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First of all, my 75 gallon tank has been doing very well for the past 6 months. I have mostly South American cichlids and 2 African cichlids.
Yesterday afternoon, I made a routine 25% water change. It had been 2 weeks since the last one. When I refilled the tank, I added API treatment to remove chlorine & detoxify.
Yesterday evening it seemed like my OSCAR was in destress. Usually, he is very active swimming back and forth in the middle. yesterday he was resting at the bottom. The 2 Africans fish were starting to gasp at the top of the water. My 5 other South Americans were fine.
I checked the water parameters. Ammonia was very low, Nitrites were low. Nitrates were around 80ppm. This made no sense. My tap water usually is perfect. I thought I made a mistake in the test. I tested Nitrates again and it was 80ppm. So I did another 25% water change. I added the API chlorine & detoxify and quick start this time. The OSCAR and 2 Africans became more active.

I did another Nitrate test this morning and it was 60ppm. The testing instructions say to reduce Nitrates a water change is helpful. How could the Nitrates still be high? This has never happened to me before. What chemical treatment should I use to reduce the nitrates ?
 

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Assuming your tap water has a zero nitrate reading and you tested correctly, you aren't changing enough water to compensate for both feeding your fish and the growth of the fish over the last six months. It also didn't help that you skipped a water change and are only doing 25% changes.

You can increase to a 50% water change weekly IF your fish are comfortable with that amount. Otherwise try 30% twice weekly.
 

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Aquarium Water Changes... THE SOLUTION TO POLLUTION, IS DILUTION.
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Conduct more and higher percentage water changes!
 

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Actually. Are there any changes to pH by any chance? Kinda odd to see ammonia and nitrite in a >6 month tank. What were the measurements precisely for them? Sometimes if pH changes enough (in either direction), the nitrifiers currently adapted to your tank conditions will not work as well, and you start get get ammonia and nitrite readings. Though I suppose that brings up a question too - was ammonia and nitrite zero previously?
 

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I assume he has strips and low is the lowest reading he can get.
 

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First of all, my 75 gallon tank has been doing very well for the past 6 months. I have mostly South American cichlids and 2 African cichlids.
Yesterday afternoon, I made a routine 25% water change. It had been 2 weeks since the last one. When I refilled the tank, I added API treatment to remove chlorine & detoxify.
Yesterday evening it seemed like my OSCAR was in destress. Usually, he is very active swimming back and forth in the middle. yesterday he was resting at the bottom. The 2 Africans fish were starting to gasp at the top of the water. My 5 other South Americans were fine.
I checked the water parameters. Ammonia was very low, Nitrites were low. Nitrates were around 80ppm. This made no sense. My tap water usually is perfect. I thought I made a mistake in the test. I tested Nitrates again and it was 80ppm. So I did another 25% water change. I added the API chlorine & detoxify and quick start this time. The OSCAR and 2 Africans became more active.

I did another Nitrate test this morning and it was 60ppm. The testing instructions say to reduce Nitrates a water change is helpful. How could the Nitrates still be high? This has never happened to me before. What chemical treatment should I use to reduce the nitrates ?
I feel for people in your position. I use RO water and make the water for my fish that is tailored for the fish. I never have to worry about the quality of water coming out of my faucet being dependent on some person at the treatment facility caring about their job or being hungover on Monday. You can't rely on API to make everything ok either. API products only do so much. I hope the story ends well for you. My advice to anyone keeping fish that is serious and enjoys the hobby GET AN RO SYSTEM and educate yourself on it. I personally engage in the hydroponic hobby and love to grow hot peppers and tomatoes. I use a Hydrologic Stealth RO system for my plants, fish, and my family. I NEVER DRINK SINK WATER because that stuff will kill you just like it will kill your fish. My liver is not going to filter sink water. Remineralized RO water tastes amazing! Knowing what is actually in the water I put in my fish tank is amazing as well! Try and keep up with the water changes better to avoid the"oh no, I have to do something drastic to make up for my neglect" moments. Every living thing likes stability and predictability. Your fish were already stressed out and on top of that, you added to that stress in an attempt to alleviate it. This happens to everyone in the hobby, LEARN FROM IT. You don't wait until your blood oxygen level falls to 90 before you address the problem. A correction of 10 does not equal 5 corrections of 2 in the water world. Get an RO system if you can; you and your fish will be 100 times happier!
 

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You can increase to a 50% water change weekly IF your fish are comfortable with that amount. Otherwise try 30% twice weekly.
What indicators are there for finding the extent of the amount of water change is tolerable for a given tank/fish? To put it another way, how do you "know" how much is too much? When it comes to doing regular vs emergency water changes.
 

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My default is 50% to 75% weekly. I like to get nitrate=10ppm after a water change and never exceed nitrate=20ppm.

You should never have to do an emergency water change.

The percent you remove/replace is limited by what your fish are used to. If your nitrates are 80ppm and you usually change 20% weekly, then increase the percent of your change gradually over a period of days.
  • Day One 20% change will get you to 64ppm
  • Day Two 30% change will get you to 45ppm.
  • Day Three 40% change will get you to 27ppm.
  • Day Four 50% change will get you to 13ppm.
If you are not over- overstocked, a 50% weekly change thereafter should keep you under 20ppm.
 
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These are fine discussions on Nitrates, but I think we are looking in the wrong place. Fish gasping isn’t a sign on high nitrates.

My guess is that your first water change didn’t fully eliminate chlorine. Fish can deal with nitrate (and ammonia and nitrite to a lesser extent) because their bodies are adapted to chemicals in their environment.

But, free chlorine doesn’t exist in nature and causes immediate damage to the sensitive cells in the gills. So gasping (or lying on the bottom) is a symptom of lack of o2. You then did a second water change/treatment which cleared the issue from the first water change.

that’s my understanding of what you described. If it’s accurate, then your fish have burned their gills and need lots of oxygen to heal over the next month or so.

I overdose all dechlorinator because it won’t hurt and chlorine is the biggest chemical risk to our fish.

search aquariumscience.org for chlorine and you’ll understand much better.
 
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