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FAQs on Freshwater Quality involving Nitrites: Troubleshooting, Fixing    

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, Measure, Sources, Control, Chemical Filtrants, & Ammonia, FW Nitrates, Freshwater Nutrient Cycling, Establishing Cycling 1,

Sea shells producing nitrites...why?       8/18/15
Hi crew,
I recently acquired some store bought sea shells..discarded the dyed/altered ones and kept the real ones in a small bowl. I tested the water a few days later and the parameters showed no ammonia, but high nitrite levels. I only tested further for KH values which came out to be 6°(typically my tap water is 3°). I am wondering why these shells are causing high nitrites. Any info would be appreciated! Thank you
<Is this a freshwater tank? Unless you're keeping shell-dwelling Tanganyikans, you don't want to add seashells. Lots of reasons, but two critical ones: they affect pH, and they trap fish. As they dissolve they raise the carbonate hardness which causes the pH to rise. Bad for most common tropical fish (livebearers excepted). Secondly, small fish, especially benthic fish such as Corydoras, swim into them but can't always get out. Been there, done this, learned the lesson. Even if fish don't get inside them, bits of food and other organic matter will drift in, decay, and produce ammonia (and eventually nitrite and nitrate). So two good reasons to remove the shells. At some point you might set up a shell-dweller aquarium, and they're super cool little fish for nano tanks. Because they come from a hard water lake they like high pH and KH levels, and because they actively dig and clear out the shells, there's little/no risk of organic matter (let alone fish) getting trapped inside them. Much better. If you want to add ornaments and knickknacks to an aquarium, select things for that use such as plastic and ceramic doodads that'll not affect water chemistry and will be designed to be easier to clean than shells. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sea shells producing nitrites...why?       8/24/15

Thank you for the thorough explanation.
<Born from experience... have lost a Corydoras to a rogue snail shell.>
I have been quite busy, so sorry for the delay. I was planning to add the sea shells to my apple snail tank, as well as my freshwater community tank.
<Apple Snail tank fine; community tank probably not.>
I think I am just confused about water chemistry. I have read endless articles , but still something just hasn't clicked yet for me. I still struggle with my apple snails and their eroding shells, despite adding cuttlebone, crushed coral and egg shell powder.
<Let me direct you here first:
There's a Rift Valley Salt Mix at the bottom. Use this at 50-100% the dose stated and you should be fine. Failing that, try buying some coral sand from an aquarium shop and stir that 50/50 with plain sand or gravel in your Apple Snail tank. This will help to buffer the water quite a bit, though over time it loses this effect so may need replacing every year or two, whenever you see pH dropping too much.>
This has been unresolved for about 2 months now with no improvement. The reason I wanted to add the shells to my community tank is because I believed it would help add buffering capacity.
<Can do. Tufa rock is cheaper and more effective though. But unpredictable in terms of how long either will work. You know those candy shells around the chocolate on M&Ms? How they stop the chocolate melting in your hand? Algae and bacteria do the same thing to calcareous materials in an aquarium. Over time the chemicals that would harden the water become isolated underneath a layer of algae and bacteria. Periodically you can remove the shells or tufa rock, scrub under a hot tap, and put them back in. So while it can work, it isn't a once-and-forget-about-it thing.>
My kH values remain low in that tank and although higher in my snail tank, the values are still low for snails.
<Do try the Rift Valley salt mix recipe. Cheap and effective. You can slightly change the proportions as necessary. If KH is your worry you could skip the marine salt mix and Epsom salt and just use baking soda alone. The baking soda provides the KH, the Epsom salt the general hardness, and the marine salt mix a bit of both plus various trace elements.>
At this point I believe I'm a helpless cause, but I sincerely appreciate the help attained from your site.
Thanks again,
<Welcome. Neale.>
Re: Sea shells producing nitrites...why?       8/25/15

Thank you. I had previously avoided the salt mix because I was worried the salt components would harm the snails.
<Understood. But at this very low concentration this is not a major concern. Nonetheless, you can leave it out if you want.>
My snails are having another issue at the moment (being addressed in a separate thread), so once that is settled I will try the salt mix. I also have a liquid calcium chloride additive intended for marine aquariums that I've been saving as a last resort.
<This will not change carbonate hardness, just general hardness.>
So assuming all else fails, would this be safe to use in freshwater and will it have a dramatic impact on pH?
<Yes, safe, no, not a big impact on pH. In fish tanks the above-7 pH comes from carbonate hardness, essentially the alkalinity of the water. General hardness is about the calcium and sodium salts in the water, and while some do affect pH, raising it slightly, they're far less important in that regard. Where they matter is osmosis, which affects fish and snails in how
they keep the salt/water balance inside their bodies.>
Would it make sense to add baking soda in combination with the calcium chloride.
<Baking soda will help with KH, the calcium chloride the GH.>
The pH in the snail tank is currently at 7.8 and kH is 5. I've considered an alkaline buffering product, but I would exceed acceptable pH values before achieving desirable kH values.
<Wouldn't be overly concerned. Standard Rift Valley cichlid mix, whether home-made or store-bought would raise the pH to between 7.5 and 8.5 depending on how much you used. Try a small amount in a bucket and see what you get. Regardless, Apple Snails are perfectly at home in this pH range.>
Thanks again.
<Most welcome. Neale.>
re: Sea shells producing nitrites...why?       8/29/15

Hi Neale. So I started with a 50% dose(baking soda only) and then increased it to 100%. I've been adding the calcium chloride as well. I'm much closer to reaching the optimum relevant values in this tank (thank you so much).
My only issue at this point is that I'm confused about how I can continue to maintain the results.
Should I continue to add the proper dosage of baking soda/calcium chloride to each batch of new water with every water change?
<Correct. So if you remove 5 gallons of water, you add the required amount for 5 gallons to the new buckets of tap water. The common mistake people make is to work out how much, say, their 20 gallon tank needs, and then add THAT amount each time they do a partial water change. That would end up raising the hardness and pH sky high after a while!>
I'm guessing this is a quick fix that I need to keep up with, but I just want to double check.
<Correct. One approach might be this: make up the correct ratio of baking soda and calcium chloride. I don't know what amount you're using, but let's imagine it's 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt to 1 teaspoon of calcium chloride.
That would be about right for 5 US gallons. Since 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons, if you were to mix those salts up nicely, then 4 teaspoons would be correct for 5 US gallons. With me so far? Since the ratio is the thing, you could use 3 cups of Epsom salt and 1 cup of calcium chloride, stir them together in a big Tupperware, and get the right salt mix. Take 4 teaspoons out for 5 gallons, or just 2 teaspoons for 2.5 gallons (an average bucket) and off you go! You'd have a ready supply of salt mix all made up and ready to use. Just remember to give it a bit of stir before use to keep both salts jumbled up nicely. Make sense? Quick, simple, and very cheap.>
Also, back to incorporating the sea shells. Since my original message I have boiled them quite a bit and soaked them in dechlorinated water for 2 days. Then I rinsed them and re-soaked them in untreated tap water for 2 days. After testing that water I am getting very slight (but positive) test results for ammonia and nitrites. Is there anything else I can do to purify
these shells or should I execute the plan all together?
<I would not use them at all in this case. You can buy shells that are safe for aquaria, and among the best are the cleaned shells sold in up market food stores alongside tins of French garlic-snails. These shells are spotlessly clean because they're used for cooking food. The garlic-snails ("escargot") are delicious if a bit weird in concept, so there's no waste!
Just looked on Amazon and you can even by the empty shells ("Empty Escargot Snail Shells") for under $10 including shipping!>
Thank you,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Nitrite spike in new aquarium; and Platy sys. f's     3/11/14
I've spent hours reading your FAQ sections and have gained an immense amount of knowledge in the short six weeks since I started raising fish.
Your site is the first and the definitive site I go to when I need to know what to do.
<Ah good; glad to find, reassert that WWM is useful>
Six weeks ago I started out as a neophyte on the wrong foot and have been playing catch-up ever since. I had a 2.5 liter jar that lost its lid so I bought 2 female platy and a mat of plastic grass for substrate for the jar.
Then I started reading. I quickly realized my jar was a death trap so I bought a 25 liter tank (Aquatlantis 40, 40x20x35 cm) equipped with a Techatlantis TC-200 filter. I know, I know. Too small as well, but it's all I have room for. The filter has a sponge and a charcoal cartridge in it. I transferred the two female platy to this tank and within a couple of days one of them died. I bought a male and a female platy (total of three fish now) to keep the surviving female company and the male attacked her viciously, ramming her like a torpedo.
<"What they do">

