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Is My Water Ok?

Author Topic: Is my water ok?  (Read 9705 times)

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Offline tff_pb

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Is my water ok?
« on: June 22, 2016, 10:43:47 AM »
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I have a 180 litre tank, 150cm L x 40cm H x 30cm D. The tank has artificial plants, a log, a rock feature, a jar and gravel. I intend to add a slate hideaway. Filtration is by 2 x 180 Aquaball internal filters, one of which has one section filled with activated carbon.

I spend most of the first 3 months of each year away from home. My heater failed in Febrauary while I was away and I lost all my fish. When I returned home at the beginning of March, I removed everything from the tank, cleaned, put in a new heater, refilled and added the recommended amount of Fluval Cycle and Water Conditioner. Every month since, I've done a 25% water change and added the recommended amount of Fluval Cycle and Water Conditioner.

I've tested the tank water today, using a Tetra strip:
NO3: 10mg/l
NO2: 0mg/l
GH: 8 degrees
KH: 7.2 degrees
pH: 6.8
Cl: 0mg/l

My water supply is moderately hard, 15.4 Clarke hardness.

I want to start re-stocking the tank, but I don't know if the conditions are ok. If not, what should I do? Also, at what rate should I re-stock? Advice would be much appreciated.
   

Offline ColinB

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2016, 10:55:50 AM »
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Firstly; welcome to the forum.

Secondly and more; d'you intend to spend three months away each year because that sort of precludes keeping fish, unless there's someone else to do the necessary water changes and feeding?

You have no ammonia test showing and it doesn't sound like you've cycled your tank. Taking everything out and cleaning it has probably removed any of the denitrifying bacteria so you will need to cycle and test your tank, which means adding ammonia and monitoring it's progress as it's converted to Nitrite and then on to Nitrate.

This is a 'must read' if your tank isn't cycled: Fishless Cycling.

Once we know about the state of your cycle then we can help.

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Offline Littlefish

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2016, 11:00:47 AM »
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Hi there tff_pb and welcome to the forum.  :wave:

Offline tff_pb

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2016, 01:40:31 PM »
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Firstly; welcome to the forum.

Secondly and more; d'you intend to spend three months away each year because that sort of precludes keeping fish, unless there's someone else to do the necessary water changes and feeding?

You have no ammonia test showing and it doesn't sound like you've cycled your tank. Taking everything out and cleaning it has probably removed any of the denitrifying bacteria so you will need to cycle and test your tank, which means adding ammonia and monitoring it's progress as it's converted to Nitrite and then on to Nitrate.

This is a 'must read' if your tank isn't cycled: Fishless Cycling.

Once we know about the state of your cycle then we can help.

Hello ColinB,

Thank you for your prompt reply.

During the first 3 months of the year, my neighbour feeds my fish while I'm away. I return home monthly and do a 25% water change.

I read the "Fishless Cycle" article and that prompted me to write to the Forum, as I hadn't done the fishless cycle. Unfortunately, the Tetra test strips don't include an ammonia test, so I'll need to get a testing kit that does. Can you recommend one?

 

Offline ColinB

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2016, 02:00:45 PM »
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*phew* on the feeding! :)

The standard one that's used is the API Freshwater test kit. The Nitrate Bottle #2 needs a really good shake before use, and the first time you use it smack it on the table a number of times to break up the sediment that will have collected at the bottom of the bottle.


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Offline Richard W

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2016, 02:39:04 PM »
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You won't be able to do the fishless cycle properly with activated carbon in a filter, it's a waste of space really, and would be unlikely to last 3 months even if you renewed it before going away.
I'd recommend having two heaters instead of one if you are likely to be away in winter, the chances of both failing are pretty remote and they don't use any more electricity than one alone, just heat the water a bit faster. Having two filters is good safety practice, I'd have two heaters as well.

Online Sue

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2016, 03:57:23 PM »
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Fluval Cycle is not highly regarded I'm afraid as few people have found it does much to help a cycle.
However, if you managed not to kill the bacteria in the filter media while cleaning, there maybe some left in a dormant state. If there are, it should help with a fishless cycle. You haven't had a source of ammonia in the tank since March, but the filter bacteria don't starve immediately. After a week or two they become dormant, then die after a few months. But the longer they are dormant, the longer it tales them to 'wake up'.

What you need to do is get that test kit that Colin recommended, buy a bottle of ammonia, put a sponge in the aquaball instead of the carbon, and follow the instructions in the fishless cycling method.
Some branches of Homebase sell ammonia in the house cleaning section; my local DIY shop sells Jeyes Kleen Off Household Ammonia; Ebay and Amazon sell ammonia, but make sure it just has ammonia/ammonium hydroxide and water, no perfume, detergent etc.

You just need to be patient. You'll be able to replace your fish in a couple of months. if you do a fishless cecle you'll be able to get most of the fish you want straight away, just leave any sensitive species for another 3 to 4 months.

Offline tff_pb

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2016, 10:05:25 AM »
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*phew* on the feeding! :)

The standard one that's used is the API Freshwater test kit. The Nitrate Bottle #2 needs a really good shake before use, and the first time you use it smack it on the table a number of times to break up the sediment that will have collected at the bottom of the bottle.



Hi Colin,

I've tested the water for ammonia using an API test strip this morning. The result is 0. Please advise further.

Offline tff_pb

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2016, 10:10:00 AM »
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You won't be able to do the fishless cycle properly with activated carbon in a filter, it's a waste of space really, and would be unlikely to last 3 months even if you renewed it before going away.
I'd recommend having two heaters instead of one if you are likely to be away in winter, the chances of both failing are pretty remote and they don't use any more electricity than one alone, just heat the water a bit faster. Having two filters is good safety practice, I'd have two heaters as well.

Hi Richard,

Thanks for your advice. I'll replace the activated carbon with the mesh in that section of the filter. After what happened, a second heater seems a good idea. I'll get one.

Offline tff_pb

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2016, 10:22:18 AM »
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Fluval Cycle is not highly regarded I'm afraid as few people have found it does much to help a cycle.
However, if you managed not to kill the bacteria in the filter media while cleaning, there maybe some left in a dormant state. If there are, it should help with a fishless cycle. You haven't had a source of ammonia in the tank since March, but the filter bacteria don't starve immediately. After a week or two they become dormant, then die after a few months. But the longer they are dormant, the longer it tales them to 'wake up'.

