Bottom dwellers question.


Okay, I have 3 active tanks at the moment.

- One heavily planted 5 gallon with a non aggressive Veil Betta, 0.75" mystery snail, and some Ramshorn babies all around.

- One less-planted, more rocky, 5 gallon with an agressive Plakat Betta. No snail as I tried both Ramshorn and Mystery and he attacked them.

- One heavily planted 20 gallon with 7x diverse Black Skirts (1 black, 1 white, 5 glo), 1x Serpae Tetra that schools with the BST, a Dwarf Gourami and 6 Khuli Loaches. No aggression, some rare chasing between the tetras, no bully nor any bullied. Serpae chills with the BST as if part of the school and they accept him as such. Gourami minds is business and nobody minds him, and even though I never see more than 2-3 Khulis at once, most are fatties.

I don't overfeed and I'm very steady with the 50% weekly water change.

Ammonia always read 0.25 ppm even thought all my tanks are cycled, but so does my tap water. It does not reduce after water changes. I've read lot of threads saying it can be an issue with API master kit not differentiating between unbound Ammonia and bound ammonia. I also read other posts saying API test can have a margin of 0.25, and almost 99% of the posts regarding this issue seemed to say to no worry and consider this reading as being 0 ppm as long as it does not increase. It does not. I used to dechlorinate water with Prime, but my girlfriend complained about the rotten egg smell so now I dechlorinate with Aqua+. I'm not sure if it's popular or existing outside of Quebec, Canada, but it's popular here and isa supposed to do a good job dechlorinating tap water. I still always keep my bottle of Prime nearby if I ever see a rise of Ammonia (which never happened), or some nitrites (which never happened neither). I change 50% every 7 days, and Ammonia levels is the same before and after WC. Does not increase, does not decrease.

Nitrites are always at 0.

My issue seems to be on the Nitrates. I try to keep them at 5 ppm, but after 7 days they're always getting between 10 and 20. Sometimes 30. If I test water parameters before I reach 7 days and see Nitrates at 10 or more, I do 50% water change, if not I do that WC on day 7. Nitrates almost always decrease to 5 ppm after a 50% water change even if the amount was more than 10 ppm before the WC, which is odd (sometimes I read 15 or 20, then do 50% WC and read 5 ppm afterwards - and API masterkit is not expired). At first I thought my 20 gallon might have been overstocked, but my 5 gallon with a betta and no other tankmates seems to be increasing at the same speed.

I have a lot of planted plants in my 20 gallon, as well as lots of floating plants too : Duckweed and Dwarf water lettuce covering 80% of surface.

My first 5 gallon (with non-agressive veil betta + snails) is heavily planted, and have about 5-10 percent covered with Duckweed and DWL.

My other 5 gallon (agressive plakat betta and no snail) has less planted plants, but surface is covered about 80% with duckweed and DWL. 15% is free from floating plants with a tube circle around the HOB outflow cascade, and 5% is free from floating plants with a smaller tube circle used for feeding and to make sure Betta can get air from there.

20 gallon has a HOB filter that came with the aquarium, so designed for 20 gallon. First 5 gallon has a filter for 10-15 gallons, but set on lowest flow (water movement is minimal), and second 5 gallon has a filter originally bought for a 40 gallon (however it's on the lowest flow + I made a sponge cushion just under the outflow cascade which reduce water movement to almost-none. I know bettas dont like agitated water but I made sure it was almost non perceptible).

I feed bettas between once or twice a day. Around 4 micro pellets each time. Sometimes a little more, but they're not the typical betta pellets but the micro ones, way smaller.

I feed the Tetras/Gouramis/Loaches once a day : flakes. About what they can eat in 1.5 minutes. Khulis come out during feeding and eat what is left, but I also give them one algae pellet a week and remove what's uneated after an hour or two.

Once a week, I skip flakes/pellets for everyone and give some frozen bloodworms.

I use the vaccum to clean substrate gravels in both the 20 and the first 5 gallon once a week during WC. I also vaccum the second 5 gallon, but it's sand so I go less deep.

That being said, I'm worried about the Nitrates level of 15-20-sometimes-30 after 7 days. To be honest, sometimes I cannot say if it's 20 or 30 since the colors on the API kit are almost the same for those levels of nitrates.

I'm wondering a few things :

1. Could my 20 gallon be overstocked ? However, if it's the case and the cause of the nitrates, why is my 5 gallon with only a betta is increasing at the same speed ?

2. If the cause of my 20 gallons high nitrates are uneaten food (even though I'm careful), would adding more Khulis help ? I know more Khulis would add to the bioload thus increasing Am>N-ites>then>N-ates, but at the same time they would eat more uneaten food, no ? So I'm wondering if the increase in the bioload would be worth the decrease in uneaten food.

3. If #2 says more khulis could help, how many should I add based on current stocking ?

4. If #2 says more khulis could help, could I put a school of Pigmy Cories instead (with the 6 khulis) and if so how many ?

5. Nitrates were increasing at same speed in Veil Betta tank before adding Mystery snail. No increase since its addition. Could I add Khulis or Pigmy Cories even though it's a 5 gallon and I could not put 6 of them ? Could they still be happy even if not in a school ? Like if I get one or two or three instead of 6 ? This tank has a betta that is no aggressive at all : he's active and curious but never attacked any snail, he also lived with amano shrimps and never touched them, and he doesn't even flare when showed a mirror. Lot of hidings in that tank, so even if khulis or cories would not be in a school, they'd have plenty of hiding. Don't want to add shrimps anymore as I suspect they might have been the cause of a shredded fin on my betta a while ago (nothing is sharp in the tank, I made a thread here about it and it seemed like nothing in the tank other than those Amanos might have caused what he got)

6. As for the other tank, it's with a Plakat Betta that flares a lot when showed a mirror, and I've seen him attack a Ramshorn twice before I removed it. At that moment, I just had added a Mystery snail (0.5") in its tank, and I removed both after he attacked the Ramshorn then flared at the Mystery. He's alone in his tank and Nitrates still increase quickly in my opinion. Could I get him a bottom dweller to clean some uneaten food even though I'm careful on overfeeding ? Would there be any bottom dweller that might he might ignore even if he attacked snails already ? There are some hiding spots in this tank, but less than in the others.

Thanks for your input guys !


A bottom dwelling fish will not help. In short what goes in must come out. Only feeding slightly less and vacuuming will lower the poop and old food in the substrate .

I suggest you are worrying about the nitrates level unnecessarily. Even 40 ppm is not excessive as a maximum. Or putting it another way any orange is ok and red is not ideal. There is a theme on this site of low nitrates as being important. Join a local club and when you have the opportunity to visit and see how others keep fish do so.

I am resisting the temptation to post one of many videos about the safe level for nitrates out of respect for those who have their own opinion.
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I agree with Flyfisha . My nitrates routinely get up to 40 ppm and I don't worry about it.
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5. They will become stressed out, a 10 gallon it minimum for Pygmy corys and kuhli loaches. You could try an Amano shrimp, theyre great scavengers And they weren’t the cause of shredded fins. Are you sure you didn’t get whisker shrimp? I seriously doubt that the Amanos tore his fins. but you would have to make sure some food makes it’s way down to it. I personally use hikari shrimp wafers.
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