Cycling Fluke?

tritonthebetta

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Hi!

I just started my first fishless cycle (after having used TSS+ for a few fish-in cycles in the past), and I think I might have already run into a bit of trouble...

After doing some reading on the forum, I decided to cycle my 5 gallon tank using Dr. Tim’s ammonia and added TSS+. After letting Prime cycle through my tank for 24 hours, I dosed ammonia to 1 ppm yesterday and added a bottle of TSS+.

I just tested the water today with the API master test kit (after waiting 24 hours to make sure I didn’t get a false ammonia reading from the TSS+) and got the following readings:

pH- 7.0
Ammonia- 1 ppm
Nitrite- 0 ppm
Nitrate- 10-20 ppm

I’m not super knowledgeable about the nitrogen cycle, but I don’t think it’s normal to have so many nitrates already? I did the nitrate test twice to make sure I didn’t mess it up, but I got the same thing each time. I also tested my tap water yesterday and it has 0 nitrates, so I don’t think there would be any transfer of nitrates to my tank from the tap water.

Is there any reason why I’m already seeing nitrates after only ~24 hours of cycling, and is there anything I need to do to fix it? Thanks! :)
 

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I suppose it is possible that reading is from adding the TSS. Quite often those that use bottled bacteria will get unexpected readings shortly after adding it. This is one eason it is often said not to run the tests shortly after adding it because you may get unexpected numbers and will be tempted to try to fix something that isn't actually broken.
 
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tritonthebetta

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Okay, I’ve been cycling for almost 3 weeks, and I just want to make sure I’m on the right track! These are the readings I’ve had so far. Side note: I read that sometimes you never get a nitrite reading when cycling with SafeStart, so I’m assuming that’s the case here.

12/2
pH: 7.0
Ammonia: 0 (dosed to 1 ppm)
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0

12/3
pH: 7.0
Ammonia: 1
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 10

12/5
(Same as 12/3)

12/07
pH: 7.0
Ammonia: 0.5
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 10

12/09
pH: 7.0
Ammonia: 0 (accidentally dosed back to ~2 ppm instead of 1 ppm because of bad instructions on the Dr. Tim’s Ammonia)
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 10

12/11
pH: 7.2
Ammonia: 0.5
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 10

12/13
pH: 7.0
Ammonia: 0.25 (dosed back to 1)
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 10

12/15
pH: 7.0
Ammonia: 0.25
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 10

12/16
Ammonia: ~0-0.25 (dosed back to 1 ppm)

12/17
pH: 7.2
Ammonia: 0.5-0.75
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 10

12/20
pH: 7.2
Ammonia: 0.25 (currently dosing back to 1 ppm)
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 10

My biggest concern so far is the weirdly constant nitrate level - is this normal, and if not, is it problematic?
Aside from the nitrate stuff, does everything look normal? Also, I’m not in a rush or anything, but would you guess that my cycle still has a few weeks before it’s done?

Thanks! :)
 

John58ford

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I've seen that result with TSS. Out of the bottle it's full of nitrates (about 10ppm if I recall) and usually about .5 ppm worth of ammonia on its own when dosed per gallon. I know the bottle says add all in up to a 20 gallon, but if I happen to be needing 4 3 gallons running, I figure there's lines on the bottle for a reason lol. I haven't used it in a couple years but I remember freaking out the next day because all my tanks magically had nitrates. I also noticed those tanks never had a nitrite spike but took a very long time to actually eat ammonia quickly.

Your nitrate level should be way higher if you aren't changing water. Are you following the instructions for the nitrate test properly?

Edit: excuse my ignorance, do you have plants in the tank? They do eat nitrates. Otherwise, yes you should have allot more than you do.
 
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tritonthebetta

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John58ford said:
I've seen that result with TSS. Out of the bottle it's full of nitrates (about 10ppm if I recall) and usually about .5 ppm worth of ammonia on its own when dosed per gallon. I know the bottle says add all in up to a 20 gallon, but if I happen to be needing 4 3 gallons running, I figure there's lines on the bottle for a reason lol. I haven't used it in a couple years but I remember freaking out the next day because all my tanks magically had nitrates. I also noticed those tanks never had a nitrite spike but took a very long time to actually eat ammonia quickly.

Your nitrate level should be way higher if you aren't changing water. Are you following the instructions for the nitrate test properly?

