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Disappearing Nitrites and still no Nitrates, please help!

This is a discussion on Disappearing Nitrites and still no Nitrates, please help! within the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> Originally Posted by bettababy Redchigh, this is what I am looking into at present. I first need to know the ingredients list for Prime, ...

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Disappearing Nitrites and still no Nitrates, please help!
Old 04-21-2011, 08:57 PM   #31
 
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Originally Posted by bettababy View Post
Redchigh, this is what I am looking into at present. I first need to know the ingredients list for Prime, as whether or not this will happen depends on the mixture of ingredients. If this is what is happening then we were not too far off the mark that the nitrite is prevented from being converted to nitrate.

I also have to agree here with Byron about messing with the buffering capacity of the water, especially until we figure out why the tank is taking so long or is unable to complete the cycle. There is something "off" in the water chemistry and the more changes you make the harder it will be to find out the actual problem and fix it. If pH is fluctuating from tank to tap then there is a cause and that needs to be resolved. Altering the pH artificially at this point would simply cover up the problem and likely cause more, and more dangerous problems later.
I have the bottleof Prime right here and there are no ingredients listed. It just has a warning saying to keep away from children, contains complexed hydrosulfite salts but that's all.

I did a water change today and I didn't use the Prime. I used Start Right instead since the pH has the ammonia at ammonium anyways and the fish seem to be fine. Well I learned that Prime treats ammonia for under 24 hours and I haven't added it in a few days so I know the Prime isn't really needed. Anyway, after a 20% water change today the pH is now at 6.4 and I'm wondering: if I do small water changes like this several times a week to keep the pH at say, 6.8, (the tap water is about 7.6 pH) will that be a way to solve my problem and allow the cycle to resume? And if so, what would happen in the future if I just don't have time to do these water changes and the pH drops to 6.0 again? Will the cycle stall and crash again and then I'll have to start over? I'm willing to do the small water changes every few days...if that will fix things.
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Old 04-22-2011, 05:44 AM   #32
 
I'm confused about something. Why would the pH be changing, either in whitecloud's tank where it appears to be dropping significantly, or in mine going up so much when I was prefiltering the water?
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Old 04-22-2011, 11:10 AM   #33
 
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I am only addressing the issue of pH, raised by both of the last two posts. And this is meant to be general, not specific to this issue, which Dawn is assisting you/us with so I am not meddling in that. And it will be very general, what I find sufficient to understand what is occurring in the aquarium, without getting into complicated chemistry.

The pH is a measure of the ratio of two ions in the water: positively-charged hydrogen ions (H+) and negatively-charged hydroxyl ions (OH-). A neutral pH of 7 means an equal ratio; more hydrogen ions means acidic, more hydroxyl means alkalinity (what we now call basic water).

The pH is closely linked to the level of CO2 (carbon dioxide) and usually to the hardness that can affect this. CO2 produces carbonic acid which lowers the pH. In a normal aquarium, the pH lowers over time due to the acids produced by waste organic matter, respiration, biological filtrations, etc. Higher nitrates also lower pH. The level of bicarbonates affects the rate to which this will occur.

Water contains carbonates, depending upon the hardness. Carbonate hardness is measured in degrees or ppm of KH. Carbonates reduce the fluctuations in hydrogen ions, thereby reducing the lowering of the pH. This is why knowing the hardness of the source water is so important. The harder the water, the more carbonates, and the more it will resist changes in pH. But if at some point the carbonates are exhausted, the pH can suddenly drop, what is termed a pH crash. Regular water changes work to keep the balance because they replenish carbonates and dilute acids; they also remove nitrates but in planted tanks this is usually irrelevant. This obviously is also in proportion to the hardness.

I have extremely soft water, GH and KH are both at or less than 1 d (17.8 ppm) out of the tap. The pH is 7-7.2 [raised by adding ash or something, I can't remember what the water board does], and in established aquarium lowers fairly quickly (within a couple weeks in new tanks) to 6-6.6 and sometimes it goes to 5. The biology in the tanks seems to create these differences between tanks. I have monitored pH for many years, and it is consistent and stable at these levels. My fish are not being adversely affected, there is zero ammonia and nitrite, so obviously this works. I have all soft water fish; I would raise the GH and KH (naturally, using calcium and magnesium rock/gravel) for livebearers, etc., if I had them, as I did years ago when I used dolomite.

