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Old 03-22-2010, 08:16 PM   #1
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Water Quality Emergency

Hello, fine people !

I have a 55 gallon Tetra tank, (With a few African Dwarf Frogs and guppies). The tank is not heavily populated. There are 7 Glowlight Tetras, and 10 Neon Tetras. There is 1 silvertip tetra, a 4 inch long Pleco, and a couple of baby guppies. (Born in the tank and did well hiding amongst the flora). There are also two algae eaters (Very Small)

My tank is heavily planted with a white substrate.

Yesterday, I did my usual weekly 20% water change and water tests. Well, the first thing I noticed was that my population of snails was ALL gone ! Since I had never added any snails and they were a growing problem, I was almost happy to see them gone.

HOWEVER !!! AFTER the 20% water change my routine water tests were VERY alarming ! The Ph level was low off the scale. The Nitrate level was HIGH off the scale. The tetras, including the Neons and Glowlights seemed to be normal, healthy, and swiming around gleefully, curious as to what I was doing, but I was very concerned, nevertheless.

So, I proceeded to do another 25% water change and tested the water again with the same result ! I ran and grabbed up the phone and called my local fish store. They thought my testing kit had failed, since a Ph at that level would kill the fish within hours. They suggested I replace my test kit. They also suggested a teaspoon of baking soda in the filter, in the mean time, just to be sure.

After I applied the baking soda the Ph went back up to 6.8 but the nitrate levels are STILL off the scale.

It is true that I have let the plants go a little and a number of dead leaves were allowed to remain. I also haven't vaccuumed as often as would be normal thinking the plants would use the under-gravel nutrients. It is true that the plants are all VERY green and healthy.

My plan is to do a 25% water change every other day until the nitrate levels drops to normal. However, I am worried that this might harm my fishies.

I have found, and read many articles about how to keep nitrate levels low, but haven't yet found advice on how to bring them back to normal once they have gotten out of control.

Yes, I did vaccuum the substrate extensively after the water changes and yes, I am starting to have algae issues.

Can some kind soul please help? I would be very grateful.

Thanks in advance !!!
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Old 03-22-2010, 08:21 PM   #2
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Have you tested the water your putting into the tank? I have to add ph+ with every water change. My ph out of faucet is like 6.0
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Old 03-22-2010, 08:21 PM   #3
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Welcome to AA

What is your ammonia and nitrite reading? Are you using strips or liquid to test for the nitrate? pH plummeting like could mean that you're lacking adequate surface agitation or there is a tight fitting lid restricting air flow in to the tank disrupting the co2 offgassing... I would do 25% pwc's daily until you get everything straightened out. What kind of filter are you using? When is the last time you rinsed everything out in old tank water? Have you tested your tap waters ph and nitrate? If you could, could you test the tap after letting it sit in a bucket or container over night and see if there is any difference in ph?
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Old 03-22-2010, 08:41 PM   #4
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Thank you for your replies. OK. To answer your questions, yes. I have tested my tap water. It is city water. The Ph is 7.0, so that is OK. Their doesn't seem to be any Nitrate in it. I pre-treat it with AmQuel+. I stir it with my hand the whole time the bucket is filling and add the treated water to the filter slowly.

My Amonia and Nitrite levels are zero.

My test kit is a liquid where I put water in test tubes and add drops of chemicals from bottles. I follow the instructions carefully and read them each time I test.

I do not believe my test kit has failed. I think I messed up in believing the plants would remove the nitrates. I was suprised, though, that the water quality dropped so quickly. I did though. The dead snails have convinced me of that.

I did, sometimes, let the water sit overnight, but can't now, needing so much at one time. I do try to match the temperature in the tank while I am stirring in the AmQuel.

My tank is covered, because I don't want the frogs to leap out. There are timed lights also for the plants. However, the top is not sealed by any means.

The filter is an Emperor 400. I replace the filter media with one cartridge every month, alternating each side. So, each cartridge gets replaced every 2 months, so as to not loose too much bacteria at any one time.
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Old 03-22-2010, 09:13 PM   #5
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Questions.

Will major water changes on a daily basis stress my fish/Frogs?

Do I need to add more plants? (I intend to add a BUNCH more after this )

Am I feeding too much ? (Feeding daily but thinking of reducing to every other day)

Is high nitrates a major problem?

Thanks for your help. I do love my fishies. I really want to take god care of them.

Best wishes to you all!!!
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Old 03-22-2010, 10:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Will major water changes on a daily basis stress my fish/Frogs?
not at all assuming you use water thats the same temp and already dechlored

Quote:
Do I need to add more plants? (I intend to add a BUNCH more after this )
Not necessarily. Better to wait and figure out the root of this problem before adding anything new

Quote:
Am I feeding too much ? (Feeding daily but thinking of reducing to every other day)
Every other day is a good way, IMO

Quote:
Is high nitrates a major problem?
High nitrates can be a major problem, though some nitrates are not bad. ~40ppm is pushing it for me, as long as they're below 60ppm, theyre not considered harmful short term
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Old 03-22-2010, 10:21 PM   #7
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Please rinse and wash out your test tubes.. I had an off the chart ammonia reading and odd ph readings once.. I cleaned the tubes really well and everything was back to normal.. I try to rinse them very well with tap water and ram a paper towel down in them and twist till the glass on the tube is crystal clear...

Also, have you counted all of your fish? Perhaps one is dead stuck under something goofing you up...

And lastly, do you know your KH from the tap? I have one plant in my 75g and if I do nothing to raise the KH in my tank, my ph will crash big time within two weeks.. I think more plants will eat up the KH quicker.. I think... Someone tell me if I'm wrong..
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Old 03-23-2010, 07:08 PM   #8
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Thank you for your responses.

Yes, I clean my test tubes very well, and wipe them out with a paper towel. I also carefully clean the caps as well.

This morning, when the lights came on I looked into the tank to check everything over. The poor little fishies swam up to the place I normally feed them. YEP ! I whimped out and fed them ! They just looked so happy it was feeding time. How could I disappoint them. I'll skip ... "tomorrow's feeding" ...

As far as my test kit, remember, the Apollo 13 controllers at NASA wasted a lot of precious time thinking the problem with the spacecraft was instrumentation. Remember the mission commander said, "These guys are talking about 'bangs' and 'shimmies' ! That doesn't sound like instrumentation to me." Well, I'm looking at a BUNCH of dead snails and an algae bloom. That doesn't sound like a test kit failure to me, either.

Anyway, I gave my fishies a couple of days to relax. Tomorrow I'll start the massive water changes until the nitrates are back to normal. Ph seems to have stablized at 6.8. I usually don't feed the fish before a major aquarium maintenance, so, tomorrow, I'll start on that.

BTW: I sprinkle the food under the water over top of a major sword plant. I am thinking the excess food, falling into the plant will act as plant food. Perhaps this is also a mistake.

Is this a good idea, or a bad one?

Thanks so much.
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Old 03-23-2010, 09:42 PM   #9
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well, you shouldnt have any excess food to fall in to the plant. when i feed my fish, the food doesnt have time to do anything except get eaten. Excess food indicated excess feeding which turns in to excess waste which equals more ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate issues possible. make sense?
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