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FAQs on Freshwater Quality involving Nitrites  

Related Articles: Nitrites in Freshwater Aquariums, Nitrates in Freshwater Aquariums, Biological Filtration, Establishing Cycling, Freshwater Filtration, Know Your Filter Media, A Concise Guide to Your Options by Neale Monks, Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium, Tips for BeginnersWater Quality and Freshwater Aquariums

Related FAQs: Importance, Science, Measure, Sources, Control, Chemical Filtrants, Troubleshooting/Fixing, & Ammonia, FW Nitrates, Freshwater Nutrient Cycling, Establishing Cycling 1,

Nitrite et al. sensitivity varies by species, health... Lepidosiren paradoxa Fitzinger 1837, South American Lungfish.
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Betta Success
Doing what it takes to keep Bettas healthy long-term

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

nitrite help    2/6/12
    My tank has been established for a few months now
<... evidently not>
but all of the sudden the past few days I have been getting a nitrite reading that is a little high, between .75 and 1.25.  I did a water change of about 15% less than a week ago.  Should I be concerned?
<Yes; toxic, debilitating>
 If so should I change the water again or should I just wait a few more days and leave everything alone?
<... Quit feeding, start reading... is this freshwater or marine? Let's assume FW: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/NO2ContrF.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

London tap water - nitrite detected    5/16/11
Dear Crew
I have been monitoring tap water from N. London for a while now and have come to the conclusion that there appears to be a small amount of nitrite in the tap water (0.1-0.3ppm).
<Yikes... not good for your aquatic livestock or your potable uses>
Whilst two of my tanks appear to cope fine with this after water changes, one of my tanks does not. I have added two extra large bags of bio rings near the outlet of the filter which have already been cycled yet somehow, I am unable to reduce my nitrites in the tank below 0.1ppm for days after a water change despite not feeding the fish for that period.
<?! Something else going on here. I first suspect your test gear/kit... DO "check your checker" against a known (RO or distilled water), and a better/other kit, perhaps at your stockist>
This spike has already put stress on one forktailed rainbow fish who I am now treating for the flexibacteria (Columnaris).
<Not good>
My first question: is there anything else I can do in the tank to help raise the good bacteria that will combat this nitrite quicker?
<Yes... deeper substrate beds, the use of live plants, chemical filtrants.
Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwno2faqs.htm
and the linked files above, for background, related input>
Secondly: is there anything I can do generally to take out or to reduce the nitrite in the tap water before it goes into the tanks?
<Yes, again, a few things... the best I see you have mentioned below>
(I have considered a 50% mix of RO water but wanted to avoid this due to expense).
<IF this is a persistent problem/situation (contact your municipal water supplier re, NOW) I would get/use your own filtration gear for all your drinking, cooking uses as well. There are a few technologies (RO as you mention, contact media...) as you'll find through your reading>
Your expert advice would be most welcome.
kindest regards
Dr Patrick Nunn
<And you, Bob Fenner>
Re: London tap water - nitrite detected   5/16/2011

Dear Bob
Many thanks for this. I downloaded the local Thames water quality report for my area. It gives one figure for NO2 and one for NO3 and then a combined figure. I've attached the report. What would you make of this?
<Well, the former are just chemical notations, i.e. symbols for Nitrate, Nitrite... the latter are of some concern in terms of calculating human intake. Do put the string "Nitrate/Nitrite calculation" in your (Google?) search tool>
Dr Patrick Nunn
<Welcome. BobF>

Nitrite problems for my 10 gal sick tank   1/15/10
I have another question on top of the bazillion others I have emailed for...I set up a quarantine/sick tank for a few new fish I received from someone about 10 days ago.
I used tank water from my established 55 gal to put into the 10 gallon so I didn't have to cycle it.
<Water won't cycle anything. There are few filter bacteria in the water column.>
I didn't have time to wait.
<You need to move filter MEDIA from the mature aquarium to the new aquarium, NOT water. A mature filter can lose up to 50% of its biological media without problems, so you can usually "transplant" useful amounts of biological media very easily.>
because of this, I used a small hang on the back penguin filter that was new. new bio wheel, and new carbon filter. now, my problem is, my nitrites are too high...2.0-3.0, ammonia 0, nitrates 1.0. I understand that the water needs to be changed because nitrites are toxic, so I do a water change (50%) using the 55 gal water (ammonia 0, nitrites, 0, nitrates, 2.0) but no matter how much I change out the nitrites still remain 2.0. only when I do a double water change, 50% in the morning and 50% later in the afternoon can I get the nitrites down to 0 but the next day its back up to 2.0. I have a suspicion that it has to do with the new filter not having any good bacteria but I feel that I cant keep changing out the tank water like this. I'm trying not to stress out my new fish but I dont know what else to do. please let me know what I am doing wrong.
<Your mistake was thinking the water was going to help. It won't. Move as much media from a mature filter as you can into the new filter. Assuming water chemistry and temperature are similar in both tanks, the filter media will instantly provide proper water quality. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: nitrite problems for my 10 gal sick tank   1/16/10
ok...that makes sense. how do I go about changing the media?
<Depends on the media. Ceramic noodles and filter floss can just be taken from media compartments in one filter and stuffed into another. Sponges may or may not be amenable to this, depending on their size. A pair of scissors
might be used to cut sponges down to size if required.>
I have a large canister filter on the large 55 gallon but a small hang on the back filter on the small tank?
<This mismatch is one of many reasons why I don't like hang-on-the-back filters. When it comes to donating media, they're dogs to work with, since they so often rely on tailor-made filter modules (like proprietary razor
blades and inkjet cartridges, all designed to lock you into buying from one manufacturer).>
also, I just remembered that I didn't mention that I didn't put any gravel into the small tank so I can make sure to suck up all the debris at the bottom and to make it easier to break down when I can combine the fish.
anyways, what exactly do I do to put media into the 10 gal from the 55 gallon tank? do I cut a piece of the filter pad and stick it into the 10 gal filter?
<Donate about 50% of the media. How will depend on the media type.
Obviously you're donating BIOLOGICAL media, not carbon, Zeolite or any other chemical media (i.e., the stuff you replace monthly).>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Nitrite and Nitrate Problems
Controlling Nitrite and Nitrate Problems  10/15/09

Hello Chuck, I got another question for you concerning the same 30 gallon tank. We for a little while have had a problem with ammonia being really high, so we started doing 50% water changes like every 3 days or so but only vacuum the surface of the gravel so we don't disrupt the biological filter. The good news is the ammonia level is good now however our nitrites and nitrates are off the charts. Question is should we continue to do the water changes to bring these levels down or is there some other way we can bring these levels down to a safe reading? The fish seem to be happy and are very active, we are just concerned about these levels being harmful.
Thanks, John and Anika
< The good news is that the nitrites and nitrates are less toxic than the ammonia. I would watch the amount of food fed each time. Remove any uneaten food after 5 minutes by using a siphon. Clean the filters often
too. Plants will remove some nitrogenous wastes if they are healthy and the lighting is strong. Using Dr Tim's One and Only will help quicken the process. One you are dealing with just nitrat4s then you can try to control them with water changes and try to keep them under 20 ppm.-Chuck>

(fishless) Cycling tank experiencing nitrite fluctuations 7/15/2009
Dear WWM crew,
Hi! I hope you're doing well and thanks for taking the time to read this!
<Happy to help.>
I'm at the tail end of a fishless cycle for a Betta tank that I'm having difficulty finishing up. Nitrite levels have an infuriating habit of lowering to 0.1 ppm in the morning and then spiking back up to around .8 ppm after I add the daily ammonia dose.
<You're adding too much ammonia for the filter to process "in real time"; try adding half as much, and see what happens.>
They'll then go back down to .1 ppm by the next morning until I re-add the ammonia. The ammonia itself takes less than a day to go back down to zero.
This has been going on for a few days and short of considering a bum nitrite test kit, I'd like to ask your opinion of a few tips I've read about to get the cycle moving, but I'm a little too nervous to try out, lest I disturb the cycle.
<If you've been doing this for more than, say, 3 weeks, the tank is probably cycled good enough to add fish. At the very least, stop adding ammonia, and instead add a tiny bit of flake food each day, just as if there was a Betta in the tank. It goes without saying that ammonia is ammonia is ammonia, and the bacteria couldn't care less whether the ammonia comes direct from decaying flake food or via your pet fish. It's all the same to them! If you find 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite after a few days of this protocol, you're good to go.>
But First, some tank specifics are in order!
tank size: 5.5g, planted, cycling, heated (80F) and filtered (whisper HOB filter with a sponge insert on the intake to protect delicate Betta fins and a baffle on the outtake to reduce the current)
set-up: half an inch of gravel, planted with 2 Anubias nanas, 1 Anubias barteri, 5 bunches of java fern, Christmas tree moss, duckweed a Cladophora ball and a few pieces of driftwood for cover
water additives: Nutrafin aqua plus water conditioner(10ml), blackwater extract (5ml) and weekly Seachem flourish and excel doses(.5ml) for the plants along with tetra Florapride which is added each month (5ml). I'm also adding 12 drops of ammonia each day and Seachem stability was added the first week of the cycle.
water parameters:
ph: 7.6
GH: 120 ppm (this value tends to fluctuate a bit)
KH: 60 ppm
ammonia: 0 (it goes up to around .5 ppm when I add ammonia and goes back to 0 ppm in less than a day)
nitrite: .1 ppm but then goes up to around .8 ppm very quickly after ammonia is added and then back down to .1 by the next morning
nitrate: between 50-110 ppm
uninvited guests: pond snails, Planaria, copepods, nematodes and what I think are Ostracods
<All harmless, and in fact likely helping the cycling process in their way.>
I had left the tank alone until July 8th when I did a partial water change because of a second nitrite spike that brought levels from .3 ppm back up to 1.6 ppm which I attributed to a sudden KH drop. In response to the nitrite levels, I thought the ammonia was inhibiting their growth in some way, so I've been reluctantly lowering the amount of ammonia I add from 20 to 18 then to 12 and finally to 10 drops.
I was dosing 20 drops at the beginning, then 18 when I started getting nitrites, followed by 12 when I had a second nitrite spike and right now I'm adding 10 drops.
I've never found any information that matches my current predicament so I'm hesitant to try some of the cycle troubleshooting advice I've read. They range from water changes, varying the amount of ammonia I add to the very ominous-sounding not adding any ammonia at all for a day or two.
I have to say I'm mildly tempted to skip a day of ammonia, since the nitrites are on the brink of disappearing and adding ammonia is what appears to be keeping them from doing so. But then again, I don't want to have a die-back of the other bacteria. I'm also nervous about adding a fish now, because the gradual lowering of the ammonia dose has no doubt reduced the bacterial bed, no? The bacteria can consume .5 ppm of ammonia in less than a day, do you think that sounds like a ballpark range of waste produced by a Betta each day?
<Who knows? Not a huge fan of using ammonia for precisely this problem; should I need to cycle a tank without fish, I tend to use flake food or bits of seafood to mimic the amount of food added to the aquarium once the first batch of fish are added; this way, I know the filter is getting "used" to exactly the right amount of waste.>
In a nutshell, have you ever encountered this sort of thing? If so, is there anything I can do, or is this another one of cycling's many 'sit down, shut up wait' tests?
thanks for all your help,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: (fishless) Cycling tank experiencing nitrite fluctuations -- 07/17/09
Dear Neale,
Thanks so much for the quick response (I can't say so much for myself)! I Just wanted to say that the nitrites finally reached zero yesterday,
and after a large water change I purchased a Betta (who's bag water had a 1 ppm ammonia reading no less)!
Despite that he's got immaculate fins and vibrant colour. He's still a little skittish and his gills might be compromised by the polluted water he was in, but hopefully he'll take a shine to his new surroundings and live out his days comfortably!
<I hope so too. Good luck!>
Thanks so much for taking the time to send me all that information and I'll put it to good use should I ever convince my parents to let me get another tank!
<Sounds like you're enjoying this hobby, which is good news for the future.>
gratefully, Emilie
<You're welcome, Neale.>

