Fishless cycling casues pH spike? - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 12:36 AM Thread Starter
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Fishless cycling casues pH spike?

Hello everyone,
I just started cycling my new 50 gallon tank today, using the fishless method described here http://www.aquahobby.com/articles/e_fishless.php and many other places on the internet as I am sure you all know. I added 1/2 cup of just regular ammonia with no additives or surfactants and tested my water for ammonia about 2-3 hours later. The good news is ammonia is sitting just above 3ppm, but what got my attention was that pH is off the charts (greater than 9.0) . Before I added the ammonia, is was sitting right at 7.0 which is normal for the tap water around here.

My question is, should this be expected when using this method? I would imagine so since everything I can find online about the pH of ammonia says somewhere around 11 or 12. I am just worried that such a basic pH will cause a stall in my cycle, and I should be doing something to bring down the pH.
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 11:48 AM
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I really hoped someone who has done the fishless cycle would weigh in, as I have not. So this is just an educated guess, but I think it should be fine to just let it ride. As the ammonia is oxidized, the pH will come down and a low pH is more harmful to the cycling micro-beasties than a high one. I'm wondering how the plants will handle the pH swing?
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 01:25 PM
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I've done lots of fishless cycles and to be honest I never even tested my Ph. I really wouldn't worry about it.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by cassidy1190 View Post
Hello everyone,
I just started cycling my new 50 gallon tank today, using the fishless method described here http://www.aquahobby.com/articles/e_fishless.php and many other places on the internet as I am sure you all know. I added 1/2 cup of just regular ammonia with no additives or surfactants and tested my water for ammonia about 2-3 hours later. The good news is ammonia is sitting just above 3ppm, but what got my attention was that pH is off the charts (greater than 9.0) . Before I added the ammonia, is was sitting right at 7.0 which is normal for the tap water around here.

My question is, should this be expected when using this method? I would imagine so since everything I can find online about the pH of ammonia says somewhere around 11 or 12. I am just worried that such a basic pH will cause a stall in my cycle, and I should be doing something to bring down the pH.
Never done a fishless cycle but I know a lower pH is a lot harder to start than a higher one. Trying cycling with 5.5pH. lol. Takes forever for the bacteria to get a hold.

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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 03:03 PM
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Are you sure that adding the ammonia caused the change? If you are testing your water straight out of the tap as your baseline that could be your problem.

Take the water from the tap and aerate it for 24 hours and check it. It is possible that your water is holding a lot of CO2 which lowers the PH from carbonic acid. Once it is blown off the PH will rise. If it goes to over 9 your water is likely too hard to grow plants and you will need RO, check the hardness. The natural cycle of a heavy fish load will drop PH maybe .5 through the by-product of nitric acid but you are not even in the ballpark and water is probably too hard. HTH.
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 04:22 PM Thread Starter
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Ha.. I’m guess I am one of the only people who would test pH after cycling with ammonia. I am sure it must be the ammonia as it is so basic, that even adding a little can probably have this effect on pH. Brian Mc brings up a good point, but fortunately I know it’s not my tap. I have tested it before and it is actually quite neutral and very soft, same goes for my other 20 gallon tank which has a pretty constant pH of slightly less and 7 due to CO2 injection. As for having plants in the tank, there are very few. Good thing, because even after 12 hours of sitting in a very basic pH they are not looking too good. Will be interesting to see if they come back though. I suppose I just need to wait this one out. I’ll let everyone know what happens! It should cycle rather quickly as I have a decent amount of bacteria filled filter media from the other tank in the new filter.
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 04:29 PM
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Ahh gotcha, didn't know you had other tanks sorry. Yeah I would wait closer til time for the fish to go in and I bet it will drop.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-14-2012, 04:40 AM
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Ammonium hydroxide is highly alkaline, +13pH almost like lye, so it's not surprising that your pH is so high. I figure after the tank is cycled, the ammonia won't ever build up enough to throw off your pH. I'm not going to bother checking my pH until the tank is fully cycled.

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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-14-2012, 04:58 AM
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Just finished my fishless cycle and I never cared about the ph because it doesn't matter. theres no fish. I just checked it before getting fish and it was normal range.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-14-2012, 05:31 PM
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...tap... tested... quite neutral and very soft...
The bacteria need some minerals.
Make sure the GH and KH are over 3 German degrees of hardness.
They grow best in alkaline pH, and are OK down to about 6.5. Best to have the pH higher rather than lower.
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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-15-2012, 06:50 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the feedback everyone. Haven't been on here in a while, but since my last post ammonia is now completely gone after 12 hours or so. I think my success here was due to dosing up the gH to around 5 degrees using Seachem Equilibrium. I could tell my plants really appreciated the raised mineral content as well. Along with regular dosing of flourish, flourish trace, DIY CO2, and some root tabs they are really filling in nicely! I understand having plants should help with the cycle as well.

My only issue now is I'm stuck at the nitrIte<nitrAte phase of the cycle. My nitrItes are off the charts always. Unlike other posts I've seen though, there are nitrAtes present as well, around 10ppm. I suppose there are some bacteria converting my nitrItes but the colony really hasn't boomed yet. Ive stopped dosing the ammonia for the past two days and Im thinking of trying a large water change in another two days if nothing changes. This has been for about two weeks now of unreadable high nitrItes and relatively low nitrAtes.
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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-15-2012, 07:07 PM
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Do a large water change and dose with more ammonia and test again over the next couple days.
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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-15-2012, 07:08 PM
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Originally Posted by cassidy1190 View Post
Thanks for all the feedback everyone. Haven't been on here in a while, but since my last post ammonia is now completely gone after 12 hours or so. I think my success here was due to dosing up the gH to around 5 degrees using Seachem Equilibrium. I could tell my plants really appreciated the raised mineral content as well. Along with regular dosing of flourish, flourish trace, DIY CO2, and some root tabs they are really filling in nicely! I understand having plants should help with the cycle as well.

My only issue now is I'm stuck at the nitrIte<nitrAte phase of the cycle. My nitrItes are off the charts always. Unlike other posts I've seen though, there are nitrAtes present as well, around 10ppm. I suppose there are some bacteria converting my nitrItes but the colony really hasn't boomed yet. Ive stopped dosing the ammonia for the past two days and Im thinking of trying a large water change in another two days if nothing changes. This has been for about two weeks now of unreadable high nitrItes and relatively low nitrAtes.
Keep dosing the ammonia the entire time if you plan to go ahead with full stocking immediately after your cycle is complete.
Shouldn't be more than 2-5 days to go at this point.


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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-15-2012, 10:44 PM
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nitrItes are off the charts always
Do enough water changes to keep the nitrites under 5 ppm. The bacteria do not grow well in higher nitrites. Do not worry about the nitrate until the rest of the cycle is done. Keep feeding the ammonia to the bacteria, aiming for about 3 ppm. That should keep the bacteria fed without triggering too high a spike in nitrite.
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