Question <0.25 ammonia, 0 nitrites, 5 nitrates test results, what to do?

Katco

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Hello,

It's my first time properly cycling a tank... Or so i thought. My guppy seemed more restless than usual, so i decided to check the water parameters. Is it possible to have ammonia at between 0 and 0.25ppm, 0 nitrites, and 5ppm nitrates?

I'm not sure how to go about correcting this as I'm not experienced. I'm afraid that if I do water changes I'll ruin the cycle. But my fish seems uncomfortable.

Any tips or instructions would be most appreciated. Thank you! -kat
 
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kallililly1973

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What size tank, What do you have in it , how long has it been set up for? Water changes will help just don't do any cleaning to the filter. Also always be sure to test your source water so you know what your adding to your tank. And always be sure to use water condition like Seachem Prime. Do you have a pic of your tank?
 

Sorg67

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Ammonia below 0.25 ppm is no big deal. I would not expect that to cause a fish to behave strangely. Some people report always getting a reading of 0.25 with the API liquid ammonia test. I have not had that issue. Remember to view the test tube in bright light against a white background. A zero reading can have a tinge of green when held up against natural light.

I would keep checking. Hopefully it is just a momentary blip. If the ammonia keeps rising, then your tank is not cycled and you will have to follow “fish-in cycle” procedures.

Water changes are a normal part of aquarium maintenance and will not ruin an existing cycle as long as you temperature match and dechlorinate the new water.

Having nitrates is an indication of an existing cycle unless your source water has nitrates. You should check your source water to get a baseline for where you are starting. This will help you understand the tank readings better. If your source water has 5 ppm nitrates then it is likely that you do not have a cycle and are in the early stages of developing a cycle.

If your tank is newly established then you do not yet have a cycle and you are doing a fish-in cycle. You can look at the nitrogen cycle section of this site to learn about the nitrogen cycle and find guidelines for fish-in cycling.

Water conditioners like SeaChem Prime detoxify low levels of ammonia and possibly nitrites. If you are in the early stages of a fish-in cycle then you will ultimately see nitrites. Nitrites can be more stressful to fish than ammonia.

In general, fish in cycling involves lots of water changes to keep ammonia and nitrites low. Preferably below 1 ppm combined. This can take a while.
 
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Katco

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Hi sorry I didn't write down the other details.

It's a 3 gallon planted tank, with 1 male guppy and 4 ramshorn snails. HOB filter with max flow rate of 120 L/hour, I'm not using the strongest setting. First set up the tank in March. Then received and put in the guppy end of April.

Yes, I use Seachem Prime. I actually haven't tested our source water yet. My tank water is stocked tap water treated with Seachem Prime, and the water I use for changes is usually already 3-5 days old so I just assumed that it would be safe. I will test my tap water. Thanks.
 

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Sorg67

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What is your water change practice? Frequency and amount? You second post suggests your are doing regular water changes, but your first post suggested you were concerned about disrupting your cycle with a water change. I am confused about what you are asking.

Most people on this site advocate 25% to 50% weekly water changes. Small tanks can be difficult to manage and may require more water changes since there is little water to dilute any fluctuations.
 
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Katco

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Sorg67 said:
Ammonia below 0.25 ppm is no big deal. I would not expect that to cause a fish to behave strangely. Some people report always getting a reading of 0.25 with the API liquid ammonia test. I have not had that issue. Remember to view the test tube in bright light against a white background. A zero reading can have a tinge of green when held up against natural light.

I would keep checking. Hopefully it is just a momentary blip. If the ammonia keeps rising, then your tank is not cycled and you will have to follow “fish-in cycle” procedures.

Water changes are a normal part of aquarium maintenance and will not ruin an existing cycle as long as you temperature match and dechlorinate the new water.

Having nitrates is an indication of an existing cycle unless your source water has nitrates. You should check your source water to get a baseline for where you are starting. This will help you understand the tank readings better. If your source water has 5 ppm nitrates then it is likely that you do not have a cycle and are in the early stages of developing a cycle.

If your tank is newly established then you do not yet have a cycle and you are doing a fish-in cycle. You can look at the nitrogen cycle section of this site to learn about the nitrogen cycle and find guidelines for fish-in cycling.

