Most Effective Method of Nitrate Reduction--Methanol Dosing - Page 2 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #16 of 49 (permalink) Old 01-29-2017, 05:13 PM
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Can't you accomplish Nitrate reduction by doing regular water changes?
Maybe yes, maybe no..
Some of my tanks don't "behave" well. I can do a 50% water change and days later Nitrates are just as high..
Mostly heavily planted (to the point of choking) and heavy bioload..

This methanol thing is another "tool" basically like sugar and vodka and vinegar....

Unfortunately all seem to go through the bacterial bloom stage..which would be annoying to me..
I do plan to try something like this on a 40b though..

My biggest concern is how much of an "anaerobic zone" one has w/ shallow course substrate.
Seems sand or dirted would be preferred..
Vinegar is out due to low kH..

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post #17 of 49 (permalink) Old 01-30-2017, 11:05 AM
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Personally I really like the science-based threads. And I'll look forward to reading through those links provided when I'm not on a deadline.

The OP had explained that you can reduce nitrates through water changes, but unless you're doing a 100% water change then there are still nitrates there. And for some of us, like myself, our tapwater has more nitrates than I would prefer for my tank to have... So what he is talking about there is presumably a way to fully eliminate nitrates and therefore keep the parameters healthier for your fish. So it's not a thread about water changes or not, and there are certain reasons to be doing water changes, but to keep nitrates down shouldn't have to be one of them. It should be a very simply and effective method for denitrification in FW tanks if it works as described.

Are we hobbyists really worried that products intended for human consumption such as pure white vinegar or vodka aren't pure enough to put into our tanks?... (For full disclosure, I won't put that crap that comes out of my water faucets and which my family drinks into my aquariums, at least not before it has been 100% purified by my RODI filter.)
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post #18 of 49 (permalink) Old 01-30-2017, 12:17 PM
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Hundred's of PPM Nitrates needed long term to have much of a negative affect on fauna.
Without calibrating hobbyist test kit's against known solution,one could easily have way more or way less nitrates than they think.
I'll see the OP's 75 gal heavily stocked goldfish tank and "Kick a buck ' raise him/her a 55 gal heavily stocked Pleco tank that 50 % weekly water change keeps fishes/plant's happy and nitrate level's around 60 ppm.
Tank is lousy with anubia,anacharis,duck weed,and one crypt.
Four Adult pleco's,gob's of cherry shrimp,a few dozen baby bristlenose,fancy guppies.all thrive and re-produce at all too regular intervals.(nitrates between 60 -80 ppm)
I might consider the methanol if source water was indeed unfit for drinking due to nitrate levels.
Telling folk's that large frequent water changes are not the answer and or could be harmful to ?? need's some proper context.
Nobody I know changes more water more often than I do ,and have yet to see any harmful effect's over some forty year's with nearly as many freshwater species.
Lot's of problem's arise with over stocked tanks which usually also result's in over feeding which is self induced problem.No need for chemical's to fix it.
Not to mention that both Nitrogen and PO4 are needed macro nutrient's by plant's.
I add both weekly to low tech NON CO2 and those running high tech ,dose them nearly every day .
If it is the anaerobic bacterium one wishes to cultivate for nitrogen reducing to methane gas,then simply make substrate deeper where less O2 will encourage them.
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post #19 of 49 (permalink) Old 01-30-2017, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Mxx View Post
Personally I really like the science-based threads. And I'll look forward to reading through those links provided when I'm not on a deadline.

The OP had explained that you can reduce nitrates through water changes, but unless you're doing a 100% water change then there are still nitrates there. And for some of us, like myself, our tapwater has more nitrates than I would prefer for my tank to have... So what he is talking about there is presumably a way to fully eliminate nitrates and therefore keep the parameters healthier for your fish. So it's not a thread about water changes or not, and there are certain reasons to be doing water changes, but to keep nitrates down shouldn't have to be one of them. It should be a very simply and effective method for denitrification in FW tanks if it works as described.

Are we hobbyists really worried that products intended for human consumption such as pure white vinegar or vodka aren't pure enough to put into our tanks?... (For full disclosure, I won't put that crap that comes out of my water faucets and which my family drinks into my aquariums, at least not before it has been 100% purified by my RODI filter.)
In reference to my previous post I was certainly not trying to start a dialog on the pros and cons of water changes. I was simply asking about the reason(s) for using this method to reduce nitrates. Anyone trying to support plant growth in an aquarium probably isn't interested in fully eliminating nitrates, to the contrary some are adding nitrates to ensure the plants have an adequate source of this nutrient.

