Newbie(ish) New Freshwater Aquarium Water Parameters Help Needed!

sparkypenguin

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Hi all,

I've just started keeping fresh water tropicals after a 20 year break and I am concerned about some of the test readings I am getting.
In particular I am confused about how dangerous nitrate is for fish.
My readings are
Ammonia 0 mg/L(ppm) - OK
Nitrite 0.25 mg/L(ppm) - I think is OK
Nitrate 30 mg/L(ppm) - Not OK?
The Nitrate was 5 when I tested 2 weeks ago so has it probably increased due to insufficient water changes?
The NTlabs test kit and website contradict each other about if this is totally fine or deadly to fish.
I have read several posts on here and I have concluded that it does appear to be very dangerous and that it can only be removed by water changes.
Is this correct?
Also is it impossible to prevent without the introduction of plants that will use up the ammonia before it starts its cycle?
Will the filters remove it?

Other readings I am getting
PH 6.5 - My tap water is 7.5 but I have a lot of bog wood in the tank which I have been told will lower the PH?
KH<2 dKH (<36ppm) - This was 4 when I tested 2 weeks ago. Why would this figure change? (The tap water is 8). Is my reading dangerously low.
GH 14 dGH (250ppm) - This is almost the same as it was 2 weeks ago. The tap water is 14.

My tank is approx. 165L / 36g.
I have 4 filters running as I am changing from internal to external.
1 of the filters includes a UV bulb and draws air to the bottom of the tank.
Another agitates the top of the water.
I have 2 heaters.
I have 5 platies, 5 neon tetras and 3 mollies which all appear to be fine.
However I had 4 small panda cories and 2 have died in the last week. I have read that cories are sensitive to high nitrates. Is this correct?

Any help much appreciated.

Kind regards,
Mark.
 

Essjay

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Nitrite 0.25 ppm is not OK, I'm afraid. It must be zero. Nitrite binds to the red blood cells and stops them taking up oxygen. Low nitrite levels are the same as us having a bit of carbon monoxide in the air - it may not kill us instantly but it makes us ill.

Nitrate should be kept below 20 ppm. This does long term harm to fish, rather than immediate harm like ammonia and nitrite. If your tap water is 5 ppm, the extra 25 ppm is being made in the tank - insufficient water changes, too many fish, overfeeding all contribute to nitrate. With a sensibly stocked tank, weekly 50%+ water changes and not overfeeding should keep nitrate near to tap level. Live plants also help as they take ammonia from the fish (and decomposing uneaten food) and they don't turn it into nitrite or nitrate.

Live plants can be used to cycle a tank. In a heavily planted tank there are very few bacteria as the plants do all the work. It is called a plant (or silent) cycle. If there are fish already in the tank, live plants will help enormously, especially floating plants as they are very good at removing ammonia.




GH and KH -
GH rarely changes unless the fish keeper does something to change it, such as adding coral or limestone to raise GH, or using pure water to lower GH.
KH can change. It will increase if coral/limestone is added to a tank. And it will decrease if there are acids in the water as KH stabilises pH by reacting with acids - nitrite and nitrate are both acidic as are tannins released by wood. The fact that your nitrate has increased so much suggests the KH is being used up. Weekly 50%+ water changes will replenish the KH. Dropping as low as 2 dH runs the risk of a pH crash. Drifting lower doesn't harm fish but dropping very quickly does.

How are you testing GH and KH?
Your water company gives your GH as 6 dH/107 ppm. They don't give KH on their website. This is good for the cories and neon tetras but too low for mollies.

Panda cories have become delicate fish nowadays. It could well be the nitrite rather than the nitrate level which is harming them, though long term nitrate won't be helping.


My tank is approx. 165L / 36g.
In fish keeping, gallons are always American gallons so your tank is 43 gallons rather than 36 :)
 
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sparkypenguin

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Hi Essjay,

Thanks for your help.
I did ask at 2 different shops but one said the hardness figures were OK and the other said they did not really matter. :/
It just shows that it's always good to get an independent opion!

