Crashed cycle in shrimp tank ammonia won't budge

xVoyagerx

Member
I built a 5 gallon, heavily planted, filter less shrimp tank and everything was going fine for 3-4 months. I'm not sure why but my cycle suddenly crashed 2 weeks ago. At first I thought that it would recover relatively quickly since it was only .5 ppm of ammonia and when I cycled the tank I made sure that the tank could process 3 ppm of ammonia in 24 hours without plants. I dosed prime daily and waited a couple of days but the ammonia stayed at .5 ppm so I decided to get a sponge filter. I took some mulm from my twenty gallon and slathered it on the sponge to give it a head start and waited a few more days all the while dosing prime daily. However, the ammonia still was at .5 ppm so I went out and bought some seachem stability to see if that would help. It's been 4 days and the ammonia has stubbornly remained at .5 ppm. Is this normal when recovering from a mini cycle or cycle crash?
 

Pfrozen

Member
whenever that happens to me I just buy a bottle of tetra safe start plus and add it. doesn't matter if your tank is already cycled because the bacteria is harmless. it costs 20 bucks but its a guaranteed solution to stubborn spikes if your tank is already cycled and its just a bit of ammonia not getting processed. at least in my experience anyways, your mileage may vary
 

mattgirl

Member
I could be completely wrong but I think this is something that will eventually happen in a tank with no filter. Moving some of the mulm from a cycled tank should help but like all things in this hobby it is going to take time.

Please don't be disheartened if the Stabilty doesn't speed up the process. In my humble opinion buying and adding the Stability was a waste of time and money. Stability doesn't contain the actual bacteria we are growing in our tanks so it is nothing but a band-aid and offers nothing more than a sense of security. Fortunately it won't hurt anything to add it. I agree with Pfrozen . TSS+ would have been a better choice.

If it were me I would have to get and try to keep the ammonia down to no more than .25 and then just give it time. Even though you weren't running a filter I feel sure there will have been some bacteria in there but just not enough to keep ahead of the ammonia.
 

Pfrozen

Member
mattgirl said:
I could be completely wrong but I think this is something that will eventually happen in a tank with no filter. Moving some of the mulm from a cycled tank should help but like all things in this hobby it is going to take time.

Please don't be disheartened if the Stabilty doesn't speed up the process. In my humble opinion buying and adding the Stability was a waste of time and money. Stability doesn't contain the actual bacteria we are growing in our tanks so it is nothing but a band-aid and offers nothing more than a sense of security. Fortunately it won't hurt anything to add it. I agree with Pfrozen . TSS+ would have been a better choice.

If it were me I would have to get and try to keep the ammonia down to no more than .25 and then just give it time. Even though you weren't running a filter I feel sure there will have been some bacteria in there but just not enough to keep ahead of the ammonia.
That is true about Stability.. the only reason I use it in my tank is that I tend to feed real heavy. It is not effective at cycling a tank or fixing stubborn spikes imo
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
Thanks for the advice, I guess I'll go for some tss. I went with stability because I had to move some fish to a bigger tank and it helped. I'm starting to suffer casualties so trying to get things resolve ed as quickly as possible. Oh quick question about tss, is there any issues using it with prime?
 

Pfrozen

Member
xVoyagerx said:
Thanks for the advice, I guess I'll go for some tss. I went with stability because I had to move some fish to a bigger tank and it helped. Oh quick question about tss, is there any issues using it with prime?
No issues with that at all, you are good!
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
Ok so I can use it then immediately use prime right? Thanks again for the advice.
 

Cherryshrimp420

Member
Stop feeding and see if the ammonia goes away. I have two filterless tanks and once they are set up I never bother with them again. One of them is a shrimp tank and I almost never feed it. A few pellets a WEEK and that's it. If you keep feeding to a minimal, it should never crash!
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
I stopped feeding as soon as ammonia showed up. Unfortunately, ammonia is staying constant at .5 for the last 2 weeks.
 

Cherryshrimp420

Member
xVoyagerx said:
I stopped feeding as soon as ammonia showed up. Unfortunately, ammonia is staying constant at .5 for the last 2 weeks.
Hmm that's really weird, could be an issue with the test kit then...Or maybe even with the water supply, have you tested the tap water?

Also, are the shrimps dying or doing okay?

