Need advice for Tap Water issues please!

  • #1
So I've been fishless cycling my first tank for a litlle over a month (Fluval Edge 6 gallon). I've been dosing it with Ammonia and it's been dropping to zero within 12 hours which is great, but my nitrites have been through the roof for weeks. I've also seen the niTrates steadily increase which is positive.

I've done large water changes all week to hopefully get my nitrite level low enough, to get a somewhat accurate reading on my API liquid chart, but they just won't lower. So then it dawns on me that I never tested my tap water. Low and behold, I test my tap water and it's loaded with Nitrites, and is also showing some fairly high levels of Ammonia and Nitrates.

The tap's showing:

Ammonia = .50 ppm - 1.0 ppm
Nitrite = Somewhere around 2.0 - 5.0 ppm (Kind of hard to tell. Sort of a pinkish purple)
NiTrates = 5.0 ppm - 10 ppm

So knowing my tap waters essentially poison, how should I proceed?

Everything I've read about RO water or bottled water seems to be negative. (Lowers PH too much and is missing essential minerals etc.)

Can I can use Seachem Prime as a pre-water conditioner which will help detoxify the nasty stuff? Will using Prime screw up my cycle?

I added Prime to my API test tubes filled with my tested tank water, and it changed the colors to read 0 ppm to my amazement.

Any advice is much appreciated!

  • #2
Did you let your tap water sit for 24 hours before testing? I made that mistake when testing hardness. You will get false readings unless you let it calm down a while.

  • #3
You can always blend r/o water with spring water to achieve the proper ph and mineral balance. This eliminates the most of the "problems" with using purified water.

Simple bottled drinking water should also contain the nutrients that are lacking from RO or distilled water. You can also always add trace elements as well.

Since your tank is small none of these methods should be overly cost prohibitive.
  • #4
I hope you're not drinking your tap water! How old are the pipes in your house? Are they corroded? Can you test the water at someone's house where they have new, copper plumbing? Talk to your water district office and find out what is going on. If it's just your house, you could get water from a friend. If it's the city, then they need to fix it.

We got our house repiped 15 years ago, so our water isn't deadly. It is too hard for the tetras, so I cut their tank water with purified water from the vending machine outside the grocery store. The machines have labels on them saying what processes they use. It's a pain carrying jugs of water and strapping them into the back seat like kids, but it works
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
I'm really trying to avoid mixing RO water and spring water etc.

Do you guys think that using the Seachem Prime would stall or interfere with my cycle?

Like I said in my original post, when I put a drop of the Prime in every one of my test tubes, it completely changed the high readings to 0. This would obviously be useful for water changes once I have fish in there. I just don't know if it would mess up my initial cycle that I'm trying to get through.
  • #6
Prime will not stall or interfere with the cycle in any way.


  • #7
But Prime only detoxifies it it for 24 hrs. Not sure how that would work. But I could be wrong.
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
So my local fish store informed me that high nitrites and nitrates are fairly common in my local South Florida tap water. She owns the place and recommended Tetra Safe Start because that's what she uses on her new tanks. It's been 24 hours since I've added it and the nitrites don't seem to be going down at all.
  • #9
  • #10
I think RO is your best bet. You can get a RO unit for about 130$. Then when you do a water change all you need to do is raise the new water's GH to at least 5. Your pH and KH will be lower, but in my opinion this is a very good thing (unless you are keeping fish which prefer harder water). I have been using RO for my 20 gallon for over 5 years and it has never been healthier.

To raise GH you can use Seachem Equilibrium, or Barr's GH booster which I am now using.

Another advantage of RO water is that it is perfect for top-off. Water that evaporates is pure H2O, so if you replace it with tap water you are adding minerals and carbonates. This is not a problem if you do regular water changes, but if you don't do WC often and top-off with tap water this will raise KH and GH. So by using RO water for top-off, you can do fewer WC and your parameters will stay stable. I do an average of 3 WC per year!


  • #11
Need Help Please - KH/GH inquiry on 55 Gallon Tank....

