Nitrite readings not making sense (fishless cycle) - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 34 (permalink) Old 08-11-2014, 04:43 AM Thread Starter
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Nitrite readings not making sense (fishless cycle)

I was doing 50% water changes every day about a week ago, and about 5 days ago I bumped it up to 75% water changes every day because every time I test nitrites it is off the chart.

My ammonia goes down to 0 ppm every day, then I do the water change and dose it back up to 1 ppm. Before the water change nitrites are always >5 ppm. After the water change the nitrites are usually around 2-5 ppm.

Where are all these nitrites coming from? I am not adding that much ammonia, but every day 1 ppm of ammonia gets converted to off the chart nitrites. Then I do a 75% water change and often even that doesn't get nitrites to a readable level.

On top of it, and this is where I'm starting to feel crazy, I just did my daily water change and nitrites looked like they were 0.5 ppm after letting the tank run for a half hour or so. I dosed 1 ppm of ammonia and took readings an hour later. Ammonia is at 1 ppm, but now the nitrite test is looking much darker, like 2 ppm dark once again. I did a 50/50 tap water/tank water test and it shows about 1 ppm so I do indeed have 2 ppm of nitrites still. I tested my tap water and it is 0. What is going on here?

When I ask around people say to keep doing water changes but every other fishless cycle log I read, no one seems to have to do this. I have not read one log where someone does a 75% water change every day. Somehow everyone else just keeps adding ammonia to like 4 ppm and their nitrites aren't at astronomical levels, and they don't have to spend 2 hours every night doing a massive water change.

I'm willing to be patient I just want to make sure I am not actually hindering the tank with my actions.

Last edited by GrumpyGills; 08-11-2014 at 05:08 AM. Reason: .
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post #2 of 34 (permalink) Old 08-11-2014, 06:59 AM
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Sorry to hear that things aren't working out.. Here's a tip. Do yourself a favor and get some brown gunk filter cleanings from a friend that also keeps fish, or nearby fish clubs (making sure that their tanks are healthy and disease free) or a reputable LFS that has healthy fish tanks. So collect a good amount of filter cleanings into a bottle/cup/container, w/e you have that is able hold the gunk while until you take it home, and dump the brown liquid sludge directly in your dechlorinated fish tank. By doing so, you will give the filter a huge biological jump-start with beneficial bacteria thus pretty much instantly cycling the tank, but there is no guarantees, you may still have to try and continue to complete the cycle, but this will help take things to another level, a big leap step further helping you out. The filter will clear out the cloudiness, and particles within a few hours. After that, test for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate and see if that will help. Continue adding ammonia if needed. Good luck.

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post #3 of 34 (permalink) Old 08-11-2014, 05:52 PM
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Yeah, if it didn't have fish in it I would bother changing the water. I would also give everything more time. Like at least a day between tests. There's no fish in there so you've got no reason to stress. The nitites could be coming from your water out the rest could be inaccurate.

There's no fish, I'm assuming no plants. So don't worry so much about it and give it some more time. If you've got anything alive in there then you worry and change water. As for now, kick your feet up and relax a little.

Edit: I added a link. Read this while relaxing
http://www.skepticalaquarist.com/fishless-cycling


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post #4 of 34 (permalink) Old 08-11-2014, 05:58 PM Thread Starter
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I have plants in there. Ill take your advice and cool off for a few days with the water changes and testing.
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post #5 of 34 (permalink) Old 08-11-2014, 06:13 PM
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If you have plants that could alter your test results as both bacteria and plants are taking in ammonia. I haven't tried fishless cycling with plants before. Id probably be tempted to dose pretty low amounts of ammonia and maybe none for a few days to try and avoid algae.

What kind if fish are you planning on getting? What sort of substrate are you using?


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post #6 of 34 (permalink) Old 08-11-2014, 09:16 PM Thread Starter
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I've been adding enough ammonia that it should be 2 ppm (3 mL of 10% ammonia in 40 gallons) but my test kit always says that is actually equal to 1 ppm so that is how much I have been adding.

I have black diamond sand substrate, which I thoroughly washed. Planning on getting tetras, rams, corys, maybe rainbowfish or an angel.
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post #7 of 34 (permalink) Old 08-11-2014, 11:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GrumpyGills View Post
I've been adding enough ammonia that it should be 2 ppm (3 mL of 10% ammonia in 40 gallons) but my test kit always says that is actually equal to 1 ppm so that is how much I have been adding.

I have black diamond sand substrate, which I thoroughly washed. Planning on getting tetras, rams, corys, maybe rainbowfish or an angel.
If the ammonia is all being converted to nitrite in one day - Stop adding ammonia and stop doing water changes.

Ammonia inhibits the growth of the bacteria that convert Nitrite to Nitrate.

High nitrites inhibit the ammonia to nitrite conversion.

Let the nitrite hang out at 3-5ppm until its converted to nitrate or disappears (plants eat it). Then redose the ammonia and see if it disappears or is converted to nitrate the next day.

Once it does this do a water change and add a bunch of those fish. Remember angels like to ambush anything they can fit into their mouths.
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post #8 of 34 (permalink) Old 08-12-2014, 02:08 AM
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If any of the local stores carries the right species of nitrifying bacteria you could add that, see if it will finish out the cycle for you. Look for Nitrospira species on the label.

