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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I set up a new tank about a month ago. Because it was given to me with fish, I couldn't do a fishless cycling. I've been trying to cycle it, but the ammonia is very high and I can't get it to go down and stay down. I know there is supposed to be an ammonia spike, but how long is it supposed to last? How much water can I change? I've been doing big changes (60-70%) every two days or so, but I'm beginning to think that that's counterproductive. I lost two fish about two weeks ago and I don't want to lose anymore. Here are the tank stats:

Tank: 29 gallon tall
Filter: started with a Penguin 150 HOB filter, added a second Aqeon HOB filter last week. The Penguin filter was from the old tank and set up with the used filter cartridge.
Fish: 3 Harlequin Rasboras, 2 Goldline Rasboras, 5 Black Skirt Tetras (yes, this is a lot of fish, but they came with the tank and I didn't have anywhere else to put them).

Current water parameters:
Ammonia: 1.0
Nitrite: .25
Nitrate: between 0-.5

All of the substrate and decor from the previous tank was filthy and hideous and had to be thrown away. I added new substrate (gravel, flourite, sand) and new wood, plus plants from an already established aquarium. Last week I added a handful of gravel from another tank to try to bring in more beneficial bacteria but it doesn't seem to be working. Should I continue doing the big water changes?
 

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Yes. The majority of the bacteria is on surfaces, not in the water. The main goal is the health of the fish in any event. You are a fish keeper, not a bacteria keeper :) The cycle will happen eventually.

There's no way to know how long the spike will last - it likely occured because you changed out the substrate and decor - had you asked first it would have been suggested that you do this slowly in steps instead of all at once. If you kept the filter that came with the tank it shouldn't last too long as that filter should have been well seeded. Keep doing the water changes and get some Prime to add as it will help detoxify the ammonia and nitrite. If you have another tank move over some of the filter media from it - that will help alot. You can also try some of the bottled bacteria products available for purchase, altho I don't have experience with them so I don't know how well they work.
 

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The best way to deal with this is to add bacteria to your tank immediately, that way the tank will cycle quick and easy. best would be if you know someone with a reasonable sized tank - they can give you some of their filter media, which you would keep wet on route and then place into your own filter - the bacteria would then multiply very quickly and save you grief. failing that a good independent fish shop might help you with media from their filtration system. Failing that you can try one of the bottled bacterias - the effectiveness of these products are unreliable, but in your case worth a shot.

Opinion on water changes varies, but huge, constant water changes can take a toll on the fish. I would continue them, though not so much at once.

Also their is a product called ammolock which locks the ammonia into a harmless form - still needs to be removed, but it will stop killing the fish. this is a very temporary solution and only for immediate salvation of the fish, not meant to be used continuously.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the advice. I did add a bottle of bacteria the day I set up the tank and I did use the old filter media from the previous tank and a handful of gravel from my other tank, so I thought that would be enough. I know that it wasn't ideal, but I didn't have a lot of choice. I have set up a tank before and I cycled it the proper way (it was set up with plants and decor a full month before fish were added, for example), but this time I was given a tank with fish and pretty much told to take it and go, now. The tank was almost bare, just brilliant blue gravel and two plastic plants so I had to dump it all and start new. At any rate, here I am. Do you think small daily water changes would help, maybe 10-15%? Thanks again for all of the advice.
 

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You need to either remove the ammonia or render it less harmless. Which one you choose to do will determine the answer to that question. If you're not going to use a product to help detoxify the ammonia then you need to continue with LARGE water changes, in my opinion. They may be a big stressful on the fish but we all know ammonia and nitrite is much worse.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I'll try to find some Ammolock tomorrow. I did another small water change which brought the ammonia down to about .25 and the nitrites to 0. I'm also going to try adding more water from my established aquarium in the morning. ( The old aquarium is at home, the new one is at my office. My boss had it at home, got bored with it and was throwing it out, I begged for it. That's why this tank is such a mixed up mess instead of a carefully thought out plan.) would more bacteria in a bottle help or hinder things?
 

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I think Ammolock is bad to use during cycling. Try Seachem Prime, it works to detoxify nitrites too. Keep in mind that test kits test for total ammonia (including ammonium) and Prime turns ammonia into ammonium so you might still get an ammonia reading after using it.
Also, ammonia toxicity depends on temp and ph. My fish seemed more affected by low levels of nitrite than high levels of ammonia due to low temp and ph keeping the ammonia in the non toxic form of ammonium. Here's a chart...
http://www.dataguru.org/misc/aquarium/AmmoniaTox.html#ammonia.25ppm
 

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Thanks for the advice. I did add a bottle of bacteria the day I set up the tank and I did use the old filter media from the previous tank and a handful of gravel from my other tank, so I thought that would be enough. I know that it wasn't ideal, but I didn't have a lot of choice. I have set up a tank before and I cycled it the proper way (it was set up with plants and decor a full month before fish were added, for example), but this time I was given a tank with fish and pretty much told to take it and go, now. The tank was almost bare, just brilliant blue gravel and two plastic plants so I had to dump it all and start new. At any rate, here I am. Do you think small daily water changes would help, maybe 10-15%? Thanks again for all of the advice.

