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Quickly lower nitrates, GH, and raise KH?

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I have a planted tank with nothing living in it, but I'm being sent a fish in a week so I need to get it ready. It's been cycled from ages ago, it used to house shrimp. It's been a while since I've done maintenance on it, so it's clean (and pest snails kept the algae away), but the parameters are off.

This is before the water change I'm about to do, so I'll do a water change later and see if the parameters are any better:

Nitrate: 20 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
GH: 16.8
Chlorine: 0
KH: 1.12
pH: 6.2-6.8
Ammonia: 0
TDS: 259

For my water changes, I use Nite-Out II, Stress Coat, and I used to use Bee Shrimp Mineral GH+ but since the GH is high, I'm not going to use it for a while.

The parameters I'm aiming for are:

Nitrate: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
GH: 7-9 dGH
Chlorine: 0
KH: 5-8 DKH
pH: 6-8
Ammonia: 0 ppm

Aside from doing a water change and cleaning up the gravel more (I'm thinking every day, 10%, until the new fish arrives? Opinions?), is there anything else I can do? It's a very young fish so I want to take every precaution.
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I would simply change out 50% of the water and see where that gets you. It could bring your GH down closer to your goal. KH is a little low unless keeping caridina species shrimp. A good range is 3-4 dkh. In low tech setups KH is about the only way to increase CO2 levels when in equilibrium with the atmosphere (Henry's Law). Even with surface agitation and airstones, you'll most likely be around 1 ppm of CO2 with a KH of 1. Ideal low tech planted tanks should shoot for at least 3 ppm of CO2 for decent plant growth. For your plants sake, you'll also want to keep nitrates at at least 5-10 ppm. No mention of fertilizer makes me wonder if you are dosing any. Plants need both macro and micro nutrients. You may be able to keep nitrates up with fish stocking but you'll most likely be short on potassium, phosphorus and certain trace minerals your tap doesn't provide.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The fish in question is a betta. I was thinking a nerite snail later on, but no shrimp or other tank mates (it's a 5 gal). I use gravel for substrate, and occasionally use root tabs for the plants. Any recommendation on products for the other minerals?

Also, I'm having trouble finding a heater that fits in the compartment of my Fluval Spec V. I know they don't have to go in the compartment, but I like having it out of the way and out of sight. I have a heater in the compartment right now that fits, but it's one of those that doesn't have a temperature adjustment on it. It's always at 74 (and even though it shuts down when it reaches this temperature, so that it won't overheat, 74 is too low for a betta.

I bought a 25W but it's too long to fit vertically in the tank. https://www.amazon.com/EHEIM-Jager-Aquarium-Thermostat-Heater/dp/B00425AXQA
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
What are the dimensions of the back compartment? Would a basic heater like this work?

https://www.amazon.com/Tetra-Submer...coding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=PAFFDVC8AKJAS9T7PFY6
The free space is a little less than 2"x2"x7" but the top has a tube part where the pump goes through, so it can't take up all of that width. The problem with the one I bought is it's 9 5/8" tall. The one you linked looks nice but is too big in width, and I'm not sure about having a 50 watt for a 5 gallon. Having trouble finding any heater small enough to fit like the one I have, but with a thermostat.

With no livestock in the tank you could change most/all of the water as if you we starting from scratch.....there's nothing good in old, bad water! ;-)
That's good because I did way too big a water change, and I want to do another one tomorrow; there's so much old grime/dirt stirred up from the gravel. I have some of its media sitting in another tank right now.
 

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It's been cycled from ages ago, it used to house shrimp. .

So its been sitting empty for how long then? If there was nothing in the tank to produce ammonia there is a good chance the beneficial bacteria have essentially been starved and died off.

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It's been cycled from ages ago, it used to house shrimp. .

So its been sitting empty for how long then? If there was nothing in the tank to produce ammonia there is a good chance the beneficial bacteria have essentially been starved and died off.
 
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So its been sitting empty for how long then? If there was nothing in the tank to produce ammonia there is a good chance the beneficial bacteria have essentially been starved and died off.