Re: (fishless) Cycling tank experiencing nitrite fluctuations   7/26/09
Dear Neale,
(don't worry, I'll leave you guys alone after this message)
<You're always welcome to write!>
It's been about a week since I got my Betta and things are going wonderfully! I can't express how pleased I am!
<It's a lovely aquarium too! It would be a real blessing upon the world if everyone kept their Bettas in tanks as well constructed as this one. Your choice of plants is excellent and should do well even under moderate lighting levels. One thing I'd add though, if you find algae becoming a problem, is add some Indian Fern (Ceratopteris). This floating plant provides shade and cover at the top -- Bettas love the stuff! -- but even better, it's a great algae-buster. Anubias in particular doesn't like direct light, and the edges of its leaves often become covered with hair algae. Floating plants moderate the light a bit, and helps Anubias and other shade-loving plants keep algae-free. Simply crop back the Indian Fern regularly to prevent the tank being totally overwhelmed.>
It's so rewarding to wake up and get to see a healthy, active fish going about his business. In light of this I need to thank you and the rest of the crew for creating this site and for all your patience and advice. WWM is by far the best resource for fishkeepers I've come across and I can spend hours at a time looking through all the FAQs (although I usually skip the Betta FAQs because it depresses me a little) and learn some thing new.
<Ah, yes, the Betta FAQ does tend to be unusually rich in the "same old problems", in part (unfortunately) because pet store clerks seem to continue selling inappropriate Betta habitats, and offer little in the way of useful advice.>
In that spirit, I thought you might like to see a photo of my Betta's tank (I hope it got through!). Most of the final setup is a result of reading your site's articles and FAQs and I thought you'd like to see the results of applying your site's (and enviable knowledge) indispensable resources.
<Thank you for this photo!>
Anyway, I think it's really important that I take the time to let you (and the rest of the gang) know that I recognize and highly value the time and effort you (all) put into WWM because I'm often disturbed by how ungrateful some of the people who write in are. Once again, eternal thanks and I hope I accumulate enough experience to become as knowledgeable as you all are!
<And thank you for taking the time to write! Good luck with your fish, Neale.>

Tank Nitrites, FW    8/5/07 Hi, Dave here. I have 2 running tanks. A 47 gal with 1 Bala shark, 1 Redtail shark, and 2 Plecos. The 55 gal has 1 Oscar, 1 Dempsey, 1 Raphael cat and 1 Bala shark. All levels on the 47gal are fine and tank was never cycled before fish were put in. In my 55 gal tank all levels are fine except for the nitrite. I vacuum the gravel in each tank once a week, and change anywhere from 10-15 gallons of water adding water conditioner every time) during that process for both tanks. For some reason the nitrite levels in the 55gal wont go down. I bought a Nitra-Zorb pack last week and have started to do a 10 gal water change every night but no change. Thank you very much for your help. >>>Greetings, Jim here. You should never fully stock a freshwater tank until the ammonia and nitrite levels have dropped to zero. Every tank cycles differently - some take longer than others. You didn't mention how long the 55 gallon had been running, what kind of filtration you have, etc. Be patient. Jim<<<

Strange rise in nitrites, FW, goldfish ongoing...   7/11/07 Hi Bob/whoever's got this! <Just me, Neale.> Just a couple of quick questions today, if you please - I've been treating my fantail (Horatio) on Neale's advice using Interpet Aquarium Treatment No. 8 (Anti Fungus and Finrot, active ingredient phenoxyethanol). I started the treatment three days ago and I'm delighted to say that it's made all the difference; kindly thank Neale very much for his advice as my fish is no longer ill and is perky and happy as he used to be! <Very good.> I have been regularly testing his water parameters and they have consistently been pH 7.5 (approx), ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate <5mg/l. However, this evening I tested his water and the nitrites, while not actually showing dangerous amounts per se, have risen so as to be detectable (though still less than 0.1mg/l). Naturally I am concerned and loathe to take immediate action as I don't want to remove the medication from the tank (there are four days of the seven left to go before I can change the water). My questions are as follows; <Odd. Most modern medications have no effect on the filter bacteria. I'd tend not to worry too much, but test for the next couple of days to see if this is a blip or a developing problem.> 1) What could be the cause of this peculiar rise in nitrites? Since I've been testing Horatio's water (going on two months now) the results have been steady. I've never had any ammonia or nitrites present, and nitrates have rarely risen above 5mg/l. The only recent difference is that I've started using dechlorinator (Interpet Fresh Start), and there is a question saved on WWM that states that this product can increase levels of nitrite - could this be relevant? Horatio is (as you may remember, Bob, having spoken to my girlfriend Sarah previously about this fish) living in a far-too-small tank (11 UK gallons) at the moment, so I have been carrying out extensive water changes - almost daily - to prevent build-up of unpleasant water elements until the new tank is cycled and ready for him. However, because on Saturday night I added this medication, I haven't changed the water for three days. Could this be the cause of the nitrite rise? <Most dechlorinators break down chloramine (which we want them to do) into ammonia and chlorine. But not all dechlorinators will "mop up" that ammonia. If your filter is too small, then that ammonia could be being processed into nitrite relatively slowly, giving you the nitrite reading you're observing. Either way, it's important to establish if your water supplier uses chloramine or not. If they do, get a dechlorinator that removes ammonia.> 2) What do I do about it? Should I keep watch on the situation and see if the nitrites remain at a vaguely "acceptable" level/diminish (is this level even safe?)? Or should I change some of the water to dilute the nitrites, as I would automatically do if not for the meds - and if I do, is it safe to proportionally add some more medicine or should I leave it and take the risk of Horatio not being properly medicated, leaving the possibility of having to treat him again within a short space of time (obviously not desirable)? <For now, your priority is to stick to the instructions for the medication, avoiding water changes. But once you've finished the course of medication, do the water changes and check the filter is working properly. It may need a bit of a clean to rinse off detritus. Follow the instructions that came with your filter, paying particular attention to keeping the bacteria on the sponges happy (i.e., don't rinse the sponges under the tap, but bathe them in a bucket of aquarium water). Doing water changes midway through a course of medication is a bad idea if you're told by the instructions otherwise. The problem is the medication decays over time, to "topping up" with an extra dose is likely to screw up the concentrations.> Okay, maybe that wasn't as quick as I'd hoped. Thank you once again for your patience and for your immensely helpful site and staff; you have been terrific to us over the last few months and I'm sure Horatio appreciates it! <Good luck!> Oliver <Cheers, Neale>
Re: Strange rise in nitrites (FAO Neale)  7/11/07
Hi Neale, Don't worry, I haven't any more problems (well, at the moment!); just wanted to write back and thank you very much again for your prompt and informative response. I'll do exactly as you said. Not sure what I'd do without WWM! Hope you're having a good day and you've got better weather than me here in Glasgow :-) Thanks again, Oliver <Cool. And no, the weather here is pretty clarty as well. Good luck! Neale>

Uncycled tank with nitrites (typo?) -- 06/28/07 I am a rookie to the aquarium business but my dad is a veteran. <I see. Two decades ago I felt the same.> He is disabled so he can't always come to the rescue. I have just started a 45 gallon tall hexagon saltwater tank. I had the water fixed for two weeks and the ph is 8.5, the nitrate level is 20, the nitrite is 30 <You need to confirm that. Anything above 0.5 ppm is quite toxic. 30 ppm is deadly.> and no detectable ammonium. I have had three Chromis for a week now and one true percula clown trying to help with the cycling of the tank. <Using fish to cycle a tank is no good method in my opinion. Most suffer under the conditions of a freshly started tank and, even if they survive, are permanently damaged. Get some material from a long running tank (rock, substrate, filter material) or live bacteria from a LFS fridge (BioSpira). In the meantime, confirm your test kit for nitrites is showing proper measurements. Do water changes to decrease the nitrites at least below 0.5.> I only have one small piece of live rock and am trying to get my bacteria right. I just recently noticed one Chromis was sitting at the bottom of the tank and inactive. It died shortly after. Now the other two Chromis are sitting on the bottom of the tank and have a few red spots on the top of the fish and my clownfish has a few spots (brownish color) on top of his head on the white stripe between his eyes. What could the problem be and how can I fix it? <Nitrites are likely the main problem. The symptoms you describe are probably opportunistic infections with bacteria (or parasites) due to the bad conditions of the fishes.> Dad suggested some kind of antibiotic. <A bacterial infection is well possible, but antibiotics should be used in a separate hospital tank. See WWM re hospital tanks and bacterial infections.> I live in no man's land where everything about has to be ordered online. <I hope there is someone else with a marine tank not too far away, who could give you some live bacteria. Until orders arrive, it could be too late.> Help please?! <Do water changes. Get live bacteria from another system or LFS. Look at pictures of bacterial infections and compare to your fishes. If you want to treat with antibiotics, use a hospital tank. Don't use antibiotics without knowing it is a bacterial infection. Oh, and read a lot about cycling and biological filtration in marine systems.> thanks. Joedy. <Hope that helps. Good luck. Marco.>

Uncycled tank with nitrites -- reading, water changes and live bacteria are needed -- 06/28/07 Hello everyone. <Hi Melissa.> I purchased a 10-gallon a little less than a month ago. I conditioned the water, and let the filter run for 3 days. I then purchased a Glo fish as my starter fish. Not knowing much about the nature of schooling fish, or the nitrogen cycle, I purchased two more GloFish shortly thereafter. To make a long story short, they all died. So, I purchased one more GloFish and left him in there by himself for about two weeks. Feeling confident with the stability of my tank, I then purchased two black Lyretail mollies. Unfortunately, they were picking on the GloFish, so he has been removed. The mollies are looking great, so now to my question. I do water tests frequently, and a very recent test showed that my nitrites are high (about 2 ppm) and my nitrates are just slightly lower (around 15 ppm). I'm not sure how long the cycle takes to complete (I've heard 4 to 6 weeks) but I do know that nitrites are very dangerous. However, everything else (ammonia, ph, etc) is at its appropriate level. I have good filtration, plenty of salt to suit them, and some live plants which were added two days ago. I also did a 15% percent water change just a few days ago to try to reduce the nitrites, but they have not come down at all. <A 15% water change will decrease nitrites by 15%. In your case that's not even measurable with the standard tests. To decrease them to 0.4 change at least 80%.> Are the high levels to be expected, if the cycle is almost complete? <No. Your cycle is complete when the nitrites have spiked and fallen back to 0. Only then the first fish should be added. Personally I do not like the idea of fishes in an uncycled tank. Live bacteria from the filter of a running tank or the LFS fridge (BioSpira) can be used to instantly cycle a tank. > Or is this a serious problem that needs addressing? <Additional problems cannot be excluded now. Overfeeding is one possibility. Only feed as much as is eaten in a few minutes. If the nitrites aren't absent within a week consider additional factors that could prevent your tank from getting properly cycled. In the meantime read some more on the nitrogen cycle and the needs of the fishes you want to keep. Lots of information as well as a handy search panel are available at WWM.> Again, the mollies don't appear unhealthy in any way, and I would like very much to keep them healthy, so your help would be immensely appreciated. <Some types are quite hardy. Anyway, do large water changes and possibly get some bacteria from a running tank to minimize any permanent damage due to the exposure of toxic water conditions.> And depending upon your response, I would like to add a couple more of the little guys, so let me know if this is a safe decision. <Too early. Wait until the nitrites are 0 and be sure to read before you purchase.> Thank you so much for taking the time to read my ridiculously long question and I look forward to your reply. <Hope that helps. Marco.> Sincerely, Melissa.

