02-09-2011, 12:45 PM
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Nitrate is still a concern, though it may be less as I'll explain.
With the API liquid nitrate test kit, you need to shake Regent #2 for 2 minutes before adding the drops. The instructions say 30 seconds, but this is not sufficient and many have had false (and much higher) nitrate readings because of it. Shake Regent #2 for 2 minutes, then tell us the result.
Nitrate should be kept below 20 ppm. Plants will greatly aid in achieving this. But so do water changes--unless nitrates are in your tap water, but you said zero on that. High nitrates means there is too much bioload in the tank. We can look into that if the new nitrate reading is still high.
On pH, in an established tank the pH will naturally lower as the water acidifies. Having zero carbonate hardness (KH) in your tap water means there is no buffering capacity, so the acidification will naturally occur. Here again, significant weekly partial water changes work to stabilize this.
A GH of 180 ppm which equates to 10 dGH is quite good. This will not have much effect on the above issues.
Let us know the new nitrate reading.
Last, always make tests prior to the water change so you know where the tank sits after a week. And pH should always be checked at approximately the same time of day each time, as it varies due to the natural diurnal cycle, moreso with plants but still present without.