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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-01-2014, 04:48 PM Thread Starter
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Confused with my tank cycle

Just set up my new 12g tank and started a fishless cycle. I have another established tank that had 2 bags on ceramic noodles in it so I took one out and put it in the filter of the new tank right next to the new ceramic and sponge in the new filter. I added 4ppm of ammonia a week ago and so far I've tested the ammonia every day and its read 4ppm each day, so the established filter media has done absolutely nothing in a week?! Am I missing something???

I'm not really in a hurry for this tank to cycle as I'm waiting for my plants to establish themselves before I add the dwarf puffers who will be calling this tank home. I'm more confused than anything as I was expecting the cycle to be done in a week or two given the big bag (can just about hold it in 1 hand) of ceramics??! Any ideas what's taking so long??

When the ceramics were added, the tank had just been filled with tap water and then treated to dechlorinate but it was cold, thermometer read about 10deg until the heater got on top of it, could the cold have killed the bacteria??
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-01-2014, 05:59 PM
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It can take a good 4-6 weeks for the bacteria to colonize your media. The key here is going to be patience. Hope this helps. Oops I just reread your post and see that you are using established media. This should cycle fairly quickly provided you didn't kill the bacteria somehow.
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-01-2014, 06:18 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JDenyer232 View Post
It can take a good 4-6 weeks for the bacteria to colonize your media. The key here is going to be patience. Hope this helps. Oops I just reread your post and see that you are using established media. This should cycle fairly quickly provided you didn't kill the bacteria somehow.
I was just expecting it all to happen a bit quicker as it has basically a full filters worth of wlestablished media in it already!
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-01-2014, 06:52 PM
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10dC is pretty cool, but the bacteria are just fine with that. Slow, but not dead. And as the tank warmed they should have gotten more active.

I am amazed that the ammonia has stayed at 4 ppm for a week, and would wonder if there was a problem with the test kit.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-01-2014, 07:10 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Diana View Post
10dC is pretty cool, but the bacteria are just fine with that. Slow, but not dead. And as the tank warmed they should have gotten more active.

I am amazed that the ammonia has stayed at 4 ppm for a week, and would wonder if there was a problem with the test kit.
I know right!! I used the same test kit to test the other tanks water and came up as 0ppm as it should be! So I think we can rule out the test kit :-(
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-02-2014, 01:18 AM
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OK. Here is the fishless cycle. This includes many of the things that help or hinder the growth of the bacteria.
See if your problem tank has any of the issues.

Fishless Cycle

Set up tank and equipment.
Fill with water, including dechlor.
Optimum conditions to grow these bacteria the fastest:
GH and KH at least 3 German degrees of hardness, and higher is just fine.
Add some other minerals, for example plant fertilizers: KH2PO4, trace minerals.
High oxygen levels.
Good water movement.
A place to grow. They grow on surfaces, not drifting free in the water. Filter media is great. Sponges, floss, bio-media are all good places for these bacteria.
You can add a starter culture of the right bacteria if you want. It is optional. The cycle can go faster if you add something. Media from a cycled, healthy filter. Bottled bacteria containing Nitrospira species of bacteria. Do not waste money on anything else.
Things that slow the growth of these bacteria are mostly the opposite of the things that grow them well, but also:
Soaps, detergents.
Perfumes, lotions, other cosmetics.
Medication, especially antibiotics that target Gram negative bacteria. Even if they are 'safe' in an established tank they might interfere with bacteria reproduction when you are wanting maximum growth.
Higher levels of ammonia or nitrite. 5 ppm maximum.

Add ammonia (no surfactants, no perfumes) to test 5 ppm.
Test daily. Add more ammonia to keep the test at 5 ppm through the first few days (if needed).
Test for nitrite. When nitrite shows up allow the ammonia to drop to 3 ppm.
Test daily, adding enough ammonia to bring the test to 3 ppm once a day. If you are growing plants that do not like this level of ammonia then test twice a day, and add enough ammonia to bring the test to 1 ppm twice a day.
If the nitrite gets to 5 ppm do a water change. Perhaps add less ammonia for a few days. The nitrite removing bacteria (Nitrospira species) are slower growing, and the ammonia removing bacteria might be making more nitrite than they can deal with.

