Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Contra Costa CA
Overfeeding a tank with a good bacteria population:
Ammonia may show up for a tiny blip (missed by the caretaker).
Nitrite may show up for a tiny blip (missed by the caretaker).
The bacteria catch up very quickly to a slight increase in their food supply.
Overfeeding a heavily planted tank:
None of the nitrogen molecules show up. Plants grab the ammonia as soon as it is available, so very little of it gets turned into nitrite or nitrate by the bacteria.
More severe overfeeding or a tank with a questionable bacteria population, or slower growing plants: ammonia shows up, followed by nitrite, then nitrate.
Bacteria do not catch up that fast, and the plants are not growing so strongly as to be able to help out that much.
What actually happens may be anything in between, so the simple answer is:
Yes. The tanks were over fed.
Next time use little cups, (I like Coffee-mate creamers) or daily pill sorters so the caretaker cannot over feed the tanks.