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Need help with Nitrates

6009 Views 54 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  Edward
I have a 12 gallon tank fully planted and loosing fish. I have not been testing the water or doing water changes for quite some time. I’m using pressurized CO2 and dosing PPS pro as per the instructions from the manufacture. At first I thought I was gassing them and my drop CHECKER just wasn’t working so I turned the CO2 completely off. Came home from work today and found another dead fish so I decided to check my water and found everything perfect but nitrates extremely high. Can this be the Ferts that I’m dozing? I have another tank that I dose the same solution with and the parameters are Good. See pictures attached. I could really use some advice thank you guys and gals.
One more thing: I have four or five Amano shrimp that will not seem to come out of hiding since I started adding fish. They used to run the tank now they only hide.Could that be a sign of something wrong as well? The fish I’ve lost are neon tetra’s and zebra Danio’s. I’ve also lost a handful of Ottos but I think that’s just because they like to die. ;) Plant Water Vertebrate Botany Green

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Im sorry @Edward.
I misunderstood your position because I was paying too much attention to the data and not to what you were telling me ( missed posts, even). Looking back now I see you were giving me articles to express the toxicity relationship between high nitrates and aquarium life. Right?
No wonder I was so confused by your choice of articles.

And if Im still wrong-- I give up.
 

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@Edward can't use quotes so text below in blue is from your recent post.

I will say it again;
At the stage your aquarium is in, I would really like to find out why you are experiencing problems when lowering NO3 to half when the most aquariums on this planet with the best plants have 1/10th of that.
I don't know. And frankly it doesn't matter that much to me. Right now my dosing is almost exactly the same as Burr and Pikez. Now they are both far more successful than me, but I am working on it. Put it this way, my tank isn't perfect, and you can pick out all the flaws you want, but it's good enough to make me happy.

And your question really is PPS vs EI in general. As you probably know, when Burr tests his tank N is always red 40+.

For example, some tetras get more colorful, more beautiful when introduced to higher trace element metals. More Cu better colour they get, until they go to shock and die. Even when dead, they have unusually very strong ‘beautiful’ coloration. So much for happy looking fish, right?

I haven't read any of the articles you linked to, and probably never will.

As I've said, I can only speak to my personal experience. Below are pics of two Rainbows that are in my tank right now. They are both about ten years old, and have been raised in what you call a high nitrate environment since they were less than an inch long.

According to you I have been torturing them all these years. So how long does N take to kill fish? Must be closer to 15 years as these guys appear about as healthy as can be to me.


 

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Discussion Starter · #43 ·
Wow! Lots of good information here and I actually appreciate the conflicting theories as it reinforces the fact that their isn't always one good answer for any given problem. I did about a 30% water change and will continue to do so until nitrates are lower. I tend to believe that the high nitrates are not a problem based soley on what I have read and not by experience whatsoever but don't want to keep loosing fish as I have been. I lost two more danios since my last post and the only parameter that seems off Is my nitrates. Of course I am only using the API test kit.


Edward:
I am not exactly sure how much CO2 I am dosing as I am not certain how to measure it correctly. (do you suggest the GH/KH test? I have read that this is fully unreliable). I have the bubble counter @ just a little above 1bps when I used to have it so high I couldn't even count it. The drop counter is solid green to slightly blue when it used to be green w/ a tinge of yellow hue.
I failed to mention that the fish loss has spiked once I started dosing PPS Pro method. I stopped dosing ferts altogether when I first added a post on here. Plants seemed to have slowed their growth but still look nice and are growing.
I don't know what my GH is in tank or tap but will test when I get home tonight and will post them.
I don't have a phosphate test kit. I have very little algae that I can see and never have had a problem with it in this tank if that matters.

I can't vac my substrate as it is to heavily planted with MC. I cleaned my filter and added new mechanical filtration twice the amount of what it was. Removed Carbon. With HOB filter I have no added biological aside from what is in the tank. The HOB is equipped for a bio-wheel which I don't use. Should I start using it? Does it matter?

As an aside: once I did the water change the neons started to swim in a group again and seemed to be playing in the current when they were just kind of roaming on their own with some just sort of hovering around the bottom. at this point I turned up the CO2 from 1dps to maybe 1.5 to 2.0dps and the neons separated a bit again. Coincidental?? I left the CO2 where it is and look forward to seeing what Is going on when I get home today.

