5 gal Betta tank cycling problem

Wednes13

Hi,

I have been reading on this forum since Jan and have gotten lots of good information and thought i would post to see if I can get any help. I have had fish tanks previously( ~15 yrs ago) with no issues so stumped as to what is happening. I understand the Nitrogen cycle, but cannot seem to get this tank to cycle.

In Jan we got a 5 gal tank for my daughter for a new Betta after the last one died suddenly. We set the tank up with 10 lbs of gravel, 3 fake plants, 1 small potted plant, 3 ornaments and the Top Fin SilentStream 10 filter (with the provided cartridges) and a heater. We treated the tank with Stress Coat and added API Quick Start. We waited 3 days before getting the fish and we got the API mast test kit at the same time. I tested the water before adding the Betta and was seeing minimal amounts of Ammonia (do not remember exact reading). The pH was super high (>8). By the end of the week the ammonia was high but there was no sign of Nitrites or Nitrates. I did not want to do a water change at that point hoping the cycle would continue to establish. I picked up Ammo lock and ph Down. Thinking the Ammo lock would render the Ammonia not harmful but would allow the cycle to continue. We also noticed that the flow from the filter was super strong and the fish could barely swim through it and we did not want him getting stuck on the intake tube. Searching for information on protecting the Betta from the intake tube led me here and to modify the filter by adding sponges and picking up BIOMax to add to the filer.

I followed the instructions on the Ammo lock and treated for 7 days and then do a water change. On the 7th day it was time to do the water change I noticed the tank looked cloudy. I know that tanks get bio blooms and look cloudy and I had to decided whether or not to do the water change. I went for it and changed the water, in hindsight I probably should have left it alone.

The cloudiness went away but still no Nitrites or Nitrates and Ammonia was present. Started testing water weekly and doing water changes, and adding Quick Start, in hopes it would help After reading here about Ammo lock not being so great stopped using that as well as stopped adjusting the pH, slowly allowed it to reach the level of the tap water.

The Ammonia continued to read high >1. But the fish was acting fine eating all the pellets we gave and the 1 bloodworm a day. I let the tank continue to run and test it, and when I thought I started to get Nitrites again the Ammonia was basically off the chart high >8. Which I figured would kill the fish. So, I set up the small 1 gal tank we had before for the previous Betta, filled it with tank water and did a 50% water change (with no conditioner). What I was doing here was trying to get a real reading on the ammonia. I know that the conditioners that make the Chlorine and Choramine safe make Ammonia/Ammonium present for 24 hrs. Therefore, if I do a water change and test immediately afterwards the ammonia reading will be slightly higher then just the ammonia in tank. I was doing 50% water changes daily to try and get the ammonia down in the big tank and using the small tank (with no conditioner as a baseline). This was working. The long term idea was move the Betta temporarily into the small tank while I fix the large tank.

Somewhere in this process we also added a marimo moss ball to the 5 gal tank as well.

I did start using Ammo Lock again since the cycling did not seem to be going anywhere and even if I changed 50% of the water I was only getting the Ammonia down to about 4 ppm. We finally were getting ready to move the Betta when we noticed he had a little tail fin damage (could be from the plastic plants), more reason to get him happy. I tested the water in the small tank and the Ammonia was low, the Nitrites were off the chart and the Nitrates were present but not dangerous (orange). I did a bunch of water changes to bring the Nitrites down. And of course as it would happen noticed that the small filter on that tank quit working. I had no cartridges but wanted it running to aerate the tank. I had picked up Stability to use on the big tank to help kick start the cycle again, TSS was not available in the store the day I went.

We moved the Betta anyways since I know he can handle some time in an un-aerated tank just not ideal was hoping it would only be for a week. I did a bunch of water changes on the big tank (4 I think) to get the Ammonia down to about 1 ppm. I did not use water conditioner since there was no fish. I then added the Stability. 2.5 mL for the 5 gal tank. I also reconfigured the filter, keeping all the existing media, just adding more, got the BIOMax in finally. I have been adding anywhere from 1.5 - 2.5 mL of Stability daily.

