Keeping nitrates down

  1. myriad1973 Well Known Member Member

    Lately I've had a problem with nitrates creeping up into the 50-60 ppm range again, which I already know how to handle it with the usual maintenance (weekly 25% - 50% water changes depending on nitrate levels). Normally I wouldn't be terribly concerned, but I have Rams in the tank again and I know how sensitive they are to nitrates and I need to get it under control soon. I would be happy if I can get it back into the 20-25 ppm range again. I will also be introducing Seachem Matrix into my canister filter this weekend, so that should help.

    My question is, and I should have asked this ages ago.... how much food should I feed my fish? I wonder if I'm overfeeding them? All this time I didn't think I was since they eat everything I feed considering how many fish are in the tank, but now I'm beginning to second guess myself.
  2. CichlidSWAGA Well Known Member Member

    I feed once a day about 5 little pinchs for 20 cichlids and one little pinch for my angels. And you might just need to do more water changes to keep the NO3 down
  3. jerilovesfrogs Fishlore VIP Member

    how long has the tank been set up? have you rinsed the media recently? sponges especially...they hold a ton of gunk...which can make nitrate levels go up. what about gravel vacuuming?
  4. myriad1973 Well Known Member Member

    What do you do in a case where you have barbs that are hogs and eat nearly everything that falls in the tank? I try to feed where all the fish eat.... it's a little frustrating. I use bottom feeder tablets also, and the barbs try to eat those too. Part of that remedy is removing the barbs... I've been thinking of selling them for a while now for some less rambunctious species. Odessa barbs are great fish, but man they are pigs, lol.
  5. catsma_97504 Fishlore Legend Member

    I have that problem with angels. I drop some food on one side of the tank. And when the angels go after it, I drop more food on the opposite side of the tank for the others.

    Each morning my fish are in their perspective corners waiting for their bite of food.
  6. myriad1973 Well Known Member Member

    My tank has been up 6 weeks with the gravel, decor and most filter media from my old 55 gallon setup.... it took just a few days to stabilize and I had no big ammonia spike. I'm always thorough with my gravel vacs and I rinse the media thoroughly with every water change, like this evening... 50% water change (due to 60 ppm nitrate) with a heavy gravel vac. Funny thing is, today's water change didn't really have a lot of waste at the bottom, although I did get out a lot of waste from the media rinse.

    I tried that, but the barbs are so fast they'll race across the tank to grab the food on the other side as well. The best strategy I could find was using Sera (fish food company) O-Nips that stick to the tank glass. The Odessas and Diamond Tetra (along with a few others) go right for it while I feed the rest with flakes, 4 tablets for the cories and 2 algae wafers for the plecos. The only drawback to this now is they are getting fat from overeating and one of the females is now chasing all the other fish away to have the O-Nip to herself. It's made mostly of brine shrimp I believe. I have also witnessed the barbs go for the flakes and tablets as well while eating the O-Nips! It's insane how much these 6 fish eat. 2 females and 1 male are noticeably fat and I've only had them since December. If there was a weight loss diet for fish, I would put them on one.

    I guess in hindsight, all this food I'm dropping in the tank is not helping with the nitrate problem, but it has been the only way I can get all the fish fed.
  7. toosie Well Known Member Member

    When do you feed the corys and the plecos? If you don't already, try feeding them only at night after the lights on the tank have been off for at least a half an hour. The other fish should be less active if not asleep by then and you can drop pellets and wafers in for the bottom feeders. Snap the pellets and wafers in half before you drop them in and cut the number you feed them in half as well. The pellets and wafers are a supplement to these fish, they aren't really meant to be their diet. The plecos should be scrounging for algae throughout the night if they don't during the day, and the corys are scavengers. They will eat any food that makes its way to the bottom and clean up any of the wafer the pleco doesn't eat as well, so you aren't likely going be under feeding the corys if you cut back on food there.

    Try that for a couple of weeks and see if it helps. Hopefully the barbs will be too dozey to pig out on the bottom feeder food at night and it should also help with nitrates at the same time.
  8. Aquarist Fishlore Legend Member

    Good morning,

    Please use caution cleaning your filter media. Too much rinsing/cleaning the media can result in loss of beneficial bacteria which may cause a mini cycle with increased ammonia levels.

