High Nitrite and Nitrate

Steven

Guru Class Expert
Aug 5, 2009
194
0
16
Hi,

My tank have been setup for about 3 weeks but recently I tested the water and found out that my nitrite and nitrate level are too high (NO2 5mg/l & NO3 50mg/l) using Sera test kit (does it accurate?), what's the cause since so far I don't have any fauna in it but just flora.

Indeed from day 1 to the first week 2, my ammonia level was very high due to ADA AS and I did 50% WC bi-weekly and now that my ammonia was completely gone, my NO2 and NO3 should be high?

Lastly, I dose Flourish Nitrogen, Phosphates and Potassium 3 days ago (I checked phosphates (PO4) level using Sera test kit the next day and resulted PO4 was 0.1mg/l. I dose Flourish and Iron (Fe) 2 days ago ( I checked the result soon after I dose and the resulted Iron (Fe) was 1mg/l), I didn't dose anything yesterday but today when I checked my phosphate (PO4) was 0.1mg/l too and also for Iron (Fe) was still 1mg/l. The question is do my plants actually use that nutrients or not at all but why or my test kits are not accurate? :confused: . FYI, most of my plants are stem plants which is known for nutrients hungry. What is seems wrong here. Please help to clear me out and thank you in advance.
 

Tug

Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
Jan 5, 2009
1,150
9
38
Washington, DC
Yes, most test kits under our control could be considered inaccurate. IMLE, nitrite cycles out within 48 hours, but nitrate at 50 ppm and your water is probably brown and could use a change. You might not even need to add nitrogen if NO3 will stay around 10 ppm on its own. PO4 looks low. Do you use a filter thats removing PO4? If you are you might want to replace it with a biological / mechanical filter. Here is some information on Calibrating Test Kits.
 

Steven

Guru Class Expert
Aug 5, 2009
194
0
16
But my aqua water is clear and I don't use any filter media that removing PO4, just ceramic rings and foam.
 

ceg4048

Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
Mar 21, 2005
240
0
16
Hi,
The best thing you can do is to stop testing. As Tug rightly points out, hobby grade test kits are notoriously inaccurate and in my opinion it's not even worth the energy required to calibrate them. If you follow the correct dosing scheme then the test kits will not tell you any more than you already know. If your CO2 and flow are correct and if you have good plant biomass then the plants will use the nutrients present in the water column.

The more you test, the more caught up you will be in the test results and soon the tail starts wagging the dog, so you will become distracted, will tend to ignore the obvious information that the plants themselves are telling you and you'll draw invalid conclusions based on faulty information.

In general, the tank will start to stabilize within 4-6 weeks of adding water and a high plant mass accelerates this. Just have a bit of patience, resist the urge to whip out the test kits, perform large weekly water changes and you'll be fine.

Cheers,
 

Steven

Guru Class Expert
Aug 5, 2009
194
0
16
Hi ceg4048,

Will you be kindly enough to tell me how to do "the correct dosing scheme"? I am using liquid fertilizer such as Seachem Flourish NPK and Flourish, Trace, Iron and Excel? Just dose as directed by the product label should be fine? Thank you.
 

viejo

Prolific Poster
Jan 12, 2009
48
0
6
Just a question... If we all say plants will use the dangerous elements for fish while cycling (they eat those nasty chemical names)... why people do water changes during cycle?

It will help to reduce those chemical nasties, but they will fall sooner or later under control by bacteria and plants.

Worths the wasted water the time saved?

(just asking from the point of view of someone who wants to waste the less water possible)
 

Tug

Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
Jan 5, 2009
1,150
9
38
Washington, DC
I have a smaller tank (20 gal) and do not add CO2, but the nutrient levels are ruffly the same only uptake rates are lower. My PO4, I like to keep around 2 ppm. It just comes that way from the city tap water (try and find out what is in your ground water) it is probably fine and would require less work. For K+, I add Flourish Equilibrium and Flourish comprehensive. This is also an easy way to add trace elements. Plants can not use phosphate or nitrate when they don't have potassium available. Some target levels for nutrients might be;
NO3, 10-20 ppm; PO4, .5-3.0; K+, 20-30 ppm; Ca, 10-30 ppm; Mg, 5-10 ppm; Fe, 0.3 ppm. A KH between 50 - 150 ppm is considered ideal for keeping most native freshwater fishes. :)
Tom posted this great read;
Admin;217 said:
The Estimative Index - What is it?
Some Typical uptake rates at high light and CO2 levels per day (24 hours):

EIUptake.jpg


(do not dose NH4! It will cause algae)

These rates do not assume that you will show deficiencies if you dose less than this, but adding more than these rates will not help further plant health.
This is a point that the aquarist needs to understand. Basically, it is extremely unlikely your plants will ever need more than these rates even at high light intensities. Adding enough nutrients to prevent anything from becoming deficient is the goal, not precise uptake and growth requirements.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Tom Barr

Founder
Staff member
Administrator
Jan 23, 2005
18,696
745
113
Steven;39424 said:
Hi ceg4048,

Will you be kindly enough to tell me how to do "the correct dosing scheme"? I am using liquid fertilizer such as Seachem Flourish NPK and Flourish, Trace, Iron and Excel? Just dose as directed by the product label should be fine? Thank you.

