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High Nitrate In Tap Water
May 31, 2011
9:54 pm
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ben_d
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May 7, 2011
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Hey guys,

Long time lurker, first time poster... great community /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" />

I was after some advice. I've got a Biorb 60L tank (yuk!) keeping a small group of fish, 1 large goldfish (4"), one smaller (1.5"), and a small school of 3 small fish. The tank is coping well, I'm not intend to add any more fish in there.

One thing I've noticed recently is that the Nitrate levels are always fairly high (40-60ppm), despite me doing water changes of 30% every week. Upon further investigation, it seems that the tap water here is 40ppm straight out the tap... scary!

Does anyone have any tips on how to remove this or source better water to put into the tank? Frankly this is becoming a bit of a problem, is there anything I can use to effectively treat the water to remove the nitrates before putting it in the tank?

I usually treat my water with the normal dosage of Aquasafe, but I'm pretty sure this does nothing to the nitrate levels.

Cheers!

Ben

June 1, 2011
10:01 am
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ender2811
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Hey Ben, welcome to the site.

First off, I'm no expert. In fact I'm just getting started with the hobby, but until some of the big dogs reply I'll throw in my 2 cents worth.
From what I've read a 40 ppm reading in the tank is a little on the high side but shouldn't be that critical. U mention it is becoming a problem. Can U be more specific? Are the fish exhibiting strange behavior, are U experiencing some algae bloom or??? Have U checked the other parameters in the tank? Ammonia, NitrItes?
As for getting rid of nitrates from your tap water there are chems U could use for that but I'm pretty sure that would be a waste of your money. An RO system would allow u to have pure H2O, no nitrates, no anything. RO systems are expensive and when using them u have to play chemist a little bit before being able to put the water U get from them into the tank.
Since U have a fairly small tank, U could just buy RO or DEMI water and mix it half and half with your tap water.That would cut the nitrate level by half but it would also be one more thing U have to do on a weekly basis.
U are correct, Aquasafe does nothing to the nitrates.

June 1, 2011
12:51 pm
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poshsouthernbird
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I'm not sure I count as a ‘big dog’ but I do keep goldies so I can certainly give you a bit more info on nitrate and goldies. I’m not as scientifically minded as some of the fellas on here but I can do you a ‘layman’s version’ of events /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" />

Brace yourself for 20 questions and a long post ... and apologies if any of this is teaching you to suck eggs but I may as well cover as much as I can think of ...

Now, you say 'biorb 60 yuk' - does this imply an upgrade is on the cards or was that a pre-emptive strike before anyone else said it? /wink.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=";)" border="0" alt="wink.gif" /> The fact that it is a biorb may have a slight bearing on how to deal with the nitrate. Can I ask if you are familiar with the nitrogen cycle? Can you also test for ammonia and nitrite as ender mentions? It would also help to know GH, KH and PH. For a more accurate PH reading leave a sample of water to stand over-night and then test.

Do you use the biorb filter cartridges? If so do you leave the zeolite and carbon in there or do you remove it and just use the sponges? If you leave the zeolite and carbon in, do you change the cartridge as per the manufacturer's instructions? If you take it out do you still change the sponge completely or rinse it in tank water and reuse it?

If you leave the zeolite in the cartridge it will remove a certain amount of the ammonia produced by the fish - because the ammonia is removed it will not convert to nitrite and so will not convert to nitrate. If you remove the zeolite the cycle is operating more 'naturally' as it were as the filter bacteria living in the ceramic media at the bottom of the biorb are processing all the ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate. I'm making a massive assumption that your ammonia and nitrite readings are zero - can you confirm this? If you don't change the zeolite as per instructions it won't remove anything from the water once it gets exhausted.

If you are changing the sponge you don't need to. It just needs a rinse in tank water then you can use it again. Although it doesn't have much of a surface area it will have a bacterial colony living on it so if you bin the sponge you also bin some of your good bacteria.

So, if you use the zeolite you are effectively reducing the amount of nitrate that will be produced as the bacteria aren't processing all the ammonia.

High tap water nitrate is a big problem with goldies. Goldies are extremely messy fish and nitrate soon builds up. To reduce nitrate in tap water you could use something like a Pozzani filter which needs to be plumbed into the mains. You could use RO as ender suggests but you need to be aware of how this may affect GH/KH/PH - RO is essentially water with everything removed - it will also soften water and alter PH. You may need to look at remineralising it before you add it to the tank. You can either get your own RO unit or buy ready made remineralised RO from a fish shop – the latter would be safest if you are not confident on doing it yourself.

