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Tropica Specialised causing Nitrite spikes - false positive or genuine concern??

LCB1990

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11 Mar 2021
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4
Location
Cheshire, UK
Hi,

A couple of weeks ago I posted in the plant help section regarding poor growth across a number of plants, upon giving my water parameters it was likely that low nitrates (<10ppm) were the likely and logical reason behind this. To remedy and increase the nitrate levels in the tank I purchased Tropica Specialised liquid fertiliser (the green one) which contains the additional nitrogen.

Yesterday I did a water test out of interest to see if the nitrate level had increased, i've been using the fertiliser at half-dose strength before i would move on up to full doses. When I've done the test I've found the following results:

Ammonia - 0ppm
Nitrite - 1-2ppm
Nitrate - 10-15ppm

I've never had an issue with Nitrite levels before, its always been 0ppm, my question is - is the liquid fertiliser directly causing these nitrite spikes due to additional nitrogen being added (I though the nitrogen was in the form of a nitrate salt??) or is there an ingredient/compound in the liquid fertiliser which effectively gives a false positive with the test kit?

In terms of the fish behaviour, they seem fine, no gasping for breath, acting as they always do - if I hadn't done the test yesterday out of curiosity, I would have had no idea of the apparent nitrite spike.

Thanks,
Lewis
 

Zeus.

Fertz Calc Meister
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Yorkshire,UK
Tropica Specialised liquid fertiliser (the green one) which contains the additional nitrogen.

Which based upon the data analysis provided by Tropica can only be cloned if you use Urea or amomum salts to get the same [N],[P] & [K] as Tropica do, if you use KNO3 the K levels do not match what Tropica provide in their data.
So if you use Urea/ammonium salts as a source of nitrogen the bacteria convert it to Nitrites (NO2) then to Nitrates (NO3), hence the reason why your seeing an increase in the NO2 levels. Urea/ammonium salts and NO2 can be harmful to the livestock in your tank so care must be taken when using dosing them (little and often). It is safer to use a KNO3 based fertiliser like TNC complete which based on its data analysis strongly suggests they use KNO3 in its manufacture, which can then be dosed less often in larger doses.
In a well planted mature planted tank the risks of using Urea/ammonium salts are less as the mature bacteria in the tank handle the salts conversation to NO3 faster, but little and often seems to be the key.
As for testing I see no need to waste money as @sparkyweasel pointed out, false positives and false negatives benefit nobody except the sellers and manufactures of the products.
 

LCB1990

Seedling
Thread starter
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11 Mar 2021
Messages
4
Location
Cheshire, UK
Thanks all three of you, thats really helpful. I'll drop the dosing down a bit further with a view to more frequent dosing, like I said, from a fish behaviour point of view I wouldn't have thought anything was 'wrong' and I don't want to get into the habit of chasing water chemistry numbers from a test kit - if it looks OK my assumption is, in the main, the tank is probably OK too.

Thanks again for your help
 

BakerJ

Seedling
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25 Jan 2021
Messages
11
Location
Netherlands
I've had the exact same experience as of late. Fully cycled tank and about a month ago I tested positive for Nitrite after dosing. Experimented a bit before and after dosing and only measured nitrite after dosing. A month after this occured I did the same test today, same results.

My three pumps a day I will spread out more evenly for the time being. Will switch to a different KNO3 based fertiliser when I am running low on Specialised Nutrition. Any other recommendations besides TNC Complete?
 

Zeus.

Fertz Calc Meister
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I've had the exact same experience as of late. Fully cycled tank and about a month ago I tested positive for Nitrite after dosing

Which is to be expected with TSN and a mature tank, TSN is a ammonium based fert so after dosing it in a mature tank will convert the NH3 to NO2 then NO3 so there is going to be a peak on the [NO2]
Does you tank have any issues like algae or fish disease or fish in distress ? if the answer is NO why are you testing for nitrites, testing for your result cold be a false positive and hobby grade test kits only benefit the folk who sell them eg profit.
Trust you instinct and if all looks well and plants are lush - happy days.
 
