is it true seachem prime does nothing for nitrates/nitrites?

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is it true seachem prime does nothing for nitrates/nitrites?

Postby ljones » Thu Nov 17, 2011 5:25 am

Reading through the official reviews on this site, I get the impression that seachem prime actually does nothing for nitrates/nitrites. Am I reading correctly, or is this only good for ammonia? From what I can tell, ammonia is related to nitrates/nitrites in that the same bacteria processes them all. At this point, my brain is hurting. Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting into with an Oscar, but it's turning into a "science project/my pet must always be pampered" obsession at this point.
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Re: is it true seachem prime does nothing for nitrates/nitri

Postby Kmuda » Thu Nov 17, 2011 8:42 am

Ammonia is related to nitrate in that the end result of the Nitrogen Cycle, at least in our tanks, is Nitrate. The bacterium that oxidizes ammonia, converting it to nitrIte is Nitrosomonas marina. The bacterium that converts nitrIte to nitrAte is Nitrospira.

Prime makes several statements in their marketing.

1. Prime removes Nitrate: It absolutely does not. I can prove it
2. Prime reduces the toxicity of nitrate: In some degree, it probably does. But there is no way to prove it (or disprove it).

As for the reduction of nitrate toxicity, it's something I've studied quite a bit. As for Prime's reduction of nitrate toxicity, the claim is based upon feedback from hobbyist experience, not from any scientifically documented testing.

Per the Prime FAQ:

A: The detoxification of nitrite and nitrate by Prime (when used at elevated levels) is not well understood from a mechanistic standpoint. The most likely explanation is that the nitrite and nitrate is removed in a manner similar to the way ammonia is removed; i.e. it is bound and held in a inert state until such time that bacteria in the biological filter are able to take a hold of it, break it apart and use it. Two other possible scenarios are reduction to nitrogen (N2) gas or conversion into a benign organic nitrogen compound.

I wish we had some more "concrete" explanation, but the end result is the same, it does actually detoxify nitrite and nitrate. This was unexpected chemically and thus initially we were not even aware of this, however we received numerous reports from customers stating that when they overdosed with Prime they were able to reduce or eliminate the high death rates they experienced when their nitrite and nitrate levels were high. We have received enough reports to date to ensure that this is no fluke and is in fact a verifiable function of the product.


Detoxifying nitrite is a relatively simple process. Plain ole salt does a fine job of it by increasing the availability of chloride ions. It actually does nothing to "detoxify" nitrate, rather it prevents (or at least limits) the ability of the fish to be poisoned by it. Nitrite kills because a fish's gills will take up nitrite ions, which enter the blood, creating a condition known as methemoglobinemia. Fish suffering from this condition experience low red blood cell counts. Since red blood cells carry oxygen, the fish succumbs to hypoxia. A fish's gills work via ion exchange in that they exchange waste (generally in the form of ammonia) for free ions in the water. Since the gills have a preference for chloride, they will uptake chloride ions before they will uptake nitrite ions. So as long as chloride ions are available, the fish's gills will not uptake nitrite.

Talk about a science experiment. :lol:

So we know how to "detoxify" nitrite. Its easy enough to determine that Prime could easily be effective in helping fish survive Nitrite spikes. There is some evidence that nitrate toxicity has some of the same effects as nitrite. But there is no documentation that suggests increased chloride ions have any impact on nitrate toxicity. Absent such documentation, I'll call it bunk. So that leaves us with SeaChem's claim that Prime detoxifies nitrate because it is somehow "bound and held in a inert state".

We know ammonia has an inhert state. It's called ammonium. There is no such state I am aware of for nitrate (or nitrite for that matter). Ammonia is in it's ammonium form whenever the temp and pH is low. It's in the form of ammonia when the temps and pH are high. Nitrite is nitrite and Nitrate is nitrate, regardless of these variables. Prime will temporarily convert ammonia to ammonium but I am unaware of any inert state for nitrite and nitrate in which Prime could possibly convert them to.

Now.... all of that said. I don't want to discourage use of Prime. I just don't want people thinking they can eliminate maintenance by using this Product. The only way to remove Nitrate, specifically, with any consistency, is with water changes. This factor aside, Prime is an excellent and economical conditioner.
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Re: is it true seachem prime does nothing for nitrates/nitri

Postby Ted » Thu Nov 17, 2011 3:32 pm

Prime is excellent for removing nitrate... Provided you use it as a dechlorinator after large water changes.
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Re: is it true seachem prime does nothing for nitrates/nitri

Postby garciahex » Thu Nov 17, 2011 5:46 pm

Ted wrote:Prime is excellent for removing nitrate... Provided you use it as a dechlorinator after large water changes.


Lol :D
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