Nitrate In My Nano Reef Help

Discussion in 'Nano Saltwater Tanks' started by hannarrlouise, May 24, 2019.

  1. hannarrlouise Valued Member Member

    Hi guys, I need help and am very confused.
    I’m new to salt water tanks, this is my first.
    I have a 15 gallon nano reef. Inside I have 3 live rock (not sure of the weight) an elegance, goniopora, torch and a clown fish pair.
    I’m not having any trouble with either fish or coral, everything is going great. Here’s a picture for reference.
    However, that being said my nitrates are high. At least, I think they are.
    With my fresh water tank I was used to measuring by ppm as I have an API fresh water master test kit. Whereas with my nano reef I have a Colombo nitrate test kit (also ammonia and nitrite.)
    Here’s my results.
    I have been searching online and it says that even 15mg/l is safe for fish and coral, however I don’t have a clue if there is even that much in there as my test kit doesn’t go past 4.0mg/l and I can’t say that I understand that even.
    My tank is fully cycled, I did a fish less cycle with live rock, tested the parameters myself and even took water to be tested to my closest aquarium store, where I was always told they were fine.
    However, I’m unsure as to whether or not these levels are harmful for my fish and coral. I have been dosing half a cap of prime every day for the past 2 days to try to detoxify my nitrates and have even purchased and waiting on delivery of some Nitrate Ex.
    My fish seem healthy, my corals are still absolutely fine so I’m wondering if the levels are okay. This is more because, as I said, I’m used to dealing with ppm not mg/l and do not even know the safe levels or how to convert mg/l - ppm if it’s even possible.
    Also, my last weekly water change was Monday because my levels were what they are reading now and we took at least 30% instead of 20% out and am still getting these levels.
    Any help would be perfect, and would respect being told if I am doing anything wrong. Looking for reassurance more than anything!

  2. Magicpenny75 Well Known Member Member

    Nitrates are a byproduct of the biological filtration in Saltwater, just as they are in fresh. 1 mg/l = 1 PPM. Corals, especially the ones you have, are much more sensitive to nitrates than fish. If I were you, I would just stay on top of water changes, and perhaps add another piece of cured LR if you can find one. You can't have too much, really, and since it makes up the better part of your biological filter, the more the merrier. What else do you have for filtration?
    I bet if you do another water change you will notice your corals looking even better. It can't hurt, and with Saltwater it should always be your first course of action if anything looks "off". Prime is not an alternative to water changes, as it only temporarily binds nitrates and does not eliminate them.

  3. hannarrlouise Valued Member Member

    Okay thank you! I just have the fluval u2 with the little bio max bag removed as the woman who helped us start up our nano reef said that the live rock will act as the host for nitrifying bacteria. I’ll do another water change tonight. I’m curious, are my current levels not looking good? Is there anything else you recommend that I do? Thank you for your help!

  4. Magicpenny75 Well Known Member Member

    You really want to shoot for as low nitrates as you can in a reef, especially a little one like yours. In a small quantity of water, bad things happen really fast, so I would recommend to keep up probably 30% water changes a week. Not being able to see your other test results, I can't say more than that. The solution to pollution is dilution! :)
    I'm not familiar with your filter, but if it has a sponge in it, ditch that quick. You're better off keeping the ceramic rings and just rinsing them thoroughly every week. The sponge will trap waste and contribute to nitrate levels.
    In a nano tank, flow and live rock are your friends...traditional filters are not. Of course I am sure I'm not the first person to recommend a skimmer, but that is the best filter for saltwater, as it removes waste before it has a chance to break down.
    Your little reef is very pretty :) Have you gotten any clean up crew yet?
  5. Morpheus1967 Well Known Member Member

    I wasn't aware that Prime did anything to nitrates. Only ammonia and nitrites.
  6. Magicpenny75 Well Known Member Member

    From Seachem Prime FAQ:

    The detoxification of nitrite and nitrate by Prime® (when used at elevated levels) is not well understood from a mechanistic standpoint. The most likely explanation is that the nitrite and nitrate is removed in a manner similar to the way ammonia is removed; i.e. it is bound and held in a inert state until such time that bacteria in the biological filter are able to take a hold of it, break it apart and use it. Two other possible scenarios are reduction to nitrogen (N2) gas or conversion into a benign organic nitrogen compound.

