The importance of nitrite measurements in a reef aquarium

blasterman

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Are we testing nitrite in established tanks because we're bored, or is somebody making money selling test kits?

Nitrite has to be present in an elemental form in a tank with a bioload because ammonia has to get to nitrate somehow. My question is: so what? I don't bother testing ammonia in new tanks because I know the routine and how long it takes to cycle based on ecperience. Why give a flip about nitrite?

Even if nitrite was off in theory what are you going to do? Buy some special nitrite eating bacteria in a bottle?
 

Nano sapiens

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Are we testing nitrite in established tanks because we're bored, or is somebody making money selling test kits?

From the 1st page:

All hobby tests I know (with exception of the upcoming ION director from GHL) are based on the same principle. A metal salt is in use to reduce the nitrate into nitrite. The test reads nitrite but after a certain time when x % of the nitrate has been converted into nitrite. The colour chart translates back the nitrite reading into mg/L nitrate with a certain conversion factor. This factor is depended on brand and metal salt in use but vary from 50 to 100 times. It means that if there is nitrite in the sample from the beginning – you will have a too high reading. The brand I use for the moment (Fauna Marine nitrite/nitrate test. Tropic Marines seems to be the same type) have 100 as a multiplying factor. It means that if I have 0.02 mg/L of nitrite from the beginning – my nitrate readings are 2 mg/L too high. 0.05 ppm nitrite from the beginning -> 5 ppm too high nitrate reading. As I have seen – it is rather normal with these nitrite readings in mature reefs and if I want to have Nitrate levels below 5 mg/L I must analyse my nitrite concentrations in order to get a decent (and right nitrate reading)

IMO even nitrate readings up to 10 mg/L can be very wrong if you do not know your nitrite readings.


Synopisis: For those who want to have a truly accurate nitrate reading (especially important when nitrate levels are ~10 ppm of less), nitrite testing is necessary.
 
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Lasse

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Are we testing nitrite in established tanks because we're bored, or is somebody making money selling test kits?

Nitrite has to be present in an elemental form in a tank with a bioload because ammonia has to get to nitrate somehow. My question is: so what? I don't bother testing ammonia in new tanks because I know the routine and how long it takes to cycle based on ecperience. Why give a flip about nitrite?

Even if nitrite was off in theory what are you going to do? Buy some special nitrite eating bacteria in a bottle?
My bold. But if you do not have that experience? If you are a newbie and want to know a little of what you are doing? Most advises say - test ammonia and nitrate in the start. Total ammonia tests are rather unreliable and in order to know if it is dangerous or not - you need to know your pH. temperature, altitude and salinitet. Nitrate tests is totally worthless in the start because of the processes ability to produce nitrite. What I´m saying - nitrite tests are rather reliable, proven and will give you a warning if the nitrification process will halt. If you do not use start up methods that is proven not to give halted nitrification processes (my method, use of used sand, stones and water or other biological proven methods) - a nitrite test is the only test you need in order to get a safe start. And it save you money. And if you chose a combined nitrite-nitrate product - you will have a test that is useful even after the start period

If you want to run your aquarium in low nitrate concentrations - see @Nano sapiens post above

If you run your system with adding DOC (vodka, vinegar, sugar, NoPOX or similar DOC products (Dissolved Organic Carbon) - nitrite testing can be a tool to get an early warning if the system is going downhill with domination of heterotrophic bacteria and hence - a bad nitrification rate. This situation is like Dante's journey through the nine circles of hell. A growing crowd of heterotrophic bacteria produce more and more ammonia and a more and more outcompeted autotrophic bacteria biomass convert lesser and lesser ammonia. First sign of not properly working nitrification process is a rise of nitrite concentration.

Is it important to test nitrite in a aquarium without problems? IMO - yes - at least now and when because you need to know your baseline of free nitrite in the water.

My intentions with this thread were (and are) to try to increase knowledge of these issues and thus provide a basis for everyone's independent decision on whether it is a useful tool for their purpose or not. Its up to each to decide if it is useful or not.

My opinions is based on knowledge of the principles of nitrification and denitrification, measurement technology and long experiences of aquarium husbandry. All of this can easily be Googled - I do not need a chain of threads build on circle evidence in order to back up my claims.

