3 Gallon Tank Will Not Cycle

Waterboy1650

We decided to get my kids 5 and 3 their first pet, a beta fish, and by “we” I mean my wife announced it one afternoon as we left for the pet store. As we were leaving the store with the tank, heater, filter, and fish, my wife looked at my and said, do you know how to do this?

Obviously, not a great start. We didn’t get to cycle the tank fishless and I didn’t even know we needed water conditioner for our tap water which has chloramines.

The first fish died in less than 24 hours and because we didn’t want to explain whether betta fish go to heaven he was quickly replaced. Fish #2 has lived (yay!) for weeks now but the tank has never given a reading 0 for nitrite or nitrate, so there appears to be no bacteria.

The current fish is alive but I generally doesn’t eat, doesn’t look great, and doesn’t move much just picks a spot to be motionless.

I assume that bacteria didn’t form originally because of the chloramine, though the tank was cloudy once upon a time with what I assumed was a bacterial bloom. But never gotten any readings. Ammonia can’t seem to get below .5 ppm lately, again probably because there is no bacteria. The last few water changes I have added water conditioner to my replacement water and let it sit for 12 hours or so, but I still can seem to get a bacteria colony going.

Yesterday I did a nearly complete water change cause pH was down to 6.0 and ammonia had gotten above 1.0, and maybe I am seeing some cloudiness that I hope is the start of a bacteria bloom, but still not nitrite reading above zero.

Any ideas of what I can or should do? Do I need to take everything out and start over? Do I need to embrace fate and start the fish go to heaven conversation now?
 

StarGirl

Welcome to Fishlore! :)

Lots of water changes to keep the Ammonia and Nitrites down as low as possible. How long has your tank been set up now? I would get a bottle of Seachem Prime as your dechlor. Which tests are you using?
 
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Waterboy1650

Thanks, if I can get this tank going I expect we will get something bigger in the near future, but that is a little further off. I can't think of a chemical/biological reason the smaller tank is inhibiting the establishment of the bacterial colony I need.

I have the API freshwater test kit and test every evening to get my readings.

It sounds like I need to increase the regularity of my water changes, which will not be a problem.

I have been using API Stress Coat is my water conditioner and Seachem Stability to help move the cycling process along. I've been putting the Seachem Stability in for a week now, and then tank has existed for probably a month at this point.

I am assuming that before I learned about chloramines and such I probably incidentally killed off any bacterial colony that existed originally because I did a water change without water conditioner, but that would have been weeks ago.

One of the big timing issues I have had with my water changes is that I am now nervous about adding new water without waiting a few hours after adding the water conditioner before putting it in the tank. Do I need to wait at all, or just mix up the conditioner and replacement water and add to tank? The waiting then lets the water cool off a lot so I need to get the heater running to warm it up again. After replacing the water the pH reading jumps up to 8.0 for about 24 hours, but I have read that may actually be a false reading for water straight from the tap.
 
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DogsOfWars

Welcome to fishlore! I suggest you read this. And I really recommend you upgrade to atleast a 5 gallon tank

Fish In Nitrogen Cycle Simplified | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 414083

I agree there is a lot of information on this site itself that can help anyone. Sometimes cycling can take awhile and sometimes it doesn't so many things decide this for us. That bacteria colony is yours and your fish best friend and once you have obtained that cycled tank and have that bacteria living in your filter mostly it's pretty straight forward after that. Only thing you will half to do after you have obtained that beneficial bacteria is just do


routine water changes and always check that water and make sure everything is stable and
safe for your fish living in there and then you will be good to go. I remember when I did my first tank couple years ago I did a fishless cycle and it took 2 months I was so frustrated about it but now I have a better understanding how the process works so for me these days I understand it and I just wait it out when I am doing another tank these days.
 
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StarGirl

Thanks, if I can get this tank going I expect we will get something bigger in the near future, but that is a little further off. I can't think of a chemical/biological reason the smaller tank is inhibiting the establishment of the bacterial colony I need.

I have the API freshwater test kit and test every evening to get my readings.

It sounds like I need to increase the regularity of my water changes, which will not be a problem.

I have been using API Stress Coat is my water conditioner and Seachem Stability to help move the cycling process along. I've been putting the Seachem Stability in for a week now, and then tank has existed for probably a month at this point.

I am assuming that before I learned about chloramines and such I probably incidentally killed off any bacterial colony that existed originally because I did a water change without water conditioner, but that would have been weeks ago.

One of the big timing issues I have had with my water changes is that I am now nervous about adding new water without waiting a few hours after adding the water conditioner before putting it in the tank. Do I need to wait at all, or just mix up the conditioner and replacement water and add to tank? The waiting then lets the water cool off a lot so I need to get the heater running to warm it up again. After replacing the water the pH reading jumps up to 8.0 for about 24 hours, but I have read that may actually be a false reading for water straight from the tap.
I put the dechlor in my water while the bucket is filling and put it directly in my tanks. People with Pythons put the dechlor in then fill with water. You don't have to wait. I will just say my tap pH is 7.6 and my tank pH is 8.2. I have never had issues with doing regular water changes.
 
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Waterboy1650

Thanks I think despite the research I have done so far I have underestimated how long it can take to cycle. At this point I am inclined to keep up with maybe daily (or every other day) water changes to keep the fish safe as I can, and hopefully that improves the water enough that he starts improving and showing less signs of stress, and actually eating.

What makes sense 100%, 50%, 1/3 of the water? To the extent it matters I do my water changes with a gravel siphon.

