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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm confused by my water parameter test results. I'm 23 days into a fishless cycle with seeding material. Until now, my readings have followed the expected course. Previously I have needed to add pure ammonia every other day to keep the levels at ~1.5-2.0ppm. However, for ~3 days, my ammonia level has not budged from ~1.5ppm. I have not added any pure ammonia during that time. Meanwhile, my nitrItes have spiked and now read zero and my nitrAtes have consistently climbed. (Note: my straight-from-the-tap water is reading .5ppm ammonia.)

Am I wrong to think that the ammonia level should be reading zero or at least dropping if my NitrItes spiked and now read zero? I'm not sure if my ammonia reading is inaccurate, or if there is something else going on with my tank water. :icon_conf

I can think of a few things I've done recently that may have affected my ammonia. Two days ago, I topped off the tank with conditioned water. Three days ago, I added several plants to the tank and buried 5 API root tabs in the substrate. Three days ago, my boyfriend accidentally left the cap off of one of the ammonia testing solution bottles for ~5 hours.

If it matters, I'm running a 38 gallon, freshwater tank, with conditioned tap water. FPS substrate. No CO2. Aqueon® Power Filter QuietFlow 50 runs 24/7. Lighting is a Deep Blue Solarmax T5 Double Strip 36". The tank is decorated with driftwood and lace rock. It is planted with slow to moderate growing plants. Other than the root tabs and and Aqueon water conditioner, I have not added any chemicals, solutions, or ferts to the tank.

I think I'm going to take a sample of water to PetCo later today and ask them to test the water.

Does anyone have thoughts on my water parameter readings :icon_ques
 

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What water conditioner are you using? I have the same test kit, it gives me false readings when I use Seachem Prime, iirc due to chloramine in the water. It never reads as high as 1.0 ppm though, more like 0.25-0.5.

EDIT: Well I can't read. It may be that Aqueon's conditioner does the same thing though.
 

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Is it possible that your local water company uses chloramine as well as chlorine? That can sometimes add to the ammonia reading. I am not sure about aquaeon water conditioner. I use prime, as it neutralizes chloramine as well. You should wait a few more days and test again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'm not sure whether my local water company uses choramine. It is possible that the water conditioner is detoxifying the ammonia, but my test is still reading it. Even still, it should be dropping over the course of a few days.

Here's what I've done...

On a whim, I tested the tank's pH. It has dropped from 7.5 to 6.5 since I set the tank up. A few online sources suggested that low pH can stall the cycle, although my understanding is that it would need to be well below 6.0 before that would be a serious concern.

I did a 1/3rd water change. I was careful to keep the water within a few degrees of the original temperature and to avoid disturbing the substrate. I did pluck a few of the melting leaves off of the new crypts.

I tested the water one hour after the water change:
pH: 6.5 (not sure why this didn't change ???)
Ammonia: 1.5ppm (this didn't change either ???)
NitrItes: previously zero, so I didn't retest
NitrAtes: 20ppm (this dropped from 40ppm)

I added pure ammonia to raise the level up to 3.0ppm. Hopefully this will push the cycle through whatever wall it hit. *fingers crossed*
 

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If you have low nitrate levels with high ammonia that makes me suspicious that organic decay and organic production within the tank itself is not the source. Have you test your source water for ammonia? That is where I'm betting your answer is. Let me know if it's not.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
If you have low nitrate levels with high ammonia that makes me suspicious that organic decay and organic production within the tank itself is not the source. Have you test your source water for ammonia? That is where I'm betting your answer is. Let me know if it's not.
I had already tested the tap water. Ammonia is 0.5ppm. It's there, but not enough to explain 1.5ppm in the tank. Even so, the bacteria that I've grown over the last three weeks should be taking care of it.

I'm really baffled.

Hopefully when I check the parameters today, things will have straightened themselves out.
 

