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16 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been neglecting water testing for a while and guess what ?I I did a nitrate dip test (using a newly bought BioScience test kit after the previous one expired just after 6 months) and the reading went to the maximum of 200ppm. I did not test the rest of the water parameters.

Why I test the water now ?

Because as recently as 2 months back I got a lot of brown algae growing on the life rocks, substrate and glass panels. I thought it's just a passing penomena but as the weeks grew it got thicker and thicker and turned to dark green. And I thought it must be good algae. Then my normally Frogspawn coral don't expand as it use to be even after each change of water (weekly 20%). Then other hard corals started not to expand anymore; even the soft coral don't expand. Then most of the hard corals started to wither and died after one another. The only hard coral still expanding is the false bubble coral. Then one of the day the house power went off for 8 hours and some of my fishes died including my prized Flame Angel.

After this I changed 35% of my water and clear out all the filter
spares. Until last week my tank is filled with brown hairy algae on most of the live rocks even after clearing them. The algae will appear as soon as every other days even on the front glass.
I finally decided to do something. I bought the new Nitrate dip test and saw > 200ppm. So I cleared almost everything. I tried scrubbing all the rocks clear of the brown algae infestation, changed new charcoal & sponge, cleared all dead corals, etc.
Then I did a new aquascape.

You can see my tank specs under (Lee Tank Specs - in tank section). It has been 5 days already since the major re-aquascape and currently the nitrate is reading around 70-80ppm.

What else can I do ?
Assuming no purchase of new filtering equipment or spending extra dollars. Do I really need to clean out the 'sponge' in the internal filters; they are supposed to process beneficial bacteria.
I need they are pretty dirty.

My current feeding regime :-
Daily - 1 cube of frozen blood worm
2x Weekly - pieces of prawns
1x Weekly - brine shrimps

I really want back those moving hard corals again.


852 Posts
Looks like you'll have to reduce feeding, do water changes by vacuuming the sand, and clean out all filters for the next while. Testing every couple of days will tell you how the tank is doing.

Do you have a refugium with macro algae growing? It's the best addition I made to my tank to keep the water clean...

Good luck

Premium Member
17,355 Posts
I agree with the other statements so far, more water changes and reducing or stopping the feeding for a period of time. These actions will correct the high nitrates existing now, but more importantly, why were these valuse so high to begin with?

To really be able to look at this in depth, we need to know several things about your system and its care:
  • more about how much and how often you feed
  • your water column parameters and tank volume
  • how you test for your water parameters
  • your source of water for ASW and top-off
  • your top-off and water change methodology
  • your fish load/bioload
  • your substrate parameters
  • your lighting and how old the bulbs are
  • your source of ASW mix
  • how you supplement calcium and alkalinity
  • what if any trace elements do you use
  • how you export phosphates, etc from the system
  • info on any filtration mechamisms you have

I realize this is a lot of information to ask for, but all these items in the list may contribute either alone or in part to your nitrate levels that your system is experiencing now. Even if we correct to less than 20 PPM Nitrate, lapses in husbandry will allow the system to return to the same level you previously experienced. Finding the cause and correcting it will put you on the way to a more balanced and healthy environment for your watds to thrive in.

HTH, looking forward to your responses!

16 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You can view my Tank specs under 'Tank Specs' - 'Lee Tank Specs'

Attached :-

My Tank current Spec at 10th months (from Oct 2002)

Juwel Rio 125 - about 26 US Gallon (water only)
(US$ 250)

Crush Coral 2" depth
(US$ 20)
Fine Coral Sand 1" depth
(US$ 10)
Live Rock about 33 pounds
(US$ 90)

Filtered Seawater from LFW
(US$ 0.50/gallon)

Water Specs (tyipcal):
Ammonia - Not check
Nitrite - Not check
Nitrate - 70-80 ppm
Phosphates - < 0.3
PH - 8.3
Temp - 27-29C
Salinity - 1.021-24
No other addition of Trace Elements, Calcium, nothing

Juwel Internal Filter 600l/h (wool, act carbon, sponge)
Hdor Prime10 External Filter 300l/h (wool, act carbon, ceramic)
(US$ 50)
Eden 228 Power Head 1000l/h
(US$ 25)
Skimmer Piccolo Sander (using air difusser via a 5w air pump)
(US$ 15)

China Resun (set for 26-27C, room temp 32-34C)
(US$ 400)

Lighting: (2" from tank surface)
Coralite Actinic 18W x 2 (9 hrs) - 6 months
Arcadia Marine White 18W x 2 (7 hrs) - 6-9 months
(US$ 80)

Livestocks :

Blood Shrimp x1 (US$ 5)

Soft corals (US$ 5)
Bubble-type corals (US$ 8)
Mushrooms (US$ 3-6)
Anemone x 1 (US$ 25)
Button corals
Flat Brain coral (US$ 20)

Percula clown x3 (US$ 2)
Yellow wrasse (US$ 3)
Green wrasse (US$ 3)
Blue damsel (US$ 2)
Blue/yellow damsel (US$ 3)
False Maroon Gamma (US$ 5)
Yellow Tank (US$ 15)

My current feeding regime :-
Daily - 1 cube of frozen blood worm
2x Weekly - pieces of prawns
1x Weekly - brine shrimps

I'm sure my livestocks are too much for my setup.
I hope I'm still able to keep all that I have and not spending too
much dollars to remove the nitrate.

