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Help needed with 0 Nitrates Levels

The.WishMaster

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Hi Experts!! I have a question as a newbie.

I am very new to the hobby and after doing a lot of research into making a low-tech low maintenance tank (Followed MD fish tank & a lot of forums) I setup my first tank 1 month ago which is heavily planted and cycled. (180L - 100cm long)
I am monitoring water parameters once a week and I have little to no nitrates so far. Max I measured has been <1ppm and once it was 5ppm after a fertilizer dosage.

I have 2 big filters running (70% biomedia and 30% mechanical filtration) and have a thick 4 layered substrate to house bacteria.

Bio load is (4 corydoras, 15 neon tetras, 4 honey gouramis, 2 pearl gouramis, 2 golden rams, 2 assassin snails, 4 guppies)

The question is this that why don't I have any nitrates?

Did I do such a good job that plants and bacteria are getting rid of all the nitrates for me or there is something wrong with my testing kit? I am using a proper testing kit (JBL professional testing kit) and also I check with JBL testing strips as well. Same results in both testing = 0 nitrates. So I want to know if this is normal or not and if its bad not to have any or very little nitrates.

I designed the system to do a once a month 20% water change IF needed but I dont know if I should do a water change if my ammonia/nitrites/nitrates are at 0ppm. Are these parameters ok/safe for my fishes?
My plants are thriving and growing like crazy. I did have algae in the beginning which I resolved by stopping my fert dosing and reducing light period. I will install co2 system today as well so my monetcarlo and hairgrass can start carpeting which is not happening currently.

Help / feedback is appreciated!
 

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The.WishMaster

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Is it normal / ok to have 0 nitrate levels? Do I still need a waterchange even though all parameters that matter are 0 ? (Ammonia / Nitrites / Nitrates)
 

GHNelson

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Hi
Its not normaly a Nitrate level that I would strive for......10ppm to 30ppm is good.
Your plants will need some Nitrate eventually!
Just dose some fertilizer if your aquarium is not due for a water change.
hoggie
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Its not normaly a Nitrate level that I would strive for......10ppm to 30ppm is good. Your plants will need some Nitrate eventually!
Just dose some fertilizer if your aquarium is not due for a water change.
What Hoggie (@GHNelson) says.
My plants are thriving and growing like crazy.
That is the important bit. Measuring nitrate (NO3-) <"can be problematic">, but plant growth and leaf colour is a <"very good proxy for nutrient level">.

Have look at the "seasoned tank time" concept, I've written about it a lot in terms of <"stability and resilience">, but this video gives that concept a name.



Plants are much more <"effective at depleting nutrients"> than most aquarium based literature acknowledges, but there is a <"wealth of scientific papers"> that look at synergistic plant / microbe effects.

cheers Darrel
 
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Swishrelic

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How often do you feed the fish? I've been feeding a little more regularly than I normally would to actually maintain a Nitrate level in my similar size tank. The introduction of CO2 might mean you'll need to add a bit more in if the growth really kicks in.
 

The.WishMaster

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How often do you feed the fish? I've been feeding a little more regularly than I normally would to actually maintain a Nitrate level in my similar size tank. The introduction of CO2 might mean you'll need to add a bit more in if the growth really kicks in.
I feed them twice a day. I started doing that a week ago. Typically three pinches of crushed flakes and 5-7 corydoras pallets that are also eaten by my Rams and gouramis. How is Co2 going to affect this? Do you mean to say that with Co2 addition plants might grow faster which could mean that they would suck nitrates even faster ?
 

The.WishMaster

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Will start dosing from tomorrow. Should I stick to 1 fert dose a week or need to do it more frequently? I am afraid that too much nutrients could lead to algae maybe? Thats why I stopped with ferts in the first place.
 

hypnogogia

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Will start dosing from tomorrow. Should I stick to 1 fert dose a week or need to do it more frequently? I am afraid that too much nutrients could lead to algae maybe? Thats why I stopped with ferts in the first place.
To much ferts won’t cause algae, but too much light will. The excess fertiliser is removed with water changes.
 

Hufsa

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I am afraid that too much nutrients could lead to algae maybe?
Ferts wont cause algae on their own, if you have good control over CO2 level (even in low tech) and the right amount of light you can add however much ferts you want. I dosed full EI into my low tech tank, no change to amount of algae. Once I got my light intensity down to match the low level of CO2 in my tank algae went away.

