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It's very difficult to measure nitrate accurately and consistently in the lower ranges (less than 30ppm) using hobbyist test kits. Really requires calibration with a reference solution, even then it's not great. Nitrate testing is a little more accurate in the higher ranges using hobbyist kits, but then again all you need is to know that it's somewhere above 40ppm; then it may be time for action regardless of the actual concentration.

So your advice of 20-40ppm being ok and mine of <10ppm being ok really suffer either way due the inaccuracy of test kits. For this reason I use reference solutions, but even then I don't completely trust the result..

All of that aside.. In my low tech I have a high fish load but the tank is heavily planted. I have a mix of stems, mosses and ferns. I have to top up nitrate every week using KNO3 when it gets a little low... so running a low tech at these nitrate levels (less than 10ppm) can be done successfully even with a high fish load.

I think of nitrate like I think of any nutrient.. It should be supplied in mild excess of plant uptake. In a low tech you rarely see plants needing more than 10ppm nitrate. In my tank I need to top up N twice per week to keep 10ppm concentration. Allowing N to balloon out a little to 20-40ppm isn't really necessary or healthy. If this is happening to you, increase water changes, add more plants or reduce fish numbers.
 

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Tough call! All you can do is try. SS is pointing out a lot of truths and there is a lot of uncertainty in this hobby. I can't even guarantee that I'm doing the tests correctly.

I do know that fast growing plants, lots of plant mass, a regular water change schedule, and a modest fish load are all good starts to keeping a successful low tech tank. I think you'll be fine when those vals take off. I know mine have to be helping with the waste load.

What kind of floaters are those? I know floaters help because they grow quickly. I have some frogbit if you want some. I also may be able to throw in some dwarf sag which would help fill in the bottom of your tank. It won't be much, but 6 months from now (if you do your part!) it will be a large mass.
 

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Hey Nick,

By next week my floaters will have taken over all three of my big tanks. I'll have some extra dwarf water lettuce very soon I can spare. I already have a lot now. This will really help with your nitrate issue.

You could also replant the extra Anacharis to help soak up some more ammonia out of the water. That way it wont make it through the nitrogen cycle process and turn out as nitrate. The legal limit for nitrate in tap water is about 44ppm because at those levels it reduces the amount of oxygen taken in by cells and can cause serious damage. This is to both humans (especially infants and the elderly) and fish.

I had to really study nitrate while I live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland because the nitrates out of the tap there are ~35ppm. The plant was only reporting 5ppm. I had Salisbury University test the water and they gave me the a result that was 33.8ppm. My API test kit was measuring around 40-60ppm constantly. That kit is not as accurate when measuring amounts of nitrate above 20ppm. It's just too hard to tell. The Eastern Shore has a giant nitrate problem because of the large amount of farms and run off. It's why we see so much algae issues there.
 

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Plants will take up ammonia preferentially over nitrate. In my well established, well planted tank I was able to add a school of 20+ fish (about maximum capacity) without any real 'cycle' happening, even though the tank was livestock free for months. I never added fish food etc as an ammonia source, so the tank was essentially ammonia free apart from the leftover ammonia in chloramine following a water change.

Nitrifying bacteria have a tough job competing with plant uptake of ammonia in a well planted tank. Nitrifying bacteria are there to mop up any left over ammonia not taken up by plants, not the other way around.
 

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Discussion Starter · #46 ·
Thank you for the information! Sometimes I feel like an idiot when looking around on this site, and wonder how I was able to keep from killing fish all these years... But now that I know a little more I hope that future fishes will be happier! I did a test 24hrs after and the readings are more normal, I will do another on Saturday (5 days after the water change) and will post a picture of all 3.

Nice tank and yea you just got to keep up on weekly water changes. But with a 125 I can see where it's a pain in the @$$
Thank you! And yes it is a little bit of a pain, twice the amount of what I am used too but worth it!

Tough call! All you can do is try. SS is pointing out a lot of truths and there is a lot of uncertainty in this hobby. I can't even guarantee that I'm doing the tests correctly.

I do know that fast growing plants, lots of plant mass, a regular water change schedule, and a modest fish load are all good starts to keeping a successful low tech tank. I think you'll be fine when those vals take off. I know mine have to be helping with the waste load.

