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Eliminating nitrates - water change frequency, bio balls, etc.

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Eliminating nitrates - water change frequency, bio balls, etc.
Old 08-27-2010, 02:43 PM   #31
 
40 lbs is good. just go light load until you get more. and yes lr will convert ammonia and ntrite to nitrate. lr is the best biological filter that i'm aware of. consider this. in your sump you probably will have 20 gallons of water max right? your skimmer if its in the sump is doing like 300 to 500 gals/hr so even without water flowing thru the sump your skimmer will filter out 20 to 40 times the volume of water in the sump/hr. if your display tank is 50 gallons your skimmer will filter at least the entire tank every 45 mins.at that point do you really believe your sump will be able to settle and collect detrius? thats why i said that the best thing to do is have an over sized skimmer. that i think is the major secret to keeping sw tanks. the bigger the skimmer the more room for error when feeding and polluting the tank with food and bio load. my skimmer is rated for 265 gallons and my tank when you compensate for rock is probably 80 gallons. i can throw food in my tank and the corals better eat fast otherwise they will have to wait till i feed again!

you can add dead rock but it needs to be really clean rock and i would do the test i mention above to check for phosphates. when i started i had major phosphate problems and i did that test and it ws an eye opener. i couldn't figure out where the phosphate was coming from until i did that test. at that point i use phosphate remover in the tub and ran it 24/7 until all phosphate was gone. then i loaded my tank up with those rocks i have now.

Last edited by reefsahoy; 08-27-2010 at 02:47 PM..
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Old 08-27-2010, 03:11 PM   #32
 
i think i might get long winded here. there is 2 schools of thought and i believe you've got 2 feet in both so here goes. remember that i've always said there are many ways to do the same thing. you can use either method or a combo of both but there are draw backs no matter which way you go.

1st
you can do a SW tank without a skimmer by using your sump as a refuge and putting cheato and/or sand as you mention above. the draw back with this is that you don't have alot of room for error. the waste will have to turn to phosphate before cheato can remove it and cheato accumulates phosphates slowly, hence they grow slow, so you will have to have a light bio load on the tank,and be very careful feeding. you will also have to put a light on the sump to keep the cheato alive. the plus is you will have natural food feeding everything in the dt that lives in the refuge. but the minus which is big is that you will have phosphate in your water all the time, and the lr will absorb some, and you will have to have a small bio load with littler room for error.

2nd you can use a skimmer (preferably a big one) and the skimmer will filter out the waste before it can brake down and become phosphate. IMO this is a better way because you are taking out the waste before the LR can absorb the phosphates. another trick in useing a skimmer is to add carbon to your water and what this does is cause a bacteria bloom in the water. this bacteria bloom will consmle all waste in the water and the skimmer will go nuts and pull everything out of the wate before the bacteria dies, leaving the water crystal clear. if you choose this option we can start another discussion on how to accomplish this so dont dose it until you understand whats happening. Yes i do dose vodka into my tank and my skimmer goes nuts!
3rd option is both but if your skimmer is big enough the cheato will not be able to live, you will get coralline on the pumps and skimmer and to me is not worth it. like i said if you dose carbon, feed lightly there will be undetectible phosphate assuming your skimmer is good and that causes cheato to not grow or die. if you can get cheato to grow then you have phosphate in the water which is a no-no.

Last edited by reefsahoy; 08-27-2010 at 03:16 PM..
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Old 08-27-2010, 03:20 PM   #33
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reefsahoy View Post
i think i might get long winded here. there is 2 schools of thought and i believe you've got 2 feet in both so here goes. remember that i've always said there are many ways to do the same thing. you can use either method or a combo of both but there are draw backs no matter which way you go.

1st
you can do a SW tank without a skimmer by using your sump as a refuge and putting cheato and/or sand as you mention above. the draw back with this is that you don't have alot of room for error. the waste will have to turn to phosphate before cheato can remove it and cheato accumulates phosphates slowly, hence they grow slow, so you will have to have a light bio load on the tank,and be very careful feeding. you will also have to put a light on the sump to keep the cheato alive. the plus is you will have natural food feeding everything in the dt that lives in the refuge. but the minus which is big is that you will have phosphate in your water all the time, and the lr will absorb some, and you will have to have a small bio load with littler room for error.

