Nitrite pegged despite water changes?
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Old 09-05-2012, 09:42 AM   #1
Drift Monkey
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Nitrite pegged despite water changes?


Background info - I set up my tank 8/23s, started doing Mosura BT-9 8/25, and started dosing pure (ace hardware) ammonia 8/26. Plants (anubias, ferns, mosses, crypts) and driftwood went in 8/31.

I dosed Ammonia to approx 4-5 ppm the first day and kept it constant for the week. Nitrites showed up last week and have since stayed pegged at 5+ ppm. Since then I have been trying to change the water out to get the nitrite reading below 5 ppm, since I've read this can stall the cycle. I quit adding ammonia, and levels at this point stayed around 4 ppm or so, decreasing with each water change. I have, however, been getting nitrate readings.

I did a 50% water change two days ago, a 67% water change yesterday, and a 100% change tonight, all resulting in the same reading - fully pegged nitrite.

Current readings:
  • pH - 7.0
  • Ammonia - 0.50 ppm
  • Nitrite - 5.0+ ppm
  • Nitrate - 5.0 ppm
  • KH - 2-3
  • GH - 5
Questions:
  • Should I keep adding ammonia to get it back up to 3.0 ppm? I don't want the ammonia eating bacteria to die...but I don't want to continue to pile nitrites into the tank.
  • Should I keep changing the water in an effort to lower the nitrite levels, or will it sort itself out?

EDIT: Ran a few tests on my tap:
  • Ammonia - 0.50 ppm
  • Nitrite - 0 ppm - possibly a tiny trace, but negligable
  • Nitrate 0 ppm

I dose prime, so this doesn't really concern me too much.

Last edited by Drift Monkey; 09-05-2012 at 11:59 AM.. Reason: added tap water parameters
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Old 09-05-2012, 12:28 PM   #2
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I'm assuming you cleaned the tubes in between tests? Do the drops turn purple as soon as they hit the tube or do they turn over the course of 5 minutes?

You've done a lot of water changes....theoretically that should have dropped nitrites if your tap has none; you must have a huge colony of nitrite bacteria in there!

Since you've done so many water changes already I'd say wait it out a few more days. Keep dosing ammonia....you definitely don't want to starve the ammonia bacteria. If things start to slow.....ammonia isn't being converted as fast, PH drops, etc then you can try more water changes. Also keep testing nitrate....if they are rising then that's a good sign that at least some of the nitrite is being converted (shake/bang both nitrate test bottles for a good 30 seconds and shake the tube vigorously for a full 60 seconds for an accurate reading). If you wanted too, you could dose low....start with 1-2 ammonia for a few days and then build up from there if it's being processed fully within 24 hours. This will give the nitrite bacteria time to catch up without it being overloaded with 4 ppms of ammo. If nitrites are still 5+ over the weekend (or as I said if PH drops significantly or conversion slows down) then do a few more water changes to try to get nitrite to a readable level on the chart. Looks like you're making good progress though.
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Old 09-05-2012, 03:52 PM   #3
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Seems very quick results for what I find. It often takes close to a month and there is a definite lag between the time I see nitrite and when that group grows to begin getting nitrate. I find it very easy to "imagine" there is nitrate there because I want it there. I would not worry too much about the "starving" bacteria as they are quite good at just hanging out if they are not killed. I would drop back on the amount of ammonia but not quit. Then it may just be a slow process as the second group of bacteria does not even start to grow until they find "food" from the first group. Part of the pain in the fishless cycle process but at the end it does have the advantage of being able to stock fully at one time. The other option is to stock very lightly and increase slowly over time.

I can lay a fully grunged up filter pad on you if you feel like the trek to P-ville. PM me if it sounds right.
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Old 09-05-2012, 04:14 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by librarygirl View Post
I'm assuming you cleaned the tubes in between tests? Do the drops turn purple as soon as they hit the tube or do they turn over the course of 5 minutes?

You've done a lot of water changes....theoretically that should have dropped nitrites if your tap has none; you must have a huge colony of nitrite bacteria in there!

Since you've done so many water changes already I'd say wait it out a few more days. Keep dosing ammonia....you definitely don't want to starve the ammonia bacteria. If things start to slow.....ammonia isn't being converted as fast, PH drops, etc then you can try more water changes. Also keep testing nitrate....if they are rising then that's a good sign that at least some of the nitrite is being converted (shake/bang both nitrate test bottles for a good 30 seconds and shake the tube vigorously for a full 60 seconds for an accurate reading). If you wanted too, you could dose low....start with 1-2 ammonia for a few days and then build up from there if it's being processed fully within 24 hours. This will give the nitrite bacteria time to catch up without it being overloaded with 4 ppms of ammo. If nitrites are still 5+ over the weekend (or as I said if PH drops significantly or conversion slows down) then do a few more water changes to try to get nitrite to a readable level on the chart. Looks like you're making good progress though.
The tubes are cleaned with distilled water after each and every use. The nitrites gradually show 5ppm after a few minutes like they should be, so the test is working.

