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DefStatic 06-14-2013 02:42 AM

Trying to get Nitrate level down...
So I have decided to start asking questions more instead of just reading.

I missed a water change, and I do not have a gravel vac yet. Although I do not know how I will be able to use a gravel vac with such a heavily planted tank.

Anyways, I missed a water change and have excess fish waste (30 gal, I have 5 guppys, 4 otos, and 3 cardnial tetras (yes I know I need more, I had 5). I did a test of everything, and everything was fine but the nitrates were off the chart. 160 ppm min according to my API Master Test Kit. Also, went from having a brown algae problem to a green hair like algae issue.

So I started doing 20% water changes every 2 or 3 days. But even after a week, the nitrates are still off the charts.

Do I need to start doing daily changes? Is this simply because I have not vaced the gravel yet? I have an Eheim one on the way. 06-14-2013 03:01 AM

I kinda had the same thing and what I think I figured out is that the api test kits are just not very accurate and or bad. I really stressed over it and what I finally determined was that my fish and shrimp were all happy and doing fine so I keep doing my regular water changes and staying on top of everything. My lfs guy told me that the really good test kits are expensive but very accurate. For now I'm sorta like out of sight out of mind. My tank is doing great even with those high api readings!

OVT 06-14-2013 03:10 AM

And you do have to follow the instructions: do shake that bottle #2 for 60 seconds, makes a world of difference.

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Tzac 06-14-2013 03:24 AM

That seems like a very low fish load to be producing mass nitrates unless you are heavily overfeeding.

DefStatic 06-14-2013 02:34 PM

I made sure I was following the instructions to a T. I thought perhaps it was the kit, or perhaps something added to the water (I no longer use API Leaf Zone, but when I did, my test would come back saying i had off the chart Nitrites). So I tested my just cycled 3gal, and the Nitrates were only 20ppm.

All the other test come back correct, or so I think. 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites.

I thought the API Master Test Kits were considered pretty good?

The fish all seem fine, and I was told 160ppm isnt instantly deadly but will be over a week. And all the fish have been fine.

When I originally stocked with fish, the girlfriend was over-feeding a little. But I have since (for the past two weeks) reduced to feeding once every other day, and just a pinch. Some makes it to the floor, but eventually gets eaten.

I think I will continue to do 20% water changes every 2-3 days for another week and see what happens.

TexasCichlid 06-14-2013 04:16 PM

I don't understand what is causing such a nitrate spike if you are feeding as little as you say. That said, I only feed my fish once or twice a week. 20% water changes will not dent the nitrate levels. You are better off doing a 50-70% WC when you have levels that high and you are trying to knock them down.

BarbH 06-14-2013 09:50 PM

Agree with larger water changes, will help to dilute the nitrates. A few things, have you tested your tap water to see if you have nitrates in the tap water? What type of filtration are you running in the tank? How long has your tank been running? What type of substrate do you have in the tank, sand gravel mixed? Have you checked for any decaying plant material in the tank or filter? Have you done any maintenance on your filter?

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DefStatic 06-14-2013 10:23 PM

Aquaclear 50, I have not done any maint on it besides I replaced the sponge once and clean the intake tube each WC. Haven't tested the tap water, but never had a problem with it either.

Tank has been established for several months now, min 2, 3 max. Substrate is FloraMax.

BarbH 06-15-2013 12:53 AM


Originally Posted by DefStatic (Post 3593881)
Aquaclear 50, I have not done any maint on it besides I replaced the sponge once and clean the intake tube each WC. Haven't tested the tap water, but never had a problem with it either.

Tank has been established for several months now, min 2, 3 max. Substrate is FloraMax.

One of the things that you could try doing when you do your water changes is to give the sponge a good rinsing in the water you take out before dumping it. In the old water squeeze the sponge a few times to help remove any of the gunk that may have built up. You don't want to do this in tap water since the chlorine will kill off the beneficial bacteria that is in the sponge.

Also my thought is that the overfeeding at the beginning has led to probably a lot of gunk in your substrate that is adding to the nitrate problem. When you do get your gravel vac you will want to start cleaning your substrate areas that are planted I would just skim over the top so not to disturb the roots. Also I would only do about a third to half of the substrate on a water change so that you don't shock the system too much. To help with the nitrates you can also add some floating plants, those that grow quick can be great to help soak up some of the nitrates. The biggest thing is figuring out what is causing the nitrates to be so high. Do you know what your nitrates have been running on the tank?

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Diana 06-15-2013 01:04 AM

Are you adding any plant fertilizer? Read the labels. Do any contain nitrogen in any form?
Do much larger water changes, more often. Try 50% per day, every day.
Get a gravel vac. Not to deep vac, but to skim pretty close to the surface of the substrate. Remove whatever debris there is.
Stop feeding the fish. When you resume, give them only 1/4 as much, and only once every other day.
Aquaclear sponges last for years. Rinse and reuse until it falls apart.

DefStatic 06-15-2013 01:50 AM

I am hoping that I will have the gravel vac in a couple days. Never used one before, and have no idea how it will work with plants. Its the Eheim Pro Vac or something like that, got it from someone on here, on its way.

There certainly was some over feeding at first. The girlfriend was worried because the Tetras were not getting much. I explained they will get hungry enough and pick it off the substrate when no one is looking. The guppys take care of the stuff on top. That and I made sure she switched to only feeding once a day every other day. She understands better now as the tetras have obviously gotten bigger LOL.

I feel like a 50% water change is going to be a pain in the arse. Its difficult as it is doing a 20%, by the time the plants start to bend over and stuff because the water starts getting too low for some of them. But I will see what I can do, as doing 20% every 2 or 3 days is not helping.

I do not use ferts. I read that if algae is growing, you have too much nutrients in the water, so I stopped using Flourish Comp. I do use root tabes though, although it is almost time to add more. I will after I start vacing.

I haven't opened up the filter since I changed the sponge. Guess it was dumb to replace it LOL. The next time I do a water change, I am going to clean it out, and rinse the sponge. Maybe replace the carbon part.

I will also look at getting some dwarf water lettuce.

crice8 06-15-2013 03:53 AM

Get an aqueon water changer and 50% water changes are a breeezeeeee. It take me less than 10 mins with my 20 gallon.

this will make your bio filtration take a serious hit and you will have another mini cycle on your hands..

inthepacific 06-15-2013 07:45 AM

what is your substrate? also if you're going to gravel vac, do it really lightly don't go too far down into the substrate because it's where the bacteria colonize. if you're using soil, don't even bother with the vacuuming.

Zorfox 06-15-2013 12:35 PM

Reduced feeding, larger water changes, stopping nitrogen fertilizers, cleaning substrate are all appropriate to reduce nitrates. In addition, check the tap water. Tap water parameters can and often do change seasonally.

More importantly, ensure the test is accurate. Nitrates of 160ppm in an aquarium that has received all of the above is quite unusual. Add 1 teaspoon of Flourish comprehensive to a gallon of distilled water. The nitrate level should read 4ppm. Add 4 more (total of 5 now) the nitrate level should be 20ppm. Add 5 more (total of 10) and the nitrates should be 40-41ppm. If those results are significantly off replace the nitrate reagents.

DefStatic 06-15-2013 12:53 PM

I am going to attempt a 50% water change today. The vac still will not be here for a couple days.

I am going to try to clean the filter, but I wont touch the media.

Speaking of media, I know the bio rings you should never have to replace. I guess according to people on here (not the first I have heard this) the sponge lasts for a long time. How about the carbon bag?

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