to know nitrate levels earlu in cycling you may need to perform corrections of soem sort.

But not knowing nitrate early on is also OK. :)
You want to know your nitrate level right before you start to add fish/corals. If there are still nitrites present, you don't know your nitrate level.
Even with a 90% waterchange (100% is impossible in most tanks), there will still be nitrites left which will **** up a nitrate test.
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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we need to know only If the rocks showed up wet or dry he he

a very large example thread link looms. but only for live rock transfer cyclers. dry starters cannot be in this club
 
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Randy Holmes-Farley

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You want to know your nitrate level right before you start to add fish/corals. If there are still nitrites present, you don't know your nitrate level.
Even with a 90% waterchange (100% is impossible in most tanks), there will still be nitrites left which will **** up a nitrate test.

Do you need to know that? I disagree with both statements.

if you are really concerned, measure nitrate. If it is OK (say, below 30 ppm) then it makes zero difference what nitrite is because it is OK to go forward, with or without a water change.

Appropriate cycling of dead rock will not result in excessive nitrate even before a water change.

Curing wild rock will have substantial nitrate, but if you do a large water change, it will be fine.
 

Harold999

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if you are really concerned, measure nitrate. If it is OK (say, below 30 ppm) then it makes zero difference what nitrite is because it is OK to go forward, with or without a water change.

Appropriate cycling of dead rock will not result in excessive nitrate even before a water change.
Dumping up to 1-2 ppm ammonia on a daily base in your tank for weeks or months can lead to excessive nitrates.

"If you are really concerned, measure nitrate."
My point from the beginning was that you can't do a proper nitrate test as long as there are nitrites in the tank. Well, at least with the nitrate tests i'm familiar with.
 
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Randy Holmes-Farley

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Dumping up to 1-2 ppm ammonia on a daily base in your tank for weeks or months can lead to excessive nitrates.

Sure. And I definitely recommend against :"Dumping up to 1-2 ppm ammonia on a daily base in your tank for weeks or months"

Who does that? Why? Seems nuts to me.

Two bursts of ammonia are plenty. That cannot give more than 10 ppm nitrate.

I am very aware of the fact that nitrite interferes with nitrate testing. I just do not consider nitrite testing to be useful for that reason or any other, except in unusual circumstances.
 

NeonRabbit221B

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Sure. And I definitely recommend against :"Dumping up to 1-2 ppm ammonia on a daily base in your tank for weeks or months"

Who does that? Why? Seems nuts to me.

Two bursts of ammonia are plenty. That cannot give more than 10 ppm nitrate.

I am very aware of the fact that nitrite interferes with nitrate testing. I just do not consider nitrite testing to be useful for that reason or any other, except in unusual circumstances.
When cycling rock I dose ammonia to a SW bucket to 2 ppm ammonia and test nitrites after 5 days. If I have a nitrite reading then I know I have bacteria that can convert the ammonia. its been a while but I am sue you can spout off a conversion factor that I at one point knew. Otherwise a nitrite test kit also serves as a decent paper weight.
 

brandon429

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I asked for input from a poster from a prior decade just now noticed /zombification thread/who kicked this up heh going back to re read. remember that one thread about a month ago where the young lady would not post update pics/everyone got all bent out of shape

I thought THinktank was doing it again

Harold thank you

the sad part is we're never going to know if the live rock was skip cycle. Im hunting down their posts one sec.

it was dry start.
 

Randy Holmes-Farley

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When cycling rock I dose ammonia to a SW bucket to 2 ppm ammonia and test nitrites after 5 days. If I have a nitrite reading then I know I have bacteria that can convert the ammonia. its been a while but I am sue you can spout off a conversion factor that I at one point knew. Otherwise a nitrite test kit also serves as a decent paper weight.

Why not just measure ammonia? :)
 

NeonRabbit221B

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Why not just measure ammonia? :)
Honestly just misreads between having 2 ppm and .5 ppm ammonia are harder to detect. At the end of the day, knowing that the ammonia is being processed is what I want to know anyways. The level of leftover ammonia left in the bucket after that week doesn't mean anything to me because that water isn't used in the tank.
 
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