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Hi guys,

I have a slight problem!?. I have a 4ft tank with 17 African cichlids. I have an issue with brownish, powder like residue on my 3d background and on the lava rocks. Got my water tested and found out my nitrate is high (they said that could be a cause to the brownish stuff?) So i was told to do a 30-40 % water change everyday and i should see a slight differance in a day or two (which i haven't) I have an Eheim 350 classic external, Otto internal down the other end of the tank, which they have been cleaned (of course in tank water, not under the tap :) ) and i have done 30-40 % water changes three day running now and my test are;

Nitrate: 160 :(

Ammonia: 0 ppm :)

Ph: 8.0 :)

What's going on??? I thought i would see a slight differance but the nitrate is still high. Does it take awhile for nitrate levels to go down,if so how long? OR am i doing something wrong? I have had the tank for years but just recently changed back to cichlids and have been up and running for approx 4 months just about 5 months now, :) Please help and thankyou all for reading.

P.s Is there anythin out there on the market to help me reduce the Nitrate. Cheers!

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I am also feeding them New Life Spectrum, the brownish stuff is similar to the colour of that food,so i was wondering if it was discolouring everything. I feed enough that they all get a feed and there is nothing left anywhere! Give them 60 seconds and there is usually no food left! and i sometimes miss a day of feeding. hope this info helps.

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brownish stuff just sounds like algae. NLS is good food.

How much do you feed them? Try feeding half what you do now.

Feeding amounts will determine how quickly your nitrates will climb.

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Water changes will reduce your nitrate levels. Be sure that you haven't got any dead fish hidden anywhere as this is can cause a spike the nitrogen cycle.

What are your ammonia and nitrite readings?

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I dont have a Nitrite test kit but when i went to my lfs, they tested nitrite and said it was fine. My Ammonia is 0ppm. I have just finished another 30-40% water change and just tested the water for nitrate and it is still high!! Hasn't changed abit...grrrrr!! I was told nitrate reading will change straight away after water changes, is this true or was i told a lie... :P

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Yeah that's true, it should change straight away because you've diluted the concentration in your tank. Have you tested the tap water? Just trying to cover every source cause that's very strange that your nitrates don't change even a little after a water change :egrin:

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Thanks Betta, i just tested the tap water and i got a result of 5.0 ppm. A lovely orange/yellow colour instead of bright RED!! hahaha

So what's that tell me? And yes Chris Tschumy i was thinking maybe a different test kit need to be tried? Im using API.

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It doesn't make sense, your filters must be making nitrates at a tremendous rate cause I have no idea what's going on. Simple chemistry & maths says that if you dilute a solution with another solution of less concentration then the concentration of the whole solution will dilute. How long since you have replaced any of the substrate in your canister filter?

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also how long after doing a water change do u test the water? have u got any rocks or ornaments that could be hiding a dead fish or a build up of waste?

id also try with the next water change still change the 30-40% but gravel vac that entire amount out id also look into changing half the media in ur filter as it may be clogged up also what type of filter r u using and what media do u have in it ?

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Might also be a good idea to add some Prime - it will bind the nitrate for 24-48 hours, allowing you to do some more water changes to get it under control. Water changes are usually the best way to get rid of the nitrates (that and having lots of plants) I'm surprised the readings haven't dropped more.

Have you checked what nitrate levels your kit reads on the water you are adding to the tank? Might be a good way to help check your kit is okay... and that there isn't anything funny going on with your water source :)

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I have had a similar tank for a couple of years now..when I had the same problem.. I did I what I call a rolling water change ...it takes about two hours ....fresh water in at the same rate as the siphon was going out remembering to prime every twenty minutes or so.....also stacked an Otto internal with a couple a bags of purigen...and changed the carbon in my 2217 to rowa...also removed all plants"...i had no issues with parameters for about six months with once a week 20% water changes ...

