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Is there any way to get rid of nitrates other than through water changes?

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According to what I've read, there are very few aquatic plants out there that take up nitrates efficiently, and if plants do take up nitrates, they have to use up ammonia first. So are nitrates essentially stuck floating around in your water column forever? Are water changes the only solution?

My goal, though perhaps unrealistic, is to have a perpetual system where little to no water changes are required.
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There are chemical "nitrate sponges" that will absorb nitrates, at least for a while.

There are also some plants with a particular affinity for nitrates, or just fast growth and high nutrient uptake, which are also sometimes referred to as "nitrate sponges". Java fern comes to mind in addition to what Guppygolucky suggested.

Search for "nitrate sponges" for more info. Depending on how close to perpetual you're aiming for, it can be a challenging specialty that few people attempt; in which case you might need to broaden your search beyond this forum.
 

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In any fertilizer, nitrates are the highest % active component. Using EI dosing, you would dose nitrates twice as much as any other nutrient. This should suggest how important nitrates are to plant growth. With a planted tank, it's generally more important to worry about low nitrate levels than high ones.

Still, if you are adding fertilizers regularly, you will have to do water changes, even if only occasionally.
 

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What you have read is "basically" right but "practically" wrong. Most of us can't keep nitrates high enough in our tanks. There is little need to actually worry about keeping nitrates down in a planted tank. Plants will readily use nitrates when the ammonia is used up, and it will be used up rather quickly in all but the most basic tanks.
 

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If you are concerned then test your water then act accordingly. I use pps-pro method and do water changes about every 6 months. I agree with overstocked. It wont be a problem in a planted tank. And i add alot of nitrates to my tank to keep then where i want and i have 35 fish in a 55g.

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Many people who have high nitrates, really just have lousy test kits, which they haven't bothered to calibrate. There is a good reason why we dose more nitrates and potassium than any other fertilizers. Now, if you have a fish and plastic doodad tank, that's a different subject, beyond the scope of this forum.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I have been testing with API test kit and my nitrates, despite weekly/biweekly water changes, have consistently remained at 40-80 (I can't really tell the difference between the colors). My tank is admittedly overstocked and I read that the goal is to have nitrates around 10-20, which is actually the reason why I got plants in the first place. My phosphates are also high, at around 5 ppm. I know nitrates aren't particularly dangerous, but at my levels, should I be concerned?

I have a ton of hornwort in my other tank that I don't test or watch that much. It was my first tank, is filled with feeder minnows, and has virtually no light other than indirect light, incandescent light, and bits of direct sunlight in the morning and afternoon. I rarely do water changes. Last time I tested nitrates, it was extremely high, around 120. That was before I put hornwort and other plants. I'm gonna test it to see if it made any difference, as the hornwort now covers everything
 

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That's the problem with the API Nitrate test kit. I wouldn't be concerned about 40 PPM in a planted tank but, you can't really see the difference between 40 to 80 PPM with the API test kit. Different shades of dark red. I think even if it's calibrated, you'd still have to choose between dark red and dark red. I would do 50 % water changes per week and cover the surface with Hornwort. Hornwort grows so fast, you could cut out a bunch and throw it out with the weekly water change. That in my mind would be the safest and cheapest way to remove nitrates.
 

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I've tried to naturally remove NO3 in the past with wc's and adding hornwort, riccia, etc, but both methods yielded poor results.

The easiest and most fail proof method is to dose Amquel Plus at twice the recommended level. This should knock it right out.
 
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