I would also question this but then it may not matter too much with adding a single betta. Just a point to keep in mind and perhaps feed a bit gently and avoid stirring very much until you know what the bacteria situation might be.
Given time and if you have the equipment on hand, a bit of testing how it goes might show some results. Good clear ammonia without the surfacants on hand? Adding a bit and testing is one way to find out if the tank is actually ready. But if that is not a handy thing, a single betta added can always be handled with a few extra water changes while the bacteria do stand back up---if needed.
 

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Now my GH is low (4.2) and KH is even lower (like 2).

Here's my tap water:

GH: 0.72
Chlorine: 0-0.5
KH: 2.24
pH: just under 6.8

I'm going to add a tiny bit of the GH+ to raise a bit of the GH, but any idea for KH?
GH definitely needs to be raised, but how much depends on species. KH on the other hand can stay right where it is. Over time, it will creep up to around 3 as you have evaporation that will not get accounted for unless you are doing more than 50% water changes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Not sure if this counts, but although the tank was 'empty', it had several pest mini ramshorns. It also had lots of microorganisms--copepods, nematodes, and seed shrimp (which the betta has eaten most of, now). They probably wouldn't have counted much toward bioload, though.

For beneficial bacteria, though, I do have a second tank that houses a few shrimp and a nerite snail. I could rinse some medium from that into the first tank. Opinions?

Also, my KH has dropped to zero!
 

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Not sure if this counts, but although the tank was 'empty', it had several pest mini ramshorns. It also had lots of microorganisms--copepods, nematodes, and seed shrimp (which the betta has eaten most of, now). They probably wouldn't have counted much toward bioload, though.

For beneficial bacteria, though, I do have a second tank that houses a few shrimp and a nerite snail. I could rinse some medium from that into the first tank. Opinions?

Also, my KH has dropped to zero!
What is your substrate? Buffering substrates are designed to remove all KH, and this is desirable for caridinas and extremely soft water plants.

None of those micro-organisms are going to have maintained the beneficial bacteria. Simply wringing existing media into the tank probably won't cut it. I would seed media in the existing tank, then move that media to the new tank.
 

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I have pre-filter sponges set up on the filter intake of both tanks; I could switch them?
Definitely worth a try. The bacteria will colonize on anything where it can get adequate food and oxygen, and a prefilter is a pretty decent place for both.

Assuming no livestock, I'd swap in the seeded prefilter and add ammonia and see how it does.
 

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I have a planted tank with nothing living in it, but I'm being sent a fish in a week so I need to get it ready. It's been cycled from ages ago, it used to house shrimp. It's been a while since I've done maintenance on it, so it's clean (and pest snails kept the algae away), but the parameters are off.

This is before the water change I'm about to do, so I'll do a water change later and see if the parameters are any better:

Nitrate: 20 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
GH: 16.8
Chlorine: 0
KH: 1.12
pH: 6.2-6.8
Ammonia: 0
TDS: 259

For my water changes, I use Nite-Out II, Stress Coat, and I used to use Bee Shrimp Mineral GH+ but since the GH is high, I'm not going to use it for a while.

The parameters I'm aiming for are:

Nitrate: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
GH: 7-9 dGH
Chlorine: 0
KH: 5-8 DKH
pH: 6-8
Ammonia: 0 ppm

Aside from doing a water change and cleaning up the gravel more (I'm thinking every day, 10%, until the new fish arrives? Opinions?), is there anything else I can do? It's a very young fish so I want to take every precaution.
I'm assuming that "nothing living in it" is referring to livestock. If it's planted why would you be shooting for zero nitrates?
 

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I hadn't realized my tank was uncycled and put the betta in days ago. Should I put it in my 2.5 or do you think seeding the tank will work quickly?
Do you have an ammonia and nitrite test kit? Personally, I'd put the seeded prefilter in there ASAP, do a significant water change, and then check ammonia levels the next day.

I'm not sure if labrynth breathers are less affected by ammonia or not, but for the two bettas I've had, I've always cycled the tank first. Can't comment on how they hold up doing a fish in cycle.

Also, don't miss @Kubla's comment. You will want some nitrates as well as other nutrients in the water for your plants. I've keep sensitive bee shrimp in 20+ ppm NO3 without issues, so don't worry too much about nitrates.
 
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