Water butt water has ammonia and nitrite

rubadudbdub

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Our water butt water has a slight yellow tinge and has traces of nitrite and ammonia in it.

It has been installed for about 3 weeks, coinciding with the end of the sunny weather. The first few showers filled it half full and I emptied it from half to a quarter (the tap doesn't sit at the bottom) twice to wash out contaminants. I presumed that after prolonged hot weather there would be more dust and debris washed down than usual.

A week later after a huge down pour I tested the water and it had a low level of nitrite. I figured the downpour had washed bird droppings or similar in. A week later it still has the same trace of nitrite. Somewhere between the numerically impossible <0.3mg/l yellow colour and 0.3mg/L faint orange colour on the tetra test. I borrowed an ammonia kit and it also has a trace of ammonia, 0.25mg/l according to the test kit.

What would people advise I do to get the ammonia and nitrite down? My plan was to follow advice on here and chuck some grass cuttings and daphnia in. Would the grass cuttings provide a little more substrate for bacteria that will clear the ammonia, or should I just wait longer? The nitrite doesn't seem to have changed after a week.

Is the yellow tinge common, or should I worry about it being fish/shrimp safe? Before I thought about testing I emptied ~150 litres of this water into an 800 litre goldfish pond to replace evaporation. They seem to have survived.
 

ceg4048

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Hi,
Grass cuttings will also provide extra ammonia and nitrite as they rot, so I don't think this is the best way forward. If you want to use a natural method then it would be better to put a living pond plant in there.

Also be very careful with any nitrogen compound test kit. They are notoriously unreliable and will usually lead you astray.

Cheers,
 

Simon Cole

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1) Adsorption of ammonia ions into zeolite. I looked at ammonia stripping, biological, and catalysis, and this is cheap and fast, but a close second. Pond plants are a great suggestion if you have the light because they are even cheaper and faster. Now you've got two options.
2) No, grass clippings add nitrogen, as Ceg said.
3) Ammonium is colourless. It can be dry of wet deposited. Sometimes it just dissolves from a nearby source of ammonia gas. " The average background concentration of ammonia in ambient air is in the range of 0.1-5 nmol/mol (0.1- 5 ppb), and it increases up to the order of 100 nmol/mol only in the direct vicinity of agricultural facilities or activities "
Test kits - fairly impractical and easily contaminated. Agreed - unreliable.
 

rubadudbdub

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Thanks guys. I'll give the grass a miss then.
I think I'll try putting some daphnia in still to see how they survive before using it for the fish. Unless people suggest otherwise.

I need to keep the lid on it otherwise my kids will drop things into it. The pond is already full of stones and the odd toy. Otherwise plants would haven been my first choice.

Regarding the yellow tinge, is this common? The house has concrete tiles, built 1960s, with dormer roof section as a loft conversion completed 6 years ago. If the dormer has a felt roof could this be causing the slight yellow colour? Or is it just dust and nothing to worry about?
 

hypnogogia

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Stock the water butt with Daphnia and Cyclops. As long as they survive, there's nothing i there that will harm your fish or shrimps. Plus, free fish food.
Not wishing to hijack the thread, but what will they live off, and will they themselves contribute to ammonia, nitrite and nitrate in the water?
 

sparkyweasel

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I posted before I saw that OP has to keep a lid on it. :)
Without a lid, they will live on free-floating algae. They only put a tiny bioload on the system, and algae on the walls will take care of their waste. A balance soon occurs and the algae and/or plant, and animal populations self-regulate. When you harvest some crustaceans for food the population soon bounces back and settles down again.
 

Majsa

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Could that yellow tinge just be pollen from the roof?

If daphnia survives, would that mean the water is ready to use as it is and no need to filter the water through carbon/zeolite?
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Not wishing to hijack the thread, but what will they live off,
They just need any particle of the right size that is floating in the water column. I assume that they generate enough Daphnia sized food items (Rotifers, Protozoa etc) from organic matter that gets swept in.

The conductivity of the water out of the butts is never more than about 150 microS, and is usually less than 100 microS. so there aren't many nutrients of any description. When I found the <"caudata.org article"> on adding grass to stop boom and bust , I assume they work in a similar manner.

The butts aren't very productive, I get ~10 Daphnia in three litres of water. At the moment there might be fifty, in the winter literally on or two., you wouldn't use it as Daphnia culturing technique.

When they first turned up in the water butt it was one that had an open lid, so I assumed that they were feeding off algae, and that they were light dependent. After while I found that they turned up in all the water butts, and it didn't depend on them being in the light, or me actually adding them.

cheers Darrel
 

Simon Cole

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Regarding the yellow tinge, is this common? The house has concrete tiles, built 1960s
Your tiles will by now have been highly contaminated with airborne pollutants. It's the reason that we always need to wash cars and outdoor windows. Over decades the concrete absorbs and accumulates these pollutants. Scientists tried to coin the term "urban grime" a few years ago, but many people sincerely wanted to believe the air that they and their children breathe is safe and healthy so there was a kind of cognitive dismissal at the time. There is also a 60% increase in stomach cancer and incredibly higher rates of COPD that indicate something like air quality could be a lot more significant that people perceive. Indeed did you notice a widespread resistance to face coverings when the pandemic arrived. We did. The irony is that many people assume the problem is worse in cities, whereas actually the air pollution is deposited a considerable distance away. Scientists were looking at the idea that this accumulates on buildings and causes nitrogen to be re-released at a later date. I am just about to switch to rainwater harvesting as many experts have indicated this can be a highly dangerous drinking source, although from my perspective I am more happy working with a slate roof in the west. So yes, I would expect a yellow tinge. I have noticed this before on rainwater collected from older roofs. I am surprised people think this is predominantly pollen - when I have cleaned my car windows I notice it looks more black, car emissions.
 

rubadudbdub

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I used to live on a busy road in Coventry and saw several new roofs turn from bright fresh concrete tiles to a dusty brown/grey in no time at all. I can well believe that the tiles are encrusted with pollution.

Daphnia will be the canary in the cage.
 

Simon Cole

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I should mention - the 60 % increase in stomach cancer that I mentioned in the post above cannot be "scientifically accounted for" . That means we cannot say it is due to smoking, food contamination, genetics, disease etc. Nobody knows why this increase happened (in the last 70 years).
 

Witcher

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What would people advise I do to get the ammonia and nitrite down?
Go to the nearest pond/lake/river etc - they are full of egeria densa at this time of the year - just grab as huge amount of them as you can get and throw them in the butt. Job done. And then you can introduce daphnia if you want.
 

sparkyweasel

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The butts aren't very productive, I get ~10 Daphnia in three litres of water. At the moment there might be fifty, in the winter literally on or two., you wouldn't use it as Daphnia culturing technique.
The Daphnia are a nice free by-product in return for no maintenance. If you want to culture large amounts you need to feed them and put a bit more work into it, but then they're not free. :)
I believe that there are different species, varieties or races that thrive at different times of year. If you add some in winter, they should be mainly ones that thrive in winter. I seeded one butt in spring, summer, autumn and winter and always have a good number present.
I have one butt with a lid, that one always has a few pond creatures in it, but no-where near as many.
In another butt I'm experimenting with feeding, currently with banana skins, which seem to be good. They are good for infusoria cultures, which is probably relevant.
 

rebel

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I have a rain water tank and you guys have given me an idea bout the Daphnia. Mine is 5000L but my climate goes down to -1 over night. Also I can't see what's going on in the water tank because it's steel but it gets a little bit of organic matter from my roof which is steel. I wonder whether I can make it work.
 

sparkyweasel

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It's worth a go, @rebel , they can survive a bit of cold, even if the water freezes over, as long as it doesn't freeze right to the bottom.
 

Simon Cole

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I wouldn't even worry if it freezes at the moment. If you can get the system really working then the daphnia will heat the water up for you. I actually use spirulina outdoors because we get so much cloud cover, and it helps if they are shaded anyway.
 
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