Nitrate spike! Need help!


Premium Member
Hope this is where I should post this up.

Tank is a 24 gallon Aquapod set up last July. It has 25 lbs of LR, 30 lbs of LS, and also uses the stock filtration (sponge blocks, bio balls, and ceramic media). I have been running activated carbon for the last 3 months. Fission nano-skimmer has been running in there for about 5 months now. POS skimmer, but it does the job for the most part.
I have been doing water changes of roughly 2 gallons every other week.
The only changes in a long time are the following:
Removed some LR to help seed 2 other tanks that are currently cycling. Added a small hairy mushroom frag.
Also, instead of going to the LFS to get our water, we now have a Kent Maxxima RO/DI unit hooked up and pushing water through. We are using SeaChem Reef Salt now as well. At the LFS, we were getting Red Sea water or premixed Instant Ocean.

None of the fish appear stressed as of yet. Waving Hand coral looked pretty shriveled this morning and Kenya trees were also retracted most of the way. This is what clued me in initially that something was up. Did a quick dip strip test to check it out quickly and Nitrates had gone up pretty high. Did a one gallon water change and added 2 capfuls of Prime. Also added one unit of Chemipure to the filter to try and help out. Going to do a better test in a few and will post up the current readings.

We feed the fish and corals every 3 days with frozen cubes. Each feeding is one cube thawed and rinsed then the anenome and some corals are target fed while the rest is put in the tank. Today is feeding day, so the fish haven't been fed since Friday. We put some phytoplankton into the water column every other day for the filter feeders.

Thats about it that I can think of. Hope someone knows more than me and can help out. Thanks.

Randy Holmes-Farley

Reef Chemist
Premium Member
Nitrate is not very toxic to fish and most inverts, and you are unlikely to notice any immediate stress from elevated nitrate unless it is very high (above 100 ppm, perhaps).

Prime won't do anything for nitrate concerns, IMO.

How high was the nitrate? I wouldn't suppose that nitrate is causing the issues with the soft corals. I'd look for other possible explanations.

Nevertheless, reducing nitrate is a fine plan,and there are many ways. I prefer skimming and growing macroalgae, but this article lists many:

Nitrate in the Reef Aquarium


New member
You might want to look at for better protein skimmer options. They custom make one for the nano-cubes / aquapods.

I'd also recommend cleaning the sponge and getting rid of the bioballs and ceramic media. You have enough live rock to support the bioload. To be safe, maybe remove 1/4 of each a week until it is all gone.


Premium Member
Nitrate was between 80 and 100 this morning, but after a small water change, washing the sponge, bio balls, and ceramic off, and cleaning the return pump off, the nitrates were down between 20 and 40 this evening. I am going to do another water test in the morning and see how things are looking.

I would really like to know why the Waving Hand is looking so horrible. That stuff is very very hardy and has been fragged and new colonies regrown several times. It wasn't just the main colony that looks bad now. There are several small colonies that have split off and are in different areas and levels of the tank and they are all looking like this.

I am trying to figure out a way to turn one side of the 2 rear chambers into a small refugium, but this enclosed hood is a big pain in the rear with trying to do that. I know that sapphire aquatics has a custom skimmer and hang on refugium, but money for that at the moment is in short supply.

Thanks for the help.


Premium Member
The sponge, bio-balls, and ceramic filter elements all might be contributing to your nitrate issue. With 25 lbs of live rock, they might not be needed. What fish are in the tank?

Also, I'd feed smaller amounts more frequently, personally. That might help as well. That amount of food might be a lot for that size tank. What size is the cube? Which food is being added?


New member
By Waving Hand I assume you are referring to a type of Xenia. If so, Xenia are rather notorious for not liking rapid changes in water quality (either good or bad). For example, adding activated carbon to a thank that hasn't used it can cause Xenia to go down-hill.


New member
I have the same tank basically, (and had the same problem) Once I ditched the bio balls and ceramic discs the nitrates fell dramatically. I would also recommend weekly water changes depending of your bioload, I found that weekly changes are much more beneficial.