High nitrates in heavy planted Dutch scape - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-26-2020, 08:12 PM Thread Starter
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High nitrates in heavy planted Dutch scape

Hi guys,

I've got a small Dutch scape that's about a month old now. It's about 90 percent covered in plant species so heavily planted. I use thrive all in one fertilizer which is similar in makeup to easy green, 3x per week as it suggests for high tech heavy plant setups. I run diy CO2 with citric acid so still get a high pressure, with over 30ppm co2 in the water. Photo period is 12 hours with 5 being at 100% intensity.

The plant growth is consistent, but way slower than I expected based on seeing other high tech setups. For example, my rotala rotundifolia probably grows an inch per week.

I'm always struggling with keeping nitrates down in the aquarium. I fertilize 3x per week because I saw some growth issues if I was dosing less, so it must be other nutrients that are limiting.

It's only a concern because I have Amanos and nerites, granted the Amanos handle it pretty well. The nerites always become lethargic throughout the week until I do a water change which lowers the concentration down to 20ish ppm down from 50ish. Some nerites have even died becsuee of it.

I added purigen to the filter and recharged it once but it doesn't seem all that effective now. When I do a water change, I always try to use a baster to blow the detritus out of the surface of the gravel. I always get a TON of detritus though and not sure where it's coming from. I don't feed heavy at all.

Any idea how to lower the nitrates? Any idea why the plants aren't growing faster and using it up?
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-27-2020, 12:24 AM
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I doubt after a month you have enough organic accumulation to register 50ppm. Must be from dosing. But, from what Ive read from the experts on here, 50ppm in fertilizers is not like 50ppm in organics. Harmless to livestock. Ive even read that 100 pm is harmless in regard to added ferts.
I know- who knew!~!

Im sure the experts on fertilizing will chime in here shortly. Im not one of them.
Good luck.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-29-2020, 06:58 PM
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If you are concerned, switch to Thrive S. It has less nitrates and Copper than the regular Thrive. Plus its better for your snails and shrimp.

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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-30-2020, 03:18 PM
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I use plants to aid in water purification and only use modest ferts to support them.
Have you checked your source water for nitrates?
Is your lighting up to the task of high tech?
Perhaps you should reduce ferts to only support plants and not push rapid growth?
See: Lowering Aquarium Nitrates
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-30-2020, 04:16 PM
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how is your feeding?
how are you measuring your nitrates? how old is the test kit and how hard are you shaking the reagent bottle?

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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-30-2020, 05:06 PM
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If you can provide some answers to the questions, by others, that will help us hone in a little better. If your plants are healthy (as you seem to be saying), then I would lean with @AbbeysDad regarding insufficient lighting to drive growth higher. This is not to say that your lighting is not acceptable, only that it may not have enough intensity (PAR) and/or ideal wavelengths (PUR) to meet your goals. If you can provide the make and model of your light, we may be able to better comment on this.

We should also try to count your NO3 contributions. As @AbbeysDad suggested; what is the NO3 reading from your source water? Also, what is the ppm you dose weekly?

Organic sources are probably the reason, but it may not be a bad thing. You didn't mention whether or not you have algae issues, which would be a sign of uncontrolled organics. Perhaps you can comment on that aspect. The Purigen should do quite a lot to reduce NO3 sourced in organics (another sign that, maybe, NO3 is from dosing and tap water). you may want to review to be sure you are recharging the Purigen well and that you have enough of it. Your cleaning regimen seems good and, I assume, you clean the gunk out of your filter regularly.

I do want to suggest an adjustment to what @Discusluv referenced about organic nitrate. NO3 is NO3, no matter the source (an ion is an ion). When we say that organic NO3 is not as good as dosed NO3, we are referring to the entire package of organics that happens to also include NO3. There is a lot of other stuff in that organic stream that is not good, and a high NO3 reading, from organics, indicates too much of that other bad stuff is also streaming in. If that is happening, just lowering NO3 may not lower those other bad things, which can give you a false sense of security.
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-30-2020, 05:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deanna View Post

I do want to suggest an adjustment to what @Discusluv referenced about organic nitrate. NO3 is NO3, no matter the source (an ion is an ion). When we say that organic NO3 is not as good as dosed NO3, we are referring to the entire package of organics that happens to also include NO3. There is a lot of other stuff in that organic stream that is not good, and a high NO3 reading, from organics, indicates too much of that other bad stuff is also streaming in. If that is happening, just lowering NO3 may not lower those other bad things, which can give you a false sense of security.
Ill get how Im supposed to regurgitate it back sooner or later.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-01-2020, 12:44 AM Thread Starter
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how is your feeding?
how are you measuring your nitrates? how old is the test kit and how hard are you shaking the reagent bottle?
Feeding is minimal- 3 days per week. Feed so they eat everything within 2 minutes.

