High Levels of Phosphate

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Maggz

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Mar 8, 2010, 9:32:18 PM3/8/10
to The Freshwater Aquarium
Hi all,

I am new to all this, and got my first aquarium in December. It's a 16
gallon tank, and I have 1 angel fish and 3 corys. I had 2 more angel
fish but they died and after investigating further it appears that my
phosphate levels are really high. Over the last few weeks, I have been
cleaning the gravel every 2nd day, I also changed my water conditioner
(as my previous conditioner had "phosphate buffer" in it). I have also
reduced my feeding to once every 2 days and feed them much less food.

My phosphate levels have gone down, but only marginally. I have tested
my tap water and it doesnt seem to have any phosphate. I added an
algae clear sachet also.

Any advise would be appreciated.

Maggz

Altum

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Mar 9, 2010, 12:11:08 PM3/9/10
to The Freshwater Aquarium
Welcome. Hopefully we can help.

For starters, angels will outgrow your tank. One adult angel is fine,
though possibly a bit cramped for lack of swimming space. Three is
too many for 16 gallons.

What do you mean by "water conditioner"? There is generally no need
to do anything to tap water other than treat for the chlorine or
chloramine that is added. Sometimes tap water can be rather soft, but
the easiest way to address soft water is to put a little crushed coral
in the filter to harden the water a bit and prevent pH crashes. If
the water is hard, it's preferable to choose fish that suit the water
conditions.

I'm not sure why you're even testing phosphate. Phosphate is only
rarely a problem, and as you noticed it's often because of products
you shouldn't be using in the first place. What are the test results
you're finding worrisome, and what kit? There are some test kits not
worth the paper they're printed on. Phosphate buffer water
conditioners are for highly specialized applications, like breeding
discus. You should be testing ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, to make
sure the water is safe for your fish. Nitrate requires a decent
quality kit like Seachem, not API.

I doubt your fish appreciated the algae clear sachet. It is generally
better if you take a more natural approach to algae control, with
algae-eating shrimp or fish if necessary. For starters, make sure the
tank gets no sunlight, and that the lighting is appropriate for the
amount of plants. If it's brown algae that scrapes off easily, that's
just diatoms and will pass as your tank matures.

--Altum

Maggz

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Mar 10, 2010, 1:20:38 AM3/10/10
to The Freshwater Aquarium
Hi Altum,

Thank you so much for the detailed response. To cut a long story
short, i got the angel fish for Christmas and they were in a goldfish
bowl, hence why I had to get an aquarium. Anyway, I love it now, so
all good :) I've been doing a lot of research and understand that I
should have a bigger tank for more than one angel, but I am worried
that he's lonely on his own. Are there any particular fish that would
be a good match for him that would suit a 16 gallon tank?

The water conditioner i have is nutrafin aqua plus water conditioner
for removing chlorine and choloramine.

How I found out about my phosphate problem was by bringing a sample of
my water to the aquarium store, they tested it for everything and the
only area that they said i had a problem with was that the phosphate
levels were very high. I dont appear to have an algae problem, but the
person in the store told me that i would kill my fish if i didnt lower
the levels and i was not to get more fish until i lowered the
phosphate levels. im using a nutrafin PO4 test. Do you think that
maybe i dont need to worry so much about this? they said everything
else was at the correct levels. if the phosphate isnt a problem, id
love to add a few more fish, i really worry that the angel is lonely.
id also like to add some plants (I dont currently have any) Also
should i remove the sachet?

Sorry if some of the questions might be stupid, i was kind of thrown
into this, but determined to get it right!!!!

Thanks again
Maggz

Altum

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Mar 10, 2010, 4:53:29 AM3/10/10
to The Freshwater Aquarium
On Mar 9, 10:20 pm, Maggz <mags...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi Altum,
>
> Thank you so much for the detailed response. To cut a long story
> short, i got the angel fish for Christmas and they were in a goldfish
> bowl, hence why I had to get an aquarium. Anyway, I love it now, so
> all good :) I've been doing a lot of research and understand that I
> should have a bigger tank for more than one angel, but I am worried
> that he's lonely on his own. Are there any particular fish that would
> be a good match for him that would suit a 16 gallon tank?

Angels are slightly aggressive and single fish generally stay happy
and healthy as "king of the tank". You could add some small fish like
cherry barbs, rasboras, or deep-bodied tetras. Platies would work
well too, and the angel will keep the offspring under control. Avoid
small, slender fish like neons, as they are the natural prey of
angels. Cories are a great choice to go with angels too.

> The water conditioner i have is nutrafin aqua plus water conditioner
> for removing chlorine and  choloramine.

Even Aqua Plus is more than you need. I looked at their page, and
there's Valerian in it?!? I'd recommend you go with a very simple
chlorine/chloramine remover, either AmQuel+ or Prime. I strongly
prefer Prime as it seems to work better.

