Too Much Nitrate Causing Calcium Deficiency? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-09-2018, 09:46 PM Thread Starter
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Too Much Nitrate Causing Calcium Deficiency?

I recently rescaped my 60g, replacing an enormous stand of val that covered almost half the tank floor with some more swords and stem plants, and over the last few weeks I have begun to see signs of calcium deficiency (stunted, twisted growth) on my mermaid weed and all my rotalas (macranda, macranda narrow, colorata and wallichii). The ammania is just starting to look a teeny bit stunted, though not twisted yet. Everything else (8 different sword species, lagenandra, hygro corymbosa and pinnadifida, pennywort, and marsilea) is growing explosively in the new abundance of light now that the val is gone.

However, with the val gone, my nitrates have risen considerably faster than I had anticipated. Previously, they hovered around 10 or 15ppm consistently for the past year and a half, but are now closer to 80ppm (and OMG, yes, I'm going to do a water change! Two actually: one today and one tomorrow so I don't shock the poor fish. I tested today and about choked when the test tube turned red). Ammonia and nitrite are at 0, ph fell to 6 from about 6.5 previously.

Tank is dosed as follows, weekly:
7ml Flourish
45ml API Leaf Zone (potassium)
7ml Brightwell Florine-Fe

Daily 6ml API CO2 booster.

My tap is super hard, so I never needed to dose calcium before. Once the nitrates are back down, should this fix the calcium issue?
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-10-2018, 01:24 AM
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Hi @MissCris,

To the best of my knowledge excess nitrogen will not directly cause a calcium deficiency. In fact, to the best of my knowledge excess chemical nitrogen does not effect the uptake of any other nutrient. That is not true of ammonia based nutrients, which can cause 'burning' of foliage.

That said, you indicated that you have had some plant "growing explosively" so it is certainly possible that the amount of calcium that was adequate in the past is not adequate with this new 'explosive growth' and that is why the calcium deficiency has shown up.

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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-10-2018, 05:22 AM
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Roy is probably right on exhaustion of Ca, but if you feel you do have plenty of Ca, then excess Mg or K can induce a Ca deficiency
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-10-2018, 05:43 AM Thread Starter
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Thats sort of what I was getting at: before my water hardness provided an abundance of calcium, but in the presence of so much nitrate (and dosing other nutrients), calcium appears to suddenly be the limiting factor in plant growth.

In fact, while I don't have a KH test kit, I suspect based on the massive drop in PH that my hardness in the tank has also bottomed out to very soft. The test water showed 6, but that's as low as the test can read. It may have been lower. My tap is around 7.6 to 7.8 right from the faucet and can leave hard water stains on drinking glasses if I don't hand-dry with a towel.

That means a lot of calcium got used up really fast. There are 9 swords in that tank growing like nobody's business, and the hygro and ludwigia are attempting to eat the whole back of the tank. Even the sprigs of buce I have floating in a fry basket with my baby cories are putting out several leaves a week. I've never seen stuff take off like this before.

I did a 15% PWC right after last post, and am about to do another right now. The difference in PH between my tap and the tank is so significant, I don't want to kill my poor fish with a massive sudden parameters swing by doing a 50% change all at once, especially since none were showing any sign of stress before (they all come from soft, low PH water in the wild). I'll have to do another tomorrow, and one or two more PWC's over next few days to get things back in line.

Could the lack of calcium as a limiting factor slow the uptake of nitrates though? I know I reduced the plant biomass a bit with the swapping out of my val (when the new stuff grows completely in it will actually be planted denser than before), but this is the first time in almost 2 years that nitrates came above 10-15ppm. That's why I didn't catch the issue sooner: I got lazy testing that tank because it had been so consistently stable, and I really do know better than to slack on regular water tests.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-10-2018, 06:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MissCris View Post
I recently rescaped my 60g, replacing an enormous stand of val that covered almost half the tank floor with some more swords and stem plants, and over the last few weeks I have begun to see signs of calcium deficiency (stunted, twisted growth) on my mermaid weed and all my rotalas (macranda, macranda narrow, colorata and wallichii). The ammania is just starting to look a teeny bit stunted, though not twisted yet. Everything else (8 different sword species, lagenandra, hygro corymbosa and pinnadifida, pennywort, and marsilea) is growing explosively in the new abundance of light now that the val is gone.

However, with the val gone, my nitrates have risen considerably faster than I had anticipated. Previously, they hovered around 10 or 15ppm consistently for the past year and a half, but are now closer to 80ppm (and OMG, yes, I'm going to do a water change! Two actually: one today and one tomorrow so I don't shock the poor fish. I tested today and about choked when the test tube turned red). Ammonia and nitrite are at 0, ph fell to 6 from about 6.5 previously.

Tank is dosed as follows, weekly:
7ml Flourish
45ml API Leaf Zone (potassium)
7ml Brightwell Florine-Fe

Daily 6ml API CO2 booster.

