Ammonia when nitrites are high?

Olivia Janae

So I keep getting mixed advice and I’m not sure which way to go. So I thought I’d poll it out.

I’m about 5 weeks into cycling. My ammonia is 0 ppm within 24 hours of dosing it to 2 ppm. My nitrates run about 5.0, but it’s a planted tank. However, my nitrites have been about 5.0 for weeks. Might even be higher, because it’s not so purple as it is fuchsia. Some people say dose the tank to feel the ammonia, some say don’t until nitrites come down.
which do you think?
 

Dechi

There have been tests done that show cycling takes less time when feeding ammonia regularly.

Here is what can speed up your cycle :

How to speed up the cycle, from this article :
https:///index.php/2-12-beneficial-bacteria/



Since you’re already adding ammonia (don’t add any if the nitrites level are too high, skip a day. I would keep it around 2-3 ppm if you want it to go faster) and not using CO2, then you can increase surface agitation to help.
 
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Olivia Janae

Thank you! The link doesn't work. Is there a place on the forum that I could check?
 
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Olivia Janae

There have been tests done that show cycling takes less time when feeding ammonia regularly.

Here is what can speed up your cycle :

How to speed up the cycle, from this article :
https:///index.php/2-12-beneficial-bacteria/

« Because these bacteria feed on these three chemicals anything which increases the amount of all three gases will increase the rate at which the beneficial bacteria multiply. So cycle time of an aquarium can be decreased by:
  • Adding more ammonia (NH3)
  • Adding more carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Adding more oxygen (O2) »

Since you’re already adding ammonia (don’t add any if the nitrites level are too high, skip a day. I would keep it around 2-3 ppm if you want it to go faster) and not using CO2, then you can increase surface agitation to help.

Hey, I'm wondering if you could help me with HOW I could bring my nitrites down. It seems that big water changes aren't bringing it down at all and it's still off the charts.
I did get some co2 booster that I started adding yesterday.
 
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Dechi

Hey, I'm wondering if you could help me with HOW I could bring my nitrites down. It seems that big water changes aren't bringing it down at all and it's still off the charts.

If big water changes aren’t bringing it down, it’s because the levels are too high and the test isn’t showing the difference yet. Or there are nitrites in your tap water, or a hidden source of ammonia in the tank, if you’re not feeding it yourself.

I suppose you’ve not added ammonia while trying to sort the nitrites ? If you have, stop for now.

Since there are no fish in the tank, do a 75% water change and post your test results (before and after).
 
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JeremyW

Here's the strategy that I use. I dose ammonia often enough to maintain a low level (around 1ppm) most of the time. At the same time you should use water changes to keep your nitrite levels on the chart until you are fully cycled.

This strategy does a few things:
  • It keeps your bacteria steadily growing without interruption.
  • It avoids cycle stalling from high nitrites/nitrates.
  • The water changes can help maintain a steady pH and hardness during the cycle.
  • It keeps you informed. When levels go off the chart, you don't know what is happening because you can't measure it.
  • It more accurately simulates the actual conditions that will exist in the tank, i.e. a steady input of low level ammonia from the bioload, and regular water changes.
With all that said, if your nitrite levels are already off the chart, then my opinion is that its best to hold off on the ammonia until you get your levels back under control. Get yourself back to a place where you can actually measure what is happening. Then continue on from there.

I always prefer to err on the side of keeping levels low. So if I'm not going to do water changes for a while, I don't dose ammonia, or I'll dose a very small amount.
 
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Olivia Janae

If big water changes aren’t bringing it down, it’s because the levels are too high and the test isn’t showing the difference yet. Or there are nitrites in your tap water, or a hidden source of ammonia in the tank, if you’re not feeding it yourself.

I suppose you’ve not added ammonia while trying to sort the nitrites ? If you have, stop for now.

