Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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efeene 09-19-2011 07:34 PM

Ammonia/Nitrate New Planted Tank Question
Hey all

So about three weeks ago I started a new 29 gallon aquarium and received some good advice and help from the board. I took the advice to make it a live planted aquarium and now have 10 or so plants of varying sizes and types - Wisteria, Anubias, Amazon Sword, Water Lily, Java Fern, and a smaller type of Sword. There is also a piece of driftwood in the tank about 10 inches or so long that I bought pre-soaked. Somewhere amongst those items a snail or two has migrated to my tank and they have been exploring for a couple weeks now.

Now I was under the impression that if I planted the tank that it would more or less eliminate the cycling process - no spikes this way or that. Plants use the ammonia to grow etc. Despite the fact I was told it would be ok to add fish right away if the tank was planted well enough I have been waiting until the ammonia level came down. Here is where my dilemma/question comes into play (sorry it took me a bit to get there wanted you to have some background haha).

I bought the API liquid test kits for pH, Ammonia, Nitrates, etc. and have been testing for a couple weeks now. I follow the instructions to the letter and I have never had a reading above 0 for Nitrates. On the other hand I ALWAYS have a .25 reading on the Ammonia test. Everytime I test it turns that lightish green which indicates .25 -- thats not quite the yellow to indicate 0 ammonia. I have tested everyday for 2 weeks at various times - morning, night, mid day on weekends, and the last two weeks it has been "stuck" on that .25 Shouldnt the plants be reducing that? Anyway if you have any thoughts as to why this might be or what I should be doing to combat it any help would be appreciated. Thank you so much.

k19smith 09-19-2011 09:06 PM

Just a question but have you tested your water out of the tap does it have ammonia?

efeene 09-19-2011 09:58 PM

No never tested the water straight out of the tap for ammonia before... now I'm curious haha I'll test that tomorrow in the morning for the fun of it.

Byron 09-20-2011 10:43 AM

Good point, from what you've said it would suggest there is ammonia in the tap water. Or it could be related to chloramine. Which water conditioner do you use, and presumably you used it when the tank was filled? Is any other substance going in the tank? Are you using a liquid plant fertilizer?

I can answer your question on nitrates though; you will not see nitrates until after fish are in the tank, and possibly not then. It depends upon the fish load and plants. Normally, ammonia and nitrite should be zero from the first if live plants are in the tank. As the plants photosynthesize they need nitrogen and they use ammonia/ammonium as their prime source. The nitrifying bacteria will still colonize the tank, but in reduced numbers because the plants grab most of the available ammonia. This also explains why nitrates will be low; with very little ammonia being changed to nitrite, there is very little nitrite being changed to nitrate.

efeene 09-20-2011 07:12 PM

So I tested the water out of the tap and it basically the yellow indicating 0 ammonia. It is far more yellow than the aquarium water , which is exactly the same color light green as .25 indicates , but still not a direct match to the yellow/0 ammonia bar. The Conditioner I use is Tetra Aquasafe - Declorinates and Conditions. Nothing else chemical wise has gone into the tank. I was looking into what liquid plant fertilizer to use but hadnt bought any yet --- side note - what would you recommend for a plant fertilizer? ---- This is my first tank so I have zero clue as to what would or would not affect the ammonia level. Substrate, decorations, the driftwood? I am going to keep holding off on getting any fish until I get this figured out though. Just thought the plants would have "fixed" that by now haha. Thanks again for the help guys.

Byron 09-20-2011 08:01 PM

I recommend Flourish Comprehensive Supplement for fertilizer. You use very little, once or at most twice a week.

Odd about the ammonia; there is no source of ammonia from what you've told us.

efeene 09-20-2011 08:17 PM

Thanks Byron... glad to know that I am not the only one that found the ammonia odd haha. So the inner scientist in me just tested water from an Aquafina bottled water and it also looked JUST like the .25 level of the ammonia reader. I am going to retest my tap water in another tube to hold it side by side with the Aquafina and the Tank water to compare. I am not color blind haha and I had my wife look too and she agrees they look like the .25 more than the 0. So time to retest tap water. Grrrr.

efeene 09-20-2011 08:54 PM

Just finished testing all three versions of water -- Tap, Tank, Aquafina, and all three looked identical but they all looked light green not yellow haha. Maybe it is the light bulbs we are holding them up to haha We use the curly CFL bulbs instead of "normal" bulbs. Who knows... I am inclined to believe that the ammonia is actually 0 ..?? Based on the facts that 1.) All three look the same and what are the odds that they are all .25 ? Seems more likely they would all be 0 and I am misreading or it is misshowing. 2.) You guys dont see a reason for there to be ammonia consistently testing at that level. It SHOULD be 0 based on all other factors.

The Petco that I go to for plants and such says they test your water for free if you bring it in - I am thinking that I will do that for a second opinion. Slightly concerned that maybe the employees might not be the most reliable but at this point looking for another opinion.

BarbH 09-20-2011 11:53 PM

If you havent' already when comparing the color of the water in the tube to that of the card, place the tube against the white of the card. Also look at it with good daylight, this may help.

Byron 09-21-2011 10:39 AM

Yes, Barb's point is crucial. All artificial light is made up of varying wavelengths of light colour and this will distort other colours. As an example, whenever I go into a store to buy clothing, I always take it to a door or window to see it in natural daylight, because fluorescent lights will distort colour, sometimes considerably. When testing water, hold the tube and colour card up next to a window or door, but not in direct sun (this also affects colour).

So, back to the initial issue, I take it we are resolved, there is no ammonia issue. So all is as it should be.

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