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Thread: High nitrate levels in established tank

  1. #1

    Exclamation High nitrate levels in established tank

    I have a 46gal tank with a Fluval 305 filter. My tank has been going for about a year and a half now and never any problems until now. Over the last week 3 of my fish have died. I originally had a Jack Dempsey, Firemouth, 3 Parrot's, and Bala Shark. I moved locally (but to another city) at the end of May and brought all of my water with me, and all my fish seemed to do fine with the move. I woke up one morning to one of my Parrots lying on the bottom of the tank very pale and barely breathing, and within about an hour he was dead. The next day my Bala Shark died, and 3 days after that another Parrot died (Tuesday night). My remaining Parrot and Jack look ok and fairly normal, but my Firemouth doesn't look too good. He is just hanging out in the corner near the top of the tank (very unlike him) and has gotten darker than normal. I took water into the local fish store on Wednesday (which is a salt water store but they do have some african cichlids also) and they told me that my nitrate level was 40ppm and it was way too high and that I needed to do a 20gal water change, and add more live plants and add fluval clearmax and a phosphorous remover to my filter. I did all of these things and today had my water rechecked at Pet Smart (they are much closer to my apartment) and they told me my nitrate levels were still 40ppm but "that for a freshwater tank that is an ok level, just make sure it doesn't go any higher". I'm at a loss as to should be done. I bought amquel plus but have not used it yet, because i'm worried if i just start adding chemicals i will just kill everything. The only thing i can think of is that the water is different here than where i use to live, but i am using the api tap water stuff which i believe is suppose to remove all of the toxins.

    Please please help me get this straightened out so I can save my remaining fish.

  2. #2

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    First off you might want to consider buying yourself a test kit so you dont have to take your water somewhere to get it tested. id recommend buying the API Master Freshwater test kit.

    As far as your Nitrate levels, im going to have to say your tank is over stocked 46 is to small for Jack Dempsey let alone any other fish, and is probably why your having issues with water quality.

    Also dont ever believe a word the big box stores like petsmart and petco say
    Last edited by Oscars4TheWin; 07-30-2011 at 01:07 PM.
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  3. #3
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    Dec 2008
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    Hello Teslagurl and welcome to the forum.

    First let me say that you should invest in a quality water test kit. When situations arise such as the one
    you are in the midst of, it is best to have your own kit to get quick diagnostic level readings. It is far more
    reliable to trust the results from your own quality test kit than from any retail store’s kit.

    I woke up one morning to one of my Parrots lying on the bottom of the tank very pale and barely
    breathing, and within about an hour he was dead. The next day my Bala Shark died, and 3 days after that
    another Parrot died (Tuesday night).
    Normally, when deaths occur this frequently, it is the result of either a disease or poisoning.
    Disease:
    Are you familiar with and able to identify common fish diseases such as ick?
    Ick will appear as small white dots, making the fish appear to be covered with salt. Look closely at their
    eyes for the presence of the white dots. Fish infected with ick will scratch themselves against rocks,
    ornaments and the substrate, appear listless and to be breathing heavily.

    Poisoning
    Do you recall what the ammonia and ph levels were from water tests?

    my nitrate level was 40ppm
    This is not a lethal nitrate level and most likely not the cause for your loses.

    that for a freshwater tank that is an ok level, just make sure it doesn’t go any higher
    This is an accurate statement. Doing weekly 25% water changes will help keep this level manageable.

    I bought amquel plus but have not used it yet, because i'm worried if i just start adding chemicals I
    will just kill everything.
    Amquel plus is a water conditioner that removes contaminants from tap water, making it safe to add to
    your tank during a water change. I assume the API product you mentioned does the same thing.
    Follow the directions on the bottle and even a double dose is ok and should not be harmful.

    Please please help me get this straightened out so I can save my remaining fish.
    There are many knowledgeable people on this forum that will help you. In the meantime, begin doing
    10-gallon water changes daily while trying to determine the cause of the problem.
    When a problem arises, a water change is your friend.

    Please reply to the couple of questions I asked above and if possible, posting a photo or two of the fish will
    be most helpful.

    Good luck.

