General Care Discussion :: High Nitrate Levels - Advice Needed

Taking care of your turtle's overall health.

Post Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 5:08 pm   High Nitrate Levels - Advice Needed

Hello,

I have a 125 gallon tank filled with about 85 gallons of water to house my 8.4 inch YBS. I usually perform 40% water changes every week but have doubled that recently. I also clean the Fuval FX6 every month and the tank on every water change. All water conditions are staying perfect except for the Nitrates which quickly exceed 80-120 ppm within a week. I am staggered by their sudden increase every week.

I have added additional high growth plants but the Nitrate levels are still problematic. 1/4th of the tank is in FULL of Anubis (my Turtle can nearly walk on top of the plants there are so many).

I have probably 50-100 small/medium and a few large guppies in the tank as food.

I have had fish tanks for years but this is my first turtle. I have never encountered issues like this in my entire life. Can you offer any advice to keep these Nitrates down and as to why they are spiking?

None of my other non-turtle tanks are having any issues, including ones with many more fish.

I will greatly appreciate rapid assistance!
Myflag
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Aug 14, 2019
Gender: Male

Post Posted: Fri Aug 16, 2019 9:06 am   Re: High Nitrate Levels - Advice Needed

Just a few suggestions, but unfortunately turtles do churn out tons of waste.

If the poop is solid enough, you can try scooping that out before it adds to the nitrogen load.

Harvest some of the plants. If they are that thick, they aren’t adding much new growth. Pull out a bunch and toss it, allowing for more light/room for additional growth.

Floating plants. The limiting factor for underwater plants tends to be CO2, and light to a lesser extent. Floating plants don’t have that issue. I’ve got a separate refugium attached to my main tank. Back when I grew duckweed there, I’d rarely see nitrates above 10. I did water changes to replace minerals, not because of nitrates. You don’t want duckweed in the main tank. It’s a mess. You might look at larger floating plants. I’ve never tried any.

I’d also consider reducing that fish load.
Tobi a RES born in 2012
1 dog, 1 teenager, 3 aquariums filled with fish, snails, shrimp and a bit of algae
User avatar
ljapa
 
Posts: 924
Joined: Jul 21, 2012
Location: Near Chicago in IN
Gender: Male

Post Posted: Fri Aug 16, 2019 5:35 pm   Re: High Nitrate Levels - Advice Needed

As ljapa stated proper plants can help to keep nitrates down to about 10ppm. But no amount of plants can do it all. Some plants are better for that than others , read up on the best ones for that alone.
I am a very old timer and do not like my nitrates even at 10. I keep my nitrates at 0 or right next to "0" all the time. That's for ammonia and nitrites too ! It's very easy once one studies up on the "nitrogen cycle" and you do your part. Starting one is easy the only trick to "keeping" one is to do proper water changes. Unfortunately most think higher percentages on that is the key ( like 20 , 30, and even 40% water changes ) , that's wrong ! To maintain a "cycle" one should never need more than a 5-10% water change. Anything larger "kills" off your good beneficial bacteria needed for a cycle. If needed at first to achieve one is to do more frequent smaller water changes to get your numbers down , then adjust to maintain it.
I also as you have an FX6 but 5 of the trays are all bio media and only one with pads to keep it clean in the beginning of the flow. The dirtiest water enters an FX from the bottom outer basket that were I have the pads. Looking up the flow path for an FX helps with that placement. This is on Piggleys 120 gallons of water in a 150 gallon stock tank. Look in gallery for some videos of his tank , crystal clear and "safe" numbers with a cycle.
litefoot
 
Posts: 1585
Joined: Nov 7, 2016
Location: New Orleans
Gender: Male

Post Posted: Fri Aug 16, 2019 9:33 pm   Re: High Nitrate Levels - Advice Needed

Litefoot, I’ve enjoyed your posts over the years, but I stopped reading regularly a bit before you showed up.

If you’ve ever discussed your approach to nitrate management, I missed it.