I think it might better to think about doing a large water change, you cannot over do water changes IME.

You may not "need" to do more etc in some case, however, it has never hurt anything near as I or anyone else can tell.

If the NO2 is high(assume the test kit is accurate and calibrated- let's assume it is to reduce any risk), a couple of good sized water changes will remove that, and reduce NO3, add CO2 and help the plants grow better(due to the CO2/mixing etc).

Seachem's line of products is good, but they are very dilute, the same is true for most commercial brands. No commercial brand is "concentrated"

Why?
You are paying for mostly water..........with a small amount of fertilizer added:eek:

I suggest buying dry fertilizers, they are extremely cheap, easy to use(No chemistry required to use them), standard for everyone everywhere across the world, less messy and 10-100X cheaper to ship to the consumer/aquarist.


KNO3
KH2PO4
Trace mix(CMS+B etc)
GH booster

Seachem equivalents:

SeaChem Nitrogen
Seachem Phosphorus
SeaChem Flourish
SeaChem Equilibrium

Same stuff, just cost lots more per ppm, but they are available locally at the aquarium store. LFS also need to sell something already labeled and packaged for planted aquariums, rather than making their own or selling bulk DIY fertilizer.
LFS's have a hard time making any $ to stay in business otherwise.
I do support them and Seachem, but I do not spend my $ on the fertilizers from them either.;)

Instead of adding a few mls, you add a 1/4 teaspoon of KNO3 dry.
Same instruction and required reading of said instructions for both dry DIY ferts and the brand name commercial products.

Once you dose 2-3x with most any method, it becomes really boring, simple and blase'. DIY dry ferts are really easy.

You need to tell me/us how large your aquarium is, how much light you are using, and any details about the use of CO2, Excel you have.

Fertilizers listed above can be brought on line from ...you guessed it:

Planted Aquarium Fertilizer - Home

For a 55 gallon aquarium,

3lbs of KNO3
1lb KH2PO4
2 lbs of GH booster
1 lb CMS+B

That's it and should last several years, maybe longer..........

Good sized weekly water changes and dosing will remove the need for testing all the nutrients. From there, you can slowly reduce the frequency, percent changed, and watch the plants if you chose, or stay on top of it.

EI dosing is really a response to human's habits and way to avoid test kits and their associated errors, need for calibration and chemistry, interpretation (often not particularly fruitful).

I can rule out limiting nutrients and focus on CO2, light (light I can measure easily and have a good estimation using PAR light meters). this makes dialing in a good set of parameters for plant growth much easier than micromanaging things with many test kits, and trying to adjust 6-10 individual parameters.

I'm lazy, I'd rather do a little work, water change, and be done with it.
This way I KNOW the nutrients are independent.

That leaves CO2 mostly.

So I spend my efforts there and with current etc.
If you have lower light and use Excel, then you do not even need to bother with that.

If you use something like ADA' aqua soil, or go the DIY Mineralized soil approach........then you have a back up on top of the water column dosing for nutrients, so if you forget dosing, or leave for a week, there's a back up source, and water column dosing will help the sediment to last longer, as well reduce transport of nutrients from the tip of the root, or apical stem, since there will be ample nutrients in both locations.

an example of my tank with EI dosing and ADA AS:

resizedfull180week4.jpg


resizedsideshot630.jpg


Regards,
Tom Barr
 

ceg4048

Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
Mar 21, 2005
240
0
16
Just to add to Tom's response, "the correct dosing scheme" is a scheme which produces good growth without causing nutritional deficiencies. Since nutritional requirements vary widely with light energy and CO2 it's difficult to quantify, but with a known tank size it's easy to develop a scheme using dry powders that will ensure that nutritional deficiencies are minimized. This is why Tom requests that you identify the tank size.

