Nitrogen cycle stuck? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-27-2018, 07:33 PM Thread Starter
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Nitrogen cycle stuck?

I don't think my cycle is done but I'm not seeing any real changes for some time. It's like its stuck!

Almost a month ago I set up my tank, planted it and started adding the ammonia to 2ppm. I've used a few different "kick start" products during this time (tetra safe start, a full bottle right away and an API product that uses beneficial bacteria to "destroy sludge" and is supposed to help cycle that I've used occasionally for weeks).

So, here's what's going on:

My ammonia will half in about 24 hours and has been for weeks. I've had zero nitrites the whole time and my nitrates are slowly climbing. I think they are between 10 and 20... its really hard to tell. Thing is, I just don't know why it seems like there is no change for weeks other than the nitrates going up from 5 ppm, which happened almost immediately.

I'm pretty sure I should be seeing the ammonia being processed in 24 hours and the nitrates around 40 ppm? Then I do a large water change to bring the nitrates down and add fish.

It just seems like I'm doing something wrong! I have dosed fertilizer for my plants a few times but it seems like it turns my Christmas moss brown so I haven't done that in awhile.

Side note: I have one pest snail in my tank. I have no idea what kind it is but I feel bad for him. How on earth is he living in all that ammonia!?!

If this is totally normal can anyone give me an estimate of how much longer? I've read bacteria can double in 15 hours with "ideal conditions" (whatever that is supposed to mean). My bacteria seems to be doubling about one a week, maybe.

Thanks for your time!
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-28-2018, 06:46 PM
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What is your pH and water temperature?
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-29-2018, 08:28 AM
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Sounds like your tank is cycled and your tests are expired or not shaken up enough. Check the dates and if they are good start knocking them on a table or something to break up clumps in the bottom of the bottle
If you're getting nitrates you're good to go to add fish.
I'd dose ammonia until you buy your fish, then do a couple heavy water changes to get the ammonia out and put fish in. I'd do it that way in case you decide you don't want the fish available then. If you know for sure you want the available fish you can just stop dosing ammonia 2 days prior to buying and do a quick water change to balance everything out.
Getting nitrates is fully cycled.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-29-2018, 09:55 AM
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So, your ammonia is not getting processed as fast as you expect? But it is getting processed, and all the way down to nitrates. So, you may start slowly stocking up with fish. Slowly. And in the meantime, as already pointed out, check your PH. If your water is too soft it may be slowing and can eventually stall nitrogen cycle.
Your pest snail is likely to be physa. If I was in your shoes, I would throw it out immediately in hope to prevent infestation. They are not useful, add to tank's bioload and procreate without limit. Unless you are going to keep fish that eat snails or like the look of the tank with thousands of snails crawling everywhere.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-29-2018, 11:18 AM
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The nitrite part of the cycle always takes the longest.

As for cycling products, there are all kinds of threads about those around here. I've tried Safe Start which is claimed to be a great product, however, it has never worked for me. Another one that is often mentioned is Dr.Tims, but honestly, I've found the best way to cycle a tank is doing so fishless with a bottle of pure ammonia and patience if I don't have bio-media to borrow from another tank.

If your pH is low, this won't stall the cycling process, but it will slow it down. Water temp is another factor that can slow the process down. Ideally, your pH should be anywhere from 6.8-7.6 and the water temp should be around 80 degrees.

Another thing to consider is water movement. When cycling a tank, I always add a air stone. Once cycled, I take the air stone out.

Then there is the test kits you are using. API is known for giving wonky results with their nitrate kits. Bang the bottles together ( cap to cap) with the caps on tight for a minute or so, then test. Simpy shaking the bottles as suggested in the instructions isn't enough.

