Will Plants stop consuming nitrates if trace elements are not there? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-28-2015, 10:49 AM Thread Starter
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Will Plants stop consuming nitrates if trace elements are not there?

Will Plants stop consuming nitrates if trace elements are not there?

Petco tells my my nitrates are like 40PPM and I'm wondering how that can be with such a heavy planted tank. I wonder why all this plant life is not consuming the nitrates unless its somehow depending on trace elements as well?

I did throw in a root tablet which might have contributed to such high nitrate levels.

Thanks.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-28-2015, 11:03 AM
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Do you have a pic or link to journal? Helps to get an idea of plant species, density, amount of livestock etc and makes it easier to comment on nutrient uptake and levels.

Nitrate tests are notoriously inaccurate, even in experienced hands. I certainly wouldn't trust Petco to perform my nitrate testing. Your method needs to be good and consistent and you need to use reference solutions to calibrate your kits. They also lose accuracy as they age. They are most accurate within 6 weeks of opening, then it's mostly downhill..
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-28-2015, 11:11 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Straight shooter View Post
Do you have a pic or link to journal? Helps to get an idea of plant species, density, amount of livestock etc and makes it easier to comment on nutrient uptake and levels.

Nitrate tests are notoriously inaccurate, even in experienced hands. I certainly wouldn't trust Petco to perform my nitrate testing. Your method needs to be good and consistent and you need to use reference solutions to calibrate your kits. They also lose accuracy as they age. They are most accurate within 6 weeks of opening, then it's mostly downhill..

This forum should really give you the ability to attach a list of your aquarium specs.

Here is a list from an excel sheet I made.

Anubias nana
Assorted Anubias
Tropical Fern
Java Fern "Narrow"
Green Rotala
Moss Ball marimo
Dwarf Baby Tears
Anubias NANGI
JAVA Moss
Banana plant
Golden Jenny Lysimachia Nummularia
Red Ludwigia
Ammannia reineckii 'Pink' roseafolia or gracilis
Argentine Sword Echinodorus argentinensis
Cryptocoryne Wendtii Green
Anacharis Bunch Egeria Densa
Moneywort Bacopa monnieri
HairGrass eleocharis acicularis
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-28-2015, 11:17 AM
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Just write a list of specs once then keep it as a file on your computer, copy and paste as necessary. Update the file when you can be bothered.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-28-2015, 11:20 AM Thread Starter
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Just write a list of specs once then keep it as a file on your computer, copy and paste as necessary. Update the file when you can be bothered.
With the exception of the dwarf baby tears, they are the plants that Petco sells in those tubes, aquariums and packages(betta buddy)
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-28-2015, 12:17 PM
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Will Plants stop consuming nitrates if trace elements are not there?

Petco tells my my nitrates are like 40PPM and I'm wondering how that can be with such a heavy planted tank. I wonder why all this plant life is not consuming the nitrates unless its somehow depending on trace elements as well?

I did throw in a root tablet which might have contributed to such high nitrate levels.

Thanks.
Nitrates were high for me, until I increased the phosphates.
Now I am dosing nitrates again. These are macro related though.

Wonder about trusting employees at Petco.


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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-28-2015, 01:07 PM
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If you are observing plant growth in your tank - then they are using the available nitrogen provided by ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates and in that order of preference. Nitrogen is primarily used by plants for proteins that that builds the plant cells but to function properly the plants need the other macro nutrients namely - phosphates and potassium. Its the limiting levels of the phosphates and potassium that will cause the plants to be unable to use up the nitrogen available and you would see nitrate levels rise.

That may as it is but the most common reason for seeing high nitrates in a tank is usually too much nitrogen fertilisers. Root tablets are frequent culprits in leaching out too much nitrogen fertilisers into the tank water - go light with these tablets. A 50% water change will bring down the nitrates. If you are not otherwise dosing plant nutrients - then do dose potassium and phosphate and the plants will soon control the rest of the nitrates - you could ease off further dosing thereafter.

