I just made the most horrible mistake of my fish-keeping career
Alright, so a few weeks ago I tested my tap water with test strips (which is where I just condemned all of my fish), the test strip came out with very soft water with a pH of about 6.5. I was thrilled, as I've been buying spring water for water changes for the longest time, and now I thought I could use my tap water instead of buying water. It also gave me a use for my TetraSafe water conditioner. So several water changes later, with the addition of my Glass Cats that have been mysteriously dieing, I bought the API Master Freshwater Test Kit. I tested the ammonia, which was 0.25 ppm, so I did a water change and tested again the next day, the ammonia was 0; I tested nitrates as well after the water change and they showed up low, like 20-30 ppm. Problem solved and a happy ending right?
Not quite. Just to make sure I took a water sample to Petsmart while I returned my poor cats, and the water test came out with this: ammonia 0, nitrates 400+, pH of 8.4. My jaw dropped. As soon as I got home, I tested everything in my glass cat tank, well nitrates and pH. I found out I had incorrectly read the directions and didn't shake the nitrate #2 solution, and after doing that the nitrates were indeed nearly that high. And pH came out as 8.2.
I then checked my tap water with my test kit for the pH, it came out around 8.2-8.4.
I don't know what to do. That pH is entirely too high, right? As for the nitrates, that is likely my fault because of neglecting to vacuum the gravel more carefully, but is a water change a safe thing to do? I'm so distraught and confused that the test strips could have been so terribly wrong. I feel like I've condemned all my beloved fish to a slow, horrible death if I can't fix this because I've done water changes with my tap water on all my tanks.
I would not believe anything Petsmart says I just cannot see how your nitrates could be 400 How long have you had the glass fish they tend to be sensitive fish . In my old house and I kept most of those fish with a ph of 9 and they were fine. I am sure someone else will chime in.Oh sorry read the post wrong. Your test came out that high too.
I've taken my only glass cat I have left out of that tank, and I've decided to temporarily house him in my 40 gallon, as my bichir is too small to eat him and my african knife is very peaceful. It seems zebra danios are more tolerant of higher pHs, so I'm less worried about them.
I also looked at the nitrate chart again on the test kit, it goes as high as 160 ppm, but the water sample I used to test the nitrates was a matching shade of color, and it turned very quickly, too. So, it could be higher than 160 ppm, even if it isn't as high as 400 ppm.
I believe that fish can tolerate a very wide range of pH, but may be sensitive to rapid changes.
Unless it's a heavily planted tank, the only way nitrates get removed is through water changes. You can control nitrates with weekly water changes using a gravel siphon.
You might discuss your pH issue with your LFS. I expect they're using tap water.
Right now, perhaps you should consider removing all of the decor and doing an aggressive gravel siphon and water change to get things cleaned up. Then routine religious weekly maintenance should suffice.
To explain the water issue. Hardness in water does not change unless something specific is done to change it. Your tap water with a pH above 8 is likely very hard, so adding this water untouched to the tank will add that level of hardness, and the more water changes, the more it will increase. When one dilutes hardness with pure water, water changes should continue to use diluted water (a mix, depending on the initial hardness) or be small in volume so as to not upset the balance in the aquarium. The entire biiology of the tank plays into this.
If you live in the US on a public water supply your nitrate cannot be above 44ppm without your utilities provider informing you about it. If its your private water supply it is HIGHLY recommended that you have a lab test it yearly. Nitrates can not go from 20-30 to over 100 that quickly. It would take a extremely high bioload to achieve that and a long tome of neglect.
I also just bought the api test kit a few weeks ago, the nitrate test was very hard for me to get down. The bottle #2 must be shaken for 2 min, not in the directions but according to the members here. Once you have placed bottle one and two into vial it must be shaken vigorously for 1 min. Then you need to read the test with sunlight coming threw a window but not direct sunlight. I got all different reading at first.
I would test your tap water for nitrates.
As of now the only fish you have lost are the glass cat?
Most fish can adapt to a wide range of ph but it needs to be done slowly. Drastic changes cause the shock which kills them.
I'm not sure what your other fish are as to if they can handle your ph. I myself try to keep fish that can handle my tap water because buying water is not an option for me.
You are going to need to do water changes to get your nitrates down, depending on what your other fish are if they are doing fine I myself would stick with the tap water. You do not want to go back to all spring water because this is going to cause your shock all over again.
I would recommend a quarantine tank if you plan on adding anymore glass cats, they are sensitive and with that I would think more prone to carry diseases they may or may not have been sick when you got them.
You may need to come up with a mix of spring water to tap or all spring for the glass cats but where you are now I'd be more worried about getting it stable for your current fish. I would think you could quarantine the glass cats and slowly adjust them to your ph over a few weeks time but I am not certain on this.
To reply to everyone, my water is not private and is from my local water department, so far I have only lost my glass cats, and I'll be starting daily water changes/gravel vacuuming and will test my tap for nitrates today.
Before all this, my water was around a pH of 7, and as for nitrates I hadn't tested for a long time, mostly because all my fish seemed happy and healthy and saw no need. I believe the extremely high nitrate level is because of neglect to more carefully vacuum the gravel... so really it's my fault. There are now no fish in 'Mystic Aquaforest' (aka my glass cat tank), as I've moved my last glass cat temporarily to my 40 gallon. Really, I don't think I'll be getting anymore, since I've been really disheartened by this experience. I plan to see if Petsmart will take my last one after all this is over.
I just dont see how your nitrates can get that high. That means an extreme level of neglect. If you do water changes regularly it cant get that bad. As to your PH going from 7.0(are you sure your water was ever at 7.0?) to 8.2 while using distilled water something would have to be added to the tank like rock, seashells and/or crushed coral.. in abundance.
So either something in your tank is screwing with your readings, or someone is screwing with your tank.
I honestly don't know what to say about the nitrates, and really it can only be my fault. I'm just hoping to correct it and never have it happen again under my care.
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