Been over a month, still no nitrites or nitrates

HappyHippo77

Okay, let me get the boiler plate stuff out of the way. 5G tank, 10-15 molly fry (no I didn't intentionally move them into an uncycled tank, lots of conditions built up that meant I didn't have a choice), few plants, lots of large grain substrate, sponge filter + 10g air pump. API Freshwater Master Test Kit, using Seachem Prime and water changes to prevent the ammonia from harming the fish. API aquarium salt added at water changes as per the directions. Tap water does contain ammonia, but less than 0.25ppm.

Now, let's get to the actual problem. I know it can take a long time to cycle a tank, but a month with literally no nitrite or nitrate seems weird to me, and I can't pin it down to any one problem. To make matters worse, yesterday was the 3rd time I've had to do a water change to lower the ammonia, because each time it went over 4ppm, closer to 8. On top of that, the pH also plummeted (s o f t w a t e r). I've done everything I can to keep the tank balanced but it just seems to want to throw itself into chaos. Any ideas on what I can do to fix this?
 

LowConductivity

PH plummet, generally means no carbonate hardness (kH). No kH, generally means no nitrification ( those bacteria that eat ammonia need a side of KH to process it). The good news is that at Ph plummet levels, the ammonia picks up an extra hydrogen and becomes ammonium (read not toxic until silly high levels).

what to do is where it gets tightrope-ish. Bring the pH up, and you can start to get a cycle…..bring the pH up while the ammonia is high, and stuff starts to die.

I live in soft water land too. I really only keep soft water fish, so I’ve embraced it, and just try to keep the ammonium under 5ppm. Mollies aren’t really from soft water land, so they may appreciate a bunch more water changes, and something to raise the hardness and pH
 

mattgirl

When I see 8ppm ammonia the first thing that comes to mind is the addition of ammo-lock. Please assure me you are not using it.

I will recommend you get and run some crushed coral in this tank. Over time it will stabilize the pH. Before you add it though you have to get the ammonia down to no more than what you are seeing in your source water. As the pH goes up the ammonia will become more toxic.

It is trickier to use when just running a sponge filter but it can still be done. Put a big handful of it in a media bag. Hang that bag over the bubbles coming from the filter. You can also scatter some on top of the substrate. Since you have fish in this tank be sure to rinse it well before putting it in the tank. If you don't do this the pH will spike too quickly.

Once rinsed off the crushed coral isn't going to raise the pH quickly so give it a few days to start raising it. Don't be afraid of adding too much. It is only going to raise the pH so much and no more. I can't tell you what that number is going to be since what it does in my water will be different than what it does in yours.

Do you have another tank that is fully cycled? If you do and have a gravel substrate put at least a cup of that gravel in this tank. It will help jump start this cycle. If you don't have gravel, anything you can spare from the cycled tank will help cycle this one.
 

HappyHippo77

PH plummet, generally means no carbonate hardness (kH). No kH, generally means no nitrification ( those bacteria that eat ammonia need a side of KH to process it). The good news is that at Ph plummet levels, the ammonia picks up an extra hydrogen and becomes ammonium (read not toxic until silly high levels).

what to do is where it gets tightrope-ish. Bring the pH up, and you can start to get a cycle…..bring the pH up while the ammonia is high, and stuff starts to die.

I live in soft water land too. I really only keep soft water fish, so I’ve embraced it, and just try to keep the ammonium under 5ppm. Mollies aren’t really from soft water land, so they may appreciate a bunch more water changes, and something to raise the hardness and pH
Thanks for the reply! I'm considering getting something to increase the hardness of the water for all of my tanks, because the water is soft even for my goldifsh (the sources I read recommend 5-19 dGH, my water is slightly above 2...). I'm on a bit of a tight budget atm so it wont be an immediate thing, but if and when I can get it, would that help with kH as well?
When I see 8ppm ammonia the first thing that comes to mind is the addition of ammo-lock. Please assure me you are not using it.