I’d love to hear more about how you achieve such low numbers. I don’t have the floating plants in the refugium anymore, and my nitrates are between 20-40. My water changes tend to be 25+%. Based on what I’ve read, the bacteria involved in the nitrogen cycle stick to surfaces and aren’t free in the water column. I’m happy to be wrong and learn from someone with much better results than me, though.
Tobi a RES born in 2012
1 dog, 1 teenager, 3 aquariums filled with fish, snails, shrimp and a bit of algae
User avatar
ljapa
 
Posts: 924
Joined: Jul 21, 2012
Location: Near Chicago in IN
Gender: Male

Post Posted: Fri Aug 16, 2019 11:18 pm   Re: High Nitrate Levels - Advice Needed

Myflag this will help you too a lot , not just ljapa ! Along with any others following this thread from around the world.
You are right about the good live bacteria attaching itself to things. Offer as much as one can for that in the decorations too. Bare tanks suck on holding good bacteria. The dead free floating bacteria and other things (blooms) is whats gives that dirty cloudy water. You must have a large filter media area to make this easy. Some filter’s market we have four trays but there four trays together are smaller than one tray in an FX6. Most all filters are rated in fish gallons and comes with media for fish. To offer more living area for good bacteria get the largest media area you can in a filter. I use biohome ultimate media in five baskets on my FX6 and only one basket with a pad to help keep it clean. I get it at Great Wave engineering. Once all is set and a good cycle that one pad never gets clogged because all the nitrifying bacteria dissolve the waste so the filter can do it’s job. This allows me to only needing to clean the filter once in three months. BUT proper water changes must still be done ! That’s what I choose to do but I have gone 6 months on filter cleaning with no problems. That’s only a quick rinse of the one pad and a simple rinse of anything that may get on the bio media. One key note, “Never” use fresh water tap water to clean a filter. That kill’s your good bacteria ! I use water after I vacuumed the tank. Save it in a container let what dirt settle in a few minutes then use that water to rinse filter out. I seen people use a hose and try to pressure wash filter pads white again , that’s not good. That lite brownish stuff is the good bacteria you want to keep. A simple squeeze is all it needs. If you have lots of solid waste in filter you do not have a cycle or not enough nitrifying bacteria for the water volume you have. Then flow slows since that setup gets clogged up fast and most have to clean filter twice a week or even once a month to keep things moving. That to me is bad , takes several weeks just to get the good bacteria to a level that can "start" a cycle. Then several more to get all stages of a cycle going good. BUT to maintain a cycle once you have one going the correct percentages on water changes for "your" setup is a must ! Too large and kills off good bacteria then you need to start all over again and again . I been down from surgery on Tuesday and the first thing I did was test Piggley’s water. All was safe ! [ o-o-o ] I did do a 5% water change Monday before my surgery.

Also being the good bacteria attached is in places like in gravel/rocks etc you must have a flow rate to get food and oxygen to them. My FX has an pump "output of 925g/h" for my 125 gallons of water. That relates to with media about 563 g/h "circulation rate".

I used this for years : a baby turtle needs 2x’s flow of fish gallons , juvenile turtles need 3x’s flow of fish gallons and adult turtles 4-5x’s flow of fish gallons. The five is for large female adults.

No two 100 gallon tank are the same even if you try to keep the same items in each. Each holds there amount of nitrifying bacteria. So no one rule on the correct percentages with water changes. One must find what works with there setup. Patience is needed ! I would take your 25%+ water changes and cut it in half but if that’s done once a week just do it smaller twice a week. That’s until you get your numbers down to a controllable range the bacteria can work until you build them up. Once cycled well for my 120 gallons my biggest water change may be 10% once every two weeks. Or 5% each week keeping the balance of the cycle. It may never be the same percentage each week because of diet and the #1 and #2 our turtles do is never the same. Keep a chart helps. Even the day before I clean my filter the water in the tank is still at a safe level (next to 0 nitrates) with the filter ( my setup) doing it’s job well the water is crystal clear.
Nothing goes in my filter that can not last several months , nothing. I do use carbon . Carbon gets saturated in 3-5 weeks and needs to be replaced but have different method for that. I do not use any chemicals for water treatment so the carbon and with my pumps output only run it for a few hours then it comes out the tank. Patience is key in doing a cycle but once you maintain one it’s your best friend and you filter too. Try search box have several times I talk about cycling. Don't over think on how and rush things will take several weeks to do it right. And a turtle breaths like us so Tobie can be in her tank while cycling it. Fish , good fish , will be harmed I would move them to another tank. Feeders , you may lose some but then there are feeders.
litefoot
 
Posts: 1585
Joined: Nov 7, 2016
Location: New Orleans
Gender: Male

Post Posted: Sat Aug 17, 2019 10:04 am   Re: High Nitrate Levels - Advice Needed

Thanks, Litefoot. What are you using for media and for the bed of the tank?