The fluctuation in whitecloud's tank is as Dawn noted being caused by something. It is not "normal" as my experiences prove. That has to be resolved. Amethyst123, I don't know the facts of your situation.

Byron.
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Old 04-22-2011, 03:49 PM   #34
 
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Ok, sorry for the delay but I think I have found the info I was looking for. The MSDS sheet for Prime does not contain the information it "should" with a list of active ingredients, however, it does identify the ingredients as "aqueous solution of complexed hydrosulfite salts". What I was looking for was the presence of hydrogen sulfide, which can, as was suggested, turn nitrite back into ammonia.

Overall, eliminating the use of Prime and a series of water changes to dilute it, should be enough to help the tank complete the cycle. I think using start right was a good idea and would suggest you continue using just the start right. Be careful not to over dose the water conditioner. This can cause a rapid drop in pH... which is what we have already seen in your situation but don't know yet for sure what has caused it. I am still suspecting that the Prime had something to do with it, in which case, it is simply a matter of time and lots of small water changes to dilute the Prime completely.

When doing the water changes, keep them small due to the difference in pH from tap to tank. 10% each day is the safest way to go until we either figure out the cause and eliminate it, or until pH in the tank matches that of the tap due to the water changes and dilution of the Prime.

Can you tell us what is in the tank for decor, especially any pieces of wood? What is in the filter for media? I am looking for things that may affect the pH, buffering capacity, and/or overall water chemistry. 7.6 to 6.4 is a drastic jump and can cause harm to the fish. There is something causing it which needs to be resolved. Not only is the drastic change dangerous, but there may be other chemical changes happening that we are thus far not aware of... which can lead to a list of problems as things progress. Its difficult to treat a problem safely if we don't know the cause, especially when dealing with chemicals/chemical reactions.
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Old 04-22-2011, 07:23 PM   #35
 
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Originally Posted by bettababy View Post
Ok, sorry for the delay but I think I have found the info I was looking for. The MSDS sheet for Prime does not contain the information it "should" with a list of active ingredients, however, it does identify the ingredients as "aqueous solution of complexed hydrosulfite salts". What I was looking for was the presence of hydrogen sulfide, which can, as was suggested, turn nitrite back into ammonia.

Overall, eliminating the use of Prime and a series of water changes to dilute it, should be enough to help the tank complete the cycle. I think using start right was a good idea and would suggest you continue using just the start right. Be careful not to over dose the water conditioner. This can cause a rapid drop in pH... which is what we have already seen in your situation but don't know yet for sure what has caused it. I am still suspecting that the Prime had something to do with it, in which case, it is simply a matter of time and lots of small water changes to dilute the Prime completely.

When doing the water changes, keep them small due to the difference in pH from tap to tank. 10% each day is the safest way to go until we either figure out the cause and eliminate it, or until pH in the tank matches that of the tap due to the water changes and dilution of the Prime.

Can you tell us what is in the tank for decor, especially any pieces of wood? What is in the filter for media? I am looking for things that may affect the pH, buffering capacity, and/or overall water chemistry. 7.6 to 6.4 is a drastic jump and can cause harm to the fish. There is something causing it which needs to be resolved. Not only is the drastic change dangerous, but there may be other chemical changes happening that we are thus far not aware of... which can lead to a list of problems as things progress. Its difficult to treat a problem safely if we don't know the cause, especially when dealing with chemicals/chemical reactions.
I just have regular black gravel from Petco, a little castle and some plastic plants. The filter is an Aqueon and it has just a single carbon catridge, that's all.

