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Old 06-09-2013, 01:37 AM   #1
SmittyInFla
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Noob dismay at water parameters, first test


Greetings, tank gurus.

I hope you will all keep in mind that I am very new at this, and trying hard to reach a level of understanding. I have a tank journal running, the link is in my sig.

I ran my first water test, today, using the API 5 in 1 test strips...and the numbers are pretty alarming:

General Hardness: 180
Carbonate Hardness: 120
PH: 9.0 (!)
NO2: .5
NO3: 0

I can tell you everything I did (it is all in the tank journal). If I had to GUESS at problems:

1) I did not test our tap water straight out of the tap (someone brought me ONE strip, have to buy more this week), but I think our water is pretty hard, here.

2) I used the API water conditioner, at the recommended rate of one drop per gallon. I treated the water in the five gallon bucket, before adding it to the tank

3) The driftwood. It originally came from a brackish water environment...However, it was HARVESTED well upstream from the brackish water in the Withlacoochee River, on the Florida Gulf Coast. It has been sitting at a garden center, leeching and getting hit with fresh water and rain for over four years. I really thought that, plus two weeks of soaking in conditioned water, would be enough to leech out any salts. But I don't even know if the high PH is a salt problem.

The substrate is: Scott's top soil, play sand, some lava rock, and Eco Complete. That, plus the driftwood, is all that is in the tank, no other rocks have been added.

Can anyone tell me why the numbers are so bad? What strategies will help bring the numbers into a 'good' range...I am in no hurry to add fish, but would like to start planting the tank soonish.
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Old 06-09-2013, 01:58 AM   #2
crice8
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Buy the master test kit on amazon for $18 shipped. The liquid test kits are much more accurate
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Old 06-09-2013, 02:11 AM   #3
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+1 get a master test kit. It doesn't test for hardness, though, so you would need to get other liquid test kits for that (like Sera).
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Old 06-09-2013, 02:23 AM   #4
SmittyInFla
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Thanks, guys...Gonna have to wait till Thursday.
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Old 06-09-2013, 03:28 AM   #5
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see if your lfs will test for free while you're waiting. as already stated, test strips are inaccurate so don't overreact.
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Old 06-09-2013, 03:51 AM   #6
SmittyInFla
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nate: What, you don't think I should 'Nuke it from orbit'?
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Old 06-09-2013, 06:42 AM   #7
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I have seen that playsand can raise the ph alarmingly high for a few weeks, I have stopped using it and use blackdiamond blasting sand
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Old 06-09-2013, 07:29 AM   #8
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Much of the sands and stone you buy from your local home improvement store is quarried locally. The composition of the local geography can change from area to area. One Home Depot could sell sand that has acidic properties while another one in another side of the state could sell mostly inert sand.
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Old 06-11-2013, 04:06 AM   #9
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Your water (GH, KH, pH) is perfect...

... for live bearers, Rift Lake Cichlids, certain Rainbow fish.

Just do not plan on any soft water fish.
If you DO want to keep soft water fish, look in Reverse Osmosis. It is the only way to get rid of those excess minerals that are making your water so hard.

Keep on doing the fishless cycle while you get things sorted out.

Here is the fishless cycle:
Cycle: To grow the beneficial bacteria that remove ammonia and nitrite from the aquarium.

Fish-In Cycle: To expose fish to toxins while using them as the source of ammonia to grow nitrogen cycle bacteria. Exposure to ammonia burns the gills and other soft tissue, stresses the fish and lowers their immunity. Exposure to nitrite makes the blood unable to carry oxygen. Research methemglobinemia for details.

Fishless Cycle: The safe way to grow more bacteria, faster, in an aquarium, pond or riparium.

The method I give here was developed by 2 scientists who wanted to quickly grow enough bacteria to fully stock a tank all at one time, with no plants helping, and overstock it as is common with Rift Lake Cichlid tanks.

1) Set up the tank and all the equipment. You can plant if you want. Include the proper dose of dechlorinator with the water.
Optimum water chemistry:
GH and KH above 3 German degrees of hardness. A lot harder is just fine.
pH above 7, and into the mid 8s is just fine.
Temperature in the upper 70s F (mid 20s C) is good. Higher is OK if the water is well aerated.
A trace of other minerals may help. Usually this comes in with the water, but if you have a pinch of KH2PO4, that may be helpful.
High oxygen level. Make sure the filter and power heads are running well. Plenty of water circulation.
No toxins in the tank. If you washed the tank, or any part of the system with any sort of cleanser, soap, detergent, bleach or anything else make sure it is well rinsed. Do not put your hands in the tank when you are wearing any sort of cosmetics, perfume or hand lotion. No fish medicines of any sort.
A trace of salt (sodium chloride) is OK, but not required.
This method of growing bacteria will work in a marine system, too. The species of bacteria are different.

1a) Optional: Add any source of the bacteria that you are growing to seed the tank. Cycled media from a healthy tank is good. Decor or some gravel from a cycled tank is OK. Live plants or plastic are OK. Bottled bacteria is great, but only if it contains Nitrospira species of bacteria. Read the label and do not waste your money on anything else.
At the time this was written the right species could be found in:
Dr. Tims One and Only
Tetra Safe Start
Microbe Lift Nite Out II
...and perhaps others.
You do not have to jump start the cycle. The right species of bacteria are all around, and will find the tank pretty fast.

2) Add ammonia until the test reads 5 ppm. This ammonia is the cheapest you can find. No surfactants, no perfumes. Read the fine print. This is often found at discount stores like Dollar Tree, or hardware stores like Ace. You could also use a dead shrimp form the grocery store, or fish food. Protein breaks down to become ammonia. You do not have good control over the ammonia level, though.