I have the same opinion as @brandon429 that the start up process has been screwed up into absurdity with months of cycling. It is in reality a simple process if it is done the right way. However - I do not scale down the real problems - instead I try to show a path that both solve the problems with nitrification and give a good ground for further development of the newly started aquarium. My 15 steps give a good guideline IMO. If you do not want to start with a fish - that's good enough for me but start with very, very small amounts of bottled ammonia. Do not use the recommended doses - IMO because of risk for blocking the process or that you get ridiculously high levels of nitrate when the process is finished. High levels of nitrate needs huge WC in an already unstable system. And do not use the rotten shrimp method or ghost feeding. If you do that - the ugly phases will surly be developed in your aquarium - IMO.

But this is not a start up thread - let us take that discussion in my 15 steps article instead - that will create a useful tool for people to make their own decisions

This thread is about nitrite measurements as a useful tool or not.

Sincerely Lasse
 
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Randy Holmes-Farley

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I was responding to a specific case example from the thread.

Your words (pasted below) as written were literally wrong, whether it was you or your interpretation of Lasse, and I did not want anyone to get the wrong impression.

" I think Lasse is saying that nitrites only account for a significant portion of the “nitrate” reading from a nitrate test kit if you are getting values <10 ppm. If you are getting higher “nitrate” readings it is less likely the presence of nitrite is significantly contributing to higher “nitrate” readings. "

But I know you don’t like to admit being wrong.
lol

You know that? lol

I certainly admit when I make mistakes.
 

brandon429

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we are having a renewed meeting on nitrite and this is the best source I know of for advocating knowing about nitrite levels in a reef tank.
 
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Lasse

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Some experiences with the nitrite - nitrate issue.

at work we have a Mastertronic and it is the only robot I know that measure both nitrite and nitrate. It use Fauna Marines nitrite - nitrate test (Tropical Marines Pro Nitrite-nitrate can be used too). In one system is normally show around 0.02 in nitrite and around 2.5 to 3 ppm nitrate - leaving between 0,5 - 1 real nitrate. (conversion factor 100) The other day it suddenly show 0.07 in nitrite and I did a manual nitrate (with Mastertronic) test directly - showing just around 7. It was happen the same time an overdosing of iodine was done. Later - it went down to around 0.035 in nitrite readings and nitrate around 3.9 (average) - leaving around 0.55 ppm real nitrate. The example shows clearly how nitrite affect nitrate readings - id I not have had a nitrite reading - I would thought that I had a huge rise in nitrate when it went from 2.35 to 6.61 during one day. in reality - I had a doubling of my nitrite readings.

Sincerely Lasse
 

chaostactics

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This is why I wish I could curtate book marks of posts in my profile.

Though I am not sure if I'm tracking your explanation of the magnification factor on nitrites effect on nitrate readings and how it artificially skews them?

Also things like Hanna checkers, they're still pretty much using the color change from the metal salts reaction you were talking about in the original post but using a machine/light/lens interface vs out own lens light interpretation provided by our eyeballs?
 
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Hans-Werner

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Hi Lasse,

I just can underline your contributions regarding nitrite. We had a customer telling us that our nitrate test we manufacture (Tropic Marin) must be wrong. It gives a high reading for nitrate and they are operating a sulfur nitrate filter, so this can't be. I told them to check for nitrite and it turned out it was the nitrite that caused the false-high reading.

I think you already mentioned that nitrite may also occur with incomplete nitrate reduction during denitrification. The deeper reason is that ion uptake systems of organisms seem generally unable to discriminate well between nitrite and chloride ions (see here). The same is the case when bacteria want to oxidize nitrite or reduce nitrite further. It is always the competition between nitrite and chloride ions that inhibits this step. In biochemistry this is called a competitive inhibition of an enzyme or an ion pump (which finally is also a kind of enzyme).
 

brandon429

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My understanding from this thread is the only time nitrite matters in reefing is when someone wants to know nitrate, and even then on a years old system the nitrate reading can still be wrong anyway if denitrification pathways are causing nitrate misreads?

it seems we are going to have to accept varying/approximated nitrate testing as we’ve been doing just fine with in the hobby last few decades.


