Low Tech Nitrate Spike - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-31-2013, 07:56 PM Thread Starter
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Low Tech Nitrate Spike

Help!

Fluval Ebi
Fluval Stratum
13w Fixture
Ehiem 2213
RCS
Ramshorn Snails
Otto's
No co2

The other day I found a bunch of dead shrimp.

I did some test 8/28/13:
Ammonia 0
Nitrites 1.25
Nitrates 80

I did one 100% water change the same day. The next day I did one 100% water change.

I did some more test 8/31/13:

Nitrates 40ppm
KH < 1
GH 9

I believe that the problem is that my KH is to low at less than 1 but I am not sure...

Please help...

Thank you.
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-31-2013, 08:13 PM
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are you using API nitrate test?
if so, have you tried calibrating it?
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-31-2013, 08:22 PM
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Yes, it is a complex problem, but here goes:
When something dies it releases a lot of ammonia as it decomposes.
The nitrifying bacteria that remove ammonia cannot instantly surge and remove it, so you get an ammonia spike, but the bacteria do handle it. So the ammonia goes back down (especially if you remove the dead matter).
But an ammonia spike is often followed by a nitrite spike. The bacteria that remove nitrite a quite slow growing and really do not grow to handle a sudden spike. The NO2 goes down because of water changes.
However, the bacteria are busy as usual, changing NO2 to NO3, and this is where the NO3 spike has come from.

In a low tech tank the plants can help some, but with the generally low light and CO2 they also are not going to leap right up and remove the extra nitrogen (in any form). You have done right with the water changes, and may need to do some more.

Here is where the low KH comes in:
The nitrifying bacteria get the carbon they need from carbonates. If the KH hits zero, then there is almost no carbon available to the bacteria. I say 'almost' because hobby level test kits are not laboratory quality, and there may be a trace of carbonates. Anyway, yes, it is a sign that it would be better to add some, if the shrimp will be OK with a higher KH. This will highly likely also raise the pH.

Some sources of carbonates are:
Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) (1 teaspoon added to 30 gallons will raise the KH by 2 German degrees of hardness)
Potassium bicarbonate (sold as a mineral supplement for people)
Calcium carbonate (coral sand, limestone sand, oyster shell grit and similar materials- note that these will raise the GH, too. You may not want that, your GH is probably already high enough)
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-31-2013, 08:52 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thebuddha View Post
are you using API nitrate test?
if so, have you tried calibrating it?
Yes, but I'm not sure what you mean by calibrating my API test kit.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
Yes, it is a complex problem, but here goes:
When something dies it releases a lot of ammonia as it decomposes.
The nitrifying bacteria that remove ammonia cannot instantly surge and remove it, so you get an ammonia spike, but the bacteria do handle it. So the ammonia goes back down (especially if you remove the dead matter).
But an ammonia spike is often followed by a nitrite spike. The bacteria that remove nitrite a quite slow growing and really do not grow to handle a sudden spike. The NO2 goes down because of water changes.
However, the bacteria are busy as usual, changing NO2 to NO3, and this is where the NO3 spike has come from.

In a low tech tank the plants can help some, but with the generally low light and CO2 they also are not going to leap right up and remove the extra nitrogen (in any form). You have done right with the water changes, and may need to do some more.

Here is where the low KH comes in:
The nitrifying bacteria get the carbon they need from carbonates. If the KH hits zero, then there is almost no carbon available to the bacteria. I say 'almost' because hobby level test kits are not laboratory quality, and there may be a trace of carbonates. Anyway, yes, it is a sign that it would be better to add some, if the shrimp will be OK with a higher KH. This will highly likely also raise the pH.

Some sources of carbonates are:
Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) (1 teaspoon added to 30 gallons will raise the KH by 2 German degrees of hardness)
Potassium bicarbonate (sold as a mineral supplement for people)
Calcium carbonate (coral sand, limestone sand, oyster shell grit and similar materials- note that these will raise the GH, too. You may not want that, your GH is probably already high enough)
Interesting, thank you for your reply.

You recommend doing more water changes and adding baking soda. Okay, I'll have to figure a game plan!
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-01-2013, 01:31 AM
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[QUOTE=tylergvolk;4190625]Yes, but I'm not sure what you mean by calibrating my API test kit.






Read this thread...
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...est+kit&page=2
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-01-2013, 03:01 PM Thread Starter
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How do I prevent this from happening in the future?
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-01-2013, 03:26 PM Thread Starter
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[quote=jfynyson;4191857]
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylergvolk View Post
Yes, but I'm not sure what you mean by calibrating my API test kit.






Read this thread...
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...est+kit&page=2
Thank you. I understand calibration now.
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-02-2013, 01:30 PM Thread Starter
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I've read several threads where people are saying that Kh < 1 isn't a problem if your pH is fine.

I would like to know what I can do...

Should I just keep doing water changes untill my nitrates are restored to healthy levels?

How do I avoid this type of nitrate spike in the future?
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-02-2013, 06:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tylergvolk View Post
I've read several threads where people are saying that Kh < 1 isn't a problem if your pH is fine.

I would like to know what I can do...

Should I just keep doing water changes untill my nitrates are restored to healthy levels?

How do I avoid this type of nitrate spike in the future?
Idk if this is going to make sense or not, but I will try to provide some info.

1) Kh @ <1- Could have some negative impact on the stability of your pH, especially in a low tech tank without c02. With a next to nil Kh in a low tech tank, it's almost certain that if you test your ph, it will drop when the plants expire c02 at night, maybe even drastically, maybe your ph is very low. At a ph of 6.0, your nitrification process would stop. This could allow for the spike in ammonia, just a guess, but it would be good to figure out why your ammonia spiked in the first place. Sure, a bunch of dead shrimp will increase the ammonia, but why did the plague start, I don't really think one dead shrimp out of the blue would be too much for the BB to handle.

2) GH and KH go hand and hand to control the PH, but it's carbonates that play the bigger role in stability. For a shrimp tank, your ph should be at least slightly on the alkaline side to maintain their shells. A kh of 2, preferably 3 would give you slack and keep your ph more stable, imo.

3) I have found that plants use Kh when c02 is not available (already used up by the plants) as a source of carbonate, and when your KH is consumed by the plant cycle (expire o2 during the day and co2 at night), you will lose your buffering capacity and possibly put your aquarium inhabitants at risk of damaging ph swings.

I know this info is all over the place, but hopefully it makes a bit of sense to give you an idea of what could have happened and how to prevent it later. And I would do frequent w/cs until your nitrates are much lower, this will hopefully replenish kh at the same time (source from your tap water), very little of the BB is stored in the water column, and in a well balanced, low bioload, planted aquarium, your N03 should be <5ppm, possibly even 0ppm. 0ppm is the case with my tanks, although this is not ideal for plants, (they are using up the nitrates too fast as fertilizer) I still have a lot to learn, but when your inhabitants are dying, it's important to at least address that first, imo. Good luck.
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-02-2013, 10:53 PM Thread Starter
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The past 4 days I've done several water changes.

Today, I did some more testing and here is what I got:

pH: 6.4
Nitrates: 20
KH 5
GH 9

The ph went up .4, the KH went up 4-5, and the nitrates went down closer to healthier levels. All this happened in a 4 day time period by doing water changes. I did not add any baking soda.
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