Low nitrates - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 41 (permalink) Old 06-02-2017, 06:47 AM Thread Starter
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Low nitrates

Hello im cycling my tank and I don't understand the proces that is going on. Currently there is no ammonia from testing with aqua soil. Nitrites where off the chart and dropping now. But I don't see a spike in nitrates. Did a test again and nitrites went from 0,2 to 0,05 ppm and no change in nitrates (no water change done). Could it be my carpet plants using the nitrates? Nitrates are pretty low (5 ppm). I am dosing tropica specialised fertiliser (more than recommended on the bottle). 6ml a day on 34gallon.

Tank is running 12 days using some Ada green bacter and filter media from a 2 month old tank.
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post #2 of 41 (permalink) Old 06-02-2017, 07:23 AM
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Plants eat it, if you have rise and fall of nitrites, generally your tank is about cycled. Using old filter media the bacteria have to adjust to the new tank and level of Ammonia and Nitrites coming in. Unlike a fresh tank you don't have to wait for nitrifying bacteria to develop.
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post #3 of 41 (permalink) Old 06-02-2017, 09:49 AM Thread Starter
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But shouldn't my nitrates rise if the nitrites drops? It just stays the same...

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post #4 of 41 (permalink) Old 06-02-2017, 10:43 AM
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But shouldn't my nitrates rise if the nitrites drops? It just stays the same...
What kind of test kit are you using?

If it is a API test kit, bang the caps of the bottles together for a minute or so, then test again. There is no guarantee that this will help, but just shaking the bottle as suggested doesn't cut it more often than not. Also check expiration dates on your kit.

A tank with plants that is 12 days old is not likely to soak up nitrates at a rapid speed. They are just starting to settle in at this point.
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post #5 of 41 (permalink) Old 06-02-2017, 11:46 AM Thread Starter
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What kind of test kit are you using?

If it is a API test kit, bang the caps of the bottles together for a minute or so, then test again. There is no guarantee that this will help, but just shaking the bottle as suggested doesn't cut it more often than not. Also check expiration dates on your kit.

A tank with plants that is 12 days old is not likely to soak up nitrates at a rapid speed. They are just starting to settle in at this point.
It's a JBL test kit with drops. Kit is not expired so far.

I transfered a few carpet plants off my old tank in combination with some new ones. But still carpet plants don't suck up a lot right?

I shake the bottle that I fill with water, powder and drops as suggested. Do you mean I should shake the bottle with the drops of no3 in it?

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post #6 of 41 (permalink) Old 06-02-2017, 11:54 AM
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It's a JBL test kit with drops. Kit is not expired so far.

I transfered a few carpet plants off my old tank in combination with some new ones. But still carpet plants don't suck up a lot right?

I shake the bottle that I fill with water, powder and drops as suggested. Do you mean I should shake the bottle with the drops of no3 in it?
Transferring plants over is fine and it was good that you used old filter media to start the cycle off. The thing is, bacteria takes time to colonize in your substrate which in turn helps your plants. The bacteria breaks down the detritus at the bottom of the tank so plants can use it as a food source. This is not a instant process. It takes a few months.

I've never used a JBL kit, so I don't know if giving the vile a extra shake would help or not. It may or may not. Nothing wrong with giving it a try. Point is, you should be seeing higher numbers of nitrates if you are seeing the downward trend of nitrites. The plants will use some, but not a lot.
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post #7 of 41 (permalink) Old 06-02-2017, 12:46 PM
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The nitrate levels will only go up if in the inputs exceed the outputs. In a plant-less tank there are no outputs for nitrate other than water changes, so the levels go up as nitrite converts to nitrate. 1ppm of nitrite will make about 1ppm of nitrate. The nitrate climbs into the 40s and 80s because it slowly accumulates. Planted tanks are different. Now you have an extra nitrate input (fertilizers) and an extra nitrate output (plants). The quantities you are adding as ferts and the quantities plants are using can dwarf the amounts coming from the cycle on a lightly stocked tank. So, long story short, I wouldn't be surprised if you dont see the climb in nitrate described in the articles on cycling your tank.

The other thing to keep in mind i the large uncertainty values associated with these API tests. At least in my hands, reasonable people could be off by one color bar in either direction. That makes for 100% error at some values. It may take some time before there is enough of a bump to be sure it is accumulating.

Simple Tank
Nitrate Inputs: oxidation of nitrite from BB, small levels from top-off water
Nitrate Outputs: water changes, chemical filtration (if present)

Planted Tank
Nitrate Inputs: oxidation of nitrite from BB, small levels from top-off water, macro fertilizers
Nitrate Outputs: water changes, chemical filtration (if present), fixation by plants (only really removed on trimming)

For the chemically inclined. Do you know if the ppm values on API kits are ammonia as nitrogen (NH3-N) etc or the straight ppm values?


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post #8 of 41 (permalink) Old 06-02-2017, 02:00 PM Thread Starter
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The nitrate levels will only go up if in the inputs exceed the outputs. In a plant-less tank there are no outputs for nitrate other than water changes, so the levels go up as nitrite converts to nitrate. 1ppm of nitrite will make about 1ppm of nitrate. The nitrate climbs into the 40s and 80s because it slowly accumulates. Planted tanks are different. Now you have an extra nitrate input (fertilizers) and an extra nitrate output (plants). The quantities you are adding as ferts and the quantities plants are using can dwarf the amounts coming from the cycle on a lightly stocked tank. So, long story short, I wouldn't be surprised if you dont see the climb in nitrate described in the articles on cycling your tank.

