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Hi all! I’ve started a planted tank and am confused about what’s going on with my water. It’s been running for around two weeks. The first week it was running blank aside from gravel that was recommended by my LFS. It was wet and mucky when I bought it and put it in. Last weekend I planted heavily. Nothing particularly fast growing but I am seeing new growth. There is a small amount of duckweed but I doubt it’s enough to consume every bit of ammonia or nitrate. As I expected, my driftwood developed a cloudy fungal/bacterial “growth”. There was also a few days of cloudy water. My test (API liquid) showed what looked like .25 ammonia. There are snails present and some melting plant leaves. Today it is showing zero on every test. If I am cycled shouldn’t I see at least some nitrate? Are the plants using everything up? I’m tempted to put my fish in as they are low bioload but don’t want to rush it in the tank isn’t ready.
(My ph is 6.6-6.8)
I’ve searched and couldn’t find anything that clarified my issue. Hopefully I’ve not missed any pertinent information. Thanks in advance!

Forgot to add that I am not introducing outside ammonia. I’m relying on the melting leaves and snails for that.
 

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Hi Jason,

Few suggestions / ideas / pointers for you to perhaps consider:

Snails and leaves along are not going to give much ammonia, depending upon how many snails of course. Are you feeding the snails? What snail type / size / number? You probably need to add some fish food to either create ammonia directly, or else for the snails to eat and then create ammonia indirectly.

API test kits are generally unreliable between 0 and 0.25ppm readings. Really hard to distinguish that slight lime green-ness. Many people with well cycled tanks report getting 0.25ppm readings (me included!). So 0.25ppm coudl easily mean zero, and an actual low ammonia reading could easily be missed if you don't hold the test tube just right against the card in the right light.

If it's gravel, any particular reason you didn't wash it before adding to the tank if it was "mucky"? Not sure if you mean this was good much or bad muck?

I'm guessing your tank *isn't* cycled yet given it's age (2-3 weeks?) and that there hasn't been much ammonia supplied. Have you been adding any bacteria products, or just waiting for the bacteria to colonise naturally? I'd say 3 weeks would be pretty good going to get a tank cycled with lots of bacteria and ammonia added. Perhaps more likely that your cycle hasn't really got going yet?

Regards, James
 

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I'd start dosing some ammonia such as Fritz PRO - Ammonium Chloride.

The tank isn't cycled until you can place ammonia in the water in the correct measured dose, and it's gone in 24 hours with no ammonia or nitrite levels on the test kits. Depending on the nitrate levels from the ammonia>nitrite>nitrate cycle and how heavily planted the tank is, you might not be able to test that, but there should be some at least not 0ppm.
Whether that's 2 weeks or 2 months I've had tanks with the exact same parameters from my tap take different times between those time frames.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the assistance! The tank is just under 5 gallons and there are only a few ramshorns in there. They are definitely eating something but I gave them a little pinch of food anyway. About the gravel, I did rinse it before putting it in. It bought it wet and dirty from the LFS. It didn’t smell bad at all. All of the plants came from mature tanks and I packed them in densely. Lots of hardscape too. I noticed a good amount of microfauna earlier today but I imagine that is neither here nor there. Either way, I’m treating the tank as “not cycled”.
I’ve dosed with ammonia to 2ppm and used a bottled bacteria (Microbe-Lift) that was recommended by my LFS. I’ll test tomorrow and see where I’m at then. Thanks again!
 
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