now I'm really confused... (water testing) - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 9 Old 03-21-2012, 11:25 AM Thread Starter
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Question now I'm really confused... (water testing)

So, into week four of new tank cycling with fish 'in'. pretty heavily filled with live plants in a 110l tank. I have been testing the water religiously since there are fish in there and don't want them to suffer.

My ph is around 8.2 constantly which is normal for my area according to my LFS. I have been registering either 0ppm or 0.25ppm Ammonia, 0ppm Nitrite and around 10-20ppm nitrate. After the 2nd week I did have a massive nitrite spike so there has been nitrites in there, but none at all now.

So my confusion comes when today I do a full test just on water straight from the tap... and I was originally encouraged by the presence of nitrates in my tank water as I thought this must mean that my tank had entered into the last phase of the cycle. But when I tested my tap water today I found the same level of Ammonia, the same level of Nitrites but around 40ppm of Nitrite!!!! and thats straight out of the tap.

I read on the internet that nitrate is present in drinking tap and bottled water due to decomposing plant matter in the system.

So If I am looking to do partial water changes when I notice my tank water reaching 40ppm or more and once my tank is finished cycling, and the Ammonia and Nitrite is always 0ppm what good will it do to be adding fresh water with the same level of Nitrate back into the tank...? man, why can't this just be simple haha.

Any discussion on this matter will be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks.....

Fishy Noob.
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post #2 of 9 Old 03-21-2012, 12:36 PM
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First of all, welcome to the Tropical Fish Keeping forum. I am guessing that you mean 40 ppm of Nitrate, this is not uncommon in tap water like you said.
110 gallons will take a while to cycle, if I were you were you I would get Seachem's Stability. It does a really good job at making your uncycled tank safe for fish, as well at putting the "good" bacteria in your tank to get it cycled. I recently cycled a 29 gallon in one week with it.

Have you ever noticed a spike in ammonia? You will need a decent ammonia spike to start the cycle, as that is what turns into Nitrites, etc etc. I am sure you have read it, but we have our which does a good job explaining most of this.
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post #3 of 9 Old 03-21-2012, 12:58 PM
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I believe it's 110 Liter, not Gallon, which is significantly smaller.

Live plants, as you are seeing, are helping with your nitrate problem.

10-20 ppm Nitrate is acceptable. Not ideal, but acceptable. 20-40 is the usual range I believe for freshwater in an unplanted tank. Without nitrate in the source water it is possible to stay in the 0-5 ppm range with live plants.

Last edited by Geomancer; 03-21-2012 at 12:59 PM. Reason: Spelling
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post #4 of 9 Old 03-21-2012, 01:04 PM
I have a similar but somewhat worse problem with nitrates in my well water due to a farmers 95 acre field across the road. Here are some options for you to explore.
If you were to have a heavily planted tank, the plants would use much of the ammonia so nitrites and nitrates are not created...and they will also use nitrates as fertilizer too. Plants may require better lighting and some additional maintenance. You might try floating plants even with existing lighting.
I took a different route and am developing a DIY bio-nitrate filter. To get tank nitrates down, I used Fluval Lab Series Nitrate Remover (API makes a product called Nitra Zorb). For water changes, I'll use some deionized water made from the API Tap Water filter.
I'm looking to minimize nitrates and boost filtration to allow me to cut back on the frequency and/or volume of water changes and still have excellent water chemistry. This will likely also include the periodic use of activated carbon and Seachem Purigen.

Hope this helps - you have lots of options.

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post #5 of 9 Old 03-21-2012, 02:21 PM Thread Starter
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This is my tank, it is 110 litres which is 29 gallons i believe. Just to show the level of plants that are in there.

@Adamson yes sorry I did mean Nitrate! in my tap water. I didn't have an ammonia test kit to begin with so I have never actually seen an ammonia spike with my own eyes, but I did have a nitrite test kit and 1st week I had no fish in but started putting plants in after about 3/4 days. 2nd week added 7 glow lights and towards the end of that week the nitrites crept up and up, so I did a partial water change and ever since really the nitrites have been non existent. So not sure if there was an ammonia spike just before the nitrite spike or not?? I'm presuming there was. I used the API quick start product to begin with, but not sure to what benefit as I have hears all sorts of negative stuff about it. I have also added some API stress zyme, but I don't think I'll be putting anymore chemicals like that in my water...

