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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Had to go on a 3 week business trip not long after starting a fishless cycle (a couple weeks before I left). Everything seemed to be going well for the first week while I was on the road.
Then she told me about the green stuff growing.

I came home to see this...


Any clues as to where to go from here?

Ammonia is at 4 (apparently has been for several days now).
Nitrites are now at zero.
Nitrates are at zero.

Some of this stuff is green, some is almost white.

Not sure of the brand of lights. They are LED's I ordered from another country.
The day lights fade up from zero starting at about 5 am, reach a peak of about 80% at 4 pm and starting fading down again at 6 pm, goes back to zero by about 9:30 or so (to mimic sunrise and set through the day). I also have a lunar cycle that mimics the real lunar cycle (some nights the blues are at zero as we get to a new moon and some nights the blues are around 40-50% as we get into a full moon).

No C02 hooked up yet (wanted to wait until the tank was cycled and I had more (LOTS more ;) ) plants in the tank.

No ferts going in yet (again, wanted to wait for a more established tank).

Cycling was being done with Janitorial ammonia

I had been running 30ml into it every 24 hours every 24 hours before I left and it would be back to zero the following morning.

One of the canisters is pretty well stopped up, so I will have to go in and replace the charcoal and clean the filters.

Just not sure what I need to do now.

I assume a partial water change is also in order (that can also help suck out some of the mess!).

I will also add that the plant growth has been a heckuva lot better than what I expected for the few plants I do have!

I'm loving it so far. This setback is making me a bit nervous though.

Any help would be MUCH appreciated guys and girls!
 

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Just a thought, while you were gone during your trip and not dosing ammonia the BB could have died since it didn't get any "food." Not so sure about that theory lol Also if that driftwood is new then most new driftwood will grow some fungus like stuff on it for a few weeks/months when it is first put into water.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Just a thought, while you were gone during your trip and not dosing ammonia the BB could have died since it didn't get any "food." Not so sure about that theory lol Also if that driftwood is new then most new driftwood will grow some fungus like stuff on it for a few weeks/months when it is first put into water.
My wife was dosing for me.
I had her doing 30ml every other day until I talked her over how to do the water test.
She had a pretty good little stroke a few years ago, soooo.....
Her memory isn't all that good on some things.
She possible could have skipped a few days here and there.

I expected some BB die off, but not the whole rig!

She was also adding prime for water top offs.
Enough for a couple thousand gallons over the course of my trip. :(
Could that have something to do with it?

I knew about the fungus on the driftwood. Already dealt with it once in this tank. I just didn't think it would last this long. Makes sense that that is what it would be as the wood is where it is the longest and thickest.
 

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Sorry to hear/see the problems with the tank. Also I know some of the trouble with the wife and memory. I have a friend who is dealing with a wife and Alshiemer's. Really , really tough to see.
For the tank? The white fungus is not uncommon and I would just let it go as it will probably go away soon or fish may eat it. Just one of nature's wonders that we don't find appealing?
I would go with a filter cleaning but I don't find charcoal that much help on an everyday basis. You may like it and have reason to use it but many find it a bit more trouble than it is worth. From there, some testing is in order to find what's up. Too much ammonia is a sure killer for bacteria. Kind of need some to get them going but not so much that it kills them. If you add just a small amount and find it not being processed, I'm afraid you may need to just start the process again. If you have not been killed, any left over from lack of ammonia will likely bounce back quite quickly, though. Tough call until you see what happens. I'm the kind of guy that doesn't get too upset with algae, so I would wait to fight that fight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Honestly, if I didn't have specific types of plants and fish I wanted to put in this tank, I would probably just get the levels good and throw in a couple bass, some crappie and maybe a couple sunfish!

I actually do like how the tank looks with it (well, maybe half the thickness and the strands could be a bit shorter also).
I used to do a lot of scuba diving in lakes, so I'm quite used to seeing sites like this in nature.

It also does allow for some natural movement to look at while getting it all settled in.

Any thoughts on Purigen?
That's actually what I was planning on replacing the charcoal with. Already have it. I may give it a shot.

I think you might be right about it being to much trouble. I also think the Purigen might be worse to work with.
 

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You have a 16.5 hour light cycle. 8 is good in a full planted established planted tank. I would start the ferts, CO2, and cut light back to 6 hrs to start.
 