The sort of things used to removed nitrate from tanks tend to go in the filter - this isn't going to work for you as you won't be able to add anything to the biorb filter. You could get an additional filter and run it in a tub of water using something like Nitrazorb (a resin that comes in pouches and can be recharged with salt water) to remove nitrate from the tap water prior to adding it to the tank. If you do this you need to check if there is any affect on PH. I have a nitrate filter (discontinued sadly!) which works in a similar way but because it relies on ion exchange to remove the nitrate (I'm working from somewhat dim memories of the instructions here so bear with me!) and then is recharged with salt it lowers PH. If PH is affected you need to remedy that before adding the water to the tank so you'll be wanting something like coral sand or crushed oyster shell running in the filter alongside the nitrate remover.

You could consider using something like Seachem De-nitrate - this needs to be run in a slow flowing filter and works by allowing denitrifying bacteria to grow in anaerobic conditions within the filter media - these bacteria won't develop in a standard filter. The de-nitrate works on a similar principal to live rock in marine set ups or a deep sand bed filter.

There are various potions like Nitrate Minus which you add to the water but personally I'm always dubious of adding stuff to remove stuff.

Live plants will help but you won't be able to get enough in to make a significant difference. Plus the ceramic media is not suitable for planting so you'd need something like elodea densa (basically pond weed), ceratophyllum demersum (hornwort) or cladophora aegagropila (moss balls).

HTH on the nitrate front ... hope you don’t mind the next bit, may as well do it while I’m at it ...

You will need to find some means of managing nitrate as it can affect the health of the fish. Ideally you want to keep it around 20ppm. Over 40pmm can cause buoyancy problems and digestive problems, especially in fancies as it affects the way the blood vessels dilate thus affecting the operation of the swimbladder organ and it can apparently cause digestive problems and thus cause gas in the guts. Nitrate is also prone to suppressing the immune system. I’m sure there are plenty on here who can give you the science behind that lot!

What sort of goldies are they? Commons/singletails or fancies? Are you aware of their potential adult size? Don’t faint but the biorb 60 is not going to be a suitable long term home for them as far as size is concerned. It also has limited surface area compared to volume which isn’t good for fish like goldies which like quite a lot of oxygen in the water. Can I ask what you feed them? Fancies benefit from sinking foods – the ceramic media is no good for this as the gaps between the lumps are quite big and food gets stuck in them. Goldies like to rootle about in the substrate but can’t do this in a biorb due to the media. They like quite a ‘rich’ environment with live plants, gravel, wood – they are intelligent, busy, active ‘doing’ fish and benefit from having things like live plants etc. to play with. The tank may be coping at the moment but I suspect this will not last, especially if you feed the fish the amount they ought to be getting to develop properly /wink.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=";)" border="0" alt="wink.gif" /> Underfeeding may help with water quality but it brings its own unpleasant problems. Goldies should be big fish and they eat a lot – the dire warnings about over feeding are more often than not just a means of maintaining water quality in a small body of water. A bigger body of water will also help with diluting pollution – nitrates won’t build up quite so fast in a larger tank.

Singletails/commons are usually better off in ponds but big ponds, not little patio jobs. They are the athletes of the goldfish world and do like to swim up and down a length. To keep them long term in a tank you really need to be looking at no less than 4 feet, ideally significantly bigger. In fact in all conscience I find it hard to recommend that they be kept in tanks, I've got one myself, and a comet/wakin but their tanks are 6'7" and the fish are adopted from less suitable homes so I'm the lesser of two evils as it were. Fancies also benefit from a big swimming area as they are clumsy and inept at swimming so more room to manoeuvre will help them. Plus despite their wombly ways they do like swimming about and are surprisingly active considering their shapes. A traditional tank will enable you to have a much more efficient filter as you could have an external one. You will
also be able to have a decent gravel substrate and some live plants. And some bubbles - they like bubbles, and some wood – they like wood ... the opportunities are endless, lol. It will also have a better surface area to volume ratio so will be better for oxygen exchange. Personally I’d recommend minumim 4 foot for fancies too as those babies soon grow. Goldies don’t really fit into the old x inches per x gallons ‘rule’ as their swimming room requirements and biomass are very high. 180 litres for two fancies would be ok as a minimum. For two singletails, well, there is no maximum – put it like that!

