What is Consuming all my Nitrates!? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-14-2020, 02:19 PM Thread Starter
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What is Consuming all my Nitrates!?

I've had my tank setup now for about a year, and four months ago I experienced a major crash with all my plants. Throughout this time I've been dosing Flourish and Excel per recommended dosing, but started dosing dry ferts given the issue at-hand. For purposes of this discussion, I have had four or five categories of plants: Anuibus, dwarf sag/val, lotus, alt mini, and swords. My lighting is probably considered medium, and my substrate consists of black diamond blasting media and eco-complete. I've also been placing osmocote plus capsules periodically, especially in the vals and swords. What I'm assuming has happened is my plants had been thriving on the eco-complete, and when those nutrients depleted the plants crashed. In the past four months I've been playing catchup trying to get a dosing regimen that would maintain 20-40 ppm nitrates. It seems like the more I dose the faster my "tank" is consuming them. I'm literally putting in heaping tablespoon of KNO3 every other day now, and my nitrates jump up to 40-60 ppm, then are zero by day two. Based on my research for a 125 gallon aquarium, this is A LOT! At this dosage my plants are rebounding SLOWLY, but something seems to be consuming nitrates at a ridiculous rate. I had two canister filters plus a 29 gallon sump for filtration, but have recently removed one canister filter to see what happens. The anuibus grew very slowly the first 8 months, probably due to under fertilization, but everything else exploded with the exception of alt mini which I cannot keep alive. The first plants to show signs of the crash were the dwarf sag, then the vals, lotus, and swords followed in that order. Then I started dosing dry ferts, namely KNO3, but also K2SO4 and KpPO4 at times. The sag were the first to rebound, and the anuibus have been growing like crazy. I can see the vals and lotus trying to rebound, but they are nowhere near their former glory. The two sword plants have basically just stalled out.

I guess my question is, is this a normal amount of dosing for a low tech tank given the plant list and lighting? It seems like something about my setup is consuming crazy amounts of nitrate. Link to my setup is here for reference, but no current pics since it's sorta sad to look at. https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...l#post11258317
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-14-2020, 02:38 PM
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Are you dosing iron? If you are already dry dosing, I'd get some CSM+B too.

Are you testing your nitrate after dosing too? I know it is quite common to get really low nitrate results accidentally with the liquid tests, but if you are getting good values after dosing that's not the problem. I have ran a few low tech tanks that consumed enough nitrate that I could never see readable nitrate except after dosing.

How do your leaves look? That may lend some insight into the deficiency that you are experiencing.

I am curious to see what this ends up being. I had a 92 corner that had Vals threatening to take it over, then they just stopped all of a sudden. Then the rotala took over that role. Another thing I have noticed with swords is sometimes, especially when newish, they have just stopped growing fir a month or two, then exploded. I had one that would grow another 18"+ leaf every 3 days do this too me last year. When I broke down that tank, the sword had a root system that was 4-5 ft long. I presumed that the dormancy of the sword was the plant growing out it's root system rather than pushing leaves.

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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-14-2020, 02:54 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Bunsen Honeydew View Post
Are you dosing iron? If you are already dry dosing, I'd get some CSM+B too.

Are you testing your nitrate after dosing too? I know it is quite common to get really low nitrate results accidentally with the liquid tests, but if you are getting good values after dosing that's not the problem. I have ran a few low tech tanks that consumed enough nitrate that I could never see readable nitrate except after dosing.

How do your leaves look? That may lend some insight into the deficiency that you are experiencing.

I am curious to see what this ends up being. I had a 92 corner that had Vals threatening to take it over, then they just stopped all of a sudden. Then the rotala took over that role. Another thing I have noticed with swords is sometimes, especially when newish, they have just stopped growing fir a month or two, then exploded. I had one that would grow another 18"+ leaf every 3 days do this too me last year. When I broke down that tank, the sword had a root system that was 4-5 ft long. I presumed that the dormancy of the sword was the plant growing out it's root system rather than pushing leaves.

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I am dosing iron, but not frequently. What is the correlation with iron and nitrates? I'm still dosing Flourish, so all micro should be accounted for.

