First API master test kit results - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 11-27-2014, 08:21 PM Thread Starter
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First API master test kit results

Hello! My 5 gallon Spec has been running for 2 weeks now, no fish, just some microsword. Not even sure if this counts as cycling because there were no fish/ammonia added. I did read online to add some fish food so I did that a couple times. How are these sounding for the 2 week mark and how do I fix the problem areas?

Substrate: Eco Complete
Temperature: 76-78
Microsword and some rocks
pH: 8.2
Ammonia: 0 - .25
Nitrite: .25 (was 2 but I did a small water change this morning)
Nitrate: 0 - 5 (couldn't match the color, looked closer to zero. was 5 yesterday)

Any tips for reading the test tubes? Should I be holding them up to a window/light source? I noticed there was a huge difference when I did that.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 11-27-2014, 09:39 PM
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In terms of the mechanics of reading the tests - use indirect natural light. Hold out from the card, try and keep fairly consistent.

For ammonia where you usually (hopefully) aren't expecting high levels, I always run a second tube in parallel with tapwater, to compare to.

I've made standard solutions of KNO3 - a 20ppm solution gives a nice light orange that looks just like the 5ppm on the card.....
It pays to calibrate your kit, to get a feel for what the colour in the tube actually looks like for various levels of ammonia etc
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 11-27-2014, 09:40 PM
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Since you will be more interested in trends of things going up or down as much as exact numbers, it is important to set up a consistent way to read the colors. Many find holding the tube in front of the white of the card is best. Lighting is one thing that will change what you see so try to find a light source that will be available to use much of the time. Then train your eyes and mind to associate a number with a color as the color will often be in between two on the card.
When doing a cycle, it may not be that useful to read the nitrate until you do get a big jump in the nitrite. It may only confuse the issue as step one is converting ammonia to nitrite. There may/ may not be some nitrate there but no point in wasting chemicals until it is nitrate from nitrite being converted?
Time and patient waiting?
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 11-27-2014, 09:54 PM
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Here is the fishless cycle. You can do this with fish food.
You are not adding enough fish food at this point.
Pretend the tank is highly overstocked, and feed a high protein food.
When the cycle is complete, and you have fish in there you will not be adding anywhere near that much food, so the big build up of bacteria will be plenty to deal with the ammonia from the fish.

Cycle: To grow the beneficial bacteria that remove ammonia and nitrite from the aquarium.

Fish-In Cycle: To expose fish to toxins while using them as the source of ammonia to grow nitrogen cycle bacteria. Exposure to ammonia burns the gills and other soft tissue, stresses the fish and lowers their immunity. Exposure to nitrite makes the blood unable to carry oxygen. Research methemglobinemia for details.

Fishless Cycle: The safe way to grow more bacteria, faster, in an aquarium, pond or riparium.

The method I give here was developed by 2 scientists who wanted to quickly grow enough bacteria to fully stock a tank all at one time, with no plants helping, and overstock it as is common with Rift Lake Cichlid tanks.

1a) Set up the tank and all the equipment. You can plant if you want. Include the proper dose of dechlorinator with the water.
Optimum water chemistry:
GH and KH above 3 German degrees of hardness. A lot harder is just fine.
pH above 7, and into the mid 8s is just fine.
Temperature in the upper 70s F (mid 20s C) is good. Higher is OK if the water is well aerated.
A trace of other minerals may help. Usually this comes in with the water, but if you have a pinch of KH2PO4, that may be helpful.
High oxygen level. Make sure the filter and power heads are running well. Plenty of water circulation.
No toxins in the tank. If you washed the tank, or any part of the system with any sort of cleanser, soap, detergent, bleach or anything else make sure it is well rinsed. Do not put your hands in the tank when you are wearing any sort of cosmetics, perfume or hand lotion. No fish medicines of any sort.
A trace of salt (sodium chloride) is OK, but not required.
This method of growing bacteria will work in a marine system, too. The species of bacteria are different.

