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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Tank is a planted 26 bowfront with a 7 gallon sump.

Tank specs are as follows.
40 lbs of Eco-complete substrate.
Large collection of plants, of which I do not remember what is what.
1 medium-sized piece of driftwood.
2x T5HO 24 watt lamps (1 6700k, 1 10000k)
40 watts of 425nm/660nm LEDs
100mw of lunar lighting running 24 hrs
Photo period is 11 hours

Sump specs are as follows.
200 micron pre-filter
200 bio-balls in a chamber that is constantly aerated by an airstone
1/2 lb bag of ceramic beads
1/2 lb bag of activated carbon
Return pump chamber with 100 watt heater, and temperature sensor that feeds a plc.
Return flow is 150 GPH

Perform 30% water change 2x weekly.

Tank is filled with RO water that is treated with Kent RO Right and a tiny bit of bicarbonate to get GH and KH at 6/4

Tank consistently shows the following readings when testing.

pH: 6.6
NH3: .5
NO2: .25
NO3: 10-20
PO4: .5
GH: 6
KH: 4

Injecting CO2 at about 6 bubbles per second into inlet of return pump.

Stocking levels

4 Guppies ~ 2"
9 Neon Tetras ~1.5"
3 Peppered Corydoras ~ 1.5"

I cannot get the ammonia and nitrite levels down to zero no matter what I do.

I suspect maybe the carbon might be leaching out into the water.
 

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Two problems: The tank is not cycled, so you don't have a full colony of bacteria converting the ammonia to nitrates. That is a serious problem for the fish.

And, you have way too much light for a planted tank, even with good CO2. The T5HO light is giving you about 30-60 PAR, depending on the specific light fixture you have. The LEDs are very likely giving you about the same PAR, which means you probably have at least 60 PAR, and possibly twice that. Eleven hours would be too long a photoperiod even if you had half that light. You don't mention doing any fertilizing, but to use that much light you probably do need to be dosing NPK and trace elements. You may have enough CO2, but you will have to watch the plants to be sure.

With some more information about what specific lighting you have it should be possible to figure out more accurately what light intensity you have. Then we can do a better job determining what kind of fertilizing would be appropriate. But, to do that, we also need to know what specific plants you have.

If the plants are growing fast now the lack of cycling might not be a serious problem, since the plants do use nitrite and ammonia as a source of nitrogen. If you dose the tank with Seachem Prime you may also be able to neutralize the ammonia in the water, and the cycling can continue without harming the fish too much. I would do a 50% water change every day for a week or longer to be sure.
 

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Carbon does not leach out into the water.
Activated carbon does not release whatever it has adsorbed.
If it has removed all it can, but more of whatever is being generated in the tank, then you might think it is releasing stuff. It is not.

However, if you think this is happening replace the AC.
The new AC will start removing things from the water until it gets full.

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I would add some nitrifying bacteria. Look for a product that contains Nitrospira species of bacteria. These are the right ones.
They are not so active at lower pH, though, so I would also make sure the plants are really thriving. Plants remove nitrogen in the common forms in the aquarium.

You can also help be adding less nitrogen. Nitrogen enters the tank in the protein in the fish food, and as fertilizer. I would not add any nitrogen fertilizer while the tank is still cycling, or while something is going on with the nitrifying bacteria.

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Good idea too is to confirm that your tests are accurate.
Test something else that you know has ammonia or nitrate (something with nitrite is difficult to find).
Have your water tested by someone else- a friend with a different test kit, a store...
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I am fertilizing, and tank is cycled. It has been up and running for some time now with the Ammonia peak on December 19th, nitrite peak December 28th, and on Jan 2nd Ammonia and Nitrite were reading 0. This started about 2 weeks ago.

Ferts used:
Monday and Thursday - 5ml of Flourish Trace
Wednesday and Saturday - 5ml of Flourish
Sunday - test phosphate and dose to maintain .1 to .2 (usually about 3ml)
Tuesday - dose 5ml of Potassium

I have nitrogen fert, but I had not needed it as the nitrate level came up on its own and is holding.

I'll post up a picture of the tank here shortly.

Bump: Would ambient pressure affect nitrifying bacteria? I am a LONG WAY from sea level, air pressure is about 30% lower here.
 

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Ambient pressure shouldn't affect the bacteria, but I think it might reduce the dissolved CO2 in the water from the atmosphere. Since you are using pressurized CO2 that won't be a problem either.

