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 high nitrates

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gab
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PostSubject: high nitrates   Wed Mar 19, 2014 11:31 am

I haven't posted for a while so bear with me. I have been fighting nitrates in my freshwater tanks for months now and it's driving me crazy. All three tanks 55 gallon, 125 gallon, and 300 gallon are having issues with nitrates. The 300 gallon is the worst with the nitrates shooting up to 50 or so within a week of a water change. It's a makeshift pond in my garage I set up in July for my overgrown irridescent shark (you can see my previous posts for more about him). It's just him and about 20 minnows in the tank with a Matala Biosteps filter and a 900 gph pump. The first few months all water quality was fine, then the nitrates starting going up. I even resorted to changing the water twice a week to no avail. Nitrates still are up to 40 within a few days. If I wait a week to do a water change, they go even higher. I have well water that I pass through a carbon filter to change the water. The tap water has no nitrates, nitrites, or ammonia. The ammonia, nitrites, and pH of the tank are all fine. I can't figure out what is happening. I've asked a few pet store employees and they have no idea either. I'm thinking of getting some Amquel Plus to see if that helps. Any other ideas?
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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Wed Mar 19, 2014 12:41 pm

You might try Purigen. I would probably start with a small amount and try it in the 55 and see if it helps there.

Have you tried cleaning your pond filter?
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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Wed Mar 19, 2014 1:20 pm

I have had problems like this that were drastically improved by increasing my filter maintenance. For my large canisters like the FX5, which is a royal pain to deal with only because I have to empty it before I can lift it out to clean it, I tend to put it off, and the nitrates go up.

You may need additional filtration, or a sump where you can grow plants that will enjoy the nitrate. I would avoid handling this by adding anything to the water like Amquel, which won't really address the problem, IMO. It is a real quandary that it is happening in all the tanks, especially the 55, where it seems like you'd easily control it with PWCs.

Please keep us posted and it is good to see you back!

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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Wed Mar 19, 2014 2:15 pm

I too have suffered from periods of high nitrates. Recently I have been on a quest to reduce nitrates in my planted show tank. Some of my causes were over stocking, over feeding, waste trapped in filters and undisturbed substrate. I use two HOB 60 filters on this 55 gallon tank which I do maintain well.

First, I reduced my stocking rates to a manageable level. What worked for me to reduce my nitrates this time and in the past was to reduce solid waste from the tank. I did this by disturbing my substrate which freed the solid waste  trapped in it and caused it be become suspended in the water column. Disturbing substrate in a planted can be a bit harder because I didn't want to disturb the plants. Also so much freed waste clouded the water to the point where it became difficult to avoid disturbing plants. I ended up concentrating on sections of my tank at a time.

Don't expect an instant one time result. It's going to take a series of high volume water changes. What worked for me was to disturb a section of substrate every day and then I  followed with a high volume water change every day. This will helped to remove enough waste to slow down a quick rebound of high nitrate levels.  Plants also will uptake nitrates once nitrates are lowered to a level that the plants are able to thrive. This is what has worked for me. Everybody's circumstance is somewhat different. I hope this helps you... Smile

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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Wed Mar 19, 2014 2:26 pm

@JohnnyAMH wrote:
I too have suffered from periods of high nitrates.

In fact, when I saw the title of the thread I thought it was a new post on yours! I'm glad you've discovered how to manage it, Johnny.

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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Wed Mar 19, 2014 3:59 pm

Here's an idea:  Set up a smaller pool or cement-mixing tub on crates, cinder blocks, or something beside and slightly above the fish pool, with a shop light or two hung over it. Fill it with fast-growing plants (water lettuce, frogbit, duckweed, Ludwigia, Elodea, houseplants, or whatever) and rig up a pump to circulate water from the fish pool to the plant tub.  A big catfish makes a LOT of ammonia (and thus nitrate) -- either plant uptake or water changes are the most practical ways to lower it.
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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Wed Mar 19, 2014 4:40 pm

@Liz wrote:
... You may need additional filtration, or a sump where you can grow plants that will enjoy the nitrate ...

That's a great idea.  This time of year the DIY stores like Lowe's are probably getting in their pond plants.  Try a floating plant like Water Lettuce; it's a real tank cleaner (nitrate sucker.)  Very Happy

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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Wed Mar 19, 2014 6:56 pm

Floating plants are a good idea because they are not co2 limited.
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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Wed Mar 19, 2014 8:22 pm

@Liz wrote:
@JohnnyAMH wrote:
I too, have suffered from periods of high nitrates.

In fact, when I saw the title of the thread I thought it was a new post on yours! I'm glad you've discovered how to manage it, Johnny.