The other thing to keep in mind i the large uncertainty values associated with these API tests. At least in my hands, reasonable people could be off by one color bar in either direction. That makes for 100% error at some values. It may take some time before there is enough of a bump to be sure it is accumulating.

Simple Tank
Nitrate Inputs: oxidation of nitrite from BB, small levels from top-off water
Nitrate Outputs: water changes, chemical filtration (if present)

Planted Tank
Nitrate Inputs: oxidation of nitrite from BB, small levels from top-off water, macro fertilizers
Nitrate Outputs: water changes, chemical filtration (if present), fixation by plants (only really removed on trimming)

For the chemically inclined. Do you know if the ppm values on API kits are ammonia as nitrogen (NH3-N) etc or the straight ppm values?
Thanks for your detailed info. It is really hard to read colors so yeah human error is possible.

So far I didn't top off the tank as I am doing pretty frequent water changes. Will do this with rainwater if I change the water less. (following ada water changes guide lines atm for a new tank)

For testing ammonia I am using the colombo test kit. which says NH-3-3 on the box and on the color chart just NH3.
The nitrate test just says NO3

Anyways if my ammonia and nitrite drop to 0 I am fine to add livestock and keep dosing the same amount of ferts? The plants are growing fine so far (with a few melting probably from the transfer of being emersed)

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post #9 of 41 (permalink) Old 06-02-2017, 02:16 PM
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I'm with @Smooch on this. Nitrate kits regardless of brand are notorious for false low readings. Shake that bottle for 1 min like your life depended on it, bang it on the table whatever it takes to ensure this is not the problem.

Dan
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post #10 of 41 (permalink) Old 06-02-2017, 02:38 PM Thread Starter
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Shaked it and almost died. Lol
Still 5 ppm reading.. buy a new test or let it be?

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post #11 of 41 (permalink) Old 06-02-2017, 03:09 PM
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I would say its just not cycled. The conversion of ammonia to Nitrite has the biggest gain, 1ppm ammonia converts to approx. 3ppm nitrtite and 3ppm nitrite to approx. 4ppm nitrate for total conversion of approx. 1-4ppm NH3/NH4 to Nitrate. Also if you are using ADA soil and testing only NH3 you are being misled. With your ph you need a test kit that tests total ammonia NH3/NH4 because most of your ammonia will be ammonium. I'm guessing you have much higher total ammonia than you think.

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post #12 of 41 (permalink) Old 06-02-2017, 03:33 PM Thread Starter
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I would say its just not cycled. The conversion of ammonia to Nitrite has the biggest gain, 1ppm ammonia converts to approx. 3ppm nitrtite and 3ppm nitrite to approx. 4ppm nitrate for total conversion of approx. 1-4ppm NH3/NH4 to Nitrate. Also if you are using ADA soil and testing only NH3 you are being misled. With your ph you need a test kit that tests total ammonia NH3/NH4 because most of your ammonia will be ammonium. I'm guessing you have much higher total ammonia than you think.

Dan
Hmm first week I had 5+ ppm ammonia but now with several tests it keeps showing 0.

Using filter media from an other tank maybe converting the ammonia fast?

Ph test shows 6,4.

Buy a NH4 test?

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post #13 of 41 (permalink) Old 06-02-2017, 03:56 PM
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Hmm first week I had 5+ ppm ammonia but now with several tests it keeps showing 0.

Using filter media from an other tank maybe converting the ammonia fast?

Ph test shows 6,4.

Buy a NH4 test?
It is possible its converting it all but the only way to know is to test. To give you an idea of how much you MAY (not are) be missing 10ppm total ammonia at a temp of 25C at a PH of 6.4 only 0.014271 will be NH3 free ammonia the rest will be NH4 ammonium that you currently can't test for. I'm not saying you need it but it would be a good idea to know those values. Worst case you spent some money.

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post #14 of 41 (permalink) Old 06-02-2017, 04:07 PM
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How old is your test kit? The bottle 2 of the api nitrate test kit can expire and provide zero reading if expired. That being said every tank cycles different even using same bacteria, there is no set date. I never knew api nitrate test could be so faulty. Good to know though, love learning new things. I have read science based papers on nitrifying bacteria couple years back when getting back into the hobby and the over all census is temp and ph can affect them, but past that is waiting for them to get establishing then growing. Bringing media from another tank speeds this up a lot. I've had tank cycle as fast as 3 weeks maybe a bit less using sponge filter from another tanks. I say keep up the testing for another week and if zero across all three than you're good. Normally when people have a mini cycle it is due to messing with the filter too much or vacuuming the hell out of their tank. You got plants, so you also got a nice buffer to deal with what the bacteria don't take.

Bump: doh! Just realized you said it wasn't expired... sorry didn't see that.
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post #15 of 41 (permalink) Old 06-02-2017, 04:17 PM Thread Starter
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It is possible its converting it all but the only way to know is to test. To give you an idea of how much you MAY (not are) be missing 10ppm total ammonia at a temp of 25C at a PH of 6.4 only 0.014271 will be NH3 free ammonia the rest will be NH4 ammonium that you currently can't test for. I'm not saying you need it but it would be a good idea to know those values. Worst case you spent some money.

Dan
So basically my NH3 test set is worthless? Fml.. people at LFS know nothing at all...
Thanks for advice
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