    Regards,
    -Gary
    Visit my You Tube aquarium channel
    http://www.youtube.com/user/ge2655h20?feature=mhum

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
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    Quote Originally Posted by teslagurl View Post
    I have a 46gal tank with a Fluval 305 filter. My tank has been going for about a year and a half now and never any problems until now. Over the last week 3 of my fish have died. I originally had a Jack Dempsey, Firemouth, 3 Parrot's, and Bala Shark. I moved locally (but to another city) at the end of May and brought all of my water with me, and all my fish seemed to do fine with the move. I woke up one morning to one of my Parrots lying on the bottom of the tank very pale and barely breathing, and within about an hour he was dead. The next day my Bala Shark died, and 3 days after that another Parrot died (Tuesday night). My remaining Parrot and Jack look ok and fairly normal, but my Firemouth doesn't look too good. He is just hanging out in the corner near the top of the tank (very unlike him) and has gotten darker than normal. I took water into the local fish store on Wednesday (which is a salt water store but they do have some african cichlids also) and they told me that my nitrate level was 40ppm and it was way too high and that I needed to do a 20gal water change, and add more live plants and add fluval clearmax and a phosphorous remover to my filter. I did all of these things and today had my water rechecked at Pet Smart (they are much closer to my apartment) and they told me my nitrate levels were still 40ppm but "that for a freshwater tank that is an ok level, just make sure it doesn't go any higher". I'm at a loss as to should be done. I bought amquel plus but have not used it yet, because i'm worried if i just start adding chemicals i will just kill everything. The only thing i can think of is that the water is different here than where i use to live, but i am using the api tap water stuff which i believe is suppose to remove all of the toxins.

    Please please help me get this straightened out so I can save my remaining fish.
    Quote Originally Posted by Oscars4TheWin View Post
    First off you might want to consider buying yourself a test kit so you dont have to take your water somewhere to get it tested. id recommend buying the API Master Freshwater test kit.

    As far as your Nitrate levels, im going to have to say your tank is over stocked 46 is to small for Jack Dempsey let alone any other fish, and is probably why your having issues with water quality.

    Also dont ever believe a word the big box stores like petsmart and petco say

    First and foremost - Welcome to the forum, this is one of the best forums I have found, the people here know their stuff and will help you with any and all questions you might have!

    On to business... the 46 is too small for the fish you are keeping... as Oscars said, a 46 is too small for a single JD, let alone all the others with him, which is probably the cause for the spike. You may not have have the issue before you moved because the bacteria colony was probably massive to keep up with the bio-load, when you moved you more then likely lost part maybe up to half of that bacteria colony (common when moving). Now that the bacteria has been reduced the levy has broke and you are getting large spikes in Nit, Ammonia, etc.

    I too would recommend buying your own test kit (and yes the Freshwater Master Test Kit by API is the best IMO=In My Opinion) I have two of the kits for testing all my tanks.

    As far as 40ppm on Nitrates you normally can get away with that if you have ample filtration and not overcrowded fish... I personally never let mine get over 30ppm max... With the move stressing your fish and hurting your bacterias, you probably can expect more problems.

    Here is what I would do if I were in your situation.

    A) drop the JD
    or
    B)Drop everything else and keep the JD
    and then
    C) 20% water changes daily for two weeks
    or
    D) 30% Water changes every other day for two weeks

    Keep testing your own water with the Test kit you should go buy.

    *** Petsmart/Petco***
    Sometimes, if you are lucky enough to have a Petsmart that has an employee that KNOWS what they are doing you can trust them... Unfortunately 95% of them have no clue about what they are talking about and are just trying to sell you something, or trying to get you to go away if they don't have the answer.

    So in conclusion...
    Get your own test kit (API FMTK is the best)
    Reduce the Bioload in that tank (best to get rid of the larger/est fish)
    Regular and often water changes (Top Fin Dechlorinator is just fine follow instructions)
    lastly... POST PHOTOS!!! We all love fish, and love to see more fish!!!

    Welcome to the forum once again and I hope this helped...
    ><((((º>`•.¸¸.•´¯`•.¸.•´¯`•...¸><((((º>¸. RoSCoE
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  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Holland Patent, NY
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    Quote Originally Posted by ge2655 View Post
    Normally, when deaths occur this frequently, it is the result of either a disease or poisoning.
    Let's not forget Aggression.... Not saying this is your problem, just that a single fish can kill off others when you are not around and mislead you into thinking there is a water problem.
    "Cichlids aren't aggressive, they are territorial. Aggression is a response to inadequate territory for their breeding and feeding needs."

    "A Nation of Sheep Breeds a Government of Wolves!"

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