    I wish we had some more "concrete" explanation, but the end result is the same, it does actually detoxify nitrite and nitrate. This was unexpected chemically and thus initially we were not even aware of this, however we received numerous reports from customers stating that when they overdosed with Prime® they were able to reduce or eliminate the high death rates they experienced when their nitrite and nitrate levels were high. We have received enough reports to date to ensure that this is no fluke and is in fact a verifiable function of the product

    I may have mis-spoke regarding the temporary binding, I was probably thinking of ammonia.
    That being said, it is still not a substitute for water changes.
  7. hannarrlouise Valued Member Member

    Thank you!
    So ditch the sponge filters within the filter and replace with something else or no? I’ll put the bio max back in today after my water change then!
    We used to have a emerald crab, but sadly he kept trying to attack my clowns so we took him back to the aquarium store where he was thankfully rehoused! I shall look into getting a skimmer!
    I was looking at goby’s to eat the excess food on the sand bed that seems to be getting trapped in places that I cannot siphon out! But I’m still not 100% sure yet! I’m trying to take my time with it and not rush anything!
  8. Magicpenny75 Well Known Member Member

    That's what I would do, possibly replace the sponge with some LR rubble, but really, anything that traps waste is bad news. I'd go for more LR in the tank if it was me.
    For clean up crew, I would steer clear of fish. Two clowns in a fifteen gallon tank is probably as much fish as you want. You could go for a peppermint, a skunk cleaner, or a fire shrimp for scavenging, since shrimp are less bioload on your system. Some will recommend hermits, but I never liked them. They always threw my corals down and they tend to murder each other. Shrimp seem more careful lol and they are really fun to watch. You can use a turkey baster to "blow out" the corners and little areas before WC's also.
    Oh! Also...saltwater nerites are the bomb, as well as margarita snails. They don't get as monstrous as turbo snails and are pretty hardy.
  9. hannarrlouise Valued Member Member

    Thank you! I really appreciate the help. We try to steer clear of snails, as (and this is completely irrelevant) we had them in our 15 gallon fresh water to help deal with an algae problem and they laid their eggs everywhere which set off my trypophobia haha, so anything that won’t harm my clowns really - they are still juveniles, so trying not to get anything bigger than them!
  10. stella1979 Moderator Moderator Member

    Hi :smuggrin: Welcome to the salty side!!!:D:D:D Your nano tank is gorgeous and things look to be going well.:)

    I've never seen nitrates measures as mq/l so can't really advise you there, but I have total faith in @Magicpenny75 :happy: That said...

    Oh boy! We're talking filtration and I've got lots of ideas here.:smuggrin: There are a few ways you can go here but it all depends on the space available. If it comes to sponge vs. ceramic ring biomedia (or any other porous media), definitely go with the stony stuff. You could use the bio-rings or... you could replace those with a 'better' media. I use Seachem Matrix because it has the capability of hosting anaerobic bacteria and thus, reducing nitrates. Whether it will host anaerobic bacteria is another discussion but suffice to say, denitrifying bacteria are sensitive... so, I very rarely touch my own bagged biomedia. It gets rinsed in tank water only every 6 months. Crazy... right? Well, no, because I've set up stages of filtration that help to prevent gunk from getting to the biomedia.

    I too have a nano tank (closed system/no sump) and when I set it up, the advice I saw was that HOB skimmers aren't to be trusted nor worth the expense. So, I started with the idea that I did not want a skimmer unless I had a sump to put one in. The hobby evolves, of course,;) and I've seen evidence of some folks being happy with HOB skimmers. I've been successful without one for nearly two years now. Anyhow, instead of a skimmer, I follow a method called, 'floss & toss'. This means that I use cheap floss for mechanical filtration and change it quite often, usually, twice a week... though I've been known to go a full week too often.:p I have an Aquaclear 70 HOB running on a 20g long reef. Here are pics to show what I mean by stages of filtration.
    See the small chamber on the right? That's where the intake comes in. Water first hits the white pad you see there. See the black baffle just left of the white pad? This forces water to go down through the pad where at the bottom of the black baffle, holes allow water to travel into the large chamber on the left. Here, two decent sized bags of Matrix sit in the bottom. Because water enters at the bottom, it flows up through the Matrix before exiting the filter.