Any guesses as to why I’m wondering if ‘biorb yuk’ was implying an impending upgrade? /wink.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=";)" border="0" alt="wink.gif" />

Finally (you’ll be pleased to hear!) – what are the smaller fish? If a goldie can fit something in its mouth it will. The small fish could well become lunch ... /ph34r.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":ph34r:" border="0" alt="ph34r.gif" />

HTH /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" />

EDIT - that turned out longer than it looked when I wrote it!

www.injaf.org
June 1, 2011
1:47 pm
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ender2811
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@poshsouthernbird: OK, that was a real big dog reply. And then some /wink.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=";)" border="0" alt="wink.gif" />

June 1, 2011
5:06 pm
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ben_d
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May 7, 2011
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Hey guys,

Firstly... thanks for the replies!

I'll do my best to answer some of these questions:

QUOTE (poshsouthernbird @ Jun 1 2011, 01:34 PM) < {POST_SNAPBACK}>
Now, you say 'biorb 60 yuk' - does this imply an upgrade is on the cards or was that a pre-emptive strike before anyone else said it? /wink.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=";)" border="0" alt="wink.gif" /> The fact that it is a biorb may have a slight bearing on how to deal with the nitrate. Can I ask if you are familiar with the nitrogen cycle? Can you also test for ammonia and nitrite as ender mentions? It would also help to know GH, KH and PH. For a more accurate PH reading leave a sample of water to stand over-night and then test.
I'd like to replace the Biorb

Fairly familiar with the nitrogen cycle

Nitrite is zero, tank is well established (been going for around a year)

I don't currently have an ammonia test kit /sad.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":(" border="0" alt="sad.gif" />

PH/KH/GH all come out as 'ok' according to my test strips (Tetra 6 in 1)

GH 8, KH 3, PH 8

Do you use the biorb filter cartridges? If so do you leave the zeolite and carbon in there or do you remove it and just use the sponges? If you leave the zeolite and carbon in, do you change the cartridge as per the manufacturer's instructions? If you take it out do you still change the sponge completely or rinse it in tank water and reuse it?
I use the biorb filter cartridges, and replace them every 2-3 months. I usually leave the zeolite and carbon in there

If you leave the zeolite in the cartridge it will remove a certain amount of the ammonia produced by the fish - because the ammonia is removed it will not convert to nitrite and so will not convert to nitrate. If you remove the zeolite the cycle is operating more 'naturally' as it were as the filter bacteria living in the ceramic media at the bottom of the biorb are processing all the ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate. I'm making a massive assumption that your ammonia and nitrite readings are zero - can you confirm this? If you don't change the zeolite as per instructions it won't remove anything from the water once it gets exhausted.

If you are changing the sponge you don't need to. It just needs a rinse in tank water then you can use it again. Although it doesn't have much of a surface area it will have a bacterial colony living on it so if you bin the sponge you also bin some of your good bacteria.Thanks, I'll bear that in mind and stop replacing

So, if you use the zeolite you are effectively reducing the amount of nitrate that will be produced as the bacteria aren't processing all the ammonia.

High tap water nitrate is a big problem with goldies. Goldies are extremely messy fish and nitrate soon builds up. To reduce nitrate in tap water you could use something like a Pozzani filter which needs to be plumbed into the mains. You could use RO as ender suggests but you need to be aware of how this may affect GH/KH/PH - RO is essentially water with everything removed - it will also soften water and alter PH. You may need to look at remineralising it before you add it to the tank. You can either get your own RO unit or buy ready made remineralised RO from a fish shop – the latter would be safest if you are not confident on doing it yourself.

The sort of things used to removed nitrate from tanks tend to go in the filter - this isn't going to work for you as you won't be able to add anything to the biorb filter. You could get an additional filter and run it in a tub of water using something like Nitrazorb (a resin that comes in pouches and can be recharged with salt water) to remove nitrate from the tap water prior to adding it to the tank. If you do this you need to check if there is any affect on PH. I have a nitrate filter (discontinued sadly!) which works in a similar way but because it relies on ion exchange to remove the nitrate (I'm working from somewhat dim memories of the instructions here so bear with me!) and then is recharged with salt it lowers PH. If PH is affected you need to remedy that before adding the water to the tank so you'll be wanting something like coral sand or crushed oyster shell running in the filter alongside the nitrate remover.

