Nitrates too low - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-15-2012, 02:28 PM Thread Starter
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Nitrates too low

I've just tested my nitrates before doing my bi-weekly WC. The test gave me a result somewhere between 0ppm and 5ppm. Im using the API brand of test kit which is fairly new. I know for sure that it is still good because I also tested water for nitrates from a small container with decayed/decaying organic matter that I use to culture mosquit larva. This test gave me all very high readings on ammonia, nitrite and nitrate.

The tank is low tech with mineralized soil substrate, no ferts, no CO2, and not heavily planted. Fauna: a 2 inch angelfish(stunted-long story), 10 neons, 4 zebra danios, and a few small quilted melania. I do bi-weekly water changes summing up to 20% a month.

What could be causing such low nitrate levels?

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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-15-2012, 02:34 PM
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You must have enough plants to consume the tank's collaborative bioload.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-15-2012, 02:41 PM Thread Starter
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So does it mean I have too much plants or a low bioload?

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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-15-2012, 03:01 PM
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Depending on your goals for the tank, it could mean that you should dose nitrate (e.g., by directly adding it, or indirectly by feeding more heavily and/or adding more fish), or that you should decrease the plants' demand for nitrate (e.g., by removing some plants or reducing photo-period), or do nothing at all (if you're happy with how things are).

It really depends on what you're trying to achieve.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-15-2012, 04:02 PM
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I believe Jules nailed it down well. It can be a great thing if you have fish, they may be loving it. Low nitrate is the thing fish only tanks do the water changes to get. If you want more for the plants, simply cutting back on water changes may keep more in the tank.
I struggle with the opposite. High nitrate for the fish. I'm doing more water changes and hoping to get to your situation if the plants will begin to suck up more nitrate.
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-15-2012, 04:16 PM Thread Starter
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This sounds good. A few weeks back I had my nitrates at 20ppm or maybe higher and when I added a couple stems of hygro corymbosa it slowly declined to this level. Is this level good enough for my setup? Wont it cause problems in the future?

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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-15-2012, 08:23 PM
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If the plants don't run out of nitrate to the level they are slowed in growth, it might sound like the ideal. What we would love to have is a tank where light, ferts like nitrate and CO2 are all in balance. But then most of are still searching for the ideal.
We would all like to balance on that tightrope! We normally have to change a bunch of water to keep it all close to right.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-16-2012, 03:49 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the response. I will have to monitor the plants for deficiencies.

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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-24-2012, 02:48 PM Thread Starter
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It's been around a week since I added a little extra food during feeding but it didn't help much. Nitrates are still below 5ppm and some new growths seems to look a little distorted. How do I increae the nitrate level?

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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-24-2012, 03:15 PM
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Nitrates should be very low. Many aquatic plants prefer to uptake ammonia (takes up less energy) first before nitrates, if you're reading any nitrate levels it means they're not uptaking ammonia fast enough and some get converted down. You're good on ferts, don't overdose fert especially in a low-tech.

Your fish will provide more than enough macro, and fish food provides enough micro. If you take it out of balance you'll just get algae outbreaks.

See http://theaquariumwiki.com/Plants_an..._Over_Nitrates re ammonia preference.

I stopped dosing any of my tanks with shrimp and fish 7 months ago, they're still thriving.

And as a general rule, plant heavily, I see no reason not to, it outcompetes algae, filters the water, and plant growth are self limited to the amount of light, fert, and CO2 you have. You only need to change water if the TDS concentration is outside the toleration of whatever species you keep, i.e change >300 TDS for most fish and neocaridina (rcs), change >200 TDS for caridina (crystal shrimp). Most organic TDS gets broken down and reused, so you should be doing very infrequent water changes. Use root tabs if you do see deficiencies, should only need to every year or so if you're using dirt and have plenty of snails to move waste around.

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Last edited by xenxes; 07-24-2012 at 03:26 PM. Reason: z
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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-24-2012, 04:39 PM
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Pardon my ignorance on the topic, but if you're using something like MTS or AS and aren't dosing a low tech lightly planted tank then would you not expect to have low nitrates in your water column? I think part of the reason for going with a rich substrate is to not dose the water column although some people do dose EI while using a rich substrate. If you look at ADA, water column dosing is minimal and water column levels are minimal yet plants seem to grow very well. I think the test results you have are nothing unusual at all for the way you're running the tank.

Last edited by Jeff5614; 07-24-2012 at 04:44 PM. Reason: addition
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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-24-2012, 10:35 PM Thread Starter
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I thought plants use up ammonium not ammonia. I've read this on several forums that when fish release ammonia it quickly gains a hydrogen ion(atom?) and turns into ammonium which is used by plants. This process is pH dependent. So how does pH affect this process?

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Last edited by specks; 07-24-2012 at 10:46 PM. Reason: .
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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-24-2012, 10:55 PM Thread Starter
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Ok nevermind. Thanks for clearing things up.

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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-16-2018, 09:55 PM
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I have the same issue. I would like to add more plants and more fish but I'm worried about distorting my balance right now.

I have a 10 gallon tank with two small plants ( mini sword and anubias?), a snail, 3 glowlight tetras, a zebra danios, and just added 2 African dwarf frogs.

My tank is testing at 0 nitrites and only trace levels of nitrate. I am increasing my feeding schedule because I'm worried that there isn't enough nutrients in the water for the plants, and I'm also worried that my snail isn't getting enough to eat. I know that may be a little ridiculous considering all the problems people have with snails overpopulating tanks.
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