Nitrate spike! Please 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.


Premium Member
If you have things like bioballs, ceramic rings and sponges they can be nitrate traps. How often do you clean the sponge?

Phyto is also overfed, cut down to once a week.

Up your water changes to weekly, 2 gallons should be fine but I would do a couple bigger ones (3-4 gallon) more frequently to knock the nitrates down. Doing the 1 gallon won't do much long term IMO.

I would also slowly remove the media from the back.

Ditch the carbon, Chemi-pure does the same thing as carbon and more.

Ditch the bioballs and rings, if you want you can add some live rock rubble to the back and you get the same results without the nitrate effect.
If you decide to take them out do it slowly over the course of a week or 2.

Make sure to rinse the sponge out very good every week. To make it easier to clean the middle you can cut it in half and use the 2 halves.

Also get a packet of purigen and add that to a back chamber. It will help.

Just some suggestions, just my opinion.


Premium Member
I would bet this is your problem.
"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." It sounds like you removed some of your bio-filtration (live rocks) and added bio-load (mushroom). The mushroom prob had very little to do with the spike though. As stated--replace the bio balls and ceramic rings with cured live rock. If at all possible add some Chaeto to your tank now to bring the nitrates down. You could put some in the display area for the moment using a soap dish (search for post about this) that will give you time to figure out adding a light and turning the rear chamber into a fuge.


Premium Member
Took the sponges and ceramic out of the back and rinsed them all off. Also cleaned out the return pump while I was at it. I usually rinse the sponge once a month and clean the return pump out every other month.

I only removed about a pound or two of the live rock. There is still 25+ pounds in there. As soon as I can get some more LR, I am going to mess with the back chambers more. With the enclosed hood and the PC lighting and cover, there isn't much room to try and mount a light or anything. I can't even get the skimmer to fit at the right depth back there because of the hood.

Wife just did the water test. Here are the readings she got:
Nitrate: between 20 and 40 (closer to 40)
Nitrite: 0
Ammonia: .25
PH: 8.2

Thanks for the help