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Yer what test kit are you using and check the expiry date on the test kit. Like Betta said water change should change nitrate levels straight away. Just be carefull doing big WC like you have been its ok for the situation your in but doing big WC like that every day for more than 3days can just add a lot more stress on the fish and filtration system. When you find the cause to why your nitrates are staying so high (hopefully soon) and than fix the problem. WC obviously arnt working so I'd go a little more easy on the WC maybe drop back to 15-20% or even if your set on 30-40% do that every second day

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My canister filter is new, i brought it when i started the tank so its 4-5 months old and it still has the same filters in it as when i brought it. The white ceramic tubes on bottom, then a blue corse sponge, then the little brown balls, the the fine wool like filter on top. When i cleaned the filter yesterday ( with tank water) it seeme alittle dirty but nothing extreme, I tested the water about 5mins after the water change, but i did check it hours later again and i was still the same. The expiry on the product is fine. No dead fish anywhere and i gravel vac the entire floor maybe a month or so ago, got in and around rocks today and i must admit the foor look pretty sparkly! Sorry i forgot to put in that my external is an Eheim classic 350 and an otto internal. I tested my other tropical tank with the nitrate test kit just incase the kit is reading wrong and the results were great!! So im really getting annoyed with this stoopid nitrate stuff. If it wasnt for you guys i would be backed up into a corner rocking myself back and forth!! Lol Thats what i cant understand....why isnt the readings going down! I will test the water again tomorrow and see what it says.

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You guys are adorable.

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This is a good old combo of OTS and diatom blooms from our marvelous tapwater.

Nothing special or crazy.

Old Tank Syndrome

The Real Scoop On Brown Algae « Joe Jaworski’s Weblog

Diatoms are a member of the Kingdom Protista. Newer hobbyists are usually led to believe that the word diatom is used to describe one specific species of algae. However, the class Bacillariophyceaea (diatoms) includes more than twenty thousand species of algae. That is, if you tell a new hobbyist that you have had a bloom of the same algae, you might just be lying. Diatoms have a few subtle differences from the stereotypical alga. The first difference in diatoms is that they have an outer shell composed of silica. As humans, we benefit from these shells every day. The silica shells of diatoms are made into things such as toothpaste, paint, polish, soap, and even ice cream.

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How to fix?

Well first of all, lets put this to numbers.

Heck I should try grill ya for more details, would help to know the contents media wise of the cannister and the species of african you keep.

buuuuuuuuut its midnight, so numbers it is...... 15 should do it.

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1 ) You are feeding NLS to Africans. So you are feeding the most concentrated food available to fish that can starve for a month and not die. Forget instructions amigo, you aint no n00b anymore. Look at ya fish. Drop the feed levels. If they start getting "knife back" or "sunken gut" then they need more food........ but I bet your fish are fat as ****! Look at the fishes eye, thats a good idea for the amount of food to feed each fish. If one misses out, then tough titty. It will make sure it doesnt miss out next time wont it! If you want to feed lots of food, then buy crap food. The idea of spectrum is you feed less, they digest more of it and then crap out less, AND THAT is meant to mean you clean less! But you feed heavy, and you need to clean too much AND its expensive.

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2) You need to get accurate nitrate readings AND you need to record them. All this water changing and testing nitrates is pointless IF it is not all being used to become as lazy as possible. So get a syringe and some ro water. A syringe because you need to be accurate! Fill ya test tube with 2.5ml of ro water and 2.5ml of aquarium water. Shake the two reagent bottles GOOD. Then add ya 10 drops of each. Shake test tube. Time ya 5 minutes. Record result. If it says 40ppm, THEN you know its 80ppm. If you add 1ml aquarium water and 4ml ro water..... and test comes back at 40ppm...... then you know you have 200ppm. Basically use dilution with RO water to calculate exactly what you are dealing with here. RECORD ALL TESTS AND WATER CHANGES.

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3) Now much of what you are doing is what I would do.

EG ~

My canister filter is new, i brought it when i started the tank so its 4-5 months old and it still has the same filters in it as when i brought it. The white ceramic tubes on bottom, then a blue corse sponge, then the little brown balls, the the fine wool like filter on top. When i cleaned the filter yesterday ( with tank water) it seeme alittle dirty but nothing extreme

See the trick is to remove the old bacteria colonys (mulm) and THEN water change. The reason is becuase if there is mulm built up in filters OR gravel....... then the nitrate will "bounce back" after water changes because it is leeching out of these nitrate rich materials. So what you are doing above is awesome....... except the whole "fine white wool" part. Ditch that stuff, you have an otto filter to handle the mechanical filtration. Replace it with a corse blue sponge!