Since there are no fish in the tank, do a 75% water change and post your test results (before and after).
Okay so it took me a while. But:

Tap water:
PH: 7.6
Nitrates: 10 ppm (I already knew it was in our tap, sadly)
Nitrites: 0
Ammonia: 0

Tank before the change:

PH: 7.6
Nitrates: 5.0
Nitrites: 5.0 or higher
Ammonia: 0

Tank post change:
PH: 7.6
Nitrates: 40ppm
Nitrites: 5.0 or higher
Ammonia: 0

The shade of purple might be SLIGHTLY brighter, but it's still so purple its fuchsia.
I'm not too worried about the nitrites because the tank seems to eat those pretty quickly. It's honestly never read so high, but I've never done a test right after a big change.
So it sounds like I should avoid adding more ammonia for a bit, yeah?
Here's the strategy that I use. I dose ammonia often enough to maintain a low level (around 1ppm) most of the time. At the same time you should use water changes to keep your nitrite levels on the chart until you are fully cycled.

This strategy does a few things:
  • It keeps your bacteria steadily growing without interruption.
  • It avoids cycle stalling from high nitrites/nitrates.
  • The water changes can help maintain a steady pH and hardness during the cycle.
  • It keeps you informed. When levels go off the chart, you don't know what is happening because you can't measure it.
  • It more accurately simulates the actual conditions that will exist in the tank, i.e. a steady input of low level ammonia from the bioload, and regular water changes.
With all that said, if your nitrite levels are already off the chart, then my opinion is that its best to hold off on the ammonia until you get your levels back under control. Get yourself back to a place where you can actually measure what is happening. Then continue on from there.

I always prefer to err on the side of keeping levels low. So if I'm not going to do water changes for a while, I don't dose ammonia, or I'll dose a very small amount.
Okay, this makes a lot of sense. Thank you so much for your imput! I'll do that.
 
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Dechi

I was hoping you would put a picture of the actual test itself, so we could see the colors. Maybe next time.

I agree with what JeremyW said. As long as you can’t have a « normal » range of nitrites, around 1-2 ppm, do not add any ammonia.

Do another big water change tomorrow to bring the nitrites down to that level. I don’t know how much ammonia you dosed, but it must have been a lot !

Once you get your nitrites down to 1 ppm, wait until the next day to see how much it goes down in one day. If it doesn’t go down, wait until it does. Then bring it back up to 1 ppm and keep doing the same thing over and over again. Except now you don’t do any water changes.

When the nitrites go down from 1 ppm to 0 ppm in 24 hours, 2-3 days in a row, then you’ll be done cycling.
 
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Olivia Janae

Oh, my bad. I have a picture of them from before the water change. That was a dumb move! I should have known what you meant! Sorry! The color of the nitrites was the same at least.
I only dosed it to 3ppm, or maybe actually a little less (One drop per gallon) but I clearly did something to stall myself! I think because I've been dosing ammonia with the nitrites still high. Like, every time it drops to zero which.... whoops!

Thank you again so much for helping
 

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Dechi

Oh, my bad. I have a picture of them from before the water change.

Don’t worry, I wasn’t clear. Yeah, those nitrites are really high ! When I did my fishless cycling a month ago with ammonia I followed the instructions on the bottle and ended up having ammonia off the charts. I was supposed to get 2 ppm but got more than 8 ppm. So I think Dr Tim is making us put way too much ammonia in our tanks and people with less experience end up stalling their cycles.

I would be curious to see your nitrites now. Post a pic next time you do your big water change. You still had ammonia also, it’s a strange mix.
 
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Olivia Janae

Don’t worry, I wasn’t clear. Yeah, those nitrites are really high ! When I did my fishless cycling a month ago with ammonia I followed the instructions on the bottle and ended up having ammonia off the charts. I was supposed to get 2 ppm but got more than 8 ppm. So I think Dr Tim is making us put way too much ammonia in our tanks and people with less experience end up stalling their cycles.

I would be curious to see your nitrites now. Post a pic next time you do your big water change. You still had ammonia also, it’s a strange mix.
Omg, omg, omg! I'm so excited! It worked! Check out the pictures.
I'm thinking I'll test the nitrites again in an hour, just to be sure. If it stays the same then I should dose it with ammonia again and see what happens, right? If so, one drop her gallon?
 

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Dechi

Yes, water changes are working. I would wait another 24 hours before adding ammonia. Right now you’re around 1 ppm of nitrites. There really was tons of it in the tank.

