12Gallon Long Tank. Cycling. Ammonia keeps going up. - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-04-2015, 05:05 PM Thread Starter
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12Gallon Long Tank. Cycling. Ammonia keeps going up.

Hi there!
I've been cycling a Mr.Aqua 12 gallon long for about 5 weeks now. However, my ammonia keeps going up after numerous water changes to keep it in check. Here is what I've done:

-End of first week I was given seeded media. Some filter floss and balls/tubes with the bacteria on it. I was also given some plants. The tank is 'mediumly' planted as they are only starting to grow.
^ At this same point I dropped a fresh shrimp into a net and into the tank to decompose and start the cycle.
The next day I had an ammonia reading. A few days later a nitrite reading of 0.25ppm. I've never had any nitrates but have been told this could be due to my plants eating it up. The shrimp was taken out after a week as it had 'done it's job and no longer needed'.

So during the 3rd week I STILL had an ammonia reading of about 2.0 and it stayed there. The nitrite never went past 0.25ppm and disappeared completely and has not shown since.
- I suddenly found snails. Everywhere. Bought an assassin snail. He is still alive and have no found any pond snails since.

4th week, after being told the tank should have instant cycled from the seeded media I was told to try ATM Colony. So, I dumped that bottle in last Monday. It says to wait 4 days for it to colonize before doing any water changes and that it loves to eat ammonia.
Well, it's now Sunday and my ammonia has only been spiking to 4-6ppm. Nitrite and nitrate still remain 0.
I did a 50% water change last night. Tested half an hour ago and ammonia is 4.0ppm.
I have bits of plants likely rotting, I remove what I see. But nothing else should be rotting in the tank. I use Prime as a water conditioner.

I have two fake rock ornaments, a bunch of plants, one assassin snail. That's it. Is this a normal spike? I was told I was just waiting for the ammonia to be 0 for week to be cycled as I had already had a nitrite reading(which may have spiked when i was asleep, and nitrate non existant because of the plants) and that this should have happened two weeks ago but it's still spiking.

So, yeah. Do I just keep waiting and doing water changes to keep it at 2.0ppm ammonia?

I'm using an AquaClear 20, sponge on bottom, seeded media balls, new media tubes, and filter floss. Stacked bottom to top in that order. I also have a fluval prefilter sponge on the tube.

Substrate is a mix of activ flora and normal black gravel from national geographic. I was told none leech ammonia.
I put in Flourish Tabs two weeks ago to help the plants as I do not have a light. I'm using natural sunlight until my Fluval Fresh & Plant 2.0 Arrives shortly.
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-04-2015, 05:21 PM
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The ammonia has to be coming from somewhere.
I do not think dead shrimp last that long, but just to be sure I would do a thorough vacuum and filter cleaning.

Test all the other parameters. Something is stopping the bacteria from growing.

Check the active ingredients in the product you used. If it does not contain Nitrospira species of bacteria, then this is not the right product. The information at their site is hopeful, and contains information about the proper tank conditions to grow these bacteria.

I am including the fishless cycle for more information.
Some things to note:
~While many aquarium plants do not mind some ammonia in the water, if it is much higher than about 1ppm this is too high for most plants. Until you find the ammonia source do enough water changes to keep the ammonia no higher than 1 ppm.
If you find and remove the ammonia source, use ammonia from a bottle to better control the levels.
~Compare your water parameters to the conditions listed. Something is missing or out of balance.
~ Aquaclear 20 is pretty small for a 20 gallon tank. I run AC 50s on my 20 gallons.

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 #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-04-2015, 08:06 PM
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Just a wild guess, something killed your seed bacteria and it is the source of the ammonia.

What are your water GH, KH, TDS, and pH readings?

I've had good luck with Tetra SafeStart with two tanks. One was fishless with ammonia added to feed the bacteria. I used some janitorial ammonia from Ace Hardware. The stuff at supermarkets usually has additives that could cause problems. The other tank was cycled with fish. I used a fairly heavy dose of SafeStart on both tanks and cycling was very quick.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-04-2015, 08:54 PM Thread Starter
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I had to travel 20 mins with the seeded media and It had already been in the bag for 20 as I was talking to who was giving the media to me. I know it only lasts about an hour. I figured perhaps the seeded media and ammonia spike were linked as the ammonia had died and are constantly giving it off. If I we're to replace my media, that will completely restart the cycle no? If that's the case, I think I would buy Dr.Tim's one and only nitrifying bacteria as I hear great things from it.
What new media should I get? As well, the AquaClear 20 is on a 12Gallon tank. Not a 20g.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-04-2015, 09:12 PM
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Ah, sorry about the tank size mix up. AC20 on a 12 gallon (American or Imperial gallons) is good.

