The significance of nitrate in the aquarium is arguably less understood by fish keepers than the effect of ammonia and nitrite. Although nitrate is not as directly lethal as ammonia or nitrite, over time, high levels of nitrate negatively impact fish and the aquarium environment in general.
Where Does Nitrate Come From?
Nitrate is a by-product of nitrite oxidation during the latter stages of the nitrogen cycle and is present to some degree in all aquariums. Detritus, decaying plant material, dirty filters, over-feeding, and overstocking the aquarium all contribute to increased levels of nitrate.
Additionally, tap water used to fill the aquarium may contain nitrate in it. In the United States, drinking water may have nitrates as high as 40 parts per million (ppm). Before adding water to your aquarium, test it for nitrate to discover if the levels are unusually high in your water source. If your baseline nitrate is above 10 ppm, consider other water sources that are nitrate-free.
In nature, nitrate in water remains very low, generally well below 5 ppm. In freshwater aquariums, nitrates should be kept below 50 ppm at all times, and preferably below 25 ppm. If you are breeding fish, or are battling algae growth, keep nitrate even lower, below 10 ppm.
Effect on Fish
Fish will feel the impact of nitrate by the time levels reach 100 ppm, particularly if these levels persist. The resulting stress leaves fish more susceptible to disease and inhibits their ability to reproduce.
High nitrate levels are especially harmful to fry and young fish and will negatively affect their growth. Furthermore, the same conditions that cause elevated nitrate often cause decreased oxygen levels, which further stress the fish.
Nitrate and Algae
Elevated nitrate is a significant contributor to undesirable algae growth, and nitrate levels as low as 10 ppm will promote algae growth. The algal blooms that are common in newly set-up tanks are usually due to elevated nitrate levels.
Although plants utilize nitrate, if nitrate levels rise faster than the plants can use them, then even the plants can become overgrown with algae, ultimately leading to their asphyxiation and demise.
How to Reduce Nitrate
Unlike the aerobic bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrite and then nitrite to nitrate, the bacteria that remove nitrate avoid oxygen-rich environments. Therefore, well-oxygenated conventional filters, unfortunately, will not harbor the kinds of bacteria that remove nitrate.
However, there are some steps you can take to keep nitrate low.
- Keep the aquarium clean: Waste ultimately produces nitrate; cleaner tanks produce less nitrate that must be removed by water changes.
- Feeding amounts: Overfeeding is a significant contributor to excess nitrate and other undesirable wastes, such as phosphate.
- Water changes: Performing regular water changes with water that has little or no nitrate will lower the overall nitrate level in the aquarium. If your local tap or well water is high in nitrate, using deionized water (DI) or reverse osmosis water (RO) can help keep nitrate levels low when doing a water change. However, since these are devoid of minerals, the hardness, alkalinity, and pH of the water can become too low and mineral supplements may need to be added. Mix your nitrate-containing tap water with DI or RO water to make a blend with the correct water parameters.
- Keeping live plants:Live plants utilize nitrate and will help keep the levels lower.
Although special filters, called denitrators, exist that will remove nitrate, such devices are usually quite expensive compared to other filtration units. Instead of purchasing a pricey denitrator or special filter, you can purchase from your fish store a nitrate-lowering media to put into the filter you have. These will pull the nitrate out of the solution and need to be replaced periodically.
High nitrate accumulation, sometimes referred to as old tank syndrome, can be a common problem for long-time aquarium hobbyists. It usually occurs when regular maintenance and water change routines are ignored. Nitrate is the end product of bacterial reduction of ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate. The nitrate will accumulate in the aquarium water until it is assimilated by plants or removed by water changes.
In freshwater, nitrate is relatively nontoxic even at high levels (200 mg/L or more), but in saltwater aquariums, it can be a problem for marine invertebrates, so it should be kept at lower levels (below 20 mg/L). Some marine aquarium keepers are reluctant to perform regular water changes to lower the nitrate as they would then need to add more salt into the aquarium, and so they only top off the evaporated water with freshwater (as salt does not evaporate). This does not remove the nitrate but allows the nitrate to rise and can cause problems in the aquarium.
This nitrate reduction method is an instant nitrate reduction water change method. You can reduce nitrate quickly to zero with no ill or harmful effects to your established aquarium residents. In fact, the behavior of the tank inhabitants can improve greatly afterward. You may notice the fish will become more active, start eating better, and may display brighter colors within a few days.
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Moto “Club4AG” Miwa / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
One important consideration before you start a massive (or any, for that matter) water change is to remember that you will also be changing the pH in your tank (probably upward). Before beginning this water change, it is wise to slowly adjust your tank water pH to where it will be when you are finished. You can adjust the pH upward with common baking soda or downward with one of the many products on the market to reduce the pH of aquarium water. This will prevent your tank critters from going through “pH shock,” which can be fatal to more sensitive tank critters.
This method was proven when an experiment was performed to test it. The test tank’s nitrate was allowed to rise to a dangerously high level, literally off the scale, to observe the transitions the tank would go through. The experiment was successful. It allowed the testers to observe the formation of different algae.
The established aquarium residents survived, too; a 15-inch snowflake eel, various types of hermit crabs and snails, a few crabs, two colonies of zoanthids, some non-living corals, and some live rock. The testers even added a newly mated pair of coral-banded shrimp the day after the completion of the water change procedure with no problems at all.
Rapid Nitrate Reduction Method
Many people try to reduce their nitrate levels by performing a series of partial, 20 percent water changes. This will reduce your nitrate (or any other chemical substance) levels, but it is rather inefficient if the object is to reduce the levels to near zero in the shortest period of time as possible, with the least amount of water.
For example, if you reduce the level of water in the tank to 20 percent of normal and then refill the tank to a 40 percent level, you have already reduced your nitrate levels by half. If you then refill the tank to the 100 percent level, your nitrate levels will be 20 percent of the original level that you started at.
If, on the other hand, you reduce the 40 percent water level once more to 20 percent and then refill the tank, you will end up with a nitrate level of 10 percent of what you started with. Perform the 40 percent to 20 percent reduction once more, and you will end up with a nitrate level of 5 percent of what you started with. So, if you started out with a nitrate level of 100 parts per million and used this method, your 100 ppm nitrates would be reduced, in a short period of time, to five ppm, which is considered to be an acceptable level even for corals.
Why It Is Safe
Some people fear that the rapid reduction of nitrate would “shock” tank critters. This is an understandable concern, but under the circumstances, the rapid reduction of potentially harmful toxins in a tank is of the utmost importance.
For example, it would be like standing in a closed garage with a car engine running, filling the garage with carbon monoxide. Then imagine someone telling you not to open the garage door since the rapid reduction in carbon monoxide levels is more harmful than reducing the carbon monoxide levels by 20%. The scenario is the same. The fish and other tank inhabitants are swimming in a toxic substance that will kill based on exposure.
Of course, the best way to avoid the urgent need to have to reduce toxic nitrate levels is to follow a regular maintenance and water change routine. If you find you are in a position where everything you have tried does not seem to work and rising nitrate levels continue to be a problem, give this water change method a try.
You can be conservative while using this method, too. if you are concerned about “shocking” your tank inhabitants, you can always perform this process over a period of time (waiting a few days between each water change process) until the nitrate is reduced.
Perhaps the most challenging part of maintaining aquaria (whether freshwater, brackish or marine) is controlling nuisance algae growth.
It seems the stuff just spontaneously generates if you make one wrong move, such as overfeeding the fish, skimping on a water change or slacking on replacing chemical filtrants.
Algae cannot simply grow from nothing. Yes, being capable of photosynthesis, they certainly do obtain their energy from light. But like any plant, they must obtain the basic building blocks of their biomass from their surrounding environment in the form of various nutrients. In other words, algae need fertilizers.
The most important components in “algae fertilizer” are ammonia/ammonium, nitrite and nitrate. Nitrate is the form preferred by most plants. Therefore, maintaining low concentrations of macronutrients, such as nitrate, is key to keeping an algae-free tank.
What’s the Role of Fish Tank Nitrate?
Because it is so important, nitrate can get used up rather quickly in the natural environment. In fact, in many ecosystems, it is a limiting nutrient. Nitrate is critical for the growth and reproduction of plants, and because it is in low supply, its abundance very directly influences the algal productivity. In the characteristically nutrient-poor waters of habitats such as coral reefs, algal growth is very, very restricted.
Fish tanks are another story, mainly due to the fact that conventional aquaria are recirculating systems that filter and recycle water over and over again. Though toxic substances are converted into less toxic substances, accumulations of their biological byproducts can themselves pose issues.
Take, for example, the nitrogen cycle. As we feed our fishes, they produce nitrogenous waste products in the form of ammonia. Nitrifying bacteria in our so-called biological filter convert the ammonia to nitrite and the nitrite into nitrate. All good, right?
Not necessarily! Where is all that nitrate going? If you cannot answer that question with a number, you need to start testing your water!
Reliable nitrate readings can be quickly and easily obtained using a quality test kit, such as the API Nitrate fresh and salt water aquarium test kit. If your nitrate levels are above, say, 10 or 15 parts per million (ppm), you’ve got some stuff to do.
The Potential Dangers of Excess Nitrate Levels
Sure, you’ve been told so many times that nitrate is harmless. A lot of fishes can tolerate brief exposures of up to 550 ppm. Chronic exposure, on the other hand, can indeed be damaging, even at much lower levels of exposure.
Over time, at just 30 ppm, nitrate can negatively impact cell development in both fishes and invertebrates. Lethargy, poor color, poor immune system and weakened feeding response are all signs of nitrate poisoning.
Most professional aquarists contend that nitrate concentrations should never exceed 20 ppm but are much more safely maintained below 10 ppm.
Still, nitrate concentrations of just a few parts per million can lead to massive algal blooms. These may occur as either planktonic (e.g., “green water”) or benthic (e.g., film or slime) blooms.
By the time they become evident, they are already well on their way to choking out your corals, adversely altering your water chemistry and making your tank look generally overgrown and derelict.
Truly, the best way to avoid battling algae in these endless cycles is to effectively prevent its proliferation through strict nutrient limitation.
How to Reduce Nitrate in an Aquarium
There are essentially two manners in which nitrate levels can be kept low, even in well-stocked and well-fed aquaria. These are (1) minimizing nitrate input and (2) promoting its removal/uptake.
Minimizing Nitrate Input
Of course, very few among us would grab a bottle that boldly reads NITRATE and pour its contents into our aquarium. Nitrate gets into our tanks in more sneaky ways, such as in replacement water, supplements and fish food.
Consequently, one should use only purified water for replacement or top-off, be certain that any products used in the water are nitrate-free, and then, follow that big one: feed your fish sparingly!
Conducting Water Changes
Removal is simple enough if you carry out large, regular water exchange. Water changes are a sure shot, as they instantly and permanently remove the nitrate from the system.
Want to remove 20 percent of the nitrate in the water? Do a 20 percent water change; it’s as straightforward as that.
Additionally, use of chemical filter media (such as the Deep Blue Professional nitrate reducer filter media pad) between water changes can provide very welcome relief in the event of an odd spike.
Installing a Refugium
For those who care not for tasks that require hauling heavy buckets about, there is one option that can significantly reduce the demand for water exchange. Using a planted refugium, the keeper can orchestrate the uptake of nitrate directly from the water via living, growing macroalgae.
