Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate unusually high - feeding too much?

Leonardo

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Hello, my ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels are unusually elevated.

Tank size 55 gal heavily planted

Here are the results of testing aquarium water:

ammonia 0.50 ppm
nitrite 1.00 ppm
nitrate 80 - 160 ppm
KH 3 dKH or 53.7 ppm
GH 11 dGH or 196.9 ppm

Fish and respective lengths:

14 inches for 5 goldfish
3 X 3 inches severum cichlids
2 X 2 inches GloSharks
4 inches bristle-nose pleco
3 inches standard pleco
TOTAL of 34 fish inches

Also adding to the tank is:
Seachem Flourish Excel 5 mL per day every day
Seachem Stability 12.5 mL per day for 7 days

And 50 - 75% weekly water changes.

Over the past month, the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels have been unusually high. I am not sure what is causing this. Here are some possible causes:
1. The daily dose of Flourish Excel.
2. I switched from flake food to frozen blood worms cubes.
3. I feed my fish 3 times per day giving 3 cubes per feeding. For each meal, the fish eat all blood worms - nothing is wasted.

Anyone know what is causing the elevated levels and how to rectify this situation? Large water changes bring down the levels, but 3 days later, the levels begin increasing again.
 

SM1199

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Too many incompatible fish with too high a bioload with too little biological filtration. Plus, overfeeding. Three times a day with large portions is a lot!

You have likely reached the limit of your biological filtration. This means your filter has run out of surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow, and they can't keep up with the ammonia your fish are producing.

Short-term solution is running a second filter alongside your first, decreasing your feeding, and doing some huge and consistent water changes. Your nitrate is sky-high and this isn't healthy for your fish, let alone the ammonia and nitrite!

Long-term solution is looking into re-arranging your stocking which may involve rehoming fish or getting more tanks to separate them. Goldfish and plecos alone are already massive waste-producers which is compounded by the amount you're feeding. Your stocking is largely incompatible anyway, especially in terms of temperature.

Edited to add: Goldfish are omnivorous and feeding only bloodworms creates a diet too high in protein for them. You should really be looking to keep one tank with your goldfish and one tank with the rest of your current stocking. The goldfish should be eating food meant for them and not for tropical fish.
 

flyinGourami

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I don't even know much about some of the fish in your stocking. But anyways, it seems like your tank is just not able to keep up with the bio-load of your fish. You are feeding a lot and the tank is overstocked. For now, I personally would cut back on the feedings, do more water changes, and add another filter or two.
 

Islandvic

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Leonardo , what type of filtration are you running ?

I am surprised the severums aren't tearing up the plants !

I suggest to first look at your substrate as a source of why your parameters are spiking. If there is a buildup of decaying organic matter, such as uneaten food and fish waste, this can contribute to your spikes.

For now, I suggest to bump up your WC regimen and thoroughly vac the substrate
 
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Leonardo

Leonardo

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Thank you for your replies. I had a feeling that overfeeding contributed greatly to the high levels. I plan on buying a 75 gal tank for the cichlids which should help.
 

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Leonardo said:
Thank you for your replies. I had a feeling that overfeeding contributed greatly to the high levels. I plan on buying a 75 gal tank for the cichlids which should help.
For now cut down on the amount you are feeding and add more filtration. With that and doing more water changes I would also suggest you get a bottle of Prime to use as your water conditioner. It does all that other conditioners do but goes one step farther and also detoxes low levels of ammonia.
 

flyinGourami

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Leonardo said:
Thank you for your replies. I had a feeling that overfeeding contributed greatly to the high levels. I plan on buying a 75 gal tank for the cichlids which should help.
Lower feedings and do the water changes. I would also get another filter or at least add more media.
 

mukg

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I think the issue is related to your switchover from flakes to frozen food. 3 cubes is way too much per meal. Do the fish eat all? Even if they do, they likely produce a lot of poop which translates to nitrates.

I would cut down feeding to once a day, 1 cube per meal. See how that goes/changes things?
 
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Leonardo

Leonardo

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Islandvic said:
Leonardo , what type of filtration are you running ?

I am surprised the severums aren't tearing up the plants !

I suggest to first look at your substrate as a source of why your parameters are spiking. If there is a buildup of decaying organic matter, such as uneaten food and fish waste, this can contribute to your spikes.

For now, I suggest to bump up your WC regimen and thoroughly vac the substrate
-> I have a hang-on-back filter with Fluval Biomax biological filtration medium.
-> My severums are young and docile. I hope that they do not tear up the plants when they get larger. There was one plant in particular that my goldfish ate all of the leaves. Other than that, no problems.
-> My tank is heavily planted, so it is very difficult to vacuum the substrate. I need to find a vacuum cleaner with a narrow suction head to get around the plants.
-> I will do 80% water changes every five days or when testing indicates that it is time.

