Fishless cycle stuck in place? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-09-2018, 05:13 PM Thread Starter
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Fishless cycle stuck in place?

I've been cycling 5ppm of ammonia through to Nitrate in 22 hours for the past 3 weeks. Help!

Some stats:
PH: 7.6
Temp: 30C / 86F
Filter: Ehiem Pro 3
Aeration: Return pipe breaking the surface and creating as much surface tension as possible.

Having done several cycles I consider myself quite "knowledgeable" on the subject... Previously, a stall would indicate a drastic change in PH (due to the amount of Nitrate) present, but this is different. I haven't been able to move past the 22 hour mark in over 3 weeks and I'm quite frustrated because I have no idea why this is happening.



The goal is to convert 5ppm of ammonia through to Nitrate within 12 hours but something is holding the cycle back and I can't figure this out?
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-09-2018, 09:30 PM
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Why such a high number of ammonia, 5 ppm, within a 12 hour period? Curious, as this is not typical.
Most people cycle their aquariums between 1-3 ppm of ammonia in a 12-24 hour period depending on the intended bio-load. With the number you are attempting to achieve within the given window, it is not at all unusual that you are not yet there.


Edit: Your question got me wondering if 5 ppm is now the recommended number to begin fish-less cycling ( you see: Im old, can be easily complacent and set in my ways, and been doing this so long that I need to put my belief systems about fish-keeping up to scrutiny regularly to not fall in the trap of "all there is to know I know already"-- dangerous to anyone in any case). It is!

I haven't found, so far, a reason justifying such a high number as a goal- but, it is out there as a number to shoot for. I am skeptical this is necessary. Sure, I can see if you are adding already adult fish with huge bio-loads such as goldfish, but even then-- it just appears to me as excessive.
I just cycled a 180 gallon tank in which I added cichlids and dosed to 3 ppm. This is a number based on high bio-load fish. I cycled another tank within last year for tetras and went with 2 ppm-- each were entirely adequate for intended purposes.

In other words, fine to set your goal higher, but must be patient because it will take much longer to meet your goal as it can take a bio-filter up to 3 months to fully establish itself.


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Last edited by Discusluv; 09-09-2018 at 09:57 PM. Reason: More info
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-09-2018, 10:36 PM
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Aware that ammonia is a disinfectant at higher levels and it may just kill a bunch of bacteria if too high? Five is way higher than i remember ever going.
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-10-2018, 07:28 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Discusluv View Post
Why such a high number of ammonia, 5 ppm, within a 12 hour period? Curious, as this is not typical.
Most people cycle their aquariums between 1-3 ppm of ammonia in a 12-24 hour period depending on the intended bio-load. With the number you are attempting to achieve within the given window, it is not at all unusual that you are not yet there.


Edit: Your question got me wondering if 5 ppm is now the recommended number to begin fish-less cycling ( you see: Im old, can be easily complacent and set in my ways, and been doing this so long that I need to put my belief systems about fish-keeping up to scrutiny regularly to not fall in the trap of "all there is to know I know already"-- dangerous to anyone in any case). It is!

I haven't found, so far, a reason justifying such a high number as a goal- but, it is out there as a number to shoot for. I am skeptical this is necessary. Sure, I can see if you are adding already adult fish with huge bio-loads such as goldfish, but even then-- it just appears to me as excessive.
I just cycled a 180 gallon tank in which I added cichlids and dosed to 3 ppm. This is a number based on high bio-load fish. I cycled another tank within last year for tetras and went with 2 ppm-- each were entirely adequate for intended purposes.

In other words, fine to set your goal higher, but must be patient because it will take much longer to meet your goal as it can take a bio-filter up to 3 months to fully establish itself.
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Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
Aware that ammonia is a disinfectant at higher levels and it may just kill a bunch of bacteria if too high? Five is way higher than i remember ever going.
Hey Guys

5ppm was how I was told to cycle 8ish years ago. Having a bac colony that can convert 5ppm of ammonia to nitrate, in under 12 hours, has always been the goal. I was told that any less than that and you can encounter spikes.

