Thanks for the encouragement on the water changes and letting things settle. I did the first one today.
Last night I spent time measuring water into various buckets and marking lines so I'd know for the future how far to fill various vessels to get specific quantities. At this point, I have a clean trashcan that has only ever been used with the aquarium (bought it during the tank move last week) that is now my salt mixing vessel. I can easily fill it to 10 or 20 gallons with the two lines I marked inside with red electrical tape.
Anyway, I filled it to 20 gallons last night with strictly cold water (to avoid potential metals/minerals from the hot water heater). I tossed in a spare pump to circulate the water as well as a 30 gallon rated submersible heater that I bought for this purpose. I set it to bring the water up to the same temp as the tank and left it for the night.
This morning the water was the right temp, so I chose a new cup to use for measuring out salt and added it in batches until the specific gravity matched the tank. I took note of the number of cupfulls to speed the process along in the future.
I mixed the salt with the pump still running for better circulation and let it sit a little while afterward. I checked the sg
a few times and it always came in right on the mark.
I pumped from the tank just shy of the amount of water that I had mixed . I discovered after pumping that this second trashcan had developed a small hole and started to run all over the living room floor. I dragged it out in a big hurry and my wife and I soaked up the relatively small (but fast moving) pool. I know that thrilled her to no end, but she's really liking the tank, so I escaped summary execution...
I decided after pumping in the new water to mix up five more gallons to be sure I was fully topped off. I repeated the above procedure using a clean, tank-only five gallon bucket and all went perfectly.
The fish seem plenty happy - no odd behavior. Tonight I checked all the chemistry again and my pH is still dead on 8.2, the ammonia is 0, the nitrites are 0 but the nitrates show (at this point) no visible change and are at (or beyond) 160 according to the color chart.
I tested it twice using my original kit and a new one I had purchased to rule out problems with the old one. Both registered the same.
Since 160 is the top of the chart, I don't know how bad it really is (numerically speaking). I also don't know whether I've improved things but not brought it below 160 just yet or if things are the same or worse. I was hoping to see a decline - but no such luck.
Is there any sort of nitrate test with either a wider range of measurements or a device that will yield a numeric score so I have something to track other than a finite color chart?
I plan on repeating the water change process on this scale every couple of days until I can get some measurable shifts in the results. I'm using my tap water right now since the RO
will take a hundred years under current conditions to give me what I need. My tap water checks out pretty nicely straight from the tap (it's well water) and registers no nitrates of its own (and very, very low phosphate).
Since I've started the process, can anyone tell me if this is a sound procedure and if it is safe to keep doing changes of water on this scale every few days? Any guess on how long it might take to conquer the nitrate problem?
Also, are there some additional theories on what might be the problem if I see no real improvement after several large water changes? Someone in another post had suggested that my problem might be in my wet/dry. If so, what would be the process for getting that straight? Is there a scenario I need to prepare for here where I might NOT be fixing the problem despite the water changes?
Thanks for the help!