Been testing almost daily to see where my numbers are and everything checks out fine except nitrate. It is elevated just to the next color level on my API test chart. I've purchased the PRIME stuff that detoxifies the nitrate but it still is reading the same. Does it take a while for the reading to level off? Anything else to do for high Nitrate readings?
Ammonia is the result of fish respiration and decaying organic matter. If we reduce the ammonia that ultimately becomes nitrates, we're ahead of the game.
Living plants assimilate ammonia and to some degree nitrates so having lots of plants, even floating, helps purify the water.
Being careful to not over stock, not over feed and keeping the tank and filter clean to reduce the decaying organic matter also reduces nitrates that get produced.
Finally there are products that can help us reduce tank generated Nitrates. For instance, Seachem Purigen is a synthetic polymer resin that adsorbs dissolved organic compounds (DOCs) before they decompose further to produce nitrates.
There are also products like Fluval Labe Series Nitrate Remover and API Nitra-Zorb that are synthetic 'scavenger' resins that will adsorb nitrates.
HOWEVER, for most, just doing weekly partial water changes is all you need to keep nitrates low and stimulate the tank with fresh water (just as rain does in the amazon).
Also, Prime merely detoxifies ammonia, nitrite and nitrate for ONLY 24-48 hours giving beneficial bacteria time to process (removing chlorine CREATES AMMONIA). It does not remove anything.
What you do for nitrates or anything else is to increase the consumers of nitrates or anything else.
In our tanks and in my opinion the best thing is fast growing plants. the plants will actually prefer to consume ammonia if present and therefore stop dangerous spikes when thing go wrong or in a new that that is cycling. And once bacteria get the ammonia, the plants will use nitrates for nitrogen. Plus consume phosphates and carbon dioxide and returning oxygen.
but that's just my .02
Thanks for the information, it's very helpful! Two followup questions:
1) - I do want more live plants but don't know where is the best place to get them. I've got a couple of wisterias from my local petstore that are 'topfin'. They seem to be doing okay, but I want a lot more plants. Can you recommend not only a source, but also some hearty plants that work well for a beginner like me?
2) - Is there a book \ manual that explains everything in 'layman's term's? I'd love to have a reference book in hand rather than googling all the time!
As for the plants, knowing your light will help, as different plants have different needs. Be specific; also, mention the tank size (length and gallons) so we can associate the light you have with the tank.
I have a series stickied at the head of the Aquarium Plants section on A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium that should give some background on planted tanks.
Before I forget, I'll mention our fish and plant profiles, second heading from the left in the blue bar across the top of the page. Each profile has one or more photos, and the profile mentions data on the species.
Back on the nitrates, have you tested the tap water for nitrates? And by second colour on the API, do you mean the orange which is 5 ppm? That's OK.
I guess I dozed off... the 2nd level on the chart for nitrates, as Byron points out is a mere 5ppm and that is fine. We want nitrates as low as possible, lower the better but tank nitrates <=20ppm is generally consider okay.
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