I don't understand Nitrites - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-03-2018, 11:13 PM Thread Starter
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I don't understand Nitrites

I'm well into my 4th week of a fishless cycle, and I truly do not understand the nitrite part of this.

I get 0-zero ammonia each day after adding 2 ml the day before (29 gal tank, planted, no fish). Nitrates have been super high and nitrites too.

This morning I did a large water change, well over 50%, then I did it again, at about 70%....then an hour later yet again, another 70% (as low as I could physically go.)

I'm still reading at least 2-5 ppm in the nitrites. Nitrates are now at least readable at perhaps 20 ppm.

I think my pH was starting to crash as I was down to 6.4, and the local tap water is off the chart (can't read it), and now well over 8.0.

I did not add ammonia today, just the tap water has some chloramine. I'll just wait till tomorrow.

The fact that I'm not comprehending the chemistry behind this all is frustrating. I never went through this all in the "olden days."
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-03-2018, 11:23 PM
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Curious @awknits, you stated at the end of your post that "I did not add ammonia today, just the tap water has some chloramine. I'll just wait till tomorrow." Did you treat the tap water with something like Prime? I ask as the chloramine will damage the beneficial bacteria that you are trying to grow. If you would like, I can post toe rather long write up that another member put together on how to do a fishless cycle (almost assuming you may have already read it). I have personally done a fishless cycle many times with a reasonable amount of data regarding how long it should take to complete.


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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-03-2018, 11:30 PM Thread Starter
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Yes, I added Prime.

I have read and read and read about fishless cycling. I am more than happy to read anything else you might post.

I just don't understand why the nitrite doesn't go down after so much of a water change. Of course it just means the numbers are so much higher than I could test for. I test my tap and get zero.

The fact that I can see the nitrates going down in a water change, but not the nitrite....that confuses me a bit.

The tank looks quite nice though. At least I'm not being swamped by other issues too.


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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-03-2018, 11:32 PM
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Chemistry is pretty easy.. You have on species of bacteria that converts Ammonia to Nitrate
You have another that converts nitrite to nitrate..

both are, for bacteria, slow growing
Both grow "best" w/ a pH above 6 (not an exact number) for sure..

If you have high nitrates at one time all was probably good.
Then something may have happened (too much chloramine/chlorine.. too low of pH) to stop or kill or slow the nitrite to nitrate bacteria..
ammonium to nitrate were less effective..
ammonia will drive your pH above tap water levels normally.

You might have now knocked back your amm-nitrite bac. at this point..
Hard to tell w/ this statement:
Quote:
I think my pH was starting to crash as I was down to 6.4, and the local tap water is off the chart (can't read it), and now well over 8.0.
There are plenty of tutorials on this on the web.

https://www.wikihow.com/Do-a-Fishless-Cycle

Check your tap water for its nitrate level........

"A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure."
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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-03-2018, 11:37 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Jeff....just read through that again. I totally understand the basics of the cycle.

I think I'm just stuck at Step 7 which states
"Wait until the nitrite level starts to drop, (they will be sky high for a few weeks) continuing to add ammonia to feed the bacteria in the tank."

I think I'm just at the "sky high for a weeks" portion of this all.


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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-03-2018, 11:47 PM
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Not sure how much ammonia you are dosing, as there are different concentrations of 'pure' ammonia out there. I like to cut back on ammonia dosing as soon as I start seeing nitrites rise. Nitrobacter (nitrite converting bacteria) colonizes at a much faster rate when ammonia levels are lower (.25 - .50 ppm). You already seem to have established a large colony of ammonia converting bacteria (Nitrosomonas).
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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-03-2018, 11:52 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by madcrafted View Post
Not sure how much ammonia you are dosing, as there are different concentrations of 'pure' ammonia out there. I like to cut back on ammonia dosing as soon as I start seeing nitrites rise. Nitrobacter (nitrite converting bacteria) colonizes at a much faster rate when ammonia levels are lower (.25 - .50 ppm). You already seem to have established a large colony of ammonia converting bacteria (Nitrosomonas).
I've been dosing 2 ml of the Ace hardware 10% ammonia which would raise my ammonia ppm to 2. And then it would drop to 0 within 24 hours.

I'm thinking to just wait till tomorrow AM and dose only 1 ml, for a smaller rise. Yes, the ammonia is converting quite well at this time.

I do understand that for some people all this makes total sense. But for me it just doesn't right now. I'm just glad I don't have any suffering fish to deal with. At this time it's just water and plants.


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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-04-2018, 12:13 AM
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Originally Posted by awknits View Post
I've been dosing 2 ml of the Ace hardware 10% ammonia which would raise my ammonia ppm to 2. And then it would drop to 0 within 24 hours.