On the other hand if you are routinely dosing plant nutrients - then ease off the nitrates for some time till you see low nitrogen, or low plant growth. Lack of micro nutrients would normally not be observed in a tank where the plants have not been overdriven by intense light and unlimiting CO2 and macro-nutrients. The fish food and the weekly water change routines will usually take care of micro-nutrients. Most hobbyist tend to overdose the micro-nutrients and that too unnecessarily.

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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-28-2015, 02:30 PM
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Fish food generally has a fair amount of N, P and most traces. So if the NO3 was mostly from fish food, then I would make the assumption that P and traces are OK.
Fish food is low in K, Fe, Mg and Ca.
Water changes generally take care of Ca and Mg, unless you have really soft water. But you could supplement with a little GH booster, see if that helps.
I would definitely add K and chelated Fe as the first step to dosing a tank that gets most nutrients from fish food.

What are the ingredients in the fertilizer you have added? If it includes NO3, then this sure could contribute to the rise in NO3. Fish seem to tolerate NO3 from fertilizer better than from decomposing fish food. If this NO3 is mostly from fertilizer, then I would not do extra water changes. Just let the plants deal with it, and do regular water changes, whatever schedule you are used to doing.

Good idea, though to look at the overall picture. See where the plant nutrients are coming from, and get some sort of idea if they are balanced or not. Then look into supplementing the nutrients that are in the shortest supply.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-28-2015, 03:01 PM
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A picture of the aquarium, size, number of fish (species included) would help a lot. I had nitrate issues with my tank and it required weekly water changes to keep them about 20-40 PPM. After planting spiral vals, which grow incredibly quickly, I've been able to maintain my nitrates at 20 PPM for weeks without a water change.

If you notice deficiencies and your plants aren't growing, that is likely part of the problem. But the density of your planting and the type of plants matters a lot too. Anubias is a slow grower and could easily cover an entire tank and still have issues. Water sprite, on the other hand, grows quickly and could have much less plant mass and absorb more nitrates.


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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-28-2015, 03:29 PM
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Logic says that if plants need nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous and numerous other elements in smaller quantities in order to grow well, then not having one or more of those would at least slow the growth rate of the plants, therefore slowing their usage of nitrogen or any other nutrient element. The plants grow the fastest, therefore using each of those elements the fastest, when all of them are available in adequate concentrations in the water.
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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-28-2015, 11:25 PM
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It's called Liebig's law of the minimum. In short "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link."
For example, if potassium is a limiting factor then plant growth (and nitrogen consumption) will be limited by it.
It can be gazzilion of limiting factors - light, co2, temperature, pH, micro and macro elements.

Commonly (if there are enough trace elements dosed in heavily planted tank) is lack of phosphates. Redfield ratio (N:P=16:1) helps to determine optimal phosphate concentration.

Of course, if some of fertilizers contain nitrates, then it explains high concentration.
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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-29-2015, 02:59 AM
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Originally Posted by mikluha View Post
Redfield ratio (N:P=16:1) helps to determine optimal phosphate concentration.
The Redfield ratio isn't relevant for our aquariums, and it is typically miscalculated anyway. Any amount of phosphates that does not limit the plant growth, and any amount of nitrates that doesn't limit the plant growth are both good. And, both can be well above what we normally dose without causing harm.

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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-30-2015, 07:42 PM
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5:1 ratio is good for N and P, if you are seeing rise in NO3 and slower growth, i would add some PO4 to see what happen.

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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-30-2015, 11:31 PM
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I have long been dosing phosphates (KH2PO4) at about one third to one half of the amount of nitrates (KNO3) I dose, in order to avoid any green spot algae. It has worked very well for me.

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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-31-2015, 10:42 PM
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Do you perform regular water changes? If so, have you tested the water that you're using. My tap water has a high nitrate. I have an extremely densely planted tank and don't ever add nitrates with my EI dosing. There's always enough there.

I've had Petco test my water. With the multi-test strips, warehouse store lighting to throw off the colors, and the expert testing techniques used by the employee, I would estimate a nitrate reading accuracy of somewhere in the neighborhood of +/- 3000%

I never had any luck with the API test kit. If you decide to get a kit and test your own levels I'd recommend the Seachem one.
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