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That's a new tank cycle. Drop the ammonia dosing and cut the lights WAAAAAY back for a while until things settle down. The algae is loving the excess ammonia. It also looks like a lot of cyano which thrives on dead spots. Try adding water movement by way of a power head or something to help move the water around.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Will try and get CO2 rig set up and going the is weekend.
I bet I can come up with some good programming for the lights.

That's why I wanted to list the specifics on it.
I figured I was a bit over-killing the lights.
 

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Not sure what went wrong. Have a read through the fishless cycle. There is a lot of info there about the optimum conditions for these bacteria. They will survive with less than optimum conditions, but not grow and reproduce very well. See if anything looks like that might be what went wrong.

Here is what I see, and what I would do about it.

The nitrifying bacteria have not been growing (per test results).

So. ... Gut it all, clean it up and start over. Treat the plants for the algae/fungus, get it back to looking reasonable. More plants.

To get rid of the fungus and algae do not worry that any treatment might harm the beneficial bacteria. There are not much bacteria in there. I would remove each plant and clean it up, remove as much as you can, then perhaps treat with hydrogen peroxide or Excel in a bucket. Thorough rinse, then replant.

Then start dosing ammonia per the fishless cycle.

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. 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 1b) 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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There is no need to do a fish less cycle in a planted tank. Plant the tank heavy from the beginning and do water changes. I would also not wait to start using co2. I know that there is so many people that start their tanks with the fishless cycle but I don't understand why. In planted tanks it's not needed. The plants do the work for you. Having such high levels of ammonia is counterproductive to the beneficial bacteria production as Nitrospira become dormant with such high levels of NH3.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for that, Diana.
I've read a large amount of cycling guides, but that one is the most in-depth Ive seen so far.

ua hua,
I've followed quite a few posts saying the same thing and I might end up going the same route.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Well.......

Not really sure what happened, but...
I drained down the tank to about 2 inches above the substrate, filled it back up after cleaning out most of the algae, checked ammonia (obviously was zero at that point), checked Nitrites (0), Checked Nitrates (real high!). This is a good thing, is it not?

I've read that if the Nitrates are entirely to high, the test result could come back as 0. I think this may have been the case. Not sure.

Last night, I added just enough Ammonia to bring the level up to 3ppm. This morning it sits at 0.5ppm. Will do the same thing tonight if the reading is 0 (it should be).

If all goes well, then tomorrow I will drain it back down to bring down the Nitrates and get it ready for some nice little fish.

Everything looks as if it actually did cycle, even with a bit to much Ammonia in the later stages.

My fingers are crossed!
 

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Congrats! There are times when we worry things too much. Nature has a way of doing what it wants in spite of any little screwups we make along the way. Sometimes I feel my plants and fish do well in spite of what I do rather than because of what is done!
 

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Not sure what went wrong - looks like a classic case of "blame the wife"! maybe your nitrites went through the roof when you were away and caused it - I see you said you did a big water change which is good and shouldn't affect the cycle I have done that before when N levels went sky high. Your lighting system sounds really good have you got a link to where you bought it? Love the idea of fading lights. I am guessing it was expensive? :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Congrats! There are times when we worry things too much. Nature has a way of doing what it wants in spite of any little screwups we make along the way. Sometimes I feel my plants and fish do well in spite of what I do rather than because of what is done!
I wasn't really THAT worried!
I just figured I could start it over if need be. This time I would be (oooop! timer just went off on the Ammonia test) pretty much guaranteed to be home for the entire cycle.
Wheee! 0ppm!

I think it is done.


Not sure what went wrong - looks like a classic case of "blame the wife"! maybe your nitrites went through the roof when you were away and caused it - I see you said you did a big water change which is good and shouldn't affect the cycle I have done that before when N levels went sky high. Your lighting system sounds really good have you got a link to where you bought it? Love the idea of fading lights. I am guessing it was expensive? :)
I wasn't really blaming her. I have no one to blame but myself.
Yeah, ok, it does look like I was putting some blame on her.
After reading through the post Diana made...
I would've done exactly the same thing myself, if I had been home. The wife did exactly what I told her to do I guess.

The lights are DSunY (Do Sun Yourself).
Model UT3-FS
$480.99
I don't know how they feel about non sponsor links here, but google it. It's the first link that shows.

I like them, but...
I truly wanted the Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED+
They didn't have a programer setup other than a remote control (when I bought them).
 

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Personally, I'd get your plants going before adding fish.

Otherwise you run increased risks of ammonia spikes from disturbing the substrate for the planting.

