Nitrates and ug/L and PPM - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-13-2018, 09:20 PM Thread Starter
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Nitrates and ug/L and PPM

Maybe this is a noob question, but . . . .

I have set up a new planted aquarium, fully cycled, etc. Every test kit I use shows that i have high nitrates, somewhere between 40ppm and 80ppm. I have tested my tap water to the same results.

Now . . . I routinely have well water tests performed on my property because I'm one of the last homes not on city water (unavailable on my street) and I live in a pretty polluted urban state.

That being said, my most recent water test tells me that my tap/well water runs at 8,414 ug/L nitrate. I get similar readings every few years.

I've done the conversions online and that would seem to suggest that my tap water should be around 8.5 ppm nitrate, correct?

Am I missing something? Seachem and API test kits both agree to a number 10x higher than that of a professional water testing/certification company. Do I have a decimal point in the wrong place?
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-13-2018, 09:29 PM
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Yes, ppm is the same as mg/L. So 8,414 micrograms/L should be the same as 8.414 mg/L (PPM).

Somewhere the testing results aren't agreeing, but I don't see a problem with the math.

Are you sure the testing company gives results in micrograms per liter?


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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-13-2018, 10:10 PM
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If they're giving it to you in nitrate-nitrogen units then 8.414 mg/L is 37.256 nitrate mg/L. API uses nitrate units. Not sure about Seachem.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-13-2018, 10:23 PM
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Originally Posted by DiscusStu View Post
If they're giving it to you in nitrate-nitrogen units then 8.414 mg/L is 37.256 nitrate mg/L. API uses nitrate units. Not sure about Seachem.
Good info, DiscusStu!

From:https://newsroom.unl.edu/announce/beef/5891/33379
Nitrate = Nitrate Nitrogen x 4.43
Nitrate Nitrogen = Nitrate x 0.226


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Last edited by nbgolds; 11-13-2018 at 10:25 PM. Reason: typo
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-13-2018, 11:49 PM Thread Starter
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If they're giving it to you in nitrate-nitrogen units then 8.414 mg/L is 37.256 nitrate mg/L. API uses nitrate units. Not sure about Seachem.

As far as I can tell, the tests report just nitrate, as they suggest the ug/L limit is 10,000, which fits in the standard EPA nitrate (not nitrogen-nitrate) limit.

However, the explanation you've given me for nitrate-nitrogen levels seems to fit the numbers I'm looking at from various test kits (API strips and liquid tests, and the Seachem test kit).

I have to admit the colors from 40ppm - 80ppm on the various test kits are hard for me to distinguish, but none of the tests suggest anything near 8.414 ppm.

The company I use for well water testing is certified for the results they produce in our state, so I'm apt to trust them. But perhaps it's better to trust, yet verify, by having another lab to nitrate alone tests.

Is 40ppm nitrate baseline in an aquarium cause for concern?

Bump: Actually I take that back, the EPA suggest that 10,000 ug/L is the limit for nitrate measured as nitrogen. So am I looking at nitrate-nitrogen numbers? And is my nitrate level in terms of aquarium test kits closer to 40 ppm?
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-14-2018, 12:58 AM
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Scientists and water treatment folks switched to nitrate-nitrogen such a long time ago that they probably forgot that some people (mostly aquarists) still use nitrate.

EPA limit is definitely 10 mg/L nitrate-nitrogen. So it looks like your water is 37 ppm nitrate, just skirting the limit of 44.3 ppm nitrate.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-14-2018, 10:29 AM Thread Starter
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So that leads me to one last question -- should I worry about this in terms of overall aquarium health (like should I be thinking thinking about using RO water), or should I just do regular, weekly water changes and live with the fact that 40ppm nitrate is my zero?
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-14-2018, 01:59 PM
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So that leads me to one last question -- should I worry about this in terms of overall aquarium health (like should I be thinking thinking about using RO water), or should I just do regular, weekly water changes and live with the fact that 40ppm nitrate is my zero?
I would worry. I faced a similar problem (although not on the scale of yours). My nitrates out of the tap are around 10+ ppm using the API test kit (not confirmed by professional water test). I struggled to keep my total nitrates below 40 ppm with just water changes. My fish were stressed and I started to lose some. Keep in mind that this was with a 180 gallon community tank with very low tech level. My solution was a 48 gal/day continuous drip water drip with syphon overflow. I now can keep nitrates below 20 on that tank. I doubt this would work for you since your baseline is so high.
I am still a newbie in the high tech realm. It is entirely possible that a high tech setup with fast growing plants could actually benefit from the high nitrate levels. A low tech tank definitely would need RO water. In fact, I don't see how you could have good nitrate levels without it. Someone smarter than me may be able to tell you if you can control your nitrate levels with fast growing high tech plants.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-14-2018, 06:09 PM Thread Starter
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Week-old tank water, left. Tap water right.

They are approx the same color, but this picture makes the one on the right appear darker.

I have a golf course behind me to thanks for these elevated levels.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-14-2018, 10:38 PM
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Week-old tank water, left. Tap water right.

They are approx the same color, but this picture makes the one on the right appear darker.

I have a golf course behind me to thanks for these elevated levels.
The API test is very difficult to read in the upper range. I have the same test and pretty much all high readings look the same. (scary red) I am now getting an orange color, but from what I hear the Salifert kit is much easier to read and seems to give more accurate readings.

I am ordering a Salifert kit so I can see if it actually is better.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-14-2018, 11:27 PM
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The API test is very difficult to read in the upper range. I have the same test and pretty much all high readings look the same. (scary red) I am now getting an orange color, but from what I hear the Salifert kit is much easier to read and seems to give more accurate readings.

I am ordering a Salifert kit so I can see if it actually is better.
It's really not esp. in the higher range..

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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-14-2018, 11:44 PM
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So that leads me to one last question -- should I worry about this in terms of overall aquarium health (like should I be thinking thinking about using RO water), or should I just do regular, weekly water changes and live with the fact that 40ppm nitrate is my zero?
The only possible problem would be algae. It's not even remotely close to toxic to fish at that level.

I've had mine as high as 430 ppm just to see if anything would happen. Nada.
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