API Liquid Test Problems... Again

Swatson

Hi! I'm just here to reiterate a question I had earlier when I thought it was just the API Ammonia Test kit that was giving me grief, but now it turns out the Nitrite test kit is taking its turn. I'd like to know what alternatives everybody uses/if there are any more-reliable-than most test strips people swear by, because my water just... hates the API test kits.

First, it was the consistent 1.0 ppm of ammonia in my tap water, filtered tap, and two tanks according to the API liquid test. But now the nitrite test is wonky.

About a month ago, I went to test my quarantine tank's water to see if it was safe for new fish, and the API nitrite test read around 5.0 ppm. I was surprised but figured I hadn't had fish in there in a while, so the bacteria must've died. So I waited a few days to see if it went down, nada. Put some food in the tank to see if that would effect it for better or worse. It didn't do anything. It kept going back and forth 3.0-5.0 or that off-the-charts magenta color it could get- but now it's been capped that way for three weeks after multiple significant water changes. I did a nitrate test for the quarantine tank last night, and there's somewhere between 20-40 nitrAtes. The last few nitrate tests in the quarantine tank have ranged around 5-10 ppm, so I thought that meant we were getting somewhere, but wouldn't the nitrites have fallen if the leap was that dramatic? I'd say the cycle is just doing its thing, but that's a long time for nitrites to be stuck that high. At least, I think so. But for posterity, I checked my tap, filtered tap, and seven-month-old tank water's nitrite, and it had been either reading zero or somewhere between that and .25 before all this, but then the last couple of days I've been getting higher readings, and I just checked again, all sources are reading 1.0 nitrite. I did a test with API strips for peace of mind, but naturally, the nitrate/nitrate readings are indistinguishable between 0-1.0 for both nitrate/nitrite on there. The fish in the main tank are no worse for wear, as per usual. None of them are gasping/trying to get to the surface etc, so that context clue is worthless. I'm out of Prime, and just to be safe I'm headed to the pet store first thing tomorrow to get some.

Either way, with my experience I'm not sure whether to not trust my tap water or my API kit, so if it's the latter... which other non-API tests of any kind have you guys found to be reliable? Because I'm starting to wonder if the liquid test is worth the constant headaches it's caused the last couple of months lol.
 

StarGirl

I think you are in mid cycle somewhere. Numbers can be wonky for awhile. Going back and forth from API to strips will drive you mad. How old are the strips? They do go bad from just the environment or a single drop of water in the package.

Have you tried changing some water to lower the Nitrites?

How long was it running without fish?

How exactly did you cycle this tank?

Is your tap water still saying 1.0 ammonia?
 

Azedenkae

Any chance you can test bottled water or similar just as a third reference?

Sometimes nitrite can be present in tap water, so in these cases it is hard to determine what the issue is. What's your pH when you completed the cycle, and what is it now btw?

The nitrifiers wouldn't die from just a month of no fish in the tank, at least not materially.
 

Swatson

I think you are in mid cycle somewhere. Numbers can be wonky for awhile. Going back and forth from API to strips will drive you mad. How old are the strips? They do go bad from just the environment or a single drop of water in the package.

Have you tried changing some water to lower the Nitrites?

How long was it running without fish?

How exactly did you cycle this tank?

Is your tap water still saying 1.0 ammonia?
Strips are relatively brand new, look like they expire 05/2023.

Not quite sure how long it was without fish initially- three weeks to a month.

I cycled the quarantine by transferring the main tank's original filter, silk plants, and some of the water over into it, but that was a good four months ago by now, if I'm doing the math right. The cycle had been all set and I had two rounds of fish do fine in it in between the setup and now.

The est isn't saying 1.0 ammonia for the main tank anymore, but that's due to the fact that on a hunch I used filtered water because that had read .50 ppm on the chart vs the 1.0 plain tap water was reading. I just ran a test now and it's still at .50 after being in there a couple of days- maybe a shade or two lighter, so maybe there is some nitrite action going on in there. I just hope it doesn't skyrocket on me overnight if that's the case.
Any chance you can test bottled water or similar just as a third reference?

Sometimes nitrite can be present in tap water, so in these cases it is hard to determine what the issue is. What's your pH when you completed the cycle, and what is it now btw?

The nitrifiers wouldn't die from just a month of no fish in the tank, at least not materially.

Just tested a bottled water and nitrite in that is an absolute zero- it still has that little green tinge in the light blue.

The quarantine tank's pH started at around 7.2 or so, but now between water changes (my tap water is about a 6ph so I have to play with it a bit) it's down to 6.6.
 

StarGirl

Are there fish in it now?
 

Swatson

StarGirl

I would do a large water change and run your tests again. like 50-75 %.
 

