Nitrates - 0 Am I supposed to Get Them Up? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-21-2014, 02:39 PM Thread Starter
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Nitrates - 0 Am I supposed to Get Them Up?


New tank. Had about two weeks. Planted with hornwort, anubas, java moss, water wisteria. Anyway, this week I added two very small tetra. I am testing every day. Nitrates at 0.

I read tons on here and I understand that for the plants nitrates are not supposed to be at 0. Am I supposed to do something to get the nitrates up or should I leave it alone since I only have two small tetra. Tropical Fish store said to only add about 2 fish at a time so therefore I probably do not have that much waste I guess. 15.8 gallon tank. Maybe I should run out and get more fish?

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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-21-2014, 03:33 PM
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You did not cycle this tank ?
Placing only one or two fish at a time seems like a "how can I get by without cycling my tank" type of thing. It will work but keep an eye on the ammonia level and have enough water already dechlorinated to be able to change 50% of the water if
the Ammonia gets over .5
Those plants will use some of the ammonia. But how much ?
Wisteria uses excess amounts of Potassium so it will get pin holes in it if you don't
use ferts in youtr tank. Liquid store bought ferts have no or little Potassium.
Nitrates will result from the fish waste breaking down AFTER the tank cycles.
It also increaes when you add KNO3(a fert as in one of them).

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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-21-2014, 04:32 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks. I did the store bought bacteria thing. I put in bacteria for a few days like the bottle said. Afterwards, I put in the two fish like the tropical store told me (2 tropical stores actually - not petsmart or petco employees).

I am re-reading and printing out the links you sent. I read some already but apparently am not getting it. I feel like I need to hire a coach or something.

When I set it up, both tropical stores told me that for my tank I could get by with just sand for my plants, and not the flourite or other nutrient enriched soil. Do I really need the flourite/nutrient enriched soil? Is it too late to like - add some - or mix it in?

Thanks again. I hope I didn't ask stupid questions. I have had cats, dogs, turtles, ducks, hamsters, rats, etc. but never fish in my life. I have a degree in molecular biology so to me this really is like a science experiment.


Last edited by dbw27; 05-21-2014 at 04:32 PM. Reason: Edited for Clarification
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-21-2014, 04:53 PM
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It all comes down to the all-important Nitrogen cycle of aquariums.

For planted tanks, I've read that you should be somewhere between a 10 and 20 ppm nitrate reading.

I've actually been doing some research on ideal water parameters and so far it seems to average out to;

Nitrates; 10 to 20 ppm
Phosphates; 1 to 2 ppm
Potassium; 20 ppm (could be higher, overdosing potassium is not a health hazard)
Iron; 1 ppm (chelated obviously)

Hope this helps!
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-21-2014, 05:02 PM
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You haven't mentioned what your lighting is. The more light the more growth your asking of your plants and therefore the more food you must give them to fuel that growth. Your nitrates are low because 1) you have probably not completed your cycle yet and are still running with ammonia and nitrites, and 2) it is as yet a clean tank with few fish so there is little to cycle. If your light is not bright then you can probably continue this way of adding just a few fish at a time and letting the nitrate build up over time. If your light is bright then your likely to see a big growth of algae soon since algae seems to love that sort of imbalance.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-21-2014, 05:10 PM
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Originally Posted by dbw27 View Post
both tropical stores told me that for my tank I could get by with just sand for my plants
Depends which plants you are trying to grow and what effect you are trying to achieve.

Many of your plants would be happy growing on manzanita wood.

The way I was taught to view aquatic plant nutrition was to feed the roots with the soil and then add fertilizer to the plant bodies via the water.

No it is not too late.

Save the sand for accent.

I used it to line 1/2" of the tank sides to hide the roots. Soil will drift over it and it won't look too "designer". I took a sheet of styrene from the hobby train store and pulled back the mud. Then poured the sand.

The preferred method is to mix your own fertilizers.


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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-21-2014, 05:51 PM
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Regarding the sand, that is fine. I had sand as my substrate for a couple years and it worked great. Just make sure you use root tabs so the plants get the proper nutrients as sand is inert.
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-21-2014, 05:56 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks so much for writing me. I just ran up the street to the pet store to double check my readings. Yes, my nitrates, nitrites, ammonia are all zero. Like I said, I did do the "adding liquid bacteria" method for a few days to cycle the tank.

Are my plants starving?

webskipper: Coincidentially, I did just get some manzanita driftwood this week for the tank and boiled it, although the tropical store said they already powerwashed it, they said I could boil it also. It is sitting on my kitchen counter. I was planning to attach some Christmas moss to it that I have on the way online. My local tropical store which runs plants for cheap and has a huge sale right now, has been out of about everything (because of sale), but told me their next big shipment comes in tomorrow so I was planning to get some dwarf sagittaria.

