Aquarium not cycling

Grimmy

I'm a newbie, nice to meet you all! I'm trying to do a fishless cycle but it's not working. I have a 60L tank filled with 28 degrees celsius water, which has had water conditioner put in as per the instructions on the bottle. I'm running an Eheim 60 filter, the substrate is black sand and there are three plants in there. I have the lights on about 14 hours a day if that matters.

3 weeks ago I added about 2ml of 9.5% strength ammonia. I have kept testing for ammonia and it has stayed at about 5 or 6 ppm throughout without me ever adding more. I still don't have any nitrites. Am I doing something wrong? The PH is 7.5 which I believe should be OK? The water is very hard.

Thanks in advance!
 

RayClem

An ammonia level of 5-6 ppm is pretty high. For a 60 liter tank, 2 ml of ammonia is a lot. Typically, people who use pure ammonia for cycling tanks will target something like 2 ppm. Try doing a 50% water change to lower the ammonia levels and test again. Once the ammonia drops to 1 ppm, add some more ammonia, but this time add no more than 10 drops (1/2 ml).
 

Grimmy

An ammonia level of 5-6 ppm is pretty high. For a 60 liter tank, 2 ml of ammonia is a lot. Typically, people who use pure ammonia for cycling tanks will target something like 2 ppm. Try doing a 50% water change to lower the ammonia levels and test again. Once the ammonia drops to 1 ppm, add some more ammonia, but this time add no more than 10 drops (1/2 ml).
Thanks for the quick response I'll do that now
 

jdhef

Welcome to FishLore!

5ppm is a little high, but it shouldn't have hurt anything. But I would do as mentioned by RayClem above. But keep in mind when doing a fishless cycle without a bacteria additive it usually takes 3-4 weeks before the ammonia starts dropping and nitrites start appearing.

Best of luck!
 

Grimmy

Thanks both. I think I know the issue now. It just took me about 5 x 50% water changes to get the ammonia down to the levels you just advised so I'm guessing the actual amount I had before was way higher than 6ppm, and i just thought it was 6ppm because that was the limit of my tester. Maybe that is one of my plants died so quickly also!
 

dMog

by the way as per posts already here, agree with them but do you know a cycles takes 6 to 8 weeks not 24 hours or a week
 

Grimmy

by the way as per posts already here, agree with them but do you know a cycles takes 6 to 8 weeks not 24 hours or a week
Yeah I get that. I was just concerned I hadn't even converted any ammonia into nitrites yet. I know that's only one stage and I'd still have a fair way to go after that to wait for the nitrites to start converting into nitrates. Hopefully now I've got the ammonia down we might see progress
 

Grimmy

That worked! Overnight ammonia has reduced, nitrites have appeared at about 4ppm and nitrates have appeared at about 60! I wonder whether the high amounts of ammonia were messing with the test results before? From what I've read it should have taken me a long time after getting nitrites to start seeing them converted into nitrates?
 

RayClem

That worked! Overnight ammonia has reduced, nitrites have appeared at about 4ppm and nitrates have appeared at about 60! I wonder whether the high amounts of ammonia were messing with the test results before? From what I've read it should have taken me a long time after getting nitrites to start seeing them converted into nitrates?

The nitrate test works by using zinc to reduce nitrates to nitrites. Then you test for nitrites to get the nitrate value. However, the nitrate test is only accurate if there are no nitrites in the water. Since you have 4 ppm nitrites, you are getting a false high nitrate reading.

However, seeing the ammonia drop is a good thing. Keep adding small amounts of ammonia until you see the ammonia drop to zero overnight and the nitrites drop as well. Remember, the bacteria that convert nitrite to nitrate cannot develop until there are nitrites in the tank for them to eat.
 

Grimmy

The nitrate test works by using zinc to reduce nitrates to nitrites. Then you test for nitrites to get the nitrate value. However, the nitrate test is only accurate if there are no nitrites in the water. Since you have 4 ppm nitrites, you are getting a false high nitrate reading.

However, seeing the ammonia drop is a good thing. Keep adding small amounts of ammonia until you see the ammonia drop to zero overnight and the nitrites drop as well. Remember, the bacteria that convert nitrite to nitrate cannot develop until there are nitrites in the tank for them to eat.
That would make sense. I wondered how I had nitrates so quickly. Great that I've got past that first step at least, I was sick of seeing that nitrite test come back clear!
 

RayClem

That would make sense. I wondered how I had nitrates so quickly. Great that I've got past that first step at least, I was sick of seeing that nitrite test come back clear!

Just be patient. I read a comment somewhere that said is is impossible to avoid developing colonies of nitrifying bacteria in our tanks. However, for those with new tanks, it is difficult to wait for that process to complete.

BTW: Maintaining the tank temperature at 28 degrees C (82 degrees F) will help with the growth of beneficial bacteria. However, that temperature is a little high for some fish. You might want to drop the temperature down to 25-26 degrees C unless you are trying to keep fish that specifically like very warm water. The higher the temperature, the less dissolved oxygen there will be in the water. Also algae can multiply rapidly in warmer water. Before adding fish to your tank, research the range of temperature most suitable for each species..
 

Grimmy

Just be patient. I read a comment somewhere that said is is impossible to avoid developing colonies of nitrifying bacteria in our tanks. However, for those with new tanks, it is difficult to wait for that process to complete.

BTW: Maintaining the tank temperature at 28 degrees C (82 degrees F) will help with the growth of beneficial bacteria. However, that temperature is a little high for some fish. You might want to drop the temperature down to 25-26 degrees C unless you are trying to keep fish that specifically like very warm water. The higher the temperature, the less dissolved oxygen there will be in the water. Also algae can multiply rapidly in warmer water. Before adding fish to your tank, research the range of temperature most suitable for each species..
Thanks yeah I just had it high for now to encourage the bacteria growth. I'll drop it down before fish eventually go in.
 

DrandonC

I'm a newbie, nice to meet you all! I'm trying to do a fishless cycle but it's not working. I have a 60L tank filled with 28 degrees celsius water, which has had water conditioner put in as per the instructions on the bottle. I'm running an Eheim 60 filter, the substrate is black sand and there are three plants in there. I have the lights on about 14 hours a day if that matters.

3 weeks ago I added about 2ml of 9.5% strength ammonia. I have kept testing for ammonia and it has stayed at about 5 or 6 ppm throughout without me ever adding more. I still don't have any nitrites. Am I doing something wrong? The PH is 7.5 which I believe should be OK? The water is very hard.

Thanks in advance!
FRITZ ZYME 7.. I had delays as well and this stuff nailed it.
 

dMog

are you following a set of instructions to do this cycle or just adding ammonia and waiting for it to happen without doing anything else...testing should be done daily and water changes done as needed as per parameters tested...as well as re-dosing ammonia as required too
 

Matt11711

I just wanted to pop in and say that the time it takes to for ammonia levels to drop is pretty variable, so don't be alarmed if yours is taking longer than posts you see unless you are at like 5 weeks plus. 2 weeks after I started cycling my tank my ammonia levels were at 0, and I'm currently waiting on the nitrite levels to drop, but I think that's unusually fast.
 

DrandonC

I just wanted to pop in and say that the time it takes to for ammonia levels to drop is pretty variable, so don't be alarmed if yours is taking longer than posts you see unless you are at like 5 weeks plus. 2 weeks after I started cycling my tank my ammonia levels were at 0, and I'm currently waiting on the nitrite levels to drop, but I think that's unusually fast.
I had a very similar experience with the same time frame. You are very close my friend.
 

Grimmy

are you following a set of instructions to do this cycle or just adding ammonia and waiting for it to happen without doing anything else...testing should be done daily and water changes done as needed as per parameters tested...as well as re-dosing ammonia as required too
I'd been dosing to 2-3ppm. Testing ammonia every day and nitrites every second day. I've not bothered testing nitrates now since reading the advice about false positives for nitrates when nitrites are present.

Update - it stalled again for about a week after my last post. Then now ammonia has dropped significantly every day for three days (I keep dosing back to 2-3 ppm). Nitrites are high, no sign of them dropping just yet but guessing it's early for that and I've heard that it's quite sudden once it does happen. Not sure what else there is to do apart from keep feeding it ammonia and wait for the nitrites to start dropping?
 

RayClem

When you say your are dosing back to 2-3 ppm, is that based on testing or an estimation based on ammonia added. You need to test before adding ammonia and then again about 1 hour later after the ammonium chloride has dissolved completely.

Since your nitrites are high, you do not need to add as much ammonium chloride. Try to keep the ammonia levels under 2 ppm until the nitrites start to go down.

Also, it may be time to lower your temperature down to your normal target. While warmer temperatures do speed up the bacteria multiplication, it also reduces the amount of oxygen in the water. The bacteria need oxygen to convert ammonia to nitrites and nitrites to nitrate.
 

Grimmy

When you say your are dosing back to 2-3 ppm, is that based on testing or an estimation based on ammonia added. You need to test before adding ammonia and then again about 1 hour later after the ammonium chloride has dissolved completely.

Since your nitrites are high, you do not need to add as much ammonium chloride. Try to keep the ammonia levels under 2 ppm until the nitrites start to go down.

Also, it may be time to lower your temperature down to your normal target. While warmer temperatures do speed up the bacteria multiplication, it also reduces the amount of oxygen in the water. The bacteria need oxygen to convert ammonia to nitrites and nitrites to nitrate.
It's based on testing in the morning, seeing a low ammonia level, then adding 2 drops of ammonia then testing again and so on until we get to the desired level. I had been waiting more like 10 minutes rather than an hour for it to dissipate to be honest, can wait longer though if necessary. It's generally taking 3 drops a day now.

OK thanks I'll dose a bit less and knock the temperature down now.
 

Grimmy

An update, the tank is now cycled! Got fish in there today. Thanks everyone
 

RayClem

An update, the tank is now cycled! Got fish in there today. Thanks everyone

Wonderful! I hope your fish live long and prosper (as the Vulcans would say).
 

jdhef

Excellent!...Congrats.
 

Grimmy

So after going through this process I put fish in and the bacteria doesn't seem to be able to deal with them It's flying through the ammonia fine, 0 readings every day, but I keep getting nitrite. I've fasted them for a week, water changed every day so there is no measurable nitrite, put some of that bacteria in a bottle in there, increased aeration with a bubbler, but still I'm getting nitrite every day. I haven't hoovered because I gather I could hoover up the bacteria that I clearly don't have enough of.

Is there anything else I can do? I've fed them today because it's been a week, plan to go to feeding them every other day this week. I'm being careful with the portions.
 

jdhef

You may want to hoover the tank. The vast majority of bacteria is living in your filter media, so you shouldn't be losing bacteria by hoovering. But any debris in the substrate will break down and produce ammonia, which will then turn into nitrites.

Just keep up with the partial water changes until your nitrite converting bacteria colony has a chance to grow large enough to convert all nitrites into nitrates.
 

RayClem

The bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrite multiply more rapidly than those that convert nitrite to nitrate. Thus, what you are seeing is not unusual when the bioload increases.

What readings are you getting for nitrite?

Fortunately, nitrite is not as toxic as ammonia, so unless you have very sensitive fish, I would not worry too much as long as the nitrite readings stay below 1 ppm and start to decrease. At 5 ppm, nitrite can kill. Ideally, you will be able to keep it below 0.50 ppm though water changes. If it goes above 1 ppm you can use Seachem Prime to detoxify nitrite as well as ammonia until your biofilter is able to catch up.
 

Grimmy

The bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrite multiply more rapidly than those that convert nitrite to nitrate. Thus, what you are seeing is not unusual when the bioload increases.

What readings are you getting for nitrite?

Fortunately, nitrite is not as toxic as ammonia, so unless you have very sensitive fish, I would not worry too much as long as the nitrite readings stay below 1 ppm and start to decrease. At 5 ppm, nitrite can kill. Ideally, you will be able to keep it below 0.50 ppm though water changes. If it goes above 1 ppm you can use Seachem Prime to detoxify nitrite as well as ammonia until your biofilter is able to catch up.
It's getting to about 2ppm every morning to be honest. I'll order some Seachem. After the last post I managed to get some dirty filter water from the fish shop as well so hopefully that will help.
 

Matt11711

It's getting to about 2ppm every morning to be honest. I'll order some Seachem. After the last post I managed to get some dirty filter water from the fish shop as well so hopefully that will help.
How big is the tank and how many fish did you put in it?
 

mattgirl

So after going through this process I put fish in and the bacteria doesn't seem to be able to deal with them It's flying through the ammonia fine, 0 readings every day, but I keep getting nitrite. I've fasted them for a week, water changed every day so there is no measurable nitrite, put some of that bacteria in a bottle in there, increased aeration with a bubbler, but still I'm getting nitrite every day. I haven't hoovered because I gather I could hoover up the bacteria that I clearly don't have enough of.

Is there anything else I can do? I've fed them today because it's been a week, plan to go to feeding them every other day this week. I'm being careful with the portions.
You may want to take a moment to read this thread PSA: Something I am seeing more and more often, fishless cycling.... | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 477380 It explains why I think what is happen to you is happening.

Although this tank appeared to be cycled it was still missing something and you are basically going through a fish in cycle now. It doesn't happen after every fishless cycle grown with nothing but bottled ammonia but happens often enough to cause concern.

I highly recommend you change out 50% of the water daily until the nitrites drop to zero. It should only take a few days but I can't say for sure how many days it will take. Run your nitrite test daily. If nitrites are still there do a water change. There is no need to run the test after the water change. The water change is going to get them down. Hopefully one day soon your before water change test will show no nitrites. Once that happens you should be able to go to your weekly water changes.
 

Grimmy

You may want to take a moment to read this thread PSA: Something I am seeing more and more often, fishless cycling.... | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 477380 It explains why I think what is happen to you is happening.

Although this tank appeared to be cycled it was still missing something and you are basically going through a fish in cycle now. It doesn't happen after every fishless cycle grown with nothing but bottled ammonia but happens often enough to cause concern.

I highly recommend you change out 50% of the water daily until the nitrites drop to zero. It should only take a few days but I can't say for sure how many days it will take. Run your nitrite test daily. If nitrites are still there do a water change. There is no need to run the test after the water change. The water change is going to get them down. Hopefully one day soon your before water change test will show no nitrites. Once that happens you should be able to go to your weekly water changes.
Thanks yeah the same as what I'm doing already then
 

mattgirl

Thanks yeah the same as what I'm doing already then
Right, you are already doing all you can to get past this.

I am hoping those this happens to will help spread the word and eventually we will get to the point of it no longer happening. Simply adding a tiny pinch of high protein fish food along with the ammonia could very well prevent it.
 

Grimmy

Right, you are already doing all you can to get past this.

I am hoping those this happens to will help spread the word and eventually we will get to the point of it no longer happening. Simply adding a tiny pinch of high protein fish food along with the ammonia could very well prevent it.
Yeah I must admit that I'd seen one article mentioning fish food in combination with pure ammonia but it just mentioned it as an option rather than saying that the pure ammonia option might not work. I went with the pure ammonia because it's easier to be scientific with it and the effect is immediate, as opposed to picking a random amount of fish food and having to wait for it to rot before you can measure what effect it had.
 

mattgirl

Yeah I must admit that I'd seen one article mentioning fish food in combination with pure ammonia but it just mentioned it as an option rather than saying that the pure ammonia option might not work. I went with the pure ammonia because it's easier to be scientific with it and the effect is immediate, as opposed to picking a random amount of fish food and having to wait for it to rot before you can measure what effect it had.
It is too bad the article you read didn't go into more detail. If it had you probably wouldn't be going through what you are right now.

It is very difficult to know how much bacteria we are growing when just using fish food so I don't normally recommend using only it for the cycle but by using liquid ammonia along with fish food we can pretty much control the amount of ammonia we are processing. We are not actually depending on the fish food to produce any measurable level of ammonia. We are just giving the bacteria some of what it is going to get once we add and start feeding fish.
 

Matt11711

When I did my cycle a month ago I ended up doing a hybrid. I started off just adding flakes and then a week or two in my partner wanted to do the ammonia method so I switched after already having some ammonia readings. It worked out really nicely and I was happy to have plants and pest snails in the tank while it was cycling to mature the tank faster. Definitely agree that pure ammonia doesn't give the same environment as a real tank environment.
 

Grimmy

So, interesting development. My Aquarium lab NT test kit ran out, and I moved onto the API test kit. Straight away I'm showing 0 nitrites with the API kit and about 10ppm nitrates. I'm now wondering whether the test kit was showing false positives somehow. It seems like a massive co-incidence that the day I get my water right is the day that I swap test kits!
 

jdhef

That is quite the coincidence, but alls well that ends well. Congrats!
 

RayClem

So, interesting development. My Aquarium lab NT test kit ran out, and I moved onto the API test kit. Straight away I'm showing 0 nitrites with the API kit and about 10ppm nitrates. I'm now wondering whether the test kit was showing false positives somehow. It seems like a massive co-incidence that the day I get my water right is the day that I swap test kits!

Because of the way they function, nitrate tests are subject to error unless you follow the instructions precisely in terms of shaking the reagents for a specific time and then reading the result after a specific time. Thus, getting different results from two different test kits is not unsual, even if you had not changed brands.

If you are using a single reagent nitrite test kit, the results are usually more consistent as there are fewer things to mess up.
 

Grimmy

Because of the way they function, nitrate tests are subject to error unless you follow the instructions precisely in terms of shaking the reagents for a specific time and then reading the result after a specific time. Thus, getting different results from two different test kits is not unsual, even if you had not changed brands.

If you are using a single reagent nitrite test kit, the results are usually more consistent as there are fewer things to mess up.
Yes it's the nitrite tests that would appear to have been inconsistent between the two kits. The Aquarium labs one was showing a fair bit of nitrite every morning. Today I swap to API and it's 0. It could just be a co-incidence that I got the water under control the day I swapped, but it seems unlikely.
 

mattgirl

In some cases I suppose coincidences do happen from time to time but I don't think that is the case here. I have to think your original test wasn't telling you the whole truth. In any case I am happy for you. I know this has been a sruggle for you.
 

Grimmy

Thanks everyone! Two days in a row with no ammonia or nitrite so guessing I'm sorted now (though obviously I'll keep an eye on it). The fish seem a lot more chilled now too. How high do people allow nitrates to get before water changes? I've read varying advice on what safe levels are.
 

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