Nitrate Problem

Discussion in 'Aquarium Water' started by Fishfry, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. Fishfry

    FishfryNew MemberMember

    I have several aquariums...2 x 35 gal and 1 x 15gal. I seem to always have a high nitrate level. I do weekly water changes but as I have a water softener when I do a water change the next day the water is very cloudy. My aquarium store told me it is because the water is so soft it is killing the bacteria off which causes the cloudiness and the fish to stay at the top to help them breathe. They suggested I try Kent's Cichlid Chemistry. Do you agree (one of the tanks is a cichlid tank)? Is there an additive that I can use to keep the nitrates down so that I can cut back a bit on the water changes...I already feed them every second day. Please help.
  2. carolo43

    carolo43Valued MemberMember

    There must be a faucet somewhere in the house you can get water from that is not hooked up to the softener........or a shut off on the softener? The softener is removing all the calcium causing water to be too soft. Once the pH drops to 6, it is hard for the bacteria to remain stable. High nitrates could be from the tank constantly cycling.
  3. JDcichlidlover

    JDcichlidloverWell Known MemberMember

    cichlids like hard water. Is there anyway you can get the water before it goes through the softener? I've heard that crushed coral for substrate will help harden water and buffer ph. Driftwood gives the bacteria other places to live and it helps maintain ph too.
    Do you use prime as your water conditioner? That nullifies the nitrates for a few days. Do you wash out the filter media? Don't do that. If it needs washed off then swish it through tank water so you don't kill bacteria
  4. jdhef

    jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    The only ways for nitrates to get into the tank are either from the conversion of ammoinia into nitrite and then the conversion of nitrite into nitrate, or from having nitrate in your tap water. I do not think your nitrate level is the reason your fish are hovering at the surface. That is usually due to high nitrites, since nitrites inhibit a fishes ability to extract oxygen from the water. Also if your ph was so low that the bacteria wasn't converting the ammonium into nitrites (at ph levels below 7.0 ammonia starts turning into far less toxic ammonium, which is not as good of a food for the ammonia consuming bacteria) then there would be less nitrite to turn into nitrate.

    BTW, while African Cichlids prefer harder water, South American Cichlids prefer neutral to softer water.

    It would probably be helpful if you could post your actual water parameters (i.e. ammonia, nitrite and nitrate).
  5. llfish

    llfishWell Known MemberMember

    For water softeners do you not add salt to your softener tank? That salt is nasty if you taste your softened tap water it is salty. I too have a water softener..I do not use it to water my plants, cook, drink or put it in my fish tanks. I do not have an indoor water tap with just regular hard water atm I use 5g bottles of RO water from my local water store, until I get my tap hooked up.
    I have mistakenly used tap water to water my plants once...and they suffered
  6. Jaysee

    JayseeFishlore LegendMember

    Welcome to the forum

    What do you consider high?
  7. OP

    FishfryNew MemberMember

    I am using the API Freshwater Master Test Kit and my nitrate readings are around 40 ppm (mg/L).
  8. Terra

    TerraWell Known MemberMember

    Have you tested your tap water yet for nitrates? My nitrates were always 30-40+, even a minute after a large water change, due to high nitrates in my tap.

    I tried lots of things for it, the most absolute fix was a chemical additive. I tried this one: and put just a tiny bit in the mesh bag in my filter and went from "red" nitrates (i can't really tell the difference between any color past orange on the color chart) down to 5 nitrates within 36 hours. Unfortunately to keep that consistent I'd have been spending a lot of money.

    My final solution was to add co2 and ferts to my tank so that my plants would grow faster. Within a few days of the co2 going in, my nitrates dropped on their own for the first time ever.. .and are now maintaining a mostly steady 20ppm even days after a water change.

    Even if you get your nitrates low, it's still recommended to do a weekly (or at least every other weekly) water change. You're adding back minerals the fish need with a water change.. not just removing nitrates they don't.
  9. jdhef

    jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    40ppm nitrates will not harm your fish, especially if you have nitrates in your tap water. Usually nitrates have to get pretty high before they become a problem. More to the problem would be large, rapid nitrate swings. For example if your nitrates were 100ppm and you did a 60% water change bringing them down to 40ppm. That is basically a condition know as Old Tank Syndrome.

    But if your tap water contains 0ppm nitrates, and you want to keep nitrates lower, you can just do larger or more frequent water changes to keep them in check.

    I have nitrates in my tap water, so I use Amquel+ as my water conditioner. Amquel+ has the ability to remove somewhere around 13ppm nitrates from the water.
  10. OP

    FishfryNew MemberMember

    Thanks to everyone for your would be near impossible to bypass the softened...I would have to carry the water up from the basememnt to the second floor. I will check the nitrates in my tap water and I guess from all the feedback my nitrates aren't as high as I thought.
  11. mmolitor87

    mmolitor87Well Known MemberMember

    I'll put it this way. I've had an established tank for 8 months now that always has around 70-90 nitrates (the color is hard to tell). My fish are perfectly healthy and are showing great growth! I don't believe nitrates are at all as harmful as people would like to say. As long as your other water parameters are okay, you'll be fine. The most important thing is to not have the parameters (including nitrates) fluctuate too much! Mine is due to high concentration in my tap. It occurs despite 40% water changes every week.

    A note about cichlids: Not all african cichlids like hard water, just like not all south american like soft/neutral water. It depends on the specific fish. JDs, for example, can easily tolerate medium-hard despite being south american. Same goes for Convicts. This was important for me to find out due to the water in my area being naturally hard. Jewel cichlids are a good example of an african that needs south american-like water conditions.

    To best test your nitrates you'll want to test the tank, test straight from the tap, and test from tap water you've let sit for 24+ hours.