Nitrate problem. - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 63 (permalink) Old 02-18-2014, 05:35 AM Thread Starter
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Nitrate problem.

So in my 20 gallon planted I've always had really high nitrates. Either 80 or off the charts. I once did 50% daily changes for a week to get them down! and it worked! for a little bit. Back the I. Used a bucket though. Now with my python it's no big deal. I use API liquid testing.

Info:
Black sand substrate
All live plants
Sponge filter with air stone
7 Cory cats, 2 platy's, 2 ADF( moving soon), 1 apple snail, 2 ott's, 10 cherry shrimp
Special plant light
Root tabs
Fluorite mixed into the substrate
Weekly seachem fertilizer after water changes.
25-40% weekly water change
Ph: 7.8 (can't get it down )
Gh: 11
Kh: 15
Ammonia: .25
Nitrite: 0


Aren't plants supposed to take up nitrates? Why are they so bad? How can I fix it?
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post #2 of 63 (permalink) Old 02-18-2014, 05:48 AM
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Test your source water, for everything... you might be dealing with high nitrates in your source water (PIA, if you are).

How long has the tank been up and running.

Can you post a few pictures of your tank. I'd like to see how dense the planting is.

Without more data its hard to make good suggestions...
You can try setting up filter (HOB or canister) and add a product that removes nitrates (SeaChem Purigen or Fluval ClearMax are the two that comes to mind, both work in different ways).

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post #3 of 63 (permalink) Old 02-18-2014, 05:59 AM
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Plants do take up nitrates but they don't need as much as you think. In my high light, high CO2, heavily (extremely heavily) planted 90g they use about 15-20 ppm per week.

I agree with King of Hyrule, I bet its in your water source. Also not enough info about your setup. Substrate/feeding/type of fish/water change schedule/gravel vacing/type of plants/lighting/etc.
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post #4 of 63 (permalink) Old 02-18-2014, 12:20 PM Thread Starter
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I've tested it before and source water was at 0 after conditioner, but that was back when I used my old conditioner so it may be due for another. When I do water changes I skip the surface of the sand to suck up any debris. There are sometimes dead leaves so maybe some of the plants aren't helping? And also maybe my high kg is bad? I want to get more plants for it but not sure what kind would be best.
Light is on for 10 hours a day on a timer, it was labeled plant light at the store, although I'm pretty sure everyone here will say I should of gotten the one that's a little bit stronger (sun something)
(I'll be adding the photos once the light comes on)
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post #5 of 63 (permalink) Old 02-18-2014, 12:47 PM
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how often do you clean your filter? when did you clean your filter last?

20L My Other Tank: OEBT Shrimp
40B Inlaws Tank: 2 goldfish
75 Main Tank w/ sump: 5 Glossolepis pseudoincisus, 5 Melanotaenia boesemani, 10 Melanotaenia praecox, 5 Melanotaenia lacustris, some cories, a bn pleco and rainbow fish fry
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post #6 of 63 (permalink) Old 02-18-2014, 01:49 PM
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Might be over feeding. If you feed beef heart and other frozen foods they will foul the water quickly.

Alternatively you may have dead fish/shrimp etc in the tank or are simply dosing too much nitrate. You may need to readjust your dosing.
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post #7 of 63 (permalink) Old 02-18-2014, 02:30 PM
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I think there is a flaw in the way we dose which is often overlooked. When we feed it adds nitrate to the tank. When we dose to the Ei method, we add nitrate. I found the combo totally blew my nitrate off the chart until I backed way, way down on the nitrate I was adding. I finally stopped adding any nitrate until I could get the reading down.

How much nitrate are you winding up adding each week with the weekly Seachem? I rarely dose nitrate of any sort. It may be necessary to change to a fert that you can pick and choose which you are adding. I went with dry ferts for flexible, cheap dosing.

I have near the same water as you except much higher GH/KH (18-20). These buffers make it nearly impossible to move the PH down until I started pressure CO2. I don't fight that fight as I don't want an unstabile tank. I fit the fish and plants to the water and find little trouble doing that.
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post #8 of 63 (permalink) Old 02-18-2014, 02:51 PM
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Problem with pH:
pH is not a stand alone value. It is controlled by the minerals and other things in the water. With your high KH you will not be able to keep the pH lower. It will always bounce back up.
Dilute your source water with reverse osmosis, about 75% RO: 25% tap (or whatever your source is).
Then you will have much lower KH (roughly 4 degrees) and the pH will be much more amenable to peat moss, CO2 or other pH lowering materials. It will highly likely be lower even before you add peat or CO2. Just lowering the KH often will lower the pH.
This has almost nothing to do with the nitrate problem.

Nitrate: look at all the sources, and all the removal techniques. When the NO3 is rising there are more sources than the removal techniques can handle. In simple terms GIGO, (Garbage In= Garbage Out) or NINO: Nitrogen In= Nitrogen Out.
Sources:
Protein in fish food is digested by fish and microorganisms to become (among other things) ammonia. This is acted on by microorganisms (Nitrogen cycle bacteria) to ultimately become nitrate.
Solution: Feed less.
Fertilizers that contain any form of N (NO3, Ammonia, Urea, other) can get taken in by plants, or acted on by microorganisms, but ultimately this is adding more N to the tank.
Solution: make sure in all the ferts you are dosing there is no N in any form.
Tap water usually contains chloramines, which break down to ammonia and chlorine. The ammonia is acted on by microorganisms to ultimately become NO3.
Solution: Use RO or other water without chloramines.
Decomposing things such as fish poop (started out as fish food) and fallen leaves (started out as fertilizer)
Solution: Remove these things before they can decompose.

