Few Questions For Beginner

bwang008

New Member
Member
Messages
3
Reaction score
1
Hello, started my first 10g tank last month due to the quarantine and I'm really enjoying the process very much, but there are still questions which I am having trouble finding the answer to so I'd like to ask them here.

1. I have a planted tank, with 3 guppies and 2 amano shrimp and a few bladder snails (<3) I picked up from the plants which I decided to keep (Unless they become a problem OFC). I bought a master test kit, and I measured my nitrate today and I see my levels are between 10-20 PPM which is in the acceptable range.

I have also tested ammonia and nitrates which are low and PH is around 8, my question is if I continue to test and monitor ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels and see they are all in low range, is there any benefit or reason to do a partial water change? From my understanding, PWC are meant to handle nitrate build up, but if the plants are adequately keeping nitrates low then I don't want to put the fish thru the stress of water changes if it isn't necessary.

2. I've read and couldn't find a clear answer on how dangerous nitrates really are, just that they're not as bad as ammonia and nitrate, but still bad if therer is enough. I'm trying to figure out in terms of human exposure, is this like comparing something such as 1080 poison to something like dcon poison, or is this more like 1080 versus salt, where consuming enough salt will kill someone? I ask this because I read that 40 PPM is a bad level for nitrates, but I'm not finding any scientific data to back up this claim, and particularly with guppies being purported as very hardy fish, I'm curious to know how high the levels can reach, but my concern is more geared towards the amano shrimp, where I read they cannot tolerate higher than 20 PPM long term, so I am concerned what the consequences are and what long term really means.

If anyone has any experience or knowledge wiith either of these topics, I would love to hear you share your thoughts! Thank you!

Ben W
 

Kitley

Active Member
Member
Messages
325
Reaction score
183
It sounds as if you are doing a Fish in cycle??? That is what I did when I set up my first tank in late December. I was told that any ammonia should not rise much above .25, and Nitrate should be at 20 or less. If not you do a water change. I checked my water parameters every day and did my water changes according to the results shown. At first I was doing 50 percent daily water changes. As the ammonia lowered and the nitrate built up, every day was not needed. At this point my parameters are all good...but I still change 50 prevent weekly, in order to give the fish fresh water and minerals. When I add new fish, I go back to checking my parameters more often to be sure the cycle is strong enough to handle the increase of ammonia. Hope this helps. As far as scientific comparison to other elements and chemicals...I have not a clue. In a fish in cycle, this is hard on the fish and sometimes they do not survive. As far as guppies go, I had no luck. It seems they used to be hardy fish, but now from breeding they are not quite so strong.
 

FishyMamma

New Member
Member
Messages
37
Reaction score
27
Location
Cherry Hill, NJ
Experience
5 years
A couple things: Those are good questions.
A PWC won’t stress your fish out if you put the water back in gently, making sure to temperature match as much as possible, and dechlorinate the water with Prime or similar. My understanding is that ANY detectable ammonia and/or nitrite is damaging to fish - like inhaling a bit of poisonous gas for you or me. We may not see the lung damage from the outside, but it’s there.

Nitrates, on the other hand, are like a smokey room. The more concentrated the smoke, the more uncomfortable. A little smoke won’t hurt us, but if it’s thick enough it will. So when the liquid tests indicate the nitrate is at or above 40, the fish NEED a PWC.

Huzzah for asking questions!
 

JettsPapa

Well Known
Member
Messages
3,517
Reaction score
4,039
Location
Grimes County, Texas
Experience
Just started
Welcome to the forum.
  1. I wish I could give you a clear-cut answer, but there are almost as many as there are fish-keepers. Some people say you need a 50% water change weekly and some say you can (and they do) go months without one. I think there are too many variables to give a simple answer. I typically change 25% once a week, but there have been times when I got busy and it was closer to 2 weeks, and I never saw any ill effects.
  2. Again, I don't think there is a definitive answer. My tanks all have plenty of live plants, and I've never seen my nitrates much above 20 ppm, so I don't worry about it.
  3. You said ammonia and nitrites are low. What's the number? If you have any then the tank hasn't built up a sufficient colony of beneficial bacteria to handle the load (although it's not uncommon to get a reading of 0.25 ppm of ammonia when it's really 0). You should be doing water changes often enough and large enough to keep the combined ammonia and nitrites definitely below 1.0 pm, and ideally below 0.50 ppm.
 