I'm testing nitrates constantly since the swings are so dramatic. Almost always when I test before ferts nitrates are zero. After a heaping tablespoon they jump up to 40-60 ppm. Within a day they typically drop to 10-20, and by the second day back to zero.

New growth on all plants looks good, but if I miss a dose for more than a day or two things start going south quickly. The swords have never exploded with growth, and they are both over six months old. One is a purple knight, so no surprise there, but the other red rubin should be doing much better.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-14-2020, 03:17 PM
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Are you using large amounts of lava rock in a low flow portion of a filter? Sometimes when conditions are just right, there are reports of lava rock growing anaerobic bacteria - if that happened, combined with plants consuming some, and maybe some deep, low oxygen pockets in your substrate...perhaps you got lucky/unlucky and created the perfect storm.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-14-2020, 03:43 PM Thread Starter
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Are you using large amounts of lava rock in a low flow portion of a filter? Sometimes when conditions are just right, there are reports of lava rock growing anaerobic bacteria - if that happened, combined with plants consuming some, and maybe some deep, low oxygen pockets in your substrate...perhaps you got lucky/unlucky and created the perfect storm.
I have all of that going on. Large mass of lava rock in the sump and deep substrate on one side. I can fix the lava rock issue, but I have feeling the deep substrate hill I have on one side is the bigger culprit. I'm not seeing any large pockets of gas or bubbles though. Occasionally the large piece of driftwood I have will burp our a series of bubbbles, but nothing from the hill. FYI, I layered the hill with course gravel mostly, then a 2" layer of eco-complete, then 2" of sand. The lava rock in my sump is aerated from below, so I don't think that is the source either, but then again I'm here asking questions.

Last edited by silasvirus82; 08-14-2020 at 04:06 PM. Reason: edit
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-14-2020, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by silasvirus82 View Post
I have all of that going on. Large mass of lava rock in the sump and deep substrate on one side. I can fix the lava rock issue, but I have feeling the deep substrate hill I have on one side is the bigger culprit. I'm not seeing any large pockets of gas or bubbles though. Occasionally the large piece of driftwood I have will burp our a series of bubbbles, but nothing from the hill. FYI, I layered the hill with course gravel mostly, then a 2" layer of eco-complete, then 2" of sand. The lava rock in my sump is aerated from below, so I don't think that is the source either, but then again I'm here asking questions.
Well, I cannot tell you with absolute certainty, as I'm not a scientist, but it sounds like a viable cause to losing the nitrates.


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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-14-2020, 08:04 PM
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Have you considered letting the plants show you what nutrient they might need? I find it takes a bit of both testing and looking at the plants to see what might be going on . I might suggest looking for one of the plant nutrient charts for something that matches what you see. If the charts don't show nitrate lacking, then I might look at what problems/questions there might be with the way the nitrate is used or the testing done.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-15-2020, 12:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by varanidguy View Post
Well, I cannot tell you with absolute certainty, as I'm not a scientist, but it sounds like a viable cause to losing the nitrates.
Haha, scientists will never tell anyone anything with absolute certainty.

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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-19-2020, 01:17 PM
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As with live rock and deep sand in SW, it is possible that you cultured anoxic or anaerobic bacteria that converts nitrates into nitrogen gas. This is something I've been trying to do for some time in my 110g stock tank w/40g sump. However, it seems that this is often more difficult in FW than SW.

I'm not a fan of Excel. Glutaraldehyde kills algae and some plants (jungle val can be especially sensitive). I have used Flourish Comprehensive with good results, but switched a few months ago for cost reasons.

Some of your plants are slow growers and amazon swords are heavy root feeders. I've never tried osmocote gel caps - some rave about them, others say that terrestrial ferts just don't belong in the aquarium. I'm also generally uninformed about dry ferts, although lately I've been using Select Aquatics Rapid Grow fertilizer. Results so far seem promising.

Hmm...Looking back over the above it looks like I haven't helped much! I'm a fishkeeper and really just use plants for naturalization and an aid in water purification. I primarily rely on fast growing floating plants, although my low tech planted display tank (avitar) often gets oohs and ahhs from visitors.

Good luck in sorting out your issues. I've found that the biggest additive we need for planted tanks is patience!!!
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