180 Gallon Tank 0 Nitrates Is So Easy, Why Does No One Do It?

rainbowsprinkles

Member
Or think it’s a myth. Why is denitrification so controversial? It is so easy and it makes your fish live longer. I have 8 tanks with stable N parameters of 0,0,0. It didn’t take months.. just 2-3 weeks after cycling. Denitrification is like a taboo subject on here. Or a magical thing only to be attained by a few experts.. or impossible! Shake that nitrate bottle for the 20th time and then go buy a new one.! Or only possible with loads of plants or a deep sand bed with a plenum. No it’s super easy! Often it happens by accident like in my husbands tank..

Here is one easy method ( there are others)

2.5 - 3 inches of natural gravel. There is a reason this depth was recommended on the bag. Hypoxic but not anoxic.
A good filter that doesn’t over-do flow. But you can start with high flow while cycling.
Some driftwood or fallen oak/ magnolia leaves for a carbon source
Cycle the tank the usual way and then get nitrates under 20 with water changes ( if you can’t because your tap has nitrates or whatever try nitrazorb for a week)
Don’t vacuum more than half the tank at a time leaving some gravel undisturbed. Then switch sides the next week. I only do every other week.
When you notice nitrate accumulating more slowly you can do smaller water changes and or space them out a little more and be careful not to disturb all the gravel when you do it.
You should notice nitrate accumulation rate dropping or even becoming negative.

Nitrates still not coming down?
Scatter some lava stones sold at Home Depot for grills on the bottom of the tank (don’t boil) to grow denitrifiers. If you start with this at the beginning it will go faster.

Still no ? .are you disturbing the deep parts of the gravel too much? Do you have too much flow in your tank? Try maximizing media in your filter while reducing flow or switch to (or supplement) your low flow filter with an air driven sponge or corner filter (make sure you seed it first in your tank or with used media) Always watch your parameters until things stabilize.

Has worked every time for me. Never had an ammonia spike. This also matches how fish were kept in the old days before we knew anything about cycling or bacteria. Back when fish lived forever.


Don’t believe me.? Try it with a small tank.
 

Vaughn

Member
Most of my tanks read 0,0,0 too even though they're cycled. I like to pack my filters and keep a ton of plants in there and eventually I end up there. I still do my water changes but really if I stopped completely my tanks would probably be fine for months.
 

Momgoose56

Member
WOW! Thanks for that info! I always wondered...I could go a month (maybe longer, never chanced it) in my 150G with NO water change and still had 0/0/0. I had Cichlids used to hard slightly alkaline (8.0) water. Evaporation was minimal with well covered tanks, large canister filter and lots of aerators on the bottom. I've always kept lava rock as you mentioned in my tanks as a deterrent to Cichlid digging in much of the tank and used it to seed new tanks (excellent by the way-instant cycle if you move enough rock!). Had sand on the bottom, gravel, then lava rock. Left digging areas free of lava. The lava also prevented deep vacuuming. I did exactly what you said lol! Shook my nitrate solution, threw it away and bought new. Same results so I just thought, oh well, Fish happy? I'm happy!
 

goldface

Member
I agree, but I use a different method. I put Seachem Matrix media in my filters. I've heard people who tried it say that it takes forever for the anaerobic bacteria to establish in them, but I find it takes very short time for a colony to establish--if one uses Seachem Stability to jump start the colony, which houses both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria. I also get 0, 0, 0. I still do weekly water changes, sometimes even do it twice a week. But when I'm out of town for 2 weeks or more, I'm confident in my filters doing their job.
 

Wraithen

Member
With the random trouble people have with the aerobic part of the cycle, getting the rest of it is difficult. People are more afraid of deeper beds due to anecdotal stories that likely aren't true than they are of high nitrates.

While it isn't difficult, it also isn't simple to get a good colony. Mine is easy due to deep sand over dirt in a jungle tank. There aren't many people here setting up tanks like that. There also aren't many people wanting 2 to 3 inches of gravel. Not to mention people think more cleaning is better. I don't vacuum substrate ever, I only clean filters when they slow down, the only routine cleaning I do is algae removal. This isn't the way of most people though.

Then you have people smashing as much matrix or bio home as possible into their filters, thinking that is the best place for the anaerobic bb, and still don't get great results. This frustrates many people. This forum is more results based than science based. There are others that even after years of studying them, seem to be written by people with PhDs in aquaculture. Not to mention people like Tom Barr.
 

