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Thread: Nitrates and Fasting

  1. #1
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Nitrates and Fasting

    As MikeM has started a thread on winter fasting already, I thought of adding to the discussion without getting out of topic and so thought it best to start a new thread.

    I'm focusing on nitrates as it relates to fasting. On this forum, we learn of many reasons for fasting, and for the purpose of this discussion, I'll also lump reduced-feeding together with fasting. Matt Sklar mentions a downside to the total fast, as he is of the opinion that it affects adversely koi immunity, especially in colder climates. But other than that, there's little discussed about the downsides to fasting.

    As I watch my koi on the 2nd week of reduced feeding in a relatively cold pond of 24-26°C, I was disconcerted to test for nitrate that was higher than expected. Since this is just an observation and not a planned experiment, I may well be wrong in reaching a conclusion that fasting increases nitrate levels.

    Could fasting increase nitrate levels? If so, shouldn't I continue the frequency of water changes even with less feeding? Or maybe I should increase the frequency to mitigate effects of increased nitrate?

    Please make note that my observation is limited to my own pond, in Manila, where we have "perpetual summer" conditions, and where such water temperatures typify the coldest season of the year. These temperatures are still considered warm in temperate regions. As such, koi metabolism is still higher than optimal.

    My koi continue to burn a lot of energy while fasting. Without eating much at all, the energy burned cannot be provided by what they currently eat. So, the koi has to metabolize either fats or protein, or both, from their own body stores, in order to get this energy. If the koi is metabolizing fats, no ammonia is produced, and so nitrate won't be produced by the biofilters. If the koi is metabolizing nitrates, ammonia produced turns into nitrates eventually.

    My first set of questions (other than the ones posed above) are: Are koi burning fats or protein while fasting? Are egg-bound koi burning fats, or protein, or both? What about male koi- is it burning protein? What about non-obese and non-egg-bound female koi? Helping to answer these questions would involve first knowing whether there is fat available to burn, and whether koi would burn protein only after available fat stores are exhausted.

    Koi keepers in similar climate as mine, but with an all-female koi pond, all koi having good girth (implying having ample fat stores- an assumption I hope is well-founded), what is your experience with fasting and its effect on nitrate levels?

  2. #2
    Jumbo sacicu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yerrag View Post
    As MikeM has started a thread on winter fasting already, I thought of adding to the discussion without getting out of topic and so thought it best to start a new thread.

    I'm focusing on nitrates as it relates to fasting. On this forum, we learn of many reasons for fasting, and for the purpose of this discussion, I'll also lump reduced-feeding together with fasting. Matt Sklar mentions a downside to the total fast, as he is of the opinion that it affects adversely koi immunity, especially in colder climates. But other than that, there's little discussed about the downsides to fasting.

    As I watch my koi on the 2nd week of reduced feeding in a relatively cold pond of 24-26°C, I was disconcerted to test for nitrate that was higher than expected. Since this is just an observation and not a planned experiment, I may well be wrong in reaching a conclusion that fasting increases nitrate levels.

    Could fasting increase nitrate levels? If so, shouldn't I continue the frequency of water changes even with less feeding? Or maybe I should increase the frequency to mitigate effects of increased nitrate?

    Please make note that my observation is limited to my own pond, in Manila, where we have "perpetual summer" conditions, and where such water temperatures typify the coldest season of the year. These temperatures are still considered warm in temperate regions. As such, koi metabolism is still higher than optimal.

    My koi continue to burn a lot of energy while fasting. Without eating much at all, the energy burned cannot be provided by what they currently eat. So, the koi has to metabolize either fats or protein, or both, from their own body stores, in order to get this energy. If the koi is metabolizing fats, no ammonia is produced, and so nitrate won't be produced by the biofilters. If the koi is metabolizing nitrates, ammonia produced turns into nitrates eventually.

    My first set of questions (other than the ones posed above) are: Are koi burning fats or protein while fasting? Are egg-bound koi burning fats, or protein, or both? What about male koi- is it burning protein? What about non-obese and non-egg-bound female koi? Helping to answer these questions would involve first knowing whether there is fat available to burn, and whether koi would burn protein only after available fat stores are exhausted.

    Koi keepers in similar climate as mine, but with an all-female koi pond, all koi having good girth (implying having ample fat stores- an assumption I hope is well-founded), what is your experience with fasting and its effect on nitrate levels?
    Whenever i fast, i continue with my trickle water and do my daily dump. Whether nitrate drops or not will depend on the amount of waste collected already in your biofilter. In my case since i dump the water in my mechanical and biofilter at same time daily, if i stop feeding , nitrate drops as low as 5ppm from around 10

    Do take note if one reduce feeding, some koi eats feed on the wall algae more.