Since you're using Excel in lieu of gas injection this may affect your dosing scheme but the basic numbers will be provided from which you can make adjustments if desired. You can read an interpretation of Tom's EI dosing scheme here: Welcome To The UK Aquatic Plant Society - The Estimative Index (EI)

Cheers,
 

Steven

Guru Class Expert
Aug 5, 2009
194
0
16
Thank you very much folks for the great explanation. Ok, here's my tank spec :

Tank size : 80x30x40cm = 96litre or 25gallons
Lighting : 4x21watts T5NO
Filtration : Canister filter
CO2 : Pressurized with glass diffuser
Substrate : ADA AS II
pH 6.4-6.5
kH 2
gH 2
Temp 26-28C

I am using a distilled water with a pH of 7.2 and right now I turn the light on with only 3 bulbs (too afraid of alga bloom with the 4th bulbs) and the duration of 8hours/day with a break of the 2 hours in the first 3 hours. Should I turn all of them on? Oh yeah, when the plants from our aqua start to pearl from the first setup? If they are not pearl, they are not healthy? Light insufficient or CO2 or nutrients? Sorry for the noob question. Thank you again.
 

Tug

Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
Jan 5, 2009
1,150
9
38
Washington, DC
If your ground water is coming from a municipality the local water authority can provide you with a report on what is in your water. I am still not convinced your ground water was killing anything. Might we take a look at the water report for your area? More likely, it is healthier then distilled water unless your adding electrolytes back into the distilled water. Your low KH might cause some pH problems as well.

Here is a great description of pearling by VaughnH and the variables involved.

VaughnH;33141 said:
Pearling is a result of fast plant growth. Once you get above some lower light intensity the plants will be driven to grow fast. If you don't have adequate nutrients, including CO2, the plants can't grow fast, so little pearling, if any. If you now add CO2, but not adequate fertilizers, the plants still can't grow fast, so little or no pearling. And, much more typically, if you have non-limiting fertilizer concentrations, but inadequate CO2, you get little or no pearling. At this point, increasing the bubble rate on the CO2 can get an adequate amount of CO2 available to the plants and you get pearling. That is why when increasing the bubble rate, watching for pearling as a sign that you now have enough is a good idea.
 

Steven

Guru Class Expert
Aug 5, 2009
194
0
16
Thank you very much Tug. I'm too lazy to have my local authority to provide me my ground water test sample and I've been using distilled water so far and it's a lot more clean and clear than my ground water. I don't mind adding fertz too. About my low kH, that is my major issue too as I can't find any water that have a kH higher than 3 around my neighborhoods but as far as I realize, my pH is still stable between day and night around 6.4-6.5 right now for I've increase my CO2 to meet the sufficient '24ppm CO2 chart by Rex's Planted Tank Guide" to target my pH from 7.2 to 6.4. Also I have barely noticed that some of my HC are growing or send new shoots and hoping that all my mistake during this time to fail growing HC is insufficient CO2 due to my very inaccurate reading of JBL dropchecker. I also add some more new HC to replace the old melted one see if this time they will spread. The only issue right now is that I also notice that some of my HC leafs turn to yellow, is that some kind of nutrients deficiency? If it is, what kind of deficiency? Thank you again.
 

Tug

Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
Jan 5, 2009
1,150
9
38
Washington, DC
Have you done a water change as suggested?? Where is your water coming from? Most local authorities post a water report online. If you post it here, we all could take a look at it. I see Tom and other experienced members have a KH of 2, but I would suggest looking on their threads concerning KH levels as well as propagating HC. Check your fertilizer dosing and look for K+ and Mg deficiencies. You might also try improving on the water flow to get any CO2/nutrients circulating around the tank.
Tom Barr;39436 said:
KNO3
KH2PO4
Trace mix(CMS+B etc)
GH booster

Seachem equivalents:

SeaChem Nitrogen
Seachem Phosphorus
SeaChem Flourish
SeaChem Equilibrium

Regards,
Tom Barr
Thanks Tom, I am leaning towards the dry fertilizers but find it difficult to make up my mind. What is CSM+B Plantex? All I can find on their website is that it contains a micro nutrient trace with boron. Do they provide a more detailed analysis of the products they offer? I have no doubts about the quality of their product but I do wish they would take some time to describe them in greater detail on their website.
 

Tom Barr

Founder
Staff member
Administrator
Jan 23, 2005
18,696
745
113
Tug;39554 said:
Have you done a water change as suggested?? Where is your water coming from? Most local authorities post a water report online. If you post it here, we all could take a look at it. I see Tom and other experienced members have a KH of 2, but I would suggest looking on their threads concerning KH levels as well as propagating HC. Check your fertilizer dosing and look for K+ and Mg deficiencies. You might also try improving on the water flow to get any CO2/nutrients circulating around the tank.

Thanks Tom, I am leaning towards the dry fertilizers but find it difficult to make up my mind. What is CSM+B Plantex? All I can find on their website is that it contains a micro nutrient trace with boron. Do they provide a more detailed analysis of the products they offer? I have no doubts about the quality of their product but I do wish they would take some time to describe them in greater detail on their website.