That leads to my other question about the water conditioner:

Some bottles so they neutralize chloramine and others say they remove it. Is there a practical difference, or do I just want something that references chloramines (which I have confirmed is in my tap water).
 
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DogsOfWars

Thanks, if I can get this tank going I expect we will get something bigger in the near future, but that is a little further off. I can't think of a chemical/biological reason the smaller tank is inhibiting the establishment of the bacterial colony I need.

I have the API freshwater test kit and test every evening to get my readings.

It sounds like I need to increase the regularity of my water changes, which will not be a problem.

I have been using API Stress Coat is my water conditioner and Seachem Stability to help move the cycling process along. I've been putting the Seachem Stability in for a week now, and then tank has existed for probably a month at this point.

I am assuming that before I learned about chloramines and such I probably incidentally killed off any bacterial colony that existed originally because I did a water change without water conditioner, but that would have been weeks ago.

One of the big timing issues I have had with my water changes is that I am now nervous about adding new water without waiting a few hours after adding the water conditioner before putting it in the tank. Do I need to wait at all, or just mix up the conditioner and replacement water and add to tank? The waiting then lets the water cool off a lot so I need to get the heater running to warm it up again. After replacing the water the pH reading jumps up to 8.0 for about 24 hours, but I have read that may actually be a false reading for water straight from the tap.

I run most of my tanks with a KH 6 GH 9 -13. It's a good idea to know your KH and GH from your tap as well not just for cycling but pretty much always so that everything stays stable in the tank and for the fish. I myself run my KH like this to keep my ph stable and by doing this also I never lose any beneficial bacteria. The GH is like this in my tanks because
several of them have mystery snails in them, My tap has a really low KH and GH. When I
add conditioner to my water I never wait before adding it I just take a long spoon and stir

the water in my gallon pitcher and then add it to the tank it has always worked okay for me doing this, You do wanna try to keep the water at the same temp if at all possible that's already in the tank so you don't shock the fish, Everything is a learning curve. We all have been there so please don't ever feel like you half to be nervous about it. If you need help or you forget something always reach out to fellow fish owners on this site everyone can relate and will help you here.
 
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StarGirl

1- Any dechlor will be fine for removing Chlorine and Chloramines.
2- I pour my water in instantly as soon as the bucket is full. I just use a splash in each bucket. No need to wait, I never have.
 
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Waterboy1650

I put the dechlor in my water while the bucket is filling and put it directly in my tanks. People with Pythons put the dechlor in then fill with water. You don't have to wait. I will just say my tap pH is 7.6 and my tank pH is 8.2. I have never had issues with doing regular water changes.

Well that is good to know, that will definitely speed up my water change process. Waiting a whole day was annoying, and then reheating the water took forever

I think the pH issue from my tap is just a weird issue related to the water system. There is no way our tap water has a pH above 8, and even if there was there is no way it drops from 8.0 to 6.8 in 12 hours. I think it is just something weird with how the water is conditioned at the source. And since I am sure somebody is thinking it, I promise I am using the test kit correctly, I spent about 8 years of my life taking water readings with a test kit daily, so I can at least be sure, that despite knowing very little about fishkeeping, that I am least doing that part right.

Your tank's water pH is 8.2? Given that I know less than nothing, is that just for a special type of tank and special kind of fish that you want it so alkaline?
 
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StarGirl

No just Michigan and our water source. Everyone deals with it or use RO water.
If you want to check your water test the tap directly then let some sit for 24 hours to see the true pH of your water.
 
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Pfrozen

If your KH is below 4 then your pH will drop during the cycling process. You might be safe a bit lower than that, maybe as low as 3, but it happens. 4.5 is my "sweet-spot" for pH stability. The way to mitigate pH drops during cycling is just to do frequent water changes. You don't need to have 1 ppm or 4 ppm of ammonia in your water to get your tank to cycle. Because these things exist in our water in equilibrium, any reading over 0 indicates an excess. I've cycled tanks with 0.25 ppm ammonia without any issues and there was no noticeable difference in time between 0.25, 0.5, 1, 2, etc.

In your case I would just maintain the ammonia at 0.25 with water changes and add a bottled bacteria product to help it along. It will eventually cycle over the course of several weeks. If you keep your levels low like that then your fish will never be in any real danger and you can breathe a little bit.

The basic recommendation is to keep ammonia and nitrite levels at a combined level of 1 ppm or less but that is the maximum
 
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DogsOfWars

If your KH is below 4 then your pH will drop during the cycling process. You might be safe a bit lower than that, maybe as low as 3, but it happens. 4.5 is my "sweet-spot" for pH stability. The way to mitigate pH drops during cycling is just to do frequent water changes. You don't need to have 1 ppm or 4 ppm of ammonia in your water to get your tank to cycle. Because these things exist in our water in equilibrium, any reading over 0 indicates an excess. I've cycled tanks with 0.25 ppm ammonia without any issues and there was no noticeable difference in time between 0.25, 0.5, 1, 2, etc.

In your case I would just maintain the ammonia at 0.25 with water changes and add a bottled bacteria product to help it along. It will eventually cycle over the course of several weeks. If you keep your levels low like that then your fish will never be in any real danger and you can breathe a little bit.

The basic recommendation is to keep ammonia and nitrite levels at a combined level of 1 ppm or less but that is the maximum

Yep this is what I was addressing as well. It is funny and it may be different for some but if mine is not kept at a stable KH 5 or 6 I always lose beneficial bacteria. These water plants and the chemicals they use.
 
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