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Massive Nitrate spike after adding tons of plants? (Help)

Matthew savant

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19 May 2022
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My tank has finished cycling about two weeks ago and I finally got to plant it on Saturday. My water parameters have been normal post cycling and pre-planting, I last tested my tank the day after planting it and everything was good (no ammonia, no nitrites and very low nitrates) but I tested it today and the nitrates were through the roof…I don’t The exact number , I use the API master test kit and when it turns red it’s at least 40ppm (possibly close to 80)
I haven’t added or changed anything other than plants, ferts and a second light. The only non-plant living creature in my tank at the moment is 1 black Molly which I used to cycle the tank( I wasn’t aware of Fishless cycling until after I started so I did it the old school way because that’s all I knew) I don’t over feed, literally 1-2 flakes every 4-5 days, so it’s definitely not from excessive fish food.
Attached is a pic of my tank as of yesterday.
The water has been very clear since adding plants, before planting it was slightly cloudy I assume due to my substrate (a mix of Fluval stratum and eco-complete) but it cleared up nicely though I am dealing with some diatoms which I think is just part of the growing pains of a new tank(?)
Anyways it was back to being slightly cloudy today which is what prompted the testing today as opposed to on the weekend when I normally do it.

When I tested the tank today it was: ammonia 0, nitrites .25, nitrates 40-80
So the nitrites went up a little as well.
I did a massive water change, maybe a little more that 50% and then tested a couple hours after and it read: ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates maybe 40 (still very red on the test)

I was thinking I would do 25% or so water changes everyday until the nitrate levels are low, do you think that’s a good solution?

Additionally what could have possibly caused this?? I know I’m not over feeding I know I’m not overstocked (with only 1 single fish) and I am diligent with maintenance, 40% water change once a week, change the filter media every couple of weeks etc. for filtration I have 2 HOB filters, 1 has only bio-balls and bio-cylinders in it that one I never touch or clean to handle the beneficial bacteria and the second HOB filter is filled with polyfill, that one I change most off every couple weeks as it becomes visibly dirty and I rinse out some of it in tank water. Today I replaced along with doing the massive water change.

I don’t know what else to do nor do I know why this happened. My main theory is that it’s due to a large amount of decaying plant matter from adding so many plants, though I’ve scooped out all of the floating plant matter I can get to I’m sure there’s some random leaves/stems etc mixed in with the planted plants that I can’t see or get to. Other than that maybe it’s something with the ferts? I added a bunch of root tabs before planting and dose daily with GPA dry ferts using the PPS system.
I really am banging my head against the wall trying to get to the bottom of this, should I be freaking out or is this to be expected?
I was going to wait about a month for everything to grow in and then start slowly stocking my tank (shrimp, sparkling gouramis, cobra danios) but I don’t want to stock with anything until I figure this out.


So what do you guys think? Any advice and recommendations would be helpful.
 

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Hanuman

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Other than that maybe it’s something with the ferts? I added a bunch of root tabs before planting and dose daily with GPA dry ferts using the PPS system.
I really am banging my head against the wall trying to get to the bottom of this, should I be freaking out or is this to be expected?
Yes pretty much. The root tabs + the ferts are responsible for the nitrates you see in the water. The root tabs are contributing by leaching in the water column as well.
I was going to wait about a month for everything to grow in and then start slowly stocking my tank (shrimp, sparkling gouramis, cobra danios) but I don’t want to stock with anything until I figure this out.
Although having high nitrates is not an issue since plants use it as nutrient, I would advise you wait it out to see how the ammonia / nitrite settles. If you consistently see 0 of both after a few days then I would say you are good for fish and the rest. If your nitrate keep rising indiscriminately, plant more if possible or add floating plants who will suck it up with no discretion.
 

tam

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Keep in mind though, your tank/filter is 'cycled' to cope with the waste of one fish. That doesn't mean you can put lots more fish in and it will cope. I would wait a few weeks until your plants are actively growing and doing well (and your nitrite disappears) before considering adding any more. That way the plants will do some of the filters job when you add more.
 

