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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
New to fish keeping. Ive got a 5 gallon tank I've been trying to cycling for over a month now with a amazon sword, moss ball, and java fern and drift wood pieces. Ammonia is at (3-4 ppm) but can't get any nitrites or nitrates. Tested my PH and its below 6.0, could that be the issue? And if so, is there a way to raise my PH without harming the black molly I have in the tank?
 

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Your water must be really soft out of tap.

Sounds like you don't have enough carbonate and general hardness.

Ammonia cycling will stall if there's not enough Calcium and Magnesium for the Nitrobacters to grow with. You could add a little Seachem Equilibrium and buy a KH/GH water test kit. Change out 50% of your water right now and get some Equilibrium and don't add any more Ammonia for the cycling until you start seeing some Nitrates. A little Aragonite or coral sand in a mesh bag will bring up both KH and GH too. Just takes longer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Your water must be really soft out of tap.

Sounds like you don't have enough carbonate and general hardness.

Ammonia cycling will stall if there's not enough Calcium and Magnesium for the Nitrobacters to grow with. You could add a little Seachem Equilibrium and buy a KH/GH water test kit. Change out 50% of your water right now and get some Equilibrium and don't add any more Ammonia for the cycling until you start seeing some Nitrates. A little Aragonite or coral sand in a mesh bag will bring up both KH and GH too. Just takes longer.
I should have also said that i tested my tap water kh and gh, both were 50 ppm, would that mean my water is too soft?

What are you using for a filter? What kind of media?
I have (coarse?) Gravel and a topfin small hang on back filter. It came with the tank in a all-in-one kit
 

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Something is off here. Any tank with water flow, filter media, and ammonia should be generating Nitrite at a minimum by now.

Are you cleaning your filter material? If you are, then you should stop doing that.

When you change your water or top it off, are you using city water or well water? If city water, are you adding dechlorinator? Municipalities add chlorine or chloramine to the water to reduce bacterial levels. This would kill the beneficial bacteria you’re trying to grow.

I would start off by doing an 80%+ water change, to drop that ammonia under 1ppm. Make sure to use dechlorinated water. This will help the Molly.

After that, try adding some of the bottled bacteria per the instructions on the bottle. Feed the fish only a very tiny amount, and check your water for ammonia every day. If it starts to go up, do a water change. If it goes down, congratulations, you’re cycle is underway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Something is off here. Any tank with water flow, filter media, and ammonia should be generating Nitrite at a minimum by now.

Are you cleaning your filter material? If you are, then you should stop doing that.

When you change your water or top it off, are you using city water or well water? If city water, are you adding dechlorinator? Municipalities add chlorine or chloramine to the water to reduce bacterial levels. This would kill the beneficial bacteria you’re trying to grow.

I would start off by doing an 80%+ water change, to drop that ammonia under 1ppm. Make sure to use dechlorinated water. This will help the Molly.

After that, try adding some of the bottled bacteria per the instructions on the bottle. Feed the fish only a very tiny amount, and check your water for ammonia every day. If it starts to go up, do a water change. If it goes down, congratulations, you’re cycle is underway.
When I got the mollies I also bought a bottle of seachem prime and seachem stability and I've been dosing those properly since I got everything. From my understanding, seachem prime is suppose to also dechlorinate the water along with making the ammonia generated non toxic for 48 hours. The seachem stability was suppose to help kick start the cycling process but even after the recommend 7 day dosing I'm not seeing any nitrites or nitrates. Should also mention I'm using an API master kit for testing.
 

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I should have also said that i tested my tap water kh and gh, both were 50 ppm, would that mean my water is too soft?
Oh yes, It's very soft by most standards here in the US. The thing is plants will use that Ammonium up fast because it doesn't take them any additional energy to directly use it. Water that soft and at such a low a pH of 6, your water can have ammonia in it and will be in an Ammonium ion state, which pretty benign to most fish and shrimp. Although running 2 PPM is getting a bit strong even for such soft and acid water. Do the water change and try to bring your general hardness up to at least 3. I'm not sure what PPM that would convert to.

