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Old 02-07-2013, 05:49 PM   #1
Hawkian
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Fishless cycle question


So I started a fishless cycle about a week ago now using 5% ammonia. I added enough ammonia to raise the levels to about 4ppm for the first three days and not four days later the ammonia levels started dropping. I kept adding ammonia to try and keep the levels at around 4ppm and two days after that the nitrites started rising. I'm thinking, so far so good...

I am now in day 10 of the cycle. The nitrites are essentially off the chart and the nitrates have started to rise and are reading at about 20ppm. I'm thinking that this is all pretty much according to plan although I wasn't expecting nitrites and nitrates to show up so early in the process. What I am more concerned about though is that whenever I add enough ammonia to the tank to bring the levels back up to around 4ppm, the tank will process this within 10 hours (meaning that if I take an ammonia reading after 10 hours of adding ammonia to the tank, the reading I get is 0ppm ammonia).

Is this normal? My tank is moderately planted with low light plants and is just a plain playsand substrate. I didn't "seed" the tank with anything since I don't have access to anyone that could help out. Should the ammonia take longer to get processed or is this fairly normal stuff?
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Old 02-07-2013, 06:05 PM   #2
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I sounds like everything is working.... the ammonia levels should hit 0 in the next few days and the nitirites may stay high, along with the nitrates. Do a water changes in a few days and you should be set.....
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Old 02-07-2013, 06:46 PM   #3
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+1 to what msawdey said.

You're in good shape!
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Old 02-07-2013, 08:37 PM   #4
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The bacteria can live on the surfaces of plants, so they brought some bacteria in with them, which may have sped up your cycle. Sounds like it's doing fine.
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Old 02-07-2013, 11:07 PM   #5
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All right then... thanks all for the replies. Will keep an eye on that going forward.
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Old 02-08-2013, 04:34 AM   #6
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You are keeping the ammonia too high.
By constantly adding too much ammonia the first group of bacteria are turning it into nitrite faster than the second group (Nitrospira) can deal with it. They are slower growing.

After the nitrite show up, keep the ammonia at 3 ppm max, and only have to add it once a day. If it zeros out, that is fine. Do not add more until tomorrow.

These bacteria do not do well if the ammonia or nitrite go over 5 ppm.
So do a giant water change and get rid of most of the nitrite.
Then add only a trace of ammonia, certainly no more than 3 ppm and see if that much sends the nitrites over 5 ppm. If so, another water change, then try only 1-2 ppm ammonia for a few days until the second type of bacteria grows a bigger population. Then try 3 ppm again.
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Old 02-08-2013, 06:43 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
You are keeping the ammonia too high.
By constantly adding too much ammonia the first group of bacteria are turning it into nitrite faster than the second group (Nitrospira) can deal with it. They are slower growing.

After the nitrite show up, keep the ammonia at 3 ppm max, and only have to add it once a day. If it zeros out, that is fine. Do not add more until tomorrow.

These bacteria do not do well if the ammonia or nitrite go over 5 ppm.
So do a giant water change and get rid of most of the nitrite.
Then add only a trace of ammonia, certainly no more than 3 ppm and see if that much sends the nitrites over 5 ppm. If so, another water change, then try only 1-2 ppm ammonia for a few days until the second type of bacteria grows a bigger population. Then try 3 ppm again.
OK thanks for that!
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Old 02-10-2013, 04:04 PM   #8
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OK so something doesn't add up for me here. I've been adding ammonia to my tank for almost two weeks now. The ammonia keeps dropping, probably because the plants are liking it. The nitrites have started showing up 4 days after I started with the ammonia and were up to 5ppm for a good week but now they have dropped to about 1ppm and are holding there pretty steady. Nitrates have also started showing up a couple of days after the nitrites and have held pretty steady at 20ppm. (See chart).



