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Testing issues, questions

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Testing issues, questions

Post by nyleveiam on Sat Jun 28, 2014 11:45 am

I am guilty of not testing my aquariums enough...I assume since everything looks great and the fish are fine and I change 30% every week I have no problems. Well, today I tested them all.
One, well established and NOTHING changed in at least two months had ammonia at .50?? Tank is a 20 long and has a betta and a dozen neons and a dozen headlight tetras. TWO filters, a sponge and an interior Tetra for 40 gallons, plus tons of plants. NOT over fed at all, and vacuuming picks up very little brown stuff. Nitrites were 0 and nitrates were <20.
FIVE had nitrites, two at .50 and two at .25. Again, nothing changed, nothing added except one is the swordtails/mollys with the new babies but only four of those. Two of these had nitrates over 40ppm. ALL are heavily planted. One is the 55 that had the betta girls all die, but that one only tested .25 and nitrates were fine.
The house water was perfect, nothing showing and ph was 7.6, as were ALL the tanks.
Both my betta only, 5.5 gallons tested 0 am, 0 nitrites, <20 nitrates.
And, my platy tank which has had off and on issues with some exhibiting clamped fins and being a bit "off", tested fine except nitrates were just over 20. If I had to pick a bad testing tank it would have been this one.
Based on these numbers should I repeat the water changes tomorrow??? I DID up the changes to 40% today. And, I do have an issue with the snails, would those affect the nitrites???
ALL these tanks are well cycled and have been great for months, well the swordtail one is newer but no issues with any testing prior to this.
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Re: Testing issues, questions

Post by alexmtl on Sat Jun 28, 2014 1:23 pm

Wow. That is a huge post. Being OCD I'll try my best ..

@nyleveiam wrote:I am guilty of not testing my aquariums enough...I assume since everything looks great and the fish are fine and I change 30% every week I have no problems.  Well, today I tested them all.  
No problem and you should not feel guilty. I have rarely used my test kits; more out of curiosity rather than necessity. Do we need to test regularly ? Probably not unless you suspect issues or known instability (ie new tank setup, source water is unreliable, breeding difficult fish with water conditions that are dissimilar to local water source). I agree that if everything looks great and fish are fine, no need to test.

@nyleveiam wrote: One, well established and NOTHING changed in at least two months had ammonia at .50??  Tank is a 20 long and has a betta and a dozen neons and a dozen headlight tetras.  TWO filters, a sponge and an interior Tetra for 40 gallons, plus tons of plants.  NOT over fed at all, and vacuuming picks up very little brown stuff.  Nitrites were 0 and nitrates were <20.

Nitrites at 0 = excellent. Nitrates < 20 = good. Seems like a well balanced aquarium which is the ideal. You have excellent flow through filtration and TONS of plants. Very nice. Most likely you do not need to change water every week since you have a well balanced internal nitrogen system that consumes and converts effectively.

@nyleveiam wrote:FIVE had nitrites, two at .50 and two at .25.  Again, nothing changed, nothing added except one is the swordtails/mollys with the new babies but only four of those.  Two of these had nitrates over 40ppm.  ALL are heavily planted.  One is the 55 that had the betta girls all die, but that one only tested .25 and nitrates were fine.  
Not sure what the filtration system is in these tanks as these are the "nitrogen bacteria farms". Perhaps step up the filtration (ie nitrogen conversion media quantity).

@nyleveiam wrote:The house water was perfect, nothing showing and ph was 7.6, as were ALL the tanks.  
Both my betta only, 5.5 gallons tested 0 am, 0 nitrites, <20 nitrates. 
Alkalinity = ?. The key to pH balance is carbonate, ie alkalinity buffer.

@nyleveiam wrote:And, my platy tank which has had off and on issues with some exhibiting clamped fins and being a bit "off", tested fine except nitrates were just over 20.  If I had to pick a bad testing tank it would have been this one.
Sounds like the nitrogen cycle is still being established. The cycles are like a wave, with ups and downs. Keep monitoring as you know this is the achilles heel.