Edit: excuse my ignorance, do you have plants in the tank? They do eat nitrates. Otherwise, yes you should have allot more than you do.
I think I’m doing the nitrate test properly - I have the API kit, so first I add 10 drops of bottle #1, then gently mix the contents of the tube. I then shake bottle #2 for 30 seconds, add 10 drops, and shake the tube for 60 seconds. I always try to count slowly so as not to rush. The only main concern I have about that is that the caps don’t go on the test tubes very tightly, so a little bit of liquid usually comes out while I’m shaking... I feel like the solution-to-water ratio would still be the same, but is it possible that that could that skew the reading? I don’t think the nitrate solutions are supposed to expire for a few years, but could they have somehow gone bad?

Another note about the nitrate test is that I do have a bit of a hard time telling the difference between 10 and 20 ppm because the shades of orange on the color chart seem almost identical. while I do think that the colors have always looked a little more like 10 ppm, they could have gone up to 20 without my being able to realize it... that’s still not a huge increase though.

And no, I don’t have any live plants ... just a few silk ones. Also, if it’s of any importance, my tap water (which obviously gets treated with prime before being added to the tank) has a pH of 8.2, 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and 0 nitrates.

I’ve only done fish-in cycles in the past, so a lot of this is new territory for me! I really appreciate all of the advice :)
 

John58ford

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You seem to be doing it right, I honestly find my API tubes leak a little too but the results seem to be correct, I test several tanks daily and get the numbers I would expect to see. Your kit is probably fine.

If you want to be sure between 10-20 try filling a tube half way to the line (I use a marked irrigator/syringe like you get with children's medicine or from the dentist to fill my tubes) then the other 2.5 mL with fresh water. If you run the test on that, you should get half the actual, and be able to tell the difference.

I don't think I would say to do a water change since you're only a couple weeks in but with 5-6 ppm ammonia added total, you should have about 20ppm. You will get about 3.6 ppm nitrate to every 1ppm ammonia you dose.

Armed with that knowledge, you are definitely getting there, dropping about .5 ppm daily is about half of what I've seen recommended for a stocked tank. 1 daily is your goal, 2 is possible with good filtration 4 can be done but takes black magic. If this is going to be a betta only tank, or a snail only tank or something solitary I would run it down to 0 ammonia, change 75% of your water out, and get a new family member. If you are trying to put in several nano fish, or multiple anything that will push your stocking for a 5 gallon to the edge, keep working it until you hit that 1ppm spot, probably just a week or two away. If you go grab a new pet only dropping .5 daily, just be sure to check your levels every couple days until you can make a week with no ammonia rising above .5, doing water changes as necessary. Then your set and can run your weekly maintenance.

What is your filtration on this little tank? Target stocking? I really love nano tanks.
 
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tritonthebetta

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John58ford said:
You seem to be doing it right, I honestly find my API tubes leak a little too but the results seem to be correct, I test several tanks daily and get the numbers I would expect to see. Your kit is probably fine.

If you want to be sure between 10-20 try filling a tube half way to the line (I use a marked irrigator/syringe like you get with children's medicine or from the dentist to fill my tubes) then the other 2.5 mL with fresh water. If you run the test on that, you should get half the actual, and be able to tell the difference.

I don't think I would say to do a water change since you're only a couple weeks in but with 5-6 ppm ammonia added total, you should have about 20ppm. You will get about 3.6 ppm nitrate to every 1ppm ammonia you dose.

Armed with that knowledge, you are definitely getting there, dropping about .5 ppm daily is about half of what I've seen recommended for a stocked tank. 1 daily is your goal, 2 is possible with good filtration 4 can be done but takes black magic. If this is going to be a betta only tank, or a snail only tank or something solitary I would run it down to 0 ammonia, change 75% of your water out, and get a new family member. If you are trying to put in several nano fish, or multiple anything that will push your stocking for a 5 gallon to the edge, keep working it until you hit that 1ppm spot, probably just a week or two away. If you go grab a new pet only dropping .5 daily, just be sure to check your levels every couple days until you can make a week with no ammonia rising above .5, doing water changes as necessary. Then your set and can run your weekly maintenance.

What is your filtration on this little tank? Target stocking? I really love nano tanks.
That sounds great! If I run the nitrate test on 2.5 mL, would I cut the number of droplets in half (5 drops of each solution instead of 10)?

