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Old 09-17-2009, 10:27 AM   #1
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pH, N-2, N03, KH, GH - ideal levels?

pH, Nitrite, Nitrate, Carbonate & General Hardness


Just started a new 80 litre Aquarium, Have the gravel sorted, a few live plants planted, a Fluval U series (U2) Internal filter and a TetraTec APS 100 Single Outlet Aquarium Air Pump . Has been up and running with no fish for 6 days now.

I have a API 5 in 1 test kits which is a strip that tests for pH, Nitrite, Nitrate, Carbonate & General Hardness.

Only trouble is I donít know what levels are acceptable! Should they all be zero? They go up in 1.0s or 0.5s, What are the ideal levels of each of these?


My test this morning showed the PH level as 8.5, the N-2 and NO3 at their lowest possible level on the strip which is 0 and the GH and KH were at their highest level on the strip. I live in London so I guess that indicates water hardness but is that acceptable? Will the levels regulate better once there are a few fish in there?

When does it become safe to introduce some fish?
Any help will be great.
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Old 09-17-2009, 08:42 PM   #2
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What fish are you keeping? pH of 8.5 is a bit on the high side for some fish. <The KH & GH is in line with the high pH.>

Your NO2 & NO3 should be zero in your tap water. <Or your tank without fish.> If it isn't, you get problems.

Before you introduce fish, you do need to cycle your tank. Please go to the article sections to read about cycling. Essentially, this mean growing a bacterial colony that will handle your fish waste. <It is possible to cycle with fish, but that often results in high fish mortality.>

Most here are advocate of fishless cycling. You add an ammonia source to simulate fish waste (either chemical pure ammonia or a pinch of fish food daily) & grow your biofilter without fish. During the cycling process, you would first see the ammonia (NH3) level rise, followed by the nitrite (NO2), finally the nitrates (NO3). When you see zero ammonia, zero NO2 & some nitrates after the spikes, you are safe to introduce fish. <It would take up to 6-8 weeks to complete the whole process.> In a mature tank after cycling, the NH3 & NO2 should always be zero. The NO3 is best kept under 20. <For a planted tank, somewhere around 10 is ideal.>

Note that the test stripes are not very accurate. The pH is usually pretty close, but I would not rely on it to get actual levels for the others. You are also missing the ammonia test, which is arguably the most important one.

If possible, it would be better to get a liquid test kit to monitor the NH3, NO2 & NO3 during the cycling process.
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9 fancy golds, 1 hillstream loaches, 1 rubber-lip pleco (C. thomasi), 3 SAEs, small school of white cloud minnows, planted.
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Old 09-17-2009, 09:02 PM   #3
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I am in complete agreement with Jsoong. #1. Get a liquid test kit. It will be the best thing you ever did. #2. Do a fishless cycle. You can read about it in my signature link. #3. Welcome to AA!
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Old 09-19-2009, 12:24 AM   #4
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Thank you both for your advice. We (girlfriend & I) are completely new to all this and I’m very eager to get the conditions right.

I think it will be quite fun getting the levels right, then you appreciate the tank before there are any fish! First step tomorrow morning is the API master test kit. Unfortunately here in U.K. it seems pretty impossible to find suitable chemical pure ammonia so it looks like I’ll have to go down the fish food route.

We also don’t have anyone to borrow any active ornaments or used filter media from so it’s all completely new! We have some plants planted in the gravel, I suppose the fishless environment with give them some time to root down.

According to my most recent APi 5 in 1 strip:

NO3 – 40ppm
NO2 – 0 ppm
PH – 8.0
KH – 240ppm (max for the strip)
GH – 180ppm (max for the strip)

I’ll be back to let you all know how I get on, got a couple of pictures of our set up in my album, we welcome any suggestions (already realise I need to smooth over the disturbed stones, that’s just where the water went in!
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Old 09-19-2009, 11:41 AM   #5
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I very much doubt you have NO3 of 40 in a plant only tank! That is more than likely an error in those test stripes.

