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Chloramines & Nitrates Paradox

SmithPad

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Hey guys:

Been reading for years, this is my first post. I've been in and out of the hobby for 30+ years, so I'm not a newbie. But there's always something around the corner that makes me feel like one!

I have a 29 gallon heavily stocked freshwater tank with no live plants. Filter is a DIY sump and trickle filter in a 10 gallon tank underneath. I only run my light 4 hours per day.

In my desire to fight algae by keeping my nitrates down to minimal levels, I've decided to set up my first drip auto-water-change system, running at about 1/2 gallon per hour. This, according to the dilution calculators, will result in a daily 30% turnover and a weekly 95% turnover of water. So far, so good. I'm not trying to eliminate water changes, just reduce them, as I've been doing 50% twice a week to stay ahead of the nitrates and algae growth, and generally improve the health of the fish by having fresh water always coming in.

But my tap water is purified with chloramines. I'm planning on setting up an inline filter with the proper cartridge to handle that, but I'm learning that a chloramine filter will leave ammonia in the water as a by-product, having removed the chlorine component. Still, my biofilter can easily handle that extra load, again, no problem.

But when my biofilter handles the ammonia, the end product is going to be nitrates. More nitrates! So, to keep my nitrates low, I'm setting up a drip system that creates nitrates!

So my question is, will I be able to stay ahead of the nitrates being created by my chloramine filter? Is there a significant amount of nitrates being generated by the drip?

I recognize that I will need to do some extensive testing to try to get a real answer to that question, but am I overthinking it? Perhaps someone out there has dealt with this issue?

I do have an RO system for drinking water, but I don't want to tap into that, because I don't want to have to supplement the water to prevent a pH drop.

Thanks guys!

Bill
 

seangee

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Is there a reason for not having plants? Sounds like you are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
Plants absorb (use) ammonia / ammonium without producing nitrate.

This tank is very heavily stocked and equally heavily under filtered. My lights are on for 9 hours a day. I don't believe that I have cleaned algae from the glass this year, it just gets an occassional wipe with a sponge. Yes there is algae but that is healthy and you have to look really hard to spot it. Never have ammonia or nitrite and the nitrate never reaches 5ppm by the time I do my weekly water change (about 75%). It is a low tech tank, so no fancy lights, fertisation regimes or CO2. The plants are all easy and most of the heavy lifting is done by the floating plants. The only maintenance is trimming the roots and throwing out surplus plants.

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Oh, almost forgot - :hi:
 

AbbeysDad

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@seangee is correct in that fast growing floating plants will surely help, HOWEVER you are also correct that you don't want your auto water change system to add lots of ammonia.
 
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SmithPad

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Thanks guys for the feedback. Yeah, it's true, I am kind of sledgehammering. The challenge with live plants is that I don't have the time to keep up with them, and was hoping for a more automated nitrate solution.

I'm also really enjoying heavy fish stocking levels, which is why I built the trickle filter. I have six angelfish and a bunch of swordtails, and the tank is so very lively at feeding time. I'm concerned I wouldn't be able to fill it with enough plants to stay ahead of the nitrates. And I'm concerned about keeping up with trimming, fertilizing, propagating, etc. I've got the plastic plants just how I like them, and was hoping things could stay that way. But even my 50% water changes twice weekly aren't enough.

However, maybe it's time to rethink that. I have a Finnex Stingray light on top. Any thoughts about plants that are low maintenance, low light demands, yet good nitrate consumers?

And no, I can't use pothos, because I have cats.

Thank you so much for the suggestions!

Bill
 

seangee

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HOWEVER you are also correct that you don't want your auto water change system to add lots of ammonia.
That's the sledgehammer I was refering to :). Most dechlorinators deal with chloramine so it would be way easier to just do a weekly water change.
 

AbbeysDad

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That's the sledgehammer I was refering to :). Most dechlorinators deal with chloramine so it would be way easier to just do a weekly water change.
I dunno - there are large fish rooms out there with municipal water supplies (w/chloramine) that have automated water change systems.So it works for some.

