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HELP with constant high nitrates

This is a discussion on HELP with constant high nitrates within the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> Originally Posted by JDM The nitrate pads get full, so to speak, but can be "recharged" I believe... something about soaking in salt water ...

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HELP with constant high nitrates
Old 07-11-2013, 01:53 PM   #11
 
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Originally Posted by JDM View Post
The nitrate pads get full, so to speak, but can be "recharged" I believe... something about soaking in salt water comes to mind.

The duckweed can block out the light but that depends on the light that you have and the plants in the substrate and how much you let the duckweed propagate. Most fish prefer shaded areas so I consider that surface plants are a must in most tanks (there area some exceptions). It actually takes a lot of plant growth at the surface to affect the light enough to make a difference except with really high light plants. Just remove enough to keep it moving around the top of the tank in the water flow. The worst thing that you might have to do is increase your photo-period. I am at 14 hours currently, but I use that time with or without massive surface plant masses.

The RO or distilled water idea is good as long as you don't mess with the hardness too much. Your livebearers prefer hard water (so do the plants) and cutting 1/2 and 1/2 with RO will effectively halve your hardness.

Jeff.
Ok think I'll look into some duckweed. I currently have the lights on a timer for 8 hours. RO setups are pretty expensive and I'm almost afraid to use distilled. I also have an 18" bubble wand across the bottom, will that effect the use of duckweed? Thanks for the good information :)
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Old 07-11-2013, 02:52 PM   #12
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RO and distilled are basically the same thing.

I think that there are two courses that you can take that don't go the RO or distilled water avenue:

First, you can work at smaller less frequent water changes while treating the water for nitrates through some nitrate absorbing filter material and nitrate loving plants (Water Hyacinth is another but I think that they get fairly tall out of the water).

Second, you can consider that you will always have 10-20ppm nitrate as a minimum and keep with frequent water changes to keep any additional buildup to a minimum.

Either way just vacuuming the bottom and keeping it as clean as possible and letting the plants look after most of the ammonia up front so nitrates don't buildup as fast would be your best course.

I don't vacuum anymore, there's nothing really to vacuum, and I leave decaying plant material in the tank as much or as long as possible. I have a full load of fish, shrimp and snails, which I am sure I overfeed, and a boatload of surface plants including duckweed, pennywort, hygrophila, bacopa, and some others. I would have expected that my routine would end up with a buildup of nitrates as there must be lots of ammonia generated and even though the plants are numerous, some would get nitrified. I think that perhaps I just lucked onto the right balance... we'll see if my second tank works out the same and whether it is actually luck our not.

Jeff.
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Old 07-11-2013, 04:32 PM   #13
 
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Originally Posted by JDM View Post
RO and distilled are basically the same thing.

I think that there are two courses that you can take that don't go the RO or distilled water avenue:

First, you can work at smaller less frequent water changes while treating the water for nitrates through some nitrate absorbing filter material and nitrate loving plants (Water Hyacinth is another but I think that they get fairly tall out of the water).

Second, you can consider that you will always have 10-20ppm nitrate as a minimum and keep with frequent water changes to keep any additional buildup to a minimum.

Either way just vacuuming the bottom and keeping it as clean as possible and letting the plants look after most of the ammonia up front so nitrates don't buildup as fast would be your best course.

I don't vacuum anymore, there's nothing really to vacuum, and I leave decaying plant material in the tank as much or as long as possible. I have a full load of fish, shrimp and snails, which I am sure I overfeed, and a boatload of surface plants including duckweed, pennywort, hygrophila, bacopa, and some others. I would have expected that my routine would end up with a buildup of nitrates as there must be lots of ammonia generated and even though the plants are numerous, some would get nitrified. I think that perhaps I just lucked onto the right balance... we'll see if my second tank works out the same and whether it is actually luck our not.

Jeff.
Very impressive!! I don't seem to have any problem with ammonia but I still haven't figured out the cause of the high nitrates unless I'm cleaning it too well every week. I was having a slight brown algae problem, just little spots on the glass here and there but that seems under control. The fish don't seem to be in any distress so I just don't get it :( My water is crystal clear, I don't think I'm over stocked and what food hits the bottom is constantly being picked at by the bottom feeders.

