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Nitrates Rising????

3634 Views 10 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  JennM
The Nitrate Level in my 55g has risen to an unhealthy level in my tank. I have done 2 seperate water changes since I noticed the increase. I first noticed it a 3-4 weeks ago. The first water change was approx. 10%, this reduced the levels for a short time, then they climbed back up. I changed the water again, this time it was approx 20% water change. And the level has gone back up again. I do use RO/DI water to do the change. My Nitrite levels are OK, so is the PH reading. Ammonia is a little high but I attributed that to the nitrate level. What could be causing the Nitrate level to increase. I am getting really frustrated when I have the tank going great then all of a sudden I have some problem which crashes my system. My Coraline Algae seems to be turning white, from its normal purple.

Prior to this happening I had a guy I hired to do my water change and he had added at that time a 5 snails and 2 hermit crabs. They have all since died off.. I did have a tang disappear in the tank, its not that big, but he was there one day and gone the next. If he went under a rock and died could that be the reason for the increased Nitrate levels? Any help would be greatly appreciated..

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That is a lot of dead stuff in 55 gallons of water. What caused all of those things to die? Is the tank fully stocked? If so I would continue water changes until everything begins to balance out. If you just have live rock in the tank I would wait out the cycle. How long has the tank been set up?
My Nitrite levels are OK, so is the PH reading. Ammonia is a little high but I attributed that to the nitrate level. What could be causing the Nitrate level to increase.
You have the right idea, but I think your ideology is backwards.

Ammonia ---> Nitrite ---> = Nitrate ....if ammonia is regstering on your test kits ((meaning ammonia is present in your water)) the ammonia is eventually be transformed into nitite and eventually in to nitrates (in a cycled tank) may not be seeing an increase in your nitrite levels becasue the ammonia is transforming into nitrate before you can test for it.

Your nitrate levels would have to be real high before you started killing off live stock, I'd be more worried about the ammonia source, it sounds as if your tank never properly cycled, or the dealth/increased bioload has cause the tank to cycle again.

Don't add anything for atleast a month, monitor your levels, if you don't have any other livestock in your tank I wouldn't even bother doing water changes until you ammonia reading is zero, than worry about dropping your nitrates.

Yes, the tang death could of caused an inrease in ammonia, which lead to the increase of Nitriates, but like I stated before, find the ammonia source, let the tank cycle and you should be ok.....

DO you have a strong understanding of what it means for a tank to cycle?
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As Chad has said,if there is nothing else alive in thetank, let it cycle and wait till the Ammonia and Nitrate levels are 0. If there is still livestock in the tank, then do a few (2-4) large (25-50%) water changes over the next 1 - 2 weeks or until the ammonia and Nitrate lacvels drop down to 0. The ammonia is the cause of the elevated Nitrate levels and the death of the snails, crabs and tang would all be enough to cause the rise in the ammonia levels, especially if it's a new tank. Next you need to determine the reason for the deaths of the snails and crabs, the tang probably got too stressed out from the ammonia levels, and then work at correcting that problem before adding anything new to the tank.
Yes I do, have an understanding of cycling. I have had the tank up and running for well over 1 year now. Probably closer to 2 years. I don't know what caused those snails and crabs to die, the guy who changed my water that time added them. Then maybe a week or so later they started turning up dead. My nitrates started to rise then. The snails are all that have been added for the past 3 months or so. I had my tank the way I liked it. I now have 2 snails left, 1 hermit crab, 1 damsel and a maroon clown. My bubble anonme has all but closed in on itself, another bubble coral has not opened in a while. Couple of the other corals look stressed but otherwise OK, if that makes sense. I was thinking about doing another water change this weekend, maybe a bit larger thought this time...
He may not have acclimated them properly. I would definately do a few large water changes toget the parameters back in line. Have you made any other changes in/to the tank/system such as type of food or anything? also do you use any additives in your tank and if so what are they?
Do you know 100% that RO water was used when the other person did the water change? No matter the size of the a 55 it could wreak havok. I would do a 50% water change and monitor....
As far as I know he used RO Water when he changed the water. He told me it was. As far as making any additions, only the addition of the snails and crabs, nothing else changed on my tank. Last time I added anything was the tang, maybe 3-4 months ago.... I do use some additive. I use 1/2 teaspoon of Iodine 2x a week,, calcium also 2x a week, plus Seachem's Reef Builder(raises carbonate alkalinity) also 2x a week (half a teaspoon)
I too, have a reef system with a heavy fish load. To reduce the nitrates, change the water regulary whether it needs it or not and skim for protein. I purchased Algone on line, it reports to reduce might, can't prove anything, but my nitrates stay below 5ppm. Also, add some plant material...they eat nitrates. Oh....the other reply was correct...Ammonia produces Nitrites, which are reduced to Nitrates, so expect levels to rise before they fall if nothing changes in your system.
I realize that this is just semantics, but my nature compells me to comment. Please do not take this personally.

Actually the Ammonia is OXIDIZED to nitrite, and then the nitrite is oxidized to nitrate by the beneficial bacteria in the system. The nitrate either taken up by algea as a nutrient or is then REDUCED by heterotrophic bacteria, typically under anoxic (without oxygen, but with nitrate) conditions, to nitrogen gas. However, I did just read an interesting article about denitrification (nitrate reduction) by aerobic bacteria.

-Chris, the anal engineer
bmartin1192 said:
I do use RO/DI water to do the change. My Nitrite levels are OK, so is the PH reading. Ammonia is a little high but I attributed that to the nitrate level. What could be causing the Nitrate level to increase. :confused:
All the advice thusfar has been good. I would like to explore specifics...

Please post the actual parameters, as it might shed some light on *why* the inverts died.

pH, Temp, Specific Gravity, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate and Phosphate (if you have a Phosphate kit). This will give us a clearer picture of what is going on. Could be that pH or salinity are out of whack, and that's what started the death chain... the rotting corpse of the tang would definitely throw some ammonia into the mix, then nitrite, and then nitrate. Dead snail (peeewww) would do that too. A combination of dead snails/crabs and a fish could be a huge problem, waiting to happen.

Do you have a deep sand bed? If not, if you have a shallow substrate, do you vacuum it to remove detritus when you water change? I see a lot of instances when the hobbyist skips vacuuming shallow substrate and it becomes a big fish potty with all kinds of nasties in it. Deep sand, while I generally don't recommend it, is a bit more "self maintaining" and shouldn't be disturbed.

ANY ammonia is toxic. Do the water changes suggested, and as well I'd consider adding some Seachem Prime or Kent Ammonia Detox to bind up those toxins. They will still register on your test kits, and they still need to be dealt with, but they will be a bit less harmful to the livestock still in your tank. ANY nitrate is toxic and the addition of Prime or Ammo Detox will help this too. Nitrates under 20 ppm in a reef tank are "ok" but the closer to nil, the better.

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