 I bought another male and two more female platy (six all together now) and they all got along very nicely, although the surviving female remained at the bottom of the pecking order, and finally, last week, succumbed to the stress of her harassment (she showed the "pine-cone" look toward the end).
So now there are 5 fish (2 male, 3 female) and they are frolicking and frisky and look comfortable for the most part. I must say though that the newer male has looked unwell and then miraculously well again several times per day.
<... the crowding; lack of space, habitat to "get away">
Since I did not know about cycling until after I had the fish I tried to make up for my mistake by changing the water every day during the breaking-in period by. I removed 1.5 to 2 liters each day. I use local tap water treated with Seachem Prime (a 4 liter bucket of tap water with 10 drops sits for 24 hours before I use it). I vacuumed the substrate twice a week. The substrate is a plastic grass mat held down by lots of glass marbles my kids outgrew. I've added a long low plastic "bush" and a tall plastic "feather fern" to give these fish plenty to explore.
<I see these>
 I feed them TetraMin food flakes once a day; only as much as they can eat in 5 minutes. I have a 25 watt heater that warms the water over a range from 25C to 28C. Unfortunately, its thermostat is not sensitive enough to narrow the range. I shine a table lamp in through the side of the tank. Its bulb is fluorescent so it doesn't add any measurable heat to the system.
I have tested the water quality daily with Tetra Test 6-in-1 strips. At first when the pH was 6.8 I added a small fistful of bleached seashells and this has improved a number of parameters simultaneously. The pH now is 7.6;
KH is between 10-15 d; GH is between 8-16 d. Despite the double-dose of Seachem Prime the test strips indicate a trace of chlorine, which may or may not be due to the lack of sensitivity of the strips.
Now for my question: I was pleased when I saw the first indication of nitrite about 10 days ago. This meant my cycle was progressing as it should. But the nitrite keeps climbing! I know from what I've read that nitrite is toxic at any level, but it has reached a reading of 5-10 mg/l and held rather than spiked!
<STOP feeding for now>

 I have gotten conflicting advice from several sources, but I trust you guys the most. I just bought a small bag of ceramic bio-beads to put in my filter. I removed the charcoal cartridge and suspended it in the water beside the filter, so there is no flow through it, but its there. Now the tank water is flowing through the bio-beads instead. Was this the right thing to do?
There is no air-pump in my 25 liter tank because the filter stirs the water surface nicely and my fish don't visit the surface. I've been told to only change the water twice a week to give the bacteria more time to multiply, so now twice a week I change 4 liters at a time. I've been watching the nitrates on my tester stick; they are close to 100 mg/l!
<Start changing more (%) water>
At least that reading comes down perceptibly with each water change, but not drastically. To add to the confusion, these platy "seem" so content with their home that they are adding cute little fry to the mix and the fry are doing nicely too. They've been adding a little extra nutrition to their parents' diet. Since they appeared I've put off vacuuming my substrate. If I hadn't done so much reading I wouldn't be able to tell from watching the fish intently (they are so nice to watch) that there is something wrong. Is there anything wrong with what I've done so far that I should correct, or should I just be patient and wait for the tank's system to run its course and finish cycling itself eventually?
<Just the size of the system really... do plan on another light year jump in volume>
Thanks for any advice and/or encouragement you can give me.
PS - Attached is a photo of my tank
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Re: Nitrite spike in new aquarium       3/11/14
Thanks for your advice, Bob. Just two follow-up questions:
1) I'll stop feeding for now, as you advise, but how will I know when to start feeding again?
<When the NO2 drops to zip>
2) You advise me to change more % water. Does this mean more often or larger quantities or both per change? Considering that my tank holds 25 liters, I was changing 2 liters every day (14 liters per week, thus more than 50% each
week). Does that strategy work or do you recommend a different regimen?
I very much appreciate your expertise,
<Search, read on WWM re Nitrite and Water Changes. BobF>

Nitrite spike, FW     6/15/11
Hey crew.
Fish are doing much better now in my tank but my nitrite is getting higher everyday.
<This is very toxic, needs to be resolved quickly.>
It's now 3.0, stress level. Why is this??
<Some combination of too much food, too much life, too new a tank.>
My ph is fine and everything else seems fine.
<Is not.>
A lot of my plants have died too. Is there anything I can do to drop the nitrite levels?
Thanks guys.
<Less food, less life, bigger tank, better filtration. Water changes to start with, this WILL kill your fish fairly quickly. Read here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm >

Small nitrites spikes, FW      3/15/11
Dear Crew
One of my tanks is doing its usual once-in-a-while nitrite spike.
<Mmm, to be avoided>
It's a 115 ltr / 29 gallon well-planted tank, ammonia is 0ppm, nitrates are about 10ppm (currently housing 4 guppies, 4 tetras, 5 juvenile split-tailed rainbow fish, 2 cherry shrimp and 2 dwarf Gourami). I cleaned the filter out in tank water as normal but did add the five new juvenile fish. It was fine for a week and now I am seeing (as I frequently do about once every month or so) a little nitrite spike (about 0.3ppm if left). I am currently doing about 3 x 50% water changes per day to keep the nitrite reading about 0.1ppm or below. Am I being obsessive here?
<Mmm, not in my opinion... perhaps better put, you and I are about the same degree obsessive!>
I've lost fish before from nitrites so I am keen to make sure they are safe as I can possibly get them with water changes. I know ANY ammonia or nitrite is dangerous but is 0.3ppm acceptable for a day or two or should I continue with the mammoth buckets of water changing every few hours?
<Mmmm, better by far to either investigate the root cause/s of such spikes or skip ahead and provide more nitrification (an outside or small inside power filter) to avoid such>
Many thanks from an exhausted, but well exercised fish keeper!
Dr Patrick Nunn
<As many welcomes. BobF>
Re: Small nitrites spikes   3/16/11

Dear Bob/Crew
Many thanks as always. The nitrite blip stayed steady at 0.1ppm all day yesterday so I gathered the nitrifying bacteria had doubled up enough within 24 hours.
<Mmm, do "check your checker"... i.e. test a known 0.0 sample (perhaps bottled water, distilled) and/or your tank water against/with another assay kit>
I did another 30% water change last night and the tank subsequently read zero nitrites and again this morning so it appears I am out of the danger zone at the moment. All fish appear fine.
<Ah good>
The monthly blips could actually be the washing of the media in the tank water at the same time as an increase in fish population according to the pattern in my records - it makes sense.
<Could be>
Therefore, Bob's suggestion of increasing filtration/media seems a sensible approach to try. I have ordered some ceramic media/bio rings. My current filter doesn't hold very much, about 6 media rings (and I believe here lies the problem for the 115 ltr / 29 gallon tank). Can I simply put the bio rings in a bag at the back of the tank or do they need a flow of water (say from a filter) to make them work efficiently enough?
<In the flow of the water is best by far>
I'm trying to avoid a costly replacement or additional filter if possible, but if you think this is the only way to rectify the insufficient media surface, then I shall try that route instead.
I'd appreciate your thoughts.
As ever, many many thanks.
Dr Patrick Nunn
<Commensurate quantities of welcomes. Harmoniously yours, BobF>
Re: Small nitrites spikes  3/16/11

