Absurd Phosphate levels ... - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-14-2020, 12:13 PM Thread Starter
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I have a relatively new, planted tank that is heavily stocked. I run pressurized CO2 and Flourish/Excel every couple days. When I first set up the tank I used a phosphate based buffer. I have not used that buffer in weeks.

All my levels are at zero or close to zero with the exception of my phosphate. My phosphates are through the roof and way greater than 10. That test turns so dark blue that it almost stains the cap of the vial.

I noticed this about a week and a half ago and since I performed 3 50% water changes. The levels have not changed at all.

Thoughts?

My current parameters as of this AM:

PH 7.2
Ammonia .25
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 0
GH 5
KH 4
Phosphate >10 (VERY Dark Midnight Blue)
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-14-2020, 12:34 PM
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Typical PO4 sources are tap water (test that), fish food (rotting or processed by the fish), decaying plant, algae, other life in a tank and fertilizer dosing. Make sure that you clean up any detritus and clean your filter. There are phosphate reducing media for filters, but you should be able to control it without resorting to that.

One problem that I see, is your zero nitrates. In a planted tank, nitrates should never be zero. Wth pressurized CO2 and zero nitrate levels (if you are sure about those readings), your plants will stall and may die. So, they are probably not taking up any of the phosphate if they are starved for nitrogen or anything else.

Since you are injecting CO2, you don't need the Excel, although it won't hurt.

If you want to discuss your overall setup,please provide as much of the following as possible:

- Light (make & model): ideally, PAR and PUR reading at the substrate and photoperiod?
- What is the CO2 ppm level and how is it measured??
- Current pH and TDS readings?
- What you are dosing (product and quantity) and how often?
- Substrate type and how long has it been in place?
- What is your filter setup?
- Cleaning regimen (filter and water change frequency and amount)?
- Circulation: surface rippling and are all plants gently moving from top to bottom?
- What is your water source and do you use a water softener?
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-14-2020, 02:57 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deanna View Post
Typical PO4 sources are tap water (test that), fish food (rotting or processed by the fish), decaying plant, algae, other life in a tank and fertilizer dosing. Make sure that you clean up any detritus and clean your filter. There are phosphate reducing media for filters, but you should be able to control it without resorting to that.

One problem that I see, is your zero nitrates. In a planted tank, nitrates should never be zero. Wth pressurized CO2 and zero nitrate levels (if you are sure about those readings), your plants will stall and may die. So, they are probably not taking up any of the phosphate if they are starved for nitrogen or anything else.

Since you are injecting CO2, you don't need the Excel, although it won't hurt.

If you want to discuss your overall setup,please provide as much of the following as possible:

- Light (make & model): ideally, PAR and PUR reading at the substrate and photoperiod?
- What is the CO2 ppm level and how is it measured??
- Current pH and TDS readings?
- What you are dosing (product and quantity) and how often?
- Substrate type and how long has it been in place?
- What is your filter setup?
- Cleaning regimen (filter and water change frequency and amount)?
- Circulation: surface rippling and are all plants gently moving from top to bottom?
- What is your water source and do you use a water softener?
My phosphate straight from the tap water is quite low. Forgot to mention that before.

yeah my nitrates being zero has also been a concern to me. I'm actually not sure this tank has even cycled to be honest. It was set up about a month ago but my levels really haven't changed. In the very beginning I showed some ammonia then that went down and I stayed down since. I think I showed nitrites for like 2 days at a low level.

when I have some time I'll sit down and do a full write-up so you understand my tank setup.

Last edited by Miamitj; 06-14-2020 at 08:43 PM. Reason: Wrote Nitrate meant phosphate
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-14-2020, 03:51 PM
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Have you tested your tap water for PO4?

If is no PO4 in the tap, perform a 90% water change and you should see a difference.

The other possibility is the test itself.

You can make a calibrated solution to be sure. Follow the link for shared files in my signature for instructions.


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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-14-2020, 08:43 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greggz View Post
Have you tested your tap water for PO4?

If is no PO4 in the tap, perform a 90% water change and you should see a difference.

The other possibility is the test itself.

You can make a calibrated solution to be sure. Follow the link for shared files in my signature for instructions.
I wrote nitrite before when I meant phosphate. From the tap water my phosphates are very low.
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-17-2020, 03:59 PM Thread Starter
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Adding more information as this is still a problem I'm trying to resolve... Hopefully someone here can give me some insight. LG has been an issue and I'm suspecting it's highly related to the phosphate levels of the tank. I just need to know where the phosphates are coming from.

Here are my tank parameters from this morning prior to a 50% water change

PH 7
Ammonia .5 ( Just added a bunch of fish )
Nitrite 0
Nitrate <5 but >0
GH 6
KH 4
Phosphate >10 (see photo)
TDS Unknown

I use water from the tap that has barely noticeable phosphates and uses no softener. Prime to detox.

After a 50% water change between it dropped between 5-10. It will be back up over 10 in a day...

Lighting:

Fennix 16" Fugeray Planted +
On from 10am- 5PM (unknown PAR/PUR)

CO2:

One bubble every 4 seconds. In 30 minutes before lights and off an hour before light turn off

Unknown ppm. I use a color based test to make sure co2 is safe yet present.

Dosing

I do about 3ml of Flourish and Excel every three days.

Tank Setup:

Tank is a Fluval 5g.
Substrate is Seachem Flourite (old substrate that was sitting around outside that was washed very well (till water was clear) before reusing.
Light surface ripple from pump outflow
Filter is a custom media basket with course on top, bio medium in the middle, and floss on the bottom.

Two pieces of driftwood are also inside the tank.