Swatson

I'm back and more confused as ever because now after a major water change in the quarantine tank- like, 90% major- my nitrates in there have reduced to 5 ppm, and my nitrites are still in the medium purple range. And in the main tank, after a 33% change, it's still plateaued at .50 -1.0ppm ammonia, 5.0 nitrate and around .50-1ppm nitrite, so it's just going absolutely nowhere. This is driving me absolutely bonkers ;_;
 

Swatson

Another week, and nitrite is still in the 4.0-5.0/magenta range in the quarantine tank. I even basically did another major water change yesterday and it still went all the way up within 12 hours. Nitrate is 20ppm, but ammonia's been at zero for a couple of days now. pH is about 6.8. This is pushing like, two and a half months now of nitrite not going down from a pretty high number.

I'm curious about my main tank too, because while the nitrite is finallllly going down and it's at .25 now, ammonia is at 1 and nitrate is at 10 consistently.

The bacteria's clearly there in both, it just doesn't want to do one particular job based depending on the tank. I have two preset heaters that work at 78 degrees F.

Any other ideas?
 

OutsideFoodBlob

Wow this crazy making. I read through your post back in December as well. As to are there reliable test strips, someone mentioned I think Sera, JBL and another brand just a few days ago in another thread.
You’d have to look up cost/availability. It might be worth it in terms of peace of mind.

Bottom line you need to know if your readings are accurate or not so you can have confidence in the health of your fish. Sorry, realize that is stating obvious, but it’s like how much is that worth to you? So what’s the max budget wise and look at available options. I personally choked a bit when I spent whatever the API master kit cost. So that was my max, even if the nutrafin, sera, jbl liquid kits are tempting.

I hope you are able to get things squared away soon. It sounds like this whole thing sidelined your plans for your tank.
 

Swatson

Wow this crazy making. I read through your post back in December as well. As to are there reliable test strips, someone mentioned I think Sera, JBL and another brand just a few days ago in another thread.
You’d have to look up cost/availability. It might be worth it in terms of peace of mind.

Bottom line you need to know if your readings are accurate or not so you can have confidence in the health of your fish. Sorry, realize that is stating obvious, but it’s like how much is that worth to you? So what’s the max budget wise and look at available options. I personally choked a bit when I spent whatever the API master kit cost. So that was my max, even if the nutrafin, sera, jbl liquid kits are tempting.

I hope you are able to get things squared away soon. It sounds like this whole thing sidelined your plans for your tank.
Ha, right?? Can't catch a break with these tests. As far as budget, like... I'd like to see what else is out there so I can get an average and work from there, so at this rate I'm open to anything... within reason. If there's a test out there thats a hundred bucks, thats a fair bit much lol. I'll have to look into the ones you mentioned.

It wouldn't bother me as much if I wasn't getting wildly different outcomes based on the tank with the nitrites taking forever, and then with my main tank, based on numbers my fish should be stressed out at minimum but outside of some aggression within the neons themselves that they've always exhibited before the water mystery started, there's no change. And the female cory catfish I have in there is laying eggs at least once each week the last three weeks, and from what I understand, the water quality has to be decent and she's got to be content for that to happen. Too many mixed messages lol.

And yeah, the waiting's killing me. I wanna get going. Good parameters means safe fish and I'm willing to wait as long as necessary for that to happen but this is getting ridiculous. I wanna have fuuuunnnnn.
 

OutsideFoodBlob

You have to scroll through a bit to get to recommendations but this was the thread I was thinking of:

Is it worth buying test kits? | Test Kit Forum | 516846

Also: the crazy making leading to frequent water changes has positive effect of female laying eggs. Double edged though since that could be spiking things a bit. If you have the budget to try out two different non-API brands of test strips maybe that would the way to go. Plus then figure out which one you like best in process.

Best of luck!
 

MrMuggles

How do you treat incoming water for water changes?

I was stalling with sky high nitrite that would not come down, it was getting pretty annoying. part of my problem seems to have been following the label on Safe, which taken as written will have you overdose the tank massively if you’re doing large, frequent water changes like I was to bring nitrite down. When I stopped these overdoses of safe my cycle got moving promptly.
 

Swatson

How do you treat incoming water for water changes?

I was stalling with sky high nitrite that would not come down, it was getting pretty annoying. part of my problem seems to have been following the label on Safe, which taken as written will have you overdose the tank massively if you’re doing large, frequent water changes like I was to bring nitrite down. When I stopped these overdoses of safe my cycle got moving promptly.
For the quarantine, about a half cap of Stress Coat, or just under a quarter capful of Prime. I've tried both to no avail.

For the main tank I've also alternated between those two while trying to keep to the directions, but more so about a half capful of Prime, since I've seen in a few places that targets Nitrite more/targets nitrite at all and I do have fish in that one.
You have to scroll through a bit to get to recommendations but this was the thread I was thinking of:

Is it worth buying test kits? | Test Kit Forum | 516846

Also: the crazy making leading to frequent water changes has positive effect of female laying eggs. Double edged though since that could be spiking things a bit. If you have the budget to try out two different non-API brands of test strips maybe that would the way to go. Plus then figure out which one you like best in process.