Removal of nitrate (and other nutrients) occurs when portions of the standing crop are harvested and discarded. Though they require a little extra investment to install, refugia offer huge long-term payoff in the form of continuous, near-effortless and totally natural nitrate removal.
One might say that they provide the most interesting means of nitrate removal, in that cultivating the seaweeds (some of which can be quite beautiful) is a rewarding effort all in itself.
Lastly, one might control nitrate levels (here again through biological action) using various types of microbes. These diverse microorganisms either sequester nitrate for biomass or convert it to another substance (e.g., nitrogen gas).
Live cultures are increasingly becoming available in the trade. These include both aerobic and anaerobic types. Aerobic forms (mainly heterotrophic bacteria) can take up nitrate rather quickly but usually need to be “fed” a carbon source, such as ethanol.
Anaerobic forms (such as purple nonsulfur bacteria) work more slowly but do not require carbon dosing, as they typically dwell deep in the bottom sediments where organic matter is plentiful.
Additionally, unlike their aerobic counterparts, anaerobes pose no risk of blooms (typically from carbon overdosing) that can cause dangerous oxygen depletion.
In most cases, it’ll be best to foster a microbial community that is as dynamic and diverse as possible. This could involve the addition of a deep sand bed, use of bacterial inoculants and regular addition of bacterial supplements/foods.
However you choose to manage nitrate, one thing is clear: to keep healthy animals in a relatively algae-free tank, it must be managed aggressively.
By sticking to a tight water change regimen, using only purified water, adding quality chemical filters, installing a refugium and supporting the growth of beneficial microbes, you need not ever struggle with chronic nitrate build-up!
Nitrates are the bane of many an established fishkeeper. But there are some quick and easy fixes.
What is nitrate?
Nitrate is part of the Nitrogen cycle and is formed when ammonia is converted by bacteria. Nitrosomonas bacteria convert ammonia into nitrite, before Nitrospira convert nitrite (NO2) to nitrate (NO3). Nitrite and nitrate sound very similar and are often confused, but nitrite is very toxic to fish even in low levels, whereas nitrate is less toxic and builds up.
A nitrite level of just 1 part per million is enough to poison and kill most aquarium fish, yet nitrate levels can be 100 times that in some cases. High nitrates are linked by some to nuisance algae, and Old Tank Syndrome, where nitrates rise, pH drops, and any newly introduced fish are shocked and die, despite ammonia and nitrite tests proving negative.
Nitrate can also be present in tapwater, so you may introduce nitrate unknowingly, when replacing old tank water with new tap water.
The quickest and easiest way to get nitrates down in your setup is to change the water. As long as your tap water has a lower nitrate level than your tank water, by replacing it, your nitrate level will go down. Test the nitrate level in both your tank and your tap, to ensure that this is the case.
As long as the water you are replacing is of the right temperature, and has been treated for chlorine or chloramine, you can conduct water changes of 50% without issues.
If the nitrate level in your tapwater is high however, at 40ppm or more, most people opt not to continue using it, and turn to RO water instead. RO stands for Reverse Osmosis, and the process removes nitrates, phosphates, chlorine and minerals from tapwater.
Plumb one in at home and you will have an unlimited source of purified water to carry out water changes. RO water is soft too, benefiting fish which prefer water with a low pH.
Live aquatic plants are nature’s nitrate filters, and readily soak up nitrates, and use them as fertiliser. Heavily plant any nitrate-laden aquarium with fast growing live plants, and they will remove all the nitrate within days or weeks.
Aquascapers actually add nitrate in the form of Nitrogen, or N, as plants can actually become deficient of this key nutrient after they’ve used it all up. Live aquatic plants have many other benefits too including providing shelter for small fish and fry, providing places for fish to scatter eggs, and they help to fight off algae. Just ensure that any planted aquarium has the right lighting, and other fertilisers, to keep the plants healthy and growing.
Nitrate can be lowered by the addition of some specially designed liquids. Use as directed, add to established tanks, and you should see the nitrate curve lessen over time when compared to not using it. Along with Tetra Easy Balance, this is useful for standard community aquariums where regular maintenance cannot always be carried out as often as it should.
Nitrate can also be reduced by special filter media. Bacteria can be both aerobic (oxygen consuming) and anaerobic, and it’s anaerobic bacteria that are good at reducing nitrate. Although not a rapid fix, once the anaerobic population of bacteria are established within the media, nitrate should reduce.
Some Nitrate sponges work in a similar way to other nitrate reducing media, encouraging bacteria to reduce nitrate from within, while others work chemically, absorbing nitrate and locking it away. Both can be effective, and the mainstay of many leading filter media systems including Juwel and JBL.
Feed less, stock less
The nitrate level of any aquarium should be in direct relation to the amount of ammonia being produced by the fish. The more fish you have, the more nitrate will be produced. So tanks with chronic nitrate problems are usually overstocked, and over fed. Keep fewer, smaller fish, and don’t overfeed, and less ammonia and subsequent nitrate will be produced.
What does it look like?
- High nitrite test results
- Invisible issue
What are the fish doing?
- Acting irritable – ‘scratching’, jumping, twitching, shimmying
- Breathing at the water’s surface
- Fish appear pale or dark
- Flicking against objects
- Gasping, rapid gill movement
What should I do?
- Complete a 25% water change and retest after a few hours
- Add Fast Filter Start to boost the natural bacteria in your filter to process the extra nitrite
- Support the health of your fish using Aquilibrium First Aid Salt
- Continue to regularly test your water
See which treatments we recommend >
Why does this happen and how do I prevent it?
Nitrite is a naturally occurring chemical in your aquarium and is created through the breakdown of ammonia by bacteria in your biological filter as part of the Nitrogen cycle. The main causes of high nitrite are:
- immature or damaged biological filter
- over stocking
- over feeding
To prevent high nitrite levels:
- Complete regular water changes of up to 30% and test your water
- increase aeration
- maintain a healthy filter (if you need to clean elements of the filter use water from the aquarium as tap water will damage the bacteria that remove Nitrite)
- Posted on 23 July 2018
- Posted in aquarium nitrate, biopellets, denitrator, nitrate control, nitrate reduction, protein skimmer, reef octopus, refugium, seachem purigen
We will show you how you can reduce nitrates and control your nitrate levels to keep you fish and corals healthier! Protein skimmers, denitrators, organic removers: we will explain to you what they do and how you can use them in your aquarium to combat nitrates!
The first step to combat high nitrate level in a saltwater aquarium is an efficient protein skimmer. The skimmer removes waste before it breaks down. The more efficient/effective the protein skimmer, the more waste it will remove from your system to help keep your water cleaner. Investing in a good skimmer, such as a Reef Octopus or Nyos, is definitely a no-brainer when it comes to nitrate control.
The next step is regular water changes. It is also a good idea to vacuum the gravel when you perform a water change. Like the saying “the solution to pollution is dilution”. If you remove 50% of your water with clean water, you will lower your nitrates by 50%. Similarly, if you do small 10% water changes, don’t expect your nitrates to change a whole lot.
For, those with persistently high nitrates, carbon dosing can be a good solution.
Using biopellets, such as Brightwell Aquatics Katalyst or TwoLittleFishies NPX Bioplastics, in a media reactor is a method of carbon dosing that is easy to implement and effective. The way biopellets work is that specific strands of bacteria grow on the biopellets. As the bacteria consume the biopellets, they also consume nitrates and phosphates. These bacteria will form a film that coats the biopellets. As the biopellets tumble inside the reactor, the film sheds off and is then removed from the aquarium by your protein skimmer or filter socks. Every 4-6 months, you simply add more biopellets to the reactor to replenish what have been consumed.
The Brightwell Xport NO3 Brick and Xport NO3 Plate also utilize the same concept of sulfur and anaerobic bacteria without requiring a reactor. It is extremely affordable and easy to implement as you simply drop the brick/plate in to your sump. We have found it to be one of the best biological media. However, it’s effectiveness on nitrate reduction is variable as it is not always easy, or possible, to achieve the right flow rate to create those anaerobic zones in an open sump.
We hope that understanding the various different methods of nitrate control will allow you to choose the methods that will work best with your system. If you need a second opinion or would like more information, feel free to shoot us an email or give us a call.
Thank you for visiting! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon and other stores/partners are affiliate links. Aquarium Store Depot earns a commission if you make a purchase.
“Help, my nitrate levels are over 50 PPM!” This is a common email or text I get on my live chat. High nitrate levels can be a major problem for freshwater aquarium keepers. In today’s post, I want to talk about the best nitrate remover for freshwater tanks. Nitrates, for some of us, are the bane of our existence. We obsess over the nitrate level in our fish tanks because our local fish store and fish guides told us that high nitrate levels is bad and stresses out our pet fish.
This is all true, however, instead of stressing out over them let’s talk about how to take proper action in tackling the issue. I want to revisit the nitration cycle and talk about ways to remove and lower nitrates in your aquarium water. I want us to reflect on how we got to this place. Once we know, let’s talk about the best nitrate removers to solve our problem.
Revisiting the Nitration Cycle
Let’s first revisit the nitration cycle. I know some of you reading this already know it, but I also know some of you may not and have become successful by listening to your local fish store on what to buy. Part of having a nitrate problem is because we are out of balance. The nitration cycle has 5 stages:
- Nitrogen is introduced with fish food
- Ammonia is excreted either by fish waste (fish poop) or decaying material
- Nitrosomas bacteria convert Ammonia to Nitrite
- Nitrobactor bacteria converts Nitrite to Nitrate
- Plants use Nitrates and Ammonium as fertilizer
The above is the natural way of how an aquatic ecosystem would work. The issue most likely with your aquarium water is that you are missing #5. If you lack live plants, nitrate levels can build up. Also, the stock media from your aquarium filters will not address #5. It is not common for filter makers to provide media that will remove nitrates. This is to keep costs down as the media designed to lower nitrates is more expensive and some buyers may not even want it.
Ways To Remove Nitrate
So now that we know the cycle, and likely what our deficiency is in the cycle, let’s talk about how to remove nitrates.
1. Water changes
This is the most common way. Water changes will reduce nitrates in the aquarium environment and bring in clean water to your fish tank. While this is an all-around fix, too many water changes can be disruptive to our closed systems. They are also labor intensive. We do not want to be a slave to the water change. Our goal is to get down to changing the water tank every other week, or every month.
2. Live Plants
A large live plant population can actually act as an effective nitrate remover for your aquarium. This works great for planted tank setups. However, I do know many people who have had nitrate problems and cannot have planted tanks. This usually happens when you’ve got fish who eat live aquarium plants, aggressive fish that uproot or damage them, or people who do not want to regularly prune live plants and maintain them.
3. Reduce livestock
Sometimes an aquarium has high nitrate levels because the fish tank is overstocked. This is common with people who follow the 1 inch per fish rule. Your biological filtration products are working overtime when your fish tank is overstocked. Other times, you have fish that are hard on your bioload such as gold fish or large aggressive fish.
4. Nitrate Removers
Nitrate removers are filter media designed to remove nitrate from your aquarium either through chemical or biological means. They either come in disposable media or permanent media. They are not dangerous to the inhabitants in your tank, and will reside in your filter compartments. Some nitrate removers have mixed media, meaning that they handle other things aside from nitrate in your tank water. Some will have carbon while others use resin to remove other impurities in your aquarium water.
A dedicated nitrate removing media is a great way to target the problem immediately, but they need to be replaced regularly. A permanent media will grow anaerobic bacteria in the media. This anaerobic bacteria will consume nitrates in your tank water. If you’ve considered all these ways to reduce nitrates in your aquarium water, and are still at the point where nitrate removers are necessary, then read on for our buying guide.
