Nitrite spike in a cycled tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-31-2013, 03:03 PM Thread Starter
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Nitrite spike in a cycled tank

My 29g dirt tank has been experiencing a Nitrite spike for the past week and a half. I can't seem to get these Nitrite levels down! I am positive that this tank was cycled before I started planting and adding fish, completely cycled. Tested the water daily and saw each level spike and go down.

I really don't know what caused this new spike, but I thought it could have been from an excess of rotting plant material that was hiding in the back. So I siphoned all of that out and tidied up the substrate a bit, that was about 4 days ago.
A couple days later I gave the filter sponges a good squeeze (in aquarium water, obviously).
I also added 2 bags of Purigen (for other reasons; tannins).
I have been doing 50% water changes every day and dosing with extra Prime to protect the fish.

I have read conflicting information about whether I should be doing daily water changes or just waiting it out. Some people say to do the big water changes every day. Some say every other day. Some people are saying that the nitrifying bacteria aren't keeping up, and that water changes will just prolong the problem.

I would appreciate a clear answer here!

Chem:
78 degrees
7.6 ph
0 Ammonia
5ppm Nitrites
5-10ppm Nitrates

Heavily planted tank with 6 tetras, 2 barbs, and 2 ghost shrimp. Any other info regarding my specs can be found in my signature.
*Note that I dose this tank only with Excel and Iron.
*Also note that my API test kits have not gone bad, I'm getting normal Nitrite readings from the tap and from another tank.

This tank is only about 4 weeks old.


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Last edited by sarazorz; 03-31-2013 at 03:22 PM. Reason: typos
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-31-2013, 03:06 PM Thread Starter
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Forgot to mention the obvious, that I feed these fish very little. Since the Nitrite spike I've fed them once every 2-3 days. What they can eat in a minute or so. Figured you guys would ask that.


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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-31-2013, 04:33 PM
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Sounds like something is rotting in the water, and causing the spike. Have you seen ANY ammonia spike, at all?
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-31-2013, 05:52 PM Thread Starter
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No, ammonia spikes whatsoever. I can't figure out what could be rotting in the water, really, I've cleaned the substrate meticulously to remove plant matter. There are no dead fish or anything. I'm stumped, which is why I came here to ask


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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-01-2013, 12:26 AM
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When you say that the tank is only four weeks old, is this from the time that you first set up the tank, or is this four weeks after the cycle was done? What method did you use to cycle the tank? If you are able to adding floating plants will help. With the fact that you have fish in the tank right now I would advise to do large water changes daily until the nitrites are down to 0 so your fish are not harmed.

As for what has caused the nitrite spike it could be from the dead plant material that you removed. It is also possible that the tank was not fully cycled, more information can help in trying to determine if that is the case.
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-01-2013, 02:02 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Nitrite spike in a cycled tank

As mentioned in my first post, the tank was fully cycled. I know it was because during cycling I tested daily and watched all the levels spike and drop to zero, stopping at Nitrates obviously which have remained at 20ppm and under since the cycling was completed. 4 weeks ago is around the time I put water in. The cycle took about a week, I used fish food and seeded sponges to cycle.

If the plant decay has caused the spike (which I think is the only possibility), I'm wondering why the trites are still high after the plant matter was removed, even with the numerous water changes I've done since then.

So I have one vote for continuing daily water changes. Thanks!

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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-01-2013, 02:09 AM
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Ammonia to nitrites are one type of bacteria and nitrates to nitrates are another right? Perhaps the issue is that there are enough of the first type to keep up with any ammonia being produced but not enough of the second to keep up with the nitrite production from the first set?
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-01-2013, 02:14 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Nitrite spike in a cycled tank

Yeh I was thinking that too, but it's weird that I didn't have that problem before. I wonder if the stage 2 bacteria didn't have enough to eat and died off or something. If that even happens, it's definitely never happened to me before...


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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-01-2013, 02:24 AM
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Well the good news is that you are seeing nitrates being produced. If it is an issue of a lack of that type of bacteria all you need to do is wait a few days for them to reproduce enough to the point that they can handle the load.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-01-2013, 02:29 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Nitrite spike in a cycled tank

True story. I still think it's weird. This type of thing is typically a non cycled tank problem.
So now if we think it's a lack of bacteria, should I still be going ahead with daily water changes?
edit: or continue high doses of Prime and wait?


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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-01-2013, 02:38 AM
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I'd go with daily water changes unless your using tap water that contains chloramides. If your water contains chloramides then no I would stop the water changes and try and find a supply of RO water to use until your nitrites settle down. The reason why is that to de-toxify chloramides the Prime has to break the chemical bond of the chemical producing ammonia and chloride...thus with chloramide treated water you are constantly adding in a supply of ammonia. (Mind you its great for cycling tanks, just add tap water every few days and Prime and your tank cycles.)

As for Prime I would use the regular dosage on a daily basis until your nitrites dropped to 1 ppm or so and then shift to every 48 hours until they drop to zero.

Last edited by Kudaria; 04-01-2013 at 02:40 AM. Reason: more info
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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-01-2013, 02:48 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Nitrite spike in a cycled tank

Yeah I'm pretty sure my tap water has that stuff. Man, so now I've got one vote for water changes and one for not. Back at step one!

I think I'll go with what you said though. Because clearly, so far my daily water changes have done nothing. I do appreciate the advice and I will post any new updates here in case there's someone who finds themselves with the same problem. Kinda relieved... I bet my water bill is gonna be crazy this month.

Sent from my Samsung Note using Tapatalk 2.


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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-01-2013, 02:14 PM
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You can add salt to help detoxify nitrite.

I'd do whatever you need to do - salt, prime, water changes - to keep the nitrites down as nitrite poisoning is very toxic to fish.
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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-01-2013, 02:22 PM
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One week seems pretty fast for even a seeded cycle. Just give it some time.
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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-01-2013, 02:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sarazorz View Post
Yeah I'm pretty sure my tap water has that stuff. Man, so now I've got one vote for water changes and one for not. Back at step one!

I think I'll go with what you said though. Because clearly, so far my daily water changes have done nothing. I do appreciate the advice and I will post any new updates here in case there's someone who finds themselves with the same problem. Kinda relieved... I bet my water bill is gonna be crazy this month.

Sent from my Samsung Note using Tapatalk 2.
Simple way to tell as I'm assuming you've been testing yourself for ammonia. Take a sample of untreated tap water and then a sample of prime treated tap water. Test both for ammonia. Sometimes tapwater has a low amount of ammonia in it, what your trying to see is if the Prime treated tapwater has a noticeably higher level of ammonia than the untreated tap water.

I often get results between 0.5 to 1 ppm of ammonia on my Prime treated tap water.

That is why I said that if your nitrite->nitrate bacteria population is lower than the ammonia->nitrite then daily tap water changes aren't going to help you. Their actually just going to worsen the situation as they are churning out additional nitrite due to you continually adding in more ammonia.

RO water on the other hand is chlorine/chloramide free and you can use it for a few water changes to dilute out your nitrite levels.
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