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Author Topic: Nitrates In tap water  (Read 4953 times)
« on: January 13, 2008, 07:26:46 PM »

Hi all, I'm new having found this site yesterday.  The information is great!  Anyway I got my first tank about 2 weeks ago.  Its 29 G, penguin filter, fluorescent light, etc.  I set it up and let it run for 3 days before having my water tested at the LFS.  They told me my nitrates were a little high (20 ppm) but everything else was good.  So on their advice I waited a bit longer (they recommended 5 days to condition the tank).   After 5 days I added 2 zebra danios (the water still tested ok BTW).  Three days after that I added 3 tiger barbs and several plants (the water still tested about the same).

Now here is the problem.  I had our water tested again today and the Nitrates are >80ppm.  The ammonia/nitrites are still at zero. I had our tap water tested and got the same result - >80ppm right out of the tap.  As of this morning the tiger barbs that were doing great and extremely playful have become somewhat sluggish and one has stopped eating and stays near the surface of the tank.  The danios are still fine.  I have done one 10% and today a 50% water change, but if the water I'm adding in has high nitrates, I don't see how it will help things much.  Should I buy distilled water?

Thank you in advance

P.S.  I know I did many things wrong, the first of which was believing that the people at my LFS knew what they were talking about.
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2008, 07:53:39 PM »

I have this same issue, high nitrates in my tap water.

First of all, let the tap water run for a minute before testing it. I was not doing this, and was getting 160ppm. I called the city, and the head water guy was here in less than 1 hour. He is the one who said let the water run for a minute first, and don't use warm water. Water tested again, he got 30 on his meter, I got 20 on my API kit. He said the city (we are in CA) cannot send water out if nitrates > 35.

This led to a spirited discussion on this forum, with a lot of skilled fishkeepers offering different opinions. Some folks said leave the water alone, others suggested using at least some R/O water (reverse osmosis). I decided to use at least half R/O water for water changes. If I use straight tap water, the "clean" water has Nitrates of at least 20ppm, a lot of fishkeepers consider a reading of 20ppm to signal the need for a water change. If  I wait a week between water changes, the ritrates will really be up.  So am using the R/O water, with just enough tap water to heat it to the tank temp. And yes, its a PITA. But I think its the right thing to do, and some who have much more experience than I will disagree. You have to decide for yourself.

You can buy R/O water for .20 to .25 cents per gallon out of machines, or my LFS sells it for .25 per gallon

This discussion took place before RTR joined Badmans, I would really be interested in his opinion on the matter.
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2008, 08:20:58 PM »

And one more thing:

 welcome    Was so busy trying to write a decent post, forgot to welcome you the the forum. You will like it here!

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« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2008, 01:27:59 AM »

In this country (USA), public water supplies cannot have greater than 10 ppm nitrate-nitrogen (EPA standard), which is about 44 ppm nitrate on our test kits, or ~40ppm if that is a test kit marking for you.  The utility involved is obviously and wisely giving themselves a margin of safety.

To be honest, I don't know what I would do if I had high-nitrate water.  I would be likely to get an RO unit, but I would waste a lot of water with that - I use a lot of water now.  I would likely start by only using water for the tanks after showers, dish-, or clothes-washing was done so that the pipes would be well-flushed.  If I could not with that get under 20 ppm, I would likely go for 50:50::RO:tap.  I might have to shut down some tanks.  Painful choices there.  Not more than 20 ppm nitrate has been my water change time marker for a long time.  Starting there would be a learning and adaptation process. 

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« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2008, 10:01:07 AM »

I keep the tanks at 0-10 ppm's nitrate. 

If you are in the USA then your water company is required by law to file a water quality report with the epa.  I would start with the report your water company filed and compare their numbers with the test kit.  You may have something odd going on.

An RO unit is at least a 4:1 waste factor.  You will throw away 4 gallons of processed water for every gallon of "good" water you get.  The waste factor will go up depending upon hardness, pollutant levels, temp of water, and age of the RO membrane.  You can save the waste water as well as the water used for tanks.  You can use that water in the flower beds, around trees, ....

For a single tank--or a few tanks--I would buy a good RO unit at a Home Store/Hardware Store and go from there.  If you get an RO unit with sufficient capacity you can also use the additional water fro cooking and drnking.  You and your fish come out ahead.
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2008, 08:53:55 PM »

HI all, and thank you for your replies.  I have started adding RO water (5 gallons today) and will use it for at least half of my water changes from now on.  I will probably just buy it 5 gallons at a time at the local Water Depot.  Unfortunately I can't call my water utility as I'm on a well, so RO  is really my only option.

For an update on the fish, we discovered that one tiger barb was badly bullying the other two.  They both had badly chewed fins this morning.  We returned the bully to the LFS and exchanged him for 3 silver tipped tetras.  Our hopes of seeing the other two barbs recover we dashed this evening when one began having spells where he floats belly up.   I fully expect him to be dead by morning, and the other isn't doing much better.

On the bright side, the tank is definitely cycling, as it showed 1-2ppm nitrite today before my  5 gallon water change.  As before the nitrates were quite high and the ammonia zero.  Our water here BTW is very hard and quite alkali.  8.2 pH or so.

Assuming both remaining barbs die, we will have 2 zebra danios, and 3 small tetras in the tank.  After the tank cycles I want to get an algae eater.  Would I be ok to add 4-6 more tiger barb sized  fish in the tank (not barbs though!), or will that be too much for a 29G tank?
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2008, 10:35:22 PM »

Glad to help with the water issue.

You might want to start a new thread for the stocking question, will probably get more replies that way.

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« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2008, 06:35:56 AM »

Tetras are schooling fish, they need to be in groups of 6 or more.  They rarely live through a cycling aquarium.  They should be returned.  Tiger barbs are very aggressive fish and pick on each other relentlessly.  That is what they do.  By having them in groups of 6 or more the "picking on" gets shared around and no one fish is getting the worst of it.  In small groups they just kill each other.

Zebra danios are also a schooling fish but they do quite well with cycling.  I would return the tetras (they probably won't live anyways) and get 5 more zebra danios.  Once the tank is cycled (it takes about 8 weeks!)  start adding other fish.

Ignore the pH of your tank for now.  It really isn't a big deal.  Keep doing 50% water changes as the tank cycles to keep the ammonia and nitrites low.

Please keep this in mind, your fish store exists to make $$ off of you.  They will sell you things that are not good for your tank, or tell you things that are wrong.... that is how they make a living.  You come back when your fish gets sick and buy meds, or you worry about your pH and they sell you things to correct it.  We don't make $$ off of you.  All we care about are the fish.

BEFORE you buy anything for your tank or put any thing in your tank (chemicals or fish) please feel free to ask us about it.  Our opinions aren't tainted by a desire for your $$.

Put me back out to sea to play with the fishies...I don't belong on land!  [img width= height=" border="0][/img]
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