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Saltwater Aquarium/Nitrates in saltwater Eclipse


Hi David,,
I have a 40 gallon Eclipse tank that I basically revamped after a power outage which resulted in the loss of my fish. The nitrates were always over 100 from lack of water changes over 9 years. I cleaned out most of the sand and put the old rock back in and started anew with a cleanup crew. I have gotten rid of the 9 yr old biowheel. I have a powerhead to supplement water flow. No sump or refugium. I waited to put the fish in for a month, and the tank never cycled (I added bacteria and used the same live rock and 3 cups of old sand).
It has been four months now and my tank has a small clown, a fire goby, a small sailfin tang, a coral beauty, a hawkfish a new sandsifting goby, and a mandarin (In there for two months and is eating and thriving on brine I hatch and copepods I raise in a big bowl). The nitrates were around 10. I was told I could get corals so three weeks ago added some: three zoos, blue mushrooms, and two daisy corals. After I added the sandsifting Goby two days ago  and my nitrates went up to 50.
I panicked and yesterday did a 7 gallon water change, then a 8 gallon change. I go the nitrates down to 25.
Note I do not have a protein skimmer, I have been maintaining a nitrate of around 10-15 with water changes.
What do you recommend to help with nitrates? I tried the nitrasorb pads but they are useless. Should I just do water changes to get the nitrates down and add a protein skimmer?
I do not want to lose my corals.
I understand that my tank is not ideal for saltwater, but I am willing to retrofit it. I already retrofitted the lights to leds for the corals, and added the powerhead.
Thanks for reading.

Good morning Becky:

From your description, it sounds like you have a nice array of marine life. Very nice...

I'd definitely recommend a protein skimmer. Protein skimmers remove raw waste before it has a chance to break down into nitrates.

I would also recommend to retrofit onto the aquarium a wet/dry sump filter for better waste management, this will help your aquarium filter more water per hour, and definitely help to keep your bio-load down, thus helping to keep your nitrates down. The wet/dry sump filter could be of 10 to 20 gallons, which ever will comfortably fit underneath your aquarium stand.

I wish you luck with all your future saltwater aquarium endeavors.


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David Ocreef


Technical saltwater coral reef related aquarium questions are welcome. Coral, invertebrate, and peaceful species of saltwater fish questions are welcome. Questions asked on Saturday and Sunday will be answered the following Monday. REMINDER: Please check the answers pool to see if your question has already been asked and answered. Questions typically are answered within a 48 hour period, however sometimes it may take longer.


I possess over twenty-five years of hands-on experience and knowledge in the ecology of aquariums. Beyond the traditional, I have successfully tested and sustained environments that have been uncharted territories for hobbyists, for decades. I am the first to admit I don't know it all because there will always be something new, amazing, and exciting to learn about, as discoveries are made. It's a hobby one can never outgrow, or grow tired of.

MASNA - Marine Aquarium Society of North America. Director of Orange County Reef Aquatics -

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After High School, my experience and love of marine animals influenced me to take up studies in Marine Biology. Throughout college, I studied Microbiology with an emphasis on Marine Life, as well as numerous other sciences. I continued to advance in this hobby, by building a dozen or more saltwater ecosystems all utilizing Microbes as the major source of my filtration method.

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