If you know anybody that has a tank and you trust that they don't have anything weird in their tank, ask if you can have some of their bio-media. Keep in mind that the tank will still have to be 'fed' using this method. Ghost feeding with tiny amounts of food will keep the bacteria from dying off. The tank will need a big water change and clean up before you can add fish anyway, so any fish food can be vacuumed and removed.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-29-2018, 08:43 PM
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I'm sorry. I don't mean to argue but I don't like info that insists you have to do something. Your water does not have to be around 80. You can cycle water as low as 42. The bacteria don't care about temp. They are bacteria. As for PH, a neutral PH is just that, nuetral. There is an ideal PH for bacteria growth but not ideal enough to notice a difference. Bacteria can grow anywhere from 4.8 to 11.2 and cycle just fine. A lower PH will need less ammonia to cycle than a higher PH.

Your tank is cycled once you read Nitrates. You can move onto your next step just don't let it sit without any waste/ammonia to feed the bacteria. And don't leave your amminia high if adding fish. Do water changes until you read .25ppm or less of ammonia.
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-29-2018, 11:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyrant46290 View Post
I'm sorry. I don't mean to argue but I don't like info that insists you have to do something. Your water does not have to be around 80. You can cycle water as low as 42. The bacteria don't care about temp. They are bacteria. As for PH, a neutral PH is just that, nuetral. There is an ideal PH for bacteria growth but not ideal enough to notice a difference. Bacteria can grow anywhere from 4.8 to 11.2 and cycle just fine. A lower PH will need less ammonia to cycle than a higher PH.
Since you're not arguing, can we get all the details of all the tanks that you've cycled with near freezing water temps and a pH of 4.8?
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-29-2018, 11:42 PM
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@MissKris: I was in exactly your position at the 4 week mark in my fish-less cycle of my 75 gallon tank, though I was dosing to 3ppm ammonia. I've journalled every day of the process and have some notes to offer:

Day 13 Add last half bottle of Safe Start
Day 14 Ammonia = 1.0 ppm Nitrites = Zero Nitrates = 40-80

I thought maybe Nitrites were peaking and returning to zero in between my tests every 24 hours so I tested Nitrites at 12 hours--still zero, so scrap that theory.

I just kept dosing ammonia to 3ppm daily and did increase the tank temp to 80 deg. as an experiment.

Day 27 Ammonia = Zero, Nitrites = 2.0 Nitrates = 80-100 SOMETHNG CHANGED and I suddenly had nitrites.

Day 44 (today) Ammonia = 2.0ppm, Nitrites = 2.0, didn't test nitrates, obviously they will be rising.

At this point, the tank seems able to process both ammonia and nitrites at the rate of about 1ppm each per day. I finally had access to a sponge from a mature tank and placed half of it in each of my two filters to see if I can boost the process.

I think it's probably true the bacteria which produce nitrites are slower to develop. Since I expect to introduce three young goldfish, I'm going to try to get to where the tank can process that 3ppm dose of ammonia overnight to zero ammonia, zero nitrites.

My thoughts: Wait. Keep testing. I've never had a tank "skip" nitrites. People were telling me my tank had cycled despite the absence of nitrites but it would have been a problem had I introduced my fish at that time.

Last edited by Fisherking; 07-30-2018 at 12:17 AM. Reason: add
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-30-2018, 12:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smooch View Post
Since you're not arguing, can we get all the details of all the tanks that you've cycled with near freezing water temps and a pH of 4.8?
Not trying to get in the middle of a disagreement but....lol...

I don't know what temperature nitrifying bacteria go dormant but pH can get pretty low and still cycle just fine. My recent tank journal shows a shrimp tank I cycled in 5 weeks with a pH of 5.0-5.5, a KH of 0 and temperatures of around 68-73 F. Being as this is a shrimp tank, ammonia was never dosed higher than 1 ppm throughout the cycling phase. By the 5th week, NH3 was undetectable 24 hours after raising NH3 levels to 1 ppm. Even with the NH3 to NH4 conversion, API test doesn't discriminate either way, so it was all being consumed and converted to nitrates in the end.

Some bacteria thrive in warmer temperatures and others are indifferent either way. The kind that I want to avoid for my shrimp's sake actually prefer warmer temperatures in excess of 75. I don't allow my tanks to ever exceed 73 because of these "bad" strains. The nitrifying bacteria that I've somehow managed to colonize could care less about my pH or temperature.
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