What you need to do is get that test kit that Colin recommended, buy a bottle of ammonia, put a sponge in the aquaball instead of the carbon, and follow the instructions in the fishless cycling method.
Some branches of Homebase sell ammonia in the house cleaning section; my local DIY shop sells Jeyes Kleen Off Household Ammonia; Ebay and Amazon sell ammonia, but make sure it just has ammonia/ammonium hydroxide and water, no perfume, detergent etc.

You just need to be patient. You'll be able to replace your fish in a couple of months. if you do a fishless cecle you'll be able to get most of the fish you want straight away, just leave any sensitive species for another 3 to 4 months.

Hi Sue,

Thanks so much for your reply.

What would you recommend to replace the Fluval Cycle, given what you say about it?
I will replace the activated carbon with the sponge in that section of the filter, as you advise.
I've tested the water for ammonia using an API test strip this morning. The result is 0. Do I follow the instructions in the fishless cycling method now? 

Online Sue

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2016, 10:42:30 AM »
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You have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and 10 nitrate according to what you have posted.
It is likely that 10 ppm nitrate is in your tap water - check your tap water for nitrate.

The reason both ammonia and nitrite are zero is because there is no source of ammonia in the tank. You may or may not have any ammonia eating and nitrite eating bacteria left from when there were fish, and possibly some ammonia eaters from the Fluval Cycle (which contains the wrong species of nitrite eaters, the main reason it doesn't seem to work). But you won't know if there are any bacteria until you add a source of ammonia form either a bottle or fish.

You have a choice.
Either you get get a few fish and be prepared to do daily water changes if either ammonia or nitrite ever show a reading above zero. This will mean doing a fish-in cycle
Or get a bottle of ammonia and add some of that. If you have zero ammonia and zero nitrite after 24 hours, it is safe to get fish. if you don't then you know you need to do a fishless cycle

Fishless is much easier.


You have a 180 litre tank. If you buy a bottle of 9.5% ammonia, you will need to add 5.7 ml of that to get a level of 3 ppm in the tank water. Kleen Off Household Ammonia is 9.5%, that's what I've got. If the bottle gives a different strength, post it here and I'll tell you the amount to add.
Adding a dose of ammonia will tell you after a day if your tank is ready for fish, and if it's not, you can make the decision whether to continue adding ammonia or do a fish-in cycle.

If you want to try a different bottled bacteria, get Tetra Safe Start. This one does have the right species of nitrite eaters. But it is not guaranteed to work. If it has not been stored correctly at any time between the factory and your tank the bacteria inside will be dead, and this has been known to happen. But again, it does need a source of ammonia in the tank. The bottle will say to use fish to make the ammonia but it is much safer for the fish to use a bottle of ammonia.

Offline tff_pb

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2016, 09:58:14 AM »
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You have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and 10 nitrate according to what you have posted.
It is likely that 10 ppm nitrate is in your tap water - check your tap water for nitrate.

The reason both ammonia and nitrite are zero is because there is no source of ammonia in the tank. You may or may not have any ammonia eating and nitrite eating bacteria left from when there were fish, and possibly some ammonia eaters from the Fluval Cycle (which contains the wrong species of nitrite eaters, the main reason it doesn't seem to work). But you won't know if there are any bacteria until you add a source of ammonia form either a bottle or fish.

You have a choice.
Either you get get a few fish and be prepared to do daily water changes if either ammonia or nitrite ever show a reading above zero. This will mean doing a fish-in cycle
Or get a bottle of ammonia and add some of that. If you have zero ammonia and zero nitrite after 24 hours, it is safe to get fish. if you don't then you know you need to do a fishless cycle

Fishless is much easier.


You have a 180 litre tank. If you buy a bottle of 9.5% ammonia, you will need to add 5.7 ml of that to get a level of 3 ppm in the tank water. Kleen Off Household Ammonia is 9.5%, that's what I've got. If the bottle gives a different strength, post it here and I'll tell you the amount to add.
Adding a dose of ammonia will tell you after a day if your tank is ready for fish, and if it's not, you can make the decision whether to continue adding ammonia or do a fish-in cycle.

If you want to try a different bottled bacteria, get Tetra Safe Start. This one does have the right species of nitrite eaters. But it is not guaranteed to work. If it has not been stored correctly at any time between the factory and your tank the bacteria inside will be dead, and this has been known to happen. But again, it does need a source of ammonia in the tank. The bottle will say to use fish to make the ammonia but it is much safer for the fish to use a bottle of ammonia.

Hello Sue,

Many thanks again for your advice.

My water supplier states that the nitrate level of my tap water is 4.78mg NO3/l.

I will get a bottle of Kleen Off Household Ammonia and add 5.7ml to the tank as you recommend. I will test the ammonia level after one day and let you know the result.

You say that its much safer for the fish to use a bottle of ammonia than to rely on the fish to produce it. I test the water one day after I do the water change, so in future, I will test for ammonia as well. Do I adjust to 3ppm if necessary?   

Online Sue

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2016, 12:15:19 PM »
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Once you've added the ammonia and tested after 24 hours, you'll find one of two things.

Both ammonia and nitrite might be zero. In this case, do a small water change (you will only have added 1 dose of ammonia so you won't need to do a big one) and go out and buy fish. If you can't go for a few days, add one third of the amount of ammonia every couple of days till you can go, but leave the water change until the day before shopping. Make sure there is no ammonia or nitrite before you get fish in this  case.

Or you may have a reading above zero for either ammonia or nitrite or both. In this case the tank is not cycled and you need to wait before getting fish until it is cycled.
Because there may be some bacteria you probably won't be right at the beginning of the cycle. Post the numbers and we'll see if we can work out which stage to start at in the method in the Cycling section.

Offline tff_pb

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2016, 11:59:14 AM »
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Once you've added the ammonia and tested after 24 hours, you'll find one of two things.

Both ammonia and nitrite might be zero. In this case, do a small water change (you will only have added 1 dose of ammonia so you won't need to do a big one) and go out and buy fish. If you can't go for a few days, add one third of the amount of ammonia every couple of days till you can go, but leave the water change until the day before shopping. Make sure there is no ammonia or nitrite before you get fish in this  case.

Or you may have a reading above zero for either ammonia or nitrite or both. In this case the tank is not cycled and you need to wait before getting fish until it is cycled.
Because there may be some bacteria you probably won't be right at the beginning of the cycle. Post the numbers and we'll see if we can work out which stage to start at in the method in the Cycling section.

Hello Sue,

I added 5.7ml of Kleen Off Household Ammonia to the tank water, as you recommend, yesterday morning using a graduated syringe. I've tested the water after 24 hours.