Whitewolf

Member
I wish I knew why you think its so easy. It's not in a bare bottom tank with guppies. But I'm gonna get more guppy grass. It's an ongoing process for me to find a balance between clean tanks AND enough fry hiding spots
 

Wraithen

Member
Whitewolf said:
I wish I knew why you think its so easy. It's not in a bare bottom tank with guppies. But I'm gonna get more guppy grass. It's an ongoing process for me to find a balance between clean tanks AND enough fry hiding spots
When you provide proper conditions it isn't very hard, but you will have trouble with achieving that in your setup.
 

Momgoose56

Member
I created that by accident. 3 layer 3-4" thick substrate, deep layers undisturbed, good water flow, airstones, driftwood, tight tank (little evaporation), a couple of years....
 

Wraithen

Member
Momgoose56 said:
I created that by accident. 3 layer 3-4" thick substrate, deep layers undisturbed, good water flow, airstones, driftwood, tight tank (little evaporation), a couple of years....
Yep. Its not hard when you have a whole system setup. Trying to achieve it just inside a filter isn't easy.
 

ETNsilverstar

Member
I'm still working on this, but it's hard to accomplish with goldfish...
 

Momgoose56

Member
Wraithen said:
With the random trouble people have with the aerobic part of the cycle, getting the rest of it is difficult. People are more afraid of deeper beds due to anecdotal stories that likely aren't true than they are of high nitrates.

While it isn't difficult, it also isn't simple to get a good colony. Mine is easy due to deep sand over dirt in a jungle tank. There aren't many people here setting up tanks like that. There also aren't many people wanting 2 to 3 inches of gravel. Not to mention people think more cleaning is better. I don't vacuum substrate ever, I only clean filters when they slow down, the only routine cleaning I do is algae removal. This isn't the way of most people though.

Then you have people smashing as much matrix or bio home as possible into their filters, thinking that is the best place for the anaerobic bb, and still don't get great results. This frustrates many people. This forum is more results based than science based. There are others that even after years of studying them, seem to be written by people with PhDs in aquaculture. Not to mention people like Tom Barr.
But Wraithen, results, when there isn't the science or the possibility of using the science, do work. Filter media CAN harbor enough beneficial bacteria to maintain a tank, and water changes ARE necessary at some point even with dentrification. In Medicine, using the science you can with the knowledge or resources you have is called "evidence based practice". Bare bottom tanks have to use what they have. As do people with fish (like African Cichlids) that are constantly "plowing the tanks". So, guess what I'm saying is, it may not be the best approach or even feasible for many people.
 

Wraithen

Member
ETNsilverstar said:
I'm still working on this, but it's hard to accomplish with goldfish...
Understocking, dirted tanks with plants help. I'm reading up on walstads book. A lot of chemistry I have to slowly digest but its pretty good for understanding all this.
 

Momgoose56

Member
Wraithen said:
Understocking, dirted tanks with plants help. I'm reading up on walstads book. A lot of chemistry I have to slowly digest but its pretty good for understanding all this.
I didn't even have plants in my 150. Lots of tannin dumping wood though.
 

Wraithen

Member
Momgoose56 said:
But Wraithen, results, when there isn't the science or the possibility of using the science, do work. Filter media CAN harbor enough beneficial bacteria to maintain a tank, and water changes ARE necessary at some point even with dentrification. In Medicine, using the science you can with the knowledge or resources you have is called "evidence based practice". Bare bottom tanks have to use what they have. As do people with fish (like African Cichlids) that are constantly "plowing the tanks". So, guess what I'm saying is, it may not be the best approach or even feasible for many people.
Oh! I didnt mean it to come off that way at all! I just meant that doing it inside a filter alone is a much more difficult way to do it! I wasn't trying to word it to convince someone they had to do it the way I stumbled into it on accident. Using that evidence based practice and then reading walstads book explains a lot of my observations.
 

Momgoose56

Member
Oh, well then. So, does it 'splain how that same thing happened in my totally unplanted tank? I still don't understand where those nitrates go if plants aren't eating them....

I did notice that the deeper, undisturbed substrate released trapped air bubbles if it was disturbed sometimes...methane?
 