1b) Optional: Add any source of the bacteria that you are growing to seed the tank. Cycled media from a healthy tank is good. Decor or some gravel from a cycled tank is OK. Live plants or plastic are OK. Bottled bacteria is great, but only if it contains Nitrospira species of bacteria. Read the label and do not waste your money on anything else.
At the time this was written the right species could be found in:
Dr. Tims One and Only
Tetra Safe Start
Microbe Lift Nite Out II
...and perhaps others.
You do not have to jump start the cycle. The right species of bacteria are all around, and will find the tank pretty fast.

2) Add ammonia until the test reads 5 ppm. This ammonia is the cheapest you can find. No surfactants, no perfumes. Read the fine print. This is often found at discount stores like Dollar Tree, or hardware stores like Ace. You could also use a dead shrimp form the grocery store, or fish food. Protein breaks down to become ammonia. You do not have good control over the ammonia level, though.
Some substrates release ammonia when they are submerged for the first time. Monitor the level and do enough water changes to keep the ammonia at the levels detailed below.

3) Test daily. For the first few days not much will happen, but the bacteria that remove ammonia are getting started. Finally the ammonia starts to drop. Add a little more, once a day, to test 5 ppm.

4) Test for nitrite. A day or so after the ammonia starts to drop the nitrite will show up. When it does allow the ammonia to drop to 3 ppm.

5) Test daily. Add ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. If the nitrite or ammonia go to 5 ppm do a water change to get these lower. The ammonia removing species and the nitrite removing species (Nitrospira) do not do well when the ammonia or nitrite are over 5 ppm.

6) When the ammonia and nitrite both hit zero 24 hours after you have added the ammonia the cycle is done. You can challenge the bacteria by adding a bit more than 3 ppm ammonia, and it should be able to handle that, too, within 24 hours.

7) Now test the nitrate. Probably sky high!
Do as big a water change as needed to lower the nitrate until it is safe for fish. Certainly well under 20, and a lot lower is better. This may call for more than one water change, and up to 100% water change is not a problem. Remember the dechlor!
If you will be stocking right away (within 24 hours) no need to add more ammonia. If stocking will be delayed keep feeding the bacteria by adding ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. You will need to do another water change right before adding the fish.

Helpful hints:

A) You can run a fishless cycle in a bucket to grow bacteria on almost any filter media like bio balls, sponges, ceramic bio noodles, lava rock or Matala mats. Simply set up any sort of water circulation such as a fountain pump or air bubbler and add the media to the bucket. Follow the directions for the fishless cycle. When the cycle is done add the media to the filter. I have run a canister filter in a bucket and done the fishless cycle.

B) The nitrogen cycle bacteria will live under a wide range of conditions and bounce back from minor set backs. By following the set up suggestions in part 1a) you are setting up optimum conditions for fastest reproduction and growth.
GH and KH can be as low as 1 degree, but watch it! These bacteria use the carbon in carbonates, and if it is all used up (KH = 0) the bacteria may die off.
pH as low as 6.5 is OK, but by 6.0 the bacteria are not going to be doing very well. They are still there, and will recover pretty well when conditions get better.
Temperature almost to freezing is OK, but they must not freeze, and they are not very active at all. They do survive in a pond, but they are slow to warm up and get going in the spring. This is where you might need to grow some in a bucket in a warm place and supplement the pond population. Too warm is not good, either. Tropical or room temperature tank temperatures are best. (68 to 85*F or 20 to 28*C)
Moderate oxygen can be tolerated for a while. However, to remove lots of ammonia and nitrite these bacteria must have oxygen. They turn one into the other by adding oxygen. If you must stop running the filter for an hour or so, no problem. If longer, remove the media and keep it where it will get more oxygen.
Once the bacteria are established they can tolerate some fish medicines. This is because they live in a complex film called Bio film on all the surfaces in the filter and the tank. Medicines do not enter the bio film well.
These bacteria do not need to live under water. They do just fine in a humid location. They live in healthy garden soil, as well as wet locations.

