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Reducing Nitrates

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I was wondering if anyone has suggestions for what I can do to reduce nitrates in my tank. 

 

They're not alarmingly high and the fish seem unaffected, but ever since I introduced two new fish into my 55gal (for a total of 3 adult goldfish, 5", 6" and 7" (all standard length), maintaining low nitrates has been a bit of a struggle (as I sort of expected; originally I only planned to get one new fish, but then the shelter I got the first fish from asked me to take the second too). 

 

I have a 55gal with a 565gph Sunsun canister filter and a fluval aquaclear 50.

 

My maintenance routine is a 90% WC and gravel vacuuming every 5 days + thoroughly cleaning the canister filter with tank water every third WC (15 days). I feed the fish twice a day, hikari staple in the morning and some kind of veggie in the evening. Right before my water change on day five my nitrates have been reading from 30-40, which I know is not deadly but not ideal either. 

 

I'd prefer not to have to change the water more than every 5 days because I love fish-keeping and don't want it to become a burden. I was thinking about adding more plants, but want to keep the tank bare-bottom and have never been able to keep a potted plant alive because my fish have devoured them in the past (swords, crypts, elodea and hygrophila). Currently I have two types of anubias and a trident java fern tied to driftwood in the tank that have avoided being eaten (you can see them in my signature below).

 

I'm curious about what those of you who also have fully stocked tanks do to keep your nitrates in check.

 

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I don't think that range of nitrates is bad.

In any case, to lower nitrates in these situations, these are my suggestions. They can be combined with each other:

1. Get nitrate-eating plants

2. Less fish

3. Less food

4. More frequent water change.

5. There are such things as nitrate filters, where the filter goes through the final anaerobic part of the nitrogen cycle to reduce nitrates, but I think this is a bit much.

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Aquatic plants and plants in general are great at reducing nitrates. Some people who use HOB filters like to put a couple stalks of lucky bamboo in the back of them to help out. I added this little guy to the back of my tank to eat up all the nitrates and my tank shows 0's across the board. It's a box that holds .75 gallons of water and it has a pump rated 30 gph. Basically poopy fish water from my tank goes up the pump into the refugium, and as it fills, it will start to overflow. The overflow water goes back directly into the tank. As you can see, my lucky bamboo is thriving on poopy fish water while cleaning my nitrates.

 

IMG_1845.JPG

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Matter of fact many plants prefer to consume ammonia directly, which prevents the nitrate from ever existing!

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A veggie filter probably removes nitrate most efficiently.  Basically, this is a box containing terrestrial plants.  (Which use nitrate as their nitrogen source.)  You run the outlet tube of your canister filter to the veggie filter which empties into the fish tank.  The veggie filter can be sitting on the tank, beside or behind the tank, or on a shelf or other support above the tank. The water can flow up or down through the filter.  The plants can be set in hydroponic medium that fill the box, or can be planted in pots of hydroponic medium which sit in the water in the box.  You can use low-light houseplants, or, with a good grow light, edibles and flowers.

 

If you want to build one, I can help you through it.  

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As everyone above said - plants, plants, plants. I would say just keep trying different plants and see what they leave alone. 

 

Have you tried Java Fern? Thats one my babies leave alone!

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Matter of fact many plants prefer to consume ammonia directly, which prevents the nitrate from ever existing!

Yes, all aquatic plants (that I know about), as well as algae and cyanobacteria,  prefer ammonia.  Most terrestrials and marginals prefer nitrate.

.

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Wow, thanks for all the suggestions, everyone! A veggie filter sounds ideal for me and never occurred to me. My dad also happens to be a hardcore gardner and has dozens of different kinds of terrestrial plants, including bamboo, that I could easily get clippings of.

 

Shakaho: Thank you, I would love a walk-through or some good links. 

 

alexloo: The lucky bamboo looks amazing! Would I simply have to take out the media from my HOB and put some hydroponic media and bamboo in it or is it more complicated than that? Most of the media for the biofilter is in the canister anyway.

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I like the pic of your tank in your signature line! I was going to mention what everyone else has - plants! And the kind where their roots can suck things out of the water, but they're not accessible to the fish. When I had my fish outside & their water was green, my readings were 0 across the board. I know my heavy plantings now help a lot.

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If you google "indoor aquaponics," "aquarium aquaponics," "aquarium veggie filter,"  you will find lots of examples.  Most have one or more of these properties:

 

ugly,

unnecessarily complicated,

overpriced commercial systems.

 

Virtually all that I have found use the veggie filter for both biofiltration and phytofiltration.  This reduces the quality of filtration from what you get when you put the water from your biofilter into the plant filter.