also still present- nobody questions the accuracy of api nitrite testing (99.99% of all nitrite stated levels on any reef board = api) and any stated levels by anyone are accepted as fact even though ammonia tests range in accuracy considerably, and nitrate too, I find it odd that given the range of testing issues nobody challenges any stated reading for nitrite, ever?

surely the same confounds that affect ammonia testing and nitrate testing accuracy in the hobby can happen with nitrite as well? What a total mess. Good thing we don’t need to measure nitrite in cycling or we wouldn’t have been able to produce 400 cycled tanks last year we can still search out and get updates on today. By having reef tank cyclers and display tank owners absolutely disregard all nitrite data we took back the buying impulse training given to us by bottle bac sellers.


our cycling is going smooth now, for years. Hundreds of completed cycles that were nitrite positive when they added fish can be tracked out for longevity now. Nobody has a stall, nobody has to buy more rounds of bacteria, and nobody is losing bioload by ignoring nitrite in all possible cases because controlling free ammonia is all that really matters.

it appears nitrite measurement is for chemists who work out complex formulas and analyze testing confounds, but knowing nitrite status for the public really just leads them into doubt and more purchases of bottled bacteria.
 
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Randy Holmes-Farley

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This is why I wish I could curtate book marks of posts in my profile.

Though I am not sure if I'm tracking your explanation of the magnification factor on nitrites effect on nitrate readings and how it artificially skews them?

Also things like Hanna checkers, they're still pretty much using the color change from the metal salts reaction you were talking about in the original post but using a machine/light/lens interface vs out own lens light interpretation provided by our eyeballs?

Are you asking how this is done?

Most nitrate tests, including the Hanna, convert a fraction of the nitrate present to nitrite, then it detects all of the nitrite present, and multiplies the nitrite value back up (by the fraction of nitrate converted) to get nitrate. So if there is nitrite present at the start, it is detected, multiplied up, and shows as lots of nitrate.
 
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Lasse

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This is why I wish I could curtate book marks of posts in my profile.

Though I am not sure if I'm tracking your explanation of the magnification factor on nitrites effect on nitrate readings and how it artificially skews them?

Also things like Hanna checkers, they're still pretty much using the color change from the metal salts reaction you were talking about in the original post but using a machine/light/lens interface vs out own lens light interpretation provided by our eyeballs?
I did this analyzes with Mastertronic. They use a spectrophotometer type of instrument to analyze the sample. They have calibrate this to suit Fauna More nitrite - nitrate test and Tropic Marines Pro nitrite - nitrate test. With other worlds they use the same technique as Hanna Checkers but use the reagents of these two brands. These two brands also openly tells which conversion factor the use. It is 100 for these two products. It means that if you have 0.02 ppm NO2 in your water (imo a very normal level) - it skew the nitrate readings with 2 ppm. If you nitrate reads 3 and the nitrite reads 0.02 ppm - it will give a real concentration of 1 ppm Nitrate.

The conversion factor for Nanna low nitrate checker has not be possible to get. Hanna have not answered that question. Other peoples test have indicate a low conversion factor but I do not know. When I test my water the 13/8 with Hanna Low nitrate Checker - it shows 3.44 ppm. Did not test for nitrite. It test my water with Mastertronic 14/8 (the day after and it shows nitrate 2.5 ppm and nitrite 0.023 ppm -> 0.2 ppm nitrate This indicate that the nitrite can play a role even for Hannas low nitrate checker. I hope that someone with better equipment for nitrite/nitrate analyze than me can sort this out in the future - do not feel the pressure anyone :D.

No Brandon - IMO is the nitrite concentration the first sign that the system is on its way to tip or that something happens. The other day - I did see a huge rise in nitrite in one of the systems I manage. Automatically look for reason and directly found that we had overdosed with iodide (rather much - if I say so) But it demands rather good equipments for people like me that is rather black and white (maybe gray scale sometimes) in the way we see the world. The nitrite concentration is the best indication you can have in order to see if the nitrification works well or not. The second step is more sensitive for disturbances and you will get an early warning - way ahead what you will see if you analyze NH4/NH3. NH3/NH4 can also be low because most photosynthetic organisms can use it and may do it before it will be converted to nitrate in the first step of the nitrification cycle. But you need a good tool (if you not have a very good colour vision - a hanna marine low nitrite checker or an analyze robot that analyze nitrite. Probably will the ion director also be usable because it use a total different technique than all other tests. The Oceamo test will also give real nitrate and nitrite result - also using a different technique than other tests.


