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Thread: Need help with water quality - new growing pond

  1. #1
    Jumbo Akai-San's Avatar
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    Need help with water quality - new growing pond

    I have recently started up a small 1000 gallon QT size pond with new filtration system system. After running system for 5 weeks, I impatiently transferred a few fish over from my pops house to my house. Everything was going well until now. Two months with good zero - very low test readings (Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate), my pH is on the high side at 8.2. I do weekly water changes of about 10% (draining my vortex collection/filter). I have been feeding sparingly once a day, even though I don't think that my filters are matured with bacteria goodness for the biological processes. I am planning to do a larger water change tomorrow to try and get my current numbers down.

    I wanted to ask you good folks if my high numbers of Nitrite-1.0 ppm and Nitrate-40 ppm (Ammonia is Zero ppm) is a result of my undeveloped filters and media? I know that even though the water is clear, these test results are telling me something else. Is there anything I can add to the water to get back to acceptable levels? Thanks in advance for your help.

  2. #2
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    There is no set amount of time for the nitrifier bacteria to become established. The usual 'rule of thumb' is 6 weeks, but sometimes it happens more quickly, sometimes more slowly. The fact you are detecting nitrite and have nitrate indicates the nitrifiers are at work. But, that assumes your source water does not contain nitrite or nitrate. Test your source water to be able to determine whether nitrification is occurring in your pond. If you have records of your test results over the past couple of weeks, the data trend can be more informative than the snapshot data on a particular day.

    Assuming your source water has no detectable nitrite or nitrate, your numbers cause me to think that there is insufficient media or the filtration is undersized. Normally, if the amount of filtration and media is right for the pond, by the time you reached 40ppm of nitrate, there would be no detectable nitrite. The bacteria that convert nitrite to nitrate would typically be present in sufficient quantity to handle all of the nitrite if those bacteria were already producing that much nitrate. So, perhaps your source water contains nitrate. If the source water is at 40ppm nitrate also and has no nitrite, then it would appear that the nitrifiers are just now getting established. The ones that convert nitrite to nitrate lag behind. Now that they have their food being produced, their population will grow.

    If you have plants in the pond, the story can be entirely different, because we have to consider nutrient leaching from the soils.

    In regard to these readings, the nitrite is an issue. I would be doing 35% water changes and do them more than once per week as long as nitrite is detectable. If nitrite remains detectable, I would add a small amount of salt, say 0.1% level, to protect the fish from the nitrite until the filter is well-established and no nitrite is detectable. Others would say that is more work than necessary, that adding a little salt would be good enough. The nitrate is much higher than I like to see, but a lot of folks would consider it harmless at 40ppm. Performing the water changes will take care of that.

    It may be that in another week or two things will take care of themselves. Or, it may be that the filter is undersized. If you can, post more data on the test trends, source water tests and describe your filtration. Then we can narrow down the possibilities.
    Akai-San and ricshaw like this.

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    Daihonmei dick benbow's Avatar
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    really nice job explaining Mike...

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    Jumbo Akai-San's Avatar
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    As always, thanks Mike! Appreciate your expertise. My initial setup and test results (weekly) without any fish came in at zero Nitrites, Nitrates and Ammonia. I just tested my source water and the same results. Honolulu's water has a higher pH than recommended 8.4+ so trying to deal with bringing that down as well. I have just completed a larger water change 20% and will do another in a 2-3 days. As suggested, I will add some salt at the recommended levels. I have no plants in this small QT of a pond. When I discovered the higher Nitrate levels, I also was expecting much lower Nitrite levels, so I tested again and then again. Same results. It did just occurred to me that just a few days ago (a day before my last test), I did backwash my Optima II system for the very first time. Pump pushes 3500 gal/hour and Filter is rated for 4000 gallons and I'm at just under 1200 gallons with my start-up. I also have a vortex settling tank with Matala and J-Mat media to separate solids. Maybe the backwash and rinse cycle had something to do with my spiking numbers. Aloha!

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    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    The backwashing could be part of it. When bacteria are first getting established the biofilm on the media is not as robust. It sounds like you'll be OK in a couple of weeks. If not, let us know.

    Your pH is high, but not unacceptable. Be careful and gradual about trying to adjust it. The high pH is better than bouncing pH.

  6. #6
    MCA
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    Honmei MCA's Avatar
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    Info in this slide set may be of help.