I have the marineland portrait tank, so it has a built-in filter ... It came stocked with bio-foam and carbon pads, and I’ve added a bag of ceramic media to the back compartment of the tank. I’ve considered replacing the carbon with additional sponge pads, but I’ve read that carbon can be a big help with keeping the water clear/smell-free. What are your thoughts on this?

We’re currently planning to get a betta just because those are what we’ve had in the past, but nanos are super cute as well ... I might need to look into that a little!

If we do stick with the betta, would it still be good to cycle the tank so it can process 1 ppm ammonia in 24 hours? Or should I just wait until it hits 0 again and then get the fish?

Thanks so much for all of the advice!
 

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When doing the dilution test you still have the same amount of water so you will still add 10 and 10. You will have 2.5mls of tank water and 2.5mls of source water in the test tube.

Personally I've not run carbon in any of my tanks for a long time. It does come in handy if you notice an unpleasant odor coming from your tank but it isn't normal for one to have a bad odor.
 
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tritonthebetta

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mattgirl said:
When doing the dilution test you still have the same amount of water so you will still add 10 and 10. You will have 2.5mls of tank water and 2.5mls of source water in the test tube.

Personally I've not run carbon in any of my tanks for a long time. It does come in handy if you notice an unpleasant odor coming from your tank but it isn't normal for one to have a bad odor.
Ohhh ok, that makes sense! And I’ll definitely look into picking up some other sponges to phase out the carbon... I think that would probably be better in the long run.

Would you recommend that I still work toward cycling my tank to be able to handle 1 ppm ammonia in 24 hours? It sounded like John58ford said 0.5 in 24h is enough for a betta, but I definitely want to be on the safe side before I bring a new fish home :)
 

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For the dillution test, to help differentiate between numbers, as mattgirl clarified use both fresh and tank water, totaling 5 mL, and 10 drops each.

As you figured out though, yes the test is accurate if you only do 2.5 and cut the drops in half. I don't recommend it to others, but since I frequently run 4-6 water tests daily, I do that with ammonia and nitrate.

You have 2 of the things I really like going in here, a nano tank, and it's an all in one. Personally, I don't use carbon daily. I always leave enough space in my filter design to drop some in if needed but I only use it after meds, add a new pump, or after adding something new to the tank I did DIY. I'm cautious about "fish safe" but it never hurts to be careful. I usually only run carbon in those situations up to a week max, and then run without it. I would use some the first week with the new aquarium, especially since tiny all in one are very hard to get clean from manufacturing, then only as needed.

.5 daily ammonia in my opinion on a 5 gallon (plus a little more water for the filter assembly in your case) should be enough for a bettas bio load. 1ppm usually shows a tank is ready for full stocking. The thing in cycling tanks to watch for is the nitrite spike but I do not believe you will ever see one after using TSS.
Make sure to do a good water change before you put him in there so you aren't starting out with high nitrates or any readable amount of ammonia. Also, don't feel pressured by me to go grab a fish, waiting until 1ppm is the normal, but certain stocking just doesn't require that much drop in a day. If you think you may grab a nerite snail or something in the same trip to the pet store, wait it out.

Things to watch out for in your build, make sure your fake plants pass the pantyhose test, and watch the new betta very closely to see how he does with your filter current. It may be a little fast for him at first, especially if he is a bigger finned option like a super Delta, double tail, or dumbo. If the current is strong for him, I recommend trying to "diffuse" the current, before you try to "reduce" it. Diffusing would be spreading it out, reducing would be to actually slow the pump/pinch the tube etc. You can easily diffuse your tank by cutting a plastic cups bottom off, then cut it down the side, cut a small circle into one side, and hang it on the outlet. This pushes the water out towards the sides instead of a jet across the tank. Only diffuse as much as you need to, more flow the better, but bettas are gentle fish.

There are some low light plants available out there that require very little light and are low maintenance as well. I have had good luck in tiny low light tanks with annubias glued to a rock. As long as they are "new" and haven't been grown in a tank with extremely high lighting they tend to do well, eat some nitrates and give a little personality to a tiny tank.

Good luck with your build.
 

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tritonthebetta said:
Ohhh ok, that makes sense! And I’ll definitely look into picking up some other sponges to phase out the carbon... I think that would probably be better in the long run.

