A Noob (me) having trouble Cycling

OtterKing

Member
Hey guys. Im new to the forums and I was hoping to get some help and opinions on the problem I've been having. I've already tried a different forum site with no luck, so I'd really appreciate some here!

Since starting the cycling process for my first tank (a 10gal) It's been all over the place. I started out with a tank with 3 java fern and 3 marimo moss balls and ghost fed for a week or more. At the time, I had been testing my tank but had been doing it completely wrong. When I finally figured it out, maybe 2 to 3 weeks in, I finally got clear readings. Ammonia had been at around .25-0.50 PPM and hadn't gone down, no shock there. Suddenly the ammonia got up to 1ppm, which was great, and then nitrites came along at 1 ppm too. Then nothing. No nitrates that I could detect. Now, I had a theory this was the case because API freshwater test kit doesn't have detectable color for 1ppm, it simply goes from 0 to 5ppm wiht no in-between, and I did in fact find a test that had the faintest almost not seeable amount of orange (or Im just insane and blind). Since then, Ammonia has been around 0.25 - 0.50 ppm, even after ghost feeding for two weeks, sometimes going to 0 then going back to that range. Since then I've also tested nitrite at a very pale blue (not as bright as the typical 0ppm blue) which could possibly indicate almost undetectable amounts of nitrite. still no signs of nitrates, but I believe it's because its so low I cant see on tests.

Id like to point out the fact it has been 3 months since I started cycling with not clear proof that my tank is cycled and as you can imagine its pretty frustrating.

If anyone's out there to share what they think, I'd really appreciate it

edit: temp has always been above 75(F) and PH has been a bit higher then . I dechlorinate my water too before any water changes. I have done about 3-4 clean ups/changes in total since starting, mostly for getting rid of algae or pests.
 

AggressiveAquatics

Member
mattgirl
 

mattgirl

Member
First Welcome to Fishlore We will try our best to help you get this cycle done.

Some questions first. What is your pH level? Have you done any water changes since you started this cycle? A low pH, well below 7 can make a cycle struggle. If the same water that you started with is still in there all the original minerals may have been used up.
 

AquaBaby

Member
Welcome to Fishlore, otter king!

In addition to mattgirl's questions, what temperature are you keeping the tank at and what type of filter are you using?
 
  • Thread Starter

OtterKing

Member
mattgirl said:
First Welcome to Fishlore We will try our best to help you get this cycle done.

Some questions first. What is your pH level? Have you done any water changes since you started this cycle? A low pH, well below 7 can make a cycle struggle. If the same water that you started with is still in there all the original minerals may have been used up.
tysm!
My PH levels have been a bit higher then 7 but never 8. I have done quite a few water changes (never more then 40-50%) mostly to get rid of algae or gross debris that's been in there for a while.

AquaBaby said:
Welcome to Fishlore, otter king!

In addition to mattgirl's questions, what temperature are you keeping the tank at and what type of filter are you using?
before it was at the 75 range but I upped it to 78-80. it has never been under that
 

mattgirl

Member
OtterKing said:
tysm!
My PH levels have been a bit higher then 7 but never 8. I have done quite a few water changes (never more then 40-50%) mostly to get rid of algae or gross debris that's been in there for a while.
OtterKing said:
before it was at the 75 range but I upped it to 78-80. it has never been under that
It sounds like your numbers are good for cycling. Since you aren't seeing any nitrates I have to ask. Are you positive you are running the test correctly? did you shake bottle #2 like your life depended on it before you used it the first time and then really good each time you use it? Are you shaking the test tube for a full minute after adding drops from each of the 2 bottles and then waiting a full 5 minutes for the true color to develop?

Since you are using fish food for your ammonia source are you adding a tiny pinch daily? When using fish food you don't want to do too many water water changes since food has to decompose to make more so for now I would hold off doing any more until you start seeing forward progress.
 

86 ssinit

Member
This is why I’m not a fan of the fishless cycle. 10g is a tough tank to get going. It’s a small amount of water. Lots of shaking on the nitrate bottle.
What are you planning to put in the tank. 3 months!!!arrgh!!
 

mattgirl

Member
86 ssinit said:
This is why I’m not a fan of the fishless cycle. 10g is a tough tank to get going. It’s a small amount of water. Lots of shaking on the nitrate bottle.
What are you planning to put in the tank. 3 months!!!arrgh!!
I actually agree. Fishless cycling would drive me even more batty than I already am I will try to help someone that chooses to do it but I never could do it myself.
 

Dechi

Member
Are you using a dechlorinator when doing water changes ? If not, you’re killing the bacteria every time and the cycling process has no end.
 

AquaBaby

Member
Are you vacuuming the substrate? As mattgirl mentioned, when using food to cycle, you'll need that decomposition. It's your ammonia source. If you're vacuuming, you're removing what is needed to feed your beneficial bacteria.