I mentioned a couple of possible scenarios that might be the reason for going about reducing nitrates as the OP is describing, one of them was an unacceptable level of nitrates in the source water, as in your situation.

The OP acknowledges the merit of manually removing wastes via water change but then goes on to state that in order for plants to be effective nitrate removers they must be fast growing, using high light and high co2. The rate of nitrate consumption will no doubt be increased in a high tech setup like this, sometimes to the point that additional nitrates need to be added.

I'd say there are probably some low tech tank keepers out there that would argue they are able to manage nitrates well in a planted tank with a reasonable bio-load by performing occasional water changes. There are some that manage this with no or very infrequent water changes.

Again, it was my curiosity as to why this method of nitrate removal was desired that prompted my original post. I'm all for people using whatever method the want, find most effective, easiest etc. to accomplish what they need to.

For as long as I have been a hobby aquarist I find it amazing how much there is yet to learn. Seems I learn something almost every time I visit this site.
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post #20 of 49 (permalink) Old 01-31-2017, 10:14 AM
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If it is the anaerobic bacterium one wishes to cultivate for nitrogen reducing to methane gas,then simply make substrate deeper where less O2 will encourage them.
That was one aspect of the carbon dosing that I don't understand actually. Is carbon dosing intended to assist denitrification happening in anaerobic conditions, by adding that nutrient so there is a non-limiting condition for it? IE; are areas of anaerobic filtration such as a deep sand bed necessary for carbon dosing to work, and the carbon dosing thus improves the rate of nitrate consumption of that process? I don't quite recall what the formulas for the chemical process were, although I should be able to look that up if I need to.
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post #21 of 49 (permalink) Old 01-31-2017, 12:05 PM
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So I thought I'd share a bit of an experiment I did in my freshwater 75-gallon in regards to Nitrates that I hope other people will find helpful. I am going to try to share this in as many places as I can, as I think I'm the only one who's tried it, and it has been by far the most successful method in significantly reducing Nitrates. It's long, sorry, but I think it's really important. Basic point is that methanol is the best option if you are serious about reducing Nitrates in your freshwater aquarium long-term.
So I have a pretty heavily stocked goldfish aquarium that is also planted. I was doing ok with Nitrates for a while, since the fish were small, I was siphoning out the waste about every other day, and the tank wasn't as heavily planted as it is now (contrary to popular opinion, a planted aquarium can in certain instances INCREASE Nitrates, since rooted plants are very efficient at trapping sediment and waste, thus making it difficult to siphon and for the filters to capture it). However, the fish have grown quickly, and I had to keep them well-fed, because they kept picking at the plants. I eventually moved a couple of the big ones out into the stock tank with the pond fish, but Nitrates were still way too high (like 80 ppm+). Some of you may have seen my previous argument about whether plants, water changes, or anaerobic bacteria are more efficient/effective for reducing Nitrates, and I said the anaerobic bacteria is what is most important. Going off of that, I attempted to both increase my anaerobic bacteria population, h by creating more appropriate media for them to grow on, and more importantly, adding Red Sea NO3/Po4 Remover (methanol). I was using this in my reef aquarium, and it worked really well, almost too well (I lowered the dose, even though my bioload is bigger now). The idea behind methanol dosing is it gives the bacteria a source of inorganic carbon, which is often a limiting nutrient for them. It is used in wastewater treatment, and is the most effective and safe compound to use. Everywhere I read on forums said they either didn't know if it could be used in freshwater or said not to do it (but as usual, couldn't back up their statements with legitimate research). I read; however, that most fish and plants are quite tolerant of it, and plants even usually perform better with reasonable doses. So I decided to try it (by this point, I had tried basically every product out there for reducing Nitrates...most are junk, btw, Algone and API Nitrazorb were somewhat effective, but you need to use a lot of it, and it's probably better for more moderate NO3 levels). Nitrates steadily declined, and this morning, they were at zero. Keep in mind, this is with a heavily stocked tank with goldfish, which probably produce more waste than any other aquarium fish. I did get quite a bacterial bloom, but that's the point. I've had to clean out the filter intake tubes pretty regularly just to keep them working.
If you are having a Nitrate problem, I can tell you this is by far the best way to reduce it. Aquariums are all about recreating natural processes as closely as possible. Most freshwater ecosystems have very effective Nitrate absorbtion through anaerobic bacteria found in the anoxic soils of wetlands. We need to try to recreate this as closely as possible. Water changes are NOT the best option, and can even be detrimental if you are doing large water changes frequently. It is impossible to get the parameters right each time, unless you are using pure RO or pure tap water, and if you dose CO2 (like me), you are going to have major CO2 and pH fluctuations. Plus, say you are doing 25% water changes. That means you are only reducing Nitrates by 25%, and the next day, they will most likely go back to the same levels they were before. Manually removing waste is a good idea though, but try to take out as little water as possible. If you want to use plants, you can do that, but they need to be fast-growing plants that feed from the water column (like hornwort), and you need to be using high light, high CO2, and regular dosing of Potassium and trace elements.


