Please help! Scary mystery...
I don't really even know how to start. Feel like an idiot, and maybe I should just ride this out, but it's making me a nervous WRECK!
Background - this tank has been running for almost 2 years. Planted about a month ago. At that time I did a complete break-down to replace substrate. Fish, filter and heater hung out in water syphoned from the aquarium into a spare 10 gallon. I also syphoned 5 gallons into a jug and used that plus water in the 10 to partially refill my 20 once the switch was complete. So, I re-started with a well established bio-filter and all has been well since. I rinse the sponges in tank water once in awhile, but otherwise just perform regular weekly WCs. I did do a series of large WCs and add a UV last week to help with a mild bout of GW. It did - water is crystal clear. I ran it for about 3 days straight and since then, after lights out every other day.
I'm moving over to EI and my fish and plants are thriving and healthy. A couple of days ago (this might just be a REALLY good argument for EI...) I decided to run through some tests of my water parameters. Just to be sure. Well, everything I have tests for is fine except the two big ones fish-wise. My ammonia and nitrites are both literally nearly off the charts. Like an cycling tank. Cut to Kathy frantically running around like a chicken with her head cut off. 50% WC, beating up plants and churning the gravel, sucking out everything without leaves or fins. WHEW!
A couple of hours later - SAME THING! Throw in some Prime and try to distract myself for awhile.
Yesterday - same scenario! And I just came back from checking again and yet again - ammonia and nitrites galore! More Prime... At this point I am holding off on yet another WC until I get some feedback from you guys/gals.
Now - all this being said - the fish (2 Keyholes, Neons, Clown Pleco and African Butterfly Cichlid) are absolutely fine, and in retrospect have remained fine through this comedy of errors - unless they are Oscar worthy actors! I realize this may be a case of bad test kit and I am probably wasting the time of anyone reading this. But - I'm terrified!
Hubby has ordered some Hach tests for me. In the meantime - if possible - can someone assure me that if my ammonia and nitrites were really that high the fish would be visibly distressed??? Or would they not necessarily SHOW distress? Is it possible my UV could have nuked the good bacteria in the bio-filter and I'm re-cycling? (I'm grasping at straws here - I know there are those who run UVs 24/7.)
I'm sorry this is so long and scattered, but I'm worried sick! Thanks if anybody has made it this far and can offer any insight!