@nyleveiam wrote:Based on these numbers should I repeat the water changes tomorrow???   I DID up the changes to 40% today.  And, I do have an issue with the snails, would those affect the nitrites???  
ALL these tanks are well cycled and have been great for months, well the swordtail one is newer but no issues with any testing prior to this.  
Except for the last tank you should be fine, Snails, unless they are decomposing should not be an issue. Being "well cycled" is a subjective condition. Based upon this, you have some well balanced tanks, and some that should be monitored since they are fluctuating. In answer to your original question about testing, test the tanks where you have the issues until they stabilize. Hope this helps.

I am certain other experts will post their opinions and experiences. Good topic starter
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Re: Testing issues, questions

Post by nyleveiam on Sat Jun 28, 2014 1:40 pm

They all have HOB filters, mostly Tetra brand, and most are for at least twice as many gallons as the tank I have them in. They have those filter pads with some carbon in them. I almost NEVER do anything to the filters... if anything, I may swish them around but usually don't even do that. I don't buy new filter pads, I have filter fiber and make my own if they absolutely need to be replaced. Most tanks also have sponge filters in them so that I can set up new tanks quickly if needed by moving those sponge ones to the new tank.
The problem one with the Platies was my tank with twelve goldfish in it. I admit, I did put in a new filter a few weeks back since I used theirs to start the swordtail tank, but it has 2 1/2 to 3 inches of gravel which I figured should have enough bacteria. Perhaps I have been a bit heavy with getting into the substrate while vacuuming that one.
Forgot to mention, my house water is quite hard, but I can't remember the numbers. One was 300, the other was 170, sadly I lost my chart for those tests, need to get another one off the web, I guess. It's the API GH and KH test kit. I'm going to look for that right now!!
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Re: Testing issues, questions

Post by nyleveiam on Sat Jun 28, 2014 2:24 pm

Why am I not interested in Cichlids??? My tap tests KH at 161 and GH at 285. (Not too far off from my memory when I tested it about four months ago!) It does drop off in the tanks, but the lowest was a KH of 89 in that platy tank, GH was still 179. HOWEVER, it was tested AFTER a water change so was obviously higher due to the replacement tap water being higher.
Soo, what does this mean? From what I can determine, I am still high enough with both KH and GH AND my ph at 7.6 so I don't have to worry about crashing due to insufficient buffers, is that correct???
I will test them all BEFORE water changes midweek and see what that shows. Now I am going to add some Prime to those tanks which showed high nitrites.

Also, maybe important, maybe not? I had started a weekly addition of both Flourish and Excell after water changes. Might that have done something to my test results, especially nitrAtes??? I didn't use either today to see what that does.
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Re: Testing issues, questions

Post by Shell on Sat Jun 28, 2014 4:12 pm

I may not be able to answer everything, but I'll give the little info I have based on my experience!

 I generally do not test the water unless something "looks wrong" or when starting up a new tank. When we add the new inside foam background to the 220g, I plan to test frequently for the first bit.....just because! Like Alex, I will sometimes test it out of curiosity though! If I did test, despite things looking good, and I got a reading for ammonia, I would probably do a few more frequent water changes...that's just me! 

We are on 'hard' well water, and we use the water straight from the well for our fish (bypassing the softner). I realize that some fish like hard or soft water, but our guys have all adjusted. As far as ph, I have learned not to worry too much there...as long as there are no major fluctuations,I'm not concerned....a stable ph is more important than the actual number as far as I am concerned!  

All in all, go with your gut, if you feel a few additional water changes will help, go for it! In the end, we are the captain of our fishy ship  Very Happy

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Re: Testing issues, questions

Post by nyleveiam on Sat Jun 28, 2014 4:22 pm

Shell, that is basically what I was taught, and what I have done.  Frankly, just tested them all today because of the new test tube rack. Very Happy  It really surprised me to find that many with either higher than normal nitrAtes, high nitrites and even to find ammonia in that particular tank.  It is NOT overstocked and not overfed and is one of my constantly clear as just washed windows all the time.  Some of the others get cloudy once in a while, usually from my overfeeding them., nothing serious and it goes away overnight, but not that one.
It is very possible that those numbers are the same every week before water change...I just wouldn't know it because I wouldn't have tested. I think I will test them tomorrow just because and see if the water change fixed them all. Bet it does!!
I think I have only tested my ph once before and it was the exact same as it is now and my tanks are all exactly the same as my well water.  I never use conditioner because of the good well water.
I had trouble with Bert the betta's having some ragged fins and I have been testing his... of course his was 0,0, <20!!  He is dragging his fins which I believe is making them ragged...no dark spots or signs of tears, just a bit white on the edges.
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Re: Testing issues, questions