@Geomancer, the problem is I have nitrate present in my tap water, and I was confused as to the benefit of taking 20-40ppm nitrate tank water out, only to put 40+ppm fresh tap water back in again as a partial water change. I guess all the plants I have in there will soak up some of the nitrates etc? and the point of water changes is also to clean the substrate etc, so I'm fine with that but was concerned about putting the nitrates back in the tank, when I am trying to dilute them....

@Abbeysdad, thanks for the advice. I was hoping to shy away from constantly adding chemicals to my tank. By having zoo many plants in there am I in danger of never having a cycled tank?? If the plants are using the ammonia then the cycle might not kick start??? I don't want that!! what are your thoughts on this??

Cheeeers peeps, appreciate the friendly and helpful replies. this forum rules!! peace.

Last edited by rhymon78; 03-21-2012 at 02:25 PM.
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post #6 of 9 Old 03-21-2012, 02:38 PM Thread Starter
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Trying to figure out how to post pics on here, a little confusing!!
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post #7 of 9 Old 03-21-2012, 03:56 PM
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Two very distinct issues here, so permit me to divide and conquer.

First, the cycle. As others have mentioned, with live plants you do not see a "cycle" per say, but it still occurs, naturally. But the ammonia and nitrite will never rise to a level that you can detect with our common test kits, and the fish will not be harmed. Fast-growing plants (stem plants, floating plants) are best for this as they assimilate a lot of ammonia (their preferred source of nitrogen is ammonium which they can convert from ammonia, or nitrate if the ammonia is exhausted). So with sufficient live plants, and few fish at first, the tank will cycle without any ill effect on fish. Normally you would not see nitrates at first either, though eventually a low nitrate level (< 5 ppm) again because most of the ammonia gets grabbed by the plants.

Now to the second issue, the nitrates in the tap water. First a question: are you using the API nitrate test, and if so, did you shake Regent #2 for 2 minutes (not just 30 seconds as the instructions say)? I believe the latest (new) kit has resolved this in part, but to be sure, just shake Regent #2 for 2 minutes before adding the drops to the test tube of tank water. This may give you a lower reading; the point being, we want to know the most accurate number.

As for handling this, I will defer to the suggestions other members have given. I share you concern over chemicals, I refuse to use any that are not absolutely essential. But there are several ways of handling nitrates i the source water. We can discuss those further when we have the test number confirmed.

And, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum. Glad to have you with us.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #8 of 9 Old 03-21-2012, 03:57 PM
Originally Posted by rhymon78 View Post
[IMG]@Abbeysdad, thanks for the advice. I was hoping to shy away from constantly adding chemicals to my tank. By having zoo many plants in there am I in danger of never having a cycled tank?? If the plants are using the ammonia then the cycle might not kick start??? I don't want that!! what are your thoughts on this??
I suggested no chemicals, unless you are referring to the Nitrate removers which are a synthetic adsorbant that filters nitrates out of the water (and is recharged using salt water). Although like activated carbon, this may come under the heading of chemical filtration, it is not like adding chemical compounds to the water.

The beauty of a planted, natural tank is just that. There will typically never be an ammonia spike. There will be few, if any nitrites and few nitrates. When there are nitrates, plants will use those too! Bacteria will develop slowly in time to handle any nitrogenous waste the plants don't handle.
So if it's a heavily planted tank, don't sweat 'the cycle' - its's on auto pilot.

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post #9 of 9 Old 03-21-2012, 04:16 PM Thread Starter
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thanks guys, I guess I am just over worrying. The fact there is 14 fish in that tank and there is little to no ammonia readings and no nitrites, the plants must be doing a good job! as the fish are doing really well.

Byron, I do shake bottle 2 of the nitrate test for ages, and give it a good bang on the table too. I only just bought the kit so maybe its one of the new ones?? I'd say the tap water today was a good 40ppm, and my tanks water was just under that, maybe 20-40ppm. I still did a 10-15% partial water change anyway.

Anyhoo, thanks again. I'll just keep an eye on things and leave it a few weeks before adding anything else to the tank.

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