Crazy Cycling! Help

  1. MJDuti Well Known Member Member

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    Setup: (PIC ABOVE) I am upgrading my 5G to a 10G planted tank (moderately planted). I have a dual lighted hood with 2 10W CFL bulbs (6500k & 10,000k). I used a whole bag of eco-complete (20lbs/~2-3" of substrate depending on how it's sloped) with a SMALL amount/sprinkling of Fluval peat granules (for the plants) under the eco-complete. I have my heater (from small tank) on 80 degrees F. Lights on for around 12 hours a day for the plants. Have seen NO algae what so ever. Dosing with ammonia at night and Flourish Excel in the morning. I have a Fluval U2 underwater filter which I love, and modified. I took out the poly/carbon pads and put 2 sponges in 1 container and filled the other with Seachem Matrix in a mesh filter bag. I used my fake driftwood decor from my small tank, along with a filter pad I had to replace (on the right in the pic), and a little stone turtle and mossball from my big tank. I rinsed my sponge filter from my big tank into the tank as well. Everything else was washed/boiled/scrubbed first then added. I wanted to originally get all my plants at once which could have gave me a decent insta-cycle, but came to the conclusion that I want as much beneficial bacteria in there as possible before hand. It has been up since Friday and everything is running fine.

    Since start up and as of right now the tank consists of a nice bunch of wisteria, some small crypts, java moss, a windelov java fern (which I really like), and my small anubias nana from my big tank. I eventually want to add my big java fern to cover my filter, anacharis and pennywort from small tank, some more grassy crypt (spiralis) behind the fake wood, some dwarf hairgrass in front on the left, and hopefully some dwarf baby tears in front of the rock formation. For stock I hoped to start with a small group of harlequin rasboras (5), then get some RCS (~10), then put my ADF back in and get him a mate again, my other shrimp (1 ghost, and an amano pair), put my amazing littler horned nerite back in, MAYBE an apple snail, then finally my betta (even though he's peaceful), and hopefully 2-3 otos after it's really established. I know, a little overstocked...hence all the plants and me wanting as much BB as possible.

    Procedure: This is only the 5th day and I don't know what to think of what's going on in the tank now. Like I said before, everything looks great, is running fine, nothing out of the norm. From my research and doing a fishless cycle on my 5G before this I roughly knew how many drops of pure ammonia to add. Now I wasn't too sure cause this time I have many more plants in the tank and know that they absorb ammonia. The average consensus was about 4-5 drops per 10 gallons. So I started with 4 drops. Got a reading the next day somewhere between .5-1ppm of amm (using API test kit, which I'm terrible at reading colors). I thought this was low, but knew the plants were taking in some. My big concern was not overdoing it with ammonia and harming my plants. How much can they actually take before they are in danger? I decided to bump it up to 5 drops just to see if that made any significant difference. Next day it was just under 1ppm. I read that most people want it anywhere between 3-5ppm to build your BB base. I thought to get these numbers though I would harm my plants by adding way too much. I just wanted some consistency and not go below 1, but aim for around 2. That night (day 3) I added 6 drops. Next day it was still at 1ppm. First thought that came to mind was that I added more and the ammonia is the same, which means it is being reduced, most likely by the plants, but maybe bacteria is actually growing pretty fast...just seemed too fast. I also added a VERY SMALL pinch (enough to Maybe feed a tiny fish) of flakes so the plants can get some phosphates during the cycle. During this time the past 3 days I have dosed the tank with 16 drops (found out that equals 1ml) of excel in the morning.

    Now comes the craziness of Day 5! I took the ammonia readings tonight and got .25ppm at most. What happened?! So immediately I tested the rest of the parameters, which I haven't been doing since it was so early. The "not so big right now ones" were: GH~120 (mod hard?), KH~40 (low?), and pH ~6.5 (which seemed low for my water). Now this is really interesting, so ammonia was ~.25, NitrItes were around ~4ppm!, and I even had a NitrAte reading of around 40ppm!! Can someone explain what is going on please? I highly doubt I am breaking any cycling speed records here. I just don't want to hurt the plants and get the water chemistry all screwed up. I just added 4 drops of ammonia tonight by the way. What should I do now??? If it makes a difference, there is NO algae and some small MTS are surviving in the tank as we speak.
     
  2. MJDuti Well Known Member Member

    nobody? that's a first! Just wanted to add that my tap water does not contain ammonia, nitrItes, or any nitrAtes. and sadly I am using strip tests for everything but ammonia as of right now.

    anyways, here's an update from day 6: kH about the same, gH went down to around 60 (is this drop normal?), pH shot up to over 7 (looks like even 7.5 - was this a misreading originally???). My ammonia was near zero so added 6 drops, my nitrItes went down to around 2, and my nitrAtes stayed around 40. After further research I have found people that have cycled in about 2 weeks. You think I'm going through it as fast as it seems? Speed doesn't matter as long as it happens right?
     

