Best Nitrate Remover for Freshwater Aquariums
Help my nitrates are over 50 PPM! This is a common email or text I get on my live chat. Nitrates can be a major problem for freshwater aquarium keepers. In today's post, I want to talk about the best nitrate remover for freshwater aquariums. Nitrates for some of us are a bane of our existence. We obsess over it because our local fish store and fish guides tells us that nitrates are bad and our fish are stressed out when they are too high.
This is all true, however, instead of stressing out over them let's talk about how to take proper action in tackling the issue. I want to revisit the nitration cycle and talk about ways to remove nitrates from your aquarium. I want us to reflect to how we got to this place. Once we know, let's talk about the best products to solve our problem. As a quick disclose, there will be affiliate links where I may get a commission should you choose to make a purchase at no charge to you. With that disclosure provided, let's go ahead and get started!
Revisiting the Nitration Cycle
Let's first revisit the nitration cycle. I know some of you reading this already know it, but I also know some of you may not and have become successful in listening to your local fish store on what to buy. Part of having a nitrate problem is because we are out of balance. To revisit the nitration cycle has 5 stages:
- Nitrogen is introduced with fish food
- Ammonia is excreted either by fish or decaying material
- Nitrosomas bacteria convert Ammonia to Nitrite
- Nitrobactor bacteria converts Nitrite to Nitrate
- Plants use Nitrates and Ammonium as fertilizer
The above is the natural way of how an aquatic ecosystem would work. The issue most likely with your aquarium is you are missing #5. If you lack live plants, nitrates can build up. Also, the stock media you got from your filters will not address #5. It is not common for filter makers to provide media that will remove nitrates. This is to keep costs down as the media designed to address nitrates is more expensive and some buyers may not even want it.
Ways To Remove Nitrate
So now that we know the cycle and likely what our deficiency is in the cycle, let's talk about how to remove nitrates
1. Water changes
This is the most comment way. Water changes will reduce nitrates and bring in water water to your aquarium. While this is an all-around fix, too many water changes can be disruptive to our closed systems. They are also labor intensive. We do not want to be a slave to the water change. Our goal is to get down to changing water every other week or every month.
2. Live Plants
A large live plant population is effective at removing nitrates from your aquarium. This works great for planted tank setups, however I know many people I talk to who have nitrate problems and cannot have planted tanks. These can be people with fish who eat live plants, aggressive fish that uproot or damage them, or people who do not want to regularly prune live plants and maintain them.
3. Reduce livestock
Sometimes an aquarium has high nitrates because the tank is overstocked. This is common with people who follow the 1 inch per fish rule. Your biological filtration is working overtime when your tank is overstocked. Other times, you have fish that are hard on your bioload like gold fish or large aggressive fish.
4. Nitrate Removers
Nitrate removers are filter media designed to remove nitrate from your aquarium either through chemical or biological means. They either come in disposable media or permanent media. They are not dangerous to your inhabitants in your tank and will reside in your filter compartments. Some nitrate removers are mixed media, meaning that they handle other things aside from nitrate. Some will have carbon and others use resin to remove other impurities. A dedicated nitrate removing media is a great way to target the problem immediately, but need to replaced regularly. A permanent media will grow anaerobic bacteria in the media. This anaerobic bacteria will consume nitrates. If you looked at all these ways to reduce nitrates and you are at the point where a nitrate remover is necessary, then read on.
The Best Nitrate Remover For Freshwater Aquariums
Below is a list of recommended nitrate remover products for freshwater aquariums. All products here have been selected through our field experience and all are safe to use in freshwater aquariums. Each have their pros and cons, which I will discuss below. There should be a product for you on this list.
1. Acruel LLC Nitrate Reducing Media Pad - Great for Canister Filters
Acurel's Nitrate Reducing Pad has been around for years and is well known for quickly taking care of nitrate problems in freshwater aquariums. It comes is a large 10 x 18 inch pad that you can cut to size. I find this pad is best in a Canister Filter as it the media chambers are large enough to accommodate a pad. I would put this in the chemical media chamber below your carbon media or in-lieu of.
This product has amazing field results. It has taken down nitrate levels in a 180 gallon cichlid tank from 60-80PPM to 20PPM or less. It's biggest problem is it is difficult to get enough of the product into a power filter as you need to use a sizable amount of it to get the desired results. It is generally hard to find locally, making this best to purchase online. The price is very reasonable, making this a great purchase for anyone who owns a canister filter.
- Can be cut to size
- Very effective
- Works quickly
- Not enough surface area to work with most power filters
- Hard to find locally
2. API Nitra-Zorb - Resin Based Carbon Replacement
API Nitra-Zorb is a resin based filter media that works to eliminate ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and harmful chemicals in your aquarium. It is a great all around filter media that replaces carbon in your aquarium. Because it is resin based, it can be recharged. The recharging instructions are simple only requiring aquarium salt and warm tap water then soaking the media bad for 2 hours. This makes this a really attractive media to buy for nitrate removal since you an buy a bag and reuse it granted you are willing to recharge it regularly.
