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238 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My tank has been plagued with high Nitrites and Nitrates ever since I started my cycle. It's been about a month and my Ammonia is steady at 0.25ppm but my Nitrites are 2.0+ppm and my Nitrates are between 40-80ppm.

I recently added quite a few more plants in hopes they'll eat my Nitrates, but I'm confused about the Nitrites. I went ahead and bought Seachem Stability today in hopes that it will add the Nitrite-eating bacteria and make the tank safe to go ahead and put fish in.

Am I right to assume that if I allow Ammonia to drop completely that my tank shouldn't continue to produce Nitrites? My goal is to let my bacteria catch up some.

Im wondering if i used enough dechlorinator? Maybe that's killing my bacteria? I dosed exactly how the bottle states. Should I go ahead and add a little more?

I'll be adding the Stability when I get home in about 5 hours unless I hear differently from you all.

Thanks and sorry for being a noob!


13,078 Posts
your close....

J) When your levels of nitrItes and nitrAtes get so high that they’re off what your test kit can show you… do a 50-60% water change. A water change will have no negative impact on your cycle and will help keep things moving and bring your levels low enough so you can actually tell what they are. You can also add another pinch of ground up fish food just to make sure the bacteria has lots of nutrients and phosphates to grow. A water change will also restore the buffers in your water to prevent any fluctuations in pH at the end of your cycle. Remember your dechlorinator!
K) Wait for the magic to happen. Keep watching your levels and adding the ammo up to 4ppm. Keep a very sharp eye on pH at this point. If you see any hints of the pH level dropping…time to break out the bucket and bottle of Prime to do a 50% water change. We want to make sure we have plenty of buffers in the water to keep the pH stable.
One morning you’ll wake up and when you test the water…Ammo and nitrItes will be gone! They’ll have vanished overnight! Technically this means your cycle is complete, but we’ve still got a bit of testing to do to make sure.
L) Add your ammonia up to 4ppm one more time. Look at the clock. If within 24 hours you can turn that 4ppm of ammonia > nitrItes > nitrAtes… congratulations! After the 24 hours your test results should be ammo-0 nitrItes-0 and have lots of nitrAtes. You grew one heck of a bio-filter and are going to have ridiculously happy fish!
The (almost) Complete Guide and FAQ to Fishless Cycling - Aquarium Advice

11,721 Posts
I am attaching the fishless cycle to help you understand how a tank cycles, and what the organisms need so they will grow as fast as possible.

Seachem Stability is not labeled to have Nitrospira species of bacteria. These are the ones that oxidize nitrite to nitrate.
They are slower growing than the ammonia oxidizing organisms.

Usually the ammonia oxidizing organisms grow fairly fast, and can turn the ammonia into nitrite faster than the nitrite removing organisms are able to handle it. Some nitrite removing organisms are growing, but not enough to handle all the nitrite that is showing up.

If the only source of nitrogen in the tank is ammonia (from a bottle, the substrate, or rotting protein) then I would say the nitrogen cycle is very close to being done.

If you are doing something else besides the fishless cycle, please read through this and see how your method differs.
The fishless cycle as written here was developed by a couple of scientists as the fastest way to grow the largest population of nitrifying bacteria.
If you are doing this any different way, you are doing this in a way that is growing the bacteria more slowly.
Correct whatever you are doing, and the cycle ought to finish up really fast.


If you are doing this fishless cycle, and tell me that you have
.25ppm ammonia, 2 ppm NO2,
Then I would say dose more ammonia, perhaps keep returning it to 1ppm once a day, for a couple of days, and see if the nitrite is still being removed and kept under 5 ppm. If so, test and add ammonia twice a day to 1 ppm.


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 methemoglobinemia 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. (7.5-8 seems to be optimum)
Temperature in the upper 70s F (mid 20s C) is good. Higher (to 95*F or about 35*C) 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, and trace elements like CSM+B 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. I have even heard of the right bacteria growing in the bio film found on driftwood. (So if you have been soaking some driftwood in preparation to adding it to the tank, go ahead and put it into the tank) 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 1a) 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 may use the carbon in carbonates, and if it is all used up (KH = 0) the bacteria may die off. They use the carbon from CO2, and this is generally pretty low in water, but can be replenished from the air and from carbonates. Keep the carbonates up to keep the pH up, too.
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. To grow them at optimum rates, keep the pH on the alkaline side of neutral.
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. 1 ppm twice a day will grow almost as much bacteria as 3 ppm once a day.

238 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I ended up dosing Tim's One and Only last night. My Ammonia and Nitrites are still aren't zero but I'm guessing that's partially due to the constant source of ammonia...Miracle Gro Organic Choice. I should have quite the colony once it reads zero!

11,721 Posts
When you use one of the bottled products with Nitrospira it may take a day or two for it to really kick in, but it should then be able to handle a small trickle of ammonia as the substrate finishes adjusting to being under water.
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