Aquatic plants provide underwater inhabitants with vital oxygen, act as a biological and mechanical filter (purify aquarium water from mechanical suspensions), and also remove harmful substances from the aquarium, in particular, excess nitrates. Among aquarists you can find lovers who do not use live plants in their aquariums for many reasons.
An example is a biotope aquarium populated by cichlids from Lake Malawi, in which the rocky bottom landscape is practically free of any vegetation. Some aquarists simply do not want to bother once again caring for grass, as this does not bring them pleasure.
Considering this moment, the quite natural rule of aquarism comes to mind: “Let there be no living plants in the aquarium any better than a stunted bundle of cryptocorynes or something else, since it spoils the whole appearance and poisons the aquarium water with rotting organic matter, provoking the development of lower plants (algae). ” Therefore, our task today is to determine how to help underwater inhabitants to dispense with aquarium plants.
To dot the “I”, let’s look at what the main functions of our plants in the underwater aquarium world and let us decide how we can replace them if they are not, well, or slightly compensate.
- Purification of aquarium water from pollution;
- Carbon dioxide consumption;
- Absorption of organic and non-organic compounds;
- Participation in the life process of aquarium dwellers.
Nitrate (NO3) is a by-product emitted by bacteria living in an aquarium during the decomposition of fish waste products. It accelerates the growth of algae and can be toxic to some species of fish and invertebrates.
Where does he appear in the aquarium? Everything is simple. Fish poop, decompose undernourished food, thereby forming ammonia.
Bacteria living in an aquarium, for example, in the soil and in the filter, process ammonia into nitrites. Nitrite compound is not very stable and with the help of bacteria breaks down into nitrates.
Ammonia and nitrites are very dangerous for aquarium animals. High concentrations of these substances can cause poisoning or even burn the gill covers of fish. Nitrates, in turn, are much safer.
And if you have live plants, a slightly higher nitrate content in an aquarium can even be beneficial. In small concentrations, they serve as food for your green garden.
Okay, a little run ahead. Nitrogen is one of the three most important macronutrients in plant nutrition.
But more on that later.
However, if the concentration of nitrates in the aquarium is high, then the fish can also be poisoned. The rate of nitrates in the aquarium for some types of fish may vary.
As a rule, it varies from 50 mg / l to 100 mg / l.
In an established aquarium, the level of nitrates changes from one substitution to another substitution. For a week or two, it remains in acceptable norms, but gradually increases. You make the water change the level of nitrates decreases and the fish will not be poisoned.
And the accumulation of nitrogen compounds begins again. That is why the fish often die in beginners when they do not make substitutions. Also, the decomposition of nitrogen compounds is one of the reasons why you do not need to overfeed fish.
After all, the food also falls.
Therefore it is important to do regular tests of aquarium water. There are special tests for nitrites / nitrates / ammonia with allowable concentrations and detailed instructions.
If you want to be sure that your fish feel good or, conversely, to find out the cause of their death, then it is enough just to test the water.
Here is an example of test results for nitrates.
Yes, and this may be necessary. If you have lush vegetation in an aquarium, then for full growth, it may lack the nitrates, which are formed from various decompositions. The addition of nitrates, acts exclusively in the role of fertilizer.
As in the ordinary garden! To raise the level of nitrates there are two simple ways:
- Plant more live beetles. Everything is simple. With them more excrement and, therefore, more nitrates are formed during their decomposition.
- To make macrofertilizers or nitrogen fertilizers.
Most aquarists recommend maintaining nitrate levels within the normal range of 20–30 mg / l.
At the same time, for some particularly sensitive residents, it is necessary to reduce the value of this indicator to the level of 15-20 mg / l. The maximum value of this substance is 40 mg / l.
Any deviation from the standard values, depending on the sensitivity of the inhabitants, may endanger their health. This will entail:
- reduced immunity and appetite;
- slowing their growth;
- increased lethargy;
- deterioration of appearance (color fades, the appearance of spots);
- termination of spawning;
How to test the water at home for these compounds? ?
The first visual indicator that in the aquarium there is a deviation from the norm in the direction of increasing nitrate content is the active growth of aquatic plants.
In order to determine what is the value of this nitrogen compound, need to do tests with the help of special tests. In this case, the beginner will need a special skill, not so much in performing the test itself, as in determining the results – the difference between the color of the sample and the sample in the range of standard values.
In pet stores you can find a large range of nitrate tests with detailed instructions for the use of various manufacturers – Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, sera, NILPA, Tetra. They represent or test strips, or drop, or electronic tests.
