What is Consuming all my Nitrates!? - Page 2 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #16 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-29-2020, 08:26 PM Thread Starter
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In answer to a few posts, I've checked my testing kit, twice, not the issue. I have no problem getting a reading on nitrates after a heavy dose, but the next morning its back to zero. I'll keep dosing at the rates I'm doing, but it just seems so excessive and possibly getting worse. I'm trying to figure out the WHY! Fish load is ten full size platinum angelfish, four L144 plecos almost full grown, and a half dozen electric blue rams. I've also attempted to keep nerite snails in this tank on three occasions, not that algae has been an issue, but something is killing those off as well. I'm using well water and treating for heavy metals, so can't figure that one out either. Originally I was mixing 50/50 RO water with my well water and the snails did fine, but have since just been using well water exclusively and the snails won't last a day now. The fish are doing great, constantly spawning and even have about 100 EBR fry in my 29 gallon quarantine tank right now. I feed twice per day, once by auto feeder and once at night that is usually a treat.

I'll post some pictures later if that helps.

Also, keep in mind I have a 30 gallon sump plus I'm running a canister filter, so my total volume is closer to 150.
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post #17 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-30-2020, 02:56 PM Thread Starter
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Some pictures for those interested. First pic highlights the sag and vals in various states of health. You can see the mixture of recent die-off and growth based on nitrogen deficiency. The vals were glorious until they depleted the nutrients from my substrate and have been struggling ever since.



Next up are some pics of my anuibus, purple knight sword, lotus, and remaining vals/sag. The anuibus are constantly sprouting new leaves and for the most part look fine imo. The purple knight swords had never looked good and that was somewhat expected in a low tech setup. The lotus was once 5x larger and lush, and is starting to make a comeback. I had a red tiger lotus as well that has died off completely however.





Final pic is the current sad state of my red rubin sword which has never really taken off and all the other plants mentioned before in varying states of decay/rebound.



I dosed 5 tablespoons of KNO3 yesterday after work and to no surprise my test kit showed zero this morning. Before bed it was about 50-60 ppm.

One thing I'm considering is taking out the majority of my plants replacing the substrate. I'm hoping that if I continue to dose at my current levels that the plants will rebound quickly given some fresh substrate. Any other ideas or suggestions of what I can do?
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post #18 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-30-2020, 05:10 PM
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It is interesting, as others have said. You appear to definitely have a de-nitrification factory going on somewhere in your tank. I lean more heavily toward the lava rock in your filter/sump, despite the O2 under it. The idea of lava rock as a de-nitrifier is that the deep tunnels simply prevent O2 from getting in and I don’t think that O2 can be readily forced into it. You could try removing it for a few days and see if NO3 changes then, if it doesn’t, look deeper (figuratively and literally) into your substrate. If you figure out how you created it (assuming there is no nitrate absorbing material anywhere), let us know. Some members would kill to make one of their own.

There is no way that plants will uptake that quantity of NO3. If you think, by noting their health, that plants are struggling due to nitrogen deficiency, you can also dose urea in place of the NO3. That way, you will be sure of getting N to the plants (make sure that you also dose a tiny amount of nickel if you decide to use urea). It’s usually best, though, to have at least a little NO3, along with the urea, since some plants do benefit from NO3, but they will probably get the little they need even though your testing may not show it.
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post #19 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-30-2020, 06:33 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Deanna View Post
It is interesting, as others have said. You appear to definitely have a de-nitrification factory going on somewhere in your tank. I lean more heavily toward the lava rock in your filter/sump, despite the O2 under it. The idea of lava rock as a de-nitrifier is that the deep tunnels simply prevent O2 from getting in and I don’t think that O2 can be readily forced into it. You could try removing it for a few days and see if NO3 changes then, if it doesn’t, look deeper (figuratively and literally) into your substrate. If you figure out how you created it (assuming there is no nitrate absorbing material anywhere), let us know. Some members would kill to make one of their own.

There is no way that plants will uptake that quantity of NO3. If you think, by noting their health, that plants are struggling due to nitrogen deficiency, you can also dose urea in place of the NO3. That way, you will be sure of getting N to the plants (make sure that you also dose a tiny amount of nickel if you decide to use urea). It’s usually best, though, to have at least a little NO3, along with the urea, since some plants do benefit from NO3, but they will probably get the little they need even though your testing may not show it.
Are you suggesting that I pee in my tank? I mean, I guess we can try that, lol. Seriously though, didn't know that was a thing and I'll check it out. Also, thank you for the lava rock suggestion, and one I will definitely try out immediately. Others have used lava rock in their filters and not had this issue I think, but perhaps something special is going on there.

What could be a nitrate absorbing material? I'm using basalt for my base substrate and rocks, with layers of eco-complete and bdbm over the top of that. Nothing special there other than the depths perhaps. The hill on the right side is probably a foot thick on the back-right side glass, but tapers of quickly moving front-left. I've suspected for a while that anaerobic bacteria might have colonized in that hill, but I'd expect to see bubbles and that is not the case. The only other hardscape is the giant piece of driftwood, and I have no idea what exactly that is. I found that piece on a lake bank.
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post #20 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-30-2020, 06:54 PM
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what about using root tabs near the plants. the roots will take it vs dosing in the water column. might help out.

