Need help w/ new tank, crazy nitrates - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-17-2012, 01:35 AM Thread Starter
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Unhappy Need help w/ new tank, crazy nitrates

I am hoping someone can help me with my new 5 gallon planted tank. This is the first time I have kept live plants so I am very much a newbie. Here's the specs on my tank:

5 gal AGA
Lighting: 2x screw-in CF, 10 watts each, 6500K, for 8 hours a day
Substrate: 1" of Flourite, topped with 1" Tahitian Moon Sand
Filtration: Azoo Palm filter, with seeded bio-rings from my established tank
Heater: 25 watt Hydor
Water: RO water from LFS, remineralized with Replenish
Additives: 2 drops Excel daily

Fish: 1 male betta

Plants:
Dwarf Sagittaria
Anubias Nana
Kleiner Prinz Sword
Crypt Lutea
Crypt Parva
Crypt Wendtii
Crypt Undulata
Rotala Rotundifolia
Rotala Mini
C. Brownei
Dwarf Aquarium Lily

The tank was set up on 10/5/12. When I tested the water 5 days later I almost passed out. It was:

pH - 8.0
Ammonia - 4.00 (not sure how my fish isn't dead)
Nitrite - 0.25
Nitrate - 80 ppm +

I have been doing huge water changes every day since then. The ammonia creeps up again every day, and the nitrates don't seem to go down at all. Last night I tested my nitrates before doing the biggest WC possible, they were around 80 ppm (probably higher. I have a really hard time distinguishing the colors on that one). After the water change they were still between 40 and 80. I don't even know how that's possible. I drained the tank down to the substrate.

At this point I am really frustrated. My betta's fins are getting really bad from the poor water quality. Any thoughts on what is causing this? Someone on another forum said it could be stuff leaching from the Flourite. I am more than willing to take it all out at this point and start over with different substrate if that's what it is.

I have had some "melting" on the plants since day 1, but I don't know if it's bad enough to be causing such huge water quality issues. Please help!
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-17-2012, 01:50 AM
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if youre water changing with tap water, test your tap water. that might be the source of your problems.




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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-17-2012, 01:54 AM
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Slow down on your water changes. Flourite is knowen to raise PH, Ammonia, and Nitrites. How long has this aquarium been up and running? I would stop using remineralized with Replenish. You already have to much going on with your water. I never use that stuff with my R/O water. Who told you that you had to have this stuff anyways? It sounds like your aquarium is still going through the stages of becoming a new tank. Stop using the Excel also for a while. You do not need to add this stuff everyday.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-17-2012, 02:05 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Dog View Post
Slow down on your water changes. Flourite is knowen to raise PH, Ammonia, and Nitrites. How long has this aquarium been up and running? I would stop using remineralized with Replenish. You already have to much going on with your water. I never use that stuff with my R/O water. Who told you that you had to have this stuff anyways? It sounds like your aquarium is still going through the stages of becoming a new tank. Stop using the Excel also for a while. You do not need to add this stuff everyday.
The aquarium has been running for about 10 days. I used filter media from an established tank. I thought that since RO water is completely devoid of minerals you have to add that back in, to keep the pH from going crazy, and also the BBs need the carbonates.

I switched to RO from my tap water because my tap water has chloromines, and tests between 0.5 and 1.0 for ammonia.
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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-17-2012, 02:09 AM
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Test your R/O water and see where they are at. I been using R/O water with out putting anything with it for 10 years. See how the tank does with out adding any of that stuff to your water. If your other aquariums are doing fine. See about adding a little of that water to help things move along. I have done this in the past when I get a new aquarium up and running.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-17-2012, 05:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Dog View Post
Flourite is knowen to raise PH, Ammonia, and Nitrites.
I would love to know where your have heard that. Flourite is nothing more than porous clay that absorbs whatever you "feed" it (fertilizers).

OP you're right on about why RO water needs to be reconstituted.

I personally would set your betta up with a temporary home until your tank stabilizes. Use whatever you have on hand and give it frequent water changes since it's not going to be something you are cycling.

It sounds like your 5 gallon is going through a normal cycle. The melting (and therefore rotting) plants are my best guess on the ammonia being so high. Trim the dead stuff out and give it a fishless cycle for a few weeks, I'll bet it will level out.

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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-17-2012, 08:58 PM
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If you want to speed things along, dump in a bottle of tetra safestart - its the only fast cycle product that seems to work well. Be sure to check the expiration date on the bottom. (petsmart carries it)


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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-18-2012, 12:52 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by OrangeSoda View Post
I would love to know where your have heard that. Flourite is nothing more than porous clay that absorbs whatever you "feed" it (fertilizers).

OP you're right on about why RO water needs to be reconstituted.

I personally would set your betta up with a temporary home until your tank stabilizes. Use whatever you have on hand and give it frequent water changes since it's not going to be something you are cycling.

It sounds like your 5 gallon is going through a normal cycle. The melting (and therefore rotting) plants are my best guess on the ammonia being so high. Trim the dead stuff out and give it a fishless cycle for a few weeks, I'll bet it will level out.
Thanks, I will try that. Do you know why I would still be testing so high for nitrates after doing basically a 100% water change? I was thinking of adding some Purigen to the filter to soak up the nitrates, is this a bad idea?