Wraithen

Member
Part of it is your substrate, part of it from the decay of the driftwood, part of it from the decay in your filter, some bacteria growing everywhere including your filter...

Did the bubbles smell? Theres really no telling. It all depends on what was eating and what was being eaten. I haven't gotten through to the bacteria roles in depth yet. Still trying to digest allelopathy right now. I shouldnt have passed chem 1 in high school so my brain is trying to understand everything with an understanding of pressures and magnetic and electrical charges and adapting that the chemistry. It doesn't work so well when she starts talking about interactions with phenol compounds.
 

Momgoose56

Member
I just did Organic chemistry in college. Just know about carbon chains and fatty acids...it's probably gas like methane from decomposition, because yes, it did stink. Only noticed a little but I didn't really disturb the deep substrate much at all. The fish and tank water did great! Guess I should have kept a fire extinguisher around. In case of a gas fire....
 

Wraithen

Member
Momgoose56 said:
I just did Organic chemistry in college. Just know about carbon chains and fatty acids...it's probably gas like methane from decomposition, because yes, it did stink. Only noticed a little but I didn't really disturb the deep substrate much at all. The fish and tank water did great! Guess I should have kept a fire extinguisher around. In case of a gas fire....
How cool would that look! A fish tank on fire!
 

Fishwifery

Member
Lol, on fire. It wasn't possible in my overstocked 5 gallon, I was getting 20 ppm easy, with the filters gunking up fast. My new 65 however, has a deep soil and sand bed and a high capacity filter so it will probably get there.
 

bitseriously

Member
I'm interested in how this works with plants. I'm given to understand that some nitrates is a good thing for medium/well planted tanks, but I'm also reading above that lots of plants can be a part of the 'recipe' for denitrification, ie 0 nitrates. Seems contradictory (or, more likely, I'm missing a piece of the groundwork LOL).
Also, what's the exit path for nitrogen gas from the system? I presume it's released by the microbes that make it directly into the water, then passes from the water to the air with circulation?
Is 2-3" of substrate a minimum for this process to happen? In something like a 10 gallon, that's a lot of the water volume taken away.
Can you get this to work by banking substrate up the back or a back corner of a tank? Eg 3" of sand in back left quadrant, less everywhere else?
 

Wraithen

Member
So, a lot of plants will prefer ammonium. Ammonia can be problematic as the plant can't control the uptake, its free flowing through the cells. Nitrate actually never happens as the plant uses the ammonium and ammonia first. Then there is absorbing nitrate as needed as a nitrogen source.

The exit path I'm not entirely sure on atm, but I believe its during decomp. Speaking of which, this adds to your dissolved organic carbons in your tank which locks a bunch of things up. Humic compounds also will lock things away for you.
You don't need a deep sand bed. Typically, the dirted tank with a sand cap seems to work very well. Mine is 2 to 4 or 5 inches throughout. It seems like its more about overall surface area to hide in in low flow areas. The deeper the bed, the more this is allowed.

Jocelyn Adelman can probably school all this up much better than I.
 

Momgoose56

Member
Fishwifery said:
Lol, on fire. It wasn't possible in my overstocked 5 gallon, I was getting 20 ppm easy, with the filters gunking up fast. My new 65 however, has a deep soil and sand bed and a high capacity filter so it will probably get there.
I did that recently fishwifery! Started with 7 guppys, ended up with over 200 in a 30 gallon! Was changing 75-80% water every other day, rinsing filters every day-Aaaaaaahh! Couldn't keep nitrates under 40! Finally found a fish store that took the lot of them. And then I could breathe...I did keep 5 males...
 

Jocelyn Adelman

Member
So much here not even sure what I should be responding to.

I have nitrates in my tap, also dose EI for my plants, continually bottom out on nitrates if they aren’t dosed... depending on the plants this might be ok, but my setups in particular are plant heavy and need supplements dosed to maintain their health...

0,0,0 tanks are fine... unfortunately MOST on here when asking about it aren’t older established tanks, nor are they using deeper appropriate beds, nor botanicals in their formulas. Also a 0/0/0 wouldn’t work for my light bioload heavy plant load... my tanks denitrify quite nicely, but my plants still need to be fed. Some I maintain a higher bioload and less ferts, others the opposite.

bitseriously you would be better off using something other then sand, slightly larger would work better

rainbowsprinkles best filter hands down is a mattenfilter, quite common in some countries, not so popular here in the US, covers the ‘bases’ you mentioned.

