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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I am working with the guy who I purchased my 92 corner from to help identify a problem with his 120g reef in his office, which has been serviced by a couple of different LFS guys over the past year or so. Being a newbie but a very quick and good study, I knew what the problem was before even testing the water, but the test verified it, the Nitrate test was off the scale before I even got done shaking it.

After discussing the situation with another LFS employee who also maintains several reef systems, and posting these threads on Aquarium Advice...

Reef tank w/Nitrates OVER 160ppm - Aquarium Advice - Aquarium Forum Community
Getting into the aquarium maintenance business - Aquarium Advice - Aquarium Forum Community

(read through them if you want, ignore the part about getting into maintenance business, I am going to just help him out with his tank and learn in the process)

...I'm basically of the opinion that I probably couldn't screw up his tank any more than it already is. I'm looking for as much input as possible on what should be done with his setup.

I've considered anything ranging from PWCs combined with nitrate removers to a complete tear-down cleaning. The latter is not preferred by the owner I'm sure, but it's probably the best solution.

Considering that it's a office display tank, he really wants it to "pop". Lots of corals & such. In any case, I will call on the assistance of the previously mentioned LFS guy to assist.

A substrate change has been suggested by several I've spoke with. What is the best substrate to go with, and how deep? Argonite or pool filter sand? 1 inch or 3 inch DSB?

I'm guessing that a deeper substrate would allow for a wider range of corals to be grown and a better variety of fish possibly as well.

I also considered adding a stand-alone refugium for pods and plants, for the Green Mandarinfish and filtering purposes.

Like I said, right now I'm trying to pull from as many resources as possible for ideas, for his tank as well as for my own in the future.

I have this thread going on several forums so don't be surprised to see it all around.

Comments and suggestions are extremely welcome!!!
 

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You really haven't given enough information to be of a lot of assistance. If I encountered that type of problem the first thing I would do is fire the maintenance people. They have no idea of what they are doing.

Also, if the owner isn't willing to give you complete control of how to rectify the problem and the funds necessary to accomplish any changes needed. I'd say, sorry but I can't help you and walk away.

You want a shallow sand bed (1"-2") of argonite sand. The less the better right now.

NO MANDERINEFISH!!! You really don't want to add any livestock to this mess now. A manderine goby would go belly up in no time. If it died in the tank (which it would) it would exude a toxin that would probably kill any fish unfortunate enough to be alive in the tank.

Coral growth has nothing to do with sand bed. It concerns me that you think they are related.

I'd make sure that any canister or wet/dry filter on the system was removed. I'd prepare for a massive (up to 75%) water change. I'd check the skimmer to make sure that it was suitable and set up and operating properly. I'd probably remove the substrate and go bare bottomed until the problem was resolved.

Bud, I laud your good intentions but I question whether you should really try to resolve this individual's problem. I have no doubt that you can improve his tank condition but I think that you need to ask yourself if you really want to take on the added responsibility of someone else's tank. If something goes wrong, who do you think this individual will blame? Also, once you've started to do this, you are at the individuals beck and call. If he discovers a problem at 5PM on a Friday, who is he going to call and what will he expect? Give it some thought, it might be better to pass on information and at most assist him in fixing the problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Thanks for the reply, perhaps I should clarify a few things.

You really haven't given enough information to be of a
lot of assistance.
Are you being sarcastic, or did you not look through the thread links? EDIT: links didn't work. May bad. They're fixed now.

They have no idea of what they are doing..
He actually is one of the most knowledgeable guys in the area, he just has too many 'irons in the fire'. I've gone to him dozens of times with questions and the LFS employee I mentioned is very good friends with him, so I know the situation a little better through him. He just has too much going on. But there is no excuse for letting it get this bad.

NO MANDERINEFISH!!! You really don't want to add any livestock to this mess now. A manderine goby would go belly up in no time. If it died in the tank (which it would) it would exude a toxin that would probably kill any fish unfortunate enough to be alive in the tank.
The fish I mention is already an inhabitant of the tank, if you read through the top 5 posts on the first thread, you get a full picture of what's going on in the system. But that is VERY INTERESTING TO KNOW and this makes the situation that much more important

Coral growth has nothing to do with sand bed. It concerns me that you think they are related.
What I was getting at is that if I wanted to get some lower-light corals I could plant them in the substrate and higher-light species on the LR mid/top depending on their requirements. EDIT: I have seen setups with corals placed in the sand bed, I thought this was one of the many possible placement options, but then again, newbie here. LFS guy told me he sometimes puts his frags in the sand bed to anchor to something so they don't float off the corals, maybe that's what I was seeing.

