High nitrates in source water.
I received the following message and thought I'd post here instead of privately for the benefit of others as well.
I have just found that my source water is high in nitrates, JDM has mentioned that you may be able to suggest a filter that removes nitrates. I think the problem is recent as the last time I checked the source water it was all in the green zone on my test strips.
Thanks in advance for your help.
I discovered quite some time ago now that I had high nitrates in my country well water. (Blood red in the API FW test making it 80+ppm)
Naturally this presents not only problems with the aquarium water, but of course with water for water changes. The solution is two pronged 1) the reduction of tank generated nitrates; and 2) A means to filter nitrates out of tap water.
To reduce tank generated nitrates:
1) feed only high quality foods as these reduce fish waste.
2) feed only once or twice a day in small amounts ensuring that all food is quickly consumed. Don't over feed.
3) Don't over stock the tank.
4) Add plants, even floating, to process ammonia and bypass the N2 cycle.
5) Consider a sand substrate. Uneaten food and detritus too easily gets down into gravel and without aggressive gravel siphoning a potential 'nitrate factory' may result. With sand, the material remains on top.
6) Consider using synthetic polymer 'scavenger' resins (e.g. Purigen) in the filter to adsorb dissolved organic compounds (preventing them from becoming nitrogenous waste).
7) Consider products like Fluval Lab Series Nitrate Remover (FNR) or API Nitra-Zorb in the filter to adsorb nitrates from the water column.
For source water, there are several options. You 'could' find other source water in your area that has lower or no nitrates. You could also purchase RO or spring water. But these could cost as much as $1/gal and there's the time and effort in hauling water.
A better approach is to filter you own water to remove nitrates. You could purchase an RO or RO/DI (reverse osmosis/de-ionized) filter. Be advised that an RO filter requires sufficient water pressure to force water through an ultra fine membrane. Most home well systems will not have sufficient pressure for this. Also, there is approximately 4 gallons of waste water for every gallon of RO water produced. Also note that RO, RO/DI, and distilled water will require adjustment for pH and the addition of minerals as alone, these waters are literally too pure for aquarium use.
API makes a Tap Water Filter that produces DI water as it trickles through a filter cartridge. Cartridge longevity depends on the source water quality, including hardness. I found that I was only able to get 50 gallons or so from a $25 filter cartridge (then have to treat for pH and minerals - I've used Seachem Neutral Regulator and Alkaline Regulator for pH and Replenish for minerals).
I also used FNR or Nitra-Zorb in a filter and spare 10g aquarium in the garage to filter water for water changes. As winter approached, I moved the process to a 29g in the basement.
I would mix the DI water 50/50 with filtered 'tap' water.
Recently I'm experimenting by using an emptied API Tap Water filter cartridge and filling it with API Nitra-Zorb. (Nitra-Zorb is regenerated with regular non-iodized table salt). This makes it a nitrate filter but doesn't strip minerals or alter pH.
It's early still but it looks encouraging. I've pulled 65g of nitrate free water through the filter so far. It will be interesting to see how many gallons before regeneration is required.
I'm also now recovering water from my basement dehumidifier, treating for pH and minerals and mixing it 50/50 with filtered water.
Although I haven't purchased one, TFK is sponsored by Aquaripure, a company the markets a de-nitrate filter. The filter promotes the culture of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria/archea (fed by alcohol or sugary solution) that oxidize nitrates producing nitrogen gas, completing the N2 cycle.
So here are some guidelines to reduce tank nitrates as well as filtering source water to remove nitrates.
One final note: With sound stocking, some careful tank maintenance and advanced filtration, you can reduce the volume of the weekly water change and still maintain very high water purity. Reducing the volume reduces the cost and inconvenience of filtered or purchased water to fight source water nitrates.
I hope this helps some folks that face this troubling problem!
GREAT to see you do a write-up on this, AD. I see a lot of people asking about this issue, and they're almost always directed to you! Thanks for always taking the time. . .
Hey1 Many thanks. Do you have any idea how much Purigen and/or FNR it would take to drop the Nitrate about 20 ppm?
