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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently bought a 40 gallon aquarium that had an established reef for 5 yrs or so prior to me owning it. During the move I siphoned the vast majority of the water into buckets, leaving enough to keep my substrate and the few critters that the previous owner gave me covered (1 maroon clown, 1 scooter blenny, 1 decorator crab, and 1 feather duster). It was a bumpy ride home, and the water in my tank was sloshing all around (I still haven't cleaned the salt deposits off my truck's windshield!). It's been setup and running for 4 days now, and I've added 2 inches of new aragonite substrate and 10 lbs quality cured live rock. I have been doing daily water tests expecting the tank to cycle or "mini-cycle" since everything got stirred up. I know 4 days isn't a lot of time yet, but my test results are puzzling me... Ammonia and Nitrite have been at zero (or undetectable) this whole time, pH is 8.0, alkalinity is ideal according to my test kit, but nitrates were through the roof (160 ppm). On the advice of LFS personnel, I have been doing daily 25% water changes. Today my nitrates were much lower, but still "on the edge" (40 ppm). Should I expect to see this tank cycle a bit? Where are the nitrates coming from if there's no ammonia or nitrite? Where should I be going from here in terms of establishing some quality water chemistry? I have all the time in the world, and have no problem being very patient with this.
 

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My guess would be the nitrates are from the lack of live rock or a deep sand bed. Where you have the original substrate with no added Bio load the existing bacteria can break down ammonia and nitrite, but the bacteria to break down nitrate need an oxygen free environment to survive. That is the reason for live rock. The deep pores allow the surface bacteria to use up the oxygen in the water, thus allowing oxygen free water to go deeper into the rock for the nitrate bacteria.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you so much for the info. In all the articles I have read about the nitrogen cycle, not one of them mentions anything about the nitrates get balanced out. They tend to go into great detail about ammonia changing to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate, but they stop there... I knew there must be a way to maintain a biological balance, otherwise everyone would be recommending frequent massive water changes.
 

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I've been doing a lot of research, I've got a stack of books and the only thing that you can do is add more live rock and do water changes on a schedule. That seems to be the only way to properly remove nitrates.

I had some hope for the Monaco Method but that was ruled out early on.
 
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