My lighting is very low. It is simply the light that came with the 15.8 gallon tank (it is LED attached under the hood and there are two 16 LED strips). I really want a larger tank but my landlord does NOT. Therefore, I got what I could.

Isn't styrene plastic? I thought that was bad for the fishies. Did you leave it in the tank?

My plants are already planted and my bulbs are already sprouting. If I put in flourite or eco complete now, would I have to unroot everything and start over? Can I take out some sand out and just put some eco complete in? Crap. I already started over once :-) and did not want to start over again. Heh.

Absntmind: Thanks. Strange as it is, crazy tropical store also told me I did not need root tabs. For a huge tropical fish store, they sure do not try to sell me stuff.

Holy_Peanuts: I read that too from the links that were sent to me and am now planning to hang that bit of info on the wall next to the aquarium until I remember it.

Are there any testing kits to test what nutrients I have?

I do not have any carbon dioxide set up. I was hoping to get by with Excel on a low light tank with low light plants. If I could not get by with that, I was planning on a DIY thing. I am a full time graduate student so right now I am on the three week break before summer session starts, but once school/practicum, etc. all starts, I would not have much time for a high tech set up I do not think.

I use the aqadviser and have absolutely no intention of overstocking fish. I am also over filtering (30 g filter on a 15.8 gallon tank). I chose to go the live tank route (that was the do over from initial gravel/fake plant route) because it looks better, seems to mimic the natural environment, and I read is better for the fishies. I like gardening so have no problems pruning etc. I have no time to garden outside (when I am in school) but I figure cutting back some plants in a small aquarium is okay.

Thanks so much! I really appreciate it!


Last edited by dbw27; 05-21-2014 at 06:33 PM. Reason: Added Info
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-21-2014, 10:15 PM
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I wouldn't worry too much about the substrate. I think most of your plants tend to pull their nutrients from the water column more then the substrate. Also, Java fern and Anubias don't even need substrate - they should just be glued/tied to some driftwood or rock or something (If you did 'plant' them, pull them up enough so the rhizome (the stem-like part the leaves grow off of) isn't buried).

I think Hornwort and Wisteria are also commonly grown loose/floating, so substrate isn't a real concern.

Whatever bulb you have might like heavier feeding, but I've also seen some types do fine in plain sand/gravel. If you want you could do a root tab for that, but it's not necessary.

Since you are just starting out, I'd recommend keeping an eye on ammonia and nitrite, and not worrying to much about plant nutrients. As long as you keep doing regular water changes, most of your plants will probably be okay. You might not get great growth, but I don't think they will up and die on you. Once you get a bit of experience, and your tank is somewhat established, you can start poking around about some of the other nutrients/methods.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-21-2014, 10:49 PM
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+1 on lochaber
All plants can get nutrients from the water. There are some which have well developed root systems which will benefit extra if root tabs are used but not necessary.
For the first few months, do more learnng than messing/w the tank.
The first two or three weeks the plants are adjusting so don't expect from them yet.
That Rhizome looks like a stem going across thebottom of the leaves. That should not be planted but only the roots which hang down from it. Those plants are a couple of the type which people tie onto wood or rocks and the plant get all it's ferts from the water when like that.
There are two or three kinds of that bacteria stuff which actually work. If you got one of them the tank is cycled but you should watch the ammonia especially.
The Wisteria will develope holes in the leaves if it doesn't have enough food but you
don't know how much light you have yet. That drives the plants to grow.
Watch and see if the plants seem to grow any or start to look bad can give an idea
of how much light is there. What brand of light fixture is it ? Maybe someone on here can look it up.

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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-22-2014, 12:28 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks so much! These are my plants. I didn't even put the Anubas' roots all the way in the soil. Is that okay?

I am glad to spend the first few weeks not making a chemistry soup.

You know, I was at one of the tropical stores today (not my usual) and the owner said the strangest thing to me:

1. I said that my nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia are all zero. Shouldn't my nitrates not be zero for a planted tank? And he said, "No that is fine."

2. I just started with my two fish at a time (putting two more little fish in today) and asked him when I can start putting in new species (I want to get dwarf frogs) and he said that I could do that "anytime." Can I really do that anytime? I am worried about an ammonia spike. Am I just over-cautious?

My LED lights are from that new National Geographic line. It came with the tank. Each strip comes with 16 white LEDs and 16 blue LEDs. It just says online:
Includes: 1 tank with slim hood, 1 IFS20 Internal Filter /filtration media, 1 Submersible 100W heater, 2 LED lights w/day and night feature
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