The results I reported on 22 June, using a Tetra 6in1 strip:
NO3: 10mg/l
NO2: 0mg/l
GH: 8 degrees
KH: 7.2 degrees
pH: 6.8
Cl: 0mg/l

The results today, using a Tetra 6in1 strip:
NO3: 0mg/l
NO2: 0mg/l
GH: 16 degrees
KH: 3 degrees
pH: 6.8
Cl: 0mg/l

The result I reported on 25 June, using an API test strip:
0 mg/l

The result today, using an API test strip:
1.0mg/l

Please advise further.

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #14 on: July 01, 2016, 02:50:35 PM »
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The 0 ammonia on 25 June, was that before you added ammonia? And today it is 1.0. Did you add the ammonia yesterday? If you did, it has dropped from what should have been 3.0 to 1.0 in 24 hours, which is good.

But nitrite was 0 on both days and nitrate has dropped from 10 to 0.
And I see that GH has has doubled and KH has halved  ???

Unless you have something in the tank made of calcium (eg the substrate or shell or a piece of limestone rock) there is no way that GH can double. Even with those things in the tank, GH would not have increased by that much in just over a week.

And if the ammonia has dropped it must have gone somewhere. In a tank it is either used by live plants as plant food or it is converted to nitrite. If there enough nitrite eaters, that nitrite is converted to nitrate.
But in your case, you've lost 2ppm ammonia, not seen any nitrite and lost 10ppm nitrate.

Unless your tank is planted like a jungle, your readings don't make sense  :-\





Can you use your strips to test your tap water please. The pH results will most likely be different from the tank so ignore pH.

Then test the ammonia of the tank, add another 5.7 ml ammonia and test the tank for ammonia again 30 minutes after adding it (30 mins to allow the dose to mix in thoroughly). This is to check that the 5.7 ml do contain 3 ppm ammonia. The 'after 30 mins' result should be 3 ppm higher than the test immediately before adding the ammonia.
And test everything again after 24 hours.

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #15 on: July 01, 2016, 09:41:04 PM »
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And I see that GH has has doubled and KH has halved  ???
Unless you have something in the tank made of calcium (eg the substrate or shell or a piece of limestone rock) there is no way that GH can double. Even with those things in the tank, GH would not have increased by that much in just over a week.
I agree completely with this, as someone who has limestone rock in my own tank. I do find the test strips unreliable for KH and GH (can often give a high reading when actually both my KH and GH are low), and they tend to give a lower-than-expected reading for PH, but all the other readings are usually very accurate.


Offline tff_pb

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #16 on: July 01, 2016, 11:33:05 PM »
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The 0 ammonia on 25 June, was that before you added ammonia? And today it is 1.0. Did you add the ammonia yesterday? If you did, it has dropped from what should have been 3.0 to 1.0 in 24 hours, which is good.

But nitrite was 0 on both days and nitrate has dropped from 10 to 0.
And I see that GH has has doubled and KH has halved  ???

Unless you have something in the tank made of calcium (eg the substrate or shell or a piece of limestone rock) there is no way that GH can double. Even with those things in the tank, GH would not have increased by that much in just over a week.

And if the ammonia has dropped it must have gone somewhere. In a tank it is either used by live plants as plant food or it is converted to nitrite. If there enough nitrite eaters, that nitrite is converted to nitrate.
But in your case, you've lost 2ppm ammonia, not seen any nitrite and lost 10ppm nitrate.

Unless your tank is planted like a jungle, your readings don't make sense  :-\





Can you use your strips to test your tap water please. The pH results will most likely be different from the tank so ignore pH.

Then test the ammonia of the tank, add another 5.7 ml ammonia and test the tank for ammonia again 30 minutes after adding it (30 mins to allow the dose to mix in thoroughly). This is to check that the 5.7 ml do contain 3 ppm ammonia. The 'after 30 mins' result should be 3 ppm higher than the test immediately before adding the ammonia.
And test everything again after 24 hours.

Hello Sue,

My tank has artificial plants but isn't planted like a jungle. It has a large rock which may be limestone. It is pale buff in colour. There is also a log and a jar with holes. All have been bought from aquarium suppliers.

The ammonia test ammonia on 25 June was 0. I added the 5.7ml of Kleen Off Household Ammonia on 30 June and tested 1.0 after 24 hours.

I'll carry out the tests your advise and let you know the results. 

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #17 on: July 01, 2016, 11:37:48 PM »
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And I see that GH has has doubled and KH has halved  ???
Unless you have something in the tank made of calcium (eg the substrate or shell or a piece of limestone rock) there is no way that GH can double. Even with those things in the tank, GH would not have increased by that much in just over a week.
I agree completely with this, as someone who has limestone rock in my own tank. I do find the test strips unreliable for KH and GH (can often give a high reading when actually both my KH and GH are low), and they tend to give a lower-than-expected reading for PH, but all the other readings are usually very accurate.

Thank you for your information. My tank does have a large rock and it may well be limestone. It is light buff in colour.

Online Sue

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #18 on: July 02, 2016, 12:22:56 PM »
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This is what I'd do next -
test the ammonia level in the tank.
add 5.7 ml ammonia
after 30 minutes test ammonia again. The 30 minutes is to allow the ammonia to mix in thoroughly.

In theory the test 30 minutes after adding ammonia should be the level before you add ammonia plus 3 ppm. If it's not, then your bottle of ammonia is not full strength. Using an on-line calculator, 5.7ml of 9.5% ammonia added to 180 litres of water should give 3 ppm. If for some reason your bottle is less than 9.5% it will give less than 3 ppm.

Doing this (test, add ammonia, test again) will eliminate the possibility that the strength of the ammonia bottle is the problem - or it may confirm that it is the problem.




If you have only artificial plants, they cannot affect the ammonia level. Only real plants do this as they absorb ammonia and use it as fertiliser.

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #19 on: July 02, 2016, 12:25:20 PM »
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Another thought occurs to me. Do you have zeolite in your filter? Or anything else designed to absorb ammonia?

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #20 on: July 03, 2016, 10:52:14 AM »
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Another thought occurs to me. Do you have zeolite in your filter? Or anything else designed to absorb ammonia?

Hello Sue,

I only have artificial plant. The filters only contain sponges, except for one section of one filter. That contains activated carbon but I intend to replace it with a sponge on the advice of Richard W on 22 June.

Results of the tests you asked me to do.
-Each test has been done twice.
-NH3/NH4 test done using API test strips.
-All other tests done using Tetra 6in1 test strips.

