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ladydelaware55 09-03-2012 03:56 PM

Question about API Master Testing Kit
I seem to be confused about how this works. I collect the water add the drops for the different tests. The colors match perfectly except the nitrates. It is always clear. Now, I read where people say that their nitrates are 10, or 20, or whatever. Are they using the API master kit when they say that because I don't know what that means.

I know something is wrong with my 20 gal high, because my balloon mollies keep dying. That's all I have in there. I am down to three and one is about to die.
I did a water change yesterday and do at least one a week. I have 2 filters in there and the temp is at 78 most of the time. I add 4 tablespoons of aquarium salt and 20 ml of stress coat each time. This tank has been setup since June of this year.
There is no signs of sickness either.
Here are my numbers:
Hi Range-7.4
Nitrate-0, clear

I sure could use some help with this because I am so hooked on this that I have started another 20 long that someone gave me. I am afraid to stock it until I get this problem figured out.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!!!


Byron 09-03-2012 04:33 PM

It is possible to have zero nitrates, though this usually occurs in well planted tanks. Do you have plants?

The Regent #2 bottle in the API kit must be shaken for a good 2 minutes. Sometimes a false reading can occur. Try this and see if you get a different result.

To the molly, the nitrate is not the issue here. Fish do not like nitrates, so the lower the better. But something seems wrong if they are regularly dying.

When you set up this new tank in June, did you put the mollies in? And how did you cycle? I am wondering if the ammonia and nitrite got to them; molly are highly susceptible to ammonia and while they may live through the initial cycling, they often die shortly after due to the long-term effects of the ammonia/nitrite.

I understand mollies can manage with salt, but 4 tablespoons every week is a lot in a 20g. This is not likely the cause either, in so short a time, but I would not continue using salt.


ladydelaware55 09-04-2012 07:20 AM

No, there are no plants, I lost my beautiful male this morning. Now I have just one female left. Being new to this I might have put the mollies in the tank before it was completely cycled, not knowing anything about cycling.
In my other tank that I just setup the Ist of Sept, the nitrates show yellow. I have no fish in there yet. Should I put some in there and if so what? I tested the water last night and the nitrates were yellow? In my other one I have had for a few months there are none?? I'm confused as to what to do. Not sure what you mean by how did I cycle?

AbbeysDad 09-04-2012 08:49 AM

There is no 'clear' on the nitrate test, but rather a yellow....where orange and red are higher levels. Are you adding 10 drops each of regents one and two? Are you mixing between each regent addition? Are you shaking regent 2 for about 2 minutes and rapping on a table to ensure it's thoroughly mixed? (regent 2 has an element that readily separates). Are you waiting 5 minutes for the reaction to establish the color?

With the possible exception of a very heavily planted tank with very few fish, nearly all tanks will accumulate of the reasons for weekly water changes.

pop 09-04-2012 08:50 AM

Hello ladydelaware55;

Byron appears to have a very good understanding of the biological process that occurres in aquariums and his suggestions are ones of value.

My problem with testing samples is the process of collecting and running the test without contaminating the sample. Is it reasonable to assume that the teaspoon or two of sample water is true representative of or equal too any possible combinations of samples in the tank. Is it reasonable to assume that the results of test contain the true representation of the aquarium water?

One has to make these types leaps of assumptions to view a suspected sample to be valid. And the results to be valuable.


Ph reading change as the water gets warmer or cooler.
If you collect your sample in a dead spot where water is not circulating you may have a sample that is warmer or cooler then the rest of the tank giving a false positive reading.

Do you wear gloves or wash you hands when collecting samples?
Do you roll the sample test tube to mix regents in test tube is there a top on the test tube to prevent contamination?
Do you note temperatures of samples when testing?

These are some of the reasons I do not micro-manage my aquarium on the basis of tested biological processes. I believe that aquariums strive for balance and when a finned friend goes belly up the aquarium is moving toward equalization and balance.

I am not sure what cycling a tank means either I guess I haven’t done it. I’am ole school fish keeper.

This approach works for me it may not work for others.

AbbeysDad 09-04-2012 09:18 AM


Originally Posted by pop (Post 1228245)
Is it reasonable to assume that the results of test contain the true representation of the aquarium water?

Most aquariums have, or should have, sufficient circulation to ensure against thermal gradients and varying water chemistry. Taking a water sample anywhere in the tank should be representative of all of the water in the tank.


Originally Posted by pop (Post 1228245)
I am not sure what cycling a tank means either I guess I haven’t done it. I’am ole school fish keeper.

'Cycling' refers to the nitrogen (N2) cycle. Ammonia is produced by fish. Nitrosomonas bacteria process ammonia and convert it into nitrItes. Nitrobacter bacteria process nitrItes and convert it into less toxic nitrAtes. There are anaerobic bacteria that can convert nitrAtes into nitrogen gas, but these can be difficult to culture in most aquariums. Weekly water changes remove nitrates along with 'polluted' water.
In a new tank, these bacteria do not exist and take some time to develop in sufficient numbers. A tank is not considered 'cycled' until these bacteria colonies are established and nitrAtes are produced.

Note: I qualify for old school too, but and ole dog can learn new tricks. ;-)

Byron 09-04-2012 11:17 AM

Further on "cycling," there is an article by another member explaining the methods to cycle a new tank stickied at the head of this section ("A Beginner's guide to the freshwater aquarium cycle").

Also, for a bit more depth on the bacteria and how they affect fish, my article :

I always cycle with live plants, which basically avoids any "cycle" as such. It still occurs, has to in any container of water with live fish, but the plants grab most of the ammonia and prevent any noticeable "cycle" to us and more importantly to the fish. Lots of plants, including some fast-growing ones especially floating, and very few fish to start with.


pop 09-04-2012 11:40 AM

Hello Abbeysdad;
I don’t know how to do the quote thing.
But you are right in theory; a balanced aquarium would require sufficient circulation to guard against thermal gradients and varying water chemistry. Yet I keep focusing on the two words you use "should have, sufficient circulation…..shoould be representative …”
Leads me to think should be, could be, might be to the point of I not sure if it is. I guess its just another assumption.

I thought cycling referred to the nitrogen cycle in some manner.

Nice to know there are other ole school fish keepers out there.
Ole dogs can learn new tricks but as they say down south…….that dog don’t hunt for me

Byron 09-04-2012 12:04 PM

To do a "Quote" in a post, copy in the text from the prior post, highlight it, and then click the "Wrap" icon which is the fourth from the right in the line of icons above, that looks like a "quote" in a cartoon.

"Cycle" here does refer to the establishment of the nitrification bacteria Nitrosomonas and Nitrospira. This must and will occur in any aquarim with fish. But beeyond this there is another biological system of bacteria that are just as crucial; these are explained in my article cited previously, which also (I hope) explains how all this relates together.

AbbeysDad 09-04-2012 01:24 PM


Originally Posted by Byron (Post 1228422)
To do a "Quote" in a post, copy in the text from the prior post, highlight it, and then click the "Wrap" icon which is the fourth from the right in the line of icons above, that looks like a "quote" in a cartoon.

...or just use the "Quote" button to quote an entire post.

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