Nitrate and Phosphate Inbalances


Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
Jan 24, 2005
I'm sure that this has come up before, but I cant find a reference.

Assume that the owner of a healthy, well planted tank which he maintains using EI, decides to go to Tahiti for a month. He shows his friend how to do EI and he is off.

The friend makes a mistake and overdoses nitrates on day 1. Worse, on day 2 she goes into premature labor, is hospitalized, and is then confined to bed for the next 30 days.

When the owner of the tank returns with a great tan aqnd pleasant memories, he finds that the new mother and her child are doing fine. But what will the aquarium look like, assuming the nitrates are 50 PPM and the phosphates, 1 PPM? Assume that all other variables are within appropriate ranges.

If the substitute EI'er overdoses phosphates in the same scenario, what will the aquarium look like with nitrates of 2 PPM and phosphates of 4 PPM?



Professor Myers

Guru Class Expert
Aug 24, 2006
Bill....What did you do ???

:eek: I believe that would depend a great deal on just exactly "How Friendly" you got with this Hypothetical Tank Sitter ? ;)

Water Quality may be the very least of your problems ! :D

Tom Barr

Staff member
Jan 23, 2005
It would be better to overdose the NO3 than PO4.

Plants really do not respond well to NO3 limitation. PO4 limitations they are okay with.

This led folks to think PO4 limitation was how to kill/control algae.

I'd rather see a tank with 50:1 than 2:4.

The 2:4 would have better color as far as reds, but much poorer plant health and recovery.

Tom Barr


Prolific Poster
if that did happen what could you do the only option would be to do a water change and add the lacking nutrient and hope for the best. you asked what the tank would look like i would say that would depend on how much light you have if its low light it may be fine if its high light it may be a mess hard to guess.