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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-01-2015, 11:29 PM Thread Starter
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ok so I am not new to tanks but I just set up a 5 gallon and I have never set up a small tank.

My cory cats laid eggs and I was able to isolate the eggs in my 90g and hatch the eggs. in the mean time I set up the 5 in kind of a rush. hoping i would have a place to move the fry to. I filled with water from my established tank and added 5 neon tetras and ran for 10 days. and moved the neons back into the big tank and released the fry into the 5g about ten days had passed all been well fry growing well but yesterday i noticed a cloud in the tank had some time today and ran water tests and the ammonia was very high. so obviously the tank is still cycling in a panic not wanting to hurt my fry I immediately did a 30% water change and broke down my fluval fx6 on my 90g and grabbed on of the bio sponges out of it and put it in the 5g. Is adding the sponge a good idea ? anything else I should be considering ?
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-01-2015, 11:56 PM
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I believe that most of the things you have done are right! However, I have the suspicion that you used new substrate for your 5 gal tank. That NEW substrate is now leaking ammonia which shows up in the water. There is no way that you have enough bacteria in your tank that can oxidize the ammonia fast enough. Also, you just don't know how much ammonia will be leaching out.

If I were you, I would just operate the tank without substrate for now to be on the safe side. The filter was a good idea and I would leave it in, but I would either add the substrate in small portions over time, or just replace it with washed sand.

Further, if you want to control the ammonia keep the pH of your tank at 6! That allows that most of the ammonia is present as non-toxic ammonium ions (NH4+) and not as NH3.

Good luck.
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-02-2015, 12:17 AM Thread Starter
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the batch of fry in the 5g i think is around 3 weeks old and have grown enough they have a sporting chance in the 90g should i just moved them? the only threat is from a couple congo tetras I dont think the neons are a threat at this point if i move them out I could let the tank finish cycling have it ready for the next batch of fry maybe

also as a after thought the substrate is just black sand i rinsed before adding ...

but was new ...

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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-02-2015, 12:45 AM
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I filled with water from my established tank- This is good to maintain the same mineral content as they were used to, but does not bring a significant amount of beneficial bacteria.

... and added 5 neon tetras and ran for 10 days- This is not long enough to grow the bacteria, starting with little or no bacteria.

released the fry... ten days had passed all been well fry growing well but yesterday i noticed a cloud in the tank
... ammonia was very high- Ammonia sources: fish food, substrate, dead matter (plants, uneaten food). Find the source- if it is the substrate, then remove it.

... so obviously the tank is still cycling. True- no matter what the source of a reasonable amount of ammonia, the bacteria ought to take care of it. But this is only 20 days after set up. The ammonia removing bacteria should have grown into a reasonable population by now. I would have expected NO2, unless the ammonia source was so high that it stalled the growth of the bacteria.

I immediately did a 30% water change- I would have done a continuous water change, or 2 x 50% to drop it even more.

...and broke down my fluval fx6 on my 90g and grabbed one of the bio sponges out of it and put it in the 5g. Wonderful source of beneficial bacteria, as long as there are health fish in the 90g. (No fish = very small bacteria population).

Is adding the sponge a good idea ? anything else I should be considering?- Keep monitoring conditions, and keep up the water changes. Add lots of plants. Plants will remove ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, as well as growing microorganisms that very small fry eat.

Here is the fishless cycle.
Note that one of the suggestions is to add beneficial bacteria (any of several sources) then do the fishless cycle to build the population bigger. Since you had 10 days (instead of putting Neon Tetras in the tank) you could have done this:
Put filter media from established tank in the new tank.
Add ammonia per fishless cycle to raise more bacteria.
When the fry are ready to go into the tank BIG water change to remove all ammonia, nitrite, nitrate.
Since you would have started with a balanced population of bacteria (cycled media) the tank will be fine.
In 10 days, starting with a cycled sponge, you could grow a pretty big population of bacteria.

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. I have even heard of the right bacteria growing in the bio film found on driftwood. (So if you have been soaking some driftwood in preparation to adding it to the tank, go ahead and put it into the tank) 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 8 (permalink) Old 10-02-2015, 01:43 AM Thread Starter
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my 90 is an extremely healthy and active tanks with lots of fish and snail so that sponge should be loaded with beneficial bacteria. I use all R/O water so chemicals are not an issue. Could i do massive water changes from my 90 to the 5 without damaging the new growing bacteria ?