Vacuuming, of course, would be something you might consider to do if your ammonia was off the chart, there was too much food being used, and it was really accumulating, for example. But, with the information you're providing, that doesn't seem to be the case here.
 
  • Thread Starter

OtterKing

Member
mattgirl said:
It sounds like your numbers are good for cycling. Since you aren't seeing any nitrates I have to ask. Are you positive you are running the test correctly? did you shake bottle #2 like your life depended on it before you used it the first time and then really good each time you use it? Are you shaking the test tube for a full minute after adding drops from each of the 2 bottles and then waiting a full 5 minutes for the true color to develop?

Since you are using fish food for your ammonia source are you adding a tiny pinch daily? When using fish food you don't want to do too many water water changes since food has to decompose to make more so for now I would hold off doing any more until you start seeing forward progress.
I've really been trying to test correctly with nitrates since they're the more complicated, I'll try to shake more aggressively with the bottle #2 haha. other then that, I have been shaking vigorously for a minute and adding the right amount of drops, as well as waiting 5 minutes.

I added a pinch at the very start of my process every day, but over a week ago I did two generous pinches a day to see if It really w a s cycled or I still need to wait. I really haven't done any changes other then yesterday because I was trying to get some algae out. maybe 3-4 times throughout those 3 months i've been tryna cycle.

Dechi said:
Are you using a dechlorinator when doing water changes ? If not, you’re killing the bacteria every time and the cycling process has no end.
yes! always. I have my water in buckets ready for whenever I need my next change. I use a dechlorinator that should get rid of chlorine and chloramine and I even let it sit out without a top for a night or two just in case before I cover it up

AquaBaby said:
Are you vacuuming the substrate? As mattgirl mentioned, when using food to cycle, you'll need that decomposition. It's your ammonia source. If you're vacuuming, you're removing what is needed to feed your beneficial bacteria.

Vacuuming, of course, would be something you might consider to do if your ammonia was off the chart, there was too much food being used, and it was really accumulating, for example. But, with the information you're providing, that doesn't seem to be the case here.
I have been vacuuming substrate during my water changes, but as I said I have only done 3-4 changes so far, Ill be sure to not do that anymore if its not cycled yet or water change at all.
 

AquaBaby

Member
OtterKing said:
I have been vacuuming substrate during my water changes, but as I said I have only done 3-4 changes so far, Ill be sure to not do that anymore if its not cycled yet or water change at all.
I had trouble with my 10 gallon initially. I was vacuuming it. I stopped and BAM! Things started to work correctly. The numbers started looking right, and it progressed from there as expected.

It may not be the reason your cycle is sluggish, but it sure can't hurt to test it!
 
  • Thread Starter

OtterKing

Member
AquaBaby said:
I had trouble with my 10 gallon initially. I was vacuuming it. I stopped and BAM! Things started to work correctly. The numbers started looking right, and it progressed from there as expected.

It may not be the reason your cycle is sluggish, but it sure can't hurt to test it!
ok! tysm for the suggestion, ill def try it
 

mattgirl

Member
It sounds like we have given you some things to try to help get this cycle moving forward.

what are your plans for this tank? If you are just planning this tank for a Betta you may be going through all this needlessly. If that is the plan I would be changing out most of the water and go ahead and get my fish.

I really applaud your patience
 
  • Thread Starter

OtterKing

Member
mattgirl said:
It sounds like we have given you some things to try to help get this cycle moving forward.

what are your plans for this tank? If you are just planning this tank for a Betta you may be going through all this needlessly. If that is the plan I would be changing out most of the water and go ahead and get my fish.

I really applaud your patience
sorry for the late reply, I've been busy!

I was in fact doing this to get a betta in the end haha. Do you recommend I go for it? I just don't want to end up killing them in the end, that's why I've been waiting for so long.
 

mattgirl

Member
OtterKing said:
sorry for the late reply, I've been busy!

I was in fact doing this to get a betta in the end haha. Do you recommend I go for it? I just don't want to end up killing them in the end, that's why I've been waiting for so long.
Make sure you have vacuumed all of the decaying food out of there. While you are doing this most of the water should get changed out. That is a good thing. You want to start your little guy out in fresh clean water. As long as you keep an eye on the parameters and change water as needed I have to think your little guy will be fine.
 
  • Thread Starter

OtterKing

Member
mattgirl said:
Make sure you have vacuumed all of the decaying food out of there. While you are doing this most of the water should get changed out. That is a good thing. You want to start your little guy out in fresh clean water. As long as you keep an eye on the parameters and change water as needed I have to think your little guy will be fine.
okay, sounds good! I hope that my tank has been cycled the whole time without me knowing so it works out better. Tysm for your help!