That aside, the point isn't the target ppm. More so it being stuck converting at 22 hours. I've never had this issue and can't figure out why the bac colony isn't growing to convert the ammonia beyond this point. Whatever our individual ppm targets are, the conversion should get faster and always has done for me. In every setup previously, fish in day would always follow 7 days where the bacs converted 5ppm of ammonia in 12 hours.

Being stuck at 22 hours is bewildering.
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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-10-2018, 11:52 AM
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I would cut the ammonia by 1/2 and see if it isn't consumed in 12 hours.
Been around for a while, and never heard of 5ppm added daily for fishless cycling.
Have heard of too much ammonia rendering constant nitrites rather than converting them to nitrates, but unclear as to process by which cycle stalls in nitrite stage from using excess ammonia.(don't know why it does sometimes)
Also think plants do not like ammonia level's much over 3ppm which is what I have always read is desired level for fishless cycling.
Those whose cycle stalled,simply reduced amount of ammonia by 1/2 and things resumed fairly quickly.
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-10-2018, 12:04 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by roadmaster View Post
I would cut the ammonia by 1/2 and see if it isn't consumed in 12 hours.
Been around for a while, and never heard of 5ppm added daily for fishless cycling.
Have heard of too much ammonia rendering constant nitrites rather than converting them to nitrates, but unclear as to process by which cycle stalls in nitrite stage from using excess ammonia.(don't know why it does sometimes)
Also think plants do not like ammonia level's much over 3ppm which is what I have always read is desired level for fishless cycling.
Those whose cycle stalled,simply reduced amount of ammonia by 1/2 and things resumed fairly quickly.
I'm in the UK. Our biggest UK forum at the time suggested 5ppm to all new fishless cycles. I don't think the goal is to constantly have 3ppm or higher of ammonia. More so to build a good colony...

My nitrites also convert in just under 24 hours. The ammonia in 22 hours.
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-10-2018, 01:57 PM
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Perhaps just watching a bit too closely and not allowing for the natural variation that may come with slight changes in water? Two hours seems to be within a range that I might expect if there was some small difference in the water or even some small change in the test readings. We do know that the water is one thing which varies. Perhaps the tap has changed due to weather? Certain that the weather in most places is not what we are used to seeing, but there are often changes in where the water is collected and we don't always get take notice and then there are also small changes in test kits over time or when we buy new.
If you are getting that much ammonia processed in 24 hours, I would call it good and do the water changes to get the tank ready. I assume there is a massive amount of nitrate buildup with that amount being processed?
I understand the question of why, if it has always worked a bit different before but, on a practical level, I can't see any fish load that would overload a bacteria colony of that level.
I once chucked 15-20 nine inch protomelas into a 120 gallon tank to help a friend and it was not a problem. Rather than doing more work/worry with the why, I would move to expecting to do a couple more water changes but only If it showed as required. Remembering that doing a fishless cycle is to avoid having to do excessive water changes, I would move on and not think of it again.
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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-10-2018, 03:38 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
Perhaps just watching a bit too closely and not allowing for the natural variation that may come with slight changes in water? Two hours seems to be within a range that I might expect if there was some small difference in the water or even some small change in the test readings. We do know that the water is one thing which varies. Perhaps the tap has changed due to weather? Certain that the weather in most places is not what we are used to seeing, but there are often changes in where the water is collected and we don't always get take notice and then there are also small changes in test kits over time or when we buy new.
If you are getting that much ammonia processed in 24 hours, I would call it good and do the water changes to get the tank ready. I assume there is a massive amount of nitrate buildup with that amount being processed?
I understand the question of why, if it has always worked a bit different before but, on a practical level, I can't see any fish load that would overload a bacteria colony of that level.
I once chucked 15-20 nine inch protomelas into a 120 gallon tank to help a friend and it was not a problem. Rather than doing more work/worry with the why, I would move to expecting to do a couple more water changes but only If it showed as required. Remembering that doing a fishless cycle is to avoid having to do excessive water changes, I would move on and not think of it again.