If you’ve got 0 nitrates, you have denitrifying bacteria that are converting nitrates to nitrogen gas. I’ve read all up on that and have tried various things to achieve it: deep sand bed in my refugium, Seachem Pond Matrix in the FX6, lower flow for biomedia in the refugium. Nothing works.

I’ve got a well established cycle that makes certain ammonia is quickly converted to nitrates, but none or not enough to convert that to nitrogen.
Tobi a RES born in 2012
1 dog, 1 teenager, 3 aquariums filled with fish, snails, shrimp and a bit of algae
User avatar
ljapa
 
Posts: 924
Joined: Jul 21, 2012
Location: Near Chicago in IN
Gender: Male

Post Posted: Sat Aug 17, 2019 12:07 pm   Re: High Nitrate Levels - Advice Needed

I have tried several designs on refugiums , Bogg system , moving K2 filter and done too much homework on all , over thinking all , over 60 years with turtle.
With refugiums size matters on what the results will be and slow water flow a must. I did find silca sand 4” deep helped better in that chamber. There is no one rule on what can go into them either. But some claim that you should not use activated carbon , it depletes trace elements that are needed.

My FX6 media setup is mostly Biohome Maxi in it. The tank has Biohome Bio gravel 2” deep under my 2-3” of natural river rocks. Doing small percentages on water changes. So simple and works great for Piggley’s tank. The worst Piggley has ever seen was about 5.0 ppm on nitrates nothing like your nitrates being 20-40. This method can and has been done by others not just me. Others that have achieved this method love there numbers they are getting.
Sorry but you don't have a well established cycle with "nitrate" number in the 20-40 , sorry. Long term numbers like those are unhealthy for even a turtle.
Do you count evaporation as water changes. The elements in the water does not evaporate and gets very concentrated in a short time. Like when cooking to thicken a gravy. Water goes away and everything else stays in the pot , thicker gravy. You must try doing smaller water and have patience . Once those numbers come down then a cycle has a chance to start. A cycle only starts then you must do your part to maintain it. No way out of that. No refugium , bogg anything or a magic pill will remove all nitrates only correct percentages on water changes . Smaller one's so not to kill off good nitrifying bacteria. That is the only way to "maintain" a cycle.

Is you test kit in date may be expired ? What type are you using ? If test strips very inaccurate get a drop kit !
What are your numbers starting at the tap ?
In the US water companies must report whats in the water by law.
litefoot
 
Posts: 1585
Joined: Nov 7, 2016
Location: New Orleans
Gender: Male

Post Posted: Sat Aug 17, 2019 10:21 pm   Re: High Nitrate Levels - Advice Needed

Thanks, again for all of this.

Years ago, when I started, everything I read said a cycle produced nitrates and you got rid of that with water changes. Further research showed the idea of denitrifying bacteria in anaerobic conditions. The best suggestions I found were a deep sand bed or something like SeaChem matrix in a filter because it allowed the anaerobic pockets deep inside. I tried both and haven’t had much success, other than duckweed.

Obviously, you’ve got it working, and I’m willing to try. I’d like some advice since I’m not ready to swap everything out.

When I upgraded Tobie to a 150 gallon tank, this was my setup: FX6 with pond matrix, 1” of pool sand in the 150, a 55 gallon tank converted into a refugium. The refugium has three sections. The input contains Seachem matrix (pond and regular), the middle section has a 4” pool filter sand bed and plants, and the pump return section is bare.

Here’s a google copy of an image I’d posted here years ago, where the original pic no longer exists:

https://images.app.goo.gl/xN14bVQgj58vsZ3x9

Since that pic, the lighting and the plants have changed, and there’s more biomedia in the first chamber.

However, there’s one change in my setup. The motor on my FX6 croaked a while back. I decided to try with just the refugium. It seemed capable of taking the biolaod (with the understanding that I mean I still need water changes to remove nitrates). I ultimately moved it’s media to the refugium and it’s sitting there untouched.

So, here’s my question. I’m willing to try Biohome and willing to purchase a replacement FX6 pump. Will I get more bang for my buck going Biohome Maxi and FX6 or Biohome Biogravel in the 150 gallon? Because of the plants in the refugium, I don’t want to mess with that substrate.