2nd you can use a skimmer (preferably a big one) and the skimmer will filter out the waste before it can brake down and become phosphate. IMO this is a better way because you are taking out the waste before the LR can absorb the phosphates. another trick in useing a skimmer is to add carbon to your water and what this does is cause a bacteria bloom in the water. this bacteria bloom will consmle all waste in the water and the skimmer will go nuts and pull everything out of the wate before the bacteria dies, leaving the water crystal clear. if you choose this option we can start another discussion on how to accomplish this so dont dose it until you understand whats happening. Yes i do dose vodka into my tank and my skimmer goes nuts!
3rd option is both but if your skimmer is big enough the cheato will not be able to live, you will get coralline on the pumps and skimmer and to me is not worth it. like i said if you dose carbon, feed lightly there will be undetectible phosphate assuming your skimmer is good and that causes cheato to not grow or die. if you can get cheato to grow then you have phosphate in the water which is a no-no.
i opened a thread about the doseing as i am very curious and would like to learn more about it .. i am in no way ready to try it but i am open to learn anything!!
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Old 08-27-2010, 04:13 PM   #34
 
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Originally Posted by bearwithfish View Post
get by on 40 pounds - yes sir and if you buy a little at a time over the next few months you can add it slowly with little to no bad effect...
Quote:
Originally Posted by reefsahoy View Post
40 lbs is good. just go light load until you get more. and yes lr will convert ammonia and ntrite to nitrate. lr is the best biological filter that i'm aware of.
Great, so it sounds like I won't be in bad shape with only 40 lbs of live rock for a while. Thanks, guys.

Quote:
Originally Posted by reefsahoy View Post
you can add dead rock but it needs to be really clean rock and i would do the test i mention above to check for phosphates. when i started i had major phosphate problems and i did that test and it ws an eye opener. i couldn't figure out where the phosphate was coming from until i did that test. at that point i use phosphate remover in the tub and ran it 24/7 until all phosphate was gone. then i loaded my tank up with those rocks i have now.
Thanks for the heads up about the potential consequence of the dry rock, reefs. How do you make sure the dry rock is clean? Would running it under the bathtub faucet for a few minutes suffice? (I'm guessing not...)

Quote:
Originally Posted by reefsahoy View Post
consider this. in your sump you probably will have 20 gallons of water max right? your skimmer if its in the sump is doing like 300 to 500 gals/hr so even without water flowing thru the sump your skimmer will filter out 20 to 40 times the volume of water in the sump/hr. if your display tank is 50 gallons your skimmer will filter at least the entire tank every 45 mins.at that point do you really believe your sump will be able to settle and collect detrius? thats why i said that the best thing to do is have an over sized skimmer. that i think is the major secret to keeping sw tanks. the bigger the skimmer the more room for error when feeding and polluting the tank with food and bio load. my skimmer is rated for 265 gallons and my tank when you compensate for rock is probably 80 gallons. i can throw food in my tank and the corals better eat fast otherwise they will have to wait till i feed again!
Quote:
Originally Posted by reefsahoy
2nd you can use a skimmer (preferably a big one) and the skimmer will filter out the waste before it can brake down and become phosphate. IMO this is a better way because you are taking out the waste before the LR can absorb the phosphates. another trick in useing a skimmer is to add carbon to your water and what this does is cause a bacteria bloom in the water. this bacteria bloom will consmle all waste in the water and the skimmer will go nuts and pull everything out of the wate before the bacteria dies, leaving the water crystal clear. if you choose this option we can start another discussion on how to accomplish this so dont dose it until you understand whats happening. Yes i do dose vodka into my tank and my skimmer goes nuts!
3rd option is both but if your skimmer is big enough the cheato will not be able to live, you will get coralline on the pumps and skimmer and to me is not worth it. like i said if you dose carbon, feed lightly there will be undetectible phosphate assuming your skimmer is good and that causes cheato to not grow or die. if you can get cheato to grow then you have phosphate in the water which is a no-no.
I definitely need to allow for room for error so I choose door number two.

I was about to post that unfortunately my HOB skimmer is too tall to put in the cabinet with the sump, but then I remembered that the pump that feeds it water is in the sump so it is effectively in the sump. I bought the Marine Technical Concepts TM3000 skimmer just a few months ago because my LFS told me it was much better than anything that was mass produced by a well known company. I've found it interesting that I can't find anything about it on the Internet since, even at Marine Technical Concept's own website. I called them, though, and they said it's rated for up to 100 gallons. Do you guys think it should be adequate for my 55 gallon display tank and 10-15 gallon converted wet/dry-sump in that case?

