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Old 12-20-2004, 11:27 AM   #1
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Nitrates too high in a planted tank

I just lost my favorite fish (my gold nugget pleco), so I did a water test ... and apparently, the nitrates are too high in my tank (80 ppm).

Can someone please explain to me how my nitrates are getting so high with all these plants in my tank?



my nitrates have always hovered around 60 ppm and I could never figure that out. I very cautiously dose my tank with a little plant fertilizer. ie: these planttabs say 1 tablet per 5 gallons ... which would mean 11 tablets every 10 days according to their instructions, but I have never added more than 6 tablets at a time.

I have 130watts of light in 55 gallons, so my plants should be using up all the nitrates right? Am I missing something or doing something wrong?

any help or ideas would be much appreciated.
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Old 12-20-2004, 01:12 PM   #2
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Do you have nitrate in your tap water?

Also, your tank is not heavily planted, so you could add some fast-growing plants like hygro, wisteria, hornwort, stuff like that, and see if they don't suck up the nitrate. Do you have any algae issues?
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Old 12-20-2004, 01:24 PM   #3
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its been a while since I tested my tap (well water), but if I recall it was 0 or near 0.

I just started getting a little algae this past week (funny you should say that). OK, so you suggest a fast growing plant?

Do you think I should stop adding any fertilizers?

I'm not adding any CO2 either ... do you think that would have any effect on the nitrates?

When I get a chance, I'll retest my water today ... I changed about 30% this morning.
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Old 12-20-2004, 03:22 PM   #4
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You might be overdoing the plant tabs - are you burying them in the substrate? CO2 will help the plants utilize the nitrate, but before you embark on that you need to make sure your KH is decent (3-4 degrees). Read up on CO2 injection (pressurized and DIY) and see if it is something you want to get into. If all you want to do is handle nitrate then I'd hold off on CO2 and the fertilizer, and add some more plants and see what happens.
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Old 12-20-2004, 04:45 PM   #5
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I'm sorry to hear about your pleco, those gold nuggets are beautiful. I would have to agree that the problem is being caused by the plant tabs, especially if the nitrates are staying steady at 60 ppm. IMHO it is always best to fertilize macros through the water column rather than through the substrate. You've got a lot more control over them that way. Adding potassium nitrate (KNO3) in powder form is the easiest and least expensive method to dose nitrates. Check www.gregwatson.com for bulk fertilizers
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Old 12-20-2004, 04:48 PM   #6
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I would get some more plants like hornwort or elodea. They are fast growers and do really well in extracting nutrients from the the water (including nitrates). I have both in both of my tanks and they grow like crazy. Never had high nitrates
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Old 12-20-2004, 08:05 PM   #7
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That's way high on the trates (as you know). I'd get a phosphate test as well. Nix any any ferts for a while. This is probably contributing to your problem.
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Old 12-20-2004, 08:40 PM   #8
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Another plant you could use to control your nitrates are what are sometimes called moss balls, marimo balls or by their scientific name chladoflor. These are basically a ball of slow growing algae that can be added to a tank. I keep two or three of these in several of my tanks.
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Old 12-20-2004, 08:45 PM   #9
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Check the tank thoroughly for any decaying plant matter as well.
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Old 12-21-2004, 12:21 AM   #10
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ok, the "planttabs" are those little tablets that just drop in and they dissolve into the water.

I always have lots of dead plants clogging my filter intake (aquaclear 300) ... so the decaying may very well be a cause of some of those nitrates ... I never really thought about those causing any problems (other than cloggin my filter).

gheitman: where did you get your moss balls? I've never seen any of those in any of my lfs.

BrianNY: I'll have to track down a phosphate test. I don't know anything about phosphates, can you give me a quick primer on phosphates or point me in the right direction to read up on them?

thanks for all the ideas
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Old 12-21-2004, 12:23 AM   #11
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oh, another quick question ... i was telling my friend about the gn pleco dying and he said that while my nitrates were high, he didn't think they were high enough to cause the pleco to die ... does anyone have any knowledge on gn plecos or opinion on the nitrates causing the death?
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Old 12-21-2004, 12:23 AM   #12
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I've never seen Marimo balls at any of my LFS. It's a tough find, and if you did find them would probably be expensive. I'd just get alot of fast growing stems to see if that'll help your problem first.
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Old 12-22-2004, 08:56 PM   #13
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I got my moss balls at my LFS. They started carrying them about a year ago.
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Old 12-23-2004, 12:41 AM   #14
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Ideal nitrates for a planted tank around 10 to 20 ppm. You experiment with your fertilizer to maintain that level. Any thing above 40 can be harmfull to fish. I would start doing water changes daily to lower the readings. I was adding ferts to get the nitrates up, then found that my test kit was not reading. I'm doing 20 % daily changes to get it down. Luckily I have not lost any fish. Good luck.
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Old 12-24-2004, 01:49 AM   #15
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Was the GN the one in your avatar...I'm so sorry you lost him.

He was gorgeous!

I want one but can't seem to find any. Where did you get him from and how much?

Sorry I can't add anything about the nitrates but I would say that the nitrates probally did kill him.
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Old 12-24-2004, 12:54 PM   #16
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Most fish will adapt to higher nitrate levels over time, so unless the nitrates spiked suddenly it might not have been that - though I do not know personally how GN's handle nitrate.

I would abandon the use of the plant tabs for now.

You can get Marimo balls from one of our sponsors, aquatic-store.com, or from aquabotanic.com, RobertH owns that site and is a member here as well.
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Old 12-29-2004, 11:01 PM   #17
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I checked the Aquabotanic website and they have pretty good pricing on marimo balls (<$5). Here is the link.

http://www.aquabotanic.com/abstore/index.html
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