Hi Rich

Thanks for the input. I didn't realize until making this thread that people cycle to a lower amount while I've only know 5ppm of Ammonia > Nitrate in 12 hours or less. When it comes to the amount of Nitrate, it does build up but this is expected. Usually The PH holds and then crashes (because of the amount of Nitrate) at about the 10th dosing of 5ppm of ammonia. I do a 100% WC after the 7th dosing. to avoid that. I guess I could move on but I'm do need to understand why this is happening. Every cycle I've ever done (the consequences of moving and having/not having space for a tank) has gradually sped up in time before I hit the desired conversion rate.



But that wont explain why my colony hasn't grown in number to be able to convert as they have done in the past. I'm using the same water conditioner, cycling at the same temp and PPM dosing. I've never encountered this problem before?
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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-10-2018, 04:43 PM
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Maybe I've been missing something as I rarely test for PH when doing a cycle but I don't connect high nitrate with lowered PH??? But then that may be explained with me also having high GH and KH for buffering, so that it takes a lot to move my PH.
Maybe I'm also less inclined to wonder on the points that I might have at one time? I'm falling more and more into the "not bother" mode of operation!
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-11-2018, 07:38 PM Thread Starter
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After reading the feedback from you guys I went and looked at the dosing. And I think I may have found the issue. I believe I have been dosing too much ammonia. I was dosing 10ml of ammonia for 180L and It's possible I was ending up with 6ppm. So I spent a lot of time researching / looking at calculators to get the desired 5ppm...

And they vary in the required amount of ammonia needed...

I've found calculators that recommend dosing 6ml to 11ml. And so yesterday I adjusted the dosing to 8ppm but that only translated to 3ppm of ammonia for 180L. The good news is that my bacs converted 3ppm in under 12 hours. So today I've dosed 9ppm of ammonia. If I can get that converted in under 12 hours I think I might dance around the lounge.
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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-13-2018, 10:45 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RollaPrime View Post
After reading the feedback from you guys I went and looked at the dosing. And I think I may have found the issue. I believe I have been dosing too much ammonia. I was dosing 10ml of ammonia for 180L and It's possible I was ending up with 6ppm. So I spent a lot of time researching / looking at calculators to get the desired 5ppm...

And they vary in the required amount of ammonia needed...

I've found calculators that recommend dosing 6ml to 11ml. And so yesterday I adjusted the dosing to 8ppm but that only translated to 3ppm of ammonia for 180L. The good news is that my bacs converted 3ppm in under 12 hours. So today I've dosed 9ppm of ammonia. If I can get that converted in under 12 hours I think I might dance around the lounge.
Bad news: The above didn't work. At 9ppm I still had ammonia reading of 2ppm after 24hours
Good News: I think I've finally found the issue


I moved to a new house recently and like most of you, I tested my water as soon as I was settled in. I got the TDS, PH, Nitrate and other essential readings of my tap water. In every test the water was "better" and so I continued to dechlorinate the water in the exact same way I did at my previous address. I use Fluval Aqua+ dechlor,


5ml for every 40L


After the cycle still failing to convert at a decent rate I tested every water parameter I could again and suddenly thought that perhaps, just perhaps, there was more chlorine and other elements harmful to the bacs that I couldn't test for and so in short, I did a 100% water change and instead of dechlorinating at 5ml for every 40L I upped the measurement to 10ml for every 40L, then added 8ml of ammonia. I tested again after 12 hours and 30ish minutes and got double zeros. 0ppm Ammonia!!! 0ppm Nitrite!!!



After 3 weeks of a stalled cycle I'm sure you can imagine that I jumped for joy. My guess is that the amount of dechlor I was using allowed the bacs to establish and grow but the conditions weren't optimal and that perhaps they were surviving instead of thriving. Converting at a subdued rate because I hadn't removed enough of the harmful elements.