If your answer is FX6, how many kg to fill it?
Tobi a RES born in 2012
1 dog, 1 teenager, 3 aquariums filled with fish, snails, shrimp and a bit of algae
User avatar
ljapa
 
Posts: 924
Joined: Jul 21, 2012
Location: Near Chicago in IN
Gender: Male

Post Posted: Sun Aug 18, 2019 3:12 am   Re: High Nitrate Levels - Advice Needed

Don’t over think this it’s simple. There are times when too much homework is done and one has misapprehensions about it. Yes there are several types /stages of the nitrogen cycle on earth. For turtles that’s nitrification, to start nitrifying bacteria to help us with a turtle. To convert highly toxic ammonia to nitrites then to a safer nitrate which can be removed by proper percentages on water changes for your setup. Small percentages ( 5-10% sometimes maybe 15% , will never same amount each week must adjust to the numbers !!! ) so not to kill off the good bacteria ! Medical problems yes then a 30-50% even a 100% water change but "only" then . If you prevent problems those medical issues may never come up .
Yes a very small part may gas off and yes some plants will use a little of the nitrates/nitrogen but in 2019 there is no technology , chemical or pill that will remove “all” nitrates fully in aquarium water other than “your part” with proper percentages on water changes. One can make that number as low as one can with better bio media so less maintenance. Allowing the cycle do most of the work. In my old records it took 8-10 pounds of plants to get nitrate levels down to 10.0 ppm in a 125 gallon setup for the bio load of one 4” turtle. To me 10.0 ppm is too high in my opinion. Sounds like a lot of plants but it’s not at all for 125 gallons water. That’s why in my hay-day I had a separate 70 gallon plant tank to make my own cuttings. Saved lots of money doing so.
Here’s a short read that may help : https://enviroliteracy.org/air-climate- ... gen-cycle/

THE PROBLEM : Just today being told you lost over 50% filtration /flow a while back. (???) Just a 55 gallon refugium for 150 gallons of water to me is not sufficient alone ( with that small amount of bio media in it ) for the bio load of Tobie ( she may be what 7-8” now at her age [ ? about 8 years old ] depending on her DNA ) . One turtle Tobie’s size can produce the more bio load as a 150 over filled with fish ! As your numbers 20-40 . Saw my recommend flow chart I posted earlier.
This is just me but if you want to see a night/day difference on nitrates I would keep the refugium as is. Don’t touch it , let it be , keeping it running. I would get the FX running again and take the center red baskets out and fill area with all biohome maxi. Only having the three outer baskets with the white foam pads were the water comes up the filter to the center baskets then goes down through center to the pump and out. Then only break it down once every three months for a simple cleaning as I stated in other post. Never use tap water to clean it use tank water !!! Will take several weeks for the new bio media to be seeded. Then enjoy the numbers you will get. The older the bio gets the better the numbers will be. Tobie will love you.
Biohome has a chart on whats needed but for fish not turtles. They are messier so fill all three center baskets with biohome ! The FX6 has a biological area volume of 1.5 gallons / 5.9 liters so that’s the minimum I would use. I buy in bulk , always keep extra , I got 10 kg’s. You really don’t need extra as I do it should last you a life time so just fill the 5.9 liter area. Use the FX just for the tank so Tobie has the proper flow she needs for her bio load then have that small 55 gallon refugium running with it own pump slow as a supplement area. You will love it and your nitrates will be down to 5.0 ppm or less depending on your percentage on water changes . You may/will be able to see (0’s) on your test in time.

PS: we have hijacked Myflag post to long not fare to Myflag. If you still need help please start your own thread I will find it. But not much more I can say on the topic unless your city’s tap water has number’s that high. (20-40) on nitrates. Keeping it simple does work if one does there part. Keep me posted with results , you will love the less maintenance with a good cycle maintained doing most of the work for you and your filter and much safer water parameters ! Those 20-40 ppm nitrates can be harmful over time for a turtle.

Sorry for the long post on a simple question as how much. But it's also for other's around the world following this thread too that have the same problem ( high nitrates) so all can understand well ! Not all high nitrates are "caused" by the same thing not even in two same 100 gallon tanks , many different factors can be the cause. No one answer fits all issues. This post is for this situation.

Myflag I apologize for the hijacking on my part of your post. The info ljapa asked will/can help you too a lot !
litefoot
 
Posts: 1585
Joined: Nov 7, 2016
Location: New Orleans
Gender: Male


Return to General Care Discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests