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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I have a problem I think most people in this hobby wish they had; not enough nitrates!

My tank is cycled, and established. I use API liquid test kits and I have multiple tanks so I know the tests are reading accurately.

The tank is 8.5G with about 5 gallons of water in it, I only have a Betta and 5 Amano shrimp, so the bio-load is rather light. I do a 50% water change once a week, I dose Excel daily and Flourish twice a week. After my cycling period, I have never detected a single trace of Ammonia, Nirtite, or Nitrates! The only time I can get an Ammonia reading is right after vacuuming when the tank is a bit kicked up, even then it is less than 0.25ppm which does not even last long before dropping to 0ppm.

This is not necessarily a problem until recently I can not seem to keep my Frogbit thriving, they are having a real hard time producing green growth it is mostly bleached and now the leaves are not getting big the floating plants are becoming stemmy.

I have two ideas on why this is, one is obviously just not enough bio-load since my plant load is so heavy and I add more plants every week! The other is just another side of the same table, this is a riparium and so it has lots of emerged plants with tons of access to CO2 in the air plus they are closest to the light. I believe the terrestrial plants eat more nitrates then my submerged plants do, particularly the grass in the back right corner I got from a pond the root system is massive and requires weekly trim back.

Dosing more Flourish is not going to solve a nitrate problem though, does anyone literally add nitrates to their water?? I could cut back on water changes but I do not think that will help I still need fresh water and keep my TDS down (not that I check for TDS). I must say of all my tanks this one develops the least amount of algae but it still finds its way onto my glass after a while.

 

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Yes, some people dose KNO3 for their tanks. Usually its high tech set ups, but if you're keeping your stock at just your betta, you may run low on nitrates and need to dose to maximize growth. We'll see what others have to say.
 

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I have 3 low tech tanks that are very needy.
1 requires KNO3 due to low NO3, another can't keep phosphates up-constantly dosing KH2PO4, third seems to suck up all the calcium so CaSO4 is required.
They are all from the same tap water.
Either the type of plants or substrate makes them different.

I have set goals for my levels and try to keep them there.
 

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Seachem makes a product line of many different fertilizers called Flourish.
The one most people call simply Flourish is actually Flourish Comprehensive. Mostly it is trace minerals.

Plants use other elements, too.

Fish food supplies many of the nutrients plants need, but in this situation there is not enough.

Since the tank is so small, I would go get the other Seachem Flourish products and figure out just which fertilizers will work for your situation.
What is the GH of the water in the tank? GH is a test for Calcium and Magnesium. If the GH is over 3 German degrees of hardness, then we can ignore Ca and Mg for the moment. If the GH is under 3 degrees, then add a GH booster, such as Seachem Equilibrium.

These are the fertilizers that plants use the most of. Get a small bottle of each, and lets see how things go.

Flourish nitrogen
Flourish phosphorus
Flourish potassium

Start with the label directions, and see how the plants do.
Then post back with more questions, you may have to adjust the dosing.
Once you get the hang of fertilizing, you can think about buying the fertilizer more economically. When you buy liquid fertilizers you are paying for mostly water with just a little active ingredient. You can by the active ingredient dry and add your own water much more economically, especially if you decide to start adding fertilizer to several tanks, or larger tanks. (and the old bottles are great for mixing and storing the ferts!)

Dark green spots on the Anubias is one of the green spot algae.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Uh oh, I do not monitor phosphates. I thought I was good with my master test kit but had to buy a GH/KH kit for my shrimp, I also have snails that die on me and I am out of ideas as to why...maybe its phosphates it is something I do not test for so...

Yes the Comprehensive is the Flourish I am referring to. There is rarely any uneaten food, I feel NLS and all pellets are eaten as they are added every once and a while one will sink and he does not catch it then it is lost in the gravel unless a shrimp finds it.

The kH is 3.0 and gH is 5.0, as for anything other than the Comprehensive Flourish things were doing fine until (I think) a battle for nitrates broke out. I do not understand why they can not just put the phosphorus and potassium in the comprehensive formula, I also read they need iron too. Would the Flourish Nitrogen be the KNO3 aka nitrate?

I have more problem with my Anubias getting light burn than algae right now.
 

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The API nitrate test kit is notoriously hard to use. The second bottle needs to be shaken a ridiculous amount or it will always read zero. The instructions say two minutes, I generally slam it against the countertop a bunch of times to break any precipitate free and then shake a minute or two after that.

Just make sure the test is reading properly before dosing heavily.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I shake the bottle for a min then the tube for a min, I always invert the tube with the solution from bottle 1 before adding from bottle 2. I get accurate test readings with my other tanks, I know for a fact this particular tank gets stripped of nitrates quickly.

Will the Flourish Nitrogen be detectable with my API nitrate test??
 