Test 1: Tap water, 02 July:
NO3: 0 mg/l
NO2: 0 mg/l
GH: 16 degrees
KH: 6.0 degrees
pH: 7.6
Cl2: 0.8
NH3/NH4: 0 mg/l

Test 2: Tank, 02 July:
NH3/NH4: 1 mg/l

Test 3: Tank, 02 July, 30 mins. after adding 5.7ml of Kleen Off Household Ammonia:
NH3/NH4: 3+ (probably 4) mg/l

Test 4: Tank after 24 hours, 03 July:
NO3: 0 mg/l
NO2: 0 mg/l
GH: 16 degrees
KH: 3.0-6.0 degrees
pH: 6.8-7.2
Cl2: 0
NH3/NH4: 3+ (probably 4) mg/l

Algae grew rapidly after I refilled the tank following the heater failure. The tank became covered in almost black algae but this has declined over the months following monthly tank cleans. Now, the gravel is full of algae, maybe as a result of scrapping it of the tank glass. I have tried to dredge up the algae at each tank clean but could not dredge up most of it. 

I look forward to your further advice.

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #21 on: July 03, 2016, 01:55:44 PM »
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Thank you for doing the tests.

Your ammonia readings confirm that adding 5.7 ml ammonia adds 3 ppm. So when it dropped to 1 ppm, 2 ppm of the amount you added have gone somewhere.
You may not have live plants but you do have algae. So I should say that you do have live plants in the form of algae. I wonder if that's where the ammonia is going.

Your nitrite, nitrate and GH are the same, so the ammonia hasn't been turned into nitrite and on to nitrate. And having zero nitrate in your tap water means that any rise in tank nitrate is due to the nitrogen cycle making it from ammonia.

Both your KH and pH are lower in the tank than tap water. Natural processes in the tank tend to make acids, and these will use up KH and allow the pH to fall.


I think you need to get rid of the algae. Is it loose or growing on the gravel? If it is loose, the answer might be to scoop out all the gravel and wash it, and siphon up anything on the bottom of the tank before putting the cleaned gravel back.
If it's attached to the gravel it won't be as easy. Since you have no fish and no live pants other than algae, leave the lights off as they'll only help the algae to grow. Maybe do a good clean and gravel siphon very soon to get rid of as much loose algae as possible.
A few days after this big clean, scoop some water from the tank and gently clean the filter. The media will probably be full of bits of algae.

Once all or most of the algae has gone you can cycle the tank. I do think getting rid of the algae is the first priority - you won't want it once you have fish again and it is easier to get rid of it when there are no fish in the tank.
Don't have the lights on again until you are about to get fish.



Offline tff_pb

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #22 on: July 04, 2016, 11:54:20 AM »
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Thank you for doing the tests.

Your ammonia readings confirm that adding 5.7 ml ammonia adds 3 ppm. So when it dropped to 1 ppm, 2 ppm of the amount you added have gone somewhere.
You may not have live plants but you do have algae. So I should say that you do have live plants in the form of algae. I wonder if that's where the ammonia is going.

Your nitrite, nitrate and GH are the same, so the ammonia hasn't been turned into nitrite and on to nitrate. And having zero nitrate in your tap water means that any rise in tank nitrate is due to the nitrogen cycle making it from ammonia.

Both your KH and pH are lower in the tank than tap water. Natural processes in the tank tend to make acids, and these will use up KH and allow the pH to fall.


I think you need to get rid of the algae. Is it loose or growing on the gravel? If it is loose, the answer might be to scoop out all the gravel and wash it, and siphon up anything on the bottom of the tank before putting the cleaned gravel back.
If it's attached to the gravel it won't be as easy. Since you have no fish and no live pants other than algae, leave the lights off as they'll only help the algae to grow. Maybe do a good clean and gravel siphon very soon to get rid of as much loose algae as possible.
A few days after this big clean, scoop some water from the tank and gently clean the filter. The media will probably be full of bits of algae.

Once all or most of the algae has gone you can cycle the tank. I do think getting rid of the algae is the first priority - you won't want it once you have fish again and it is easier to get rid of it when there are no fish in the tank.
Don't have the lights on again until you are about to get fish.

Hello Sue,

Many thank for your advice.

The algae is largely loose in the gravel, so I'll do you suggest to remove the algae and clean the filters this week. I'll let you know when its done.

Offline tff_pb

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #23 on: July 08, 2016, 02:56:06 PM »
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Thank you for doing the tests.

Your ammonia readings confirm that adding 5.7 ml ammonia adds 3 ppm. So when it dropped to 1 ppm, 2 ppm of the amount you added have gone somewhere.
You may not have live plants but you do have algae. So I should say that you do have live plants in the form of algae. I wonder if that's where the ammonia is going.

Your nitrite, nitrate and GH are the same, so the ammonia hasn't been turned into nitrite and on to nitrate. And having zero nitrate in your tap water means that any rise in tank nitrate is due to the nitrogen cycle making it from ammonia.

Both your KH and pH are lower in the tank than tap water. Natural processes in the tank tend to make acids, and these will use up KH and allow the pH to fall.


I think you need to get rid of the algae. Is it loose or growing on the gravel? If it is loose, the answer might be to scoop out all the gravel and wash it, and siphon up anything on the bottom of the tank before putting the cleaned gravel back.
If it's attached to the gravel it won't be as easy. Since you have no fish and no live pants other than algae, leave the lights off as they'll only help the algae to grow. Maybe do a good clean and gravel siphon very soon to get rid of as much loose algae as possible.
A few days after this big clean, scoop some water from the tank and gently clean the filter. The media will probably be full of bits of algae.

Once all or most of the algae has gone you can cycle the tank. I do think getting rid of the algae is the first priority - you won't want it once you have fish again and it is easier to get rid of it when there are no fish in the tank.
Don't have the lights on again until you are about to get fish.

Hi Sue,

I've switched off all the services to the tank.

I've tried dredging and also scooping up the gravel. Both result in a lot of loose algae floating around the tank which eventually settles. Also, some of the gravel has a partial algae coating.

Should I empty the tank of water, remove the gravel into a large, plastic tray, soak the gravel in diluted bleach to remove the algae, then wash the gravel in tap water?   

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #24 on: July 08, 2016, 05:09:45 PM »
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That could be the easiest way, though refill the tank with enough dechlorinated water to keep the filter running just in case you do have bacteria alive in there.

For bleach use either cheap supermarket basic range bleach (the stuff that costs a few p a bottle) as that is just bleach, no perfume, surfactant, detergent etc. Or baby bottle sterilising solution, again supermarket own brand as that is cheaper than Milton. For basic range bleach use 1 part bleach to 9 parts water (making a 1 in 10 solution), and for baby bottle steriliser, make up as per the instructions.