 

The first thing you should do is show my thread on aquaponics to your dad.  Make sure he checks out all the links.  I'm sure you will find you have an eager helper.  Male gardeners seem to have aspecial affinity for aquaponics. :)   He may want to build the veggie filter for you or even build you a pond so you can have a full aquaponics system.   :lol:  Also look at the "trickle filter" section here.  

 

Here's what I need to recommend a design for you:

 

Length, width, and gallons of your aquarium;

Space considerations which limit the placement of the veggie filter;

What placement of the veggie filter looks good to you;

What kind of plants you want in the veggies filter.

 

 

 

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If you google "indoor aquaponics," "aquarium aquaponics," "aquarium veggie filter,"  you will find lots of examples.  Most have one or more of these properties:

 

ugly,

unnecessarily complicated,

overpriced commercial systems.

 

Virtually all that I have found use the veggie filter for both biofiltration and phytofiltration.  This reduces the quality of filtration from what you get when you put the water from your biofilter into the plant filter.

 

The first thing you should do is show my thread on aquaponics to your dad.  Make sure he checks out all the links.  I'm sure you will find you have an eager helper.  Male gardeners seem to have aspecial affinity for aquaponics. :)   He may want to build the veggie filter for you or even build you a pond so you can have a full aquaponics system.   :lol:  

That actually does sound exactly like how he'll react! He wanted to build a small outdoor pond before, but I discouraged him because I knew he wouldn't be consistent with the maintenance and would see the fish as expendable. I'm waiting until my partner and I buy a proper house and then we can talk about building a pond, a complex aquaponics system etc. which I will dedicatedly maintain.

 

Here's what I need to recommend a design for you:

 

Length, width, and gallons of your aquarium; 55g 49L X 20H X 13W

 

Space considerations which limit the placement of the veggie filter; The tank is up against a corner (see first picture), so the veggie filter would either have to go on the side not against the wall above the canister or on top, behind or in front of the light fixture (see second picture)

 

What placement of the veggie filter looks good to you; I'm wondering for simplicity's sake if I could just put a second HOB on the back (which I already have) and turn both of my HOBs into veggie boxes (or would this not be enough planting space to have an effect on nitrates?) Forgive my ignorance, but is there really any difference between a planted HOB and a veggie filter if the HOB is not being used as the primary means of biofiltration? I want to keep everything as simple and mobile as possible since I live in an apartment and will probably move in the next year or so.

 

What kind of plants you want in the veggies filter. I think peace lilies look very pretty; but ultimately I want whatever would be most efficient at using up nitrate

 

A couple questions:

-Currently I have lights fitted into the tank cover that came with the tank. Will I have to get overhanging lights for the veggie box or will the lights from the sunroom behind the aquarium be sufficient to allow my plants to grow?

-if I build a veggie box that fits over the top of the aquarium, will I have to remove it every time I want to do water changes or clean the tank?

 

46456a60310569b8a8fc1d00dd699bb4.jpg

 

2d223d693c683caad149ee778a849eed.jpg

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I have recently used Seachem Purigen and I have notice my Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate have dropped significantly. My water changes would happen every 3-4 days depending on the nitrate reading. Now I'm on day 6 since the last water change and my Nitrate level is at 10ppm. I'm running an overstocked 60 gallon Ranchu tank. Give it a try it won't hurt. It cost just under $9 on Amazon.

45c956f58c44a10b74ebddbaf75367df.jpg

Edited by ranchudude

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After thinking through my options, I've decided to try these in the following order:

 

1. 2 planted HOB filters, since I have these already lying around and it seems so easy

2. build my own custom veggie box to go above the tank (more complicated, but seems like a great long-term fix and something I will absolutely do once I move into a house and have a forever set-up)

3. Try purigen. It may be irrational, but I'm a bit distrustful of non-natural ways of controlling nitrates, it seems a bit costly to repurchase every 6 months, and my problem isn't urgent right now.

 

Any suggestions for good-looking, nitrogen-eating plants with low light requirements to grow in my HOBs?

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That actually does sound exactly like how he'll react! He wanted to build a small outdoor pond before, but I discouraged him because I knew he wouldn't be consistent with the maintenance and would see the fish as expendable. I'm waiting until my partner and I buy a proper house and then we can talk about building a pond, a complex aquaponics system etc. which I will dedicatedly maintain.

I was thinking in terms of getting your dad fired up to the point that he would have to help you build the filter.   :D

 

55g 49L X 20H X 13W  The tank is up against a corner (see first picture), so the veggie filter would either have to go on the side not against the wall above the canister or on top, behind or in front of the light fixture.