  3. toosie Well Known Member Member

    I think your test strips are adding to your confusion. They will often test very inacurate. :( Do yourself a huge favor and buy liquid test kits, whether you buy each component you want individually, or if you buy something like the API Master Freshwater Test Kit, you won't be sorry you did.

    I have cycled tanks in as little as 2 weeks using a low dose ammonia, but the thing you do have to keep in mind is you will need to stock lightly with light increases allowing the bacteria enough time to adjust to the new bio load after each stock increase. Your plants should handle 2ppm without issue, but if you want to continue using 1ppm ammonia that's ok too, just keep that much bioload in mind when you are buying fish.
     

  4. MJDuti Well Known Member Member

    my tank cycled in 8 days! holy (record?). Yes, it had the ammonia And nitrIte spikes. I know, it has to stabilize a little more and nitrates could go down a little bit but still. I do want to increase the gH and kH a little, so added a Little crush coral to the filter. I will not be stocking yet, so no worries about fish. Just found that plants and seeded media with pure ammonia for a fishless cycle is THE way to go!
     

  5. Echostatic Well Known Member Member

    It's gonna be hard to say anything about water params for sure until you move away from test strips as toosie said. They can be way off and make you think a problem exsists when there is none, or that all is well when it isn't.
     
  6. toosie Well Known Member Member

    The tank will continue to require ammonia added to it until fish are inhabiting it to feed the bacteria that has established or you will lose what you have gained. Just make sure you do a large water change before you add fish and continue to monitor ammonia, nitrites and nitrates both now and for a while after you stock your tank to continue to monitor the cycle as well as to head off any spikes if they do occur.

    Nitrates are unlikely to go down except as a result of a water change.
     
  7. MJDuti Well Known Member Member

    I finally got the liquid tests and wow,what a difference! I'm still waiting for my kH & gH test kit in the mail. Although it's tough to tell the color differences when they're so close they are definately more consistent and are giving me different readings than the strips. My pH is up to 7.2 (seemed lighter, but still blue, not green like below 7). After 2 big water changes, day after day, I finally got the nitrAtes down to ~5ppm! That's the lowest I've ever had. Just can't wait for the other test kit to I can really get a read on my gH and kH before I add some shrimp, but I believe my crushed coral is starting to take effect.
     
  8. toosie Well Known Member Member

    Make sure you have a good light source behind you when you read the tests. A window in the daytime works great, and put the test tube right up against the white portion of the chart. Artificial light can sometimes make the colors harder to read.

    Congratulations on your new testing equipment. I have a feeling you'll never go back to strips. You'll never truly feel as though you can trust them again, or at least I didn't.
     
  9. MJDuti Well Known Member Member

    got the kH and gH kit. i have 2dkH and 8dgH so decided it was time to start stocking. Only have 5 harlequin rasboras in there now. now I'm waiting on my RCS! the rasboras are awesome but still seem to be getting used to the tank. They were only added last night.
     
  10. toosie Well Known Member Member

    With only 2dKH you will have to keep a very close eye on your pH. KH buffers pH and keeps it stable. With a KH of only 2 degrees your pH has the potential of crashing. You'll need to do very regular water changes to try to avoid this as well as close monitoring. You can increase KH and GH by placing a little crushed coral, crushed oyster shells, or a little argonite (cichlid type substrate) into a mesh media bag and placing it inside your filter chamber. Only use a little and give it several days to see the effect. You can always add a little more if you need to. A KH of 4 degrees will help to keep your pH more stable. If you raise KH and GH, your pH is also likely to increase but that is unlikely to be a problem for your fish where as a poorly buffered pH that could lead to a pH crash could be catastrophic for them.
     
  11. MJDuti Well Known Member Member

    thanks. I already added some crushed coral last week and it's been slowly bumping the numbers up a little. I was hoping for a little more kH but we'll see in another week or so if I need to add more.
     
  12. pirahnah3 Fishlore VIP Member

    yes really keep an eye on that number, getting it up a bit will greatly help your tank stay stable.
     
  13. toosie Well Known Member Member

    Terrific :happy0034:
     
  14. catsma_97504 Fishlore Legend Member

    What is the KH and GH of your tap? If both are above 4ppm then usually water changes are all that is needed to raise tank hardness levels and stabilize it.
     
  15. ilikeendlers Initiate Member


    WTG.
    I'm so glad you decided to ditch those strips =)
    Beautiful things awaits the future of your tank!
     
  16. MJDuti Well Known Member Member

    hmm, noticed something interesting. Since I got the liquid test kits and re-tested my tap water, these are the new parameters: still 0 - ammonia, nitrIte, &nitrAte, pH ~7 (make it easy) - these are the same. I knew my water was somewhat soft, so that measured around 5-6dgH. The strange thing is my tap measured 3dkH. Now I know the plants soak up some of the carbonate right? I also put a SMALL amount of peat granules under my eco complete for them, but I would have thought that'd lower the pH and gH as well. I'm assuming it's just the plants eating the extra 1 degree. Hopefully my coral will raise it another degree, or two. I guess more water changes will have to do.