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Popular misconception about NO3 levels

Someone wrote:

>  I don't care that much for snails because even
> in my best planted tanks I tend to run high on nitrates, and I don't want
> the snail load adding to it.

       I don't mention the writer because this comment was an aside in his 
posting, and because I use it only as an example of a statement I see 
       The _only_ factor that controls the amount of nitrate in a water 
column is how much of it is removed relative to how much is added. What 
animals are in the tank is irrelevant.  Unless the aquarist is feeding extra 
food for the snails, the nitrogen load in his tank will remain the same 
whether they are there or not.  
       Nitrogen is added through fish food for most of us, with additions of 
fertilizer for some of us, and also some with chloramine treated water.  It 
is removed through plant trimmings and water changes, and animal removal 
(snails, fish offspring, dead animals).  
       Food that is uneaten by fish or snails translates to nitrogen 
compounds in the water even more surely than food that is eaten.  At least 
some of the food that is eaten is converted to growth of the animal.
       Back to lurking now.  

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