As of today the tank is reading this:

Ammonia: 4 ppm
Nitrites: 0
Nitrates:0
High ph test: 8 - 8.2
Temperature: 78 F

There has been no fish or food in the tank since Tuesday when we took the Betta out and added the Stability. Where could the Ammonia be coming from?

I have now acquired TSS+ and was wondering if I should do water changes and get the ammonia down to 1 ppm and then start TSS? If so how much TSS for a 5 gal tank, the whole bottle seems excessive? When would I want to put the Betta back in, and treat with conditioner?

I did read somewhere someone saying if the flow is too low on the filter it will be harder to cycle and such so I was looking into how to baffle the outflow which I will set up before we add the Betta back into the tank.

I have attached picture of the tank, the filter, testing from today two picture just different lighting.

Any advice would be great. We would like this Betta to last and was hoping that by upgrading to the 5 gal tank we would have better luck. First one got sick (unknown sickness) and died and the 2nd one died after a water change. I think a pH shock we had moved the tank to a different house and did a larger water change and I think the pH change did it.

Thanks in advance
 

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bcsay720

I would switch to using Prime as your conditioner and put down the ammo lock. I'm going to tag mattgirl here to help out. They give great cycling advice and helped me through a huge nitrite spike when I was starting up my 10g.
 
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Wednes13

Yeah I have stopped Ammo lock for a while. I cannot find Prime locally I will see if I can order it. The local pet store (big box) seemed to be low on everything fish related lately.

Thanks,
 
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bcsay720

Yes, everyone's starting fish tanks now. You should be able to get it on Amazon.
 
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Flyfisha

I am on the side of the road waiting for a shop to open but feel I must say something even if I can’t be around long.

You must condition any water the fish is in chlorine is toxic to fish as well as bacteria. I know we drink it.
 
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Wednes13

I am on the side of the road waiting for a shop to open but feel I must say something even if I can’t be around long.

You must condition any water the fish is in chlorine is toxic to fish as well as bacteria. I know we drink it.


Yes, the tank the fish is in is conditioned. The large tank 5 gal I did not condition when I added the Stability 4-5 days ago, so I could get a try reading of the Ammonia. But even if the chlorine killed the bacteria at first, would it being 4 days later the chlorine be gone from the water, if I remember correctly being told that if you allow tap water to sit for a few days it did not need to condition it. Regardless I will condition before adding any bacteria, but will have to wait between conditioner and bacteria, because the bacteria will also be killed by the conditioner.

Thanks,
 
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bcsay720

The bacteria should not kill the conditioner. If you use Prime, it will actually help the bacteria by detoxifying the ammonia and nitrites (up to 1 ppm), which protects the fish and helps the bacteria to process them easier.
 
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Wednes13

The bacteria should not kill the conditioner. If you use Prime, it will actually help the bacteria by detoxifying the ammonia and nitrites (up to 1 ppm), which protects the fish and helps the bacteria to process them easier.


Sorry if I wasn't clear, meant the other way the conditioner would kill the bacteria. If I have more than 1 ppm of ammonia, would I need to do water changes to bring it down, before adding Prime and bacteria (Stability or TSS).

Thanks,
 
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Flyfisha

Chlorine will evaporate over time BUT chloramine that is used by many water supply companies does not. Tap water needs a conditioner.

Prime will detoxify ammonia making it safe for fish. But it will still read on the water test at the same amount.
Prime turns ammonia into ammonium that is harmless to fish but still registers on the water test.
 
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mattgirl

I would like to help but please read this first Fish In Nitrogen Cycle Simplified | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 414083 It is my advice for doing a fish in cycle. If something isn't clear please ask for clarification.