Dear Bob
<Amicable Pat>
Loving the pun!
Kit is all fine.
I spoke too soon, or rather, I shouldn't have fed them this morning.
Nitrites about 0.1ppm again. I had been churning up the brown matter on top of the sand/substrata when water changing which may also have disturbed the nitrifying bacteria. I guess a few more water changes and a bit more patience. I'll investigate some alternative filter devices too.
codfish regards
<Flounderingly yours, B>
Dr Patrick Nunn

Nitrite spike  7/10/10
<Hello! Melinda here today.>
I have a two month old 30 gallon tank, well planted and fully cycled holding 4 Platies (1M/3F), 4 guppies (1M/3F), 8 neon tetras and a few cherry shrimps in London - and I know, the tetras are not great with London water. I have a little nursery net in it holding about 50 x 1 week old guppy fry. Everything has been fine until yesterday when I washed the filter in tank water and did a 25% water change when I noticed the nitrites were around 0.8ppm (ammonia at 0 and nitrates at 25).
<Something has interrupted the biological cycle. One clue as to what might be wrong is your Nitrate level, which is really quite high for a tank which, until one week ago, was lightly stocked. This could indicate overfeeding prior to the new additions, or simply be representative of the bioload represented by the new fry -- both in what they're eating, which is being turned into waste, and what they're not eating, which falls to the bottom of the tank. I think it is likely a combination of these various stressors which has affected the cycle.>
The only other thing I did was to remove the carbon and fine media from the filter (I had medicated with eSHa 2000 a few days before hand due to one of the dry developing what looked like a fungal infection). I've added aquarium salt (accordingly as your article suggests also aware that the tetra will not like this) but today the nitrites are still around 0.8ppm.
I'm now not sure how to reduce the nitrite levels further. Can't see any dead things in the tank and have cleaned the sand/plants/gravel too. Should I just leave the tank alone? I do have another empty cycled tank (10g) that I could pop some in if it will help.
<I'd remove the fry to the ten gallon, where you can easily and frequently clean to keep up with their waste and keep the water nice and clean. Obviously, they won't be able to stay in there forever, but I'm guessing you've got a plan for them, anyway, since they won't all fit in the main tank, either! In the main tank, I'd begin doing water changes to dilute Nitrite without cleaning gravel or decor, and I'd replace the carbon to remove the medication (since the original fish were not the ones being treated anyway) and the filtration media. You need to get that biological cycle back on track so that both tanks will be healthy. If you need to continue treating any of the fry, you can still do so in the other tank, and not affect the fish in the main tank. I'd stop adding aquarium salt, and I'd stop "cleaning" -- that is, I wouldn't clean the filter, or the gravel, but only do the water changes necessary to dilute Nitrate and keep the fish healthy while your system balances itself. I hope this helps, and please do write back with any questions!>
Many thanks for your assistance as always!
Dr Patrick Nunn
<You're welcome!

Snail Help, Pomacea/Mystery, other induced/env. hlth. issues   3/26/10
Hello! I would appreciate any help that I can receive.
Here is my problem: My snails foot seems to have some sort of development/disease issue. His "foot" is almost dying off. I have noticed that he isn't near as chipper as when I purchased him several weeks ago as a baby. he was approx. 1/2 inch when I got him and has grown a bit since having him. He did not have this problem when I got him and I am fearing the worst for him.
<This photo is very blurry, I can't really see what's going on at all.>
I have 2 other snails. 1 is ivory 1 is an apple and he is a black.
<OK. Any fish in there? Apple snails generally do poorly with fish, and sooner or later the snails get damaged. Without exception, apple snails are best kept away from fish in their own subtropical (rather than tropical)
aquarium. Given good water conditions (i.e., filtration) small wounds heal adequately well; but serious damage to snails and indeed molluscs generally tends to be fatal, at least under aquarium conditions.>
I only noticed this problem a couple of days ago. I hadn't done a water change in two weeks and tested my water and my levels were all out of sorts..my fish and snails all seemed happy so I wasn't concerned until I decided to test prior my water change. I had put a new filter in about 2 days prior to the testing. I did a 30% water change and added API Stress Coat+ as I typically do after a change. My water has previously checked out well minus the fact that I did not realize that my snails shell deterioration was not a normal part of the life cycle I am having little luck trying to rectify the situation I added API Proper pH 7.0 to the tank just today. My fish seem rather jumpy this change and now my snail seems to have a problem am I doing something wrong. I am a novice aquarist and all help is much appreciated.
10 gallon tank
3 platys
<Not a good choice for a tank this size.>
3 Glofish
2 African dwarf frogs
and the 3 snails
2 plants (live)
Nitrate: 60
Nitrite: 2.0
<Yikes! This is lethal, and likely why a minor wound has become infected. Fix this, STAT.>
GH: 140
Chlorine: safe
KH: 40
<Much too low for the animals listed; Platies, Snails and Frogs will all do better in neutral to moderately hard water. Aim for pH 7.5, 10+ degrees dH.>
Food: (for all)
HBH frog & tadpole bites
Hikari Algae Wafers (sinking)
Tetra Min and Tetra Color fish flakes
Blood worms & Hikari Tubifex Worms
<Your tank is badly stocked with fish species that need more space. Either the filter is inadequate or immature, or else you're wildly overfeeding, but 2.0 mg/l nitrite is lethal and WILL kill these animals quickly. No hope at all for the apple snail while these bad environmental conditions are maintained. Read about the needs of your livestock prior to purchase and mature the filter before adding any livestock at all. Your problem here isn't so much disease or injury, but poor environmental conditions brought about by careless stocking of the (too small) aquarium. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Snail Help, NO2,    3/26/10
My biggest problem is that I cannot sift through all of the poor products with promises that they do not keep do you have any advice on what I should do to fix my levels?
<Your high levels of nitrite imply one, two or all three of the following:
[1] The tank is immature and the filter hasn't matured. [2] The tank is overstocked/under-filtered for the size/number many of. [3] The fish are overfed. The number of fish may not be high, but the types of fish chosen
are poor choices; Danios need at least 60 cm/24 inches swimming space, and Platy males can be very aggressive towards each other and females in very small tanks. So, if your tank is new, less than 6 weeks old, then the high
nitrite levels imply the filter hasn't matured -- or hasn't been allowed to mature. Check you have an adequate filter with a turnover rating not less than 4 times the volume of the tank. Filter media needs 6 weeks to mature, but if you don't look after the filter properly, it'll never mature. Always clean biological media gently in a bucket of aquarium water, not under a hot tap. Make sure you have enough biological media (things like sponges and ceramic noodles) and don't waste filter space with things like carbon you don't really need. In short, read here:
I was told by a couple of other aquarists in the area that this was a good combination of fish.
<Perhaps, but not in an aquarium this small.
Should I get another Smaller Aquarium?
<No, you need a bigger aquarium. As you will have learned by reading before spending money, 10 gallon tanks are a waste of money. Always have been. The price difference between a 10 and 20 gallon tank isn't that great, and a 20 gallon "long" aquarium doesn't take up much more space yet provides ample swimming space for Danios and other active fish. Consider yourself "suckered" because you fell for the lure of a 10 gallon tank without reading up first. As I've said, if you read first, you avoid wasting money. Buying a second 10 gallon tank, or God forbid an even smaller tank will be good money after bad. Cheers, Neale.>
Sorry, where I said "[2] The tank is overstocked/under-filtered for the size/number many of" I obviously edited that sentence without reading what I'd written. I meant "[2] The tank is overstocked/under-filtered for the size/number of fish".
Cheers, Neale