Measuring with API nitrate test kit. I'm aware of the shaking requirement so I shake it like crazy before each test. Test kit is maybe 6 months old?
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-01-2020, 12:57 AM Thread Starter
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If you can provide some answers to the questions, by others, that will help us hone in a little better. If your plants are healthy (as you seem to be saying), then I would lean with @AbbeysDad regarding insufficient lighting to drive growth higher. This is not to say that your lighting is not acceptable, only that it may not have enough intensity (PAR) and/or ideal wavelengths (PUR) to meet your goals. If you can provide the make and model of your light, we may be able to better comment on this.

We should also try to count your NO3 contributions. As @AbbeysDad suggested; what is the NO3 reading from your source water? Also, what is the ppm you dose weekly?

Organic sources are probably the reason, but it may not be a bad thing. You didn't mention whether or not you have algae issues, which would be a sign of uncontrolled organics. Perhaps you can comment on that aspect. The Purigen should do quite a lot to reduce NO3 sourced in organics (another sign that, maybe, NO3 is from dosing and tap water). you may want to review to be sure you are recharging the Purigen well and that you have enough of it. Your cleaning regimen seems good and, I assume, you clean the gunk out of your filter regularly.

I do want to suggest an adjustment to what @Discusluv referenced about organic nitrate. NO3 is NO3, no matter the source (an ion is an ion). When we say that organic NO3 is not as good as dosed NO3, we are referring to the entire package of organics that happens to also include NO3. There is a lot of other stuff in that organic stream that is not good, and a high NO3 reading, from organics, indicates too much of that other bad stuff is also streaming in. If that is happening, just lowering NO3 may not lower those other bad things, which can give you a false sense of security.
I'm using the nicrew deluxe light. Pretty sure we've had a conversation about it before, there was someone on this forum that par tested the light and showed it was actually considered quite high. I'm still not certain about it, but it seems extremely bright to me at 100 intensity. I know that is not necessarily indicative of par though.

The nitrate from my water is about 20ppm. I add about 18ppm of nitrate per week through the all in one fertilizer. Typically I see the nitrate above 50ppm by the end of the week. I just expected the heavy plant load to consume a substantial amount of nitrate.

I have regenerated purigen 1x using the recommended steps. One thing I've noticed is that I bought a new canister filter recently so I could get more filter media in the filter. I was rated at 80gph I measured at 40gph I believe when packed with media. Still this was 4x turnover so I thought it was good enough. I just remeasured and it's down to 20gph which is not good.

Not seeing substantial algae anywhere but the low flow may be limiting nutrient transport...
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-01-2020, 01:21 PM
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I'm using the nicrew deluxe light. Pretty sure we've had a conversation about it before, there was someone on this forum that par tested the light and showed it was actually considered quite high. I'm still not certain about it, but it seems extremely bright to me at 100 intensity. I know that is not necessarily indicative of par though.
Yes, I vaguely remember this and the high light with good quality aspect. Getting at your interest for higher growth is, of course, a little difficult because it is hard to know how close you actually are to maximum potential growth, given your particular setup.

Your light seems to be right. The next thing I would focus upon is CO2 and, as you probably know, DIY CO2 can be very tricky as compared to pressurized delivery. If you haven’t already been challenged on how you are measuring CO2, maybe this is a good time to do it. So, how do you measure CO2 levels and is it consistent throughout the photoperiod? Also, do you have good circulation with all plants very gently moving from top to bottom? The filter problem may be impacting things. You generally don’t need a lot of media to do the job, e.g.; I use no biomedia or chemical media in my filter - only some filter floss to capture particulates. I’m not suggesting that you do this, but biomedia in filters is usually very efficient.

Your nitrate sources explain why the Purigen does not seem to be working, so you may be able to remove the Purigen. Purigen does not remove nitrate. It removes the organics that turn into nitrates. So, it has no effect upon the NO3 from your tap water or the dosing.

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Originally Posted by Jah410 View Post
The nitrate from my water is about 20ppm. I add about 18ppm of nitrate per week through the all in one fertilizer. Typically I see the nitrate above 50ppm by the end of the week. I just expected the heavy plant load to consume a substantial amount of nitrate.
I think you have the answer to your question about why your nitrate is so high. You can use the various nutrient accumulation calculators (Zorfox’s calculator is better than RotalaButterfly for nutrient accumulation) to see why. I’d stop dosing nitrate and see where it takes you. NO3 uptake, at most (unlikely in your case), should be about 3ppm daily, but this is usually reduced if ammonium is plentiful, albeit unmeasurable.

