What are nitrates?

Nitrates are a specific form of nitrogen that are formed after nitrites have been exposed to nitrifying bacteria. Nitrates (NO3) are bioavailable, meaning that they are an important source of nitrogen for plants.

Why is nitrates important?

Algae and other aquatic plants use nitrates as an important source of food. However, excess levels of nitrates in water can make it difficult for aquatic insects or fish to survive. If we do not manage the levels and understand the nitrogen cycle, algae growth can go unchecked and reduce the dissolved oxygen of the water. This directly impacts aquatic life.

What does a nitrate measurement mean?

  • Natural levels of nitrates are usually less than 1 mg/L
  • Concentrations over 10 mg/L will have an effect on the freshwater aquatic environment
  • 10 mg/L is also the maximum concentration allowed in human drinking water
  • For a sensitive fish the recommended concentration is 0.06 mg/L
  • High levels could be caused by agriculture run-off

Water Rangers Protocol

We do not currently include a test for this in our kit, since none we’ve tried read very low levels. If you know a test that is accurate, affordable and easy-to-use, let us know!

Contributing to the community!

Water Rangers is citizen-scientist led. So, if you have any questions, ideas, or notice any errors related to conductivity, please tell us!