Glad that you are going the fishless route. It is a lot more humane. There is usually lots of bacteria on the plants, so you are well on your way without getting established media. Plants, however, can use ammonia directly, so it might take a bit more ammonia source to get the ammonia level up.

If you have a LOT of healthy, fast growing plants, it is possible to cycle without any level rising. This is the so called "silent cycle" method, but that is another story.
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Old 09-20-2009, 06:55 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Bigglesworth View Post
Thank you both for your advice. We (girlfriend & I) are completely new to all this and I’m very eager to get the conditions right.

I think it will be quite fun getting the levels right, then you appreciate the tank before there are any fish! First step tomorrow morning is the API master test kit. Unfortunately here in U.K. it seems pretty impossible to find suitable chemical pure ammonia so it looks like I’ll have to go down the fish food route.

We also don’t have anyone to borrow any active ornaments or used filter media from so it’s all completely new! We have some plants planted in the gravel, I suppose the fishless environment with give them some time to root down.

According to my most recent APi 5 in 1 strip:

NO3 – 40ppm
NO2 – 0 ppm
PH – 8.0
KH – 240ppm (max for the strip)
GH – 180ppm (max for the strip)

I’ll be back to let you all know how I get on, got a couple of pictures of our set up in my album, we welcome any suggestions (already realise I need to smooth over the disturbed stones, that’s just where the water went in!

Boots sell ammonia. Local independant hardware stores will sell it.
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Old 09-21-2009, 07:12 PM   #7
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Thanks for the info on Boots selling ammonia, grabbed a bottle today!!

I need some advice on the cycle and perhaps where i am within it!

took first reading about an hour ago.

Ammonia is between 0 and 0.25 ppm
Nitrate is 20 ppm
Nitrite is 0.25 ppm
PH is 8.2

should i put some ammonia in? my nitrate seems to be decent and my ammonia and nitrite near zero. also how would i work out the necessary ppm for an 80litre tank? would it be a safe option to add a teaspoon of ammonia?
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Old 09-22-2009, 12:38 AM   #8
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What is your tap water reading (using the same kit)? The nitrate reading doesn't seem right to me.

Your tank is only considered cycled when you add ammonia to 4-5 ppm & it is gone within 24Hr to become nitrates. Right now I don't think you have started the cycle yet.

To find out amount of ammonia needed, you need to know the concentration of ammonia in your bottle. <Make sure it is pure ammonia, no surfactant, soaps, perfumes, etc.>

Household ammonia is 5-10g% = 5-10g/100ml = 50-100 mg/ml
Desired ammonia concentration = 4 ppm = 4 mg/l
80 l tank = 320 mg NH3 needed for 4 ppm
That works out to between 3-6 ml of ammonia, depending on its concentration.

Most people just measure the ammonia after a certain amount is added. Eg. add 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) to your 80 l tank & measure the rise in ammonia level. If it increases the level by 2.5 (say), then you know that 1ml added = 1 ppm rise.
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Old 09-22-2009, 09:18 PM   #9
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my tap water readings are as follows:

Ammonia - 0 ppm
Nitrate - 10 ppm
Nitrite - 0 ppm

apologies if posting a link is not ok, please edit it out if not acceptable. The link is to the water quality report for my area, has quite a lot of detail on there. http://www.thameswater.co.uk/water-q...L-SYDENHAM.pdf
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Old 09-23-2009, 02:04 AM   #10
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Hmm, you have nitrates in your tap water ... about 25 according to the water report.

That is going to complicate things a bit. You cannot rely on the presence of nitrates to indicate presence of cycling bacteria. You can still carry on fishless cycling as in the articles. However, you are going to have to monitor for the NH3 & NO2 spikes. After the spikes, you will need to confirm successful cycling by adding ammonia to 4 & making sure it disappear to zero in under 24 hours (and without any detectable NO2).

NO3 in your change water is a good thing for planted tank. It is fertilizer. <I normally add some weekly to 10 ppm.> However, having just NO3 might unbalance the macros & cause algae. You might have to add some K & maybe PO4 to balance things out. ... But that is something to worry about later, after your tank cycles.
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