Nitrite problems for my 10 gal sick tank   1/15/10
I have another question on top of the bazillion others I have emailed for...I set up a quarantine/sick tank for a few new fish I received from someone about 10 days ago.
I used tank water from my established 55 gal to put into the 10 gallon so I didn't have to cycle it.
<Water won't cycle anything. There are few filter bacteria in the water column.>
I didn't have time to wait.
<You need to move filter MEDIA from the mature aquarium to the new aquarium, NOT water. A mature filter can lose up to 50% of its biological media without problems, so you can usually "transplant" useful amounts of biological media very easily.>
because of this, I used a small hang on the back penguin filter that was new. new bio wheel, and new carbon filter. now, my problem is, my nitrites are too high...2.0-3.0, ammonia 0, nitrates 1.0. I understand that the water needs to be changed because nitrites are toxic, so I do a water change (50%) using the 55 gal water (ammonia 0, nitrites, 0, nitrates, 2.0) but no matter how much I change out the nitrites still remain 2.0. only when I do a double water change, 50% in the morning and 50% later in the afternoon can I get the nitrites down to 0 but the next day its back up to 2.0. I have a suspicion that it has to do with the new filter not having any good bacteria but I feel that I cant keep changing out the tank water like this. I'm trying not to stress out my new fish but I dont know what else to do. please let me know what I am doing wrong.
<Your mistake was thinking the water was going to help. It won't. Move as much media from a mature filter as you can into the new filter. Assuming water chemistry and temperature are similar in both tanks, the filter media will instantly provide proper water quality. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: nitrite problems for my 10 gal sick tank   1/16/10
ok...that makes sense. how do I go about changing the media?
<Depends on the media. Ceramic noodles and filter floss can just be taken from media compartments in one filter and stuffed into another. Sponges may or may not be amenable to this, depending on their size. A pair of scissors
might be used to cut sponges down to size if required.>
I have a large canister filter on the large 55 gallon but a small hang on the back filter on the small tank?
<This mismatch is one of many reasons why I don't like hang-on-the-back filters. When it comes to donating media, they're dogs to work with, since they so often rely on tailor-made filter modules (like proprietary razor
blades and inkjet cartridges, all designed to lock you into buying from one manufacturer).>
also, I just remembered that I didn't mention that I didn't put any gravel into the small tank so I can make sure to suck up all the debris at the bottom and to make it easier to break down when I can combine the fish.
anyways, what exactly do I do to put media into the 10 gal from the 55 gallon tank? do I cut a piece of the filter pad and stick it into the 10 gal filter?
<Donate about 50% of the media. How will depend on the media type.
Obviously you're donating BIOLOGICAL media, not carbon, Zeolite or any other chemical media (i.e., the stuff you replace monthly).>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Nitrite and Nitrate Problems
Controlling Nitrite and Nitrate Problems  10/15/09

Hello Chuck, I got another question for you concerning the same 30 gallon tank. We for a little while have had a problem with ammonia being really high, so we started doing 50% water changes like every 3 days or so but only vacuum the surface of the gravel so we don't disrupt the biological filter. The good news is the ammonia level is good now however our nitrites and nitrates are off the charts. Question is should we continue to do the water changes to bring these levels down or is there some other way we can bring these levels down to a safe reading? The fish seem to be happy and are very active, we are just concerned about these levels being harmful.
Thanks, John and Anika
< The good news is that the nitrites and nitrates are less toxic than the ammonia. I would watch the amount of food fed each time. Remove any uneaten food after 5 minutes by using a siphon. Clean the filters often
too. Plants will remove some nitrogenous wastes if they are healthy and the lighting is strong. Using Dr Tim's One and Only will help quicken the process. One you are dealing with just nitrat4s then you can try to control them with water changes and try to keep them under 20 ppm.-Chuck>

Uncycled tank with nitrites -- reading, water changes and live bacteria are needed -- 06/28/07 Hello everyone. <Hi Melissa.> I purchased a 10-gallon a little less than a month ago. I conditioned the water, and let the filter run for 3 days. I then purchased a Glo fish as my starter fish. Not knowing much about the nature of schooling fish, or the nitrogen cycle, I purchased two more GloFish shortly thereafter. To make a long story short, they all died. So, I purchased one more GloFish and left him in there by himself for about two weeks. Feeling confident with the stability of my tank, I then purchased two black Lyretail mollies. Unfortunately, they were picking on the GloFish, so he has been removed. The mollies are looking great, so now to my question. I do water tests frequently, and a very recent test showed that my nitrites are high (about 2 ppm) and my nitrates are just slightly lower (around 15 ppm). I'm not sure how long the cycle takes to complete (I've heard 4 to 6 weeks) but I do know that nitrites are very dangerous. However, everything else (ammonia, ph, etc) is at its appropriate level. I have good filtration, plenty of salt to suit them, and some live plants which were added two days ago. I also did a 15% percent water change just a few days ago to try to reduce the nitrites, but they have not come down at all. <A 15% water change will decrease nitrites by 15%. In your case that's not even measurable with the standard tests. To decrease them to 0.4 change at least 80%.> Are the high levels to be expected, if the cycle is almost complete? <No. Your cycle is complete when the nitrites have spiked and fallen back to 0. Only then the first fish should be added. Personally I do not like the idea of fishes in an uncycled tank. Live bacteria from the filter of a running tank or the LFS fridge (BioSpira) can be used to instantly cycle a tank. > Or is this a serious problem that needs addressing? <Additional problems cannot be excluded now. Overfeeding is one possibility. Only feed as much as is eaten in a few minutes. If the nitrites aren't absent within a week consider additional factors that could prevent your tank from getting properly cycled. In the meantime read some more on the nitrogen cycle and the needs of the fishes you want to keep. Lots of information as well as a handy search panel are available at WWM.> Again, the mollies don't appear unhealthy in any way, and I would like very much to keep them healthy, so your help would be immensely appreciated. <Some types are quite hardy. Anyway, do large water changes and possibly get some bacteria from a running tank to minimize any permanent damage due to the exposure of toxic water conditions.> And depending upon your response, I would like to add a couple more of the little guys, so let me know if this is a safe decision. <Too early. Wait until the nitrites are 0 and be sure to read before you purchase.> Thank you so much for taking the time to read my ridiculously long question and I look forward to your reply. <Hope that helps. Marco.> Sincerely, Melissa.

Recovering from a nitrite spike - 06/27/07 Hi Crew, <Ave.> Last month I started a 55 gallon freshwater tank to replace my badly overcrowded 20 gallon. Long story short, I rushed the process and ended up with one hell of a nitrite spike once all the fish were in the new tank (probably an ammonia spike too, but I was careless and didn't have an ammonia testing kit at the time so I don't know). Nitrite levels were off the scale, at 10 ppm or more. Thanks to extra water changes, StressZyme, and time, the level is back down to 0, but I'm worrying about the aftermath of the spike. None of my fish died and most of them never seemed affected at all, but a few of them are looking a little ragged. A small peppered Cory has frayed fins, and his gills look a little pink when viewed from behind. My three boesemanni rainbows all look as if they've lost some scales around their faces, their mouths look rough instead of smooth, and their tails are a little frayed. Finally my java ferns are all spotty and brown. What can I do to help my fish and ferns recover? <The fish will recover, assuming water conditions are sound. Treating for Finrot/fungus is also essential, given the amount of damage the fish seem to have taken. The plant will be fine. For plants, ammonia and nitrite are just fertiliser...> The other inhabitants (some from the old 20 gallon, some added just before the nitrite spike): 4 tiger barb 2 other peppered Cory 1 African butterfly (Pantodon) 1 6-inch green Severum 1 4-inch common Pleco 1 4-inch Senegal Bichir <Now *there's* a random selection of fish. I'm surprised the tiger barbs haven't pecked the Butterflyfish to death yet. Those two are a classic "don't mix" combo! Presumably you realise the Severum, Plec, and Bichir all can reach fairly substantial adult sizes. Your 55 gallon is fine for them, but don't forget that filtration has to scale up as well. Given you're growing Java ferns, I'd be tempted to use an undergravel filter with two powerheads plus two medium or one large external canister filter. Ideally, these would be rigged as a reverse flow system (i.e., replace the powerheads with the outlets from two external filters. This will give you lots and lots of biological filtration plus very effective mechanical filtration -- the ideal for such big and messy fish.> I feed them a mix of flake food, small cichlid pellets, fresh greens, blood worms, brine shrimp, and an occasional live insect (not all at once of course - I mix it up from day to day). Ammonia is 0, nitrites are 0, nitrates are about 30 ppm. I keep the tank at 78 degrees F. <Sounds fine.> Oh, and one last question, off-topic from the nitrite spike - my Bichir absolutely loves the small cichlid pellets, but they're big enough that he has a lot of difficulty swallowing them. Should I quit using them, so he doesn't hurt himself? <He's fine. Bichirs feed extensively on shelled invertebrates and have very strong jaws. More importantly, fish don't "choke". The only reason humans choke is because of where the larynx is situated relative to the trachea and esophagus. It's a classic evolutionary compromise between being able to speak but at the cost of greater risk of choking. Most other animals don't have this arrangement, and fish certainly don't, and once the food is in the throat it's soft tissue all the way to the stomach with little scope for harm or damage. Indeed, many fish deliberately pass solid food to the throat where special teeth (called pharyngeal teeth) grind or chop up the food item.> Thanks for your help. I love what you're all doing through this site. -Michael <Thanks, and hope this helps. Neale>