Thanks again.
 

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Along with what's been said about the incompatible fish and overstocking I'm concerned that you're only feeding blood worms. The goldfish and plecos should mainly be eating vegetable matter. Do you ever feed algae wafers or vegetables? My bristlenose gets vegetables about 3 times a week along with algae wafers and sinking pellets. My goldfish get vegetables (peas) at least once a week but usually are fed gel food or pellets. I do feed frozen foods but definitely not daily.
 

SM1199

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Leonardo said:
-> I will do 80% water changes every five days or when testing indicates that it is time.
Testing indicates now is the time. Once every five days, in my opinion, isn't enough. I would be doing 50% water changes every other day until your nitrates come down by half or more. Below 80 is okay, below 40 is best.
 
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Leonardo

Leonardo

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mukg said:
I think the issue is related to your switchover from flakes to frozen food. 3 cubes is way too much per meal. Do the fish eat all? Even if they do, they likely produce a lot of poop which translates to nitrates.

I would cut down feeding to once a day, 1 cube per meal. See how that goes/changes things?
The goldfish are hogs. I could feed them 10 cubes and they would eat them all. The cichlids eat a lot also, but they stop feeding when they are full. I am definitely going to reduce the amount of food.
 
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Leonardo

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SM1199 said:
Testing indicates now is the time. Once every five days, in my opinion, isn't enough. I would be doing 50% water changes every other day until your nitrates come down by half or more. Below 80 is okay, below 40 is best.
Will do. Thanks for your advice.
 

mukg

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Leonardo said:
The goldfish are hogs. I could feed them 10 cubes and they would eat them all. The cichlids eat a lot also, but they stop feeding when they are full. I am definitely going to reduce the amount of food.
I am sure you already understand the overfeeding, but let's put it this way. We can go to a buffet and hog down enough food to make the meal a value. However, doing so three times a day for an indefinite period of time would be extremely bad for our health. And even then the amount of poop produced by the fish would be hazardous for their long term health.
 

Sorg67

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Leonardo said:
The goldfish are hogs. I could feed them 10 cubes and they would eat them all. The cichlids eat a lot also, but they stop feeding when they are full. I am definitely going to reduce the amount of food.
Humans are hogs too. We have an obesity problem in this country because we eat all we want. You do not have to feed your fish all they want anymore than any of us should eat all we want.
 

flyinGourami

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Leonardo said:
The goldfish are hogs. I could feed them 10 cubes and they would eat them all. The cichlids eat a lot also, but they stop feeding when they are full. I am definitely going to reduce the amount of food.
Trust me fish need less food than it seems. Come to think of it that often applies to humans too.
 

Islandvic

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Leonardo , here is a link to a thread on the forum regarding pre-filters on intake tubes, adding media to your filter and tips for keeping the nitrogen cycle going.

Diy Media Guide For Top Fin Silenstream, Aquaclear And Other Hob Filters

Since you have a planted tank, I suggest to look into adding a pre-filter on your intake tube.

Also, a simple way to boost the biological filtration in your Aquaclear is to add a second foam sponge block on top of the bottom one.

With all the inner surface area of the foam block, it has the potential to colonize a lot more beneficial bacteria than the bag of included Bio-Max, which has a hard non-porous surface.

Since the 55g is 4ft long and your are heavily stocked, I also suggest to look into putting a large sponge filter on the opposite side of your Fluval/Aquaclear.

The brands ATI, Aquarium Co-Op and Aquatop all make good sponge filters to name a few. You can even double stack them. Run them with a decent airpump, such as a Fluval Q1, Tetra Whisper 60 or 100, Eheim 200, etc etc.

A large sponge filter will boost your biological filtration capacity.
 

MacZ

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Every time I read of such a case I doubt the "heavily" in "heavily planted". Also... Fertilizers tend to boost the readings of nitrogen compounds, too.
 

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Looks like your question has been answered by all the informative posts above. IMO I think that your filtration and tank cannot handle the huge bio load of the pleco and the goldfish. You should also be giving your fish a varied diet, not only bloodworms. Bloodworms should be a treat, and for the goldfish feed them goldfish pellets or flakes, but try to vary their diet. I'm not saying switch foods often, just have a "base" food and a different food source such as vegetables. Your pleco would like that anyway.
 

Frank the Fish guy

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Leonardo said:
-> I have a hang-on-back filter with Fluval Biomax biological filtration medium.
Thanks again.
A H.O.T. aquarium is too small. You can get a large external canister filter with much much filter area and it will be enough for your tank once it cycles.
 

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