Tank cycling question - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-23-2019, 11:29 PM Thread Starter
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Tank cycling question

Hey everyone,

Have a 22 gallon long planted tank that’s been set up for a week now. I’m doing a fish-less cycle. My water parameters have been this for the past few days. I haven’t done any water changes. Thoughts?

6/20 Ph- 6.4 Ammonia- about .25ppm
Kh- 4 Nitrite- 0ppm
Gh- 12 Nitrate- about 40ppm
TDS- 271

6/21 Ph- 6.6 Ammonia- about .50ppm
Kh- 8 Nitrite- 0ppm
Gh- 13 Nitrate- about 40ppm
TDS- 264

6/23 Ph- 6.6 Ammonia- about .50ppm
Kh- 5 Nitrite- 0ppm
Gh- 12 Nitrate- about 40ppm
TDS- 282

JakeW
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 06:11 AM
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Your going to be there a very long time with that low a dose of ammonia, 2-4ppm is norm. When nitrites finally do start showing up donít let them get over 5ppm, do water changes to keep them below 5.
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 02:00 PM
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I think you’re cycled if your test results are accurate. The appearance of nitrates that high indicates that the nitrite-consuming bacteria (nitrospira) are fully functioning …although, one week seems on the short side if you started with nothing. What procedure did you use to cycle? Is there any other possible source for the nitrates? How do you test for the nitrates?

@DaveKS: I think the OP was reporting test results for ammonia, not dosing levels.

@JakeTheAquariumSnake:If you truly don’t think you’re cycled, you need to make sure you are dosing ammonia as suggested by @DaveKS. If you intend to continue pushing the cycling procedure, make sure your pH is between 7-8 (by adjusting your KH – bacteria consume the carbonates), keep temperature between 85F-95F for fastest response and oxygenate heavily, particularly at higher temperatures.

If it were me, with ok ammonia levels and truly knowing that I have high nitrates, I’d put my fish in. At a pH in the mid-6’s, the ammonia is in the safer ammonium (NH4) form. The total ammonia test kits I have used never indicate zero ammonia. They always falsely show about .25 ppm.
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 02:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JakeTheAquariumSnake View Post
Hey everyone,

Have a 22 gallon long planted tank that’s been set up for a week now. I’m doing a fish-less cycle. My water parameters have been this for the past few days. I haven’t done any water changes. Thoughts?

6/20 Ph- 6.4 Ammonia- about .25ppm
Kh- 4 Nitrite- 0ppm
Gh- 12 Nitrate- about 40ppm
TDS- 271

6/21 Ph- 6.6 Ammonia- about .50ppm
Kh- 8 Nitrite- 0ppm
Gh- 13 Nitrate- about 40ppm
TDS- 264

6/23 Ph- 6.6 Ammonia- about .50ppm
Kh- 5 Nitrite- 0ppm
Gh- 12 Nitrate- about 40ppm
TDS- 282
Without knowing how much Ammonia you are adding daily these results are inconclusive to me. If you haven't been adding any than you are certainly not cycled yet.


IMO you are cycled when your bacteria can consume 1 - 2ppm of Ammonia in 12 hours. Meaning you add 2ppm of Ammonia and then test 12-24 hours later and you should see 0 NH3 and 0 NO2, if not, you are not cycled yet. You can do a 50% WC to lower nitrates and then you should be adding 2ppm Ammonia and keep going with the cycle if you didn't add Seachem Stability(or other) or media from an established tank this process can take 3 - 8 weeks, you are not done yet.

There is no point in measuring kh,gh,TDS until you are done cycling.


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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 02:42 PM
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I personally never understood the "rush' to put fish in. The tank is a week old, let the plants get settled and show some growth. Move things around to your liking. The plants have both bacteria and will release ammonia into the water. In about 4 weeks slowly add fish and do weekly water changes (which you should do anyway to provide best environment. Sometimes this is known as a silent cycle. I've done it this way for the last 10 years and never added ammonia or sacrificed fish to "new" water. There is no substitute for a mature tank regardless of what a test kit tells you.


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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 02:46 PM
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Without knowing how much Ammonia you are adding daily these results are inconclusive to me. If you haven't been adding any than you are certainly not cycled yet.


IMO you are cycled when your bacteria can consume 1 - 2ppm of Ammonia in 12 hours. Meaning you add 2ppm of Ammonia and then test 12-24 hours later and you should see 0 NH3 and 0 NO2, if not, you are not cycled yet. You can do a 50% WC to lower nitrates and then you should be adding 2ppm Ammonia and keep going with the cycle if you didn't add Seachem Stability(or other) or media from an established tank this process can take 3 - 8 weeks, you are not done yet.

There is no point in measuring kh,gh,TDS until you are done cycling.
If - IF - the nitrates are truly 40 ppm, what is the source?
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 02:59 PM
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If - IF - the nitrates are truly 40 ppm, what is the source?
I don't know, sparse information given by OP.

But it doesn't really matter to me in terms of cycling. If I am going to do a fishless cycle I think one should have the patience to wait until the bacterial colonies are strong enough. I don't just wait for the presence of Nitrates and say the tank is cycled, I don't even test for nitrates except at the end to reset the tank for fish addition. For me its the repeated and reproducible processing of Ammonia quickly to 0 that tells me the tank is cycled.

If one has plants in the tank one can get misleading results for cycle as plants can quickly remove 0.5 - 1ppm Ammonia quickly but that doesn't mean they will do that with regular loads of Ammonia.


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Last edited by cl3537; 06-24-2019 at 03:02 PM. Reason: ...
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 03:05 PM
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I don't know, sparse information given by OP.