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4 ) 30-40 % water changes........... lol lets change that to 50%

Its more satisfying. You got 80ppm and ya do a 50% water change = 40ppm.

Really its pyschological, but the reality is most Africans can handle it, especially in summer where chilling them is not a risk!

You are also using aquastar which is an awesome full featured dechlorinator. Basically double strength prime.

So drop 50% of ya water. Throw in ya aquastar for the TOTAL TANK volume. And then fill it with hose, just make sure ya flush out the hot water thats been sitting in hose first.

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5) An otto is a crazy good workhorse of a powerhead. Consider buying another cup for it and filling that cup with a media bag containing some macropore. This is one of those cheat moves that will reduce nitrates. It aint to be relied on 100%, but it is handy! Or you can place macropore in a media bag and then into your cannister.

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6) As mentioned, gravel vaccum. This could be the mystical nitrate sink we are looking for. If all else fails remove half the sand/gravel. Mulm is harder to remover from gravel then from an otto!

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7) Where are the pictures? srsly! I dunno what rocks they are, or have a positive ID on the algae. BUT I suggest perhaps taking rocks out and leaving them in the sun a few days. That should bring them back to white fast enough!

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8 ) Keep a look out for big CAE, but dont pay crazy high prices for them! Big CAE are dam jerks, people usually HATE them. Keep ya eye out and you shall find them being given away. They are an awesome algae eater AND they dont need the massive amount of food (nitrates) that a pleco needs. They are also tough enough to tangle with most mbuna.

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9 ) look at your lighting. Nitrates + light = algae. Might be easier to cut it down a bit. More light = more algae = more cleaning.

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10) Prime/aquastar is basically useless for nitrates. Dont bother using it for that.

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11) Its just nitrates lol. 100 less dangerous than ammonia and nitrite! Yea it causes algae blooms but thats an aesthetic problem. Yes it stunts fish and makes them more aggresive.......... buuuuuuuut its an easy fix. Ya just need to work out how much food = how much nitrates. I reccomend getting rid of fish you can bear to be without. That means less fish, less food and less need for dilutions! Dont let fish you dont love make work for ya!

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12) Dont fall the trap of just topping up evaporation EVER. Always remove more water before topping up again. The trick is to prevent TDS from concentrating! The solution to pollution is dilution! I like to take the chance to squeeze out the otto into a bucket full, then top up.

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13) This is a hobby, not another job. Collect your nitrate test data and your water change data. I love customers that bring data like that along for a chat at AOA, or post it up here. Then ya get tailored advice amigo and not all this guessing and interrogation! no one wants more than a water change a week! better to do one each 2 weeks! So we work out how much ya can feed, how much ya need to change, to KEEP IT UNDER THE TARGET AND TO KEEP FISH IN GOOD CONDITION. I like to try keep below 40ppm.

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14) ya know those fry saver things? You can fill them with duckweed. Duckweed monsters nitrates. As it grows ya harvest it and remove from the tank. Bioaccumulating nitrates into solids like plant leaves, well it sure makes it easier to remove!

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15) have ya watched Django Unchained yet? its not bad hey. Just remember algae dont kill fish, just looks like crap. And africans are pretty tough vs nitrates. I salute your efforts against their excessive concentration, and assure you, the war is winnable. But if you decide its time to get lazy, then srsly get a larger tank! More water = more dilution = more time between water changes. Remember less fish = more time between water changes. less poo + more water = less water changes. Maths sucks but if ya want to truely be lazy...... it has its uses!

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Finally!!! Test results in and i have 0ppm Nitrate!! YAY! After days of worrying and water changes, turns out i had a doddgy test kit!. Thanks The Age Of Aquariums for you help and detective work today!! :D

8.0 Ph

0 ppm Ammonia

0 ppm Nitrate

= Happy tank & Me!!

Thankyou everyone for you words of wisdom and help, i really appreciate it. :)

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