Cycle Questions

Georgie Girl

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I'm cycling my five-gallon tank with a Betta and no other fish. It'll take forever, right? . . .

I tested this morning, and found ammonia at 0.25, nitrite 22, nitrate 0. I know a water change is indicated.

Does that sound normal for two weeks?

Also, what's the outer limit for nitrite? At what level would it begin to make Boris Karloff (the Betta) twitch in discomfort? Not to die, just start to be uncomfortable? I don't want any level of suffering

Thanks!
 

DutchAquarium

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nitrite should be 0, i'm hoping you mixed up the nitrite and nitrate levels. Nitrate should be a maximum of 20, I like mine around 10. Nitrite becomes deadly at 2.0 parts, discomfort and toxicity really starts to become noticable at 1.0 parts. Anything above 0 is going to shorten the life span and will cause some discomfort.
 

mattgirl

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The first thing your need to do is stop stressing over getting his tank cycled. You should be changing out 50% of his water twice a week for at least 2 months and once weekly after that. If you do this your little Boris should never feel a moment of discomfort.

If this tank does in fact have nitrites in it you really need to do a huge water change right now, keep checking and changing water until it registers no nitrites and then start the twice a week water changes.

Do you have Prime or another water conditioner that is designed to help with ammonia, nitrites and nitrates along with chlorine? If not, Please get some. It will keep your water safe for Boris as the tank cycles (grows the bacteria) .

As long as you have a filter with filter media the tank will cycle. It has no choice. Boris will poop in the water, that poop will be the ammonia source the cycle needs to get started. That ammonia will grow and feed the nitrites. The nitrites will grow and feed the nitrates. The nitrates have nothing to feed or to eat them other than plants so they are removed with water changes.

To be totally honest, even if this tank never cycles as long as you keep up with water changes Boris should live a very long healthy life. As I said before though, it will cycle, it has no choice as long as there is an ammonia source.
 
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Georgie Girl

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pugletfan said:
Hmmmm your numbers are puzzling. Are you using the API Freshwater Master Test Kit to test your water? If not I recommend you get it. It is very accurate and lasts for years.
Yes, that's what I'm using. @DutchAquarium suggested - hopefully - that I mixed up nitrites and nitrates. I'm sure he's right.

mattgirl said:
Do you have Prime or another water conditioner that is designed to help with ammonia, nitrites and nitrates along with chlorine?
Yes, and thanks for asking. I'm doing my damnedest to take good care of Fishy Fish.

DutchAquarium said:
nitrite should be 0, i'm hoping you mixed up the nitrite and nitrate levels. Nitrate should be a maximum of 20, I like mine around 10. Nitrite becomes deadly at 2.0 parts, discomfort and toxicity really starts to become noticable at 1.0 parts. Anything above 0 is going to shorten the life span and will cause some discomfort.
I'm sure you're right - that I mixed the levels. Obviously I'm going home for lunch to check it again.
 
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Georgie Girl

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Last night's test:

ammonia 0.25
nitrites 0
nitrates 0

I did a 25% (I think) water change last night, just because I felt it needed it.

I don't think it's cycled yet. First, I know there are supposed to be some nitrates. And second, it's been just a scant three weeks.

Would you mind weighing in? Thanks, friends.
 

DutchAquarium

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wait till ammonia is o and you have some nitrates. that way you know you won't have spikes.
 

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You should be able to see your ammonia levels going down to zero within 24 hours.
Once you dose some ammonia, check back before 24 hours and it's gone, you are cycled!

As long as you have no ammonia in that time, and positive readings of nitrates, you are finished
 

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I see you have a betta, very small bioload.

Just continue testing. When/if ammonia and nitrites combined reach 1ppm, do a water change (50%) to reduce. You can also use Prime to neutralize ammonia/nitrates if at or below 1ppm.

Your cycle could take a long, long time with that small of a bioload IMO but as long as you keep the ammonia/nitrites under 1, your fishy should be fine.
 

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I agree with @Hunter1 Right now the most important thing you can do for Boris is keep up with the water changes and dosing with Prime to keep the ammonia from hurting him.

It is time for you to start enjoying this beautiful little boy and the fine home you have built for him. As long as you keep his water fresh he will live a long and healthy life.