Last edited:

BakerJ

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25 Jan 2021
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Location
Netherlands
Yes the tank has some algae issues and I've had some fish in distress. So testing is relevant. And I think your logic is wrong Zeus, even if there where no fish in distress or algae problems, having a dangerous amount of nitrites caused by ferts is worth the discussion.

If your statement is right about fully cycled tanks always converting TSN to nitrites, every tank owner using TSN has some nitrite build up during the day?
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
fully cycled tanks always converting TSN to nitrites, every tank owner using TSN has some nitrite build up during the day?
Possibly, but there are still quite a few variables.
cheers Darrel
 

Zeus.

Fertz Calc Meister
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I've had some fish in distress
Then stop dosing TSN or reduce the dose, Double 50% Water Change (WC). A Full Tank Pic would be helpful and specs for tank, also how much you feeding your fish and type of fish (which pic will show).
Testing for anything in a tank has it pitfalls, which is where EI dosing and regular WC's was born to save on fruitless expensive testing and more confusion. Dose in abundance and reg WCs. Using an ammonium based fert carries a risk which is why many folk use NO3 based ferts.

I am doing a little casual experiment ATM using urea prills as a source of nitrogen, and using the little and often dosing with tanks being dosed small amounts up to 100 times a week- so my peaks are more little blips, however if you dose 7 times a week you blips will be over ten times higher for the same weekly dose- the joys of automation
 
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West Bengal, India.
Yes the tank has some algae issues and I've had some fish in distress. So testing is relevant. And I think your logic is wrong Zeus, even if there where no fish in distress or algae problems, having a dangerous amount of nitrites caused by ferts is worth the discussion.

If your statement is right about fully cycled tanks always converting TSN to nitrites, every tank owner using TSN has some nitrite build up during the day?
Totally agree with you mate, I think that TSN does have Nitrogen in ammonium form but it could be in the form of some complex compound ....since ammonium ion breaks down into ammonia in an aqueous solution , so it's very unlikely that Tropica purposely uses ammonium salts in their normal form eg:-ammonium chloride, ammonium nitrate, etc. Tropica perhaps uses ammonium in a complex compound form to prevent the formation of toxic ammonia. The nitrites must have been due to the small colony of beneficial bacteria failing to convert poop and decaying foods and other stuffs. Very less wastes lead to death of bacteria because they don't have enough food(ammonia,nitrites) ....so u need to feed the bacterial colony at times, u may use ada green bacter plus or other reputed products as their food supplement. Had there been ammonium salts in TSN, the fishes would have perished in the tanks which are dosed in EI method (George Farmer himself doses in EI method with TSN) . Tropica has over 50 years of experience in plant growing methods so they are very much aware of what they are up to ❤️ . Hope this helps mate 😊.
 

Hufsa

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so it's very unlikely that Tropica purposely uses ammonium salts in their normal form eg:-ammonium chloride, ammonium nitrate, etc. ... Had there been ammonium salts in TSN, the fishes would have perished in the tanks which are dosed in EI method
We discussed TSN a little while ago and someone contacted Tropica directly.
They confirm a roughly 50/50 split of ammoniacal nitrogen and nitrate nitrogen.
It was therefore concluded that TSN uses ammonium nitrate as its nitrogen source.

Screen Shot 2022-04-13 at 21.42.28.jpg

I think it is possible that the danger of ammonia (and Urea) based fertilizers have been somewhat overstated for some years in the hobby. Its good to always have the fishes safety in mind when choosing a fertilizer, but it would seem with a sensible dosing regime and a sufficiently planted tank the danger is fairly minimal, otherwise TSN would not sell as well as it does.
 
Joined
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Messages
12
Location
West Bengal, India.
We discussed TSN a little while ago and someone contacted Tropica directly.
They confirm a roughly 50/50 split of ammoniacal nitrogen and nitrate nitrogen.
It was therefore concluded that TSN uses ammonium nitrate as its nitrogen source.

