5 Gallon Tank Cycle stuck

emilymg

So my cycle is stuck. I set up this dirted tank on July 16th, and it still hasn’t cycled yet. I have a ton of plants and a filter with cycled media in the tank. I also have ramshorns snails. The snail waste is how I got the cycle started to begin with. So after almost 4 weeks, I’m still getting ammonia readings. And what’s weird is I have also gotten nitrate readings upwards of 20ppm, so I know that the bacteria is there converting the compounds. Today I tested my water, again, and had readings of 0.50 ppm ammonia, 0 nitrite and 20-40 nitrate. Any suggestions on what to do from here? I really want to stock this tank with amano shrimp so this waiting is killing me. I’ve been doing weekly water changes every Friday since the setup (about 30-40%) but did end up doing some extra 50% water changes in between to try and combat the ammonia spikes. There isn’t any large die off from snails, so not sure why my ammonia is still reading something other than 0 while I also have nitrate.
 

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StarGirl

Have you tested your tap water?
 

emilymg

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mattgirl

Have you run the nitrate test on your source water? If you have and have none then I would hold off on the water changes for now and let the bacteria clear out the ammonia. Ramshorn snails shouldn't be affected with this amount of ammonia like fish would be.
 

emilymg

Have you run the nitrate test on your source water? If you have and have none then I would hold off on the water changes for now and let the bacteria clear out the ammonia. Ramshorn snails shouldn't be affected with this amount of ammonia like fish would be.
I’m glad you suggested testing for nitrates in tap, because I had a reading of about 10 ppm right from the tap. I moved this summer and am now on a well, so that would definitely explain the change. What should I do from here?

Edit: I read up a little on it and the solutions I found were to either use RO water or distilled water. I may just purchase gallons of distilled water to do water changes with if that is true.
 

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Azedenkae

10ppm in your tap water should still result in an overall decrease in nitrate when you do a water change. After all, say your nitrate was at 40ppm, then doing a 50% water change will result in the final water with 25ppm nitrate. Though of course, that's within what you are reading so not surprised.

Can I clarify, is your main concern that you still have ammonia? If so, it may be that nonetheless the cycle is just taking way longer than it should, or something is constantly dying off to produce ammonia. Not the snails maybe since you mentioned that, but could be something else. Plants, maybe?

That or, do you happen to know if your substrate releases ammonia?
 

mattgirl

I’m glad you suggested testing for nitrates in tap, because I had a reading of about 10 ppm right from the tap. I moved this summer and am now on a well, so that would definitely explain the change. What should I do from here?
I would just hold off on the water changes and let the bacteria finish up this cycle. You will just have to base your future nitrate level on what you are seeing from the tap. Meaning you are not going to be able to water change the nitrates down any lower than what you have in your tap. Lots of folks recommend keeping them down to 20 or lower but as long as I see orange in the test tube I consider it good enough.
 

emilymg

10ppm in your tap water should still result in an overall decrease in nitrate when you do a water change. After all, say your nitrate was at 40ppm, then doing a 50% water change will result in the final water with 25ppm nitrate. Though of course, that's within what you are reading so not surprised.

Can I clarify, is your main concern that you still have ammonia? If so, it may be that nonetheless the cycle is just taking way longer than it should, or something is constantly dying off to produce ammonia. Not the snails maybe since you mentioned that, but could be something else. Plants, maybe?

That or, do you happen to know if your substrate releases ammonia?

Yes, the main concern is the ammonia. Just the fact that it has not gone down after 4 weeks. My tap water has nitrates in it (which I wasn’t aware of until today), so every time I test my tank water I thought that it was cycling, just having ammonia spikes. My tank is dirted with miracle grow organics potting mix, but I have about a 2 inch cap of Fluval stratum on top.
I would just hold off on the water changes and let the bacteria finish up this cycle. You will just have to base your future nitrate level on what you are seeing from the tap. Meaning you are not going to be able to water change the nitrates down any lower than what you have in your tap. Lots of folks recommend keeping them down to 20 or lower but as long as I see orange in the test tube I consider it good enough.
Okay thank you, so you think having 10-20 ppm of nitrate at all times will be okay for fish? I’m just wondering if I need to buy distilled water for every water change going forward.
 

mattgirl

Yes, the main concern is the ammonia. Just the fact that it has not gone down after 4 weeks. My tap water has nitrates in it (which I wasn’t aware of until today), so every time I test my tank water I thought that it was cycling, just having ammonia spikes. My tank is dirted with miracle grow organics potting mix, but I have about a 2 inch cap of Fluval stratum on top.

Okay thank you, so you think having 10-20 ppm of nitrate at all times will be okay for fish? I’m just wondering if I need to buy distilled water for every water change going forward.
Nitrates at that level isn't going to be a problem. If this is a planted tank the plants may help keep it down.

I should have said. Since this is a planted tank the plants should help you out.
 

emilymg

Nitrates at that level isn't going to be a problem. If this is a planted tank the plants may help keep it down.

I should have said. Since this is a planted tank the plants should help you out.
Thanks so much, I really appreciate the help! I’ll give it a little while without a water change and see how things go.
 

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