High Nitrate issues

Discussion in 'Aquarium Water' started by red020804, Nov 25, 2012.

  1. red020804

    red020804Valued MemberMember

    I'm at my wits end. I've been having high nitrate problems since Feb 2012. I don't know what to do anymore. I've called LFS I got my fish from and I keep being told to bacteria supplements in it. Or to put a double dose of prime in the tank then do a water change in a day. I've been told not to do more than one water change in a month. I've done everything that's been suggested and the nitrate stays high. My water conditions are: Temp- 80 degrees, Nitrite- 0, Nitrate- not sure. The color doesn't match any color on the chart. So I'd say between 40-160. As far as ph I didn't test for that. I have a 20 gallon tank. I have 7 fish in it. 1 sucker fish, 1 black phantom tetra, 2 neon tetras, 3 platys. We have had this tank set up since December of 2010. Always have at nitrate problems but this is the worse it's been. Help please. We have had endless fish die and I'm guessing this nitrate issue is the problem. All the fish we had die have been mollies and guppies.

    Forgot to say my Ammonia- is between 0 and .25. Ammonia has always been this way.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2012
  2. Yeoy

    YeoyWell Known MemberMember

    Definitely don't do LESS water changes, nitrAtes are the end product of your bacteria cycle, you need to do your weekly water changes to get them OUT! It could be your tap water? Or do you fertilise live plants?
  3. OP

    red020804Valued MemberMember

    I've tested my tap and my nitrates are 5.0ppm. I don't have live plants in my tank. I've tried using them but they just die very quickly.
  4. Jaysee

    JayseeFishlore LegendMember

    Aside from testing high, and livebearers dying, is there any other evidence of a problem? How many guppies and mollies have you been through?
  5. Eienna

    EiennaFishlore VIPMember

    What species is your sucker? Can you post a photo? If it is what I think it likely is, that would be a major part of your problem.

    I also say more water changes, not less. A few members do 50% changes weekly - though you will want to start more around 20-25% weekly because dropping the nitrates too fast after this long would likely be hazardous to your fish.

    I think you're also a bit overstocked. The three platies alone is plenty for a tank that size. The tetras should be in schools anyway.

    As far as plants, try duckweed and java fern. Just be aware that you don't want to bury the fern's rhizome, and you may never get rid of the duckweed XD
  6. Moneypenny1967

    Moneypenny1967Valued MemberMember

    Water changes ,water changes weekly.This is the best starting option I've seen posted with high nitrates.Do you have gravel? if so weekly gravel vacc are a must too.Live plants soak up nitrates as well.If you try plants again get low light ones but give them a light source if your tank doesnt have lights.
  7. Eienna

    EiennaFishlore VIPMember

    Oh, right! When you do water changes, do you vacuum all the way to the bottom of the gravel?
  8. OP

    red020804Valued MemberMember

    We lost 4 guppies all male. 9 adult mollies and about 25 Molly fry. Not all of them were stocked together. We replaced the mollies when one died. At most we had the 4 guppies and 3 mollies and 2 black phantom tetras stocked at one time back when we first started the tank in 2010. We did lose 2 black phantom tetras in the past. One had pop eye and we removed him and put him in a different tank and he died.

    After we lost the guppies(some of their stomachs swelled, others would just sit at bottom of tank and not eat.) and the fifth Molly(one of them their body would curl and they couldnt stay upright, another had swim bladder, one would just sit at bottom and not swim or eat, one kept getting this cottony looking stuff under its belly and poop out cottony looking poo) only the tetras were left (we replaced the one that died) one other Tetra died don't know why. No signs of illness just woke up one morning and it was against the filter half eaten yuck. We had the one tetra only for about 9 months. We figured it was doomed so we feed it about once or twice in a two week period and not once did we clean the tank. We had a cloudy tank issue back then to.

    During that 9 months the tank cleared up and that little Tetra is still alive. We were shocked. We moved at the end of Jan 2012. We brought 15 gallons of the tank water with us. We left the gravel and decorations in the tank. We filled the rank back up and added 5 gallons of new water into the tank.

    After a week I tested the water and by some miracle everything was great including the nirates. So we decided to restock the tank. We got 2 neons and 2 mollies one week. Then 2 weeks later got 2 more mollies. Two days later after the last two mollies one had about 13 fry. The fry were moved to a five gallon tank.

    Tank started getting a white cloudy color and nitrates got high. One Molly was found stuck to the filter dead don't know why. Two others died without any physical reason just laid at bottom and stopped eating. The last one to die stomach swelled and then it just died.

    All molliy fry died but in another uncycled tank no mystery there. After all those Molly died we didn't add any new fish. Just kept trying to get the nitrates down. In may the tank cleared up but the nitrates won't go down.