I wonder if I should leave my lights on longer than 8 hours for the plants? They seem to be doing ok. I add 1/2 cap full of flourish 2x a week but the last plants I had kept rotting. Oh well I guess if nothing seems too bad I should leave well enough alone and do 2x weekly water changes.
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Old 07-11-2013, 06:28 PM   #14
 
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Very impressive!! I don't seem to have any problem with ammonia but I still haven't figured out the cause of the high nitrates unless I'm cleaning it too well every week. I was having a slight brown algae problem, just little spots on the glass here and there but that seems under control. The fish don't seem to be in any distress so I just don't get it :( My water is crystal clear, I don't think I'm over stocked and what food hits the bottom is constantly being picked at by the bottom feeders.

I wonder if I should leave my lights on longer than 8 hours for the plants? They seem to be doing ok. I add 1/2 cap full of flourish 2x a week but the last plants I had kept rotting. Oh well I guess if nothing seems too bad I should leave well enough alone and do 2x weekly water changes.
UPDATE
I just did a 50% water change and waited an hour to check the nitrates. Something interesting...if I'm holding the test tube up to the natural light at the front door, the liquid is orange like the 20 mark on the chart, but if I hold the tube to the white on the API chart it's red like the 40-80 mark. How can the colors look so different?? I know they say to hold it next to the white part of the chart but I'm thinking the true color is what I'm seeing in the natural light and it's not direct sunlight, it's in a shady spot. I may not have high nitrates after all. Hmmmm....just some thoughts....
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Old 07-11-2013, 06:48 PM   #15
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Ammonia gets oxidized into nitrites and they in turn get oxidized into nitrates so ammonia in = nitrates out... that's the only source. If you have no problem with ammonia, then your plants are sucking it up directly and the various biofilms are oxidizing them into nitrates efficiently. If your tests are accurate and the nitrates are actually getting that high that fast, then you have an over abundance of ammonia going in and a very effective nitrification cycle.

If you did two large water changes in a week, even as much as 75%, your nitrate levels should be down to close to your tap levels. Sort of resetting to get you to a stable starting point. With plants there should be no reason for the nitrates to jump any more than 5ppm per week... let alone getting to 40 or 80 ppm. If your nitrate bottle #2 hasn't been shaken every time, the test could be off as the solution can change in concentration and could affect the results, I dont know which way.

Your cleaning will help reduce ammonia sources from decaying matter (food, fish waste, plant material). Increasing your photo period may help the plants suck up more ammonia bypassing the nitrate production and help reduce the amount of algae showing up, even though it isn't much now.

Jeff.
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Old 07-11-2013, 06:54 PM   #16
 
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Ammonia gets oxidized into nitrites and they in turn get oxidized into nitrates so ammonia in = nitrates out... that's the only source. If you have no problem with ammonia, then your plants are sucking it up directly and the various biofilms are oxidizing them into nitrates efficiently. If your tests are accurate and the nitrates are actually getting that high that fast, then you have an over abundance of ammonia going in and a very effective nitrification cycle.

If you did two large water changes in a week, even as much as 75%, your nitrate levels should be down to close to your tap levels. Sort of resetting to get you to a stable starting point. With plants there should be no reason for the nitrates to jump any more than 5ppm per week... let alone getting to 40 or 80 ppm. If your nitrate bottle #2 hasn't been shaken every time, the test could be off as the solution can change in concentration and could affect the results, I dont know which way.

Your cleaning will help reduce ammonia sources from decaying matter (food, fish waste, plant material). Increasing your photo period may help the plants suck up more ammonia bypassing the nitrate production and help reduce the amount of algae showing up, even though it isn't much now.