Good day , when you say (I did get quite a bacterial bloom ) What are you talking about , is this part of the process of feeding this chemical to increase the anaerobic bacteria population. Also would like to know how much Red Sea NO3/Po4 Remover you were dosing and how often, sorry for the ? , put would really like to try this , Thanks You could also PM me .
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post #22 of 49 (permalink) Old 01-31-2017, 02:01 PM
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The science of what you guys are discussing is way over my head, as are a lot of things. I'm just curious as to the motivation to control nitrates with an additive. Is it to reduce or eliminate the need to perform water changes? Is it to support a bio-load the tank wouldn't otherwise be able to handle even with regular water changes at a reasonable interval? Possibly the water source has a high level of nitrates to start with so additional reduction measures are needed? Just wondering.

There is much evidence that even low-tech, non-co2, low light set ups can be very efficient at removing nitrates as long as there is a manageable bio-load. Even with small and infrequent water changes in some cases. When I perform a water change that reduces nitrates by 25% they do not return to the starting point in one day, as you suggest. I can keep my nitrates in a fairly predictable range doing water changes every 2 weeks. In other words it takes about 2 weeks for the nitrates to return to the original level after a water change. If I change less water or wait longer nitrates build, if I change more water or do it at shorter intervals the nitrate level drops accordingly, all else remaining the same.
Quote:
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Can't you accomplish Nitrate reduction by doing regular water changes?
Did not read the entire thread but am basically thinking along these lines... why is there a need to reduce nitrates via additives in the planted tank? do not interpret this as bashing your post - it seems like great info. just wondering why doing this is beneficial vs just doing water changes and keeping things balanced? would be interested to hear more people's experiences using these types of products / benefits they provide. balanced tank that is not overstocked with regular water changes can easily maintain nitrates in reasonable range (<30) that is perfectly fine for vast majority of fauna.

I see some posters claiming that they want to achieve ~0 nitrates. this is not what you want in the planted tank environment... is this what we are trying to achieve with these additives?

I will say though that IMO my tanks perform best when nitrates are kept low at <20

too much science talk / don't want to fan the flames and argue... does not surprise me that this is provoking debate though lol
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post #23 of 49 (permalink) Old 01-31-2017, 11:06 PM
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Thanks for the observations and experiment! Here are some things I gleaned from the OP and various responses. We've got similar backgrounds, but my focus ended up in biogeochemistry and aquatic plant ecology more than the straight out water resources side. Please don't take my reply the wrong way, I'm restating some things for the less scientifically inclined readers.


1. Goldfish are really messy.
2. Stem plants can trap detritus.
3. Anaerobic bacteria are good to have to reduce NO3.
4. Methanol can effectively help lower NO3 levels


1. Yes, goldfish are super messy and require a commensurate amount of maintenance. They're the crap factories of the fish world, no doubt about it.

2. Yes, thick groups of stems can and do trap detritus. That being said, careful siphoning will suck it out. Using a hose without the large siphon tube will do the trick. If not, swish the debris out with your hand or a powerhead and then siphon it out. Those have all worked for me in the past.

3. Aerobic, not anaerobic bacteria benefit most from organic carbon supplementation. Aerobic metabolism is much more efficient than anaerobic metabolism so the buggers will take up more NO3 and PO4 than their anaerobic cousins. On the flip side, that doesn't permanently remove NO3 and PO4 from the system like denitrification does. It's just a temporary sink, however long-term, as the buggers assimilate N and P into their bodies.