> How I found out about my phosphate problem was by bringing a sample of
> my water to the aquarium store, they tested it for everything and the
> only area that they said i had a problem with was that the phosphate
> levels were very high. I dont appear to have an algae problem, but the
> person in the store told me that i would kill my fish if i didnt lower
> the levels and i was not to get more fish until i lowered the
> phosphate levels. im using a nutrafin PO4 test. Do you think that
> maybe i dont need to worry so much about this? they said everything
> else was at the correct levels. if the phosphate isnt a problem, id
> love to add a few more fish, i really worry that the angel is lonely.
> id also like to add some plants (I dont currently have any) Also
> should i remove the sachet?

I hate to say it, but we'll have to add you to the long list of TFA
members who have gotten really, really terrible fish store advice.
Phosphate doesn't kill fish unless you got absolutely ridiculous
levels in the water. Ammonia and nitrite in new tanks kills fish, and
unfortunately most beginners who do not understand how to "cycle" an
aquarium will have some fish die at first. In your case, seven fish
was far too many for your new aquarium. You may have had high
phosphate from the water conditioner, but all the water changes you've
done should have diluted it out by now. Yes, remove the sachet.
Feeding lightly is always a good idea, although your fish are likely
growing so I would recommend feeding lightly twice a day. Once fish
are mature, I usually back off to one feeding.

Reading this will help some.
http://faq.thekrib.com/begin.html

Pay particular attention to the information on cycling your tank,
before you buy any more fish.
http://faq.thekrib.com/begin-cycling.html

As far as plants, they require at least one fluorescent light over the
tank. You might try Anubias (undemanding), Java fern (looks great
tied to driftwood), or Cryptocorynes. The crypts would require fine,
2-3 mm gravel for root growth, and fertilizer tabs if you don't use a
planted tank substrate that has some iron.

> Sorry if some of the questions might be stupid, i was kind of thrown
> into this, but determined to get it right!!!!

The only stupid question is the one you don't ask. Around here we
like to help people (and their fish) so ask away and don't be shy.

--Altum

Mister Gardener

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Mar 10, 2010, 8:31:57 AM3/10/10
to the-freshwa...@googlegroups.com
Hi Maggie - I don't have much to add that Altum hasn't already written,
I agree completely with his suggestions. You don't need to add anything
to your water except Amquel Plus - make sure the Plus is on the label,
the outdated plain Amquel is still sitting on the shelves of some pet
stores. Prime is a good alternative. Adult angels need at least 10
gallons per fish, and it is best to provide that space even when they
are young so that their growth is unimpeded. Angel fish don't get lonely
for other angels, although they do form an attachment to the human who
cares for them. Corys make great tankmates - 3-5 is a good number for
your tank. Make sure you get at least 3, they really need playmates.

You are changing your water / cleaning your gravel way too often for a
new tank. The gravel is a prime location for beneficial bacteria to
colonize, it's at least as important as the sponge in your filter. A
handful of floating plants such as water sprite is great for helping a
new tank get going and sucking up nutrients that would otherwise grow
algae. Try reducing your water changes to once a week, changing about
30% of the water at a time. Use the gravel cleaner lightly, just enough
to get the really muddy stuff out. Avoid adding anything to your
aquarium besides dechlor. If you want your angels to grow and stay
healthy, feed them. At least twice a day. Your current level of feeding
is close to starvation in your immature tank.

MG
www.angelfishgardens.com

denizen

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Mar 10, 2010, 11:06:38 AM3/10/10
to The Freshwater Aquarium
Excellent advice has already been given, but I wonder about sources of
possible phosphate:
1. pH buffer that's no longer used and which is being removed by water
changes.
2. Fish food and its decomposition products?
3. Is it in the water supply? But the O.P. has already checked for
that.
4. Laundry detergents and other cleaning supplies contain phosphate.
Is it possible that a bucket is being used for the aquarium, that
previously was used for cleaning? Or is there contamination occurring
by handling aquarium water at the laundry tubs or kitchen sink? All my
water change activities involve our laundry tub and so far it's been
ok, even used phosphate additive for the aquarium plants at one
time...
d.

NetMax

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Mar 10, 2010, 1:34:54 PM3/10/10
to The Freshwater Aquarium
<snip> I hate to say it, but we'll have to add you to the long list of

TFA members who have gotten really, really terrible fish store
advice.<snip>

Say it ain't so ;~) Stores spare no expense (usually part time
students on minimum wage), send them for intensive training (where
they keep the mop & pail), and show no favouritism (employees don't
even need to have ever owned an aquarium). How could they go so
wrong?