Actually, I have been there many times and it's nothing new... Loco
Scheduled water changes just don't work. Problems can sneak up on anybody... affraid

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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Thu Mar 20, 2014 9:40 am

Thanks for all the suggestions everyone. This is getting very frustrating. It seems all I do these days is go to work and change fish tanks. I do clean the substrate with a gravel siphon each time I do a water change and there is really not a lot of junk there. My 55 doesn't even have any substrate and it looks perfectly clean. There was a lot more junk in the gravel when the irridescent shark was in the 125 gallon and I never had any nitrates then. I will try to get some more plants--especially some water lettuce like a few of you suggested. I do have some spider plants growing in my filters of all 3 tanks and have a bambo in the shark tank. Keep the ideas coming-these water changes are killing me
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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Thu Mar 20, 2014 10:01 am

@gab wrote:
Thanks for all the suggestions everyone.  This is getting very frustrating.  It seems all I do these days is go to work and change fish tanks.  I do clean the substrate with a gravel siphon each time I do a water change and there is really not a lot of  junk there.  My 55 doesn't even have any substrate and it looks perfectly clean.  There was a lot more junk in the gravel when the irridescent shark was in the 125 gallon and I never had any nitrates then.  I will try to get some more plants--especially some water lettuce like  a few of you suggested.  I do have some spider plants growing in my filters of all 3 tanks and have a bambo in the shark tank.  Keep the ideas coming-these water changes are killing me

Good Luck with the nitrates... Hello 

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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Sun Apr 06, 2014 9:34 am

Still fighting the nitrates. Tried a different source of water for the 55 gallon-that didn't help. Tried amquel plus on the 125 gallon to no avail. Now doing daily water changes on the 125 to see if the nitrates will go down. Filters and substrate on all tanks are pretty clean-I don't understand where the nitrates are coming from.
Local places won"t get water lettuce in until end of April or first part of May. I've seen some on ebay that I can order. Thinking of getting "dwarf" water lettuce for the 125 and 55 gallon tanks and "normal" water lettuce for the 300 gallon. Anybody ever ordered plants from ebay?
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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Sun Apr 06, 2014 2:00 pm

I think schoolz of fish had some the last time I went in there. Good luck with your nitrate battle Smile
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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Sun Apr 06, 2014 2:26 pm

@gab wrote:
Still fighting the nitrates.  Tried a different source of water for the 55 gallon-that didn't help.  Tried amquel plus on the 125 gallon to no avail.  Now doing daily water changes on the 125 to see if the nitrates will go down.  Filters and substrate on all tanks are pretty clean-I don't understand where the nitrates are coming from.
Local places won"t get water lettuce in until end of April or first part of May.  I've seen some on ebay that I can order. Thinking of getting "dwarf" water lettuce for the 125 and 55 gallon tanks and "normal" water lettuce for the 300 gallon.  Anybody ever ordered plants from ebay?

Daily water changes worked for me but it took about five days to see results.What percentage of water are you exchanging. I was doing around 70% each time. Do you test before each water change? I like to use Water Sprite to aid but Nitrates have to be lowered before they will grow and help. Don't give up... Neutral

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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Sun Apr 06, 2014 6:27 pm

Thanks again for the responses. Skoolz of fish is a place I would like to visit someday, but I'm a couple hours away. I think I'll have to take my chances with ebay.
I did a 75% water change last Thursday along with cleaning the substrate and the filters. I've been changing about 40-50% of the water since then. I was afraid of doing too much at a time-I don't want to mess up the biofilter and end up fighting ammonia or nitrites. I'll give it about a week and see what happens. So far, the nitrates started out around 50 (those color strips are hard to read) and tonight they are around 40 or so before the water change I'm about to start. If something works for one tank, then I'll work on the others. I do hate wasting this much water--around 50+ gallons each night on the 125 gallon and probably 150+ twice a week for the other two tanks. Not to mention all the time and effort. Something has to work soon.
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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Sun Apr 06, 2014 8:40 pm

Congratulations! You are already seeing results. If possible, I would continue on the same path. It's unlikely that you will interrupt your bio filtering unless you kill the bacteria in the filters themselves. Changing water won't do that. I would go for around a 60% exchange until you get the results you seek. I would ditch the Test Strips until you get things under your control. I recommend you purchase a API NO3 liquid test kit.  I got mine from Petco. The other big box store didn't carry it. It's easier to read but still somewhat subjective. You are almost there. If you delay, your nitrates will rebound to where they were soon... Smile 

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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Sun Apr 06, 2014 9:56 pm