Cleaning:

I do a 50% water change at least once every 5 days. Course media is rinsed out and the floss is replaced as needed at every water change.

Stock:
Tank is heavily stocked. Currently there's 7x Ember Tetras, 6x pygmy Corys, and 3x Otto's.

It's heavily planted as well. (See pic)
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-17-2020, 05:32 PM
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Given that Seachem Flourite is a "...fracted stable porous clay gravel for the natural planted aquarium", I would say that the phosphate buffer has bound to the substrate, and it is slowly releasing over time.

Clays are known to bind phosphate: https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/mauisoi...trients02.aspx
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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-17-2020, 06:16 PM
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Based on what I am reading above - I have an idea. Tell me about how/what you feed your fish. Your pic above does not strike me as "over stocked" with fish, but like Dianna stated, "Typical PO4 sources are tap water (test that), fish food (rotting or processed by the fish), decaying plant, algae, other life in a tank and fertilizer dosing.

If you are over feeding an already overstocked tank your PO4 levels likely will go up.
If you are running very low in NO3 (nitrate), your plants are likely starving which can lead to "decaying plants", which would again increase the PO4 levels.
Your 3ml dosing of Flourish does not strike me as much plant food - likely you will need to dose more. The question more likely is "more of what?"

Suggestion, do another 50% water change with Prime and then re-test your PO4 level. If you can pick up some distilled water that would be helpful. Mix up a test tube with 1 part tank water and 3 parts distilled and run the PO4 test. It is much easier to see changes in the .5, 1.0, 2.0ppm area than the 5, 10ppm range.

Just some thoughts
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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-17-2020, 07:34 PM
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The phosphate is probably comming from substrate. Throw some more plants and bump up the Nitrates to 20ppm. Given some time, plants consuming phosphate, and regular water changes your levels should start to go down.

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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-17-2020, 08:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Fisher View Post
Given that Seachem Flourite is a "...fracted stable porous clay gravel for the natural planted aquarium", I would say that the phosphate buffer has bound to the substrate, and it is slowly releasing over time.

Clays are known to bind phosphate: https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/mauisoi...trients02.aspx
Agree with this-- it's really the only logical explanation for phosphate levels that high in this situation.
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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-18-2020, 03:18 AM Thread Starter
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Ty to everyone for your responses.

I'm feeding once a day and skip a day here and there. I really don't feed much and the food varies daily (frozen/dry bloodworm and Brine, flakes, and daphnia). There is no decaying food around.

The plants are recent and there is no decay.

I'm also leaning towards the substrate. I considered changing it out but honestly the plants are finally rooting and not going for a float 3x a day. The other thing I considered is the bio media - it too came from an old tank and was sitting around for a long while.

I want to avoid replacing both of the above to not shock my plants or bacteria.

I think I'm going to continue with water changes and hope for the best. If things don't get better than I may just change both.

I'm also looking into adding something to lower Phosphate. Any recommendations?
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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-18-2020, 02:41 PM
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Plant growth will lower your phosphate. Just remember to add nitrogen and potassium (and micros), but no phosphate. Keep doing regular water changes and the phosphate will reduce, eventually.

You could temporarily add a fast-growing species, like hornwort, that will quickly use up phosphate (and other macros and micros). You could give away or trade your excess growth to other aquarists or your LFS.
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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-18-2020, 03:10 PM
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I also fought very high phosphate for a time and it was what finally drove me away from using a ready mixed fert and going to dry ferts for better control. In my case, I did have a heavy fish load as it was a breeding tank of large (9") African cichlids and the plant load was reasonably low. But using a ready mix, I could not add nitrate without adding all the things i was trying to get down like phosphate.
It may seem really difficult to get the exact amount of ferts added when dosing dry ferts but I found that to me more a mindset thing than fact. I started with the idea that fert amounts to add is like many things we do. It starts as an ESTIMATE and that means to me that being EXACT is not really part of an estimate, but it is truly meant as a starting point to be adjusted as we see how things go.
Consider the cost of the ready made versus dry ferts, look at how easy it is to get the starting point and then adjust as the plants and tests show.
I suggest a basic N and K (skip the phoshate!) with micros from this source:
https://www.nilocg.com/product-categ...ry-fertilizer/
Start with this calc for amounts but don't sweat too much the measurement on the estimate. On dosing day, mix it in tank water and pour it in. Alternate the micros on different days than N<K.
https://rotalabutterfly.com/nutrient-calculator.php
Seems like a bite in the wallet at first but the amounts will last possibly years and much cheaper than paying for the water in premixes!
And finally do some checking with one of these plant nutrient charts to see what might need change:
https://www.google.com/search?q=aqua...n4aQwqnj0DI2M:
Never seen a farmer who did the same ferts every year so why should we if the plants and fish are constantly growing and changing? Easy, peasy but never exactly right!
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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-18-2020, 08:13 PM
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I had Seachem Fluorite for many years and never had a phosphate issue. A heavily stocked tank is going to create a lot of PO4 and NO3 - the fish will expel enough to be a considerable quantity.

Are you plants growing rapidly? With NO3 that low (despite consumption by plants), and probably bottoming out frequently, I suspect that there is not enough growth to consume the PO4 being generated organically.
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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-18-2020, 08:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deanna View Post
I had Seachem Fluorite for many years and never had a phosphate issue. A heavily stocked tank is going to create a lot of PO4 and NO3 - the fish will expel enough to be a considerable quantity.

Are you plants growing rapidly? With NO3 that low (despite consumption by plants), and probably bottoming out frequently, I suspect that there is not enough growth to consume the PO4 being generated organically.
Except he said he performed 3 50% water changes in a week and a half without the levels dropping at all, which doesn't make sense if it's from fish/food waste.
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