Did I just now start cycling? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 05-30-2018, 02:18 AM Thread Starter
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Did I just now start cycling?

Hey folks,

For the past several months, I have had cloudy water which has made viewing my aquarium a very depressing thing and have come to the conclusion that I have either royally screwed something up or have done something that has caused my tank to go beyond the point of salvation.

So a little background. Started my first 20G long tank with the following gear about 4 months ago with the following gear:

-Pressurized CO2 running around 2.5 BPS for ~8 hrs a day
-Beamswork DA FSPEC LED Aquarium Light Pent Freshwater 0.50W is the sole source of light, sunlight does not reach the tank. On for about 9 hours a day
-ADA Aquasoil and sand are my only substrate

Seeing as how this was my 1st tank, I took it slow and decided I was not going to add livestock for a few months and I wanted to get my plants to root and spread. I have baby dwarf tears on the left side running all around the rocks and dwarf hair grass on the right. I have added Christmas moss in the back right and also some moss hair on the rocks and wood. Around March, I started to notice cloudy water and also had a lot of pond snails infest my tank. I did 50% weekly water changes, which would help temporarily, but it would come back in a few days.

I eventually added a couple of amazon swords and some cabombas in the back for background plants.

About a week ago, I decided to add livestock. I currently have:

3 Celebes Rainbow
10 Assassin Snails (to get rid of my pond snails for good)
2 swordtails
1 German Ram
5 Black Neon Tetras
2 Panda Corys
X Number of Pond Snails

During the 3 months of tank time with no livestock, I never added any ammonia to the tank, and did not go out of my way to attempt to cycle the tank, as I just wanted my plants to grow and stabilize and learn how to dose and CO2, etc etc.

Before I added the livestock, the water was cloudy. Thus, I did a 100% water change and went away on vacation for 6 days, hoping that when I returned, my water would look the same and be relatively clear, which it did, but soon the cloudiness returned. I decided to do 10-20% daily water changes in the hopes that it would go away to no avail. Yesterday, I cleaned my filter once again (squished the sponge in tank water was all I did) and returned it to the HOB filter. I also added a bag of Purigen and filter floss to the filter, hoping that would help.

I have had the livestock in my tank for about 3 days now, and so far all seem perfectly healthy. All the fish I have purchased have begun to start eating and behaving normally immediately after acclimating them to the tank water. I only have API Master Kit Test liquids for Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate testing, and these have been reading 0,0,0 for the past several days. I also intermittently measured my water parameters during the past few months while growing my plants and they always measured 0,0,0.

Today, I came home from a long day at work hoping that the Purigen and water changes over the past few days have helped. I came back to the same cloudy mess I went to bed with last night. The Purigen does not seem to be helping (and from my quick googling, Purigen either starts working pretty quickly or doesn't work in the case of bacterial blooms, which I am starting to believe I have.) I also remeasured my paramaters, and once again it's 0,0,0...I figured adding all the fish should have spiked my ammonia or done something to it, but no changes even with all the fish being in there and being fed, etc. (I also made sure to bang the nitrate #2 bottle pretty hard before testing..)

Also, my tank shows no visible signs of any green algae whatsoever. Not on the glass, wood, rocks, or plants. So I do not believe this is green water.

I guess the final questions I have is this - Am I going into a cycle now that actually have livestock? Why are my parameters not showing much change after a few days of 10+ fish in my tank? Will this bacterial bloom go away once I am done cycling? Should I even attempt to do any more water changes at this point or will that just prolong it? Do I have too much dead matter from my plants in the tank and need to remove it (and if so, am I going to have to tear apart my dense carpet, or is there any way I can solve this without destroying my carpet? How does one clean a dense carpet of baby dwarf tears without ripping them apart?) Or am I just going to have to wait for the dust to settle and hope my filter does its job?

Thank you for taking time to read this long novel, but I am exasperated about the condition of my water which continues to cloud...I would greatly appreciate any and all advice you all may have in order to solve my cloudiness problem. Thank you!
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 05-30-2018, 05:41 AM
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being that you haven't started a cycle yet you have a bacterial bloom of heterotrophic bacteria. this type lives off of decaying matter in the tank. they reproduce faster than autotrophic bacteria (the bacteria involved in the nitrogen cycle) water changes will help temporarily but the bacteria will quickly reproduce and you'll have cloudy water again. the best solution is to cycle your tank and make sure there's no decaying matter like dead plants and uneaten food. adding fish to your tank that in uncycled was not the best idea but you can still perform a fish in cycle. keep an eye on your water parameters and do water changes as need until your tank is cycled and the cloudiness should clear up.