Removal systems:
Plants sequester the N, but until you prune and remove plant parts from the tank the N is really still in the tank. When the leaves fall and decompose they 'un-sequester' the N and it shows up as ammonia which the microorganisms turn into NO3.
Water changes remove the NO3 laden water and replace it with (hopefully) water with no NO3 (or at least we hope so!)
Water changes with gravel vacs remove the organic matter (fish poop, fallen leaves etc) before they can decompose. This is removing N in the form of proteins and other organic molecules.

To affect the net amount of NO3 you need to attack both sides of the equation:
Add less nitrogen.
Remove more nitrogen.

Plants can remove a lot of N if their other needs are met. Like Zapins mentions, I also have found that fully submerged plants are not great N sinks. A whale of a lot better than non-planted tanks, but still, they have their limits.
I have found that plants in contact with the air are better. Partially this is because I am not adding much carbon to my tanks, so I know my plants are growing slower and therefore using less N. But in the air there is all the carbon they could want. My house plants, roots in the tank, leaves in the air, are thriving, and the tanks are showing such low N that I have to dose it. I did not dose it as long as all I had were submerged plants.
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post #9 of 63 (permalink) Old 02-18-2014, 04:07 PM
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It is never a good idea to base important decisions about your tank on uncalibrated water test kits. It isn't hard to calibrate a nitrate test kit, so if you want to depend on its readings for anything important, always calibrate the test kit periodically. See https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=83545 for one simple way to do as good a calibration as you need to determine how trustworthy your nitrate test is.

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post #10 of 63 (permalink) Old 02-18-2014, 10:22 PM Thread Starter
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Nitrate problem.

Phew, ok. I actually didn't know that the fertilizer had nitrates.. Should I stop adding it? I used to use only RO water but that's long over, that would be difficult if I do larger water changes? And get expensive? Should I get peat moss? Should I put a carbon filter in?
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Feeding:
Ok I might do a little hefty feeding. I feed twice a day, morning and evening. 6 shrimp pellets, 1 algae wafer a day, like 1-2 flakes of fish food, maybe 3 shrimp pellets every now and then, sometimes I put frog pellets in (like 10) but not often, once a week during water changes I give frozen bloodworms to my frogs, and the other fish get some too.
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post #11 of 63 (permalink) Old 02-19-2014, 12:01 AM
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It is all a lot to take in at one time. I would suggest doing some checking on what the ferts have in them. Nitrogen is kind of a standard for many fert types. Read on the label to see how much and then it may take a combo of several of the suggestions to get it down. More water changing will get ferts out but then adding them while trying to reduce them is not going to work very well! Not sure if it was mentioned but adding some more plants is one way to deal with more of the nitrogen. As the plants grow, they will gradually take care of that but if you added some it might be quicker.
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post #12 of 63 (permalink) Old 02-19-2014, 12:42 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
It is all a lot to take in at one time. I would suggest doing some checking on what the ferts have in them. Nitrogen is kind of a standard for many fert types. Read on the label to see how much and then it may take a combo of several of the suggestions to get it down. More water changing will get ferts out but then adding them while trying to reduce them is not going to work very well! Not sure if it was mentioned but adding some more plants is one way to deal with more of the nitrogen. As the plants grow, they will gradually take care of that but if you added some it might be quicker.

Do you have any suggestions? I will definitely be adding more plants and it's just that the KH is so high that I don't want anything design Surely dead plants contribute to nitrate.

On the label:
Total nitrogen:
.07%
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post #13 of 63 (permalink) Old 02-19-2014, 03:18 AM
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Doesn't seem like a lot there but then it is likely to be coming from all the sources that have been mentioned. Dead plants for sure but almost any thing that is left over will add some. This is probably not going to be quick fix type deal but more a close process toward what you want. Water changes are the quickest way to get it down. Whatever reading you have, a fifty percent water change will cut that in half. So if you keep doing large enough water changes, that by itself would get it down but that is not something most of us want to do all the time so finding what items that are contributing to the load and cutting them down is often a better way.
More water more often, cleaning filters more often, vacing the bottom closer and adding more plants will all help. Just have to choose which works best for you in your tank.
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post #14 of 63 (permalink) Old 02-19-2014, 03:57 AM Thread Starter
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I don't usually rinse out my sponge filter.. But I haven't had it more than a couple months either. Water changes aren't really a problem since I have a python. For the filter I usually press my gravel vac into it in a couple areas and get some of the stuff out that way I guess. I'm planning to get some trumpet snails to burrow on my sand as well, and I've read they eat dead plants too, so maybe that's a good idea? I'm definitely getting more plants though.


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post #15 of 63 (permalink) Old 02-21-2014, 12:37 AM Thread Starter
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So I should do the large water changes for a while too? Maybe 50% twice a week until they're down?


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