What kind of floaters are those? I know floaters help because they grow quickly. I have some frogbit if you want some. I also may be able to throw in some dwarf sag which would help fill in the bottom of your tank. It won't be much, but 6 months from now (if you do your part!) it will be a large mass.
I wonder to sometimes if I do the test correctly, and I have frogbit, large duckweed, and Salvinia as floaters. There is also a fair amount of hornwort floating right now too. The floaters are currently covering about 1/3 of the surface and still spreading, and you can see the mass of hornwort in the last picture (started out with about a quarter of that amount). I have gypsy swords that are curently going through a wilting (not sure why but there is new growth too so fingers crossed) right next to the blyxa, but would be willing to try some dwarf sag!
@Termato I can't wait we will have to see about doing a get together sometime next month. I will have to get the wife to join me this time so that she can bask in the awesomeness that is your mts I mean couple tanks :)

On another note I went and got some gutters and chain for doing the lights, now to just decide on if I am going with the Cree LEDs from rapid led or if I am going to try doing 4-6 rows per gutter of the led strips. I am leaning more towards the Cree with lenses on them for better penetration just not sure how long it will take to buy it all since they are a bit more expensive when you include the power/dimmer/lens parts...
 

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Discussion Starter · #47 ·
I was able to do a 25% water change on 02Jan16 then on the third I started getting sick. I ended up getting Pneumonia. Well I am just now getting over it, I don't have a fever now but still have a lot of the other symptoms. needless to say I didn't do a water change this last weekend. Even though there wasn't a water change the Nitrates are still low, and thank God for automatic feeders! I did loose 2 Marble Hatchets sadly I think that they jumped out when the feeder went off since the feeder only was intended as a back up for a couple days not a couple weeks it doesn't put out a lot of food. I may have to see about increasing the feeder amount of the add feeding times. The plants all are looking good too, the floaters have taken over about 80% of the surface (Going to move some over to the quarantine tank and maybe the 15G) @Termato We may have to have a get together the end of this month or beginning of next depending on our schedules...

Here is the picture of the Nitrate levels 24hrs after the first water change with the comparison test then the next picture was taken to night after testing the PH and Nitrates. I will be doing a water change this weekend though it will be small as I am still recovering from being sick.




Nitrates are showing about 20ppm (maybe less hard to say so I am estimating on the high side) and PH is about 6.4. I will see about taking another picture of the tank this weekend after the water change, as well as posting a picture of the work I am doing on the lights for this tank.
 

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and wonder how I was able to keep from killing fish all these years
Common sense. If your fish survived this long, you already know your stuff. Only time served from here accessing information at a rapid rate = the pursuit of perfection. We should always aim to be better regardless of time served.
 

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Discussion Starter · #50 ·
Slow progress is being made!

I am glad too! And you will probably be doing another ROAK by the time we get together again, lol... Hope you are stocked up for this weekend's blizzard, I am not sure that your building will have to much problems with freezing pipes and such but power outages might be in both of our near futures...

Glad you are feeling better. Let me know when you want to get them. I'm shipping some out this week because It's covering too much of my tank but I'll set some aside for you. I have that much...lol
I finally found tops that I like for my tank! It is a corrugated plastic siding. I have everything cut and they are installed, no more saran wrap trying to keep hatchets and bala sharks from jumping out! (which was a failure for the hatchets, I have lost 4 :frown2: ). I also finally got a picture of the gutters and such that I will be using for the LED lights. I am planning on sanding down the canopy frame this weekend and sealing it, I will be fitting the gutters for hanging while I am doing this. I should get some pictures while I am doing this and will post them.

and @Straight shooter I agree that this site is a great well of information on how we can make our tanks and the lives of our fish better!

Now for pictures!

The gutters and chain.


Cutting the plastic.


Lids installed. (I also have a hole cut near the center brace now for the auto feeder, but that was done after this picture obviously)


A side view of the lids, also look at all the floaters! about 3/4 of the top is covered!
 

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Common sense. If your fish survived this long, you already know your stuff. Only time served from here accessing information at a rapid rate = the pursuit of perfection. We should always aim to be better regardless of time served.
You have heaps of floating plants in there. No wonder your fish survived all these years. They will keep a tank full of livestock in tip top shape in large enough numbers. Learn from this people.
 
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