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Old 03-29-2008, 03:42 AM   #1
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Where are the Nitrates coming from?

Okay. I need some information here. Teach me to fish, as it were!

I came into an existing 55Gal tank, lots of Java Fern, UGF, 3 little fish.
I removed the UGF (just don't like them), lightly rinsed the gravel, vacuumed like crazy, added Laterite, replanted only some of the Java Fern, added a number of other plants fresh from the LFS. I put on a new 130W lite bar (50/50, as that's what it came with and I didn't want to swap for another $80 bux!) and it's turned on about 8-9 hrs/day (no sunlight). I dose twice weekly with a Kent Fresh plant additive (contains no Nitrates). Okay. I set it up. I sit. I watch.

A few days later, Hair (or Fuzz) algae starts. It picks up speed. Some plants not staying well-planted and reseat some of the plants. Added a few fish. We're now up to about (9) 1" - 1.5" fish (small, small population) Nitrates THROUGH THE ROOF (250+). Vacuum like crazy. 30% water change. Nitrates drop, but still excessively high.

Hair algae starts back again the next day. Still adding fertilizer on-schedule, I've cut back feeding frequency and quantity. A few days later, excessive Nitrates again (250+). 30% water change, lots of vacuuming, careful not to disturb rocks. Plants taking hold nicely (3 weeks after planting), but so is Hair algae.

All this time, the chemistry of the tank is leveling out nicely (pH, hardness, etc) and the vital readings are all looking strong (no nitrites, etc) Except, Nitrates are still through the roof, algae on glass and on plants concerns me, I've lost 2 fish in the last 2 weeks.

Overall elapsed time: about 6 weeks. Only chemistry reading out of line is the Nitrates...

So, I ask you-
Where are all the nitrates coming from?
What do I to naturally reduce the Nitrate level?

Thanks for the help-

Jeffrey
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Old 03-29-2008, 09:03 AM   #2
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how much food are you feeding the fish? and how often?
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Old 03-29-2008, 09:34 AM   #3
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Welcome to AA.

That is an interesting one. First off, what are you using to measure your nitrates that's giving you readings up in the hundreds? Have you taken some water to your LFS for them to test to verify the results you're getting?

Have you tested your source water for nitrates?
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Old 03-29-2008, 09:38 AM   #4
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Do you think that you accidentally exposed some of the Laterite to the water column?

What test kit are you using (liquid, test strip, dry taps)? How old is the kit? What are the results for the other tests? What are the results for your tap water (or whatever water you're using for water changes)?

Assuming that the problem is not with your source water I would recommend doing larger water changes 50% every 1-2 days, until you get your Nitrate levels down to under 40ppm.

I've not heard anything particularly good about the Kent Fertilizer. I'd recommend trying Flourish Comprehensive instead.

Steve Hampton's Algae Article
GWAPA's Algae Article
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Old 03-29-2008, 11:43 AM   #5
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Thanks for all the support! I need it. My 10 Gal was easy, but getting this 55 Gal into shape from the mess it was in is proving more of a challenge.

Feeding: They're small fish. A small pinch of flakes once per day. Or, small pinch of bloodworms or brine shrimp. All is eaten in just a couple of minutes.

Water Chemistry:
  • I've tested my source water, and it's fairly nominal readings with no NO3 to speak of.
  • I'm testing with a 6-in-1 dip strip now, but will be getting drops/vial tester later today.
  • My 10 Gal tests just fine (<10) with the same testing
  • I'm headed to the LFS today (for the test kit) and will have them test the water, too.
  • I am almost sure the Laterite was exposed to the water column. With the planting of the new plants (a tank full of them) and some rooting issues (some died, some came loose and needed replanting), the substrate was indeed disturbed a fair amount. I'm being very careful now not to disturb it, and it's been in place for a week or so with no activity at all. I'm not even vacuuming the gravel aggressively for that same reason.
  • Nitrites are non-existent, ammonia is untested. Other readings are in the "acceptable" range. I can post specifics later, if that would help.
  • On recommendations/suggestions from others, I'm going to stop the Kent addition. I have some Flourish and Excel coming in a few days and wil start with that when it arrives.
I'm open to other questions/suggestions. I've had some say the NO3 and the algae issues may not be directly related. What are your thoughts, everyone? Is one directly related to the other, or can I clean up the Nitrates and still have the algae problem going strong?
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Old 03-29-2008, 11:55 AM   #6
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It sounds like the laterite may be in the water column. Have you been disturbing the gravel when refilling. Try doing a large water change and refill carefully. Then see what the readings are.
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Old 03-29-2008, 12:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rich311k View Post
Have you been disturbing the gravel when refilling. Try doing a large water change and refill carefully. Then see what the readings are.
Gravel has been fairly undisturbed lately. Refills splash to a rock submerged in the tank and goes out from there; no gravel disturbance. I'm working on an aggressive campaign of water changes and pre-filter cleanings.

I'll keep you all posted. Thanks for the suggestion!
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Old 03-29-2008, 12:49 PM   #8
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The high Nitrates and Algae may or may not be related. I believe that the algae that you're having problems with does tend to thrive under the same conditions as plants. I'd get your water conditions under control and see how the algae reacts after a couple of weeks. If you're still having issues, then start tweaking things and/or possibly try a blackout.
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Old 03-30-2008, 01:00 AM   #9
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Okay, here's the numbers:
Source Water:
pH = 7.5
NO3 = 2-3ppm
KH = 125
GH = 210

Aquarium PreChange:
pH = 6.8
NO3 = about 120ppm (was misreading the dip test)

Aquarium PostChange (of >50%):
pH = 7.5
NO3 = 20-30 ppm
KH = 125
GH = 275

I have not cleaned the filter after the water change because 1) I thought I'd give it the day so I don't lost my cycle and 2) it's midnight and I'm just plain done for today...

BTW, I have noticed that some of my plants are growing quite well. One bunch pant whose name eludes me right now (rooted or floating, single strand, long and thin) shows signs of rapid growth (leaves spread far apart on the stalk)

My Java Fern has black spots/holes on it (not algae), but other than that and the algae issue, the flora is doing fairly well!
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Old 03-30-2008, 09:17 AM   #10
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The black spots on the Java Fern are probably a sign that it is going to start producing baby plants soon. It grows these on its leaves.

As long as you aren't changing out the filter media and just rinse it in used tank water, you won't damage the beneficial bacteria.

As far as testing goes, do you have tests for Ammonia and Nitrite? Those are especially helpful for troubleshooting the types of problems you're experiancing. If you tap is high in Ammonia or Nitrites this would help explain where the high Nitrates are coming from. If they are zero from the tap, but showing up in the aquarium this is a sign that you are still cycling or experiancing a mini cycle. Depending on the levels this could indicate that we're looking for rotting material, etc.
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Old 03-30-2008, 09:38 AM   #11
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Purrbox, I don't have drop tests for them, but the strip tests show no ammonia or nitrites. Next trip, I'll pick up some drop tests for those as well.

The black spots on the java fern are holes, not just spots. Is that normal? It' so bad, some are splitting in half. If I can post pics here, I will.
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Old 03-30-2008, 01:40 PM   #12
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Go ahead and remove the most damaged leaves. Continue doing this as the plant puts out new leaves and eventually you should have a much healthier looking plant. Removing the damaged leaves encourages the plant to focus on putting out new growth instead of expending energy trying to repair the damaged leaves.
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