    Nishikigoi Water Quality

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    Jumbo Akai-San's Avatar
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    Thanks for the information. I actually found and went through your presentation (twice) before starting this "help" thread. All part of my continued learning curve. I stepped away from Nishikigoi for 6 years after I got back home from Japan. Nice to see the community here alive and very well with the usual suspects When I got home from living in Japan for 3 years I took on a more Midlife crisis hobby for a little while (Classic Cars), but I'm back now and ready to go after my dream pond after I got my dream cars. haha.

  8. #8
    Jumbo Akai-San's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    The backwashing could be part of it. When bacteria are first getting established the biofilm on the media is not as robust. It sounds like you'll be OK in a couple of weeks. If not, let us know.

    Your pH is high, but not unacceptable. Be careful and gradual about trying to adjust it. The high pH is better than bouncing pH.
    Thanks again Mike. I also forgot to add that when returning to the water back into the pond, I also have one of those 31" Savio filter weir waterfall with two layers of J-Mat as well. Brochure has rock type media but I chose to go with the J-Mat hoping I would get more water polishing with the J-Mat. That was my idea anyway. I'll read up more on trying to buffer my pH levels. I just got our water quality report for our Board of Water Supply folks yesterday. Testing results for regulated contaminants from our possible area sources: Barium=.013 ppm, Chromium=3.0 ppb, Nitrate=.55 ppm. Unregulated contaminants show Sulfate=25 ppm, Lead=.98 ppb, Copper=.039 ppm

  9. #9
    Jumbo Akai-San's Avatar
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    So a couple weeks have gone by and my numbers have not changed. Nitrite-1.0+ ppm and Nitrate-40 ppm (Ammonia is Zero ppm), pH is still 8.2+ I have followed a better water change regiment of 15% water changes every other day and have worked the salt regiment into the water as well. I am trying not backwash my system yet as it is still only a little more than a 8 weeks old. I am cycling +/- 3500 gph in a 1100 gallon system with 4-20" koi. Working on extending a second 1000 gallon on the same system so I can separate into 2-20" koi in each (hopefully more room for two). But before I do that I want to get the system matured and going. Any helpful tips welcomed.

  10. #10
    Sansai almostgeorgia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Akai-San View Post
    So a couple weeks have gone by and my numbers have not changed. Nitrite-1.0+ ppm and Nitrate-40 ppm (Ammonia is Zero ppm), pH is still 8.2+ I have followed a better water change regiment of 15% water changes every other day and have worked the salt regiment into the water as well. I am trying not backwash my system yet as it is still only a little more than a 8 weeks old. I am cycling +/- 3500 gph in a 1100 gallon system with 4-20" koi. Working on extending a second 1000 gallon on the same system so I can separate into 2-20" koi in each (hopefully more room for two). But before I do that I want to get the system matured and going. Any helpful tips welcomed.
    Welcome back to the hobby, Akai-San,

    I'm following your thread with interest as I'm also running a brand new QT system (8 weeks now), but one of only 400 gallons or so. It's a 'portable' in that the tank is a show-tub sized blue poly tank, with bottom drain, and filtered with a bead filter system only. And I'm also only keeping a couple of 8" tosai in the system at this time. My ammoina stays at zero most of the time, but I do see some spikes in nitrites occasionally. For the moment I am assuming my filtration is sufficient, and I'm just needing more time for nitrifiers to establish. Meanwhile, I'm keeping that nitrogen number under check by doing frequent (every other day to daily) 20% water changes.

    A question to the forum members that might help Akai-San as well as myself: Are there issues with changing out too much water and thus retarding the bacteria establishment process in our respective filtration systems? I suspect it is better to keep all numbers 'low' to non-existent with water changes than to worry about that possibility at the moment, but would like to hear what others might think on the subject. BTW, the fish are fine, growing incredibly fast, and I'm feeding quite freely, which probably also contributes to the nitrogen readings.

    Just one last thought, Akai-San. If I read your posts correctly, you are housing 4x 20" fish in your 1100 gal QT, or a little over 250 gal of water per fish. That, along with a robust filter system, would be acceptable to some koi-kichi, as I've seen a ratio similar to that in some full sized ponds with a healthy collection of fish. You always hear numbers bantered about of '500 gal. min. per full sized koi', or '1000 gal should be the goal', etc. I realize that comparing fish per gallons is a bit of an apples-to-oranges exercise as sufficiency of the filtration system, turnover rates, etc., are key factors. But given what should be our ultimate aim to provide as pristine an environment as possible in a QT, is it possible to attain this with 200-250 gal. per decent sized koi?

    Thanks for the input, in advance, folks. And good luck with your new QT and quest for a 'dream pond', Akai-San.

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