After what happened this morning before I left for work, carbon dosing is sounding like a good idea. I stupidly didn't turn off the return pump when I vacuumed the dust-like detritus (did we decide on a better name for that?) out of the wet/dry after removing the bio balls. As a result, a lot of it got sucked up and spit out into my display tank. The ball of cheato in my display tank looks like it has scum all over it from all of the gunk that settled in the display tank. I sure hope the amphipods I see crawling through the cheato or something else eats this garbage.
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Old 08-27-2010, 05:58 PM   #35
 
to me, the most critical piece of equipment to sw keeping is the skimmer along with surface skimming.
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Old 08-28-2010, 07:31 AM   #36
 
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Originally Posted by reefsahoy View Post
i remember that i've always said there are many ways to do the same thing. you can use either method or a combo of both but there are draw backs no matter which way you go.
I would like to use this same disclaimer before my about to be long winded post. The "problem" with threads such as this one is that you have several very experienced people offering points of view. Often the slightest distinction can make a big difference, and although it may appear that the experienced are stepping on each others toes, in fact they are doing the same thing a different way.

I have avoided chiming in so far because I have agreed with almost every last word posted by reefsahoy. He and I appear to have a few small differences in our setups, but the concepts are the same. We are both big believers in surface skimming, protein skimmers, live rock, alkalinity monitoring, and phosphate reduction.

That being said, I have a few comments. You may want a pillow handy for this if you intend to keep reading.

The first thing that jumps out at me is the difference in "dead" rock and "dry" rock. Dead rock is rock that has at some point in the past been live. Presumably it was in someones tank and for one reason or another allowed to dry out. Dangers exist that nutrients could be leached back into the tank, causing spikes in phosphates and potentially nitrates. Dry rock is a completely different story. When purchased, for example, from Marco Rocks, Dry rock is a nutrient free, phosphate free, inexpensive source of rock that will become "live" within a few short weeks to months, depending on the aquarium environment it is added to. My 180 http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/s...r-build-21979/ was created using nearly all dry rock, seeding the rock with only 10% or so of dry rock. You can read the thread to see this well documented with pictures.

On the subject of deep sand beds, I would not consider Deep Sand Bed (DSB) systems to be old school. I would consider plenum systems to be old school. The 2 are distinctly different in their design and potential drawbacks. I am a huge believer in DSB systems and have had great success maintaining nitrates at zero when using aragonite at a depth between 4 and 6 inches, with sufficient sand stirring critters and water flow.

I feel that most negative feedback comes from people using calcium reactors or dripping kalk in conjunction with a DSB. I personally don't do either. I use 2 part additives to maintain my alkalinity and calcium. This point is key. I keep soft coral systems. Reefsahoy is keeping a drastically different type of reef livestock than what I keep. Systems with less than 1'' of sand have also been highly successful. I am a big believer that both schools of thought work well, and have supported this many times on this site. In fact, my 58 is a DSB system, but my 180 has less than 1'' of sand. I believe that levels of sand between 1'' and 4'' are the biggest concern and should be avoided.

Tying together the live (or dry) rock conversation and sand bed depth. When it comes to natural nitrate reduction both are effective. In true reef environments where the fish load is limited, live rock alone may be successful in accomplishing this task. In my opinion, when keeping heavier fish loads, having a DSB system can be very helpful. When asked how much rock to have in a tank, I always respond by asking "how deep is your sand bed". The reason is that I am trying to help achieve acceptable levels of nitrate reduction. In a fish tank I would personally keep far more than 40 pounds of rock. I would personally order an additional 25 pounds of dry rock from Marco Rocks. This will cost you about $75. Their Key Largo rock is what I typically use, as it is easy to work with and quickly covers with coraline.
{disclaimer: No, I am not affiliated with Marco Rocks.)

A couple random comments:

I do not find Yellow Tail Damsels to be aggressive when kept in tanks of 6 feet or longer. In fact, they tend to be somewhat wimpy.

Mike, the water level in your sump should be determined by the back flow from the aquarium. In other words, if the power goes out you need to make sure the sump can handle the back from from the drain and return lines. Your water level looks high to me. How do you know? You turn off the power and test it. But first, make sure the water level is low enough to be safe.

