Q: Nitrates/tank transfer


Premium Member
Help---Here's my scenario--My 120g tank is finally set up in my house--thanks to the great group of reefers in Flagstaff. Plumbing is working perfectly for a week now. However, I did make a big goof when we set it up---didn't prep the 100g of water needed. End result: had to use about 60 gallons of well-water (high TDS)--DOH. Not suprisingly, quite a bit of brown algae a week later.

On to the questions...

2-part question:

1) What can I do to get nitrates down ASAP? Key piece of info.--the tank ran nitrates of 20-40 ppm for about 18 months before I bought it, so this is a longer term problem to solve.

[I've got the skimmer running, chaeto in sump, plenty of water movement (for the diatoms), have carbon AND Purigen running. Have done 20 gallon water changes in last 3 days.]

***2) My old tank of livestock is currently waiting in a temporary 75 tank--seasoned rock, corals (not much SPS, and what I have could go to a nano as needed), inverts, fish. With nitrates at 30 in the 120g tank, can I start the transfer, and if so, HOW would you do so? Using specific plans and small words?

PS--I do have a a phosphorus test kit, but still need to measure

I appreciate in advance all your thoughts,


23.5 Degrees
I just sent ya a long PM and your mailbox was full :rolleyes: so I'll just post it. :)

If this were my tank, I would use an unconventional method to export PO4 and Nitrate. I would Carbon Dose to create a large population of bacteria that will consume PO4 and Nitrate. To me your situation is perfect for it.

The downfall to doing this is over dosing which would create a Bac Bloom and the bacs consume a lot of oxygen which has been know to kill fish. Not good but you don't have any fish in there yet. So if you started dosing now, added coral and lastly fish I think you could drop the Trates and PO4 significantly before the fish go in.

Carbon source = Vodka/Sugar/Vinegar. You can use one, two or all three. Here is the Vodka Thread which explains Vodka dosing. I have it linked to the page that shows dosage but if you try this you need to read the thread.

If this were my tank, I would actually push for a bac bloom by increasing the carbon source at a greater pace than what the thread calls for. Bac blooms = cloudy water. A good skimmer clears it up and afterwards you have lower PO4 and Trates and crystal clear water.

I would push a bloom and see where the Trates were and proceed from there. You could then add coral and push for a slightly smaller bloom (not use as much carbon) check trates and then add fish.

I have used Vodka successfully in my tank. Others have done well with sugar. I think a combo would be best.


Premium Member
Just cleared my box. Kirsten, this sounds like a good idea. I've got sugar and vinegar at home--would need to buy vodka, if that's the recommended carbon source.

I could delay moving in livestock by 7-10 days, so hopefully that would give this process enough time.

Just one follow-up --I don't see the link--can you direct me to it?


New member
Kalk and vinegar would also help. Keeping mag and ca and alk high will help keep algae at bay. Now I wish I had brought some red cyno to you (manual labor versus skimmer). Bloom the cyno, remove and nitrates/posphates go with it. Regular bacteria can be done without lights and won't slime the rocks.


23.5 Degrees
Nahhh......just the first 25 should do. :D

Actually pages 21 (which has the dosing) thru 22 have some good info.

Here is the post I wanted you to read.

<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=2449991#post2449991 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by Mark
I added 140 ml of vodka to a 180 gallon system. I had a bacterial bloom for a week. The tank remained very cloudy during this bloom. I was a bit concerned, but the corals including all the sps and clams were acting completely normal. The skimmer has been skimming a lot more than normal. I found myself having to empty a very large collection cup twice a day!:eek: On the 6th day, I was getting a little tired of the cloudiness and the crazy skimming, so I made some fresh salt water and left it to mix over night. I came home from work the 7th day to do the water change, but to my surprise the tank was clear. And I mean very clear. Looking down the length of the tank from the side, I was amazed at the water clarity. I couldn't have gotten this clarity with carbon. The skimmer also slowed down the following days. It's been 3 weeks since, and my skimmer removes very little at the moment. I'm not sure what the bacterial bloom did to assist the skimmer, but apparently there's not much in the water to skim out for now.

I'm not advocating vodka or telling anyone to try it. I'm just sharing my personal experience. I was quite impressed. I don't think it would be wise to dose vodka constantly, but perhaps it is usefull as an annual "spring cleaning". :)

If you do try it, make sure you keep the water well oxygenated. A bacterial bloom can starve a tank of O2 quite fast!

I would not go as high as he did but I do think you should dose quite a bit more than recommended to get the bloom and to get it done in your time frame. An added airstone would not hurt either but I think your tiny stars will be fine.

Let me know what cha decide.