Will those nitrate remover help ?
I will probably cut down on the feeding for a while and try to
power on the Actinics only.

799 Posts
I hate responding to these posts, as I like to have good news rather than bad news.

Got any pics of the tank?

Well, that's a lot of fish in a 26 gallon tank. Which means lots of fish poop - leading to lots of nitrate. No wonder why you feed so much, that's a lot of fish ... I'd say more than would be good in a tank that size, if just for these levels problems. Even a tank twice the size, still probably too many fish.

For substrate, you have 3", but not all fine sand like a DSB. It's got to be near impossible to vacuum that much given the depth ... so a lot of detritus/excess food/fish poop is accumulating. I'd say remove the substrate to 1" or less, that should help a lot. Probably remove in stages, as you don't want to stir the bottom up that badly all at once. But unless all fine sand, you want 1" or less, IMO.

The other thing to worry about is all the carbon/mechanical filtration. Unless you're cleaning the filter pads and doing a thorough cleaning every few days, that builds detritus that leads to the high Nitrate and Phosphate levels you have.

For the algae and unhappy corals, I'd say that the high nitrates and phosphates are the issue. To fix I'd do the above things, listed again:

Less fish. Maybe 1/2 to 1/3 of what you have now.
Clean filtration regularly, maybe run them empty for water flow.
Remove much of substrate, 3" if not fine sand is too much.

Water changes as well, lots of water changes. That's the only way to temporarily drop the levels ... but without changing the above 3 things, those levels will go right back up.

Good luck, send us photos and keep updating as things progress.


48,724 Posts
IME a tank that size with an established biological filtration system, ie rock and sand will probably comfortably support a small pair of clowns and maybe one other, like a medium sized bi-color blenny or similar. I wouldnt try to keep half the fish you have in my 75g tank and it has a 55g sump. A yellow tang in a 26 is not a good idea, even by itself, its just not enough room.
With crushed coral you get too many places for leftover food and all that fish poop to acumulate, combined with all your mechanical filters that trap detritous and hold it. While its braking down it converts to ammonia then nitrate, then nitrate. Obviously you have efficient dentrifing going on but no where that the anerobic bacteria can exist in large enough population to begin to deal with your nitrate issue :(
Water changes, say 20% every other day for a while will eventually bring down the nitrate levels but ubntil you make some major changes in husbandry, its going to be an ongoing problem that will eventually result in system crash or you becoming disolussioned with the hobby
Cut back to 3 fish (and dont keep 3 clowns)
Get rid of the crushed coral or vacuum with siphon hose while doing those frequent water changes, and reduce feeding to appropriate levels for smaller fish load.
Also maybe add some small hermit crabs or bristle worms, mini stars, you need something to scavenge the left overs. GOOD LUCK

16 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Attached my current Tank (10 months)
Attached my Tank (4 months) - next reply

I started with 3" crushed coral for about 6 months. Last 3 months
I had replaced the top 1" of crush coral with Fine sand. So currently is :-
bottom 2" crush coral
top 1" fine sand

Do I really have to remove the rest of the crush coral ?
Maybe the top 1" fine sand is depriving oxygen for the nitriying
bateria in the bottom 2" crush coral.

If I remove & clean completely the internal filter sponge media will
it also remove the good nitrifying bacteria ?

Which has more nitrate removing bacteria ;
a. filter media
b. sand bed
c. live rock


Premium Member
17,355 Posts
wow, a lot of fish in a small space. Even if you cut back on feedings you're going to run into problems, Your bioload might be appropriate for a 125, and at this point, unless you decide to drastically cut back on the fish population, your system may cut your fish population and corals specimen list back for you.

I started to post a list of what you would need to do and why all the events have occurred in your system, but I think it would be more appropriate that I email you on this. Keep in mind that people here want to see you succeed, and that your creatures live and thrive, rather than just survive.

With your current system and its setup, you can prolly get the creatures to survive, although it will require a lot of manipulation on your part. Water changes (large ones) will be required for sure, that will be a good place to start. If you're going to remove the crushed coral, remove all of it (it will cement iotself into one big block under all the fine sand , with little functionality compared to a full DSB of fine sugar-sized aragonite).

Dn't be dishartened, take this opportunity to make your system better for what you've decided to keep.
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