As much as we tried, we sometimes had to hire someone who had never
had a fish, and we just kept an eagle eye on them, kept them from
talking to customers and if they did get caught talking, we had also
taught them to say "I don't know but I'll find out". We hoped our
training was detailed enough and would be finished fast enough to get
through the experience. Even with all that, new employees wanted to
be helpful, and that's where the expression came from ... "the road to
hell is paved in good intentions'. Basically next day visits by
customers who were told &^%$# by a new employee the day before.

I even got caught during the day once. We set a newbie to do water
changes and the first tank he did was filled with ice cold water (yes,
we taught him about water conditioner, gravel vacuum, not damaging the
fish etc etc, but forgot to mention that the water temperature had to
be adjusted. Fortunately it was a cichlid tank and I noticed this
painful expression on their faces as I walked by. They all survived
fine.

When pet shop employees want to teach you stuff - run. Lots of very
good ones out there - they're just in the minority.

NetMax

Kels Mustang

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Mar 10, 2010, 2:08:19 PM3/10/10
to The Freshwater Aquarium

On Mar 10, 10:06 am, denizen <denize...@yahoo.ca> wrote:
> Excellent advice has already been given, but I wonder about sources of
> possible phosphate:
> 1. pH buffer that's no longer used and which is being removed by water
> changes.
> 2. Fish food and its decomposition products?
> 3. Is it in the water supply? But the O.P. has already checked for
> that.
> 4. Laundry detergents and other cleaning supplies contain phosphate.
> Is it possible that a bucket is being used for the aquarium, that
> previously was used for cleaning? Or is there contamination occurring
> by handling aquarium water at the laundry tubs or kitchen sink? All my
> water change activities involve our laundry tub and so far it's been
> ok, even used phosphate additive for the aquarium plants at one
> time...
> d.
>

Well water (either private or city wells) can also be a source of high
phosphate levels.

Maggz

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Mar 11, 2010, 12:23:10 AM3/11/10
to The Freshwater Aquarium
wow this is great, that you everyone. i feel so much better now. So
here's the plan of attack.

1. Read the suggested material
2. Im going to stop using my conditioner and get Amquel+ or Prime. Im
also going to throw away that sachet
3. Bring the feeding up to small quantities twice daily.
4. Reduce the cleaning to once weekly (this is a relief)
5. Add a couple of the plants - again Ill review the suggestions and
decide.
6. Im going to introduce another couple of fish - ill review all the
suggestion above and then decide. By the way, I had the 2 angels, then
1 died, then i replaced him and waited a few weeks to introduce the
corys, then the other angel died. So I never had more than 5 and i
tried introducing them pretty steadily.

Denizen - the bucket I use was my original fish bowl, so I dont think
it was that. It may have been overfeeding, but that should be fixed
now.

I've lots of homework to do now, thank you so much. I will give you an
update!!!!

Maggz

AquariumHomeCare

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Mar 10, 2010, 4:02:15 PM3/10/10
to The Freshwater Aquarium
Hi Maggz,

I am not sure why you are testing Phosphate levels. as long as you are
using drinking (tap water), the important one are Ph, Ammonia,
Nitrite & Nitrate. insted of re-writing the stuff here, I would
recommend you to read 2 of my own article.

1. Common mistakes made by new aquarist :
http://aquariumhomecare.com/modules/AMS/article.php?storyid=8
2. New Tank Syndrome & Aquarium (Nitrogen) Cycling :
http://aquariumhomecare.com/modules/AMS/article.php?storyid=7

BTW, Corys are really nice fish to keep but they are sensitive to
nitrate level. So make sure you do your regular water change.

Note:
Anybody has ( or want to write) articles, please feel free to use
http://aquariumhomecare.com as a platform. I can assure that the
credit will goes to the respective authors.


Good Luck

Deepak

We Love Our Fish Tank

On Mar 9, 2:32 am, Maggz <mags...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi all,
>
> I am new to all this, and got my first aquarium in December. It's a 16
> gallon tank, and I have 1 angel fish and 3 corys. I had 2 more angel

> fish but they died and after investigating further it appears that myphosphatelevelsare reallyhigh. Over the last few weeks, I have been


> cleaning the gravel every 2nd day, I also changed my water conditioner

> (as my previous conditioner had "phosphatebuffer" in it). I have also


> reduced my feeding to once every 2 days and feed them much less food.
>

> Myphosphatelevelshave gone down, but only marginally. I have tested
> my tap water and it doesnt seem to have anyphosphate. I added an

Kels Mustang

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Mar 11, 2010, 10:50:54 AM3/11/10
to The Freshwater Aquarium

On Mar 10, 3:02 pm, AquariumHomeCare <ilovemyfisht...@googlemail.com>
wrote:


> Hi Maggz,
>
> I am not sure why you are testing Phosphate levels. as long as you are
> using drinking (tap water),  the important one are Ph, Ammonia,
> Nitrite & Nitrate.