StarGirl

Fishlore VIP
Member
Messages
5,281
Reaction score
7,494
Location
Michigan
Experience
More than 10 years
Imagine a room full of smoke. Once a week someone takes out some of the smoke and you can breathe easier. This is why you have to do weekly water changes. Gets the smoke "junk" out of your water, and adds back the things you need.
 

Lindsay83

Active Member
Member
Messages
325
Reaction score
224
Location
Newcastle, England
Experience
More than 10 years
bwang008 said:
Hello, started my first 10g tank last month due to the quarantine and I'm really enjoying the process very much, but there are still questions which I am having trouble finding the answer to so I'd like to ask them here.

1. I have a planted tank, with 3 guppies and 2 amano shrimp and a few bladder snails (<3) I picked up from the plants which I decided to keep (Unless they become a problem OFC). I bought a master test kit, and I measured my nitrate today and I see my levels are between 10-20 PPM which is in the acceptable range.

I have also tested ammonia and nitrates which are low and PH is around 8, my question is if I continue to test and monitor ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels and see they are all in low range, is there any benefit or reason to do a partial water change? From my understanding, PWC are meant to handle nitrate build up, but if the plants are adequately keeping nitrates low then I don't want to put the fish thru the stress of water changes if it isn't necessary.

2. I've read and couldn't find a clear answer on how dangerous nitrates really are, just that they're not as bad as ammonia and nitrate, but still bad if therer is enough. I'm trying to figure out in terms of human exposure, is this like comparing something such as 1080 poison to something like dcon poison, or is this more like 1080 versus salt, where consuming enough salt will kill someone? I ask this because I read that 40 PPM is a bad level for nitrates, but I'm not finding any scientific data to back up this claim, and particularly with guppies being purported as very hardy fish, I'm curious to know how high the levels can reach, but my concern is more geared towards the amano shrimp, where I read they cannot tolerate higher than 20 PPM long term, so I am concerned what the consequences are and what long term really means.

If anyone has any experience or knowledge wiith either of these topics, I would love to hear you share your thoughts! Thank you!

Ben W
1). Ammonia and nitrite are toxic to fish. Temperature and pH play a part in their toxicity -, the higher the pH and temps, the more toxic they are. Either way, any detectable ammonia or nitrite are bad signs.

Water changes do more than just reduce nitrate -, they also replenish minerals that the fish need and use up between water changes, so they're still necessary.

2). Nitrate is still a toxin, but just much less so than ammonia or nitrite. Most fish can tolerate nitrate up to about 40ppm, after that, it becomes more toxic.

There are some species that are particularly sensitive to nitrate, and in their case, 20ppm is about as much as they can handle before it becomes toxic.
 

Danny002

Well Known
Member
Messages
524
Reaction score
352
Location
Florida, USA
Experience
3 years
Weekly water changes are best practice IMO. Even if your parameters don't indicate that you NEED to do one, it's good to have a schedule and I can rely on my parameters being stable. Of course there are going to be a ton of different answers to this, but just my two cents.

I think that the above analogies with nitrates being like smoke in a room are accurate. Another thing is that there are other things in the water that don't get tested for that need to be replenished. To me it's like recycled AC versus fresh air.

What the whole 20ppm long term thing means is that if your nitrates regularly are going above 20ppm, then your shrimp will start to feel the consequences. If it only happens one or twice, no big deal.
 

Hugooo

Active Member
Member
Messages
428
Reaction score
402
Location
Chicago, IL
Welcome to Fishlore! :)
Some questions you should answer that might help us: What plants do you have? Do you have any pictures you could share? What are your specific water parameters for ammonia and nitrite? Ideally, you should not let your nitrates get over 20 ppm. 20 ppm and lower is fine. At 40 ppm, you might start to see your fish's gills redden. When you find that you are at 40 ppm or higher nitrates, do a 50% water change. You are not too overstocked, which is a good thing. If your ammonia and nitrites are low and nitrates are high-ish, then that means you are almost cycled. For now, since you are not cycled, do 25% water changes at least every other day to get rid of ammonia and nitrites. Also, what kind of filter are you using and does it use filter cartridges? Is so, then please DO NOT change them out every 4-6 weeks as "recommended". Your filter and filter media are where the majority of the beneficial bacteria live. Changing them out will be harmful to your fish and will eventually kill them. The companies/manufacturers only tell you to switch them out so often because they want to make money. Also, what kind of conditioner/de-chlorinator do you use to treat your water when doing water changes? I recommend getting a bottle of Seachem Prime. It is not only a conditioner, but it also detoxifies (makes it harmless) ammonia and nitrites for around 24 hours. This will be vital to your fish so they don't die. I would also recommend getting a bottle of Tetra Safe Start+. It is kind of like a cycler, but some people say it doesn't work, so it may or may not work for you. How it works is there are bacteria inside the bottle. Dump the entire bottle into the filter and if it works, then it will be like an instant cycle. For now, you are doing okay, just do water changes, and don't let the combined ammonia and nitrites get over 1.0 ppm as others said.
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
OP
B

