Help please! new planted tank emergency - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-01-2013, 02:44 PM Thread Starter
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Help please! new planted tank emergency

I have a new (to me) 29 gallon tank that is experiencing a bit of a crisis.

It has been up and running for 2 weeks. I started it out pretty heavily planted and read that a planted tank can do a 'silent' cycle, so no real need to wait for it to cycle before adding fish.

A few days after I set it up, I checked the levels with a multistrip and things looked fine so I added a pair of halequin rasboras and 6 ghost shrimp. The rasboras have done great and have even been laying eggs and producing a few fry. The ghost shrimp have been slowly dying off - which is fine with me since I wanted to add cherry shrimp and heard they don't get along so well..

Two weeks later... I assumed that the silent cycle was a success and my tank was ready for more fish. So I bought a bunch more fish.

10 white cloud mt minnows
2 more rasboras
4 black neons
3 cory cats
3 otos
30 juvenile-adult cherry shrimp

BUT, before I added them, I thought I should check the parameters again - and it turns out my Nitrites were sky high. (>10ppm according to the test strips). I bought a real drop-style test kit (>5 ppm, which is as high as the chart goes). Did a ~60% water change and added some tetra safe start... no change - still >5ppm, even after 12 hours.

Now what??

I have all the new fish in a separate bucket, with their fish store water, heater and air.. I am afraid to move them into the aquarium until the nitrites come down, but they can't stay where they are either.

Ammonia is zero.
Nitrates ~30ppm
pH 6.8

I assume that my tank has just not completed it's cycle and I need to keep doing water changes and wait it out. Other potential explanations are that my filter is too small. It is too small - I got the setup off craigslist from a guy who seemed to know his stuff but he gave me a 5-15 gallon filter for a 30 gallon tank. Is this my problem? Another potential issue is that I was feeding a lot, probably too much - trying to get some food to the fry, and I was away the past 3 days and had one of those 'vacation' feeder blocks in there, which was a nasty mess when I came back..

What should I do?
At what point would it be better to try to acclimate the new fish to the high nitrite water, rather than leave them in an unfiltered, over crowded bucket?
The test kit recommends using nitrizorb to lower nitrites - is this a good idea?
I've read that 1 tsp salt/10 gallons can help fish in high nitrite conditions.

I'm not opposed to buying a separate 10 gallon, and moving the new fish in there until the big tank stabilizes, but that tank won't be cycled either..

Do I need a bigger filter?

Other info;
I used 1/4" of miracle grow under the gravel
the two adult rasboras and two fry (which I had sequestered in a breeder box, in the main aquarium) are alive and seemingly fine. One ghost shrimp is still alive.
The plants were growing very well for the first two weeks, but some of them look a little melty now. It is a old single tube T-12 fixture and I switched from a pinkish "aquarium and plant" bulb to a whiter "6500k" bulb about a week ago - could that be related?
Should I add some liquid ferts for the plants ( I hadn't done that at all yet)?

Thanks for any help you can offer!

Eric
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-01-2013, 03:04 PM
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The silent cycle you are speaking of really only applies to heavily planted tanks with small fish loads. You have added a fairly large fishload to a tank with no biofiltration.

Really it would appear that you have a low light slow plant growth situation which would not really be a great way to "silent" cycle the tank.

How many plants and what type?
What miracle grow under the gravel?

It seems you have made a classic rookie mistake; overloading a tank with fish too fast.

You will probably experience high losses but at least the fish were not expensive.

I suspect the Miracle grow is the major issue here. A pair of rasboras and some ghost shrimp should not produce enough load to cause spikes like you are seeing. For now I would do daily water changes of 50% until you can bring the levels down.

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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-01-2013, 03:28 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks. It is miracle grow "organic choice potting mix".

I just tested my tap (well) water - it has zero ammonia and nitrites, but has 15 ppm nitrates.

I don't know the plant species, except for java fern and water sprite - all low light and yes, slow growers (except for the water sprite seems to be growing fast).

I am considering getting a separate tank for the fish relying on water changes to keep water quality under control until the big tank settles down - is this a ridiculous idea?
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-01-2013, 03:56 PM
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The miracle grow organic will only affect the PH. because of the peat moss in it. It would not affect any other test results. The strip tests are not a good idea. I started out with them until I learned they can be way off. I would recommend a liquid test kit like API Master Test Kit. You can get them at a decent price on Amazon. You get way more tests per bottle than with the test strips and they are far more accurate. You tank is not cycled. It takes at least a month to cycle a tank without adding pre cycled material from a cycled tank. Plants alone will not build up enough beneficial bacteria to handle even one fish. The bacteria grow according to how much of an ammonia load you have. Plants do not provide very much ammonia on their own. You can cycle the tank with the fish you have but you will have to stay on top of water changes. Water changes do not slow down cycling. Shrimp are more sensitive to water conditions. You need to start doing at least daily water test and changing the water when ammonia gets to .50 if you are using Prime to treat water. Prime renders the ammonia more harmless to fish and you can get away with letting the ammonia levels get a little high. The bacteria can still use the ammonia to grow. Each time you add more fish your tank will go through a mini cycle until the bacteria catches up to the increased load.

I have huge ghost shrimp with blue pearl shrimp and they do not bother each other. I have seen them eat together. Blue pearls are the same type of shrimp as cherry but have been selectively bread to be slightly blue. Do an internet search on fish in cycling and follow those directions.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-01-2013, 04:23 PM
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Do a couple water changes, n add a couple minnows in there see how they do, your risking killing off all your fish in that bucket either way
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-01-2013, 04:48 PM Thread Starter
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I do have the API master kit now, and just completed my 2nd water change (~50%). It is really hard to tell the color difference between 1ppm and >5ppm, but I think I am down to around 1.5ppm. I may add a little nitrizorb and/or do another water change, then start acclimating and adding fish, and hope for the best. ...pending additional advise
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-01-2013, 04:52 PM
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It may be too cold to ship but you can order a active filter from an angelfish breeder in NY. Steve has saved me from this very mistake before.