C) Planted tanks may not tolerate 3 ppm or 5 ppm ammonia. It is possible to cycle the tank at lower levels of ammonia so the plants do not get ammonia burn. Add ammonia to only 1 ppm, but test twice a day, and add ammonia as needed to keep it at 1 ppm. The plants are also part of the bio filter, and you may be able to add the fish sooner, if the plants are thriving.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 11-28-2014, 12:49 AM
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I agree with Diana, basically when you add fish is when your cycle will start, unless you do a fishless cycle. There isn't enough bacteria to support fish yet. If you add fish before the tank is cycle (which you can do) just be ready to do many water changes over the next 6-8 weeks (rough estimate) to keep the ammonia levels low. I do fishless cycles on all my tanks, imo its easier because you don't need to do water changes until the end of the cycle. As far as your PH is concerned don't worry about that, your fish and plants will adjust to your PH. If your curious as to why its 8.2 check your tap water if your tap water's PH is lower than 8.2 then something in your tank is altering it.

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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 11-28-2014, 04:22 AM
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What livestock are you interested in?
pH 8.2 may be a bit high for the fish that require the softer water.
Can you post GH and KH test results? If you do not have the tests for these, perhaps your water company includes these with their water quality report.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 11-28-2014, 04:39 PM Thread Starter
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I was hoping for some Celestial Pearl Danios or anything else in the nano fish area Unfortunately I don't have those tests so I'll have to look around for what they are. I tested my tap water this morning and it was just barely lower than 8.2 so that seems to be the problem to begin with
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 11-29-2014, 04:31 AM
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Many water companies post an annual water quality report. They may call these tests something else, and the values reported may be different than are commonly used in the aquarium hobby.

KH, Carbonates, Carbonate Hardness, Alkalinity, Temporary Hardness and other names. Usually reported as 'equivalent to CaCO3' Degrees, Grains per gallon, mg/l (milligrams per liter), ppt (parts per thousand)

GH, General Hardness, Permanant Hardness, or separate values for calcium and magnesium. Also reported as 'equivalent to CaCO3' and the same units.

Celestial Pearl Danios will thrive in soft water, GH and KH under 10 German degrees of hardness. pH near neutral.
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 11-29-2014, 05:10 AM
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Why don't you just go to a ace hardware store and buy a quart bottle of their janitorial ammonia and go to a pharmacy get a children's syringe add the ammonia and get the cycle going the easy why. Ace hardware ammonia is surfactant free. Add some nitrifying bacteria to your tank and you will see your tank cycle. Remember only ACE hardware has the right ammonia that you can use.

Bump: As for your ph try some peat granules and or some indian almond leaves to lower your ph the natural way. Using the chems is bad and not stable. I have to tell you that the peat will also add tannis to your and make it look like tea. The tannis are good for the fish but you may not like the tea look.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 11-29-2014, 01:30 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by navarro1950 View Post
Why don't you just go to a ace hardware store and buy a quart bottle of their janitorial ammonia and go to a pharmacy get a children's syringe add the ammonia and get the cycle going the easy
I actually had another thread asking how to do this is there a certain amount to put into the tank to start it off? I know you're trying to get a certain ppm but how much should you add at a time?
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 11-29-2014, 08:17 PM
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For a 5g tank (18.75L ?) - you would need to add 0.2mL of the stock ammonia cleaning solution to make the tank approx 1ppm.

Might be easier to make up a more dilute solution of the stock ammonia first. I would add 10mL of the ammonia solution to an empty bottle, then add tapwater to bring it to 100mL total volume. Now you can add 2mL of this solution to bring your 5g tank to 1ppm (actually 1.1ppm).

I think there are calculators around online to do these calcs, but the chemist in me can't trust them! Before you spike your tank, do a test dose in a 5g bucket and test the water level.....
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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 11-29-2014, 10:13 PM Thread Starter
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Wow that's awesome, thank you so much!
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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 11-30-2014, 12:44 AM
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Good idea to run a test in a bucket. Ammonia is not always the same strength.

Have you been able to research the GH and KH of your tap water?
If these are low, then adding some peat moss to the water will likely lower the pH.

If the KH is high, then the pH will not respond well to the peat moss. May drop initially, but will come back up.
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