View attachment 187988

I think it is possible that the danger of ammonia (and Urea) based fertilizers have been somewhat overstated for some years in the hobby. Its good to always have the fishes safety in mind when choosing a fertilizer, but it would seem with a sensible dosing regime and a sufficiently planted tank the danger is fairly minimal, otherwise TSN would not sell as well as it does.
The ammonium nitrate must be in complex form.... roughly 0.65% ammoniacal nitrogen per gram is not safe in radical form.... they must be attached to some other elements thus preventing the formation of free ammonium ions.
 

tam

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5 May 2011
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1,230
I can't help with the science, but I've been doing a 50l low tech tank, with approx. 2ml per day for the last 2 weeks - slightly over double the bottle dose. Which has successfully raised my nitrate from 0 to around 10-15ppm but still showing 0 Nitrite. Admittedly those numbers are from a dip stick test, which are less accurate, but I'd expect enough to show present/not present.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
We discussed TSN a little while ago and someone contacted Tropica directly. They confirm a roughly 50/50 split of ammoniacal nitrogen and nitrate nitrogen. It was therefore concluded that TSN uses ammonium nitrate as its nitrogen source.

I think it is possible that the danger of ammonia (and Urea) based fertilizers have been somewhat overstated for some years in the hobby. Its good to always have the fishes safety in mind when choosing a fertilizer, but it would seem with a sensible dosing regime and a sufficiently planted tank the danger is fairly minimal, otherwise TSN would not sell as well as it does.
The ammonium nitrate must be in complex form.... roughly 0.65% ammoniacal nitrogen per gram is not safe in radical form.... they must be attached to some other elements thus preventing the formation of free ammonium ions.
This is a debate we've been <"having for a long time">. There definitely are <"risks involved">. In terms of ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) solubility, most monovalent ions are <"highly soluble">, so you will get a pretty much instant dissolution into NO3- and <"NH3 / NH4+">.

cheers Darrel
 

tam

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So are there specific benefits to it - why have they picked that instead of KN03 as their base? If you were picking between TSN and TNC what would the criteria be?

Is it something that the tank is going to adjust to over time too e.g. is it just a case of ramping up slowly so the plants adjust to the uptake and the filter starts taking care of any excessive to the current biomasses use?
 

Hufsa

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So are there specific benefits to it - why have they picked that instead of KN03 as their base?

It seems that plants prefer to uptake nitrogen in ammoniacal form, from what I understand it is more energy efficient for them since otherwise they would have to convert nitrate to more preferred form internally. However, too much will be toxic to plants as well as livestock, so anyone using this must take great care to strike a good balance. One should consider their tank plant mass, many hungry plants will be safer than a lightly planted tank for example. One should also consider the PH of their tank as use of ammoniacal nitrogen will be safer in low PH ranges than the higher levels. I think biological maturity of the tank itself can also be a factor.

Is it something that the tank is going to adjust to over time too e.g. is it just a case of ramping up slowly so the plants adjust to the uptake and the filter starts taking care of any excessive to the current biomasses use?
I would say yes, make sure one has considered the factors I listed above and then if one is determined to try it, start very low and work your way up gradually.

We should also consider that tanks fed with Urea or ammonia will be more sensitive to trimming. For example, if you do a really hard trim and remove 50% of your plant mass, your previous dose of fertilizer might be too much for the system, and you should think about reducing it for a time until the plants have regrown.

Maybe my post seems strange, but I try to be aware that the people participating in a discussion are not the only ones present, often there is a large amount of readers who do not post but none the less are receiving the information we share. That is why I am underlining the caution that is required if one wants to try these forms of nitrogen.
For beginners it will be much safer to stay with a premade fertilizer (even Tropica's Specialized, just maybe not dosed at EI levels), or if making their own fertilizer start with KNO3 / nitrate first.
 

tam

Member
Joined
5 May 2011
Messages
1,230
Maybe my post seems strange, but I try to be aware that the people participating in a discussion are not the only ones present, often there is a large amount of readers who do not post but none the less are receiving the information we share. That is why I am underlining the caution that is required if one wants to try these forms of nitrogen.
For beginners it will be much safer to stay with a premade fertilizer (even Tropica's Specialized, just maybe not dosed at EI levels), or if making their own fertilizer start with KNO3 / nitrate first.
Very helpful thank you. I'm one of those that's often reading old posts or google searching and reading other forums on a topic so I very much appreciate your way of writing.
 
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