I guess the ammonia eaters certainly are doing their job! :P

I'll keep putting in a few drops of ammonia for now...maybe get it to 1-3 ppm.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
Seems very quick results for what I find. It often takes close to a month and there is a definite lag between the time I see nitrite and when that group grows to begin getting nitrate. I find it very easy to "imagine" there is nitrate there because I want it there. I would not worry too much about the "starving" bacteria as they are quite good at just hanging out if they are not killed. I would drop back on the amount of ammonia but not quit. Then it may just be a slow process as the second group of bacteria does not even start to grow until they find "food" from the first group. Part of the pain in the fishless cycle process but at the end it does have the advantage of being able to stock fully at one time. The other option is to stock very lightly and increase slowly over time.

I can lay a fully grunged up filter pad on you if you feel like the trek to P-ville. PM me if it sounds right.
Well...the BT-9 is supposed to contain beneficial bacteria, so I'm assuming that's where the speed is coming from. I've also been putting in a bit of BT-9 after every water change...just in case. There is def nitrate in there, I checked it against tap and it has been as high as 20-40 ppm before water changes.

I might have to take you up on the seeded filter pad, thanks for the offer! I'll see how far I get by the weekend.

I guess another option would be grabbing a bottle nitrospira...
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Old 09-06-2012, 05:28 AM   #5
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If you want it to go faster I would suggest you get the real nitrifying bacteria. Look for Nitrospira on the label. All other 'bacteria in a bottle' are not the nitrifying bacteria.

To continue the fishless cycle follow the suggestions above:
Do enough water changes to keep the NO2 under 5 ppm, and go easy on the ammonia for a while. 1-2 ppm is fine.
When the bacteria begin to catch up and remove the nitrite faster then you can increase the ammonia to 3 ppm.

These bacteria grow best under the following conditions:
High oxygen: So keep up good water movement.
High pH: upper 7s to low 8s. Even the mid 7s is OK, but not into the 6s.
High KH: These bacteria need the carbon from carbonates. As little as 3 German degrees of hardness it OK, as long as you monitor and add more so the bacteria do not use it all.
Other minerals: GH at least 3 German degrees of hardness,
A pinch of plant fertilizer such as KH2PO4. (I just learned about this one a few days ago- I knew the bacteria needed some minerals, but not which ones)
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Old 09-06-2012, 06:09 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
If you want it to go faster I would suggest you get the real nitrifying bacteria. Look for Nitrospira on the label. All other 'bacteria in a bottle' are not the nitrifying bacteria.

To continue the fishless cycle follow the suggestions above:
Do enough water changes to keep the NO2 under 5 ppm, and go easy on the ammonia for a while. 1-2 ppm is fine.
When the bacteria begin to catch up and remove the nitrite faster then you can increase the ammonia to 3 ppm.

These bacteria grow best under the following conditions:
High oxygen: So keep up good water movement.
High pH: upper 7s to low 8s. Even the mid 7s is OK, but not into the 6s.
High KH: These bacteria need the carbon from carbonates. As little as 3 German degrees of hardness it OK, as long as you monitor and add more so the bacteria do not use it all.
Other minerals: GH at least 3 German degrees of hardness,
A pinch of plant fertilizer such as KH2PO4. (I just learned about this one a few days ago- I knew the bacteria needed some minerals, but not which ones)
The BT-9 probably contains mostly ammonia converting bacteria (Nitrosomonas sp.)...also probably why the nitrites are sticking around.

Anything I can get at Wal-Mart? That's about the only thing open right now...Tetra SafeStart sounds about right I guess.

Last edited by Drift Monkey; 09-06-2012 at 06:34 AM.. Reason: answered my own question
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Old 09-06-2012, 10:51 AM   #7
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I guess they don't sell safestart at wallyworld anymore...oh well.

Anyway, I guess I'm doing ANOTHER 100% water change. Fun times!

The ammonia I added last night def got eaten up some, as did a bit of nitrite...

Current readings:
  • pH - 6.8
  • Ammonia - 0.25 ppm
  • Nitrite - 5 ppm (peeged still)
  • Nitrate - 10-20 ppm

I'm gonna add a double scoop of BT-9 for while the water is out for good measure this time. I'll post a parameter update again once I change the water out and let it run for a few hours...

Last edited by Drift Monkey; 09-06-2012 at 12:50 PM.. Reason: .
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Old 09-06-2012, 12:57 PM   #8
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It's been running for a couple hours and I think I may have reached a breaking point! the nitrite reading shows up a bit lighter than it did earlier...not quite as dark of a purple. The nitrites seem to have reduced to 2 ppm (for now). Maybe the double dose of BT-9 helped after all?

