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Old 02-23-2008, 03:27 PM   #1
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Unhappy Nitrates

I am a new member and new to the hobby - almost 2 months. My tank is 29 gallons. As a little background, I got terrible advice starting my tank from my local store. Basically, after 48 hours of getting set up I put 7 fish in and then 2 more. When I bought the two, I also bought a bunch of books. Once I started reading, I realized how much of a mistake I made by relying on the clerk in the store. I lost 5 fish in the next 2 weeks. I also bought fish that were totally non compatible.

Now, my tank looks great and I haven't lost a fish in 1.5 months. I have 5 guppies, 2 dwarf gouramis, 7 tetras and an upside down cory. I'm totally into it - unlike any hobby I have had. Truly enjoying it.

I am worried that I just had a spike in nitrites. How high does it need to go for it to be a legit problem? I just did a water change 20% and will do another tomorrow.

So basically, should I be freaked out that nitrates just spiked?
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Old 02-23-2008, 03:37 PM   #2
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is it nitrates or nitrites or both that spiked. If you could post all of your test results that would be helpfull in diagnosing whats going on with your tank. Usually any nitrites are a sign of the tank not being completely cycled. Were the Nitrates above 20ppm? Water changes are definately a good idea to improving water quality
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Old 02-23-2008, 04:34 PM   #3
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A spike in Ammonia or Nitrites indicates that 1. the aquarium is cycling or 2. it is going through a mini cycle. Mini cycles can happen for a variety of reasons. A fish dies unoticed, too many additional fish added at once, something harms the beneficial bacteria causing partial die off, etc. Determining the cause if possible, keeping an eye on parameters, and water changes to keep levels down are all good ideas.
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Old 02-23-2008, 07:59 PM   #4
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Looks like it is both nitrites and nitrates. Now nitrites is higher than nitrates. Nitrite is between 3.0 and 5.0 ppm and Nitrate is below 20 - I would say probably below 10. Other readings look good - Chlorine 0, Hardness between 75-150, KH 120 and PH about 7. I was going to do a water change first thing in the morning because I already did one this morning. Darn - I really thought this was cycled.

Thanks much for your responses.
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Old 02-23-2008, 08:12 PM   #5
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Is this an emergency?
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Old 02-23-2008, 08:12 PM   #6
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Based on your story I'm willing to bet you're still in your initial cycle (2 month old tank with varying bioload over the past 2 months).

Since you have fish, you're going to need to keep a close eye on those readings pretty much daily until your cycle completes. IMO, if you reach 1ppm on either of ammonia or nitrite you need to do a 50% water change. That might be a daily waterchange for a while, mind you, but it's what will keep your fish healthy.

What type of test kit are you using?
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Old 02-23-2008, 08:14 PM   #7
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Im using the colored strips. But I just went out and bought something more sophisticated. For NH3 and PH, I have the ones that hang in the tank.
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Old 02-23-2008, 08:17 PM   #8
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So if I did one this morning should I wait or do another one tonight? I read in one of the books that you shouldnt do it too often.

By the way, thanks a ton for the response. I am freaking a bit.

The fish seem very happy - no one is doing anything odd, color looks good, the are all eating fine, etc. I just gave them brine shrimp and they went nuts.
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Old 02-23-2008, 08:25 PM   #9
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I highly recommend you get an API freshwater master test kit. Or, at least, a reputable chemical NO2 test kit since you have what sounds like a decent NH3 kit now.

Since your NO2 is spiking, it appears you have (or at least are close to having) a sufficient amount of the bacteria to convert ammonia to nitrite. Now it's going to take time to establish a colony of nitrifying bacteria to convert that nitrite to nitrate. Before now, there was no food for those types of bacteria present, so they're kind of behind the power curve since their food source is just now here. As most will tell you, this is the lengthy portion of a cycle. And, it's not uncommon for a cycle when maintained with fish to take upwards of 6 months.

If you are reading > 3ppm nitrite, even on those test strips, I would do a 50% water change right away, regardless of the 20% you did this morning. If it were me, I might even go to 70% personally. The worry with rapid fire water changes is stress to the fish. Be very aware of the temperature of the tank when you go to replace the water, and match the fresh water as closely as you can, as this is the variable that tends to lead to the most stress during water changes.

Keeping an eye on your fish will be key. If the nitrite spike just occurred in the past day or so, if not kept in control it will start to affect your fish, as it sounds like you're aware. Poisoning of this type is typically related to burning the gills of the fish, so watch those areas closely as well.
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Old 02-23-2008, 08:33 PM   #10
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Please note that those test strips are notoriously in accurate, and could be giving you very bad results. While I'd recommend doing a large water change just in case, I'd also take a sample to your LFS to see if they can verify your results. Definately pick up liquid test kits as soon as your are able to replace the test strips.
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