03-17-2009, 08:04 PM
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First, I would remove the sponge filters from the AquaClear. You can continue to run the AquaClear empty, or use a bag of activated carbon to help remove organic acids. This will increase light penetration, so don't be surprised if your polyps close for a few days. Also, be certain to clean the carbon bag several times per week under running water, to prevent organic waste from breaking down into phosphates and nitrates.
I would wait about 2 weeks and then remove your Fluval. Again, you can run it empty for water movement if you choose, or with activated carbon only, following the above guidelines.
The goal here is to allow the live rock to serve as the ONLY source of biological filtration inside your aquarium. This will dramatically lessen Nitrate buildup.
Moving forward, the real goal should be to reduce Nitrate to zero, for long term success. Allowing the system to run as it exists, or even with the modifications above, will eventually result in nutrient buildups. You NEED a protein skimmer very badly. The protein skimmer has allowed the marine hobby to advance to the level of success it experiences today. Every successful marine hobbyist begins the conversation by discussing the type of skimmer he uses and why. There is a reason for this... they work!!!
Finally, I would do something about your sand bed. You have the exact wrong amount of sand. You could remove sand, to less than 1/2'' depth, and be fine. Or you could slowly add more sand to a 4-5'' depth, and have the benefits of a DSB. Anything inbetween, or greater than 6'' depth, tends to cause a variety of long term problems outside the scope of this thread. Just beware that sand depth at your levels is a generally not accepted marine reefkeeping practice that has been proven to fail.