When the ammonia returns to 0 ppm after 24 hours, and no nitrite shows up at that same 24 hour mark, then the cycle is done.
A fishless cycle with no plants might have VERY high nitrate. Do a BIG water change, or even a couple of them to get the nitrate way down before adding the fish. You can fully stock the tank.
A fishless cycle with lots of plants might show almost no nitrate. The plants are part of the bio filter, and are removing a certain amount of the ammonia before the bacteria even have a chance to turn it into nitrate, and then the plants are removing some or all of the nitrate produced by the bacteria. I would still do a big water change.

If the fish you want to keep need water different than the hard, alkaline water that grow the bacteria so well, now is the time to change that to softer, acidic water. While you were trying to grow the bacteria as fast as possible you wanted optimum conditions for the bacteria. Now that the colony is well established you can change the conditions. They might not grow so fast, but that is OK.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-02-2014, 05:19 AM Thread Starter
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Broke out the old fassion dip strips to check hardness.

Results:
GH 8
KH 3
PH 6.8
CL 0
NO2 0
NO3 10
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-02-2014, 06:58 PM Thread Starter
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Still 4ppm today. Anyone else have any ideas??
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-02-2014, 07:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yamaha1634 View Post
Still 4ppm today. Anyone else have any ideas??



so you have ammonia.. no nitrite and 10ppm nitrates??



Only cycled a few tanks but usually went through that progression..

Quote:
The ionized form, Ammonium (NH4), is present if the pH is below 7, and is not toxic to fish. The unionized form, Ammonia (NH3), is is present if the pH is 7 or above, and is highly toxic to fish. Any amount of unionized Ammonia (NH3) is dangerous, however once the levels reach 2 ppm, the fish are in grave danger. Ammonia usually begins rising by the third day after introducing fish.

Second stage: During this stage Nitrosomonas bacteria oxidize the ammonia, thus eliminating it. However, the by-product of ammonia oxidation is nitrite, which is also highly toxic to fish. Nitrites levels as low as low as 1 mg/l can be lethal to some fish. Nitrite usually begins rising by the end of the first week after introducing fish.

Third stage: In the last stage of the cycle, Nitrobacter bacteria convert the nitrites into nitrates. Nitrates are not highly toxic to fish in low to moderate levels. Routine partial water changes will keep the nitrate levels within the safe range. Established tanks should be tested for nitrates every few months to ensure that levels are not becoming extremely high.
Of course my initial pH was 7 or above..


Quote:
Nitrobacter have an optimum pH between 7.3 and 7.5,
Try raising the pH a bit.. no fish so put in a tad of NaOH and raise it to >7

Last edited by jeffkrol; 06-02-2014 at 07:26 PM. Reason: pH
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-02-2014, 07:19 PM Thread Starter
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Yup, used tap safe and left it for about an hour to make sure the tap safe circulated properly :-/
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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-02-2014, 07:32 PM Thread Starter
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I can't tell you how many times I've read through the steps of the ammonia and nitrite cycle and the steps on the fishless cycle and I'm coming up with nothing! Looks like somethings gone wrong somewhere. I do have more media available in the old tank, sponge and floss, only problem is that that tank has snails and I don't want any in this one, so I don't want to risk bringing any accross on the media :-(
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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-02-2014, 08:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yamaha1634 View Post
I can't tell you how many times I've read through the steps of the ammonia and nitrite cycle and the steps on the fishless cycle and I'm coming up with nothing! Looks like somethings gone wrong somewhere. I do have more media available in the old tank, sponge and floss, only problem is that that tank has snails and I don't want any in this one, so I don't want to risk bringing any accross on the media :-(
Quote:
If the fish you want to keep/need water different than the hard, alkaline water that grow the bacteria so well, now is the time to change that to softer, acidic water.
the pH thing is apparently questionable (from a quick search).. but it is a possibility..
CaOH would be another choice (slaked lime).. Would add some Ca to the water as well..

or wait..


I doubt if adding more bacteria at this point would matter..There is some there and it only takes a few days to "bloom" given the right conditions..

