Using ammonia to cycle tank, not sure what's going on? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-17-2014, 02:20 AM Thread Starter
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Using ammonia to cycle tank, not sure what's going on?

Well I put in 5cc (5ml) of ammonia to try and get 5ppm of ammonia and a filter foam that I cut out from my 55 gallon since I had 4 filter cartridges on it to seed it. I tested it about an hour ago and it was reading 2-4, more around 2 though. Also do I have to put 5ppm worth in there? Doesn't the cycle once there is ammonia it turns it into nitrites the nitrates? Confusing.. I have a medicine dropper and I am using Great value ammonia. Any suggestions? I am doing this to a 20 gallon long.
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-17-2014, 03:05 AM
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As long as there is a little detectable ammonia in the tank it will cycle. Just wait till tomorrow test and redose. Since you added in some established media it won't take long to cycle.
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-17-2014, 03:25 AM
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It takes time for the bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrite to develop, that's half the cycle. Then nitrite to nitrate another set of bacteria. They don't instantly appear in a day on any measurable level when you add an ammonia source. You don't have to achieve 5ppm but it recommended to speed up the whole process. You can speed up the cycle by having optimum PH for the bacteria, they like a more alkaline PH like 8 for fast growth. You can add some baking soda to the water.

It's best to seed your tank with media from an established tank. Get some from your LFS or a friend. I've had luck with tetrasafestart as well but that was an emergency situation where I needed bacteria instantly.
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-17-2014, 03:33 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys, yeah I used a filter from my established 55. How long should it take to cycle?


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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-17-2014, 05:36 AM
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The bacteria can double every 24 hours so it depends upon how much you started with. 5% of the needed quantity will take about 6 days. If you added more than 5% it will take less.
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-17-2014, 06:31 AM
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Wade, before you get too involved check your ammonia. I notice you said it was great value. I think that's walmart? If I remember correctly I checked that, and it had surfactants in it. You can NOT use ammonia with surfactants. So check your label. Then no matter what the label says, do this. Make sure the cap is on tight. Shake the bottle well. If it foams up like soap, it has surfactants. Which are toxic to fish. You'll have to break the tank down and start again. If it doesn't foam you're ok. I remember checking all the stores by me and they all had surfactants. I finally made a special trip to ace hardware to get their ammonia.
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-17-2014, 02:54 PM
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+2 on the Ace Hardware ammonia.

Also, 5 cc. is way too much ammonia to be dosing in a 20 gallon tank.
I used one drop a day, when I cycled my 29 gallon tank, and two drops cycling a friends 75 gallon tank recently.

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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-17-2014, 02:55 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Nu2Plants View Post
Wade, before you get too involved check your ammonia. I notice you said it was great value. I think that's walmart? If I remember correctly I checked that, and it had surfactants in it. You can NOT use ammonia with surfactants. So check your label. Then no matter what the label says, do this. Make sure the cap is on tight. Shake the bottle well. If it foams up like soap, it has surfactants. Which are toxic to fish. You'll have to break the tank down and start again. If it doesn't foam you're ok. I remember checking all the stores by me and they all had surfactants. I finally made a special trip to ace hardware to get their ammonia.
Well good thing you said this lol. Can't believe I put that in my tank.. What should I do with my dirt? Should I clean my filter cartridge's out? It definitely has the surfactant.


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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-17-2014, 03:29 PM
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No need to panic. The surfactants are not good but no need to break down the tank. Just drain and change the water and start with the correct ammonia. It seems to be hard to impossible to find and Ace seems to have the handle on it.
On the amount, you might think of it as related to what you want to end up having. The ammonia is just subbed in to replace living fish. If one uses enough to cover what one fish might produce, that is the level you will end with. But the good point of fishless cycle is that you CAN add a large amount of ammonia and wind up ready to add a large amount of fish all at once. Not so much that you poison the bacteria but just plenty to feed them as they grow?
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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-17-2014, 03:40 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks plantedrich, some much needed info! Taking it all out right now as we speak, then will fill back up. Hopefully I can find some with just pure ammonia! I have a local ace I believe.
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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-17-2014, 04:29 PM
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Well I'm not an expert, so I don't know for sure, but from what I understand surfactants are like soap. Soap is bad for your fish. Your not even supposed to put your hands in your tank without making sure you rinsed off ever bit of soap off. I thought you were also not supposed to use anything in your tank, that was ever washed with soap.

Hopefully someone else will chime in with some more info on that.
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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-17-2014, 04:45 PM
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certain soaps are not very good to use. anything with a fragrance or a moisturizer in it is a no no. there are a few companies that make soaps specifically for fish keepers, but they are on the spendy side. softsoaps aquarium series is usually a good choice for hand washing and cleaning aquarium stuff.

wade0328: you said you had an established tank already? if thats the case, just do a big w/c on it and add that water to your new tank. its pretty much an instant cycle, especially if you add seeded filter media. ive always used this method if possible with great results. i just started a new tank two weeks ago this way and it cycled in less then a week.
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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-17-2014, 04:50 PM
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The water really doesn't hold much bacteria. The bacteria don't float in the water column, they stick to surfaces. The higher the surface area, the bigger the concentration of bacteria. So basically almost all the bacteria is in the filter, and substrate.
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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-17-2014, 05:12 PM
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Good catch! I bought my ammonium chloride off amazon. It's made for aquariums by Dr.Tims and it's only $1.99
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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-17-2014, 06:41 PM Thread Starter
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Yeah NU2plants really saved my butt on this one! Thanks for that!


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Last edited by wade0328; 01-17-2014 at 06:42 PM. Reason: edit
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