3) Test daily. For the first few days not much will happen, but the bacteria that remove ammonia are getting started. Finally the ammonia starts to drop. Add a little more, once a day, to test 5 ppm.

4) Test for nitrite. A day or so after the ammonia starts to drop the nitrite will show up. When it does allow the ammonia to drop to 3 ppm.

5) Test daily. Add ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. If the nitrite or ammonia go to 5 ppm do a water change to get these lower. The ammonia removing species and the nitrite removing species (Nitrospira) do not do well when the ammonia or nitrite are over 5 ppm.

6) When the ammonia and nitrite both hit zero 24 hours after you have added the ammonia the cycle is done. You can challenge the bacteria by adding a bit more than 3 ppm ammonia, and it should be able to handle that, too, within 24 hours.

7) Now test the nitrate. Probably sky high!
Do as big a water change as needed to lower the nitrate until it is safe for fish. Certainly well under 20, and a lot lower is better. This may call for more than one water change, and up to 100% water change is not a problem. Remember the dechlor!
If you will be stocking right away (within 24 hours) no need to add more ammonia. If stocking will be delayed keep feeding the bacteria by adding ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. You will need to do another water change right before adding the fish.
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Helpful hints:

A) You can run a fishless cycle in a bucket to grow bacteria on almost any filter media like bio balls, sponges, ceramic bio noodles, lava rock or Matala mats. Simply set up any sort of water circulation such as a fountain pump or air bubbler and add the media to the bucket. Follow the directions for the fishless cycle. When the cycle is done add the media to the filter. I have run a canister filter in a bucket and done the fishless cycle.

B) The nitrogen cycle bacteria will live under a wide range of conditions and bounce back from minor set backs. By following the set up suggestions in part 1) you are setting up optimum conditions for fastest reproduction and growth.
GH and KH can be as low as 1 degree, but watch it! These bacteria use the carbon in carbonates, and if it is all used up (KH = 0) the bacteria may die off.
pH as low as 6.5 is OK, but by 6.0 the bacteria are not going to be doing very well. They are still there, and will recover pretty well when conditions get better.
Temperature almost to freezing is OK, but they must not freeze, and they are not very active at all. They do survive in a pond, but they are slow to warm up and get going in the spring. This is where you might need to grow some in a bucket in a warm place and supplement the pond population. Too warm is not good, either. Topical or room temperature tank temperatures are best. (68 to 85*F or 20 to 28*C)
Moderate oxygen can be tolerated for a while. However, to remove lots of ammonia and nitrite these bacteria must have oxygen. They turn one into the other by adding oxygen. If you must stop running the filter for an hour or so, no problem. If longer, remove the media and keep it where it will get more oxygen.
Once the bacteria are established they can tolerate some fish medicines. This is because they live in a complex film called Bio film on all the surfaces in the filter and the tank. Medicines do not enter the bio film well.
These bacteria do not need to live under water. They do just fine in a humid location. They live in healthy garden soil, as well as wet locations.

C) Planted tanks may not tolerate 3 ppm or 5 ppm ammonia. It is possible to cycle the tank at lower levels of ammonia so the plants do not get ammonia burn. Add ammonia to only 1 ppm, but test twice a day, and add ammonia as needed to keep it at 1 ppm. The plants are also part of the bio filter, and you may be able to add the fish sooner, if the plants are thriving.
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Old 06-14-2013, 01:55 AM   #10
SmittyInFla
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Just got home from work, and a stop at the LFS. I got the API Master Test Kit (Freshwater).

Tap water test (I added the dechlorinator, so I am testing the tap water as it went into the tank):

pH 7.6+
High Range pH 8.2
Ammonia 2.0
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 0

~~~~~~~~~~

First test of tank water:

High Range pH 8.2
Ammonia 2.5
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 0

I also received a RAOK plant package, (THANKS, cah925!) today. I am anxious to get them in water...Is the tank water safe for common aquarium plants?
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Old 06-14-2013, 01:56 AM   #11
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Yes dump them in. They'll help suck up the excess ammonia.
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Old 06-14-2013, 02:01 AM   #12
SmittyInFla
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thelub View Post
Yes dump them in. They'll help suck up the excess ammonia.
BOMBS AWAAAY!
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Old 06-14-2013, 03:38 AM   #13
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Pet Mountain has the test kits I think for $16. And if you order enough stuf fyou get free shipping. New customers get free shipping for orders of $50. And I easily find $50 of stuff I need there all the time at their prices.
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Old 06-16-2013, 11:43 PM   #14
SmittyInFla
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Default Second test, 72 hours after adding plants. Questions...

To recap:

Tested tapwater for a baseline.
Tested aquarium water, six days after fill, with substrate, driftwood and NO plants. Those test parameters are listed above.

Tested today, 3 days after adding plants:

High Range pH: 8.2 (unchanged)
Ammonia: 2.5 (unchanged)
Nitrite: 0 (unchanged)
Nitrate: 0 (I listed the first test at <5ppm, because it was sort of between colors. This test was, however, a FLAT zero.)

I have to assume that the ammonia testing above baseline tapwater (2.0) means I do have some bacterial culture going on in the tank. Is this correct?

Does the nitrate FALL indicate that the plants are absorbing some nitrogen? I did see some light pearling on a few leaves, yesterday, after ten hours with the light on. This would seem to mean the plants are respiring.

At this stage, is there anything else I should do? In reading the info above, it seems like I should have a much higher ammonia level.

I have read Diana's post several times, now...Still not sure I am on the right path.
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Old 06-17-2013, 12:46 AM   #15
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Nitrate fall could mean plants are using it, yes.

What you need to do: don't tinker with your tank. Have patience.
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