Convinced My Tank Will Not Cycle Help

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by KayT, May 17, 2018.

  1. KayTNew MemberMember

    Hello, I am hoping somebody will be able to give me some insight/advice/help with my new aquarium.

    I recently purchased a 20 gallon aquarium kit. I have had one community aquarium prior, maybe 6 years ago, that got taken down after moving to a new home where the inhabitants passed away. Anyway, as I had some minor previous experience I know some details about the nitrogen cycle, using test kits, water changes, and so on.

    With this new tank I did a lot more research to prepare myself again and decided I would do a fishless cycle. It seemed more humane, it would be easier and I could be up and going soon enough. I washed every surface of the tank/filter/decor and thoroughly rinsed the gravel before putting it in the tank and filled it up with tap water, using Prime to dechlorinate. I decided to use liquid ammonia to start, as having rotting food of any kind seemed undesirable. Living in Canada, I am extremely limited in my options for ammonia, but decided to use Dr. Tim's ammonium chloride solution after some investigation. I ordered it on amazon along with a new API freshwater master test kit and had it the next day. (I did not purchase Dr. Tim's one and only bacteria, as it had mixed reviews and was 50$ before taxes on amazon). I dosed the tank as it stated (4 drops per gallon) on May 1st and ended up with 4ppm Ammonia after testing. I was worried this was too high, but after more investigation it seemed like it would be alright. I also tested for pH at the time, which was 7.8. The temperature is around 86F being on the second floor of my house on a very warm day with no AC on.

    Being just curious to catch any change as it happened, I tested the water for the next 7 days for ammonia and nitrate. No change. still 4ppm ammonia and no nitrite or nitrate. I figured at this point I might be able to see something, as many people claim to complete cycles over 1-2 weeks. I did some more research. Scrolled through many threads on this website on cycling help. I ordered a bottle of Seachem Stability from amazon as it was one of the only bacterial starters available that I could find, and was half the price of 'one and only' for double the volume. It arrived the next day. I checked the expiry and it confirmed the bottle was very fresh, so I dosed it to double the bottle's instructions following some recommendations I had seen in the past and figuring it wouldn't hurt the tank with the ammonia level it was at. On this same day (day 9) I also added ceramic ring media in a bag to the back of my HOB filter, figuring it could only help.

    Now we get to today. It has been another 8 days of no change whatsoever, except for the water temperature which bounces between 83F and 86F depending on how hot the room gets. I have tested the water every other day, figuring it would get there. I had double dosed stability's instructions every day since I got it. The water is cloudy since the first dose of stability. There is plenty of aeration, tons of surface agitation and I can see bubbles in the water and clinging to the top halves of my silk artificial plants.

    So, essentially, I'd like to know if anybody has any insight into why, after 17 days, my ammonia will not drop. Has anybody experienced anything similar? Should I stop adding stability as it has been 8 days? (I have tons more). Should I do anything, or just continue to painstakingly wait it out? Thank you all in advance.

    Side note: I'm sure somebody will ask. I have tested my tap water. It reads 0.5ppm Ammonia, 0.25ppm nitrite, and like 2.5 nitrate. The pH is also 7.8. The water is hard, but I don't know the exact values.
  2. WraithenWell Known MemberMember

    I only saw mention of ph tested in the tank on may 1st? Have you tested it again in the last few days?

    I was doing similar to you for a few weeks until I just gave it up. I ended up adding tetra safe start and when that didnt work, I took out all of the water, refilled and went fish in with the tss. I'm not encouraging that route, but that's why I've never done fishless. Never could make it work.
  3. OP

    KayTNew MemberMember

    I have tested it a few other times along with the other tests. "No change whatsoever" included pH :). It is still to today 7.8

  4. musserump09

    musserump09Well Known MemberMember


    I'm very concerned about your tap water as it will be causing more harm then good. Adding treated tap water with these levels are adding things back into the water you are trying to get rid of/dilute. Prime is able to handle this making it safe for fish but I would highly recommend adding live plants to help absorb nutrients such as ammonia and nitrogen and phosphates. I'd be interested to see if using stability another week or 2.

    How did you test your tap? API?
  5. jessatielNew MemberMember

    I’m new to this hobby, so I won’t offer *advice*, but rather an example of how this process is going for me. I’m also using Dr Tim’s, without seeding material from a mature tank, and without bacterial starter.

    It was a solid 15 days before I saw a noticeable drop in ammonia. Even then, the drop was pretty slow. I’m now 7weeks into the process, and I think it will wrap up really soon (ammonia processes in 12 hrs, and I’m just waiting for the nitrite bacteria to fully catch up). So in my experience, the Dr. Tim’s method works, albeit verrrrry slowly (at least, it feels slow to this impatient newbie). My tap water is ph 7.6. I had to dose it with baking soda recently to buffer it and prevent ph crash, but everything else has been reasonably smooth. Good luck!

  6. OP

    KayTNew MemberMember

    It was with the same API master test kit that I tested my tap. I know the readings sounded weird. I was confused by it when I read them at first. Might try again sometime because it doesn’t make sense either that it would have readings for nitrite/ate and neither show up in my aquarium.