bwang008

New Member
Member
Messages
3
Reaction score
1
Hello, and thanks for the answers! I guess I forgot to mention, I did add in the bacteria to cycle the tank, and added in the fish the next day. Based on my research, this was OK to do.

The ammonia is at 0 ppm and the nitrite is about 0 ppm, by low I'm referring to the color chart on my master kit with the colors indicating the level, the colors are at or near the lowest level. The nitrate is probably the hardest one to gauge because the color for 10 ppm is identical to 20 ppm, and only color changes at 40 ppm which I think is a big gap since I don't know if I'm at 10 ppm, or close to 40, but I will continue to test and monitor.

It is a good point about the minerals for the water. I was thinking of adding a calcium pill into the filter to dissolve, but I decided to add in some blanched veggies to help with needed minerals instead as it felt more natural, but the veggies take a while to consume so I might go w/ the calcium pill route due to concerns w/ ammonia build up.

Other than calcium, are there any other minerals that the aquatic life and plants might need?

For plants, I got beginner friendly plants, 2 amazon swords, 2 java ferns, java moss, a moss ball, and some anacharis.

Tank temp is sitting at 79, and everyone inside seems happy.

Initially I was feeding twice a day, but after doing some research found that guppies can go 1-2 weeks without food so I was definitely overfeeding. I reduced it down to a tiny, tiny pinch once a day in order to keep ammonia down.
 

JettsPapa

Well Known
Member
Messages
3,517
Reaction score
4,039
Location
Grimes County, Texas
Experience
Just started
bwang008 said:
...It is a good point about the minerals for the water. I was thinking of adding a calcium pill into the filter to dissolve, but I decided to add in some blanched veggies to help with needed minerals instead as it felt more natural, but the veggies take a while to consume so I might go w/ the calcium pill route due to concerns w/ ammonia build up.

Other than calcium, are there any other minerals that the aquatic life and plants might need?


For plants, I got beginner friendly plants, 2 amazon swords, 2 java ferns, java moss, a moss ball, and some anacharis.

Tank temp is sitting at 79, and everyone inside seems happy.

Initially I was feeding twice a day, but after doing some research found that guppies can go 1-2 weeks without food so I was definitely overfeeding. I reduced it down to a tiny, tiny pinch once a day in order to keep ammonia down.
I wouldn't add anything for minerals, unless your tap water just doesn't have any at all, which is very unlikely.
 

-Mak-

Fishlore VIP
Member
Messages
5,163
Reaction score
3,500
Location
NC
Experience
3 years
40 ppm is an incredibly arbitrary number. It's fantastic that you're asking about it, because correct, there is no evidence to suggest 40 ppm is the definite limit we should set for all aquariums. Nitrate tolerance also varies heavily between species. Here are some research papers on the effect of nitrate on some different species:


