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new tank, high ammonia... any ideas?

Greetings all,

Been lurking for a while - since I set up my new (first) 33 gallon tank a
week ago, thought I knew everything, or at least, had read everything, then
realised how easily it can all go wrong....

my tap water is 50ppm nitrate, high pH (comes out at 7.4 but bounces to 8.4
within 48 hours), high kh (14, rising to 17) and GH (between 14 and 20 on
eSHa strips).  I assume things will live in this because the local fish
shops seem to keep things going on tap water (can't think how but they do),
however, since planting my tank initially with crap plants from the LFS and
then more recently wtih some truly gorgeous 'Tropica' plants (and hauling
out the dying others), my ammonia has risen to 4ppm and nitrites likewise.
I have added a couple of doses of nitrobacter (correction, I have tipped in
some 'Cycle' and a 'Tetra' capsule which said they were hooching with
bacteria, I am assuming nitrobacter) and some water conditioner but done
nothing else,

I am thinking of filtering through peat to drop the pH and hardness to
something more acceptable but the high ammonia/nitrite, in the absence of
any fish, is surprising, not to say worrying - does anyone know where
they're coming from?

Also -I am not sure I understand the comments on using plants as filters.
Could one of you mail me direct (If this is old hat on line) and explain
what's going on?  I'm currently using the IPF that came with the set-up -
it's 400lph for a 125 litre tank which seems to me overkill but isn't
something I can change

many thanks



Manda Scott MA CertVA BVMS MRCVS
Suffolk, UK

01638 750123 - Home
07771 641735 - Mobile
mcs at wiccan_demon.co.uk