All healthy aquariums will have nitrates in the water. This is the result of the nitrogen cycle (the process whereby nitrifying bacteria is formed). Although a small number of nitrates present in the water will not pose harm to your inhabitants, if the maximum parts per million (ppm) is exceeded, you will start to have trouble inside of your saltwater aquarium. All fish can tolerate a maximum amount of 20 ppm to 40 ppm nitrates before overdose symptoms will strike. It is said that fish and invertebrates can adapt to the level of nitrates in an aquarium. This is simply false and will cause health issues once a water change is completed.
The chemistry of the water is important to maintain a healthy saltwater aquarium. Fortunately, this article will inform you of our top 8 methods to lower the number of nitrates in your saltwater aquarium.
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You may be wondering what exactly nitrates are? Nitrates are a product of the nitrogen cycle produced from rotting foods, fish and invertebrate waste, and decomposing plant matter. It is derived from the conversion of ammonia into nitrites until it is finally converted to nitrates. Nitrate is less toxic to aquatic inhabitants when it is compared to deadly ammonia and nitrites. Both ammonia and nitrites should be 0 ppm to avoid illness and eventually death in both fish and invertebrates.
Nitrates are more tolerated and can stay under an ideal amount of 30 ppm. Although some fish can only tolerate up to 20 ppm and the hardier fish have been reported to tolerate up to 40 ppm. Death can occur if the inhabitants are left untreated for more than a few hours in severe cases and 48 hours in mild cases.
Using a Test Kit
The only way to find out the number of nitrates in the aquarium is done by a liquid test kit. Since nitrites are invisible compounds that cannot be seen inside of the water, testing the water for all three parameters is essential. We recommend testing the water at least once a week. You can even design a document or journal the number of nitrates in your saltwater aquarium after every test.
Nitrate Poisoning in Fish
Watching out for symptoms of high nitrates is important for all aquarium keepers. The onset of symptoms can be very sudden and may catch you off guard. A healthy fish can quickly turn sickly if exposed to undesirable nitrate levels.
If your fish has four or more of the above symptoms, your fish may have nitrate poisoning. The symptoms will usually appear altogether, but it is not unheard of for a fish to only experience some of the minor symptoms before visible signs are presented.
Nitrate Poisoning in Invertebrates (Snails, Shrimp, Crayfish)
Nitrate poisoning in invertebrates is slightly different than in fish. Invertebrates seem to be particularly sensitive to nitrites over 25 ppm.
Important: Corals can only tolerate a maximum of 5ppm nitrate before they start to lose their color. If the number exceeds, they will start to die off.
15 Methods to Successfully Lower Nitrates in a Saltwater Aquarium
The Causes of High Nitrates
Once you establish a steady water cleansing cycle, you should not have to worry about spiking nitrate levels. The best way to ensure your nitrites are immediately lowered is by a chemical or water change. If you have a cycled aquarium with nitrate maintaining equipment of plants, your aquarium should keep the nitrates within the tolerance range. Doing a weekly water test will inform you of the level of nitrates in your aquarium to give you a good indication of fluctuations or increases. Lowering nitrates is important when your test begins to show over the 20 ppm threshold. Always keep an eye on your aquarium’s water conditions, and you will be rewarded with an overall healthy aquarium!
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