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28 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
so...a little back story,
not new to fishkeeping, been keeping fish pretty much my entire life.

55 gallon tank, had it set up in my previous home with angels for 4 years, no problems, sold my fish broke down the tank for a move, moved to NJ in march.
set the tank back up after a good cleaning, full cycle and had a pair of angels I rescued off craigslist in it for about 6 months before my filter whent pop...couldn't afford a new filter right away so I found a new home for the pair of angels and kept the tank running on 1 smaller old filter with a carbon pack and "fed" the tank once in a while...
bought new filter...set her back up, let the new tank run a little while and did a basic fishless cycle (running the old smaller carbon filter too)...


so yeah heres what im looking at now...been messing with this for about 2 months now...

tank: 55 gallon
substrate: fine gravel
temp: 78 degrees
plants: currently a mixture of fake and live, live includes 2 anubias nanna, and a bunch of hair grass.
I also have a number of pothos plants rooted in my smaller filter and in baskets above the water line (bare root in the tank water, riparium style)
I have a 10 gallon low tech riparium that's working fantastically despite being a little overstocked, figured more plants cant hurt and I don't have a good selection of live aquarium plants locally)
the plants look does the algea *rolls eyes*
inhabitants: 3 rosy barbs,
feed: flake, just enough for them to eat in about 30 seconds, 2x daily.
hardware: tetra brand heater, tetra whisper airpump a tetra 40gal planted HOB filter and an aqueon quietflow 75 gal hob filter running standard cabon cartridges.

Amonia: 0
Nitrites: 0
Nitrates: 40!
test kit: API master

out of tap, 0 across the board, we have an RO filter.

additions: added prime yesterday and with todays water change.

so far over the past month ive: torn apart the tank and done a MAJOR gravel vac, I took EVERYTHING out, plants and all, gravel vac'd, about 50% water change, let it settle re gravel vac'd with a 2nd 50% water change, then replanted/set my tank.
then 3 days later I did a 80% water change, 2 days after that another 50% water change with vac, 2 day after that another 50% water change, and then yesterday (3 days after the last) another 50% water change with anothe rpretty through vac

im SOOOO confused, initially I was reading 160ppm, after doing a fishless cycle I managed to drop her down to 20ppm, but then added the prime hiping it would bring me down a few more points) and it hopped UP to 40ppm...

its hard for me to do these frequent large water changes due to health, I ran this tank for 4 years on 25% a week water changes with no issues...

im currently also running 2 5gal betta bowls with above water level bare root plants (both were set up prior to the move then rebuilt after and haven't had issues.
and a 10gallon livebarer riparium tank with anubians hairgrass and a veritey of above water plants...that's been going for about 6 months now with no problems.

I don't understand why THIS tank is being such a problem, I realy don't want to tear it down and start new...(this is the first time ive been able to keep live plants alive!) but im frustrated.

wondering if its worth trying the nitrazorb type products.:-?

381 Posts
Ok with a RO filter I don't think you have a need for prime, no ammonia for it to lock out you say thats at 0. So I think prime is useless in this situation...... Now what we can do is test your RO filter water, should be getting real close to distilled water here. (It is super cold out here in MI lol its 4 F) The cold will effect the nitrate, nitrite level in the water as far as I am aware, this might be where its comming from, not sure.

How are the plants doing in the 55? Dwarf hair grass likes shallow waters, might suggest going with something that grows a bit deeper.

28 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
water direct from tap:
Amonia 0,
nitrite 0,
nitrate 0ppm,
ph 7

placed new carbon filters in my HOB last night before bed given that's the only thing I haven't tried this month...
got up this morning to a dead rosey barb, and a missing 2nd rosey, the male has come out for breakfast but im not seeing the 2nd female so im going to do another water change after my morning coffee and if she doesnt show ill pull the deco while the water levels lower...

nitrate before bed last night: 40ppm
nitrate this morning: 160ppm...

retested ammonia: 0
restested nitrite: 0

hairgrass and anubias are both looking good, nice and green, definite root development, no die off...
both green dust and hair algea are also growing nice and green... (ive never had an algea problem and the in tank lights are set on a 10 hour cycle, room is low light with little to no natural light so im sure its more a reaction to the high nitrates than a light issue)

I used the prime at the suggestion of a friend for the nitrate lock...
but it doesn't seem to be helping and in fact, the nitrate numbers have climbed dramatically since I started using the prime...:cry:

75 Posts
I suggest that you try not to disturb the gravel too much anymore especially if you have a lot of waste because often times while vacuuming so much at once you also end up disturbing it and get stuff to basically leak into the water. It may not be the problem for you, but I've seen cases in other people where they have fish losses after major substrate disturbances.
You should consider replacing your fake plants for real plants, especially for heavy feeding plants so that they can use some of the nitrates.