After verifying CO2 levels and reducing nitrate, then I’d start to approach fert balances, but give it a few weeks after you get your nitrate under control before doing that.
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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-01-2020, 03:19 PM
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This is when I got around to doing dry ferts as a way to stop adding ferts which were adding to my already too high load of nitrate and phosphate. I finally came around to asking why I was adding ferts which drove me to have to do far more water changing and still have levels too high.
Basic question? Is it really logical to avoid the small task of figuring what ferts to leave out and at the same times doing lots more work on water changes to try to cut down those ferts I had to add in and "all in one" fert? Also do You like spending lots of money for that small bit of brain work avoidance?
I use this to figure what and how much to add, leave the nitrate and phosphate out and get the cheap dry ferts from. A bag of dry ferts last nearly forever and costs far less, even with shipping.
https://rotalabutterfly.com/nutrient-calculator.php
https://www.nilocg.com/product-categ...ted-aquariums/

I start with the basic group of macros, stir them in a cup of tank water to add and then do the csm on alternate days, test for results and adjust as needed. It sure beat changing tons of water every day!
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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-01-2020, 06:11 PM
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This is when I got around to doing dry ferts as a way to stop adding ferts which were adding to my already too high load of nitrate and phosphate. I finally came around to asking why I was adding ferts which drove me to have to do far more water changing and still have levels too high.
Basic question? Is it really logical to avoid the small task of figuring what ferts to leave out and at the same times doing lots more work on water changes to try to cut down those ferts I had to add in and "all in one" fert? Also do You like spending lots of money for that small bit of brain work avoidance?
I use this to figure what and how much to add, leave the nitrate and phosphate out and get the cheap dry ferts from. A bag of dry ferts last nearly forever and costs far less, even with shipping.
https://rotalabutterfly.com/nutrient-calculator.php
https://www.nilocg.com/product-categ...ted-aquariums/

I start with the basic group of macros, stir them in a cup of tank water to add and then do the csm on alternate days, test for results and adjust as needed. It sure beat changing tons of water every day!

Your correct it's not at all difficult. I started digging deep into this myself, on what I need and don't need. I'm Low tech so I haven't really started into Dry Ferts. But I did notice I have 30- 40ppm of nitrates cause off my bioload, plus high Phosphates because of my once a week heavy feeding. So I switched from Easy Green to Thrive S because of the lower nitrogen and phosphate levels that are in it. I'll see how this works out, if it it does't go well I'll probably start rolling my own.
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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-01-2020, 06:27 PM
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There are many levels of doing this game and I can't fault those who do it different but I like to keep it in a pattern where I do the hobby as fun, not let the hobby do me!
So when faced with looking for a way to feed the plants, I fall back to my growing up in farm country where ferts and feeding plants if a really big part of making a living! Farm folks do lots of study and do lots of ferts but they still know it is very much an estimate of what plants will need and use versus simply wasting money. We do have a big advantage ins several areas as we do control the weather and we don't spend much on ferts for our super small plantings!
But the idea is still very much the same and we have to make an estimate of what we might need, so getting a ready made product and dosing it exactly as recommended is just doing it easy and without thinking very much but that ease and not thinking does cost us in expense and lots of small points of not getting what we want out of the ferts we add.
Farming is not a simple thing to jump up, study and decide what is needed as each farm works a bit different, so we all need to recognise that we are farming, just on a tiny, tiny scale and we do have the same tank to tank differences. That makes it very worthwhile to follow what farmers do on their fert decisions!
They study the best advise on how much and what, try it while looking for performance and then adjust as they see needed. While it is difficult for you penthouse folks to look at yourself as farming, it's not rocket science and it does take time but you've got to admit that the folks who do it all the time to make a living are pretty good at it!
Follow their lead and the hobby can be a whole bunch more fun!
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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-02-2020, 04:01 PM
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With high nitrates in your source water it can be difficult to keep nitrates low enough in an aquarium. I made a DIY nitrate filter to pre-filter water using API Nitra-Zorb - see My Nitrate Fight. You might see benefit in using Nitra-Zorb packs in your filter.

Speaking of filters ( The Dirty Truth About Filters ), good filtration is about how well we filter, not how much or how fast we push the water through media. Without ample chemical media, filters improve water clarity, but do little for water quality as detritus breaks down in the filter and pollutes the water. If your water is clear, more filters or more flow does nothing for water quality.

As to Purigen, setting aside the marketing hype, it does well at attracting dissolved organics, however I'm not convinced that they haven't already decomposed before that happens. I used Purigen for quite some time and never saw any reduction in tank nitrates.

A long term solution might be to try a product that promises to culture anoxic/anaerobic bacteria to convert nitrates into nitrogen gas, like: Matrix (pumice - but check out General Pumics Products), Bio-Home, or Cermedia.

As to the lighting, perhaps you need to adjust the photo period?

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