Nitrate spike cause? (10G Walstad) - El Natural - Aquatic Plant Central

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Old 02-01-2020, 02:19 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Nitrate spike cause? (10G Walstad)

Good afternoon, everyone!

I tried my hand again at setting up a Walstad tank again earlier this week, and after coming home yesterday and seeing the water levels appeared good, decided to go to my LFS and add some Neocaridina to the tank. While there, I also saw a couple plants they hadn't had in stock before, and decided to add them while I was drip acclimating the shrimp.

The shrimp seemed fine during the acclimation process, but as soon as I added them to the tank itself, they started acting really weird. They alternated between rapidly swimming up towards the surface, freezing up, and then falling back down in a paralyzed manner, or barely moving at all on the substrate or whatever plant they happened to end up on. The rare times they moved about the ground level of the tank, they'd move like they had no sense of up and down.

I tried googling their symptoms, and the only thing that seemed in line with the swimming towards the surface was low oxygen, which didn't make sense because of all the plants, but I added an airstone just in case. After that, they weren't swimming towards the surface as much, but still weren't acting "normal".

Finally, as I was falling asleep, it occured to me to recheck the water levels. Someone on a forum somewhere had mentioned a breach in the cap, and sure enough, my nitrates were much higher than earlier, somewhere above 40 mg/L according to my API test strip.

I rounded all the shrimp up and tossed them in my guppy tank, figuring it would be better to take them out of the toxic environment immediately instead of doing a usual drip acclimation. It worked, and today they're all happy and healthy.

I would, however, like to eventually return them to their intended home. I've laid more sand over where the breach was (at the front right of the tank in the second picture, where I've inserted some crypt parva). Is there anything else I can do to help this process along/ are there any recommendations going forward?

(Also, any recommendations for more precise water level testing? I've read Neocaridina can be finicky, and would like to provide the best care I can for them)
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Old 02-01-2020, 04:26 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Nitrate spike cause? (10G Walstad)

You did good getting your shrimp out immediately! What you've described sounds like an acute poison that would have killed your shrimp within hours. I doubt problem is nitrates; they are--for all extents and purposes--not toxic. For example, the 3 day LC50 for sturgeon is 400-1,000 ppm (i.e., it takes 3 days to kill 50% of sturgeon at this nitrate dose range.)

The problem could be metal toxicity, so I hope that you counteracted any zinc or copper in your tapwater with a water conditioner that takes care of heavy metals. (I assume you are aware of this problem.)

The other possibility is that the Tetra heater shown in your tank's photo is the culprit. This common heater has misbehaved twice for me. The first time, one killed almost all my guppies overnight. I thought it was a fluke, but then in another tank with the same brand heater, my guppies stopped eating one evening. (If guppies lose their appetite, I know something is wrong.) I pulled the fish out immediately and threw all this brand of heaters away.

At considerable expense, I replaced all my heaters. Ironically, I have 30 year-old heaters that have never given me a problem and are still working, but these cheap new ones have given me sporadic and acute problems.
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Old 02-01-2020, 05:58 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Diana, thank you for the response. The water conditioner I use for all my tanks treats for chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals, so I didn't think it could be that... However, it wasn't until I read your response that I realized I was so caught up with not disturbing the substrate as I added water, it's entirely possible I forgot to treat it. 😬 I definitely won't make that mistake again.

I've dosed the tank for the full 10 gallons, stirred the water gentley, and will throw a small airstone in overnight just to ensure proper circulation of the conditioner. I'll take it out tomorrow though, as I'm aware of the degassing effect it has on CO2 in the water column.

How is the heater also a culprit here? Every time I've checked, the water temperature has been 76F, which is what I read would be optimal for Neocaridina and getting them to breed.
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Old 02-01-2020, 06:05 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Sorry, just re-read your comment and saw it said the heater is a possible culprit. Missed that key word. I was reading too far into it and thought it may somehow be altering the water quality due to shoddy construction.

I did see a thing recently that said sometimes sensors on heater misbehave if there's low water circulation and they are placed a certain way in the tank. Supposedly, the best way to counteract that is to submerge is as close to the bottom as possible, and cant it at a 45 angle to prevent the rising newly warmed water from messing with the sensor. I'll reposition it to act accordingly.

I will shop around for another one though, just to cover all bases going forward.

Thank you again!
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Old 02-02-2020, 06:16 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Nitrate spike cause? (10G Walstad)

It is not a question of temperature; I meant that the heater could be taking in water and leaking toxic material from inside the heater. But I'm not sure. I just couldn't think of anything else at the time to explain the overnight fish kill. Thus, I don't want to falsely blame the heater. just that you consider it as a possibility.

If you see any water inside the heater, that would be a bad sign. I wish now that I had kept one of the suspect heaters and put it in water for a few days and then added a fish to see if it actually was the heater.

Let's hope that the problem was just your forgetting to add a water conditioner. We all know that tank setups are stressful!
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