This paper put wild caught mosquitofish in 15 ppm, 50 ppm, and 250 ppm nitrate. No significant effects other than food intake were observed. Body mass and growth rate about the same. Long quote:
-Mak- said:
"Overall, we did not find overt clinical signs of disease, which supports the prevailing idea that many invasive species, including mosquitofish, have wide tolerance to changes in water quality [ , ]. However, the fact that nitrate altered food intake or energetic reserves in males and juveniles suggests that concentrations >50 mg NO3-/l cannot be considered completely safe [ , ].
Even though fish differed in food intake amongst nitrate treatments, we did not observe overt signs of disease, including reduced fish growth. Reduced food ingestion in males may be attributed to fatigue because nitrate forms methaemoglobin, which transports oxygen worse than haemoglobin [ ]. However, fish can cope with moderate methaemoglobinemia [ ], especially in hard water, such as ours in the laboratory, which may have mitigated nitrate adverse effects [ ]. Growth was expected to decrease in mosquitofish because iodine uptake, which is needed for thyroid functions and animal development, is altered by nitrate, but concentrations up to 11 mg NO3-/l did not impair the thyroid function in perch (Perca fluviatilis) and Crucian carp (Carassius carassius) [ ]. The neutral effect of nitrate we saw on mosquitofish growth agrees with Freitag et al. [ ], who found that concentrations up to 450 mg NO3-/l had no effect on the thyroid hormone levels in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Our outcome is also consistent with studies in other freshwater taxa showing that nitrate effects on growth and survival occur at > 500 mg NO3-/l (e.g. [ , ]). However, the neutral effect of nitrate on mosquitofish does not exclude the possibility that fish exposed to nitrate may reduce their ability to cope with other pollutants if nitrate alters the internal ionic composition of fish at an osmoregulation cost and probably impairs important enzymatic complexes, such as those involved in detoxification [ ]."


Study on the rare minnow.
"The no-observed-effect concentrations of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate for larval growth were 2.49 mg L(-1) , 13.33 mg L(-1) , and 19.95 mg L(-1) nitrogen, respectively."
Note that this was a pretty short term study


Zebrafish tolerance in early life stages. No observed effects up to 200 ppm.
-Mak- said:
"Based on NOEC (no observed effect concentration) values, safety levels should be set at 1450, 1855, and 1075 mg/L NO3(-)-N to prevent acute lethal effects in embryos, newly-hatched larvae, and swim-up larvae, respectively. In the chronic bioassay, larvae were exposed to nitrate concentrations of 50, 100, 200, and 400 mg/L NO3(-)-N during the entire larval period (23 days). No negative effects were observed either on larval performance or condition at concentrations up to 200 mg/L NO3(-)-N. However, at 400 mg/L NO3(-)-N, survival drastically decreased and fish showed reduced growth and evidence of morphological abnormalities. Accordingly, a safety level of 200 mg/L NO3(-)-N is recommended during the larval rearing of zebrafish to prevent negative impacts on juvenile production."

Study on farmed tilapia. Safe level recommendation: 500 ppm
"Here, we recommend not exceeding concentrations of 500 mg L−1
are13174-math-0007.png
‐N in juvenile tilapia culture to ensure an optimal health and growth status of the fish, as below that concentration no effects on the tilapia have been observed."


Water changes remove organic buildup, which contributes to algae, and removes algal spores, also contributing to algae. Very important in a planted tank. It also replenishes minerals, though many plant important nutrients are not present in high enough amounts in tap water, meaning fertilizer is usually needed.
 

Noroomforshoe

Well Known
Member
Messages
1,040
Reaction score
474
Location
PA
Experience
More than 10 years
You can ad vegies for the shrimp and fish to eat, but they should be removed after a few hours. This kind of feeding is messy, I prefer to only do it the day before a water change. But if you are doing water changes weekly, it isnt that bad.

If you use tap water, you dont need to worry about adding minerals. if you want to add calcuim, put a peice of cuttle bone in the tank or filter. the cuttle bone "The discs made for parrots sold a pet stores" will not decay or rot and pollute your water, just slowly disolves, add a new peice as needed. but fish foods, vegitables, fish waste, and all that stuff does. and that is why you do weekly water changes and moniter the filter cartridges an rinse them when needed. That stuff doesn come out unless you remove it. The plants can only help so much.

Once your tank as finished cycling, you will only have nitrates. you can test the ammonia and nitrite less often, Once a month?" To make sure everything is in check. but it is important to test your nitrates weekly. If you really cant read the API tests. consider getting a Salifert brand test kit for nitrate. they are easier to read, and easier to use.
 

Hugooo

Active Member
Member
Messages
428
Reaction score
402
Location
Chicago, IL
If both your ammonia and nitrites are at 0 ppm, and you have nitrates showing, then that means you are officially cycled. Congrats! For minerals, I wouldn't really worry either. Adding a cuttlebone will be more than enough.

If possible, insert a picture of your test readings, and we can help you identify your test readings.
 

New Threads

Follow FishLore!

FishLore on Social Media

Online statistics

Members online
215
Guests online
4,036
Total visitors
4,251

Aquarium Photo Contests

Aquarium Calculator

Top Bottom