API should bring out a chlorine test. This small oversight cost me 3 weeks of stress but I'm ecstatic to be past it.
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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-13-2018, 11:22 AM
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There are carbon-based chlorine / chloramine filters that break these chemicals into ammonia for you. Often found in reverse osmosis systems.
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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-13-2018, 11:51 AM
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Still not sure why the worry bout not being able to convert ammonia way in excess of 3 ppm in 12 hours, when this is three times the amount that fishes will ever see, and at 3ppm converted in 12 hours ,one could safely add more than a few small fish to 180 litres at one go .Some times we create problems that really aren't.
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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-13-2018, 12:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
Maybe I've been missing something as I rarely test for PH when doing a cycle but I don't connect high nitrate with lowered PH??? But then that may be explained with me also having high GH and KH for buffering, so that it takes a lot to move my PH.
Maybe I'm also less inclined to wonder on the points that I might have at one time? I'm falling more and more into the "not bother" mode of operation!
Organic matter from fish food's,fish waste,plant matter collecting in/on substrates over time (month's), can cause release of organic carbon as the organic matter breaks down,(not up) and that might drive pH down slightly as tank matures,but not much with weekly water changes.
Just mentioning this for other's that might be reading along.
High nitrates just means there is excess organic matter or ammonia, or..Nitrogen fertilizer is being added at a rate that might not be needed.
Another note..OP mentions fishless cycling for three weeks, which is not much time for bacterial colonies to get established whether fishless cycling or otherwise.( can still take,and often does take, six to eight weeks)
As was noted also,,once ammonia level being introduced by OP was reduced,,the bacteria had no problem converting the lowered amount in 12 hours.This is a good thing.
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Last edited by roadmaster; 09-13-2018 at 12:40 PM. Reason: additional
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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-13-2018, 01:27 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by roadmaster View Post
Still not sure why the worry bout not being able to convert ammonia way in excess of 3 ppm in 12 hours, when this is three times the amount that fishes will ever see, and at 3ppm converted in 12 hours ,one could safely add more than a few small fish to 180 litres at one go .Some times we create problems that really aren't.
Quote:
Originally Posted by roadmaster View Post
Organic matter from fish food's,fish waste,plant matter collecting in/on substrates over time (month's), can cause release of organic carbon as the organic matter breaks down,(not up) and that might drive pH down slightly as tank matures,but not much with weekly water changes.
Just mentioning this for other's that might be reading along.
High nitrates just means there is excess organic matter or ammonia, or..Nitrogen fertilizer is being added at a rate that might not be needed.
Another note..OP mentions fishless cycling for three weeks, which is not much time for bacterial colonies to get established whether fishless cycling or otherwise.( can still take,and often does take, six to eight weeks)
As was noted also,,once ammonia level being introduced by OP was reduced,,the bacteria had no problem converting the lowered amount in 12 hours.This is a good thing.

5ppm is how I was taught to cycle. I could provide you with several links showing 5ppm as the target. My guess is that it's more comprehensive and allows for big bio loads in comparison to 3ppm. As for the cycle stalling, I'd been cycling for several weeks prior to, the 3 weeks "stuck" converting at 22 hours, was abnormal. As the process normally gets quicker until you reach the desired conversion rate. I've cycled this filter before to the point where I converted 5ppm of ammonia through to Nitrate in under 12 hours consistently.

I should say that I plan to add 50 tetras and some larger gourami (pearl) to a 450L aquarium so a strong colony is essential.



The bac colony went from not being able to clear 9ppm in 24 hours to converting 8ppm in 12 hours and 30 minutes. I'll say with some degree of confidence that I believe the dechlor amount was the issue. I'll go back to adding 9ppm of ammonia (to reach 5ppm) tonight and I suspect (more so hope) that it'll clear with 12 hours. Fingers and toes crossed.
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