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LadyK

Help Lowering Nitrates

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Does anyone have tips on how to lower high nitrates fast, but safe?

 

I neglected my tank my during the last semester of college and now my nitrates have risen to 40-80ppm. (can't tell because those colors are so darn close lol) Now I am trying to get my tank back in check.

 

I have been working on changing the water gradually, but I haven't cleaned out my canister yet (which maybe I should of done first). Overall I am pretty sure I have changed out at least 100% of the water when adding up the percentage of water taken out over the past four days...but the nitrates are still that high.

 

I was thinking maybe the waste built up in the canister would be prohibiting the nitrates from going down?

I want to clean it out tomorrow, but will that make the nitrates drop too fast to the point it will shock them?

 

Good news is my fish have proven to be hardy and over all seem to be doing good. I have 2 in a 55 gallon tank by the way.

 

So if any of you have been through this scenario before and have advice, I would really appreciate it!

 

 

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If you pH and temp is the same you can do a 100% water change and pretty much lower them to 0ppm. One 100% WC is more effective then multiple small WCs adding up to 100%.

 

This will not shock the fish in fact they'll thank you for it. What shocks the fish is when the pH changes took much or the temp.

 

As for the filter I would do the 100% WC wait a day or two and then clean the filter just to avoid a cycle bump. Although, for the record, I do a 90% WC and clean my filters on the same day and don't get a bump.

All I do is:

1) fill a bucket with water that is the same temp as the tank and dechlorinate it. 

2) open and drain the filter. 

3) take the sponges and use the water in the bucket to clean them out by squeezing them.

4) swish any ceramic media in the bucket to rise them a bit.

5) put the filter back together :)

 

The only way to lower nitrates significantly is by water changes. If you have nitrates in your tap water there are ways to help with that problem as well.

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You'll also want to make sure to vacuum your substrate (if you have one) for any nitrate producing mulm.

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What is the nitrate level of the source water?

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Have you tested the water from your tap for nitrates?  (Sniped by DP.)

 

You can't add up water changes to get equivalent single changes.  

 

Suppose you have 80 ppm nitrate.  If you do a 50% water change, you will remove half of the nitrate so you will have 40 ppm in the tank. 

If you immediately do another 50% change, you will remove half of the nitrate remaining in the tank, leaving 20 ppm.  That is what you would get from one 75% change.  If you did a 50% change and then did another three days later, you would wind up with more than 20 ppm, because the fish and filter microbes would have produced more nitrate in three days.

 

I assume you did four  25% changes in four days.  If you had done four 25% water changes one right after the other, the first would remove 25%  of the initial nitrate, the second, third and fourth would remove 25% of what was left after the previous change.  The fraction of nitrate remaining would be 0.75 x 0.75 x 0.75 x 0.75 = 0.32 -- the same as one 68% change. If you started with 80 ppm, you would end up with 0.32 x 80 ppm = 25 ppm.  That's pretty good, but that's not what you did.  In the day between your water changes, the biobugs in your filter produced nitrate.  If you had the same amount of nitrate at the end of fours days of 25% water changes, that means the fish and filter bugs produced just as much nitrate as you removed. 

 

This is actually pretty cool, because it means that if you did a 25% water change every day with the same fish, the same amount of food, and the same dirty filters, your nitrate concentration would always be the same.  If you did one 90% water change, your nitrates would go down to 4-8 ppm which is excellent.  If you then did a daily 25% water change, it would stay at that level. However, I don't think you have to work that hard.

 

What I suggest is that you do exactly as Mernany described as her procedure -- a 90% water change with a filter cleaning exactly like hers.  Measure the nitrate after that procedure, then measure it again in a week and report back to us.

 

If you get a large increase in nitrate after that it probably means you are overfeeding.  Two fish in a 55 gallon shouldn't produce as much nitrate as your information suggests yours are.

 

 

 

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Have you tested the water from your tap for nitrates?  (Sniped by DP.)

 

 

Haha :)

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If you pH and temp is the same you can do a 100% water change and pretty much lower them to 0ppm. One 100% WC is more effective then multiple small WCs adding up to 100%.

 

This will not shock the fish in fact they'll thank you for it. What shocks the fish is when the pH changes took much or the temp.

 

As for the filter I would do the 100% WC wait a day or two and then clean the filter just to avoid a cycle bump. Although, for the record, I do a 90% WC and clean my filters on the same day and don't get a bump.

All I do is:

1) fill a bucket with water that is the same temp as the tank and dechlorinate it. 

2) open and drain the filter. 

3) take the sponges and use the water in the bucket to clean them out by squeezing them.

4) swish any ceramic media in the bucket to rise them a bit.

5) put the filter back together :)

 

The only way to lower nitrates significantly is by water changes. If you have nitrates in your tap water there are ways to help with that problem as well.

 

 

Oh well that's awesome, I have been wanting to just do a large water change but I read before that going from high nitrates to none would shock the fish. So that's why I was trying to build it up lol

I also tested the tap water yesterday and the nitrates are at 0 ppm.

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You'll also want to make sure to vacuum your substrate (if you have one) for any nitrate producing mulm.

