Hello everyone. I hope I am putting this in the right place, if not feel free to move it
I'm having some problems cycling my tank. It's a 40g breeder that I'm fishless cycling. I'm using 100% pure ammonia. It does not foam when shook. It's the "professional" grade stuff from Ace Hardware. I've seen it recommended several times so I decided to go with it. I have live plants, Black Beauty blasting sand as the substrate. I'm keeping my water at 78F. More details on my setup can be seen here:
I would like to add that I have well water so I do not have to worry about chlorine. I do have co2 naturally in my water (I do not and will not inject co2 into the tank). It comes out of the tap as a 6.0 pH. After it sets up for a little while it creeps up to 6.8-7.2 pH (I have trouble telling the colors). A few weeks ago the final ph would be about 8.2. I don't know what has caused it to stay lower (this is both the tank readings and tap water that has set out over night). I also have natural nitrATES in my water. The reading seems to be 10-20ppm. I can't tell the difference in color on the card. No ammonia is present nor nitrITES in the tap water.
My issue is, my nitrITES are going to max in just a few hours. I started out using enough ammonia to get a 3-4ppm reading. It never went over 4ppm. When my ammonia started going to 0 in 24 hours or less, I would add more to keep it at 3ppm. My nitrites spiked. They've stayed at 5ppm+ for a little over a week now. I started reading and it seems with the nitrITES this high, it can stall the bacteria. I read some postings on various forums stating it's okay to do a 100% water change, just don't mess with the filter. I started off doing just a 50% change, then a 70%, it didn't help, so I did a 100%. NitrITES returned to 0. Added half the amount of ammonia I was adding. It got it up to 1ppm or so. The next day nitrITES were off the chart again. Did another 95% water change yesterday, nitrITES went down to .25ppm. Added just enough ammonia to get the slightest reading, .25ppm. Within three hours there was no ammonia detectable and nitrITES were back at 5ppm.
I decided to set up a test with the blasting sand to see if it was interfering somehow. I used a clean jar, added the sand and some tap water. I let it sit for two days. NitrITES have remained at 0.
I set up another test last night. I used three never used jars. One jar was filled with just tap water, the second filled with tap water and a rock (I didn't know if the rocks I added were reacting), the last was tap water and java moss that was rinsed for several minutes under tap water to make sure it was clean. This morning I tested all three. The first with only tap water had 0 nitrITES. The second with the rock had 0 nitrITES. The last with the java moss had a reading of 5ppm+ nitrITES.
Why are my plants causing my nitrITES to increase so much? This is ridiculous. I'm not sure what to do. I can't keep doing 100% water changes everyday. Will the beneficial bacteria eventually catch up, or are my readings too high for the bacteria to grow? I'd appreciate any insight on this.