Weird: Low, But Persistent Nitrates, Fish In Tank!

Threetone

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Hi all,

New member first post! I love having an aquarium with my daughter. We have a 10 gallon with an Aqueon HOB quietflow. I added some Biomax when we first got it. I thought it had cycled (Fishless, per your directions!)....but I had not yet received my API liquid test kit, so that was based on dipsticks.......

Then we added 3 Glofish Tetras. 2 weeks, perfect. Then first water change (about 30%). Using API test kit NOW:

Ammonia .15 ppm
Nitrite 4ppm
Nitrate 50 ppm
Ph about 7.25

When I saw this after the water change I did 3 consecutive days of 30 percent water changes. NO CHANGE IN READINGS!!

I have been treating the water I add with Prime, and oddly enough the fish seem perfectly fine. I thought that 4ppm would kill them???

I am considering:

1. Adding TSS to help speed up the "new" cycle
2. Continuing water changes daily until 0/0 on ammonia and nitrites
3. Doing nothing since fish seem fine

I welcome any advice, PLEASE!

Thank you.....
 

Heron

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Tss should speed up your cycle. 4ppm ammonia would kill the fish but prime converts the ammonia to a harmless form for 24-48 hours so if you keep adding prime the ammonia should be harmless to the fish. Unfortunately prime slows the cycling process because it reduces the ammonia available for the filter bacteria to grow but as you now have fish in the tank it's best to keep using it and accept a slower cycling process.
 

jdhef

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Welcome to FishLore!

Are you sure you are following the test kit directions? Have you checked the expiration date on your test kit? With those numbers it is very surprising your fish are alive. Have you tested your tap water? If your tap water has 0ppm ammonia and nitrite, it is very surprising that the water changes did not change your test results.
 

Spyder

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Pretty certain 4ppm nitrite is off. I’d think every fish would be dead in just hours with that level because even Prime can’t detoxify all of that in normal/recommended dosing. Make sure you’re only adding the 5 small drops to the tube with your water sample. Shake for 5 seconds or so and let it sit. Also test your tap water one more time to be certain as others recommended. Something definitely isn’t right.

One more thing I would personally do are back to back 50-70% changes (no gravel vac’ing or scrubbing) and check the levels about 2 hours after that. I would up the water changes to 50% daily as well until the numbers lower. Whatever the case is, if that level is really that high (very weird) - it has to come down.
 

Skavatar

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I have been treating the water I add with Prime, and oddly enough the fish seem perfectly fine. I thought that 4ppm would kill them???
you're correct. Prime is a life saver for fish in cycles. i have done several fish in cycles using Prime with no adverse effects. Prime detoxes ammonia and reverses/prevents the effects of nitrite aka methemoglobin.

Prime is good for up to 48hrs. so you can do water changes every 2 days and continue to use Prime.

also there was a lengthy discussion about nitrite toxicity, and several studies showed that nitrite levels can be up to 30ppm and still be safe for most fish. and nitrates can be up to 400ppm w/o any effects on most fish.
 

Spyder

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you're correct. Prime is a life saver for fish in cycles. i have done several fish in cycles using Prime with no adverse effects. Prime detoxes ammonia and reverses/prevents the effects of nitrite aka methemoglobin.

Prime is good for up to 48hrs. so you can do water changes every 2 days and continue to use Prime.

also there was a lengthy discussion about nitrite toxicity, and several studies showed that nitrite levels can be up to 30ppm and still be safe for most fish. and nitrates can be up to 400ppm w/o any effects on most fish.
And this is why I’m a beginner and a nut case with water changes. I had no idea lol When I was cycling and hit 1-1.5ppm nitrite I was frantically water changing like someone bucketing water out of a flooded house. Lol
 
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Threetone

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Thank you all. I read that with safestart you should stop doing water changes. So if I can clarify my plan moving forward, is it better to continue daily water changes or to add the safestart? And if I add the safestart, should I stop those water changes? Again thanks so much for the help!

By the way I did check my test kit and everything seems fine on the dates Etc. I agree, however, that it seems odd to do several water changes in a row and have the nitrite levels remain consistent. At the very least I should be diluting it?
 

mattgirl

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Pretty certain 4ppm nitrite is off. I’d think every fish would be dead in just hours with that level because even Prime can’t detoxify all of that in normal/recommended dosing.
High nitrites aren't going to kill fish that quickly. For example. When I did my fish in cycle my nitrites spiked off the chart. Daily water change didn't seem to bring them down but I continued to do them and added Prime with each water change. It took 5 days to drop the nitrites from off the chart to zero. Most of the fish that were in there are still with me here almost 4 years later.

@Threetone If it were me I would do your number 2. Continuing water changes daily until 0/0 on ammonia and nitrites.

Add enough Prime with each water change to treat the full volume of your tank. I would be changing out no less than half the water with each water change.

These water changes will also get those uncomfortably high nitrates down too. You want to shoot for 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and less than 20 nitrates.
 
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Threetone

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Thanks everyone. Did another 30% water change tonight. I know the water I'm putting in has zero nitrite and zero nitrate, so it baffles me that a 30% water change doesn't seem to lower the numbers. At the very least I should be diluting whatever's in there, right?
 

GuppyDazzle

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You have the right idea and you're asking the right questions.