And are you using the Walstad method with potting soil?
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
I actually got a new api test kit since my master api ran out. Tested water supply, was good. Shrimps were ok first few days but I'm taking losses now. I did not use potting soil. I went with 4+ inches of eco complete and then planted fast growing plants.

Forgot to ask, how long before I should start seeing the ammonia decrease after using tss? Thanks
 

mattgirl

Member
xVoyagerx said:
Forgot to ask, how long before I should start seeing the ammonia decrease after using tss? Thanks
I am hoping you are going to see some decrease simply because you added a filter to this tank. You have given the bacteria a good place to grow, I've never used any bottled bacteria so I will admit. I don't know how long it takes to work.
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
Got a large bottle and put in almost 2x recommended amount.
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
So did an api test 24 hours later and the ammonia has spiked to 2 ppm. I'm assuming this is because of the tetra safe start. I should keep dosing prime correct?
 

mattgirl

Member
xVoyagerx said:
So did an api test 24 hours later and the ammonia has spiked to 2 ppm. I'm assuming this is because of the tetra safe start. I should keep dosing prime correct?
I could be wrong but I don't think the TSS should spike the ammonia. I guess it is possible if there is some sort of ammonia in the TSS bottle but I've read of anyone experiencing an ammonia spike simply from adding bottled bacteria. Something in this tank is producing all this ammonia. Do you have dying plants or anything in there decomposing?

I've read that any ammonia can be deadly to shrimp. It seems you much have some that are immune to the ammonia or what you are seeing isn't actually ammonia. Since you are using prime I have to think it is the the less toxic ammonium. All I know to advise is just give the TSS time to work.

If I had one the first thing I would have added to this tank when I saw the spike was a seeded sponge from another tank. If you have one it might not be a bad idea to add it now.
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
Unfortunately the cycled tank I have is running an aqua clear hob and not a sponge. I also double checked the api test with my hanna ammonia checker and something is definitely throwing the test off. It was saying that I had over 3 ppm of free ammonia. The api was saying that the total concentration was 1 to 2 ppm. I also threw in a seachem ammonia alert but that one has been saying 0 for days so not sure if working. I can throw my hob on the tank as a last resort but should I wait a little more for tss?
 

mattgirl

Member
xVoyagerx said:
Unfortunately the cycled tank I have is running an aqua clear hob and not a sponge. I also double checked the api test with my hanna ammonia checker and something is definitely throwing the test off. It was saying that I had over 3 ppm of free ammonia. The api was saying that the total concentration was 1 to 2 ppm. I also threw in a seachem ammonia alert but that one has been saying 0 for days so not sure if working. I can throw my hob on the tank as a last resort but should I wait a little more for tss?
With so many tests giving different readings it is hard to say what is really happening. It may be best to just stop running the tests for a few days and give the TSS time to work. i know lots of folks say pour it in and do nothing, not even running tests for 2 weeks. They say you will get unexpected readings and will be tempted to do something to 'fix' it instead of just allowing it to work.
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
Yea at this point I'm leaning towards a wait and see approach and just testing to see how the ammonia readings change. I don't know if this matters, but the store only had the bottle that treats the 50 gallon so I didn't dump the whole thing in. That shouldn't matter correct? Thanks
 

mattgirl

Member
xVoyagerx said:
Yea at this point I'm leaning towards a wait and see approach and just testing to see how the ammonia readings change. I don't know if this matters, but the store only had the bottle that treats the 50 gallon so I didn't dump the whole thing in. That shouldn't matter correct? Thanks
Wait and see may be the best option. As long as you shook it up really well before pouring it in there it shouldn't matter.
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
I shook it for a minute(just like those nitrate tests ) and it came out milky.
 

Pfrozen

Member
Do a 75% water change to bring that 2ppm down to 0.5 and dump in the whole bottle of TSS. It says it treats up to 50 gallons. Its designed to be added all at once. I've used the bottle designed for 200 gallons and added the whole thing to my 10 gallon tank in the past without issues

Usually the TSS will clear it up within 48 hours.. there is no ammonia in TSS and even if the bacteria was dead there wouldn't be ammonia in it. It won't cycle a tank instantly like it claims but if you're already cycled it will absolutely help to strengthen your colony