How are you testing GH and KH?
I'm using an NTlabs test kit.
5ml water then bottles to add drops until the water changes colour.
Number of drops = the value.

Panda cories have become delicate fish nowadays.
Is this due to tank breeding?
 

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@Essjay has covered the issues well. Your experience with advice from pet store staff is sadly too common. To be frank, do not trust their advice on anything without confirmation from reliable sources.

To your last question on the condition of panda cories... yes, it is largely (I suppose completely) because they are now being raised commercially (and have been for several years now, perhaps two decades, not certain). This is common with many fish species. Wild caught fish are inevitably going to be in better condition and less likely to get various diseases. [Now, I am referring more to egg layers (like cories, tetras, etc), livebearers are a bit different matter, just to be clear.]
 

Essjay

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I am intrigued by your GH. You originally gave your postcode as your location so I was cheeky and looked up your hardness on your water company's website. They give it as 5.96 German degrees, which is the same as dH. I have the same water company and have always found their hardness figure to be within a degree or two of the API liquid tester reading. A difference of 8 dH is a lot; their quoted figure is soft water while your GH test result is hard water.

Can I suggest you take some tap water to a fish shop and ask them to test it. Maybe a couple of different shops. If they agree with each other, see which they agree with - your tester or Northumbrian Water.
 

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Hi Essjay,

Thanks for your help.
I did ask at 2 different shops but one said the hardness figures were OK and the other said they did not really matter. :/
It just shows that it's always good to get an independent opion!


I'm using an NTlabs test kit.
5ml water then bottles to add drops until the water changes colour.
Number of drops = the value.


Is this due to tank breeding?
Don’t ask Pets At Home anything. Welcome to this place by the way.
 
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sparkypenguin

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@Essjay - A fellow northerner! It is strange that my figures are so different. I'll do as you suggest and take it to a couple of shops.

@Byron - Thanks for the reply and I like and agree with your profile quotes!

@ClownLurch - Thanks for the welcome. I would not ask Pets at Home but these were both small independent shops that have been going for many years so would have hoped for better.

 
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sparkypenguin

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Hi all,
Quick update and a couple of more questions...

I did a 30% water change last night and doing another today.
Using Seachem Prime to dechlorinate the water but also says it neutralises ammonia / nitrites / nitrates.
Have not tested the water again yet but I'll keep on doing 30%'s for the next few days.
Are there any downsides to doing large daily water changes?
The only one I can think of is that the PH of my tank is 6.5 and the tap water is 7.5 so at 30% I think I'll be increasing my PH to 6.8ish over the course of a few hrs.
Is this an issue?
 

Byron

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Hi all,
Quick update and a couple of more questions...

I did a 30% water change last night and doing another today.
Using Seachem Prime to dechlorinate the water but also says it neutralises ammonia / nitrites / nitrates.
Have not tested the water again yet but I'll keep on doing 30%'s for the next few days.
Are there any downsides to doing large daily water changes?
The only one I can think of is that the PH of my tank is 6.5 and the tap water is 7.5 so at 30% I think I'll be increasing my PH to 6.8ish over the course of a few hrs.
Is this an issue?

Last question first, no. Changes in pH that minimal are not a problem for fish.

Provided the parameters are reasonably the same between tap water and tank water, a water change is always beneficial. Parameters means pH but also GH and KH, and these two are not likely to change unless something in the tank is affecting them (like calcium-based rock, etc). A 30% W/C is fine.

Re Prime, be aware that while it does detoxify ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, this is only temporary, for roughly 36 hours. After this period, if any of these remain, they again become toxic--except that ammonia depends upon the pH; if the pH remains below 7, ammonia is largely ammonium which is harmless (unless the pH rises above 7). Also, the detoxified ammonia/nitrite/nitrate will still test positive with most of our tests, even though it is temporarily detoxified. Hope this makes sense.
 

