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How Much Nitrate Should Be Produced?

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I would like someone with a lot of experience in testing for nitrate to try to estimate roughly how much nitrate x inches of fancies in x gallons of water fed x amount of x food should produce in x amount of time.

For example: one 1 inch fancy in ten gallons fed hikari moderately 2x a day should produce 1 ppm of nitrate weekly.

The reason I ask is that I don't have a lot of confidence in nitrate test kits because there are so many things which can give a false low reading, so I would like to know how much nitrate I should expect.

Alternatively, has anyone here ever made a nitrate control solution with a known concentration of nitrate and used it to calibrate their test kit? If so, I would love to know what source of nitrate they used.

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I would like someone with a lot of experience in testing for nitrate to try to estimate roughly how much nitrate x inches of fancies in x gallons of water fed x amount of x food should produce in x amount of time.

For example: one 1 inch fancy in ten gallons fed hikari moderately 2x a day should produce 1 ppm of nitrate weekly.

The reason I ask is that I don't have a lot of confidence in nitrate test kits because there are so many things which can give a false low reading, so I would like to know how much nitrate I should expect.

Alternatively, has anyone here ever made a nitrate control solution with a known concentration of nitrate and used it to calibrate their test kit? If so, I would love to know what source of nitrate they used.

That would be hard to do, considering that no two fish will be exactly the same and no two tanks are the same. So, while it's a nice idea to be able to generate that sort of figure, it's not feasible.

As for having positive controls, that's a great thought, and if anyone does have something like that, I'd love to hear it. For now, I worry more about false NEGATIVES when it comes to readings. Otherwise, I try to keep my nitrate levels <10 at all times in any case.

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As Alex mentioned, nitrate production can be affected by such a wide range of factors that it's very difficult to predict it except by past experience, that is by what nitrates were produced the weeks before (even a given tank can evolve over time so that this figure changes).

With regard to the amount per length of time per time, ammonia (and as a result nitrate) production is dependent on metabolic activity, which differs between types of goldfish but which is also typically not linearly related to body length (or if I recall correctly even body mass), so although I think it would be possible to create a statistical model which predicts nitrate production, I think you'd need hundreds if not thousands of goldfish, measures throughout their lifetime, which isn't exactly practical for most people, while for a scientist it's just to applied/practical/specific to be of much interest :-/.

It is a nice idea though, so it's too bad it's not really doable :s

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The control solution is definitely the only thing which will give me a precise answer, but for now I would still love it if someone could give me a rough estimate. It is possible to do because it is a chemical process with enough known factors.

Do you keep a tank with only fancies in it? if so,how many inches of fish do you have in how many gallons and how do you feed: lightly , moderately, or heavily, and how much nitrate production does your test display in whatever amount of time passes between your water changes?

If a few people answered this I could extrapolate an average.

Also, has anyone else here ever made a nitrate control solution?

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Thanks for your input;

I agree about the fish mass and metabolism factors, but let me see if i understand you correctly. If you had three healthy fish in one tank and three other, same sized, fish in another, same sized, same temperature, tank and you fed them the same way would you be surprised if one tank produced twice as much nitrate as the other?

As a reference: My 4" moor is moderately fed, kept at 74 degrees in 32.5 gallons and produces about 5ppm per week of nitrate (as total NO3) according to my API test kit

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You are probably right, but Let me put it another way. How much nitrate would you expect a chubby 4 inch goldie to produce in a 30 gallon tank in a week? Between 1 and 5ppm, or between 1 and 30ppm?

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Thanks for your input;

I agree about the fish mass and metabolism factors, but let me see if i understand you correctly. If you had three healthy fish in one tank and three other, same sized, fish in another, same sized, same temperature, tank and you fed them the same way would you be surprised if one tank produced twice as much nitrate as the other?

As a reference: My 4" moor is moderately fed, kept at 74 degrees in 32.5 gallons and produces about 5ppm per week of nitrate (as total NO3) according to my API test kit

You are probably right, but Let me put it another way. How much nitrate would you expect a chubby 4 inch goldie to produce in a 30 gallon tank in a week? Between 1 and 5ppm, or between 1 and 30ppm?

Given the size of the tank, I'd expect it to be in the 1-5 ppm range, not up to 30 ppm, so it's in essence possible to make some (ballpark) estimates. But even for 3 ppm/fish/week vs 4 or 5 ppm/fish/week (for a given size of fish), there's a rather large degree of uncertainty, which would increase dramatically when the number of goldfish in a tank increases (even if we were to keep fish lengt or body mass constant per tank volume). To make things even more difficult, over the course of subsequent water changes that uncertainty would slowly accumulate, and as a result to only way to get a fix on the levels would be to do a test (which might just as well be off by, say, 10 or 20%, but which would be far less that the uncertainty that accumulated when only doing the calculations).

Hope this helps :).. (and if something I've said isn't clear or doesn't make sense, don't hesitate to tell me ;))

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Clear. Very clear. Thanks, that helps as it jives with what my test results are saying. I will let you know the results of testing my test kit if I do succeed in making a control solution.