I'm thinking to just wait till tomorrow AM and dose only 1 ml, for a smaller rise. Yes, the ammonia is converting quite well at this time.

I do understand that for some people all this makes total sense. But for me it just doesn't right now. I'm just glad I don't have any suffering fish to deal with. At this time it's just water and plants.
Well, you're off to a good start. I can definitely relate to wanting to know why you are doing something, not just the how's of it. Think of it like this: You want to establish a biological system based on what you are stocking. If you are planning to stock heavily, then you'll want to establish a colony of bacteria large enough to handle the NH3 being produced from fish waste. If you are planning to place a betta and a few snails in a 10 gallon tank, there is no reason to to dose so much ammonia. The colony simply starves off after the fish are added due to not enough waste being produced to keep them fed, resulting in cloudy water from bacteria dying off.

I rarely exceed 1 ppm from the start but I don't stock heavily and most of my experience comes from shrimp keeping, where feeding .5 ppm is more common.
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-04-2018, 06:03 AM
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I had to use Seed to get my tank to cycle. There has to be the specific bacteria present in your house for the cycle to work.
This is what I used. The API stuff is garbage.
https://www.aquavitro.com/seed.php

When live gives you lemons make a lemon drop.
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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-04-2018, 12:30 PM
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@awknits, if you are interested in some light reading, this thread should do the trick.
Summary, we were trying to determine if Seachem Matrix was actually generic pumice stone that was specifically sized (pretty much is). As the experiment grew, we decided to see just hard hard you could push the 2 products - very surprising.
Then the experiments moved onto plastic bio balls, Fluval brand bio media, Eheim bio media and finally a sponge filter. Think I even tested a canister filter with absolutely no bio media or filters. All products could be successfully cycled within a predictable amount of time.

One of the more interesting observations - I could push most of the products to accept over 40ppm doses of ammonia (yes, that amount is correct) and within 24 hours I would have 0ppm ammonia and 0ppm nitrite. The down side was the nitrate levels went so high in 24 hours that I had to do 100% water changes before I could add a different amount of ammonia and test again (the high nitrate levels, i.e. over 200ppm would stall or limit one or both oxidizing bacteria's).

Not that any of the above would help your situation, but there is a lot of good information throughout the thread. I believe at some point there was a calculator or spreadsheet that allowed me to sample the tank water, get an ammonia level, the figure out exactly how much ammonia to add to achieve a desired level of ammonia. In your case, it sounds like the first part of your cycle is complete (growth of ammonia oxidizing bacteria). I did find that when growing the ammonia oxidizing bacteria, it helped to keep the tank warm (80 degrees ish). My tap water measures 7.6ph so I never had any ph issues. My GH is 11-14 depending on the time of year and the KH remains pretty stable at 7-8.

Interesting that your ph dropped significantly lower than your tap/source water - don't have enough info to answer why that is. Your heavy water changes should have resolved that issue (raised the ph). Something of note, in order to feed the nitrite oxidizing bacteria, you first have to feed the ammonia oxidizing bacteria. 4ppm daily ammonia levels (not necessarily dosing) worked well when growing ammonia oxidizing bacteria. Once I achieved that step, then I went with around 3ppm ammonia daily dosing to keep the ammonia oxidizing bacteria alive. This did result in fairly high levels of nitrite for awhile. I don't recall doing many or any water changes during this part of the cycle. If I remember right, the nitrite oxidizing bacteria took about a week longer to catch up.

Once you achieve a completed cycle, the ammonia oxidizing bacteria will double in size in less than 24 hours (closer to 12 hours). The nitrite oxidizing bacteria take longer to double in size - closer to 20-30 hours.

What all this means in a practical sense is your could setup a 5 gallon bucket on the back porch (or a 10 gallon tank like I did), hook up your canister filter (or HOB / sponge / what ever) and cycle the filter. Once cycled, you can increase the beneficial bacteria colony to match water ever size tank / fish load you are planning on having. Example, you assume you will need a filter that can process about 4 ppm ammonia in a 80 gallon tank.

4 ppm in 80 gallons
8 ppm in 40 gallons
16 ppm in 20 gallons
32 ppm in 10 gallons

It's all the same amount of ammonia being added on a daily basis (either by fish or you). The only difference with the 10 gallon tank is your have to do water changes to keep the nitrates at a reasonable level.


