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Old 08/27/2019, 07:00 PM   #1
Actuarial Goat
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Nitrates from Hell

I do ~15% water changes every week. So my softies started fizzling out and I checked Nitrate....well over 100. Big problem, but I really thought the WCs would prevent this. So I checked my source water. RO reads 0....freshly mixed salt water reads between 50 and 100. No wonder my water changes aren't working....

I use the Salifert test kit, and Kent Marine Reef Salt. I use food grade blue barrels for everything; the RO is dripped to a darker blue barrel (not sure what kind of plastics we're talking about here), and the salt is mixed in the lighter blue color barrels. I have noticed some algae or mildew growth inside the mixing barrels....I do not keep lids on the barrels. The whole water station is in the back corner of the unfinished part of my basement, temp is around 60F back there.

So, my thoughts on where the nitrate could be coming from in order from most to least likely:
1) The scum on the inside of the barrels is leaching nitrate
2) Kent marine bucket is lying....(it says nitrate free)
3) The barrels are leaching nitrate...also seems unlikely since the RO water barrel is testing clean....but I make this a maybe because the RO barrel is a slightly different plastic than the salt barrels
4) The pump that moves water between the barrels is leaching nitrate
5) The Salifert test is somehow faulty
6) The environment is somehow dumping nitrate into the uncovered barrel....the cat box is also in the unfinished area, not sure how terrible that is....but it is a large (~800sq ft) area, cat box is around the corner....again, seems unlikely since RO is also uncovered but tests clean

So my question for all who read this: what do you think/what's your experience? If it's the scum, whatever it is, what can I do about it? I can't drag these barrels upstairs and scrub them every week. Or does anyone know if Kent Marine is suspect?

TIA.

The Actuary


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Old 08/27/2019, 07:02 PM   #2
Actuarial Goat
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One other thing I'm going to check: make a very small batch of salt water in a perfectly clean container and test it. Will update....


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Old 08/27/2019, 07:22 PM   #3
Actuarial Goat
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It's not the salt....so what is the scum inside these barrels and how do I prevent it? I don't get any in the RO barrel, only in the salt mixed barrels.

Or is there a super long shot that the lighter blue barrels are a problem while the darker blue is fine?


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Old 08/27/2019, 07:50 PM   #4
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I would run a nitrite test. Nitrite will confuse nitrate test kits. That said, I'd probably try a different batch of salt. The containers and pump can't leach nitrate. There might be some contamination from the air, like an open litter box, but 100 ppm is very high. Maybe the kit has failed. Maybe a local fish store could run nitrite and nitrate tests for you?


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Old 08/28/2019, 10:21 AM   #5
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I have seen multiple reports over the years of people having ammonia/nitrate issues mixing water near litter boxes. It stands to reason that if you can smell the ammonia in the air, it can contaminate the water...


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Old 08/28/2019, 10:22 AM   #6
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No way...
Something isn't right..

If thats from a cat box then DUDE...CLEAN that stuff more...


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Old 08/28/2019, 05:32 PM   #7
Actuarial Goat
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LFS confirmed, Nitrite is 0, Nitrate is 100+.

The cat box is as clean as it can be. I really don't think that's it; can't think of a good reason why the salt barrel would have that happen but the fresh RO wouldn't.

I also mixed around a half gallon in a rinsed bucket last night, and it came back 0, so I don't think it's the salt.

This leaves me with the scum that accrued inside the salt barrels. We're scrubbing those out tonight, will mix a new batch and see what happens. But still....what is that scum? Is there a way to identify whether it's algae, mildew, mold, or something else? Is there anything I can do to prevent any or all of those?


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Old 08/28/2019, 08:07 PM   #8
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100ppm confirmed is tank water or the water in the barrel?
Often salt mixes like io/rc leave a brown residue that is thought to be an anti-caking agent as well as other elements like calcium..
I find it hard to believe its nitrate...if so...clean the darn barrels already...thats gross


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Old 08/28/2019, 09:42 PM   #9
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Did sumtin' fall into the barrel and die - mouse or rat?


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Old 08/28/2019, 09:59 PM   #10
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First suspect the test and be sure. Best get a second test. Then start aggressive water changes, testing what you put in as well as the tank. It could be your rock, leaching it out. There is a nitrate pad about a foot square, qv. But the best process is a lot of water changes with good water. I do 30% on the first one, then 20% and another 20%. I've battled back from that kind of problem. If it IS the rock, ultimately it will run out of it.


