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equatics 07-15-2012 08:50 AM

I Am Showing Nitrates In A Low-tech Planted Tank
 
I am showing 10 ppm of nitrate in my 10 gal. low-tech planted tank. It was zero every week for quite a while. I don't think this is a tap water situation. I do a partial water change once a week of 25%.

I'm trying to figure out why I'm showing some nitrates all of a sudden. I definitely need more plants. I know that aquatic plants can digest ammonia. I'm going to guess that the nitrates are from the friendly bacteria, and whatever ammonia or nitrite gets ingested by plants does not end up as nitrates. Is that right?

I also lowered the photoperiod several weeks ago by one hour to 9 hours (plus 2). Maybe I should put it back up to 10 so that the plants will grow more actively again. That's pretty clear. There are also some other problems going on in this situation: trimmed all my plants at the same time :( got 6 Pristella Tetras; started dosing Flourish Complete and Seachem Tabs.

Thanks a lot for any facts, conjecture, or confirmation. I guess I coulld do a bigger water change every week.

Steven

Chesh 07-15-2012 09:10 AM

Nitrates are perfectly normal and healthy to have in a fully cycled tank - nothing to worry about, as long as they don't get too high (like 20+ though some fish will be fine with a much higher reading). They are the end-result of the nitrogen cycle. . . ammonia into nitrIte into nitrAte.

May I ask how long your tank has been set up and running? It may be that it is only just finishing it's cycle, and so you haven't seen it appear yet? If you cycle a tank with enough plants, you *might* not see ammonia or nitrite spike, because - as you mentioned - the plants will ingest these toxins. It's really rare for a fully cycled tank to have NO nitrate reading. You have to have very few fish and a LOT of plants for this balance to be created. I've seen you around enough to bet you know about the nitrogen cycle, so I'm guessing this is really just your tank reacting to the addition of 6 new fish. That's quite a bit of bioload added all at once in a 10g tank - my guess is that you maybe had few enough fish for the plants to balance the tank perfectly before, but now you NEED that nitrate to keep up with the increased bioload. Likely it won't go away - and that's okay :)

If this is an older tank, and has enough plants for there to actually be no nitrate reading, it might be a good idea to test your tap water. In the spring, my tap water went from 0ppm to 10ppm in nitrate, because of all the fertilizers people were dumping on their lawns combined with the rain we were getting. This number has since fallen off to 0 again.

This depends on teh plants, of course, but usually trimming them encourages them to grow, and thus take up more nutrients - not the reverse. . . so pruning probably isn't a part of your problem. . . For what it's worth, I'm going with the 6 new fishes! :-D

Hope this helps!

equatics 07-15-2012 09:32 AM

Thank you very much. I think the tank has been running for 16.5 weeks. It finished cycling quite a while ago. But thank you for your intelligent commentary. :-)

Steven

Chesh 07-15-2012 09:36 AM

haha! I figured you'd cycled it, already.

99% chance it's just the 6 new fishies! This happened to me, too - my tank was perfectly balanced between very few fish and very many plants for quite some time. Now my nitrate reading sits right at around 7.5. . . still not a bad plan to check the tap. That one threw me for a loop! Now I check my tap every few months juuuuuust to be sure. Stupid city water!

Good luck!

equatics 07-15-2012 11:06 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chesherca (Post 1156052)
haha! I figured you'd cycled it, already.

99% chance it's just the 6 new fishies! This happened to me, too - my tank was perfectly balanced between very few fish and very many plants for quite some time. Now my nitrate reading sits right at around 7.5. . . still not a bad plan to check the tap. That one threw me for a loop! Now I check my tap every few months just to be sure. Stupid city water!

Good luck!

Thank you! That makes sense, but I wouldn't have thought that six little fish would produce 10 ppm ammonia. I guess it's not too much. But the plants are supposed to pick up *all* of the ammonia. Maybe I just have too much decay action going on. Oh well. I am reading an article that seems tto be saying that plants take in ammonia and nitrite but don't release it until they or a leaf dies, then it re-enters the Nitrogen Cycle. Sounds good to me.

