Be Aware of these 11 Common Symptoms of High Nitrates in Fish Tank

Keeping fish in a fish tank is both fun and challenging. It is fun because we can see how the fish interact and swim around the fish tank. It’s challenging because there might be some problems occur.

As a fish keeper or owner, make sure you are familiar with these common fish tank problems. One of the most common problems faced by fish tank is high level in nitrates. Nitrate is a by-product of nitrite oxidation during the latter stages of the nitrogen cycle and is present to some degree in all fish tanks.

There are some factors causing high levels of nitrate: detritus, decaying plant material, dirty filters, over-feeding and overstocking the aquarium. Besides, the use of tap water may also contribute to the presence of high nitrate in the fish tank.

Since high nitrate in fish tank is a serious issue, there will be some impacts, especially for the fish. The fish will feel the impact once the nitrate level reaches 100 ppm. It may leave the fish to be stressful and as a result, it can make the fish prone to disease and even inhibit their ability to reproduce as well.

You may be wondering what symptoms are shown in the fish tank when the nitrate level is high. Here are the common symptoms of high nitrate level in fish tank that you should be aware of:

  • Side swimming – it can also be one of the common signs of your fish pet is stress.
  • Upside-down swimming
  • Lethargic behavior and lack of energy
  • Random erratic movement
  • Fading color and pale look
  • Fast movement of the gills due to the shortness of breath, rapid gill movement
  • Laying on the bottom of the aquarium – there are some other causes of this sign too. Read more about it in causes of betta fish laying at the bottom of the tank
  • No feeding reflex
  • Staying still
  • Dazed
  • Swim bladder disease

In advanced cases, a curl with a crooked spine or bent positioning can be seen in the whole body from the head to tail. There might be some complications too, such as dysfunctional reproductive organs, weakened immune system and even damage to the nervous system.

Be aware of these signs because when the signs occur, it means that the fish have already suffered for some time.

However, there are some ways you can do to minimize the nitrate level in a fish tank. Here are the following ways:

  • Keep the aquarium clean – nitrate is mostly produced by waste. Make sure to clean the waste and change the water regularly.
  • Watch the feeding amount – one of the contributors of high nitrate level in fish tank is overfeeding. Overfeeding may lead to excess nitrate and other undesirable waste, such as phosphate.
  • Keep the live plants – live plants will be helpful to utilize nitrate and keep the level lower. Get to know the plants for your fish tank and how they are beneficial and avoid putting these plants not to put in your fish tank and why.
  • Install a refugium – refugium is another tank connecting the main tank with the help of tubes and pump. It regulates the water circulation. There’s lava rock inside the refugium that will assist the growth of denitrifying bacteria in its pockets. These bacteria will convert nitrate into nitrogen molecules which are harmless to the fish.
  • Water change is the key – removing water will be simple enough if you do large and regular water change. Water changes are essential as they permanently remove the nitrate from the system. Try to apply 20% water change so that you will be able to remove 20% of the nitrate in the water.
  • Avoid using tap water – tap water is the culprit of most cases of high nitrates in fish tank. In some regions, things like fertilizers runoff and the erosion of natural deposits can leak nitrate even into drinking water. Do water test before considering it as a source for fish tank water changes.
  • Avoid overstocking – too many fish in a fish tank could lead to high nitrate level. Try to maintain the balance between the size of the tank with the number of live plants and fish.

Besides nitrate level, you also need to check the pH level. You can explore more about it in symptoms of low pH level in fish tank.

Keeping fish in a tank is a fun experience. You can enrich your knowledge about it by getting to know common fish parasites that are harmful for your fish pets and some tips of fish tank care tips for beginners.