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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 05-30-2018, 07:27 AM
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Are you sure the plants are happy and growing? Related to organic matter in the water - I had cloudy water that improved over a few months as I learnt to fertilise enough to support the plants growth. Now the water is crystal clear.

Good luck with it!


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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 05-30-2018, 10:02 AM
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Good looking tank.

You are in a Catch 22 situation. Here is what is going on: before fish, the plants were (and still are) living off nutrients from AquaSoil. With addition of fish, the plants are using up all ammonia produced by fish, preventing the start of the cycle. The problem is that you cannot add additional ammonia because you now have fish. The cloudy water is indeed a bacterial bloom, common in un-cycled tanks. You could add some extra fish food to slightly spike the ammonia but that would make the bloom worse - plants still using up ammonia, bacteria gets extra organics to feed off, and nutrifying bacteria is still left out of the food chain.

The good news is that with your current plants to fish ratio, you are at 0-0-0 and the fish are ok.

I see 4 ways to break the circle, none are quick:

- buy, borrow, steal media from an existing cycled tank (I personally not too keen on bacteria in a bottle products). Now you will have a race between plants and nutrifying bacteria for ammonia. Even if the bacteria gets some, the cycle will not be short and the possibility of the cycle is still iffy.

- take a chance on the bacterial bloom and start overfeeding the tank to bring the ammonia to around 0.25 - 0.5 ppm. The bacterial bloom gets worse but the cycle starts. Once it is complete, the bacterial bloom goes down / away.

- take care of the bacterial bloom first by trying to minimize it's food source. Take a turkey baster and either attach it to a a 1/2" hose or use both hands. Start syphon with the hose, gently squeeze the buster to blow out junk from the carpet and into the hose. Pretty labor and time intensive with iffy results (as hard as you try, there will still remain organics to feed the bloom).

- trim both carpets to substrate. They will grow back stronger then ever. Syphon out the organics with a hose, hopefully leaving little food for the bacterial bloom. Spike the ammonia a bit - now you have less competition for ammonia from the plants, more left for the nutrifying bacteria colony to grow. If you could now get used media then so much the better.

BUMP:

- or you can try UV to kill of the bloom and then start the cycle.

Best of luck, you can do it.

Last edited by OVT; 05-30-2018 at 10:15 AM. Reason: bump
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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 05-30-2018, 10:33 AM
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After three month's with the aquasoil,there is/was no doubt, healthy bacterial colony .
Aquasoil alone could cycle the tank, and feed the plants for some time.
The cloudy water could be result of dirty filter material and saw no mention of what type of filtration or how often it was/is being cleaned.
After addition of nearly two dozen fishes in a week or two?(slow and gradual over weeks is better.
I would expect another bacteria bloom which in my view would be normal.
As mentioned,,the three month's that OP fought cloudy water initially could have also been bacteria blooming as result of ammonia leaching from the aquasoil and perhaps dirty filter material.
One might think that with no fishes present,that the filter material should not be dirty ,but speaking from soil based tanks,the material can get fairly dirty for first few month's.
Same with some caps over soils, or mixed with soils like clay, cat litter,safe-t-sorb.
Were it me,I would just stay on top of water changes now that fishes are present and let tank mature at it's own pace.
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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 05-30-2018, 01:46 PM
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I saw no mention of water source or it's base parameters (KH and GH) nor the temperature. Being as you are using ADA substrate and injecting CO2 from the start, your pH could be very low. That would explain the stalled cycle. Nitrifying bacteria colonizes and thrives in harder waters with higher temperatures. They are terribly inefficient in soft water. Just a thought.
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 05-30-2018, 02:32 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OVT View Post

I see 4 ways to break the circle, none are quick:

- buy, borrow, steal media from an existing cycled tank (I personally not too keen on bacteria in a bottle products). Now you will have a race between plants and nutrifying bacteria for ammonia. Even if the bacteria gets some, the cycle will not be short and the possibility of the cycle is still iffy.

- take a chance on the bacterial bloom and start overfeeding the tank to bring the ammonia to around 0.25 - 0.5 ppm. The bacterial bloom gets worse but the cycle starts. Once it is complete, the bacterial bloom goes down / away.