I would do those things immediately

mattgirl said:
With so many tests giving different readings it is hard to say what is really happening. It may be best to just stop running the tests for a few days and give the TSS time to work. i know lots of folks say pour it in and do nothing, not even running tests for 2 weeks. They say you will get unexpected readings and will be tempted to do something to 'fix' it instead of just allowing it to work.
I've seen that too and it's really unfortunate people should always regularly test their water imo. Testing or not testing really has no bearing on nature's process. I personally like to know if my fish are at risk of dying or not
 

mattgirl

Member
Pfrozen said:
I've seen that too and it's really unfortunate people should always regularly test their water imo. Testing or not testing really has no bearing on nature's process. I personally like to know if my fish are at risk of dying or not
I agree. I couldn't go that long without knowing what is going on when fishes (or shrimp and snails) lives are at stake. In this case I would hold off for at least a couple of days though.
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
Did a nitrite test and got a slight reading, not even .25. Gonna give it another 24 hours and test again.
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
Somehow ammonia readings have doubled and shrimp is alive. Tested the tetra safe start for curiosity and it came back negative. Very confused
 

mattgirl

Member
xVoyagerx said:
Somehow ammonia readings have doubled and shrimp is alive. Tested the tetra safe start for curiosity and it came back negative. Very confused
Something in this tank is producing ammonia. Only you can figure out what that something is. Is there a build up of uneaten food, dying plants?
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
No food but one hornwort not looking so hot. I'll pull it out. I think I'm gonna move the filter over for a bit and get the readings down then redose tss. My seachem alert is still reading 0 -_-.

Should I just hit 0 or leave some reading so there is something for the tss?
 

mattgirl

Member
xVoyagerx said:
Should I just hit 0 or leave some reading so there is something for the tss?
If you hit 0 I wouldn't be worried about having enough in there to feed the TSS. Our goal is to see a constant 0 reading for both ammonia and nitrites. If you see 0 it will mean you have enough bacteria to remove what your shrimp are producing. Water changes alone are not going to remove all of the ammonia if you have living creatures in a tank. They are constantly producing it.
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
So far reading hasnt changed. Really has me questioning what is going on in the tank @@

Yea this is weird. Readings are not going down at all. The hob I pulled is from a heavily stocked 20 gallon that I feed on the heavier side and the tank I'm dealing with is a 5. It probably won't get rid of all ammonia but some of it should have been filtered.
 

mattgirl

Member
xVoyagerx said:
Yea this is weird. Readings are not going down at all. The hob I pulled is from a heavily stocked 20 gallon that I feed on the heavier side and the tank I'm dealing with is a 5. It probably won't get rid of all ammonia but some of it should have been filtered.
I wouldn't give up on the HOB just yet. Give it a day or two to do the job. If the ammonia doesn't go to zero by then it will lead me to believe your tests aren't telling the truth.
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
Got it will stay the course.

Update. So far ammonia reading still between 2-4 so no change. Did a nitrite test yesterday and it was .5 for a bit before going to 0 or very slightly above. No noticeable change in nitrate. Very weird. Oh I also dumped the tss in to see if it would help yesterday.
 

mattgirl

Member
xVoyagerx said:
Update. So far ammonia reading still between 2-4 so no change. Did a nitrite test yesterday and it was .5 for a bit before going to 0 or very slightly above. No noticeable change in nitrate. Very weird. Oh I also dumped the tss in to see if it would help yesterday.
If it were me I would have done a water change to get the ammonia down before pouring the TSS in there. To be perfectly honest though. You have to have bullet proof shrimp if the ammonia is that high, has been for so long and they are still alive. Are you 100% sure your test is telling you the truth? Could it possibly be a faulty test?
 

86 ssinit

Member
Ok read some of this. Not all. But my question is are your shrimp still alive? If so your getting a false reading.
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
Believe it or not yea they are alive and not just shrimp, I have snails alive too. I did have some deaths early on though but I can't tell if that's because of ammonia or water change. I checked the tests with RO and my fully cycled tank and it's accurate. So it has to be something in the tank that's throwing off the test if it is a false positive. Seachem ammo alert is only thing that keeps saying safe but it's been saying that ever since I put it in. At one point there definitely was ammonia issue because my shrimp were very very stressed. They are just a bit inactive right now.
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
Gonna keep a record, might help someone else down the road if it ends up being false readings with tss or something. Ammonia readings still isn't budging. Miniscule nitrite readings now and then.
 

