Cycling: What do I do Now? - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-24-2012, 04:37 PM Thread Starter
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Cycling: What do I do Now?

My 10 gallon tank basically sat for 3 weeks (with the filter running and all), the last of which I added shrimp which raised the ammonia to a measly .5 ppm, so just this Monday I added 1 milliliter of ace hardware ammonia to raise it up to 3 ppm. Today I tested the water and ammonia is back down to .5 ppm and nitrites are around 3-5 ppm. I read the steps in the stickied fishless cycling guide, but my cycle is going way faster than what the guide presumes. What do I do now?
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-24-2012, 05:32 PM
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Hey there.

At this point there are a few things I might consider if I were in your situation... But it depends on what your plans are for this tank.

If you're looking to add fish, then I would wait until the ammonia and nitrite read 0 and then add fish slowly, giving the biological filter enough time between additions to re-establish equilibrium. Certain fish may need to be added in groups, so if you add several fish at once then test daily and be prepared to do a few large water changes to reduce the toxic buildup. The other option is to start providing the bacteria with a steadily increasing food source (such as so called "ghost feeding" where you just put a few flakes of food in each day that break down and become nutrients for the bacteria in the tank). This will help mature your biological filter in anticipation of an increased bioload. Yet another option is bottled bacteria supplements.

If you're looking to just add plants for now as far as I understand you can add them any time. Some bacterial supplementation may also be a suggestion though to help establish the bacteria base needed for healthy plant growth. I'm not sure if all bacterial supplements add this kind of bacteria, or if only certain ones do.

Anyways, I hope that gives you some ideas. I'm relatively new to the planted scene though I've kept a lot of fish only and marine tanks. I think the main thing to remember with a "cycle" is that it's a continuous event. It's not like you wake up one morning and your tank is cycled and thats it... While the tank may indeed be in equilibrium at the moment, it will need to re-adjust for each change you make to the biomass of the tank.
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-24-2012, 06:18 PM
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Hi! A fast cycle is a good thing. Did you add any seeded media from another tank or a bacteria starter? If not it's still possible to have readings like yours; every tank is different and it's impossible to account for all variables in every tank. YOu might want to double-check your tap water for nitrite too. How long have the nitrites been showing? Generally just keep adding enough ammonia to get it to 3-4 when it drops. High nitrites are normal. If they stay very high for more than a week and/or if PH starts dropping significantly (which is also common but at a PH of the mid-6's or below in can stall the bacteria) and/or if ammonia conversion slows, do a large water change(s) to get the nitrite to a readable level on the chart. For now I'd just say to redose ammonia and keep testing. The nitrite phase tends to be the longest so hang in there; eventually it'll drop to 0 and you'll be cycled. You might want to start testing nitrate as well just to see if nitrites are being processed yet. Hope this helps.


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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-24-2012, 06:32 PM
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It's possible to have a small amount of ammonia in your tap water - especially if you have chloramines in the water. This could have gotten your cycle started during the 3 weeks you had the filter running.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-24-2012, 07:21 PM Thread Starter
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Oh wow, thanks for the in-depth replies. ajmckay, that was VERY thorough! I think I'll test for nitrates then and see if there are any.

I didn't use any "seeded" media or anything (the aquaclear has been used before, but I replaced the sponge and the bio-media dried thorougly). I think when I added my indian fern the initial plant melt may have got things started, it's shooting up these gorgeous branchy leaves out of the water VERY rapidly so maybe that's helping absorb nutrients too.

Unfortunately the quick cycle isn't going to be as good for me as for others, I like to let my plants grow out a bit before I add anything. But it's a borneo blackwater biotope and I hope to stock it with around 10 boraras brigittae. I'm not sure if that's considered a low bioload or not...

One quick thing I'm worried about, how high does nitrite have to be to harm my floating water sprite?
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-24-2012, 07:47 PM
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Well fortunately you're not forced to add fish or anything right now You could just as easily keep it as a planted tank for the time being until your plants grow out sufficiently and then add fish later. The process is the same though. You can either ramp up the bioload before adding the fish so that you don't experience any significant spike in water parameters, or you can add them slowly (i.e. a few fish per week) to let the cycle catch up. In the case of adding many fish at once, just be prepared to test frequently and do water changes as necessary.

The nice thing about adding fish is that in a sense they provide a good source of nutrients for the plants. If you leave the fish out though you can add those nutrients yourself through various fertilizers/chemicals.

The "cycle" generally only refers to the bacteria necessary to break down waste and convert it to ammonia>nitrite>nitrate. There are ancillary "cycles" such as with the symbiotic bacteria that interact and deliver nutrients to the plant roots, carbon cycle, etc...

The nitrogen cycle will occurr no matter what you do. Dust and hair and stuff will get into the water and where there is organic decay the bacteria will appear through various means (air, physical contact, etc...). Some of the specialized bacteria don't necessarily appear automatically, but you introduce them into your tank when you add plants and other organisms that require them (assuming they had at least a minimal population of these bacteria when they're introduced into your tank)

Good luck, the tank sounds like it'll be awesome! Also, from what I know I don't think 10 of those fish will be overstocked at all as long as you have a decent amount of biological filtration media and reasonable water flow.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-24-2012, 08:12 PM Thread Starter
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Nitrates came back at 10-20 ppm, everything seems to be doing well...
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-27-2012, 10:37 PM Thread Starter
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I added 1 milliliter of ammonia on the 24th and when I checked on the 26th it was at 0.

Does that mean I should add 1 ml of ammonia every 2 days?
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-28-2012, 01:09 AM
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Yep, whenever ammonia goes to 0, add more. Just don't dose more than once in 24 hours.


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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-28-2012, 01:19 AM
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If the nitrite approaches 5 ppm do a water change. The bacteria do not do so well when the nitrites get to 5 or higher.

Keep dosing the ammonia to reach 3 ppm once a day.

Ignore the nitrate for a while, yet. These numbers do show that the nitrite removing bacteria are getting going, and that is good, but no need to monitor NO3 during the cycle.

If the cycle is complete (ammonia and nitrite both return to 0 within 24 hours of adding the ammonia) but you are not ready for livestock, just keep on adding ammonia to keep feeding the ammonia. When you are ready for fish or shrimp do as large a water change as needed to get the nitrate down to a safe level.
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