Just thinkin ... most fish farmed for food in Asia, including iridescent shark (= Swai in the grocery store) are generally species that grow well on low-protein diets. If you're feeding a high-protein food to a fish that doesn't need high-protein, that might be a reason for the high nitrate production.
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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Sun Apr 06, 2014 9:57 pm

@gerald wrote:
Just thinkin ... most fish farmed for food in Asia, including iridescent shark (= Swai in the grocery store) are generally species that grow well on cheap low-protein diets.  If you're feeding a high-protein food to a fish that doesn't need high-protein, that might be a reason for the high nitrate production.  
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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Sun Apr 27, 2014 9:42 am

I'm am unfortunately still fighting the nitrates. I changed water daily on the 125 gallon for a couple of weeks, but I've given up on that. The nitrates got down to about 20 and stayed there for several days of continual water changes. I stopped the water changes and checked four days later-they were back up to about 50 or so. I did get some water lettuce, but that doesn't seem to like my water. Within a couple of days, the leaves started turning yellow and the roots are dropping off. I've read that's a sign of not enough nutrients or too cold. I would think the high nitrates would be good for the lettuce and it hasn't gotten too cold in the garage or the house (I have some in each of my 3 tanks). I've now got some of the lettuce in a bucket with plant food to see if it revives. What else could make it turn yellow?
I also added some bacteria to each of my tanks two weeks ago in case that's part of my problem. I'm at a loss of what to do now. I just checked my tanks and the nitrates range from 40-80 or so(I've always used API test drops for nitrates-it's still hard to read the color chart-my tanks are a really bright red-sort of like the brake lights on a car) . I'm getting ready to change them now. Last week I only changed the water, no filter or substrate cleaning to give the new bacteria a chance to settle in. I think I'll do the same this week. I do a second dose of bacteria (product called Organica I got from the guy at the pond shop who sold me the lettuce) after today's water change. We'll see what happens.
Please send me any other ideas you have. I don't want to lose my fish (although they all seem fine), but this is getting too time consuming to continue much longer.
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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Sun Apr 27, 2014 11:38 pm

Your problem is unusual. I'm more than a little curious. First, I commend you for your efforts. Preforming partial water changes for almost a month daily is a lot of work. Most of the time, I see some improvement in a few days. Seldom over has it taken over five days in a row? A lot has to do with the amount of water exchanged. Your persistence makes it obvious that you want to get the problem resolved.

Being a little curious. How much water did you exchange daily? A lot of water needs to be exchanged for proper dilution to occur. Otherwise your nitrates will rebound faster than dilution. Next, how heavy is your bio-load? How heavy are you feeding? Is it possible that something is getting into your tank?

I recently add Water Lettuce to several of my tanks and I experienced the same type of root drop off that you mentioned. I also noticed a few yellow leaves that I promptly removed.  After a few days my Water Lettuce my recovered well and is now growing new roots. . If your nitrate is excessively high you may have to get your nitrates down a bit first before your Water Lettuce to thrive.

How old is your test kit? I use an API nitrate test kit myself and I have never seen one go bad. I use mine at least once a week on some tank. I do know that the test directions must be followed to the letter to get an accurate reading. I like to hold my test vials up against any white area on my computer monitor to help read my nitrate level.  I am not an expert.  I’m just throwing some stuff out there and in hopes of something or someone will help.

I'm happy to hear your fish are doing well. Most fish are able to adapt to higher nitrate levels but over a long term it weakens their immune system and open the door to opportunistic diseases. I feel your pain. A few months ago I experienced a similar challenge getting my nitrate levels down. I knew my bio-load was heavy so was my feeding. It was not the first time either. The root cause was always the same. I would get stuck in a maintenance routine that wasn't meeting the needs of my tanks. Once I got everything in check things would go well until I became complacent again. I’m not implying that it’s the cause of your problem. I don’t know what happened but I am curious.  Just don't give up...