Momgoose56 still possible in a bare bottom depending on the decor... lots of wood/pours stones etc, plus age of the tank... barebottom would take longer, but has potential if enough “stuff” in it....

I remember when I once attempted to explain introducing mulm to a new tank ...personally believe this is where the myth adding WATER from an established tank came from, a mis read of the older using mulm... dirty stale water is nothing but dirty stale water... yet the sludge that’s in the substrate level is liquid ‘gold’
 

Kova

Member
I've managed it accidentally in my lotl tank because of a massive quantity of plants and driftwood lol.
 

windrunner9189

Member
my tank is always 0,0,0. I keep water lettuce and anacharis to suck up nitrates. the TSS+ I used may have denitriying bacteria in it.
I used to believe the myth that 0,0,0 params always meant you're uncycled.
 

Whitewolf

Member
A tank that has less than 5 nitrates woykd have to be loafed with plants and few fish or only tiny fish. Most people are in this hobby to keep fish not water plants. Also, plants that have leaves above water and roots are much more efficient than rooted substrate or floating plants. Not many people have these type of plants that grow out if the water in nature an example is cat tails. Bamboo would be another possible example. But a few plants here and there and 20 guppies will never be able to balance 0 to 5 nitrates like nature does
 

DoubleDutch

Member
Isn't the main question if one likes the nitrates to be 0? I don't actually.
There are times I just add them for plantgrowth.
 

Jack B Nimble

Member
I've always wanted 0 readings as a pond keeper and was until recently into planted tanks that they required nitrates. So I'm trying to get some lol and it's hard. The way my tank set up as a bog with water up through gravel substrate with bio falls filled with lava rock and the living top as well as a canister I can't get above 0 readings yet using thrive. If a tank is set up naturally in all aspects I can't see how you get nitrates. I have 5 big gold fish and about to crank up the nilocg thrive to see what it takes to get nitrates so I'm kind of reverse of 5he post but it's interesting.


20190325_182524.jpg
 

DoubleDutch

Member
Jack B Nimble said:
I've always wanted 0 readings as a pond keeper and was until recently into planted tanks that they required nitrates. So I'm trying to get some lol and it's hard. The way my tank set up as a bog with water up through gravel substrate with bio falls filled with lava rock and the living top as well as a canister I can't get above 0 readings yet using thrive. If a tank is set up naturally in all aspects I can't see how you get nitrates. I have 5 big gold fish and about to crank up the nilocg thrive to see what it takes to get nitrates so I'm kind of reverse of 5he post but it's interesting.


20190325_182524.jpg
Nice Jack.!
 

YATT

Member
rainbowsprinkles scarface DoubleDutch Whitewolf So, I was wondering this. My nitrates don't seem to go above 5ppm. I attribute it to my frogbit and pothos. With that said, it still seems water changes are critical with the group here at FL. What does the water changes do if nitrates aren't the issue? Is there a test for it? I hear these internet legends about it not being necessary to do water changes.

Also, just so everyone knows, 0 ammonia is almost impossible to obtain. Most people say 0 ammonia, but it is there <0.25ppm. Don't believe me? Take some Distilled water and test it and take some tank water and test it. You'll see the difference. <0.25 is what people often call 0 it seems.

Edit: after reading this more carefully, I wonder if I gravel vac to much. I'm a clean freak if you understand. I'll switch to 50% only at a time.
 

ETNsilverstar

Member
YATT said:
rainbowsprinkles scarface DoubleDutch Whitewolf So, I was wondering this. My nitrates don't seem to go above 5ppm. I attribute it to my frogbit and pothos. With that said, it still seems water changes are critical with the group here at FL. What does the water changes do if nitrates aren't the issue? Is there a test for it? I hear these internet legends about it not being necessary to do water changes.

Also, just so everyone knows, 0 ammonia is almost impossible to obtain. Most people say 0 ammonia, but it is there <0.25ppm. Don't believe me? Take some Distilled water and test it and take some tank water and test it. You'll see the difference. <0.25 is what people often call 0 it seems.

Edit: after reading this more carefully, I wonder if I gravel vac to much. I'm a clean freak if you understand. I'll switch to 50% only at a time.
Water changes are still recommended to add used up minerals back to the water and to remove excess of the unused minerals that would accumulate by simply topping off.
 