Fluval Lab Series Nitrate Remover and API Nitra-Zorb are the resins that adsorb and remove nitrates. 20ppm is a relative term when in fact the effectiveness of the resin is impacted by the volume of water. The beauty of these products is once loaded, they can be regenerated in salt water and reused over and over. They don't last forever, but last a long time. FNR comes in a single 5.3 oz package size:
API Nitra-zorb comes in several different pouch sizes to better fit your filter:
You would follow the directions with each product and monitor nitrates. When nitrates stop reducing or increase, it's time to regenerate the product.
Once you use either product, you may remove it from the filter and save for occasional reuse, but it must be stored in non iodized salt water (then rinsed well before reuse).
REMINDER: For most fishkeepers with no/low nitrate source water, the easiest best way to eliminate tank nitrates is with the partial weekly water change.
Thanks for all the info.
I have softened water and have to put in a bit of JBL Aquadur to bring up the hardness.
Have you any thoughts on "Tetra Aqua Easy Balance" I have heard this brings the nitrates down. I might give it a try again as I have a bottle, I tried it when I had goldfish but with the mess they made, I was fighting a loosing battle and I could not see any results then.
> If you're saying you have soft water and are adjusting, okay. But if you have a water softener (e.g. that uses salts to soften the water) you should not use that in the aquarium. You need water that is not treated.
>Easy Balance claims to reduce water changes by stabilizing water chemistry (pH and hardness and includes bio-granules that claim to harbor anaerobic bacteria to oxidize nitrates into nitrogen gas) but in general the fishkeepers out there do not believe that it reduces nitrates. I have not personally used it except for the turtle pool (but when I questioned Tetra tech support they told me it should not be used for amphibians - so I never used it again).
There is no chemical that I know of that removes nitrates. Prime for example will detoxify ammonia, nitrites and nitrates for 20-48 hours, but this is not removal.
You can try easy balance and report back (but I would watch nitrate levels closely).
If I was you I would use a pouch of API Nitra-Zorb in the filter and recharge as
I must agree that you know more about nitrate than most people. I am not questioning your judgment but I wonder why you say this …. ‘Most home well systems will not have sufficient pressure for this’ … to run ro/di system.
Why can’t you just pump up the bladder in the pressure tank or change out the pressure switch for a 60 / 80 ? if you are concerned about damage to house piping if it is copper you could safely pressurize well over a 100 psi or you could add another pressure tank in series and jack the second pressure tank up to 100 psi on dedicated line to the ro/di unit.
In our NC home I have the pressure tank running at 70psi from the well head with out experiencing any trouble with the exception of not being able to compression fittens.
Hey Pop. Most RO units recommend around 80psi (although slightly lower pressures may work). My 35 year old home system is 30/50 and I'm not going to risk leaks or damage by switching/increasing the pressure switch. Same for the bladder pressure which is recommended at 30psi (I think - too lazy to run down and recheck the sticker on the tank)!
Most recommendations are to use an inline pump to increase the pressure which increases the cost of the system. Add to that the on-going cost of chemicals for pH and minerals and I think it's more cost effective to simply filter out the nitrates.
Everyone should do what they feels is right. And if you have concerns then those concern are justified. Your post have sparked my interest in RO system for our NY home.
Thanks a lot
Ps is there a natural or organic solution to the nitrate problem that could be used??
My grandma back in the 40’s used to add egg shells to the coffee pot to filter out the coffee grounds maybe you could like boil the water and add egg shells to attract nitrates.
I know sometimes no help is better than one bad suggestion!
I think if you have very hard water (or SW tank(s)) then RO or RO/DI could be warranted. With your home pressure system you might leverage a simple RO system like this one:
Bear in mind that there's about 4 gallons of waste water for every gallon of RO water produced. For aquarium use, unless you mix with tap water, you will also have to adjust for pH and minerals (less of an issue for SW as sea salt contains the minerals).
In my case, I think using the rechargeable 'scavenger' resins to adsorb/remove nitrates makes the most sense as I easily filter out the nitrates without affecting pH or minerals. I'm also expecting that it will be the most cost effective way of dealing with the problem.
Again, I'm mixing this filtered water 50/50 with reclaimed dehumidifier or previously with DI water. (I also augment with Seachem Replenish and/or Fresh Trace).
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