Converted African tank to new plant tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 11-02-2014, 08:02 PM Thread Starter
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Converted African tank to new plant tank

I've been in this hobby since the 80's, primarily keeping African cichlids the entire time. This is my first 'real' plant tank as I decommissioned it from an African cichlid tank a month or so ago after my 7 year old Cyphotilapia frontosa passed away.

Tank specs:

65 gallon

Rena XP3 Filtstar (I believe they are owned by API now) stocked with:
- Coarse sponge
- Fine sponge
- Two baskets of bio-balls
- Two fine felt pads for mechanical filtration

Two large pieces of driftwood

12 Cardinal tetras
12 Pristella tetras
1 Amazon sword
1 Oriental sword
1 Giant hairgrass
2 Purple cabomba
2 Creeping Charlie
2 Crypts
Miscellaneous dwarf hairgrass

So, basically, I used the same bio-media that I had in my African tank, hoping that the beneficial bacteria would survive and my nitrogen cycle would hopefully be different.

Not knowing the hardiness of the bacteria, I think I may have goofed on this.

Old tank parameters were:
pH - 8.6
African cichlid salt
Crushed coral substrate

New parameters:
pH - 6.3
No salt (tank was completely drained)
Seachem Flourite substrate

80 F temperature


I guess my main concern is that the nitrogen cycle seems to be taking longer than it should (or typically has). The tank has been up and running for over a month now.

Current Ammonia reading is 1.5mg/l (about halfway on my test kit's scale). I test it almost daily and it doesn't seem to drop. Nitrite hasn't even started to spike yet.

With the contents of my tank, do you see anything that could be contributing to the high ammonia reading? I don't believe the tank is overstocked. Since driftwood is dead, can that decaying matter also produce ammonia?

Since I'm mostly a cichlid guy with rocked aquariums, I'm not quite sure if the plants and / or driftwood could be contributing to the longer nitrogen cycle?


One thing to note - I always used to use Seachem Purigen. I've found it to be a terrific water clearing product. In this new setup, I removed and tossed the Purigen. My reasoning was that I assumed it could remove plant fertilizers, etc. Am I right in my thinking here? I know Purigen is also a terrific ammonia removing product, however, I'd like to let the nitrogen cycle progress naturally.

Maintenance has been typical glass cleaning, plant trimming and 25% water changes with tap water conditioner.

I have not had any fish deaths and the plants seem to be doing just fine. Am I just being impatient with the tank's cycle? I've never had a cichlid tank cycle this long and I'm wondering if it's the added organics - plants and driftwood - that could be making it take so long.

I may be adding Discus at some point, but not before my water parameters are perfect.

Thanks for any ideas you have.
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 11-02-2014, 09:44 PM
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How old is your test kit? They don't last very long actually and the readings can be totally off if that is the case. I had a perplexing cycling experience resulting from exactly that!
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 11-02-2014, 11:11 PM
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Nitrifying bacteria do not grow well when the water is so soft. (ph under about 6.5, GH and KH around 3 degrees or less)

Ammonia is in the form of ammonium, and is less toxic to the fish at this pH.

I would buy a bottle of bacteria that includes Nitrospira species of bacteria.
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 11-04-2014, 01:42 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys!

Mxx - My reagents are a couple years old. With my cichlids, I used Pinpoint meters for pH, Salinity, etc. I suspected the reagents age, so I tested the pH against my Pinpoint meter and they did agree. However, not all reagents are created equal. I tested again today and the ammonia is down to .25 mg/l. The reagents may be old, but I guess this is good because I can now see a decrease in ammonia relative to something. I need to buy another master test kit.

Diana - Thanks much. I wasn't aware about ammonia being less toxic at a lower pH. I did add a dose of Cycle (old, but refrigerated). Not sure if it was still good. I guess this is a case of a new tank and that part of the nitrogen cycle is also part of the tank owner getting paranoid. :p
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 11-04-2014, 03:13 AM
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Before getting too wired about the readings there may be a different way to look at things. Compared to a typical African tank, your new load is hardly noticeable. While you should watch, there may not be much to worry about that a few extra water changes won't solve?? With a big old front., you had a load that beats 24 tetra by a long shot. You may notice that they do die easy, though. Not the tough guys you may be used to dealing.
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