Welcome to Our Community

Wanting to join the rest of our members? Feel free to sign up today.

  1. click here!
    FishForums.net Vote Pet of the Month
    Dismiss Notice

Alternative Nitrate Test?

Discussion in 'New to the Hobby Questions and Answers' started by Featheryfish, Jul 15, 2019.

  1. Featheryfish

    Featheryfish New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Arizona
    I'm not entirely sure I trust the nitrate test in my API liquid freshwater master test kit. I'll probably give it a few more days to display positive for nitrates - my ammonia and nitrites didn't just vanish into thin air, did they? But if I don't see a hint of orange soon I'm going to start shopping around for a different nitrate test.

    (Yes, I'm following the directions to the letter. I've also tried the shake-the-heck-out-of-bottle-#2-and-beat-it-against-the-wall method. No dice.)

    What are some other nitrate test kits I could try, if this one is indeed defective?
     
  2. Byron

    Byron Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2009
    Messages:
    9,713
    Likes Received:
    1,230
    Location:
    CA
    Can you indicate the situation here? I mean, is this a new tank cycle? Or something else?

    If a new tank or running tank, whichever, do you have plants in the tank?
     
  3. seangee

    seangee Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2008
    Messages:
    1,456
    Likes Received:
    182
    Location:
    Berks
    Plants will use ammonia in preference to nitrate. To use nitrate they first need to turn it back to ammonia so it is possible for ammonia to vanish into your plants, which skips the whole nitrite / nitrate cycle.

    FWIW once I understand the biology of a given tank I switch to strips to periodically check that everything is OK - I don't see the point in weekly testing once things stop changing, simply because I expect them to be the same as last week. I know they aren't as accurate but I am only looking to double check that everything is about what I expect it to be. The nitrate test on the strips is pretty accurate and a whole lot easier than the liquid test. 60 seconds and you have a snapshot of what is going on in your tank. If something looks off, or there is a problem I'll take out the liquid tests.
     
  4. Rob M

    Rob M New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2019
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    1
    Millions of people use and trust the API master test kit.

    You basically have one of two situations. Your kit is old and expired (not likely) or you do not have nitrates.
     
  5. Featheryfish

    Featheryfish New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Arizona
    Yes, it's a new tank cycling, fish-in. I have 10 or so live plants. Everything was going pretty textbook - ammonia rose, nitrites rose and ammonia fell, but now both ammonia and nitrites have been zero for 2 days - yet nitrates haven't made an appearance. I haven't changed the water or added any water conditioners during this 2 day time. I keep redoing the tests thinking that I'm either blind or my tank has done a chemical magic trick.

    I did keep the ammonia and nitrites always below ~0.5 ppm with frequent water changes for the sake of the fish, so I expected this to take a long, long time. Instead... two weeks (edit: closer to three weeks now that I look at my records) and zip, toxic stuff gone, but no measurable end product.

    Are a few plants enough to absorb all that? I was told that they weren't...
     
    #5 Featheryfish, Jul 15, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019
  6. Featheryfish

    Featheryfish New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Arizona
    Interesting - I definitely had plenty of nitrites for a few days there though, they were rising fast and constantly so I was the water change bucket brigade. So, I don't think the plant mass I have is mighty enough to skip past the whole cycle. The ammonia didn't start to drop on its own until the nitrites appeared, either.

    *shrug shrug shrug*
     
  7. Fishmanic

    Fishmanic Moderator
    Staff Member Moderator Global Moderator Tank of the Month Winner!

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,963
    Likes Received:
    339
    Location:
    Northeastern USA
    I very highly recommend the salifert nitrate test kit. It will measure as low as .2ppm up to 100ppm. It is much easier and quicker to run the test and in my opinion is much more accurate and easier to read than the api test for nitrates. No hard shaking of container required. Read the results in a bright white well lit area. It will do about 60 tests.

    Do yourself a favor and buy it...you'll love it. They say it is for reef aquariums but it works just as well for freshwater. It is more expensive than the api nitrate test but well worth it in my opinion. You can thank me later.
    From Amazon Prime:
    https://www.amazon.com/Salifert-Nit...t+kit+nitrate&qid=1563246695&s=gateway&sr=8-1

    A bit less expensive from private seller:
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/SALIFERT-N...788470?hash=item19e8f89876:g:V~EAAOSwGvhT6~JI
     
    #7 Fishmanic, Jul 15, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019
    • Informative Informative x 1
  8. Featheryfish

    Featheryfish New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Arizona
    Thank you! I'll toss that in my Amazon cart and that'll be my next nitrate test kit if I don't start loving this one real soon. :fun::fun::fun:
     
  9. Colin_T

    Colin_T Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2008
    Messages:
    15,716
    Likes Received:
    871
    Location:
    Perth, WA
    they can if the filter cycles.

    If the ammonia and nitrite levels are low to begin with, they might not produce much nitrate so the test kit could be fine but just unable to read any nitrate. I would wait a month and continue monitoring the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate and see how things go.

    Nitrate test kits will read nitrite as well as nitrate and give you a false reading if there is nitrite in the water.
     