The biggest problem with Nitra-Zorb is that it is designed for canister filters. The bag is going to be too large for most power filters. Another point of concern I would have is since the bag can handle a complete nitrogen cycle on its own, it will hurt your natural biological filtration you have set up in your filter or your plants. I feel that a nitrate remover product should be a supplement for your cycle not a replacement. I feel this product is a potential replacement since its chemical based not biological.
- Resin based - replaces carbon
- Media can be reused
- Bag is large and is meant for canister filters
3. Bio-Home Ultimate Filter Media - The Best Biological Filtration Media For Freshwater Tanks
Bio-Home in my opinion is the best biological filtration media you can purchase for a freshwater aquarium. It has the ability to control ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate on it's own. Bio-Home got it start from PondGuru, one of the bigger Youtubers on pond care. PondGuru developed this product to resolve high nutrient issues in ponds. It does an amazing job in freshwater tanks. I highly recommend it for anyone with a fish-only or lightly planted tank.
Because it is a biological based filter media, it is permanent in your system. You add it in your filter unit and forget about it. The media will house both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria and the mini-version will fit in some power filters.
It's a great biological media that has it one drawback. It is very expensive and you will need 2-4 lbs for an mid-sized aquarium. Also, because it is biologically based it will need to establish in your aquarium before it will remove nitrates. Bio-Home offers the following guidelines when trying to figure out how much media you need to purchase.
|Environment||Amount of Biohome Required|
|Avg Community Tropical Tank||1 kg/26 gal (100 lt)|
|Avg Cold Water Tank||1-1.5 kg/26 gal (100 lt)|
|Predator Tank||1.5-2 kg/26 gal (100 lt)|
|Large Cichlid Tank||1.5-2 kg/26 gal (100 lt)|
|Malawi/Tanganyikan Tank||1.5-2 kg/26 gal (100 lt)|
|Avg Mixed Fish Pond||1 kg/52 gal (200 lt)|
|Avg Koi Pond||1 kg/39 gal (150 lt)|
If you want a filter media that will free you of being a slave to constant water changes, this is worth every penny.
- Biological based - permanent
- Small enough to fit in power filters
- Needs to establish to get results
4. Boxtech Aquarium Media - MarinePure Like Media That Fits In A Canister Filter
In the saltwater aquarium side of the hobby, there is this wonderful product called marinepure that is a ceramic block that acts as superior biological filtration in sumps. The blocks are massive and have superior surface area. These blocks by BoxTech offer the same advantages as marinepure, but designed to be small enough to fit in a canister filter.
The ceramic block will achieve a full nitrogen cycle removing nitrates. Because it is a permanent solution, you won't have to worry about replacing media overtime. This is a less expensive solution long-term for you.
Like many products on this list, it is difficult to fit this into most power filters. It is a 3x3 block so it may fit on larger power filters. It will need to establish in your tank in order to achieve results.
- Convenient shape - fits in Canister Filters
- Incredible surface area for bacteria
- Won't fit in most power filters
- Needs to establish to get results
5. Dr. Tim's Aquatics All-Natrual Aquarium Pearls - Nitrate Remover Designed by A Marine Biologist
Dr. Tim is well known in by reef aquarium keepers and public aquariums. He has designed unique products that solves issues like cycling a tank. These NP-Active Pearls by Dr. Tim are natural bio-polymers that remove nitrates and phosphates in your aquarium. They work in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums and do a great job.
Because it is a bio-ball based media, it is best run in a media reactor versus a canister filter or power filter. It will still do the job in any of them, it's just more effective in a media reactor.
- Removes Phosphate and nitrate
- Small enough to fit in a power filter
- Works best in a media reactor
6. EA Premium Nitrate Reducer - A Budget Friendly Nitrate Remover
If you are looking for a budget friendly nitrate remover, the EA Premium Nitrate Reducer is a great product to look at. Like Acruel's pad, it works instantly as it is an infused filter pad. I would install this in the second chamber of your canister filter after your mechanical stage. It will work with a powerfilter, but you may have difficulty getting enough of the product to be effective in smaller filters. Make sure you rinse this before putting it into your aquarium. It dusty and can cloud up water if you don't rinse it before it goes into your filter. This is a great nitrate remover for those who need fast results and are on a budget.
