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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Have a 120gallon, set up for over a year, filters have been established for longer from my older tanks. Consolidated them all to one larger tank now. Lots of Malaysian driftwood, bunch of 6" adult discus.

Made the huge mistake of cleaning filters and gravel same day, my tank will not bounce back. It's been almost 2 months. I've done big water changes often, dose with seachem safe to make sure ammonia is not bothering the discus. There has to be some underlying reason it's taking this long.

My readings show zero Nitrite and Nitrate and high ammonia, doesn't this mean my filters are dead and starting fresh.

I believe that because my PH is so low from the wood, around 5 , that my bacteria could have potentially stalled and will not grow at this PH?

I've dosed Dr. Tims one and only for a boost with no luck.

A month later, yesterday, I just dosed with another bacterial additive "start smart". This time I did a test, added some of it to a non cycled quarantine tank with a discus being de wormed. 15 hours later seems to be taking effect on the quarantine but no luck on the 120 gallon display tank. So it seems the product should be working.

Should I pull all the driftwood out and put coral in my filter so it will slowly raise my KH thus Ph? Bump up the dissolved solids and see if that promotes a cycle.
I understand I will have to do this slowly since big increases can harm my fish. I'm just worried since I know the higher the PH the more toxic ammonia will be so I will have to do more water changes.

Are the large water changes also not helping the cycle since I am removing most to all of the ammonia needed to cycle the tank when I do huge changes.

Any advice would be great
 

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What kinds of filters are you running in the tank? I may be reading this incorrectly, but did you just move the filters to the 120G, or did you move the discus in there as well? Or were they already in the tank and you just moved filters?

I could send you a bag of some of my media from my discus tank and/or some Matrix from my cichlid tank to see if that helps jump start your tank: you'd just have to pay the $5-6 for me to ship it up your way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Wow how generous of you.

I moved a few months back and have yet to setup my plants in this tank. The filter and tanks been running together for about a year now. One of the filters(eheim canister) used to be running on my 60 gallon alone, it was plenty for that size.

I have an Eheim Pro 3E( intake behind the 3 background) and Fluval Fx5 intake in the main tank compartment. A lot of filtration but was maintaining solid water clarity.

Most of the wood I have in the tank has been in my tanks for years, at least 3. I just added a new giant piece of malaysian thats soaked and dried all summer. I usually maintain a PH of 6 to 6.5.

I just calibrated my PH Milwaukee reader, and my PH reading is 3.1 !!!!!!!! That's insanely low. My discus are all eating and actually seem fine. The bacteria are probably dormant , dead or running 0%. I am going to have to pull out this piece of wood, do a large water change and put some coral in the filter.

Keep in mind my tap water in NYC is around 7, to 6.8. KH is really low, and Gh same.
There is no buffering capacity in this water, I usually always keep coral in my filter.
I have to fix this asap to get my bacteria up and running again. No wonder the Dr.Tims did nothing.
 

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You could add purigen to the filter, that will strip the tannins from the water. I can't believe a piece of wood could drop a 120g tank to 3.1 pH! That is insane. Is your KH and GH 0? Crushed coral or something like Kent's RO right for new water, should work. Changing the water will also get those tannins out. Just don't do it too quickly, as the low pH is probably saving your discus. I would keep up on regular water changes. The bacteria will still get plenty of ammonia even if you were changing 90% of the water per day and cycling will continue.
 

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Nitrifying bacteria do not do so well when the pH is under 6.5. Certainly not reproduce.
They are pretty much inactive at pH 6.0
They also use the carbon for carbonates, and a few minerals.

Here is what I would do:
Option A: Use zeolite as an ammonia remover, and just run the tank that way. This is a LOT of work, but if you are keeping the Discus with very large daily water changes or a constant water change system this might be a valid way of doing things.

Option B: Increase the GH and KH to at least 3 German degrees of hardness, the pH to at least 6.5 and add some plant fertilizers. KH2PO4, and trace minerals. Do this slowly, perhaps over a couple of weeks so the fish are OK with it.
Then add the Dr. Tim's.

Variation on option B: Do the fishless cycle in a bucket of filter media with much harder water (GH and KH about 10 degrees) while you are slowly increasing the water hardness in the discus tank. By the time the bacteria have grown in the bucket (3 weeks) the Discus will be in water that is not too soft for the bacteria. So you can fill your filter with the cycled media.
 

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I had what I feel was precisely the same problem as you about a month or so ago.
We have soft water out of the tap here in Vancouver, B.C. - around 6.8 pH, with low or non-existent KH and GH.
My discus tank maintained pH around the 6.0 mark for a long time, with a couple of DW pieces in the tank.
But then over time the pH dropped very low, to under 5.0 was my best guess (test kit readings didn't go below 6.0)

The tank developed ammonia without my having noticed, (hadn't tested for months as everything was good) and over the space of a few days I had 2 discus jump out of the tank overnite, one more found dead in the tank one morning, and another did himself in by dashing headlong into the tank glass walls - lost 4 fish just like that, before testing water params that showed high ammonia - first time that ever happened to me in keeping discus for many years.