Water conditioners like SeaChem Prime detoxify low levels of ammonia and possibly nitrites. If you are in the early stages of a fish-in cycle then you will ultimately see nitrites. Nitrites can be more stressful to fish than ammonia.

In general, fish in cycling involves lots of water changes to keep ammonia and nitrites low. Preferably below 1 ppm combined. This can take a while.
Sorg67 said:
Ammonia below 0.25 ppm is no big deal. I would not expect that to cause a fish to behave strangely. Some people report always getting a reading of 0.25 with the API liquid ammonia test. I have not had that issue. Remember to view the test tube in bright light against a white background. A zero reading can have a tinge of green when held up against natural light.

I would keep checking. Hopefully it is just a momentary blip. If the ammonia keeps rising, then your tank is not cycled and you will have to follow “fish-in cycle” procedures.

Water changes are a normal part of aquarium maintenance and will not ruin an existing cycle as long as you temperature match and dechlorinate the new water.

Having nitrates is an indication of an existing cycle unless your source water has nitrates. You should check your source water to get a baseline for where you are starting. This will help you understand the tank readings better. If your source water has 5 ppm nitrates then it is likely that you do not have a cycle and are in the early stages of developing a cycle.

If your tank is newly established then you do not yet have a cycle and you are doing a fish-in cycle. You can look at the nitrogen cycle section of this site to learn about the nitrogen cycle and find guidelines for fish-in cycling.

Water conditioners like SeaChem Prime detoxify low levels of ammonia and possibly nitrites. If you are in the early stages of a fish-in cycle then you will ultimately see nitrites. Nitrites can be more stressful to fish than ammonia.

In general, fish in cycling involves lots of water changes to keep ammonia and nitrites low. Preferably below 1 ppm combined. This can take a while.
Thank you all for your replies. When I was cycling, I was really getting 0 nitrates even with my usual stock water. But I will definitely test my source water now that you all mentioned. I do hope that the cycle is ok. I am worried about doing fish in cycling and harming my guppy. I will do as you all advised. Will do small water changes since you said it shouldn't be too bad as long as it stays under 1ppm. And will monitor. How much % water should I be changing out? And will test my source water. Will remove the leaves that have melted back as well.

Thanks! -kat

Sorg67 said:
What is your water change practice? Frequency and amount? You second post suggests your are doing regular water changes, but your first post suggested you were concerned about disrupting your cycle with a water change. I am confused about what you are asking.

Most people on this site advocate 25% to 50% weekly water changes. Small tanks can be difficult to manage and may require more water changes since there is little water to dilute any fluctuations.
Sorry for the confusion. I am changing out 25% once a week usually every saturday. But it's Tuesday today. Saw that I got a positive on the ammonia reading so I didn't know if doing another water change now or if I'll have to do more water changes after doing one last Saturday will affect the cycle.
 

Sorg67

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Rotting leaves can be a source of ammonia. Nitrates are an indication of a cycle. If you consistently go zero nitrates when you were cycling then you may not have actually cycled. Lots of people do fish-in cycles. Some experienced fish keepers prefer it.

If you are only at less than 0.25 ppm ammonia, I would consider a mid week water change optional. But I think you can do as many 25% water changes as you want. Some people advocate larger water changes. There is a lot of debate over this.

If your nitrates are at only 5 ppm it seems likely to me that your 25% a week is fine. Occasionally seeing small ammonia readings is probably just because you have a small tank and a little extra ammonia, maybe from rotting leaves can cause a little blip.

I would guess that if you clean out the leaves, ammonia will drop back to zero and you will be fine.

But that is a guess. I am a relatively new fish keeper. And I have no experience with small tanks. What I think I know comes mostly from reading and participating in forum discussions on this site.
 
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Katco

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I see, ok. Thank you!

Just tested my source water / stock water. 0 nitrates there.. Attached tests from tank and source. It's a relief to know that the nitrates really are coming from my tank. I'll be checking everyday again for now.

Thank you, Kallililly1973 and Sorg67!