    Here I'm showing that this filter modification was done with the idea of making the filter also work as a small refugium. A refugium, at its most simple, is just a place where we can grow macroalgae, usually, chaetomorpha aka chaeto. Chaeto uses nitrates (NO3) and phosphates (PO4) for growth, (along with the small plant light hanging over the HOB which comes on in the middle of the night). As the chaeto grows, some is removed and thrown away to make space for more growth. Each time I throw away chaeto, I am effectively throwing away NO3 and PO4. The chaeto uses those things, but if it dies in a system, it will release all those nutrients back into the tank.

    ANYWAY, lol, when we're talking about skimmers and refugiums, all we are discussing are forms of nutrient reduction. NO3 and PO4 are the favorite foods of algae. Algae is ugly and can smother your corals. Plus, many corals do not tolerate elevated levels of PO4 and NO3. This is why you've seen advice about keeping NO3 at 15mq/l aka 15ppm or lower. Personally, I try to keep NO3 below 5ppm and PO4 below .05ppm. Both the floss and toss method and the little fuge I've got are forms of nutrient reduction.;)

    You do you of course.:) Just wanted to present another perspective. :)

    Whether you get a skimmer or set up a fuge is fairly irrelevant towards keeping your biomedia clean. I would still advise using a form of filter padding that water travels through before it hits any biomedia in your rear integrated sump. Integrated sumps (aka AIO or all-in-one tanks) can be a pain to clean, (airline tubing helps;)) so it would behoove you to use a form of mechanical filtration to catch whatever it can. Just know that mechanical filtration must be kept very clean, or it too will release nutrients into the system. For that reason... floss and toss. I've found cheap floss at WalMart, online, or the sewing stores. Filter padding like I use is cheap on eBay and the fluffy stuff (pillow filling, which you can get a big bag of for cheap) can be stuffed into whatever space is allowed. Be sure to get 100% polyfill with none of those flame retardant properties. These are chemicals that are unsafe for your tank.

    Phew! Sorry!! You haven't been here long so you probably haven't yet seen how long-winded I can be.:facepalm:

    I hear you on the snails. Hated those eggs my freshwater nerites left all over wood and stone! For saltwater, I like trochus snails. They are absolute pigs on any film algae.:) It is pretty rare that they reproduce in aquaria. I've had 2-3 in my reef all along with zero eggs and zero babies.

    Since I've been so long-winded, here are the things I really want to point out...
    • Definitely get more rock in the tank, be it live or dry. Rocks are our best host for beneficial bacteria, not to mention a host of other critters... pods, feather dusters, all those little things that bring biodiversity which also makes for that 'mature' environment.
    • Understand that with all stages of filtration, we must keep nutrient reduction in mind... even if running a skimmer or a fuge.
    • Do not consider more fish or really anything that will contribute much of a bioload, until you have worked out rocks, filtration, nutrient reduction, and see that the system is quite capable of keeping a strong cycle and nutrients low. If and when that day arrives, and you still want a third fish, I'd suggest a pistol goby/shrimp pair. These guys form a symbiotic relationship which is pretty cool, (more on that later if you want;)), and though the goby will sift a little sand, the shrimp is more of a scavenger. Even so, this pair will not keep your sand totally clean, since they will only occupy a limited territory in the tank. On this note...
    • Clowns can be absolutely evil, territorial jerks, particularly if they've already claimed territory over the whole tank. There's nothing wrong with just having clowns:happy: but any time a new fish enters a clown's tank, the aquarist must be on high alert and prepared to step in just in case that clown would prefer to kill a new fish rather than live with it. Not all clowns are this way! Mine, thankfully, is pretty chill.
    • Eeek! So sorry to cause alarm but I see you love your lil fin babies... so you should know that a sizable Elegance is more than capable of eating fish.:nailbiting:
    CONGRATULATIONS on the new tank!!! :D:D:D Hope this helped.;)
  11. hannarrlouise Valued Member Member