    Live Plants appeal to me but seem like a lot of extra work... not sure if there’s any nice enough looking ones that don’t require anything fancy by way of lighting/fertilizing/substrate or whatever else. Never looked too deep into it.

    I’m going to try and keep going with the testing and adding stability I guess for now to see if it improves.

    Thanks for sharing your experience! It seems like mine is crawling even slower. Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel though. Will have to wait a bit longer to see if I get any change :)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2018
  7. musserump09

    musserump09Well Known MemberMember

    2.5ppm isnt charted on the API master liquid test...are you just guessing because you notice some color?

    Tap source needs to be addressed and fixed in my opinion. Unfortunately you might need to change or dilute your tap water for water changes. Prime is able to handle 1.0ppm or lower by converting it instantly but this conversation is really building up nitrates quickly since they are present in the tap. Re test and let's go from there
  8. WraithenWell Known MemberMember

    Your tap water is fine, although I do agree that 2.5 ppm nitrate sounds off. With prime or another ammo lock agent during water changes your bb will cycle it before it becomes toxic.
  9. OP

    KayTNew MemberMember

    It was an assumption. There is definite orange colour. It’s not dark enough to be 5. I’ll recheck it in the morning and post back.
  10. musserump09

    musserump09Well Known MemberMember

    If there are sources of ammonia, nitrites, nitrates then I would not suggest the water is "fine". I agree the levels will become non toxic once cycled but the nitrate build up is concerning to me since this will require more maintenance and with no live plants algae is going to have a field day.

    Their are plenty of plants that dont require much and grow well in tank install LED. I've had success with anubis and Amazon swords. Few months but once they seeded my levels would start to drop on the nitrates.

    Let's hope the re-test is better. 20180511155011.jpg
  11. WraithenWell Known MemberMember

    The ammonia showing in the tank is most likely chloramines. So it's not an issue. The nitrite will be consumed quickly and wont add much more than 10 ppm a week of nitrites most likely. I used to deal with .5 ppm ammonia, .25 ppm nitrites, and 5 ppm nitrates in the source water. A normal dose of prime with a water change and it was all good. The OP may want to stock more lightly with this knowledge though. Or add quick growing plants. Nitrate shock causes more issues than nitrates themselves. My tank goes between 10 ppm nitrate after a large water change up to between 40 and 80 during the week. Youd never guess it looking at the fish or plants though. And that's with 226 ppm gh and 110 ppm kh, so it's not like there's any low ph helping me nor soft water.
  12. OP

    KayTNew MemberMember

    OK. So I just tested the tap again. I used the tub tap that I used to fill the tank and not the sink like I did last time... Not sure if that makes any difference at all. Nitrites are definitely 0. Nitrate looking much more yellow than before, but still slightly orange. Ammonia now confusing me. It looks very close to 1 in the picture but more 0.5 in person.

    I tested the tank as well. Ammonia definitely at 4 still. Nitrites... look more like 0 to me at least but are a definite darker colour than the tap test. Nitrates. They look pretty much 0 to me.

    I added the day's dose of 2x stability and nothing else has been done to it. Temp is 85F today.
  13. WraithenWell Known MemberMember

    What substrate did you use? Can you post a pic of the tank?
  14. OP

    KayTNew MemberMember

    It’s black gravel. I can get a picture if you want.
  15. WraithenWell Known MemberMember

    I'm just confused as to where your tap nitrate goes after the tank. You didnt mention plants so I'm concerned you've done something to accidentally denitrogen your tank. It's not gonna happen with aquarium gravel or your current filter though. Bit of a mystery there.

    You haven't added any water since the very beginning, correct?

    If that's the case, have you tried an offgas test? Basically let a bucket of water sit out overnight and test the parameters of that. Your ph wont change, but I'm curious about the nitrogen elements.

    Dont forget your water will likely fluctuate parameters a lot this time of year. People use a lot more water and it's not as available so extra sources may be used as the summer progresses. We switch from reservoir water that is nice, to augmented with underground water, which has nasty contaminates in it. So bad that pregnant or breastfeeding women and young children are advised not to drink it. Only way to remove the problem is ro/di. Just a psa to keep an eye on your source water!
  16. OP

    KayTNew MemberMember

    Confuses me as well with those nitrates. There’s absolutely nothing in the tank that would remove them. It’s a mystery to me. I haven’t added any water to the tank no. I’ll try leaving water out and testing it... and I’ll keep an eye on the tap water. I’ve never heard of it being unsafe to drink for anybody. Maybe it does slightly fluctuate over time somehow.
  17. WraithenWell Known MemberMember

    It's my local water. EPA changed a rule a couple of years back that mandates testing for pfoo. I've got 2 different kinds to go above EPA thresholds every summer. It's from fire fighting foam used by the airfields around me, primarily the air force, although the army has contributed as well.
  18. musserump09

    musserump09Well Known MemberMember

    Did you shake bottle number 2. Ridiculously hard. I bang mine and shake it. Could be the reason difference test results? Just theory lol
  19. OP

    KayTNew MemberMember

    I shook as hard as I could for almost a minute! And I shook again before I tested the tank like 5 minutes after

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