As did you, I figured my bio-filtration had gone into full dormancy, and even though the low pH would have rendered the ammonia production into mostly low toxicity ammonium, there was obviously sufficient toxicity to cause the poisoning and fish loss.

I immediately began large, daily wcs, using Prime conditioner to negate the residual ammonia effect, slowly began adding small doses of Seachem Alkaline Buffer to bring up the pH and KH, with a little Equilibrium to help raise the GH.

At the same time, I started the 7 day regime of adding Seachem Stability to help develop the necessary beneficial bacteria load for the remaining 4 discus.

Everything worked well - the remaining discus returned to normalcy almost overnite, more or less, and within a few days I was maintaining a tank water pH of around 6.8 - steady at that ever since - and 0 ammonia, with frequent testing in the interim - so it seems the bio-filtration has resumed efficacy.
I had used Stability in the past, and found it to be effective in creating a full cycle quickly - not familiar with Dr. Tims product.

Hope this helps - best of luck to you.
 

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Dr. Timothy Havonek is the one who actually identified the real bacteria responsible for the nitrogen cycle. When you buy nitrifying bacteria look for Nitrospira species as one of the ingredients.
Dr. Tim's One and Only
Tetra Safe Start
Microbe Lift's Nite Out II
...and probably others, have the right species. But if it does not specify Nitrospira, do not trust it.

Before Dr. Tim figured out how to grow and how to ID these species many people tried, using older methods, and the bacteria they grew played a small, temporary part in the nitrogen cycle, then died off. But they could put these in a bottle. These bacteria entered a resting stage, so they shipped very well, and stayed alive on the store shelf for quite a while.
But when they were added to the aquarium they did not do much for the nitrogen cycle. Sort of held stuff at bay (if even that) while the real bacteria got established.

So, instead of adding a temporary product, buy the right species from the start.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for all the quick responses and good info!!!

Pulled the new pieces of wood, (1 xl Malaysian) and (1 large manzanita)
Left my old malaysian pieces that never posed an issue for me in the past.
Need to give them places to hide.

Which one do you think caused to crash? I've read manzanita is PH neutral.

So I just changed 75% of the water, added coral to the filter basket in my FX5, and slowly am going to add Neutral Regulator to get my PH to 7. The coral over the next week hopefully will help stabilize it all. I do have alkaline buffer maybe I should use that instead? I also have Tim Barr GH booster, I am going to use that as well. Raising the KH and GH always makes me nervous.

After the water change my PH is now reading 6.3 ( better but still low)

The fish all look much happier, just fed them some freeze dried black worms.
 

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Sodium bicarbonate (common household baking soda) is cheap, readily available, and effective at raising the KH and raising/stabilizing pH. For reference, 1 teaspoon of baking soda will give 4 degrees (72 ppm) carbonate hardness to 13 gallons, but will also raise the pH significantly. That's a big change at one time, so I might start with a small dose (1/8 level teaspoon per 20 gallons) and wait 24 hours for the pH to stabilize before testing/tweaking again. Some commercial pH buffers can be high in phosphates and cause algae blooms.
 

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This Seachem response regarding it's 'Stability' product is re-copied here for information purposes:


Re: Seachem Stability Q&A
Hello David,

Thank you so much for your post and for allowing us to answer some of your questions concerning Stability. We appreciate the opportunity to do so, rather than just assuming that it is inferior to other similar products. While you’re correct that the information regarding the types and names of the bacteria used in Stability is proprietary information, I will try and address your questions as specifically as possible.

1. Please be assured that the strains of bacteria used in Stability are cultured specifically for the purpose of consuming nitrogenous waste to effectively reduce these pollutants present in water. As an aquatics-based company, all of Seachem’s products were developed solely for use in an aquatic setting. The notion that only limited species of bacteria, such as nitrobacter, nitrosomonas, and nitrospira are capable of facilitating the nitrogen cycle is simply false; there are numerous other species that are also capable of nitrification and denitrification. Stability contains a synergistic blend of aerobic, anaerobic, and facultative bacteria which facilitate the breakdown of waste organics, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Most denitrifying bacteria are facultative aerobes, which prefer to use oxygen as their terminal electron acceptors, but can also utilize nitrate in an anaerobic environment. The potential for die-off of bacteria does exist with any bacterial supplement; however, providing a suitable biological media, such as Matrix, with plenty of surface area, both internal and external, will minimize any die-off.