Then rinse, rinse and rinse again, then soak for an hour in water overdosed with dechlorinator. Bleach is just a source of chlorine.

Offline tff_pb

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #25 on: July 14, 2016, 09:54:47 AM »
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That could be the easiest way, though refill the tank with enough dechlorinated water to keep the filter running just in case you do have bacteria alive in there.

For bleach use either cheap supermarket basic range bleach (the stuff that costs a few p a bottle) as that is just bleach, no perfume, surfactant, detergent etc. Or baby bottle sterilising solution, again supermarket own brand as that is cheaper than Milton. For basic range bleach use 1 part bleach to 9 parts water (making a 1 in 10 solution), and for baby bottle steriliser, make up as per the instructions.

Then rinse, rinse and rinse again, then soak for an hour in water overdosed with dechlorinator. Bleach is just a source of chlorine.

Hello Sue,

Thank you again for your advice. I'll do what you say and get back to you when I've done it.

Offline tff_pb

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #26 on: August 03, 2016, 02:56:35 PM »
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That could be the easiest way, though refill the tank with enough dechlorinated water to keep the filter running just in case you do have bacteria alive in there.

For bleach use either cheap supermarket basic range bleach (the stuff that costs a few p a bottle) as that is just bleach, no perfume, surfactant, detergent etc. Or baby bottle sterilising solution, again supermarket own brand as that is cheaper than Milton. For basic range bleach use 1 part bleach to 9 parts water (making a 1 in 10 solution), and for baby bottle steriliser, make up as per the instructions.

Then rinse, rinse and rinse again, then soak for an hour in water overdosed with dechlorinator. Bleach is just a source of chlorine.

Hello Sue,

Thank you again for your advice. I'll do what you say and get back to you when I've done it.

Hi Sue,

I removed the gravel together with most of the algae from the tank using a small shovel, put the gravel into a large plastic box and soaked in a 1:10 bleach solution for 5 days, stirring the gravel each day. I didn't remove the tank water.  Removing the gravel caused the algae to float about the tank, but it settled on the bottom so I was able to dredge most of it up. I cleaned the filters and plants etc., and put the filters back in the tank with the water heater on, but no lighting. My aquarium supplier recommended covering the tank completely to kill any remaining algae. The tank has been completely covered for 5 days too.

To clean the gravel, I placed some in a large plastic tray with drain holes and ran tap water through it while stirring, and repeated until all the gravel was thoroughly washed. 

Today, I've dredged the remaining [brown] algae from the tank and put the gravel in. I've topped up the tank with tap water and added water conditioner. The two filters are running at maximum flow and the water heater is on at 30degC. The lighting is off.

Should I add the biological enhancer now or wait?

Should I cover the tank again?

Do I start cycling the tank after 24 hours?

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #27 on: August 03, 2016, 07:17:14 PM »
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Which product do you mean by biological enhancer? If it is one that does often work, it is better to add it at the same time you add ammonia so that any live bacteria in the bottle have something to feed on.

Covering the tank will help prevent algae growing again during cycling, though just leaving the lights off will help.

I would wait overnight before starting the cycle.

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #28 on: August 04, 2016, 08:00:06 AM »
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Which product do you mean by biological enhancer? If it is one that does often work, it is better to add it at the same time you add ammonia so that any live bacteria in the bottle have something to feed on.

Covering the tank will help prevent algae growing again during cycling, though just leaving the lights off will help.

I would wait overnight before starting the cycle.

Hi Sue,

I use Fluval Cycle. My tank capacity = 180L. I added 50L yesterday.

The instructions on the bottle are:
New aquarium: Day1 - 25ml/40L, Day2 - 10ml/40L, Day3 - 10ml/40L, then dose weekly 5ml/40L.
After water changes: 5ml/40L

Which dose do you recommend? 

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #29 on: August 04, 2016, 10:40:35 AM »
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Unfortunately that one is not highly regarded. It is unlikely to do much. Maybe it'll help with the ammonia eaters but it contains the wrong species of nitrite eaters. But use it by all means, even speeding up the first part - growing the ammonia eaters - will help.
Use at the new tank dosage, and once the tank is cycled don't bother with it. Please don't believe any hype that says it is safe to add fish at the same time. It isn't. Even if it worked perfectly it would still take a week or two before it was safe for fish. Using these bacterial supplements to boost a fishless cycle is the best way, then you know for sure that there are enough bacteria for a tankful of fish.

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #30 on: August 04, 2016, 11:02:17 AM »
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Unfortunately that one is not highly regarded. It is unlikely to do much. Maybe it'll help with the ammonia eaters but it contains the wrong species of nitrite eaters. But use it by all means, even speeding up the first part - growing the ammonia eaters - will help.
Use at the new tank dosage, and once the tank is cycled don't bother with it. Please don't believe any hype that says it is safe to add fish at the same time. It isn't. Even if it worked perfectly it would still take a week or two before it was safe for fish. Using these bacterial supplements to boost a fishless cycle is the best way, then you know for sure that there are enough bacteria for a tankful of fish.

Hi Sue,

Thanks so much for your advice. I normally add Fluval Cycle after monthly 25% water changes. Should I stop doing this after the tank is cycled, or should I use another brand instead? 

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #31 on: August 04, 2016, 11:05:54 AM »
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There are two points arising from your post.

1. Once a tank is cycled, you do not need to add any biological enhancer. You already have all the bacteria you need.

2. Your water changes should be weekly not monthly. Nitrate and other things we can't test for (eg other waste products, fish hormones etc) will build up quite a lot in a month.

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #32 on: August 18, 2016, 10:39:02 AM »
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There are two points arising from your post.

1. Once a tank is cycled, you do not need to add any biological enhancer. You already have all the bacteria you need.

2. Your water changes should be weekly not monthly. Nitrate and other things we can't test for (eg other waste products, fish hormones etc) will build up quite a lot in a month.

Hello Sue,

I added 35ml to my 180 lite tank at the start of the cycle. The tank water wasn't completely changed and some of the water contained some ammonia from the tests I'd done. Attached are the test results to date.

I've reached the point in the cycle where I need to more ammonia but I'm unsure whether to add 35ml or less. Please advise.


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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #33 on: August 18, 2016, 11:20:50 AM »
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Looking at your results, I think the thing to do first is a big water change. Why? Your nitrate is very high (250) which can also stall the cycle, and your pH has dropped significantly due to all that nitrate. With a high KH it takes a lot to do that.
By big, I mean change nearly all the water. And I do realise that will take ages as I have a tank the same size.

