Instructions for wacky levels

  • #1
HI - is there a thread in the forum that explains exactly what to do if your General Hardness, Carbonate Hardness, pH, Nitrite and Nitrate are not in a 'normal' range and how to fix?

Thanks in advance!
  • #2
Welcome to FishLore!

Really for the most part (unless you are having serious issues with keeping fish healthy), all you need to worry about are ammonia, nitrite and nitrate.
Wendy Lubianetsky
  • #3
Welcome to FishLore. It is always good to hear from new people.

Massive water changes are the cure for wacky readings of ammonia, nitrite and/or nitrate. There really isn't any quick way to get away from the syphone and the bucket.
  • #4
Welcome to FishLore. It is always good to hear from new people.

Massive water changes are the cure for wacky readings of ammonia, nitrite and/or nitrate. There really isn't any quick way to get away from the syphone and the bucket.

Except for Pythons
  • #5
I agree with AkarI nothing like python.As long as your ph is consistant and ammonia,nitrites are @0 and show some nitrates I wouldnt worry about the rest.Just make sure to acclimate your fish slowly.
  • #6
I don't even know what my General Hardness or Carbonate Hardness are. Generally you don't have to worry about those. As far as ph goes, most fish will readily adapt to a ph between 6 and 8.4 so no need to worry about ph unless you are out of that range.

In a cycled tank, your ammonia and nitrites should be 0ppm. So if you have elevated ammonia or nitrites you need to do daily partial water changes with a product like Prime as your water conditioner, until the tank finishes cycling. The Prime will detox lowish levels of ammonia and nitrite and the daily pertial water changes will keep those levels low.

Nitrate is the end result of the cycling process. Ammonia-->Nitrites-->Nitrates. So in a cycled tank, since there is a steady flow of ammonia going into the tank, you end up with a steady flow of nitrates. The only way to lower nitrates is thru weekly partial water changes.
  • #7
I am not sure what you are testing your water with or what you are calling normal range but I will do my best to do some explaining. I will start by saying all testing should be done with a liquid test kit for the most accurate reading because paper test strips become very inaccurate over time due to contamination from the air and your hands.

Ammonia: only truly safe reading is a reading is zero. These readings can and should be lowered if high by doing large water changes with ammonia free tap water or can be made safe for 24 hours by treating with products like Prime or Amquel+.

Nitrites: only truly safe reading is a reading is zero. These readings can and should be lowered if high by doing large water changes with nitrite free tap water or can be made safe for 24 hours by treating with products like Prime or Amquel+.

Nitrates: Best if kept below a reading of 40 but you should strive for readings lower than 20. These readings can be lowered by doing large water changes with Nitrate free tap water or by placing lots of live plants into the tank; one or two plants are not going to make much of a difference.

pH: There really isn’t a normal range for pH per say because the pH is mostly determined by your water supply and what is in the tank. As long as your readings are not extremely low or high it is recommended by most to leave it alone because a stable pH is much safer than one being adjusted all the time and messing with it can cause a pH crash which can be fatal for your fish. The pH of a tank can slowly lower over time but can be kept stable by doing regular water changes. The proper way to test the pH of your tap water is to put some in a bucket and aerate it for 24 hours before testing, this will give you the true pH of your water supply and that reading is going to be where your tank is naturally going to try and get to.

General Hardness and Carbonate Hardness: Once again there is no real normal range just a preferred range. Hardness is not normally something that needs to be adjusted unless you are trying to keep wild caught verities of fish. Most farm or tank raised fish will adjust to your hardness with out any problems. Unless you are trying to breed fish or keep wild caught fish you shouldn’t need to worry too much about the hardness, in that case the best advice here would be to only select fish to keep that will be happy in what your local water supply provides for hardness.

There are several natural ways to adjust hardness, which is the best way because the use of chemicals can be a bit tricky. There are several threads on here that discuss this topic so if you are interested in making adjustments I would recommend taking the time to read them.

By the way, welcome to FishLore! I hope you get the answers to your questions here in a timely manner. Feel free to ask any question because there is only one dumb question and that is the one that goes unanswered because it wasn’t asked.

