Nitrate - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-12-2018, 06:44 PM Thread Starter
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Hi guys, I been cycling my planted 20G for almost 3 weeks now, I have about 0.5-1 PPM of ammonia in my tank from day 1, and I start seeing nitrite at around 0.5-1PPM as well for almost 2 week. Nitrate level was under 5 PPM until yesterday, where it all the sudden go all the way up to 20PPM, I measure everything again today, everything still look the same. with nitrate slightly up to around 20-30 PPM.

My question is, where is all this nitrate come from all the sudden? It looks like it's going up by 10 PPM each day for the past 2 days all the sudden. If I understand correctly, 1 PPM of ammonia should convert to 1 PPM of nitrite and then to 1 PPM of nitrate. I been testing my water daily I never see any spike in ammonia or nitrite, they always stay around 0.5-1PPM. The only noticeable change in my tank the past few days is I start to see a lot of melting in my plants that were probably grown emerged, does plants release nitrate back to the water as they melt? Is it normal to see nitrate go up this fast without fish or other source of ammonia added? I never see my ammonia or nitrite drop below 0.5 PPM either.
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-13-2018, 05:52 AM
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Melting plants = dying plants = food for decaying bacteria = ammonia being released

Ammonia = NH3
Nitrite = NO2
Nitrate = NO3

The number of nitrogen atoms still the same after each oxidizing step, but the molecular weight will increase with the crescent number of oxygen atoms. So 1 ppm ammonia converts to 2.7 ppm nitrite and then 3.6 ppm nitrate.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-13-2018, 04:46 PM Thread Starter
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Isnt PPM parts per million, it's counting how many molecules not the molecular weight, that's why I dont understand how I start with so little ammonia and nitrite and end up with so high nitrate.
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-13-2018, 05:02 PM
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You are not the only thing adding to the result. Nitrate from waste of several types is also showing but it is not something to question for any practical reason. All you want to know is that the ammonia IS being converted, not how much is in the result.
It gets back to the basic question of the value of education versus knowing how it works? We need some of each.
And it is also worth note that the hobby grade test kits are a somewhat vague estimate which may not be called accurate. Your numbers may be right or wrong but not important in either case.
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-13-2018, 06:11 PM
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yes ppm is parts per million, but for some odd reason it was used decades ago in ecology to denote mg/L. Science moved on to more accurate units and molar concentrations, the hobby (on average) remained at the same scientific level. So whenever you see ppm on this forum, think mg/L
1ppm = 1/1E+06
1L ~1kg = 1E+03g=1E+06mg hence

On a lighter note, using ppm also helps describe some aquariums as 1ppm, 1 amano shrimp to one million algae cells.

As PlantedRich said, once you add all the chemicals existing in the aquarium the test kit is like measuring a football field with your thumb. If you really need to use it, use it to say you have enough or need to add more. If you get a dark yellow then you likely have enough NO3 for your plants. Absolute numbers from the kits will not matter, they are there for children playing doctor.

On hiatus till later this year
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