Best of luck!

On the double-edged sword thing, I've never heard that before (that sounds doubtful, it's not meant to be, I'm genuinely curious). Wouldn't be surprised, though. At the same time it's not like she's having a lot, like, she had somewhere in the teens the first time, I got the eggs out of the tank, then there were a couple of bouts of three eggs (that I noticed, this is the first time she's had them and I saw they don't have many to begin with and the number gets bigger with time), then she had seven and she and the other fish promptly ate them before I got the chance to get them out of there, so I figured they wouldn't have been around to make that much of a difference in the water, if that's what you're saying.
 

WRWAquarium

Hi

I would try a different brand of tests alongside the api. I'm converted to NT labs now, compared to API directly and get same readings but I prefer the kit.
 

Swatson

More updates: The good news, the main tank is basically out of the woods. Nitrite finally went down to zero, so the bacteria are finally doing their job. Ammonia's been slowly but steadily dropping in there: Last week it was .50-1 and now it's at .25; and the fish continue to be unbothered. I can stop worrying about them. Yaay!!

The Bad: Quarantine is still holding onto nitrites for dear life. One 99% water change and wipe-down of some of the tank's walls later, it's still back up to 2ppm. I know I might've thrown a wrench in the works that I wiped a fraction of a couple of the sides of the tank down, but at this rate I'd risk semi-restarting, because that's basically what did the trick when my main tank did this during setup months ago. Can't say the same for this one. I thought I was getting somewhere when the nitrite read as 1ppm the day after the latest change, but nope, went straight back up to 2ishppm 24 hours later, and it been that way since. It's not exactly the 2ppm purple, but it's close to it, and at least it's not magenta-leaning this time around. So maybe I am finally getting somewhere, but after what, coming up on three and a half months of ~2ppm Nitrite straight, I don't have high hopes. The waiting game continues.

Latest other important levels: pH: 6.5; Nitrate: 10ppm
 

MrMuggles

One 99% water change and wipe-down of some of the tank's walls later, it's still back up to 2ppm
After my cycle stalled with high nitrite for a couple weeks, it was virtually impossible to lower it with multiple 95% water changes.

I eventually concluded that there is delayed release of significant amounts of nitrite from the bacterial colony when it has been over-fed with ammonia. That’s the only plausible explanation I can come up with.
 

Swatson

Man, I wish that one was around in June of last year when I was first getting my main tank started. I would've felt a lot better about risking a fish-in cycle. I watched a lot of that guy's stuff when I was first starting out.
After my cycle stalled with high nitrite for a couple weeks, it was virtually impossible to lower nitrite with multiple 95% water changes.

I eventually concluded that there is delayed release of nitrite from the bacterial colony when it has been over-fed with ammonia. That’s really the only satisfying explanation I’ve come up with.
What did you end up doing? Anything special, or did you continue to just wait it out and it got to the finish line eventually?
 

MrMuggles

What did you end up doing? Anything special, or did you continue to just wait it out and it got to the finish line eventually?
Yeah I stopped doing water changes and waited, about 2.5 weeks after my last ammonia dose I saw nitrite removed.

It was a tough wait as my patience was already worn thin by the lack of a single source of truth on how to cycle, and the preponderance of garbage internet advice (not on this forum but elsewhere).
I see your pH was a little low at 6.5
I couldn’t get my cycle started with low pH and soft water, this might be slowing you down. For KH and pH I added a bag of crushed coral to my sump. For GH. I added seachem equilibrium but this is mostly for my plants, not sure if it helped BB but it didn’t hurt.
 

Swatson

Alright, so newbie question - the only thing I'd be weary about if I risked a fish-in cycle at this point is really just the timing and current levels. Like if I started from zero nitrite it would be one thing, but if I dosed Prime, put fish in, wouldn't they already be in bad shape/at risk of dying within a couple of days since my nitrite is on the high side? Like, I guess that's an ammonia source either way, living or dead, what would the point be if it would only get me a couple of days worth of a chance of evening things out. Or am I entirely wrong?
 

MrMuggles

if I dosed Prime, put fish in, wouldn't they already be in bad shape/at risk of dying within a couple of days since my nitrite is on the high side
yeah I think the only thing that changes by adding fish is you have to do more work in water changes. I strongly considered adding fish to help it along until I realized that I couldn’t really accurately measure nitrite, even with prime they would be at risk of toxicity.
 

Swatson

yeah I think the only thing that changes by adding fish is you have to do more work in water changes. I strongly considered adding fish to help it along until I realized that I couldn’t really accurately measure nitrite, even with prime they would be at risk of toxicity.
More fish food and waiting it is then, lol
 

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