Cycling ADA New Amazonia & Power Sand question
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Old 11-28-2012, 12:50 AM   #1
scottytank
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Cycling ADA New Amazonia & Power Sand question


I am cycling a planted (stems, moss & ferns currently) 35 gal tank using New Amazonia and Power Sand Special. My Ammonia has been pretty consistent at 4ppm and Nitrites at 1 with super high Nitrate readings 120 now down to 40 after two weeks and 3 50% water changes. I'm fairly new to this, and my question is that since the New Amazonia is designed to bring the PH of your water down to the mid 6's which is where mine is at (6.6) the ammonia reading in my tank is actually not Free Ammonia and is actually Ammonium because the PH is below 7 correct? Therefore the ammonia reading in the tank is really not nearly toxic to the fish since Ammonium has to be in super, super high quantities to be toxic right?

Am I wrong in thinking the Nitrites at 1ppm are my only problem right now in introducing fish? My plan was to do a silent cycle with my tank 50% planted (will be much more when my other plants [HC & DHG] arrive next week) so I've got my Co2 and lights running and the plants are doing extremely well and growing like crazy. They should be eating up a lot of the Ammonium (plants love ammonium correct?), Trite and especially Trate following further planting over the coming days. Wouldn't this cut down on the need for daily PWC's as well as worries about the Ammonia and Trite readings on when to add inhabitants. I'll be moving over my 6 Ember Tetras from my 6 gallon as first inhabitants fyi.

I won't be adding inhabitants until after the tank is fully planted so I've got another 10 days or so. Just wanted to see if my thoughts jive with you more experienced guys and gals or not.
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Old 11-28-2012, 02:17 AM   #2
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This article is worth reading: http://www.thekrib.com/Chemistry/ammonia-toxicity.html.

In short, your tank is not cycled yet. Adding fish to un-cycled tank is at your discretion as you know the potential outcomes.

When I used the 'original' Amazonia + PS it took 2 weeks of daily 90% water changes to bring the ammonia < 0.5 ppm. I believe that most of NH3 and NO3 is actually coming from PS as it's full of organic mater. When I used Amazonia without PS, I never saw the numbers that high. As the organic matter decays, the pH goes down. I think that's the primary basis of the ADA's claim that their substrates are 'designed' to lower pH. In any established planted tank the pH tends to be lower then the pH of the water out of tap even without CO2 for the exact same reason: decay.
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Old 11-28-2012, 08:51 AM   #3
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Thanks for the input OVT, it is much appreciated. I've read the article you posted a link to a few times previously and again now, but it is based on research that is over 20 years old and I wasn't sure if more has been found in the relationship between PH and Ammonia in more recent studie. I have read some more comments based on studies that seemed more clear on the ammonia/ammonium differences and effects on fauna.

I know my filter hasn't built up the BB required to clear the toxins yet as I haven't hit zero on either ammonia or nitrite so I know im not completely out of the woods yet. Therefore, I'll continue to keep the tank empty of inhabitants as I planned. Its obvious either my tank is not done with the build up of BB in my filter and/or there aren't enough plants in the tank to handle the load currently. My only real concern right now would be the high nitrate stalling the buildup of BB in the filter. It seems that other than the nitrate issue, having the ammonia around 4 and nitrites at 1 are actually beneficial to silent or fishless cycling as essentially i can just leave the water in there to provide food for the BB I'm trying to build up. This kind of negates the need for PWCs other than to bring down the nitrates, am I wrong?

Like I said it will be nearly two weeks before I add fish so I plan to monitor the numbers and hopefully theyll be down to zeros in amonnia and nitrite in time to plant the remaining plants and do a 90% PWC before adding my friends. Tonight Ammonia is down at 2.5 and Nitrite is up a little to 1.5 so hopefully that trend continues and it's the nitrite up-swing and ammonia breakdown I'm waiting for to show the filter BB buildup is progressing to stage two. I'll see what results I get tomorrow night!
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Old 11-28-2012, 10:40 AM   #4
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I think you are on the right track, and the BB is kicking in. Even though that article is rather old, I personally cannot find much research that correlates ammonia concentration to pH, while the relationship of ammonia's toxicity @ a given pH is well understood.

We are also in agreement that with the 'silent' cycle the plants should go hog-wild on ammonia. That's the same idea as using, say, urea, to cycle the tank. My concern for you, and before that, for myself was the amount of ammonia present: at 4 it's more likely to kill the plants and BB before it gets consumed. Therefore, my 90% WC, even though my tank was wall-to-wall with fast-growing plants.

Having a male dog has it's benefits: not many terrestrial plants survive his 'attention'.

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Old 11-28-2012, 07:23 PM   #5
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While it is true that ammonia in a low pH tank is mostly in the ammonium form this is not always true, and I would always play it 'better safe than sorry' and not add fish to a tank with any ammonia showing, no matter what the pH is.

Nitrite is toxic. It crosses the gills to enter the blood and makes the blood not carry oxygen very well. In an established tank with an emergency going on you can do water changes to keep it low and add salt (sodium chloride) to reduce the amount of nitrite that cross the gills. But in this case, a new set up, it is not an emergency. Simply do not add fish. The nitrifying bacteria has not grown to the proper level.

If the plants are gobbling all the ammonia then you should not be seeing nitrite or nitrate. Nothing remains of the ammonia to get turned into nitrite or nitrate.
Since you are seeing all three, the plants are not removing all the ammonia, and the nitrifying bacteria are growing, but not enough yet.
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Continue monitoring and doing water changes. The optimum for nitrifying bacteria is to keep the ammonia and nitrite under 5 ppm. The nitrate level does not matter.
Some plants do not like high ammonia, and would prefer the level not go over 1 ppm.