Wraithen

Member
ETNsilverstar said:
Water changes are still recommended to add used up minerals back to the water and to remove excess of the unused minerals that would accumulate by simply topping off.
This. You see it quickly in cycling tanks with lower kg levels. Just the cycle alone eats up a good amount of minerals. There are also things you can't test for that need to be removed. Various hormones, not harmful, but not good for a healthy stock either, excessive dissolved solids that you don't want. Also, if you aren't stopping off with distilled or rodI water, you are building levels of dissolved solids. Plants change the game a bit, but planted tanks get water changed either to replenish what's in the water, or just to reset levels.

The salt world seems to keep a better level on everything. They test for more and would rather replace what's missing since that's the easiest and cheapest route. For fresh though, we do more frequent, larger water changes. I'm down to once a month or so, but I'm constantly struggling to have enough macros in my tank for plants as it is. You think fish eat a lot, wait till you have a mother sword that decides its happy for a bit!
 

Jack B Nimble

Member
YATT said:
rainbowsprinkles scarface DoubleDutch Whitewolf So, I was wondering this. My nitrates don't seem to go above 5ppm. I attribute it to my frogbit and pothos. With that said, it still seems water changes are critical with the group here at FL. What does the water changes do if nitrates aren't the issue? Is there a test for it? I hear these internet legends about it not being necessary to do water changes.

Also, just so everyone knows, 0 ammonia is almost impossible to obtain. Most people say 0 ammonia, but it is there <0.25ppm. Don't believe me? Take some Distilled water and test it and take some tank water and test it. You'll see the difference. <0.25 is what people often call 0 it seems.

Edit: after reading this more carefully, I wonder if I gravel vac to much. I'm a clean freak if you understand. I'll switch to 50% only at a time.
0 ammonia is very attainable it's the test kit that is faulty to .25
 

SM1199

Member
Neat, I was wondering why my 10 gallon has always had 0,0,0 readings. I've been super busy the past few months and have probably done a grand total of two or three 25% water changes since December. I know I'm still supposed to do water changes to replenish minerals, but quite honestly I haven't gotten around to it; my other tanks have needed more attention. My filter quit last month (for the second time!! gosh darn power surges... my fault for not having a protector) and I decided not to replace it. So now the ONLY tech in/on the tank is the light. Readings are still 0,0,0 and my cherry shrimp, CPDs, killifish and one nerite snail are thriving in there with zero mechanical filtration, zero aeration, and no heater (all inhabitants are cold-tolerating animals). In fact I saw a few CPD fry a few weeks ago but I believe they got eaten. Very happy to see the whole system (fish, inverts, plants, water chemistry) thriving with minimal attention and tech.
 

Wraithen

Member
SM1199 said:
Neat, I was wondering why my 10 gallon has always had 0,0,0 readings. I've been super busy the past few months and have probably done a grand total of two or three 25% water changes since December. I know I'm still supposed to do water changes to replenish minerals, but quite honestly I haven't gotten around to it; my other tanks have needed more attention. My filter quit last month (for the second time!! gosh darn power surges... my fault for not having a protector) and I decided not to replace it. So now the ONLY tech in/on the tank is the light. Readings are still 0,0,0 and my cherry shrimp, CPDs, killifish and one nerite snail are thriving in there with zero mechanical filtration, zero aeration, and no heater (all inhabitants are cold-tolerating animals). In fact I saw a few CPD fry a few weeks ago but I believe they got eaten. Very happy to see the whole system (fish, inverts, plants, water chemistry) thriving with minimal attention and tech.
You may enjoy the book diana walstad published a long time back. She researches a tank with plants and fish and nothing else. It's a fun experiment, but the algae in her method would drive me nuts!
 

TheeLadyG

Member
I just recently achieved 0,0,0 in my unplanted tank that has only 1.5" of sand... with goldfish... and a canister filter... that has only been set up since December! Sounds impossible! Here's the thread I made about it:

I've Done It, Perfect Cycle 75 Gallon Tank - | Cleaning and Maintenance 403644

I think the Biohome MinI really helped. The sand gets stirred up a lot by one of the fish, and I rearrange a lot. But it wasn't that hard and I was amazed it happened so fast, as it sounded like a bizarre holy grail myth that was a fool's errand at best, and likely to kill your fish at worst.
 

