Something doesn't seem right with these results - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-18-2014, 06:18 AM Thread Starter
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Something doesn't seem right with these results

I started a dirted tank 2 days ago. I let the soil soak in the tank for 1 day before capping and then filled it up after the cap. I then did a 90% water change today to remove any excess nutrients/oil slick from the soil and also the Black Diamond blasting media. I then did a test as it would be the first time to run my filter with a seeded sponge. I tested before I turned on my filter and here are the results.

pH = 8
Ammonia = 0.5ppm
Nitrite = 2ppm
Nitrate = between 20ppm and 30ppm

I thought it was really odd to see nitrite and nitrate already but came up with this theory. When I opened the bag of organic potting mix, the soil was somewhat moist, not saturated but somewhat packable. Is it possible that the soil could have had nitrite and nitrate already in it or is this idea I got in my head completely off?

I haven't tested my water out of the tap yet but from my previous location I lived, same city, the readings were the same in pH and Ammonia but 0 in nitrite and nitrate.

Sorry for the book but thanks for your help.
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-18-2014, 06:44 AM
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Sometimes a book is the right thing. Sorry I have no experience/w dirt to help on that with, but I just dropped in to say I'm watching this thread because I'm soon to be in the same spot as you with my own new build. Also to ask if you have done this before especially in the Black Diamond part as in how do you like it for planting in.
If you checked the water first is a question they might ask and they might ask about what type of dirt.

The shortest distance between any two points is a straight line...in the opposite direction...
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-18-2014, 06:59 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Raymond S. View Post
Sometimes a book is the right thing. Sorry I have no experience/w dirt to help on that with, but I just dropped in to say I'm watching this thread because I'm soon to be in the same spot as you with my own new build. Also to ask if you have done this before especially in the Black Diamond part as in how do you like it for planting in.
If you checked the water first is a question they might ask and they might ask about what type of dirt.
I have done a similar build except on a 10 gallon and I used a relatively small size pea pebble on that one. Smaller than what you find at your local hardware stores for landscaping. My dad said it was some commercial grade paving sand or something like that (snagged some from him that he had left over when I was visiting). I did plant a couple plants in the black diamond and I am really digging it. It seems to hold the plants in really good, even on some shallow planted stems (just a test to see how well it holds with my filter on).

Yes I forgot to mention I am using your standard Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix. I didn't have these initial results right away on the 10 gallon but my nitrites did show up after a few days (was basically cycled in 2 weeks would have been quicker but I let the nitrites get way to high).
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-18-2014, 07:11 AM
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Me thinks possible organics in the soil would render ammonia which would then be converted by bacteria (from seed material) to nitrites and then nitrAtes.
Sounds about normal to me.
I would add more plants and some more seed material.
With enough plants,you would see hardly any ammonia /nitrites,and very little Nitrates.
After a couple weeks,I would slowly begin placing fishes in the tank after quarantine.

See.. "silent cycling of aquariums" Would save a lot of folks some time.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-18-2014, 07:49 AM
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Smile What Roadmaster said

Me thinks I agree entirely with roadmaster.

Joe
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-18-2014, 01:58 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by roadmaster View Post
Me thinks possible organics in the soil would render ammonia which would then be converted by bacteria (from seed material) to nitrites and then nitrAtes.
Sounds about normal to me.
I would add more plants and some more seed material.
With enough plants,you would see hardly any ammonia /nitrites,and very little Nitrates.
After a couple weeks,I would slowly begin placing fishes in the tank after quarantine.

See.. "silent cycling of aquariums" Would save a lot of folks some time.
Thanks for the response. I was hoping to hear something along these lines. Unfortunately I don't have any more seed material besides the plants coming from an established tank, but it will be a hefty load of plants. Thanks for the help.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-19-2014, 12:25 AM
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Organic potting soil has chicken manure in it. Chicken manure has uric acid in it. Uric acid is broken down into ammonia...
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-19-2014, 03:42 AM
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Ditto the concepts above.
Something in the soil had enough ammonia to keep the bacteria alive.
These bacteria live in the garden, as long as the soil is even slightly moist, they do not need to be under water.
A slightly damp bag of potting soil with a trace of ammonia would be acceptable to them, I think.

Anyway, continue to monitor the parameters. When soil is first submerged it goes through about a month long cycle of all sorts of microorganisms living and dying. Some like it under water, others hate it. And it takes a while for them to sort out who is living and who is dying.

Go ahead and plant the tank, and do the fishless cycle. If there is not enough ammonia to keep the nitrifying bacteria alive, then dose ammonia.

here is the fishless cycle:
Cycle: To grow the beneficial bacteria that remove ammonia and nitrite from the aquarium.

Fish-In Cycle: To expose fish to toxins while using them as the source of ammonia to grow nitrogen cycle bacteria. Exposure to ammonia burns the gills and other soft tissue, stresses the fish and lowers their immunity. Exposure to nitrite makes the blood unable to carry oxygen. Research methemglobinemia for details.

Fishless Cycle: The safe way to grow more bacteria, faster, in an aquarium, pond or riparium.

The method I give here was developed by 2 scientists who wanted to quickly grow enough bacteria to fully stock a tank all at one time, with no plants helping, and overstock it as is common with Rift Lake Cichlid tanks.

1a) Set up the tank and all the equipment. You can plant if you want. Include the proper dose of dechlorinator with the water.
Optimum water chemistry:
GH and KH above 3 German degrees of hardness. A lot harder is just fine.
pH above 7, and into the mid 8s is just fine.
Temperature in the upper 70s F (mid 20s C) is good. Higher is OK if the water is well aerated.
A trace of other minerals may help. Usually this comes in with the water, but if you have a pinch of KH2PO4, that may be helpful.
High oxygen level. Make sure the filter and power heads are running well. Plenty of water circulation.
No toxins in the tank. If you washed the tank, or any part of the system with any sort of cleanser, soap, detergent, bleach or anything else make sure it is well rinsed. Do not put your hands in the tank when you are wearing any sort of cosmetics, perfume or hand lotion. No fish medicines of any sort.
A trace of salt (sodium chloride) is OK, but not required.
This method of growing bacteria will work in a marine system, too. The species of bacteria are different.