    Wow! That sure was a read and a half! Haha! I think what I’m going to do is remove the sponge filter inside my fluval u2, put in the bio max that I was told to take out and get some live rock rubble to put in my filter, or maybe some ceramic tubes.
    I’ll look into the floss thing as I’m really bad at remembering to change things out! I’m trying to do things as efficiently and cheap as possible. I don’t understand skimmers or things like that and I’ve read that a skimmer will remove what my corals thrive on.
    Not sure where I’ll get floss from as I live in the UK! I’ve done a lot of reading online today that people are saying that live rock and sand are all the filtration I’ll need, but I like to be on the safe side!
    I still don’t know if my nitrates are at a safe level as I don’t understand the whole mg/l thing on the Colombo test kits! So I’m winging it!
    I’m doing a tiny water change tonight with my left over salt water, I’ll remove the sponge and when I get more salt water tomorrow (I’m yet to get a RO system) I’ll try and grab some more ceramic media and as close to floss as I can! Thank you! You’ve been a huge help!
  12. stella1979 Moderator Moderator Member

    I totally understand how you feel like you're winging it... but it's all a learning process and you'll get there. Personally, I was totally overwhelmed with the amount of info available when I got started, but we soon learn through experience.;)

    One of my best fishy buddies also lives in the UK!:D Check out threads by @grantm91 if you want to see gorgeous UK reefing.:D

    Idk where you'll find floss there either but must imagine you have your own big box stores that sell a lil bit of everything... like WalMart. I've used regular old pillow stuffing for years in my tanks. You can, of course, buy such things at fish stores, but I'm a proud budget aquarist and fish stores are overpriced for this product. PS... I'm terribly forgetful too! Usually, feeding fish and corals reminds me to change floss, but if it doesn't, water changes do... and in the beginning when such things didn't come to mind as easily, I set alarms on my phone.:p

    Not sure if this has come across, but more rock in the tank will help in more ways than one.;) It absolutely does not have to be live rock. Dry reef rock will eventually become live rock in your tank... though if we're being thorough, we should discuss curing dry rocks. More on that if you're interested.;)

    Glad to help! The stickies in the Saltwater Beginner's forum are a great resources.:)
  13. hannarrlouise Valued Member Member

    You have really helped! Though, I don’t think I can fit any more live rock in the aquarium without having to do a whole move around, and even then I’m not sure if more will fit in there!
  14. Magicpenny75 Well Known Member Member

    I wasn't sure about the conversion but I've looked at a couple of chemistry sites and it holds up:
    PPM is derived from the fact that the density of water is taken as 1kg/L = 1,000,000 mg/L, and 1mg/L is 1mg/1,000,000mg or one part in one million.
    @stella1979 thanks for the faith lol. It feels like only yesterday I had no idea what I was doing and did plenty of winging it. I knew there was a way to use floss as you mentioned, but I never did so I left that one alone. FWIW, I ran my 75 as a reef for over three years with powerheads, a HOB skimmer (AquaC Remora ProS) that was as good as anything I could find, and an HOB fuge. That's it. No sump and no other filtration. Most will agree under 20-30 gallons a skimmer is of little use. I had one on a 20 Long once, and it was more trouble than it was worth. I feel like with good regular water changes and some more rock, this tank will be good !
  15. stella1979 Moderator Moderator Member

    Hmmm, don't want to sound like I'm nagging... Rock is easy to overlook but having enough rock is important and you definitely have room. You must go up my friend.;) Not only does rock make for a strong cycle and a biodiverse tank but... It's better for fish because of the comfort it brings and how it breaks up line of sight to reduce aggression. Add to that, more rock means more room for placing corals.:p

    We will be more than glad to help you build a rockscape. All you need are the rocks, reef safe epoxy, and superglue (cyanoacrylate based, found in most gel superglues.) None are expensive and I'll be glad to provide links when I get back to my pc. Lol, I'm not so long winded on mobile devices.;)

    @Magicpenny75 It's great having you around on the salty forums and really nice of you to look into the mg/l vs ppm for us. Thanks!:D What I wouldn't give to see that old 75 of yours! As for skimmers and all that... well after a little time, we learn that there's more than one way to skin this catfish, right?:p
  16. hannarrlouise Valued Member Member

    I think I’ll probably add more rock at some point, but currently I’m on a bit of a budget, so today I’m going to get more salt water, probably get my hands on some matrix, water change, sort the filter out and add a little nitrate ex!
  17. grantm91 Fishlore VIP Member

    Hi hanna nice tank I had the same one 2 years ago !    

    They look so nice with the curved edges. I had a hang on filter as it saved on space in the tank and it was easy to just pull off the floss and replace it without going into the tank. Ecuse the screen shots   that was the filter incase your interested and this is the floss you can buy.