I will recommend you get and run some crushed coral in this tank. Over time it will stabilize the pH. Before you add it though you have to get the ammonia down to no more than what you are seeing in your source water. As the pH goes up the ammonia will become more toxic.

It is trickier to use when just running a sponge filter but it can still be done. Put a big handful of it in a media bag. Hang that bag over the bubbles coming from the filter. You can also scatter some on top of the substrate. Since you have fish in this tank be sure to rinse it well before putting it in the tank. If you don't do this the pH will spike too quickly.

Once rinsed off the crushed coral isn't going to raise the pH quickly so give it a few days to start raising it. Don't be afraid of adding too much. It is only going to raise the pH so much and no more. I can't tell you what that number is going to be since what it does in my water will be different than what it does in yours.

Do you have another tank that is fully cycled? If you do and have a gravel substrate put at least a cup of that gravel in this tank. It will help jump start this cycle. If you don't have gravel, anything you can spare from the cycled tank will help cycle this one.
Firstly, no clue what ammo-lock even is, so no not using it I don't think? Not intentionally anyway if it's a technique and not a substance. Regarding crushed coral, have seriously considered it. I can't use it in any of my tanks other than this one because the other two need to remain with decently low hardness (although it should be higher in both than my dang water is right now), but in this tank I can pull it off. As of course mentioned, I do have two other fully cycled tanks. One of them is SLIGHTLY overstocked with goldfish (size recommended for one, but I have two), so it has a tiny ammonia problem, not enough to hurt the fish, but I don't want to add to the problem. However, my most stable and well established tank is also the only one with gravel and not sand, so that could work.
 

mattgirl

Thanks for the reply! I'm considering getting something to increase the hardness of the water for all of my tanks, because the water is soft even for my goldifsh (the sources I read recommend 5-19 dGH, my water is slightly above 2...). I'm on a bit of a tight budget atm so it wont be an immediate thing, but if and when I can get it, would that help with kH as well?

Firstly, no clue what ammo-lock even is, so no not using it I don't think? Not intentionally anyway if it's a technique and not a substance. Regarding crushed coral, have seriously considered it. I can't use it in any of my tanks other than this one because the other two need to remain with decently low hardness (although it should be higher in both than my dang water is right now), but in this tank I can pull it off. As of course mentioned, I do have two other fully cycled tanks. One of them is SLIGHTLY overstocked with goldfish (size recommended for one, but I have two), so it has a tiny ammonia problem, not enough to hurt the fish, but I don't want to add to the problem. However, my most stable and well established tank is also the only one with gravel and not sand, so that could work.
It is good that you aren't adding ammo-lock. It is product that locks up ammonia so it just keeps going up since bacteria can't process locked up ammonia. Some gravel from your well established tank should really help. Since you have fish in this tank you may have to do daily water changes to keep the ammonia down to a safer level. Safer meaning no higher than .25ppm. Thankfully it is just a 5 gallon tank so changing out half the water daily if necessary shouldn't be too difficult.

If the pH in this tank is below 7 it is struggling to cycle. If you can get and use some crushed coral it should keep your pH up and stable. The gravel from the established tank should help get this tank cycled sooner than it will without it.
 

HappyHippo77

It is good that you aren't adding ammo-lock. It is product that locks up ammonia so it just keeps going up since bacteria can't process locked up ammonia. Some gravel from your well established tank should really help. Since you have fish in this tank you may have to do daily water changes to keep the ammonia down to a safer level. Safer meaning no higher than .25ppm. Thankfully it is just a 5 gallon tank so changing out half the water daily if necessary shouldn't be too difficult.

If the pH in this tank is below 7 it is struggling to cycle. If you can get and use some crushed coral it should keep your pH up and stable. The gravel from the established tank should help get this tank cycled sooner than it will without it.
Thank you very much! I'll be buying probably some aragonite sand soon, hopefully that's good as well, nowhere I can find carries crushed coral for not-outrageous prices.
 

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