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There has been a lot of research done in the recent years on nitrates and their effects on fish.

It used to be believed that nitrates really had little effect on a fish, but experienced fish keepers knew that high nitrates did cause problems. Now days, it is acknowledged that high nitrate values in the water have detrimental effects.

It is thought that nitrates in the water will retard healing, stunt growth and interfere with antibiotic treatments. Nitrates have an immune suppressive action - making fish incapable of fighting off disease. They slow in eating or stop, and are reluctant to swim - becoming sluggish and inactive. The blood vessels in the outer portions of their bodies will dilate, causing red streaks in the fins and even the body.

Long term exposure to high nitrate values have been shown to levels reduce fishes' life spans, cause deformities in any offspring they may have - as well as reduce or eliminate breeding successes.

In invertebrates and marine life, the nitrates need to be kept below 15ppm for any kind of healthy tank. Goldfish, generally, are more hearty and can do Ok in 40ppm and under. I, personally, like to aim at 20 and under and less, in some tanks.

My personal opinion is that a fish that has been injured with nitrite poisoning (commonly during a tank's cycle) seem to carry a life long sensitivity to nitrates - being far more bothered by nitrates than fish that have never been exposed to nitrites. Nitrites, absorbed through the gills and body, binds red blood cells from the fish's bloodstream - making them incapable of processing oxygen. The fish will be extremely sickly and many die. It seems that many never full recover from a nitrite poisoning, making them far more susceptible to nitrAte problems in the future.

If you look at the way nitrates cause lower immunities, sluggish body functions and feeding problems, it is not hard to see why nitrates can cause "flip over" problems. Flip over is a symptom - not a disease, in and of itself. It occurs when excess gas is collected in the gut - through sluggish body functions and feeding problems. It occurs when a bacterial infection sets in through lower immunities. It occurs when eggs are not released or they get infected. The whole fish is impacted by higher nitrates, potentially setting off a whole host of problems - many of which result in flip over.

Add in nitrate values and the conformation of many types of "show" fish - the ones that are bred with deep round bodies (Ryukin being one such conformation) and you are setting yourself up for flip over anytime the nitrates climb towards 40ppm.

Nitrates have a way of running away with a tank - a heavily fed tank can have nitrate values that quickly climb towards 160ppm and higher. A regular nitrate test, run weekly, can help you keep a handle on exactly what is going on in your tank and what you will need to do to address the nitrate values that are developing.

Water changes - large ones - are often needed to reduce nitrate values. Do not be afraid to change out 50% or more water each week in a tank that is being heavily fed or is heavily stocked - keeping the nitrates in the range that is better for the fish. In a tank where that is being specifically fed to promote growth - very heavy repeated feeding - a change of 75% of the water every two days or so will be needed to keep

the water parameters under control. Test the water following a water change to make sure that you have reduced the nitrates sufficiently. If not reduced enough, the nitrates can add up, from week to week, until you find that the values sky high!

To reduce nitrates, water changes, real plants (which utilize nitrates as the fertilizer that feeds their growth), feeding less food, and reducing stocking levels in a tank are all the best solutions.

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A very interesting and informative posting Daryl.

It is interesting how for a long time many of us have only really seen the presence of Ammonia and NitrIte as the deadliest trouble makers in our tank water chemistry, while the one we often worry least about, NitrAtes, can actually directly influence the long term health and well being of our fish. Definately worth keeping a much closer eye on NitrAte levels and trends in our tanks.

Great advice there Daryl, thankyou! :)

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Boy I wish I found this post a month ago..let me tell you, NitrAtes are a huge problem!! HUGE! I have now become convinced that every problem I have dealt with these past few months are a direct result of my NitrAtes being too high - I am now watching them very carefully - in fact, I don't even need a test kit because I can tell by looking at my goldies that the NitrAtes are getting a little high..Thanks Daryl!

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