The tank will cycle or it won't. It is easy to take care of a 2 1/2 gallon tank even if it never cycles. It would be great if it does though. That way if something unforeseen comes up and you are unable to change his water for a week or so the cycle will take care of the small amount of ammonia he is going to produce.
 
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Georgie Girl

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Hunter1 said:
What ammonia source are you using?
Only Fishy Boris's waste products and whatever food he doesn't eat. I can't put ammonia in while he's in there.
 
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Georgie Girl

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mattgirl said:
The tank will cycle or it won't. It is easy to take care of a 2 1/2 gallon tank even if it never cycles.
Hi, mattgirl. It's actually five gallons. Is it similarly easy as the two-and-a-half? I'm not averse to the work; I just want to be sure Fishy Boris'll be ok.

And I already enjoy him. The whole family does. He's quite endearing.
 

mattgirl

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Georgie Girl said:
Hi, mattgirl. It's actually five gallons. Is it similarly easy as the two-and-a-half? I'm not averse to the work; I just want to be sure Fishy Boris'll be ok.

And I already enjoy him. The whole family does. He's quite endearing.
oops, sorry about the size mistake 5 gallons is even better and just as easy to take care of. As long as you keep his water fresh I feel sure he will fine.

As long as there is a filter and media in it this tank will eventually cycle. It has no choice but you really don't need to stress over getting it done. Just keep an eye on the numbers.

One day you will start seeing nitrites. During that time you need to keep an even closer eye on it and add Prime every day you see it. Do water changes to keep it as low as possible and the Prime will render it less harmful to Boris. Do extra water changes (at least daily) during the nitrite process if you see them rising.

Once the nitrites start lowering you should start seeing nitrates and soon after the nitrites will no longer register. They will still be there because the cycle works in a circle. ammonia feeds nitrites feeds nitrates.

Once cycled you won't see ammonia or nitrites but they are still there doing their job. Live plants eat some of the nitrates but most of them are removed by water changes.

At that point the tank will be cycled. With the very small bio-load Boris will produce the process could take a very long time so please don't stress over it. Now is the time to just relax and enjoy having him in your life.
 
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Georgie Girl

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Fishy Boris's tank has finally cleared of the gravel dust. Yay! I still haven't put him back in yet, though, and it's a good thing.

Yesterday I tested the water. Ammonia 0.25, nitrites and nitrates both zero.

This morning I tested, hoping Fishy Boris could go home. Not so fast: nitrites and nitrates are both zero, and ammonia is at 1.0. **** . . . .

Why has the ammonia gone up?

The things that have changed are the addition of gravel, of course, and I put in a piece of driftwood. It was in there for a couple of days, but I took it out because I decided it was too big for such a little aquarium (five gallons). (It made the water that tea color so many people like, but I don't like it. I guess water changes will get rid of it in time.)

Would either or both of those things spike the ammonia?

Thanks for whatever help you can offer.

Fishy Boris Bent.jpg
 

finnipper59

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If you have ammonia,
Georgie Girl said:
Fishy Boris's tank has finally cleared of the gravel dust. Yay! I still haven't put him back in yet, though, and it's a good thing.

Yesterday I tested the water. Ammonia 0.25, nitrites and nitrates both zero.

This morning I tested, hoping Fishy Boris could go home. Not so fast: nitrites and nitrates are both zero, and ammonia is at 1.0. **** . . . .

Why has the ammonia gone up?

The things that have changed are the addition of gravel, of course, and I put in a piece of driftwood. It was in there for a couple of days, but I took it out because I decided it was too big for such a little aquarium (five gallons). (It made the water that tea color so many people like, but I don't like it. I guess water changes will get rid of it in time.)

Would either or both of those things spike the ammonia?

Thanks for whatever help you can offer.

View attachment 436786
If you have ammonia but no nitrites or especially nitrates, your tank is not cycled. If you haven't been doing so in the past, make sure you add a water conditioner that removes chlorine from the tap water. Add some plain unscented household ammonia (or a couple of pinches of fish food) to keep ammonia in your tank at 4ppm...just a few drops of ammonia if that's what you're using. Once your tank finally starts to develop the bacteria that breaks down the ammonia into nitrites, another bacteria will come along and convert the nitrites into nitrates. That 2nd bacteria called Nitrobacter is slow growing and may take awhile to start making nitrates. Your tank is not biologically cycled, so guess what?...your tank is not going to be ready to add fish for 4 to 8 weeks depending on how quickly the bacteria grow and start the biological cycle.
 