The problem is the amount of ammonia you added. I am currently adding 3 ppm ammonia to my 180 litre tank every third day to keep the bacteria fed till the shop gets my fish in. I am adding just 5.7 ml of 9.5% ammonia. You added 35 ml which is just about 6 times more than I'm adding, ie 18 ppm which is way too much. You need to add just enough ammonia to get 3 ppm not >6 as you had.


Once you've emptied virtually all the water, add ammonia to give a reading of 3 ppm half an hour after adding it (to allow it to mix in). What is the % of your ammonia? If it's 9.5% you need 5.7 ml not 35. I have Kleen Off Household Ammonia which doesn't say on the bottle but is 9.5%.
Then go to step #7 in the method in the Filtration and Cycling section and carry on from there. Test for both ammonia and nitrite every second day, and as soon as you get two zero readings for ammonia, you'll be at stage 10. This means zero ammonia on the 2nd and 4th day after adding the ammonia, or the 4th and 6th, or the 6th and 8th etc, however long it takes.

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #34 on: December 03, 2016, 09:31:55 AM »
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Looking at your results, I think the thing to do first is a big water change. Why? Your nitrate is very high (250) which can also stall the cycle, and your pH has dropped significantly due to all that nitrate. With a high KH it takes a lot to do that.
By big, I mean change nearly all the water. And I do realise that will take ages as I have a tank the same size.

The problem is the amount of ammonia you added. I am currently adding 3 ppm ammonia to my 180 litre tank every third day to keep the bacteria fed till the shop gets my fish in. I am adding just 5.7 ml of 9.5% ammonia. You added 35 ml which is just about 6 times more than I'm adding, ie 18 ppm which is way too much. You need to add just enough ammonia to get 3 ppm not >6 as you had.


Once you've emptied virtually all the water, add ammonia to give a reading of 3 ppm half an hour after adding it (to allow it to mix in). What is the % of your ammonia? If it's 9.5% you need 5.7 ml not 35. I have Kleen Off Household Ammonia which doesn't say on the bottle but is 9.5%.
Then go to step #7 in the method in the Filtration and Cycling section and carry on from there. Test for both ammonia and nitrite every second day, and as soon as you get two zero readings for ammonia, you'll be at stage 10. This means zero ammonia on the 2nd and 4th day after adding the ammonia, or the 4th and 6th, or the 6th and 8th etc, however long it takes.

Hello Sue,

After some long delay, I finally followed your instructions and cycled my tank without any issues and have started re-stocking with the first batch of fish. I have turned my attention to water changes and your flow chart. My water quality is 16dGH and I use plastic plants. I am about to do a water change in preparation for the next batch of fish.

Formally I did a 50% water change every 4 weeks by dredging the gravel and removing the rock, jar, plastic plants and granite stones and soaking these in a very mild bleach solution to remove algae. Now, I am going to adopt your more regular 10% or 20% water change regime according to your flow chart:
1. Do I need to dredge and clean these items each time?
2. Do I test for ammonia and nitrates each time?
3. What nitrate removing media do you recommend?

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #35 on: December 03, 2016, 09:58:56 AM »
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First of all, for a well stocked tank and no live plants, I would change at least 30% a week. With live plants it can be less because the plants will use some nitrate as fertiliser. But a lot of nitrate is not good for fish, and in the absence of live plants, water changes are the best way to remove the nitrate made by the nitrogen cycle.
As a rough guide, you should keep your nitrate level less than the amount in your tap water plus 20. It will be highest just before a water change, so this is the time to check your reading.

I have never used nitrate removing media so I'm afraid I can't help with that. I am lucky that my tap water has under 5 ppm nitrate so it is easy for me to keep my nitrate low.


When I had gravel, at every water change I used the gravel siphon to suck the debris out of the gravel. I moved decor to one side to 'hoover' under it. With no plants growing in the substrate, the muck (fish poo, uneaten food) will just sit there unless you suck it out.

I never bleach any decor. The simplest way to remove algae is to buy a cheap toothbrush and just scrub the rock or whatever in old tank water.
However, you can try to stop the algae growing in the first place. Keeping your nitrate level low will help, as will not having the lights on very long. How long are they on for at the moment?
Another way to help with algae is by having live plants. You don't need to get a jungle, but some floating plants would help enormously. These float - obviously - and are near the lights so they don't need anything fancy. They are on the surface so they can absorb carbon dioxide from the air so you don't need to add that. And fish like to have a shaded area in the tank. Look at Salvinia for small plants or water lettuce and Amazon frogbit for larger plants. Even duckweed would help.



As for checking levels in the tank, maybe check ammonia and nitrite after each water change for a few weeks to be sure they stay at zero, then test whenever you feel like it.
I would test nitrate before and half an hour after each water change for a while. And test your tap water so you know what the nitrate in the new water is.
The amount in the tap water will give you a base line to work from. If the tank nitrate just before a water change is more than 20 higher than the tap reading, you need to do a big (and I mean big) water change. If the after water change nitrate is still 10 or more above tap water level, you need to do another water change because in a week it will get higher still, probably back over tap + 20.

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #36 on: December 03, 2016, 10:31:38 AM »
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I have a lot of nitrate (40) in my tap water, and am now a BIG fan of floating plants. They have helped me to keep nitrates at a level lower than that found in the tap water, even just before a water change. I have to move them between tanks because the fish in my temperate tanks (platies, I'm talking about you) nibble on the roots, so I move the plants to other tanks to recover.
As for a toothbrush for the fish tanks, a piece of advice I read on this forum, and it has turned out to be one of the cheapest and most effective cleaning tools ever.  ;D

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #37 on: December 04, 2016, 09:21:19 AM »
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For the Nerds out there you (I) can calculate how much water needs to be changed if you want. You just need to know three things. The Nitrates in tap water, Tank water volume (the actual volume less all the substrate, decorations and the air at the top) and Nitrate in the tank water, then....

Water volume change = (Target Nitrate (20ppm) in Sue's advice minus Tank Nitrate ppm) Divided by (Tap Nitrates ppm minus Tank Nitrates ppm) and multiple the answer by the Tank Water Volume.
I keep a water log in Excel so it does it for me, I also get it to calculate the number of cm of water I need to take out while syphoning. BTW before you write in, I know I'm sad :)

The only other thing is the target Nitrate levels, Sue and I work to 20ppm because I think we are both Fish with Plants tanks but a Plants with Fish person might suggest something a bit higher to bias towards plant growth.