The Candidates For “Best Nitrate Remover For Freshwater Aquariums“
Below is a list of the best nitrate removers for freshwater aquariums. All products here have been selected through our field experience and all are safe to use in a freshwater tank. Each have their pros and cons, which I will discuss below. There is a product for you on this list.
In a hurry? I recommend Biohome for a permanent solution and Seachem Purigen for a disposable solution.
Best level Information and References website . Search all about level Ideas in this website.
Nitrite Levels In Fish Tank. Most professional aquarists contend that nitrate concentrations should never exceed 20 ppm but are much more safely maintained below 10 ppm. Keeping the levels of nitrate under 10 ppm, and ideally under 5, will result in healthier fry, no stunted growth, extended lifespan of the fish, and no algae outbreaks.
Can’t Get Nitrite And Nitrate Levels To Go Down My from www.myaquariumclub.com
Yep, you read that right… nitrites are pretty bad news. Nitrite is toxic for fish and can even be fatal in higher amounts. Keep nitrate levels below 10 parts per million.
Can’t Get Nitrite And Nitrate Levels To Go Down My
What causes the progressive intoxication is the rapid ingestion of the poison (actually aiming for chlorides) through the gills. Welcome to your simple guide on how to reduce nitrites in your fish tank! Contrary to popular belief, a level of 20 ppm of nitrate could become toxic to freshwater fish and invertebrates over time. The nitrate levels in your fish tank should never go above 40 ppm, and ideally the level should stay under 20 ppm.
What is the ideal nitrate level in a fish tank? Effect on fish fish will feel the impact of nitrate by the time levels reach 100 ppm, particularly if these levels persist. Still, nitrate concentrations of just a few parts per million can lead to massive algal blooms. The health of your whole aquaponics system is compromised when your nitrite.
Most professional aquarists contend that nitrate concentrations should never exceed 20 ppm but are much more safely maintained below 10 ppm. The nitrite level should always be zero, or as close to zero as you can get it. However, when it goes above two ppm, it can also cause the death of the fish. Effect on fish fish will feel.
Still, nitrate concentrations of just a few parts per million can lead to massive algal blooms. What causes high nitrite levels in fish tank? If you are experiencing high levels of ammonia in your fish tank, high levels of nitrites will follow. Measures must be taken by aquarists even at a concentration of 0.5 mg/l nitrite, because at the latest.
What causes high nitrite levels in fish tank? This is the “toxic” level in the chart below. It is generally safe for fish to consume nitrates between 0 and 40 parts per million. Nitrite poisoning follows closely on the heels of elevated ammonia as a major killer of aquarium fish. The nitrate levels in your fish tank should never go.
Keeping the levels of nitrate under 10 ppm, and ideally under 5, will result in healthier fry, no stunted growth, extended lifespan of the fish, and no algae outbreaks. A level of nitrite above 0 is considered to be dangerous. A desired level of nitrates in freshwater aquariums should be kept below 50 ppm at all times, and preferably below.
Welcome to your simple guide on how to reduce nitrites in your fish tank! What is the ideal nitrate level in a fish tank? The amount of water in the body can cause stress in fish, and the amount of water in the body can be toxic. I have this aquarium already (60litres) for 1 week so far.currently i have.
A key tip to keep your aquaponics system thriving is to reduce your nitrite levels. What is the ideal nitrate level in a fish tank? The acceptable level of nitrites in your tank is… zero. The health of your whole aquaponics system is compromised when your nitrite levels exceed a certain level. Nitrite poisoning follows closely on the heels of.
In freshwater aquariums, nitrates should be kept below 50 ppm at all times, and preferably below 25 ppm. Well, zero is the number that needs to come on the test kit when you test your aquarium water for nitrite. Anything above 0.1 mg/l should be viewed as unacceptable and a potential cause of stress, although some fish might tolerate very.
The water parameters in the aquarium should therefore be checked regularly and altered if necessary. Always below 40ppm and preferably below 20ppm. If you are breeding fish, or are battling algae growth, keep nitrate even lower, below 10 ppm. Changing the water in the fish tank partially every week can be very beneficial in checking nitrite development in. A desired.
Anything above 0.1 mg/l should be viewed as unacceptable and a potential cause of stress, although some fish might tolerate very high levels. The acceptable level of nitrites in your tank is… zero. Still, nitrate concentrations of just a few parts per million can lead to massive algal blooms. This causes the nitrite level in the water to rise, so.
The amount of water in the body can cause stress in fish, and the amount of water in the body can be toxic. Anything above 0.1 mg/l should be viewed as unacceptable and a potential cause of stress, although some fish might tolerate very high levels. This is the “toxic” level in the chart below. A key tip to keep.
This is the “toxic” level in the chart below. Still, nitrate concentrations of just a few parts per million can lead to massive algal blooms. The bacteria can be overburdened even when the fish density is higher, the plant growth is strong, or the amount of food is increased. Nitrite is toxic for fish and can even be fatal in.
Welcome to your simple guide on how to reduce nitrites in your fish tank! The nitrite level should always be zero, or as close to zero as you can get it. The nitrate levels in your fish tank should never go above 40 ppm, and ideally the level should stay under 20 ppm. I have this aquarium already (60litres) for.
The acute toxicity is where the fish die in hours or days. What causes high nitrite levels in fish tank? Changing the water in the fish tank partially every week can be very beneficial in checking nitrite development in. The bacteria can be overburdened even when the fish density is higher, the plant growth is strong, or the amount of.
I know this is toxic for the. Nitrite is not a poisonous as many would have us believe. What causes the progressive intoxication is the rapid ingestion of the poison (actually aiming for chlorides) through the gills. Well, zero is the number that needs to come on the test kit when you test your aquarium water for nitrite. These may.
A key tip to keep your aquaponics system thriving is to reduce your nitrite levels. Nitrite is not a poisonous as many would have us believe. These may occur as either planktonic (e.g., green water) or benthic (e.g., film or slime) blooms. The health of your whole aquaponics system is compromised when your nitrite levels exceed a certain level. What.
What is an acceptable level of nitrates in aquarium? Nitrite is not a poisonous as many would have us believe. A level of nitrite above 0 is considered to be dangerous. A key tip to keep your aquaponics system thriving is to reduce your nitrite levels. 1 just when you think you are home free after losing half your.
Most professional aquarists contend that nitrate concentrations should never exceed 20 ppm but are much more safely maintained below 10 ppm. A level of nitrite above 0 is considered to be dangerous. If you are breeding fish, or are battling algae growth, keep nitrate even lower, below 10 ppm. If you are experiencing high levels of ammonia in your fish.
The nitrate levels in your fish tank should never go above 40 ppm, and ideally the level should stay under 20 ppm. A desired level of nitrates in freshwater aquariums should be kept below 50 ppm at all times, and preferably below 25 ppm at all times. A key tip to keep your aquaponics system thriving is to reduce your.
It is important to look for signs of elevated nitrites including fish gasping for breath at the surface, fish hanging near water outlets, rapid. What nitrite levels are acceptable in an aquarium? Contrary to popular belief, a level of 20 ppm of nitrate could become toxic to freshwater fish and invertebrates over time. What causes high nitrite levels in fish.
The “new tank syndrome” is a rather well known and often also dreaded occurrence in the aquarium hobby. Especially beginners of the beautiful hobby are often unsure when talking about it. There is some advice on the Internet which in part contradict each other. What does new tank syndrome mean, when does the new tank syndrome occur and what can be done against it? We want to clarify things with this article.
1. What is the new tank syndrome?
The expression new tank syndrome (“nitrite peak”) is composed from the English words “nitrite” and “peak”. The new tank syndrome means quickly rising nitrite levels in water leading to a very high level. Afterwards, the nitrite concentration sinks again. Nitrite is toxic for fish and can even be fatal in higher amounts. The water parameters in the aquarium should therefore be checked regularly and altered if necessary. Measures must be taken by aquarists even at a concentration of 0.5 mg/l nitrite, because at the latest at 1.0 mg/l, nitrite is harmful for the aquarium inhabitants.
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2. How does the new tank syndrome form?
It is important to know the basic principle of the nitrogen cycle for understanding how the new tank syndrome occurs. A functioning nitrogen cycle is the basis for a properly running aquarium.
The inorganic nitrogen compound ammonium (NH4) is being formed from plant and food leftovers, fish waste and other organic substances in an aquarium. This substance in itself is not a threat for aquarium inhabitants. However, if the pH value in the water is above 7, toxic ammonia (NH3) is being formed. In a biologically well established aquarium, the so-called Nitrosomonas bacteria, among others, ensure both ammonium and ammonia are converted into nitrite (NO2). These bacteria form rather quickly in a newly set-up aquarium, which is why the breakdown of ammonium and ammonia works quite well also in a new aquarium. In the following step, the formed nitrite is converted into nitrate (NO3) by Nitrobacter bacteria, among others, and then serves as a plant nutrient. The bacteria that break down nitrite take rather long to form in a new aquarium. At this time, the new tank syndrome can therefore arise: too few filter bacteria have formed or are present, which could convert arising nitrite into nitrate and thus render it harmless. The substance enriches and is harmful for the animals kept in the aquarium. Only after some time, enough nitrite converting filter bacteria have formed, allowing nitrite immediately being converted into nitrate from now on. The new tank syndrome is thus over, and the nitrite amount goes down, so the nitrogen cycle can run regularly now.
Nitrate is a plant food and is normally rare in situations where plant growth is abundant such as ponds and natural water bodies – this is why it can be so deadly to wild-caught fish or sensitive species. In heavily planted freshwater tanks or marine aquaria with lots of liverock or a deep sand bed, some degree of balance can be achieved as long as patience is exercised in the early days of stocking. More usually, nitrate accumulates as a result of healthy biological filtration and is best removed by regular partial water changes.
By performing a weekly 25% change you can limit the build-up of nitrate, although overstocked systems or those with large messy fish may need more frequent changes. It is always less stressful for both fish and fishkeeper to perform lots of small changes rather than a few large-scale ones and in the case of extremely high readings, daily water changes can be carried out until levels are under control. Remember that established fishes can tolerate levels that can be damaging to newly introduced livestock and when problems occur introducing new fish, this is often the cause.
It is well worth testing your tap water for nitrate, as this often contains concentrations that exceed acceptable levels and in this instance, it may prove impossible to run your aquarium using your mains water. In this case it may be necessary to investigate alternatives such as R.O. water or nitrate-removing resins, etc. Often a solution can be tailored to your aquarium after discussion with your regular store.
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Care and maintenance
September 30, 2020
Whether you have a freshwater or saltwater tank, nitrites and nitrates are something you are just going to have to deal with. Both of these substances are by-products of the nitrogen cycle so you canвЂ™t avoid having them in your tank but you should do your best to control them. If you let the nitrite or nitrate levels in your tank get out of control, it could have serious consequences for your fish. Luckily, controlling these substances is not a very difficult task вЂ“ performing a few routine maintenance tasks and installing an EcoBio-Stone in your tank can make a huge difference.