However, EI is just one method to do it, there are more than one way to grow plants. EI (or partial EI) in a low tech tank is about limiting the system with light intensity.
All systems will have a limit to plant growth, different methods use different limits.
Lean water column dosing (like MD uses) limits the nutrients in the water but usually have high light and almost always have a substrate enriched with nutrients that mostly only the plants can access. There is user evidence to suggest this method is harder to balance, as evidenced by the amount of newcomers we get who have followed MD's method and struggle with it. MD has gotten really good at his own method and even then he doesnt hide that he usually gets some fairly large algae blooms at first. Also keep in mind that he rarely runs a tank for more than a year. A lot of things will happen to a system once it passes a certain age, substrate may start to deplete and plant growth may stall, debris will start to accumulate and you may get algae from that, etc.
I would suggest you follow the EI method for a year or so until you have good control over your tank, after that it is much easier to experiment with all sorts of things.
The addition of injected CO2 could increase your plants demand for nutrients by as much as 10x, and algae loves starving plants.

Currently my lights are on for 10 hours. Do you think I can keep the same schedule with ferts?
If you are struggling with algae I would start at 6 hours. Once everything is running smoothly for several weeks you can increase slowly. Keep in mind photoperiod (how long lights are on) and lighting intensity, are two separate things and are not interchangeable.
 

jaypeecee

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I am using a proper testing kit (JBL professional testing kit)
My plants are thriving and growing like crazy.
Hi @The.WishMaster

I have also previously used the JBL Nitrate Test Kit and it is reliable. As others have said, your last comment above says it all. Your plants are gobbling up the nitrate in your water. To put your mind at rest, you could test your tap water for nitrate and it will almost certainly give a reading above 0ppm.

JPC
 

Hufsa

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Im sorry @The.WishMaster , I mistook your thread for help with algae, but you were rather asking if it is okay with no nitrates, my mistake. It is indeed your plants eating your nitrates :) If you are having good success with your current method there is no reason why you should change it unless you want to :thumbup: I would advise you to monitor the plants carefully, especially those who do not have access to the enriched substrate, like floating plants, mosses and epiphytes. You could add a small dose of fertilizer now and then just to make sure your plants arent getting too hungry. You will almost certainly need to do so if you add injected CO2, because of the increase in demand.

Your tank looks lovely by the way, I hope you keep us updated on it 😊
 

arcturus

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I am afraid that too much nutrients could lead to algae maybe? Thats why I stopped with ferts in the first place.
As other said, fertilizers in excess will not cause algae. But lack of fertilizers will eventually lead to nutrient deficiency and the plants will start to struggle. If you combine that with too much light, like you have now, then you are creating ideal conditions for the algae to take over. The algae will be (mostly) in check while the plants are growing healthy. So, you need to keep adequate nutrient levels in the tank. Since you are not injecting CO2, the plant growth is already limited so you likely do not need to exceed the recommended fertilizer dose. If you add too much light then plant photosynthesis will demand more CO2 and nutrients that are not available.

Will start dosing from tomorrow. Should I stick to 1 fert dose a week or need to do it more frequently?
Dose the tank with Macro (NPK) and Micro (trace elements) according to the manufacturer recommendations. Since you have floating plants you might need to supplement extra Nitrates, especially if you use "leaner" fertilizers, such as Tropica's. If the plants start showing signs of stunting or deficiencies then you need to add more fertilizers. You also need to increase the dosage if you increase the light intensity or photoperiod. Again, excess fertilizer will not cause algae.

I designed the system to do a once a month 20% water change IF needed but I dont know if I should do a water change if my ammonia/nitrites/nitrates are at 0ppm. Are these parameters ok/safe for my fishes?
Water changes remove and dilute unwanted substances in the water. Ammonia and nitrites should be zero since they are toxic. Nitrates are essential for plant growth and should be 10-20 ppm.
My plants are thriving and growing like crazy. I did have algae in the beginning which I resolved by stopping my fert dosing and reducing light period.
The algae during the startup are completely normal and have nothing to do with with ferts but with the tank being unstable. During this stage, too much light will only trigger more algae.
I will install co2 system today as well so my monetcarlo and hairgrass can start carpeting which is not happening currently.
CO2 is a game changer. 20% WC per month is not compatible with CO2. You will need ~50% WC per week. You will have to adjust everything as soon as you start injecting CO2. Especially, you will need a completely different fertilization regime.
 
