root tabs - off the chart nitrate reading - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-19-2014, 03:26 PM Thread Starter
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root tabs - off the chart nitrate reading

Hi Folks,

So here is my situation. When I set up my 50g tank, I pushed about 20 osmocate+ capsules into the sand substrate before I planted it. The next day I started dowsing dry ferts, EI style. Tested my nitrates at the end of the week and they are were 160+ppm!!! The tank is home to only plants (and ponds snails) at the moment. Did a 50% water change on Sunday and have not dosed macros at all this week. Tested the nitrates again this morning and they were over 80ppm. I'm guessing that the nitrates are leeching up through the sand from the root tabs and into my water column.

Should my course of action be to stop dosing the dry ferts completely, and rely soley on the root tabs for a while? I would really like to start cycling the tank and stock some fish soon. I'm hoping I can get this figured out
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-19-2014, 03:35 PM
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20 might be a lot depending on the footprint of your tank and your plant density. Though there's some variables that need to be listed. What plants do you have in your tank? Are you injecting CO2? What kind of lighting do you have over your tank? Do some 50% water changes to bring down the nitrates and stop dosing your dry ferts temporarily.

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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-19-2014, 03:41 PM
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Same happened to me but I added far more than you did. Leeched nitrates for 5 months. It's finally stopped and I can now dose nitrates. Phosphate and other nutrients seemed to have leeched out much faster.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-19-2014, 03:59 PM Thread Starter
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50g (36x18x18)
C02 injected, approx. 30ppm - on 2 hours before lights come on, off 1 hour before lights go off
Finnex FugeRay II & Finnex MonsterRay - mounted to rim - lights on for 7 hours (dealing with algea at the moment, lowered photoperiod from 9 hours)


(Mon, Wed, Fri)
KNO3 - 2.3g
KH2PSO4 - 0.33g
K2SO4 - 0.9g

(Tues, Thurs, Sat)
Iron - 9mL (Seachem Iron)
CSM+B - 1.4g

50% water change

Limnophila Aromatica
Ludwigia "red"
Rotala Wallichii
Rotala H'r
Rotala macandra ‘varigated’
Mayaca fluviatilis
Rotala indica 'Green'
Alternanthera reineckii
Alternanthera reineckii sp. Mini
Lindernia Rotundifolia 'Varigated'
Blyxa japonica
Marsilea minuta
Echinodoru tenellus
true Dwarf Sag

I would say the tank is moderately planted (more plants arriving this week)

I will do another 50% water change after work today.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-19-2014, 08:54 PM Thread Starter
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I probably should mention that nitrates are undetectable in my tap water.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-19-2014, 09:17 PM
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Do some water changes to bring the nitrates down and stop dosing temporarily. Eventually, you can start dosing everything other than nitrate like Solcielo suggested. Watch the plants to see how they're growing and dose if you start seeing deficiencies or if they start slowing down in growth.

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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-19-2014, 09:58 PM
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Ive had a similar experience except Fe was the excess nutrient. Macros spikes were unnoticeable. I literally killed a good portion of A gracillias, L glandulosa and Mermaid weed within a week of starting EI. Sorta ironic that it was mostly red plants affected.

I also used way more than the OP, and it was only after a few weeks of testing/experimenting with doses that I narrowed down the problem. I then went probably 2 months with no traces at all. Only recently have I been dosing csmb again, still about 1/3 EI.

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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-20-2014, 01:38 AM
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You can start the fishless cycle while you are trying to figure this out.
One of these extremes may happen, or somewhere in the middle:

a) Plants remove pretty much all the ammonia, and the little bit that is left is also used up as even a small population of nitrifying bacteria turn it into nitrite and nitrate.
Test results:
Ammonia disappears overnight, zero or barely any color in nitrite test or nitrate test

b) Plants have brought in some bacteria that turn the ammonia into nitrite and nitrate, but plants are not using it all.
Test results:
Ammonia starts disappearing, but may not all go away overnight, some nitrite, some nitrate shows up.

I would just dose to 1 ppm ammonia with the plants in there.

Here is the fishless cycle:
Cycle: To grow the beneficial bacteria that remove ammonia and nitrite from the aquarium.

Fish-In Cycle: To expose fish to toxins while using them as the source of ammonia to grow nitrogen cycle bacteria. Exposure to ammonia burns the gills and other soft tissue, stresses the fish and lowers their immunity. Exposure to nitrite makes the blood unable to carry oxygen. Research methemglobinemia for details.

Fishless Cycle: The safe way to grow more bacteria, faster, in an aquarium, pond or riparium.

The method I give here was developed by 2 scientists who wanted to quickly grow enough bacteria to fully stock a tank all at one time, with no plants helping, and overstock it as is common with Rift Lake Cichlid tanks.