I will PM a link.
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-01-2013, 05:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wildroseofky View Post
The miracle grow organic will only affect the PH. because of the peat moss in it. It would not affect any other test results. Plants alone will not build up enough beneficial bacteria to handle even one fish.
You gave some good advice but those two things couldnt be farther from the truth. Theres massive amounts of decomposing organic matter in their substrate right now, thats where the spikes are coming from. Also plants will use ammonia directly as well as build up large bb colonies much like any suface in the tank, filter etc.

Last edited by shambhalove.; 12-01-2013 at 05:50 PM. Reason: oops
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-01-2013, 05:51 PM
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Can we see a picture of the tank?

~Pink's Tank:~
14 Gallon Tall Aquarium
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-02-2013, 03:34 AM Thread Starter
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Update:

After a few water changes, I got readings down to ~3ppm and decided I should probably start acclimating my fish and get them out of their bucket. I used drip acclimation.

I dosed the tank with just less than 1 tsp/gallon of salt (7 tblsp/ 29 gallons to be exact).

I also suspended a bag of nitrazorb at the filter outflow (its in a mesh bag that is supposed to go in your filter but my store only had the 'large' size and it didn't fit in my filter). Supposedly this will suck all the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates out of your water - so I only intend to use it to bring readings down to non-toxic and hopefully keep my cycle going.

nitrites were reading ~1.5ppm when I started moving fish in.

All the fish and red cherry shrimp made the transition well enough and are all still alive and looking well 5 hours later. The cory cats seem ok with the salt.

At last reading the nitrites were down around 0.4 ppm. I removed the nitrazorb bag for overnight b/c I don't want ammonia/nitrites to go to zero. I'm hoping things don't spike and die overnight.

I suppose I'll keep checking and doing water changes or using the nitrazorb until my cycle can catch up.

Thanks for all the input! Keep it coming if anyone has additional thoughts or advise.

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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-02-2013, 03:46 AM
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Help please! new planted tank emergency

That filter you're talking about is very underpowered. You need to upgrade. Bacteria needs a place to grow and I'm not sure how much bio media you put in that filter but it's probably not much. Do daily water changes because you're adding lots of fish at once and your bio filter won't be able to handle it right now.

You'll probably see some fish deaths within a week if you don't keep up with water changes. I would test everyday and adjust the partial water changes accordingly.

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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-02-2013, 05:08 AM
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Shambhalove, I stand corrected. LOL I never heard any of the dirted tank crew I know mention that the Miracle Grow organic did anything but lower PH but it makes since that it has decaying material in it. I will keep an eye on that when I finally get around to starting my first dirt substrate tank.
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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-02-2013, 05:50 AM
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Dose of salt for nitrite is 1 teaspoon per 20 gallons. This is a very low dose, acceptable to plants and salt sensitive fish.

Keep up the water changes to keep the NO2 under 1 ppm.

The Tetra Safe Start ought to show that it is working in 24-48 hours. Not good to do water changes when you have just added it. The bacteria are free in the water for a while before they start to cling to things.

Good job with the Nitra-zorb. Keep on balancing it that way:
Water change.
Monitor all 3 (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate)
Nitra-zorb when the readings climb, and on and off so as not to starve the bacteria.

Keep the ammonia under .25ppm.
Keep the nitrite under 1 ppm.
Once the other 2 are under control, Nitrate between 5-20 ppm should be plenty for the plants.

You can stop feeding the (adult) fish so much.
If you can catch the fry, put them in a separate tank where you can feed them a lot, and do LOTS of water changes.
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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-02-2013, 01:47 PM Thread Starter
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Morning update:

Nitrites are still down around 0.3-0.4ppm, even without the nitrazorb in the tank. That is good, but I imagine I won't see the stress from the new fish for another day or two? I plan to feed very lightly.

Thanks for the info Diana - looks like I way overdosed with salt. It is still under the 1 tsp/gallon people say that plants can tolerate, and my cory cats look ok.. Should I dilute the salt out though? Am I stressing my corys and my plants at ~0.7 tsp/gallon?

I did lose one black neon tetra overnight, and another looks pale and weak this morning. They never did look very good though, so I am thinking this is more of a problem with those fish, rather than something that will jeopardize my whole tank.

I did buy another filter (fluval 30) but haven't put it on the tank yet. I'm thinking the problem is more that my tank isn't fully cycled rather than that my filter is too small, and I've gone way over budget already, so I was thinking about returning it since it is about the same size as my current filter .... but, my current filter only has a filter pad, and a sponge type deal for surface areas and I suppose I'll want a better filter sometime, so maybe I will get it started. Haven't decided yet. Do you really have to replace the charcoal pack every month and the bio-rings every two months? Thats what the directions say, but that seems crazy.
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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-02-2013, 10:39 PM Thread Starter
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Everything still looks good, except the black neon tetras are not doing well (maybe they are especially salt sensitive? Even more so than cory cats?)

Ammonia is barely above zero
Nitrites are 0.25ppm and holding

I haven't had to put the nitrazorb back in or do any water changes today.

I'll keep an eye out for an ammonia/nitrite spike at some point in the next few days. How often should I check for something like that? Is twice a day sufficient?

Thanks,
Eric
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