I'd check the skimmer to make sure that it was suitable and set up and operating properly.
Again, look at the pics. It's a dirty mess, can't see if it's working

I'd probably remove the substrate and go bare bottomed until the problem was resolved.
Not a bad idea

Bud, I laud your good intentions but I question whether you should really try to resolve this individual's problem...

...Give it some thought, it might be better to pass on information and at most assist him in fixing the problem.
Which is why I am posting this information here, and I address some of this in the thread links in my original post. (EDIT which are now working...)

If you just read the original post and not the thread links, and you're basing your response on that, then I can only assume that you know quite a bit about reef systems. I would really value your input if you could read through those threads and get a full picture.
 

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I am working with the guy who I purchased my 92 corner from to help identify a problem with his 120g reef in his office, which has been serviced by a couple of different LFS guys over the past year or so. Being a newbie but a very quick and good study, I knew what the problem was before even testing the water, but the test verified it, the Nitrate test was off the scale before I even got done shaking it.

After discussing the situation with another LFS employee who also maintains several reef systems, and posting these threads on Aquarium Advice...

http://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums...ss-121574.html
http://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums...pm-121921.html

(read through them if you want, ignore the part about getting into maintenance business, I am going to just help him out with his tank and learn in the process)

...I'm basically of the opinion that I probably couldn't screw up his tank any more than it already is. I'm looking for as much input as possible on what should be done with his setup.

I've considered anything ranging from PWCs combined with nitrate removers to a complete tear-down cleaning. The latter is not preferred by the owner I'm sure, but it's probably the best solution.

Considering that it's a office display tank, he really wants it to "pop". Lots of corals & such. In any case, I will call on the assistance of the previously mentioned LFS guy to assist.

A substrate change has been suggested by several I've spoke with. What is the best substrate to go with, and how deep? Argonite or pool filter sand? 1 inch or 3 inch DSB?

I'm guessing that a deeper substrate would allow for a wider range of corals to be grown and a better variety of fish possibly as well.

I also considered adding a stand-alone refugium for pods and plants, for the Green Mandarinfish and filtering purposes.

Like I said, right now I'm trying to pull from as many resources as possible for ideas, for his tank as well as for my own in the future.

I have this thread going on several forums so don't be surprised to see it all around.

Comments and suggestions are extremely welcome!!!

One thing dont go throwing pool sand it there pool sand might be 'silica sand' and if so, it probably be giving you some diatom issues...

Reefers usually use Aragonite sand... Basically sand from crushed corals... but finer then 'crushed coral'

This is pH balanced towards the reef and will not leech silica into the tank water column

research the sand you got and verifiy if it is silica or not

let me know, and we can continue from there.

There is a test you do with vinegar i beleive google it sand needs to be dry.


Using Mangrove Plants

The use of mangrove plants in saltwater aquarium systems to reduce and control nitrate is not a new concept by any means. This method of filtration has been around for some time, but with the popularity of wanting to find "natural" ways to take care of an aquarium, mangroves are being discovered as a good no chemicals or additives needed way to do it.



The best and most efficient way to lower nitrates in a saltwater aquarium, is to keep it clean and filtered. There are several filtering methods available on the market today. If you have a sizable collection of saltwater species, perhaps you should invest in a high quality filtering system. But in most cases, high nitrate levels are due to simple neglect and regular cleaning can help avoid that greenish slime from forming.

Nitrates are quite common in saltwater fish aquariums and are caused by food, waste and deteriorating vegetation, forming algae. Increased levels of nitrates are bad for the fish and could harm them.

There are a number of aquatic species that help keep nitrate levels low by consuming it such as hermit crabs and snails. However, the most common causes of high nitrate levels are over feeding, over crowding and neglect in keeping the tank clean. Your tank should be cleaned regularly, depending on the number of fish and the size of the tank.

Saltwater aquariums make such a nice addition to a room and it stands to reason that if you're going to invest in a saltwater aquarium, you would diligently maintain it. Murky, cloudy water is a sign of over feeding. It's tempting to tip that food container and watch them go for it. But the next time you are tempted when you know they've been fed enough, take a good look at the water. If it's murky, you're over feeding them.

In order to control nitrate levels, there are a number of things you might consider including:

* Use some type of filtering system
* Purchase aquatic species that eat algae.
* Change out about twenty-five percent of the water every seven to ten days.
* Put in plants
* Make sure your aquarium is large enough for the number of fish it contains.

Fish are not toys; they're living creatures and it's cruel to place them in an unfit environment. Jesus Christ loved the animals. He was born in a stable with animals and was known as the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God, and the Good Shepard.

"A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel." (Proverbs 12:10)

Well, fish may not be considered "beasts," but they're still living creatures.