How much ammonia did you dose to get to this point ? Just trying to see how much you should use.

I think you might even be cycled but there was so much ammonia and nitrites in the tank it would have taken forever to process.

So let’s go slow. No ammonia for now. Test again tomorrow and put your results in picture again.
 
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Olivia Janae

Yes, water changes are working. I would wait another 24 hours before adding ammonia. Right now you’re around 1 ppm of nitrites. There really was tons of it in the tank.

How much ammonia did you dose to get to this point ? Just trying to see how much you should use.

I think you might even be cycled but there was so much ammonia and nitrites in the tank it would have taken forever to process.

So let’s go slow. No ammonia for now. Test again tomorrow and put your results in picture again.
Last time I used one drop per gallon, but I was thinking this time I might go 20 drops, wait an hour and test, 20 drops, wait an hour and test until it gets roughly 22 ppm or I get to 60 drops, whichever comes first. It’s got to be that I simply did something wrong! Because that was an obscene amount in comparison!
And, okay, I will! Really, I can’t thank you enough for how willing you been to help me. It’s honestly very amazing!
 
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Dechi

but I was thinking this time I might go 20 drops, wait an hour and test, 20 drops, wait an hour and test until it gets roughly 22 ppm or I get to 60 drops, whichever comes first.

I’m glad I can help. :)

For now don’t add any ammonia as we said. Also, your method of adding, testing and adding again is not ideal and may be part of the problem. Our tanks are complex systems and it takes more than 1 hour for the ammonia we add (or any other product) to be processed.

Let’s wait to see tomorrow’s test pictures and then we’ll decide how much ammonia we add.
 
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Olivia Janae

Good morning! So it's looking about the same. You don't think I could have damaged the bacteria or anything, do you? Either way, I think I should probably not add any more ammonia, yet.
 

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Dechi

Good morning! So it's looking about the same. You don't think I could have damaged the bacteria or anything, do you? Either way, I think I should probably not add any more ammonia, yet.

Good morning ! Don’t worry, unless you put chemicals in the water or cleaned the filter, decorations and vacuumed the substrate, your BB are fine.

I agree you should not add any ammonia yet. Let the process continue, test again tomorrow and show your results.

Until then, have a nice day !
 
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Olivia Janae

Good morning ! Don’t worry, unless you put chemicals in the water or cleaned the filter, decorations and vacuumed the substrate, your BB are fine.

I agree you should not add any ammonia yet. Let the process continue, test again tomorrow and show your results.

Until then, have a nice day !
Well, the nitrite color still hasn't shifted. If anything, it's gotten a little darker, maybe. Should I be worried?
 

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Dechi

Well, the nitrite color still hasn't shifted. If anything, it's gotten a little darker, maybe. Should I be worried?

What is your PH ? Can you add surface agitation to the tank ?

I know your filter was really dirty. Did you do anything to it ?

I think you have added so much ammonia ypu have stalled the cycle because the nitrite consuming bacteria can’t keep up. This is confirmed here, look at #8

8. High Nitrite – Related to #6. Many times the bacteria can quickly handle the overdosing of ammonia and you will get a zero (0) ammonia reading but the nitrite just gets higher and higher. High nitrite is very common when you rush the process or add too much ammonia too quickly. High nitrite inhibits the bacteria and stalls the cycle. If you have super high nitrite do a 33-50% water change without disturbing the substrate. Do not add chemicals to de-toxify the nitrite,

https://www.drtimsaquatics.com/blog/cycle-troubleshooting-13-things-you-need-to-consider/

So we’ll keep doing water changes for now, and add water agitation if you can. Aim a power head to the surface if you have one, or anything that will move the water.

Don’t add ammonia or any other chemicals. No cleaning anything either.

Do a 50% WC today and post again tomorrow. Don’t give up, you’ll get there !
 
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Olivia Janae

What is your PH ? Can you add surface agitation to the tank ?

I know your filter was really dirty. Did you do anything to it ?