  10. seangee

    seangee Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2008
    Messages:
    1,456
    Likes Received:
    182
    Location:
    Berks
    Also bear in mind that for plants to do their magic they need to be actively growing. Plants take a while to settle in a new environment, so it could just be that the plants are now doing their job because they have started growing again. If you are interested in the biology behind this you can do a search for "silent cycle".
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  11. Byron

    Byron Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2009
    Messages:
    9,713
    Likes Received:
    1,230
    Location:
    CA
    There is absolutely nothing wrong here, and your nitrate test is probably fine. Your answers to my questions (post #5) are exactly what I was expecting, and it is normal.

    Plants as another member said need nitrogen and most aquatic species prefer ammonium. It is common to see zero nitrate permanently in heavily-planted tanks. The reason some think is because plants are using the nitrate, but that is generally not the case; plants rapidly take up ammonia/ammonium and they do this, according to scientific experiments, faster than the nitrifying bacteria can. The plants do not produce nitrite when they use the ammonia/ammonium so unless there is something else wrong with the biology nitrite will not show in tests, and thence nitrate also is too low to measure. Over time the nitrates may appear, it depends upon the plant species and numbers and the fish load/feeding, but keeping nitrates in the zero to 5 ppm range is generally the result. My tanks have been running for over a decade now and nitrate always measures in the 0-5 ppm range with the API liquid test.

    I am somewhat surprised by the nitrite having shown as you describe in post #6 but I do not know the plant species or numbers or how fast they were growing. The faster-growing plants like stem plants and especially floating plants can use a lot of ammonia, more than the fish in a balanced/stocked tank could ever produce. Another benefit of floating plants; I have them in every tank. I have never had ammonia or nitrite above zero, even in a brand new tank with fish. I just make sure the floating plants are growing.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  12. Featheryfish

    Featheryfish New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Arizona
    Really now? So, what, in a tank that had nitrites a nitrate test would always be inaccurate? I guess I'll keep that in mind if I ever get around to having both simultaneously.
     
  13. Featheryfish

    Featheryfish New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Arizona
    Okay then, how interesting! No need to panic about the cycle not "going" then?" I'll just watch and see what happens next. I've only been feeding the fish lightly every other day while cycling, I could bump it up a bit now that nothing appears to be spiking.

    I had heard of people using plants to keep water parameters pristine but that I would see no effect unless like, 50% or more of my tank was full of leafage. I've got less than half that. My plants have grown a ton, though - I wake up to more new leaves every day. All I did was put them in aquarium plant soil and shine a Nicrew LED bar on 'em. They're mostly just java ferns, anubias, and amazon swords. I was hoping to get some floating plants next actually, for the shade. What species would you suggest?
     
  14. Colin_T

    Colin_T Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2008
    Messages:
    15,716
    Likes Received:
    871
    Location:
    Perth, WA
    If you have nitrite in the water, a nitrate test kit will read the nitrite and add it to the nitrate so you end up with a higher nitrate reading than is actually in the water.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  15. Byron

    Byron Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2009
    Messages:
    9,713
    Likes Received:
    1,230
    Location:
    CA
    Correct, all seems normal from what you told us.

    Agree on observing, just to be cautionary, can't hurt. On the feeding, it is generally best to feed sparingly permanently, except fry that need more food more often to develop properly. But aside from fry, fish do not need all that much. Missing a day or two days each week won't hurt either. My neighbour who knows nothing about fish once asked me how I knew how much to feed each tank, and I could not answer other than by saying it is something I just learned instinctively. With upper fish that are fed flakes/small granules, you want the food to be gone within seconds, less than a minute or two. With substrate fish that feed from solid sinking pellets/disks/tablets, they can take a couple hours to get through these. I have 45 cories in one tank, and when I feed them Omega One's Veggie Rounds which are sinking disks with kelp/spirulina/algae base and whole fish, it can take them 3 hours to get through the three disks. Shrimp pellets break down faster so these are usually gone in maybe an hour when I drop in say 5-6 for the same cories. Alternate foods on alternate days is also advisable, I alternate three floating and three sinking foods regularly, with the frozen "treat" once a week after the water changes.

    Swords are fast growers (not as fast as floaters though), Java Fern and Anubias slow growers. For floating plants, the ideal is Water Sprite if you can get it. Frogbit (the true tropical kind) is good, Water Lettuce similar. These three are substantial plants, meaning they have larger leaves, more extensive root systems dangling in the water, so not only better "ammonia sinks" but fish love to browse them for microscopic food tidbits, use them for spawning (yesterday I was observing my pygmy cories laying individual eggs on the undersurface of floating pennywort leaves), and of course love the shade. Some stem plants do well left floating, like pennywort. The photo below is my Amazon flooded forest blackwater tank (without the tinted water but otherwise parameters are exact) which is minimal in plants but has some nice floating pennywort that the hatchetfish love, the pencilfish remain among, and the cories spawn on! This tank was just set up (I moved end of May) in mid-June and the chain sword plant has already sent out a runner with six plants springing up.
     

    Attached Files:

    • Creative Creative x 1

Share This Page