Recovering from a nitrite spike - 06/27/07 Hi Crew, <Ave.> Last month I started a 55 gallon freshwater tank to replace my badly overcrowded 20 gallon. Long story short, I rushed the process and ended up with one hell of a nitrite spike once all the fish were in the new tank (probably an ammonia spike too, but I was careless and didn't have an ammonia testing kit at the time so I don't know). Nitrite levels were off the scale, at 10 ppm or more. Thanks to extra water changes, StressZyme, and time, the level is back down to 0, but I'm worrying about the aftermath of the spike. None of my fish died and most of them never seemed affected at all, but a few of them are looking a little ragged. A small peppered Cory has frayed fins, and his gills look a little pink when viewed from behind. My three boesemanni rainbows all look as if they've lost some scales around their faces, their mouths look rough instead of smooth, and their tails are a little frayed. Finally my java ferns are all spotty and brown. What can I do to help my fish and ferns recover? <The fish will recover, assuming water conditions are sound. Treating for Finrot/fungus is also essential, given the amount of damage the fish seem to have taken. The plant will be fine. For plants, ammonia and nitrite are just fertiliser...> The other inhabitants (some from the old 20 gallon, some added just before the nitrite spike): 4 tiger barb 2 other peppered Cory 1 African butterfly (Pantodon) 1 6-inch green Severum 1 4-inch common Pleco 1 4-inch Senegal Bichir <Now *there's* a random selection of fish. I'm surprised the tiger barbs haven't pecked the Butterflyfish to death yet. Those two are a classic "don't mix" combo! Presumably you realise the Severum, Plec, and Bichir all can reach fairly substantial adult sizes. Your 55 gallon is fine for them, but don't forget that filtration has to scale up as well. Given you're growing Java ferns, I'd be tempted to use an undergravel filter with two powerheads plus two medium or one large external canister filter. Ideally, these would be rigged as a reverse flow system (i.e., replace the powerheads with the outlets from two external filters. This will give you lots and lots of biological filtration plus very effective mechanical filtration -- the ideal for such big and messy fish.> I feed them a mix of flake food, small cichlid pellets, fresh greens, blood worms, brine shrimp, and an occasional live insect (not all at once of course - I mix it up from day to day). Ammonia is 0, nitrites are 0, nitrates are about 30 ppm. I keep the tank at 78 degrees F. <Sounds fine.> Oh, and one last question, off-topic from the nitrite spike - my Bichir absolutely loves the small cichlid pellets, but they're big enough that he has a lot of difficulty swallowing them. Should I quit using them, so he doesn't hurt himself? <He's fine. Bichirs feed extensively on shelled invertebrates and have very strong jaws. More importantly, fish don't "choke". The only reason humans choke is because of where the larynx is situated relative to the trachea and esophagus. It's a classic evolutionary compromise between being able to speak but at the cost of greater risk of choking. Most other animals don't have this arrangement, and fish certainly don't, and once the food is in the throat it's soft tissue all the way to the stomach with little scope for harm or damage. Indeed, many fish deliberately pass solid food to the throat where special teeth (called pharyngeal teeth) grind or chop up the food item.> Thanks for your help. I love what you're all doing through this site. -Michael <Thanks, and hope this helps. Neale>

Re:... NO2 follow-up... need to match, find... and train Neale to apply useful titles...  - 05/02/07 Neale & Crew, Whew!  You don't disappoint on the "brutal honesty!"  Thanks (wry  smile). <Hah!> So far, since Saturday night's water change the nitrites &  ammonia have been at "0,"  and I am keeping a close eye on  them.  I think I was lulled by the test strip's wording regarding nitrite  levels: "caution" for .5 ppm, "stress" for 1 ppm, etc.  Since mine never  quite made it to .5 ppm, I never fully realized the danger, though I knew the  goal was "0".  I don't say this as an excuse, as the info is out there, but as a warning to others new to fishkeeping. <It's an easy mistake to make. The sensitivity of fish to ammonia (and nitrite) depends on many factors, and while I'm sure your fish will survive at 0.5 ppm for a few days/weeks, it will certainly stress them, and be a factor causing the problems.> I also didn't realize the  charcoal element, made for the Aqua-clear 30 filter, was useless or  worse with a cycling FW aquarium.  Thankfully, I did have the biological  element in!   <Carbon serves a very specific purpose, but I'd argue that in a freshwater aquarium it's of minimal real value. Possibly more useful in marine tanks.> Also, I was thrown by the long, white stringy stuff, and the fact that only  two of them appeared actually stressed or unhappy. My remaining question: You never said, but should I assume you are implying that the fecal symptom is water quality symptom, or food issue?  They had been eating  both veg.s and omnivore flakes.  I could pass the Omni food off to a  neighbor. <Long stringy faeces in fish usually implies a dietary imbalance. Not necessarily critical every time you see this, but if persistently showing this symptom it is a warning that the diet you are offering isn't quite right. Certainly adding more fibre (greens) to the diet and using "natural" foods like frozen bloodworms instead of "processed" foods like flake will help. It's essentially constipation, and fish get it for the same reason we do.> Also, I am afraid a lot of us newbies are making the mistake of putting  platys in tanks under 10 gallons, as I have seen a number of posts that show  that. <Ten gallon and smaller tanks are inexpensive, easy to set up, and widely sold. Hence, there are a lot of them about. I have two tanks about this size, and very useful they are, primarily for rearing baby fish. The problem is that for any fish larger than, say, a neon, a 10 gallon tank is very confining. Yes, you can keep a platy inside one, but given a platy reaches a fair size when mature, it isn't comfortable. A 20 gallon tank is marginally more expensive but gives you so much more space to work with.> Thank you for letting me, and others, know.  Of course,  the LFS wouldn't tell us that.  However, after doing a bit of digging  around the internet, I found that my tank dimensions are for a fairly standard  ten gallon aquarium.  When I said "approximately 7.5 gallon water  volume" I was conservatively estimating the amount of water in the tank  (I wasn't certain of "tank size" as it came to us second hand and the tank  volume calculator I used wasn't clear on whether they meant interior or  exterior measurements... obviously another  important fact that I needed to know  from the beginning). <Don't forget that once you add the filter, heater, sand and any ornaments, the average aquarium will only hold around 80% of the water it says on the box. But I agree, estimating tank size isn't always easy. I wrote a little freebie program called Fish Tank Tool for Mac and Windows that you can download here: http://homepage.mac.com/nmonks/software/index.html . It basically works out the volume and helps calculate various things like how many fish you can keep in it. Try it.> So, hopefully the  kids can keep their platys,  although obviously four fish were too many for an  uncycled tank.  In fact,  I wouldn't put fish in an uncycled tank at all if I  had it to do over  again.   <Platies are excellent fish, and trust me, well worth spending tome learning about. The livebearer group generally is one of the most fascinating groups of fishes, and once they start making babies you'll have lots of scope for educating the children about how the behave and breed.> As for the salt and platys, it is sometimes recommended at WWM, though  perhaps in "aquarium" form rather than plain old NaCl (?).   <Aquarium "tonic" salt, which is essentially NaCl identical to non-iodized cooking salt, can be used therapeutically for certain things. But most people use it merely as an additive, and at the doses used serves no real function. Platies certainly don't need it. The only thing you might add to the aquarium would be something to harden the water and raise the pH, if your water was soft and acidic. A half or quarter dose of Tanganyikan salts would work great for this.> I won't argue  the point with you, as I planned to phase the salt out after cycling, for the  benefit of the plants. <Most aquarium plants DO NOT like salt. Whilst there are a few brackish water tolerant plants in the trade, the list is quite short.> And what do I know anyway?  Apparently, not  much!  (again, wry smile) But I'm working on that. <Sit back and enjoy the fish. Wait for things to settle down and water quality to improve. When the tank has cycled, you can add more livestock if required. Oh, and by this point you'll be an expert itching to move onto another tank with bigger and better fishes!> Thanks again... I'm sure the fish would thank you too, if they could. <So longs as they fishes are happy, my work here is done.> V. <Cheers, Neale>

Re: nitrite problem Dear Crew, <Hello, Ronni here today.> Since the end of Jan. my Betta has been in my 10 gallon tank following a disaster in my 30 gallon tank in which she was the only fish to survive.  I rinsed well, then added clean aged water (ammonia, nitrites, nitrates = 0), a heater, thermometer, and new box filter containing new floss and new Eheim sintered glass substrate for biological filtration, no gravel in tank.  I knew the tank would have to cycle.  After several weeks nitrite levels increased higher than my test kit could measure (over 5 ppm).  For the past 6 days I have been vacuuming daily and doing daily  50% water changes (source water is kept in a barrel and aerated) and managed to bring nitrites  down to about 2 ppm.  Last night I got fed up.  I temporarily moved my fish to another bowl and got rid of all the water in the tank.  I scrubbed it out with salt water.  Poured boiling water into the tank and let it stand.  Rinsed it well and rescrubbed with salt and water and rinsed again.  I figured that would kill anything that was lurking around.  I also rinsed the thermometer and heater.  I filled the tank with water that had been heated and aerated for a week.  Ammonia, nitrites, nitrates were 0.  Put my fish back in.  This morning (12 hours later) nitrites measure 0.5 ppm.  My nitrite test kit is not the problem. WHAT IS GOING ON?? Where am I going wrong here?  I guess the tank never cycled - don't know why, but even so, how could nitrites rise so quickly? Judy <It may just be that with only the single small fish in there the tank was taking a while to cycle. Now that you've started over, do daily water changes to prevent the nitrites from getting out of hand again. It doesn't always happen but sometimes nitrites will rise rapidly and that could be what you're seeing. You might want to go to your LFS and get a bacterial start; this will help speed up the cycling process and will make it easier on your fish. Ronni>