I think you have added so much ammonia ypu have stalled the cycle because the nitrite consuming bacteria can’t keep up. This is confirmed here, look at #8

8. High Nitrite – Related to #6. Many times the bacteria can quickly handle the overdosing of ammonia and you will get a zero (0) ammonia reading but the nitrite just gets higher and higher. High nitrite is very common when you rush the process or add too much ammonia too quickly. High nitrite inhibits the bacteria and stalls the cycle. If you have super high nitrite do a 33-50% water change without disturbing the substrate. Do not add chemicals to de-toxify the nitrite,

https://www.drtimsaquatics.com/blog/cycle-troubleshooting-13-things-you-need-to-consider/

So we’ll keep doing water changes for now, and add water agitation if you can. Aim a power head to the surface if you have one, or anything that will move the water.

Don’t add ammonia or any other chemicals. No cleaning anything either.

Do a 50% WC today and post again tomorrow. Don’t give up, you’ll get there !


My surface agitation is actually really good, I think. It's hard to show in a photo but I attacked a few things. My PH is reading at about 8. I think you're right though that I stalled it. So the idea how is kind of just to hang out and wait, I suppose. Ahhhhh!!!! I'll go get a power head to add.
Do you think I should stop the Co2 booster for now?
 

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Dechi

What kind of CO2 boosters ? Addind CO2 is one of the things that can help, but I would avoid adding it in the liquid form for now.

The test picture is showing PH ? If your PH is 8, don’t use the low PH solution, it’s useless. That’s a good PH for cycling.

Your surface agitation is good, no worries about that ! Everything looks good, really.

So yeah, it‘s a waiting game for now. With water changes, lol ! Let’s wait tomorrow morning and go from there.
 
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Olivia Janae

Good news! It is definitely working! It might not completely come through in the photo. It’s still very purple but I would easily put it at 1.0 today. It’s definitely a lighter purple.

side question, can you have too much circulation in your tank once fish are in it?
 

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mattgirl

Following to see how this method turns out
I noticed in the first post on this thread it says this is a planted tank thus maybe the reason for low nitrates. From what I can see in the photos I don't think there are enough plants in there to actually affect the nitrate level.

I am going to ask you to fill out this template so we can get all the necessary information about this tank all in one post. Nitrogen Cycle Template | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 494741 Once we do maybe we can see what is happening and figure out how to get this cycle done.
 
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Dechi

Good news! It is definitely working! It might not completely come through in the photo. It’s still very purple but I would easily put it at 1.0 today. It’s definitely a lighter purple.

side question, can you have too much circulation in your tank once fish are in it?

Sorry my friend I had appointments today. So it’s good that nitrites are going down. Did you do a 50% water change this morning ?

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

And yes, there can be too much water circulation when you get your fish, depending on the species. But once your cycle is done, you can decrease water agitation if you want, as long as you keep it enough for the fish. It will always be needed.

Filling the template is defintely a good idea, it can’t hurt and might point out some things we have missed.
 
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Olivia Janae

Oh, I missed this today as well! I'll get this filled out for tomorrow morning!
Seriously, thank you to all of you. You are all so amazing!
 
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Olivia Janae

Cycle Template

Tank
What is the water volume of the tank?: 60 Gallons
What type of water are you using in your tank? (tap, well, RO/DI, other): Tap using API water conditioner
When did you start cycling the tank?: 3-1-2021
What type of filtration are you running on this tank? (sponge, HOB, canister, other): Fluval 70 with a sponge, ceramic bits, and charcoal
If canister or HOB list all the media you are running in it. (manufactured cartridges, sponge, etc.): a sponge, ceramic bits, and charcoal
Do you have good water agitation/surface movement?: Very
What is the water temperature?: 74


Products used while cycling

If this is a fishless cycle what ammonia source are you using? (fish food, Dr Tim’s ammonia, other): I started with Dr. Tim's but ran out. I since bought ammonia from Ace (10% janitorial) but haven't actually used it yet.
If adding liquid ammonia how often do you dose ammonia in your tank and in what quantity? (1ppm, 2ppm etc.): Every time ammonia dropped to zero. One drop her gallon. (I know now that was WAY too much)
If using fish food as your ammonia source how much are you adding and how often?: N/A
Are you using a dechlorinater and if so, which one?: API Tap Water Conditioner
Are you using bottled bacteria and if so, which one?: Dr. Tim's
Did you add seeded media from a previously cycled tank?: No
What other products/chemicals are you using? (list them all): API CO2 Booster (not in the last 48 hours), and API Leaf Zone

