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golfer_d 11-20-2012 11:36 PM

Can you make sense of my parameters?
Tank 1 - 10 gallon (running for a month):
Drift wood
Lots of plants
8 fish
Ammonia = .6 (or less)
Nitrate = 5
Nitrite = 0

I am not sure why I still have ammonia traces? At one point I had nitrites go up and then nitrate go up so I was thinking this would be cycled by now but if it was then I wouldn't have trace ammonia. I have been doing water changes every few days.

Tank 2 - 7 gallon (running for a couple weeks):
MGOCPM capped with PFS
Lots of plants
No fish
Ammonia = 0
Nitrate = 110+ (I don't even see a bright enough color for it)
Nitrite = 1.6

I haven't fed the tank any ammonia because of the MGOCPM. The ammonia levels were really high until a couple days ago when it went down to nothing. Is it common for nitrates and nitrites to spike at the same time? A little confused on what these readings mean?!?

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. I am new to all this so I am still trying to understand all the processes.

Diana 11-21-2012 06:10 PM

Nitrifying bacteria usually go through this sort of growth pattern:

When ammonia is present the first population of bacteria grow. They usually grow pretty fast. They turn ammonia into nitrite. If there is not a continuous source of ammonia they will then die out to match whatever level of ammonia is there.
Ammonia is mostly from protein, for example, from fish food. Fish digest it and produce ammonia as a waste from their gills. Decomposing food, fish waste, fallen leaves, and organic matter in the substrate are other common sources.

Once that first population of bacteria gets going producing nitrite the second population can start to grow. This group includes the species Nitrospira. They turn nitrite into nitrate. Mostly they are slower growing, so a common pattern is that the ammonia disappears, but nitrite spikes, and nitrate slowly climbs.

If there is a lot of ammonia then there will be a lot of nitrite. But these bacteria do not grow very well if the nitrite or ammonia are over 5 ppm, so the cycle can seem to stall. However, slowly the nitrate will show up. Good to do a water change if the ammonia or nitrite get to 5 ppm.

Anyway, here is how I would read your tanks:
1) Low ammonia, no nitrite, some nitrate:
Cycle is not complete, or else your test kit is showing you the locked up ammonia from chloramines. My tests can show as much as 1 ppm ammonia from chloramines, locked up by the dechlorinator. Keep up the water changes to keep the ammonia under .25ppm. Use a dechlorinator that locks up ammonia. Use a test kit that is compatible with the dechlor you are using so you know what you are reading.

2) No ammonia (just dropped a few days ago), some nitrite, sky high nitrate:
This tank is really close to being cycled. Add ammonia to test 1 ppm twice a day so you keep feeding the bacteria. After a few days test again. Skip adding ammonia, and test 24 hours after the last addition. If the ammonia and nitrite are both zero, the cycle is done. Keep feeding ammonia until you are ready to add fish. Do as large a water change as needed to get the nitrate as low as possible before adding the fish.

golfer_d 11-21-2012 10:17 PM

Thanks Diana. I appreciate your time replying.

With regards to my test kit, I have the Hagen Nutrafin kit and use Prime as my water conditioner.

With tank 1 I will keep an eye on it. I am hoping the ammonia will disappear soon and it will be cycled.

Concerning tank 2, I don't have ammonia in a bottle (was just using the ammonia from the soil) but I will feed the tank with some fish food to see if that will work.

I never knew the process to cycle a tank was so detailed. Interesting stuff but can get a little confusing for the noobie to understand the results. Slowly learning thanks to the help of people like yourself!

Diana 11-23-2012 02:11 AM

There can be a pretty complete biological habitat going on in an aquarium. It sure is not as simple as a glass box with water!

Yes, fish food can be the ammonia source to finish out the cycle. Feed about twice as much as you might ever think about feeding fish or shrimp. You could also add a shrimp (kitchen/grocery store) or prawn. As these rot they supply ammonia. (and smell bad).

golfer_d 11-23-2012 04:25 AM

So I did my tests again today and both tanks came out with 0 ammonia, about 5 nitrate and 0 nitrite?! I was surprised to say the least.

I also finally adjusted my KH which I found out was a mess because of the super soft water we have here. It seems to have corrected my pH numbers as well.

Thanks for the info. I hope I am in the clear. :D

Diana 11-23-2012 08:26 PM

Adding carbonate will indeed stabilize the pH. Carbonate is one of the most common buffers of pH in aquariums. If you had low or variable KH, then the pH could also be variable. By dosing just a bit of carbonates, to maintain a stable value for the carbonates the pH is much more likely to be stable.
The pH may not test the exact same value through the day, but will probably follow a cycle of higher in the afternoon and lower in the early morning.

golfer_d 11-24-2012 04:37 AM

Thanks for the info.

I was talking to the owner of a LFS and he said our water is horrible for fish in that basically the KH is 0.

See I got it up now to about 5 KH which I understand to be good.

Appreciate your help!

Diana 11-25-2012 05:53 PM

Fish are usually more concerned about the GH. They need to calcium and magnesium in the water.
As far as I know fish do not use the carbonates or bicarbonates. However, these do buffer the pH, and that is important. With very low carbonates the pH can fluctuate quite a bit, and some fish do not do well with that.

Very roughly, if you can keep the GH in the right range for the fish, then make the KH about equal to the GH, then the water will probably be pretty close to the right pH for the fish. In terms of importance I adjust my tank water this way:
1) Get the GH right.
2) Get the KH fairly close.
3) Let the pH do what it will...
3a) For soft water fish filter the water through peat moss to add organic acids.
3b) For hard water fish the higher KH will usually set the pH in the right range. Adjust the KH if needed. Do not monkey with the pH directly.

boadams87 11-26-2012 12:36 PM

have you tested your tap? I get .5 from my tap

Diana 11-28-2012 08:13 PM

My tap water alters through the year, and depending on what the water company is doing. I have tested GH and KH at varying levels from 3 degrees to 5 degrees. Most of the time it is 4 to 5 degrees. The one time it tested at 3 degrees was a bit of a surprise.

The water company alters the pH with sodium hydroxide, and it usually tests in the upper 7s. A friend on a related water supply tested the pH at 9.0 one time. I have seen mine in the upper 8s, but not often. The pH in my tanks will drop when I use a high CEC substrate. I wonder if the substrate is removing the sodium hydroxide? I KNOW it is removing the carbonates.

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