I do want to point out. Water conditioners are not going to kill bacteria. A water conditioner has to be added to all tap water before going in our tank if we have chlorine or in some cases chloramines in our tap water. A water conditioner isn't going to raise the ammonia level. If you can't get prime any of the many other water conditioners will work. They just won't detox the ammonia.

Don't use the ammo-lock again. It has its place but when cycling a tank we don't want the ammonia locked up. Bacteria can't process locked up ammonia so it just keeps building up.

Have you tested your tap water for ammonia? Some folks do have it in theirs 'specially if your water company adds chloramines.

The first thing I would do is remove most of the water in this tank. Once done refill it with temp matched water that has been treated with the appropriate amount of water conditioner. At this point it should be safe to put your Betta in this tank. Run the tests daily and do water changes as needed to keep ammonia and/or nitrites down as low as possible. You may need to do partial water changes daily to accomplish this. Probably not daily but be prepared just in case they spike.
 
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Wednes13

I would like to help but please read this first Fish In Nitrogen Cycle Simplified | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 414083 It is my advice for doing a fish in cycle. If something isn't clear please ask for clarification.

I do want to point out. Water conditioners are not going to kill bacteria. A water conditioner has to be added to all tap water before going in our tank if we have chlorine or in some cases chloramines in our tap water. A water conditioner isn't going to raise the ammonia level. If you can't get prime any of the many other water conditioners will work. They just won't detox the ammonia.

Don't use the ammo-lock again. It has its place but when cycling a tank we don't want the ammonia locked up. Bacteria can't process locked up ammonia so it just keeps building up.

Have you tested your tap water for ammonia? Some folks do have it in theirs 'specially if your water company adds chloramines.

The first thing I would do is remove most of the water in this tank. Once done refill it with temp matched water that has been treated with the appropriate amount of water conditioner. At this point it should be safe to put your Betta in this tank. Run the tests daily and do water changes as needed to keep ammonia and/or nitrites down as low as possible. You may need to do water changes daily to accomplish this. Probably not daily but be prepared just in case they spike.

I believe I have read that before, but I will take another look.

I previously tested the tap water and saw no ammonia, but when I tested water treated with Stress Coat before adding to the tank I did see some ammonia. Would this not be because chloramine (chlorine bonded with ammonia) and when treated with conditioner the chlorine bond to Ammonia is broken and then the Chlorine is neutralized and the ammonia would test positive on the ammonia test?

Which in turn means if I were to test the tank water after completing the water change I may not register any drop in the ammonia. If I wait 24 hrs to test the water I may get more accurate results but then any waste from the fish would also register as the ammonia.

I am just trying to find the best time for reading the ammonia levels, to keep better track and not have anything give me false readings.

From what I read in your other post and this one this is how I should proceed:
At this point I will add no more Stability and change the water to bring the Ammonia down to at least 1 ppm and put the Betta back in. I will check water daily and change water to keep the ammonia down. I should eventually see Nitrites correct and then see Nitrates.

Thanks,
 
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mattgirl

I believe I have read that before, but I will take another look.

I previously tested the tap water and saw no ammonia, but when I tested water treated with Stress Coat before adding to the tank I did see some ammonia. Would this not be because chloramine (chlorine bonded with ammonia) and when treated with conditioner the chlorine bond to Ammonia is broken and then the Chlorine is neutralized and the ammonia would test positive on the ammonia test?

Which in turn means if I were to test the tank water after completing the water change I may not register any drop in the ammonia. If I wait 24 hrs to test the water I may get more accurate results but then any waste from the fish would also register as the ammonia.

I am just trying to find the best time for reading the ammonia levels, to keep better track and not have anything give me false readings.

From what I read in your other post and this one this is how I should proceed:
At this point I will add no more Stability and change the water to bring the Ammonia down to at least 1 ppm and put the Betta back in. I will check water daily and change water to keep the ammonia down. I should eventually see Nitrites correct and then see Nitrates.

