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Aquarium Nitrate FAQ

Updated on November 30, 2015

Where Do Nitrates Come From?

Nitrates are a result of the nitrogen cycle. Aerobic bacteria and fungi break down wastes (leftover food, decaying organisms, feces, etc.) into ammonia. Ammonia is then broken down into nitrite, and nitrite to nitrate. In nature, another set of bacteria further breaks down nitrate into nitrogen gas which is then released into the air before the nitrates can have a negative impact on the ecosystem. This last step (called complete denitrification) relies on these special bacteria, however, that require low oxygen levels and stagnant water to thrive. Most aquariums do not provide this habitat and cannot accomplish the last step of the nitrogen cycle without help from products such as X-NO3.

What Causes High Nitrate Levels?

Nitrates occur in the aquarium naturally, from the bi-products of the inhabitants. Over feeding, over stocking, and dirty filters can all contribute to the nitrogen cycle and result in high nitrate levels.

Why Are Nitrates Bad?

The presence of nitrates can cause fish to become stressed, allowing them to become susceptible to diseases and ultimately death. Internal organ damage, behavioral changes, and blindness can be results of high nitrate levels as well. Additionally, nitrates can alter the water quality in your aquarium, causing algae blooms.

What Is The Desired Level Of Nitrates In An Aquarium?

In nature, nitrate levels are usually below 5 ppm. In aquariums, it is generally best to keep nitrates below 50 ppm, and closer to 25 ppm if possible. If you are breeding fish or combatting algae plumes, below 10 ppm should be your nitrate goal. Reef aquaria with sensitive invertebrates and corals require levels of nitrate that are undetectable. X-NO3 is the absolute best way to achieve this with its ability to selectivity target nitrate and continue to remove it down to an undetectable level.


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