Bridge decoration causing high NO2?  - 4/6/07 Hello! <Hello.> Could the bridge decoration in my 10 gallon tank be causing high levels of NO2? <If it is specifically designed for use in an aquarium, the answer is no. If some nick-knack you picked up from a gift shop on holiday, who knows?> My water readings today at the LFS were pH=7.0, NH3=0, NO2=2.0, NO3=60ppm, and PO4= 0.25. <The nitrites (NO2) are too high -- long term, that's going to harm your fish.> The LFS suggested that sometimes the decorations can be the culprit, especially things such as castles or bridges that are often painted. <Never heard that before. Sounds very unlikely. Nitrite comes from ammonia, ammonia comes from decaying nitrogenous compounds such as protein, and protein comes from fish food, dead animals and plants in the tank, etc.> The tank is about 6-7 weeks old and currently has 3 Platies and 1 Corydoras. <OK, the nitrite is probably because the filter is immature and/or you are feeding the fish too much and/or the filter is too small.> The bridge was bought from PetSmart and was sold as an aquarium decoration so I assumed it would be safe. The bridge has been in the tank since I bought it. <Simple solution: take the bridge out. If things get better, then leave it out. If nothing happens, it isn't the bridge.> About 3 weeks ago, all of the readings were good according to the LFS and I added 3 guppies. They have since passed away. They looked good for 1-2 weeks and then I lost all of them individually over a period of a week or so. The symptoms were stopped eating, not swimming around much, dead when I got home from work. <Almost CERTAINLY an immature filter/overfeeding/too-small filter. Guppies are quite delicate, and will die in poor water conditions. Wild guppies are very hardy, but fancy guppies are not.> The Platies and Corydoras are active, eating, and seem to be doing OK although I know the high NO2 is hurting them :-( <Good that you know, so now put that into action by [a] not buying any more fish so the filter can mature; [b] reducing the amount of food you give the fish by 50%; [c] doubling the number of water changes, or at least doing a 50% water change twice a week until the nitrites drop to ZERO; and [d] checking if the filter is big enough for your aquarium. Your thoughts on the cause of the high NO2? <See above.> Thank you so much and thank you for your wonderful website! Michele <No problems. Good luck! Neale>

Nitrite And Ammonia Problems In A Big Tank   12/21/06 I adopted a 150 tall FW tank with a sand bed, two bio-wheel filters, one canister filter, several pieces of driftwood. Living in it our 4 grown Severums, 2 grown Jurupari, 1 2.5ft fire eel, 3 African clawed frogs, 1 small Knifefish, 1 Pleco, and 2 3 to 4 inch eels. I have had it running for about 3 months.  It seemed to cycle the first week I had it (even though we moved it entirely and saved all the media)  - with nitrites and ammonia levels going to 0 after numerous days of massive water changes My problem is that about every 10 days the nitrites and ammonia test heavy again. I repeat several days of massive water changes and it returns to a clean state. But without fail about 10 days later it goes off the charts. A local fish guy suggested that the sand bed is responsible. I took about 1/2 the sand out - from 3 inches to about 1.5. but it did not stay clean. I have also put ammonia rocks into all the filters - but they have never "turned green" which I was told means my ammonia test kit is giving me a false positive. I am willing to replace the sand with gravel and even install UGF is necessary - both ideas have been suggested. I do not overfeed. There are no dead fish. There is ample biological media in both wheels and in added media in all filters. Any ideas? Does sand in a FW present problems. I have 12 other tanks and everyone is cycled and stays that way. Thanks Tim < Do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean all the filters. Chemical waste levels should be down to zero. Feed as you normally do and test the water daily. I think you will find a logarithmic but gradual increase in these levels over a few days before they peak. The Bio-Wheels are great little inventions and you are correct that they should be handling all the bioload for this tank. The problem is in the canister filter. Food/waste gets trapped in the canister filter and there is very little oxygen in the canister for the bacteria to live on and break down the waste. So now the fish are generating biological waste and so is the crap in canister filter. The outflow of the canister filter has no measurable oxygen so bacteria cannot live and break down the waste. I would recommend that you add a bio wheel attachment to the canister filter outflow before it goes back into the tank and that you vacuum the gravel every time you do a water change. If the driftwood is not suitable for the aquarium then it could be rotting and contributing to the problem.-Chuck>

High Nitrites in FW Tank--Good Time to Add More Fish?  12/7/06 Okay Crew, I need some serious help! <Hi Ashley, I'll do my best!> I have a 55g tank, 14 "feeder" goldfish and now two small keyhole cichlids. <You were full-up with the goldfish.  In addition, GF require much cooler temps than the cichlids & carry many diseases tropical fish can't handle.> Before we put the cichlids in, the nitrites were already on their way up <Ummm... so you bought MORE fish?> and so we got some all over "cleaner" to get rid of it, since we can't seem to find just a nitrite remover. <No such thing as an "all over cleaner" or a nitrite remover.  The only way to remove nitrates is with huge water changes or by adding Bio-Spira, to cycle the tank.  Do not let someone sell you any different product, claiming it will do the same thing.> We've barely had the tank over a week and we're going to do a 50% water swap (I'd do more but I don't want to cause more stress on my poor fishies).   <Water changes done regularly, no matter how large (I do 80% weekly on all my FW tanks), will not stress your fish, as long as you use dechlorinator (I suggest Prime) & fill with the same temperature water.> Today was also the day we didn't feed the fish to allow for digestion as suggested and we're also considering giving some of the fish a "new bowl" to swim in as much as it breaks our hearts. <You can only keep either the GF or cichlids.  Not both together.> We don't want them all to die though. <Me either!> How often should the tank be cleaned?    <Most serious GF keepers, do 90% weekly water changes on their tanks, because they are messy, high-ammonia/waste producers.  Eventually, your GF will require 30g each, as they grow to around a foot.  They can also live 25+ years, if kept properly. What can we do! Can you get just nitrite remover? <Repeat after me, "The solution, to pollution is dilution!"   Please read this: http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/library.php?p=9 Please help, the test strip says the nitrite's are at high stress - low danger, so please, please please, save my fish. <You are getting sleepy... you only hear the sound of my voice... you must do water changes... water changes... water changes... water changes... (I feel like a broken record.)  Please do yourself & your fish a favor & read all the articles in the Aqua Science & Water Filtration sections of that Library.  Great info there!  ~PP> Thanks so much, Ashley

Freshwater nitrite confusion  - 11/13/06 Hello Crew, <Pam> It's been a while since my last question. Still a novice... I've been doing some reading, and can't seem to find the exact info I need. Most of what I can find deals with salt water tanks and not freshwater. I'm trying to find out how to interpret these test results. <Let's "fill out" the FW nitrite FAQs a bit here> My 10 gal tank has been cycling for about a month now, with 25% water changes weekly  (Well water; no chemical additives typical to a municipal supply. <Mmm, a comment... during cycling (I take it, hope there are no livestock present), such (large) water changes are to be avoided... tend to put off cycling...> Tests safely on all levels prior to adding to tank.)   I only have one 1 1/2 inch long goldie <...> and no live plants. I'm feeding once per day. Current levels in this tank are as follows: Ammonia: 0 ppm Nitrite: 2.0 ppm <Yikes... way too high, toxic> Nitrate: between 10 & 20 ppm Ammonia levels have been consistently dropping, while Nitrite levels are going up, up, up. Do I simply continue the water changes and wait for the nitrite levels to drop? <Mmm... yes, along with very scant feeding... perhaps (advised) the addition of a purposeful adjunct (BioSpira... from Marineland), and/or perhaps some other source of useful bacteria... like the live plant you alluded to> Add some conditioner? <Mmm, the bacterial product above> Vacuum the gravel? <I would not... But would change the water to keep nitrite below 1.0 ppm, not feed anything if it goes over this threshold> I'm stumped... Thank you so much for your time! P. Bass <You have read on WWM re FW Cycling: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above? Bob Fenner>

High Nitrites  5/25/06 Hey guys, <Hi Matt, Pufferpunk here> My eel is doing well with the new finer gravel but problems are always somewhere.  My nitrites are high.   <Although nitrites are toxic at anything over 0, it is always nice to know exactly how high, when posting.> I have been using Nitra-Zorb (says it lowers ammonia, nitrite and nitrate) and I have put Cycle in my filter.   <Both total JUNK!  The only way to remove nitrites form your water at this point is with water changes and/or by adding Bio-Spira.  Cycle is like adding fish waste (dead bacteria) to your tank & will only make things worse!> I have also done frequent water changes over the last weekish (19 gallons of distilled water into a 29 gallon tank total). I'm doing a 4 gallon change tonight also but this just isn't working.  My nitrites haven't even slightly changed since I started these treatments; however my ammonia and nitrates are now good and holding at good.  I also know that it isn't my test kit because PetSmart confirmed it and I bought a new kit.  It doesn't make sense, shouldn't the bacteria be lowering the nitrite already even without Cycle (my tank has been running for about a month)?  How large would you say is the largest water change that I could do?   <If you have already been doing large water changes, you can do as much as 90% daily, if you wish (discus breeders do 100% daily).  You've got to get those nitrites down.  Are you cleaning the gravel, under & between decor?  How many fish are in there?  How big is the eel?  Your best bet is doing a huge water change & adding Bio-Spira to your filter, to fully cycle your tank & throw all that other junk out.  ~PP> Any help would be great. Thanks again, Matt

High Nitrites  5/26/06 Thanks for responding so quickly.  You guys are great!   My eel is a Striped Peacock about 7 inches long (I read they do fine in tanks as small as 10 gallons).   <Don't believe everything you read or hear from a LFS.  Peacocks generally stay small, around 5", so you may have one of the larger species.> I think I will do 50% - 75% change today and tomorrow or Sunday and again Monday or Tuesday, what do you think?  I have in the tank so far.... 2- Black Skirt Tetras 1- Common Plecostomus <Grow to 18"> 1- Rubber Lip Plecostomus 1- Upside down Cat (small, brown colored species) 1- Black Kuhli Loach 1- Powder Blue Dwarf Gourami 1- Fire Red Dwarf Gourami 2- Red Wag Platies 1- Dalmatian Mollie (getting rid of, too aggressive) 1-Pink Kissing Gourami (getting rid of, too aggressive) 1- Striped Peacock Eel. Oh, and yes I clean under all the decorations.  Also can you tell me if you think PetSmart or Petco would have Bio-Spira or am I going to need to order it. <I'm not sure.  More shops are stocking it now but you must be sure to buy from someone that can guarantee it has been kept refrigerated since it was made or the bacteria won't be viable.  I find these guys to be good: http://fishstoretn.com/bio_spira.html  ~PP> Thanks again, Matt

Nitrate & Nitrite in an Uncycled FW Tank - 4/24/2006 Hi <<Hi Gary.>> I was hoping you could help me. <<I'll try!>> I have got a nitrate/nitrite problem.  I have recently started a freshwater fish tank.  Everything was going ok, took the advice of where I bought my tank, read up a few books, and I set the tank up. <<Many fish stores are less than properly educated.>> Then added the water with a water conditioner also bacteria, I left it a few days then added plants and rocks. <<If you added live bacteria, like Bio-Spira (anything else available is dead bacteria at best), it will have died in a day or so without ammonia from fish wastes to feed it.  You add your fish right after adding the Bio Spira to your filter.>> I then also left a few days longer approx 4 days, after checking ph levels, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, calcium hardness and carbonate hardness all seemed to be ok. <<You didn't read ammonia, nitrite or nitrate because your tank hadn't yet started cycling.>> I went and bought my fish a couple of days later and I noticed most of my fish had white spot so I treated that problem with tri sulfa tablets (treated twice).  This is when all my problems now have started the ammonia nitrate & nitrite levels went sky high so I started to do the water changes.  I have now just got the ammonia level down to 0ppm but the nitrate & nitrite are just getting worse. <<Your tank was not cycled, and now is.  Do daily water changes of 75% or more to keep these toxins down while the nitrifying bacteria grow in your filter.>> I suppose you can tell from this that I am inexperienced in aquarium keeping, but I do enjoy fish keeping.  I hope you can help me with this problem, as I am getting more worried about losing my fish.   <<Keep up with the water changes, and your tank should be cycled in a few weeks.  Read on WWM to learn about fishless cycling for the future.>> I look forward to hearing from you soon Thanks, Gary <<Glad to help. Lisa.  In the future, please capitalize your I's and run your email through a spelling/grammar checker.>>