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #38 on: December 04, 2016, 09:38:44 AM »
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I only got into live plants in the last couple of years, before that I had silk plants, and before they were plastic. So most of what I say is aimed at a tank that has no live plants or maybe a few slow growing ones. I leave heavily planted tanks to those who have them  :)


There are some tanks that are planted like jungles with few fish. With this type of tank the owner often has to add nitrate as the plants use it up faster than the fish can make the ammonia - plants will use ammonia before the filter bacteria can turn it into nitrate. Obviously with jungle tanks you can't use nitrate as a water change guide.


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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #39 on: December 04, 2016, 02:13:53 PM »
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@Andy the minion
When you say "Target Nitrate  (20ppm)", do you mean actually 20ppm or 20ppm above Tap Nitrate?
If it's the former, with my Tap level at 40ppm I don't see how even a 100 percent change could ever get me to 20ppm as  I would always be starting from a level higher than Target.
I must have missed something in your post.

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #40 on: December 04, 2016, 02:37:37 PM »
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We do have problems in the UK with the amount of nitrate in tap water in some regions. Legislation allows up to 50 ppm; a lot of fish experts are now saying anything above 20 ppm is bad for fish in the long term  :-\

However, the tap + 20 is a useful guide for those who have either fake plants or only a few real ones. It doesn't apply where tanks are planted like a jungle.
Nitrate is the end point of the nitrogen cycle. It always increases in tank water. The aim is to stop it increasing by more than 20 ppm between water changes. To check this, you need to know your tap nitrate and subtract that from the tank nitrate.
In your case, your tap nitrate is 40 ppm so you should aim to keep your tank nitrate below 60 ppm. As nitrate is constantly being made, this is the maximum level just before a water change. Of course, if you can keep it lower than 60 ppm, that's a good thing.

There are a few reasons why nitrate might go above tap + 20, and the cause does need attention.
Too many fish in the tank, or more accurately, too large a bioload. Having 5 fish in a 60 litre tank doesn't mean much; having 5 x 6 inch fish in that 60 litre tank is very over stocked, whereas 5 x 1 inch fish is understocked.
Feeding too much. Fish that overeat make more ammonia. Uneaten fish food decomposes to make more ammonia. The filter bacteria 'eat' all this ammonia and turn it into nitrate.
Water changes not often enough or not big enough. If the nitrate being made by the filter bacteria is not removed it just adds up.
Dead fish and/or plants will decay to make ammonia, which ends up as nitrate. They should be removed as soon as possible.

Nitrate is an indicator of general tank health. There are so many things we can't measure, and they will also build up in a tank to the detriment of the occupants. If nitrate is high, these other things will also be high.



High tap nitrate is a problem. There are a couple of things one can do. For example, read up on any fish before buying and that should flag up if it is a nitrate intolerant species. Other people put their water change water into a container and run nitrate absorbing media in there before putting the water into the tank.
And of course plants will absorb nitrate - and more likely the ammonia made by the fish before the filter bacteria have chance to turn it into nitrate.
Plants also help with the general health of the tank. I live in Teesside where we have a concentration of chemical plants. Work was done here years ago on the ability of plants to remove chemical pollutants before waste water reaches the water course. ICI started the use of reed beds in this area many years ago. OK so we don't have reed beds in our tanks, but we don't have much in the way of chemical pollution either. That was just an example of the things plants can absorb  ;D

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #41 on: December 04, 2016, 03:07:48 PM »
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@adenann In Sue's post she refers to Tap water plus 20ppm, (definitely nothing with a 200 in it!) sorry I didn't restate it.
For me this is also 20ppm because I have almost undetectable levels even using a Colourimeter. I aim for a water change that gives a post change level of 17-18ppm, the tanks nett production is between 5 and 7 ppm over the week. This I accept is quite an aggressive target with larger tanks as the lower the 'above tap' level the larger the change has to be, and of course it gets to a point where its practically impossible to reduce further.
We have a good water source and so I can run like this fairly easily and I do it for water clarity and algae prevention although this is a balance of other factors as well. If I didn't have clean tap water I don't think I would go to these levels, moving the target to say 30ppm (above tap) has quite a dramatic effect on change volumes :) and I don't think anybody here would shout you down if were to report a 60ppm level. If you were over 100-150ppm then perhaps expect a reaction, but other people report happy fish at these levels as well.... so who knows. I think consistency has a lot to do with it.

If however you keep very sensitive species like wild Discus and you have higher levels in tap then reverse osmosis and deionised water are the only practical option but I feel most species are more tolerant or are farmed and should be fine at higher levels.
I cant say what the 'correct' levels are and there a certainly opinions that differ massively from my way of running tanks but I am comfortable with the effort, the fish are healthy and the tanks look clean so I wont break a working system.
You will find your own balance and what works for your tank I'm sure. Good luck

Offline adenann

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #42 on: December 04, 2016, 04:01:40 PM »
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@Andy the minion
Thanks.  I've seen elsewhere that consistency is as, if not more, important than actual level for Nitrate and, come to think of it, pH too. One of my LFS said a while ago that they didn't routinely check NO3.
Also, I'm not confident that the Tetra 6-in-1 strips are accurate.  I use liquid reagents for NO2 & NH3 and seem to get results more in sync with what MA come up with.  For NO3, MA consistently come in at about half what I get.

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Re: Is my water ok? - Or am i just stupid?
« Reply #43 on: December 04, 2016, 09:22:17 PM »
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After the discussion we had about Nitrate levels, I checked my parameters and found the Tetra 6-in-1 strip reading 100ppm for NO3.  I did a 20% water change, waited 3 hours and did another test.  ALL the parameters were exactly the same as before. :yikes:

What's (not) going on? ???

Mathematically I start with 80L containing 100ppm NO3
Take out 20% leaves me with 64L containing 100ppm.
Add back in16L containing 40ppm from the tap.
My calculation of what the level should be is therefore :- ((64L*100ppm)+(16L*40ppm))/80L = 88ppm

The 3hr-later test is still showing 100ppm :(

If my maths are correct, the only things I can think of are that the strips are useless and/or they aren't good enough to register the difference between 100ppm and 88ppm.  Anything between 50ppm and 100ppm is a bit of guesswork as there's no colour on the chart for anything in between.  The after reading was very definitely 100ppm though.  These tests were done on a new batch of strips, so I'm beginning to doubt consistency between batches!

Previously, when I've done before and after water change checks with the after done immediately after the change, the NO3 goes down by 50% from 100ppm to 50ppm which is a result viewed against Tap level of 40ppm + 20ppm = 60ppm Target.

I'll try another 20% tomorrow and see if that helps.