You could consider using something like Seachem De-nitrate - this needs to be run in a slow flowing filter and works by allowing denitrifying bacteria to grow in anaerobic conditions within the filter media - these bacteria won't develop in a standard filter. The de-nitrate works on a similar principal to live rock in marine set ups or a deep sand bed filter.

There are various potions like Nitrate Minus which you add to the water but personally I'm always dubious of adding stuff to remove stuff.

Live plants will help but you won't be able to get enough in to make a significant difference. Plus the ceramic media is not suitable for planting so you'd need something like elodea densa (basically pond weed), ceratophyllum demersum (hornwort) or cladophora aegagropila (moss balls).

HTH on the nitrate front ... hope you don’t mind the next bit, may as well do it while I’m at it ...

You will need to find some means of managing nitrate as it can affect the health of the fish. Ideally you want to keep it around 20ppm. Over 40pmm can cause buoyancy problems and digestive problems, especially in fancies as it affects the way the blood vessels dilate thus affecting the operation of the swimbladder organ and it can apparently cause digestive problems and thus cause gas in the guts. Nitrate is also prone to suppressing the immune system. I’m sure there are plenty on here who can give you the science behind that lot!

What sort of goldies are they? Commons/singletails or fancies? Are you aware of their potential adult size? Don’t faint but the biorb 60 is not going to be a suitable long term home for them as far as size is concerned. It also has limited surface area compared to volume which isn’t good for fish like goldies which like quite a lot of oxygen in the water. Can I ask what you feed them? Fancies benefit from sinking foods – the ceramic media is no good for this as the gaps between the lumps are quite big and food gets stuck in them. Goldies like to rootle about in the substrate but can’t do this in a biorb due to the media. They like quite a ‘rich’ environment with live plants, gravel, wood – they are intelligent, busy, active ‘doing’ fish and benefit from having things like live plants etc. to play with. The tank may be coping at the moment but I suspect this will not last, especially if you feed the fish the amount they ought to be getting to develop properly /wink.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=";)" border="0" alt="wink.gif" /> Underfeeding may help with water quality but it brings its own unpleasant problems. Goldies should be big fish and they eat a lot – the dire warnings about over feeding are more often than not just a means of maintaining water quality in a small body of water. A bigger body of water will also help with diluting pollution – nitrates won’t build up quite so fast in a larger tank. I'm not entirely sure what sort of fish, I'll take some photos. My large one seems really intelligent, always watching me from across the room like 10ft away. The environment is pretty basic, just a Biorb bit of coral and some coloured soft spiky ball things. I'll take some pictures. I'd love to replace this with a decent 120-150L tank. Currently feeding flakes that float on the surface.

Sin
gletails/commons are usually better off in ponds but big ponds, not little patio jobs. They are the athletes of the goldfish world and do like to swim up and down a length. To keep them long term in a tank you really need to be looking at no less than 4 feet, ideally significantly bigger. In fact in all conscience I find it hard to recommend that they be kept in tanks, I've got one myself, and a comet/wakin but their tanks are 6'7" and the fish are adopted from less suitable homes so I'm the lesser of two evils as it were. Fancies also benefit from a big swimming area as they are clumsy and inept at swimming so more room to manoeuvre will help them. Plus despite their wombly ways they do like swimming about and are surprisingly active considering their shapes. A traditional tank will enable you to have a much more efficient filter as you could have an external one. You will also be able to have a decent gravel substrate and some live plants. And some bubbles - they like bubbles, and some wood – they like wood ... the opportunities are endless, lol. It will also have a better surface area to volume ratio so will be better for oxygen exchange. Personally I’d recommend minumim 4 foot for fancies too as those babies soon grow. Goldies don’t really fit into the old x inches per x gallons ‘rule’ as their swimming room requirements and biomass are very high. 180 litres for two fancies would be ok as a minimum. For two singletails, well, there is no maximum – put it like that!

Any guesses as to why I’m wondering if ‘biorb yuk’ was implying an impending upgrade? /wink.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=";)" border="0" alt="wink.gif" />

Finally (you’ll be pleased to hear!) – what are the smaller fish? If a goldie can fit something in its mouth it will. The small fish could well become lunch ... /ph34r.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":ph34r:" border="0" alt="ph34r.gif" />

HTH /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" />

EDIT - that turned out longer than it looked when I wrote it!

