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My Nitrates Refuse To Drop Below 40+


GoinNuts

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I have a 55 gal that has been established and fully cycled for almost a YEAR and I still cannot get my Nitrates down. Actually, I'm really not sure if 40 is the correct reading even, as those test card colors are impossible to read. It could be 120 for all I can tell.

I have 5 fancies, so I know I'm pushing the limit on overstock, but 4 of the 5 fancies are less than 3". Only one is big, Goldie, my 5 y/o telescope, who is about 7" w/o tail.

My ammonia and nitrites are 0, pH is 7.6 , GH is 300, KH is 180 and my temp stays between 74 - 76. I'm running two Penguin 350 bio wheel filters with extra bio media and 3 bubble wands for extra aeration.

I read that plants can help absorb nitrates. Is this true? Could they help? If yes, how many/what type would be recommend for a 55g and how soon could I expect to see results?

Until I can get another tank to move some of the fish (or a bigger tank! My ultimate dream, lol.), what can I do to get my nitrates to go down? I currently do a minimum of 2 - 3 water changes a week, about 20 gal each time.

TIA!

Lisa

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You need to check the nitrate level from your tap. If thats the same then theres not much you can do. You can get nitrate sponges and things that look like teabags that go in the filter but theres not much to say if they work or not.

If the nitrate is higher than the tap then adding plants such as java fern may help. Goldies love to eat plants so it may be hit and miss with what they wont eat, but usually broad leaved plants help.

You may also need to do more in the way of water changes and doing water changing three times a week at 50% may be the best way to see if you can get it any lower.

Check your tap water first though.

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Sandy, sorry to have ommitted that info! My tap water parameters are:

Ammonia: 0

NitrItes:0

NitrAtes: 0

pH: 7.8

A few months ago, I lost 6 fish (one gf and 5 cichlids) when the water company did a flush and it whacked out the pH. Since then, I always test my tap before every water change.

I went out and bought about 8 plants earlier today, but I'll have to disinfect and quarantine them for a few days before I can put them in. In the meantime, I went ahead and bought a huge Sterlite tub to move a couple of my fish into until I can get another tank. Hopefully, reducing the stock will bring those nasty NitrAtes down. Although, really, is 5 fancies that much of an overstock situation in a 55? I hadn't thought so, but apparently?

Anyway, I should've done the tub a long time ago, but truth be told, I am stumped as to where to set up either it or a new tank. I'm out of room in my tiny house!

I'll also do larger water changes until I get this under control. I have to admit, though, that ever since that big loss, huge water changes scare me. Even knowing the basic parameters are near identical, I never know what else may be off in our water supply that I don't have tests for.

Thanks for your help, Sandy! I really do appreciate it.

Lisa

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Lisa - The bottom line here is that goldfish produce waste (nitrogen) which eventually accumulates in the form of nitrate. The only practical way of removing the relatively large quantities of nitrate that are generated is to do water changes. Plants will take up nitrates, BUT you need high lighting so that the plants will grow. It is the growth of plants that converts nitrate to plant material. You then wind up with a bunch of plants in your tank that you harvest, and the nitrogen then comes out in the form of plant material instead of nitrate dissolved in water. Simply putting a few plants in your tank (and them simply sitting there) won't do it.

If you think about it, the only thing that a larger tank does is provide more dilution for the nitrate, so that the water changes are less frequent (but are larger in volume). No matter how you cut it, you must do water changes to remove nitrate.

One hint - larger water changes are more effective in dropping the nitrate concentration than multiple smaller water changes. If you do the math, you will see that three 20 percent water changes (total 60%) will drop the nitrate concentration to the same level as one 50% water change.

If you are concerned about out-of-whack pH, check it first. It's a quick test. Also, I haven't found that nitrates in the range of 40 ppm or a little higher haven't caused major issues.

Good luck,

Dennis

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I agree with Deniss - one 50% water change is by far better than three, smaller ones. When you do multiple, small water changes, you are actually throwing OUT a portion of the fresh water with each subsequent change... therefore further reducing the amount of "used'' water being removed. A single, larger water change is going to dilute the nitrate more satisfactorily.

