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Nitrate and Nitrite levels high
I am a beginner with a 45 gallon freshwater tank that currently has 6 south african cichlids (med/sm to medium), 2 plecostomus, and a school of small tetra. The tetra were the first fish we bought along with fancy guppies to help with cycling the tank. They are still around and living with the cichlids oddly enough. Over time, we slowly added the cichlids.
We started the tank around 5-6 weeks ago and finally did our first cleaning and water change last week. About 25-30% of the water was siphoned out from under the gravel. I also changed the carbon bag in our Aquaclear filter. After re-adding the necessary amount of tap water back in, I also added the instructed amount of primer and bacteria per approx gallon.
The nex day, I noticed the nitrate and nitrite levels were pretty high at around 10ppm (NO2) and 40ppm (NO3). Hardness is around 180ppm, carbonate at about 40ppm, and pH floating around 6.5 - 7.
In an attempt to lower the Nitrite and Nitrate levels after reading some information online, I did a 15-20% water change. This time around, I have not re-added any chemicals. Unfortunately, this did not help as the nitrite and nitrate levels are still high after 2 days.
Any help would be greatly appreciated. I'm just not certain which method would be best and would really hate to kill or harm the fish. Thanks!
Welcome to the forum!!!!!
Did you let your tank fully finish cycling? It may be in the cycyling stage still. my fishless cycle took me 32 days, which is just shy of 5 weeks....
40ppm for Nitrates is not high, it's on the higher side, but it's nothing alarming, my Nitrates are usually right around 20ppm.
waiting 5-6 weeks to do a water change probably contributed to your elevated levels. You want to do around a 15-20% water change weekly.
I would definitely be more worried about the nitrite levels and would keep doing 20-30 percent water changes everyday to keep the nitrite levels low enough to have the least amount of harm done.
You haven't mentioned the ammonia reading that is important as well.
How long has this tank been running? I also agree that it doesn't seem like the tank has finished its cycle.
The main thing is to keep doing the water changes, once a day about 20-30 percent until your readings of ammonia, nitrites are at 0. Then to keep your nitrates a bit lower I suggest doing water changes once a week or twice a month AFTER the tank is finished cycling.
Maybe too many was added at one time after cycling. Amt of bio-activities depends on bio load, thus may be experiencing so Mini-cycle. Vacuuming and changing filter media at the same time may also have contributed to this problem.
What is South African Cichlid? And as other have mentioned, What are pH and ammonia (NH3)?
Small and more frequent pwc will help and also cutting down food (reduces bio-load)
Finally got an ammonia test kit. It is one of the strip types. Readings are coming back at 0ppm. I understand a reading of 0<5ppm is ideal for cichlids.
I've done a few more water changes at around 15% but the nitrite/nitrate levels are still consistent at 10ppm/80ppm. I am going to change the foam media in my filter to see if that helps. Maybe the waste buildup on it could be the cause.
First of all, I'd ditch the strip tests, they are inaccurate. Pick up a API Master test kit. it's like $23 shipped on amazon.com and it'll last a while.
80ppm for Nitrates is high, I've had them higher and it took alot of dedicated water changes to get them down to aorund 25-30
10ppm for Nitrites is a little high too, but this could be because you are in the middle of a cycle
you need to keep doing a 15-20% water changes almost daily to keep the cycle in check and pick up a liquid test kit. This will keep all of your important parameters reading off of the same test kit
To keep the ammonia and nitrites at their lowest level i again suggest to do water changes everyday about 30 percent until the cycle is completely through.
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