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Thread: Nitrates vs. Organic Acids in Tank Design

  1. #1
    Registered Member
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    Mar 2020

    Default Nitrates vs. Organic Acids in Tank Design

    Hi, I am a professional aquarist working on an ~800 gallon discus show tank. I tend to overcomplicate and overthink things when I am in the planning stages, but I find this is useful in preventing problems down the road. This is probably an example of that, but an interesting question. I have signed up to this forum to have a place to play around with these types of questions on this project as it comes together. (ps. if this is in the wrong section I am sorry please let me know and I will move it)

    The question is this - when designing this type of tank, is it feasible to allow the buildup of some organic matter (and the resulting chemicals) if the way the tank is set up, if the way that it is set up also results in extremely low to almost non-existent levels nitrates phosphates etc with fewer water changes? Or is the best method to have as little buildup of everything as possible?

    To elaborate - I have a design that I have used in the past for a planted tank, designed to be very stable and not grow algae. The concept is pretty simple, its a lower-tech lower nutrient tank with resilliant plants (crypts, dwarf sag etc.) and a pretty extensive clean up crew. When you are installing a planted tank in a public place, you want it to never have any aesthetic issues, so this design is great for that. It has a small area in the front that can be cleaned regularly, but for the most part, the substrate is covered by plant growth. In a tank I have going with this design now, I do 10% weekly water changes, adding nitrogen each time, and the readings of NO2/NO3/NH4 are almost perpetually 0/0/0.

    So as I am in the planning stages of this project, I am thinking it may be a good idea to just build the same design on a much larger scale. Is there any reason I couldn't do this with discus that I'm not thinking of? There is a buildup of organic matter, but as long as I maintain good overall circulation there aren't any areas of significant decomposition. The plants take care of the nitrate, and thats what discus are sensitive to, right? Is there anything else that could be potentially building up in this type of system that they would be sensitive to? Would this stability and buildup of "clean" old water be a good thing? Am I overthinking this? Well, I know the answer to that last one

    These are fun ideas to play around with so I tend to go a little overboard obviously... It does pay off in the long run though, when your goal is to have a tank that always looks great, no matter what happens. Interested to hear thoughts


  2. #2
    Registered Member bluelagoon's Avatar
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    Aug 2006
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    Default Re: Nitrates vs. Organic Acids in Tank Design

    Would you be getting young discus or ones that are grown out? There are so many things going into a tank, food, even the water itself from evaporation in many cases. Things that cannot be measured will start to concentrate in time. Bottom line is. Nitrates are the best indicators for WC's. 10% WC is not enough for any fish to maintain it's health over a period of it's normal life cycle. I don't believe that anyone so far has had that kind of luck with discus.

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