The only thing that will be difficult about getting the pH back up is the ammonia in our tap water and without Prime I'm afraid my fish will die (about 1 ppm of ammonia present in tap). We don't really have the time or money at the moment to invest in filtration for tap water or to buy bottled water. That's why I'm a little reluctant to go above 7.0 with pH because I don't want the fish to die from ammonia poisoning. I had a fish tank years ago (before our city converted to chloromine) and I always easily kept the pH at 6.8 and my fish did well so that's sort of the "safe" pH I'd really like to achieve. I did a water change yesterday afternoon like maybe 20% and the pH lifted a little to 6.4 and I checked it tonight and it's still 6.4 so if I could tweak the volume and number of water changes a little to get it to 6.8 and then monitor to keep it that way, I'd be very happy. I'm just not sure if this is an okay way to do things.

Last edited by whitecloud34; 04-22-2011 at 07:32 PM..
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Old 04-22-2011, 10:09 PM   #36
 
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I understand your dilemma, however, without knowing why the pH is dropping so far in the tank, there is no way to keep it stable. Just as fast as it has gone down it also then has the ability to go back up again... which means not only concern for ammonia toxicity, but also pH shock, and a number of other things.

If we knew what was causing the pH drop, then there may be a possibility of stabilizing it, but 6.4 - 6.8 is a bit low for goldfish on a long term basis. I am still working on this, so please be assured you are not alone. I do have some time constraints with the holiday weekend here, but I will be sure to check in as much as I can over the weekend. If I come up with more ideas or solutions for you I will be sure to post them.

Do you have the ability to check GH and KH in your tap water as well as your tank water? I am concerned with your tank water's buffering capacity, but knowing both tap and tank readings will also give us the info we need to help narrow down potential causes of the change in pH. In the mean time, keep the water changes small... no more than 10% at a time. If, as I fear, the buffering capacity of your water is even part of the issue, large water changes could cause deadly swings in pH while we are still trying to sort this out and get it fixed. In this case, 20 - 25% would be considered a large change because of the difference in pH from tank to tap.

The smaller water changes will also limit the amount of ammonia from the tap water going into the tank at any given time, which also will help.

If we can get your tank fully cycled and stable in that regard, it is possible, at least for a period of time (until the fish start to grow in leaps and bounds) that the bacteria culture in the tank can handle the additional ammonia in the tap water, thus breaking it down quickly enough to avoid harming the fish.

Please keep us posted of any changes along the way.
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Old 04-22-2011, 10:42 PM   #37
 
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I understand your dilemma, however, without knowing why the pH is dropping so far in the tank, there is no way to keep it stable. Just as fast as it has gone down it also then has the ability to go back up again... which means not only concern for ammonia toxicity, but also pH shock, and a number of other things.

If we knew what was causing the pH drop, then there may be a possibility of stabilizing it, but 6.4 - 6.8 is a bit low for goldfish on a long term basis. I am still working on this, so please be assured you are not alone. I do have some time constraints with the holiday weekend here, but I will be sure to check in as much as I can over the weekend. If I come up with more ideas or solutions for you I will be sure to post them.

Do you have the ability to check GH and KH in your tap water as well as your tank water? I am concerned with your tank water's buffering capacity, but knowing both tap and tank readings will also give us the info we need to help narrow down potential causes of the change in pH. In the mean time, keep the water changes small... no more than 10% at a time. If, as I fear, the buffering capacity of your water is even part of the issue, large water changes could cause deadly swings in pH while we are still trying to sort this out and get it fixed. In this case, 20 - 25% would be considered a large change because of the difference in pH from tank to tap.

The smaller water changes will also limit the amount of ammonia from the tap water going into the tank at any given time, which also will help.

If we can get your tank fully cycled and stable in that regard, it is possible, at least for a period of time (until the fish start to grow in leaps and bounds) that the bacteria culture in the tank can handle the additional ammonia in the tap water, thus breaking it down quickly enough to avoid harming the fish.

Please keep us posted of any changes along the way.
Thank you very much for your help. I don't remember the exact readings but I posted them at some time or another on a different thread and it turns out our water is very soft and Byron said it's similar to his tank which also tends to go to acidic. I will keep up with the smaller water changes. After the 20% water change I did yesterday I tested the ammonia today and there was absolutely no change to it still 2.0 ppm. Next time I will do a smaller water change like you said.
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Old 04-26-2011, 12:53 PM   #38
 
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Quick update: Still no improvement. For a while I was able to keep the pH around 6.8 through daily water changes. I've been doing 10% water changes. Yesterday I did a 20% water change last evening maybe around 4:00 pm and the pH got to 7.0 and this morning it was already at 6.6! Just to show how quickly it gets acidic.