86 ssinit said:
This is why I’m not a fan of the fishless cycle. 10g is a tough tank to get going. It’s a small amount of water. Lots of shaking on the nitrate bottle.
What are you planning to put in the tank. 3 months!!!arrgh!!
sorry I must've missed the last bit of your comment there! I'm doin this for a betta. Quite a lot for a little guy lol
 

mattgirl

Member
OtterKing said:
okay, sounds good! I hope that my tank has been cycled the whole time without me knowing so it works out better. Tysm for your help!
Please let me know from time to time how things are going. Don't forget, we love pictures
 

PhillyJawn

Member
In conjunction with the good advice given here, you can add some nitrifying bacteria starter like API Quick Start, Brightwell aquatics has one, and I've heard good things about Fritz.

I was reluctant to believe they actually work, but after reading a study on them, it seems they do actually work.

Link to the study:

 
  • Thread Starter

OtterKing

Member
PhillyJawn said:
In conjunction with the good advice given here, you can add some nitrifying bacteria starter like API Quick Start, Brightwell aquatics has one, and I've heard good things about Fritz.

I was reluctant to believe they actually work, but after reading a study on them, it seems they do actually work.

Link to the study:

Ive used tetra safe start multiple times throughout the cycling process and Im not sure if it worked or not considering I dont know if the tank is fully cycled yet haha

ty for the link!

mattgirl said:
Please let me know from time to time how things are going. Don't forget, we love pictures
will do! I plan on waiting a week before getting the betta just in case something funky happens. Ill be sure to keep you updated
 

Aprilbeingbasic

Member
Sorry this sounds very frustrating. 1- turning nitrites to nitrates is a different set of bacteria so once you have the first lot you do have to wait for the second lot to grow so that can take awhile. 2- you have plants and you're dosing quite low on ammonium, potentially your plants are eating up the nitrates so you're not reading them. pure ammonium is a bit easier to dose with but obviously annoying as you need to buy it. I would be tempted to add more fish food and try and get a higher reading to have a bigger change in nitrates.
 
  • Thread Starter

OtterKing

Member
Aprilbeingbasic said:
Sorry this sounds very frustrating. 1- turning nitrites to nitrates is a different set of bacteria so once you have the first lot you do have to wait for the second lot to grow so that can take awhile. 2- you have plants and you're dosing quite low on ammonium, potentially your plants are eating up the nitrates so you're not reading them. pure ammonium is a bit easier to dose with but obviously annoying as you need to buy it. I would be tempted to add more fish food and try and get a higher reading to have a bigger change in nitrates.
I've read up it takes a while to transition form nitrites to nitrates, but nitrates went down and its been a month and a half or more and I haven't found any. The plants def could've eaten it all up, especially because it was so low that it would be undetectable. I did in fact start adding a lot more fish food but nothing seems to have changed, so I'm not sure whats going on with that
 

mattgirl

Member
OtterKing said:
I've read up it takes a while to transition form nitrites to nitrates, but nitrates went down and its been a month and a half or more and I haven't found any. The plants def could've eaten it all up, especially because it was so low that it would be undetectable. I did in fact start adding a lot more fish food but nothing seems to have changed, so I'm not sure whats going on with that
Once you finish up the necessary water changes and gravel vac's you could very well find that this tank is cycled. I am hoping that is what you see.
 

Aprilbeingbasic

Member
OtterKing said:
I've read up it takes a while to transition form nitrites to nitrates, but nitrates went down and its been a month and a half or more and I haven't found any. The plants def could've eaten it all up, especially because it was so low that it would be undetectable. I did in fact start adding a lot more fish food but nothing seems to have changed, so I'm not sure whats going on with that
to be honest it sounds like its cycled and you might be over thinking it hahaha what were you planning on adding? Also 10gal is small so your reading being a bit crazy is not surprising, smaller tanks have larger spikes and changes compared to big tanks.
 
  • Thread Starter

OtterKing

Member
Aprilbeingbasic said:
to be honest it sounds like its cycled and you might be over thinking it hahaha what were you planning on adding? Also 10gal is small so your reading being a bit crazy is not surprising, smaller tanks have larger spikes and changes compared to big tanks.
yeah everything seems fine atm after heavily vacuuming all the gunk out of the bottom. I theorized that all the ammonia was leeching from the gunk for a really long time cuz I hadn't gotten all of it. But its a 10gal for a betta who I just got on Friday and ammonia has been at 0 lol
 
  • Thread Starter

OtterKing

Member
mattgirl said:
Once you finish up the necessary water changes and gravel vac's you could very well find that this tank is cycled. I am hoping that is what you see.
ammonia has been at 0 after the vacuums (so far at least) and I got my betta friday
 

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