Would you recommend that I still work toward cycling my tank to be able to handle 1 ppm ammonia in 24 hours? It sounded like John58ford said 0.5 in 24h is enough for a betta, but I definitely want to be on the safe side before I bring a new fish home :)
.5 really should be enough if you are only going to put one little betta in there. Growing enough bacteria to process 1ppm wouldn't cause a problem though. The extra bacteria will just die off. I am in the better safe than sorry camp and would want to grow enough bacteria to process 1ppm. May add a few more days to the cycling process but other than that I can see no downside to growing the extra bacteria before getting your fish.

BTW:Like John58ford To save on testing solution I also run both my nitrate and ammonia test with 2.5 mls of water and half the amount of testing solution.
 
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tritonthebetta

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HI all,

It seems that my tank still isn’t making much progress ... I’ve been cycling for over a month, and it’s still taking 3-4 days for my tank to process 1 ppm ammonia.

My nitrites are still 0, and nitrates have climbed up to 40-80 (hard to tell exactly which one since the colors are so similar).

Of course I don’t want to rush my cycle, but I want to make sure there isn’t anything wrong :)
 

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tritonthebetta said:
HI all,

It seems that my tank still isn’t making much progress ... I’ve been cycling for over a month, and it’s still taking 3-4 days for my tank to process 1 ppm ammonia.

My nitrites are still 0, and nitrates have climbed up to 40-80 (hard to tell exactly which one since the colors are so similar).

Of course I don’t want to rush my cycle, but I want to make sure there isn’t anything wrong :)
Have you done any water changes? If not you may want to do one now. Is you PH staying up to at least 7? Lower than that can slow a cycle down.
 
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tritonthebetta

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mattgirl said:
Have you done any water changes? If not you may want to do one now. Is you PH staying up to at least 7? Lower than that can slow a cycle down.
no, I haven’t changed any of the water yet because I didn’t want to disturb any of the developing bacteria. How large of a WC would you recommend?

and yes, the pH has been fluctuating between 7.2-7.6 :)
 

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tritonthebetta said:
no, I haven’t changed any of the water yet because I didn’t want to disturb any of the developing bacteria. How large of a WC would you recommend?

and yes, the pH has been fluctuating between 7.2-7.6 :)
Doing a water change isn't going to hurt your cycle as long as you temp match and add your water conditioner to the water you are replacing. I would change out no less than 50% of the water. Be sure to add ammonia after the water change if it is down .25 or less.
 
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tritonthebetta

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mattgirl said:
Doing a water change isn't going to hurt your cycle as long as you temp match and add your water conditioner to the water you are replacing. I would change out no less than 50% of the water. Be sure to add ammonia after the water change if it is down .25 or less.
ok! Does it matter if I add prime to my tap water just a few minutes before I add it to the tank? Usually I add it a few minutes before, but I think I’ve read that it detoxes ammonia for a certain period of time and can harm beneficial bacteria...
 

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tritonthebetta said:
HI all,

It seems that my tank still isn’t making much progress ... I’ve been cycling for over a month, and it’s still taking 3-4 days for my tank to process 1 ppm ammonia.

My nitrites are still 0, and nitrates have climbed up to 40-80 (hard to tell exactly which one since the colors are so similar).

Of course I don’t want to rush my cycle, but I want to make sure there isn’t anything wrong :)
I think your already cycled. The fact that you have nitrates means that the nitrite processing bacteria have already been established. Not sure why it takes a few days to reduce ammo but it may not matter. The bacteria will multiply at its own rate you.
 

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tritonthebetta said:
ok! Does it matter if I add prime to my tap water just a few minutes before I add it to the tank? Usually I add it a few minutes before, but I think I’ve read that it detoxes ammonia for a certain period of time and can harm beneficial bacteria...
Prime does detox the ammonia but it is in a form that the bacteria can still process. It isn't going to affect/harm your bacteria. Some have said that it can affect the bacteria in the TSS but you are well past the time for anything like that to happen.
 
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tritonthebetta

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I did a 50% WC and redosed ammonia to 1 ppm yesterday evening.
It’s been almost 24 hours, and ammonia is still at 1 ppm.

so I’m guessing I should just give the tank a few more weeks to see if it starts processing the ammonia more quickly?
 

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tritonthebetta said:
I did a 50% WC and redosed ammonia to 1 ppm yesterday evening.
It’s been almost 24 hours, and ammonia is still at 1 ppm.

so I’m guessing I should just give the tank a few more weeks to see if it starts processing the ammonia more quickly?
well shoot. I guess it is still a waiting game.
 

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