I've read about putting crushed coral in a nylon sock inside the filter. Clearly there is something crazy going on with my tank and I am wondering, would a little crushed coral help? I'm about ready to just give up because this is all getting to be too much. I'm really hoping I can try crushed coral and I'm looking at this as the final option. I don't know what else to do.
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Old 04-26-2011, 01:07 PM   #39
 
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Quick update: Still no improvement. For a while I was able to keep the pH around 6.8 through daily water changes. I've been doing 10% water changes. Yesterday I did a 20% water change last evening maybe around 4:00 pm and the pH got to 7.0 and this morning it was already at 6.6! Just to show how quickly it gets acidic.

I've read about putting crushed coral in a nylon sock inside the filter. Clearly there is something crazy going on with my tank and I am wondering, would a little crushed coral help? I'm about ready to just give up because this is all getting to be too much. I'm really hoping I can try crushed coral and I'm looking at this as the final option. I don't know what else to do.
No on the buffering. Dawn is helping you with this, please bear with her. This quick a pH drop is not natural, whatever is causing it has to be found. Adding buffering agents, even calcareous rock or coral, might cause a rapid swing and be worse.
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Old 04-26-2011, 02:16 PM   #40
 
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Sorry it takes me so long to get back sometimes, it can't be helped. Unfortunately, I have to ask more questions...
Do you have a quarantine tank available?
Can you do me a favor and take a cup of your tank water, as close in temp as you use to put into your tank during water changes, test the pH and then let it sit out overnight, untouched by anything fish related, and then test pH again after 24 hrs? Bring those readings here. I am trying to determine if there is a buffering problem in your tap water (unlikely but not impossible) or if the problem is in the tank specifically.

I agree with Byron on the crushed coral... all you would be doing is masking a problem that would likely worsen because it hasn't been resolved. Crushed coral, at this point, is not your answer. Also, please remember that I still suspect the problem was the Prime water conditioner and it is going to take time to remove it all from your tank water, even with daily water changes.

Each change dilutes it, but it is still in there and likely still at a somewhat high level. Seeing that your jump went from the 6.4 it started with to 6.8 now, that tells me you are making progress. Continue as you have been with the small daily water changes and no Prime. Continue tracking the pH shifts and reporting them here as things change in either direction. This is difficult because we are doing this via internet, I don't have the ability to see anything in person, test anything in person, etc. I am relying on you to keep us informed, and sometimes the best thing anyone can do is be patient and diligent.

I'm also very sorry for your frustration, but things like this happen. When you work with an aquatic situation in any form you have an ever changing environment. There was a time when people thought that fish keeping was as simple as dropping a fish into water and watch it swim. Over the years people have learned a lot, including that fish keeping, when done right, is a little more complicated than first thought.

Over those yrs many others have taken advantage of the still not widespread knowledge about this hobby and they create products to "help" us, though some of us are not actually helped by them. Buffering chemicals fall into that category. In all my 20+ yrs of working in this industry, keeping my own at home, etc, I have seen very few cases that actually required the use of buffering chemicals.... and too many cases where buffering chemicals/methods wiped out entire tanks of otherwise healthy fish, simply because the fish keeper was not patient enough to sort out the cause of their problems...

Quick fixes, in fish keeping, are never the solution. Hang in there, please. Don't give up. Once we figure this out you will be on your way to enjoying the fish because the "work" part will be greatly reduced, as will the stress of the problems you face at present. If nothing else, at least consider this a good crash course in water chemistry, something every fish keeper should have anyways. Everyone's tap water is different. Every tank is different. You are doing all you can right now, and should be proud of yourself that you care enough to sort this out and not impatient enough to allow the fish to suffer needlessly. There is an end... we will get there, and I promise to stick with you until this is resolved. The best is yet to come!

I will watch for those pH results from the cup of tap water and we will continue from there.
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