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #44 on: December 04, 2016, 09:37:57 PM »
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Do the strips read higher than 100? If not,  it could have been that they were showing their maximum whereas the levels were actually much higher...

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #45 on: December 04, 2016, 10:28:35 PM »
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@adenann Your maths is correct and you cant argue with maths. I do argue with test strips and would recommend a wet test when you run out, but stay with it for now you are on the correct track even if you have doubts. I would suggest keeping going with a daily change maybe even push to a 30%.
In the meantime I think Matt is correct and you are over the top so try an experiment, take a 5ml sample, and then accurately double it with distilled water and see what the test strip shows then. if this still showing 100 double it again. If this confirms Matt thoughts then pause before rushing to a total water change as this will shock the poor little blighters and may finish them off. Stay with the progressive water changes until things stabilise and the fish manage to acclimatise to the new environment.
While this is happening have a look at what might have caused the high levels. Too much food (just enough food for 3 min of feeding is enough). Too many fish, check the community builder to confirm. Too little/too few change before now. Accumulation of poo in the substrate. You will probably find that @Sue has gone into this in more and better detail in previous posts so have a browse through her listings.

Offline fcmf

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #46 on: December 04, 2016, 10:49:19 PM »
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My experience with the test strips (Tetra or JBL) is that they give me very consistent readings on all the tests. I also use liquid-based test kits but find the nitrate and nitrite difficult to read, so like to cross-check with the test strips. I trust the nitrite, nitrate and chlorine readings but find the KH and GH to give me a higher reading and the PH a lower reading than my water utility company and the liquid based tests suggest. I find the liquid based tests, irrespective of brand, to give me a higher reading for PH that I would expect based on water utility company readings.

Offline adenann

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #47 on: December 05, 2016, 12:01:07 AM »
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@Andytheminion Thanks, several points to consider.

The Tetra strip's colour chart for NO3 has readings for 0, 10, 25 50, 100 & 250mg/L.  I'm fairly sure ppm and mg/L are interchangeable.  Additionally, 0 through 25 are marked as "Safe" and 100 to 250 as "Water Change".  The assumption I draw from this is that 50 is neither safe nor requiring water change, which kind of chimes with @Sue recommending Tap plus 20ppm which would give me an optimum value of 60ppm.

I can accept that I may have been overfeeding.  With the addition of our final 4 Corydoras, I've been experimenting with NovoTabs, as you know from another thread.  The water I removed today had plenty of poo in it and I notice now that the whole tank has a slightly brown tinge to it.  With the large size "hoover" I've got, it takes a 20% change to give me the time to go over all the substrate twice.

I don't have any distilled water to hand, but I understand the mathematics of diluting samples to bring them in range of the reagents.  For now, I have dosed the whole tank with SeaChem Prime in addition to using it for the latest 20% refill for Chlorine/Chloramine as it's supposed to also "detoxify Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate, allowing the biofilter to more efficiently remove them".  Bit of an odd statement in SeaChem's sales blurb as, as far as I'm aware, the biofilter only deals with Ammonia and Nitrite which is why we need water changes and/or plants to handle the Nitrate.

We're now at our desired stock level and the Community Creator is telling me we're at 79%.

As recommended I'll do daily changes until I get a handle on this, as well as reducing the feeding.

@fcfm My experience to-date has been similar in that I use Tetra strips and MA, where I get our stock from, are fairly consistent using their JBL strips.  Up until now I've trusted the Tetra strips after confirmation of liquid-based tests at MA.  It's just this blip of why, having done a water change, the high level of NO3 didn't reduce after the water change that bothers me.

The guesswork involved in reading the strip colour against the scale is a major problem.  On 26th Nov, after a 20% change, my NO3 went from 75 to 35.  Both these values obviously guesses as the colour lay between 50 - 100 and 25 - 50 respectively.  Similarly, before and after on 2nd Dec (when the Cories were introduced) went from 100 to 50, no guesswork needed as the colours matched up OK.

My best guess at the whole problem is that I've been overfeeding, possibly from sometime after 17th Nov when we introduced 8 Guppies and also experimented with NovoTabs.  All causing the NO3 to spike and the granularity of the test readings is not fine enough so what could have been 100-ish+ before could easily be 95+ now.  What liquid-based kit(s) would you recommend to cross-check against the Tetra strips?

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #48 on: December 05, 2016, 06:04:36 AM »
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I use API test and I think a lot of the others do as well. There is still the accuracy of the colour card problem, have a look back on a reply I gave a couple of months ago (post 67 21st Oct) I suggest a way of improving the reading and testing process. The API test chemisty is however incredibily repeatable. I  just started new test bottles last week and repeated the test with each and was within 3ppm

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Re: Is my water ok?
« Reply #49 on: December 05, 2016, 09:01:07 AM »
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Nitrate is the trickiest of the things we test for. Liquid reagents have the problem with one chemical dropping out of solution and all the colour charts are hard to read above ~20 ppm.
I have read that Salifert is the best for nitrate but it is quite pricey. And I can't find out for certain if it can be used in fresh water. Some say yes, other's say the colour chart won't apply  ???


Adenann, I think what I would do is lots of small water changes and clean some gravel at each one. You can carry on from where you leave off at the next one. Small changes won't harm the fish if nitrate really is high, it will dilute nitrate and everything else a bit at a time and it will clean the gravel thoroughly over a week or two. Somewhere in the region of 10% a day for a week. If that shows signs of nitrate dropping, you could then increase the amount a bit.



Seachem admit even they don't know how Prime detoxifies nitrite and nitrate. They only found out it does when their customers gave feedback to that effect. The phrase they use is 'render non toxic', they don't claim that Prime removes nitrate.
Quote
Prime® also contains a binder which renders ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate non-toxic

Quote
Q: How does Prime make a difference in reducing nitrates?

A: The detoxification of nitrite and nitrate by Prime (when used at elevated levels) is not well understood from a mechanistic standpoint. The most likely explanation is that the nitrite and nitrate is removed in a manner similar to the way ammonia is removed; i.e. it is bound and held in a inert state until such time that bacteria in the biological filter are able to take a hold of it, break it apart and use it. Two other possible scenarios are reduction to nitrogen (N2) gas or conversion into a benign organic nitrogen compound.

I wish we had some more "concrete" explanation, but the end result is the same, it does actually detoxify nitrite and nitrate. This was unexpected chemically and thus initially we were not even aware of this, however we received numerous reports from customers stating that when they overdosed with Prime they were able to reduce or eliminate the high death rates they experienced when their nitrite and nitrate levels were high. We have received enough reports to date to ensure that this is no fluke and is in fact a verifiable function of the product.

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