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Old 07/15/2018, 04:24 PM   #1
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Nitrates - I know Im not alone but nor sure what to do :(

Would really appreciate any advice please guys. 20 gallon tank been up and running for 1+ year. Been through an ich infestation where pretty much everything died after medication but that was a while ago (over 6 mths)
Since then the levels normalised and we currently have 2 clowns and 3 humbug damsels, 2 cleaner shrimp, 3 snails, 2 emerald crabs, 2 sexy shrimp and 2 starfish. All seem happy enough however recently the few corals we had have died so took them all out but nitrates just keep climbing. Performed water changes (last was circa 50%), new filter media, 24/7 skimmer but just CANT get them down been nopoxing for months now but made no difference... so frustrating!
So am now researching vodka dosing. Before i plunge into the vodka pool, any other suggestions please? Already wound back the feeding btw - once a day and only what i see they eat (couple of small flakes OR half a frozen mysis cube defrosted)
Any suggestions and help welcome thank you!

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Old 07/15/2018, 05:19 PM   #2
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Half a frozen mysis cube sounds like a fair amount of food for a 20g system. I might try cutting that to ⅙ or so. How much rock is there?

Vodka might be able to help a lot, too. You can make a DIY version of NOPOx with vinegar and vodka, if you're interested:

To make a DIY version of Red Sea NO3:PO4-X, mix:
375 ml 80 proof vodka
500 ml vinegar (5% acetic acid)
125 ml RO/DI water

Jonathan Bertoni
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Old 07/16/2018, 07:44 AM   #3
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If nopox isn't working I doubt you will see a difference with Vodka.. Nopox is basically vinegar + vodka so switching to just vodka is unlikely to help at all..

What are your current nitrate levels?
How much rock is in the tank?
Sand bottom? or something else?
Pictures of tank?
Are you getting nuisance algae problems?
I agree that 1/2 cube seems excessive..

A 20G tank can quite easily be managed with water changes alone and I would suggest removing that "filter" and just having a powerhead alone for water circulation/oxygenation..
Mechanical filtration in a tank is basically useless unless you are changing those filters every couple days.. Most of our issues are chemical in nature and not mechanical.. And "filter floss" doesn't do anything chemically.. The carbon in there will help some with dissolved organics but that has a limited use too..

A 50% water change should drop nitrates by 50%.. A few large ones may be needed at the start then once you get levels down something like 20% every 2 weeks should be sufficient to maintain low nitrate levels..

For a fish only tank you can easily have nitrates in the 50-100ppm range though without any problems assuming you aren't having nuisance algae issues which can be helped by limiting light..

With a proper water change schedule such a small tank shouldn't need carbon dosing (nopox/vinegar/vodka) either unless you are just overfeeding still..

Being blunt and having fun
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Old 07/16/2018, 08:44 AM   #4
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Location: New Brunswick, Canada
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+1 for just do more water changes! You WILL get them down, or your test kit is broken. Or you are introducing more nitrates with the water changes, because your source water has nitrates.

Every time you change 10 gallons out, you are cutting the nitrates in half unless your source water has nitrates in it. You can easily do a test on your 'fresh' saltwater to test that out, but it should not have nitrates in it. Even with a nitrate reading in the hundreds, water changes are all you need to do because the tank is so small!

Your corals might be dying from lingering copper from the medication you used to combat the ich that wiped everything else out. You might want to look into getting either a copper test kit, just to rule that option out. Or see if any local reefers can loan you one!

Finding out why things are dying is more important to me.

When you say it 'normalized' what are the actual hard numbers? What was it before the ich die off, after the ich die off, where did it normalize, where is it at now...?

Real numbers and knowing your other tank parameters in actual numbers (Not 'its normal' or 'they are high') really helps to pin things down!

Also, are you using a RODI for your water changes, or tap water?

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Old 07/16/2018, 09:28 AM   #5
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Many tanks show little improvement from water changes because the nitrate bounces back up due to food input or decay of debris. I suppose you could try a few more water changes, but if there's an underlying issue, I'd expect them to bounce back up quickly.

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