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Old 04-14-2014, 09:35 PM   #1
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Stubborn high nitrates! Help!

I'm having problems getting my nitrates under control in my 60 gallon community tank. It's stocked with 2 medium Angels, 1 large blue Gourami, 2 Dwarf Gouramis, 1 Cremesicle Molly, and 8 platys. From what i can tell that isn't unreasonably stocked for a 60 gallon? I do weekly 30% - 40% water changes with a gravel vacuum/siphon, but every time I check my water, I get the same results. I've monitored my feeding closely, and only feed what will be eaten in about a minute (60 seconds) time. Everything is low, except my nitrates. Ammonia is 0ppm, nitrite is 0 ppm, but my nitrate is off the charts! The highest my kit will measure is 160 ppm, and that's the color I get every time! I've tried everything I can think of, but nothing seems to get the nitrates under control. I've tried increasing my water changes to every 3 days, changing more of the water, but nitrates are still off the chart. I've even put 5-6 live plants in the tank, because I've been told that live plants will use nitrates as food and help bring them down, but they've been no help. The plants are small (2-3 inches high) as I just purchased them two weeks ago, but I've seen no noticeable difference. Now in addition to the nitrate problem, I'm also having problems avoiding damaging the live plants when I gravel vac! I should say that I haven't had any deaths in the tank in about 8 months, so I don't know exactly how much of a real problem it is, but it really bothers me that although the fish seem fine, it may be an unhealthy home for the fish!
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Old 04-14-2014, 09:36 PM   #2
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Also, the tank has been running for almost 2 years.
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Old 04-14-2014, 09:48 PM   #3
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Have u tested tap water ? That is crazy high nitrates ? Are u using api master freshwater kit ?
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Old 04-15-2014, 12:17 AM   #4
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Are your treating your water with Seachem Prime? The bottle says it detoxifies nitrates but I don't know if it neutralizes nitrates to the point where it doesn't show up on the test. Test your water out of the tap and test both hot and cold separately.
Also get all the debris and poop out of the filter and filter sponges.
If your vacuuming the substrate your stirring up a lot of stuff. Be sure to rinse off your filter media in some tank water.
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Old 04-15-2014, 08:44 AM   #5
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Ok, I'll try to answer some questions, but I'm on my iPad so I can't see the original post while I type. I did use the API test kit, with the vials and droppers. Another confusing thing is that I tried using the dipsticks and got very different results. I've always been told they are unreliable, but figured I'd give them a shot. the API test kits consistently test super high for nitrates only. The dipstick test shows nitrates in the 40 ppm area! What is going on with my crazy tank???? I've done a major cleaning, vacuumed the gravel well, rinsed the filter sponges, and I'm still getting high tests. Also, I did test the tap water, and it came up low. 0-5 ppm on the straight tap water. I just can't believe my tank is so overstocked or dirty that I would need such frequent and large water changes. At this point the only way to keep the nitrates down to a decent level is 50% water changes every 3 days. Makes me want to give the thing up!
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Old 04-15-2014, 09:51 AM   #6
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What kind of filtration are you currently using?. The API is a good test kit and I wouldn't even bother with the strips but make sure it isn't expired, you can also take some tank in and have it tested at the LFS just to verify your readings. You can use a small powerhead to help keep the trash off the substrate between cleanings just don't run it 24/7. Also have you tried chemical media such as purigen?
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Old 04-15-2014, 10:05 AM   #7
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Hello Thill...

A couple of things you can do. First, get some floating plants into the tank. I like Hornwort and Brazilian water weed (Anacharis). Both are fast growing and thrive in water with higher nitrates. They'll definitely help lower them. Second, a company by the name of Acurel has nitrate removing polyfiber, cut to fit padding that will fit most filtration devices. I've used the product for quite a while and it can help lower nitrogen levels.

Large, frequent water changes will maintain a stable water chemistry and a stable chemistry is more important than a particular chemistry. I change half the water in my tanks at least every two weeks, more often if time permits.

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Old 04-15-2014, 11:45 AM   #8
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Thanks, I'll give those suggestions a try. I'll probably start with even more plants, since they are a more natural solution. Id like to not try to play "Mother Nature" with chemicals if I can. I've never heard of the nitrate filter material but I'll try to find that too.I just wish I could get to the root cause of my nitrate problem. Everything else is great, the tank isn't really overstocked, and I'm feeding sparingly. It's just frustrating. Oh, and my filtration is two hang-on-the-back type TopFin 75 power filters. My tank is a 60, so I figure two 75's should be more than sufficient?
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Old 04-15-2014, 12:28 PM   #9
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Make sure to clean the filters out every so often if u don't all ready
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Old 04-15-2014, 12:40 PM   #10
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When you have consistently high nitrates even with doing WC's and gravel vac's along with none in your tap water the problem often comes down to either filter media not being cleaned often enough or even well enough or if you have a lot of rocks and or DW that can trap a lot of detritus around and under them. You can actually try doing a large 50-60% WC, wait a couple hours and do another large one. Wait a couple hours or so and retest. Often times when nitrates are so far off the charts it can take several back to back large WC's over a day or more to bring them down to readable levels. Once nitrates are off the chart you don't know exactly how high they really are which means you don't know many WC's it will take to lower them to readable levels. If you continue to do WC's of 50% or more, back to back with a rest inbetween, even for more than one day you will get the nitrate readings to go down. It is just going to take some work to get them down into readable levels.
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Old 04-16-2014, 05:17 AM   #11
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High nitrates

Check the date on the test kit. With nitrates at that level the fish will be showing signs of stress. Could you have left the cap off or loose on the test chemical and the some of the chemical evaporated and became stronger. I'm not a chemist but to get high nitrates I believe u have to have high ammonia first and then high nitrite levels none of which u have mentioned. Test rain water or a local pond or river water to see what u get.
Just my two cents
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