High phosphates can lead to big algae blooms....which can lead to
depleted O2 levels, which can harm fish.....
Some testers check for phosphate levels, as well as the normal checks.

In cases where a lack of water changes, or poor maintenance, etc is
*not* the reason...then you might want to find out where it's coming
from so it can be kept in check.

Altum

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Mar 11, 2010, 11:35:31 AM3/11/10
to The Freshwater Aquarium

On Mar 11, 7:50 am, Kels Mustang <KellsBlueMust...@aol.com> wrote:
wrote:

> High phosphates can lead to big algae blooms....which can lead to
> depleted O2 levels, which can harm fish.....
> Some testers check for phosphate levels, as well as the normal checks.
>
> In cases where a lack of water changes, or poor maintenance, etc is
> *not* the reason...then you might want to find out where it's coming
> from so it can be kept in check.

You're talking about the detergent runoff problem, right? Where you
get nitrate from industrial fertilizers and phosphate from detergent,
sunshine, and fish kills.

This doesn't happen in freshwater aquariums with standard lighting, or
even medium lighting. Tom Barr and other experts have pretty much
debunked Horst and Kipper's theories on phosphate and algae in
aquaria. Phosphate is a huge problem in reefs.

Granted Maggz hasn't said how MUCH posphate, but I've seen 2-3 ppm in
completely algae-free tanks.

--Altum

Kels Mustang

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Mar 12, 2010, 1:45:39 PM3/12/10
to The Freshwater Aquarium

Our town once had to shut down the well we (well #-2) get our tap
from. They switched to a well that they didn't really use much. That
was when we got cyanobacteria, and a rise in phosphates to boot.
I learned later on the two were connected.
That well's high phosphate level fed the cyano.
When my tanks got hit with cyano I back tracked it down to the cause.
That temporary well.
It wasn't till much later that it all came together, but with me
putting the puzzle pieces together with tid bits of info - I was lucky
enough to figure out the cause.
Where the high phosphate level resulted from, I have no idea.
Surrounding our town is every one of the usual suspects, plus some.
When they finished up their repairs on our part of town's well, the
cyano is barely noticeable anymore. As long as you keep up water
changes you wouldn't know it's in our water.
I mistakenly thought they wouldn't use that temp well after the
repairs were done, but they do.
The pet shops that slack off on maintenance end up with sheets of blue-
green all over their tanks.
*This shop took a little while to figure it out, but they're doing
much better with the wall tanks. They still get an F on betta care.

Altum

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Mar 14, 2010, 4:09:18 AM3/14/10
to The Freshwater Aquarium
I'd love to know what else is in that well. Iron, minerals, etc. I
don't think algae is ever a one-dimensional problem. I'd be willing
to bet if you put pure potassium phosphate into your normal water that
doesn't grow algae as well, you would not get a cyano bloom.

Pity you can't get your local store straightened out on the bettas.

--Altum

Kels Mustang

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Mar 15, 2010, 2:15:15 AM3/15/10
to The Freshwater Aquarium

On Mar 14, 2:09 am, Altum <pt.al...@gmail.com> wrote:
> I'd love to know what else is in that well.  Iron, minerals, etc.  I
> don't think algae is ever a one-dimensional problem.  I'd be willing
> to bet if you put pure potassium phosphate into your normal water that
> doesn't grow algae as well, you would not get a cyano bloom.
>
> Pity you can't get your local store straightened out on the bettas.
>
> --Altum
>

Trust me, I'd love to know what's in our well water too.
Both Mr. G. and Frank said they didn't think our extreme rock hard
water would stunt the growth of my angel fry....but I really don't
know any other obvious differences between my old water (Lake Michigan
water) and this town's city well water. I've heard others say the same
thing about the local area (several towns) hard water issues and angel
growth.
Where my son used to live had hard water (slightly lower than mine)
and his fry grew a little faster than mine did, but still at a slower
pace than what's considered normal.
We have farms, industrial parks, more than one power plant in the same
county, and there's refineries nearby too.
Who knows what could be in our water that would affect a fish's growth
rate.

The cyano bacteria issue was tracked down to the exact day the water
dept shut off our well and switched to a new one they didn't normally
use.
All of a sudden tank's were growing bluegreen algae. 2 different pet
shops in the same town got it too.
I saw some tanks through peoples windows that were covered in it.
Trying to kill it was futile, as it was being introduced with each
water change.
The only thing that could be done is keep your tanks clean. Sometimes
that means scrubbing with a toothbrush in nooks and crannies.
Wondering how the cyano was in a well that didn't get sunlight, I
learned that phosphate can feed it. That temp well had high phosphate
levels.
I just put it all together and it made sense. If it was all just a
bunch of co-inky dinks that would be wild.

As for the local shop and their bettas....last I heard they had a new
guy taking over the fish dept. We'll see how he does.
There's no excuse for not feeding them.

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