Flourish and Flourish trace are essentially the same, except Flourish trace is even more diluted. You could dose just Flourish and achieve as much as using both. I think you are shooting for too little phosphate, but lately there has been a lot of discussion about keeping lower levels of nutrients in the water, so you may be alright with the level you are using. I also think you need more potassium, so I suggest if you want to keep using Flourish products, use Flourish potassium.

Oops! You are using Flourish potassium.
 

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What Hoppy and Diana said +1

40lbs of dirt? How deep?

Can we see a picture of well your plants are growing?

I'd skip ferts till the tank cycles. You are still reading Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate.

Let the plants absorb all the Nitrates.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I'm not noticing any odd behavior out of the fish, and my RO feedwater tests 0's for Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate. I was thinking I might be overstocked, so I rehomed the Angelfish and Plecos to a neighbor who has a 125 gallon tank. We'll see if that solves the anomalous readings.
 

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Your stocking is not too high for this tank.

How much ammonia did you add to the tank to cycle? How long after you were cycled did you wait to add fish? Did you keep up the ammonia in the meantime?

It sounds like either the colonies of nitrifying bacteria established by cycling were too small for the bioload you introduced or those colonies died off for some reason. I agree with Diana, add some nitrifying bacteria to try to restart the cycle, and in the meantime, if you can't temporarily move your fish to a cycled tank, do water changes to keep the ammonia and nitrite levels low so the fish aren't too stressed (but don't zero them out, or your bacteria won't establish).
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I did a fish-in cycle, started off with 9 Neons, and still have them all. Waited for the cycle to complete before slowly adding fish. The levels aren't high, less than .5ppm, but they are present at the moment. I'll search the LFS for something with Nitrospira, although I doubt the chain stores would carry such a product. Their bacteria in a bottle stuff is of a different type I believe.
 

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I did a fish-in cycle, started off with 9 Neons, and still have them all. Waited for the cycle to complete before slowly adding fish. The levels aren't high, less than .5ppm, but they are present at the moment. I'll search the LFS for something with Nitrospira, although I doubt the chain stores would carry such a product. Their bacteria in a bottle stuff is of a different type I believe.

So that's your problem. When you cycle with fish, the bacteria colonies build up to handle the wastes from those fish, but not a bunch more. When you add more fish, you can get a spike. The bioload of 9 neons was not enough to build up nitrifying bacteria to handle plecos, angelfish, etc. (That's why most would advocate for fishless cycling, because you can build up a large amount of bacteria, enough to handle a full load of fish.)

So, all you can do at this point is keep up water changes and add nitrifying bacteria. Ditching the plecos also helps -- they are poop factories.

And next time try cycling without fish. :)
 

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I did a fish-in cycle, started off with 9 Neons, and still have them all. Waited for the cycle to complete before slowly adding fish. The levels aren't high, less than .5ppm, but they are present at the moment. I'll search the LFS for something with Nitrospira, although I doubt the chain stores would carry such a product. Their bacteria in a bottle stuff is of a different type I believe.

Petco carries tetra safestart which has the right bacteria.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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I wish I had something to add here but I'm not sure any one else has nailed it. My first thought is maybe the low ph is playing a part in the growth of the nitryfying bacteria. The highest bio load I would think is the neons as they urinate 4-6x their body weight. When you say you can't get them down...how long have you been struggling with it?
 

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The fish-in cycle is not a 'once and done' event.
It is an ongoing program that can take up to 6 months to fully stock the tank.
Each time you add a few (very few) more fish, you start another growth spurt of bacteria, and another round of rising ammonia and nitrite.
These bacteria grow very slowly at low pH. This tank will cycle (grow more bacteria) slowly. If you can raise the KH a bit more, this will help the bacteria. The problem is that when the pH is low, the ammonia is in the less toxic ammonium (NH4+) form. As the pH rises more of it is in the more toxic ammonia (NH3) form.

Do enough water changes, frequency and volume, to keep the ammonia under .25 ppm and the nitrite under 1 ppm.
Use a dechlorinator that also helps with ammonia and nitrite. Prime is one example.
When the tests show NO2 is present add salt (sodium chloride) or some other source of chloride. The chloride will block a certain amount of the NO2 that enters the fishes' blood and causes Brown Blood Disease (Methemoglobinemia). You can dose table salt @ 1 teaspoon per 20 gallons. When you do a water change, just dose for the amount of new water. Example, a 5 gallon water change would get 1/4 tsp. of salt.

Microbe Lift's Nite Out II has an odd label. Sometimes it does list Nitrospira, other times it does not. It is worth a try, if you can find it.
Tetra Safe Start has Nitrospira.
Dr. Tim's One and Only has Nitrospira.
 
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