Why are my nitrites and nitrates so high?

Discussion in 'Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle' started by Spirited, Mar 31, 2010.

  1. S

    Spirited New Member Member

    So I set up this 28 gal aquarium on Feb 5th. It has filtered, softened well water in it so the Ph is always pretty high, but I don't have problems with chlorine or other conditioning issues. I've been testing it regularly and other than high Ph - I had always had practically no nitrates or nitrites. I slowly added fish over time - everything was great.

    I went out of town last week and had a house sitter. I came home to cloudy nasty looking water. I assumed that she overfed. I tested and my nitrates and nitrites were both really high and in the danger zone on my testing strips. I did a 30% water change (my fish were looking stressed out and so I didn't want to do more.) The cloudiness resolved. That was Sunday. I tested today and I STILL had high on both so I did another water change of almost 50% because one of my angels was looking really iffy. I thought I needed to take a chance that this change would help or lose her. (I don't know if that was right or wrong.) The readings came down now and she looks better.

    My readings are still:

    Nitrate 50 ppm
    Nitrite 4.0 ppm

    The rest of the testing strip just shows that I am using softened well water so high Ph and no chlorine, etc.

    I also changed my filter even though my existing one was only about 2 weeks old. It was pretty yucky.

    What else should I do?
     
  2. OP
    OP
    S

    Spirited New Member Member

    So I set up this 28 gal aquarium on Feb 5th. It has filtered, softened well water in it so the Ph is always pretty high, but I don't have problems with chlorine or other conditioning issues. I've been testing it regularly and other than high Ph - I had always had practically no nitrates or nitrites. I slowly added fish over time - everything was great.

    I went out of town last week and had a house sitter. I came home to cloudy nasty looking water. I assumed that she overfed. I tested and my nitrates and nitrites were both really high and in the danger zone on my testing strips. I did a 30% water change (my fish were looking stressed out and so I didn't want to do more.) The cloudiness resolved. That was Sunday. I tested today and I STILL had high on both so I did another water change of almost 50% because one of my angels was looking really iffy. I thought I needed to take a chance that this change would help or lose her. (I don't know if that was right or wrong.) The readings came down now and she looks better.

    My readings are still:

    Nitrate 50 ppm
    Nitrite 4.0 ppm

    The rest of the testing strip just shows that I am using softened well water so high Ph and no chlorine, etc.

    I also changed my filter even though my existing one was only about 2 weeks old. It was pretty yucky.

    What else should I do?
     
  3. bass master

    bass master Well Known Member Member

    sounds like your tank may still be cycling, its a process that can take up to months often times.... Some products like tetra safe start I know are often recommended to help jumpstart your cycle as well as adding filter media from another tank. If you could you might wanna update all your aquarium info so some other more knowledgeable people can help you out. Also some numbers for your ammonia readings could be helpful in seeing how your tank cycle is coming along.

    the fact that your nitrates are very high however might mean that your tank is already cycled and you're just going through a "mini cycle" that might have been started by switching out your filter media. Generally if your filter is nasty you should just rinse it out in a separate bucket full of aquarium water that way the beneficial bacteria stays alive on the screen but you still remove much of the decomposing waste that could be causing some of the problems. On top of what Ive said you also obviously wanna stay on top of your water changes. Ideally your nitrates should be under 20 so you wanna make sure to be changing about 30% water about twice a week right now (even more often if you're able) until you get things under control and then maybe drop down to about 20-30% weekly if things stay stable.

    hope this helps
     
  4. Flyfrod

    Flyfrod Valued Member Member

    I would get rid of the test strips. They are never reliable. Get a good liquid test kit. Next if you can get some prime to add to the water when doing water changes, than will help the fish some. As bassmaster said it sounds like your tank wasnt completely cycled and with the overfedding it shot your levels up. Keep up with the water changes until all your level drop.
     
  5. Prince Powder

    Prince Powder Well Known Member Member

    Hello and welcome to Fishlore!
    Sorry about your tank troubles. I would recommend investing in a good quality liquid test kit like the API master test kit. Test strips are known to be very inaccurate and even though they cost less than the API kit up front, in the long run they wind up costing more since you don't get anywhere near as many tests as you do with an API kit. I agree that it was not the best idea to completely replace your filter cartridge. Most of the beneficial bacteria colonizes on the sponge material on your cartridge so when you throw it out you essentially throw out the bulk of your cycle. The only part of a cartridge that actually needs regular changes is the carbon. I generally just cut the carbon out of the cartridge then use bulk carbon to replace it. The sponge material is rinse and reuse until it is literally falling apart. To help with your cycle problem I would recommend doing daily water changes with a water conditioner like Prime or Amquel+. The water changes will get your levels down and the Prime or Amquel+ will keep whatever ammonia and nitrite is left detoxified for 24 hours between the changes to help keep your fish safe. You will want to make sure that the water conditioner is one of these two brands since most conditioners will not help with your ammonia and nitrite. Prime and Amquel+ convert ammonia and nitrite into non toxic forms, but still leaves them available for your beneficial bacteria to feed on and grow. Unfortunately there is no set time as to how long it will take your tank to right itself, but if you can get some filter media or gravel from an established tank to put into your tank it will help speed up the process.
     
  6. A

    AlyeskaGirl Fishlore VIP Member

    Hello,

    First off test strips aren't really that accurate, the most reliable test kit or what is used the most with members is the API (liquid) Master Test Kit that has tests for pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrAte. It's spendy but dose lots of tests.

    Second, you shouldn't just replace your filter cartridge as that houses most of your beneficial bacteria. You can just swish it around really good in a bucket of tank water to get the gunk off. If & when you do need to replace it, it is best to stick the old filter in the tank for at least two weeks to give the new cartridge time to seed. Then throw out the old. If your cartridge fis that gunky in two weeks then your tank must be overstocked or insufficient
    filtration but then again you said you have never had high readings before. I agree it could be from overfeeding while you were gone.

    Third, what IS your tank stocked with? What filter are you using? Have you done a gravel vac lately to pickup uneatten food & fish waste?

    Those are pretty high readings according to your strips, you need to get those readings down. I would get a bottle of Prime or Amquel Plus water conditioner to detox the nitrites and nitrAtes with daily 30-50% water changes until you get zero nitrItes and nitrAtes less then 20. Feed only once a day during this time. Also have you tested for ammonia?

    I hope things go OK.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2010
  7. Butterfly

    Butterfly Moderator Moderator Member

    Hope you don't mind I merged your duplicate threads. Please only post the same question in one thread so as not to confuse people. Thanks.
    Carol
     
  8. OP
    OP
    S

    Spirited New Member Member

    I bought an API master test kit and here are my readings.

    Ph - at least 8.4 but not a perfect match to any color - for sure really high
    Ammonia - .25 ppm
    Nitrite - 0 ppm
    Nitrate - somewhere between the 40 - 80 ppm mark (it was really dark, but not a match on either color)

    Are these readings possible? (zero nitrite but having higher nitrates?) Also, I noticed I suddenly have quite a bit of algae growing on the tank walls despite having an algae eater.


    I was very careful with my test and did it twice to make sure.

    Should I do another water change or does it look ok? I'm confused now.
     
  9. Butterfly

    Butterfly Moderator Moderator Member

    Yes those readings are possible :) especially with the algae starting. Nitrites are changing to Nitrates and Nitrares are going up so hence the algae :)
    I would do another water change because of the ammonia.
    It's getting there :)
    carol
     




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