Thanks,
If you have no ammonia in your tap water you should be able get the ammonia in the tank down to as close to zero as possible. What level of ammonia did you see after adding stress coat?

Adding stability shouldn't be a problem should you choose to use it. It is bottled bacteria. Not the exact same type of bacteria we are growing in our tanks but some folks swear by it.

Other than that yes, keep the ammonia level down as low as possible. I am not really comfortable with anything above .25 when a fishes health is at stake. Over time you should start seeing nitrites. Again, you want to keep both the nitrites and ammonia as low as you can by doing water changes. Eventually you will start seeing nitrates. When you start seeing 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and the nitrates are gradually going up the tank will be cycled.

Be sure you add a water conditioner designed to remove chlorine and chloramines from your tap water to any water you add to this tank. I highly recommend prime when doing a fish in cycle but if you can't get it just about any water conditioner will remove the chlorine.
 
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Wednes13

If you have no ammonia in your tap water you should be able get the ammonia in the tank down to as close to zero as possible. What level of ammonia did you see after adding stress coat?
When I change the water tonight, I will test and reply back with the reading. I have confirmed that our water supply does have chloramine, or more precisely, "Chlorine is added to kill pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. Chlorine also improves the performance of the filters. Precisely controlled amounts of chlorine are added. Prior to leaving the treatment plant, ammonia is added to the chlorine to form chloramine, a more stable disinfectant," from their website.

I will also order some Prime which will arrive tomorrow or the next day and use that going forward.

Thanks for the advice and will keep you posted as I go through this.
When I change the water tonight, I will test and reply back with the reading. I have confirmed that our water supply does have chloramine, or more precisely, "Chlorine is added to kill pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. Chlorine also improves the performance of the filters. Precisely controlled amounts of chlorine are added. Prior to leaving the treatment plant, ammonia is added to the chlorine to form chloramine, a more stable disinfectant," from their website.

I will also order some Prime which will arrive tomorrow or the next day and use that going forward.

Thanks for the advice and will keep you posted as I go through this.
I am now utterly perplexed.

I changed the water. I was able to get the ammonia down to 1 ppm and figured since I previously saw no nitrites the same would be true. To be thorough I went ahead and did the test. I was showing more 0<x<0.25 ppm on Nitrites and Nitrates wasn't bright yellow but not really registering so I would say 2.5 ppm (see pic). This was after adding Stress Coat for the whole 5 gal tank.

To get the ammonia down, I started by removing 3 gal of water (I am guessing I have closer to 4 with all the displacement). I then only added 2 back in and did an ammonia test (pre conditioning), it registered 2 ppm seemed a little high even though I did not put back all the water. I then took out an additional 1.5 gal and filled the bucket up with 2 gal and added that in. I was originally thinking of using the water from the small tank if I could but since I wanted to test before and after conditioning I just used all tap. I measured out about another gal of water but only added .5 gal.

I tested the water before and after the Stress Coat and saw very slight difference but it might have been negligible. I know I had seen ammonia after treating with Stress Coat before, so I was surprised I didn't.

Earlier while doing all the changes I did double check the ammonia from tap is 0 ppm.

Since I got odd Nitrite readings on the tank, I decided to test the tap for Nitrite and sure enough I have a reading of 0.25 ppm of Nitrite from tap. I thought I had checked this on previous day and had none.

So I am now really wondering/thinking if I actually had the cycle going if the tap water has nitrite but my earlier tank test had none, something must be converting it, or something happened to our tap water. Is it possible to have the bacteria to break down Nitrite to Nitrate but not Ammonia to Nitrite? And if that was the case why wasn't I seeing more Nitrate before?

I also tried to add a baffle to the outflow of the filter, but it was still strong, just not directed towards the front after returning the Betta to the tank so I turned it down by half.

Will definitely be glad to have Prime if the tap water really does have the Nitrites in it.

Thanks,
 

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