Post by alexmtl on Sat Jun 28, 2014 4:43 pm

@nyleveiam wrote:Why am I not interested in Cichlids???  My tap tests KH at 161 and GH at 285.  (Not too far off from my memory when I tested it about four months ago!)   It does drop off in the tanks, but the lowest was a KH of 89 in that platy tank, GH was still 179.  HOWEVER, it was tested AFTER a water change so was obviously higher due to the replacement tap water being higher.  

African Cichlids and Livebearers are good choices. Some aquarists choose the fish for their water type. Most pet store fish will live in a wide range of water variability. Key is that the wild swings should be avoided. In my book, keep the fish that really interest you, not to be determined by water.

@nyleveiam wrote:Soo, what does this mean?  From what I can determine, I am still high enough with both KH and GH AND my ph at 7.6 so I don't have to worry about crashing due to insufficient buffers, is that correct???
I will test them all BEFORE water changes midweek and see what that shows.  Now I am going to add some Prime to those tanks which showed high nitrites. 

Yes, you have good buffer for pH (alkalinity). pH will therefore be stable (due to KH). Hardness (GH) is another issue but that is cosmetic on your equipment. I have never used Prime, but if you are treating for nitrates / nitrites find what is causing the nitrogen and reduce.

@nyleveiam wrote:Also, maybe important, maybe not?  I had started a weekly addition of both Flourish and Excell after water changes.  Might that have done something to my test results, especially nitrAtes???  I didn't use either today to see what that does.

Flourish and Excell. Yes, they drastically affect test results. They are "bottled nitrogen".


Last edited by alexmtl on Sat Jun 28, 2014 5:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Testing issues, questions

Post by nyleveiam on Sat Jun 28, 2014 4:56 pm

@alexmtl wrote:
Flourish and Excell. Yes, they drastically affect test results. They are "bottled nitrogen".

Ahah... so that is most likely my issue right now, both with nitrItes and nitrAtes.  I read somewhere that I should be using both to prevent BGA and other algae.  Well, seems to me that I can use the Excell just once or twice to kill off the BGA, if I need to.  When I had that problem with BGA it went with the FIRST application of Excell and hasn't come back yet, so I guess when I am growing easy plants and have plenty of good light I don't need the ferts and carbon.  
That will be an easy fix, thank you very much!!!
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Re: Testing issues, questions

Post by Shell on Sat Jun 28, 2014 5:42 pm

I don't use excell, but flourish is a weekly thing here, it never influenced anything - maybe the two in combo do something...hey, I've learned something new!  Very Happy

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-220g home to 9 gold barbs, 10 denison barbs, & 3 weather loaches
-55g home to 12 black skirt tetras
-55g home to 1 angelfish, 5 kuhli loaches, & 4 zebra loaches
-36g home to 15 zoogoneticus tequila
-10g home to 2 zoogoneticus tequila
-10g home to 1 panda cory
-10g home to 1 zebra nerite, 1 onion nerite, 1 leopard ramshorn, & 2 mosquitofish
-5g home to 1 female betta fish
-3.5g home to several leopard ramshorn snails
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Re: Testing issues, questions

Post by KristaLynn on Sat Jun 28, 2014 8:00 pm

I wouldn't use those filters with the carbon in them after about 4-6 weeks depending on the tank the carbon doesn't work anymore and I believe actually starts leaching back into the tanks. I stuff my filters with sponges, bio balls, floss etc
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Re: Testing issues, questions

Post by nyleveiam on Sat Jun 28, 2014 9:26 pm

I don't replace the carbon part. Only use the floss. They come separate so you can just not add it.
I only use it to remove stuff like after Ich treatment for example.
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Re: Testing issues, questions

Post by KristaLynn on Sat Jun 28, 2014 10:30 pm

Oh good! I thought you meant those filters that are glued together with a plastic back and the carbon inside them.
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