Sincerely Lasse
 

brandon429

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Lasse I have question

in this post here

the majority on the board doesn’t agree on repeated nitrite and ammonia testing, what will happen to their reefs by omitting ammonia and nitrite data?

I feel that survey reflects the fact that new cycling science has edged out old cycling science in practice.

everywhere new cycling science is referenced, actual reef tanks are present to evaluate its application. Everywhere old cycling science exists, it’s only paragraphs of chemistry that paint a risk of stalled cycling but never includes a single tank example.


In these 4 pages, not a single tank example of nitrite consequence.
 
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Lasse

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Nothing will be right because a majority is wrong.

nitrite and ammonia testing,
I do not understand why you take in ammonia in this discussion when i have stated both here and elsewhere that you can´t trust hobby ammonia tests but nitrite tests is more reliable and sensitive when the nitrification cycle goes wrong. That´s one reason among many to test nitrite.

And I think more and more people nowadays understand that you can´t test low levels of nitrate an get a reliable result if you not also test nitrite. Fucostronic have now update their mastertronic to also give a nitrite compensated nitrate reading program in their software

And there is not new or old cycling science - trends in a hobby are seldom scientific.

Sincerely Lasse
 

brandon429

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nitrite was also second most not tested for, how has the majority been impacted by that


Your thread here says nitrite must be factored, what’s going to be their consequence for not doing that

yes I did see you mention ammonia misreads I did see it agreed. Why not mention the possibility for mistesting nitrite too? You claim stated levels by any poster are accurate, but we don’t see any real testing logged here between Hanna digital nitrite and api, on reef tanks, for example

this thread needs actual reef tank examples included

you still advise in your posts in the new tanks forum to continue nitrite detailing though the majority clearly don’t, comparative work here is missing that proves api nitrite is reliable and accurate. Those aquarists are going to react to nitrite by buying dosers and adding prime and chemically souping their setup.

even if there is nitrite present in a cycle you don’t tell readers that it’s a neutral impact, I feel you want to prevent the big picture from being seen where actual reef tank testing occurs.


the claims made here weren’t accepted into practice yet you‘re still holding firm in advising nitrite test and response.
 
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Lasse

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Nitrite is less tested in saltwater (in the US) because the old hate for biological filter (nitrate factory). In Europe - it is still a parameter to understand the biological filtration and how well the nitrification cycle works. it is also a need for those that will run their tanks with low nitrate levels (0.5 - 3 ppm)

But as you know - the only fish that go with the flow is a dead fish :D.

Sincerely Lasse
 

brandon429

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My main concern is the sheer hesitancy and fear it creates in new cyclers to toil over nitrite. this thread never listed any downsides of factoring nitrite in procedure you’ve noticed


We track those tanks out over the lifespan through posts— invasions, disease and all kinds of reasons to take down a reef tank follow that learned fear and it traced back to an original unfounded concern about what filters can tolerate. Hesitation leaned early kills their reef later on

The false notion of stalled cycles has caused wide reaching negative harm and losses in the hobby, on any continent


conversely in our threads omitting nitrite info, very very strong lifespan and no reactive buys from the pet store, zero chemical souping as a response, clear and uninvaded systems for twenty pages using actual reefs because they know what filters can tolerate. We can send messages to get update details from any participant

New cycling science saves reefs that dated/out of practice cycling science harms.

new cyclers can benefit most by substituting disease prevention preps for all manner of nitrite testing.
 
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ReefGeezer

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We track those tanks... conversely in our threads... New cycling science

Forgive me for butting in here. I must be too dense to understand the nuances of conversations like the ones in this post. How old is the science that would be not be considered new? What has changed, except maybe the understanding of the relative lack of toxicity of Nitrite and the marketing of products promising to cycle tanks better, faster, stronger?

And completely off topic... Who is "We/Our"?
 
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