Testing and cycling process

What was your knowledge of the nitrogen cycle before beginning to cycle your tank? (none, beginner, intermediate (please explain), advanced): I've done it once before, but I admit it went better than this
What do you use to test the water? (API liquid, test strips, other): API liquid Master Kit
Did you test your tap water for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and pH, if so post the results below?: Ammonia - 0, Nitrites - 0, Nitrates 10 ppm, pH - 7.6
Have you done any water changes and if so, when?: Weekly, but now it's been almost daily
How much water did you change?: I've done both 75 and 50
Did you vacuum the substrate?: No
Did you clean your filter, filter media, decorations and/or glass?: I did clean the glass once
If using disposable cartridges have you replaced one recently?:


*Parameters - Very Important
What are your parameters? We need to know the exact numbers, not just “fine” or “safe”.
Tank water:
Ammonia:
0- 0.25 (there's just the softest touch of green. I'm not sure I would even say 0.25)
Nitrite: .25 ppm
Nitrate: 20 ppm
pH: 8.0 to 8.2 (can't quite tell)

Tap water:
Ammonia:
0
Nitrite:
0
Nitrate: 10 ppm
pH: 7.8

Explain your cycling problem in detail. (Please give a clear explanation of what is going on, include details from the beginning of the problem leading up to now) I was adding ammonia every time the ammonia dropped to zero and not waiting for the nitrites to catch up. That caused a nitrite spike and it seems to have stalled the process. I have two tanks cycling, and it seems to have stalled both of them. Nitrites are lower, but it's not processing. We've stopped adding ammonia at all, and added a lot of surface agitation and we're just waiting now. 50% water change yesterday.


So we're for sure getting there!
 

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Dechi

Hi Olivia Janae, your nitrites level looks like about 0.25 this morning. Is this right ? Did you have to do a water change or was it this way without the water change ? When did you do the last water change ?

I think we’re ready to add ammonia to bring it up to 1-2 ppm. I’m a little worried about the janitorial ammonia you bought though. It has to be pure ammnonia, without any additives or any sort. If it isn’t don’t use it. Get some Dr Tim’s.

Add a little amount of ammonia, wait 30 minutes and test. If it’s around 1-2 ppm, stop. If not, then add a little bit more until you reach that level. Write down how many drops you needed.

Then leave it until tomorrow morning, and retest. Stop doing water changes for now. We should not need them until the end of the cycle, to get rid of nitrates.

Make sure to not overdose ammonia. And have a good day !

(eta : the carbon isn’t necessary on a permanent basis in a fish tank. We mainly use it to remove medication, after treatment. It is taking the place of more useful media to house beneficial bacteria. I would remove it and use some kind of biomedia instead.)
 
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Olivia Janae

Morning!
I did the shake test on the ammonia and no bubbles or foam. I can get Dr Tim’s but I live in the middle of nowhere so it will take about a week to get in the mail. Is there a store bought brand you’ve used?
But yeah! It’s at 0.25! It totally worked! You’re a genius!
The last water change was yesterday so I’ll hold off on those again!
Thank you so much!
 
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mattgirl

Since a lot of your nitrites were removed by water changes and you weren't adding ammonia to produce more they may go back up once you start feeding the bacteria again. I humbly advise you not to water change them back out and also continue adding ammonia each time it goes back down to zero. Let the tank grow enough bacteria to clear them out.

The ammonia you bought should work just as well as the Dr. Tim's. There is one more thing you might want to consider doing. That is start feeding this tank a very small amount of fish food along with the liquid ammonia. This thread will explain my thoughts behind doing this.
PSA: Something I am seeing more and more often, fishless cycling.... | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 477380 Doing so has helped others struggling to get their tanks cycled.
 
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Redviper

There have been tests done that show cycling takes less time when feeding ammonia regularly.