I'd hit that tank with Excel for a few days just to make sure the algae has been kicked back, get a bunch of hardy fast-growing stems to act as nutrient sponges to also help discourage the algae from growing right back, keep dosing the tank with ammonia and watching the parameters another week or so, and THEN start getting your fish.

And... I always encourage people to quarantine their fish before putting them in a main tank, so I'll stick that plug in here, too. :fish: Investing just a little patience up front and quarantining fish can prevent some serious headaches a few weeks and months down the road trying to eradicate all sorts of fungus and parasite outbreaks in a fully planted main tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Personally, I'd get your plants going before adding fish.

Otherwise you run increased risks of ammonia spikes from disturbing the substrate for the planting.

I'd hit that tank with Excel for a few days just to make sure the algae has been kicked back, get a bunch of hardy fast-growing stems to act as nutrient sponges to also help discourage the algae from growing right back, keep dosing the tank with ammonia and watching the parameters another week or so, and THEN start getting your fish.

And... I always encourage people to quarantine their fish before putting them in a main tank, so I'll stick that plug in here, too. :fish: Investing just a little patience up front and quarantining fish can prevent some serious headaches a few weeks and months down the road trying to eradicate all sorts of fungus and parasite outbreaks in a fully planted main tank.
Very sound advice!

I was talking to my sister yesterday and asked her about how her tank was going (she has had a 20 gallon for about 6 years now). Everything is well with her tank.

Come to find out, she has a 30 gallon bow front sitting in her garage that she said I could have!
I will be picking it up this evening for use as a quarantine tank.



I did another water change last night ( sucked it right down to the substrate). Nitrates are still hanging around 60ppm?
A little frustrating! So close yet so far!

Not sure if I should drain it down again, take a sample to the lfs and have a "professional" test it, or both.
I need to get some more plants anyway (and some Excel :) ). Will probably grab a sample before I head out just to make sure I'm not doing something wrong. I am good at following directions so I doubt I am testing wrong.



And on edit...
My brain has been so frazzled lately (I was awake for almost 6 days straight due to an illness)!
I was coming off of a long, hard, stressful selling season at the same time I got sick.
Don't know why I didn't think about the nitrates being good for plants.

Off to the lfs for some plants!
They won't be exactly what I want, but I bet I can find someone to take them off my hands when my real order of plants gets done (probably another month or so before I get to place my large order). ;)

Will still be doing another massive water change (probably before I actually head out to the store).
 

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60 ppm nitrate AFTER a 90% water change?

That is terrible!

I have noticed that some NO3 does seem to linger in the substrate, so that it won't all go away, even with an almost 100% water change, but 60ppm is a LOT of nitrate.

Try this:

Dig a hole in the substrate at a corner of the tank so you can stick a bit of tubing in there and suck out the water just about to the bottom of the tank.
Do a water change. At first hold the vacuum as close to the substrate as you can without disturbing the substrate, and vacuum all over the tank.
As you get closer to empty stick the tubing (or use smaller tubing, even as small as air hose) into that dug out corner. If you are comfortable with lifting the other end of the tank to help the water drain, do that.
Then partially refill, and drain it again from that dug out corner. You are thus 'rinsing' the substrate by pulling a lot of the water out that has been in contact with the substrate.
Clean the filter with some of this removed water (any stage)

Refill and test the next day.

Remember to follow all the directions on the test kit. If you are using a liquid test kit remember to do a really good job of shaking the reagent bottles, and the test tube.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I will follow that advice next Diana.
I did a "shallow" vacuum of the substrate earlier (hitting about a 1/4" deep). I really don't care for disturbing it that much, but...

We'll see how this one goes.

The way I have the substrate set up, I have a really low spot in it. As I sucked it out earlier, I placed the head of the siphon down in that shallow area and let it suck until it would suck no more!

I would be willing to bet that is going to pull the Nitrates down pretty good.


As far as the testing goes...
Even though I was doing it every day with the Ammonia tests, I still read the instructions prior to doing the test.
The Nitrate test is quite a bit more involved so I read it before and during the test. :)

Again, thanks for the advice!
It is VERY much appreciated! That goes for everyone else with input so far. ;)
 

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Yeah I'd say you want those nitrates down below 10 ppm before I'd even try adding your first fish. Between your water changes and live plants, that should be a pretty easy goal to reach, though.

You might also need to clean/change your mechanical filter media (try not to disturb any biomedia).
 
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