- take care of the bacterial bloom first by trying to minimize it's food source. Take a turkey baster and either attach it to a a 1/2" hose or use both hands. Start syphon with the hose, gently squeeze the buster to blow out junk from the carpet and into the hose. Pretty labor and time intensive with iffy results (as hard as you try, there will still remain organics to feed the bloom).

- trim both carpets to substrate. They will grow back stronger then ever. Syphon out the organics with a hose, hopefully leaving little food for the bacterial bloom. Spike the ammonia a bit - now you have less competition for ammonia from the plants, more left for the nutrifying bacteria colony to grow. If you could now get used media then so much the better.

BUMP:

- or you can try UV to kill of the bloom and then start the cycle.

Best of luck, you can do it.
Thank you for the lengthy response! I definitely do want to start the cycle then ASAP. After reading your 4 options, I feel like maybe I can do a combination of these. As I do not have media from an established cycled tank, I may ask my LFS to see if they are willing to donate. Additionally, I am leaning towards the option of kickstarting the cycle by overfeeding. I have already begun to notice many of my fish defecating, which should add more ammonia as well. How would you rate the options you provided in order of best to worst option to kickstart the cycle?

As hard as it would be to trim away all the growth of my plants I've patiently worked hard on, I may trim my dwarf hair grass down to substrate as it grows back much faster than the HC. If I were to attempt to trim my HC back down to substrate, what would be the most efficient way to trim it without making a mess and without completing emptying my tank..? It's definitely grown out and upwards about 2 to 3 inches over a wide area, but I have a feeling I would get HC leaves everywhere in my tank and filter if I just started snipping away.

So as a bottom line, I am leaning towards trimming my hairgrass on the right side of the tank and clean up anything in that area, begin to overfeed and expect the bacterial bloom to continue blooming, and try to borrow some media. Additionally, should I continue to perform water changes and how often?

Bump:
Quote:
Originally Posted by nickquinteros View Post
being that you haven't started a cycle yet you have a bacterial bloom of heterotrophic bacteria. this type lives off of decaying matter in the tank. they reproduce faster than autotrophic bacteria (the bacteria involved in the nitrogen cycle) water changes will help temporarily but the bacteria will quickly reproduce and you'll have cloudy water again. the best solution is to cycle your tank and make sure there's no decaying matter like dead plants and uneaten food. adding fish to your tank that in uncycled was not the best idea but you can still perform a fish in cycle. keep an eye on your water parameters and do water changes as need until your tank is cycled and the cloudiness should clear up.

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It does look like I am going to have to cycle it. Thanks for replying!

Bump:
Quote:
Originally Posted by roadmaster View Post
After three month's with the aquasoil,there is/was no doubt, healthy bacterial colony .
Aquasoil alone could cycle the tank, and feed the plants for some time.
The cloudy water could be result of dirty filter material and saw no mention of what type of filtration or how often it was/is being cleaned.
After addition of nearly two dozen fishes in a week or two?(slow and gradual over weeks is better.
I would expect another bacteria bloom which in my view would be normal.
As mentioned,,the three month's that OP fought cloudy water initially could have also been bacteria blooming as result of ammonia leaching from the aquasoil and perhaps dirty filter material.
One might think that with no fishes present,that the filter material should not be dirty ,but speaking from soil based tanks,the material can get fairly dirty for first few month's.
Same with some caps over soils, or mixed with soils like clay, cat litter,safe-t-sorb.
Were it me,I would just stay on top of water changes now that fishes are present and let tank mature at it's own pace.
I will admit, my filtration hasn't been cleaned on a constant basis. I've left the same sponge I've been using in there and now will be squishing it in tank water every 3 weeks or so. My filtration now is just a normal HOB filter with a sponge, a purigen filter, the stock white cubes that come with it, and a filter floss on top of that.

I am willing to be patient and let nature take its course, if I do nothing and sit back, how often should I be performing water changes and how much each time? Thank you!
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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 05-30-2018, 02:50 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madcrafted View Post
I saw no mention of water source or it's base parameters (KH and GH) nor the temperature. Being as you are using ADA substrate and injecting CO2 from the start, your pH could be very low. That would explain the stalled cycle. Nitrifying bacteria colonizes and thrives in harder waters with higher temperatures. They are terribly inefficient in soft water. Just a thought.
This is actually quite possible, as I do not have the correct testing equipment to measure the base parameters such as KH/GH/pH. I keep my water temperature with my heater at 78 degrees. What product would you recommend I purchase in order to test these 3 parameters? Thank you!
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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 05-30-2018, 03:01 PM
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I would just purchase the API KH/GH test kit. It comes with both in the kit. For pH, I just use one of those cheap yellow pH pens off of amazon for like $10-15. As long as you keep them calibrated on occasion, they work well. Much better than using drops and color charts.
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 05-30-2018, 03:56 PM
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Weekly 50 % water changes 35% minimum.
Fishes will provide for bacterial development from waste they create as well as foods offered.
I would NOT be tempted to over feed, but rather feed the fish a small amount once every couple day's.
Swish the filter pads around in tank water you take out during water changes to clean , and replace or clean the fine filter floss frequently.
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post #11 of 26 (permalink) Old 05-30-2018, 09:43 PM
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Trimming a carpet is a chore: turn off the filters, trim, collect floating trimmings (a fish net helps), turn the filters back on.

