Plants that remove nitrates?

pinkspore

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I have two bare bottom tanks, a 10G with a pair of firebelly toads and a 20L with a paddletail newt. I like plants and the critters like them too. I have a lot of options since both tanks get full spectrum light and the plants don't need to be fully submerged. Right now the frogs have some java fern, a bromeliad-type plant in a pot of gravel, and I just added some duckweed which seems to be a huge hit.

The newt tank had a pothos plant tethered to a fake log and a philodendron in a pot of gravel, but the pothos didn't survive the massive disinfection effort after my old newt died and the phil isn't looking so good either. I moved a java fern over from the frog tank (spreading my pond snail infestation in the process, long live the snails I guess...) and I added some duckweed to see if it could handle the current.

I can get more pothos and java, but I'd like some variety. What grows well hydroponically? Are there plants that can remove nitrates from the water?
 

FrogEyes

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Duckweed might be your best water-cleaner, but it requires strong light and may not do well with strong currents.
 

stanleyc

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Water Lettuce, duckweed, any floating plants that break the surface would grow really well, as they have a direct access to CO2 from the air.
 

pinkspore

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I've got aquarium strip lights intended for plants on both tanks, how strong does the light need to be? The frog tank is where I have the biggest nitrate concerns, with more animals in less water. A day after adding the duckweed the nitrates in that tank went from 0.5 to 40 ppm, so I'm watching the water parameters really carefully. The frogs have never been happier and spend most of their time floating around eyeball deep in the stuff.

Any suggestions for purifying paddletail plants?
 

nwmnnaturalist

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A good indicator of what a plant will add or remove from the water is seeing it in it's natural habitat. Duckweed and many other floating plants favor nutrient-rich waters, such as ponds, gentle lake bays and runoff areas. Just because they appear to thrive in such waters does not mean they improve the quality of the water.

A good idea would be to check out websites and books that delve into the different species and their impacts of aquatic vegetation. These materials help you understand the basis of the 'turnover' cycle regarding plants and water systems. It can also give you an idea of what kind of native and non-native species should be dealt with carefully as not to cause harm to the environment around you.
 

FrogEyes

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Duckweed is used in some filtration systems because it does such a good job of sucking nutrients from the water and converting it to biomass. There was a good article on the use of plants to filter water in a commercial fish farm. It was published around 18 months ago in Tropical Fish Hobbyist I think.

For torrent newts, I'm not sure what to suggest. They tend to live in waters which are plant-free or nearly so. They have also been observed in seepages which are essentially invisible due to overgrowth of ferns and mosses. In both cases, water quality is a result of a) lack of nutrient load, b) constant water change, and c) filtration by or through soil and terrestrial plants. I would suggest a bare tank with strong current, and the water running through a sump with hornwort and/or duckweed chambers. Barring that, good lighting and hornwort could help.

For light strength, I have found that terraria with single T5HO flourescents and single full-spectrum CFLs are great for Java moss and various other plants. The duckweed doesn't thrive unless current is minimal and there is a spotlight overhead for basking reptiles. Then it grows significantly.
 

obicat

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Nothing useful to add as I dont know the names of the plants in my tank :eek: but I have it fairly heavily planted, about half is plants and the paddletail loves it. He likes to sleep wrapped round them :D They are doing well despite the current, and its strong enough to have them swaying about, but they are very green and growing :happy:
 

Grete

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Lucky bamboo works good at removing nitrates, but if you're able to find mangrove pods, they're killer at it! I've currently got 4 - 15" pods in my axy tank. SW enthusiasts like them too to keep nitrates & phosphates down. Their root system is really intricate & makes for good hides. The only thing is converting them from SW to FW, it's a slower process
 

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pinkspore

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Well the duckweed, philodendron, and java fern in the newt tank seem to be doing a great job. When I added the duckweed the nitrate level was at 10 ppm. A few days later it had dropped to 5 ppm and has stayed at that level for the last 10 days without a water change.

Meanwhile, the frog tank keeps jumping to 40 ppm every few days. I need to get a pothos or something to stick right in front of their waterfall to reduce the current so the duckweed stops getting pushed into the corners. The frogs are now permanent duckweed residents, and they look silly when they're all squished up together in the corner of the tank.
 

Molch

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my new favorite is water lettuce, Pistia stratiotes. It grows like the dickens and makes many baby plants. It easily outcompetes duck weed in my warmer cyanurus tanks. The newts love to climb on board the large plants at night or lounge among the fringed roots.

I understand it is used in some places as a water purifier in sewage treatment plants. While I haven't tested this yet by crapping in my tanks, I can attest that I always seem to have low nitrate.

However, it does need decent lighting (i grows well right beneath my single cool white fluorescents) and it will do poorly if water is below 60 F or so. It doesn't like currents either.

I short, it might be unsuitable for your paddletail, but the toads would love it.

The plants sold in the trade or pet shops are often very large as they are grown outdoors. In the aquarium, they will tend to make many small baby plants, and the old large ones will eventually die. I assume a big plant like that just doesn't get enough ntrients in a small aquarium. In the wild, they grow as large as dinner plates; my plants are about 1-4 inches across
 

TristanH

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Hi Pinkspore. All green plants will remove nitrates - nitrate is an essential plant nutrient. So long as you have plenty of plant biomass relative to your animal biomass, you should not have a nitrate problem. More importantly, plants also take up nitrite and ammonia, both of which are toxic.

Duckweed is pretty efficient at taking up N relative to its biomass. However, it has two drawbacks. First, the root system is not very extensive, so it may not be so effective in deeper water. Second, it deoxygenates the water column by reducing the area of the water available for gas exchange. That's not a problem if you aerate your tank with a pump (which also has the side effect of pushing the duckweed out of the way) but could well be an issue in setups where dissolved oxygen is an issue (e.g. larval or axie tanks).

Personally I'd favour a setup with a decent amount of submerged plants like hornwort, milfoil, moss or whatever your local aquarium shop has. Aquatic grasses such as flote-grass (Glyceria fluitans) are good too and ideal for egg laying.

Tristan
 

SludgeMunkey

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A better idea would be to do proper water changes and remove uneaten food and feces once in a while. Plants alone will not solve your problem.
 
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