- Works Instantly
- Can be cut to fit
- Dusty - rinse first before using
- Hard to find locally
6. IceCap Turf Scrubber - Fighting Nitrates With Algae
An algae turf scrubber is well known in the saltwater aquarium hobby for it's ability to remove nitrates, phosphates, and harmful chemicals in your aquarium. It does this all by growing algae on a mesh sheet. This algae once established will filter all sorts of nutrients out of your aquarium. A good turf scubber will do wonders to getting your levels down and have had field results bringing nitrates to nearly undetectable levels. This is all done naturally and is a permanent nitrate removing solution. It will also reduce algae in your display tank since the algae growing in your scrubber will compete with it. IceCap has done an excellent job at making these scrubber as affordable as possible for hobbyist with a well made solution.
Turf scrubbers are complex to install and dial in. They require a separate pump and are best run in a sump. They are expensive and you have to remove the algae every 7-14 days. This can be messy and smelly. If you have a sump and some very high nitrate levels, this could be the solution for you.
- Reduces nitrates and phosphates naturally
- Can eliminate nitrates to extreme low levels
- Reduces algae in display tank
- Complex to install
- Maintenance is messy and smelly
7. Seachem Denitrate - Media That Targets Nitrate Reduction
Seachem Denitrate is a biological media that has the ability to house anaerobic bacteria. Anaerobic are achieved by the porous nature of this media and the ability to have areas depleted of oxygen that creates these anaerobic pockets. It functions are both basic biological media and nitrated reducing media since it is a dual purpose media.
This product from SeaChem is the same as SeaChem Matrix, which we will discuss next. The main difference between the two is that media for Denitrate is smaller, making it far easier for your power filters to house it. It is one of the few nitrate removing media here that will fit and be functional in a power filter. There is also a big advantage with SeaChem products in general. They are readily available online and in stores.
This 1 liter package will work for up to 50 gallons. It is a permanent solution and the price is reasonable for its capacity. Because it is a permanent solution, it will need to establish first before any results can be seen. Given it's availability, it's a great choice to pick up if you are using a power filter.
- Biological based
- Fits in power filters
- Permanent solution
- Needs time to establish
8. Seachem Matrix - Superior Biological Media Replacement
Seachem Matrix is the flagship biological media product of SeaChem. It offers superior biological filtration that will house both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria species. It is a permanent solution that is designed to work in canister filters. It is a larger media version of denitrate. This is done on purpose so the inner core can hold more anaerobic bacteria.
To function correctly, SeaChem recommends that you lower the gallons per hour on your filtration unit down to 50 gallons per hour. It will take time to establish given it's biological nature. It is readily available in stores. This is a great solution if you are starting up a new tank and want to have great biological filter media to start.
- Biological based
- Permanent solution
- Reasonable price
- Designed for canister filters
- Takes time to establish
9. Seachem Purigen - Instant Nitrate Remover In A Small Package!
Seachem Purigen is a fast acting resin that removes a number of organic compounds in your water. It is resin base and its color changes as it it depletes. This makes it easy to identify when to replace or recharge the resin. Recharging the resin involves using an unscented bleach solution. The bleach burns off the organics that have been removed from the tank.
This type of regeneration is superior to API's salt solution of regeneration. A salt based regeneration only replaces the removed ionic compounds. It will not destroy the large compounds that were removed. This can be risky over time as the organics can potentially leech back into your aquarium over time. You do not run this risk with Seachem Purigen. The price of this product is so reasonable that many who use it don't even bother to recharge it. It is fast acting and has great field results.
Purigen is easy to find online and at stores. It will also fit in power filters and you do not need that much to get great results!
- Fast Acting
- Good price
Complex to recharge
What Is the Best Nitrate Remover For Freshwater Aquariums (Our Expert's Pick)
There are two categories we have to create when naming a best nitrate remover. We have permanent and disposable solutions. Permanent takes time to establish and will solve your problem over time. Disposable solutions will work immediately and require replacement to keep levels down.
Best Permanent Nitrate Remover
This goes to Bio-Home Ultimate Filter Media. It has proven field results and does not have a gallon per hour limitation like some of the other permanent solutions out there. They are able to do this because the core of the media will hold anaerobic pockets for nitrate removing bacteria to thrive. I have seen bio-home reduce nitrates in pond filters pushing through 1700+ gallons per hour and still have stellar results. It is worth every penny.
Best Disposable Nitrate Remover
This goes to Seachem Purigen. The resins with Purgien work immediately and are very effective. It changes color so you know when it is time to replace the media. The product is so cheap that you don't have to recharge the product and you do not need much of it. This makes it ideal to work in power filters. It is also readily available online and in most fish stores.
Closing Thoughts on Best Nitrate Remover for Freshwater Aquariums
Nitrate reduction can be a tough nut to crack in a non-planted aquarium. Overstock aquariums have even a harder time. The great thing is there are products that are very effective at resolving your issues. I hope the overview and the product reviews I provided have helped you make an informed decision. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. Thanks you for reading and see you next time!
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