Nitrate spike - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-17-2004, 06:20 PM Thread Starter
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Nitrate spike

I'm struggling to balance my nutrients in a 29G - it has been a nightmare ever since I switched from 80 watts of NO light to 110 watts of CF. As I've tested nitrates, I've seen right around 5 ppm virtually every time - probably three weeks of testing every or every other day. Last night, though, I got a reading somewhere between 20 and 40 ppm.

What the heck could have caused a spike that large? Like I said, my tank has been struggling - lots of algae, more dead/dying plant matter than I've ever seen before... But that's been going on more than a week now. Any ideas?

Gracias.



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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-17-2004, 06:29 PM
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are you injecting CO2?
if not, that's your problem - nearly 4wpg and not enough CO2 for the plants to grow, therefore nitrate and phosphate levels are building up.

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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-17-2004, 06:36 PM Thread Starter
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Yes, 5 lb. canister, mini-vortex reactor - CO2 levels are approximately 30 ppm. My phosphate reading last night was less than 0.5 ppm.

Some more info: several pieces of locally collected cottonwood (in this tank more than six months now, in another tank six months before that), a few pieces of quartz rock, flourite-sand (50-50) substrate, 4 emerald-eye rasboras, 1 SAE, 3 botia striata, 4 otos.

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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-17-2004, 06:41 PM
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Did you try testing again? Maybe you had a contaminant in the test sample?

Also when's the last time you did a water change? Have you checked your tap water?


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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-17-2004, 06:44 PM Thread Starter
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Didn't have a chance to test before work this morning - will do when I get home. I may also be able to dig up an older test to compare the results.

Water change last Saturday - usually once a week.

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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-17-2004, 07:02 PM
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First off suspect the test kit. Second you state that the tank is full of dead plant matter. Well decaying plant matter adds nitrates. Also IMHO cottonwood is not the best choice for a tank. It's a softwood and I have no doubt that it's decaying and adding to the problem.

Please supply us with your total nutrient values and your dosing schedule. You should not be having the problems you are having.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-17-2004, 07:29 PM Thread Starter
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My "schedule" has been testing and dosing as needed - not a true schedule at this point. In general, I get to 10 ppm nitrates and 1 ppm phosphate at water change, plus +5 ppm K. Then every other day (or so) I test and dose nitrate/phosphate as needed (usually adding a few ppm nitrate all along; no phosphate early in the week but adding like 0.5 to 1 ml later). No Flourish or Flourish Iron right now (though I have both). Seachem tabs a few places.

The wood is softer than other wood I've used - I'll pull it tonight and see how that changes things through next week. Is there a chance that this is mucking with my substrate somehow? Some of the wood is thrust down into the substrate, and my crypts have been really bad lately (lots of melting, slower than usual growth).

Thanks.

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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-17-2004, 07:36 PM
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It still sounds strange that it jumped so much so quickly. As you mentioned, the wood's been there for awhile, and the decaying plant matter has also been an issue for awhile, but then the nitrates jumped practically overnight.

If it were the wood or decaying plants or anything like that, I would expect the nitrates to raise more gradually.

My first suspicion is bad test. Any chance there's a dead fish in there somewhere?


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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-17-2004, 08:29 PM
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yeah the test kit sounds suspicious...most nitrate kits really need to be mixed like crazy to give an accurate result.

My 75's nitrates recently skyrocketed, too many ludwigia repens leaves decaying. Did a large 70% water change last night to deal with it.

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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-17-2004, 08:49 PM Thread Starter
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Don't think it's a dead fish - though my otos and loaches are insanely sneaky (whole days go by when I see no more than one at a time). I'll check tonight.

And I just got the test last weekend (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals) - I suppose it could still be bad from sitting on the shelf too long.

With regard to decaying plant matter: This was my first assumption, but since the tank has been at least somewhat in this condition (I'm trying to ride it out as new growth gets going) for almost a week, I thought the nitrates would climb gradually... is it possible that the plants hit a ceiling on how much they could take up, which is why I'm seeing suddenly huge numbers?

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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-18-2004, 09:32 AM Thread Starter
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Update...

I figured out at least part of my problem: my substrate was killing my plants.

I pulled the wood from the tank, and when I did, a dark cloud rolled up into the water column from beneath it - it looked nasty and smelled just as bad, so I pulled all the plants around it to turn over the substrate to try and fix the situation. When I did that, I saw that every part of every plant that was beneath the surface of the substrate had turned black and begun to melt/rot. I started pulling everything else out - all the same. Black roots, melting stems, etc.

Anyway, I turned over the entire substrate - rinsing it several times - trimmed a lot off each plant, and reset the tank. My guess is that as I added fertilizers, the plants couldn't use them since they were getting poisoned (more or less) by the anaerobic gunk in the substrate, so algae went nuts, further damaging the already decaying plants. So, big build-up of nitrates.

I also found my Seachem Nitrate test kit and compared it with the AP test - Seachem read 0 ppm when I finished a 90+% water change (which is normal), while AP read 10 ppm. So, looks like AP's is just a crappy test kit.


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