Now I'm just not sure which way to go... do I keep adding ammonia to this tank or do I do a PWC and hope the cycle is done because the nitrites and nitrates are starting to go down?
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Old 02-10-2013, 05:23 PM   #9
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It's confusing because you are testing at different time intervals and adding ammonia at different time intervals, at different levels and sometimes more than once a day. You should stick to a given ammonia level, add it once a day and test 24 hours later. You started with 7 ml, which raised your level to 4ppm. If your tank is cycled at that level, it can handle a pretty good bio-load. Unless you have some reason to cycle at a higher level, I'd suggest letting the tank clear ammonia & nitrites. Then add 7 ml ammonia and test 24 hours later. Everything should read zero.
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Old 02-10-2013, 06:15 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hawkian View Post
(See chart).


Just reading up to learn how to set up a new tank. Love this spreadsheet! Can you share it?

Thanks!
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Old 02-10-2013, 07:48 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by ffmedic View Post
Just reading up to learn how to set up a new tank. Love this spreadsheet! Can you share it?

Thanks!
I've never actually done this: share a file on here. Hope this works...
Attached Files
File Type: zip AquaLog.zip (24.7 KB, 27 views)
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Old 02-10-2013, 07:50 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John K View Post
It's confusing because you are testing at different time intervals and adding ammonia at different time intervals, at different levels and sometimes more than once a day. You should stick to a given ammonia level, add it once a day and test 24 hours later. You started with 7 ml, which raised your level to 4ppm. If your tank is cycled at that level, it can handle a pretty good bio-load. Unless you have some reason to cycle at a higher level, I'd suggest letting the tank clear ammonia & nitrites. Then add 7 ml ammonia and test 24 hours later. Everything should read zero.
Very good points. I guess the reason why I add ammonia at different times is because I've read that if the ammonia levels drop to 0 then the good bacteria that I am trying to grow will starve and die. But it's possible I took that advice a little too seriously... will try to get that under control.
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Old 02-10-2013, 08:02 PM   #13
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1) Only add ammonia once a day. If you keep adding more and more the nitrite can get too high.
2) Add enough so the test reads 3 ppm.

It can be complicated by the plants. Plants are removing some of all the different nitrogens, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, so the fishless cycle will not look quite as smooth a graph as a non-planted tank.

It is common for there to be varying results from day to day. The first population of bacteria are pretty strong by now, but the second population is slower growing, and varies more when conditions change. A few degrees warmer or cooler, higher or lower oxygen level, higher or lower mineral level... and other things can temporarily slow their growth. Often it will seem that they are not doing much, but they really are. Just be patient.

A water change, or the new set up will show ammonia if your tap water has chloramines. Chloramine breaks down to chloramine and ammonia.

Here is the fishless cycle:
Fishless Cycle
You too can boast that "No fish were harmed in the cycling of your new tank"
Cycling a tank means to grow the beneficial bacteria that will help to decompose the fish waste (especially ammonia). These bacteria need ammonia to grow. There are 3 sources of ammonia that work to do this. One is fish. Unfortunately, the process exposes the fish to ammonia, which burns their gills, and nitrite, which makes their blood unable to carry oxygen. This often kills the fish.

Another source is decomposing protein. You could cycle your tank by adding fish food or a dead fish or shellfish. You do not know how much beneficial bacteria you are growing, though.

The best source of ammonia is... Ammonia. In a bottle.

Using fish is a delicate balance of water changes to keep the toxins low (try not to hurt the fish) but keep feeding the bacteria. It can take 4 to 8 weeks to cycle a tank this way, and can cost the lives of several fish. When you are done you have grown a small bacteria population that still needs to be nurtured to increase its population. You cannot, at the end of a fish-in cycle, fully stock your tank.

The fishless/ammonia cycle takes as little as 3 weeks, and can be even faster, grows a BIG bacteria population, and does not harm fish in any way.

Both methods give you plenty of practice using your test kit.

How to cycle a tank the fishless way:

1) Make sure all equipment is working, fill with water that has all the stuff you will need for the fish you intend to keep. Dechlorinator, minerals for GH or KH adjustments, the proper salt mix, if you are creating a brackish or marine tank. These bacteria require a few minerals, so make sure the GH and KH is at least 3 German degrees of hardness. Aquarium plant fertilizer containing phosphate should be added if the water has no phosphate. They grow best when the pH is in the 7s. Good water movement, fairly warm (mid to upper 70sF), no antibiotics or other toxins.