1a) Set up the tank and all the equipment. You can plant if you want. Include the proper dose of dechlorinator with the water.
Optimum water chemistry:
GH and KH above 3 German degrees of hardness. A lot harder is just fine.
pH above 7, and into the mid 8s is just fine.
Temperature in the upper 70s F (mid 20s C) is good. Higher is OK if the water is well aerated.
A trace of other minerals may help. Usually this comes in with the water, but if you have a pinch of KH2PO4, that may be helpful.
High oxygen level. Make sure the filter and power heads are running well. Plenty of water circulation.
No toxins in the tank. If you washed the tank, or any part of the system with any sort of cleanser, soap, detergent, bleach or anything else make sure it is well rinsed. Do not put your hands in the tank when you are wearing any sort of cosmetics, perfume or hand lotion. No fish medicines of any sort.
A trace of salt (sodium chloride) is OK, but not required.
This method of growing bacteria will work in a marine system, too. The species of bacteria are different.

1b) Optional: Add any source of the bacteria that you are growing to seed the tank. Cycled media from a healthy tank is good. Decor or some gravel from a cycled tank is OK. Live plants or plastic are OK. Bottled bacteria is great, but only if it contains Nitrospira species of bacteria. Read the label and do not waste your money on anything else.
At the time this was written the right species could be found in:
Dr. Tims One and Only
Tetra Safe Start
Microbe Lift Nite Out II
...and perhaps others.
You do not have to jump start the cycle. The right species of bacteria are all around, and will find the tank pretty fast.

2) Add ammonia until the test reads 5 ppm. This ammonia is the cheapest you can find. No surfactants, no perfumes. Read the fine print. This is often found at discount stores like Dollar Tree, or hardware stores like Ace. You could also use a dead shrimp form the grocery store, or fish food. Protein breaks down to become ammonia. You do not have good control over the ammonia level, though.
Some substrates release ammonia when they are submerged for the first time. Monitor the level and do enough water changes to keep the ammonia at the levels detailed below.

3) Test daily. For the first few days not much will happen, but the bacteria that remove ammonia are getting started. Finally the ammonia starts to drop. Add a little more, once a day, to test 5 ppm.

4) Test for nitrite. A day or so after the ammonia starts to drop the nitrite will show up. When it does allow the ammonia to drop to 3 ppm.

5) Test daily. Add ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. If the nitrite or ammonia go to 5 ppm do a water change to get these lower. The ammonia removing species and the nitrite removing species (Nitrospira) do not do well when the ammonia or nitrite are over 5 ppm.

6) When the ammonia and nitrite both hit zero 24 hours after you have added the ammonia the cycle is done. You can challenge the bacteria by adding a bit more than 3 ppm ammonia, and it should be able to handle that, too, within 24 hours.

7) Now test the nitrate. Probably sky high!
Do as big a water change as needed to lower the nitrate until it is safe for fish. Certainly well under 20, and a lot lower is better. This may call for more than one water change, and up to 100% water change is not a problem. Remember the dechlor!
If you will be stocking right away (within 24 hours) no need to add more ammonia. If stocking will be delayed keep feeding the bacteria by adding ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. You will need to do another water change right before adding the fish.

Helpful hints:

A) You can run a fishless cycle in a bucket to grow bacteria on almost any filter media like bio balls, sponges, ceramic bio noodles, lava rock or Matala mats. Simply set up any sort of water circulation such as a fountain pump or air bubbler and add the media to the bucket. Follow the directions for the fishless cycle. When the cycle is done add the media to the filter. I have run a canister filter in a bucket and done the fishless cycle.

B) The nitrogen cycle bacteria will live under a wide range of conditions and bounce back from minor set backs. By following the set up suggestions in part 1a) you are setting up optimum conditions for fastest reproduction and growth.
GH and KH can be as low as 1 degree, but watch it! These bacteria use the carbon in carbonates, and if it is all used up (KH = 0) the bacteria may die off.
pH as low as 6.5 is OK, but by 6.0 the bacteria are not going to be doing very well. They are still there, and will recover pretty well when conditions get better.
Temperature almost to freezing is OK, but they must not freeze, and they are not very active at all. They do survive in a pond, but they are slow to warm up and get going in the spring. This is where you might need to grow some in a bucket in a warm place and supplement the pond population. Too warm is not good, either. Tropical or room temperature tank temperatures are best. (68 to 85*F or 20 to 28*C)
Moderate oxygen can be tolerated for a while. However, to remove lots of ammonia and nitrite these bacteria must have oxygen. They turn one into the other by adding oxygen. If you must stop running the filter for an hour or so, no problem. If longer, remove the media and keep it where it will get more oxygen.
Once the bacteria are established they can tolerate some fish medicines. This is because they live in a complex film called Bio film on all the surfaces in the filter and the tank. Medicines do not enter the bio film well.
These bacteria do not need to live under water. They do just fine in a humid location. They live in healthy garden soil, as well as wet locations.

C) Planted tanks may not tolerate 3 ppm or 5 ppm ammonia. It is possible to cycle the tank at lower levels of ammonia so the plants do not get ammonia burn. Add ammonia to only 1 ppm, but test twice a day, and add ammonia as needed to keep it at 1 ppm. The plants are also part of the bio filter, and you may be able to add the fish sooner, if the plants are thriving.
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