FW nitrite but no nitrate  - 04/07/06 Greetings, <Hello, Karen. Tom> I have a 29 G tall freshwater tank.  It is filtered with a UG system and a powerhead using reverse flow, accompanied by an Aquaclear power filter. I am in day 33 of the tank's cycle. I have 6 Zebra Danios. I have no ammonia, 5 mg/l nitrite <Same as '5 ppm' for those taking notes. And, thank Heaven you've got Danios in your tank! :)>, and 0 ppm nitrate. I have done 4 H20 changes @ 10 gallons each time. These levels have been this way for about a 5 or 6 days. When am I going to get nitrate and, can I hasten this? I don't want to harm the fishes. <Karen, you've got a couple of options. The first is to stop doing the water changes and, the second is to stop doing water changes and add Bio-Spira (Marineland) to your tank. The Nitrosomonas bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrite has established itself. Not so with the Nitrospira bacteria that convert nitrite to nitrate. (Before I'm hanged in effigy by all of you 'Nitrobacter' fans, please see: http://biology.kenyon.edu/Microbial_Biorealm/bacteria/nitrospira/Nitrospira.htm) Your nitrite levels are far from being in short supply for the bacteria to feed on but your water changes are excessive for a "cycling" tank. The Bio-Spira contains the "live" bacteria that would jump-start the conversion. (Please don't waste your money on "off-the-shelf" treatments. Bio-Spira is a refrigerated product and must be kept refrigerated to keep the bacteria viable.)> A second question: regarding a quarantine tank - Is it all right to keep it up and running with just a few Danios in it, then I would remove them to the display tank while I was quarantining new arrivals or medicating any other fish? <Answer: "Yes". Now I'm going to tell why you shouldn't do it. First, handling fish is stressful to the animals. Danios may be tough but they deserve the same treatment that any other fishes deserve. Second, no "quarantine" procedure is perfect. Ideally, the QT should be broken down and thoroughly cleaned after each use. (Yes, you may be conscientious enough to do this but others may, unfortunately, infer differently, i.e. leave the QT running all the time and just keep adding/transferring/medicating fish. Not what we at WWM prescribe at all.) Last, there are "fishless" methods to keep a cycled, unoccupied tank, if you must.> Thanks for your time. If I can help you by answering any questions about computers, whitewater kayaking, breastfeeding, or the meaning of life, feel free to ask. : ) <A rather "eclectic" mix of topics, to be sure! :)> Karen <Tom>

Nitrite craziness  - 02/16/2006 Hi guys, gals and fishies of all ages! I'm having some difficulty with my tank and even after reading your nitrite FAQ, I'm still a bit lost. <Let's see if we can help you find yourself> The tank is a 29gal with two very small Ryukins - one calico, one red & white. (I know goldfish really need more water than that to grow, so in about a month when I move they'll be getting 150gal tank. No worries about that). It seems no matter how I treat my water and how many water changes I do, I can't get the nitrites to come down. <Odd> According to my test strips, the water is currently: Ammonia: 0.25ppm Nitrate: 20ppm Nitrite: 5.0ppm <Yeeikes> Hardness: 75ppm Alkalinity: Somewhere between 0 and 40ppm. The test strip doesn't exactly match either color and falls somewhere in the middle. <Time to get rid of the strip technology and use some simple colorimetric assays...> pH: 6.4ish - Again, the strip color falls somewhere between 6.2 and 6.8, so it's a guess. <I would not raise/elevate the pH till you solve this nitrogenous cycling issue...> Temp: Usually between 65 and 70, but right now I'm running at about 63 because I left my window open last night. <Ditto for temp. Keep it low...> For my tank setup, I have the two small goldfish and no other fish. About an inch of large smooth gravel. <I would increase the depth here to about two inches... to harbor beneficial microbes> A whisper power filter for a 20-40gal tank. <And don't "clean" this out until a few weeks after all ammonia and nitrite are gone> The whisper 10-30 aerator with a large (maybe 1" x 4"?) airstone. And one small water lily, but I put that in the tank after the whole nitrite incident hearing that plants could help build up the biological filtration. <Yes> So far I've tried: 1. Doing constant water changes - somewhere between 5 and 15 gal at a time. <... better not to change if the fish aren't being outright poisoned> Used a gravel vac to siphon out the water, but I didn't clean the gravel as I heard I can "over clean" and ruin some of the filtration. <Yes> 2. Treating water with AmQuel+. Didn't seem to help much. (I was at first treating water with stress coat, but read AmQuel+ is better, plus it's supposed to remove nitrites and ammonia, so I switched.) <Ahh! This is a source of your mis-reading... this product will yield a "false positive" with many types of such testing...> 3. Testing my tap water. Came up no ammonia, no nitrites... nothing that seemed to warrant a concern... but to be on the safe side, I tried doing some water changes with filtered water only (I have a Pur faucet mount filter) <Once the system is settled in, I would bypass this filter for about half here. Goldfish need minerals.> 4. Being very cautious not to overfeed and have substituted some of their regular food for frozen (thawed) peas as I read these will not contribute to bad water quality as much as fish flakes being  that they tend to stay in one piece and don't rot as fast - not that they have a chance to, since my fish gobble them up within seconds. 5. Tried Cycle and StressZyme, didn't do a thing. Am attempting to track down Bio-Spira thinking that would help my biological filtration, <Good> but I've run into the luck that the two stores in the area that used to carry it have stopped carrying it. I'm working on ordering it online. <Very good> My water is constantly cloudy. It's gotten better since the water changes have dropped the nitrites from 10ppm to 5ppm, although I know that's still quite dangerous. I just can't seem to get it below 5ppm. The fish don't show any signs of stress, <Because the NO2 is not actually 5.0... probably closer to zero...> and I suppose my low pH probably has something to do with that. <No> I was going to add aquarium salt, but then I read that if you treat the water for ammonia, adding salt will release the ammonia back into the water, and I didn't want that to happen. <Not to worry, but I would hold off on adding much salt... this also delays cycling establishment> Along with my nitrite problem, I've also noticed that the Mardel test strips I've been using are a pain in the neck to read. Is there a better brand I should check out? <Yes... liquid reagent, comparative types... any brand is fine. Aquarium Pharmaceuticals is widely available, inexpensive> (I admit, I didn't look for a test strip FAQ - it only occurred to me to change strips while I was writing this email.) <Good> I've been reading so much information on this subject that it's starting to become very confusing! I really appreciate any help you can give.. I'd really hate for anything bad to happen to these little guys. Thanks! <Do change test kit/type, add the gravel, leave off with water changes, filter cleaning, cut back to the nth re feeding... And all should cycle soon. Bob Fenner> Re: Nitrite craziness    2/17/06 Good call on the test kit. I bought Aquarium Pharmaceuticals liquid test kits for nitrite and ammonia today. Turns out I already had one for pH (amazing what you find when you remember to clean out your cabinets.) My new readings are: Nitrite: 0.5ppm <Mmm, still problematical...> Ammonia: 0ppm pH: 6.6 I'll keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't go over 1ppm like your FAQ says. <Ah, good> I'll be purchasing the other test kits when my LFS restocks. I also bought more gravel to raise the level in the tank. Haven't changed the filter in a while and I've stopped doing water changes. Looks like I'm finally in good shape. <Yay!> Thank you so much for getting me past my panic attack. I appreciate it... and Charles and Darwin (fish) do too I'm sure. <Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Getting Rid Of Nitrites  - 2/21/2006 Ok, sorry to bother you again, but my nitrites are still going nutty. I increased the gravel. I added a penguin filter with a bio wheel to attempt to increase bacterial growth. I didn't remove the old filter to keep any bacteria on it still in the tank. I've done no water changes. I've cut back on feeding to the point of almost starvation. Today I checked my levels and I'm at: 0ppm ammonia 2.0ppm nitrites I'm truly afraid to do a water change because I retested my tap water with the aquarium pharmaceuticals kit (instead of the Mardel strips) and found 1.0ppm ammonia in my tap water. < Probably testing the ammonia on the chloramines.> So, if I do a water change, I'm only adding ammonia back to the tank. Adding water with ammonia to a tank with fish that provide their own high levels of ammonia, I think I've overloaded my nitrifying bacteria which is why the tank won't cycle past the nitrite spike. Does that sound right? < If you have coarse gravel then there is not much surface area for the bacteria to live on. The Bio-wheel will help.> The  Out of desperation, I added Marineland White Diamond to the penguin filter at 4 tbls per 10gal (as directions said). I figured at this point, with my levels so high, it couldn't hurt. I have 5 gallons of tap water in another container being filtered with Marineland White Diamond and activated carbon (not Marineland) so I can hopefully remove all the ammonia from it and use that to do a water change. I've been running it about 24 hrs so far and it's only down to 0.5pm ammonia, so it's not ready to use for a water change yet. I have previously treated my tank water with Amquel+ to remove nitrites, but am not sure if I should do this again. If I do, it would be the third (or maybe fourth) treatment and I don't want to poison my fish. I also looked into a tap water filter from DrsFosterSmith.com ( http://www.drsfostersmith.com/Product/Prod_Display.cfm?pcatid=4484&N=2004+11 3775 ), which is supposed to make water safe for aquarium use. However, even if I do order this, it would take at least a few days to arrive, and at the rate I'm going, I could lose my fish by then. Is there anything I can do in the mean time to help this situation? And, have you had any experience with this tap water filter? I'm not sure if it would solve my problem or not. I've emailed DrsFosterSmith.com for their opinion on it, but they haven't gotten back to me yet. Also, my water is still ridiculously cloudy. I assume that's from the nitrites? Thanks so much! Amanda < Go to Marineland.com and check out Dr. Tim's Library. There you will find interesting and informative articles by a guy who got his PH.D. by studying this stuff. I think the Amquel Plus is tying up the nitrites and making them unavailable for the bacteria to break down, but they still read on the test kit. I would remove all the rocks and ornaments in the aquarium and then vacuum the gravel. Clean the filters and do a 50% water change. Add Bio-Spira from Marineland. It contains the bacteria that converts ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate. It will live fine on the Bio-wheel and take care of all of your problems. The filter you asked about removes everything from the water and is quickly exhausted. You do not need this.-Chuck>

Tap water nitrites off the charts!  02/12/06 Guys, Just out of curiosity I checked my tap water for nitrites... It was nearly the max of my test kit. What is up with that? <Trouble... either a faulty test kit (hopefully) or dangerously toxic source water (even for you)> Isn't it spiking the heck out of my water when I add it to my tank? I did a water change three days ago, and my in-tank readings are normal today (zero ppm for nitrites), but is the initial addition of the water dangerous to the fish? <Yes, can be> I change about 20 percent weekly... Thanks <I would first "check your checker"... with another test source. Get/use an RO device for your potable uses... Bob Fenner>