When you say you used a handful of gravel from your other tank, does this mean you possibly have access to an established tank running with fish?
If so ,,borrowing a cup full of gravel from existing tank that has already cycled, and placing the gravel (wet)in nylon bag or toe section of ladies nylon and dropping it in the tank can help speed the process.
If not,,then I would,were it me,,continue with daily water changes with water conditioner such as PRIME for the sake of the fish.
Would also reduce feeding's to once a day, or every other day, and only feed tiny amount. The fish will be fine and ammonia level's will be more manageable.(less uneaten food,less poop by fishes)
Considering that water change seemed to lower ammonia level's it is doubtful that ammonia is in your tapwater but I might check this anyway.
Not a fan of product's like ammolock or any other additives for that matter .The less chemical's in the tank ,the better in my view. But if tapwater contains ammonia,, then I might consider the ammolock.
Lot's of live plant's would also help reduce ammonia.
 

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You need to either remove the ammonia or render it less harmless. Which one you choose to do will determine the answer to that question. If you're not going to use a product to help detoxify the ammonia then you need to continue with LARGE water changes, in my opinion. They may be a big stressful on the fish but we all know ammonia and nitrite is much worse.
Absolutely. And if ammonia is that high, those water changes should be done daily.

If you can rob some filter media from a healthy tank, that will help.
 

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I believe I go lo-tech. In April, 2011, I started a 29 galons tank. I put small gravel substrate in it and planted some Hygrophila polysperma, Cryptocorynes, Java fern and hornwort (Ceratophyllum) floating. A light fixture, a heater and a power water filter were all the equipment to keep the water quality. Fish: five tiger barbs, five platies, five glowlight tetras and oneKribensis. At first the water was clear, then slightly greenish and, in about three weeks it became clear. I have never changed water in this tank since April. Perhaps, I never will. Adding fresh water is enough.
 

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Other than plants & water changes what would remove ammonia? I just did a water change a few days ago and my ammonia has spiked. I bought some prime, but its still reading ammonia! I've never had problems with ammonia before, usually with nitrates/nitrites. Any thoughts / links to products that would help in the short term while the cycle gets going?

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Other than plants & water changes what would remove ammonia? I just did a water change a few days ago and my ammonia has spiked. I bought some prime, but its still reading ammonia! I've never had problems with ammonia before, usually with nitrates/nitrites. Any thoughts / links to products that would help in the short term while the cycle gets going?

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Keep in mind that test kits test for total ammonia (including ammonium, also called "free ammonia") and Prime turns ammonia into it's non toxic form- ammonium- so you might still get an ammonia reading after using it. I don't think the same is true with the nitrites when using Prime, those should read zero after dosing.
Prime lasts 24 hours, so if you are getting an ammonia reading while using it just remember to dose every 24 hours.
 

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Ammolock does not leave the ammonia/ammonium available to beneficial bacteria and will stall the cycle.
the fish will keep producing more ammonia and the cycle will continue, the point now is saving the livestock. Having a nicely cycled tank after the fish are dead isn't the goal in cases like this. It's also why I warned to use it only for emergency situations - lower amounts should just be handled with water changes.
 

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the fish will keep producing more ammonia and the cycle will continue, the point now is saving the livestock. Having a nicely cycled tank after the fish are dead isn't the goal in cases like this. It's also why I warned to use it only for emergency situations - lower amounts should just be handled with water changes.
Yes, the fish will continue to make ammonia, but if the Ammolock is in the tank it will continue to lock it up. Or she could just get Prime which does not affect the cycle AND saves the fish. In fact, Prime actually helps cycle by turning the ammonia into a form more chemically available to the bacteria

http://www.visionlearning.com/library/module_viewer.php?mid=98
 

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Wont changing the water during a cycle cause it to just start over again?

If you know anyone with an established tank, ask them for their water after they do a WC and add it too your tank. That should cycle it for you. I did this with my 29g. I added about 15 gallons from my dads tank and it cycled in 3 days. The more water you can get the faster it will cycle. Otherwise Id just let it cycle on its own.
 

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The bacteria don't live in the water, they live in the gravel and filter media.
As far as water changes and cycling...I do suspect reducing the ammonia slows the cycle somewhat. I think that is why the fishless cycle goes so much faster-constant high amounts of ammonia.
 
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