Where are my nitrates going? A real head scratcher - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-04-2019, 08:04 PM Thread Starter
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Where are my nitrates going? A real head scratcher

I am currently pouring 1tsp kno3 and 1/4tsp k2po4 daily into my 40 breeder to keep blue green algae at bay.

This tank has been running for 10 years, 8 of which it was neglected. It got ei level ferts, and the water was changed very rarely, the filter even less.
There was tons of bba, and the tank had a grungy look. Easy plants were happy, and the fish lived well beyond their natural life spans. The tank was lit by 2x55w cfl with AH supply reflectors, for any old geezers who know what I mean

When the cfl fixture bit the dust, I had to decide to get new lights or get rid of the tank.

I decided I could get new lights if I actually kept up with the maintenance.

For a few months now I have been cleaning it vigorously. I cleaned out the filter, did a heavy vacuuming of the 10 year old aquasoil and have been doing weekly algae removals.

Since then, I have had to dump in fertilizer to keep the blue green algae and melting leaves at bay.

Any thoughts?

40 breeder, 2x t5ho with garbage reflectors, filstar xp3, small circulation pump (new), inline co2 diffuser at 4bps


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Last edited by Minsc; 08-05-2019 at 03:41 AM. Reason: Quick fix
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post #2 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-07-2019, 11:26 PM Thread Starter
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I guess I stumped everyone!

There is a possibility it is related to nitrate and potassium imbalance.
Stayed tuned in to find out


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post #3 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-08-2019, 01:15 AM
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Hard to know where to start with this.

Assuming you have about 35 gal of water and are adding 5 grams of KNO3 a day, thatís over 20ppm a day and a normal uptake would be in the 2-3 ppm area. By now, you should be able to walk on that water. Are your fish swimming upside down?

How about listing all the readings you can from any test kits you have and what are those kits? What are the ferts and dosings? What type of light do you now have (can you give PAR and PUR data)? Do you inject CO2 (although, if you did, and based on the other comments, you probably ran out of it about 7 years ago)? Aquasoil is probably inert by now. Substrate a de-nitrification factory?

Do you use any chemical media in your filter and, if so, what is it? Do you still have a lot of algae (it can suck up some ferts). Plant load? Fish load? Pictures?
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post #4 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-08-2019, 04:36 AM Thread Starter
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Hard to know where to start with this.

Assuming you have about 35 gal of water and are adding 5 grams of KNO3 a day, thatís over 20ppm a day and a normal uptake would be in the 2-3 ppm area. By now, you should be able to walk on that water. Are your fish swimming upside down?

Crazy, isnít it? Fish are fine.

How about listing all the readings you can from any test kits you have and what are those kits? What are the ferts and dosings? What type of light do you now have (can you give PAR and PUR data)? Do you inject CO2 (although, if you did, and based on the other comments, you probably ran out of it about 7 years ago)? Aquasoil is probably inert by now. Substrate a de-nitrification factory?

Lighting is currently 2 t5ho. CO2 via inline diffuser. 4bps and CO2 mist is always visible.
Havenít used a test kit for a freshwater tank in a decade. Never found much use other than driving myself crazy.

Do you use any chemical media in your filter and, if so, what is it? Do you still have a lot of algae (it can suck up some ferts). Plant load? Fish load? Pictures?
No chemical media. Negligible fish load, 6 green neons, 2 corydoras sterbai and a young red lizard whiptail. Tank full of plants

This is after the rotala rotundifolia background was trimmed
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post #5 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-08-2019, 04:44 AM
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Yep, I’d go with extreme anaerobic denitrification activity in substrate. That would also account for all the bg algae and leaf melt.

Time to replace that soil based substrate with a inert one if you wantvto maintain same substrate for over 3-4 years.
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post #6 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-08-2019, 04:58 AM Thread Starter
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Wouldn’t that create gas in the substrate? Poking around in the soil doesn’t create any bubbles


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post #7 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-08-2019, 03:31 PM
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Unfortunately, from this distance, the symptoms do look like an anaerobic substrate. Although gas pockets can form and be obvious, it’s not always the case. You’ve been collecting a lot of organics over the years and vacuuming it won’t easily get rid of it all if it is the entire substrate (isolated pockets are much easier to fix). Might be enough to reduce it if done, repeatedly, over time, but that can be more trouble than it is worth. If you don’t want to replace your substrate, you could pull it all out, wash it and then put it back in. In any case, when/if you do pull that substrate out, it would be a good idea to remove the fish and then make sure the water is habitable before putting them back in.