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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Mon Apr 28, 2014 9:14 am

Thanks for the response. I was changing about 60% of the water daily, sometimes a little more. I don't think i have too many fish, but in the 55 gallon there are two small goldfish and three small minnows; in the 125 there are about 12 cory catfish, four gouramis, two rosy barbs, two clown loaches, three green tiger barbs, and two albino tiger barbs; finally, in the 300 gallon it's just the 28 inch or so irridescent shark and about 10 minnows. As far as feeding, the goldfish get about a pinch( Measuring spoon size pinch) of tetramin goldfish flakes and about 6 small sinking pellets. The 125 gets 1/3 teaspoon of tetramin flake and 6 shrimp pellets. At night,they also get 6 tetramin tropical tablets. Lastly, the 300 gets 1/4 teaspoon tetramin flake and the shark gets about 10 tetramin tropical tablets. I feed all tanks these amounts 2X/ day and all food is gone within a minute or so. I've always fed the same amount of food, so this hasn't changed.
I can't imagine something is getting into all my tanks. I cut the yellow off my water lettuce, but it turns yellow again within a day or two.
My test kit was only about about six months old, but I just bought a new one and I'm getting the same readings.
The crazy thing is, when the irridescent shark was in the 125 gallon, I never had any problems. I haven't been neglectful of my water changes, always did them every week and a half.
I'll keep trying, keep your fingers crossed. I'd love to figure this out.
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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Mon Apr 28, 2014 12:40 pm

I'm thinking this might be a testing glitch (something reacting with the test reagents to give a false high NO3 reading) rather than a real NO3 problem. Fish load and feeding rate in the 55 and 125 doesnt sound extreme enough to build up that much NO3 so fast, assuming you have at least a few growing plants.

Adding more nitrifying bacteria won't help, assuming NH3/NH4 and NO2 are low. DEnitrifying bacteria (which need anaerobic filter chamber) are the ones that remove NO3 (they convert it to N2 gas). If you want to experiment with bacterial dentrification, set up a large-volume, slow-flow filter (5 gal bucket full of sand/gravel with about 0.5 gal/min flow).

Personally I find plants a much easier way to remove NO3. For me, Frogbit (Limnobium) is much easier to grow under a wide variety of conditions than water lettuce. For one thing, it doesnt mind a closed top (wetness on top of leaves) like water lettuce does.
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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Mon Apr 28, 2014 11:22 pm

@gab wrote:
Thanks for the response.  I was changing about 60% of the water daily, sometimes a little more.  I don't think i have too many fish, but in the 55 gallon there are two small goldfish and three small minnows; in the 125 there are about 12 cory catfish, four gouramis, two rosy barbs, two clown loaches, three green tiger barbs, and two albino tiger barbs; finally, in the 300 gallon it's just the 28 inch or so irridescent shark and about 10 minnows.  As far as feeding, the goldfish get about a pinch( Measuring spoon size pinch) of tetramin goldfish flakes and about 6 small sinking pellets.  The 125 gets 1/3 teaspoon of tetramin flake and 6 shrimp pellets.  At night,they also get 6 tetramin tropical tablets.   Lastly, the 300 gets 1/4 teaspoon tetramin flake and the shark gets about 10 tetramin tropical tablets.  I feed all tanks these amounts 2X/ day and all food is gone within a minute or so.  I've always fed the same amount of food, so this hasn't changed.
I can't imagine something is getting into all my tanks.  I cut the yellow off my water lettuce, but it turns yellow again within a day or two.
My test kit was only about about six months old, but I just bought a new one and I'm getting the same readings.
The crazy thing is, when the irridescent shark was in the 125 gallon, I never had any problems.  I haven't been neglectful of my water changes, always did them every week and a half.  
I'll keep trying, keep your fingers crossed.  I'd love to figure this out.

That's what's up! Don't give up. We will come up with something... It  sounds like you a doing too many things right to have high nitrates. I did notice one thing that might have contributed to your nitrates getting out of control. It's scheduled water changes. Why your nitrates didn't go down after weeks of daily water changes has me puzzled.  I don't know of a better way to reduce nitrates than dilution... Question
Please keep us updated... Neutral

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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Mon Feb 16, 2015 5:35 pm

I just came across this post and I also am having nitrate issues -- only nitrates -- all other parameters are good -- Nitrites, ammonia, ph does vary as expected, KH and GH also is measured with the strips.    However, I am questioning my testing kits now.  I have test strips that read reasonable for nitrates and other parameters. But my API drop test kit reads high nitrates on all my tanks.  I have many tanks with various levels of stocking,  some planted some without plants.  Has anyone seen issues with the test API kits over time -- do the chemicals go stale?  My kit is about 5 years old.  

My water in all tanks is clear and the fish seem healthy and active.  Algae is not a problem.

Could the API drops be the issue?  I saw that JohnnyAMH thought the drops last a long time.
What test kits are best for Nitrates or are others using?

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PostSubject: Re: high nitrates   Mon Feb 16, 2015 7:46 pm

Here is something regarding expiration dates.  The last 4 digits of the lot # are the month and year of manufacture and supposedly (according to API) the product lasts for three years after the manufacture date.  My pH test kit is seriously out of date!  

Found this on another website:

From API (click):
 

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