  • Thread Starter
  • #8
thank you everyone for your replies and welcomes.
I was just wondering if, when I get my tank going and get fish in there, and then the levels aren't normal, what I do. so I guess it's a water change for the most part....
I currently have a water conditioner and a bio-support (?) in the tank right now with the filter running. I guess I leave that for a few days then see what the levels are and go from there.
it's all very confusing when you first start doing this! lol
I don't want to hurt any fish when I add them.
  • #9
  • #10
Welcome to Fishlore.

As you do not yet have any fish, it would be best to follow the steps to cycle your tank fishless; or to purchase a bottle of Tetra Safe Start with a couple of fish. Dumping a bacterial product into a tank does not cycle it unless there is enough ammonia for it to feed off of.

I'm sorry to say, but the bacterial product you are using is not going to cycle your tank. It is one of those products designed to empty your pockets and to increase profits of the manufacturers and stores who stock it. Here's what Big Al's has to say about this product:
Regular use of Big Al's Multi-Purpose Bio- Support keeps the biological filter working efficiently. It will help break down harmful organic compounds that cause dangerous conditions. Continuous use of Big Al's Bio-Support assures a healthy biological filter, good water quality, healthy fish, and a clean aquarium. Bio-Support is recommended for use after treatment with antibiotics as it will replace essential beneficial bacteria to aquarium water.

The problem with these types of products is that they out compete the natural bacteria and must be constantly added to the tank. As this form of bacteria drowns/dies in about a week you must add more product weekly. Over time they give the aquarist a sense of having a cycled and stable tank, but the opposite is true. Miss a single dose or fail to dose the exact amount and the tank will crash from never being cycled; and many fish can become diseased or die from the unstable environment.

Stores like to push the products because it helps their profit margin.

According to your profile you are testing with paper strips. Strips often do not test for ammonia; and the tests they do monitor for are often inaccurate. You are better off with a good liquid testing kit. While being a bit more of an investment, the liquid test kits like API Master Kit will last over a year and be very economical, not to mention being more accurate.

Also, test your untreated tap water. It is best to know what you have to work with.

Good luck with your new tank.
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
oh. the guy at big al's told me to use bio-support for start up. ugh. ok, I'll read over the instructions posted for a fishless cycle and the tetra safe start (the guy at big al's told me not use use safe start because it doesn't work). this is very frustrating. I was assuming the guy at the store knew what he was talking about. I didn't think they'd try to sell me something I didn't need since they are an aquarium store as oppose to a pet store.
I knew it would be somewhat complicated, but I really didn't think it would be THIS complicated.

I will get the liquid tests as well and do my own comparison with the strips and see how different they are.

if I use the safestart with fish,what fish are the best to introduce?

oh, and should I be using the carbon filter during all of this?
  • #12
Fish stores are usually the best place to find the worst advise. I have used safe start, it does work, provided you follow the directions. If you do use safestart, try to stay away from fish known for being overly sensitive, but it would mostly depend on what fish you plan to stock.
The carbon filter won't hurt anything, as long as the filter has some form of bio media as well.
  • #13
Fishkeeping really isn't that just seems like it is in the beginning, since the learning curve is pretty steep (a little confusing and non-intuitive but not really complex.) The most important thing is to have a firm understanding of the nitrogen cycle.

Also, even tough you would think the best place to get advice would be the fish store, it really almost always is where you get the worst advice. It seems that most fish stores tell you to fill the tank, let the filter run for anywhere form 14 hours to one week, then add fish. Then when your fish start getting sick from ammonia poisoning, they get to sell you all kinds of medications and additional fish to replace the ones that keep dying.
  • #14
Agreed. Stores are in the business of making money, not offering sound advice on proper care of your pets. It is an unfortunate situation. This is why it is so important to research and ask questions on forums where those responding are not influenced by monetary gain.

TSS works when you follow the directions exactly. No variations! It doesn't work for the store because it is a one time purchase.

You will find some that swear by carbon and others that swear at carbon. The choice is yours on whether to use it or not. If you do decide to use activated carbon, make sure to replace the carbon every 3-4 weeks. I stuff my filters with sponges and/or bio media (bio beads, rings, stars, etc) for bacteria colonization; and only use activated carbon to remove med, tannins and other impurities.
  • #15
Just wanted to say GH and KH do get to be important if you are keeping inverts, mostly snails. I experienced a complete KH drop which crashed my ph in turn, killing off all my ramshorns and red cherry shrimp. IMO they are worth keeping an eye on.

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