Re:... NO2 follow-up... need to match, find... and train Neale to apply useful titles...  - 05/02/07 Neale & Crew, Whew!  You don't disappoint on the "brutal honesty!"  Thanks (wry  smile). <Hah!> So far, since Saturday night's water change the nitrites &  ammonia have been at "0,"  and I am keeping a close eye on  them.  I think I was lulled by the test strip's wording regarding nitrite  levels: "caution" for .5 ppm, "stress" for 1 ppm, etc.  Since mine never  quite made it to .5 ppm, I never fully realized the danger, though I knew the  goal was "0".  I don't say this as an excuse, as the info is out there, but as a warning to others new to fishkeeping. <It's an easy mistake to make. The sensitivity of fish to ammonia (and nitrite) depends on many factors, and while I'm sure your fish will survive at 0.5 ppm for a few days/weeks, it will certainly stress them, and be a factor causing the problems.> I also didn't realize the  charcoal element, made for the Aqua-clear 30 filter, was useless or  worse with a cycling FW aquarium.  Thankfully, I did have the biological  element in!   <Carbon serves a very specific purpose, but I'd argue that in a freshwater aquarium it's of minimal real value. Possibly more useful in marine tanks.> Also, I was thrown by the long, white stringy stuff, and the fact that only  two of them appeared actually stressed or unhappy. My remaining question: You never said, but should I assume you are implying that the fecal symptom is water quality symptom, or food issue?  They had been eating  both veg.s and omnivore flakes.  I could pass the Omni food off to a  neighbor. <Long stringy faeces in fish usually implies a dietary imbalance. Not necessarily critical every time you see this, but if persistently showing this symptom it is a warning that the diet you are offering isn't quite right. Certainly adding more fibre (greens) to the diet and using "natural" foods like frozen bloodworms instead of "processed" foods like flake will help. It's essentially constipation, and fish get it for the same reason we do.> Also, I am afraid a lot of us newbies are making the mistake of putting  platys in tanks under 10 gallons, as I have seen a number of posts that show  that. <Ten gallon and smaller tanks are inexpensive, easy to set up, and widely sold. Hence, there are a lot of them about. I have two tanks about this size, and very useful they are, primarily for rearing baby fish. The problem is that for any fish larger than, say, a neon, a 10 gallon tank is very confining. Yes, you can keep a platy inside one, but given a platy reaches a fair size when mature, it isn't comfortable. A 20 gallon tank is marginally more expensive but gives you so much more space to work with.> Thank you for letting me, and others, know.  Of course,  the LFS wouldn't tell us that.  However, after doing a bit of digging  around the internet, I found that my tank dimensions are for a fairly standard  ten gallon aquarium.  When I said "approximately 7.5 gallon water  volume" I was conservatively estimating the amount of water in the tank  (I wasn't certain of "tank size" as it came to us second hand and the tank  volume calculator I used wasn't clear on whether they meant interior or  exterior measurements... obviously another  important fact that I needed to know  from the beginning). <Don't forget that once you add the filter, heater, sand and any ornaments, the average aquarium will only hold around 80% of the water it says on the box. But I agree, estimating tank size isn't always easy. I wrote a little freebie program called Fish Tank Tool for Mac and Windows that you can download here: http://homepage.mac.com/nmonks/software/index.html . It basically works out the volume and helps calculate various things like how many fish you can keep in it. Try it.> So, hopefully the  kids can keep their platys,  although obviously four fish were too many for an  uncycled tank.  In fact,  I wouldn't put fish in an uncycled tank at all if I  had it to do over  again.   <Platies are excellent fish, and trust me, well worth spending tome learning about. The livebearer group generally is one of the most fascinating groups of fishes, and once they start making babies you'll have lots of scope for educating the children about how the behave and breed.> As for the salt and platys, it is sometimes recommended at WWM, though  perhaps in "aquarium" form rather than plain old NaCl (?).   <Aquarium "tonic" salt, which is essentially NaCl identical to non-iodized cooking salt, can be used therapeutically for certain things. But most people use it merely as an additive, and at the doses used serves no real function. Platies certainly don't need it. The only thing you might add to the aquarium would be something to harden the water and raise the pH, if your water was soft and acidic. A half or quarter dose of Tanganyikan salts would work great for this.> I won't argue  the point with you, as I planned to phase the salt out after cycling, for the  benefit of the plants. <Most aquarium plants DO NOT like salt. Whilst there are a few brackish water tolerant plants in the trade, the list is quite short.> And what do I know anyway?  Apparently, not  much!  (again, wry smile) But I'm working on that. <Sit back and enjoy the fish. Wait for things to settle down and water quality to improve. When the tank has cycled, you can add more livestock if required. Oh, and by this point you'll be an expert itching to move onto another tank with bigger and better fishes!> Thanks again... I'm sure the fish would thank you too, if they could. <So longs as they fishes are happy, my work here is done.> V. <Cheers, Neale>

Re: nitrite problem Dear Crew, <Hello, Ronni here today.> Since the end of Jan. my Betta has been in my 10 gallon tank following a disaster in my 30 gallon tank in which she was the only fish to survive.  I rinsed well, then added clean aged water (ammonia, nitrites, nitrates = 0), a heater, thermometer, and new box filter containing new floss and new Eheim sintered glass substrate for biological filtration, no gravel in tank.  I knew the tank would have to cycle.  After several weeks nitrite levels increased higher than my test kit could measure (over 5 ppm).  For the past 6 days I have been vacuuming daily and doing daily  50% water changes (source water is kept in a barrel and aerated) and managed to bring nitrites  down to about 2 ppm.  Last night I got fed up.  I temporarily moved my fish to another bowl and got rid of all the water in the tank.  I scrubbed it out with salt water.  Poured boiling water into the tank and let it stand.  Rinsed it well and rescrubbed with salt and water and rinsed again.  I figured that would kill anything that was lurking around.  I also rinsed the thermometer and heater.  I filled the tank with water that had been heated and aerated for a week.  Ammonia, nitrites, nitrates were 0.  Put my fish back in.  This morning (12 hours later) nitrites measure 0.5 ppm.  My nitrite test kit is not the problem. WHAT IS GOING ON?? Where am I going wrong here?  I guess the tank never cycled - don't know why, but even so, how could nitrites rise so quickly? Judy <It may just be that with only the single small fish in there the tank was taking a while to cycle. Now that you've started over, do daily water changes to prevent the nitrites from getting out of hand again. It doesn't always happen but sometimes nitrites will rise rapidly and that could be what you're seeing. You might want to go to your LFS and get a bacterial start; this will help speed up the cycling process and will make it easier on your fish. Ronni>