Also, will the melting eventually stop or will all my plants just melt away to nothing?
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-18-2012, 02:48 AM
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Originally Posted by fishtankbabe View Post
Thanks, I will try that. Do you know why I would still be testing so high for nitrates after doing basically a 100% water change? I was thinking of adding some Purigen to the filter to soak up the nitrates, is this a bad idea?

Also, will the melting eventually stop or will all my plants just melt away to nothing?
I'm not sure why your nitrates remained so high after an almost complete water change. But I do know that the two ways to get rid of them is either through water changes, or by the plants. To get them down quick, I'd do several successive water changes. After that let the tank settle for a couple of days then test again (while the betta is not in there of course).

I have never personally used or even really looked into purigen so I don't know, but maybe some with hands on experience will chime in.

IME the melting will continue until things stabilize. Crypts are especially bad about this. I once moved an established and healthy C. Wentii three inches to the left in my tank. The plant had been thriving in that tank for two years and it still fully melted. I removed all the bad leaves right down to the stem and left it in place, it started growing leaves in a few weeks and fully recovered eventually.

My advice stands at monitoring a fishless cycle and wait it out. Your tank is less than a month old, even with the established media it will be a bit before things stabilize.

P.S. The bacteria in a bottle sounds like a good idea, but I haven't used it so I don't know if it really works.

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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-18-2012, 06:44 AM
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I'll be watching this thread, I have very similar test results regarding high nitrate levels, except my ammonia is 0.

Perhaps your filter media died during the transplant and is raising the levels?


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post #11 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-18-2012, 10:41 AM
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0 ammonia and high nitrite means you are halfway through your cycle. The bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrite show up first (and relatively fast). They eat up all that ammonia and poop out (the scientific term ) a ton of nitrite. The nitrite just sits there, as the bacteria that eats it is always fashionably late to the party, and slow to breed as well. In fact if the levels are over 5 or so it cops an attitude and takes its own sweet time getting to work (or is so sensitive it gets overwhelmed and just can't deal yet, pick your favorite metaphor)

Solution? Do water changes to thin things out a bit and/or dump in the Safestart. Either way don't put in fish yet.

the plants should recover, most don't care about the levels - melting and recovering would have happened even if the tank was established.

purigen won't help you cycle, but it is a great water clarifier. (it doesn't remove nitrite, but binds up other stuff for crystal clear water)



EDIT: Ok, I wasn't paying close enough attention, I thought your nitrite level was high. Everything I said above is true but has nothing to do with you

Definately test your tap water, my water is very good well water and still comes out of the tap with nitrates at 5.
Also get a 'second opinion' test kit (some quick check test strips would be good) to see if the your kit agrees (it happens, 3 MIle Island melted down because all the engineers were looking a the same stuck/misread gauge).


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Last edited by jbrady33; 10-18-2012 at 01:46 PM. Reason: failure to communicate :)
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post #12 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-18-2012, 12:19 PM
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If you are still having problems with the nitrate levels post cycle then test your tap water. If levels are very high from the tap then you are unlikely to ever get them under control without a strategy.
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post #13 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-18-2012, 01:14 PM
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id remove that betta. keep him in a very temporary home (a 3-5 gal bucket from home depot works fine, just dump in a heater, and do a WC every other day). just change his water with something that isnt full obscene amounts of NO3- and has no NH3.

if WCs dont help, then the water youre changing with has the nitrates in them. unless 80 is the highest your test kit reads to, in which case, you dont know if your WCs are helping (if its 200, itll read like 80, and a 50% brings it down toward 100, which still reads like 80).
you said you are using RO? test it. it should have 0 NO3-. if you can detect any nitrogenous compounds (NH3, NO2-, or NO3-) its not RO. or very very sh*tty RO.
if thats the case talk to your LFS.
instead of remineralizing, what i normally do for my betta tank, is i mix 50% RODI, and 50% tap. leads to moderately soft water (as my tap is hard) which is pretty close to ideal for bettas.

its not leaching from the flourite. flourite has no nitrate, its just clay.

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post #14 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-19-2012, 07:20 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies everyone. So, I just tested the RO water I've been using (I use the API Freshwater Master Test Kit):

Ammonia - 0.00
Nitrite - 0.00
Nitrate - around 30 ppm. Darker than 20, lighter than 40


So my choices are either use my tap water, which has 1.00 ammonia but no nitrates, or use the RO water which has 0.00 ammonia but 30 nitrates. The next time I go to the LFS I will let them know about their RO water. Imagine if people are using that RO water to top off their reef tanks...

I took the betta out. The tank is cycling like crazy. I tested the nitrites 2 days ago and it was off the chart. I guess the plants are making too much ammonia for that small filter to process completely. I will do a series of WCs today and try to get it under control.

The crypts do seem to be melting the worst, although my C. Wendtii is hanging in there like a champ. It hasn't lost any leaves. I have the betta in a 1 gallon tank. Since I am trying to fix his fin rot I guess I will just use tap water with Prime and do 100% WC every day. This is stressful.
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post #15 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-19-2012, 08:45 PM
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RO water should test 0 for Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate. The water from the LFS is pretty bad then.
Just throwing it out there : Are you sure you are testing correctly for Nitrates ? The API test kit will give you false readings if you dont do it exactly(shaking the Nitrate Bottle 2 is very important)

I would look at finding a Walmart that sells RO water in your area and maybe switch to that.
As a last resort use the water from the LFS as opposed to your tap water. Nitrates are better than Ammonia. Hope you get your issues resolved.
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