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Water Plant Wood Organism Vegetation

20 gal planted tank, been running since August 5th

ph stays around 7.0 to 7.6
Ammonia 2.0ppm - 4.0ppm
0 nitrite
0 nitrate

last week Nitrite rose to .25 then dropped down to 0 after 2 days, ammonia stayed the same.
Today, ph dropped below 6.0 with ammonia staying at 4.0 ppm

did a 50% water change this morning and added Quick Start (from what I’ve read so far that’s been the best corse of action)
Ph is at normal levels again.

I’m feeling frazzled that my cycle never started, or stalled.
I’m thinking of removing some plants as I became too overzealous too quickly with plants. Feels as if some of the seeds I started/planted may be the culprit, but I’m also so lost.

thoughts? 🥴
 

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Are you declorinating the water before adding to the tank?

I was going to recommend adding Quick Start but you already did and that's is good.

Your plants don't prevent your tank from cycling. You actually introduced some good bacteria when you planted them, so that's good also.

I would say since you just added Quick Start you should just be patient for another week or so.
 

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I’m thinking of removing some plants as I became too overzealous too quickly with plants. Feels as if some of the seeds I started/planted may be the culprit, but I’m also so lost.

thoughts? 🥴
So the idea is plant early and plant a lot. The plants are good. I fully plant mine when I setup my tanks. I had the worst luck getting my first tank started. It seemed like it took forever.
 

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I find that when ph that low while cycling a tank could stall the process. You could try adding some Neutral Regulator by Seachem. It will raise your ph to 7 and add phosphates which is great for nitrifying bacteria.
 

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I'd recommend getting a handle on the KH -- measure, then add sodium bicarbonate to get it to 5 or so. That will solve the pH drop problem. Tough to understand what the pH drop means without knowing the KH.

+1 on more plants. Enough plants right out of the gate, and very gradual increase in bioload (over months, not weeks) and there's no 'cycle' to speak of as the plants take up all the nitrogen waste.
 

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If you're still around, stop doing big water changes. Unnecessary (unless you've got ADA Aquasoil).

Everyone's got their preferred method. I prefer to keep it simple and easy (and for me, idiot proof).

Get ahold of used filter media (from lfs or wherever) put that nasty black/ brown bacteria filled sponge inside your filter, along with the nasty brown sludgy water it comes in.

Your filter is now seeded. Add ammonia source to feed bacteria. Simple, cheap and easy.

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