Dangers of High Nitrite/Nitrate Levels
You may already be familiar with the dangers of ammonia poisoning but you may not realize that nitrite and nitrate can be just as dangerous for aquarium fish. In fact, nitrite poisoning is closely linked to ammonia poisoning because high levels of one are often linked to high levels of the other. Nitrite poisoning is often nicknamed вЂњbrown blood diseaseвЂќ because it results in increased levels of met hemoglobin in the blood of fish which can cause a brown discoloration. Discoloration of the blood is not the only problem associated with nitrite poisoning вЂ“ this disease can also cause damage to the gills and inhibits the ability of blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. Fish suffering from nitrite poisoning may suffocate, even if the water in the tank has plenty of oxygen in it. Nitrite poisoning can also lead to stress in fish which can increase their susceptibility to disease вЂ“ secondary infections like fin rot are common in fish that are already suffering from nitrite poisoning.
Though nitrate is less harmful than nitrite and ammonia, it can still be toxic for fish at high levels. The ideal level for nitrate in an aquarium is less than 30ppm, though most fish can tolerate levels up to 50ppm. When the nitrate levels in your tank reach 100ppm or higher, your fish will definitely start to feel the effects. Prolonged exposure to such high nitrate levels may cause increased stress, reduced reproductive capabilities and, in juvenile fish, stunted growth. In addition to affecting your fish, high nitrate levels in the tank could also contribute to increased algae growth. If algae growth is allowed to get out of control, it could have a negative impact on the water quality in your tank.
Tips for Control
As you know, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are the by-products of the nitrogen cycle. As part of the nitrogen cycle, beneficial bacteria break down organic wastes like uneaten fish food and fish feces. It makes sense, then, that the less waste available in your tank, the lower the levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate will be. In order to minimize the amount of waste in your tank, make sure not to feed your fish more than necessary вЂ“ only offer your fish as much as they can consume in 2 to 3 minutes and remove the uneaten portions of sinking wafers after an hour before they can fully dissolve. Another simple tip for controlling nitrite and nitrate in your tank is to install an EcoBio-Stone. These stones are made from volcanic stone and they are infused with beneficial bacteria as well as the nutrients they need to thrive. Adding extra beneficial bacteria to your tank through the EcoBio-Stone will help to maintain the nitrogen cycle, combatting high nitrite and nitrate levels in your tank. In combination with routine water changes, adding an EcoBio-Stone to your tank is an effective way to keep the water quality in your tank high and the nitrite/nitrate levels under control.
What Causes High Nitrites In The Aquarium?
LAST UPDATED: March 22, 2021
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While you might have heard that ammonia is deadly for aquarium fish, you might not have heard that nitrites can also be just as dangerous. It is important to understand what causes nitrites in the aquarium and how to quickly remove them if they do enter your saltwater or freshwater system as they can lead to dead fish and invertebrates.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the nitrogen cycle, nitrites, and how to remove them from your aquarium water!
What causes nitrites in aquarium water to be high?
Nitrites (NO2) are the result of when nitrifying bacteria process ammonia as a kind of biological filter. These nutrients are usually a sign of a cycling tank, overfeeding, overcrowding, or other poor fish aquarium maintenance.
In order to make an aquarium inhabitable for fish and other aquatic life, it must first go through the nitrogen cycle. This involves having a source of ammonia that is first converted into nitrite and then into nitrate by beneficial bacteria. Over the course of a month, ammonia levels will rise, leading to a detectable nitrite level and a decrease in traces of ammonia. Nitrite levels will then decrease while nitrate levels increase; when only nitrate levels are present the aquarium is considered fully cycled and a water change is strongly recommended.
Most of the water quality issues associated with a newly setup aquarium can be attributed to ‘new tank syndrome,’ which is due to the bacteria not being fully established enough to correctly balance the nutrient input demands of the freshwater or saltwater aquarium system.
Overfeeding can lead to a lot of excess nutrients in the water column, which can lead to algae and overall poor water quality. As leftover food goes uneaten, it can lead to rot and waste that causes ammonia spikes. Not only is this ammonia immediately toxic to fish and invertebrates, but the nitrogen cycle will also lead to dangerous levels of nitrites and high nitrates.
While you might not be overfeeding your fish, overcrowding can also lead to increased amounts of waste in the water column. Many fish and invertebrates excrete bodily waste through the form of ammonia, which will be converted into nitrite by the nitrogen cycle. More fish equals more ammonia which equals more nitrites and nitrates in the aquarium.
Poor aquarium maintenance
Even if you’ve let your new tank completely cycle and you’re careful to not overfeed or to overcrowd with fish, there is still a chance that you’re just not giving your aquarium the attention it needs to thrive. In general, good aquarium maintenance requires partial water changes every 2-4 weeks and rinsed/new filter media every month or so. Dirty substrate or clogged equipment can start to leak excess nutrients into the aquarium water if left unchecked, even in an established tank.
How do you fix high nitrites in aquarium water?
Luckily, it is pretty easy to avoid having any nitrites in your aquarium water at all. First, you will need a saltwater or freshwater test kit that tells you the exact water parameters in your saltwater or freshwater tank; usually, you will not have just nitrites present if there’s an obvious problem, and other levels will probably need to be balanced as well.
Once the problem has been detected, it is usually recommended to perform a partial water change daily until nitrite reads 0 ppm with an accurate test kit; this will also help reduce any traces of ammonia and help keep nitrates down. During these water changes, it is also recommended to vacuum the substrate to get stuck detritus out. However, upsetting the substrate too much at one time can cause water parameters to fluctuate, leading to a mini cycling process.
Water changes and vacuuming the substrate are usually the easiest and most immediate ways to eliminate ammonia and nitrite from the aquarium. Supplementing filter media and chemical solutions are usually not recommended as they are only a temporary solution. However, in newer aquarium setups, nitrifying bacteria supplements may be added to help establish and bolster bacteria populations to help process the high nitrite levels faster.
Also, make sure that your tap water does not have nitrites in it by regularly checking with a test kit. If your tap water does have a lot of extra nutrients, it might be worthwhile to switch to distilled or reverse osmosis water.
Will high nitrites kill your fish?
Yes, high nitrites in aquarium setups will kill your fish and invertebrates. Due to its chemical structure, nitrite has the ability to bind with hemoglobin where oxygen should otherwise bind to in the blood. Poor water chemistry in your aquarium can cause your fish to experience nitrite poisoning where they suffocate due to lack of oxygen in the blood.
How long can fish live with high nitrites in the aquarium?
With both high ammonia and nitrite levels present, aquarium fish could die within hours of being added to the aquarium. With just high nitrite levels, fish might be able to survive a few days but will be in extreme amounts of pain. Some signs of nitrite poisoning are lethargy, lack of appetite, redness around the gills, heavy breathing, and gasping for air at the surface of the water.
If you see any of your aquarium fish displaying these signs, make sure to test the water parameters and take the proper measures for correcting the water chemistry as soon as possible.
Nitrite is just as dangerous as ammonia is to many species of fish and invertebrates. Nitrites are often the result of newly setup aquariums where water quality fluctuates day to day, but may also be the result of overfeeding, overcrowding, or poor aquarium maintenance.
Always make sure to have the appropriate test kits on hand so that you can figure out the problem as soon as possible and give your aquarium fish and invertebrates the best chance of surviving. Also, make sure to never put livestock in an aquarium that is currently cycling, even if treating with bacteria supplements.
If you have any questions about the nitrogen cycle, partial water changes, or have had experience tackling high nitrites in your own saltwater or freshwater aquarium, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!
Nitrate and nitrite are naturally occurring ions that are part of the nitrogen cycle.
Naturally occurring nitrate levels in surface and ground water are generally a few miligrams per litre. In many ground waters, an increase of nitrate levels has been observed due to the intensification of farming practice. Concentrations can reach several hundred miligrams per litre. In some countries, up to 10% of the popullation may be exposed to nitrate levels in drinking water of above 50 mg/l.
In general, for humans vegetables will be the main source of nitrate intake when levels in drinking water are below 10 mg/l. When nitrate levels in drinking water exceed 50 mg/l, drinking water will be the major source of total nitrate intake.
Extensive epidemiological data support the current guideline value proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) for nitrate-nitrogen of 10 mg/l. However, this value should not be expressed on the basis of nitrate nitrogen but on the basis of nitrate itself, which is the chemical entity of concern to health, and the guideline value for nitrate is therefore 50 mg/l. Click here for further information about this.
Nitrification is the oxidation of an ammonia compound into nitrite, especially by the action of the nitrifying bacteria called Nitrosomas. The nitrites will then be oxidized to nitrates by the bacteria Nitrobacter .
Nitrate is less toxic than nitrite and is used as a food source by live plants.
The process of converting ammonia to nitrate is diagramed in the nitrogen cycle.
Nitrification is most rapid at pH of 7-8 and at temperatures of 25-30 o C. Nitrification causes waters to decrease in pH.
Ecotoxicology of nitrite and nitrate
Nitrite levels above 0.75 ppm in water can cause stress in fish and greater than 5 ppm can be toxic.
Nitrate levels from 0 – 40 ppm are generally safe for fish. Anything greater than 80 can be toxic.
Nitrate occurs naturally in your aquarium as a byproduct of the breakdown of waste, be it feces, uneaten food or decaying organic matter. When too much is present in your tank’s water, this chemical compound can be toxic to your fish and other life. Also, algae like nitrate because it fuels their growth. If your regular water testing confirms high nitrate levels, take action to remove the excess before it jeopardizes your aquarium system.
Proper Nitrate Levels
Generally, in a fish-only aquarium, aim for a nitrate level under 20 parts per million, or ppm. If you also have invertebrates in your aquarium, though, you typically have to keep your nitrates below 5 ppm. Reef setups should definitely not exceed nitrate levels higher than 1.0 ppm, but often closer to 0.5 or below. These are guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. Do some homework on the specific types of life you keep in your tank to determine a more definitive target level.
Remove Nitrates Gradually
Your aquatic ecosystem depends on relatively steady water chemistry. The nitrate levels, along with most other aspects of the water makeup, need to remain consistent for the health of everything living in it. Sudden considerable changes to any readings — from temperature to ammonia to carbon dioxide to nitrates and other levels — stress tank life and can be fatal when severe or when particularly sensitive species are present. Employ only one effort to remove high nitrates per day, or wait a few day between tactics if your levels aren’t dangerously elevated, to bring down levels gradually and avoid shocking anyone or anything living in the aquarium.
Start with a standard 10 to 15 percent partial water change. The new water is lower in nitrates, so begins to balance the ecosystem. Also, make sure your filter and protein skimmer are plugged in and properly functioning. Clean out their trays and perform any manufacturer-recommended maintenance if it’s due. When they’re functioning well, these accessories remove debris that releases nitrates and other compounds. Because excess food, fish waste and deceased life give off nitrates, thoroughly check your tank for dead critters or plants and remove them, vacuum the substrate and run your net through the water.
Fish and pet supply stores stock various products called denitrators that remove nitrates from water. Different products work in different ways and have different effects on water chemistry, so get a recommendation from a trusted source. Also, test your water daily for a few days to monitor the product’s effects. Follow package directions carefully to avoid drastic drops in nitrate levels. A more natural option is to add cured live rock or live sand into your tank. These contain microorganisms that eat nitrates in the water. Products called “biopellets” are also available that house these microscopic lifeforms; they’re released when the pellets dissolve in the tank water.
Keeping fish or other aquatic pets in an aquarium, you cannot avoid nitrate buildup, and nitrate originates from fish waste, food leftover, or rotten plant materials. Nitrate is odorless and colorless, thus challenging to notice its presence.
