View Full Version : High Phospates Need Help!?

10-24-2005, 10:45 AM
I posted this in General Discussion, then realized this was the place for it.
I have a 120 gallon and the phosphates are off the chart. (Sea Chem Phosphate test) its reading well over 1.0
My tap water does not contain ANY... well, its not reading anything. I have a 2 inch sand bed, and about 75lbs of LR. I have a sump, and in the sump is the protein skimmer, bag of activated carbon and a foam filter block. I dont know whats causing the high phosphates, any ideas?? My nitrates are off the scale as well..Water changes dont seem to help and thats whats throwin me. I have done 2 50% water changes in the last month, and still no help. I'll take ANY ideas or suggestions at this point. On a brighter note, the corals (all softies) dont appear to have a problem with the crap readings im getting.. hmmm. Thanks for the help..

10-24-2005, 11:02 AM
Phosphates typically come from one of two places, either your water source, well or tap, or from food. For most people, food is the major source of phosphates. Phosphates are so unmanageable because both liverock and sand are made up of dead coral skeletons. We all know that the porosity of live rock helps it filter, but just like a sponge, all of those little pores act just like activated carbon and can trap waste. Overtime if we have been puting in more food than our skimmer and water changes pull out then much of that waste is stored in the pores of the rock and sand. Ironically, by hiding the nutrients in pores instead of the water column, these pores tell us that we are not overfeeding and that we are doing enough water changes. Once the sand and liverock reach a saturation point though then our test kits start registering these high levels. In short live rock and sand chelate nitrates and phosphates. I hope that this helps.

Barry Katz

10-24-2005, 11:04 AM
What does your freshly mixed salt water test at for both phosphates and nitrates? Can you tell us what your inhabitants are? How often you feed, what you feed? How often do you change out your carbon? How often do you change out the foam filter block?

10-24-2005, 05:08 PM
Foam Filter block ? Is that a sponge ? If so it should be cleaned at least weekly or it will build up nitrates. Note some softies do better in this than others for example Xenia . One way to get alot out sometimes is to clean/vacum that 2 " of sand well then wait till everything settles then take out a few rocks at a time and rinse /scrub them clean with some clean soft nylon brush ( a new toothbrush) in a bucket of saltwater then place next to a return or powerhead to get all the junk off it and into the water flow for the sump to clean when it settles again clean out the foam filter / Sponge then do a 25-50% water change ( please test this water before using to clean rocks with or for new salt water changes) and feed less and wait a day then test and see what you get.
Hope this helps :-) Paul

10-24-2005, 08:25 PM
I have a few other places you can get P from. Salt mixes, additives, sand is usually saturated prior to even getting in the tank, all types of food, carbon, and so on. Its a long list.

In your case its best to do some testing from around your tank to try to locate where it is coming from.
Test you make up water, your new salt mix, test the pore water from your sand, test water ontop of your LR, test your carbon (do a test and drop in a peice of carbon), Where ever you get a higher reading will probibly be a source


10-24-2005, 08:54 PM
Well thank you for all the responses... I guess first, its a foam block, and I clean it probably once a month... to be honost... The carbon, its about a half gallons worth stuffed in a filter sock sitting on the bottom of the sump, and I havent ever changed that.... (about 8 months) I take it out when I do the foam block and rinse it all out shake it up a bit.... right or wrong.. im sure you all will lay into me like tomorrow doesnt exist...My make up water is reading no phosphates, or nitrates. I feed the tank every other day, 1 cube of emerald entree (omnivore formula) and switch it up with spiralina enriched brine shrimp and little krill shrimp things.. (all frozen foods) I dont feed all those things the same day.. like I said, its switched up.

20 or so mushrooms
couple small colonies of polyps (dunno what kind)
A large colony of zoos 300+ (im diggin those)
4 medium finger leathers (bright green)
4 small kenya tree coral
some xenia (2 small colonies)
1 long tenticle anomone
2 clownfish
1 sailfin tang
2 scooter blennies
1 manderine goby
1 off brand goby
a colony of green starpolyps (that are spreading like mad)
Other than the rock and sand thats it.

I dont have a lot of current in the tank, just the return pump (800 gph)
and one circulating pump (900 gph) and thats it. I wish it were more, but lights took presidence, and that got fixed first. Thanks for the help. I do have a question regarding where to take different samples from... if the water has high phosphates.. is it really going to matter where I take the sample from? Wont it ALL be high>>???
P.S. If someone can tell me how to load a pic.. Ive got a few to share:D

10-24-2005, 10:54 PM
Jaybo - the readings coming from the source will likely be higher than what is in the water column. I'm not familiar with the Sea Chem phosphate test kit...is 1 ppm the highest it reads? With the carbon being in there as long as it has been, I would test it, as Mike posted. Also, the filter sock stuffed with carbon sitting in the bottom of the sump has probably collected some detritus....even if you rinse it out every month. Here was a previous thread on Carbon Filtration Question (http://www.reeffrontiers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5717). Are you having algae problems with these high readings?

For posting photos, see if this thread helps: How to Post Photos (http://www.reeffrontiers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8240)

10-25-2005, 10:18 PM
My tap water does not contain ANY... well, its not reading anything.

This may seem like a dumb question but when you tested your tap water for P. Were you using a freshwater kit. I've seen on my kit that one chart is for freshwater and the other for salt.

10-26-2005, 07:41 AM
Good question btuck/Brian. It is important to check that your saltwater kit works for freshwater, as well.

10-26-2005, 09:23 AM
My test clearly states that it works for both fresh and salt water. How true that is I guess I am not sure. I have tested now in 4 locations of the tank, I get the same reading every time. BAD. My color chart reads from 0.2 to 1.0 in .2 increments. Different color shades of blue. My readings all come back... OFF THE CHART. (darker blue than the chart reads) I have put in some phosgaurd stuff, and I hope that helps.. I have been told that it will take a couple days before I see a drop in the phosphates.. any ideas on that?

10-26-2005, 09:36 AM
One thing that has worked for me, is a phosban reactor and Phos ban by two little fishies. It was tested alongside all the other phosphate absorbers, and PhosBan and RowaPhos did the best, in fact almost exactly the same. The Phosban is shipped dry so you have to be more carefull of dust, but it costs alot less.
And just one more way to lower phosphates is to get rid or your sand bed. My tank changed dramaticly for the better with removal.
Hope this helps.