SM1199

Member
Wraithen said:
You may enjoy the book diana walstad published a long time back. She researches a tank with plants and fish and nothing else. It's a fun experiment, but the algae in her method would drive me nuts!
I've heard much about it, but haven't had the time to pick it up and read it. I definitely love the concept, especially as such a busy person who still wants to enjoy a thriving planted tank. My tank does have a considerable amount of algae. The typical surface-growing algae gets chomped down very well by my nerite snail. I have hair algae that's decided to grow out of my moss and I've needed to physically remove a lot of it but then realized it's growing so vigorously only because the moss is almost reaching the surface now, which means it's getting more light/the algae is getting more light. I trimmed the moss down by about 1/2 and now that it's a good four or five inches away from the surface again, the hair algae is dying off. My rooted plants love the low-tech tank too (it's dirted with a sand cap). Such a simple set-up and very self-maintaining.
 

Whitewolf

Member
Sorry about my negative sounding rant about plants. I just wish they were less pricey, and my hard water means they don't do very well. I have used fake plants for most of the time in my hobby because they are cheap and never die. I sometimes collect plants out of the lake and ponds near me because well that's, free and pond plants are hardy. It bites that they want like $9.99 for a aquarium water plant. They should all be cheaper.
 

Wraithen

Member
Whitewolf said:
Sorry about my negative sounding rant about plants. I just wish they were less pricey, and my hard water means they don't do very well. I have used fake plants for most of the time in my hobby because they are cheap and never die. I sometimes collect plants out of the lake and ponds near me because well that's, free and pond plants are hardy. It bites that they want like $9.99 for a aquarium water plant. They should all be cheaper.
Check with clubs. You can usually find plants for cheaper. I recently scored 8 crypt lutea in a single pot. Lfs told me it was 1 plant and that he had it for a couple months. Once I let it hang out a few days in my tank and took apart the rock wool, I discovered this crypt had made a bunch of babies in the pot.

For hard water, crypts, swords, ludwigia, vals, lobelis cardinal plants, wisteria, anubias and lotus bulbs seems to work well for me. I have a ph of 8 to 8.2 so I know your struggle. One of my lfs has an 11 foot tank the plants go it that is half ro half local water. I keep forgetting that and wonder why plants live there for a month and then die after a week in my tank. Don't forget that you're buying a root system, not leaves. I had a frozen flamingo crypt arrive in the mail. I waited for a baby leaf to sprout and then clipped all the old leaves off. The only reason I waited that long was so I could know where the plant was if it wasn't going to recover.
 

Whitewolf

Member
Yes your basically buying the roots because plants don't do well with being shipped and massive water chemistry fluctuations. Well for my situation wraithen I prefer floating plants. Bare bottom tubs and later on tanks. Right now duckweed and I bought some water lettuce. Thinking about investing in some other floating plants that are hardy like frogbit. Just prefer plants at the surface because with guppies I usually do a bare tank. Those plants are also hardy and are able to suck a lot of nitrates out of the water because they rely on their roots and the outside air and bright light at the surface, not just being water bound and lower light. More function plants like water lettuce and frogbit is gonna be my focus. Hopefully, I can bring them in to the house this year and acclimate them to winter without the dieback I had last winter.
 

Wraithen

Member
Whitewolf said:
Yes your basically buying the roots because plants don't do well with being shipped and massive water chemistry fluctuations. Well for my situation wraithen I prefer floating plants. Bare bottom tubs and later on tanks. Right now duckweed and I bought some water lettuce. Thinking about investing in some other floating plants that are hardy like frogbit. Just prefer plants at the surface because with guppies I usually do a bare tank. Those plants are also hardy and are able to suck a lot of nitrates out of the water because they rely on their roots and the outside air and bright light at the surface, not just being water bound and lower light. More function plants like water lettuce and frogbit is gonna be my focus. Hopefully, I can bring them in to the house this year and acclimate them to winter without the dieback I had last winter.
I've got some red root floaters. They aren't being very prolific in my tank but I suspect that is more to do with having jungle val than them not actually liking the conditions. Red roots are difficult to ship so when one of my local stores happened to have a tank full I took a handful. They stick to my slow side of my tank where my butterfly fish hangs out so I like floaters over in that area a lot. I may actually section them off with fishing line and put my low light plants on just that side.
 