Then again, for a single tank, less stock, floating plants, and weekly partial water changes are probably the best, easiest solution.

Come to think of it I believe it has been proven that the weekly larger percentage water change is better than the lesser daily partial change - but lets not debate it! :)
 
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SmithPad

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Come to think of it I believe it has been proven that the weekly larger percentage water change is better than the lesser daily partial change - but lets not debate it! :)
I hear ya. I'm really hoping not to reduce stock. I know I should. So yeah, what I'm trying to do here is come up with a solution that lets me have it both ways: heavy stock, fewer water changes. It seems like I may have to employ multiple solutions.

Right now, my 50% water changes twice per week are keeping the nitrates in the 20-40ppm range. Which is fine for the fish, but not for the algae situation. So, to eradicate the nitrates, it seems like I need to select two of three possible solutions:

1. Put something useful in the sump that consumes nitrates (pothos, reactor, algae scrubber, etc.).
2. Re-plant the tank with lots and lots and lots of live plants.
3. Set up an auto-water-change drip.

I think #3 is a given, because of the other benefits of what constantly piping in fresh water does for the health of the fish. And #1 seems to be the cheaper solution to handle the bonus nitrates from the drip...
 

AbbeysDad

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Hmmm...

> Add a filter like an Aquaclear 70 HOB or a canister and turn your sump into a floating plant refugium. Invest in a HOG1 algae scrubber (or DIY version) also in the sump/refuge,
> Also in the sump/refuge, consider MarinePure Cermedia or Biohome Ultimate. Check into Anoxic Biocenosis Baskets (Dr. Kevin Novak phD)

> Increase the byweekly water change to 75%.

>Ensure you're feeding high quality food low in grain/grain starch (less waste).

>Reduce feeding (most hobbyists feed way too much, more than the fish really need,)

> If your substrate is gravel (a potential nitrate factory) consider switching to coarse sand.
 

Colin_T

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Reduce feeding and add some floating plants like Duckweed or Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides/ cornuta). Have lights on for 10-12 hours a day with lots of floating plants. The plants will shade the tank and limit the algae growing on the glass, and they will reduce the nitrates.

Don't waste time or money on a drip system, they waste water and don't help. As suggested by AbbeysDad, just do a 75-90% water change and gravel clean the substrate twice weekly if needed. Make sure any new water is free of chlorine/ chloramine before it's added to the tank.
 
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SmithPad

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Thanks guys for all the ideas! Definitely have some rethinking to do...
 
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SmithPad

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have you checked your tap water for nitrates?
Yes, it's totally clear. But the ammonia is at 1ppm, which I believe is the part that's bonded to the chlorine in the form of chloramine.

But it'll turn into nitrates after my biofilter gets a hold of it, so that is my biggest question: how much nitrates result from 1ppm of ammonia converted by the biofilter?
 

Colin_T

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Chloramine is a mixture of chlorine and ammonia. The ammonia keeps the chlorine active for longer and that means it continues to kill things in water for longer.

If your water company is using chloramine and you have ammonia in the water, they are overdosing with the ammonia. You can contact them and ask them to check the dose that is being added to the drinking water. Theoretically, there should be no excess ammonia in water that is treated with chloramine. The fact there is, means they are adding too much ammonia and it is remaining in the water instead of mixing with the chlorine.

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The 1ppm of ammonia in the tap water will not raise the nitrate level that much. Your biggest concern is if the ammonia is not neutralised or made inert before going into the tank, it can poison the fish.

Ammonia is more toxic in water with a pH above 7.0.

Most dechlorinators will break the chlorine/ ammonia bond and neutralise the chlorine, then bind to the ammonia or convert it into ammonium for a short period of time (about 24 hours). The filter can then use that ammonium before it changes back into ammonia.
 
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SmithPad

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The 1ppm of ammonia in the tap water will not raise the nitrate level that much. Your biggest concern is if the ammonia is not neutralised or made inert before going into the tank, it can poison the fish.
But if the water is coming in at a slow drip rate (1/2 gallon per hour is my target), won't the ammonia be seriously diluted, and neutralized by the biofilter pretty promptly?
 

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