    After the last Molly died I did one water change and then didn't do another for about a month and a half. All the tetras are alive and well. Water crystal clear. I just did a water change on Friday. Tested it today and still high nitrates.

    We added the three platies on thanksgiving. They are currently not pooping and when they do it's white and cottony looking. They are very active and two are female and look pregnant.
    O and the fish I said swelled up did not have dropsy.

    I always vaccum the gravel when we do water changes. A pleco I believe is what our sucker fish is.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 27, 2012
  9. Eienna

    EiennaFishlore VIPMember

    Remove the Pleco and I'll bet you it starts coming down. They are heavy waste producers and none of the Pleco species are suitable for that size tank. Start changing the water about 20% twice weekly as well and it should get better in short order. With it that high the results may take a while to change, so you might not see it right away.

    Nitrates at that level will cause a myriad of health problems. At best, it will make your fish's immune systems much weaker. Get that under control and things should calm down.

    Another thought, what brand food are you feeding these guys?
  10. OP

    red020804Valued MemberMember

    Omega one. I feed them ever other day because my LFS said maybe I was over feeding and that was causing the high nitrate but cutting back on the food hasn't changed the nitrate problem. I was feeding them twice a day.

    And once every two weeks I throw in a algae chip for the pleco.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 25, 2012
  11. Eienna

    EiennaFishlore VIPMember

    Ok well omega one is pretty good stuff. Without seeing how much you're feeding I couldn't tell you if you're over feeding, but I doubt it if you're down to that little at this point.

    Best case to fix this, cut it to just the platies, twice-weekly 20% water changes temporarily and then about 40% once a week. You should be able to feed daily with these other measures in place. You may be able to keep the tetras and just cut the Pleco, but I don't know.

    Edit: And no, I know the percentage of the changes is the same. The idea is not to change it too much at a time when it's that high.
  12. aylad

    ayladWell Known MemberMember

    I didn't see where anyone has said this, so:

    Don't add anymore bacteria supplements, as they may be creating unstable conditions. The bacteria established in your filter should be plenty. (Don't change the filter media, for the same reason. Have you said what kind of filtration you have?)

    In fact, don't add any additives to the tank at all except for dechlorinator (preferably Prime). No algae killer, no clarifier, etc. I don't know if you have been adding them; just in case, though, don't.

    And DEFINITELY do lots of water changes, with gravel vacs, as described above. And say farewell to your sucker fish. :(
  13. lizzj

    lizzjValued MemberMember

    I agree with the advice given so far. If you could find some water sprite or guppy grass to put in your tank, they would help absorb excess nitrates. They are easy plants and they just float in the water column. Keep up the water changes. Good luck with getting it straightened out.
  14. OP

    red020804Valued MemberMember

    Thanks for the advice everyone. I hope doing more water changes helps. I haven't been dong them more often because my LFS said that doing it more than once a month would reset my cycle. So fingers crossed that doesn't happy.
  15. ryanr

    ryanrModeratorModerator Member

    Sorry you're having nitrate issues.

    I haven't seen it listed anywhere in the thread, but I just want to confirm that you are using a liquid test kit?
    If yes, is it the API? Has it expired? Do you really bang on the second bottle?

    Have you cross-referenced the test? i.e. get the LFS to double check.

    Are both your tanks reading higher than 'normal'?

    I agree with the regular weekly water changes. 20-25% per week is a good start.

    Also, as your tap water has nitrates in it, I would consider using distilled water.
  16. Eienna

    EiennaFishlore VIPMember

    No, only overcleaning your filter media or changing out too much of it at once will harm your cycle, unless you fail to dechlorinate the new water.
  17. OP

    red020804Valued MemberMember

    That is the test kit I use. I shake the second bottle for one minute instead of the 30 seconds it says. I don't know if it's expired. I can't find a date anywhere.
  18. AlyeskaGirl

    AlyeskaGirlFishlore VIPMember

    You need to step up your water changes; 50% weekly with Prime would be good since you have 5ppm in your tap.

    Try doing 2 50% back to back water changes and see what that dose on the nitrate test.
  19. carolo43

    carolo43Valued MemberMember

    I change 50% on every tank every single week. Nitrates are due to not doing enough water changes or large enough water changes. You were instructed just the opposite. Keeping your filter media rinsed out and gravel cleaned will also help.

    There is no reason to add a double dose of Prime and the next day do a water change. That's just wasting your Prime. You can safety change all the water you want as long as you replace it with the same temp and add your Prime prior to adding the new water.
  20. Jaysee

    JayseeFishlore LegendMember

    Welcome to the forum carolo43

    I agree, I change 80% of the water whether it's been a week or a month. Because I can ;)