Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Contra Costa CA
Your tank is not yet cycled.
Keep adding ammonia to bring it to 3 ppm once a day, or else bring it to 1 ppm twice a day (might be easier on plants).
Test after 24 hours.
If the ammonia and nitrite are zero, then the cycle is complete. If any ammonia or nitrite show, then the bacteria have not grown to a big enough population to deal with that much fish waste.
If the nitrite rises above 5 ppm do a water change. These bacteria do not grow very well when the NO2 is too high.
Other things to check, to make the bacteria grow faster:
High oxygen. Good water circulation.
KH over 3 German degrees of hardness. These bacteria get their carbon from carbonates. Higher than 3dKH may be better, especially if you are using a substrate that keeps removing the carbonates from the water.
I am not sure if the bacteria need other minerals, but I know they will not grow in RO water, so I would make sure the GH is at least 3dGH, and use plant fertilizers as needed. Do not bother adding nitrate, though. The plants will use some of the ammonia.
No toxins, use dechlor as needed.
Somewhat higher temperature is good, but do not go so high the water is depleted of oxygen. Usually this means about the mid to upper 70s. The bacteria will grow in warmer water, but warmer water holds less oxygen. They will even grow in fairly cold ponds, but very slowly.
pH on the alkaline side of neutral. I am not sure if the bacteria actually need alkaline pH or if this is just a side effect of their need for carbonates. I know they do not grow well with the pH in the 6s, and if it gets as low as 6.0 the bacteria are really slow.