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I shake the bottle for a min then the tube for a min, I always invert the tube with the solution from bottle 1 before adding from bottle 2. I get accurate test readings with my other tanks, I know for a fact this particular tank gets stripped of nitrates quickly.

Will the Flourish Nitrogen be detectable with my API nitrate test??

It will.

I would dose all three of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. A lot of people use dry fertilizers because they're cheaper, but I agree that given the size of your tank, the Seachem liquids are just fine -- you'll be using pretty small amounts.

I might consider starting with a half dose of each, to see what happens. If the plants do well, stick with it. If still seeing issues, increase a bit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Once things are down I will eventually experiment with dry ferts, but I am not spending much on them right now I pay an average of $12 shipped for a 500ml bottle of almost any Seachem product. Excel is the only thing that I eat through but I stopped using it in my "overstock" basement tank now I only use it weekly with water changes down there as more of a supplement than an algaecide since the tank is not for display purposes.

I will at least pickup Nitrogen and see if I can get away without adding any phosphorus and potassium for the time being.

Thank you
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I need a quicker solution, I have had some experience with Osmocote Plus fertilizer in tanks and overdosing so I know how powerful the stuff is and if you use too much you get a headache nitrite problem. Anyway, I added a single pellet to my HOB and it has now been 12 hours so I ran a test and I am getting for the first time a slight nitrate reading probably 1-2ppm so I will test again in the morning, if it rises anymore I will remove the pellet but this is a very cost effective way to add nitrates but I do not suggest this unless you have done some testing and feel safe doing so.
 

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Sorry, I don't have time to read over the whole thread, but why not just use dry fertilizer - Potassium Nitrate (KNO3)?
If it's just a small tank, you can make a liquid solution (just mix KNO3 with some distilled water) to make it easier dosing smaller tanks. That way the levels are all measured out on how much ppm you would be dosing. There are smaller measuring spoons out there (I believe I typed 1/8 tsp. or micro measuring spoons on eBay and found some) if you just want to dose dry ferts easier.
 

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I would dose all three of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. A lot of people use dry fertilizers because they're cheaper, but I agree that given the size of your tank, the Seachem liquids are just fine -- you'll be using pretty small amounts.
I agree with this. I have the same problem in my heavily planted tank--no matter how many fish I add, I can never get detectable nitrates. I use Seachem liquid nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and it works great. The liquids are very easy to dose and not super expensive if you have a small tank.
 

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Why not start simple? Dont do 50% water changes weekly. Mabye only do a 10% wc once a week; or 50% every other week or whatever combination works for you. The idea behind a large water change like that is to prevent things like nitrate from building. But if you're not getting it then stop changing so much water!
 

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Just commenting on some of the background ideas I see in this thread.

1) It does not matter how many fish you have. It does not matter if they eat all the food, or allow it to drop to the bottom of the tank, or get caught in the filter.

2) The volume of feces from the livestock does not say what the components are. Just because an animal creates a lot of solid waste does not mean this solid waste is good fertilizer. Quite the contrary- an animal that creates a lot of solid waste is probably excreting a lot of indigestible plant matter, not high quality protein. This is a poor quality fertilizer, more of a mess than helpful.

3) When you add food, think of it as fertilizer that needs to be processed before it is available to the plants. If fish do the processing, the nitrogen will show up as ammonia, excreted via the gills. If microorganisms do the processing, the nitrogen can show up as ammonia, nitrite or nitrate. The plants can use all 3.
If you have a very small amount of livestock (a Betta and a couple of snails) you will not be adding much food (read 'fertilizer') to the tank. In this thread the basic problem is not enough fertilizer (you can read that as 'food').
If you add more livestock (fish, snails, shrimp) you will add more food (substitute the word 'fertilizer', again).

4) If you had zero fish, but still added fish food, the plants would see this as fertilizer that needs processing then happily use the N, P, and traces that are common in fish food. Microorganisms would do the processing.

5) Fish food has good supplies of N, P and most traces. If you see a low level of NO3 from fish food, then you can assume there is also a low level of P and most traces. I would not select a fertilizer that is mostly trace minerals. The very concept of trace or micros is that plants do not need very much of them. The fish food is probably supplying enough of all the traces except iron, even if the NO3 is undetectable.
Fish food is low in K, Fe. The first fertilizers I would supplement with would be potassium and iron, and I would include Excel (a source of carbon).
The next thing I would do would go for a complete program such as PPS-pro, Estimative Index, or Seachem's program (at their web site). Look into each of these, and consider this: You can alter any of them to account for the fertilizer you are adding via the fish food.
I have done this in several tanks, and generally reduce the nitrogen, phosphorus and traces while leaving the potassium and iron a little higher.
 
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