Ammonia or nitrite over 5 ppm will slow the growth of the bacteria, so you are doing right to change the water. But I have no idea how 1-2 ppm of ammonia can get turned into way over 5 ppm of NO2. It ought to be something closer to 1:1, less what the plants are taking in.

Does the water company use chloramines? This is another source of ammonia, and needs to be counted in as part of the ammonia supply for the fishless cycle.
Dechlor should lock up this ammonia, and sometimes it will not show on a test. (Depends on the test and the dechlor), so you might really have something closer to 3 ppm ammonia, when the test is only showing 1 ppm. The rest is locked up by the dechlor, but is actually still available to the bacteria, so they are happily turning it into nitrite.
But the nitrite removing bacteria have not grown to a big enough population to deal with all this food, yet, so the nitrite gets pretty high.
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post #9 of 34 (permalink) Old 08-12-2014, 02:43 AM
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My last 7 tanks went through a fishless cycle I don't change the water till around week 3-4 when I start to see high nitrates. I don't even bother trying to get the nitrites low anymore. If you have high nitrites lower your dose of ammonia or stop dosing for a few days till they catch up. One day around week 3-4 you'll wake up and those nitrites will be gone.


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post #10 of 34 (permalink) Old 08-12-2014, 06:16 PM
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Why are you dosing with ammonia? I never did that before. I suggest you just start over and do NOT dose with any ammonia. Just do a 1/3 water change everyday for first week. The 2nd and 3rd week 1/3 every other day. By the 4th week everything should be perfect. Works for me. Patience is everything in this hobby. Get some Amano shrimps to take care of algae, about 1 per gallon.

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post #11 of 34 (permalink) Old 08-12-2014, 06:49 PM Thread Starter
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If my bacteria have no ammonia won't they die? Also its not like I'm just making this method up. Every fishless cycle guide I have read says to keep ammonia at like 4 ppm. But ill stop for a couple days.
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post #12 of 34 (permalink) Old 08-12-2014, 11:34 PM
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If my bacteria have no ammonia won't they die? Also its not like I'm just making this method up. Every fishless cycle guide I have read says to keep ammonia at like 4 ppm. But ill stop for a couple days.
Sorry but I have fishless cycled 3 tanks up until 3 weeks and by third week my levels are perfect then I add some algae eating shrimps and a occo fish. Never added ammonia once. My fish are happy today. There are many methods of madness. Just saying. Maybe is is because I use all ADA products from the start.

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post #13 of 34 (permalink) Old 08-13-2014, 12:17 AM
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If my bacteria have no ammonia won't they die? Also its not like I'm just making this method up. Every fishless cycle guide I have read says to keep ammonia at like 4 ppm. But ill stop for a couple days.
The bacteria don't need to feed everyday, I go days without dosing ammonia with no ill effects. I'm actually doing a fishless cycle on a 55 gallon right now. Don't dump the tank and start all over your almost done. Waiting for the nitrites to go down takes the longest but it will happen. The first time I did a fishless cycle I thought I was doing something wrong but I wasn't.
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Sorry but I have fishless cycled 3 tanks up until 3 weeks and by third week my levels are perfect then I add some algae eating shrimps and a occo fish. Never added ammonia once. My fish are happy today. There are many methods of madness. Just saying. Maybe is is because I use all ADA products from the start.
You did add ammonia!


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Last edited by greaser84; 08-13-2014 at 12:20 AM. Reason: ...
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post #14 of 34 (permalink) Old 08-13-2014, 01:40 AM Thread Starter
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The bacteria don't need to feed everyday, I go days without dosing ammonia with no ill effects. I'm actually doing a fishless cycle on a 55 gallon right now. Don't dump the tank and start all over your almost done. Waiting for the nitrites to go down takes the longest but it will happen. The first time I did a fishless cycle I thought I was doing something wrong but I wasn't
Thanks for the advice. I will not add ammonia for the next few days. Nitrites are off the chart still but we will see what happens in that time. So in your cycle do you currently also have high nitrites and you just ignore them?

Also, I just folded to my impatience and ordered a big bottle of tetra safestart. I'm hoping that I can add it to instantly finish my cycle. If it works it will be $10 well spent.

EDIT: I would like to add that the irony is not lost on me that I spent weeks agonizing that I didn't have nitrites and now all I want is for them to go away
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post #15 of 34 (permalink) Old 08-13-2014, 01:41 AM
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To be honest, I wouldn't even worry too much about keeping the ammonia at an exact point. You've already done most of the work now you just have to put in the time. Give it a couple more days, thenn check the levels with your test kit and think of it more like a litmus test. Is there or isn't there ammonia? Is there or isn't there nitrite? Is there or isn't there nitrate? Then decide your next course of action. If there's ammonia or nitrite, it needs more time. If there are nitrates (past what would be in your tap water) it doesn't need much more time.

Usually after the nitrites pop up there's a fair wait before the nitrates show up. Greaser is right about the bacteria not needing to eat every day, its bacteria it's like the definition of a survivor.


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