After much deliberation I decided the best course of action was a 75-80% water change with fresh water from my 90g that is cycled and clean and also the water the babies were born in. I retested the water and estimate this dropped the ammonia levels from 4ppm to 1ppm I will retest tomorrow and if its climbing again I will do another large change hopefully with the lowered ppm and the good bacteria from the sponge the tank will stabilize over the next couple of days. I am as always open to suggestions and input and grateful to everyone that has offered their help.

Brent B

Last edited by BrentB; 10-02-2015 at 02:10 AM. Reason: update
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-02-2015, 03:23 PM
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You're on the right path; but dont fool yourself into thinking using water from another tank is doing you any good. The beneficial bacteria grows on the surfaces of the tank (the nooks and crannies of the filter sponges, the glass, the substrate, the plants, etc). So using the sponge from that old filter is the right idea. Using old tank water from another setup is really not helping anything as you're basically taking dirty water from one tan and putting it in another. Start doing daily water changes and keep monitoring the ammonia level. What kind of filter are you using on the 5 gallon? Could you take even more bio media from your 90 gallon setup and put it into the filter on the 5 gallon?

Also, dont try and estimate what your ammonia level might be! You're not going to guess correctly.

Finally, there is a chance the new substrate in that tank could be leaching ammonia; but most inert substrates will not do this.

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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-02-2015, 04:01 PM
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I have set up plenty of tanks right on the spot using aged tank water and seeded filters. Just fill the new tank with (anywhere from 20-70%, but I like to do 40-60% usually) of aged tank water (only if that tank water doesn't have toxic readings), set the rest of the tank up, top off with new tap water (with dechlorinator). I let it sit for 15 minutes at least just to give it some time to fully mix and equalize temps (most likely doesn't need to be done, but that's what I do). Then add on a new filter housing and use some of the already established/seeded biomedia from the cycled tank (the display tank will be fine with the little amount of biomedia taken). If you don't have another filter, you can make a quick and easy DIY air driven one (plastic bottle filled with biomedia and some filter floss, with a airline sitting underneath all the media, releasing bubbles that pull water/oxygen over the biomedia to keep the aerobic bacteria alive and working).

Adding the bio sponge was a good idea as long as it was rinsed off with tank water so no excess collected debris gunks up the fry tank. But just sitting it in still water won't be very efficient. Aerobic bacteria like oxygen a lot, so putting a airline under it to have oxygenated bubbles flowing through it (plus it helps create surface agitation creating more o2 and does circulate the water a bit, spreading around more o2 throughout the tank. The DIY bottle filter, you can still do the same using the bio sponge inside the bottle.

The toxic levels shouldn't be going high like yours are getting even if it was a brand new set up with a new unseeded filter. How are you adding in so much ammonia? Overfeeding? Adding liquid ammonia? Find the cause and address it.
The fry are very small and a 10 gallon is plenty big. You actually should be able to just run a airstone for air, and get away with just doing a water change once a week without toxic levels becoming a issue since the fry practically don't put out a bioload, only thing is to not overfeed the little guys, they don't need much.

Actually just took a look at your pic again and the plants actually should be enough to handle the bioload of the fry (up to a certain age). So I do highly think something is causing the ammonia spikes. Fix that ASAP as baby fish especially are sensitive to toxic levels (they are still developing afterall). I think it's probably the substrate.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-04-2015, 02:25 PM Thread Starter
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Also, dont try and estimate what your ammonia level might be! You're not going to guess correctly.

Those were not guesses those were the readings after API ammonia (nh3,nh4) tests, my wording to say i estimate is because api tests are general readings not precision readings as we are comparing colors to a color chart

the babies were almost a month old I have moved them back into my planted community 90g and so far they are doing well the 5 is now empty of fish and being allowed to finish cycling naturally.

I still am not 100% sure why the ammonia levels where high I think over feeding is unlikely I have been feeding fry micro powder using tweezers to measure the pinch. Now at the almost one month age the babies are going after regular food I tested that by adding about a 1/3 of a veggie pellet a couple days ago before the move ...

as unusual as getting ammonia from sand is I feel it has to be the substrate. I will continues now with small water changes and wait out the tank until its ready.

as far as filtration I have a small Tetra h.o.b. designed for 5-10g with a prefilter sponge around the intake
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