 

This setup presents a challenge, but I believe I have worked out a plan for you.

 

I'm wondering for simplicity's sake if I could just put a second HOB on the back (which I already have) and turn both of my HOBs into veggie boxes (or would this not be enough planting space to have an effect on nitrates?) Forgive my ignorance, but is there really any difference between a planted HOB and a veggie filter if the HOB is not being used as the primary means of biofiltration? I want to keep everything as simple and mobile as possible since I live in an apartment and will probably move in the next year or so.

 

Three things determine how much nitrate your veggie filter will remove: the amount and growth of plants, the amount of water exposed to the plants, and the concentration of nitrate in that water.  Obviously the size of even a small veggie filter will greatly exceed that of a HOB. Even if you put in enough HOBs that their volume equaled that of a separate veggie filter, you would still be using the tank water rather than the outflow of the biofilter, which has the highest concentration of nitrate in your system. Everything I build comes apart for moving. I'm always rebuilding or moving things around. If I ware to move to another house, I could take my 350 gallon in-ground front pond apart, put the parts in my car, take them to the new house, dig a hole and reassemble.

 

What kind of plants you want in the veggies filter. I think peace lilies look very pretty; but ultimately I want whatever would be most efficient at using up nitrate.

 

See below.

 

A couple questions: Currently I have lights fitted into the tank cover that came with the tank. Will I have to get overhanging lights for the veggie box or will the lights from the sunroom behind the aquarium be sufficient to allow my plants to grow?

 

It depends on the plants. If you have low-light house plants, ambient light works fine. Higher light house plants would benefit from the light coming in from the sun room. Outdoor plants will need a grow light. Have you considered putting the tank in the sunroom?

 

If I build a veggie box that fits over the top of the aquarium, will I have to remove it every time I want to do water changes or clean the tank?

 

I wouldn't, but it wouldn't take much effort to do so.

 

As I said, I have a plan for you. I have to draw some pictures, something for which I have little ability, to show how it works. But the general idea looks like this:  We will use a window box planter as the veggie filter. Something like this. The planter will sit on a shelf that rests on the top of the tank behind the lights.  We can plumb the planter either as an upflow or downflow filter.  I can give you detailed instructions for how to do either of these.

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Ok, you've sold me and my dad has enthusiastically agreed to help me (which means I'll do the planning and he'll do the building).

 

I had actually wanted to put the tank in my sunroom office originally, but it has a pentagon shaped window that doesn't leave enough wall space for a 49" tank.

 

We will use a window box planter as the veggie filter. Something like this. The planter will sit on a shelf that rests on the top of the tank behind the lights.  We can plumb the planter either as an upflow or downflow filter

I can't actually install shelves because the tank is up against a glass sliding door that leads into the sunroom. Would a shelving unit like this work if I removed all but the top shelf?

https://www.amazon.com/Edsal-UR245L-BLK-Maxi-Rack-5-Shelf-Height/dp/B006567JL6/ref=pd_rhf_dp_s_cp_3?ie=UTF8&dpID=41Nb9WFsgCL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_SL500_SR135%2C135_&refRID=V73PPSYB4AT354DX8D5R

 

From a brief google it seems like an upflow filter allows the water a bit more exposure to the media, is that correct? Yes, pictures and plumbing instructions would be most appreciated. Thanks!

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Wow, thanks for all the suggestions, everyone! A veggie filter sounds ideal for me and never occurred to me. My dad also happens to be a hardcore gardner and has dozens of different kinds of terrestrial plants, including bamboo, that I could easily get clippings of.

 

Shakaho: Thank you, I would love a walk-through or some good links. 

 

alexloo: The lucky bamboo looks amazing! Would I simply have to take out the media from my HOB and put some hydroponic media and bamboo in it or is it more complicated than that? Most of the media for the biofilter is in the canister anyway.

 

The veggie filter I made is actually not a HOB filter. It's simply a container that hangs off the lid of your tank. It can be found here: 

 

 https://www.amazon.com/Finnex-External-Refugium-Breeder-Hang-/dp/B00LZY2K62/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1465847283&sr=8-1&keywords=finnex+refugium

 

As for the media that I have in there, I have some plastic containers and some clay media balls for the roots. I basically clean it once a week by just sticking my python in it and draining it completely to remove any decayed plant material. Sharon helped me get mine going, so if you have any questions, she's the expert in this area!

