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Wade

Nitrates that won't go away

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A friend of mine started up a tank and rushed the cycle process by using bottled bacteria and throwing livestock right in.  He's fairly new to the hobby and thought this would be ok.  It was fine for a month or so, but he continued to add livestock over the next few weeks and eventually caused the tank to go into a cycle because what little bacteria there was from the bottle couldn't keep up.  Long story short, lot's of fish and coral died from an ammonia spike then the nitrite spike.  The tank eventually cycled with no ammonia or nitrite present and about 140 ppm nitrate.  He's done several large water changes to bring the nitrate down, but it seems to have bottomed out at 40 ppm.  It's a 50g corner tank btw.  He'll do a 50% water change, test and still be at 40 ppm.  He's done this three times now and still at 40 ppm.  Today he tore down the rock work looking for anything that might have died and got stuck in the rock but couldn't find anything.  There's no substrate, just rock and a MarinePure brick in his sump.  Any suggestions as to what might be causing the nitrate to stay at 40 ppm regardless of water changes?  He said his fire shrimp somehow survived so he feeds it a little once a week.  

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Has he tried a different test kit?

I'd suspect it's busto if he sees no difference right after a water change, unless 40 is the max reading that test can do.

 

 

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I'm going to guess he's using an API nitrate test kit?  I'd use a different test kit or have someone verify his readings before he drives himself nuts.  

Nitrate doesn't bind to rocks like phosphates so whatever is in the water column is it.  Remove 50% of the water, drop the nitrates 50%.  Unless he just has excess ammonia and nitrite in his system that is continually being converted to nitrate.  

 

At that point, just let the cycle play itself out and then do a large water change after ammonia and nitrite are not detectable anymore.

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at the time his nitrate was 140 ppm his ammonia had gone to zero and nitrites were all but gone indicating that it had completed the cycle.  Can see how there could still be ammonia in the water column at this point, especially three weeks after he's been unable to detect any ammonia.  Got to be the test kits.  The first time he told me about it I suggested that his test kit must be of and have someone else test it.  The other guy came up with the same results, but they are most likely both using API.  I've confirmed that my friend is.  I've recommended he just go buy a new non-API kit and retest.  

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