Nitrate Poisoning

Nitrate Poisoning takes its toll

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Two or more of the following symptoms may be associated with nitrate poisoning; loss of appetite; bottom sitting; pressed to the bottom; bent positioning; curled positioning; crooked spine; uncontrolled swimming; swimming in circles

High nitrate levels create dangerous water conditions by oxidizing the iron atoms in hemoglobin, and by reducing oxygen supply to the blood stream and tissue. This condition is called Methemoglobinemia; closely related to the effects of DCS

Bottom Sitting

The symptom; bottom sitting is an effort made by the goldfish to equalize oxygen levels. The fish may exhibit bent positioning in the final stage; much like the scuba diver that swims in too deep of waters and surfaces too quickly develops a disorder called decompression sickness (DCS) better known as ‘the bends’ or caisson disease

Nitrate Shock

Even though your goldfish may tolerate high nitrate levels in its main tank or pond it may be injured after a large water change.  Goldfish suffering nitrate poisoning must have deep water. The pressure created from water relieves the pressure caused by nitrates. As the water table is decreased, the pressure caused by the toxin is increased, worsening the condition

Nitrate poisoning

Since we know nitrates rob the blood of oxygen; goldfish suffering from nitrate shock or poisoning require extreme amounts of oxygen in the water if they are to recover. This can only be accomplished by using a pond pump. These pumps shoot a jet of water to the surface, agitating it. This action expels carbon dioxide from the water; freeing the body of water; allowing to absorb oxygen. The greater the surface action, the greater the oxygen levels, but only if the surface is exposed to fresh air.

How to reduce nitrate levels safely
Perform 5% water changes at a time, removing and replacing same amount. Continue with these small water changes until nitrate levels are reduced to 12 ppm If water treatment that converts nitrates is available; use to convert these remaining levels by treating entire tank size with a double dose

Reduce temperatures
Until oxygen levels are raised and nitrate levels are reduced; reduce water temperature to 54f
This can be accomplished by using colder water with each fresh water change; cranking up the air conditioner; pointing a fan at the tank and placing frozen pop bottles in front of it, or chill some tank water in the fridge or freezer; freeze some stones with smooth surface

Slow feeding at 64f; stop feeding at 55f

Step 6: Oxygenated Water

Increasing the depth increases the water pressure, and increasing the water pressure relieves the affects of nitrates on goldfish; a deeper tank is preferred for treatment. If your tank or pond is shallow, it may be beneficial to transfer fish to a (clean and free of contaminants) deeper container such a tall bucket or even a trash can; using a fresh liner during recovery, but only if the proper set up can be provided

Nitrate poisoning

The following treatments should only be performed on fish in water heavily oxygenated by a pond pump. The surface should be open with a fan blowing fresh air over it. Make certain pH and KH levels are at the high end of the comfort zone. The surface action in the photo above is a good example. Having less surface area compared to the body of water, increased action is necessary in aquariums

After nitrates are lowered, allow tank water to warm to room temperature; 70f

If your goldfish house is deep; 20″ or more, it may be beneficial to treat in house

Goldfish that have experienced nitrates poisoning or nitrate shock require deep water at all times and should only be moved if necessary

Perform; Deep Water Bath

  • Chamber Treatment: treatment of serious injury; goldfish curled, bent or spiraling

If your fish doesn’t improve after reducing nitrates and oxygenating water, it may be beneficial to proceed with the following treatment

Using the tallest container you can find; double the height of your main tank; a tall waster paper basket with a fresh liner in it perfect for this treatment, or a tall pitcher if the fish is small; let’s think of this container as a chamber tank. The additional water pressure may equalize the pressure inside the fish

Nitrate poisoning

Combine chamber treatment with Oop Boost therapy for best results

Chlorophyll is used in the green treatment and bath; known as the green blood of plants. Plant nutrition is synthesized from the basic elements in their environment and from photosynthesis; which is how green plants use sunlight to synthesize food from carbon dioxide and water; producing oxygen as a result. Chlorophyll increases the oxygen levels in the red blood cells, lessening the effect of nitrate poisoning. Fish that have been poisoned or shocked by nitrates will greatly benefit over its use Use Mean Green Remedy  to increase blood flow, repair and rebuild

Natural Remedies Goldfish

Position a pond pump on the floor of the chamber after securing a sponge over the intake; position the pump on the bottom floor of the chamber and adjust control to achieve the greatest amount of action possible. The pump should be sized according to chamber size; approximately 100 GPH for every 10 gallons of water

The deeper the water the faster the recovery time

Treatment time may take a few days or a few weeks according to severity of poisoning

Perform small and frequent, daily water changes in the chamber, keeping the water table as full as possible

If the pump being used doesn’t have beneficial bacteria. Use water treatment that converts chlorine, chloramines, ammonia nitrite and nitrates. Treat entire amount of water in chamber. Make sure to add fresh water gradually. If the pump does have beneficial bacteria, continue feeding normally even though the fish may not be eating, so your friendly bugs don’t perish

The fish should only be returned to main tank after it resumes normal behavior; first lower depth in chamber until it matches main tank depth; take a few days to accomplish this task. If the fish exhibit signs of distress; the treatment should continue

Nitrate poisoning

When you feed your fish, you’re also feeding your friendly bugs. Keep a close watch on water parameters for the next few days; your cycle may spike

If you do have high nitrates all of the fish are being affected; some more sensitive than others

Algae living plant

Follow up with a daily water change of 5% to 10% instead of weekly or biweekly changes. Keeping nitrate levels consistently low will help speed recovery. Add back fresh water gradually

Goldfish that have been poisoned by nitrates develop extreme sensitivity to the toxin, tolerating it only at low levels

If nitrates are an ongoing problem in your tank or pond, check the nitrate levels in your tap water first and foremost; if this isn’t the case; consider some or all of the following options
1. Increase water changes; reduce stocking levels; test frequently
2. Encourage algae or plant growth; plants feed on nitrates keeping your tank or pond water safer, allowing you to change out less water; less frequently
3. Reduce the amount of food being fed
4. Periodical use of water treatment that converts nitrates

If you are on a well; live in a rural area; have your nitrate levels checked yearly, for your goldfish’s safety and your family’s too. High nitrates are often found in farming communities due to the use of fertilizers

Study the 10 Steps to see if you’re providing the best care possible for your goldfish

10 Steps to Goldfish Koi Keeping

Copyright 2008

Author: Brenda Rand