My tap is super hard, so I never needed to dose calcium before. Once the nitrates are back down, should this fix the calcium issue?
How with regular water changes from Tap that is super hard?(maybe not),, does water become so soft in the tank?=pH 6.5
I should think with several sword plant's added,stem plant's also, that an increase in all
nutrient's including the liquid carbon would be in order.
This would help eliminate chance of maybe nutrient limitation as new plants added begin to grow larger.
Maybe add a little more of everything except Nitrogen if levels of 80ppm have been seen from calibrated nitrate test.
Otherwise,,Weekly water changes and keeping filter material cleaned more often can control nitrate's.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-10-2018, 07:26 AM Thread Starter
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Because of a combo of trying to keep PH below 7, up to 2ppm ammonia in the tap, and extra super hard water, I do much smaller and less frequent water changes than most. Back when I first started and I did weekly 20% water changes, it literally killed my fish from ammonia toxicity; it took me testing the tap water to realize my ammonia was lower in the tank than in the sink. I won't even drink anything that isn't bottled or pre-filtered around here. The ammonia in my tap is also why I began keeping densely planted tanks: it's easier to control the waste naturally than to buy RO water and then remineralize all the time. I am religious about filter media, and on my smaller tanks I test weekly to monitor water quality. It was my own fault I got sloppy about testing the big tank, especially after a rescape that changed the plant biomass.
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-10-2018, 04:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MissCris View Post
Because of a combo of trying to keep PH below 7, up to 2ppm ammonia in the tap, and extra super hard water, I do much smaller and less frequent water changes than most. Back when I first started and I did weekly 20% water changes, it literally killed my fish from ammonia toxicity; it took me testing the tap water to realize my ammonia was lower in the tank than in the sink. I won't even drink anything that isn't bottled or pre-filtered around here. The ammonia in my tap is also why I began keeping densely planted tanks: it's easier to control the waste naturally than to buy RO water and then remineralize all the time. I am religious about filter media, and on my smaller tanks I test weekly to monitor water quality. It was my own fault I got sloppy about testing the big tank, especially after a rescape that changed the plant biomass.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MissCris View Post
Because of a combo of trying to keep PH below 7, up to 2ppm ammonia in the tap, and extra super hard water, I do much smaller and less frequent water changes than most. Back when I first started and I did weekly 20% water changes, it literally killed my fish from ammonia toxicity; it took me testing the tap water to realize my ammonia was lower in the tank than in the sink. I won't even drink anything that isn't bottled or pre-filtered around here. The ammonia in my tap is also why I began keeping densely planted tanks: it's easier to control the waste naturally than to buy RO water and then remineralize all the time. I am religious about filter media, and on my smaller tanks I test weekly to monitor water quality. It was my own fault I got sloppy about testing the big tank, especially after a rescape that changed the plant biomass.
Ok, so maintaining a low pH would actually be desirable as the ammonia in your tap will be converted to ammonium, and I'd try to do water changes a little before lights on if possible (it before CO2 if injecting). I agree that doing large water changes would be bad for several reasons, but pH is not what we have to worry about - KH is.

KH is consumed in the processing of ammonia as well as some consumption by plants and fish, so a minor drop in KH will occur over time. I bet your water changes aren't frequent / large enough to keep enough KH in the water.

Personally, I would ignore pH (it's actually ideal for most plants and fish). Identifying the actual issue here may need to be done via experiment - such as reducing how much Leaf Zone you are using to lower K levels.

Also, keep in mind that with every water change, even though you are removing NO3, you are technically adding back some (eventual) NO3.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-10-2018, 06:57 PM
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Could the lack of calcium as a limiting factor slow the uptake of nitrates though? I know I reduced the plant biomass a bit with the swapping out of my val (when the new stuff grows completely in it will actually be planted denser than before), but this is the first time in almost 2 years that nitrates came above 10-15ppm. That's why I didn't catch the issue sooner: I got lazy testing that tank because it had been so consistently stable, and I really do know better than to slack on regular water tests.
Hi MissCris,

Yes, the lack of sufficient available calcium, and the resulting slower and deformed growth, could certainly slow the uptake of nitrogen in your tank

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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-11-2018, 02:44 AM
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Hi MissCris,

Yes, the lack of sufficient available calcium, and the resulting slower and deformed growth, could certainly slow the uptake of nitrogen in your tank
Roy, this is somewhat similar to what I've been experiencing, and I know you've been studying this lately

Like you, my water is extremely soft (less than 2 dGH/2dKH from tap). I can dose enough CaSO4 and MgSO4 (3:1) at water change to go from that to 6 dGH, and yet I still see what looks like Ca/Mg deficiencies show up about 5 days into the week. Going up to 8 dGH shows the same results, and at 4 dGH, it seems to start showing an the end of day 3.

Adding more GH booster midweek has helped some, but I worry about the eventually creep to a high GH. I just started doing 2 dGH increase at water change and then two more times during the week, but one week is not enough data to go on.

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