Allegra

Member
I seem to be at this point now! I've been confused and people had just said my nitrate test isn't working but I know it is. My tank is not even 5 weeks old and I saw all the expected test results while cycling, now it's 0 0 0 and has been for over a week. I have natural gravel, lots of good filter media, 4 live plants, pothos with good root system and a piece of driftwood in a 5.5 gallon with one betta and 3 tetra (they are moving to 35 gallon at some point).
 

IsonTenney

Member
I have been doing a lot of research into nitrate management and methods for achieving it. It is totally possible, but I have one question that I can't really find an answer to. If we can maintain a tank with 0 nitrates, why do we still feel compelled to change the water? I've been keeping fish off and on for 20 years. And the nitrate level has always been what water changes revolve around.

If we maintain 0 nitrates, add some essential minerals occasionally, and are careful not to introduce toxins that aren't normally tested for (running carbon occasionally would help here), then is there any reason we couldn't go years without changing the water?

I am working on getting a 120 gallon discus tank set up. I've kept discus before, and I wasn't crazy about the daily water changes that most discus keepers adhere to. 0 nitrates would be a big step toward making discus more enjoyable to keep.

Mostly wondering if I have missed something in my research.

Here is a video that talks about never doing water changes on a discus tank.
 

PascalKrypt

Member
IsonTenney said:
I have been doing a lot of research into nitrate management and methods for achieving it. It is totally possible, but I have one question that I can't really find an answer to. If we can maintain a tank with 0 nitrates, why do we still feel compelled to change the water? I've been keeping fish off and on for 20 years. And the nitrate level has always been what water changes revolve around.

If we maintain 0 nitrates, add some essential minerals occasionally, and are careful not to introduce toxins that aren't normally tested for (running carbon occasionally would help here), then is there any reason we couldn't go years without changing the water?

I am working on getting a 120 gallon discus tank set up. I've kept discus before, and I wasn't crazy about the daily water changes that most discus keepers adhere to. 0 nitrates would be a big step toward making discus more enjoyable to keep.

Mostly wondering if I have missed something in my research.

Here is a video that talks about never doing water changes on a discus tank.
Three words: Old Tank Syndrome.
I encourage you to look it up and read into it. You don't just do water changes for nitrates.

Edit: It is a bit late at night (or rather in the morning) for me to focus on this half hour video, but from watching the first 7 minutes or so he talks about doing lots of small water changes, and later about only vacuuming (in the middle of the tank?). Either way, I heard no claI'm of not doing water changes ever. If it is in the video, could you kindly point out the time stamp? ^^
Edit: I should have watched just a little longer.
Anyhow, from what I gather, "zero water changes" is rather misleading in this video, because he says he has done about 10 in the last 6 years (which technically isn't zero, but so few to be nearly neglible so let's go with that). However, before that he explicitly states he vacuums the tank. Even if it is only very little (5%) or so of the water volume removed, that has to be replaced. So those count as water changes, even though he seems to only count purposeful water changes as atcual changes.
 

Whitewolf

Member
I don't think it's possible with those types of plants. And a huge layer of gravel is a ton of nitrate producing bioload.

You would be better putting a bunch of plants with leaves in your sump with discus ane running a bare bottom tank. They will use nitrates a lot more than submerged ferns or crypt will. Peace lilly, Chinese evergeeen, bamboo.
 

nikm128

Member
IsonTenney a lot of it also has to do with how we stock our tanks now that we have filters and such compared to when we didn't. If I were to take my heaviest community stock and put it into an identical environment, the odds would not be in the favor of all of them surviving.
Also, as a discus keeper, daily water changes are definitely not mandatory, and constant 0 Nitrates isn't either. If your only focus is nitrates, then just change as much as you need to keep it below ~15ppm, but it also depends on the water hardness. If you really want to, you can do even less work than that, just please don't try and follow the no water change discus tank things....It's not wrong, but it's really not right either.
 

IsonTenney

Member
I read an article on old tank syndrome.
What Is Old Tank Syndrome in a Freshwater Aquarium?

This article does point to nitrates as one of the causes, but not the only one.

