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Old 04-13-2021, 04:07 PM   #1
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Noobie intro and help request

Hello! I last owned a 30 gallon tank 30 years ago, but my girlfriend gave me a a tank for my birthday last month. I've had it up and running with fish and live plants for over a month and really didn't remember how enjoyable it is to have a fish tank!

My question lies in the use of the sump that came with it, which is completely new technology for me. I did a little research and received a bit of advice from a friend who owns 4+ tanks, but I'm still struggling. First, I assume my water should be crystal clear regardless of the type of filtration used, i.e. no tinted water, little to no particles, etc. However, my water is brownish and has an unpleasant smell (not a slight earthy scent as would be expected). I've done a partial water change but this didn't seem to make much of a difference.

Secondly, my ammonia and nitrite levels won't zero out. They have hovered at 0.25 ppm for weeks. My nitrate levels are at 40 ppm which I don't appreciate either. Water changes have done nothing to change any of these measurements. I realize I'm probably a little overstocked, but that's something I'd rather deal with as a last resort.

On a side note, my GH is exceedingly high and also has not changed much after a few partial water changes. I initially filled the tank with conditioned tap water (GH is over 250 ppm), but have done all subsequent water additions/changes with RO water from the local pet store. I tested this water straight from the bucket and it gave me a GH reading of 176 ppm. WTH?

Considering these testing results, could it just be that my test kit is bad? Could I be getting non-RO water (because I assume it should have 0-17 ppm hardness)? And what is the best fix (and most likely cause) for the brown water? Also, do I need to add more bio matter to the sump when I change water?

Thanks everyone for your help!
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Old 04-13-2021, 05:13 PM   #2
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Why do you think your GH is a problem? Are you keeping fish that especially need soft water?

250ppm is considered at the low end of hard water, not too far out there. Its outside of being ideal for some species, but is it really an issue?

I would expect RO to be at the very soft end of the scale, so i agree there is possibly something wrong with your test or your RO water.

Your brown water is probably tannins, most likely coming from driftwood. Some activated carbon in your filter should clear that up, or water changes over a more extended period of time.

As for your ammonia and nitrite, compare your test against some bottled water which should be 0ppm for both. Cycling a tank can take a couple of months, so i wouldn't expect it to be fully cycled after a few weeks. Nothing to worry about yet. If you are overstocked expect it to take it longer to cycle. Ammonia + nitrite at those levels, while being a sign that you're not fully cycled, wont be causing any issues.
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Old 04-14-2021, 01:11 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiken Drum View Post
Why do you think your GH is a problem? Are you keeping fish that especially need soft water?

250ppm is considered at the low end of hard water, not too far out there. Its outside of being ideal for some species, but is it really an issue?
It's not imperative to have soft water, but I would like it to be in a more acceptable range. My angelfish, for instance, would be better off with softer water.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiken Drum View Post
I would expect RO to be at the very soft end of the scale, so i agree there is possibly something wrong with your test or your RO water.
I bought water from a different aquarium store, and this time it tested at 0ppm. Of course, I noticed it was labeled "RODI" so I believe I will have to either cut it with conditioned tap water or add minerals back in. Since I have lots of plants, I don't know if just fertilizer would do it? Is there a product I should look at to do this reliably?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiken Drum View Post
Your brown water is probably tannins, most likely coming from driftwood. Some activated carbon in your filter should clear that up, or water changes over a more extended period of time.
I just added a few pieces of cholla wood, but I had soaked them for half a day changing the water until it was clear. Still, I threw in a carbon filter just to be sure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiken Drum View Post
As for your ammonia and nitrite, compare your test against some bottled water which should be 0ppm for both. Cycling a tank can take a couple of months, so i wouldn't expect it to be fully cycled after a few weeks. Nothing to worry about yet. If you are overstocked expect it to take it longer to cycle. Ammonia + nitrite at those levels, while being a sign that you're not fully cycled, wont be causing any issues.
I did a little seeding of the sump as well as putting fish in to help cycle. Aside from those, I didn't introduce fish until a week or so after that. So, one week of fishless, then one week with a few fish. From my understanding that should have been enough time to have cycled completely. Is that wrong?

I did continue to add fish, etc. on a regular basis, and I get that there will be fluctuations when I do that. It just seems like a long time to get there with everything else working the way it is.
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Old 04-18-2021, 02:37 AM   #4
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hi! welcome!
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