Bioballs have no place in the marine hobby. Period. This, my friends, is when I would use the words "old school"!!! (Please read the conversation earlier that reefsahoy posted about how live rock breaks down nitrate into nitrogen gas.)

The debate over having sand in the sump again is case by case specific. If you want a refugium and design the sump accordingly, then you will want to have sand in your sump. If you don't have a refugium, then you won't have sand.

I personally see live rock in a sump as being beneficial, provided that the flow rate is strong enough in the sump to prevent detritus from settling on the rock. I disagree strongly with the concept that live rock in a sump has the same negatives as bio balls. I'm not sure how to dispute this, because I simply don't understand where this is coming from. The sump is just a continuation of the tank. Suffice to say that any place detritus settles has a negative benefit, regardless of where this happens.

Mike, I do not recall hearing anything from you about maintaining alkalinity and calcium levels. How do you intend to accomplish this?
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Old 08-28-2010, 08:48 AM   #37
 
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The first thing that jumps out at me is the difference in "dead" rock and "dry" rock. Dead rock is rock that has at some point in the past been live. Presumably it was in someones tank and for one reason or another allowed to dry out. Dangers exist that nutrients could be leached back into the tank, causing spikes in phosphates and potentially nitrates. Dry rock is a completely different story. When purchased, for example, from Marco Rocks, Dry rock is a nutrient free, phosphate free, inexpensive source of rock that will become "live" within a few short weeks to months, depending on the aquarium environment it is added to. My 180 http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/s...r-build-21979/ was created using nearly all dry rock, seeding the rock with only 10% or so of dry rock. You can read the thread to see this well documented with pictures.
Thanks for clearing that up, Mark. I didn't realize the term "dry rock" could be ambiguous and refer to two different things. If dry rock does not result in phosphate or other issues and becomes live within a matter of weeks then I think it may be my best option.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pasfur View Post
On the subject of deep sand beds, I would not consider Deep Sand Bed (DSB) systems to be old school. I would consider plenum systems to be old school. The 2 are distinctly different in their design and potential drawbacks. I am a huge believer in DSB systems and have had great success maintaining nitrates at zero when using aragonite at a depth between 4 and 6 inches, with sufficient sand stirring critters and water flow.
I have been reading more about deep sand beds and most of what I've read corroborates what you and others have said about them. However, it seems they can result in "toxic gas" issues if you don't have sand stirring critters. What types of critters are these? Can they be expected to propagate and replenish their own populations, or would having a deep sand bed dependent on maintaining a population of these critters mean yet another thing to have to worry about?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pasfur
Systems with less than 1'' of sand have also been highly successful. I am a big believer that both schools of thought work well, and have supported this many times on this site. In fact, my 58 is a DSB system, but my 180 has less than 1'' of sand. I believe that levels of sand between 1'' and 4'' are the biggest concern and should be avoided.
So you also feel that systems with less than 1" of sand can be successful. However, you then go on to say