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Georgie Girl

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finnipper59 said:
If you have ammonia,If you have ammonia but no nitrites or especially nitrates, your tank is not cycled. If you haven't been doing so in the past, make sure you add a water conditioner that removes chlorine from the tap water. Add some plain unscented household ammonia (or a couple of pinches of fish food) to keep ammonia in your tank at 4ppm...just a few drops of ammonia if that's what you're using. Once your tank finally starts to develop the bacteria that breaks down the ammonia into nitrites, another bacteria will come along and convert the nitrites into nitrates. That 2nd bacteria called Nitrobacter is slow growing and may take awhile to start making nitrates. Your tank is not biologically cycled, so guess what?...your tank is not going to be ready to add fish for 4 to 8 weeks depending on how quickly the bacteria grow and start the biological cycle.
I use Prime whenever I do a water change, or when the ammonia is creeping up. But why is it so high all of a sudden, with no fish in it since Sunday?

I appreciate your reply, finnipper. But I have to put Fishy Boris back in his tank. Right now he's languishing in a one-gallon terrarium. I understand the cycle, but I have nowhere else to keep him. He's been in his aquarium practically since I brought him home from Petsmart in that g-d little cup.

I take very good care of my fish. I test the water daily, and do water changes as necessary. This fish-in cycle is going to take forever, with just one betta. But it's the only way for me to do it.

A note: I have no intention of putting my fish back in his tank with the ammonia so high. That's why I'm asking for help - he can't stay in that terrarium long term.
 

finnipper59

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I don't know all the circumstances surrounding why your ammonia creeped up. You mentioned something about driftwood at some point. But somehow organic compounds are in the water causing ammonia. The best thing you can do at this point is to use plain household ammonia or just put some fish food in their to decay and let the ammonia go ahead and keep it as close to between 3 and 4 ppm. Don't even bother to check nitrites or nitrates for a week. Just keep the ammonia up. After a week, check for nitrites. If they're still at zero, continue to keep ammonia levels up. In a few days, check for nitrites. The ammonia and nitrites will remain high until nitrates begin to form. When you see a good amount of nitrates forming, start doing 25 percent water changes every few days and discontinue putting things in the tank to feed the bacteria. A short time after the nitrates form, the levels of ammonia and nitrites will start dropping quickly. When the ammonia and nitrites get to about zero, do water changes until you get the nitrates less than 25 and you can then chech the pH of both tanks. If the pH is within 0.2 of each other, and the tank temperatures are within 2 degrees Fahrenheit, you can safely move your fish to the new tank.
Georgie Girl said:
I use Prime whenever I do a water change, or when the ammonia is creeping up. But why is it so high all of a sudden, with no fish in it since Sunday?

I appreciate your reply, finnipper. But I have to put Fishy Boris back in his tank. Right now he's languishing in a one-gallon terrarium. I understand the cycle, but I have nowhere else to keep him. He's been in his aquarium practically since I brought him home from Petsmart in that g-d little cup.

I take very good care of my fish. I test the water daily, and do water changes as necessary. This fish-in cycle is going to take forever, with just one betta. But it's the only way for me to do it.
 

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Besides fish poop anf rotting fish food, Rotting plants also contributes to ammonia level. AFAIK, Prime neutralizes the harmful ammonia by converting it to a non-harmful form, but it'll still show up as ammonia on the tests.

You can always buy a cheap plastic bin or bucket (they have them in very large sizes) and put your fish in there while you get the aquarium sorted out. After, you can reuse the bin for storage of other things too.

Or you can do a fish-in cycle. There are ammonia removal filters to save you some work w/ the fish-in cycling.

Oh, test your tap water, somebody on this forum metioned that his tap has ammonia of .25 or .5 ppm.
 

Mom2some

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OP - I would suggest testing your tap water to see if there is ammonia in it now. When was the driftwood added/removed compared to the Ammonia spike? Since you have no cycle, if your source water has 0 ammonia, do a 100% water change with conditioner & re-add your fish. Other possibilities: decorations, dying plants, source water, etc
 
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