Continue planting as your plants arrive.

Ultimately your tests will show the ammonia is staying lower, perhaps hitting zero. The soil is producing significantly less ammonia, and the plants and bacteria are dealing with that level of ammonia. Nitrite still show. Maybe you want to think about feeding the bacteria some ammonia or some fish food (decomposes to become ammonia and other things) to finish out the bacteria cycle.
When both the ammonia and the nitrite are consistently zero there are enough bacteria and plants to add fish.
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Old 11-28-2012, 09:11 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OVT View Post
This article is worth reading: http://www.thekrib.com/Chemistry/ammonia-toxicity.html.

In short, your tank is not cycled yet. Adding fish to un-cycled tank is at your discretion as you know the potential outcomes.

When I used the 'original' Amazonia + PS it took 2 weeks of daily 90% water changes to bring the ammonia < 0.5 ppm. I believe that most of NH3 and NO3 is actually coming from PS as it's full of organic mater. When I used Amazonia without PS, I never saw the numbers that high. As the organic matter decays, the pH goes down. I think that's the primary basis of the ADA's claim that their substrates are 'designed' to lower pH. In any established planted tank the pH tends to be lower then the pH of the water out of tap even without CO2 for the exact same reason: decay.
PS has virtually no NH4, it's all in the clay aqua soil.
PS has mostly NO3.

ADA As has very little NO3.

PS cannot bind NH4 due to very low CEC, whereas clay has a very high CEC and binds NH4. NO3 cannot be bound easily, hence water changes and issues with ground water.

Peat lowers pH, this is not their design, it's a simple thing folks have used for 60 + years or more in the hobby.

The newer batches of AS have lower NH4.

But can vary batch to batch also.

No matter, large water changes, 2-3x a week are the typical routine for the 1st month or two as you say, then no issues after.
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Old 11-30-2012, 09:51 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
Simply do not add fish. The nitrifying bacteria has not grown to the proper level.
Like I said I don't plan to add any inhabitants until I'm reading zero on Nitrites. However, if Nitrites are at zero and there is a minimal ammonia reading and the PH is under 7.0 I would still add them since the ammonia level, in a minimal reading, really is not harmful.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
Continue monitoring and doing water changes. The optimum for nitrifying bacteria is to keep the ammonia and nitrite under 5 ppm. The nitrate level does not matter.
Some plants do not like high ammonia, and would prefer the level not go over 1 ppm.

Continue planting as your plants arrive.

Ultimately your tests will show the ammonia is staying lower, perhaps hitting zero. The soil is producing significantly less ammonia, and the plants and bacteria are dealing with that level of ammonia. Nitrite still show. Maybe you want to think about feeding the bacteria some ammonia or some fish food (decomposes to become ammonia and other things) to finish out the bacteria cycle.
When both the ammonia and the nitrite are consistently zero there are enough bacteria and plants to add fish.
That's what I'm looking/hoping for. I didnt want to feed any ammonia or fish food because i was already up around 4ppm. I did a big water change last night (80%) and today my Ammonia was 1, Nitrite was 1 and Nitrate was 20. It seems I am getting closer. I actually found out my HC is possibly arriving tomorrow so ill be able to get that planted and I planted my DHG today. If I get some numbers around 0 tomorrow ill add some ammonia or food tomorrow and see if I get a 24 breakdown back to zero. If I do I'll be transferring my embers from my 6 gallon this weekend!
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Old 11-30-2012, 09:59 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plantbrain View Post
PS has virtually no NH4, it's all in the clay aqua soil.
PS has mostly NO3.

ADA As has very little NO3.
Thanks for the clarification, I've been trying to figure that out!

Quote:
Originally Posted by plantbrain View Post
PS cannot bind NH4 due to very low CEC, whereas clay has a very high CEC and binds NH4. NO3 cannot be bound easily, hence water changes and issues with ground water.
Help a newbie (I hate that noob thing) out, What's CEC?

Quote:
Originally Posted by plantbrain View Post
Peat lowers pH, this is not their design, it's a simple thing folks have used for 60 + years or more in the hobby.

The newer batches of AS have lower NH4.

But can vary batch to batch also.

No matter, large water changes, 2-3x a week are the typical routine for the 1st month or two as you say, then no issues after.
I think ive finally reached a point of stasis with the leaching of the substrate after a large (80%) water change last night. Looking forward to having everything balanced out and I greatly appreciate your knowledge and guidance as science does not come easy to me!
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Old 11-30-2012, 05:07 PM   #9
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CEC is cationic exchange capacity.

Very fine matter such as clay soil and humus particles are so small they are charged, or at least polar substances. The electrons tend to gather a bit more toward one side of the particles.

Fertilizer and minerals that are ions are attracted to the materials with high CEC, and cling with varying amounts of strength. Ions are charged particles because they have one or more extra electrons or are short one or more electrons. These are often shown with a plus or minus sign such as NH4+.

Plant roots can take those minerals and fertilizers away from the soils. Then more ions can get attached. Thus, 'exchange'.

While the word 'Cation' is used in this concept, in actual fact both positive and negatively charged particles can be part of this system.

Materials with a high cationic exchange capacity make good soils for plants, both in the garden and in the aquarium. The particles need to be small enough for the charge from the electrons to show up, and this is a pretty small particle! However, those individual particles can then be clumped together like most of the ADA product line, and many of the Oil Dri and related products. Good garden soil, too, has a certain amount of clay particles and is clumped together into little bits that we recognize as friable, or 'easy to work' or 'not compacted' and other terms.
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