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Old 01-09-2011, 04:41 PM   #1
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Did I get too carried away with the vacuum?!

Hey everyone!

So I've had my 65 gallon freshwater set up for about 2 years now, and I haven't had any trouble with ammonia or nitrite levels until very recently. Here's the story: I noticed the beginnings of black beard algae a few months ago for the first time. When I tested my phosphate and nitrate levels, the nitrate was around 40ppm while the phosphates were off the chart (10+ on the API test). More regular water changes and some aggressive algae scraping seems to have gotten the outbreak under control, however, phosphates have remained 10+ despite all of my best efforts at removing any biological matter that was decomposing, pwc's 2 times a week, and even after I added a Fosters and Smith Phospur pad to my Aquaclear HOB filter.

I finally decided that what I needed to do was dig REALLY deep into the substrate with my vacuum and try to suck up whatever I could. During my last water change, I did this, only to discover today (about 4 days later) that my Nitrites were inching up. I also discovered this morning that one of my zebra danios is dead and my pearl gourami is acting much more sluggish and timid than usual.

So my question is... did I cause this spike in nitrites with my vacuuming?

Also, does anyone have any other thoughts about what is keeping my phosphate levels so high?

Any help is greatly appreciated!!
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Old 01-09-2011, 04:48 PM   #2
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You probably caused a mini cycle with the agressive vacuuming. I would start by performing water changes to get your nitrites down as low as possible. Nitrites are even more harmful to your fish than ammonia, so you want to get that under control.

What kind/how many fish do you have in there, and how are you feeding? My guess would be overfeeding and too many fish...

The next thing I would look at is the tap water you are putting in the tank... have you done a PO4 test on it straight out of the tap? Many water supplies have an elevated level of PO4 before it ever gets to the tank. 10+ is obviously extremely high... I am surprised you don't have more algae then you do.
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Old 01-09-2011, 04:59 PM   #3
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Thanks for your reply, Fort384! To answer your questions:

My aquarium is a 65 gallon high with the following fish:

3 zebra danios (was 4 until this morning)
1 pearl gourami
1 tiger barb
3 emerald cory cats
3 pineapple platies
1 common pleco

I thought feeding might be the issue so I've decreased feedings to every other day, once a day about 2 minutes worth of food.

I did test my tap water and the reading came back 0 for phosphates (which surprised me because the tap water where I live doesn't exactly have a stellar reputation...)

How often do you think I should start doing pwc's?

Also, I've got a pretty old piece of driftwood in the aquarium (I used it in an aquarium set-up I had about 10 years ago for 3 or 4 years, then again recently when I set this tank up two years ago. Could that possibly be breaking down and contributing to the phosphate levels?
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Old 01-09-2011, 05:33 PM   #4
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I would do 50% a day pwcs until the Nitrites and po4 is Under control.

Try pulling the drift wood out and put it in a bucket of clean tap water. You know the tap water is 0 ppm po4. Test it after a week and see if po4 shows up.

The change in feeding should also help.
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Old 01-09-2011, 09:05 PM   #5
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Great suggestions... did a pwc today and will start daily changes tomorrow. I think I'm going to try the driftwood experiment as well. It's looking pretty worn out as it is so it might be time to change it regardless.

Sorry to keep asking more questions, but does it matter how long I wait to test the water after a water change?
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Old 01-09-2011, 09:17 PM   #6
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nope, shouldn't matter at all. If you take out 50% of the water, and add water that has 0 ppm PO4, then the new tank should pretty much instantly (as soon as the new water mixes) have 50% less PO4.
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Old 01-09-2011, 11:24 PM   #7
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boiling the driftwood for about 20 minutes should helpp clean it out
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Old 01-09-2011, 11:26 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Stinkpots View Post
boiling the driftwood for about 20 minutes should helpp clean it out
True, but if it is leaching PO4 it may not stop it. If you do boil it just beware... boiling driftwood indoors can get stinky .
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Old 01-10-2011, 01:14 PM   #9
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Hmmm... I think I might try boiling the driftwood if I determine that it is not the source of all of the phosphates. It is a pretty big piece, though, so I'm not sure I have something big enough to hold it for the stove!
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Old 01-10-2011, 02:59 PM   #10
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I don't know of organic materials high in phosphates like that. What is your substrate, or to what rock is the driftwood attached?
Have you used ferts?

I would suspect after all that, it is probably overfeeding.
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Old 01-10-2011, 08:02 PM   #11
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Ugh. So when I got home from work today my pearl grourami was looking a little worse than yesterday... sitting on the surface of the gravel hidden behind a large rock. I did another round of water tests and came up with:

Ammonia of .25ppm (it was 0 yesterday)
Nitrites of 0 (it was .25 yesterday)
Nitrates were 80 (same as yesterday)

I did another 25% water change and I'm hoping that I will be able to save my gourami... thankfully all of the other fish seem to be doing okay at the moment.
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Old 01-11-2011, 07:54 PM   #12
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Day 3 of my saga...

When I got home from work tonight everybody in the tank looked to be doing fine. My gourami looked about the same as yesterday if not slightly better.

Water status is:
Ammonia: .25ppm
Nitrites: 0
Nitrates: 80

In other words, the same as yesterday before my pwc. Needless to say, I did another 25% wc this evening and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Thanks again to all who have helped with this problem!
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Old 01-11-2011, 07:56 PM   #13
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Yup, unfortunately while the cycle is happening, it will probably take daily PWCs for awhile. I think you will be out of the woods soon, but in the mean time, PWC PWC PWC
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