Whats wrong with my nitrates?

SOB

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I've had my tank set up for 4 months now.
I had a snail in it the entire time (I've had him at least a year, he was in this tank before i changed it) and I had a betta for 3 months.
I did my water change and I had very very little nitrates. I had no nitrites or Ammonia (and havent in 4 month). I couldn't find my snail but my betta was fine (still eats the same and acts the same). Whenever I look online as to what causes low nitrates I find "the tank isn't cycled". It's been cycled for 4 months and suddenly has no nitrates.
Does anyone know what causes this? Is my snail dead and decomposed? (I checked all the decorations and filter, couldn't find him. And there's no smell)
I need reassurance this is safe or told what to do to fix it. Thanks for you're input!
 

Byron

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Welcome to TFF. :hi:

First comment, you cannot rely on most of what you read online unless you know the knowledge level of whomever wrote it. Nitrates is way too involved a subject for a one-line answer, and here the answer is wrong anyway.

To the nitrates...I don't know what you might mean by "very little nitrates" so it always helps to give numbers for any tests. A betta and a snail will obviously produce some ammonia, but it won't be much and it is certainly possible if not probable that the tank will "cycle" without any issues. Nitrates will obviously depend upon the bioload, and if live plants are included. Keeping nitrates as low as possible, which means close to zero, is the goal because they do impact fish. It is best thought of as a slow weakening of the fish, and the extent of this depends upon the level of nitrate, the species, and the duration time the fish are impacted by the nitrate.

Have you tested the tap water on its own for nitrate, and if yes, what is the result (number)? Is the betta still in this tank? And do you have any live plants?
 
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SOB

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Welcome to TFF. :hi:

First comment, you cannot rely on most of what you read online unless you know the knowledge level of whomever wrote it. Nitrates is way too involved a subject for a one-line answer, and here the answer is wrong anyway.

To the nitrates...I don't know what you might mean by "very little nitrates" so it always helps to give numbers for any tests. A betta and a snail will obviously produce some ammonia, but it won't be much and it is certainly possible if not probable that the tank will "cycle" without any issues. Nitrates will obviously depend upon the bioload, and if live plants are included. Keeping nitrates as low as possible, which means close to zero, is the goal because they do impact fish. It is best thought of as a slow weakening of the fish, and the extent of this depends upon the level of nitrate, the species, and the duration time the fish are impacted by the nitrate.

Have you tested the tap water on its own for nitrate, and if yes, what is the result (number)? Is the betta still in this tank? And do you have any live plants?
No live plants, yes the betta is still in the tank, (I use Tetra 5 in 1 test strips) my tank water is normally 20 ppm, but this time it was almost 0 (almost because it had faint tan color), my water on its own I can't get an exact reading with these test strips but definitely under 20 ppm.
I used Tetra Safe Start when I set up my tank and waited till I had Ammonia and nitrates before returning my snail (he was being held in a quarantine tank).
 
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SOB

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No live plants, yes the betta is still in the tank, (I use Tetra 5 in 1 test strips) my tank water is normally 20 ppm, but this time it was almost 0 (almost because it had faint tan color), my water on its own I can't get an exact reading with these test strips but definitely under 20 ppm.
I used Tetra Safe Start when I set up my tank and waited till I had Ammonia and nitrates before returning my snail (he was being held in a quarantine tank).
Forgot to add: I added fish food to the tank after that and check the water chemistry every time I do a water change (1 a week, it's a 5 gallon tank)
 

Sanityassassin

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With such a low stocking level I just think it's a case you are changing your water before any measureable nitrate has had chance to build up, hence your zero, or close to zero readings.

As an experiment you could extend your water change schedule gradually from maybe once a week to once a week and a half, to once every two weeks etc etc. Doing this, I'd expect at some point that you will start to see nitrate.

But also bear in mind that it is good to keep your nitrates very low, so after your experiment, you could go back to your once a week schedule.
 

Byron

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I basically agree. There is in my view no issue here. Four months is a decent time to establish the "cycle," and given the single fish this would not (or certainly should not) be a problem anyway. With regular (once a week) substantial (50-60% of the tank volume) water changes you should have no issues. Nitrates should be as low as possible. Do not overfeed, fish do not need much, and more food only adds to the risk.

As for the tests, a couple observations. Always read the colour in the same light, and use ambient daylight. Not direct sunlight, but daylight as in a north facing window. Artificial lighting varies in the colour wavelengths that make the light, and always using the same especially when it is bright daylight will give you more accurate comparisons. For the first few months, testing just before the weekly water change will give you a better idea of the nitrate situation. Test a day or two after for comparison, at least initially, to see what is occurring. Going forward, you should see nitrates remain pretty much the same from test to test. Once you know what is happening, fewer tests to no tests. But over the first couple of months you want to ensure things are stable.
 

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