Nevertheless, some saltwater species are quite expensive so why take a chance? Keep the tank clean and invest in some type of filtering system. Tiny hermit crabs and snails make a cute little addition to your saltwater aquarium and will go a long way in helping to keep the nitrate levels down. If your aquarium is too small for the amount of species it holds, maybe it's time to move up to a larger one. Take care of them.
 

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Your links don't work. All I have to go on is your post. If you click on the link in my signature, you'll have some idea of my system. I've been doing saltwater since 1972 and reefs for over 10 years.

If the individual is knowledgeable and doesn't invest the time in his system, it might not be a good idea to get involved. Whatever goes wrong, he's going to blame on you.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I think this is misunderstanding, and I do owe you an apology.

I fixed the links, I don't know why they didn't show up correctly in the first post - my apologies.

I certainly did not mean to imply that you didn't know what you were talking about in any way, sorry if it came across that way. Please don't take that as anything remotely personal. I'm looking for help, not to tick people off. I just have a bit of a sarcastic side to my sense of humor myself, sometimes I interpret things the way I would write them, and that's not always the ways it is.

What I was meaning was that when you wrote that I hadn't supplied enough information, I thought maybe you were being sarcastic because the in the thread "getting into maintenance biz" I listed a ton of information - split into 5 posts - about the current setup situation. After you look at it, you'll see what I mean. I can understand how you took it seeing as the links didn't work, but I really did not mean it like that and I do value all advice and input, especially if you have 35+ years experience.

I should have checked to make sure the links worked when I first posted. I hope you will check it out and let me know if you see anything else. And please accept my apologies!
 

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OK, after reviewing the threads let me make a few comments. First, get a new nitrate test kit and retest. I suspect that the reagents in the kit you used are bad. I think the off the scale reading is wrong. Get a good kit like a Salifert and check to make sure the reagents aren't going to expire this year. Do this before you do anything else.

Prepare to remove both the bio balls and padding. Both encourage nitrate production. Make sure that the fish are only being fed once per day and then only by one person. Feed only what can be consumed in a few minutes with no left overs.

The sump also isn't as bad as it looks. The worms are beneficial filter feeders. The skimmer is a good one but needs a good cleaning. The T5 lighting is fine but shouldn't be placed on or near plastic. It doesn't need a guard or lens.

After you've retested the nitrates let me know all the parameters. Not that they are fine, what the numeric values are. SG, pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, Phosphate, and Alk. Check all of your reagents for an expiration date. If you're using a master or combined test kit, there is a good chance that they are all bad.

After I know more I'll be able to tell you more. Don't do anything drastic, the fish look fine, the tank doesn't look bad and if you think the sump looks bad, don't look at mine.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks. The kit I'm using is mine API master FW purchased 1/1/9 and the Nitrate has tested my FW accurately and I test at least every 10 days, it's almost gone so I got a new one and compared the results from each on my FW and they both consistently return the same results. I'm not so worried about those being expired as I am the quality of APIs kits - as you alluded to, Salifert seems to be the best brand from what I've heard. It's good to learn these things early on.

I wasn't too worried about the worms, just the detritus built up, and the fact that I couldn't even tell if the skimmer was working because it was dirty. Also will probably suggest removing the Unicorn Tang since it is so big, and needs probably 180g or bigger. LFS said he has several contacts with tanks big enough to take it.

Will suggest removal of bio-balls, it seems that I am getting consistent advice on that aspect, and established LR should take care of it.

Also the lights in that original thread are a temporary set, his original set is back and it's more bulbs and better fixture.

I have Salifert Calcium but will probably spring for the other kits as I can afford them. I would like to use them for my system when I set it up.
 

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If the nitrate reading is accurate. The most likely cause of the the nitrate is the bio balls. I'd remove them all as well as any filter pad or other media. Then I'd do a total water change. I know that sounds drastic but a 75% change result will result in nitrates at around 40 which is still too high.

The way I'd accomplish that large a change is with a tank tear down. I'd move fish to a 44 gallon Brute trash can and rock to another. I'd trash the substrate and go with new. Clean and reset the skimmer then re set up the tank.

