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High Nitrates

Posted: Sun Mar 16, 2014 6:37 pm
by jackieb4153

I've had on ongoing problem with high nitrates in my 125 gal., river tank aquarium. I have a total of 9 clown loaches and a few other common community fish. I've had my clowns for at least twenty years and I'm quite attached to them. But I think I've reached the end of my rope with the nitrate problem. I have tried all the usual weekly water changes, vacumming, maintaining and regularly cleaning and changing the media in my two Rena Filstar xp90 pumps. I have introduced 'Golden Pothos plants and other plants, but they decimate them in a few days.

I am considering letting them go to someone who has a 250 to 500 gallon tank (with nitrates in the 20-40 ppm range). Someone who can take care of them and give them a good home. I know they're only fish, but like I said, I am very fond of them and will have a difficult time in letting them go.

Any suggestions or comments would be greatly appreciated.


Re: High Nitrates

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2014 7:16 pm
by Diana
A few concepts:
Nitrates start as fish food or plant fertilizer.

Nitrogen in = nitrogen out.
However much nitrogen you add to the tank must be removed from the tank.

If you put less in, then there is less to take out.

If you find a combination of ways to take out the nitrogen, then any one way might not be overwhelming.

Feed less. If this means removing some fish, do that. But you can start by feeding the existing fish less. Try every other day, just one meal. Or cut in half the amount you are feeding at each meal.

Set up a daily or constant water change system so that water changes are as automatic as you can make them.

Re: High Nitrates

Posted: Wed Mar 19, 2014 6:22 pm
by jackieb4153
Thanks for the reply. I never know how much to feed my loaches. They're pretty big and gobble everything up right away. I hate to feed them less but that is one possible solution. When I vaccum the tank, I hardly get any debris. The substrate is pretty clean.

Thank you again.

Re: High Nitrates

Posted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 8:39 pm
by Diana
In that case increase the volume and frequency of water changes until the NO3 is low (perhaps 10 ppm).
Then monitor it until it reaches 20 ppm.

However many days it takes, that is how long you can go between 50% water changes.
If you do not want to do 50% water changes then you will have to do smaller changes more often.

Re: High Nitrates

Posted: Mon Jul 07, 2014 6:45 pm
by FranM
I feel your frustration, Jackie. I'm having a similar situation as you though my tank is less than half your size. I have three clowns less than 3" in size, five silver dollars, cherry barbs and a Betta. I have clean gravel and I rinse filter media at every water change. I don't over feed. Other members suggest I'm over stocked, and maybe that is the case. I set up another filter just today and added Matrix. Maybe dual filters plus the Matrix will help help establish double the bacteria to keep nitrates under control. I'm hoping to see results in a couple weeks. I have to look back at your original post to see how how many loaches you have.

Re: High Nitrates

Posted: Mon Jul 07, 2014 11:02 pm
by Diana
[quoteMaybe dual filters plus the Matrix will help help establish double the bacteria to keep nitrates under control.][/quote]

Huh? Cannot grow more bacteria than there is ammonia to feed them.

More bacteria do not mean lower NO3.

Bacteria MAKE NO3 by converting ammonia to nitrite then to nitrate.

The bacteria that may remove Nitrate are anaerobic and do not grow in aquariums under normal conditions in enough quantity to affect the NO3 level.

No matter how you monkey with the filter media, you will always have to go back to the simple formula:
Nitrogen In = Nitrogen Out.

Don't keep looking for the yellow brick road to solve a simple problem.

You are adding Nitrogen in the form of fish food.

You have to remove it. Not change its form, not wish it away, not insist you are not adding the nitrogen.

Face it: You gotta do more and larger water changes to remove the nitrogen.
The sooner you face facts and act accordingly the sooner the problem will be solved.

Re: High Nitrates

Posted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 9:43 am
by FranM
So, is double the filtration going to add double the nitrates?

Re: High Nitrates

Posted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 8:55 pm
by Diana

Nitrogen in nitrates enters the tank as fish food.

Does not matter what you do to it while it is in the tank system. It will still be nitrogen. Transmutation of elements is not possible with today's science.

To reduce the nitrogen you have to actually remove it from the system to make it go away. You cannot alter its form. It will stay nitrogen.

Plants incorporate nitrogen in their leaves and so on.
Fish incorporate nitrogen into their body when they build new protein, but they often discard waste nitrogen in the process.

Water changes actually remove nitrogen from the system.

There is a filter media that can trap nitrates, then you have to throw away the full media often and buy new. Water changes are cheaper. ... atid=28060

Other filter media is based on removing the ammonia. Then the nitrifying bacteria cannot turn it into nitrite or nitrate. This can lead to long term problems because you are starving the bacteria. When you stop using this media or it gets full the bacteria are not up to the proper population levels to handle the fish waste. So ammonia and then nitrite then soar. I would rather keep the bacteria population intact and do water changes.
Look at it this way:

Lets say you had a tank full of plastic ping pong balls. And plastic is bad.
If you send them through a filter, they are still ping pong balls. If you add all sorts of filter media it does not change the problem. Plastic ping pong balls are still there.
If you add a ping pong ball eating organism to the tank you still end up with digested ping pong balls. Plastic.
If you are trying to get rid of the plastic in the system you have to either add fewer ping pong balls, or physically remove the ping pong ball residue via water changes.

Re: High Nitrates

Posted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 9:43 pm
by FranM
I'm trying a nitrate reducing media but giving it only a 50/50 shot. It's costly to do several water changes per week as the water bill is much higher than it was in my old town. I'm really starting to think maybe it's time to give it up as sad as that thought makes me.

Re: High Nitrates

Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:22 am
by Diana
Well, work out the cost of the nitrate removing media compared to water changes. Meet some balance with these methods.

Add plants to the system.

Get rid of fish that demand a high protein diet, keep only fish that will eat a lot of vegetables. (This usually rules out keeping plants and fish in the same tank)

Find ways to use the water drained from the tank for water changes so that while yes, you are using water, you are making it work twice as hard before you throw it away.
Water house and garden plants.
Use it to flush the toilet.

Re: High Nitrates

Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 2:07 am
by FranM
The only feasible idea for me is adding the plants, and I don't mean aquarium plants but house plants. Been looking up on you tube nitrate reducing house plants which are being stored in the HOB filters, most commonly used being Pothos and lucky peace plant (I think that's what the peace plant is called....or the bamboo peace plant. Not sure where lucky came in). Anyway, people are swearing by them so that is my last resort.

Re: High Nitrates

Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 8:29 pm
by Diana
Many house plants can grow in aquariums with the roots in the water and the stems out if the tank. Golden Pothos (Epipremnum) does great for me. The more light it is in the better it grows, and the better nitrate sponge it is. I had it growing all around the livingroom, dipping in and out of tanks, then out a window onto my enclosed porch and back in through another window. It was great! Until I moved the tanks out to the greenhouse. When I cut it up so each tank would get some the plants were OK with that, but when the roof blew off the greenhouse it got too cold.
None of it got direct sun, but the parts on the sun porch (bright light from south facing windows) did the best.

Re: High Nitrates

Posted: Fri Jul 11, 2014 8:17 am
by FranM
I have golden Pothos in place, roots already established, and I'm keeping close watch on nitrates. Need to do one more big water change then hopefully back to the 30%--maybe every two weeks if I'm lucky, eventually. Thank you again for your input.