The shrimp have come out of hiding and are feeding in the moss
 

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Post #1
Thread Starter, davgriggs:
I’m using pressurized CO2 and dosing PPS-Pro as per the instructions from the manufacture. Came home from work today and found another dead fish so I decided to check my water and found everything perfect but nitrates extremely high.
Post #2
The nitrate level you have, as indicated from your water test, is most certainly the underlying cause of your fish deaths.
High nitrates kills over time, it is not immediate, by lowering the fishes immune system.
The fish, due to the high nitrates, becomes stressed and as a result succumbs to parasitic or bacterial infections that it would-- if healthy-- be able to combat.
To find the range that is best for you (with fish I would try to stay under 20ppm at all times) you may need to do further testing to find out how often need to change to stay within a healthy level.
Disagree with above.
Many EI tanks are 50+ ppm nitrates for years. If you set out to kill your fish with high Nitrates, you would be highly disappointed. Would take far more and longer than you think.
With all due respect, they suggest keeping a tank at no higher than 5 to 10 ppm Nitrates. Do you think ANY planted tank here on this board would fall into that category? Or for that matter very few freshwater tanks in general… Even the article says fish don't show any symptoms under 100ppm.
@Edward I get that your system is PPS. And you have success with it. And many others use EI, and they have success with it. …Keep in mind my goal is not to prove any theory.
And your question really is PPS vs EI in general.
Greggz, can you let us help davgriggs, the thread starter OP?
 

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@davgriggs IMO your fish problems have nothing to do with N from dosing.

You likely answered your question in your first post. Water changes are the single best thing you can do for fish health. Get on a regular weekly schedule, and more is better. Personally I change about 70% weekly.

I would also recommend good general maintenance. Keep the filters clean, vacuum what you can, even if it's just removing fish waste lightly from the carpet. Provide good surface agitation, so that water is well oxygenated.

As to CO2, right now you are pretty much guessing. Get a pH pen and some calibration fluid. Let a glass full of tank water sit out for two or three days, then test the pH. This will provide you a baseline degassed value.

Then measure the tank pH as the CO2 period begins. Many start off by shooting for a 1.0 pH drop. So if your degassed value is 7.5, adjust CO2 so that the tank goes down to 6.5. Counting bubbles is not a very reliable way to measure CO2 injection.

As always, observe livestock for changes. I've yet to see fish shows signs of stress from too much CO2 from a 1.0 drop.

Once you have more confidence and want to keep more demanding plants, you may find plants respond better to an even further drop. Myself and many here shoot for more like a 1.2 to 1.4 pH drop. In my tank, it takes about 1.50 before fish show signs of stress. And if you do go higher tech (increased lighting, CO2, more demanding plants) you may find you need to dose more than PPS. I've seen this play out many times here on the board, but every tank is different.

All that being said, it's always possible the fish were sick already, or came from poor weak breeding stock.

But most importantly, get on a regular water change schedule. In my opinion that is going to fix most of your problems.
 

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I'm having a hard time believing that nitrates are the reason for the OP's deaths, especially dosing PPS. Granted, they are high and should be reduced. There has to be something else going on. Maybe a temporary ammonia spike, insufficient O2 levels, parasitic/bacterial infection (maybe carried over from LFS even). The fact that so many have raised livestock with EI dosing makes me skeptical about nitrates being a cause. I'd look elsewhere for your issue.
 