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post #11 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-04-2018, 12:57 PM
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I may be able to add a little insight to the ph drop. I test the tap water in the KC area monthly (Independence, MO specifically). The water comes out of the tap from 10.1-10.7 normally but with hardness and alkalinity averaging 80 mg/l. Unless there is some sort of buffering (eg. non-inert substrate) in your aquarium it will be easy for the ph to crash.
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post #12 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-04-2018, 06:04 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Immortal1 View Post
@awknits, if you are interested in some light reading, this thread should do the trick.
Thanks for the link, I'll read it later when I have time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davescrews View Post
I may be able to add a little insight to the ph drop. I test the tap water in the KC area monthly (Independence, MO specifically). The water comes out of the tap from 10.1-10.7 normally but with hardness and alkalinity averaging 80 mg/l. Unless there is some sort of buffering (eg. non-inert substrate) in your aquarium it will be easy for the ph to crash.
Yes, out of the tap I can't read it, it's off the chart. This morning it was at 7.5 in my tank. I will have to read up on buffering agents. I don't remember having to do anything like that in the past, so it's new for me.

~~~~~~
So like I said, pH was down to 7.5 this morning, ammonia 0, nitrite 2-5+ (can't tell differences on that purple chart) and nitrate was 20 ppm. I only dosed 1 ml of ammonia, which should bring it up to 1 ppm. I wasn't planning on heavy loading my tank with fish, I can always increase it a bit if I ever see that nitrite drop.


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post #13 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-04-2018, 08:06 PM
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Curious @awknits have you ever tested the carbonate hardness (KH) or your tap water?

Bump: Have you seen this site?
On the above page there is a link to www.kcwaterservices.org/wqr
In looking at that link, it says the following;
pH = 9.9 (definitely higher that I have seen elsewhere)
Calcium = 41.0ppm (this is likely enough for your needs)
Magnesium = 4.81ppm (this is fairly low. A good reference is a 3:1 to 4:1 Ca:Mg ratio. You will likely need to add some Mg to your tank in the form of MGSO4)
Alkalinity = 29ppm (divide that by 17.11 and you get 1.69 dKH - likely why you are having trouble holding a stable pH level)
Total hardness = 114ppm (divide that by 17.11 and you get 6.6 dGH. Not bad)


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Last edited by Immortal1; 05-04-2018 at 08:34 PM. Reason: <?>
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post #14 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-04-2018, 08:53 PM
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My local tap water have extreme high pH as well, off the chart in high range ph test, and city water report range of 8.8-9.8 with 9.4 average. I was very concerned at first, however I do notice the pH would drop down significantly back to the mid to high 7 after a day or two. I think it has to do with the hardness and alkalinity of your water. My tap water is very low in hardness and alkalinity despite the high ph, the water ph was artificially raise to limit corrosion on the pipes, and whatever they add to raise the ph, it either evaporates over time or breakdown resulting in a more neutral ph for human consumption once the water get to your home. That's just my theory.

Also, as far as I understand, 1 part ammonia convert to 1 part nitrite and then convert to 1 part nitrate, if you constantly adding ammonia and they are breaking down to nitrite but not yet have the BB population to catch up with the nitrite, you will see it accumulate.

I am 1 week into my new tank cycling as well, I just starting to see some nitrite and nitrate in my tank. My ammonia level was never over 1 PPM, I read somewhere that when ammonia level is over 1 PPM it can actually do some harm to the BB when they still try to establish and slow the process, it's best to keep everything under 1 PPM, not sure if this is true but that's what I am sticking to now. I dont plan to heavily stock my tank and I figure I will be slow in introducing fish in my tank after the cycle complete anyway, i just want to get the cycle completed as quickly as possible so I can start introduce fish slowly to the tank.
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post #15 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-04-2018, 10:47 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Immortal1 View Post
Curious @awknits have you ever tested the carbonate hardness (KH) or your tap water?

Bump: Have you seen this site?
On the above page there is a link to www.kcwaterservices.org/wqr
In looking at that link, it says the following;
pH = 9.9 (definitely higher that I have seen elsewhere)
Calcium = 41.0ppm (this is likely enough for your needs)
Magnesium = 4.81ppm (this is fairly low. A good reference is a 3:1 to 4:1 Ca:Mg ratio. You will likely need to add some Mg to your tank in the form of MGSO4)
Alkalinity = 29ppm (divide that by 17.11 and you get 1.69 dKH - likely why you are having trouble holding a stable pH level)
Total hardness = 114ppm (divide that by 17.11 and you get 6.6 dGH. Not bad)
I just got the test the other day. I tested it right now and got these numbers:

GH - 10
KH - 3

Part of the problem is I feel all this is swarming at me and I don't know what it means. I'm a real KISS kind of person, yet I want to do it right. I'm just glad I'm not dealing with fish right now too.

I just tested my ammonia, and it was at 0 again...after adding it this morning, so that part of the cycle is going well.

We're on WaterOne and I have checked out the water quality chart from 2017. http://www.waterone.org/home/showdocument?id=2172


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