You might also think about reducing fishload, now. Your nitrate param. is suggesting it's "time". Apparently your five, small fancies are BIG time nitrogen producers. :)

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One more suggestion, that I've suggested a few times, is to use food with a lower percentage of crude protein. Omega One and Hikari Wheat Germ pellets are in the low 30% crude protein range, while others (Hikari Lionhead, etc.) are in the mid 40% range. Dropping crude protein by 10% should cut down nitrate production by about 25%. If your fancies are grown, you don't need high protein. Keep the amount fed down as well. Cometkeeper is right - it's the fish load!

Now if someone could build a de-nitrifying unit for aquariums, then we'd have something.

Dennis

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Thank you for your replies and help with this, Denniss & Cometkeeper. I really do appreciate it.

In regards to water changes, I do 20 gals every 3rd day. That's pretty close to half, considering I have at least 5 gals displaced with gravel and some decs. Should I up it to 30 gals a change? More?

As for food, I give them Omega One once a day, 5 days a week. Two days a week, they get brocolli and brussel sprouts. I should be okay in regards to not overdoing protein with that diet, yes? No?

I've been gearing up my courage/knowledge to try gel food, but now I'm wondering if that is a good idea. Perhaps I shouldn't be experimenting right now, lol.

Oh, and just to clarify, I hope it doesn't sound like I think plants will solve my nitrate problem! In my research here, I read in several posts that they CAN help a little, so I thought I'd give them a try in addition to other things. I don't expect them to be an abbra cadabra fix.

I'm still trying to find a place to set up the Sterlite I bought yesterday to reduce the load in my tank. Turns out, it's a 1/2 inch too long for the space I intended to put it. Ugh.

Again, thank you all for your help! My fish thank you, too. :D

Lisa

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Denniss and the others are spot on. You need to address the nitrate problem right now, but, once conquered, I think that you will be able to relax a bit more in the future.

As Dennis as stated, water changes are your friend. But lets look at the numbers a bit.

Example:

You tank has 100ppm nitrates. You change 50% of the water. You still have 50ppm nitrates left. In the 3 days until the next change, the fish produce 25ppm nitrates. You will still have 75ppm nitrates. To get the tank back under control you will have to change a WHOLE lot more water in a lot shorter time period.

So, you have 100ppm nitrate. You change 50% of the water. You have 50ppm. Then you turn right around and change another 50% of the water. You will STILL have 25ppm nitrates - really more than you want to read AFTER a change. So you do ANOTHER immediate 50% water change and you get about 12ppm.... now you are there. But you did 3 back-to-back 50% water changes!!!!

I would suggest doing as large a change as you can. Even take out your fish, put them in a bucket and remove ALL the water, replacing it with water that is the same temp, kH, pH, gH, etc. The only change should only be the nitrAtes. Do not disturb the filter at this time - other than perhaps swishing the cartridges in the used fish water. Replace the fish. You should now have approximately 0ppm nitrates.

Feed less or differently, if possible. And do a larger amount of water change on your original schedule. Now that the excess nitrate is removed, you should be able to get a reading. Read the nitrate just before a change. Read the nitrate after the change. If the reading is 40ppm before a change, change out 50% of the water to get 20ppm after. This will be your guide. If you find that you have increasing amounts of nitrates every time, you will need to up the frequency of changes or the amount of water you change each time, or both, to keep the nitrates under control.

This is a main reason for the 10gal per fish rule - it simply makes a tank more manageable for changes. NObody wants to have to do 75% water changes on a tank every other day. It is a PAIN. I do it for particular tanks that I have reason to do it - special fish in qt, a tank under treatment, a tank being fed extremely, etc. But in general, I do NOT want to have to fuss with a tank that much. I would rather simply enjoy the fish.

I hope your tank can bring you more enjoyment and less work in the near future. :)

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