Nitrite And Ammonia Problems In A Big Tank   12/21/06 I adopted a 150 tall FW tank with a sand bed, two bio-wheel filters, one canister filter, several pieces of driftwood. Living in it our 4 grown Severums, 2 grown Jurupari, 1 2.5ft fire eel, 3 African clawed frogs, 1 small Knifefish, 1 Pleco, and 2 3 to 4 inch eels. I have had it running for about 3 months.  It seemed to cycle the first week I had it (even though we moved it entirely and saved all the media)  - with nitrites and ammonia levels going to 0 after numerous days of massive water changes My problem is that about every 10 days the nitrites and ammonia test heavy again. I repeat several days of massive water changes and it returns to a clean state. But without fail about 10 days later it goes off the charts. A local fish guy suggested that the sand bed is responsible. I took about 1/2 the sand out - from 3 inches to about 1.5. but it did not stay clean. I have also put ammonia rocks into all the filters - but they have never "turned green" which I was told means my ammonia test kit is giving me a false positive. I am willing to replace the sand with gravel and even install UGF is necessary - both ideas have been suggested. I do not overfeed. There are no dead fish. There is ample biological media in both wheels and in added media in all filters. Any ideas? Does sand in a FW present problems. I have 12 other tanks and everyone is cycled and stays that way. Thanks Tim < Do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean all the filters. Chemical waste levels should be down to zero. Feed as you normally do and test the water daily. I think you will find a logarithmic but gradual increase in these levels over a few days before they peak. The Bio-Wheels are great little inventions and you are correct that they should be handling all the bioload for this tank. The problem is in the canister filter. Food/waste gets trapped in the canister filter and there is very little oxygen in the canister for the bacteria to live on and break down the waste. So now the fish are generating biological waste and so is the crap in canister filter. The outflow of the canister filter has no measurable oxygen so bacteria cannot live and break down the waste. I would recommend that you add a bio wheel attachment to the canister filter outflow before it goes back into the tank and that you vacuum the gravel every time you do a water change. If the driftwood is not suitable for the aquarium then it could be rotting and contributing to the problem.-Chuck>

Old mail (Nitrite poisoning) - 7/2/06 Hi guys. <Elise. Please accept my sincere apologies for the delayed reply to this. My mistake.> I'm a newbie here, and I've been spending the last few days researching your site for my problem.  I have learned a lot, and I appreciate all this information being available!  I understand now about the nitrogen cycle, but I'm still uncertain how to rescue my current situation.  I have a long-established 20 gallon with three Dalmatian mollies and two neon tetras.  Two Dalmatian fry were born in October and nine more in November.  I began seriously overfeeding, which I now understand was a terrible mistake. <Yes... an easy mistake to make.>   I lost two of the fry to the filter, two didn't grow much and died, one didn't grow at all and I never found the body.  I have searched the filter, ornaments, and vacuumed aggressively, but couldn't find it. Of course my overfeeding led to ammonia, a case of Ick, at which point I learned from the pet store how overfeeding had poisoned my tank. To try to rescue the situation, I have done the following: I gave one dose of CopperSafe for the Ick (a week ago, fish is cured). <The life cycle of Ick is longer than this.. for much of the life cycle the white spots are not visible. Do continue the treatment as directed on the bottle.> I increased the temperature to the mid-eighties, and added aquarium salt. <Great... this alone is actually what I have found to be useful and often recommend for treating Ick.>   I have also been using Cycle. <I would not add this product to a tank with fish in.>   I added a little sponge filter to the bottom to increase aeration.  My ammonia went down, then the nitrites spiked off the charts.  I tried several large water changes, but the nitrite level would still test to an "off the chart" level, even right after the change.  The fish are behaving fine, so far.  I have read what I perceive to be conflicting advice regarding whether or not to change the water.  I felt that the nitrite level was extremely toxic, and I believed my fish would surely die if I did nothing, so I performed several water changes adding salt, Aqua Safe, and Cycle to the new water before adding each time)  After a few days of this, this evening the nitrite finally went down to .5ppm after a 75% water change.  However, my ammonia is back up to .25ppm.  Fish still seem fine. <The salt is countering nitrite toxicity.> Should I continue these water changes? <Yes, but ditch the Cycle. You will find it is adding to ammonia / nitrites.>   Tonight I added a Bio Wheel filter, and I left the Aqua Clear filter operating as well.  I am setting up a ten gallon tank. My plan is to cycle it first and then put the four youngest fry there, in order to decrease stock.  I am wondering if I should consider using this tank as temporary housing for all the fish until things calm down in the 20 gallon tank? <I would keep them in the present tank, and put one of the filters on the other tank after 2 - 3 weeks.>   Is there anything else I should do/shouldn't be doing?  Thanks in advance, Elise <Best regards, John.>

Dangerous nitrite levels in 3 week old tank--help our poor fishie! Help them yourself... only you can  1/26/06 I'm sure you've had these questions many times before, <If so... our responses would/will be posted on WWM> and I'm sorry   about that, but things are getting pretty dire here.  We've got a new   10 gallon tank (about three weeks), and the nitrite levels seem to be dangerously high, though ammonia seems to have cycled nicely.   <Numbers please> I'm   very worried about our lionshead, though, because nothing that I've been able to do (partial water changes, treatments) are taking the nitrites down.    <? Dilution should lower correspondingly... chemical filtrants> I've had lots of different advice from people at the store I bought the tank, up to and including "forget about it,   there's nothing you can do."   What can I do to help her out while the tank is still cycling? <... posted> Will the tank continue to cycle if I take her out entirely, or will that just stop the process?  I don't want   to overdo things, but we're really very concerned that the nitrite levels are well into the toxic range, and don't know if it will be a few weeks before the nitrites come down, and if she'll make it.  What can we do here?  Even though we've only had her a few weeks, we can't bear to lose her! Thanks! John <Please... stop being anxious, and stop writing... and read. Bob Fenner>

Re: Update...Dangerous nitrite levels in 3 week old tank--help our poor fishie!   1/27/06 I know I only wrote you yesterday afternoon, but I have to head off to the office now and won't be back till tonight, so I thought I'd better write you now with the update, and maybe if it's not too much trouble you could possibly answer them together. <Already responded to>   The nitrite levels remain just as high, and my ammonia test this morning surprised me by being right about where was over the weekend, though not I think at a dangerous level. <? Numbers>   She's <Who?> developing some grainy patches along her sides, but not enough that I can tell whether those and the little   bits of white on her cap are just natural or stress or disease She's still eating and bopping around like crazy, but the grainy bits and things seem more pronounced.   Is it really just a waiting game (she's been in the tank 18 days now and it's not getting better yet)   or should I be doing more water changes? <Would they help?> I'm leaving the gravel alone now, having had what I thought was bad advice at first to clean it regularly, and lots of conflicting advice from what's supposed to be the best fish supply place in town!  But we're a bit more worried every day--is there anything we can do here?  Would putting in a little cleaner spring water help?  Would Bio-Spira help or hurt at this point? <Would help> We've grown so attached to her in the few weeks she's been part of the family! Thanks again, so much! John <Keep reading. Bob Fenner> Thanks!   Found a lot of helpful info we'd missed the first time.    Keeping our fins crossed, and thanks again. <Ah, good. Welcome. BobF>

