Nitrate testing question - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 10-19-2011, 08:48 PM Thread Starter
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Nitrate testing question

The history before the question: I had a saltwater tank that I broke down and turned into a freshwater tank. I cleaned it out as best I could. There are 2 overflow boxes (one on the left and one on the right) in the tank and the tank is drilled. The way it's overflows into a small area then overflows again where the pipes are. I couldn't get in between the two overflows and there is sand left over from the saltwater that I couldn't get out. I rinsed the tank several times and used a bottle brush between the two overflows to clean it. I cleaned the sump, removed all the salt creep and changed the hoses. I purchased river rock from petsmart and plastic plants from drs foster smith. I had rock substrate, rocks, wood and live plants from previous tanks. The wood, substrate and rocks have been stored on the patio for the last 4 years. I rinsed everything well before putting it into the tank. To my surprise I still had MTS snails alive after 4 years of storage. After moving the plants into the new tank I dosed with excel. Or I should say overdosed with excel that had also been stored under the stand for the last 4 years. I am currently still cycling the tank with pure ammonia. The same kind of ammonia that I have used to cycle many tanks before. I'm hoping I didn't leave anything out. Now to my question.
Question: I tested for nitrates with an API fw test kit. Purchased new about three week ago. When I add the drops from bottle no. 1 it instantly turns a burnt orange to a tea color. After I add drops from bottle no. 2 my water turns to a yellow color for 5 nitrates. I followed the directions by shaking the bottles as directed and shaking the test tube as directed. My first thought was the excel was bad. I took some of the old excel put it in the tube with tap water and the test was normal, it didn't turn the burnt orange color after adding drops from bottle no. 1. I tested my other tank and the test was also normal when I tested it. I thought maybe I didn't test right. I tested the new tank again and got the same result, bottle no. 1 turned the color burnt orange before adding the 2nd bottle. I did a 90% water changed and tested again. Same results. I had a friend test their saltwater tank with the fw test kit and it didn't turn a burnt orange. I've tried everything to figure this out and I've even called API and asked a biologist that does testing on the actual test kits. All he could say was, You can tell me everything you did and I can sit here all day and listen but I still don't know. It kinda ticked me off so I just said ok thanks and hung up. They were no help. I'm worried that maybe some how my rocks or wood have been contaminated and there is something leaching out into the water that will kill the fish. Has anyone ever heard of the test kit doing this before? Is there anything else I should do or test for without breaking down the tank and starting over again?
Sorry for the long read but I wanted to give you a full count of everything that has been done. Please
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 10-19-2011, 09:24 PM
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Originally Posted by edmlfc View Post
... Now to my question.
Question: I tested for nitrates with an API fw test kit. ...
I'll prefix this post by stating up front that some of this is my opinion, and it's likely others will disagree.

I was going to test my water for nitrates, and found that the "famous brand", but not API, test kit I was using had gone bad. I stopped by my LSF the next day, and found that the only nitrate test kit they had in stock was API.

Now I admit that I'm not a big fan of API test kits, but I figured it would at least give me some idea of my nitrate level. I did the test and found that I got a reading of 0. Since I had just added dry ferts for nitrate the night before, I knew I had to have at least 10 ppm of nitrate. Obviously something was very wrong with the new test kit, and I was "rather disappointed". Yes, I know that for an aquarium grade test kit to be accurate, you do need to calibrate it, but I should have gotten some sort of reading.

I then figured that I might as well spend the money on a good test kit, I ordered a LaMotte Nitrate (model 3354) test kit. I tested the water, and got expected results. Now to be fair, the LaMotte test kit costs about 10 times what your pay for an API test kit.

I have come to the conclusion that most of the aquarium grade test kits, are at best fair, and at worst garbage. From here on out I'm getting quality test kits for anything that I want to monitor closely.
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