Preventing Aquarium Nitrate

Reef Aquarium
(Last Updated On: March 12, 2017)

Nitrates are the end result of the nitrogen cycle – or oxidation process – that begins with ammonia. One step ahead and the main source of ammonia of course, is organic matter, which is anything organic in nature that decomposes.

Organic matter largely consists of fish waste, uneaten fish food, dead plant matter & algae, and all other decaying organic compounds. Organic matter is either solid or dissolved.

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Heterotrophic bacteria break down solid organic waste. This bacteria is what causes a bacteria bloom (white cloudy water) when overabundant in the aquarium.

The result of the breakdown of solid organic waste is ammonia which fuels the beneficial bacteria that convert ammonia into the less toxic nitrates.

Organic compounds are needed and play a vital role in the aquarium, i.e. as a needed food source for beneficial bacteria. But it is the quantity – the excess – that causes severe problems.

An abundance in organic waste creates an abundance of heterotrophic bacteria. So much in fact that it can cause cloudy water.

Bacteria also use up enormous amounts of oxygen. This can suffocate fish and deplete the oxygen needed by the beneficial bacteria. Without oxygen the beneficial bacteria cannot oxidize waste. As a result the processing of waste is disrupted, leading to ammonia spikes.

It is therefore advisable to reduce and limit excess organic matter in the fish tank.

Algone reduces excess organic waste. This excess waste is removed instead of being oxidized into nitrates.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

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4 thoughts on “Preventing Aquarium Nitrate

  1. James Harrison says:

    Hello my nitrates are over 80, I’ve done 3 water changes 9 gal at a time in a 40 gallon breeder aquarium. My nitrates aren’t going down. I have two mechanical filters that supposed to filter 70 gal tanks each. I inserted 2 algone packs 1 in each filter basket. How long til I see results

    • Thilo
      Thilo says:

      You should see results within a few weeks. Algone removes a variety of substances such as notrogen compounds, dissolved organics, proteins etc. and the combination of them all determines how quick results can be achieved. In addition, less feeding and continued proper maintenance will speed up the process.

  2. simone mally says:

    Hello I have a question about my albino bristles nose placostomus I have a regular bristle nose(brown) and he’s doing fine growing fine but I have tried 3 different times to add a albino one to my 20gallon long tank but they keep dieing only the albino ones are they more sensitive then the brown ones or am I doing something wrong I isolate them for a day then release them into the tank never add more then one I only want 2 total in the tank but for some reason the albino ones are dead by the next few days please help i don’t want to hurt anymore fish I even tried placing one in a different tank still died after a few days all from the same store

    • thilo
      thilo says:

      This is a more complex question given the many variables. The water parameters need to be within tolerances. Fish that get accustomed to off target parameters over time may accept those, new additions won’t. Make sure all of pH, kH, nitrates, temperature etc are well within specs. Acclimate the fish before releasing it. This is a slow process allowing the fish to get used to its new environment. Never “just release”.
      Fish usually travel quite some distances before they are on display in stores. This causes stress which makes any ammonia/ nitrite and other environmental changes even more dangerous. Have you checked on the parameters before and after (it will explain a lot). Not judging your store, but buying a fish from another store is an option as well.

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