I'm starting to see some opinions that indiccate that allowing a tank to cycle up naturally is a better strategy. In other words, it may be a better idea to use patience and prudence when adding organic ammonia sources. Since I've never had a planted tank I can't speak to that aspect. I can say that adding fish stock slowly creates a functional and durable BB.
 
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Freshfishguy

Don’t worry, I wasn’t clear. Yeah, those nitrites are really high ! When I did my fishless cycling a month ago with ammonia I followed the instructions on the bottle and ended up having ammonia off the charts. I was supposed to get 2 ppm but got more than 8 ppm. So I think Dr Tim is making us put way too much ammonia in our tanks and people with less experience end up stalling their cycles.

I would be curious to see your nitrites now. Post a pic next time you do your big water change. You still had ammonia also, it’s a strange mix.
Same with me about Dr. Tim’s instructions in the past. I add about ⅓-½ of what he recommends for ammonia.
 
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Dechi

I humbly advise you not to water change them back out and also continue adding ammonia each time it goes back down to zero.

Yes, that’s the plan. From now on, we’re going back to a « normal » cycling process. Water changes aren’t necessary until the end, to get rid of nitrates.

As long as there isn’t any ammonia overdosing this should go very well from now on.
I'm starting to see some opinions that indiccate that allowing a tank to cycle up naturally is a better strategy.

Fish in cycles are indeed more natural, but they are more work and more stress both for the fish and the fish keeper.

I’ve done my first fishless cycle and I won’t be going back as long as I can find ammonia.
 
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Olivia Janae

Okay, so just to be clear, what should I be doing? Adding ammonia each time it drops to zero and adding until it gets to around 1.5 ppm?
 
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Freshfishguy

Okay, so just to be clear, what should I be doing? Adding ammonia each time it drops to zero and adding until it gets to around 1.5 ppm?
Yeah per the cycle guru mattgirl ‘s instructions, each time ammonia drops to zero, add more. See how much it takes to get to 1.5/2ppm ammonia, and then that will be the exact amount you will add each time it drops to zero. However, don’t stress if it gets above 2ppm. The main things you want to do with the ammonia is 1) not have it get higher than 3-4ppm, as that can lead to your cycle stalling, and 2) to dose the same amount of ammonia each time you do so, as then you can be confident that the bacteria is for sure processing a definitive amount of ammonia rather than the ammonia fluctuating and the bacteria having to adapt each time. Also, if you have some flake food, it may be a good idea to toss in a pinch right now.
 
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Olivia Janae

Okay this is awesome! It looks like it takes 35 drops. God, I was dosing 70!
 
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Redviper

Fish in cycles are indeed more natural, but they are more work and more stress both for the fish and the fish keeper.

I understand completely. The work part wasn't that bad with this tank. I pumped in 125g and watched it run for a week. When it started to smell and clear a bit I tossed in 12 tiger barbs and watched them poop my quality BB into existence. The mean little barbs were cool with it (they were an interesting story all their own), as was I. Of course, YMMV.

I’ve done my first fishless cycle and I won’t be going back as long as I can find ammonia.

I'm pleased that you have an approach that works for you, Dechi.
 
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Olivia Janae

Okay guys. I’m adding the pinch of fish food. My ammonia already processed out. It’s solidly yellow. My nitrates are 20 ppm and my nitrites are about 2.0.
If I add another 35 drops, won’t it just create the same nitrite spike that got me here in the first place?
Just confirming yet again because I’m nervous
 

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Dechi

Okay guys. I’m adding the pinch of fish food. My ammonia already processed out. It’s solidly yellow. My nitrates are 20 ppm and my nitrites are about 2.0.
If I add another 35 drops, won’t it just create the same nitrite spike that got me here in the first place?
Just confirming yet again because I’m nervous

If the nitrites are at 2 ppm, don’t add anything. Wait until tomorrow; we’ll decide what we do then. You’ve already added fish flakes, which will increase ammonia.

Don’t do anything else for today. See you tomorrow !
 
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Olivia Janae

Dechi, I really want to thank you for being there so much. You are an awesome human. Thank you for taking the time.
 
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