The Effects Of Nitrates? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 06-26-2008, 06:53 PM Thread Starter
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The Effects Of Nitrates?

Okay, a lot of us know that nitrates can be very toxic especially to creatures like shrimps and crayfish. But I've been questioning the effects of them.


1. How do nitrates effect your tank inhabitants? Since I'm more concern about shrimps and crayfish, my question mainly relates to them. Like: is it a slow, very gradual effect that takes awhile or is it fairly fast. Are the symptoms visible beforehand or take its toll without much signs, or it varies?

Why do I ask this?

Because I noticed while keeping some cherry shrimps and having some nitrate problems that some show slight symptoms of being effected by nitrates, some don't. Most of them still eat and attempt to breed just as usual while some don't move as much. Its hard to comprehend the effects of nitrates when shrimps that clearly show little to no abnormal behaviors, suddenly die.


I've recently tested my water for nitrates and its showing around 10-20ppm. However, after adding two crayfish into the water and carefully monitoring over the last few days, I found that it is still healthy and alert. Does this mean that my test kit is inaccurate and there are really no dangers to nitrates or is it related to the questions above, where nitrate poisoning is a very gradual thing that takes even longer to really show, symptom-wise.

Can I safely assume its okay to add more crays while my test kit has a rather high reading of ppm or should I continue to watch the crays I have now?
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 06-26-2008, 07:01 PM
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You might want to chose a canary so to speak. RCS are good candidates.
You need to have enough control to make certain that the only variable you are really testing is NO3 from KNO3.

Folks often kill shrimp without adding anything to their tanks also.
So you need a control.

Also, if someone can keep them and grow them just fine at 20ppm, and they dose KNO3 to this level often etc, and are confident over time that this rate of KNO3 dosing does no harm,then it stands to reason that NO3 at 20ppm is not the cause.

Calibrated test methods are a requirement.
NO3 via waste that starts off as NH4 is not equivalent to KNO3 derived sources. Also, sediment based sources are also an issue potentially.

Tom Barr

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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 06-27-2008, 05:41 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the info Tom. I'm thinking about it. As always, appreciate the info.

If anyone wants to add anything, feel free to do so.
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 06-27-2008, 09:21 PM
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My tank at home has EI dosing and CRS, they look and do fine.

So has Rain-
There's no new evidence that suggest I or she is incorrect about it, nor that the dosing needs to be very critical careful within typical EI dosing routines.
On the other hand, I would have to rule out every other possible factor to show that NO3 is killing them. Which is a much taller order and much more difficult.

Rather than proving that, I assume that a certain level should kill them, then add it. If it does not kill them or harm them over time, then I can assume that the cause is something other than NO3 for death, because when I did that and knew I added 20-30ppm NO3, I had no deaths, then I have done this repeatedly for many weeks, as have others...

So I have plenty of replicated time blocks, as do other folks.
The likelyhood I and they are wrong is extremely small.

These are reasonable logical assumptions that safely help uncover what is or is not hurting my critters, plants, algae etc.

It has nothing to do with belief, it has more to do with logic, testing and asking a good question I can answer by dosing KNO3. Folks that do not even keep any plants or dose any KNO3 at all also kill fish and shrimp.

So there is no control there and no control in the test.
If you can do it without killing them in both cases, then the tank itself acts like a control to some degree.

You are growing the plants, shrimp etc the "right way".
When you add something, they appear not to be effected at all.

Like adding PO4 to a well run planted tank= no algae.
You need no control because the reference is a well run tank to begin with where algae is not present.

If you chose a a poorly run tank with algae, added PO4, you'd likely get more algae and conclude that excess PO4 = more algae.

Obviously that's not a good assumption or a fair conclusion, whereas for the well run reference tank, it is.

Ideally you'd have separate control tanks and measure them as well.
But few aquarist have this or measure it. Getting them to be the same also presents a problem.

So a good reference tank and good level of culturing competence is required to test such matters. And to produce anything new as far as tolerance of CRS, Cherries, Amano's or fish and plants etc.

The methods are pretty similar for all these wide range of groups.
If you do not have that ability, then you will be suspicious and unsure.
You will question me, and others........but you will learn if you keep at it.
I do not know why some folks have issues, I only know what causes it cannot be, I do not know why X aquarist has dead CRS in many cases.
Sorry, folks do not know everything, but they can learn a little about the possible suspects and rule them out.

I have ADA AS as well, high light and CO2 etc.

Tom Barr

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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 06-27-2008, 11:19 PM
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Things like this can affect animals differently the same way they can humans. You could compare it to being exposed to radiation- in lower doses, it can be a very very long time before any symptoms show up in humans, though they might be developing fatal cancers.

In something as small as a shrimp, how do we tell? For the most part, we can only see whether they're dead or alive, if the overall numbers are increasing or decreasing, and we can tell a little bit from their color and behavior... but this might be far from the whole story.

Their circulatory systems could be shutting down. Their exoskeletons could be thinning. They could be going blind... how on earth would we know without dissecting them?

In addition, there's Old Tank Syndrome to take into consideration; sometimes organisms are able to slowly adapt over time to conditions that would kill an organism that might be newly bought and "plopped" right into the tank.

So I think there's a lot of factors in play.

The bottom line for me would be- we do know that high nitrates tend to be bad for inverts the same way super fatty diets and no exercise are bad for us humans... but it's usually easier to control nitrAtes in a fish tank than get us humans to eat better and exercise , so watch the nitrAtes.

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