Thursday, February 23, 2012

Nitrate Balancing Act

Nitrates are a by-product of nitrite from the temporary bacteria and fungus i.e. algae union of two bacterial cells during which one cell transfers part or all of its genome to the other during the latter stages of the nitrogen cycle, and will be present to some degree in all aquariums.

Debris created from decaying plant material or food, dirty filters, over-feeding, fish over-stocking the aquarium, water tempter  the hotter the water temperature the lower the oxygen level in the water; lights help produce algae all these things contribute to increased production of nitrates.   

Filters will prevent the nitrogen cycle from getting out of balance.

Nitrates and Algae

Elevated nitrates are a significant contributor to undesirable algae growth. Nitrate levels as low as 10 ppm will promote algae growth. Algae blooms in newly setup tanks are usually due to elevated nitrate levels. Plants utilize nitrates, if nitrates rise faster than the plants can use them, the plants can become overgrown with algae, ultimately leading to the plants failure.

Nitrates and Water

Before adding water to your aquarium test your tap water for nitrates so you know if your tap water nitrates levels are unusually high in your water source. Unfortunately water used to fill the aquarium often has nitrates in it; in the United States, your drinking water may have nitrates as high as 40 ppm. If nitrates are above 10 ppm, you must use other water sources that are free of nitrates.
Desired Level

In nature nitrates remain very low, generally well below 5 ppm. In freshwater aquariums nitrates should be kept below 40 pm at all times, preferably below 25 ppm. If you are breeding fish or you are battling algae growth, keep nitrates below 10 ppm.

How to Reduce Nitrates

Unlike ammonia and nitrites, the bacteria that remove nitrates do not like oxygen rich environments. Therefore, conventional filters do not harbor the bacteria that remove nitrates. Although special filters do exist and they will remove nitrates, such devices are usually expensive compared to other filtration units; nitrates denitrator freshwater filtering systems in my opinion this type of filter is worth every penny what we fail to mention is nitrate filter will greatly reduce the need for water changes in your fish tanks, saving you time, money, and reducing the stress on your aquarium fish. However, there are steps you can take immediately to keep nitrates at lower levels.

  • Keep your aquarium clean – Waste, algae ultimately produces nitrates; the cleaner your aquarium the fewer nitrates are produced.
  • Overfeeding your fish – Feed your fish only enough food that the fish can consume in 5 minutes after five minutes use your net to fish out any food that has not been eaten. Overfeeding is a significant contributor to excess nitrates and other undesirable wastes; such as phosphates.
  • Water changes – Performing weekly 20% regular water changes with water that has little or no nitrates will lower the overall nitrate level in the tank. RO/DI water system is another choice for keeping nitrate levels low.
  •  Always keep live plants – Live plants utilize nitrates, and will help keep nitrates in check.
  • Use nitrogen removing filter media – Instead of denitrator or special filter, use special media in the filter you have. Although they will not lower nitrates dramatically, if used together with other methods the net result will be beneficial
  • The significance of nitrates in the aquarium is arguably less understood by fish keepers than the effect of ammonia and nitrites. Although nitrates are not directly lethal in the way ammonia or nitrites are, over time high levels of nitrate have a negative effect on fish, plants and the aquarium environment in general.

Effect on Fish

Fish will feel the impact of nitrates by the time the levels reach 100 ppm, particularly if levels remain there. The resulting stress leaves the fish more susceptible to disease and inhibits their ability to reproduce; if you are trying to breed your fish you absolutely have to keep the nitrate levels low.

High nitrate levels are in particular harmful to fry and young immature fish; further it will affect their growth. Furthermore, conditions that cause elevated nitrates always cause decreased oxygen levels in the water which further stress the fish or kills them.

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Deanna Balestra said...

Great article and solid advice! I can't stress the importance of live plants enough myself. Not only do they help with nitrates but they look natural and pretty in the tank. I like having as natural as an environment as I can for our fish which includes live plants. Also the tip on not over feeding hit home as that is an issue I struggled with at the start of my fish raising hobby. It's hard to find that balance, but worth the extra time and effort to keep the fish healthy and happy in the tank!

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