But it doesn't really matter to me in terms of cycling. If I am going to do a fishless cycle I think one should have the patience to wait until the bacterial colonies are strong enough. I don't just wait for the presence of Nitrates and say the tank is cycled, I don't even test for nitrates except at the end to reset the tank for fish addition. For me its the repeated and reproducible processing of Ammonia quickly to 0 that tells me the tank is cycled.

If one has plants in the tank one can get misleading results for cycle as plants can quickly remove 0.5 - 1ppm Ammonia quickly but that doesn't mean they will do that with regular loads of Ammonia.
Agreed - we need to see how the OP cycled and confirm the nitrate source and level.

What I do, since it can be hard to capture the nitrite spike unless you test at least daily, is to wait for NH3 (pH > 7.5) to drop (I use Seachem's "Ammonia Alert" so I don't have to keep testing) and then test nitrates. When I see the nitrate spike, I know I'm done.
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 03:17 PM
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Agreed - we need to see how the OP cycled and confirm the nitrate source and level.

What I do, since it can be hard to capture the nitrite spike unless you test at least daily, is to wait for NH3 (pH > 7.5) to drop (I use Seachem's "Ammonia Alert" so I don't have to keep testing) and then test nitrates. When I see the nitrate spike, I know I'm done.
For me the presence of a nitrate spike is not enough(inconclusive) I want to see 0 NH3 and 0 NO2 (API kit), you don't even need to test NO2 until the very end either and I don't worry about if I ever saw any nitrites. The NO2 eating bacteria only develop slowly after the Ammonia eating BB so the only time I see NO2 in a tank is near the end of the cycle. It isn't the end though as to be really sure I still strengthen the NH3 bacteria to the point where they can process 2ppm NH3 in 12 hours.

Maybe that is being overcautious but the extra few days really helps dispel any doubt that the tank is still cycling or dangerous to fish health. I also beleive the stronger bacteria can also help prevent some forms of algae.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 05:00 PM
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For me the presence of a nitrate spike is not enough(inconclusive) I want to see 0 NH3 and 0 NO2 (API kit), you don't even need to test NO2 until the very end either and I don't worry about if I ever saw any nitrites. The NO2 eating bacteria only develop slowly after the Ammonia eating BB so the only time I see NO2 in a tank is near the end of the cycle. It isn't the end though as to be really sure I still strengthen the NH3 bacteria to the point where they can process 2ppm NH3 in 12 hours.

Maybe that is being overcautious but the extra few days really helps dispel any doubt that the tank is still cycling or dangerous to fish health. I also beleive the stronger bacteria can also help prevent some forms of algae.
Double-checks are fine. I'm just more casual about it and don't think even incomplete cycling is all that bad. We shouldn't shock any tank with too many new fish and the few fish we add, initially, to a new tank don't spew out 2-3 ppm NH3 daily. So, there will be die-back of the BB once we withdraw the NH3/NH4 overdosing. Add to that the pH being below about 7.5 resulting in mostly NH4 and the concern drops even further. I've added 5-10 small fish to my un-cycled 5-gal QT without ever seeing a significant ammonia spike ...and there is always Prime, which you should always have on hand for any possible NH3 problem.
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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-25-2019, 12:07 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies everyone. I haven’t dosed any ammonia. Just used live plants and some substrate from previous tank. Not saying my tank is done cycling. Just thoughts or recommendations on where to go from here. Thank you all for the help.

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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-25-2019, 01:15 AM
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Thanks for the replies everyone. I havenít dosed any ammonia. Just used live plants and some substrate from previous tank. Not saying my tank is done cycling. Just thoughts or recommendations on where to go from here. Thank you all for the help.
That explains the nitrates: the seeded substrate did the trick and the plants are doing the rest.
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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-25-2019, 02:49 AM Thread Starter
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Readings tonight read:
Ammonia- about .50 ppm but my Seachem ammonia alert is in the “safe” area which is <0.02ppm
Nitrite- 0ppm
Nitrate- below 5.0 ppm

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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-27-2019, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by JakeTheAquariumSnake View Post
Readings tonight read:
Ammonia- about .50 ppm but my Seachem ammonia alert is in the “safe” area which is <0.02ppm
Nitrite- 0ppm
Nitrate- below 5.0 ppm
Since you started another thread on this, you are obviously concerned about your ammonia readings and are assuming that they indicate that you are not cycled. As I mentioned, I think you are/were cycled, given your persistently high nitrate readings. However, let's look at your readings.

Since you have never added ammonia and you have no animals in your tank, what is/was the ammonia source? The only other thing I can think of is rotting plant matter or mulm collecting in your filter or substrate.

What test kit are you using to test ammonia? The Seachem indicator is saying that you have no ammonia (or very little) and i have found that indicator to be reliable. While the presence of nitrates is evidence of ammonia existence, I'm wondering if nitrates are from an initial ammonia level that no longer exists. After you test your ammonia, perform an 80% water change and test both ammonia and nitrates again, then see if they build. What test kit do you use to test nitrates?

At this point, if there really is no ammonia being created and it is actually not there, you could be stalling/killing your BB cycle and may have to start over.

Last edited by Deanna; 06-27-2019 at 01:31 PM. Reason: Revise
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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-27-2019, 02:08 PM
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Just used live plants and some substrate from previous tank. Not saying my tank is done cycling.
Lots of Aquasoils contain nitrates and ammonia and if its not that old it might not be depleted yet. What substrate are you using?
However if you see Ammonia in your water than you are not cycled as even with Ammonia in the substrate it takes time for Bacteria to build up to form an equilibrium with the leaching from the substrate.
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