2. Stability does not starve off beneficial bacteria; it contains beneficial bacteria.

3. Again, providing a sufficient biological media with maximum surface area will minimize the loss of beneficial bacterial colonies during the water change process; but inevitably, there will be some loss when water is changed. Since one cannot overdo it on beneficial bacteria, we recommend adding Stability as a part of one’s routine maintenance simply to replace any potentially lost colonies. Thus our recommendation to dose Stability after changing out water. As a side note, it’s not a bad idea to add Stability after treating for a bacterial infection in fish, as inevitably some of the beneficial bacteria will be killed off with the use of antibiotics.

4. Though to my knowledge, there is no publicly- available data that was compiled by Seachem comparing Stability to other competing bacterial supplements, here are some of the major benefits of using Stabiliity:

The spore-like form is a characteristic of the bacteria being used and allows us to keep a more viable product for longer. Because of this, there is no need for refrigeration as with competing products, as the bacteria do not become fully active until dosed to the aquarium. This also allows for a longer shelf life (4 years) than one will get with other bacterial supplements. Stability is one of the most, if not the most, concentrated bacterial supplement available on the market. The bacterial concentration in Stability is 26.4 million cfu/mL, that is, colony-forming units/mL. Another one of the benefits of using this product is the environmental tolerance. Because of this environmental tolerance, the bacterial colonies can sustain themselves much more efficiently when exposed to stressful conditions. In these scenarios, the bacteria contained within Stability would certainly out-compete other bacteria that are not quite as enduring.

Again, thank you for taking the time to pose these questions, and we hope to have given you a more clear picture of how and why Stability works to rapidly establish the biofilter
 

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Some very interesting things that I did not know until this thread inspired me to look:

nitrifying bacteria can thrive at lower pH and be inhibited by higher pH:
- “This article reports on high-rate nitrification at low pH … the nitrifying bacteria were from the monophyletic genus Nitrosomonas, suggesting that autotrophic nitrification at low pH is more widespread than previously thought.” – from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC525248/
- “The test media with pH greater than 8.5 inhibited nitrification…” – from http://www.dmww.com/upl/documents/w...dies/high-ph-inhibits-nitrifying-bacteria.pdf

suspended bacteria provide more biofiltration than attached (maybe there is something to dosing with bacteria during water changes in the [exceptional, I believe] cases that your biofilms/plants are challenged to meet your nitrifying needs):
- “The suspended biomass had higher nitrification activity (1.13 mg N/TSS/h) than the attached biomass (0.07 mg N/TSS/h).” – from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21464601
- “results showed that there were more nitrifying bacteria in the suspended-growth biomass than the attached-growth biomass” – from http://www.iwaponline.com/wst/06612/wst066122785.htm
 

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"Hofman and Lees investigated the pH-activity curves of both organisms and found that the optimum pH for ammonia oxidation by Nitrosomonas was 8.3 and that the rate fell almost to zero at pH 9.6. Ammonia oxidation proceeded with considerable speed when the pH was as low as 6.5; this agrees well with the results of Engel and Alexander. Hofman and Lees reported that the optimum pH for nitrite oxidation by Nitrobacter was
7.7 and not 8.8 as found by Meyerhbof. Wild et al. suggested that the optimum pH for nitrification is 8.4, and that 90% of the maximum rate occurs between 7.8 and 8.9; Outside the range of 7.0 to 9.8, less than 50% of the optimum rate occurs. Painter
reported that the point at which the rate of nitrification decreased was pH 6.3 to 6.7, and that between pH 5 and 5.5, nitrification ceased." - from http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/25042841?uid=3739256&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21101485497353
 

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A great natural solution would be to add a ton of plants to the tank. Some regular amazon swords, and some fast growing stem plants would mop that ammonia up no problem. Pairing Tom's GH booster and some good old baking soda to get the GH to 2 or 3 degrees and the kh to 2-3 as well-over the course of a few weeks- would be a good idea. Just be careful, as you bring that pH up the ammonia will become toxic and your discus will not handle that.

You can also get nitrosomonas and nitrobacter bacteria from the air, those booster products just speed up the colonizing process, and if they are dead in the bottle, or the wrong strains, they are purely a waste of money.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
This may be 7 months too late but thanks everyone for the advice it was very helpful!

My 120 discus tank is back to normal and my fish seem very happy.
The XL malaysian driftwood caused the crash. Months back once the bacteria finally grew to a large enough colony I was able to add the two large pieces of the driftwood back in the tank(with carful monitoring of PH). Thanks to the magic of baking soda my water is buffered correctly and the tank is stable at a neutral PH.

Pics of my tank:







 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Been living in NYC for 9 years, only been in Astoria for about a year. I really like it here, short commute into the city on the subway. The food here is incredible, probably my favorite part!
 
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