High Nitrite 1/23/2006 Hello crew, <<Hello Elise>> I'm a newbie here.  I've done a lot of research on your site over the last couple of weeks, thanks so much for all the info!  I'm still unclear on one thing regarding high nitrites.  Here's my situation:  I have a long-established twenty gallon with three adult Dalmatian mollies and six fry. I have an Aqua Clear filter which I've maintained as instructed and just added a Bio Wheel. Due to my ignorance, I drastically overfed and conducted water changes with ammonia-laden tap water. <<Please test your source water before adding to your tank.>> I have passed the ammonia spike and am currently experiencing the nitrite spike.  It was testing off the charts before I conducted several water changes (with bottled spring water) to bring it down.  I QT'd one of the adults, who was looking pretty sickly, she's better now. <<How was the quarantine tank cycled?>> I raised the temp to the mid eighties and added salt.  What I am confused about is this:  I keep reading "dilution is the solution" <<Yes.>> but I also read "every time you change your water you start your cycle over, you need to leave it alone". <<Some feel it may delay the cycle.  Most of the bacteria reside on substrate and hard surfaces in your tank, and primarily in filter media, not in the water column.>> So, I am unsure how to proceed, should I do just enough water changes to keep the nitrite to around .5 or .25, or should I let it ride, or should I change the water enough to bring it to zero? <<I would perform large enough water changes to keep the nitrite to an absolute minimum.  You may have to do changes more than once per day to do this.  Aim for 0 and keep it there with many small water changes.  If you have access to a product called Bio-Spira, do a large water change and add the product directly to your filter.  Bio-Spira contains live bacteria that will perform your bio-filtration.  Please keep testing your source water for ammonia, and to match the pH of your tank.>> Obviously, my goal is to not lose any fish! Thanks again for all your help, this site is the greatest!! <<Glad to help.  Lisa.>> Elise

High Nitrite II 1/23/2006 Hi Lisa, <<Hello Elise>> Thank you so much for the quick response! <<You are very welcome>> I'd like to respond to some of your comments.  I've been doing water changes a couple of times a day to keep the nitrite down, so glad to hear I'm on the right track. I also just ordered Bio-Spira this morning from the fish store, <<Are you in Canada? I'm in Toronto, and ordered it from the fish store as well with great results.>> so thanks for validating that decision as well!  Regarding my QT tank, well, it's not cycled.  I set it up with some gravel from the existing tank and 100% new water.  I knew this was not ideal, but she was near death and I was desperate to save her, so I pulled out all the stops. I've been medicating her with Maracyn two and copper and doing 50% water changes every day. <<I would stop medicating, this is a water-quality issue, not a disease.>> I had ammonia in there for a couple of days (unfortunately I set it up before I discovered my tap water has ammonia), now I have nitrite, but I've not let either go above .25ppm by doing water changes. She seems completely fine now.  My plan is to leave her there for two more days until I'm done with the Maracyn 2, then put her back home.  Regarding my source water, I stopped using tap after it tested positive for ammonia.  My LFS recommended bottle spring water, so I've been using that. <<I have never used this personally.  I would look into an RO unit personally>> I tested it for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and chlorine, and all results were zero.  The only problem is the PH is 7.6 instead of 7.2.  I've read that Dalmatian mollies prefer the higher ph, so I didn't try to change it.  I hope I didn't shock them too much. <<Consistency is better than accuracy>> I have now done several changes with the spring water.  All the fish seem fine.  They are quite active, and seem starving! I've been feeding them next to nothing.  Any further advice regarding the PH issue?  Thanks again so much for your help. <<You're welcome>> I'm so glad I found this site! <<Me too.>> If I had listened to my LFS, all my fish would be dead. They told me not to change the water at all! Elise <<Good luck.  Lisa.>>

High Nitrite III 1/23/2006 Hi again Lisa, <<Hello again Elise>> What's an RO unit? <<Reverse Osmosis unit, covered widely on WWM.>> To answer your question, I live in Florida.  The fish store is 2nd day UPSing the product with cold packs.  They insist that will work. <<It worked for me and I am much farther than you!>> So I just pour it right into my filter while it's running? <<You got it.>> I got the amount for a thirty gallon tank.  I'm thinking I can put two thirds of it in the twenty gallon and one third into my ten gallon QT tank, which I would like to cycle and move a few fry into. <<Sounds good.>>   Thanks again! <<Anytime.  Good luck.  Lisa>> Elise High Nitrite IV 2/2/2006 Hi Lisa, <<Hi Elise!>> Just wanted to write and thank you again for all your help.  I never did use the Bio-Spira, the tank cycled on its own.  I had ZERO fatalities, thanks to the large and frequent water changes that you had me do. <<That is SO very wonderful to hear!  You need the credit, though, for keeping on top of things and getting such amazing results.  You've made my day :)>> Thanks again for all your help! <<You are quite welcome.  Feel free to right again, should you need my help.  Lisa.>> Elise

Nitrite problem  12/26/05 To crew at wet web, I have been having trouble with my nitrite for sometime.  I have done everything I can think of to fix this problem, but nothing seems to help.  I have reduced feeding, partial water changes, added stress zyme, used Nitrazorb in my filter, but it still is staying constant at 2.0 ppm for about two weeks now.  I have a 55 gallon tank with a small Oscar, 2 baby Dempseys, a blue phantom Pleco, and a common Pleco.  this is only a temporary for the Oscar until I get my 112 set up.  The 55 has been running for about two months now, and I have performed gravel vacuum and 25% weekly water change ever since the start.  Oh if your wandering about filtration I have a penguin 350 with bio wheel, a top fin 60, a Fluval 304, and an underground filter with a power head.  please help if you can my Oscar is starting to swim awkwardly. <as you know nitrite is very HARMFUL to the fish! I would continue to do water changes, feed sparingly, etc. It sounds like the biological filtration in the aquarium is weak...the denitrifying bacteria has not established itself enough yet. Luckily you have tough fish. I would just perform water changes...remember dilution is always the solution! good luck and happy holidays, IanB>                                          thanks for your time and merry Christmas,                                                           Carl

Regarding Nitrites in newer tank 10/16/05 Hi Bob. <Marcin> I have been running my 55 gallon tank for a week now with tetras small rainbow sharks and 2 Plecos. Last time I checked my ammonia and nitrites the ammonia was at 0 and the nitrites were at 0.1. I have since added a live plant into the aquarium and when I checked my levels again the ammonia was 0 again but the nitrites were 1.6 mg/L. <Mmm, too high> Should I do a partial water change or feed the fish a lot less food?  <Yes... posted on WWM... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above> Thank you P.S. all my fish seem healthy with no visible signs of stress. <Shows later... or not at all... or just dead animals. Bob Fenner> 

Nitrite Spiking? - 09/30/2005 Hi y'all I visit this forum frequently and have a question.   <First off, let me please apologize for the delay in my response.  I've been a touch ill and didn't realize I had some questions still in my inbox!  My deepest apologies....> I have a 30 gallon tank (current inhabitants 3 Platies, 6 cherry barbs, and a Pleco) that was previously cycled (no ammonia or nitrites).  I noticed yesterday (9/19/05) that my filter outflow seemed slowed down somewhat so I swished it around in some tank water from a water change, and I did a deep gravel vacuum.  I tested today and I have 3 ppm nitrites!  Did I get to vigorous when I did my tank cleaning?     <Entirely possible.> I did a 25% water change today, but the test has stayed the same. <Might want to go with a bigger water change. Also, I recently (9/15/05) added a school of cherry barbs (6 to be exact) could this be what's causing the current spike?   <Mm, possibly, but more likely from disturbing too much of the biological filtration in this system.> All fish look good, but it has me worried. What do I need to do? <Just water changes to drop the nitrite, and test your water as your biological filtration reestablishes itself.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

High Nitrites in a FW tank 8/4/05 Our nitrite levels keep soaring and we don't know how to get them down. I need answers specifically for my tank situation. We have a 25gl tank with a tiger Oscar, three Rosey barb, and three tinfoil barbs who all seem to be doing just fine and playful. The ammonia and everything is perfect. We started this cycle about two months ago. We have done a 25% water change everyday sometimes two to three times a day and the nitrites would maybe go down a little from 2.0 - 1.0 to .50 - .25. Then the next day its right back up again when I go to change the water.  We use water from the tub and put in AquaPlus to make it safe for the fish and keep their protective coats. We also use Cycle to promote Bacteria growth.  We just replaced 16 gallons today and then did another 8 gallons and that brought it down to .25 we're thinking about doing another one in a bit.  Also a couple of days ago we added a Nitrite filter. We only feed the Oscar One pellet every Once in a while. The other fish eat what the Oscar leaves behind. There is also this rust color on some of the ornaments. For filters we have two undergravel filters manned by air pumps and an electric side pump filter.  We have three 20 gallon pumps and one ten gallon pump manning the underground filter.  What more can we do to balance out everything and get a good cycle established. We live in a small town so our supplies are limited we have only one fish store called the Fish Bowl and a Wal-Mart. So far they have had what we needed. Reply ASAP please Thanks K_italian < Next water change you can gently vacuum the gravel. This will open up the undergravel filter while removing the muck that may be driving the algae up and creating the "rust" on you ornaments. Feed only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes once each day. Check the tap water for nitrites. In some agricultural areas the tap water is high in nitrogenous waste-Chuck>