Though nitrate is not much less toxic than other aquarium byproducts as ammonia and nitrites, an excessive buildup can be deadly for your fish.
Both ammonia and nitrate are byproducts of aquarium waste, and more specifically, nitrate comes from ammonia after a multistage chemical reaction. The toxicity of ammonia is acute, and therefore it is crucial to establish a nitrogen cycle in an aquarium.
In a nitrogen cycle, ammonia converts into nitrite first, and then nitrite converts into nitrate through an oxidation rotation.
This biological cycle is essential to maintain a healthy environment for aquarium inhabitants, and beneficial bacteria promote this cycle. While producing nitrate from ammonia is our primary desire because nitrate is much less toxic.
Still, we have to find ways to manage nitrates. You cannot allow excessive nitrate accumulation in an aquarium as it will eventually affect fish.
Whether you are an expert hobbyist or a beginner, you should be aware of nitrate buildup’s adverse effects and know how to eliminate it. Well, you can never eliminate nitrate buildup, but you can manage it properly.
In this article, I’ll talk about how to lower nitrate in freshwater aquariums.
Every new aquarium set-up goes through a process of establishing beneficial bacterial colonies. This process is generally known as the nitrogen cycle, but is also called nitrification, the start-up cycle and/or the break-in cycle. As you know, your aquarium is a closed environment so all of the waste excreted from your fish and uneaten food accumulates in your aquarium. The nitrogen cycle converts these wastes to safer by-products. The fluctuations you have noticed in your aquarium water quality recently are likely the result of this cycle.
The Nitrogen cycle in a new tank. Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Salmon in the Classroom Program.
The cycle begins when you add fish to the aquarium. All uneaten, decayed food and waste generated by the fish breaks down to form ionized or unionized ammonia. The ionized form, Ammonium (NH4), is present in higher amounts if the pH is below 7, and is not toxic to fish. The unionized form, Ammonia (NH3), is present in higher amounts if the pH is 7 or above, and is highly toxic to fish. These ammonia levels will increase for about 2 weeks until the second stage of the cycle begins. (The Freshwater Master Test Kit’s ammonia test gives a combined reading of Ammonium (NH4) and Ammonia (NH3).)
During the second stage of the nitrogen cycle aerobic bacteria called nitrosomonas grow to sufficient quantities in the filter to convert the ammonia to toxic nitrite. (Nitrite destroys the
hemoglobin in the fish’s blood and eventually prevents the blood from carrying oxygen) As this happens, the ammonia levels will quickly begin to drop as the nitrite levels slowly increase. These nitrite levels will continue to increase for about 2 weeks until aerobic bacteria called nitrobacters grow to sufficient quantities in the filter to convert the nitrite to less toxic nitrate.
If your current water quality testing indicates high nitrites, the nitrobacters are still establishing themselves in your filter media, gravel and hydro-sponge.
The conversion of nitrites to nitrates is Stage 3 of the nitrogen cycle. Again, as the nitrite levels quickly decrease due to the work of nitrobacters, the nitrate levels will slowly increase. Once your tank has reached this point (about 5-6 weeks total), it is said to have “cycled”. All you need to do now, is to perform your regular partial water changes in order to keep a moderately low nitrate level. If this practice is followed routinely, you should have no problems maintaining your biological filter.
What not to do during the nitrogen cycle:
-Don’t change the filter media – the beneficial bacteria are growing there. Don’t disturb them until they have become well established.
(You may need to clear debris from the filter sponge once a week– do this in dechlorinated water.)
-Don’t overfeed the fish – when in doubt underfeed your fish. Remember that anything going into the tank will produce waste one way or another.
Many TIC tanks now use MicrobeLift Special Blend, which further converts nitrates into nitrogen gas, which then bubbles out of the tank. Some water changes and vacuuming are still advisable, but on the whole nitrate levels are lower and more manageable with this product.
February 16, 2020
The key to healthy fish is healthy tank water. Here’s how to check your aquarium health and stop your fish looking green around the gills.
The easiest way to check your fish tank water is to buy a good all-round tester kit. The key things to look out for are ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH. These compounds will be kept largely in check with a good mechanical, chemical and biological filter. But it’s a delicate balance, so check your tank’s water health regularly. Remember that you can always bring in a sample of 100mL of your aquarium water and have it tested for free at your local Petbarn.
The number one killer of fish is ammonia. It forms the first part of your tank’s nitrogen cycle and comes from fish waste and uneaten food. Whether your aquarium is fresh or salt water, you want the ammonia level to be 0.0ppm or undetectable. Any higher and the water could be toxic for your fish and needs to be treated with an ammonia removal product. To stay on top of your aquarium’s ammonia levels, install an ammonia alert sensor.
The second part of the nitrogen cycle is nitrites. They are the result of ammonia being broken down by the natural bacteria in your tank. Again, nitrites are toxic and should be in concentrations no greater than 0.0ppm. To contain toxic nitrite levels during a cycle, use a conditioner.
How do I lower the nitrate levels in my fish tank?
Feed fish sparingly, and consider feeding them a small amount of food several times a day rather than once large feeding. Change about 50 percent of the water in the tank at least once a week to keep nitrate from building up. The more fish you have in your tank the more often you may need to change the water.
How long can fish live with high nitrates?
Eventually, fish death will begin, occurring over a period of a few days to a few weeks. When fish are suddenly exposed to very high nitrate levels, they will usually die within 24 hours of exposure. Often owners are not aware of the problem until the fish are dead or near death.
Why is my nitrate still high after water change?
High nitrate accumulation, sometimes referred to as old tank syndrome, can be a common problem for long-time aquarium hobbyists. It usually occurs when regular maintenance and water change routines are ignored. Nitrate is the end product of bacterial reduction of ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate.
Do water filters filter out nitrates?
The only way to remove nitrates from drinking water is through a water filtration system. Many water treatment companies promote Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems as an immediate solution to provide nitrate and nitrite reduction.
What removes nitrates from water?
Nitrate may be successfully removed from water using treatment processes such as ion exchange, distillation, and reverse osmosis. Contact your local health department for recommended procedures. Heating or boiling your water will not remove nitrate.
How do you lower nitrates quickly?
The quickest and easiest way to get nitrates down is to change the water. As long as your tap water has a lower nitrate level than your tank water, by replacing it, your nitrate level will go down. Test the nitrate level in both your tank and your tap, to ensure that this is the case.
What happens if you drink water with high nitrates?
Consuming too much nitrate can affect how blood carries oxygen and can cause methemoglobinemia (also known as blue baby syndrome). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard for nitrate in drinking water is 10 milligrams of nitrate (measured as nitrogen) per liter of drinking water (mg/L).
How can I lower the nitrite level in my Aquarium?
The quickest way to reduce both nitrite and nitrate levels is to reduce the stocking density of your tank – move some of your fish to another tank. The more fish you have in your tank, the more waste they will produce and your beneficial bacteria will have to work overtime to break it down.
How do you reduce nitrate in aquarium?
Use a nitrate remover such as ALGONE ALGONE gently removes nitrates from the aquarium and effectively prevents all the common problems associated with high nitrate levels. Through nitrate reduction ALGONE also clears cloudy and murky aquarium water, restoring a brilliant, crystal clear water column.
How to reduce nitrate in your aquarium?
Free Ways To Reduce Aquarium Nitrates: Remove Detritus. Vacuum the sand regularly with each water change. Reduce Feeding Quantity. This is the easiest and one of the biggest causes of high Nitrates because we all love to keep our fish ‘Fat & Happy’! Increase Water Change Volume & Frequency. Rinse Store-Bought Frozen Food. Overstocked?
How do I lower me nitrates?
How to promptly lower the nitrite levels in your freshwater aquarium? Change 30% of the water. With this initial step, you aim to replace part of the nitrite-rich water. Add nitrifying bacteria. Since high nitrite levels are signaling an incomplete nitrogen cycle, this should be your second course of action. Set a filter. Filters are where most of the beneficial bacteria live. Add substrate from an established aquarium.
Carpenter’s Flasher Wrasse
Carpenter’s Flasher Wrasse
Put simply, the biological cycle that happens within your aquarium starts with wasted food & fish waste. This is converted into ammonia, which is then converted in to Nitrite, the that is converted into Nitrate.
Though corals and fish needs some Nitrate to thrive, high numbers will reduce their vibrancy, growth rates & may put their lives in danger.
10-20% Water changes are unlikely to have a significant effect of lowering Nitrates in your fish tank.
Here are the top 5 ways you can reduce your Nitrates within your Aquarium.
5. Reduced Feeding
It’s tempting, but just don’t do it!
” data-medium-file=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/overfed-fish.jpg?w=256″ data-large-file=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/overfed-fish.jpg?w=256″ src=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/overfed-fish.jpg?w=256″ alt=”Overfed Fish” srcset=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/overfed-fish.jpg 256w, https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/overfed-fish.jpg?w=150 150w” sizes=”(max-width: 256px) 100vw, 256px” /> It’s tempting, but just don’t do it!
We all love feeding our fish, but over feeding your tank to the point where food is sent to your filtration, or it is left uneaten at the bottom of your tank will increase the Nitrate within your tank.
Reducing the amount you feed, will reduce the amount of waste, which in turn will reduce the amount of ammonia etc for the denitrification bacteria to consume.
” data-medium-file=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/live-rock.jpg?w=300″ data-large-file=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/live-rock.jpg?w=616″ src=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/live-rock.jpg?w=616″ alt=”live rock” width=”256″ height=”197″ /> live rock
4. More Live Rock
Live rock is called live rock because of the bacteria that grows on it.
The more live rock you have, the more bacteria you have, the more bacteria you have, the easier it is for the bacteria to process the waste.
Live rock also offers critters such as copepods, bristleworms, peanut worms and other great additions to your clean up crew, a perfect place to hide. All of these helpful hitch-hikers will help reduce the waste within your aquarium, which will help reduce nitrates.
Live rock substitutes like ceramic media would also have the same effect.
3. Carbon Dosing – The Cheap Way
Carbon dosing doesn’t have to be expensive & you can use a couple of items to do it that can be found in most local supermarkets.
Common Carbon Sources
” data-medium-file=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/carbon_src.jpg?w=300″ data-large-file=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/carbon_src.jpg?w=420″ src=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/carbon_src.jpg?w=420″ alt=”Common Carbon Sources” width=”256″ srcset=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/carbon_src.jpg 420w, https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/carbon_src.jpg?w=150 150w, https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/carbon_src.jpg?w=300 300w” sizes=”(max-width: 420px) 100vw, 420px” /> Common Carbon Sources
- Vodka Dosing.
- Sugar Dosing.
By adding carbon to your aquarium, you are increase the amount of bacteria within your tank, this allows the bacteria to deal with the nasty bacteria in a more effective manner.
Once your bacteria can keep up with the denitrification required, your skimmer will take over and remove the Nitrate.
You can use the below chart to work out how much to dose. This is based on 80% proof unflavoured vodka in ml. To use this for sugar, 0.1ml of vodka is equal to 1/10th of a teaspoon of sugar.
NOTE: You need an efficient skimmer for this to work properly
2. Grow Algae
” data-medium-file=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/chaeto-algae.jpg?w=300″ data-large-file=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/chaeto-algae.jpg?w=616″ src=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/chaeto-algae.jpg” alt=”” width=”256″ height=”236″ /> Chaeto Algae
Now, when I say algae, I don’t mean hair algae or other nasty looking algae. I mean a Macro-Algae such as Chaetomorpha or Caulerpa.