4aa. Yes, NO-POx is a safe and effective means of adding dissolved organic carbon (DOC) to aquariums. Some folks may not think it's worth the price and choose to use other materials, but the product itself is safe and reliable; moreso than non-denatured alcohols and potentially vinegar.

4a. The supplementation of organic carbon will stimulate bacterial proliferation only when DOC is limiting. This is particularly true in reef systems with a good protein skimmer and/or limited feeding. With all of that fish waste in your Goldie tank I'm skeptical that there's a DOC limitation, but that doesn't mean there isn't. The flip side of the coin could be that there's that much NO3 because there's a lack of DOC and for the bacteria to effectively take up the NO3. Again, I'm open minded but skeptical as Bill Nye likes to say. The same could be said of PO4. DOC, NO3, and PO4 are all legs on the three-legged stool. When they're in balance bacteria do well. When one's limiting then the other two legs get longer and the whole stool tips over.

4b. Yes, anaerobiosis does reduce NO3 levels. That's why people used to use denitrators on reef tanks and is how Seachem's Matrix accomplishes the same. As Wastewater stated, this is also quite effective in large scale water treatment.

To compare aquariums to wetlands is a bit of a stretch as there are seasonal effects, water level fluctuations, and nutrient input variables that make wetlands the important sink they are. In an aquarium environment things are a bit different. Firstly, there's no drainage or significant subsurface water movement to transport nutrients like there are in wetlands. Stimulating anaerobic zones can quickly cause problems in a planted tank. This is different than a reef system where the rock is full of small holes and crevices that get good water circulation/nutrient input and become anaerobic in their depths. I'm a firm believer that this is the main source of denitrification in most reef tanks as the typical substrate material is far too small-grained to allow sufficient diffusion of NO3 to be a significant sink. Polychaete worms and other burrowing critters may add enough crap to keep it going, but that's not NO3 coming from the water column.

Another point going along with the above; in order to distribute the DOC/alcohol to the bacteria in a planted tank in the first place there would have to be enough water movement to the area to accomplish this, and that means concurrent distribution of O2. Therefore, at best (as far as denitrification is concerned) you'll have the facultative buggers getting short bursts of growth and NO3 uptake then going back to their usual slow anaerobic metabolism. The previous statement discounts possible preferential flow paths around plant roots that may distribute the DOC to hypoxic or anoxic areas in the rooting zone. There again though, you have a source O2 and DOC exuded from roots so you've got a source of both for at least a portion of the day.

5. Heavily stocked tanks will have higher levels of waste byproducts. This is especially true of the fish are crap factories.

6. The best way to lower NO3 and PO4 in a planted tank is robust plant growth and removal of waste/detritus. If levels are too high for your liking many of the larger floating plants are excellent sponges for these, grow quickly, and are easily removed. Plus, your Goldies might like eating them too. If that doesn't work well enough for your liking or you can't stand the floaters then perhaps DOC addition is the right method for you.

I'll be happy to go into more detail on specifics if anyone has questions. Constructive and respectful debate is good too.

Cheers,
Phil
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Last edited by PEdwards; 02-01-2017 at 12:57 AM. Reason: Re-wrote
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post #24 of 49 (permalink) Old 02-01-2017, 10:32 AM
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Did we lose the OP here?

Some have commented whether dosing carbon is really necessary for nitrate control? Seems simple enough, if you don't need it then don't do it!

To best balance the requirements of say delicate fish and delicate plants, what should be the target level for nitrates? 5? 10? Even if you occasionally do zero your nitrates I wouldn't expect most plants would suffer immediately.

For my drinking water I am however looking into adding a water filter which has a stage for nitrate removal resin...
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post #25 of 49 (permalink) Old 02-08-2017, 02:58 PM
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I was hoping the crypticmonk would answer some ? for me , I asked on here a couple times sent a PM with no reply , I hate it when a guy comes on here with something that works for him and everyone picks the idea a part , and then the tread starter will not answer anything .