28 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
problem with live plants:
1: low light, I have basic led hood, replacing the lights is NOT an option.
2: bad past experience, im on a tight budget, plants are expensive and ive had VERY bad luck in the past, this is my first time growing live that they've not all simply died on me...
3: acessability to live plants. our ONLY LFS is petsmart, they carry a very limited (and overpriced) selection, primarily hairgrass and anubias lol...
I can order offline but then we add shipping to the costs and im on a very fixed income.

I am slowly adding more live plants, as I find them, but its not something I can just do all at once...

what plants should I be looking for that are heavy feeders but don't require fancy lighting?

my last gravel vac turned up not much in terms of gunk from the gravel bed...but I cant think where else the cause of the nitrates could be coming from...

this is the oddest problem ive ever had with a fishtank, and ive been keeping them about 25 years LOL!

28 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
wil def keep my eyes out for some water wisteria then :)

did loose the 2nd rosey barb female, she was tucked up under a rock :/
the male still seems to be doing ok, hiding...but when he comes out to take a quick look around, no abnormal behavior and his color is fantastic...

did another 50% water change...
nitrate before: 160ppm
nitrate 1 hour later: 80ppm

will probably do a couple more 50% changes over the next couple of days...and see where we go...
I defiantly prefer the low tech plan, my low tech 10 gal riparium is running so well...

1,674 Posts
Just kinda skim read and I see some "light at the end of the tunnel" observations.

Looks like you are keeping plants alive so I would let them grow and condition the tank.

Prime and other ammonia locks do lock ammonia but will still test positive with standard (like api) ammonia test kits. If you must use prime or other chemicals try the seachem in tank ammonia dot or the ammonia multi test kit.
The dot is only sensitive to the free ammonia and the multi test kit measures the free and total ammonia. So you can determine the amount of free ammonia and only use prime for that amount.

Better yet stop using the chemicals and let the plants consume the ammonia and otherwise condition the tank.

For some ideas you might click on the link in my signature for what works for me. It is just a basic natural, balanced approach to aquariums.

my .02

28 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
problem testing 0 for ammonia...and I know plants work best with ammonium/ammonia...

obviously my bio filter is doing its job...but mabe its doing it too well LOL!
but then...wheres the ammonia to make that many nitrates coming form, theres only 1 little rosey barb in this tank...and ive cut back feeding to every other day...he cant be making THAT much waste.

so yesterday stopped at petsmart (unfortunately the only game in a drivable distance lol) they had water wisteria in their little plastic tubs, so bought a couple of hose, ended up being 8 small but well rooted stems in each so those got planted in the back of the tank, I also bough some anacharis since ive read good things about it for nitrate control when free floating, so I bought 1 bunch and have 1 end tucked into one of my riparium baskets to keep it from floating all over the tank but otherwise drifting just around the surface
I also added another sapphillium and ome more golden pothos to the riparium, I know they are heavy feeders (And almost indestructible lol) and do well with submerged roots.

I also bought ome of the nitrazorb and added it to the maller (slower flow) hob filter I have running (that's also planted) I know it wont fix an issue over night but hoping itll give it a boost until the plants can realy take hold.

did not get a water change done yesterday and this morning my nitrates are back up...
todays readings:
ammonia: 0
nitrite: 0
Nitrate 160ppm

going to do another 50% today, and probably every day from now until I get it under 10ppm...and then mabe try cutting back to 25% every ther day and see where my numbers go...
my male rosey barb is still doing good...

its just kicking my butt hauling water through the house...I wish I had the funds to invest in a auto cleaner like a python...but then...I don't have a faucet close enough to hook it up to LOL!.

next house im installing all my tanks no more than 75ft ft away for my faucet lol.

28 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
yes, tap water is RO whole house filtration system testing 0 on all counts and ph neutral.

still fighting BUT seem to be winning, nitrates are still hovering at 40 according to API (next 50% change is tomorrow)
BUT it hasn't jumped up again over that in a few days...will keep on keeping on.
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