Algae uses nutrients to grow, one of the main nutrients it uses is Nitrate.
By setting up a refrugium or an algae scrubber, every time you harvest the algae you are physically removing a great big lump of Nitrate.
You will need a grow light of some kind, which will have an additional electrical cost.
1. Nitrate Reactors
” data-medium-file=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/nitrate-reactor.jpg?w=300″ data-large-file=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/nitrate-reactor.jpg?w=614″ src=”https://firsttimemarinekeeperhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/nitrate-reactor.jpg” alt=”” width=”256″ height=”180″ /> Nitrate Reactor
Though this is the most expensive means of removing Nitrate on this list, it is also the easiest & most effective way. Buying a piece of equipment that is purpose built to help reduce nitrates will be more efficient than trying to do something yourself. It will also help reduce the chance of you making a mistake and causing a bacteria bloom in your aquarium!
By creating an anaerobic chamber inside a reactor, a colony of nitrate-consuming bacteria is established on the media that is placed within it. As the bacteria grows, your nitrates will lower.
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04 January 2022
Nitrate is less of a problem in your aquarium than ammonia or nitrite, but it still shouldn’t be ignored. Matt Clarke answers some of the most frequently asked questions on nitrate.
Nitrate is less of a problem in your aquarium than ammonia or nitrite, but it still shouldn’t be ignored. Matt Clarke answers some of the most frequently asked questions on nitrate.
What is nitrate?
Nitrate (NO3 ) is a by-product of the breakdown of fish wastes by beneficial bacteria living in the filter. It encourages algal growth and may be toxic to some fish and invertebrates.
How can I tell how much is present in the tank?
You should test your water every week for signs of nitrate using a liquid or tablet test kit. Test your tapwater at the same time and compare the two.
If you are maintaining your tank properly, the two nitrate levels should be quite similar. If you’re not, the nitrate level in your tank will be much higher.
Surely nitrate hasn’t always been seen as a problem?
There’s been a sneaking suspicion that high levels can cause problems for fish for many years. Research has failed to show that it is toxic to most species, except at high levels. However, fishkeeping experience suggests that it does actually cause a number of problems for fish.
What levels should I be aiming for?
Try to keep the nitrate level as low as possible. Some fish and inverts are particularly sensitive to raised levels. For inverts and sensitive marines, the levels must be below 15ppm. Tropical freshwater species should be kept below 40ppm, where possible.
How do I maintain a low nitrate level?
Overfeeding is a common cause of high nitrate levels. Regular partial water changes of 25% every week or two help to keep the nitrate level low. Do them with a syphon-powered gravel cleaner and remove decaying organic material from the gravel at the same time.
Nitrate-removing filter media will keep the nitrate level extra low, but isn’t a substitute for plenty of water changes.
What effect will high nitrate levels have on my fish?
High levels of nitrate will stress your fish. This affects their immune systems and they are much more at risk from diseases such as whitespot.
Increased levels over a long term may reduce your fishes’ lifespans, cause deformities and won’t help much if you’re trying to breed them – poor water quality doesn’t put fish in the mood.
What should I do if the nitrate level in my tapwater is very high?
If you’re keeping delicate fish or inverts any water you use for water changes should be run through a nitrate-removing resin, or a tapwater filter like a Nitragon, before use to remove the nitrate.
An RO unit is even better as it also filters out metals, pesticides, hardness etc, so it’s ideal for softwater fish as well as delicate marine species.
The existing fish in my aquarium all seem healthy and my ammonia and nitrite levels are at nil. The tank has been set up for two years. Every time I buy new fish, they stop eating after a couple of days and then, usually within a week, they die. What’s the problem?
You may have checked the ammonia and nitrite levels (which are very important), but what about your nitrate level?
If your nitrate has gradually risen over time since your tank was set up, your fish will probably have built up some resistance to it. But any new stock you add to a tank where there is a high nitrate level may fall ill or die.
Try to stay on top of tank maintenance and check how much you’re feeding your fish. Remember to remove all uneaten food from the aquarium.
How do I lower the nitrate, alkalinity and pH in my freshwater tank
Nitrates can be lowered by performing water changes.
Nitrates will always go up due to fish producing waste, and leftover food being processed by bacteria (nitrogen cycle). Having a planted tank can help reduce nitrate levels, but water changes is a must (weekly).
Alkalinity is how basic your water is (eg a pH above 7)
What is your pH and all your other water parameters (eg. ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, temp)?
My Nitrate is 80.
My Nitrite is 10.0.
My Hardness is 75.
My Alkalinity is lighter than 0.
My ph is 6.8.
What an I do to maintain my tank better. I change the water weekly. I have fizz pills that I put in for Ammonia and reduces chlorine, and for ick and fungus..
Are these levels to dangerous for my freshwater babies
Your pH is good for most tetras, but what fish do you have? All evolved under different conditions we should try to offer them. we have to adapt to their needs.
Lowering the alkalinity is lowering the pH – generally, it isn’t necessary.
Don’t treat for Ich and fungus unless the fish are sick. Keep those fizzy pills in reserve, and just use the treatments against chloramines.
Soo, tank size, and fish numbers and species would help us help.
I have a 20 gallon. I have red eyes, neons, guppies. Albino catfish, sucker fish, ghost shrimps. Two of each fish
You say you have 2 guppies- that isn’t health for them. They need to be in school of odd numbers (at least 3) with more females than males as the males will bother the females and stress them out
The ideal concentration of nitrite in a reef aquarium is less than 0.2 ppm or 200 ppb. Nitrite levels above this value may weaken sensitive fish and corals.
How much nitrite can marine fish tolerate?
By many accounts, the optimal amount of nitrate in any type of saltwater system is an immeasurable one, but an acceptable range for fish-only tanks is from 10 to 40 ppm. Although fish-only tanks may run at much higher levels, sometimes with no ill effects, this is not recommended.
How much nitrite should be in a fish tank?
Generally, the safe level of nitrites in an aquarium is considered to be between 0 and 0.2 ppm (ml/g).
How much nitrite is too much in aquarium?
Nitrite levels above 0.75 ppm in water can cause stress in fish and greater than 5 ppm can be toxic. Nitrate levels from 0 – 40 ppm are generally safe for fish. Anything greater than 80 can be toxic.
How do you get nitrites down in a saltwater tank?
How do you reduce nitrite levels? Water change! A 30-50% water change should be the first thing you do after confirming a nitrite spike. Add cycled filters. As I touched on earlier, bacteria turn nitrites into much less harmful nitrates. Water conditioner. This is essentially a nitrite remover in a bottle.
Is nitrite bad for saltwater?
Its toxicity in marine systems is far lower than in freshwater systems. Nevertheless, many aquarists incorrectly extrapolate this toxicity to reef aquariums and suggest that any measurable amount of nitrite is a concern. In reality, nitrite probably is not toxic enough to warrant measuring in most marine systems.
How long does it take for nitrites to turn into nitrates?
After a water change, the nitrite spikes within 24 hours and then the nitrate will spike about 24-48 hours after that. However, the nitrite is still at extremely high levels even after the nitrate spikes.
What should my nitrite level be freshwater?
In freshwater aquariums, nitrates should be kept below 50 ppm at all times, and preferably below 25 ppm. If you are breeding fish, or are battling algae growth, keep nitrate even lower, below 10 ppm.
How long can fish live with high nitrites?
Eventually, fish death will begin, occurring over a period of a few days to a few weeks. When fish are suddenly exposed to very high nitrate levels, they will usually die within 24 hours of exposure. Often owners are not aware of the problem until the fish are dead or near death.
How can I lower my nitrite levels?
First, perform water changes with dechlorinated water to reduce the nitrite level. The addition of a half-ounce (1 tablespoon) of salt per gallon of water will prevent methemoglobin toxicity by blocking the nitrite absorption through the fish’s gills. Any aquarium salt or marine salt mix can be used.
Is 10 ppm nitrate too high?
Although many aquarists run their tanks with extreme nitrate levels, the ideal is a maximum of 5 to 10 ppm. Levels of 20 to 50 ppm are too high.
Why won’t my nitrite levels go down?
Doing water changes is the only way to get your nitrites down. Keep up the changes and remember that water changes do not slow down a tank cycle. You have to grow the nitrite eating bacteria and that bacteria will reduce them to 0. If you keep removing every bit of them with water changes, you can’t grow the bacteria.
What do I do if my nitrites are high in my fish tank?
What should I do? Complete a 25% water change and retest after a few hours. Add Fast Filter Start to boost the natural bacteria in your filter to process the extra nitrite. Support the health of your fish using Aquilibrium First Aid Salt. Continue to regularly test your water.
What causes a nitrite spike?
Overfeeding and overstocking can lead to high nitrite levels, but incorrect filter maintenance and new tank syndrome are perhaps the most common cause. To speed-up the growth of bacteria in new filters you can transfer some media from an existing filter, or add a bacterial starter culture and food source.
How much nitrite can clown fish tolerate?
For marine organ- isms, the ranges in safe concentrations are higher – 0.5 to 15.0 mg/L for invertebrates and 5.0 to 50.0 mg/L for fish. Nitrite toxicity is not a common problem in brackishwater and seawater systems, but it is relatively common in freshwater.”Nov 6, 2020.
Is nitrite toxic to corals?
Nitrite is not toxic to corals, some corals, not so much to saltwater fishes than to fresh water fishes? It is very intersting point.
How quickly do nitrites drop?
This process normally takes anywhere from 2-6 weeks. At temperatures below 70F, it takes even longer to cycle a tank.
How do you know when your saltwater tank is cycled?
How To Know When The Aquarium Cycle Is Complete? The only way you can truly see what is going on in your cycle is by testing your Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates every day or two and record the results.
Do nitrates mean tank is cycled?
When nitrates are being produced and ammonia and nitrite levels are zero, your tank is fully cycled and your biological filter is fully functioning (from 2-6 weeks). In low levels, nitrates are not highly toxic to fish. Routine partial water changes of about 10% should keep nitrate levels within a safe range.
Do Live plants help with nitrites?
Healthy aquarium plants absorb nitrogen compounds including nitrite and ammonia from the water. The fact is, keeping plants healthy and happy takes more work than most people realize.
How is nitrite removed from water?
Nitrite can be removed from drinking water by reverse osmosis, distillation or ion exchange. Boiling, carbon adsorption filters and standard water softeners do not remove nitrite.
Does distilling water remove nitrates?
Nitrate may be successfully removed from water using treatment processes such as ion exchange, distillation, and reverse osmosis. Heating or boiling your water will not remove nitrate.
How do you reduce nitrate and nitrite in a fish tank?
What can we do to aid in the removal of nitrates from the aquarium? Add live plants to a freshwater aquarium. Plants naturally utilize nitrate as a nutrient and food. Reduce fish population or upgrade to bigger tank. Cut back on feeding. Use a nitrate remover such as ALGONE.
Why are nitrate levels important?
Nitrate levels in aquariums need to be controlled as at high levels they compromise the health and well-being of the fish. This can eventually lead to bacterial and fungal infections, Whitespot, Fin-rot and other diseases that take advantage of compromised immunity. High nitrate levels are often the cause of excessive algae growth too.
The level of nitrates tolerated without ill-effect varies from species to species, but as a general rule-of-thumb the level in the tank should be kept as low as possible: always below 40ppm and preferably below 20ppm. Some species have a particularly low threshold for nitrates – Fancy Goldfish need levels below 20ppm as higher amounts can cause buoyancy problems which are frequently mistaken for Swim Bladder Disease. Where fish have low nitrate tolerance care sheets for such species will usually indicate this.