Old mail (Nitrite poisoning) - 7/2/06 Hi guys. <Elise. Please accept my sincere apologies for the delayed reply to this. My mistake.> I'm a newbie here, and I've been spending the last few days researching your site for my problem.  I have learned a lot, and I appreciate all this information being available!  I understand now about the nitrogen cycle, but I'm still uncertain how to rescue my current situation.  I have a long-established 20 gallon with three Dalmatian mollies and two neon tetras.  Two Dalmatian fry were born in October and nine more in November.  I began seriously overfeeding, which I now understand was a terrible mistake. <Yes... an easy mistake to make.>   I lost two of the fry to the filter, two didn't grow much and died, one didn't grow at all and I never found the body.  I have searched the filter, ornaments, and vacuumed aggressively, but couldn't find it. Of course my overfeeding led to ammonia, a case of Ick, at which point I learned from the pet store how overfeeding had poisoned my tank. To try to rescue the situation, I have done the following: I gave one dose of CopperSafe for the Ick (a week ago, fish is cured). <The life cycle of Ick is longer than this.. for much of the life cycle the white spots are not visible. Do continue the treatment as directed on the bottle.> I increased the temperature to the mid-eighties, and added aquarium salt. <Great... this alone is actually what I have found to be useful and often recommend for treating Ick.>   I have also been using Cycle. <I would not add this product to a tank with fish in.>   I added a little sponge filter to the bottom to increase aeration.  My ammonia went down, then the nitrites spiked off the charts.  I tried several large water changes, but the nitrite level would still test to an "off the chart" level, even right after the change.  The fish are behaving fine, so far.  I have read what I perceive to be conflicting advice regarding whether or not to change the water.  I felt that the nitrite level was extremely toxic, and I believed my fish would surely die if I did nothing, so I performed several water changes adding salt, Aqua Safe, and Cycle to the new water before adding each time)  After a few days of this, this evening the nitrite finally went down to .5ppm after a 75% water change.  However, my ammonia is back up to .25ppm.  Fish still seem fine. <The salt is countering nitrite toxicity.> Should I continue these water changes? <Yes, but ditch the Cycle. You will find it is adding to ammonia / nitrites.>   Tonight I added a Bio Wheel filter, and I left the Aqua Clear filter operating as well.  I am setting up a ten gallon tank. My plan is to cycle it first and then put the four youngest fry there, in order to decrease stock.  I am wondering if I should consider using this tank as temporary housing for all the fish until things calm down in the 20 gallon tank? <I would keep them in the present tank, and put one of the filters on the other tank after 2 - 3 weeks.>   Is there anything else I should do/shouldn't be doing?  Thanks in advance, Elise <Best regards, John.>

Persistent High Nitrite Level FW  1/31/06 I have read other messages on your site and other articles on other sites about high nitrite levels, but I still don't quite get it. I have a 10 gallon tank with 10 fish: 2 balloon belly mollies 2 ghost catfish 5 orange von Rio tetras 1 algae eater There are many, many small snails that were acquired accidentally with an aquatic plant that died some time ago. . . The snails, however, live on and reproduce at a staggering rate. <Mmm, you might want to collect and remove a bunch of these periodically... easy to draw to a small glass tray with a sinking bit of algae based food or blanched vegetable... as bait> Until today, I had a philodendron sticking out the top of the tank with its roots submerged. I took it out thinking that this was perhaps contributing to the problem. <Oh! Yes> About a week ago one of my mollies (there were three) started to act strangely as if she couldn't submerge. She would still eat when given food, but couldn't swim down to eat off the bottom like she always had. She had also lost a lot of weight. Eventually, she became very lethargic and got to the point where she was upside down and couldn't turn over. I took her and another sample of tank water to the local pet store. They said it didn't look like she had any disease and offered no explanation as to her condition. I assumed it was just old age and I only include this description in case it is symptomatic of some other problem. Anyway, when the girl at the store tested the water (something I had never done--shame on me), she said that the pH level was low and that I should increase it with a pH increaser. I bought the pH increaser and a test kit that tests for NO3, NO2, GH, KH, and pH. When I got home, I did a 30% water change and added 1 tsp of salt, which is my normal routine. (I keep around 3 tsp of salt in the water at all times.) I did not add any pH increaser. I tested the water immediately afterward and it looked OK except the water was hard, so I added a teaspoon of salt. The next day, however, the levels were as follows: NO3 = 40 <I'd keep this under 20 ppm> NO2 = 1.0 <Dangerous... should be zip, nada, zilch> GH = 300 KH = 0 pH = 6.8 I added another teaspoon of salt and changed the filter which was very dirty (because I had made the water very silty the last time I changed it--explanation below). The next day, the nitrite level was at 3.0. <Yeeikes!> I did another 30% change and waited an hour before testing. The nitrite had gone down to 1.0. One day later, it was back up to 3.0. The next day, 3.0 again. The following day, 5.0. Today, it was still 5.0 so I did another 30% water change. One hour later, the levels are as follows: NO3 = 40 NO2 = 3.0 GH = 150 KH = 40 pH = 7.2 There is currently about 8 teaspoons of salt in the water. <Mmm, you might want to mix some of this salt up in tapwater and test it for nitrite...> The strange thing (to me) is that the fish seem to be happy and healthy. From everything I have read in the past few days, a 5.0 nitrite level should have them dropping like flies! <Let's see... luckily your pH is low... if it were a little higher, the nitrite would be MUCH more toxic> I have checked for brown coloring of the gills and see none. They are not gasping for air at the top of the tank either. I can only surmise from what I have read that the salt is keeping the nitrite from being as toxic as it otherwise could be. <Oh, yes... this also> I have noticed the mollies scraping themselves occasionally on a structure in the tank. I read today that this was one sign of nitrite poisoning. I have had this tank for 8 months now and only three fish have died in that time (except for the batch I introduced right at the beginning before the tank had cycled!). About a month ago, I did a very thorough cleaning of the tank. I really stirred up the waste on the bottom, trying to get as much out as possible. I took out all the structures and washed them with hot (not soapy) water. I changed the filter as well. I also started feeding them much more around that time. Basically, I unwittingly did everything I could to raise the nitrite level! My questions are this: 1. Why isn't the level decreasing? <I suspect the houseplant> 2. Why are the fish still alive and acting normal? <They're tough, adapted to it, and the salt> 3. I have read on some sites of a biological filter or a biofilter: Is this (a) just another name for the normal filter, <Mmm, of a sort... all filters are ultimately biological to degrees> (b) a different kind of filter that I should have, or (c) just a term that refers to the nitrogen cycle that occurs within the tank? <Mostly the latter> 4. Could the snails be causing problems? <Yes... carry disease... and can influence water quality in high numbers> 5. I have read that most of the bacteria live on the filter. Wouldn't changing the filter then lead to these levels getting all out of whack every time? <Yes... a common problem/occurrence. In established systems not such an issue> Thank you for any help you can provide. - Bryan <I would read over WWM re FW filtration, add more filtration, remove the houseplant, reduce the number of snails, test the salt... Bob Fenner>

Re: Persistent High Nitrite Level... Betta systems and snail removal technique  2/3/06 Thank you. After removing the philodendron, the nitrite levels immediately dropped and are now < 0.5 ppm. Other levels are beginning to even out as well. <Ah, good> I thought you also might like to know that I have rigged up a plastic fork on some fishing line as a snail remover. I stick a piece of vegetable on the tines of the fork, and when a few snails crawl on, I hoist it up and scrape them off. It's not pretty, but it's been fairly effective! <Neat! Bob Fenner>

Dangerous nitrite levels in 3 week old tank--help our poor fishy! Help them yourself... only you can  1/26/06 I'm sure you've had these questions many times before, <If so... our responses would/will be posted on WWM> and I'm sorry   about that, but things are getting pretty dire here.  We've got a new   10 gallon tank (about three weeks), and the nitrite levels seem to be dangerously high, though ammonia seems to have cycled nicely.   <Numbers please> I'm   very worried about our lionhead, though, because nothing that I've been able to do (partial water changes, treatments) are taking the nitrites down.    <? Dilution should lower correspondingly... chemical filtrants> I've had lots of different advice from people at the store I bought the tank, up to and including "forget about it,   there's nothing you can do."   What can I do to help her out while the tank is still cycling? <... posted> Will the tank continue to cycle if I take her out entirely, or will that just stop the process?  I don't want   to overdo things, but we're really very concerned that the nitrite levels are well into the toxic range, and don't know if it will be a few weeks before the nitrites come down, and if she'll make it.  What can we do here?  Even though we've only had her a few weeks, we can't bear to lose her! Thanks! John <Please... stop being anxious, and stop writing... and read. Bob Fenner>

Re: Update...Dangerous nitrite levels in 3 week old tank--help our poor fishy!   1/27/06 I know I only wrote you yesterday afternoon, but I have to head off to the office now and won't be back till tonight, so I thought I'd better write you now with the update, and maybe if it's not too much trouble you could possibly answer them together. <Already responded to>   The nitrite levels remain just as high, and my ammonia test this morning surprised me by being right about where was over the weekend, though not I think at a dangerous level. <? Numbers>   She's <Who?> developing some grainy patches along her sides, but not enough that I can tell whether those and the little   bits of white on her cap are just natural or stress or disease She's still eating and bopping around like crazy, but the grainy bits and things seem more pronounced.   Is it really just a waiting game (she's been in the tank 18 days now and it's not getting better yet)   or should I be doing more water changes? <Would they help?> I'm leaving the gravel alone now, having had what I thought was bad advice at first to clean it regularly, and lots of conflicting advice from what's supposed to be the best fish supply place in town!  But we're a bit more worried every day--is there anything we can do here?  Would putting in a little cleaner spring water help?  Would Bio-Spira help or hurt at this point? <Would help> We've grown so attached to her in the few weeks she's been part of the family! Thanks again, so much! John <Keep reading. Bob Fenner> Thanks!   Found a lot of helpful info we'd missed the first time.    Keeping our fins crossed, and thanks again. <Ah, good. Welcome. BobF>

High Nitrite 1/23/2006 Hello crew, <<Hello Elise>> I'm a newbie here.  I've done a lot of research on your site over the last couple of weeks, thanks so much for all the info!  I'm still unclear on one thing regarding high nitrites.  Here's my situation:  I have a long-established twenty gallon with three adult Dalmatian mollies and six fry. I have an Aqua Clear filter which I've maintained as instructed and just added a Bio Wheel. Due to my ignorance, I drastically overfed and conducted water changes with ammonia-laden tap water. <<Please test your source water before adding to your tank.>> I have passed the ammonia spike and am currently experiencing the nitrite spike.  It was testing off the charts before I conducted several water changes (with bottled spring water) to bring it down.  I QT'd one of the adults, who was looking pretty sickly, she's better now. <<How was the quarantine tank cycled?>> I raised the temp to the mid eighties and added salt.  What I am confused about is this:  I keep reading "dilution is the solution" <<Yes.>> but I also read "every time you change your water you start your cycle over, you need to leave it alone". <<Some feel it may delay the cycle.  Most of the bacteria reside on substrate and hard surfaces in your tank, and primarily in filter media, not in the water column.>> So, I am unsure how to proceed, should I do just enough water changes to keep the nitrite to around .5 or .25, or should I let it ride, or should I change the water enough to bring it to zero? <<I would perform large enough water changes to keep the nitrite to an absolute minimum.  You may have to do changes more than once per day to do this.  Aim for 0 and keep it there with many small water changes.  If you have access to a product called Bio-Spira, do a large water change and add the product directly to your filter.  Bio-Spira contains live bacteria that will perform your bio-filtration.  Please keep testing your source water for ammonia, and to match the pH of your tank.>> Obviously, my goal is to not lose any fish! Thanks again for all your help, this site is the greatest!! <<Glad to help.  Lisa.>> Elise