 

Thanks for the tip! I do have a thin layer of fine gravel in my tank.

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Have you tested the water from your tap for nitrates?  (Sniped by DP.)

 

You can't add up water changes to get equivalent single changes.  

 

Suppose you have 80 ppm nitrate.  If you do a 50% water change, you will remove half of the nitrate so you will have 40 ppm in the tank. 

If you immediately do another 50% change, you will remove half of the nitrate remaining in the tank, leaving 20 ppm.  That is what you would get from one 75% change.  If you did a 50% change and then did another three days later, you would wind up with more than 20 ppm, because the fish and filter microbes would have produced more nitrate in three days.

 

I assume you did four  25% changes in four days.  If you had done four 25% water changes one right after the other, the first would remove 25%  of the initial nitrate, the second, third and fourth would remove 25% of what was left after the previous change.  The fraction of nitrate remaining would be 0.75 x 0.75 x 0.75 x 0.75 = 0.32 -- the same as one 68% change. If you started with 80 ppm, you would end up with 0.32 x 80 ppm = 25 ppm.  That's pretty good, but that's not what you did.  In the day between your water changes, the biobugs in your filter produced nitrate.  If you had the same amount of nitrate at the end of fours days of 25% water changes, that means the fish and filter bugs produced just as much nitrate as you removed. 

 

This is actually pretty cool, because it means that if you did a 25% water change every day with the same fish, the same amount of food, and the same dirty filters, your nitrate concentration would always be the same.  If you did one 90% water change, your nitrates would go down to 4-8 ppm which is excellent.  If you then did a daily 25% water change, it would stay at that level. However, I don't think you have to work that hard.

 

What I suggest is that you do exactly as Mernany described as her procedure -- a 90% water change with a filter cleaning exactly like hers.  Measure the nitrate after that procedure, then measure it again in a week and report back to us.

 

If you get a large increase in nitrate after that it probably means you are overfeeding.  Two fish in a 55 gallon shouldn't produce as much nitrate as your information suggests yours are.

 

Yes to shako and DP lol I have tested my tap water and there are no nitrates. Woo 

 

And thanks for the input, that's pretty interesting. Like I said I read before I was under the impression that taking out too much water at once would shock the fish. I actually started at around 30% the first day then 40-45% the second and third day and then 45-50% the fourth day.

 

But I also haven't done a full cleaning to the filter or the gravel so that could explain why it stayed around the same. I thought changing out water was still going to show significant change before I did a full cleaning but oh well live and learn lol

 

I will definitely go ahead with the large water change, filter cleaning, and substrate cleaning.

 

Thanks so much guys, glad I posted!!! I am also going to be moving (only 5 min away) and I don't have a deadline on when I need to move the fish.

So once the water quality is back in check, would I be in the clear to move them soon after? Or should I let them remain in the tank for a week or so before moving.

 

I will also need to check the water perimeters where I am moving, but I am thinking it will be the same with no nitrates.

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I don't know how fast but add a ton of fast growing plants.

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I don't know how fast but add a ton of fast growing plants.

 

 

Well I also read that introducing plants into water with high nitrates will just cause them to die.

So I am not sure I would be able to do that until it is under control.

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Some fish may be sensitive to rapid changes in water chemistry. Goldfish don't seem to mind large drops in ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate. Look at it this way... Those three things are toxic to fish... If you or I were in a room filled with toxic gas, would it bother us if someone suddenly put us outside into fresh air? Nope!

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That's why goldfish are so cool right! Good to know, wish I posted sooner lol

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I don't know how fast but add a ton of fast growing plants.

 

 

Well I also read that introducing plants into water with high nitrates will just cause them to die.

So I am not sure I would be able to do that until it is under control.

 

Really? I have never read that or even heard of it.  Do you remember where you saw this? Let me makes this clear I am not saying you did not read this and I would like to learn about it by reading up on it.

Edited by Hidr

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I don't know how fast but add a ton of fast growing plants.

 

 

Well I also read that introducing plants into water with high nitrates will just cause them to die.

So I am not sure I would be able to do that until it is under control.

 

Really? I have never read that or even heard of it.  Do you remember where you saw this? Let me makes this clear I am not saying you did not read this and I would like to learn about it by reading up on it.

 

 

You know usually I save articles but I can't seem to find it in my history. I did a quick google search and still didn't really find anything. I really don't know much about growing plants but I saw someone else write on a forum that nitrate deficiencies can cause the leaves on java fern to die. But that would be a lack of nitrate, and didn't see anything about high nitrates so maybe I am remembering it wrong!

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Nitrate is plant food, but it is primarily food for land plants.  Aquatic plants prefer ammonia as their nitrogen source.  Nitrate does not kill plants.

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Ya I did a some research too and could not find anything.  

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It is commonly accepted that too much nitrogen in lawn fertilizer can kill grass so it isn't completely impossible that too much ammonia, nitrate etc could kill a plant. No idea what level it would take, but I bet the fish would die first.

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Yeah so I must of just remembered wrong my mistake.