Water should be tested weekly using an aquarium nitrate test to monitor the level so you can be ready to take appropriate action when levels rise.
How do nitrates get into the water?
Nitrates are the end product of the Nitrogen Cycle. Any aquarium with life in it will accumulate nitrates as a natural consequence of the filtering process. Standard filtration does not deal with nitrates and they must be removed by regular partial water changes. A typical freshwater aquarium with the correct amount of stock, efficient filtration and correct feeding will need a water change of around 25% every week to keep nitrate levels in check and to replenish essential minerals and trace elements in the water that have been consumed by the tank’s occupants and plants.
Nitrates are usually present in the tap water used to fill the tank. The level varies with the source of the tap water, but in the UK must be no more than 50ppm by law. Most UK water suppliers provide information by postcode on various aspects of water quality for the locality, including the average nitrate level, but because this can still vary it is advisable to use your test kit to establish the nitrate level in your own water supply.
What should I do if nitrates in my tank are too high?
The first thing to do when you realise you have a high nitrate level in your aquarium is to establish the cause. Many of the common causes can be remedied simply by changes to tank husbandry. Is your tank overstocked? Are you skimping on your partial water changes? Are you forgetting to clean trapped waste from the gravel? Are you feeding too much? If the answer to any of those questions is “Yes”, the solution to the problem is easily within your control.
If your tank is correctly stocked, not overfed and is properly maintained by weekly gravel vacuuming and 25% water changes then the problem may be that nitrates in your water supply are high. The level of nitrates in the tank can never realistically be lower than that of the water you put in, so if the water from your tap already has a high level it makes life a little more difficult.
How can I reduce nitrate levels in the tank if my water supply already has a high level?
There are a number of ways to approach this, but all involve either taking nitrates out of the water before it ever goes into the tank, or changes to the tank and filters to allow some nitrate reduction to occur inside the tank.
Reducing Nitrates in the tank itself
This approach is the simplest, especially where tap levels are higher than you’d like, but still a reasonable amount less than the 40ppm maximum recommended. Keeping to a minimal stock level will obviously help, as will taking care not to overfeed, removing uneaten food daily and increasing water changes to twice a week instead of once.
Adding more live plants can produce a quite respectable reduction as the plants will consume some of the ammonia produced by the fish before it is converted to nitrate. Floating plants such as Duckweed are particularly good for this.
Nitrate absorbing sponges such as those made by Juwel can be used in your filter, but must be regularly replaced as they become exhausted. API Nitrazorb Pouches can be placed in your filter in a similar manner, but have the advantage that they can be recharged when exhausted by soaking in salt water.
Products such as Seachem DeNitrate and Seachem Matrix can be used inside filter canisters as part of the biological filtration mechanism and have the advantage that they do not need to be regularly replaced or recharged. Seachem DeNitrate is only effective in low flow filters running at less than 200 litres per hour so it may be advisable to add a secondary low powered filter filled with this specifically for nitrate reduction. Matrix can be used in higher powered filters.
Liquid additives such as Tetra Nitrate Minus contain small beads impregnated with nitrate-eating bacteria. Because these bacteria are typically anaerobic in their action, their life is limited when introduced in this way and the treatment needs to be repeated weekly to maintain satisfactory nitrate levels. It is a very simple treatment to use as it is added directly into the aquarium, but its disadvantage is the ongoing cost of regular treatment.
Reducing Nitrates in Tap Water
Where tap water nitrate levels are unacceptably high there are a number of ways to reduce the concentration before adding the water to your tank.
Mixing tap water with RO water may be a very straightforward option, especially for those who also need to reduce water hardness. It’s easy to calculate the reduction given by any mix ratio as the concentration of nitrates reduces proportionally. E.g. a mix of half tap water and half RO water will halve the nitrate level. RO water can be purchased from many LFSs for quite a small cost, or you can install your own RO filter to produce RO water. RO water should not be used “neat” as it has none of the minerals essential to fish health and has no buffering capacity and so has unstable pH.
Another alternative is to use a nitrate reducing filter. This will remove nitrates from the water, leaving other aspects of the water chemistry untouched. These can either be permanently plumbed into your water supply, with their own tap, or used in a temporary arrangement with a tap adaptor as and when needed.
A third option is to fill a container with tap water a couple of days before a water change and run an internal filter filled with nitrate reducing media in the container. A heater can also be added if desired, to bring the water to the correct temperature for your tank.
Please remember that reducing nitrates by any of these methods can be useful where there is a real problem, but should never be used as a substitute for correct stocking levels, regular water changes and proper tank maintenance.
06 Jul NITRITE AND NITRATE IN AQUARIUM: What are No2- and No3 water values
Nitrites and Nitrates are harmful and undesirable chemical compounds in aquarium, resulting from a biological decomposition process that comes from fish or invertebrate waste substances such as feces, urine and excess food. You must to know that the biological load, that is, the ratio between the number of fishes in relation to the water volume of the tank and the filtration system will be very important for determining a good or pollutants biosystem.
In a good aquarium and then in a functioning biosystem, the so-called “Nitrogen Cycle” is replaced by miraculous bacteria called Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter, in the transformation of proteins in excess, into Ammonium then in Nitrite No2- and finally in Nitrate No3. This last product will be essential for the life of plants that thanks to Co2 and light, will largely overwhelm it and produce oxygen useful for fishes and invertebrates breathing. In practice, it will form a system that can go on its own where animals waste materials will help plant growth, and consequently, waste plants substances will serve fishes. Summing up and explaining the “Nitrogen Cycle”, you can understand that you will be project and set up a tank that can activate this biosystem in the shortest time and in the best possible way, that will prevent the presence of harmful substances. To do this there are some important rules that you will have to follow:
1 – Maintain a low biological load, that is a good ratio between individuals and water liters of the tank .
2 – Installing an excellent mechanical filtering system, will help retain all those debris that would increase the ammonium levels in the aquarium.
3 – Let biological filtering, consisting of the proliferation of Nitrobacter and Nitrosomonas bacteria, be broadly effective, using ceramic rings in the filter, oxygenated substrates made of porous gravel or lava stone where these bacteria will easily colonize. We can also buy products that contain latent bacteria for accelerate the colonization process.
4 – Planting the aquarium very much and make the plants efficiently with the correct Co2 Carbon Dioxide Systems and with adequate illumination, increasing the consumption of Nitrates No3 and increase the oxygen production.
5 – Make periodic changes of water with the help of special siphons that will also eliminate the debris on the bottom, keeping under control the values No2 – No3.
6 – Be very careful when you administering the food, check the total consumption during meals, the food should be finished in less than 5 minutes.
In conclusion, the efficiency of the biosystem and of the Nitrogen Cycle is fundamental and very important, anyhow the presence of N02- and No3 values must be detected by various systems that we can find on the market, such as reagent strips or liquid reagents that will indicate the actual presence in water. The values that you will find, to be sure that the biosystem is not “polluted” and then animals are not negatively affected are:
Once you have set up your fish tank and added water, then you’re probably excited to begin adding fish. However, there is an important step you must take before adding fish. You must cycle your fish tank.
Cycling a fish tank includes growing nitrifying bacteria to convert fish waste. The name for this process is called the nitrogen cycle.
NOTE: You will need to be patient as your tank cycles. If you try to add fish too early, they may die from ammonia poisoning.
Beneficial bacteria is needed to take toxic fish waste called ammonia and convert it into nitrite and nitrate. Growing this beneficial bacteria takes time! It may take 4 to 6 weeks for the process to complete.
FYI: Salinity, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels are all examples of water parameters.
Start the nitrogen cycle by adding 4 drops of Ammonium Chloride per gallon of water (the instructions will be on the bottle). We sell Ammonium Chloride at the front of the store. The ammonia level in your tank will spike, reaching levels above 1ppm, then it will turn into nitrite and finally nitrate. Again, this process usually takes several weeks. It is important to wait until your ammonia levels reduce to 0ppm before adding fish.
It is also essential to add Live Rock, Bio Media and/or Dry Rock to your tank for the cycle to complete. Beneficial bacteria will cling to the rock and bio media.
Live Rock helps provide beneficial bacteria. You can also use Dry Rock or Bio Media and then add the bacteria yourself. Dr Tim’s Live Nitrifying Bacteria is a great source for beneficial bacteria. We sell this product at the front of the store.
How do you know when your tank is fully cycled and ready for fish?
When your ammonia levels reduce to .25ppm, your nitrate levels will begin to rise. Your tank is close to completing the cycling process when you see a rise in nitrates. It is best to wait until there is 0ppm of ammonia in your tank before adding fish. Once you have 0ppm of ammonia, then you can add one hardy fish such as a clownfish or a green chromis. Be sure to acclimate your new fish to your tank. It’s recommended to add one fish at a time. Adding many fish at once can lead to an ammonia spike that could kill them.
After you add your new fish, be sure to check your water parameters daily. If your water parameters begin to rise after adding new fish, then perform a water change. You can also add more nitrifying bacteria after changing the water. Finally, you can use Prime (Seachem Prime Fresh and Saltwater Conditioner) to detoxify the ammonia, if needed.
Be patient through the beginning cycling process. It is worth the wait! Remember, all of our tanks at Aquatic Collection started out by cycling them.
Again, the products you will need to buy to start your nitrogen cycle once your tank is filled with water:
Bio Media, Dry Rock, or Live Rock
Live Nitrifying Bacteria
Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate Test Kits
Prime (Seachem Prime Fresh and Saltwater Conditioner)
All of these are available for purchase at Aquatic Collection!
The good news is. They Can Be Beaten Down Into Submission.
Nitrates are a part of nature in the ocean, and correspondingly in our tanks. As waste breaks down in your aquarium, it cycles from ammonia to nitrite to nitrates. The first two are highly toxic to marine life, and we make it a point to make sure our tanks test zero for these. However, nitrates aren’t as bad, and sometimes are even a little beneficial.
Specifically, few organisms need nitrates. Both micro and macro algae love the stuff, while fish tolerate it. Invertebrates suffer if the levels are too high, but a little is required to keep clams happy. In our goal to match NSW as closely as possible, we strive to keep nitrates down to a minimum at 10 ppm or less.
First things first — what is causing the nitrates in your tank? Bioballs, biowheels, filter pads, foam blocks & tubes, and under gravel filters all contribute to the production of nitrates. Overfeeding is another cause, and a lack of water changes will be another factor.
Nitrates are in the water column, not your substrate or rockwork. Frequent large water changes will quickly reduce the amounts of nitrates present in your system. I battled with nitrates for years, even when using Nitrate Sponge on a weekly basis. I’d change 5 gallons in my 29 gallon tank and see the nitrates drop from 80 to 60ppm, only to rise again. I’d cringe when I’d run a new test and see the fluid bright red before the timer was even set!
Once I removed the 3 year-old under gravel filter & my Penguin Biowheel filter filled with bioballs, I was finally on track. I did three 10 gallon water changes in one week, or 33% at a time. Nitrates were down to 20ppm. I became more meticulous with my water changes, changing 7 – 10 gallons each time every two weeks.
Later on that year, I added a sump & refugium to that tank. The saying “Dilution is the Solution to Pollution” proved to be absolutely true. The macro algae in the refugium as well as the small sandbed helped denitrify my tank, and nitrates are ranging from 0 – 2ppm with a water change only being done every other month.