Assuming your numbers are correct, you have a problem with ammonia production. If your tank is fairly new, the only thing that could cause an ammonia buildup is overfeeding. Toxins, starting with ammonia, then nitrite, then nitrate, are the result of how much food you put into the tank, not how many fish you have. If you're doing repeated water changes and you're not seeing any reduction in the toxins, something is producing ammonia like crazy. I'd recommend cutting feeding in half at least while the tank is cycling, and see what that does to your numbers. Hopefully your fish will act like they're starving. That will mean they're healthy.

There are different schools of thought on the effectiveness of bottled bacteria. If you use it, follow the instructions carefully. The other school of thought is to test frequently and control your toxin levels with water changes. It's almost impossible to do too many water changes, as long as you match temperature and use water conditioner. It's a numbers thing. If you have 2 ppm nitrites and do a 50% water change, your nitrites should reduce to 1 ppm.


If you add your ammonia to nitrites and use water changes to keep the total number at 1 ppm or less, your fish will be fine. But that formula won't work if you use bottled bacteria.
 

mattgirl

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Thanks everyone. Did another 30% water change tonight. I know the water I'm putting in has zero nitrite and zero nitrate, so it baffles me that a 30% water change doesn't seem to lower the numbers. At the very least I should be diluting whatever's in there, right?
This is why I recommended you change out no less than half the water with each water change. You could even do more than that but 50% should start lowering the numbers. If you change 50% and are still seeing these numbers do another one.

With fish in there you are not going to change out too much water. As long as you are temp matching and dechlorinating the water you are pouring in there your fish and bacteria will be fine.
 

Momgoose56

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you're correct. Prime is a life saver for fish in cycles. i have done several fish in cycles using Prime with no adverse effects. Prime detoxes ammonia and reverses/prevents the effects of nitrite aka methemoglobin.

Prime is good for up to 48hrs. so you can do water changes every 2 days and continue to use Prime.

also there was a lengthy discussion about nitrite toxicity, and several studies showed that nitrite levels can be up to 30ppm and still be safe for most fish. and nitrates can be up to 400ppm w/o any effects on most fish.
I want to see those studies. Trout, bass and halibut have much different tolerances than tropical fish. Nitrites pose a much greater threat to tropical fish than ammonia does, simply because people tend to not monitor them or ignore persistent low levels of nitrites in a tank.
 
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Skavatar

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I want to see those studies. Trout, bass and halibut have much different tolerances than tropical fish. Nitrites pose a much greater threat to tropical fish than ammonia does, simply because people tend to not monitor them or ignore persistent low levels of nitrites in a tank.
see the link in post #7
 

Spyder

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don't see how studies of cold water salmonid nitrite tolerances compare to tolerances of warm water tropical species. Apples and Oranges.
Heck studies or not I think anyone would agree clean fresh water beats the opposite. Really no reason to even try and stretch parameters when unnecessary.
 
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Threetone

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Okay fourth day of water changes. Same numbers. Explain this to me, one hour after the water change my nitrites are still 4 parts per million. That was a 40% water change. How is that even possible? The water I put in read zero so it should dilute, correct? At this point should I add some tetra safestart? Or just keep going with water changes and hope my fish survive 4 parts per million. Ammonia is practically zero and I am still dosing with prime. Any help would be really appreciated guys thank you.

Okay fourth day of water changes. Same numbers. Explain this to me, one hour after the water change my nitrites are still 4 parts per million. That was a 40% water change. How is that even possible? The water I put in read zero so it should dilute, correct? At this point should I add some tetra safestart? Or just keep going with water changes and hope my fish survive 4 parts per million. Ammonia is practically zero and I am still dosing with prime. Any help would be really appreciated guys thank you.
By the way nitrates are really high. 50?
 
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Spyder

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By the way nitrates are really high. 50?
How much are you feeding? Those levels sound like either over feeding and excessive waste (not really sure how with your low stock) and rotting plants. I wouldn’t think more bacteria is necessary because you’re already getting there in the cycle. I’d do another 50% water change. Just my thoughts but I’m sure the pros may have better advice.
 

Momgoose56

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Okay fourth day of water changes. Same numbers. Explain this to me, one hour after the water change my nitrites are still 4 parts per million. That was a 40% water change. How is that even possible? The water I put in read zero so it should dilute, correct? At this point should I add some tetra safestart? Or just keep going with water changes and hope my fish survive 4 parts per million. Ammonia is practically zero and I am still dosing with prime. Any help would be really appreciated guys thank you.
Do a couple of back to back bigger water changes 75% x 2. Have you vacuumed substrate recently? How about your mesh or sponge filter media-- is it clogged at all--or is all the water running through it instead of around it? Gotta have the water running past the bacteria that breaks down nitrites.
 
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Skavatar

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Okay fourth day of water changes. Same numbers. Explain this to me, one hour after the water change my nitrites are still 4 parts per million. That was a 40% water change. How is that even possible? The water I put in read zero so it should dilute, correct? At this point should I add some tetra safestart? Or just keep going with water changes and hope my fish survive 4 parts per million. Ammonia is practically zero and I am still dosing with prime. Any help would be really appreciated guys thank you.
it means your nitrites are over 6-7ppm. you removed 40% you're left with 3.6-4.2ppm
 
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