-kat
 

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Sorg67

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Many people say that small tanks are harder to care for than large tanks because if something gets a little off, there is less water to dilute the impact. In your case, perhaps rotting leaves or a little too much food may have caused a blip that shows up in a 3 gallon tank, but would go unnoticed in a 30 gallon tank.

It may be that closer parameter watching or more frequent water changes are needed in a smaller tank.
 

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You have gotten some very good advice and from what I've read it seems your tank may be cycled. One thing I wanted to mention is there is no need to age your water. Prime and actually all water conditioners make tap water almost instantly safe to use in our tanks.

If you are actually getting an ammonia reading allowing the Prime treated water to set for a few days before using it is not a good idea. Prime only binds ammonia for 24 hours or so. By adding it to your tap water and then letting it set for a few days I'm not sure the prime you added to that water will still help in the tank.

I know a lot of folks fear water changes will harm their cycle. That can't be farther from the truth. As long as the water you are replacing is temp matched to the tank and water has been conditioned water changes will not do any harm to the cycling process.
 
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Katco

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Thank you, mattgirl!

I did have this thought recently that the Prime I was adding probably has no effect in the tank anymore since the stock water sits for at least 3 days. I guess I can remedy this by adding the Prime as I do the water change or directly to my tank?

I do prefer to let my water sit, because then I'm really sure the chemicals have evaporated and all the water I'm using are the same temp or with a very small difference since the stock water and tank are in the same room. I double check of course. I live in the Philippines and we don't A/C the living room. So the tank water is much warmer than water fresh from the tap. My tank water is usually at 29°C without the aid of a heater.

Ok, happy to learn this. I think I'll try upping my water change to 2x a week instead.

Thank you! -kat
 

mattgirl

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It sounds like you have a water changing routine that works for you. The only thing I would change is I would add Prime to the water you are adding just before pouring it in the tank as long as you are getting an ammonia reading. Once you get a constant zero ammonia reading it won't matter when you add the Prime.
 
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Katco

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Haha. Yes, I've gotten quite used it already. Ok, I will do that. Thank you so much!
 

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Katco said:
Thank you, mattgirl!

I did have this thought recently that the Prime I was adding probably has no effect in the tank anymore since the stock water sits for at least 3 days. I guess I can remedy this by adding the Prime as I do the water change or directly to my tank?

I do prefer to let my water sit, because then I'm really sure the chemicals have evaporated and all the water I'm using are the same temp or with a very small difference since the stock water and tank are in the same room. I double check of course. I live in the Philippines and we don't A/C the living room. So the tank water is much warmer than water fresh from the tap. My tank water is usually at 29°C without the aid of a heater.

Ok, happy to learn this. I think I'll try upping my water change to 2x a week instead.

Thank you! -kat
For chlorine I believe that's true, but I've read that some municipalities treat the water with chloramine instead of chlorine, and it doesn't dissipate like chlorine does. Do your own research on that, because I don't remember where I read it.
 

Sorg67

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JettsPapa said:
For chlorine I believe that's true, but I've read that some municipalities treat the water with chloramine instead of chlorine, and it doesn't dissipate like chlorine does. Do your own research on that, because I don't remember where I read it.
I read the same thing about chlorine vs chloramine. Another place I read that chloramine will dissipate, but it takes closer to 5 days rather than 24 hours.

I sometimes let my water sit for a while, but I dechlorinate anyway.

My water gathering process is a pain since I have to by pass a water softener so sometimes I gather two weeks worth of water while I am at it. I dechlorinate it all regardless of how long it will sit.
 

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I just wanted to add, water only changes will not hurt your cycle. My tanks all have zero ammonia but if I ever notice even trace amounts I do some extra water only changes. It will not hurt your cycle at all. Now don't go deep cleaning gravel, filter, etc. Just changing the water only. It just helps the fish as any amount of ammonia can be stressful.

Just to give you an idea my tanks I do 40-50% weekly water changes (not because I'm heavily stocked, I just notice my fish seem to thrive more now that I do bigger changes). Then its not uncommon for me to do random 25-50% water only changes mid week (my normal changes are weekends). Especially if I ever have ammonia. If I have ammonia at all I tend to do every other day or daily until the numbers regulate again.
 

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