Thanks for taking the time to write such a long post... I'll get some pictures uploaded later tonight!

June 1, 2011
10:12 pm
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poshsouthernbird
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Hi Ben - those fish are singletail goldfish /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" /> Singletail refers to the tail fin, 'common' goldfish and comets are singletails. Fancy goldies have a double tail fin and tend to be fatter in the body whereas singletails are more streamlined, faster and more maneuoverable. They also tend to have more efficient digestive systems as their innards are not all cramped up inj a compact body shape. The larger of the two looks like a sarassa comet. These are basically variations on a common goldie - they have the red and white colouring and often have longer fins. The other looks quite 'comety' but tbh a lot of goldies are a bit Heinz 57 - check out the one in my avatar for example! Without wishing to shamelessly promote my own fish, check out my pics of them to see the difference between commons and fancies. Yours, and my Howie, are commons. The one in my avatar is a comet/wakin and the others in the link are fancies of one sort or another click me

How old are they? They are quite small at the mo but that won't last and if possible you really need to be looking for a larger and longer home for them. You might need a cuppa for this but they could easily get to 10 inches and more and live for 20 years. The one in my avatar is heading for 12 inches nose to tip of (admittedly) large tail.

The flake food is ok for them. Ideally they would like a more varied diet including bloodworm, brineshrimp, daphnia, pellets, algae wafers and peas but with the biorb it's tricky to feed this due to it getting stuck in the ceramic media. How much are you feeding them?

QUOTE
I’d like to replace the biorb

Good news /wink.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=";)" border="0" alt="wink.gif" /> They are going to need a big home. Check out eBay for bargains, I've bought lots of tanks and kit from eBay - bargain! Whatever you go for in future try to make sure it is nice and long, depth isn't so important for them (obviously you don't want it too shallow though). They do need turning room too so bear this in mind as well.

The fish with them, it’s not that easy to make out but they are either white cloud mountain minnows (Tanichthys albonubes) white cloud mountain minnow or danios of some sort danios WCMM could easily become lunch but danios tend to be bigger so should be ok.

QUOTE
Fairly familiar with the nitrogen cycle

More info here just in case nitrogen cycle

Nitrite being 0 is good, I’d guess that ammonia is also zero but a test kit would help you no end so you can keep an eye on things. The PH is fine for goldies, they like hard water and high PH. Your water sounds medium GH (general hardness) and medium/low KH (carbonate hardness and relates to how well it keeps PH stable). This is a good article on PH/GH/KH (couldn’t find one on here so apologies for external link) click here

If you decide to go down the RO route you need to be aware of how it could affect PH etc. so have a read of the link and ask if there’s anything you are not sure of. I must admit that this isn’t an area I’m brilliant on as my water is harder than an East End villain so I never need to worry about it!

QUOTE
My large one seems really intelligent, always watching me from across the room like 10ft away. The environment is pretty basic, just a Biorb bit of coral and some coloured soft spiky ball things.

Goldies are intelligent, they often get a poor deal from Joe Public with the old 3 second memory myth but this is far from the truth. They have good memories, can recognise different people, see in colour as opposed to cats and dogs who see in black and white and can be taught things. Most of teaching them stuff revolves around food - try teaching them to hand feed - hold some food under the water and wait for them to come and take it. This will also enable you to vary their diet a bit /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" /> I'd seriously see about getting some elodea and hornwort. Most shops will sell it, if you can't get it locally you can get it online, try Biotope Aquatics on eBay, or Plantsalive. The fish will eat it but that's what goldies do, they will enjoy having something else to do.

QUOTE
Thanks for taking the time to write such a long post

No worries, lol. Goldies are my 'thing', there's little point knowing stuff about them and not passing it on /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" /> Don't mean to come over OTT but the devil is in the detail so I like to cover as much as possible - just shout if there's anything you're not sure of /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" />

Are you ok on dealing with the nitrate now?

@ ender2811 - lol!

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June 3, 2011
7:15 am
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Bluedave
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think PSB covered it!

I would say that 40ppm nitrate, while higher than I'd recommend, isn't in the end of the world.

You'll need a bigger tank soon though as as them there fish grow your bi-orb will be fit to burst! Goldies need a minimum of 8 gallons (36 litres) each - minimum - preferably more - check out the pics of PSB's tank - thats how to keep 'em!

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