High Nitrates in Source Water

AbbeysDad

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(I write this post as we continue to see many posts over time about high nitrates in source water.)
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We focus a lot in keeping nitrates low in the aquarium - it's our common measure of pollution. And although plants and good tank maintenance can help keep nitrates lower, we tend to rely on routine partial water changes to keep nitrates low. However, more and more we are seeing high(er) nitrates in source water especially in agricultural areas. This creates a fishkeeping challenge.
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Many years ago I discovered that I had high nitrates in my well water. This was/is most likely due to a 95 acre farmers field across the road. Back then, corn was grown and the field received a fair amount of commercial fertilizer. These days it's all hay with ample amounts of manure fertilizer (nitrates are still high, but much lower now then they were years ago.
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This all led to my article 'My Nitrate Fight' on my Blog, where I documented using API Nitra-Zorb in a converted API Tap Water Filter. I continue to use this DIY filter to pre-filter water for water changes.

Footnote: For a deep dive see: Filtration and Water Quality as it's a window to many articles.
 

jimwg

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(I write this post as we continue to see many posts over time about high nitrates in source water.)
---
We focus a lot in keeping nitrates low in the aquarium - it's our common measure of pollution. And although plants and good tank maintenance can help keep nitrates lower, we tend to rely on routine partial water changes to keep nitrates low. However, more and more we are seeing high(er) nitrates in source water especially in agricultural areas. This creates a fishkeeping challenge.
---
Many years ago I discovered that I had high nitrates in my well water. This was/is most likely due to a 95 acre farmers field across the road. Back then, corn was grown and the field received a fair amount of commercial fertilizer. These days it's all hay with ample amounts of manure fertilizer (nitrates are still high, but much lower now then they were years ago.
---
This all led to my article 'My Nitrate Fight' on my Blog, where I documented using API Nitra-Zorb in a converted API Tap Water Filter. I continue to use this DIY filter to pre-filter water for water changes.

Footnote: For a deep dive see: Filtration and Water Quality as it's a window to many articles.

I had problems with high nitrates straight out of the tap. I use a 50 gallon tub to store pretreated heated water for my water changes and I put a filter in it containing API Nitra-Zorb. Worked like a charm.
 
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AbbeysDad

AbbeysDad

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I had problems with high nitrates straight out of the tap. I use a 50 gallon tub to store pretreated heated water for my water changes and I put a filter in it containing API Nitra-Zorb. Worked like a charm.
As explained in the article, I pre-filter water into a 45g Brute Trash can...it is then pre-heated as/if necessary.
45g brute.jpg

Hello :)
What do you consider hight level nitrates ?
We should strive to keep tank nitrate levels below 20ppm, but the lower, the better. With the exception of rather polluted waters, the fresh water in the tropics has little/no measurable nitrate levels.
 

Avel1896

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As explained in the article, I pre-filter water into a 45g Brute Trash can...it is then pre-heated as/if necessary.
View attachment 140693

We should strive to keep tank nitrate levels below 20ppm, but the lower, the better. With the exception of rather polluted waters, the fresh water in the tropics has little/no measurable nitrate levels.
I generally advise a rate below 15. Should I say less than 15 or even less than 10, just to have a tolerable margin ?
 

Byron

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I generally advise a rate below 15. Should I say less than 15 or even less than 10, just to have a tolerable margin ?

This is another example of a problem in this hobby of providing "numbers" for whatever. We all do it, because there has to be some sort of dividing line I guess, but we should always be aiming to provide the best, as opposed to being content with this or that number, be it fish numbers in a given tank, or test result numbers, etc. That's why I prefer saying that the aim for nitrates should be zero or as close as one can keep the tank to zero nitrates, and ensure they never rise between water changes, etc.

The number 20 is frequently cited today because studies have indicated that many fish are impacted by continual exposure to nitrates at or above this level. But this should not be taken to mean that 15 or 20 ppm are "OK." It depends upon the species whether nitrates at either level will cause problems long-term, and weaken the fish making it more susceptible to disease and other issues. There is for instance advice from knowledgeable aquarists on some of the cichlid sites that that group of fish is particularly sensitive to nitrate, and nitrates are now being credited for diseases like hole in the head.
 

Avel1896

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Agreed.
From here on I will advice below 10 but better zero.
 

DoubleDutch

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This is another example of a problem in this hobby of providing "numbers" for whatever. We all do it, because there has to be some sort of dividing line I guess, but we should always be aiming to provide the best, as opposed to being content with this or that number, be it fish numbers in a given tank, or test result numbers, etc. That's why I prefer saying that the aim for nitrates should be zero or as close as one can keep the tank to zero nitrates, and ensure they never rise between water changes, etc.

The number 20 is frequently cited today because studies have indicated that many fish are impacted by continual exposure to nitrates at or above this level. But this should not be taken to mean that 15 or 20 ppm are "OK." It depends upon the species whether nitrates at either level will cause problems long-term, and weaken the fish making it more susceptible to disease and other issues. There is for instance advice from knowledgeable aquarists on some of the cichlid sites that that group of fish is particularly sensitive to nitrate, and nitrates are now being credited for diseases like hole in the head.
Isn't the latter due to the common combibation high nitrates / pollution ?
 

DoubleDutch

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Agreed.
From here on I will advice below 10 but better zero.
Uhhhh don't.plant need nitrates. Fertilizing with nitrates nowadays cause my Swords weren't doing well. To me nitrates of zero is as bad as high nitrates and anothern cause of algea.
 

jimwg

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Uhhhh don't.plant need nitrates. Fertilizing with nitrates nowadays cause my Swords weren't doing well. To me nitrates of zero is as bad as high nitrates and anothern cause of algea.
Maybe I'm misunderstanding you but low nitrates wouldn't be a cause of algae high nitrates would be. In any event 0 nitrates is only possible in a brand new uncycled tank and anyone who claims to have an established tank with 0 nitrates is a fibber.
 

DoubleDutch

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Maybe I'm misunderstanding you but low nitrates wouldn't be a cause of algae high nitrates would be. In any event 0 nitrates is only possible in a brand new uncycled tank and anyone who claims to have an established tank with 0 nitrates is a fibber.
A That is not what I am saying. I only say that nitrates of zero isn't what we should be aiming for cause plants need nitrates to grow.
B I wouldn't call anyone a fibber on this or any forum cause our hobby isn't an exact science.
Besides that it isn't nice to call someone like that who is trying to join a discussion on this forum
 

jimwg

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A That is not what I am saying. I only say that nitrates of zero isn't what we should be aiming for cause plants need nitrates to grow.
B I wouldn't call anyone a fibber on this or any forum cause our hobby isn't an exact science.
Besides that it isn't nice to call someone like that who is trying to join a discussion on this forum
Telling people, especially those new to the hobby, that a nitrate level of 0 is possible let alone attainable in reality is not a realistic goal nor even one which is desirable, as you said if you have plants. I thought "fibber" was a pretty benign term compared to what one I could've used.
 

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