Cycling - Help! Desperate


Started this process about 3 weeks ago.

1. Dechlorinatednwith API tap water dechlorinator.
2. Added Instant Ocean salt
2. Added a bottle of Dr. Tim’s one and only.
3. Added ammonia (from Dr. Tim’s)
4. Realized I probably didnt add enough ammonia so added more (which probably overdosed it, my ammonia was off the charts after doing that. Stupid mistake)
5. Did a 30% water change to bring ammonia down...that was about a week ago. The attached photo is my current ammonia reading. I also have 0.5ppm nitrites. Ammonia hasnt changed since the water change. Whats going on? Please give me a detailed step by step guide of what to do from here.


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Hey, quite new myself and I'm sure the more experienced people will have loads of advice but there are a couple of things that could help. That Dr. Tim's looks to be a freshwater product, freshwater bacteria doesn't do well in marine. Try Microbe Lift if you can get it (you put 50% more in for marine) or ATM Colony Marine. I found using frozen food (daphnia but could be something else small and easily broken down) defrosted and distributed across the tank to settle on live rock worked well. I started with 2 cubes, ammonia went up to 2, nitrite to .5, then both went down by 1/2 increments until 0 in just a few days really. During this time nitrates rose to 10 then went down to 5. I put 1 cube in and monitored from a week after initial; cycle started, then repeated a week later - no ammonia or nitrates, fully cycled. Fish in a week now, still 0 on both, close to 0 nitrates as well. I did start with 35 lb of rock, half matured live and half dry, in a 35 gallon tank. Hope this helps


If there is no fish then do a larger water change if want 90% water change. Even with fish i've done larger water changes than 30% (personal max was a pinch over ~50% a 55 gallon tank) but only during emergencies. I just feel the tank needs more time, and is slowly converting ammonia because is still new tank.
I haven't tried Dr. Tims when I started a new tank first time I used dead rock caused ammonia spike (b\c rock not totally dead). The other time I added Dwarf Cerith snails and Baby Filtering Clam from reef cleaners a well known online aquarium site. Half the snails die and most of the clams causing ammonia spike, which can get your tank started (I got 50 snails and 50 clams ). Hint the snails and clams will die even if it's a cycled tank : /


Part of the issue is that you are using tap water which has goodness known what in it. RODI should be used for best results and I wouldn't trust an API kit at all. Red Sea, Salifert, Hannah and Nyos are all better choices. Furthermore the cycle can last 30-60 days depending on what type of rock you used (dry rock takes longer to establish the bacteria on it).


Okay well unless the parameter reading kit you have is for saltwater then it could be wrong, I have a saltwater tank and tried using a freshwater water parameter kit and it said everything was wrong until I got a real saltwater testing kit and it was fine, on top of that, if you are making your own saltwater you should not use water from the tap you need a RODI machine, if there are fish in the tank then this is a little more of a problem, only do 50% water changes a week, but if you don't have fish do a 90% water change, if this is a tank with no fish then give it time because the ammonia will settle down because beneficial bacteria numbers will sky rocket and take care of them, if you have fish in there, (unless sensitive fish) you should be fine, it only looks like there is 1.0 ammonia which isn't too bad, clownfish and other hard species can handle that, so don't stress too bad and just keep doing water changes and if its a freshwater parameter kit then get a saltwater. Hope this helps!


A lot of good info for you there, these guys are awesome! Yes, I found the same using freshwater API test kit - most results seemed ok but ammonia was way off, got a salifert kit for that until I can afford all saltwater kits. Tapwater is bad enough for freshwater tanks, definitely needs to be RO to mix up and top up saltwater. If you're brand new it's worth mentioning that as the water evaporates between changes the salt remains so the salinity goes up, you then need to add fresh rather than salt RO water to top up and reduce to the normal salinity. With water changes you're taking a large volume out, no evaporation process, so you replace what your taken with new saltwater. Refractometers are the most accurate way to measure, easy to use, and surprisingly not costly to buy at all - mine was maybe £20 and not the cheapest one going!

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