Yes, that tang will outgrow his tank.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I went in today and tested the system water again. I was aghast to what i discovered. Their guy had been in today and did a PWC (unknown how much) and...get this...ADDED FISH AND CORAL. He added this Goby to replace another that had died



And a coral which is sure to die. Unbelievable. He didn't charge them because he got a deal on some dental work from them (it's a dentist's office). Anyways, here's a full water parameter report:

pH 7.8


Ammoina 0
Nitrite 0

Nitrate test kit #1 (purchased 1/1/9, almost empty) - still 160ppm, but at least it only read 40-80 after the shake (first pic) but then off scale at 5 min



Nitrate Kit #2, recently purchase (for verification), Same results


Both vials side by side, #1 left, #2 right


Phosphate about the same


And silicates negligible


Other test parameters:

KH 7 (5 deep blue, 6 turned it green, 7 went yellow, same as before)

Temp 79.5 (I replaced the dead battery)

Salinity 38.5 / SG 1.0285

As for Calcium, if I understood the Salifert test and performed it properly, it's at around 600-625 ppm. Maybe someone can help me out on this one, I drew up 1ml in the titration syringe and went one drop at a time, swirling it, etc, sometimes a couple at a time, until I eventually emptied out the whole syringe. I refilled it with 0.1ml and went through that. I refilled it with 0.2ml and went through about 3/4 of that and it finally turned over to purple then blue. Each time the black head was at the line for the levels I just gave. I've got a pretty good scientific background so I'm pretty confident I did it correctly. So if the formula is (1-level on syringe) x 500 = Calcium level, and "level on syringe" being what is left over after it turns blue measured in mL (assuming you use less than 1 syringe of vial 3) and I used 1.25 ml (an excess of 0.25ml above and beyond the initial 1mL) then "level on syringe" would be -0.25 giving 1- (-.25) x 500 or 625. That seems high and the opposite of what I expected, but who knows if he dosed the tank after the PWC.

So Nitrates are still the biggest problem, Temp is OK, pH still low, SG is high, Alkalinity could come up a bit, phosphates are high.

Flow rate is quite low, he mentioned that it used to be significantly higher. I mentioned that if the power head had not been taken apart and cleaned, it should be, at least once a year if not more often. I also suggested adding one or two powerheads.

I'm going in there on Wednesday with the new LFS guy I turned him on to, he will probably switch to his service and I will assist and learn.

Comments?

Anybody want to buy a gorgeous Unicorn Tang?
 

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I'd show the photos of the nitrates and phosphates to the Dentist. Tell him that this is the reason that his fish and corals are dying. Tell him that in order to correct the condition the bio bals and filter media must be removed. The substrate must be changed as well as a nearly total water change.

You also need to know what, how much, and how ofter the fish are being fed and I would recommend that you run a nitrate and phosphate test on the make up and top off water. If DI water isn't being used for both it needs to be.

I wouldn't even worry about Ca, Mg, SI or any other parameters until after you have the Nitrate and Phosphate problems resolved.

Again, if he isn't willing to make the changes, I'd wish him luck bow out of the picture. Maybe he shouldn't have a tank.
 

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Let me see if I can "cut to the chase"

Basically you have low pH 7.6 and nitrates of 160ppm

1) hopefully you are measureing the pH with the api high range test kit. If not remeasure using that kit. and meaure just before light out. That pH is the lowest reading of the high range test kit and therefore could be much lower. It is also the highest reading of the api pH (low or FW) kit. And therefore could be much higher.

2) The 160ppm with the api test kit is the max and the color (red) is also very close to 120ppm or even 80ppm. At the lower ranges (20ppm or lower) it is much easier to read that kit. My experience is that nitrates will be 0-20 or 80-160 depending on the system.

3) In a system that is properly balanced out with plant life (corraline and other algaes and macro algaes), It is very possible to have 0 ammonia/nitrItes with measurable nitrates as the tank is "cycling". The plant life will get its nitrogen from ammonia and slow down consuming nitrates. Then as aerobic bacteria build up the nitrates drop down. Also under those conditions, pH is generally high like 8.4-8.8 with the pH high range pH kit.

4) Finally pH will rise and nitrates will fall through the actions of plant life alone.

What is happening is the tank is not consuming the carbon dioxide and nitrates being generated. Hence the low pH and measureable nitrates. My advice is to setup the tank so that it maintaines itself. In order to accomplish that I would add fast growing macro algaes like chaetomorphia. And in a refugium even just a simple box or partition in the tank to protect the macros from the fish/crabs/cleanup crews.

You will find the just before lights out pH will rise and nitrates will drop regardless of what else is going on in the tank. Sometimes it takes a few weeks then all the sudden in a day nitrates drop down and are unmeasureable in a few days after that. PH will rise the next day or two after adding the macros.


my .02

I may not have been clear or at least wrong on the pH comment above. the api high range test kits measures a minimum of 7.6. The api pH kit measures a max of 7.6. So if you pH is above 7.6 use the high range test kit. Lower use the pH kit. At any rate if you are using the high range kit and measureing just before light out and still getting a pH of 7.6 then IMHO you do have low pH. Which will rise as macro and other algaes suck out the carbon dioxide from the tank.

Hopefully this edit is not more confusing or inaccurate then the original post. LOL
 
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