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I am not exactly sure how much CO2 I am dosing as I am not certain how to measure it correctly. (do you suggest the GH/KH test? I have read that this is fully unreliable). I have the bubble counter @ just a little above 1bps when I used to have it so high I couldn't even count it. The drop counter is solid green to slightly blue when it used to be green w/ a tinge of yellow hue.
The way you do it is good. It is a 12 gallon aquarium so 1 – 2 bps is ok. Keep it steady.
I failed to mention that the fish loss has spiked once I started dosing PPS Pro method.
In the past, I have seen fertilizer bags mixed up and also weighting and mixing solutions incorrectly. It is difficult to troubleshoot when that happens. Let’s say, for some reason there is missing KH2PO4 in the solution then NO3 will not be taken by plants as much as it should and it starts accumulating in the water column. Do you use digital scale?
I don't know what my GH is in tank or tap but will test when I get home tonight and will post them.
I asked this because plants need calcium. Your source is tap, but if you don’t change water for some time it can get used up and plants stop taking NO3.
I don't have a phosphate test kit. I have very little algae that I can see and never have had a problem with it in this tank if that matters.
I asked because it can confirm PO4 in the dosing solution. Again, if PO4 is missing NO3 will not be taken by plants.
I cleaned my filter and added new mechanical filtration twice the amount of what it was. Removed Carbon. With HOB filter I have no added biological aside from what is in the tank. The HOB is equipped for a bio-wheel which I don't use. Should I start using it? Does it matter?
Perfect. You don’t need the wheel. Clean the filters as often as you find them dirty.
As an aside: once I did the water change the neons started to swim in a group again and seemed to be playing in the current when they were just kind of roaming on their own with some just sort of hovering around the bottom. at this point I turned up the CO2 from 1dps to maybe 1.5 to 2.0dps and the neons separated a bit again. Coincidental?? I left the CO2 where it is and look forward to seeing what Is going on when I get home today. The shrimp have come out of hiding and are feeding in the moss
Very good.

Also your gravel is probably leaching KH due to CO2 injection. The only way to keep this under control is with water changes and the cheapest and easiest way is to get a TDS Tester. It lasts forever and it will also tell you when water change is needed. You can get it cheaply from Home Depot or elsewhere.

You forgot one thing: How much and how often are you dosing solution #1 macros and #2 micros? Without sufficient dosing, NO3 will also go up.

For your 12 gallon aquarium the daily dose should be
1.2 ml or 24 drops Solution #1 macros
0.6 ml or 12 drops Solution #2 micros
 

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@davgriggs do you have any root tabs in the substrate? such as Osmocote+? how long you had these fish for? where did you buy them from? i myself would loose 50% fish in the first few week to month if i bought them from petsmart. i wont comment on high NO3 killing fish but i can tell you one thing, when i dosed high level of nutrients, fish and shrimp would randomly die and most of them would no pass over 6 month to a year. other possible reason in your case could be very high co2 levels, i never seen neon or shrimp going on top of the surface when co2 was high, instead they look lazy or hiding all the time. if you ever have a concern about High No3 or you ever change your mind, you can simply use NH4/Urea based nitrogen, this will give you much better plant growth and keep the NO3 low as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #50 ·
@ GREGZZ, Fantastic info Greggz. I never heard of checking the PH drop before. I have a PH pen I recently purchased along with some solution but never really knew what the heck to do with it aside from measuring PH. I will start right away on that. My co2 comes on at 11am and lights at noon. co2 off @ 8:30 and lights [email protected] 9:00pm. When would you suggest taking the PH reading. You said when the CO2 period begins...

Did I learn wrong in learning to keep surface agitation low due to gas exchange and thus loosing co2?

I will certainly be doing regular water changes. They certainly aren't hard in a 12 gallon tank. I was lead to believe that they just are not necessary but I'm going to throw that thought out as I am know that this will fix most problems..

ps. I used to work in Plymouth MI off of 5 Mile so I know where you live.... so to speak :)

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@ Edward.

been dosing every night as soon as lights go out. 1.0ml macro and two drops of micro (as per instructions) I use a digital scale to make solution.
- by the way... why dose with the lights are off. I am doing this because the instructions say to do so but doesn't explain why this is. also is dosing at beginning of the dark period the best time? instructions only say while lights are out. Is this because fertilizer in water column and on leaves will burn the plant when the lights are on kind of like with terrestrial plants and not dosing when sun is high?

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@ Happi - I don't use root tabs and have heard a bit about Urea. I'm not knowledgeable enough to start anything more than I am doing now. I am probably doing more than maybe I should already. I started my tank the first of April having no experience whatsoever. This is the first problem that I have had so far. I have kind of been waiting for the bottom to fall out as I know that I don't fully understand what the heck I am doing... I started adding fish a few months ago and stopped a few weeks ago. been loosing them every now and again since the beginning and more rapidly since I started dosing PPS. Fish and snails bought from LFS (used several of the big box) types don't remember exactly which one. Amano's I bought online.