Nitrites on the Rise Man oh man is the nitrite rising!!! My biggest fish just died today and I'm QT the next fish that looks the most unhealthy hoping I could save him!! So every day I should vac out the gravel? Is there anything I could add to the water to make the nitrite go down? I also don't understand how these fragile babies are living and the hardy larger fish are dying? <Get some Bio-Spira from Marineland. This stuff has the good bacteria in it and should help bring the nitrites down. In the meantime try some AmQuel plus by Kordon. It will bind up the nitrites until the bacteria get going.-Chuck>

High Nitrites with Goldfish okay sorry to bother you again. < No problem, that is why we are here.> I just did a 25% water change and did a water test. The ph was neutral and has borderline soft and hard water but however my nitrite is pretty high. My fish still on the floor and not eating and swimming as much. I added salt as recommended. How would I do to help bubba and lower my nitrites. < Clean the tank. Vacuum the gravel to remove the waste that has accumulated there and clean the filter. Feed only once a day and only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes. Remove uneaten food after two minutes. If Bubba is not eating he may have an internal bacterial infection and need treating with Metronidazole.-Chuck> HIGH NITRITES Crew, I've read through the cycling and nitrites FAQ's and couldn't find a direct answer. I'm currently in the process of cycling my 75 gallon freshwater tank. I'm cycling without fish and using pure, store-bought ammonia to feed the populations of chemo-autotrophic bacteria (ammonia eaters). On day 17 of the cycling process I received my first reading of zero ammonia. I feed the tank half a teaspoon of ammonia daily to keep the "ammonia eaters" from starving while waiting for the nitrifying bacteria (nitrite eaters) to become established. My nitrite readings are literally off the chart however.  Twenty-four hours ago (cycling day 19) I added Bio-Spira (90 gallon size) to the tank. Today my nitrite readings are still way off the charts. Now to my question. Will this incredibly high nitrite reading have any adverse effects on the development of my "nitrite eaters" (i.e. reducing oxygenation to them)? <No. Just like it took a couple of weeks to develop the ammonia eaters, it will take a little time to get the nitrite eaters going. It is hard to tell in just 24 hours when both nitrite readings were off the charts. Normally it would take another two weeks to get the nitrites down, but it will be quicker since you have used Bio-Spira.> My tank is drilled and connects to an AMiracle wet/dry sump with about 200 1-inch bio-balls for bacteria colonization. My temperature is at about 85 degrees, and I have been cycling without the lights on to reduce algae growth. Thanks in advance, Mike < Go to Marineland.com and go to Dr. Tim's Library. There you will find some good info on cycling a new tank. Especially the article titled "The First 30 Days".-Chuck>

Nitrites in a F/W System I think I should have been more clear in my question regarding the cycling process on my five gallon tank I'm preparing for my Betta (Flash). I am doing fishless cycling, and fully understand the sequence of the cycling, fish waste- ammonia-nitrite-nitrate, etc. My question is: is it unusual for nitrates to be present for two weeks with no change in the high nitrite level? I was under the impression that most of the wait is waiting for nitrates to become present in the water and then the nitrites would decline. If that's true, why aren't my nitrites budging? Or is that where I'm mistaken? Would you still recommend the 30% water change, wringing out the sponge filter and a gravel vac. Now that you know there are no fish in the water? Thanks again, hope I was more clear this time. Kim L. <You can expect nitrites to take about 2 to 3 times longer to crash than did ammonia. With no fish there is no reason to do a water change yet. Only rinse out the sponge if it is becoming clogged. Remember this is a biological process, not a chemical one. As the bacteria start to become established it normal to see nitrates climb slowly as nitrites stay steady. As your bacterial colony grows you will get stronger bio filtration which will knock down the nitrites more quickly. Just hang in there, all you need is a little more time. When both ammonia and nitrite stay at zero, do a 20 to 30% water change and stock your Betta. Don>

Nitrite Problem in F/W System Hi, I'm hoping for some help specifically to my situation. I've read through many of your articles & F&Q's. I've learned a lot about nitrites and nitrates. After reading them I'm convinced there is something wrong with my fish/tank. I have 2 Convict Cichlids in a 20g tank. A Whisper 40 filter and 100w heater. The water temp fluctuates between 75-78 depends if the light is on or off. 2 inches of gravel. No live plants. Terracotta pot, rock that looks like a cave and sunken ship decor. The pot, some of the plants and the rock were transferred along with the fish from a 10g tank they grew out of . They've been in the 20g tank for about 1.5 months now. The male is about 3.5 inches, the female about 2.5. I've had these fish since May 2004. Never a problem with them. They show typical cichlid behavior (hiding, occasional chasing, egg laying, etc.) Lately they've become distant from each other. Usually they're pretty compatible but now they are less active. They don't seem ill. All I have is a test strip test-kit to test the water. I don't know how accurate these are but it's telling me the nitrites are at the highest most dangerous level 10. Everything else, nitrates 40, hardness 150, alkalinity 300, ph level 7.8. I know I've read that convict cichlids are hardy fish but seeing that reading of the nitrites is alarming. I've changed the water weekly but only about 15%. Should I be taking more water out? I've also replaced the filter cartridge twice. Also, there was a rust-like slime on the pot and rock that I cleaned off with the last water change if that helps at all. There was never anything like that growing on those items in the 10g tank. I don't have an air pump because they told me at Petco that with my filter I didn't need one. Would that make a difference? When I do water changes I use distilled water to replace the water taken out. What am I doing wrong that is causing this problem? Never had this problem with the 10g tank which is now occupied with Neons and a few .5 or smaller baby cichlids. Please help!! Thanks, Mauree < Do a 30% water change with treated tap water. Rinse out the filter cartridge under a high pressure garden hose and replace it. Vacuum the gravel while doing your water change. Keep the nitrates under 25 ppm with water changes. Either change more water or change it more often. For example, if your nitrates were at 50 ppm then you would need to do a 50% water change to get the nitrates down to 25 ppm. Feed only enough food so that all of it is gone in a couple of minutes each day. Excess food gets caught in the filter and adds to your nitrite woes.-Chuck> 

F/W Nitrite Problem - II Hi Chuck, Thanks for your help. I have a few more questions though. I was wondering if it would help to get a bio-wheel filter. < Absolutely! Oxygen is the most limiting factor of nitrification and the bacteria don't have that problem that live on the bio-wheels.> I was reading that those types of filters are good for getting rid of ammonia and nitrites as the wheel spins. Also, would Nitrazorb help if used in the filter? < These resins absorb certain types of nitrogen but it is still in the tank and may nitrify into other compounds like nitrites ands nitrates.> I've used distilled water in the past for the 10g tank and never had problems. I'm fairly new to this as the Cichlids were my first experience. (They were given to my daughter from a school teacher.) I thought I read something in one of the F&Q's about distilled water not being good for water changes. How about drinking water? I am going to start storing prepared tap water (read the WWM info) but for now (today) what should I do to my water before I do the change? Can you recommend a tap water treatment? I have on hand "Cycle", and Bio-Coat. Are either any good or should I get something else?  < Go with the Bio-Coat for now then change to Amquel when it runs out.> And how long after treating it with one of these solutions do I have to wait to change the water? < You can change the water right away.> Sorry for the overload of questions but I've become attached to these little guys. BTW, WWM is awesome. < Thank you for your kind words. We are trying to keep people in the hobby one question at a time.-Chuck>

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