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post #21 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-30-2020, 06:59 PM Thread Starter
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what about using root tabs near the plants. the roots will take it vs dosing in the water column. might help out.
I am using root tabs. DYI osmocote gel caps periodically. I'm not sure how many I should be using, but I've been putting 3-4 caps around the swords every few months and at least a dozen more throughout the vals and sag. I have not seen any noticeable effect from them, but I do see a dramatic effect when I forget or can't dose KNO3 for three or four days.
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post #22 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-30-2020, 07:13 PM
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Are you suggesting that I pee in my tank? I mean, I guess we can try that, lol. Seriously though, didn't know that was a thing and I'll check it out. Also, thank you for the lava rock suggestion, and one I will definitely try out immediately. Others have used lava rock in their filters and not had this issue I think, but perhaps something special is going on there.

What could be a nitrate absorbing material? I'm using basalt for my base substrate and rocks, with layers of eco-complete and bdbm over the top of that. Nothing special there other than the depths perhaps. The hill on the right side is probably a foot thick on the back-right side glass, but tapers of quickly moving front-left. I've suspected for a while that anaerobic bacteria might have colonized in that hill, but I'd expect to see bubbles and that is not the case. The only other hardscape is the giant piece of driftwood, and I have no idea what exactly that is. I found that piece on a lake bank.
You may laugh, but it has actually - supposedly - been tried, along with other foolish things of similar ilk. Don't do it, though, as there are other ways to introduce urea. In fact, if I recall correctly, urea is the dominant nitrogen source used in farming worldwide (it's cheap). This thread, by @Edward, will give you all you need to know about urea use in an aquarium: https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...o-nh2-2-a.html

People, sometimes and without knowing, will put chemical media in their filter that will absorb nitrate. A one-foot thick substrate area is a always a concern. However, I'm not sure that any de-nitrification going on in a tank can convert that much NO3 so quickly, but I don't actually know how efficient such conversion can be.
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post #23 of 31 (permalink) Old 10-27-2020, 02:38 PM Thread Starter
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I think I finally figured it out. Decided to change out the filter pads in my canister filter and while I had it apart took all the bio media out to see if that might be the issue. Dosed my tank two days ago and holding at 20-30 ppm! I can't believe my canister filter was the culprit, but another day or two will confirm for sure. That filter was doing it's job!
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post #24 of 31 (permalink) Old 10-27-2020, 04:44 PM
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Originally Posted by silasvirus82 View Post
I think I finally figured it out. Decided to change out the filter pads in my canister filter and while I had it apart took all the bio media out to see if that might be the issue. Dosed my tank two days ago and holding at 20-30 ppm! I can't believe my canister filter was the culprit, but another day or two will confirm for sure. That filter was doing it's job!
What media were you using?

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post #25 of 31 (permalink) Old 10-27-2020, 05:32 PM
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I'm glad things are returning to normal, but that is a curious solution. Was the canister very restricted? (anoxic?)

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post #26 of 31 (permalink) Old 10-27-2020, 06:51 PM Thread Starter
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I'm using a Penn Plax Cascade 1500 and 1200, only the 1500 for the past month. The trays were a mix of bio sponge, Fluval ceramic, and filter floss. There was definitely plenty of flow through the filter as I can see the outflow current quite easily.

I'll check my nitrates again when I get home tonight, but if they are anything above zero I've got it. I have been able to hold nitrate levels above zero for more than 24 hours for quite a long time. Maybe I'll order some fresh plants again!
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post #27 of 31 (permalink) Old 10-27-2020, 11:26 PM
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I'm using a Penn Plax Cascade 1500 and 1200, only the 1500 for the past month. The trays were a mix of bio sponge, Fluval ceramic, and filter floss. There was definitely plenty of flow through the filter as I can see the outflow current quite easily.

I'll check my nitrates again when I get home tonight, but if they are anything above zero I've got it. I have been able to hold nitrate levels above zero for more than 24 hours for quite a long time. Maybe I'll order some fresh plants again!
No question about it: ceramic rings can hold denitrifying bacteria, just not as much as lava rock. Did you also remove the lava rock?

Please keep us informed as you go through this.
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post #28 of 31 (permalink) Old 10-28-2020, 06:52 PM Thread Starter
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No question about it: ceramic rings can hold denitrifying bacteria, just not as much as lava rock. Did you also remove the lava rock?

Please keep us informed as you go through this.
Day 3, nitrates slowly dropped off to about 10 ppm from the initial 30-40, that seems totally reasonable. I did remove the lava rock for a time but noticed no change in nitrate consumption, so they are back in. The canister filter was definitely the issue. The ceramic rings and bio sponge are obviously there to consume nitrates, but for whatever reason they were in total overdrive. I can manage a 20-30 ppm drop over three days, but 40 ppm in less than 24 hours was unsustainable. So glad I figured it out and can't wait to get back to planting again.
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post #29 of 31 (permalink) Old 10-30-2020, 01:19 PM Thread Starter
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Almost a full week now and still holding above 5ppm nitrates. Case Closed!
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post #30 of 31 (permalink) Old 10-30-2020, 07:29 PM
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That's great! how are the plants reacting?

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