Dead bacteria on the cycled media you got is possible. These bacteria need oxygen and a humid location. They respire less at cooler temperatures. To transport media with bacteria I would keep it as cool as possible, perhaps with the air conditioner in the car on, or even a cold pack in an ice chest. But do not allow the cold pack to touch the media. Wrap it in a towel to keep them separate. Cool is good. Freezing will kill it. Too hot and the bacteria will need more oxygen. If they were in a sealed container, the heat or lack of oxygen could have killed or weakened them.
Since it has not worked for you it may have been dead, or something in the tank slowed it down or killed it.

I am more concerned that you have been working on this for 5 weeks. If you follow the instructions in the fishless cycle the way I have posted it, with NO starter colony, the cycle can be complete in 3 weeks. With a starter colony from a cycled tank, or the right species from a bottle the cycle should have gone a lot faster than that.
Something else is stopping the bacteria from colonizing your tank. Do you have test kits for GH, KH and other water parameters? If not, can you get a water quality report from your water company? Or are you on a well?
Dr. Tim's is a good product. It certainly has the right species- he is the scientist who discovered them. But I would see what is going on with the water before adding more bacteria.
Perhaps it is time to clean out the tank and start over. Clean everything, but do not use any soap or any other material that cannot be removed from the surfaces.
I have used things like table salt, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and chlorine bleach to clean tanks and equipment.
Salt and baking soda are highly soluble in water, a thorough rinse is all it takes to remove them. They can be slightly abrasive if applied dry. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) breaks down to oxygen and water, leaving nothing in the tank. Chlorine bleach evaporates, and dechlorinator can be used to lock it up. If you have other reasons for wanting to start over, perhaps a new aquascape or something, then do this. Otherwise, lets see if we can figure out what is going on before tearing down the tank.

In my AC filters I run the sponge that comes with it, and I add some finer media like some polyester floss, or a blue and white bonded media that I buy in sheets, cut to fit. Then I use whatever ceramic bio media I have. If the tank is a black water tank, I will add a nylon stocking of peat moss. If it is a hard water tank I will add a nylon stocking of coral sand, oyster shell grit or other mineral source. Most of my tanks are just tap water, though.
If I have small fish (fry) in the tank then I will add another AC sponge over the filter intake.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-05-2015, 12:37 AM Thread Starter
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Would it be fine to leave everything in the tank, drain it, completely replace the media, use Dr. Tim's one and only and do it that way? It would be a hell of a lot of work to take out all plants, decor, and gravel :/
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-05-2015, 12:43 AM
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I would sure do it that way. Just rinse out the media if it will work in that tank, or replace it with media you want to use. Big water change.
But check the water parameters to make sure it will support the bacteria. They need certain minerals to thrive and grow.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-05-2015, 12:56 AM
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Did you get rid of all the shells from the pond snail? The ammonia could be from the leftover inside the shells.


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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-05-2015, 02:31 AM Thread Starter
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I've gotten rid of all I shells I could find. I just did a 95% water change. Ammonia now at 0.25ppm but I just did the test right after the change. I took out the filter floss. But kept everything else as nothing is open to buy new media on a Sunday haha
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-05-2015, 03:48 AM
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I think it is the best to find the source of your ammonia first. Did you test the water from the source? It could be even from the decorative stone. check it for anything suspicious under it.

Since you haven added anything yet, it will be a good idea to wait atleast 24hrs to see if your ammonia will spike again.

I dont know if I missed it, what substrate do you have in it? Did you have a journal of your tank with 2 white stones in it? I remember seeing some pics.


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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-05-2015, 02:50 PM Thread Starter
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Ammonia from the tap I believe was between 0.25-0.50ppm and then treated with Prime in a bucket before adding to the tank. I've vacuumed the substrate pretty thoroughly. I use a mix of Activ Flora and plain black gravel. Activ Flora does not leech ammonia.
The stones are fake. Exactly these:Top Finģ Holey Rock Aquarium Ornament | Ornaments | PetSmart
The assassin snail is still alive moving around so it's not from him.
Just tested the ammonia. It is 0.50ppm. Up from 0.25ppm last night. The tank has a sort of... 'rot' smell to it? I mean that could just be a normal aquarium smell.
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-05-2015, 05:00 PM
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Does it have any type of algae in it? BGA is known to give really bad smell to aquariums. Rot smell is not normal IMO. Healthy aquarium will have no smell or a lil bit of fish smell.
I am not a chemist but I think, the water conditioners react with chlorine or ammonia or something and convert it into a safe form of ammonia but then it will still show up in the test you do because it cannot find the difference between the two forms. Are you sure it is not that?


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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-05-2015, 06:23 PM Thread Starter
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I had some brown algae I wiped off the rock. It only appeared where the sun was hitting so I blocked off the light to those areas. I'm using Prime as a water conditioner. I don't think it's supposed to affect Ammonia readings though. Or else every water test would be wrong I assume?
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-05-2015, 11:08 PM
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That is really odd. I have used API Ammo Lock before and it shows ammonia reading. Prime may not. Another guess is, is something like a small fish or something dead inside the substrate? Maybe a shrimp escaped out into the substrate?


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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-05-2015, 11:24 PM
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Keep doing water changes

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