Cycle troubles - No ammonia, high nitrites
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Old 03-25-2015, 07:32 PM   #1
Alyssum
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Cycle troubles - No ammonia, high nitrites


So this is the first time I've attempted a fishless cycle. I thought it would be relatively straight forward. I got the pure ammonia and seeded media and let it run in my 55 gallon. It started processing ammonia about a week and a half in, but I was wondering why it was taking so long to cycle over 2 weeks in, hovering at .25 nitrites. I realized I was putting too much ammonia in (3 tsp) about a week and a half ago, especially for how many fish I'd have. I reduced the amount to about 1.5tsp which was about 2-4ppm. Even that is pretty high. I waited over another week, ammonia was being processed quickly but nitrites remained at .25. I know a lot of people get frustrated with nitrite readings and I was trying to be patient.

I read somewhere I should do a water change, so I did a 40% change (ughh). I also added some plants and driftwood, so the substrate was stirred around a bit. I decided to add 1/2 a tsp of amm to keep the bacteria alive. I check the nitrites the next day (24 hours) and they are sky high 5ppm+, while ammonia is at 0. I decided not to add anymore ammonia. Today it's at 2 ppm nitrite which is still extremely high. Obviously I was playing around with the water too much and should have let it be, so there is a lot of regret there. I really wanted to put fish in which was my downfall. So I haven't added ammonia since Saturday night and it's now Wednesday. I really don't know what to do now. Nitrites are at 2ppm as I've stated before and I fear my bacteria is dying. Even if I got it cycled, I wouldn't be adding a ton of fish, so I imagine a lot of my bacteria will die anyway. I feel like this whole thing was a waste of time. Basically I want to know - Do I just continue with not adding ammonia? What could be going on with my cycle? Did my bacteria die when my filter was off during the water change?
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Old 03-25-2015, 08:08 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alyssum View Post
I read somewhere I should do a water change, so I did a 40% change (ughh).
With a 55 gallon tank... get a tap-to-tank water changer (ie: python).. Lugging buckets is for fishbowls and nano-tanks IMO.

A 40% or even 90% water change should not cause you to go "ughh".. if it does, fix your setup. No matter how you run your tank, there are cases where big water changes become necessary, and that's not going to go away. EI folks change 50% every week....


Quote:
Originally Posted by Alyssum View Post
nitrites are at 2ppm as I've stated before and I fear my bacteria is dying. Even if I got it cycled, I wouldn't be adding a ton of fish, so I imagine a lot of my bacteria will die anyway. I feel like this whole thing was a waste of time. Basically I want to know - Do I just continue with not adding ammonia? What could be going on with my cycle? Did my bacteria die when my filter was off during the water change?
Nothing is wrong with your cycle... the nitrite stage takes much longer than the ammonia stage does.

First thing to realize is there are two different species of bacteria involved. I'm sure Diana will paste her cycle guide shortly with longer details, but in general...

One species is converting ammonia to nitrite. (nitrosomonas)
another species is converting nitrite to nitrate. (nitrospira, although nitrobacter is possible in some environments)

So the second species doesn't even start growing until the first one has converted ammonia to nitrite.. it also doesn't grow nearly as fast, so this stage starts later, and takes longer. Be patient.

I would start adding ammonia in small doses (ie: 0.25ppm)... just to keep the nitrosomonas active while you are waiting for the nitriospira to kick up. Keep an eye on the nitrite and do a change again if it goes over 5ppm.

Do not let ammonia get over 1ppm at this stage, as this inhibits nitrospiria and slows down the second stage of cycling you are trying to get going at this point. If your ammonia isn't going down anymore, just leave it at .5ppm or whatever and that stage will get itself going again eventually.

Once your nitrites come down, ramp up ammonia slowly to 1ppm per day, making sure both zero out each day before adding more.

When it can consume all of that and zero it within 24 hours you're good, and ready for your near-total water change prior to adding fish.
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Old 03-25-2015, 08:23 PM   #3
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I meant "ughh" like why did I jump and listen to something I read so rashly? xD However, I plan on getting a pond pump. I was building my own python, but I didn't finish getting the parts so it took a bit longer than it should have. So just add a tiny bit of ammonia? I guess I was unsure if I put myself a step backward by changing the water because of the nitrite spike, considering it was so low before I did it (.25). I know they are two kinds of bacteria, that's why I didn't want to "starve" one out just so the other could catch up.
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Old 03-25-2015, 08:36 PM   #4
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Yeah, I'd keep em on a diet, but I'd feed them a little bit..