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The.WishMaster

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Im sorry @The.WishMaster , I mistook your thread for help with algae, but you were rather asking if it is okay with no nitrates, my mistake. It is indeed your plants eating your nitrates :) If you are having good success with your current method there is no reason why you should change it unless you want to :thumbup: I would advise you to monitor the plants carefully, especially those who do not have access to the enriched substrate, like floating plants, mosses and epiphytes. You could add a small dose of fertilizer now and then just to make sure your plants arent getting too hungry. You will almost certainly need to do so if you add injected CO2, because of the increase in demand.

Your tank looks lovely by the way, I hope you keep us updated on it 😊
Thank you. Your message still helped a lot in terms of education.
Looking at "No nitrates " levels I was just surprised and was wondering if something is wrong or am I doing an amazing job at achieving what MD preaches. I built it as a low tech tank which would require little to no water changes however I still expected some nitrates. My biofilter and 4 layered subtrate and of course the plants are then definitely doing the job of sucking up all the nitrates. I will start dosing a bit of fert once I get my Co2 running and maybe it might increase nitrates a bit as my fert contains nitrates in it (Colombo Pro Special Fertilizer - NPK including nitrates)
 

MichaelJ

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results in both testing = 0 nitrates. So I want to know if this is normal or not and if its bad not to have any or very little nitrates.

Hi @The.WishMaster Your tank looks great! ... zero nitrate? I highly doubt you nitrate level is really around zero... Its one of the premier foods for our plants. As mentioned measuring NO3 is hard. Your plants look great though, but you might be running dangerously low on nitrate, which may become a problem in the near future... especially if you're in the process of implementing CO2. What are you dosing currently and how much? I would start dosing more regardless....

Cheers,
Michael
 

The.WishMaster

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Hi @The.WishMaster Your tank looks great! ... zero nitrate? I highly doubt you nitrate level is really around zero... Its one of the prime foods for our plants. As mentioned measuring NO3 is hard. Your plants look great! You might be running low on nitrate, which may become a problem in the near future. I would start dosing more.... especially if you're in the process of implementing CO2. What are you dosing currently and how much?

Cheers,
Michael
Yeah less than 1ppm or 0ppm nitrates. Thats why I am asking if this is even possible?
i stopped dosing ferts as I thought they are giving me algae. I use Colombo Flora Grow Pro Special Fertilizer. When I was dosing with it, I would add 30ml once a week.

Thank you for your compliments on the tank. It is my first ever try and first ever fish tank. I am in love with the hobby!!
 

Hufsa

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Thats why I am asking if this is even possible?
I think its possible, others may disagree. A lot of people on the forum dont trust test kits much, I am starting to trust them less and less myself. Your tank has only been running a month though, so quite a short time, things may change later on as everything settles down.

I think adding small amounts of fertilizer often will be better for your system than adding a lot more rarely. Algae have evolved to thrive with rapid changes, while plants are slower but can tolerate bad periods better and store nutrients because of their complex structures. Plants slowly (week or more) adapt to the conditions they find themselves living in, therefore it is almost always a good idea to keep things as stable as possible. Otherwise they spend a lot of energy trying to reprogram / readapt themselves all the time.
 

arcturus

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Thank you. Your message still helped a lot in terms of education.
Looking at "No nitrates " levels I was just surprised and was wondering if something is wrong or am I doing an amazing job at achieving what MD preaches. I built it as a low tech tank which would require little to no water changes however I still expected some nitrates.
With 10h of light, floating plants and without adding ferts to the water column it is normal that you have a reading of near zero nitrates. Since you are using a rich substrate, the plants are getting nitrates from the soil.

My biofilter and 4 layered subtrate and of course the plants are then definitely doing the job of sucking up all the nitrates. I will start dosing a bit of fert once I get my Co2 running and maybe it might increase nitrates a bit as my fert contains nitrates in it (Colombo Pro Special Fertilizer - NPK including nitrates)
You have a very nice tank and you should think twice if you really want to add CO2. Once you start injecting CO2, then you cannot dose "a bit" of ferts. It will not work. With CO2 you will need to change ~50% every week, and not 20% once per month. So, think if you want to keep a low-tech setup like you have now, or if you want to go high-tech with CO2. If you start with CO2 then you need to adapt everything you are doing right today.
 
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