Fishless Cycle Not Going As Planned 6 weeks in - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-15-2014, 02:42 AM Thread Starter
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Fishless Cycle Not Going As Planned 6 weeks in

6 weeks ago I started my 55g tank over because I painted, I also replaced the hang-on filter with a canister filter. I've never done a cycle, first time around I was never told about it and ended up doing a fish cycle. Anyways I'm trying to do things right but having trouble, maybe its because of my actions.

When I setup I purchased new plastic plants as that's all I've ever done, and add pure ammonia at 4ppm to start the cycle. After a week the nitrites were off the chart and ammonia was disappearing, I added more ammonia and the same happened. After 2 weeks I was sick of the plastic plants and decided to go with live plants.

So I shut the filter off for about 12 hours and took out the sand and added Miracle Grow Organic Potting Soil topped with small gravel and added a decent amount of plants. Then I started up the filter again and was hoping to continue with the cycle.

Since the soil has gone in I haven't added any ammonia as it seems to be leaking a bit from the soil. However its been 4 weeks now with this soil and I always have .25ppm of ammonia, shouldn't the bacteria have built up enough to handle that small amount? I also added more plants a week ago hoping they would eat that ammonia, but didn't help any. Yesterday for the first time I actually saw some green .5ppm but 12 hours later another test it was gone.

I thought there should be enough bacteria after 4-6 weeks to eat any ammonia being produced? As time goes less should be coming out of the soil as well.

My nitrites have been off the chart for the last 4 weeks as well. I can do 150% water changes to bring nitrites to 0 and 6-12 hours it off the chart again so bacteria must be present.

My nitrates are always at 10-20ppm they have never jumped into the red.

2 weeks ago my filter was blowing small bubbles, I discovered it was overfilled with media so I did open the filter but only for about 5 minutes to take some pads out.

My testing always comes out the same for the last 3 weeks for sure, I'm starting to think my test kit is defective, lol. The first tube in the picture is an ammonia test after sitting 12 hours, they seem to show clean after sitting but I guess that's normal.

So now I'm wondering should I add ammonia to see if it gets converted? Any tips on what I might try, I've been using patience but after 6 weeks how much more can a guy have.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-15-2014, 06:52 AM
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Do a water change (50%), add fish; you're ready.

If your worried, dump a bottle of nitrating bacteria (like Dr. Tim's One-and-Only or Tetra Safe Start+) in at the same time. Time to enjoy your tank.

Don't get hung up on 30 day fishless method as the only way to cycle a tank. I use Dr Tim and have had my tanks cycled in less than a week.

You have a good start with your tank. You've done well.

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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-15-2014, 06:59 AM
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Seachem Stability works really well too if you are concerned. Use it with Prime and you should not have a problem


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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-15-2014, 07:16 AM
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The tank really looks great. Patience is not really that important... until its needed.

The fastest way to success is patience.

Best,

Joe
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-15-2014, 08:11 AM Thread Starter
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Wouldn't adding fish now be a death sentence to them? I just did a 50% water change and nitrite is still through the roof with a touch of ammonia.

I did just notice a snail in there, not sure how he's surviving.

Plants are doing better than expected since I have no idea what I'm doing.

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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-15-2014, 08:57 AM
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I would perform another 50% water change and see if nitrites don't drop.If not ,I would perform another water change.
Ammonia at pH shown in vial is harmless form = Ammonium, but test kit measures total ammonia both ammonia and ammonium.
It is the nitrite result that is troublesome to me ,but with a couple large water changes say 10 hours apart ,I would expect the nitrites to be closer to zero and water change will also lower the nitrAtes.
Would NOT add any more ammonia.
do follow directions for nitrite and nitrate tests carefully (ie) drops,wait time,shaking the vials etc.
Leaving vials set longer than directions say or not long enough, can skew result's IME.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-15-2014, 09:57 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks, so you're thinking the test is actually showing Ammonium? My tap water tests .25ppm for ammonia but maybe its ammonium as well.

I just did another 80% water change and that brought the nitrites down to about 1ppm, but when I get up tomorrow it will likely be high again, it seems to be the routine. I added a cap and a half of prime this time.

I am careful with my tests and like to think there as accurate as they get. After the test they usually just sit on the table till the next test so I noticed the colors change.
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-15-2014, 12:09 PM
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Be sure and rinse the vials out after each use.
For peace of mind,you can always run some zeolite in your filter and this would mop up ammonia that plant's may not .
You are not alone with ammonia or ammonium from the tap but as mentioned ,a pH of 7 or less ,the ammonia is harmless ammonium that bacteria and plant's can still use and do use.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-15-2014, 07:04 PM
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First off you used MGOPS instead of MGOPM unless you typed it wrong. The potting mix is the correct version. Secondly, I wouldn't add any fish until I consistently read 0 for ammonia and nitrites. Your ammonia should drop from 2-3ppm to 0 withing a 24 hr period. It may take 3 weeks, it may take 3 months or longer to cycle but it will eventually cycle. I also never do water changes when doing a fishless. It defeats the purpose of fishless. The tank will take care of itself in due time. Bacteria will grow slower when levels are too high and this is the reason for the water changes so most do them. For me, I am not going to bother wasting the water. I have nothing but time and I am fine waiting it out. Start with plants that consume large amounts of nutrients from the water column such as water lettuce. This will keep your toxins lower. Once your tank stabilizes, replace them slowly with the plants you really want. Increase the temps to 80-85 an let the tank do its thing. Once you loose patience and rush it, that's when you live on forums asking for help. Just my 2 cents.