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I'm starting to lean toward high CO2 rather than high NO3 but will do all I can to get them all to a safer level.
going to do another water change tonight when I get home fingers crossed that there are no more dead ones when I get there.

Thank you so much everyone for trying to help this newbie out. Despite all this I am still loving the Hobby!!
 

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@davgriggs it's a small world. I grew up at 5 & Haggerty in Plymouth.

A pH reading changes instantly while a drop checker takes several hours. I would start checking a couple of hours after the CO2 period begins. Then periodically throughout the day. Getting your CO2 correct is worth your time. It can prevent you from chasing your tail with lots of other things. It's the first thing I recheck if anything is wonky. And like I said, don't rely on counting bubbles. They are not uniform and are little better than a guess.

In my opinion, you did hear wrong about limiting surface agitation. For both fish and plants, you want the water highly oxygenated. Lack of oxygen can kill fish pretty much faster than anything. A good surface ripple will make your fish happy, and cost you pennies in more CO2 in a tank that size (and even in a big tank too).

And if you just started the tank in April, looks like you are doing a lot things right, and the tank looks like a nice start. As you get deeper into the hobby, there are a lot of folks who here who are glad to help.

You never mentioned your lighting, but that will drive everything else. The higher the lighting, the more demand for CO2 and ferts.

Good luck and look forward to seeing how things go for you. If you want to get more involved here, start a journal. It's a great way to share your progress and get help from others who have similar set up to yours.
 

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@ Edward.
been dosing every night as soon as lights go out. 1.0ml macro and two drops of micro (as per instructions) I use a digital scale to make solution.
- by the way... why dose with the lights are off. I am doing this because the instructions say to do so but doesn't explain why this is. also is dosing at beginning of the dark period the best time? instructions only say while lights are out.
You need to dose before lights go on, not after off. When plants suck it up in 30 minutes they have it ready for photosynthesis when lights come on.

For high light and CO2 you need to change dosing to;
1.2 ml or 24 drops Solution #1 macros
0.6 ml or 12 drops Solution #2 micros
 

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Discussion Starter · #53 ·
Edward,

I leave for work in the am @ 7am but lights don't come on until noon. If I dose @ 7am-ish is this to early to dose considering no lights until noon? If I turn the lights on to much earlier I won't have much time at night with the tank lights on.

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Greggz - lighting is a Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED single strip and a florescent grow light type aquarium lamp that is usually used with a hood. not sure wattage on florescent but believe it is in the 20 range. 6500k on the led. used to have two of the florescent but seems to be doing just as well with only one. what is your opinion on my lighting situation? need more? less? plants seem to be doing really well. they started to really explode once I started to dose PPS.

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Are Nitrates raised by Macros, Micros or neither? I don't understand the chemistry behind it all. What drives nitrates other than the nitrogen cycle. Am I even asking the right questions? If I raise or lower my micro or macros right now is it going to affect my nitrate level? I stopped dosing a few days back once I noticed the high nitrates. Im sort of nervous to even start dosing again.

thanks
 

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Edward,

I leave for work in the am @ 7am but lights don't come on until noon. If I dose @ 7am-ish is this to early to dose considering no lights until noon? If I turn the lights on to much earlier I won't have much time at night with the tank lights on.
Better if you dose in the morning than at night and leave light timer the way it is.
Are Nitrates raised by Macros, Micros or neither? I don't understand the chemistry behind it all. What drives nitrates other than the nitrogen cycle. Am I even asking the right questions? If I raise or lower my micro or macros right now is it going to affect my nitrate level? I stopped dosing a few days back once I noticed the high nitrates. Im sort of nervous to even start dosing again.
If you don’t dose complete fertilizer your plants will not take up as much nutrients as they could. As a result, fish waste will start accumulating in water and becomes detectable as NO3 and PO4. See, plants are incredibly greedy creatures, they take up more than they need. But there is a catch, it has to be balanced. The Solution #1 macros have N, P, K, Mg, S and the Solution #2 micros have Fe, Mn, B, Zn and Cu. So the best setup is when added fertilizer makes plants so excited that they remove also the fish waste.
 
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