Slaphppy7

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Hi all,
Quick update and a couple of more questions...

I did a 30% water change last night and doing another today.
Using Seachem Prime to dechlorinate the water but also says it neutralises ammonia / nitrites / nitrates.
Have not tested the water again yet but I'll keep on doing 30%'s for the next few days.
Are there any downsides to doing large daily water changes?
The only one I can think of is that the PH of my tank is 6.5 and the tap water is 7.5 so at 30% I think I'll be increasing my PH to 6.8ish over the course of a few hrs.
Is this an issue?
After a WC, wait 24 hours before testing again.

Draw a sample of your tap water into a cup, let it sit for 24 hours, THEN test the ph, and post the results here
 
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sparkypenguin

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Thanks for all replies!

Prime, be aware that while it does detoxify ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, this is only temporary, for roughly 36 hours. After this period, if any of these remain, they again become toxic--except that ammonia depends upon the pH; if the pH remains below 7, ammonia is largely ammonium which is harmless (unless the pH rises above 7). Also, the detoxified ammonia/nitrite/nitrate will still test positive with most of our tests, even though it is temporarily detoxified. Hope this makes sense.
Total sense and very useful to know, I am primarily using it to dechlorinate the water.
Last question first, no. Changes in pH that minimal are not a problem for fish.

Provided the parameters are reasonably the same between tap water and tank water, a water change is always beneficial. Parameters means pH but also GH and KH, and these two are not likely to change unless something in the tank is affecting them (like calcium-based rock, etc). A 30% W/C is fine.
I believe that the only thing in the tank that may change the parameters is the bogwood. I was told that it would lower the PH.
Other items are gravel, plastic decorations., and plastic plants.
My filter medium is sponge and ceramic pellets (if that's what they are called :lol:)

After a WC, wait 24 hours before testing again.

Draw a sample of your tap water into a cup, let it sit for 24 hours, THEN test the ph, and post the results here
Should I dechlorinate the cup of water?
 

Byron

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I believe that the only thing in the tank that may change the parameters is the bogwood. I was told that it would lower the PH.
Other items are gravel, plastic decorations., and plastic plants.
My filter medium is sponge and ceramic pellets (if that's what they are called :lol:)

The pH is conncted closely with the GH and KH. We don't know the KH here, but the GH is said to be somewhere around 6 dH, so the KH is probably similar. These "buffer" the pH, and the higher the GH/KH the stronger the buffering capacity, preventing changes in the pH. Organics do generally lower pH, but this depends upon the buffering capability. The fact that your pH seems to lower from 7.5 to 6.5, and considering the GH, this may be due to something the water authority adds to increase pH, or it may not. Anyway, I wouldn't worry. Stay with soft water fish species and you should have no trouble.
 

Essjay

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GH is a point of question. Sparkypenguin's tests show it to be 14 dH while the water company says 6 dH. Which is the correct level?
Spakrypenguin's tester says KH is 8 dH, but given the discrepancy with GH, is the KH reading accurate? His water company does not give KH (alkalinity). I have the same company and I've searched the entire website.
 

Byron

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GH is a point of question. Sparkypenguin's tests show it to be 14 dH while the water company says 6 dH. Which is the correct level?
Spakrypenguin's tester says KH is 8 dH, but given the discrepancy with GH, is the KH reading accurate? His water company does not give KH (alkalinity). I have the same company and I've searched the entire website.

Good point. I'd forgotten there was a discrepancy. @sparkypenguin is it possible you are adding more drops than necessary? You mention the NT Lab test, and I don't know if it is similar to the API where you add one drop at a time until the colour changes, but if it is, be careful to notice the first even slight change of colour. I know some other members have thought it was necessary to add drops until a dark colour appears, but that is going too far. Just a thought.
 

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