  3. #3
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sacicu View Post
    Whenever i fast, i continue with my trickle water and do my daily dump. Whether nitrate drops or not will depend on the amount of waste collected already in your biofilter. In my case since i dump the water in my mechanical and biofilter at same time daily, if i stop feeding , nitrate drops as low as 5ppm from around 10

    Do take note if one reduce feeding, some koi eats feed on the wall algae more.
    Did you say nitrate dropped from 10 to 5 ppm because of fasting (stopping feeding)? Don't you have an all-female koi pond? And aren't all you koi well-girthed?

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    Jumbo sacicu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yerrag View Post
    Did you say nitrate dropped from 10 to 5 ppm because of fasting (stopping feeding)? Don't you have an all-female koi pond? And aren't all you koi well-girthed?
    I have one male showa. Normally a fast of 3 days will drop my nitrate to 5 ppm.

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    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sacicu View Post
    I have one male showa. Normally a fast of 3 days will drop my nitrate to 5 ppm.
    How many female koi, in addition to the 1 male koi? How many thin? How many well-girthed? Hoiw many egg-bound?

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    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    In a warm climate in particular, I would not eliminate water changes when fasting or reducing feed. There is a lot of biological activity occurring even if the fish are not being fed. (Algae dying, detritus caught in algae decays, debris in plumbing decays, leaves and such continue to enter pond, etc. ) After a couple of weeks, water changes might be reduced. I would test for nitrate levels to determine whether it makes sense to reduce water changes. One of the benefits from fasting/reduced feeding is that the water can more readily be made to be very close to the source water in all parameters. Water changes accomplish this. [My koi were fasted for two weeks and have been getting very reduced feeding for one week. Nitrate readings were much lower than 5ppm this past weekend, so I did a 20-25% water change rather than the usual 35%. ...Trying to be 'water conscious'. If it was not for environmental concerns regarding unnecessary water use, I would have stayed with a 35% water change.]

    In a cold climate, reduction of water changes makes more sense because biological activity becomes very low at low temperatures.

  7. #7
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    One of the benefits from fasting/reduced feeding is that the water can more readily be made to be very close to the source water in all parameters. Water changes accomplish this.
    Would it make sense to schedule fasting then during the rainy/monsoon season, in which we get tons of rain (East Asia)? In those days where temperature is at seasonal lows? But care is needed as one will need to check on kH and pH more often.

    In a warm climate in particular, I would not eliminate water changes when fasting or reducing feed. There is a lot of biological activity occurring even if the fish are not being fed. (Algae dying, detritus caught in algae decays, debris in plumbing decays, leaves and such continue to enter pond, etc. )
    Your point is well taken, Mike. But let's suppose the pond has minimal algae, and with filter just cleaned of debris accompanied by water change, and that leaves and such don't get in the pond? Wouldn't the koi in themselves produce ammonia and consequently nitrates as a result of metabolism of protein from their body?

    I recall that bentonite, or zeolite is used on the pond while fasting in prep for koi shows. Isn't it because the koi continue to produce ammonia, which degrades the shiroji?

  8. #8
    Oyagoi RayJordan's Avatar
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    The vast majority of ammonia elimination is via the gills not feces. Ammonia will be produced but at likely a slightly lower amount during fasting without koi feeding. Then ammonia is converted to nitrite and finally to nitrate.

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    Jumbo sacicu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RayJordan View Post
    The vast majority of ammonia elimination is via the gills not feces. Ammonia will be produced but at likely a slightly lower amount during fasting without koi feeding. Then ammonia is converted to nitrite and finally to nitrate.
    Isnt decomposing feces in the water column and trapped in uncleaned filters a major source of ammonia and therefore ultimately nitrate once nitrifying bacteria converts it?

  10. #10
    Jumbo sacicu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yerrag View Post
    How many female koi, in addition to the 1 male koi? How many thin? How many well-girthed? Hoiw many egg-bound?
    I have 10 female koi. I dont believe any are eggbound. With regards to well girth, this would depend on the bloodline of the koi. It is wrong to have a mindset that all koi of different bloodlines and bodyshape at any age should have that grandchampion look. What is important for me is what the body conformance should look like at a certain age and if despite my best effort cannot achieve this, I will cull and replace the koi with a better one.

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