A little web search google action:

Practical PMDD Information

Been on the web since the mid 1990's.
Been used in aquariums for over a decade.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

Tug

Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
Jan 5, 2009
1,150
9
38
Washington, DC
After a quick look, it would seam iron levels might also cause yellowing and what a great way to track the trace levels! I need to get on this. And it's back to the drawing board.
:rolleyes: Thanks Tom
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Steven

Guru Class Expert
Aug 5, 2009
194
0
16
Well, I've done twice a week of 50% wc and so far my ammonia, nitrite and nitrate level have drop to 0mg/l. I buy distilled water for human consumption, usually they are sold per bottle of 19 litres and I think I'm too lazy to have the water checked by the local authorities :). Right now, I'm dosing with Seachem line products ranging from NPK and Flourish, Trace, Iron and Excel. K+ is Phosphorus aka phosphates, right? and Mg is magnesium provided in Flourish and Trace too, right? Ok, I think I will dose PO4 and trace a little bit more then, thanks and finally I think my aqua water flow circulation is good enough as I can see my CO2 mist flow all over the tank (my filter has a 900l/h power pump and my tank is 25gallons or 96 litres). Lastly, I am too reluctant to make a PMDD dosing myself as I don't understand it fully too but the main issue is I'm in search of my local chemical, garden or hydrophonic store to see if I can obtain that materials. Overall it sounds intriguing and cheap. Thank you very much folks.
 

Tug

Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
Jan 5, 2009
1,150
9
38
Washington, DC
High levels of iron in your ground water could be a problem, but the twice a week 50% wc has got to be a bigger pain. If your plants are feeding on the nitrate (not just lost in the wc) they will use the available potassium, K+. From the PMDD info it would seam levels of iron are a good indicator for levels of trace and K+, particularly if you use distilled.

Steven;39566 said:
K+ is Phosphorus aka phosphates,
Sorry, K+ is potassium or potash

Steven;39566 said:
I buy distilled water for human consumption...
Low electrolytes, even for a human. Distilled water is NFG in my case. I'm just not jazzy about taking the plastic bottles out. :cool:
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Tom Barr

Founder
Staff member
Administrator
Jan 23, 2005
18,696
745
113
Tug;39559 said:
After a quick look, it would seam iron levels might also cause yellowing and what a great way to track the trace levels! I need to get on this. And it's back to the drawing board.
:rolleyes: Thanks Tom

Huh?

Fe can be well over 6-8ppm without any adverse effect on plants.
6 ppm of Fe was the optimal ppm for Hydrilla in one of the few studies done on aquatic plants and water column dosing of Fe.

I added 200mls of flourish to a 20 Gal tank and it also had no adverse effects of any sort, the water was yellow, but the plants did great.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

Tom Barr

Founder
Staff member
Administrator
Jan 23, 2005
18,696
745
113
Tug;39573 said:
High levels of iron in your ground water could be a problem, but the twice a week 50% wc has got to be a bigger pain. If your plants are feeding on the nitrate (not just lost in the wc) they will use the available potassium, K+. From the PMDD info it would seam levels of iron are a good indicator for levels of trace and K+, particularly if you use distilled.

Sorry, K+ is potassium or potash


Low electrolytes, even for a human. Distilled water is NFG in my case. I'm just not jazzy about taking the plastic bottles out. :cool:

PMDD is very dated/outdated info.
The ppm's/% for CMS are the same however.
So is the infinite series for dilution in the lower "nerd" section (which EI took to justify the rational for NOT using test kits by doing a 50% weekly WC).

Fe and K+ are not good methods to track either.
PMDD was based on the idea that algae are actually "limited", PMDD assumed PO4 was the limiting factor, this was falsified and proven incorrect.
Good general theory, but Steve an myself where the only folks that bothered to test the theory:cool:
Then the theory was busted apart.

The elements of the method, eg adding K+, NO3, Mg, Ca, traces etc, using lower light was well founded. That part got you 90% of the way there, adding non limiting PO4,. making sure you had good CO2 took care of the rest.

For drinking water, typically, activated carbon takes care of most any issue folks might have.

I use AC for my drinking water, tap for everything else.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

Steven

Guru Class Expert
Aug 5, 2009
194
0
16
Ok Potassium. The thing I don't understand is why my Fe level in my tank is always high enough around 0.5-1mg/l even though I don't dose Iron or trace. I wil just dose NPK at monday, trace at tuesday, the next day NPK again and the next day Flourish and so on and so on. WC will reduced to once a week due to NO2 and NO3 have drop mean that nitrogen cycles is completed, right? kH is around 2-3 and pH is around 6.4, CO2 24/7 and lighting is 3x21watts T5NO on for 8hours/day and a break of 2hours in the first 3hours. Have I done anything right? Oh yeah btw, what is "Distilled water is NFG in my case", NFG? Thanks.