Steven

Chesh 07-15-2012 11:18 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Nemo the Clownfish (Post 1156139)
Thank you! That makes sense, but I wouldn't have thought that six little fish would produce 10 ppm ammonia. I guess it's not too much. But the plants are supposed to pick up *all* of the ammonia. Maybe I just have too much decay action going on. Oh well. I am reading an article that seems tto be saying that plants take in ammonia and nitrite but don't release it until they or a leaf dies, then it re-enters the Nitrogen Cycle. Sounds good to me.

Steven

You'd be surprised (obviously are ;)) at how much stocking can change things and how quickly! I don't think it's decay. . . look into the Walstead method - you need a LOT of fast-growing plants - and I mean a LOT!!! to keep up with a normally stocked tank.

Plants do take up ammonia and nitrite, but they seem to prefer to feed on nitrates, interestingly enough! You're correct. . . they absorb the toxins in your tank and convert it into food. When they die, or a plant dies off, they don't release these toxins back, rather the rotting creates ammonia, which will bump nitrites, which will eventually cause the nitrates to raise to compensate - same with any rotting organics in the tank (fish food, fish waste) As long as you do regular maintenance, and trim dead leaves, this really shouldn't be a problem for you :)

What plants do you keep? Are there any other fish in the tank? If you're really trying to create a balanced tank, you might need to increase the plantlife - most especially floating plants and fast-growing stem-plants.

;-)

Fish tanks are NEAT!

equatics 07-15-2012 11:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chesherca (Post 1156154)
You'd be surprised (obviously are ;)) at how much stocking can change things and how quickly! I don't think it's decay. . . look into the Walstead method - you need a LOT of fast-growing plants - and I mean a LOT!!! to keep up with a normally stocked tank.

Plants do take up ammonia and nitrite, but they seem to prefer to feed on nitrates, interestingly enough! You're correct. . . they absorb the toxins in your tank and convert it into food. When they die, or a plant dies off, they don't release these toxins back, rather the rotting creates ammonia, which will bump nitrites, which will eventually cause the nitrates to raise to compensate - same with any rotting organics in the tank (fish food, fish waste) As long as you do regular maintenance, and trim dead leaves, this really shouldn't be a problem for you :)

What plants do you keep? Are there any other fish in the tank? If you're really trying to create a balanced tank, you might need to increase the plantlife - most especially floating plants and fast-growing stem-plants.

;-)

Fish tanks are NEAT!

I have Water Sprite, Cabomba, Wisteria, floating Water Sprite trying to be floaters, some kind of sword (smallish), a small cryptocorne, a practically dead Pygmy Chain Sword. Yes, the 6 Pristella Tetras are the only fish in the tank (10 gal.) but I have a good amount of snails. I don't see myself right now adding any more fish in the future. The Pristellas are happy the way they are :) . I'd like to have a Pygmy Chain Sword that will do well and spread across the foreground.

Fish tanks are neat, but I always want to know how they work :)

Steven

Mikaila31 07-15-2012 12:01 PM

Nitrate is perfectly fine in planted tanks and often it is actually recommended. With high tech tanks I dose nitrate as the plants need some form of nitrogen. Ideally it stays above 20ppm with how I run my tanks. There are many many ways to run a fish tank and they all work.

Chesh 07-15-2012 12:44 PM

Mika is right - there ARE a million ways to do it right, and and nitrate IS perfectly fine at those levels for the fishies, and will be used as ferts by the plants.

Give it a couple of weeks for things to even out again, and see where your nitrate level is. . .

IF you WANT to TRY to get 0 nitrates, I'd recommend some fast-growing stem plants - they suck that stuff right up! Anacharis might be good to try, FanWort is another that grows very quickly and very well in my tanks... also, true floating plants are the best at soaking up nitrate (and any other toxins) in the water, and there are many of these to choose from :)

equatics 07-16-2012 04:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chesherca (Post 1156283)
Mika is right - there ARE a million ways to do it right, and and nitrate IS perfectly fine at those levels for the fishies, and will be used as ferts by the plants.

Give it a couple of weeks for things to even out again, and see where your nitrate level is. . .

IF you WANT to TRY to get 0 nitrates, I'd recommend some fast-growing stem plants - they suck that stuff right up! Anacharis might be good to try, FanWort is another that grows very quickly and very well in my tanks... also, true floating plants are the best at soaking up nitrate (and any other toxins) in the water, and there are many of these to choose from :)

Thank you both very much for the good advice.

Steven


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