Pfrozen

Member
which test kit are you using and have you checked the expiry date?
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
It's a new api ammonia kit. Was using the api master kit in the beginning. It's accurate with RO water.
 

Pfrozen

Member
I honestly have no clue then. sorry I can't be more helpful. if its going to be a chronic problem I would just do regular water changes to keep the ammonia within reason and eventually your tank should re-cycle
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
Yea I'm not sure if reading is real. My tank has snails all over right now and I stopped dosing prime over 48 hours ago. I moved my big tank filter over a few days back and readings aren't budging.
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
Ok good news mixed with not so good news. Ammonia down to 2ppm. However my pH in the tank is all over. I did 4 ph tests and it went from 6 to 7.6+...
 

mattgirl

Member
xVoyagerx said:
Ok good news mixed with not so good news. Ammonia down to 2ppm. However my pH in the tank is all over. I did 4 ph tests and it went from 6 to 7.6+...
the ammonia going down is good news. I guess I don't understand what is going on with the pH. Are you saying you ran 4 test one right after the other and got a different reading each time or did this happen over a certain period of time?
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
One after another in different spots of the tank. With 4 different results
 

mattgirl

Member
xVoyagerx said:
One after another in different spots of the tank. With 4 different results
As you already know, That just doesn't make any kind of sense. I am leaning more and more to faulty tests. I am sure you do but I will ask anyway. Are you running a filter on this tank? If you are and it is circulating the water, the pH should be the same no matter where it is taken from the tank. There may be a slight difference between water taken from the very top and that taken from right at the bottom or if you run the test just before lights on and again several hours later but even then it shouldn't be more than a very slight difference.
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
Yea the hob is still on the tank so water circulation shouldn't be an issue. This tank is just a mystery box now. Well at least ammonia is going down...maybe.
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
Figured out why ph readings are all over. Apparently my kh dropped from 4-5 to 0 in a week......

I'm going to go with water changes to bring the ph and kh back up. How much should I be changing a day to safely do this? Ph of tap is 7.6 to 7.8 and the tank is 6.4 to 6.6. thanks
 

mattgirl

Member
Since this is a tank with shrimp in it I am going to call richiep I don't want to tell you one thing and we find it was the wrong thing and your shrimp suffer. I am very new at keeping shrimp so am just now getting comfortable at doing water normal changes.
 

richiep

Member
Just read right through this thread and it got a bit confusing with everything going in the tank, even dosing prime every day can impact on shrimp as its a chemical and its altering the chemistry,
No doing 4 tests and having a variation in ph of 1.6 says your shrimp should be dead as they can't take any sudden fluctuations of .5 thats the cut off,
To have taken them from 4 different parts of the tank and being such a small tank tells me the tests are inaccurate, that sort of chemistry just dosnt happen in such a small tank,
First I'd stop putting anything in the tank and give the tank a chance to stabilise then you can start a process of elimination if there's still problems, your shrimp are still alive albeit not moving much now so you need a base to start off.
If your other tanks are running the same water id do a 70% change with tank water from another tank,this will not have the sudden impact of fresh water and will help to start to stabilise the little tank.
You said your kh dropped to zero may also have started a mini cycle but I dont think so,
If this dosnt make any sense to you ignore it and go with what you feel is right, some of my points may trigger something off to help you.
 

mattgirl

Member
Thank you Richie. this one has had me scratching my head for a while now. None of it is making any kind of sense to me.
 

richiep

Member
mattgirl said:
Thank you Richie. this one has had me scratching my head for a while now. None of it is making any kind of sense to me.
Its a hard one to get to grips with i must agree
 
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xVoyagerx

Member
I've stopped adding stuff a few days back. My tap here is on the hard side which means all my tanks are ph of 7.6 ish, gh 7, kh 3-4. The shrimp I'm keeping are zebra babaulti and their tolerance range is quite high in terms of ph which is probably why some have survived. I checked the ph test with my other tanks and they gave numbers that made sense. Im not quite sure what used up the kh in the tank. I tested the tank a week ago and the ph was fine. I'm trying to stabilize everything through water changes but I don't want the parameters to swing wildly. How much water change do you think I should be doing with tap? Thank you
 

richiep

Member
You can do 80% if things were really bad but if you do two 50% two days apart would do good,
Just make sure the temperature is as close to your tank as possible and introduce slowly.
Have you checked your tap for ammonia
And am I right in thinking you have ro water
 

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