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This is going to sound like a really stupid question, but how longer after you add ammonia and/or do a water change are you testing the water? For example, if you don't do anything to the tank for 24 hours, do you still get a reading of ammonia?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
This is going to sound like a really stupid question, but how longer after you add ammonia and/or do a water change are you testing the water? For example, if you don't do anything to the tank for 24 hours, do you still get a reading of ammonia?
Test results held steady at ~1.5ppm ammonia for three straight days without any addition of water or pure ammonia during that timeframe even though the Nitrates had spiked and dropped to zero during the same timeframe.

Last night I did a 25% water change with conditioned water and added 2ml of pure ammonia. A test an hour later still read ~1.5ppm ammonia. This morning ~12 hours later, it's reading ~3.0ppm ammonia.

I'm completely baffled :icon_conf
 

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Test results held steady at ~1.5ppm ammonia for three straight days without any addition of water or pure ammonia during that timeframe even though the Nitrates had spiked and dropped to zero during the same timeframe.

Last night I did a 25% water change with conditioned water and added 2ml of pure ammonia. A test an hour later still read ~1.5ppm ammonia. This morning ~12 hours later, it's reading ~3.0ppm ammonia.

I'm completely baffled :icon_conf
What is FPS substrate? Could it be leaching ammonia? It's one thing if your ammonia doesn't go down, but the fact that it increased is weird.

You could do a test -- one cup with conditioned tap water, and one cup with substrate and conditioned tap water... wait for 24 hours and see what the ammonia levels are.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
What is FPS substrate? Could it be leaching ammonia? It's one thing if your ammonia doesn't go down, but the fact that it increased is weird.
FPS = filtered pool sand. It's completely inert. Since my ammonia has previously spiked and then dropped to zero, it can't be the FPS. It's only recently that the ammonia increased and held steady for a few days.

I'll try the 24 hr test with the cup of tap water + conditioner. That's a good idea.

 

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I agree about the test kit , i did this yesterday because my tanks has nitrite spikes every time i do a water change.
Really weird that its doing that... but i had the same problem as yu and my ammonia didn't fall even though the cycle was complete. Mine just went after a few weeks.
Really odd tough :icon_eek:
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I retested the 1 cup tap water + conditioner and it's still 0.5ppm. It's been >12 hours. I'll test it again in the morning, but at the moment, I'm thinking that it's not a chloramine to ammonia issue. Also, the conditioner that I've been using does neutralize chloramine, so that should never have been a cause.

I added pure ammonia to the tank last night to raise the tank level back to 3.0ppm. 24 hours later, ammonia is 1.5ppm and nitrItes have raise to 0.25-0.5ppm.

Since both ammonia and nitrItes had previously dropped to zero, I think I've somehow started a mini-cycle.

Can I just say "ARGH!!!"
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
~12 hours after raising ammonia to 3.0ppm and adding baking soda --
Ammonia: 1.5ppm (that dreaded number again!)
NitrItes: ~3.0-4.0ppm
NitrAtes: ~40ppm (unchanged)
pH 7.6

I'll test again in 12 hrs. Fingers crossed that the ammonia will continue to drop.

EDIT: Baking soda was added based on advice in another forum to raise my pH. It had fallen from 7.5 to 6.5. The lower pH may have contributed to my cycling troubles.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Progress!

Looks like we're making progress!

24 hours ago, I raised the ammonia to 3.0ppm again. After 12 hours it had dropped to 1.5ppm (That number is haunting me :icon_mad:). Nitrites were ~5.0ppm. In frustration, I decided to dose the tank with Seachem Prime. (I had been using Aqueon water conditioner). Within 30 minutes, the ammonia dropped to 1.0ppm.

This morning, another 12 hours later, I'm down to ammonia 0.5ppm. Nitrites holding steady at ~5.0ppm.

Woohoo! Progress.

I added pure ammonia this morning, to raise the tank water to 3.0ppm once more.

Come on bacteria, make like rabbits! :proud:
 
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