Just for reference:
Quote:
Low pH and Nitrification Important;
It is also noteworthy that the primary nitrifying bacteria are affected by pH.
Nitrification involving AOB & NOB bacteria is different at pH levels of above 7.0 versus below 6.0.

Toxic Ammonia (NH3) changes to ammonium under 6.0 and ammonium (non toxic NH4) switches back to toxic NH3 over 7.0
What is important, is nitrification rates are rapidly depressed as the pH is raised above 7.0 from pH levels under 6.0 until the nitrification process re-establishes itself at the higher pH

The cause of this change in the nitrification process is still not clearly understood.
From: High-Rate Nitrification at Low pH in Suspended- and Attached-Biomass Reactors
"(i) the feeding solution contained only inorganic salts and no direct organic substrate to support substantial heterotrophic growth;"

From the above article and quote, I would postulate that a change in Heterotrophic bacteria along with possible Redox Reactions or lack there of (a low pH below 6.0 is very oxidizing with little/no reduction which for this reason alone is not a healthy environment.
As well, Autotrophic bacterial adaptations may be part of this process and why there is an interruption in nitrification from changes in pH and between NH3 & NH4.
Since typical real world aquarium environments invariably are going to contain Heterotrophic bacteria (from fish food waste, etc.) and these tests seemed to lock out these Heterotrophic bacteria (using only ammonium chloride), this bacterium might be part of the cause.

Further pH/Nitrification Information:
During the nitrification process carbonates are used by the aquarium or pond to counter acids produced during nitrification (or other organic breakdown), however without an adequate KH (even for Amazon River Fish such as Discus or German Rams), subtle or even sudden changes in pH can occur that affects the nitrogen cycle
References:
Aquarium Chemistry; pH
http://www.americanaquariumproducts....gen_cycle.html
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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-02-2014, 08:22 PM Thread Starter
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So maybe my ph is too low for the bacteria to get a move on!!

I just did a little experiment as I was bored, filled a bucket with 10l of water, added the correct dose of the tap safe I have and stirred it arround, tested the chlorine in the water. Surprise surprise, chlorine is around 1ppm AFTER the dechlorinater!!!! May have just solved the problem! So I have put fresh established media into the new tank (now the chlorine has gone) and I will get new dechlorinator before my next water change!
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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-03-2014, 02:51 AM
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I would add baking soda or potassium bicarbonate to raise the KH. This will also raise the pH.

Get the KH up above 5, and even higher is better.

Note about post #9: The bacteria that turn NO2 into NO3 is Nitrospira, this was proven about 15 years ago.

The tests done at that time and since have been done in highly alkaline water, pH in the uppermost 7s to low 8s. That is where these bacteria grow the best.

After the cycle is complete, and the plants are thriving, you can alter the water conditions to suit the fish, including allowing the KH and pH to drop. Since you are no longer needing the bacteria to reproduce at their fastest rate it is OK if conditions are not optimum for them.
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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-03-2014, 03:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
I would add baking soda or potassium bicarbonate to raise the KH. This will also raise the pH.

Get the KH up above 5, and even higher is better.

Note about post #9: The bacteria that turn NO2 into NO3 is Nitrospira, this was proven about 15 years ago.

The tests done at that time and since have been done in highly alkaline water, pH in the uppermost 7s to low 8s. That is where these bacteria grow the best.

After the cycle is complete, and the plants are thriving, you can alter the water conditions to suit the fish, including allowing the KH and pH to drop. Since you are no longer needing the bacteria to reproduce at their fastest rate it is OK if conditions are not optimum for them.
correction noted re: bacteria..

as a side note.. what is the problem w/ NaOH????
I'd assume not buffering much till pH is higher.. otherwise you fight yourself..(sorry if this is a great error, my chemistry is quite rusty)

CaOH I assume has too much buffering???

Carbonate chemistry is too confusing..

seems the restriction is the lack of ammonium to ammonia and low concentration of nitrosomonas (or related)... correct??
back to the op...........

Quote:
At pH levels below 7.0, Nitrosomonas will grow more slowly and increases in ammonia may become evident. Nitrosomonas growth is inhibited at a pH of 6.5. All nitrification is inhibited if the pH drops to 6.0 or less. Care must be taken to monitor ammonia if the pH begins to drop close to 6.5.
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