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Help -- Nitrate/nitrite Levels Out Of Whack

Guest AldenM1

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Guest AldenM1

I just set up a new tank last month -- 10 gallons with a 90gph Whisper filter, an airstone, and a gargoyle that blows bubbles (so lots of aeration). In the tank is one very small but rapidly-growing goldfish.

Yesterday I checked the water with my Jungle multi-test quick strip. The hardness, alkalinity, and pH were all exactly in the middle, right where I want them, but both the nitrate and nitrite levels were off the chart on the "dangerous" end. I didn't have more than a gallon of room-temperature settled water on hand, so I did what I could. I changed out 2 gallons, using a second gallon of approximately room-temperature tap water. I also added a teaspoon (or a bit more... I approximated) of Amquel Plus to the tank directly. Last night I checked the water levels again and both Nitrate and Nitrite were still high, so I added charcoal back into the filter (which I haven't been using) in the hope that it would help lower the chemical levels.

This morning, the Nitrate level is a bit lower... probably about 160ppm or so, so still "dangerous." The Nitrite levels are still off the chart, so more than 10ppm.

Now I'm not sure what to do. Should I change out more water? I have 1 gallon at room temperature. Should I add more Amquel? I'm scared to add more because 1 teaspoon is the recommended level for a ten-gallon tank.

The fish, meanwhile, is perky and happy and swimming normally -- no weird behavior and no bottom-sitting or anything.

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  • Regular Member


Sorry to hear of your water parameter difficulties. Luckily your fishy is holding out OK.

I think you need to be really sure your water parameters are accurate. Liquid tests give a greater degree of accuracy and you may be able to post actual ammonia/nitrite/nitrate/pH levels.

If new testing equipment is out of the question, we have to guess I suppose :)

The pH/hardness/alkalinity read normal, this may or may not be OK, but I don't think that is a pressing issue.

It would be useful if you could do your strip tests on a bucket of tap water that you would normally use to change water. This will tell you if the nitrites/nitrates are from the source.

Your nitrite and nitrate are "dangerous" and because we don't have ammonia results, so the following is guesswork, assuming your probs aren't from your tap water:

Your filter is not coping with the level of ammonia produced, leading to a buildup of nitrites. The ammonia will be from fish poop or excess food.

The nitrates may be a knock on effect from excess ammonia/food.

In the short term, I would change half the water every few hours if possible, to dilute both nitrates and nitrites. Add water conditioner to each water change.

In the longer term , how much you feed, your water changing regime and amount of filtration need to be reviewed, assuming this is the problem :)

I really do suggest you get liquid tests for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and pH.

Hope this is useful. Do post back with your results and good news.

Slugger :)

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Were you able to get a reading on your ammonia?

What were the readings prior to this spike, and when was that reading taken?

I would suggest AT LEAST a 50% water change w/temp matched water. (even if you don't have a thermometer, the average person can tell temp difference w/their hands within a 5 degree range I believe) Perform a water test and see where your params are. You are probably going thru a cycle, since you mention your tank is only a month old. However, I am not familiar w/the ranges nitrItes or nitrAtes can go thru; hopefully someone else can help there.

Add Amquel according to directions w/ each water change. I use Prime, so I am not sure what Amquel recommends.

You should also start adding salt to the tank, up to .3%. The salt will help the fish handle the high nitrIte level.

Good luck and keep us posted.

(I didn't mean to repeat what Slugger said....he just beat me to the post. Slugger has helped me in the past!)

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