2) (Optional)Add some source of the bacteria. Used filter media from a cycled tank is best, gravel or some decorations or a few plants... even some water, though this is the poorest source of the beneficial bacteria.
Bacteria in a bottle can be a source of these bacteria, but make sure you are getting Nitrospira spp of bacteria. All other ‘bacteria in a bottle’ products have the wrong bacteria. This step is optional. The proper bacteria will find the tank even if you make no effort to add them. Live plants may bring in these bacteria on their leaves and stems.

3) Add ammonia until the test reads 5 ppm. This is the non-sudsing, no surfactants, no-fragrance-added ammonia that is often found in a hardware store, discount stores, and sometimes in a grocery store. The concentration of ammonia may not be the same in all bottles. Try adding 5 drops per 10 gallons, then allowing the filter to circulate for about an hour, then test. If the reading isn't up to 5 ppm, add a few more drops and test again. (Example, if your test reads only 2 ppm, then add another 5 drops) Some ammonia is such a weak dilution you may need to add several ounces to get a reading.

4) Test for ammonia daily, and add enough to keep the reading at 5 ppm. You probably will not have to add much, if any, in the first few days, unless you added a good amount of bacteria to jump start the cycle.

5) Several days after you start, begin testing for nitrites. When the nitrites show up, reduce the amount of ammonia you add so the test shows 3ppm. (Add only half as much ammonia as you were adding in part 4) Add this reduced amount daily from now until the tank is cycled.
If the nitrites get too high (over 5 ppm), do a water change. The bacteria growth is slowed because of the high nitrites. Reducing the level of ammonia to 3 ppm should prevent the nitrite from getting over 5 ppm.

6) Continue testing, and adding ammonia daily. The nitrates will likely show up about 2 weeks after you started. Keep monitoring, and watch for 0 ppm ammonia, 0 ppm nitrite and rising nitrates.

7) Once the 0 ppm ammonia and nitrites shows up it may bounce around a little bit for a day or two. Be patient. Keep adding the ammonia; keep testing ammonia, nitrite and nitrate.
When it seems done you can challenge the system by adding more than a regular dose of ammonia, and the bacteria should be able to remove the ammonia and nitrite by the next day.
If you will not be adding fish right away continue to add the ammonia to keep the bacteria fed.

8) When you are ready to add the fish, do at least one water change, and it may take a couple of them, to reduce the nitrate to safe levels (as low as possible, certainly below 10 ppm) I have seen nitrate approaching 200 ppm by the end of this fishless cycle in a non-planted tank.

9) You can plant a tank that is being cycled this way at any point during the process. If you plant early, the plants will be well rooted, and better able to handle the disruption of the water change.
Yes, the plants will use some of the ammonia and the nitrates. They are part of the nitrogen handling system, part of the biofilter, they are working for you. Some plants do not like high ammonia, though. If a certain plant dies, remove it, and only replace it after the cycle is done.

10) The fishless cycle can also be used when you are still working out the details of lighting, plants and other things. If you change the filter, make sure you keep the old media for several weeks or a month. Most of the bacteria have been growing in this media (sponges, floss etc).
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Old 02-10-2013, 08:57 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hawkian View Post
I've never actually done this: share a file on here. Hope this works...
Worked great. Thanks! Nice spreadsheet.

One cycling question: I am re-doing a tank. Do I need to cycle my temporary tank that my fish will be in with no plants or substrate? I could just put in the old water from the planted tank.

Thx
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Old 02-10-2013, 09:06 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ffmedic View Post
Worked great. Thanks! Nice spreadsheet.

One cycling question: I am re-doing a tank. Do I need to cycle my temporary tank that my fish will be in with no plants or substrate? I could just put in the old water from the planted tank.

Thx
How long will your fish be in the temporary tank for? If your filter from the tank you plan on redoing is currently running on a cycled tank you should simply be able to swap it to the temporary tank along with some of the substrate and theoretically it should be cycled.

In my case it took about 3 days for nitrites to start showing. If you can redo your tank under that number of days then your fish should not have much to worry about... provided that you test for ammonia during that time and keep it under control.

But there are so many Ifs...

How long do you plan on taking to redo your tank?
How many fish do you have to house in the temporary tank?
How large are the fish?
How large is the temporary tank?
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