High Nitrite II 1/23/2006 Hi Lisa, <<Hello Elise>> Thank you so much for the quick response! <<You are very welcome>> I'd like to respond to some of your comments.  I've been doing water changes a couple of times a day to keep the nitrite down, so glad to hear I'm on the right track. I also just ordered Bio-Spira this morning from the fish store, <<Are you in Canada? I'm in Toronto, and ordered it from the fish store as well with great results.>> so thanks for validating that decision as well!  Regarding my QT tank, well, it's not cycled.  I set it up with some gravel from the existing tank and 100% new water.  I knew this was not ideal, but she was near death and I was desperate to save her, so I pulled out all the stops. I've been medicating her with Maracyn two and copper and doing 50% water changes every day. <<I would stop medicating, this is a water-quality issue, not a disease.>> I had ammonia in there for a couple of days (unfortunately I set it up before I discovered my tap water has ammonia), now I have nitrite, but I've not let either go above .25ppm by doing water changes. She seems completely fine now.  My plan is to leave her there for two more days until I'm done with the Maracyn 2, then put her back home.  Regarding my source water, I stopped using tap after it tested positive for ammonia.  My LFS recommended bottle spring water, so I've been using that. <<I have never used this personally.  I would look into an RO unit personally>> I tested it for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and chlorine, and all results were zero.  The only problem is the PH is 7.6 instead of 7.2.  I've read that Dalmatian mollies prefer the higher ph, so I didn't try to change it.  I hope I didn't shock them too much. <<Consistency is better than accuracy>> I have now done several changes with the spring water.  All the fish seem fine.  They are quite active, and seem starving! I've been feeding them next to nothing.  Any further advice regarding the PH issue?  Thanks again so much for your help. <<You're welcome>> I'm so glad I found this site! <<Me too.>> If I had listened to my LFS, all my fish would be dead. They told me not to change the water at all! Elise <<Good luck.  Lisa.>>

High Nitrite III 1/23/2006 Hi again Lisa, <<Hello again Elise>> What's an RO unit? <<Reverse Osmosis unit, covered widely on WWM.>> To answer your question, I live in Florida.  The fish store is 2nd day UPSing the product with cold packs.  They insist that will work. <<It worked for me and I am much farther than you!>> So I just pour it right into my filter while it's running? <<You got it.>> I got the amount for a thirty gallon tank.  I'm thinking I can put two thirds of it in the twenty gallon and one third into my ten gallon QT tank, which I would like to cycle and move a few fry into. <<Sounds good.>>   Thanks again! <<Anytime.  Good luck.  Lisa>> Elise
High Nitrite IV 2/2/2006 Hi Lisa, <<Hi Elise!>> Just wanted to write and thank you again for all your help.  I never did use the Bio-Spira, the tank cycled on its own.  I had ZERO fatalities, thanks to the large and frequent water changes that you had me do. <<That is SO very wonderful to hear!  You need the credit, though, for keeping on top of things and getting such amazing results.  You've made my day :)>> Thanks again for all your help! <<You are quite welcome.  Feel free to right again, should you need my help.  Lisa.>> Elise

Nitrite problem  12/26/05 To crew at wet web, I have been having trouble with my nitrite for sometime.  I have done everything I can think of to fix this problem, but nothing seems to help.  I have reduced feeding, partial water changes, added stress zyme, used Nitrazorb in my filter, but it still is staying constant at 2.0 ppm for about two weeks now.  I have a 55 gallon tank with a small Oscar, 2 baby Dempseys, a blue phantom Pleco, and a common Pleco.  this is only a temporary for the Oscar until I get my 112 set up.  The 55 has been running for about two months now, and I have performed gravel vacuum and 25% weekly water change ever since the start.  Oh if your wandering about filtration I have a penguin 350 with bio wheel, a top fin 60, a Fluval 304, and an underground filter with a power head.  please help if you can my Oscar is starting to swim awkwardly. <as you know nitrite is very HARMFUL to the fish! I would continue to do water changes, feed sparingly, etc. It sounds like the biological filtration in the aquarium is weak...the denitrifying bacteria has not established itself enough yet. Luckily you have tough fish. I would just perform water changes...remember dilution is always the solution! good luck and happy holidays, IanB>                                          thanks for your time and merry Christmas,                                                           Carl

Regarding Nitrites in newer tank 10/16/05 Hi Bob. <Marcin> I have been running my 55 gallon tank for a week now with tetras small rainbow sharks and 2 Plecos. Last time I checked my ammonia and nitrites the ammonia was at 0 and the nitrites were at 0.1. I have since added a live plant into the aquarium and when I checked my levels again the ammonia was 0 again but the nitrites were 1.6 mg/L. <Mmm, too high> Should I do a partial water change or feed the fish a lot less food?  <Yes... posted on WWM... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above> Thank you P.S. all my fish seem healthy with no visible signs of stress. <Shows later... or not at all... or just dead animals. Bob Fenner> 

Nitrite Spiking? - 09/30/2005 Hi y'all I visit this forum frequently and have a question.   <First off, let me please apologize for the delay in my response.  I've been a touch ill and didn't realize I had some questions still in my inbox!  My deepest apologies....> I have a 30 gallon tank (current inhabitants 3 Platies, 6 cherry barbs, and a Pleco) that was previously cycled (no ammonia or nitrites).  I noticed yesterday (9/19/05) that my filter outflow seemed slowed down somewhat so I swished it around in some tank water from a water change, and I did a deep gravel vacuum.  I tested today and I have 3 ppm nitrites!  Did I get to vigorous when I did my tank cleaning?     <Entirely possible.> I did a 25% water change today, but the test has stayed the same. <Might want to go with a bigger water change. Also, I recently (9/15/05) added a school of cherry barbs (6 to be exact) could this be what's causing the current spike?   <Mm, possibly, but more likely from disturbing too much of the biological filtration in this system.> All fish look good, but it has me worried. What do I need to do? <Just water changes to drop the nitrite, and test your water as your biological filtration reestablishes itself.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

High Nitrites in a FW tank 8/4/05 Our nitrite levels keep soaring and we don't know how to get them down. I need answers specifically for my tank situation. We have a 25gl tank with a tiger Oscar, three Rosey barb, and three tinfoil barbs who all seem to be doing just fine and playful. The ammonia and everything is perfect. We started this cycle about two months ago. We have done a 25% water change everyday sometimes two to three times a day and the nitrites would maybe go down a little from 2.0 - 1.0 to .50 - .25. Then the next day its right back up again when I go to change the water.  We use water from the tub and put in AquaPlus to make it safe for the fish and keep their protective coats. We also use Cycle to promote Bacteria growth.  We just replaced 16 gallons today and then did another 8 gallons and that brought it down to .25 we're thinking about doing another one in a bit.  Also a couple of days ago we added a Nitrite filter. We only feed the Oscar One pellet every Once in a while. The other fish eat what the Oscar leaves behind. There is also this rust color on some of the ornaments. For filters we have two undergravel filters manned by air pumps and an electric side pump filter.  We have three 20 gallon pumps and one ten gallon pump manning the underground filter.  What more can we do to balance out everything and get a good cycle established. We live in a small town so our supplies are limited we have only one fish store called the Fish Bowl and a Wal-Mart. So far they have had what we needed. Reply ASAP please Thanks K_italian < Next water change you can gently vacuum the gravel. This will open up the undergravel filter while removing the muck that may be driving the algae up and creating the "rust" on you ornaments. Feed only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes once each day. Check the tap water for nitrites. In some agricultural areas the tap water is high in nitrogenous waste-Chuck>

Lowering Nitrite 8/3/05 How  harmful is a high nitrite n02 and how can I lower it. < Ammonia is the most toxic form of fish waste. It is then converted by bacteria to a less toxic form of waste called nitrite. Bacteria then convert it one more time to an even less toxic waste called nitrate. In a new tank it takes about 2 weeks for the bacteria to get established and convert the ammonia. In another two weeks the bacteria are then established to convert the nitrite to nitrate. Different fish have different tolerances to nitrite. Some FW riverine species have zero tolerances while others don't seem to be affected at all. The toxicity is also affected by the pH. Lower pH's make these compounds less toxic. Reduce nitrites by reducing the waste. Don't overfeed, vacuum the gravel and clean the filters. Some chemicals will actually tie up nitrites. I am not too sure what the long term affects will be. Go to Marineland.com and check out Dr. Tim's Library for lots of articles on nitrification.-Chuck>

Nitrites on the Rise Man oh man is the nitrite rising!!! My biggest fish just died today and I'm QT the next fish that looks the most unhealthy hoping I could save him!! So every day I should vac out the gravel? Is there anything I could add to the water to make the nitrite go down? I also don't understand how these fragile babies are living and the hardy larger fish are dying? <Get some Bio-Spira from Marineland. This stuff has the good bacteria in it and should help bring the nitrites down. In the meantime try some AmQuel plus by Kordon. It will bind up the nitrites until the bacteria get going.-Chuck>

High Nitrites with Goldfish okay sorry to bother you again. < No problem, that is why we are here.> I just did a 25% water change and did a water test. The ph was neutral and has borderline soft and hard water but however my nitrite is pretty high. My fish still on the floor and not eating and swimming as much. I added salt as recommended. How would I do to help bubba and lower my nitrites. < Clean the tank. Vacuum the gravel to remove the waste that has accumulated there and clean the filter. Feed only once a day and only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes. Remove uneaten food after two minutes. If Bubba is not eating he may have an internal bacterial infection and need treating with Metronidazole.-Chuck>

HIGH NITRITES Crew, I've read through the cycling and nitrites FAQ's and couldn't find a direct answer. I'm currently in the process of cycling my 75 gallon freshwater tank. I'm cycling without fish and using pure, store-bought ammonia to feed the populations of chemo-autotrophic bacteria (ammonia eaters). On day 17 of the cycling process I received my first reading of zero ammonia. I feed the tank half a teaspoon of ammonia daily to keep the "ammonia eaters" from starving while waiting for the nitrifying bacteria (nitrite eaters) to become established. My nitrite readings are literally off the chart however.  Twenty-four hours ago (cycling day 19) I added Bio-Spira (90 gallon size) to the tank. Today my nitrite readings are still way off the charts. Now to my question. Will this incredibly high nitrite reading have any adverse effects on the development of my "nitrite eaters" (i.e. reducing oxygenation to them)? <No. Just like it took a couple of weeks to develop the ammonia eaters, it will take a little time to get the nitrite eaters going. It is hard to tell in just 24 hours when both nitrite readings were off the charts. Normally it would take another two weeks to get the nitrites down, but it will be quicker since you have used Bio-Spira.> My tank is drilled and connects to an AMiracle wet/dry sump with about 200 1-inch bio-balls for bacteria colonization. My temperature is at about 85 degrees, and I have been cycling without the lights on to reduce algae growth. Thanks in advance, Mike < Go to Marineland.com and go to Dr. Tim's Library. There you will find some good info on cycling a new tank. Especially the article titled "The First 30 Days".-Chuck>