In November 2002, I bought an existing 55 gallon tank filled with seven fish, 120 lbs of live rock and crushed coral substrate. The previous owners never tested their water, and the nitrates were 200ppm or more. Through a series of major water changes in those first two weeks, nitrates were lowered without stressing the fish. The substrate was replaced with a DSB (deep sand bed), and the canister filters with biowheels were removed as a sump was incorporated. Nitrates were down to 7ppm after three months, and only one fish was lost during that period (probably due to starvation… it never looked healthy).
If your tank is suffering from high nitrate levels, the success of your reef will depend on your being able to get this under control. Changing 100% of the water would be the ideal, but it may shock your corals, fish and invertebrates in the process. A more gradual way is recommended.
Example from my 55-gallon Reef : Make up 20 gallons of fresh saltwater in a trashcan in front of your tank. Drain 10 gallons of tank water into the 20 gallons of new water, and let that mix. Pump 10 gallons of that water back into your tank, and let the power heads mix that water up in your tank for a minute or so. Then repeat this three more times. Dispose of the now polluted 20 gallons of water. Make up another 20 gallons of fresh saltwater, and repeat this procedure. As long as your temperature and salinity match the tank, your inhabitants won’t be affected adversely, and with each rotation of water, the nitrates are being diluted and removed from your tank.
Simply pulling out all of the water in one massive water change puts stress on your entire tank. Doing small water changes consistently won’t bring nitrate levels down. At best, it will maintain them at their current levels. Using the example above, a tank that was at 80ppm would be around 30ppm after a couple of hours work and your population will be happy and unaffected. Once your nitrate levels drop, they are easily kept low with regular water changes, as well as the use of a DSB and macro algae.
Your tank will be healthier, your reef happier and the nitrate problem fixed!
Update – 5/10/09:
Since the writing of this article six years ago, other options have become available. Some people have opted to purchase a De-nitrification Reactor, such as the one made by Midwest Systems. These definitely work, but they are not cheap.
Another method that has proven effective is to dose the tank with a carbon source, such as vodka, sugar, or vinegar. Some use a combination of these three products, concocting a very precise dosing regiment. Please do your homework before putting anything new in your tank. I’ve been dosing my 280g reef tank with vodka since July 2008, and will be doing a write up soon on what that entailed and how it worked. In the meantime, here’s the article that was my guide. Please read it very carefully: Notes from the Trenches – Vodka Dosing. Distilled!
Update – 5/11/09:
Was that soon enough? LOL Here’s the article: Vodka Dosing – Why?
Update – 6/3/11:
Now I’m using biopellets. And it’s working great so far.
Update – 9/30/14:
I stopped running biopellets and am only using Prodibio after waiting about 3 months for the corals to settle down after an accidental overdosing event. I did a few water changes and waited 12 weeks, the resumed Prodibio dosing every 15 days.
Another nitrate reduction method that has worked for some is NoPox by RedSea which is great for smaller system, but has to be dosed daily.
Update – 1/28/16:
Using biopellets once more to get nitrates back down as they rose inexplicably high in record time over the holidays.
Update – 11/30/16:
Nitrate has measured less than 2ppm for over six months. Here’s my video pertaining to important biopellet knowledge after years of personal experience:
And I’m using the Elos Nitrate test kit these days. API is just fine if you want to go that route, but Elos measures between 0 and 25ppm with a very easy to determine color chart.
Last Updated: Feb 10 2022
All healthy aquariums will have nitrates in the water. This is the result of the nitrogen cycle (the process whereby nitrifying bacteria is formed). Although a small number of nitrates present in the water will not pose harm to your inhabitants, if the maximum parts per million (ppm) is exceeded, you will start to have trouble inside of your saltwater aquarium. All fish can tolerate a maximum amount of 20 ppm to 40 ppm nitrates before overdose symptoms will strike. It is said that fish and invertebrates can adapt to the level of nitrates in an aquarium. This is simply false and will cause health issues once a water change is completed.
The chemistry of the water is important to maintain a healthy saltwater aquarium. Fortunately, this article will inform you of our top 8 methods to lower the number of nitrates in your saltwater aquarium.
Table of contents
You may be wondering what exactly nitrates are? Nitrates are a product of the nitrogen cycle produced from rotting foods, fish and invertebrate waste, and decomposing plant matter. It is derived from the conversion of ammonia into nitrites until it is finally converted to nitrates. Nitrate is less toxic to aquatic inhabitants when it is compared to deadly ammonia and nitrites. Both ammonia and nitrites should be 0 ppm to avoid illness and eventually death in both fish and invertebrates.
Nitrates are more tolerated and can stay under an ideal amount of 30 ppm. Although some fish can only tolerate up to 20 ppm and the hardier fish have been reported to tolerate up to 40 ppm. Death can occur if the inhabitants are left untreated for more than a few hours in severe cases and 48 hours in mild cases.
Image Credit: Ihor Matsiievskyi, Shutterstock
Using a Test Kit
The only way to find out the number of nitrates in the aquarium is done by a liquid test kit. Since nitrites are invisible compounds that cannot be seen inside of the water, testing the water for all three parameters is essential. We recommend testing the water at least once a week. You can even design a document or journal the number of nitrates in your saltwater aquarium after every test.
Nitrate Poisoning in Fish
Watching out for symptoms of high nitrates is important for all aquarium keepers. The onset of symptoms can be very sudden and may catch you off guard. A healthy fish can quickly turn sickly if exposed to undesirable nitrate levels.
Similarly, you may ask, how do you fix nitrate levels in a fish tank?
How to remove aquarium nitrate:
- Add live plants to a freshwater aquarium. Plants naturally utilize nitrate as a nutrient and food.
- Reduce fish population or upgrade to bigger tank. Fish waste results in an increase of nitrate levels.
- Cut back on feeding.
- Use a nitrate remover such as ALGONE.
Subsequently, question is, how do I reduce nitrites during my period?
- Water change! A 30-50% water change should be the first thing you do after confirming a nitrite spike.
- Add cycled filters. As I touched on earlier, bacteria turn nitrites into much less harmful nitrates.
- Water conditioner. This is essentially a nitrite remover in a bottle.
Beside this, how do you lower ammonia levels in a fish tank?
To lower ammonia levels in a fish tank, do weekly partial water changes, removing around 30% of the water in the tank and replacing it with fresh, dechlorinated water. You should also scoop out any organic matter that shouldn’t be in the tank, like uneaten food, fish waste, and uneaten plant matter.
How do you remove nitrates from water?
Nitrate may be successfully removed from water using treatment processes such as ion exchange, distillation, and reverse osmosis. Contact your local health department for recommended procedures. Heating or boiling your water will not remove nitrate.
Controlling the water parameters in your saltwater aquarium is crucial for it to thrive and one of the most important things to keep in check is the nitrate level. But what exactly are nitrates and why do they matter for the longevity of your reef?
Chemical Nitrate Reducers
Add to a hang-on filter or sump in a mesh bag to bind up excess nitrate.
Highly regarded nitrate and phosphate control liquid additive.
Alternative liquid nitrate reducer from a well-respected brand.
Filter media pad that can be placed in the flow of your sump or hang-on filter.
What Even Are Nitrates?
Nitrates are essentially the end product of the nitrogen cycle and are the least toxic of the compounds. That does not mean that nitrates are safe though. They are still able to cause issues for your tank’s inhabitants if not properly kept in check. Though some corals can use nitrate for growth, they do not need high levels of it. Nitrate should be kept between .25 ppm and 5 ppm.
Some Issues Nitrates Cause for Your Aquarium
- Coral can die or lose its color
- High algae growth
- Illness and death for aquarium inhabitants
What causes high nitrates in a reef aquarium?
Nitrates can commonly become a problem for reef tanks that are not quite prepared for the levels of nitrate present. For example, your aquarium might not have all the live rock and beneficial bacteria that would help to keep the nitrate levels in check. They can be caused by poor care practices such as overfeeding and infrequent water changes.
Avoiding High Nitrates Means Adhering to Best Care Practices
Avoid Overfeeding Your Fish
Food that is left uneaten and increased waste produced by fish will all begin to wreak havoc on the tank’s water quality. Not only can overfeeding cause a spike in nitrates in your aquarium water but it can also lead to increased ammonia levels. Try measuring the food for your fish so that they can eat it all in 1-2 minutes. This will help to cut down on the over-abundance of food present. If you don’t think you are feeding enough, you can always add more a little later. It is easier to add more food later than it is trying to remove excess food. And always try to stick to a schedule. I typically use a digital excel sheet to help remind me when and if I fed my aquarium that day. Whatever you need to do to be consistent in your practices, do it. By preventing overfeeding, you help make it easier to reduce nitrate levels naturally.
Frequent Water Changes
Perform your regular water changes to help remove excess waste, algae, and provide quality clean water for your fish. How much constitutes a good water change? Try to aim for between 15 – 30 percent for your weekly water changes. Ensure that the water you are adding back into your tank is safe and ready to mix with your aquarium’s water. That means no nitrates in the water (you know the compound we are trying to keep as low as possible). You can use filtered water and test the water before you actually begin to add it to the tank. You can buy nitrate test kits for your water changes if you use a nitrate monitoring system in your tank.
Add more Live Rock
One of the reasons your tank may have started with a nitrate imbalance is that it did not have the time to properly mature with bacteria before you began adding your fish. If you barely have any live rock, you should seriously consider adding more to your reef aquarium. Live rock comes with helpful bacteria that can be beneficial to a variety of things in your tank. One of those benefits is helping to cultivate the bacteria that work to reduce nitrates.
This should only be done if you did not take the time to properly add enough live rock in the first place. Throwing in an unnecessary live rock into your tank could cause more bad than good due to wasted space, blocked water flow, and algae buildup.
A skimmer is always a great thing to consider if it is within your budget. They help to reduce the buildup of nitrates in the first place by cleaning up the waste and algae that it is derived from. They don’t directly reduce the nitrate level from the aquarium water instead they remove the compounds that lead to the production of nitrate. They are a great proactive tool to help keep your tank’s water quality perfect.
Get a good clean-up crew
A good clean-up crew will help to clean up a lot of the excess waste that might be missed by frequent water changes and your protein skimmer. Nas snails would make a great addition to your tank’s clean-up crew. They like to dig in the sand which causes it to be turned over and reveal waste that might have sunk into the sand bed allowing for it to be eaten or cleaned. Emerald crabs are also great for eating up algae and leftover food from your fish but you might need several for them to be successful. Careful not to overdo it and add too many cleaners to your tank.
Rinse off Frozen Food
Frozen food can be a great nutrient-dense way to feed your fish but sometimes these useful meals are packed with juices that are sometimes detrimental to your tank’s water quality. You should rinse these foods before feeding them to your fish. It will help to reduce the bad bacteria being introduced at the time and stabilize the nitrate level. The best way to do this is to use a fish net to hold the food and rinse them with filtered water. The same filtered water that you would be okay with using for your water changes, so guarantees that you will not be introducing harmful bacteria and water to your aquarium.
Remove Some Fish
You think you aren’t overfeeding your fish and you are performing weekly water changes, but your nitrate levels are staying at the same level. What this could mean is that you overstocked your saltwater aquarium. Also, you may not think you are overfeeding your tank, but chances are if the tank is overstocked, you very well could be overfeeding as well. You might need to remove a few of your tank’s inhabitants to stabilize the nitrate level.