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Wow, thanks for all the suggestions, everyone! A veggie filter sounds ideal for me and never occurred to me. My dad also happens to be a hardcore gardner and has dozens of different kinds of terrestrial plants, including bamboo, that I could easily get clippings of.

Shakaho: Thank you, I would love a walk-through or some good links.

alexloo: The lucky bamboo looks amazing! Would I simply have to take out the media from my HOB and put some hydroponic media and bamboo in it or is it more complicated than that? Most of the media for the biofilter is in the canister anyway.

The veggie filter I made is actually not a HOB filter. It's simply a container that hangs off the lid of your tank. It can be found here:

https://www.amazon.com/Finnex-External-Refugium-Breeder-Hang-/dp/B00LZY2K62/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1465847283&sr=8-1&keywords=finnex+refugium

As for the media that I have in there, I have some plastic containers and some clay media balls for the roots. I basically clean it once a week by just sticking my python in it and draining it completely to remove any decayed plant material. Sharon helped me get mine going, so if you have any questions, she's the expert in this area!

I know it's off topic, but can a betta live in this if it's hanging on a tropical tank? It's about 1g.

Sent from my LGL41C using Tapatalk

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Wow, thanks for all the suggestions, everyone! A veggie filter sounds ideal for me and never occurred to me. My dad also happens to be a hardcore gardner and has dozens of different kinds of terrestrial plants, including bamboo, that I could easily get clippings of.

Shakaho: Thank you, I would love a walk-through or some good links.

alexloo: The lucky bamboo looks amazing! Would I simply have to take out the media from my HOB and put some hydroponic media and bamboo in it or is it more complicated than that? Most of the media for the biofilter is in the canister anyway.

The veggie filter I made is actually not a HOB filter. It's simply a container that hangs off the lid of your tank. It can be found here:

https://www.amazon.com/Finnex-External-Refugium-Breeder-Hang-/dp/B00LZY2K62/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1465847283&sr=8-1&keywords=finnex+refugium

As for the media that I have in there, I have some plastic containers and some clay media balls for the roots. I basically clean it once a week by just sticking my python in it and draining it completely to remove any decayed plant material. Sharon helped me get mine going, so if you have any questions, she's the expert in this area!

I know it's off topic, but can a betta live in this if it's hanging on a tropical tank? It's about 1g.

Sent from my LGL41C using Tapatalk

 

 

Absolutely. There's enough space for one beta and as long as your tropical tank is cycled. Since they will be sharing the water, just keep in mind that if one gets sick, you need to quickly QT cause they are sharing the water. 

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By shelf, I simply meant a 1x6 board that lies across the top of the tank.  Experts say that an aquarium can support a lot of weight by itself, but I would still support the ends.   

 

d7d0be0f-62ab-4614-b174-b15c6031ac13.png

 

My poor picture on the right shows the shelf that sits over the tank, resting on the top of the tank.  

 

On the left, you see a front view of the table-like shelf with its "legs" which are also 1x6 boards. (I'd also put some braces across the back, but suspect your dad will know about that.)

 

The stand and tank sit under the "table."

 

The windowbox planter will sit on the shelf.  These planters have a drip pan on the bottom.  I attach the drip pan to the shelf and set the planter in the pan.  Look around garden departments at these planters.  They come in many sizes and colors.  The ones at HD and Lowes work, but if you can find a sturdier container, even better.

 

More to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank you, this clarifies a lot!

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Thanks.   Setting up the planter involves little more than making the stand pipe.  

 

You have two options in planting.  You can fill the planter with grow medium, and grow the plants in that, or you can put the plants in pots of grow medium (preferably mesh pots) and set those in the water in the planter.  Each has advantages and disadvantages.  Which do you think you prefer?

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I think I'd like to keep things as simple as possible my first time around and plant in grow medium. I'll do more research on plants and materials this weekend. Thanks!

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Good.  I have spent hours online trying to find videos to show what you need to do, and have failed almost completely.  The process is very simple, but describing it without pictures is not.  I'm going to plumb a tub with a stand pipe and take pictures of the steps for you.  I will also make a shopping list for the plumbing stuff.  Picking a container is your job.  Just make sure the planter has a removable drip tray and no holes in the bottom of the planter. 

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I really appreciate all your time and patience, but please don't spend too much time trying to help me--looking up DIY videos on the internet should be my job and is something I'm sure I will greatly enjoy doing (particularly because I'm submitting the final version of my doctoral dissertation today and will actually have guilt-free time to do this kind of thing for a while!)

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Wow!  Finishing the dissertation!  What an accomplishment to no longer be an ABD.  What is the topic?

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