 

I did the 90% water change, cleaned the filters and then checked the water, everything is good but nitrates were at 5 ppm.

 

Should I wait a few days to change the water again or do it tomorrow?

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Don't try to confuse people, DP.  They are asking serious questions.  

 

Dry fertilizer with more than 20% nitrate can burn the grass leaves if it isn't "watered in".  You can handle the problem by watering. the lawn.  If you water it enough that the fertilized water runs into the lake, the plants in the lake will grow until the lake is choked with plants, and algae will turn the water bright green.

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Yeah so I must of just remembered wrong my mistake.

 

I did the 90% water change, cleaned the filters and then checked the water, everything is good but nitrates were at 5 ppm.

 

Should I wait a few days to change the water again or do it tomorrow?

Check the nitrate in the tank each day and tell us the results.  Once we see how fast it accumulates we can recommend a water change schedule.

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Yeah so I must of just remembered wrong my mistake.

 

I did the 90% water change, cleaned the filters and then checked the water, everything is good but nitrates were at 5 ppm.

 

Should I wait a few days to change the water again or do it tomorrow?

Check the nitrate in the tank each day and tell us the results.  Once we see how fast it accumulates we can recommend a water change schedule.

 

 

Alrighty sounds like a plan, thanks!

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I'm just going to throw this out there incase someone else is reading this for their own situation...although it doesn't seem to be 100% relevant to this post per se.  I'm no experct by any means, but know from experience that going from high nitrates to 0 nitrates CAN put a goldfish into shock.  It doesn't seem to take any effect on healthy goldfish that haven't been in higher nitrates for long, but if they've been sitting in high levels like that for some time, they probably aren't as strong healthwise as they should be to not have some degree of shock from that quick of a drop.  I've literally seen a goldfish start convulsing because of this - but like mentioned above, it wasn't the healthiest fish.

 

Just thought I'd mention since she did say its been during this last semester, and not just within the last week.  I think its a minority case, but still something worth keeping in mind if you do happen to have a less than healthy goldie.

 

Also, I didn't see this mentioned so if it was sorry for the repeat but I'd up the O2 levels in the tank until the water is stabilized.  If your fish are stressed, they'll appreciate it :)

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I'm just going to throw this out there incase someone else is reading this for their own situation...although it doesn't seem to be 100% relevant to this post per se.  I'm no experct by any means, but know from experience that going from high nitrates to 0 nitrates CAN put a goldfish into shock.  It doesn't seem to take any effect on healthy goldfish that haven't been in higher nitrates for long, but if they've been sitting in high levels like that for some time, they probably aren't as strong healthwise as they should be to not have some degree of shock from that quick of a drop.  I've literally seen a goldfish start convulsing because of this - but like mentioned above, it wasn't the healthiest fish.

 

Just thought I'd mention since she did say its been during this last semester, and not just within the last week.  I think its a minority case, but still something worth keeping in mind if you do happen to have a less than healthy goldie.

 

Also, I didn't see this mentioned so if it was sorry for the repeat but I'd up the O2 levels in the tank until the water is stabilized.  If your fish are stressed, they'll appreciate it :)

That is interesting. Being a sort of devils advocate type, I wonder if anything was done to rule out the negative reaction of the fish being from a change in ph, oxygen level, temperature, hardness, chlorine, chloromine, ammonia, nitrite, etc?

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I'm just going to throw this out there incase someone else is reading this for their own situation...although it doesn't seem to be 100% relevant to this post per se.  I'm no experct by any means, but know from experience that going from high nitrates to 0 nitrates CAN put a goldfish into shock.  It doesn't seem to take any effect on healthy goldfish that haven't been in higher nitrates for long, but if they've been sitting in high levels like that for some time, they probably aren't as strong healthwise as they should be to not have some degree of shock from that quick of a drop.  I've literally seen a goldfish start convulsing because of this - but like mentioned above, it wasn't the healthiest fish.

 

Just thought I'd mention since she did say its been during this last semester, and not just within the last week.  I think its a minority case, but still something worth keeping in mind if you do happen to have a less than healthy goldie.

 

Also, I didn't see this mentioned so if it was sorry for the repeat but I'd up the O2 levels in the tank until the water is stabilized.  If your fish are stressed, they'll appreciate it :)

That is interesting. Being a sort of devils advocate type, I wonder if anything was done to rule out the negative reaction of the fish being from a change in ph, oxygen level, temperature, hardness, chlorine, chloromine, ammonia, nitrite, etc?

 

There is always a possibility of human error on my part.  The only thing in that list that I didn't have a way to measure would have been oxygen levels but I don't think that would have been the issue, however, everything else had been measured twice in that particular situation.  It very well could have been a combination of the above just being too much stress on that particular fish.   Still doesn't hurt to keep in mind, right?  Even if it means you use a bucket to acclimate not so healthy fish over an afternoon before putting them back into the tank after a 100% water change.  Don't get me wrong, in more than 1 occasion I've done 100% water change without issue, and think in most cases its not going to be detrimental in the least so I'm by no means saying that its a bad idea.  But if you have the time to do it, why not?

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