The advantages of test strips include ease of use. – immerse in water and compare the result with the proposed scale. They also relate to budget indicators and are sold individually.
A big disadvantage is the approximation of the obtained values.
Drop tests are a special reagent that, when interacting with a sample of water, paints it in a specific color. Then the resulting color is compared with the color scale and the concentration of nitrates is determined.
Such tests are a product with a good price-performance ratio, and they are sold both for checking one and for a group of indicators.
Electronic devices for determining the value of a substance in water have a digital scoreboard and probe that is immersed in water. The main advantage is that they give specific numbers.
Among the disadvantages is the high cost of the device.
How to determine how much nitrate is in the aquarium?
It is necessary to check the nitrate content of the aquarium water weekly using a special test kit. For comparison, you need to check the nitrate content in tap water.
If everything is in order, the nitrate level in both samples should be almost the same. If not, the nitrate level in the aquarium will be much higher.
Why is high nitrate not always a problem?
For many years now, there has been a suspicion that high levels of nitrate have a negative effect. However, it was not possible to scientifically confirm the toxicity of nitrate for most species of fish, except in cases of extremely high content.
However, the experience of fish breeders suggests that, in fact, elevated nitrate levels may cause some problems for fish.
We must try to keep the level of nitrate to be minimal. Some species of fish and invertebrates are very sensitive to its high content.
For invertebrates and marine species, the nitrate content should not exceed 15 ppm. For tropical freshwater species, if possible no more than 40 ppm.
How to keep the nitrate content low?
The most common cause of increased nitrate levels is excessive feeding of fish. Regular partial replacement of water, up to 25% once a week or two, will help maintain a low nitrate content.
It is recommended to change the water using a gravel cleaner with a siphon, simultaneously with the replacement of water, removing debris and organic residues from the ground.
A nitrate-removing filter medium will help keep the nitrate content very low, but it cannot replace a large number of water changes.
High nitrate levels are stressful for fish. Therefore, it affects their immune system and fish are much more at risk of getting sick, for example, becoming covered with white spots.
Prolonged exposure to water with a high nitrate content can shorten the lifespan of fish, and cause developmental disturbances, as well as interfere with fish breeding – poor water quality does not contribute to the desire for breeding in fish.
What if there is a very high nitrate level in tap water?
If you contain sensitive fish or invertebrates, before using all the water that is poured into the aquarium during the change, you must pass through a special resin that removes nitrate, or filters for tap water.
Reverse osmosis filter is the best solution, because besides nitrate it filters out metals and pesticides, reduces water hardness, etc., therefore it is ideal for fish species that prefer soft water, as well as for sensitive sea species.
As with any undesirable chemical compounds in the aquarium, the easiest and fastest way is to replace a part of the water with fresh plumbing. But in the case of nitrates There is one nuance.
Tap water already contains some nitrates, and if there are many of them there, then this method may not work.
Use of special fillers for the filter.
Now, in modern aquarium filters, fillers are already provided for all occasions, and in case of high nitrates, including. This is either a specially soaked sponge, for example Juwel nitrax. Or fillers in the form of granules, such as Seachem De * nitrate, or API NITRA-ZORB.
Maybe they will not lead to an immediate effect, but in the future they will keep nitrates at a low level stable and long time.
The use of special chemicals for the aquarium.
Almost every manufacturer of aquarium products, in the presence of a special additive that can instantly reduce the level of nitrates in the water. For example, Tetra NitrateMinus, or Sera toxivec. The latter not only lowers nitrates in the aquarium, but also removes ammonia, nitrite, chlorine, and heavy metals.
I think it should always be on hand, in case of unforeseen situations in the aquarium.
Popular method using vodka.
If you do not go into scientific terms, then the essence of this method is that vodka in the aquarium provokes the rapid growth of beneficial bacteria that remove nitrates from the aquarium. But this method is more suitable for marine aquariums.
And it is necessary to strictly calculate dosages that are safe for fish and at the same time effective for lowering nitrates. Therefore, it is better to leave this method for professionals.
And why use it if water conditioners are more efficient and much safer for the inhabitants of your aquarium.
Nitrates not as deadly as ammonia or nitrite. But their excess can cause such troubles as weakening of immunity in fish and unrestrained growth of algae in the aquarium. And since they are at the end of the nitrogen cycle chain, a decrease in the first two will most likely lead to a decrease and nitrates.
In other words, do regular tests, and monitor the chemical balance in the aquarium.