Jeff.
I did 50% yesterday when I posted my original post about high nitrates and did another 50% over an hour ago and according to the API chart (with the tube on the white) there was no difference in the nitrate from yesterday to today. I shake the mixture like mad so I know that's not the problem and I have 0 ammonia. I'm starting to think the testing solution is the problem. I think it's time to buy another one since the #2 is almost empty which could be the problem. I do appreciate all your help :)
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Old 07-11-2013, 06:56 PM   #17
 
Well the thing is with the high nitrates and hard water is that, yes your plants and livebearers do prefer it, but they also prefer ( and need) a nitrate level at <20. I think that a slight adjustment in hardness ( that ur livestock will no doubt adjust rather easily) is much preferable over poisoning them with high nitrates. If it were me inwould try cutting with some ro water and experiment with it to keep my hardness and nitrates acceptable.

As far as the color question, i go through the same thing. To me even on the chart i dont see a concernable difference between 10 and 20. I have a bit of trouble discerning the high range ph too. I hold it to natural sunlight against the white if the chart. As long as its light orange and not dark orange im happy lol
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Old 07-11-2013, 06:56 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by katmandew View Post
UPDATE
I just did a 50% water change and waited an hour to check the nitrates. Something interesting...if I'm holding the test tube up to the natural light at the front door, the liquid is orange like the 20 mark on the chart, but if I hold the tube to the white on the API chart it's red like the 40-80 mark. How can the colors look so different?? I know they say to hold it next to the white part of the chart but I'm thinking the true color is what I'm seeing in the natural light and it's not direct sunlight, it's in a shady spot. I may not have high nitrates after all. Hmmmm....just some thoughts....
That sounds plausible, and more likely. With a 50% change and you doing one or two changes a week the nitrates almost cannot be that high, even with a 20ppm starting point... I think I said as much in my last post too.

I use a separate white card to eliminate any chance of other colour bars affecting what I see, and either daylight or a white flashlight to get rid of the yellow of the tungsten incandescent lighting colouration.

Jeff.
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Old 07-11-2013, 07:02 PM   #19
 
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Well the thing is with the high nitrates and hard water is that, yes your plants and livebearers do prefer it, but they also prefer ( and need) a nitrate level at <20. I think that a slight adjustment in hardness ( that ur livestock will no doubt adjust rather easily) is much preferable over poisoning them with high nitrates. If it were me inwould try cutting with some ro water and experiment with it to keep my hardness and nitrates acceptable.

As far as the color question, i go through the same thing. To me even on the chart i dont see a concernable difference between 10 and 20. I have a bit of trouble discerning the high range ph too. I hold it to natural sunlight against the white if the chart. As long as its light orange and not dark orange im happy lol
The only time I see light orange is in natural light NOT against the chart lol! Thanks for your thoughts.
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Old 07-11-2013, 09:46 PM   #20
 
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Originally Posted by katmandew View Post
UPDATE
If I'm holding the test tube up to the natural light at the front door, the liquid is orange like the 20 mark on the chart, but if I hold the tube to the white on the API chart it's red like the 40-80 mark. How can the colors look so different?? I know they say to hold it next to the white part of the chart but I'm thinking the true color is what I'm seeing in the natural light and it's not direct sunlight, it's in a shady spot. I may not have high nitrates after all. Hmmmm....just some thoughts....
FROM THE API WEBSITE : Directions for Testing Nitrate

Read the test results by matching the color of the solution against those on the Nitrate Test Color Chart.

The tube should be viewed against the white area beside the color chart.

Color comparisons are best made in a well-lit area.

The closest match indicates the ppm (mg/L) of nitrate in the water sample.

The problem is that it doesn't specify if the tube should be pressed directly against the white part of the chart or held back.... The closer you bring it to the chart the darker it is going to get...

I personally have the best luck just looking at the color in good light, I don't really hold it against anything white.. you can't tell if its 10-20 but you can tell the difference in 10 and 80.

For your personal sanity, I still think you should take a sample to your LFS and get them to provide an opinion....

It can be hard to read some of the results, but once you hit 5 million tests, like me, you'll have it down... For some weird reason I love to test and keep track of my water params....

Last edited by Tracy Bird; 07-11-2013 at 09:49 PM..
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