Baby tears carpets will separate from substrate and float up if not kept reasonably short.
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post #12 of 26 (permalink) Old 05-30-2018, 10:13 PM
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did I miss it? What is your pH?
You are getting a lot of organic waste in the water..

Nitrates should not be zero at this point..
The only time I had a bad bacterial bloom is when I acidified my tank filter w/ CO2 and it wiped out the bene. bact..

But that should clear in a week or so tops usually..
suspect your driftwood and aquasoil is "leaking" ..

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post #13 of 26 (permalink) Old 05-31-2018, 02:00 AM Thread Starter
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All,

I ordered some testing materials off of Amazon for free same - day shipping (prime is good, prime is great). The following are my water parameters as of today at 8:50 CST:

Ammonia: There is just the slightest hint of green tinge, so I believe it may be at 0.1 ppm.
Nitrite: no change here still showing 0.
Nitrate: absolutely no change, as yellow as can be: 0.
pH: hovering around a 7.4, used both a dropper test and a pH pen
KH: It took me 8 drops using API test kit to turn from blue to yellow. According to the conversion chart, this is equivalent to 143.2 ppm.
GH: It took me 13 drops using API test kit. This was literally off the charts to to turn from orange to green.

Also, I returned home today to even cloudier water. I moved the filter towards the middle of the tank to where I thought it might be able to pick up more particles as well. I have a powerhead flowing in the back left corner aimed at the filter as well which is definitely causing good water agitation for gas exchange and forcing water to turn clockwise.

Based on these results, what can I do to kickstart my cycle? Should I do any water changes? Let it continue to sit? Do water changes daily? I am willing to be patient and let the tank mature and wait it out, but I want to make sure that's the right thing to do here...Thank you all for your input so far! Updated pics of tank below:
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post #14 of 26 (permalink) Old 05-31-2018, 03:29 AM
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Damned if you do, damned if you dont.

My next concern is the plants running out of nutrients. When they do you will have a whole another set of problems. I would get macro and micro fertilizers on hand but not use them yet. Here is one place to get them Aquarium Fertilizer | NilocG Aquatics.

Meanwhile, more frequent watter changes will make the situation worse, not better.

For the next several days I would play it by ear: keep testing for ammonia. My hope would be that the new fish population and normal feeding would make the ammonia go up and start the cycle. If the ammonia goes above 0.5, do a water change. If the ammonia stays close to 0, then you are where you were several days ago.
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post #15 of 26 (permalink) Old 05-31-2018, 04:05 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by OVT View Post
Damned if you do, damned if you dont.

My next concern is the plants running out of nutrients. When they do you will have a whole another set of problems. I would get macro and micro fertilizers on hand but not use them yet. Here is one place to get them Aquarium Fertilizer | NilocG Aquatics.

Meanwhile, more frequent watter changes will make the situation worse, not better.

For the next several days I would play it by ear: keep testing for ammonia. My hope would be that the new fish population and normal feeding would make the ammonia go up and start the cycle. If the ammonia goes above 0.5, do a water change. If the ammonia stays close to 0, then you are where you were several days ago.
I currently actually have Flourish and Flourish Excel on hand. I was dosing these on alternate days while waiting for my plants to root and spread about 2 months ago. I stopped dosing on alternate days about a month ago and just intermittently dosed as my plants were starting to grow exponentially. I stopped dosing roughly 6 days ago when I got my first fish and began to experience cloudiness. Would you recommend having any other nutrients handy? So far, both my DHG and HC just want to keep spreading and the colors appear healthy.

I'll feed as normal and cut back on water changes. Will update in a few days..hopefully my parameters move somewhere. Based on my test results above, should I attempt to change the pH levels/hardness/ etc in any way?
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