Nitrate Removal Methods Comparison

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“I love your nitrate remover because it is easy to use and it works. Most peoples issue is the price! I have no problem with the price as long it works. In the long run it you save $ … ” – Ric

Water Changes to Remove Nitrates

If you are like most aquarists, you find that it is a considerable chore trying to keep nitrates at a reasonable level. The most common way to control the nitrates in aquariums is to do frequent water changes of 25% to 50% every week or two. The biggest drawback of using water changes as your primary method of nitrate control is that it takes a tremendous amount of time, especially with larger aquariums. However, there are also plenty of other drawbacks to doing such water changes. The fact is if you use tap water, the water will contain a significant amount of trace elements and potentially harmful chemicals such as chlorine, heavy metals, phosphates, and even more nitrates! If you use distilled water, this will likely increase the amount of time you spend doing water changes and over time will cost a great deal. The costs increase even more if you have a saltwater tank. In addition fluctuating water parameters such as pH and temperature that are associated with water changes can also cause undue stress on your fish.

Nitrate Removal Products

Then there are a now several chemical nitrate removal products and nitrate removing filter media on the market. Some only work with saltwater aquariums while others work with both fresh and saltwater tanks and they work to a very limited extent. Most of the nitrate removal media will work a bit like a very small denitrator which can not be fed nutrients: they may work a little but they will not be very effective.  I have tried many of these products and their nitrate removal capacity is quite limited and the media needs to be replaced.  These are simply a tiny band-aid on a large and permanent problem. Only a specialized nitrate filter like Aquaripure can provide permanent and complete nitrate reduction.

Dosing the Aquarium

There are many products that you put directly into the aquarium to help control nitrates.  Some people will tell you to put vodka or even some even stranger or unknown chemical compounds directly to the aquarium.  Some of the chemical nitrate removal products can be dangerous. For example, AZ-NO3 is just a nutrient that you add directly to your tank. It will create bacterial blooms and can have an adverse affect on corals and invertebrates. It is an uncontrolled reaction that can be very dangerous in my own experience. In contrast, in an Aquaripure denitrator the nutrients are only added to the denitrator and do not escape into the tank. This creates an extremely controlled and safe reaction. In the long run these other methods are generally more expensive in the long run, sometimes dangerous, or they will just be mostly ineffective.  Also, to do anything like that you really MUST have a skimmer so they are pretty much out for most Freshwater Aquariums.  There are nitrate “neutralizers” that will remove some small amount of nitrates but to really keep them under control you will be using them quite a bit and the costs will add up quickly.  You see, the Aquaripure denitrator actually converts nitrates into nitrogen gas that escapes into the atmosphere.  The “neutralizers” bind the nitrates so it doesn’t show up on nitrate tests or be absorbed by fish but it does NOT actually remove the nitrogen in the tank.  The bound nitrates will remain in the tank, eventually polluting it without water changes.

“Deep Sand Bed” or “Plenum” Filtration Methods

There are also the “deep sand bed” or “plenum” filtration methods. These have been successfully used by aquarists for decades to reduce tank maintenance. They operate on the same principal as the denitrator. The primary downside to these methods is that they can be complicated to set up and they require a very thick substrate which can itself be extremely costly. They will not have nearly the same nitrate removal capacity as a denitrator so you will also need to keep up with water changes, reduced feeding, and other means to also help control the nitrates.  If this substrate is disturbed it can release a large volume of anoxic water into the tank which can be dangerous. This can not accidentally happen with an Aquaripure denitrator. Also, they are not nearly as efficient as a denitrator as there is no way to provide nutrients to the bacteria and thus are generally only suitable for tanks with very few fish or other methods will also need to be used.

Refugiums and Algae Scrubbers

A refugium type system can also be an excellent way to control nitrates in a tank. Unfortunately, they have some serious drawbacks. A refugium is basically a slightly smaller aquarium system than the main aquarium which only contains plants. One drawback is that they occupy a much larger space than a traditional filter system with an Aquaripure denitrator. It also typically will cost many times more to implement an effective refugium than a traditional filtration system with an Aquaripure denitrator. Another serious drawback however, is that these systems often utilize Caulerpa, a highly invasive plant species. Caulerpa is now illegal to own or sell in Californa and other states may soon follow suit. Aquaripure recommends against utilizing any Caulerpa species in a refugium system.  I think some of the Algae Scrubbers out there are a great addition to a tank but they will really not make that big of a dent in nitrates in most systems.  They have to be used with many other methods for successful nitrate control.

Some aquarists successfully keep nitrates low through a combination of some water changes, additives, a deep sand bed, a refugium or algae scrubber, and feeding your fish as little as possible.  It can be done in fairly lightly stocked tanks but it’s not an easy task.  I promise you a really good denitrator simplifies things, besides I like to keep my fish fairly well fed!

Denitrators (Nitrate Removal Filters)

Of course a denitrator can help control nitrates. The Aquaripure denitrator is a comprehensive biological filter. The Aquaripure denitrator contains at least dozens of different species of both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria and will completely break down all organic matter that passes through it into gasses that escape into the atmosphere. Other biological filters and even skimmers do not remove nitrates at all and nitrates will still increase. In fact, the sole purpose of biological “wet/dry” filters is to actually convert organic matter into nitrates!

In “sulfur” denitrator filters the effluent is contains large amounts of H2SO4, sulfuric acid, and SO4, sulfate. You must have a separate reactor with carbonate to neutralize the acid. The resulting effluent is still very high in sulfates and they will accumulate in the tank. According to the EPA, high sulfates in drinking water can cause laxative effects. It is possible that it may also have adverse effects on sensitive fish. Also, the costly sulfur and carbonate media must periodically be replaced. None of this is an issue with Aquaripure’s denitrators. With Aquaripure, no sulfuric acid or sulfates are produced and nothing will ever need to be replaced.

The problem with many of other less expensive denitrators is they are too small or can’t be fed nutrients. While they may remove some nitrates, the less expensive and Do-It-Yourself types are poorly designed and too small. To be truly effective and to work in a wide variety of tank set-ups and conditions the internal surface area of the denitrator has to be greatly increased. The large internal surface area of an Aquaripure denitrator is what makes them so effective. For example, it would take more than 6 typical “coil” denitrators to equal the nitrate removing power of Aquaripure’s Large denitrator.

Another problem is that without a means of adding nutrients, many denitrators such as “coil” denitrators are relatively inefficient and ineffective. In contrast, Aquaripure’s denitrators are very robust, have an enormous internal surface area, and work in all tank conditions and set-ups and will eliminate nitrates in nearly any aquarium. The other effective denitrators that are available cost much more than the Aquaripure, are complicated to maintain, and often require the purchase of expensive proprietary additives or substrate.

In contrast, Aquaripure’s denitrators are reasonably priced, safe, effective, and easy to set up and maintain. Hopefully, this information and the information found on the rest of this website will help you to make the best decision regarding your aquarium.