Make sure your flow is good: heavy rippling (not breaking) of the surface and all plants very gently moving from top to bottom. BGA does not like good circulation. Chemi-Clean can kill the BGA, but it is better to try correcting the source before going there. Good circulation has many benefits, including mitigating substrate problems.

You may want to do a few more tests to satisfy yourself:

- Where you have your melting leaves, try pulling some of those plants up and see if the roots are in good condition. If they are tending toward being black, that’s a sure sign of anaerobic conditions.

- Your plant load is not consuming 20ppm NO3 / day and I doubt that even a fully anaerobic substrate is going to de-nitrify 20ppm / day. Test kits expire. Could yours have expired? Try calibrating it: add x amount of KNO3 to a gallon of RO or distilled water and see if your test matches what the ppm should be, e.g.; 123 mg of KNO3 should read 20ppm NO3 (see Rotala Butterfly | Planted Aquarium Nutrient Dosing Calculator). If the test result doesn’t match, then either your kit is bad or the KNO3 is bad (unlikely).
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post #8 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-08-2019, 03:46 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks. I was wondering if removing and straining the aqua soil would be smart. Unfortunately, my business is going under, and my current budget for things like substrate is $0. Trust me, I would love to replace it all.

I have been playing with flow for a long time. I just bought a super tiny 40gph pump. I love it and my new flexibility in flow patterns I’m glad I got spousal approval for that $10.

Fixing the underlying issues is the goal. I don’t like the idea of using chemicals.
I’m thinking 2x 75% water changes to reset the water column

Thanks! I really appreciate the help. I’m trying to give this tank a fresh start, so a substrate renewal sounds pretty smart


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post #9 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-09-2019, 03:22 AM Thread Starter
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The majority of the aqua soil is washed. The tank filter needs to do it’s job before I can move on, I can’t see anything. There were a couple muddy areas that released a couple bubbles, but no major issues. The soil was really grungy, I’m really glad to have removed it all.

Next step, a huge water change to reset the water column.

Prior to 8 years of neglect, I was growing and selling erios and toninas. I want that back.


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post #10 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-10-2019, 05:26 AM
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Any updates today?

Sounds like you're on a good path with the work so far.

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Originally Posted by Minsc View Post
The tank was lit by 2x55w cfl with AH supply reflectors, for any old geezers who know what I mean
Darn, that makes me an old geezer. I really liked the products they had an ordered from them.


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Since then, I have had to dump in fertilizer to keep the blue green algae and melting leaves at bay.
I hate BGA. Sorry to hear about your business.
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post #11 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-10-2019, 04:33 PM Thread Starter
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It is getting there! Triple washing 7 gallons of aquasoil was a bit of a pain, and made a tremendous mess in the kitchen, but it is done!

Tank currently looks like a mud pit. I tried to gently slide the aquasoil in place, but it still released quite the cloud. Once it settles I can vacuum any grunge and clean the filter, so I think it is going well. The fish are seriously pissed off for sure!

Here is a shot from last night, it has gotten somewhat better since
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post #12 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-10-2019, 06:35 PM
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Sounds like the start of a journal beginning from a primordial slime pit. You should be playing Bach's Fugue in D Minor on that organ while watching it.
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post #13 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-10-2019, 07:07 PM
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Your I’d be better off just going to ACE and getting you a couple bag of HTH pool sand for $12 ea. than trying to use a soil that’s 6-7yrs overdue for replacement. Many people get by just fine with inert substrates and just do water column dosing.
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Last edited by DaveKS; 08-10-2019 at 07:43 PM. Reason: Typo
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post #14 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-10-2019, 07:22 PM
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I'm inert ...in more ways than one.
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post #15 of 29 (permalink) Old 08-10-2019, 08:09 PM Thread Starter
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Primordial soup biotope.

I hear what you are saying DaveKS, and that is now my plan B.
I love the softness and color of the aquasoil, and I dose the water column already. I’m hoping it works out, and I have already done all the work.


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