AlecF

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It sounds like a wonderful ecosystem that is very new and simply requires some patience. I've found myself that patience is the best medicine, and sometimes stocks are low. A tank settles over time. Let us know how things are in a month.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
My tank has finished cycling about two weeks ago and I finally got to plant it on Saturday. My water parameters have been normal post cycling and pre-planting, I last tested my tank the day after planting it and everything was good..........I was going to wait about a month for everything to grow in and then start slowly stocking my tank
Slow stocking is a good idea. You can actually just plant the tank and <"wait for it to grow in">. Planted tanks are <"never wholly reliant"> on the filter microbial assemblage for nitrification.
The root tabs + the ferts are responsible for the nitrates you see in the water. The root tabs are contributing by leaching in the water column as well.
My main theory is that it’s due to a large amount of decaying plant matter from adding so many plants, though I’ve scooped out all of the floating plant matter I can get to I’m sure there’s some random leaves/stems etc mixed in with the planted plants that I can’t see or get to.
Yes, it is the root tabs, rather than the plant leaves.
I would advise you wait it out to see how the ammonia / nitrite settles
Agreed. Have a look at <"Seasoned Tank Time">.

cheers Darrel
 

mort

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It's always a good idea to do a water change after you have disturbed the substrate as it minimises anything released by the disturbance. This is the same advice I'd follow no matter how mature or well maintained the tank is.
 

Matthew savant

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Whew well that’s good news I was worried that it was something more serious and possibly detrimental to the health of the tank.
I will wait it out as the plants settle it, while I am waiting though should I do water changes more frequently to lower the Nitrates or should I do them weekly as I usually do them if there are no issues in the tank?
Thanks all
 

John q

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should I do water changes more frequently to lower the Nitrates

When I tested the tank today it was: ammonia 0, nitrites .25, nitrates 40-80


As mentioned above the nitrates aren't that much of an issue but if you're getting "readings" for nitrites I'd be tempted to do more frequent water changes just to be on the safe side.
 

jaypeecee

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Hi @Matthew savant

Just to ensure that it's not been left out of the discussion, what source of water are you using? Is it tap water and, if so, how much nitrate does it contain?

JPC
 
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Matthew savant

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Hi @Matthew savant

Just to ensure that it's not been left out of the discussion, what source of water are you using? Is it tap water and, if so, how much nitrate does it contain?

JPC
I’m using tap water (that I dechlorinate) I’m not sure what the tap water’s nitrate levels are but I’ll test, I have a feeling their not bad since I haven’t had nitrate issues until now but I really should test it just to be sure.
An issue I do have with my tap water is the PH is pretty high 7.5 maybe a little higher (those API test kits are hard to get exact with)
I know that adding C02 brings the PH down but is that okay for such a massive PH swing everyday and night? It was reading 7.5 pre-c02 and then reads around 6.5 with c02. I tested during the day and the. At night at it seems to swing like that everyday…is that normal/healthy for fish and shrimp? If not how to I combat that?
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
is that normal/healthy for fish and shrimp?
It happens in all <"vegetated fresh water">, they are called <"diel" variations"> and they are quite natural. Just ignore what you read about "pH stability", it is written by people who want to <"sell you a product"> or <"don't understand pH">.

Most snails <"would be an exception"> (to "you can ignore pH"), purely because as you add CO2 more CaCO3 can go into solution and snails can't repair their older shell whorls.

cheers Darrel
 

Matthew savant

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That makes sense and also im educating myself more about it instead of just knowing where my parameters should be im learning about why so I can understand it more deeply.

Thanks all for the replies and info I’m glad that it’s all normal new(ish) tank growing pain stuff, I’m continuing my daily/weekly/monthly regular routines and maintenance with my tank and being patient about everything growing in. Once it does and the water parameters are stable (I’m thinking a month or so) then I’ll start slowly adding livestock starting with red cherry shrimp, giving them a chance to start breeding and become established then cleaning crew fish and snails then regular fish. Thanks again everyone I’m sure I’ll have more questions as I continue
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
It would be be useful to have this as a sticky Darrel just for the excellent information on starting a tank it contains.
I did say <"I'd write articles"> about <"cycling", <"water chemistry"> and the <"duckweed index"> and I still haven't really done any of them. I just need a tranche of time to get the references up to date and work up what I've already got.

I still refer back to the one I wrote about <"dissolved oxygen">, but I wrote that almost 15 years ago.

cheers Darrel
 
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