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Clear. Very clear. Thanks, that helps as it jives with what my test results are saying. I will let you know the results of testing my test kit if I do succeed in making a control solution.

That would be great :D. And if so, details on how you managed to make the control solution would also be really appreciated ^_^.

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Yeah, well we'll see if I do manage. So far no luck in finding pure nitrate in any form, let alone a known concentration. Maybe I'll try asking a chemist. I am a nitrate nut! I get stressed if they get near ten, and recently I have learned all kinds of things which make me believe that it is really easy to end up with constant false lows. The HORROR!

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Yeah, well we'll see if I do manage. So far no luck in finding pure nitrate in any form, let alone a known concentration. Maybe I'll try asking a chemist. I am a nitrate nut! I get stressed if they get near ten, and recently I have learned all kinds of things which make me believe that it is really easy to end up with constant false lows. The HORROR!

We get 10-15 ppm out of the tap, so it's practically impossible for us to get <10 ppm nitrate (barring green water of course). But as far as I've always heard, although lower is of course better, anything below 20 is considered safe and things typically only tend to get hazardous when you're approaching 40 ppm. That doesn't mean that 20-25 would be acceptable over longer periods of time, but it does indicate that 10 ppm isn't worth worrying about (even with, say, a 50% measurement error).

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wow! anything over 10 is illegal out of the tap here.

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wow! anything over 10 is illegal out of the tap here.

There is a difference what kind of molecule you are talking about and this can depend in every the country. In Belgium the max voor nitrate out of the tab is 50 ppm. Because high density of people and a lot of run of from the farmlands. A lot of other stuff is hardly allowed traces. Meaning less than 0.01 µg/l

But being Belgium they keep almost everything as low as possible so our nitrate is 12ppm

Edited by Quasi

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I think another thing that would make it so hard for anyone to estimate how much nitrate is produced by a fish in a given amount of time is the cycle in their own tank. The amount of denitrifying bacteria can vary hugely depending on the size and type of filter, the type and amount of media and other factors like weather there is gravel, etc.

As for a nitrate control, that is a good idea. Maybe you could try contacting one of the companies (like API) who produce the kits. I'm sure they wouldn't send you a control solution or anything like that, but they might be willing to explain to you how their test works and how accurate they are.

Personally I have faith in the readings from my API kit. I've had a lot of nitrate problems over the years so have relied heavily on my test kit. I don't expect it to be accurate to the exact value or anything, but it seems to give a good indication of conditions.

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I have many live plants to help keep the nitrates down along with large, I have gone up to maybe 70% a week water changes. I didn't go up because of nitrates, just think fresher water is better for them. :) This keeps nitrates super low as well. Never higher than 10. I think you can do things like this to ensure they stay low and also still keep checking your params. If anything is off I trust that my test kits will show it. :)

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I think you can do things like this to ensure they stay low and also still keep checking your params. If anything is off I trust that my test kits will show it. :)

Very true. All things considered, actively guarding against high levels of nitrates (as well as a bunch of other stuff) while also carefully monitoring your water parameters is the best way to go if you want a healthy tank (and therefore healthy fish) :).

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It's exactly as Chrissy said. Once your tank has cycled and settled and has become a mini-ecosystem in its own right, it is possible for you to predict nitrate levels based on previous experience/observations with the tank. However, it might be safe to say that a small medium sized fish will produce about 0.25-1.0 ppm nitrates per day. Still, that's a rather large range.

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Water in the country can run pretty high here too.

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Thanks. If you all have confidence in your kits, maybe I should too.

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My fish/tank does fall in the middle of that range, so between that and the faith the other members have in their nitrate kits I think maybe I was just a little paranoid. Will still keep an eye out for a control solution source though. Just for fun.

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I think it's pretty hard to find perfect water anywhere. my nitrates are good, but my tap PH is really pretty high, which is one factor that can interfere in nitrate testing, and the root of my testing concerns. so I guess its always gonna be something.

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My fish/tank does fall in the middle of that range, so between that and the faith the other members have in their nitrate kits I think maybe I was just a little paranoid. Will still keep an eye out for a control solution source though. Just for fun.

If you do find a good source of positive controls, I'm very much interested to learn of it. :)

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will definitely let you know :)

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Found a company online called american marine. they make electronic water parameter testing equipment and sell a 3 pack nitrate calibration solution (1ppm 10ppm and 100ppm) for $16 US.

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This is like saying, if you and I both ate the same type and amount of food - let's say we each ate one McDonald's Big Mac - and we both were the same height, we would poop the exact same amount, and we know this just wouldn't be the case. It's also going to depend on your metabolism, your age, your activity level, your weight, your muscle fitness, etc., and in fish, you simply can't test and/or control these things. There's just too many variables that will affect the results.

As long as the test kit has not reached an expiration period, I would certainly trust a test kit more than the approach you suggest. If you replace test kits pursuant to this time schedule, you should never have a problem.

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