I had forgotten about the water losing its buffering capacity and becoming subject to pH swings. I'm not used to testing hardness because I've always felt that if the fish can't live in your tap water, then you should look at different fish. Discus don't really fit that mentality though anyway. I'll have to get tests for hardness if I try to minimize water changes.

I'm several months away from setting up my 120. I got the tank for $220, couldn't pass it up. But I am also in the middle of a home remodel. Once the dust settles I will be setting it up with minimal water changes in mind. I'll have to make a build post when I start setting it up. Thanks for the input.
 

PascalKrypt

Member
IsonTenney said:
I read an article on old tank syndrome.
What Is Old Tank Syndrome in a Freshwater Aquarium?

This article does point to nitrates as one of the causes, but not the only one.

I had forgotten about the water losing its buffering capacity and becoming subject to pH swings. I'm not used to testing hardness because I've always felt that if the fish can't live in your tap water, then you should look at different fish. Discus don't really fit that mentality though anyway. I'll have to get tests for hardness if I try to minimize water changes.

I'm several months away from setting up my 120. I got the tank for $220, couldn't pass it up. But I am also in the middle of a home remodel. Once the dust settles I will be setting it up with minimal water changes in mind. I'll have to make a build post when I start setting it up. Thanks for the input.
This was recently discussed in another thread, I'll see if I can link you.

But to summarise:
Every reported case so far of people having stocked tanks running for years without water changes, upon investigation have turned out to be one of these cases: either they were regularly doing very small water changes without knowing it (like altering the stocking and taking out a little water with each fish, which was then replaced again); or they are tanks with inverts. It seems that shrimp- or snail-only no water change tanks are possible. But even in those cases, investigate and keep a sharp eye on parameters the first few months.
For tanks stocked with fish, there has as of yet not been confirmed cases of it working (at least among the people using this forum and what they know about).

I've had personal experience with an otherwise stable tank crashing with a no water change regime, while all of the tests were indicated that everything was fine. That includes nitrates, PH, GH, and KH. Even TDS measured stably. So whatever was happening in there, it was something we apparently do not measure for.
In another instance I did have what you talked about, but it was not KH that dropped to 0 over time but GH, very slowly so. PH did not swing but all non-inverts in that tank perished nonetheless. For some reason the snails were fine living in GH 0 for months. TDS did not budge as much as should have been expected.
The combination of these experiences has made me think something is happening with reversible reactions (like the one between ammonia and ammonium) that involves the compounds that GH measures, possibly? It would seem weird snails are fine in a GH 0 environment where they should have no access to calcium.
Either way, from those two experiments I concluded it wasn't possible at least with my personal current knowledge. I'd love to learn more about it if you have sources on it. But for now it seems that few if any people have gotten it to work long term.
I certainly would not try it with more sensitive fish like Discus.

But as for few water changes, you could definitely try that. Though still, if you haven't done that kind of set-up before I would still practice a little first with less expensive and less sensitive fish.
 

IsonTenney

Member
Thank you for your first hand experience. You've all got me thinking about setting up a test tank just to play with the idea. But it seems like there are some factors here that aren't well controlled in a no change scenario. So, I won"t try it on discus, but a 55 gallon community tank could make a nice test subject.
 

86 ssinit

Member
Not a nitrate chaser. Really don’t understand the need. Keep it under 40ppm and all’s good. Yes I understand some people(very few) have high nitrates in there tap water and denitrifying is a necessity. But most of us really don’t have to worry. Unless your goal is a closed system that runs itself with very little water changes. Most are looking to add to many fish not just a few which would never work with a closed system. I’ve got 5 planted tanks running now and the only time I check is when I read one of these threads .
With everybody using thrive now isn’t it counter productive? Or than again I guess it will reduce all the nitrates added. Sorry not trying to be negative but I just don’t get it. Yes the science of it all makes sense. Still don’t see the need. As to longevity of fish. The fish in my 90 are all well over 5 yrs the substrate is eco complete (lava rock) my filters are full of matrix and biohome. It’s a little over 2yrs old now and if I was to check nitrate would be at 20ppm. Yes it’s planted. Clean water is the key to long lives in fish. Weekly water changes!
Momgoose56 mts snails will get into your substrate and keep it aerated. Eating whatever is decaying and causing the gas. I have them in all but my 90. They can’t get through the eco.
Whitewolf I have lots of westeria I’m looking to get rid of. Pm me if you would like me to send you some.
 
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