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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-15-2014, 10:19 PM Thread Starter
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Be sure and rinse the vials out after each use.
Yes I definitely do that, after a few tests I even use a q-tip to clean them, just need to find longer ones so I can get to the bottom.

My ph sits at 7.0 for the most part, the highest is 7.3 down to 6.8.

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Originally Posted by flight50 View Post
First off you used MGOPS instead of MGOPM unless you typed it wrong.
You are correct, I thought I had the right one but... Mine is soil not mix, plants are loving it though.

The reason I've been doing water changes is so my water doesn't run out of nutrients for the plants, I haven't been adding anything. I did have the temp running in the mid 80's however the plants didn't appreciate it so I'm at 76 where I want it in the end.

I won't add fish until my nitrites clear up and stay cleared up. I have a feeling my ammonia is well under .25ppm because it only needs to sit about 2 hours to change to a clean color where as before it took much longer.

Just checked my nitrites and they are back to 2-5+ppm, only took 12 hours.
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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-16-2014, 12:14 AM
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Ammonia is the nutrient for plants. That's why most recommend plant as many plants as you can afford when you first setup a tank. The plants is a big part of the filter. Water changes is for diluting the existing toxins, not to provide nutrients because the proper nutrients are not in tap water. You have add the proper nutrients to tank water. Phosphates are in tap which is not beneficial and it is fuel for algae. Alot of people use R/O systems to lower tds (total dissolved solvents aka the bad stuff in tap). With a R/O unit though, it strips the water of everything and is considered dead water. To remedy this, mix with tap and/or add nutrients. Tap has your trace elements but depending on your setup, it can demand much more than just that. This is when alot of people turn to dry fertz. Seachem's line of nutrients can get pricey the larger the tank is. On the 55g I had, I ran thru the 500ml bottles is about 2-3 months when dosing daily with pressurized co2 but at the time I had her running, I didn't know anything about dry fertilizers at the time. But you can bet I will use dry fertz for my garage tank project when I get her up and running.

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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-16-2014, 12:45 AM Thread Starter
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Yeah I've read that many times that's why I added more plants but it didn't make any difference.

I'm just doing a low-tech setup, no co2 and hopefully no nutrients or at least minimal. Plants are 4 weeks old and I've only added potassium once as a peace of mind (probably didn't need it) and they look great, the tall stem plants have some bad leaves but that happened when the water was at 85f, that's why I got the potassium.

I've read the Diana Walstad "Ecology of the Planted Tank" which was a great read, a little hard to understand but good. Her and many other sources (as you agree) say that the tap water contains all the trace elements the plants require that's why I'm doing a water change every 2-3 days till I get fish in there. I also add a pinch of fish food every 3 days or so as it contains everything plants require. Now if I can only get some fish poop in there, I hear the plants screaming give me poop.

Since I'm not using co2 the tap seems to be providing enough for now. I also plan to heavily stock the tank in time hoping they will provide the plants with what they need.

My plants are all very green and growing so they must be getting what they want. I moved a couple and the root system is amazing.

I bought a phosphate test for the hell of it and I have little to nothing show up so happy about that. Green algae has just started to show up so I'm going to cut the lights from 11.5 hours to 10 hours.

Bump: flight50, those stands you built are sweet looking, how's that going, I read your thread but it ends in May?

Last edited by robsworld78; 08-16-2014 at 12:51 AM. Reason: ...
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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-16-2014, 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by robsworld78 View Post
I bought a phosphate test for the hell of it and I have little to nothing show up so happy about that. Green algae has just started to show up so I'm going to cut the lights from 11.5 hours to 10 hours.

Bump: flight50, those stands you built are sweet looking, how's that going, I read your thread but it ends in May?
Typically with a new setup, the lights are on 6-8 hrs blocks until things start to mature and stabilize. Longer than that, and algae gets the upper hand, especially without co2.

Thanks for the compliment on my stands. Yes the thread has gone dormant but truth of the matter is, I have been doing alot of behind the scene stuff and just haven't posted. Since my last post I have been collecting parts and items left and right for the past year. I waited until temps warmed up and I continued the project back in early spring. Currently I am working on plumbing one of the stands to test for leaks before I post and reveal the whole design. Hopefully, in 2-3 weeks I will be posting updates with a video showcasing the design effort put into it.

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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-16-2014, 04:59 PM Thread Starter
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Well, last night I picked up a large bottle of Tetra Safe Start and added half the bottle which is good for a new 50g tank. Before adding I did a large water change to bring the nitrites down.

9pm nitrites .25ppm, added 125ml safe start
12 hours later nitrites 1ppm, added another 40ml safe start

So that's not a good sign. Doesn't look like I'm getting fish today.
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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-17-2014, 01:52 AM Thread Starter
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I did another test at around 5pm and the nitrites went back down to .25ppm and ammonia so very close to perfect so I figured I have 1/3 bottle left of the safe start may as well get some fish.

I got 6 small Red Phantom Tetras. Before I went to get them I dosed the tank with prime then when I got back I shut the light off and floated the fish for 25 minutes, then added 1/2 cup tank water, floated 10 minutes, added 3/4 cup tank water floated 15 minutes and netted fish out of bag. During all this I added the remaining tetra safe start to the tank.

They instantly went for cover which I expected and within 2 minutes they all started slowly swimming around. Its now been about 45 minutes and they won't stop, they're loving it!

I took a picture but hard as they wont stay still, very active and follow the leader.

Thanks for everyone help.
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