Premium Member
Thanks. To use my psychology skills: "Kirsten, I like the way you directed me to the exact important places in the 37 page thread!"

I've read a little bit now--were you envisioning for this tank (since you know it) a one-time dose similar to what Mark did, or daily dosing for some period of time?

I'll read a bit more and come back with an idea for a dose--I bought the vodka.


Premium Member
Okay, I've read a lot--complicated issue. I guess with no fish or corals in the tank, it's less risky for me to try.

I read up through 2006--end of the thread--Farley won't give dosing recommendations, though clearly he likes the technique.

That said, I think I'll start more conservatively using the rule of with 0.1 ml per 100 , so dose one will be .5ml.

I'll add aeration. Only thing in the tank now are crabs and a couple of snails.


23.5 Degrees
You certainly can't go wrong with the recommended dosage per Jorg, however I do not think you will be able to drop your readings before you want to put the fish in so I was thinking more along the lines of what Mark did but not as severe. He got great results in a week. Then you could back way off or even stop. Use a phosban reactor or run some type of GFO media to control PO4 and hopefully trates will stay in line.

Senator......I agree...the solution to pollution is dilution but in his case he is working with some loaded dirty rock. He had already cooked it for a couple weeks prior to going into the 120 and done some W/C since so that is why I think this tank is a perfect candidate for carbon dosing.


Premium Member
All true--WCs not doing it, nor the brief cooking. K, my only hesitation with going with a solution more similar to Mark would be some sort of adverse reaction. It seems like from my reading that there are a lot of ??? in this area, and I'd hate to inadvertantly drop a bomb in my tank.

Also, my thinking (which could be way off) is that the worst case scenario of introducing my livestock, as long as I acclimate them slowly, hopefully won't be all that bad===though that may be wishful thinking with the nitrates. With large WCs, I can keep the nitrates around 20 while I buy some time to buy a phoban reactor or whatever else---or perhaps doing the vodka more slowly? Just not sure at the moment.

Decisions decisions....


23.5 Degrees
Re: Q: Nitrates/tank transfer

<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=10439798#post10439798 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by Doglover_50
1) What can I do to get nitrates down ASAP? Key piece of info.--the tank ran nitrates of 20-40 ppm for about 18 months before I bought it, so this is a longer term problem to solve.

My reply was based on this question and because of the history of this tank, I am assuming that you have high PO4. Carbon dosing will pose little threat to your tank if done now.

Longer term dosing with more and more inhabitants will result in a greater risk. Carbon dosing (bacteria driven tanks to control NO2 and PO4) in a full blown reef takes a good eye to note the minute changes that can occur which could result in animal stress, possible death. Much more comes into play like ALK readings, so on so forth. It is much more involved. That is why I suggested the spring cleaning method. I do not advise anyone to run a tank this way long term. I do but I am not the norm!

Also, my thinking (which could be way off) is that the worst case scenario of introducing my livestock, as long as I acclimate them slowly, hopefully won't be all that bad===though that may be wishful thinking with the nitrates. With large WCs, I can keep the nitrates around 20 while I buy some time to buy a phoban reactor

Your parameters now are not that bad and you can transfer stock with no problems. There are SPS tanks that run what is considered high Nitrate (10-50) and have no problems but they have little PO4 (less than .04) PO4 is a big no no with most SPS and will cause you problems but not as much with other animals.

The other problem you have as I see is the loaded rock. Even after a carbon related bac bloom, a drop in PO4 and NO2, the rock may still continue to leach these back into the water. That is an unknown.


Premium Member
OK, so next question is--if carbon dosing poses minimal risk given what's in there (and not in there), and given my timing, I guess I need a ball park anyway for a single "push" dose (if I did it like Mark).

I think he used just under 1/2 a cup on his 180g tank (140 ml). I'm 3/4 of his size (my system is 120g plus ~15g in sump, WITHOUT subtracting out rock/sand volume), so that's 105ml extrapolating.

So Kirsten, all this leads to this question: If you are thinking high single dose like Mark's, but maybe not as much as Mark, what ballpark in ml? 5ml (Which is 10x the German's recommended dose, I think)? 10ml? 20 ml? etc.....


Premium Member
PS--My own rock in the holding tank is over 100 lbs. I suspect what I will be doing when I start the transfer in a week-ish is remove approximately 100 pounds of the affected rock--whether I vodka it or not, and I'm leaning toward vodka dosing tonight--- and adding in all of my own rock. The removed rock will just go back in a tub.

After setup is complete (eternal optimist, here), I'll probably just sell (with full disclosure) the rock I removed. Hopefully that in and of itself may reduce the nitrates effect of the dirty rock just by reducing it's "dirty dose." Until the point I sell it, I'll just continue to cook it.