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pasfur
In my opinion, when keeping heavier fish loads, having a DSB system can be very helpful.
Does this mean that, as between a 1" sand bed and a 4-6" sand bed, both are good but the DSB is better for keeping nitrates low? I will most likely have a heavier fish load since I want to enjoy as many fish as I can for all of this effort and expense. Would you suggest I have a 4-6" sand bed in that case?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pasfur
In a fish tank I would personally keep far more than 40 pounds of rock.
I plan to. I just spent a lot on repopulating the tank after a full wipe out due to a mechanical issue (only to lose every one of these new fish to a parasite), the 40 or so pounds of live rock I do have, a bunch of test kits, a better light, and a 10 gallon quarantine tank setup, though, so I have to wait a while.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pasfur
I do not find Yellow Tail Damsels to be aggressive when kept in tanks of 6 feet or longer. In fact, they tend to be somewhat wimpy.
They'll be in my 4' 55 gallon DT in 5 weeks from now when their quarantine period ends. Hopefully I'll experience the same. The 4 of them have been living together in my 10 gallon quarantine tank for a week now and don't seem very aggressive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pasfur
Mike, the water level in your sump should be determined by the back flow from the aquarium. In other words, if the power goes out you need to make sure the sump can handle the back from from the drain and return lines. Your water level looks high to me. How do you know? You turn off the power and test it. But first, make sure the water level is low enough to be safe.
Fortunately I thought of this yesterday before leaving for work, lowered the water level, and tested it 10 times by cutting power to the pump to be sure it wouldn't overflow if it lost power while I wasn't home. Thanks for the heads up, though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pasfur
The debate over having sand in the sump again is case by case specific. If you want a refugium and design the sump accordingly, then you will want to have sand in your sump. If you don't have a refugium, then you won't have sand.
I would like a refugium but I don't think my converted wet/dry-sump can facilitate it since the return chamber is connected to the main chamber by a generous opening at the bottom. I would imagine that water therefore flows through it faster than it flows through my DT, which is probably too fast for a proper refugium. Does that sound right? Also, because sand would have to be at the bottom of the chamber the return pump is in as well, the return pump would probably suck up sand, right?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pasfur
I personally see live rock in a sump as being beneficial, provided that the flow rate is strong enough in the sump to prevent detritus from settling on the rock. I disagree strongly with the concept that live rock in a sump has the same negatives as bio balls. I'm not sure how to dispute this, because I simply don't understand where this is coming from. The sump is just a continuation of the tank. Suffice to say that any place detritus settles has a negative benefit, regardless of where this happens.
I was thinking when advised not to keep live rock in the sump because of slower flow that, because the return chamber of my converted wet/dry-sump is connected to the main chamber at the bottom by a generous opening, water probably flows through it faster than it does through my display tank. In light of that, it would seem I shouldn't have an issue keeping live rock there for additional biological filtration, right?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pasfur
Mike, I do not recall hearing anything from you about maintaining alkalinity and calcium levels. How do you intend to accomplish this?
I had been dosing with Carib-Sea Purple Up daily but recently bought Seachem Reef Complete which instructs it should be used twice a week. I don't believe either product addresses alkalinity, though, so I may need to get something that does. I add Seachem Marine Buffer when I do water changes, so hopefully that has helped maintain the alkalinity.

I also bought Salifert Calcium, Magnesium, KH/Alk, and Phosphate tests. I have to start using them. Today seems as good a day as any.
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Old 08-28-2010, 08:51 AM   #38
 
I agree with Pasfur and want to mention that you can use a combo of theories out there and get the same results. Yes Pasfur is right i keep a sps tank which requires that the water parameters be almost perfect and is the least forgiving of all the other tanks as far as water quality. So by definition you will need to keep the bio load relatively light to begin with. The lightig is itense so if there's a little phosphate, algae will go crazy in the tank. DSB i will agree can work for any applications even in an sps tank, but it will require you to vacuum and maintain the DSB. i can honestly say i haven't touched my sand in over a year and i really dont have much of a CUC. i probably have like 3 hermit crabs and 2 star fish and that's it and my sand is white without human intervention, and if you look closely i have almost zero algae in the tank. i use only LR for beneficial bacteria. on the other hand Pasfur is keeping FOWLR so yes i can see a deep sand bed, relative low lighting, and a possible need for more biofiltration due to fish load. in a sps tank even tho deep sand beds can work, i'd stay away from it just from the point of manitanance. .

I want to thank pasfur for bring to my attention aboiut the dead rocks. i didn't even think of macro rocks but that when you said dead rocks i thought of rocks taken out of a tank and dried out to kill everything, then using that same rock in your tank. That type of rock will surely cause HAVOC in your tank for quite awhile. it contains dead animals, plants, bacteria etc. IMO a phosphate generator! so yes you can use Macro rocks for dead rocks and surely it will work but as you add corals that are attached to rocks you are also adding hitch hikers to the tank. now if it's a FOWLR then you have no danger of adding hitch hikers because you not adding rocks to the display.
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Old 08-28-2010, 08:56 AM   #39
 
the biggest thing you need to do is determine what type of tank you're planning on keeping then deciding what method that best suits you, your pocket book, and your willingness to interfere and maintain. that way we'll be able to help you best.
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Old 08-28-2010, 11:11 AM   #40
 
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Thanks, reefs. As far as my willingness to interfere and maintain, ideally I'd have to do as little maintenance as possible, though I am of course willing to go whatever distance is required; I used to vacuum up my stars and stripes puffer's excrement every morning so that it didn't have a chance to decay in the water.

After doing more research, I am going to leave the shallow sand bed of less than an inch in place for now. It seems like deep sand beds can become an issue for a number of reasons. I'd prefer to minimize the number of potential problems. Hopefully removing the bio balls from the wet/dry-sump and adding a lot more rock to the system will do the trick and keep my nitrates low once I reintroduce fish to the system.
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