1b) Optional: Add any source of the bacteria that you are growing to seed the tank. Cycled media from a healthy tank is good. Decor or some gravel from a cycled tank is OK. Live plants or plastic are OK. Bottled bacteria is great, but only if it contains Nitrospira species of bacteria. Read the label and do not waste your money on anything else.
At the time this was written the right species could be found in:
Dr. Tims One and Only
Tetra Safe Start
Microbe Lift Nite Out II
...and perhaps others.
You do not have to jump start the cycle. The right species of bacteria are all around, and will find the tank pretty fast.

2) Add ammonia until the test reads 5 ppm. This ammonia is the cheapest you can find. No surfactants, no perfumes. Read the fine print. This is often found at discount stores like Dollar Tree, or hardware stores like Ace. You could also use a dead shrimp form the grocery store, or fish food. Protein breaks down to become ammonia. You do not have good control over the ammonia level, though.
Some substrates release ammonia when they are submerged for the first time. Monitor the level and do enough water changes to keep the ammonia at the levels detailed below.

3) Test daily. For the first few days not much will happen, but the bacteria that remove ammonia are getting started. Finally the ammonia starts to drop. Add a little more, once a day, to test 5 ppm.

4) Test for nitrite. A day or so after the ammonia starts to drop the nitrite will show up. When it does allow the ammonia to drop to 3 ppm.

5) Test daily. Add ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. If the nitrite or ammonia go to 5 ppm do a water change to get these lower. The ammonia removing species and the nitrite removing species (Nitrospira) do not do well when the ammonia or nitrite are over 5 ppm.

6) When the ammonia and nitrite both hit zero 24 hours after you have added the ammonia the cycle is done. You can challenge the bacteria by adding a bit more than 3 ppm ammonia, and it should be able to handle that, too, within 24 hours.

7) Now test the nitrate. Probably sky high!
Do as big a water change as needed to lower the nitrate until it is safe for fish. Certainly well under 20, and a lot lower is better. This may call for more than one water change, and up to 100% water change is not a problem. Remember the dechlor!
If you will be stocking right away (within 24 hours) no need to add more ammonia. If stocking will be delayed keep feeding the bacteria by adding ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. You will need to do another water change right before adding the fish.
__________________________

Helpful hints:

A) You can run a fishless cycle in a bucket to grow bacteria on almost any filter media like bio balls, sponges, ceramic bio noodles, lava rock or Matala mats. Simply set up any sort of water circulation such as a fountain pump or air bubbler and add the media to the bucket. Follow the directions for the fishless cycle. When the cycle is done add the media to the filter. I have run a canister filter in a bucket and done the fishless cycle.

B) The nitrogen cycle bacteria will live under a wide range of conditions and bounce back from minor set backs. By following the set up suggestions in part 1b) you are setting up optimum conditions for fastest reproduction and growth.
GH and KH can be as low as 1 degree, but watch it! These bacteria use the carbon in carbonates, and if it is all used up (KH = 0) the bacteria may die off.
pH as low as 6.5 is OK, but by 6.0 the bacteria are not going to be doing very well. They are still there, and will recover pretty well when conditions get better.
Temperature almost to freezing is OK, but they must not freeze, and they are not very active at all. They do survive in a pond, but they are slow to warm up and get going in the spring. This is where you might need to grow some in a bucket in a warm place and supplement the pond population. Too warm is not good, either. Tropical or room temperature tank temperatures are best. (68 to 85*F or 20 to 28*C)
Moderate oxygen can be tolerated for a while. However, to remove lots of ammonia and nitrite these bacteria must have oxygen. They turn one into the other by adding oxygen. If you must stop running the filter for an hour or so, no problem. If longer, remove the media and keep it where it will get more oxygen.
Once the bacteria are established they can tolerate some fish medicines. This is because they live in a complex film called Bio film on all the surfaces in the filter and the tank. Medicines do not enter the bio film well.
These bacteria do not need to live under water. They do just fine in a humid location. They live in healthy garden soil, as well as wet locations.

C) Planted tanks may not tolerate 3 ppm or 5 ppm ammonia. It is possible to cycle the tank at lower levels of ammonia so the plants do not get ammonia burn. Add ammonia to only 1 ppm, but test twice a day, and add ammonia as needed to keep it at 1 ppm. The plants are also part of the bio filter, and you may be able to add the fish sooner, if the plants are thriving.
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-19-2014, 04:13 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the help. I will definitely keep my eye on my params and follow these instructions.
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-30-2014, 02:49 PM Thread Starter
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Well for about 1 week I was getting a constant 0.5ppm reading in ammonia and 2ppm reading in nitrite. Sunday evening when I tested, my Ammonia was 0 and my Nitrite was at 0.25. I dosed my ammonia back up to 1ppm and it did drop in 24 hours but didn't drop as much as I wanted it to. I am going to keep on dosing until I can get a 24 hour turnaround on ammonia and nitrite. If I had to guess, I have about 1 more week of cycling. This would put me at 2.5 weeks of cycling.

I do have a question though, since it is dirt substrate, should I wait longer before I do a light stocking to strengthen the beneficial bacteria or once I get a 24 hour turnaround should I be good. I am just not sure as from what I read which enforces what Diana said, soil can take a month for the microorganisms to decide what they want to do, possibly die and release more Ammonia.
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