Out of control nitrates. - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-15-2012, 04:22 PM Thread Starter
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Out of control nitrates.

I'll try and make this as short as possible while getting the most information out.

My nitrates are consistently high the last 2-3 months. 60-100 at some times.

Well water tap has a nitrate level of 5ppm.

I realize the results from test kits available to most of us should be taken with a grain of salt, but I've used multiple kits and had multiple shops verify my readings and we've all come up with the same numbers.

As i've noticed this I dialed back the ferts as to the point now where I'm dosing no KNO3 at all and still getting high levels in 1 weeks time.

All other parameters are the same as they've ever been.

The tank is pretty heavily planted and lightly stocked so I assume many of the nitrates should be getting used up.



Fish are periodically dying off. I had a large die off I blamed on getting unhealthy fish from a store, but now that I've read on Old Tank Syndrome I think I may be in that boat.

It's getting frustrating and I'm thinking of tearing the tank down and starting anew. Any help is greatly appreciated and I'll make sure to answer any additional questions you may have. Thanks. Kevin.


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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-15-2012, 05:14 PM
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Getting all the preliminary stuff out of the way: What exactly are you dosing? What is your water change schedule? What kind of filters do you have and how often do you clean them.

Standard 10 Gallon (20 x12x12).
Low tech, Sand substrate.
Eheim 2211, and Aqueon Quietflow 10.
Finnex Stingray LED, 20" above substrate
2 Anubias Nana Petite, Christmas moss.
4 Halequin Rasborahs, 5 RCS.
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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-15-2012, 05:21 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by livingword26 View Post
Getting all the preliminary stuff out of the way: What exactly are you dosing? What is your water change schedule? What kind of filters do you have and how often do you clean them.
KNO3 - started at 1/2 tsp, then 1/4, then 1/8 now nothing
KH2PO4 - 1/8 tsp
Plantex CSM+B - 1/8 tsp
Iron - 1/16 tsp

Normal odd/even dosing routine

Water change 50% every Sunday

Filter is Cascade 700 filled with bio media and a filter floss pad. Cleaned every 2-3 months or when flow reduction is noticeable.


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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-15-2012, 05:32 PM
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Thats a very nice looking aquarium. Unless dying fish is the reason for your nitrates, the only thing that I can see that could be a problem is your filter. It seems undersized for a 46 gallon, and you could easily run 2 of those filters on that setup. Waiting for 3 months to clean it out could easily account for nitrate problems.

Standard 10 Gallon (20 x12x12).
Low tech, Sand substrate.
Eheim 2211, and Aqueon Quietflow 10.
Finnex Stingray LED, 20" above substrate
2 Anubias Nana Petite, Christmas moss.
4 Halequin Rasborahs, 5 RCS.
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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-15-2012, 08:17 PM
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I was also having runaway nitrate on one tank and have now stopped adding KNO3. My tank was lightly planted with a large fish load.

I would go for getting the nitrate down by large 75-80% water changes or many smaller ones back to back if you feel you have fish that would be harmed by large ones. I find few fish who are bothered by large changes if the water is matched well.

It could be that the Cascade is collecting too much before it is cleaned. I find I can't relie on the flow dropoff on it to tell me as much as on other canisters as it has a real problem with bypassing the media. I can stick a ruler down alongside the media baskets where water can just gush back to the top. More water changing and/or more frequent cleaning may be needed.

While trying to find the cause, cutting back radically on feeding will not harm any fish. They always act hungery!
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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-16-2012, 01:16 PM
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i see from your journal 5Body that you have MTS. Did you use MGOPS by chance?

And have you always had high nitrates in this tank from day one?


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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-16-2012, 01:37 PM
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It has a real chance to be the cause of what salt water guys refer to as nitrate factories. Your cannister. If you're leaving organic's sit in the cannister for 3 months they're going to constantly break down, increasing nitrates. Look at cleaning it much more often, the beauty of sumps are it takes all of 2 minutes to remove and swap out your dirty filter material. I found with cannisters I would wait FAR to long to clean them
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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-16-2012, 02:17 PM
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Another vote for the canister being the culprit, but just in case, have you tested your tap water lately?
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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-16-2012, 04:37 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by livingword26 View Post
Thats a very nice looking aquarium. Unless dying fish is the reason for your nitrates, the only thing that I can see that could be a problem is your filter. It seems undersized for a 46 gallon, and you could easily run 2 of those filters on that setup. Waiting for 3 months to clean it out could easily account for nitrate problems.
Thanks. I'll be looking for a better filter. Got this one off craigslist very cheap and it's been pretty good for me. I know...always overfilter.


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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-16-2012, 04:44 PM Thread Starter
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I was also having runaway nitrate on one tank and have now stopped adding KNO3. My tank was lightly planted with a large fish load.

I would go for getting the nitrate down by large 75-80% water changes or many smaller ones back to back if you feel you have fish that would be harmed by large ones. I find few fish who are bothered by large changes if the water is matched well.

It could be that the Cascade is collecting too much before it is cleaned. I find I can't relie on the flow dropoff on it to tell me as much as on other canisters as it has a real problem with bypassing the media. I can stick a ruler down alongside the media baskets where water can just gush back to the top. More water changing and/or more frequent cleaning may be needed.

While trying to find the cause, cutting back radically on feeding will not harm any fish. They always act hungery!
I found a tip in a thread somewhere to wrap the media basket with filter floss hold it in place with teflon tape to stop the flow by. Just tried it.


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post #11 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-16-2012, 04:45 PM Thread Starter
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i see from your journal 5Body that you have MTS. Did you use MGOPS by chance?

And have you always had high nitrates in this tank from day one?
Yes I used MGOPS, but i ditched the dirt. Too messy for the amount topping and planting stems I do.

No I never had this problem before, just within the last few months.


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post #12 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-16-2012, 04:47 PM Thread Starter
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Just cleaned out the canister. Didn't seem too dirty, but gave it a cleaning nonetheless. I'll see how things go for the next week or so.

The tap has a consistent nitrate level of 5ppm.


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post #13 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-16-2012, 04:50 PM
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I will also say the filter is the problem, you are not cleaning the bio media enough and that is allowing the nitrates to build up substantially, I also think you are under filtering the tank by the filter l/h turnover being to slow.

Clean out the filter at least once a week ( only with tank water ), take the bio stuff out and wash it around in some tank water in a bucket or something to get the rotten food particles off it all.
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post #14 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-16-2012, 05:10 PM
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Try dosing more phosphates, doubling your current dosage. The plants can't use all of the nitrates unless they have phosphates in adequate supply too. Also, add CO2, even with DIY CO2, for the same reason. Planted tanks should never have excessive nitrate problems when you aren't even dosing any.

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post #15 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-16-2012, 05:22 PM
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Ill echo the part about the canister being underpowered for your aquarium. It tops off at 185 gph at its best, you need soemthing that gives at least 460gph. Switch to an Aquatop CF-500UV and you will be in much better shape
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