The problem with feeding too much ammonia is that it will just jack the nitrites up really high again. 1ppm ammonia makes something like 2-3ppm of nitrite.

Just keep an eye on the ammonia level, if they aren't breaking it down, don't keep adding more. Also keep an eye on the nitrite level, if it is climbing fast, throttle back to every other day or something.
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Old 03-25-2015, 09:09 PM   #5
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Okay thanks, I'll try that and see how it goes
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Old 03-26-2015, 10:29 AM   #6
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http://www.tropicalfishcentre.co.uk/Cycle.htm: a page with two diagrams of the Nitrogen cycle, the second one of how long unasssisted cycling takes. I hope that one helps you visualize it better.
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Old 03-26-2015, 10:52 AM   #7
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Ensure your KH is at least 4dg as this can stall the cycle
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Old 03-26-2015, 01:41 PM   #8
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Have you tested for nitrAtes?
You used some seeded media,you should have been good to go on a light load right away.
You won't kill starve bacteria in days.
They eventually start to "hibernate" but "revive " quicker then growing new.
I would stop the ammonia.
You may have just been dosing way more then the media ever had to convert.
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Old 03-29-2015, 06:18 PM   #9
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Well four days later, nitrites are still high, 2-5ppm. I added ammonia twice (1/2 tsp) during this time (it gets converted very quickly). I have not tested for nitrates because I read I would get a skewed reading, but I can confirm I had nitrates weeks ago when I tested for it. I'll do a new test. I haven't done a KH test, but I can do one. I read if the nitrites are high it can stall the cycle as well as low potassium. Thoughts? I'm worried because I have some SAE on hold and the store will only hold for 7 days, but my tank still isn't ready after all this time So frustrating! Should I do a large water change and cut the ammonia?

Last edited by Alyssum; 03-29-2015 at 06:33 PM.. Reason: additional info
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Old 03-29-2015, 08:47 PM   #10
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Alyssum, my guesses are: it seems to me that, there are nitrites but a lot, and there are nitrates, that the bacteria that oxidize from NO2 to NO3 haven't established themselves well enough to handle all the NO2 it's being handed. When and only when ammonia is 0 and nitrite is 0, do a big water change to cut down the nitrates to 30 or 40 ppm (You'll need to use a test kit). I definitely think that you should do a water change only after ammonia and nitrite are both 0.
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Old 03-29-2015, 09:10 PM   #11
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Test for NO3 it will let you know the bacteria required to change NO2 to NO3 is present. Sounds like you are half way there though.
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Old 03-29-2015, 09:38 PM   #12
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Agh I guess I messed it up when i did the water change, planted, and evened out the sand. It was staying at .25 for awhile, but just took 1step backward. So no more ammonia?
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Old 03-29-2015, 10:46 PM   #13
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Keep adding ammonia. I kept my ammonia at 2-4 ppm throughout the entire cycle and my cycle finished just fine. If you stop adding ammonia for too long then the ammonia->nitrite bacteria will die.

As a side note, for water changes a cheap and easy DIY Python alternative is to buy a waterbed drain and fill kit ($6 Ebay) and a garden hose of whatever length you need. No additional parts required unless you want a metal adapter for the faucet. I just use the plastic one the kit came with.
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Old 03-30-2015, 12:45 AM   #14
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Question - If I'm not allowed to change water, what do I do about my plants and adding ferts? I won't be able to change the water, so I assume I shouldn't keep adding it...I have some root tabs in the substrate, but I don't know if that's enough. I did try using a python, but it doesn't fit my sink. I bought a pond pump, it worked well enough.
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Old 03-30-2015, 01:37 AM   #15
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Who said not to do water changes?

Also, imo it is horrible advice to dose. 2-4ppm of ammonia in the nitrite phase of cycling. 1ppm max. Ymmv, but most guides I've read suggest a trottle back to 1ppm. My first shot at fishless cycle crashed because I kept up at 4ppm.
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