Nitrites in a F/W System I think I should have been more clear in my question regarding the cycling process on my five gallon tank I'm preparing for my Betta (Flash). I am doing fishless cycling, and fully understand the sequence of the cycling, fish waste- ammonia-nitrite-nitrate, etc. My question is: is it unusual for nitrates to be present for two weeks with no change in the high nitrite level? I was under the impression that most of the wait is waiting for nitrates to become present in the water and then the nitrites would decline. If that's true, why aren't my nitrites budging? Or is that where I'm mistaken? Would you still recommend the 30% water change, wringing out the sponge filter and a gravel vac. Now that you know there are no fish in the water? Thanks again, hope I was more clear this time. Kim L. <You can expect nitrites to take about 2 to 3 times longer to crash than did ammonia. With no fish there is no reason to do a water change yet. Only rinse out the sponge if it is becoming clogged. Remember this is a biological process, not a chemical one. As the bacteria start to become established it normal to see nitrates climb slowly as nitrites stay steady. As your bacterial colony grows you will get stronger bio filtration which will knock down the nitrites more quickly. Just hang in there, all you need is a little more time. When both ammonia and nitrite stay at zero, do a 20 to 30% water change and stock your Betta. Don>

Nitrite Problem in F/W System Hi, I'm hoping for some help specifically to my situation. I've read through many of your articles & F&Q's. I've learned a lot about nitrites and nitrates. After reading them I'm convinced there is something wrong with my fish/tank. I have 2 Convict Cichlids in a 20g tank. A Whisper 40 filter and 100w heater. The water temp fluctuates between 75-78 depends if the light is on or off. 2 inches of gravel. No live plants. Terracotta pot, rock that looks like a cave and sunken ship decor. The pot, some of the plants and the rock were transferred along with the fish from a 10g tank they grew out of . They've been in the 20g tank for about 1.5 months now. The male is about 3.5 inches, the female about 2.5. I've had these fish since May 2004. Never a problem with them. They show typical cichlid behavior (hiding, occasional chasing, egg laying, etc.) Lately they've become distant from each other. Usually they're pretty compatible but now they are less active. They don't seem ill. All I have is a test strip test-kit to test the water. I don't know how accurate these are but it's telling me the nitrites are at the highest most dangerous level 10. Everything else, nitrates 40, hardness 150, alkalinity 300, ph level 7.8. I know I've read that convict cichlids are hardy fish but seeing that reading of the nitrites is alarming. I've changed the water weekly but only about 15%. Should I be taking more water out? I've also replaced the filter cartridge twice. Also, there was a rust-like slime on the pot and rock that I cleaned off with the last water change if that helps at all. There was never anything like that growing on those items in the 10g tank. I don't have an air pump because they told me at Petco that with my filter I didn't need one. Would that make a difference? When I do water changes I use distilled water to replace the water taken out. What am I doing wrong that is causing this problem? Never had this problem with the 10g tank which is now occupied with Neons and a few .5 or smaller baby cichlids. Please help!! Thanks, Mauree < Do a 30% water change with treated tap water. Rinse out the filter cartridge under a high pressure garden hose and replace it. Vacuum the gravel while doing your water change. Keep the nitrates under 25 ppm with water changes. Either change more water or change it more often. For example, if your nitrates were at 50 ppm then you would need to do a 50% water change to get the nitrates down to 25 ppm. Feed only enough food so that all of it is gone in a couple of minutes each day. Excess food gets caught in the filter and adds to your nitrite woes.-Chuck> 

F/W Nitrite Problem - II Hi Chuck, Thanks for your help. I have a few more questions though. I was wondering if it would help to get a bio-wheel filter. < Absolutely! Oxygen is the most limiting factor of nitrification and the bacteria don't have that problem that live on the bio-wheels.> I was reading that those types of filters are good for getting rid of ammonia and nitrites as the wheel spins. Also, would Nitrazorb help if used in the filter? < These resins absorb certain types of nitrogen but it is still in the tank and may nitrify into other compounds like nitrites ands nitrates.> I've used distilled water in the past for the 10g tank and never had problems. I'm fairly new to this as the Cichlids were my first experience. (They were given to my daughter from a school teacher.) I thought I read something in one of the F&Q's about distilled water not being good for water changes. How about drinking water? I am going to start storing prepared tap water (read the WWM info) but for now (today) what should I do to my water before I do the change? Can you recommend a tap water treatment? I have on hand "Cycle", and Bio-Coat. Are either any good or should I get something else?  < Go with the Bio-Coat for now then change to Amquel when it runs out.> And how long after treating it with one of these solutions do I have to wait to change the water? < You can change the water right away.> Sorry for the overload of questions but I've become attached to these little guys. BTW, WWM is awesome. < Thank you for your kind words. We are trying to keep people in the hobby one question at a time.-Chuck>

Nitrite Control I currently have 3 long, black finned tetras, 3 Mickey mouse platys and 1 algae eater. I just checked my water a couple days ago and everything is fine except the nitrites and nitrates are high. I put in more of the Stress- Zyme which is supposed to lower it but I checked and it hasn't, is there anything else I can do for it??? Another question, not right now but in a while, I was going to get some more fish (I have a 20 gallon tank, so I was thinking 3 more according to your recommendations). Do you have any good fish that would be compatible with mine. Thanks so much, you guys are the only reason my fish are still alive. Kelsey <Those nitrites need to go away. The cure is a water change. Up to 50% at a time. Make sure you remove the waste and old food by using a gravel vac. Feed lightly. Even skip a day once a week. No more fish until ammonia and nitrite stay at zero for a week without a water change. Then set up a water change schedule that keeps the resulting nitrates below 20ppm. Do as many as needed for now to keep that nitrite at zero and until you establish good bio filtration. No chemicals needed. Please read here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm  As to tankmates, a group of three or four Corys would be a great addition. Don>

Nitrite and Ammonia still high after 5 weeks I have a 10 gal freshwater tank set up five weeks ago. Nitrite levels are still .5 and ammonia .25. I do 10 to 20% water change every 4 to 5 days by vacuuming the gravel trying to get those levels to 0. <I would not change the water... unless the ammonia or nitrite approach 1.0 ppm... and feed VERY sparingly in the meanwhile... the water changes are forestalling the establishment of biological filtration...> Nothing seems to help. The water I'm putting in is reverse osmosis water and shows 0 nitrite and ammonia. <Umm, you'd be better off with at least some mineral content (i.e. non-R.O. water) being mixed in here... try taking out a few gallons (w/o gravel vacuuming) and adding some tap water...> My tank currently has only 1 Serpae tetra as all the others have died of ich. I am still treating the tank with CopperSafe until 30 days are up (1 more week). I don't understand why I can't get those levels down. Thanks, Tina <Mmm, Tina, someone/s have not been making known to you more of a/the "full picture"... that is, what you need to know. The Copper is also killing off the beneficial bacteria you need to convert ammonia and nitrite to less noxious products... There are a few things I would do at this point. First and foremost is for you to READ, understand what biological filtration establishment and ich actually are: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm  and http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwich.htm  and the Related materials, linked, in blue, above... I would raise your water temperature to the mid 80's F (this will kill the ich, save your Serpae... and speed up establishment of biological filtration). STOP using the Copper product, all such "medications"... You will soon understand enough of the underlying factual material to be aquarium-confident, proceeding beyond these present troubles. Bob Fenner>
Re: Nitrite and Ammonia still high after 5 weeks
Thank you so much for your prompt response. I have read the links you gave me which leads me to more questions. Even though I did a ton of research before I started this tank (which incidentally was a Christmas present for my 8 year old daughter) I seem to have overdone a lot of things.  <Yes> I did let the tank run for 4 days before I added any fish but then I added three cherry barbs right away. <There are ways... as you now know... to "break in" a new system... but this was too much too soon> They seemed really happy so after 4 more days I added 3 Serpae Tetras. That's where things started getting out of control.  <Actually not where, or even when... think about this... all this life produces wastes, which poison themselves... and not enough biological filtration going...> I was having trouble stabilizing the water and kept doing water changes every 2 or 3 days. When the ammonia got high I added "Ammonia Clear" then the next day I would have a bacteria bloom and freak out that my water was cloudy so I would do more water changes. After three weeks the filter was really dirty so I changed the Whisper carbon filter but I did reuse the original framework that goes in the bio bag as they said it would have built up beneficial bacteria. <Yes, good> After all this one morning the male cherry barb looked like he had been sprinkled with salt after identifying this as ich I quickly ran to Petco where they advised me to put CopperSafe in the tank and it would fix everything. It didn't, the other fish rapidly showed signs of ich and they all died a slow agonizing death. It was horrible to watch. (some Christmas present) The only fish that was not affected was the largest Serpae who seems to be immune to ich. He never got a spot. Now that you have the background here are the questions. My husband thinks I should just dump this whole tank and start over since I've messed up so many things trying to give them tender loving care. What do you think? <I would NOT start all over... but you might> The tank has been running at 80 degrees for about 2 weeks. I will turn it up higher like you mentioned. Were you suggesting that I remove all the CopperSafe from the water? <It's gone... absorbed by material in the tank, fallen out of solution> Should I put the carbon filter back in? <Yes> To clarify my previous e-mail I have only put in about 5 gallons of RO water in the tank, the other five were treated tap water. <Oh, good> I have noticed that when I stir up the water in the tank when cleaning hundreds of pieces of what looks like mucus or skin start floating around the tank. Do you know what that would be. Is it from the fish that died, or ich, etc. <Don't know... could be scales, copper flecks...> Last of all I just want to mention that the Tetra looks great very brightly colored and healthy. When I feed him I only put in a few pieces at a time and quickly remove what he doesn't eat. Sorry this was so long but your my only reliable source of information. I can't trust the high school kids at Petco that never had a fish. Thanks, Tina <Take your time... wait a few weeks and see how the tank looks, feed sparingly till there are no nitrogenous waste anomalies... Bob Fenner> 
Re: Nitrite and Ammonia still high after 5 weeks
Thanks again Bob.  I will put the carbon back in my filter and raise the temp.  I will slow down on water changes.  Is once a week still too much?<Not as long you don't touch the gravel.  Syphoning the gravel will remove the bacteria that you are trying to produce.>  Would you recommend that going forward I do not always vacuum the gravel with every water change?<NO, once a month should be sufficient.> Should I wait until the water is completely stabilized before adding another Serpae? <Yes, absolutely.> This one seems so lonely since all of his buddies died.  I don't have an isolation tank since this is our first try at tropical fish so I'm nervous about when I do add another fish.  According to one of those links you gave me it sounds like if the conditions are good in your tank there is less of a chance of a fish getting ich. Tina <Tina, let the tetra be in the tank for about 2 weeks after the tank has stabilized.  This will remove the ich from the tank.  Once the water quality is stable then you start your time for the 2 weeks.  Then you add fish 2 or 3 at a time.  I would suggest one addition of fish a week.  This will give your biological filter time to recover from the addition of the new fish.  good luck. MikeB>

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