    A simple swoosh, a gentle squeeze, in tank water is all that is needed and then place it back into the filter. The only time you need to do this is if you see a reduce flow from the filter or in your case, if you have high nitrates. It should not need to be done with every water change.

    I feed my fish once a day, every day. I add enough so that everyone gets a bite or two. Should someone miss the meal, more than likely they will be first in line the next morning. Do not keep feeding your fish simply because you may see one that didn't eat.

    I see you are using flakes, hold a pinch under water for a few seconds and let it go, or put the flakes in at the filter outflow area so that the food disperses throughout the tank, not just floating in one spot on the surface. This may help them all to get a bite. :)

  9. ryanr Moderator Moderator Member

    +1 Ken. Not to mention the old "turkey baster" approach (for particularly hard to please residents)

    Fish can go 2-3 days without food, and really only need as much as their eye-ball as a "plate size" to survive.

    And the hold the food under water approach works too, it helps to saturate it so that it sinks the bottom dwellers
  10. myriad1973 Well Known Member Member

    I feed all the fish in the evening, usually around 7 pm. I don't know why I didn't think if snapping the wafers in half.... I guess I could split up the feeding times, but I go to bed at 9 pm on work nights, so hopefully the barbs won't be too active at that time after the tank lights are out.

    Thanks for the input Ken. Since I've had this tank set up, I've been monitoring the nitrate levels weekly, especially now that I have the Rams in the tank. Usually I have reduced water flow in the filters (due to the overfeeding), so I have to rinse thoroughly. Luckily I have never had an ammonia spike from using this method. When I feed, I drop the flakes into the filter outlet, but I do have quite a few top dwelling fish, so it's a bit of a challenge making sure the lower level fish (rams, neon tetras, glowlights, etc) get a bite, especially when you have 100 (mostly small) fish in the tank. I guess I should've went with about 15 - 20 SA Cichlids, eh? lol

    I skipped a feeding last night, I will probably skip tomorrow's feeding as well until I can get this situation under control. It's a bit embarassing... you'd think after fishkeeping for over a year, I wouldn't ask a question about feeding. I apologize....

    Do you happen to know if the barbs will slim up if I cut back on the food?
  11. Jaysee Fishlore Legend Member

    Fish can go 2-3 weeks or more, without food.

    No need to ever apologize for asking questions.

    I overcome feeding issues by using multiple sized pellets. I have 0.5, 1, 2, and 3 mm NLS pellets. The larger pellets sink faster than the smaller ones, so while the piggy fish are busy gobbling up all the suspended pellets, the other fish can get to work on the larger pellets on the bottom. The system works beautifully. I think you should get 0.5 and 1 mm pellets. The 0.5 mm will get caught in the current and will be suspended, while the 1 mm will fall to the bottom.

    Which fish are you concerned isn't getting their share?
  12. myriad1973 Well Known Member Member

    The mid to bottom fish. Red and Black Phantoms, Neons, Glowlights, GBR's.

    I like the idea of feeding pellets instead of flakes. I know there is much less waste that way and a better chance of everybody getting their fair share. I'll have to see what my fish stores have.... I know one of them carries NLS. I didn't know they got that small. I've even considered feeding them the betta pellets I feed my betta.
  13. Jaysee Fishlore Legend Member

    Yeah, the pellets will do the trick.
  14. myriad1973 Well Known Member Member

    I would imagine the barbs should slim back down in a couple of weeks?
  15. Jaysee Fishlore Legend Member

    yeah, eventually ;)
  16. myriad1973 Well Known Member Member

    I just had a thought.... would those 0.5 mm pellets fit in the mouths of my pencilfish? Their mouths are extremely tiny.
  17. Jaysee Fishlore Legend Member

    yes they will - they are very small.
  18. myriad1973 Well Known Member Member

    I just added Seachem Matrix to my canister filter. Hopefully it'll help the nitrate levels over the next few weeks.
  19. Jaysee Fishlore Legend Member

    I wouldn't expect to see any changes for at least a few weeks. It will take time for the bacteria to colonize it.
  20. myriad1973 Well Known Member Member

    Yeah I know. In the mean time.... lighter feedings, pellets instead of flakes, and my usual weekly water change. My goal is to get my nitrates down to under 20 ppm on a regular basis. There are times it is only 20 when I test the water, then I do a water change and the following week it is at 50 again. It doesn't help that there is anywhere from 5 to 15 ppm in the tap water as well.