I've been trying to cycle this tank for about a month, and it still has very high nitrites. Ammonia has gone down, so I guess that's good, but nitrites are off the chart. Not sure what it's going to take to bring them down as I've been changing the water frequently.
Anyway, by way of background, I bought the tank off Craigslist. I came filled with kitschy decorations and broken equipment.
I painted the tank white, redid the silicone sealant along the edges, and put in some turface for substrate with a layer of peat below the turface. I got miracle grow peat with fertilizer in it, puzzled as to why that would be bad. Everyone seems to add ferts to the soil anyway, so why not just have them in there to begin with? Perhaps that's my problem with nitrite.
I forgot I had ordered some bacter100 and so I ended up putting that in after some of the water was added. Probably means it didn't work at all.
Bought a couple more lacerock stones from a local guy who collects in southern Utah. They look good. I tried vinegar on the rock and didn't see any bubbling, so hopefully they are not a mistake.
Finally added a few plants right after Thanksgiving. I hooked up a yeast DIY reactor and the very next day there was visible growth, which was pretty exciting.
Dec 1 2011:
Dec 2 2011:
Since then it's been a cycle of crazy bacterial and algae weirdness, that I assume must be somewhat typical for what happens while cycling. I've had hair algae, green stuff on the glass, brown stuff on the glass, brown slime on the leaves, brown crumbs (I assume diatoms?) on the leaves. So, I just watch and keep waiting, but I'm now coming up on a month since putting the water in. And the nitrites are still sky high. I don't want to add fish until it's safe. It's taking forever.
Here's how it looks now:
Parameters have been tricky. My tap water is ph 9. My tank has been between 6 and 7, presumably because of the peat. Carbonate hardness has been nearly zero. GH is 8. Temp is around 78. With that low carbonate and that big of a difference in ph between the tap and the tank, I imagine there are huge fluctuations in pH with water changes contributing to the erratic algae and plant growth.
For lighting I have a SHO bulb and an LED, both in DIY fixtures sitting on plexiglass. (Hefty trash cans... classy, I know). I'm sort of experimenting with which one has better growth from the plants nearby and then I'll probably make the light uniform.
Anyway, I ended up taking the bacter100 and putting it into some gelcaps and sticking it in the soil in a few places today. I don't know if that will help, but I'm kind of lost as to why the nitrite is not budging after a few weeks of running. it's all an ongoing experiment with uneven light, uneven CO2 dosing with a yeast reactor, fluctuating pH, and one each of 5 plant species. Looking forward to the fish... someday. But this has always been intended as a planted tank and things seem to be going surprisingly well, all things considered.