Hello, to start off, I am relativly know to having fish, a little over 1 year now. I started off with a 10 gallon, then went to a 20 gallon, and as of this spring I now have a 55 gallon. I purchased the 55 gallon tank 2nd hand, and the tank came with 1 black, red finned shark , 1 tiger barb, 1 "cat fish" bottom feeder and some neon tetras. I already had mollys (silver, black, and marble) and a few guppies. Slowly my mollys and guppies all died. I went to my local pet store, (PetsUnlimited) and was told that both the barb and shark are very territorial, (which I had already noticed that both were both chasing the other fish), and that this was the cause of the deaths. So, for the last few months, I have bought some more mollys, as my son loves them, and every few months I would replace the ones I was loosing. (approximately 2 per 3 months) .. BUT, just a few weeks ago, I purchased 6 mollys, and in 2 days, I lost 3. 2 days later I lost 2 more. So I went and had my water tested, and was told everything was fine, except the KH was low... so I bought the KH Booster (Nutrafin) and did what I was told and kept testing my water. The test has KH & GH test "liquid"... And now to the point...for the last 2 weeks all has been well, and then last night I noticed my shark was sinking to the bottom of the tank He was so week, I was able to pick him up by hand to place him in a "hospital tank", I then completed a test, and found that after 6 drops, the KH test colour went to the preferred or correct colour (was told it should go to correct colour in about 10 drops)..however, I could not get the GH to the correct colour at all.. the colour should go from pink to light blue. After 23 drops, the colour went to a darkish pink/, where I need help.. if the KH ok? and could my shark have died due to the GH? What would be normal levels for both in a 55 gallon tank? I do not understand the test instructions, and want to know if my test results could be the reason for the sharks death, or could it just be that the shark was old and died? The person I purchased the tank from said he had it for 5 years..the shark was about 6 inches long..could he have just died from old age or is this a water issue? I still have the barb, some mollys, a few tetras, a medium/large sized pleco, a "cat fish" , and 2 loaches and they all appear to be fine... however, I am worried about the other fish, please help if you can with my KH/GH inquiry, ... Thank you!!
  • #12
Just thought you should know you can pick up an RO unit for under 70 bucks.
  • #13
RO water isn't a negative... :/ I use it in almost all of my tanks because of my water's copper content. You can use a product like Seachem Equalibrium to remineralize RO water and balance GH. Given that you live in South Florida (which has some of the worst water in the US, it seems) I suggest using RO water and remineralizing.

Prime won't stall your cycle, but it won't make your water perfect either, as nitrites and nitrates will continue to rise with each water change. (It doesn't keep them down forever) Most users here who live in Florida use either bottled water or RO water for their tanks, from what I've read
  • #14

Good morning,

starhanging.gifPlease use Paragraphs when posting for easier reading. Posting 1 big block of text can be difficult for many members to read. If a post is difficult to read, then you may not receive the responses that you seek. Referencing post #11 above.

I want you to receive as many responses as possible. You can use the EDIT feature to create paragraphs in your post #11.




  • #15
A good way to rationalize buying an RO filter is that it is much better for you to consume it for drinking, coffee, cooking, etc, and also save you a huge amount of money if you are buying bottled water for these purposes. Such a filter pays for itself fast. If your tap water is bad for the fish, it can't be all that good for you either.
  • #16
I swear by R/O units and agree with the other posts that urge you to look into getting one. The thing that I like best about them is that they allow you to have basically total control over your aquarium water, just by first determining your tap water parameters, and then by adjusting the ratio of tap water to RO water appropriately.
With the help of my RO unit, I am able to keep separate tanks with very different water types; for example, I am able to fairly easily keep both a hard, high pH tank for Lake MalawI Cichlids, and also a soft fairly acidic one for Discus and Tetras, etc.
I feel more comfortable changing water values this way, rather than using chemicals, just because water chemistry can get rather (to say the least) complicated, at least for me.
In your case, you might well be able to get your tap water nitrites down to a level that biological filtration could manage. If your kH gets too low, I really like the Seachem products that increase it.
I also really like Seachems' Purigen, it is great at reducing or removing basically any nitrogenous waste, and is easily recharged. Put it in a filter that allows you to see it, as it changes colour over time, thereby letting you know when to recharge it.
In any case, best of luck, sorry that your water supply is so poor; hope that you look into doing something about your drinking water, too; I do like fish, but people matter too .-----rick
  • #17
To CJL123:

First time through I didn't read your really long paragraph, so the moderator has made a valid point.

I know for a fact that high GH alone can kill fish, but at what point this starts to happen I cannot say. In some areas around where I live in Southern California, like where my sister lives, the GH is so high that it isn't measurable by API test kit, probably 50 dH or more, what they call liquid rock. Kh a more normal value around 10 dH, more than preferred for most fish I keep but not terrible. She was steadily losing fish and not knowing why, GH was the last thing I checked and the only thing out of the ordinary. After switching to RO with Equilibrium her problems appear to have gone away.

The thing about having a high mineral content is that you don't know what minerals they are, I am sure some are more toxic than others in high concentrations.

And yes, you can check the official government reports on what is in municipal water, but I don't believe them much because I know for a fact that where I live the water comes from different places during different times of the year, and they have only one set of numbers. I think the water we get from the several hundred mile aqueduct from Northern California is better than when they draw off of our local water table what little there is
of it.

Although my local water report does admit to nitrate levels of 19-29 ppm which is why I started using RO water myself. Water changes don't do much good if nitrates are that high in the tap.
  • #18
I realize this is off topic, by I was struck by LETDICEFLY's post mentioning 19-29 ppm nitrate levels in the tap water. In the Province where I live, 10 ppm is the allowed maximum, and even at that they admit that it can cause a rare disorder in babies less than 6 months old (i.e. baby formula consumers) that is often fatal. I know this isn't a political forum, but I do occasionally wonder what the threshold number of infant deaths is before drinking water is improved, and just who decides. Sorry about the off topic rant. Maybe I can make it somewhat on topic by pointing out the joys of buying the tank of your dreams for your kids' 1st Birthday, purely for educational purposes, of course.----rick
  • #19
Yeah, ricmcc. I have been known to tell people that the water in my aquariums is healthier to drink that what comes out of the tap. Although I wouldn't appreciate anyone dipping their cup into a tank for a drink.

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