Oh yes, It's very soft by most standards here in the US. The thing is plants will use that Ammonium up fast because it doesn't take them any additional energy to directly use it. Water that soft and at such a low a pH of 6, your water can have ammonia in it and will be in an Ammonium ion state, which pretty benign to most fish and shrimp. Although running 2 PPM is getting a bit strong even for such soft and acid water. Do the water change and try to bring your general hardness up to at least 3. I'm not sure what PPM that would convert to.
Also by adding some GH booster like Equilibrium you're doing your Molly a favor because they're generally a hard water fish. Do the a 50% water change, (80% is really too drastic..) and slowly bring up the hardness over a few days so you don't osmotic shock your fish. Get the API GH and KH test kit so you can test for GH hardness.

Be careful about trying to boost the pH or the carbonates up, because doing so will at some point turn the high levels of Ammonia you already have, into the toxic kind.

Do this all off slowly! You might even consider doing a 30% water change for 3 days over a week or longer period. Don't be tempted to boost the KH or pH until you bring up the general hardness. The low pH is why your Molly is still alive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Also by adding some GH booster like Equilibrium you're doing your Molly a favor because they're generally a hard water fish. Do the a 50% water change, (80% is really too drastic..) and slowly bring up the hardness over a few days so you don't osmotic shock your fish. Get the API GH and KH test kit so you can test for GH hardness.

Be careful about trying to boost the pH or the carbonates up, because doing so will at some point turn the high levels of Ammonia you already have, into the toxic kind.

Do this all off slowly! You might even consider doing a 30% water change for 3 days over a week or longer period. Don't be tempted to boost the KH or pH until you bring up the general hardness. The low pH is why your Molly is still alive.
Thank goodness for the low pH if thats the case then! But I did just a quick glance at the seachem equilibrium product and it says that it'll raise my gH which is great, but won't raise my pH, which I feel is my issue as I understand that a low pH won't allow the bacteria needed to continue the cycling process to grow.
 

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The above posts are all good, but I’ll add a little different perspective.

If you want to keep the Molly alive, don’t let that pH rise above 7.0 until ammonia reads zero, as GrampsGrunge mentioned. You can do some water changes, but I wouldn’t be too aggressive because it is more important to watch the TDS, when you have fish, because big changes can kill them if the TDS shock is significant. The 4ppm ammonium reading isn’t good, but the Molly will be fine as long as it stays in the NH4 form and is not allowed to move into the NH3 region. In fact, that high ammonium level is probably a big part of your pH being that low if there is any nitrification going on, and I suspect that there is, even though you may not be getting good NO3 readings.

You are done trying to cycle aggressively (because you have fish, now) and will have to let nature take it’s course as the NH4 level gradually comes down through BB development, plant consumption and gradual water changes. As pH slowly moves up, the NH4 will slowly move down.

As GrampsGrunge also mentioned, it would be good to get your GH up, but mainly, IMO, for the sake of the Molly. Mollies like high GH. I would target a dGH reading in the 10-12 area (175-200ppm area). Again, it is important to do this gradually to keep TDS from moving more than about 50ppm or 10%, whichever is less, per day. That means adding Ca and Mg ratios so that you aren’t doing more than about 2 dGH (40ppm GH) per day.
 
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You need some Bio media my friend. Something bacteria can hang on too. Basically a sponge has massive gaps which is hard for bacteria to hold on too as bacteria is microscopic and will just flow though the sponge.

Basically these are very coarse and allow the bacteria to attach themselves as the structure is ruff and more dense than a sponge. I can fully cycle a tank in 1.5, 2 weeks using these and a quick start bacteria. Keep in mind these types of Bio media should never be cleaned! Or changed! Just rinse them in aquarium water every once and awhile.
 
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