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FAQs on Freshwater Quality involving Nitrites: Measure    

Related Articles: Nitrites in Freshwater Aquariums, Nitrates in Freshwater Aquariums, Biological Filtration, Establishing Cycling, Freshwater Filtration, Know Your Filter Media, A Concise Guide to Your Options by Neale Monks, Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium, Tips for BeginnersWater Quality and Freshwater Aquariums

Related FAQs: Importance, Science, Sources, Control, Chemical Filtrants, Troubleshooting/Fixing, & Ammonia, FW Nitrates, Freshwater Nutrient Cycling, Establishing Cycling 1,

Don't trust "strip tests"... Get/use a good liquid colorimetric assay kit

Uncycled tank with nitrites (typo?) -- 06/28/07 I am a rookie to the aquarium business but my dad is a veteran. <I see. Two decades ago I felt the same.> He is disabled so he can't always come to the rescue. I have just started a 45 gallon tall hexagon saltwater tank. I had the water fixed for two weeks and the ph is 8.5, the nitrate level is 20, the nitrite is 30 <You need to confirm that. Anything above 0.5 ppm is quite toxic. 30 ppm is deadly.> and no detectable ammonium. I have had three Chromis for a week now and one true percula clown trying to help with the cycling of the tank. <Using fish to cycle a tank is no good method in my opinion. Most suffer under the conditions of a freshly started tank and, even if they survive, are permanently damaged. Get some material from a long running tank (rock, substrate, filter material) or live bacteria from a LFS fridge (BioSpira). In the meantime, confirm your test kit for nitrites is showing proper measurements. Do water changes to decrease the nitrites at least below 0.5.> I only have one small piece of live rock and am trying to get my bacteria right. I just recently noticed one Chromis was sitting at the bottom of the tank and inactive. It died shortly after. Now the other two Chromis are sitting on the bottom of the tank and have a few red spots on the top of the fish and my clownfish has a few spots (brownish color) on top of his head on the white stripe between his eyes. What could the problem be and how can I fix it? <Nitrites are likely the main problem. The symptoms you describe are probably opportunistic infections with bacteria (or parasites) due to the bad conditions of the fishes.> Dad suggested some kind of antibiotic. <A bacterial infection is well possible, but antibiotics should be used in a separate hospital tank. See WWM re hospital tanks and bacterial infections.> I live in no man's land where everything about has to be ordered online. <I hope there is someone else with a marine tank not too far away, who could give you some live bacteria. Until orders arrive, it could be too late.> Help please?! <Do water changes. Get live bacteria from another system or LFS. Look at pictures of bacterial infections and compare to your fishes. If you want to treat with antibiotics, use a hospital tank. Don't use antibiotics without knowing it is a bacterial infection. Oh, and read a lot about cycling and biological filtration in marine systems.> thanks. Joedy. <Hope that helps. Good luck. Marco.>

Nitrate & Nitrite in an Uncycled FW Tank - 4/24/2006 Hi <<Hi Gary.>> I was hoping you could help me. <<I'll try!>> I have got a nitrate/nitrite problem.  I have recently started a freshwater fish tank.  Everything was going ok, took the advice of where I bought my tank, read up a few books, and I set the tank up. <<Many fish stores are less than properly educated.>> Then added the water with a water conditioner also bacteria, I left it a few days then added plants and rocks. <<If you added live bacteria, like Bio-Spira (anything else available is dead bacteria at best), it will have died in a day or so without ammonia from fish wastes to feed it.  You add your fish right after adding the Bio Spira to your filter.>> I then also left a few days longer approx 4 days, after checking ph levels, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, calcium hardness and carbonate hardness all seemed to be ok. <<You didn't read ammonia, nitrite or nitrate because your tank hadn't yet started cycling.>> I went and bought my fish a couple of days later and I noticed most of my fish had white spot so I treated that problem with tri sulfa tablets (treated twice).  This is when all my problems now have started the ammonia nitrate & nitrite levels went sky high so I started to do the water changes.  I have now just got the ammonia level down to 0ppm but the nitrate & nitrite are just getting worse. <<Your tank was not cycled, and now is.  Do daily water changes of 75% or more to keep these toxins down while the nitrifying bacteria grow in your filter.>> I suppose you can tell from this that I am inexperienced in aquarium keeping, but I do enjoy fish keeping.  I hope you can help me with this problem, as I am getting more worried about losing my fish.   <<Keep up with the water changes, and your tank should be cycled in a few weeks.  Read on WWM to learn about fishless cycling for the future.>> I look forward to hearing from you soon Thanks, Gary <<Glad to help. Lisa.  In the future, please capitalize your I's and run your email through a spelling/grammar checker.>>