I'm still amazed at how high it is every time after a 100% change though.

The ammonia levels reset to .50 ppm as expected, so I raised it back up to 1 ppm with a few drops of ammonia.

I raised the lily pipes up again after the water change to promote more aeration...we'll see it that helps. I'll check again tonight.
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Old 09-07-2012, 03:23 AM   #9
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The first group of bacteria, a Nitrosomonas marina-like species grows pretty fast, so that by the end of the first week the fast ammonia removal is typical. Yes, they are turning it into nitrite.

The second group, a couple of species of Nitrospira are slower growing, and while they are working on the nitrite (nitrate showing up proves that) they are nowhere near as fast at removing it as the first group is at producing it.

Keep up the water changes so the NO2 does not go over 5 ppm, and keep dosing the ammonia, but not more than 3 ppm once a day. The ammonia will probably be pretty much gone the next day.

Give the second group a while yet. It can take them 2-3 weeks to get up to the right population level.
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Old 09-07-2012, 04:26 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
The first group of bacteria, a Nitrosomonas marina-like species grows pretty fast, so that by the end of the first week the fast ammonia removal is typical. Yes, they are turning it into nitrite.

The second group, a couple of species of Nitrospira are slower growing, and while they are working on the nitrite (nitrate showing up proves that) they are nowhere near as fast at removing it as the first group is at producing it.

Keep up the water changes so the NO2 does not go over 5 ppm, and keep dosing the ammonia, but not more than 3 ppm once a day. The ammonia will probably be pretty much gone the next day.

Give the second group a while yet. It can take them 2-3 weeks to get up to the right population level.
I figured as much. These daily 100% water changes to see minimal (at best) results are getting a little old though.

The parameters have changed since the morning.
  • pH - 7.2
  • Ammonia - 0 ppm
  • Nitrite - 5 ppm (pegged again)
  • Nitrate - 10-20 ppm

Ammonia is definitely being processed...as is nitrite, albeit at a much slower rate. I guess I could do another 100% water change and dose another 1 ppm of ammonia. I just don't get how these water changes do nothing for the dilution of the nitrites...they come back with a vengeance, it never fails.

I really need to go buy a bottle of nitrospira (SafeStart) to try and lower these nitrites...
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Old 09-07-2012, 04:37 AM   #11
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If you decide to get the Safe Start do this:
1) 100 % water change. Get both the ammonia and nitrite as close to zero as you can. A 100% water change does not produce 0 ppm because some water remains in the substrate. No need to fight to get that last drop.
2) Refill, using dechlor.
3) Add Safe Start. Allow it to circulate well.
4) Dose just a little ammonia, perhaps .5 ppm. Do not try to make the Safe Start deal with that much ammonia right away. (yes, you already have the first group, but that would just turn the ammonia into too much nitrite too fast. Take it slow to not overwhelm the bacteria when they are still trying to get anchored in place)
5) Each day raise the ammonia just a little higher. In about 3-4 days you should be able to add 3 ppm ammonia and have the nitrite show up just as a small blip, not the massive overload you have now.
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Old 09-07-2012, 04:41 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
If you decide to get the Safe Start do this:
1) 100 % water change. Get both the ammonia and nitrite as close to zero as you can. A 100% water change does not produce 0 ppm because some water remains in the substrate. No need to fight to get that last drop.
2) Refill, using dechlor.
3) Add Safe Start. Allow it to circulate well.
4) Dose just a little ammonia, perhaps .5 ppm. Do not try to make the Safe Start deal with that much ammonia right away. (yes, you already have the first group, but that would just turn the ammonia into too much nitrite too fast. Take it slow to not overwhelm the bacteria when they are still trying to get anchored in place)
5) Each day raise the ammonia just a little higher. In about 3-4 days you should be able to add 3 ppm ammonia and have the nitrite show up just as a small blip, not the massive overload you have now.
The problem with this is nitrite WILL NOT approach even close to 0 ppm, no matter how many 100% changes I've done. The best I can get it to is MAYBE 2 ppm.

That being said, I'll probably do another 100% change once I pick up a bottle of safestart anyway.
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Old 09-07-2012, 05:09 AM   #13
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Microbe-Lift Nite-Out II by Ecological Labs
http://www.drsfostersmith.com/produc...m?pcatid=18390
Stability New Tank Stabilization Water Conditioner
http://www.drsfostersmith.com/produc...m?pcatid=12021
I use both of those with Prime. It works perfectly for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate removal.
Here is an amazing write up on the nitrogen cycle and how effective these three products are at working together.
http://www.americanaquariumproducts....e.html#healthy
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Old 09-07-2012, 05:11 AM   #14
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You don't have any livestock in the tank, right?
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Old 09-07-2012, 05:43 AM   #15
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You don't have any livestock in the tank, right?
Just plants.
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