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Salinity 1.024-6; alkalinity 8.3-9.3 on KH scale; calcium 420; magnesium 1300, temp 78-80, nitrate .2. Ammonia 0. No filters: lps tank. Alk and cal won't rise if mg is low.

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Old 08/29/2019, 01:45 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcgyvr View Post
100ppm confirmed is tank water or the water in the barrel?
Often salt mixes like io/rc leave a brown residue that is thought to be an anti-caking agent as well as other elements like calcium..
I find it hard to believe its nitrate...if so...clean the darn barrels already...thats gross
I use red sea salt (not coral plus) and the inside of my gray brute barrel (32 gallon) is a beautiful brown. I do take it outside 1 or 2 times/year and give it a good cleaning, probably not necessary but it makes me feel like I am doing something.


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Old 08/30/2019, 06:49 AM   #12
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Unfinished basement - salt barrels near any windows? Wondering about outside contaminants, fertilizers, miracle gro, and what not?

What else you do in the basement? Perhaps something in the salt has an affinity for something in the basement?

Perhaps the higher than NSW levels of "other elements" is contributing. I have no idea what those might be - maybe organics the could feed bacteria? If fresh mix is zero, how long does a mixed barrel sit before you use it?


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Old 08/30/2019, 07:16 AM   #13
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Can you make up a small batch in a different container, placed in different room, and see what that reads?


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Old 08/30/2019, 02:22 PM   #14
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OK, problem solved (I hope) but I'll address the questions anyway...

Basement is large....DT is in the finished area, water station and QT are in the unfinished area. Kids play down there in the finished area, we work out down there...so I suspected all sorts of stuff.

The 100+ was the reading from the DT. The newly mixed salt water was also registering close to 100. I tested RO water (assuming it's OK to use the test on salt or fresh) and it came in 0. Also mixed about half a gallon in a clean bucket, and it registered 0...that's why I knew the salt wasn't to blame.

I have 4 50-gallon barrels: 1 is like a Kentucky blue color, the other 3 are a lighter blue. The RO is dripped straight into the darker blue, one of the light blue is used to mix salt water, one is used as the waste barrel, and one just sits there in case of emergency. The lighter blue barrels all got this brown scum at one point or another, the darker blue never did....it still looks pristine and I've never cleaned it.

Took the mixing barrel outside and scrubbed the crap out of it, with tap water and vinegar. Got it 95% cleared of the gunk. Mixed another batch, got trace nitrate at best. So the problem is indeed the brown stuff. My best guess is that these barrels were used (bought them on Craigslist) and the rinse I gave them before putting them into production was not sufficient.

A water change is around 35 to 40 gallons (DT is 210). I've done two changes so far with "good" water, and the DT is still reading 100+. But, I really think this is the problem, so I just have to keep at it. Will be changing as fast as my RO can handle, which basically will be about once a day. I think this is my best path forward, and eventually DT will dillute down to something below 100, where then I can measure improvement one water change at a time.

If anyone has any other ideas, please still share. Thanks for contributing. Clean your water vessels thoroughly!!


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Old 08/30/2019, 02:36 PM   #15
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Are the containers you are using certified food safe? Here is what you should look for:
USDA compliant. NSF certified


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Current Tank Info: 2 Barred Rabbitfish, Yellow/Purple, McMaster Fairy, Carpenter, Red Head,Red Fin, Hoevans, Possum, 2 Leopard Wrasses, Kole, Purple & Atlantic Blue Tangs, Matted Filefish, 2 Percula Clown, 4 PJ and2 Banggai Cardinalfish , Swallowtail and Bellus Angel,
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Old 08/30/2019, 02:46 PM   #16
Actuarial Goat
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Quote:
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Are the containers you are using certified food safe? Here is what you should look for:
USDA compliant. NSF certified
Yeah they are; I think food may very well be the problem....I'm afraid they were previously used for something and I didn't sufficiently clean them when I bought them. At least that's my theory; only time will tell. If I continue to get that brown build-up on the inside of the barrel, AFTER this thorough scrub-down that I've done, then I'm likely just going to buy new ones and verify they are truly new. The source of the ones I have was a little iffy, so that's why I'm thinking this is it.


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Old 08/30/2019, 03:39 PM   #17
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My best guess is that these barrels were used (bought them on Craigslist) and the rinse I gave them before putting them into production was not sufficient.
Okay, that makes sense. I'm surprised that there was that much debris left in the containers, though. I wonder what was in them before you bought them.


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