Nitrite craziness  - 02/16/2006 Hi guys, gals and fishies of all ages! I'm having some difficulty with my tank and even after reading your nitrite FAQ, I'm still a bit lost. <Let's see if we can help you find yourself> The tank is a 29gal with two very small Ryukins - one calico, one red & white. (I know goldfish really need more water than that to grow, so in about a month when I move they'll be getting 150gal tank. No worries about that). It seems no matter how I treat my water and how many water changes I do, I can't get the nitrites to come down. <Odd> According to my test strips, the water is currently: Ammonia: 0.25ppm Nitrate: 20ppm Nitrite: 5.0ppm <Yeeikes> Hardness: 75ppm Alkalinity: Somewhere between 0 and 40ppm. The test strip doesn't exactly match either color and falls somewhere in the middle. <Time to get rid of the strip technology and use some simple colorimetric assays...> pH: 6.4ish - Again, the strip color falls somewhere between 6.2 and 6.8, so it's a guess. <I would not raise/elevate the pH till you solve this nitrogenous cycling issue...> Temp: Usually between 65 and 70, but right now I'm running at about 63 because I left my window open last night. <Ditto for temp. Keep it low...> For my tank setup, I have the two small goldfish and no other fish. About an inch of large smooth gravel. <I would increase the depth here to about two inches... to harbor beneficial microbes> A whisper power filter for a 20-40gal tank. <And don't "clean" this out until a few weeks after all ammonia and nitrite are gone> The whisper 10-30 aerator with a large (maybe 1" x 4"?) airstone. And one small water lily, but I put that in the tank after the whole nitrite incident hearing that plants could help build up the biological filtration. <Yes> So far I've tried: 1. Doing constant water changes - somewhere between 5 and 15 gal at a time. <... better not to change if the fish aren't being outright poisoned> Used a gravel vac to siphon out the water, but I didn't clean the gravel as I heard I can "over clean" and ruin some of the filtration. <Yes> 2. Treating water with AmQuel+. Didn't seem to help much. (I was at first treating water with stress coat, but read AmQuel+ is better, plus it's supposed to remove nitrites and ammonia, so I switched.) <Ahh! This is a source of your mis-reading... this product will yield a "false positive" with many types of such testing...> 3. Testing my tap water. Came up no ammonia, no nitrites... nothing that seemed to warrant a concern... but to be on the safe side, I tried doing some water changes with filtered water only (I have a Pur faucet mount filter) <Once the system is settled in, I would bypass this filter for about half here. Goldfish need minerals.> 4. Being very cautious not to overfeed and have substituted some of their regular food for frozen (thawed) peas as I read these will not contribute to bad water quality as much as fish flakes being  that they tend to stay in one piece and don't rot as fast - not that they have a chance to, since my fish gobble them up within seconds. 5. Tried Cycle and StressZyme, didn't do a thing. Am attempting to track down Bio-Spira thinking that would help my biological filtration, <Good> but I've run into the luck that the two stores in the area that used to carry it have stopped carrying it. I'm working on ordering it online. <Very good> My water is constantly cloudy. It's gotten better since the water changes have dropped the nitrites from 10ppm to 5ppm, although I know that's still quite dangerous. I just can't seem to get it below 5ppm. The fish don't show any signs of stress, <Because the NO2 is not actually 5.0... probably closer to zero...> and I suppose my low pH probably has something to do with that. <No> I was going to add aquarium salt, but then I read that if you treat the water for ammonia, adding salt will release the ammonia back into the water, and I didn't want that to happen. <Not to worry, but I would hold off on adding much salt... this also delays cycling establishment> Along with my nitrite problem, I've also noticed that the Mardel test strips I've been using are a pain in the neck to read. Is there a better brand I should check out? <Yes... liquid reagent, comparative types... any brand is fine. Aquarium Pharmaceuticals is widely available, inexpensive> (I admit, I didn't look for a test strip FAQ - it only occurred to me to change strips while I was writing this email.) <Good> I've been reading so much information on this subject that it's starting to become very confusing! I really appreciate any help you can give.. I'd really hate for anything bad to happen to these little guys. Thanks! <Do change test kit/type, add the gravel, leave off with water changes, filter cleaning, cut back to the nth re feeding... And all should cycle soon. Bob Fenner> Re: Nitrite craziness    2/17/06 Good call on the test kit. I bought Aquarium Pharmaceuticals liquid test kits for nitrite and ammonia today. Turns out I already had one for pH (amazing what you find when you remember to clean out your cabinets.) My new readings are: Nitrite: 0.5ppm <Mmm, still problematical...> Ammonia: 0ppm pH: 6.6 I'll keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't go over 1ppm like your FAQ says. <Ah, good> I'll be purchasing the other test kits when my LFS restocks. I also bought more gravel to raise the level in the tank. Haven't changed the filter in a while and I've stopped doing water changes. Looks like I'm finally in good shape. <Yay!> Thank you so much for getting me past my panic attack. I appreciate it... and Charles and Darwin (fish) do too I'm sure. <Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Tap water nitrites off the charts!  02/12/06 Guys, Just out of curiosity I checked my tap water for nitrites... It was nearly the max of my test kit. What is up with that? <Trouble... either a faulty test kit (hopefully) or dangerously toxic source water (even for you)> Isn't it spiking the heck out of my water when I add it to my tank? I did a water change three days ago, and my in-tank readings are normal today (zero ppm for nitrites), but is the initial addition of the water dangerous to the fish? <Yes, can be> I change about 20 percent weekly... Thanks <I would first "check your checker"... with another test source. Get/use an RO device for your potable uses... Bob Fenner>

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