Thanks
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post #26 of 49 (permalink) Old 02-08-2017, 03:26 PM
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Can only speak for myself, and took issue only with the title to the thread "Most effective way of nitrate reduction "
It is not any more effective than regular weekly water changes,not overstocking,overfeeding.
Folks looking to avoid regular maint /water changes mostly seem interested.
Same folks that maybe stay with the hobby a year to eighteen month's. IMHO
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post #27 of 49 (permalink) Old 02-08-2017, 04:49 PM
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If you are hitting high nitrates faster than your water change regime can knock back, it is time to invest in a bigger/extra filter.
The increased flow will also deposit more of the nitrate forming detritus in the filter for easy removal.
Depending on the age of the fish (it's a bad idea with growing fish), they can be quite tolerant of high nitrates for a while.

I just do filter clean, vacuum and water change and about 1tsp of salt /10g after the water change if I let nitrates get too high to combat toxicity.

I put the salt in the filter, and you will immediately see the fish head straight for the inflow.

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post #28 of 49 (permalink) Old 02-08-2017, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by roadmaster View Post
Can only speak for myself, and took issue only with the title to the thread "Most effective way of nitrate reduction "
It is not any more effective than regular weekly water changes,not overstocking,overfeeding.
Folks looking to avoid regular maint /water changes mostly seem interested.
Same folks that maybe stay with the hobby a year to eighteen month's. IMHO
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nordic View Post
If you are hitting high nitrates faster than your water change regime can knock back, it is time to invest in a bigger/extra filter.
The increased flow will also deposit more of the nitrate forming detritus in the filter for easy removal.
Depending on the age of the fish (it's a bad idea with growing fish), they can be quite tolerant of high nitrates for a while.

I just do filter clean, vacuum and water change and about 1tsp of salt /10g after the water change if I let nitrates get too high to combat toxicity.

I put the salt in the filter, and you will immediately see the fish head straight for the inflow.


I for one have been having problems with high nitrate in all three of my tanks ( all three tanks are planted tanks with CO2 injection(ph controller set for low ph protection on all three tanks)The 230G is a planted discus tank with a sump , it has a little giant that circulates the water from the sump though the CO2 rector back to tank, then I have a Vectra L1 circulates the water from sump back to tank, with some take of water flowing though two sand reactors back to sump , another take of flows though a Purigen rector back to sump and another take of flows though a ocean clear canister filter back to sump. the sump and ocean clear filter has 20kgs of Biohome Maxi and ultimate media in them. I could not get my NO3 down to 15-30 ppm by doing one 35-40% water change a week , If I did 4 water changes a week I could get it down, but when using R/O water that to much. So I was thinking of giving this Red Sea NO3:PO4 remover a try and had already placed a order when I seen this tread , ( got Red Sea NO3 test kit to ) so the tank tested NO3 higher than 64ppm, started using Red Sea NO3:PO4 remover a week ago , tested today and NO3 are at 25ppm,( cutting daily dose back now ) with in a day or two my water looked a lot clearer and had a sparkle to it and my discus are coming out of hiding, getting the same results with the 72G and 36G tanks, started back up using NilocG Aquatic Thrive+, Not doing this to be lazy on maintenance , I will still do my weekly water changes/cleaning and filter cleaning , but I was ready to take tanks down until now, things are looking good so far.
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post #29 of 49 (permalink) Old 02-09-2017, 02:07 AM
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Please provide more info, like dosage etc....
If it works, it will be a godsend for my fish over winter.

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post #30 of 49 (permalink) Old 02-09-2017, 06:26 AM
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The more Bio media one has in the filter the bigger Nitrate factory it can become with poor/infrequent maint.(not eyeballin anybody)
Might consider using just mechanical media (foam,floss,pad's,etc) and just leave a pad or two alone while cleaning other's, so as not to remove too much of bacterial colony.
Or just the fluidized sand filtration (works for largest aquarium in U.S. at Atlanta)
Some say biomedia competes with plant's for same food's (ammonia,nitrogen).
If one weekly water change of 35 to 40 % does not bring the nitrate level's down to your comfort with calibrated test kit??, then one can easily change 50 to 60% of the water assuming they already have hoses out.?(find ways to make it easier)
I have changed as much as 70 % three times a week while caring for young Discus and other larger cichlids.(feeding juveniles three or four times a day)
Would be no big shock to tanks/or fishes already getting regular weekly water changes of slightly less,and one might also see improvement with overall water quality.
I just don't see NO3/PO4 remover as very useful in the planted aquarium from plant's perspective .
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