Cycling tank very high nitrates!

Magtom

Hello!
I’m cycling my 40 gallon breeder tank. It’s been about 3 weeks. Would you guys take a look at my readings and let me know if it’s ok for the nitrate to be so high? Thank you!
TAP WATER:
ammonia: 1.0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 10 ppm
  • 1/15/2021
  • ammonia: .25 ppm
    1/1640 gallon:
PH: 8.2 ppm
  • ammonia between .25 ppm and .50, can’t tell)
  • Ammonia Distilled 0 ppm
Tap:

  • Ammonia tap is 1.0!
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: 10 ppm
1/17

40 gallon:

  • ammonia: .50
  • Nitrite: 0
  • Nitrate: 10
1/18

40 gallon:

  • ammonia: 1.0
  • Nitrite: .25
  • Nitrate: 10
1/19. 40 gallon:

  • ammonia 1.0
  • Nitrite between 0 and .25
  • Nitrate between 10 and 20
1/20. 40 gallon

  • ammonia 1.0
  • Nitrite .25
  • Nitrate 20
1/24

  • added 1/2 teaspoon ammonium chloride
  • Ammonia 4.5
  • Nitrite 4.0
  • Nitrate over 80 but not quite 160
1/25

  • ammonia 4.0
  • Nitrite somewhere between 2.0 and 5.0
  • Nitrate between 80 and 160
Did 25% water change to lower nitrates, but it didn’t seem to work.

1/26

  • ammonia 1.5
  • Nitrite 5.0
  • Nitrate between 80 and 160
1/28

  • ammonia 0
  • Nitrite 5
  • Nitrate 80-160
Dose ammonia 1/4 teaspoon

  • ammonia 5 or 6
  • Nitrite 5
  • Nitrate deep red so again, I think between 80 and 160
1/29

  • ammonia
  • Nitrite at least 5, maybe off the chart
  • Nitrate dark dark red not rust like the API Master kit says as the highest reading
 

mattgirl

As long as the ammonia you are adding is still going down to 0 within 24 hours the cycle is still moving forward so the high nitrites and nitrates aren't affecting the cycling process. Getting both down with a water change won't hurt though.

You may want to cut down on the amount of ammonia you are adding. You really don't need that much and doing so will also slow down the production of both nitrites and nitrates.
 
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Magtom

Ok. Thank you! The ammonia is definitely not going down to 0 within 24 hours. It’s been two days since it was at zero and I added the 1/4 teaspoon. So your saying don’t worry about the nitrite and nitrate for now and wait until the ammonia gets to zero. Should I add a smaller amount when it gets to zero then? And how much? I really know nothing about this. It’s my first time and I’m enamored, so I want to get this tank cycled before adding any livestock.
As long as the ammonia you are adding is still going down to 0 within 24 hours the cycle is still moving forward so the high nitrites and nitrates aren't affecting the cycling process. Getting both down with a water change won't hurt though.

You may want to cut down on the amount of ammonia you are adding. You really don't need that much and doing so will also slow down the production of both nitrites and nitrates.
Also, I just realized I left today’s ammonia reading off my chart. It was between 2 and 4
 
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mattgirl

I would go ahead and change out half the water. That should get both nitrites and nitrates down to more reasonable levels and should also replenish the minerals that tend to get depleted during the cycling process.

Once done run your ammonia test. If it is reading at least 2ppm don't add any more. If it is less than 2 ppm add enough to get it up to that level. I don't know how much it is going to take to get it to that level so just add a little bit at a time until it is up to 2.

When it goes back down close to 0 get it back up to 2ppm. When this tank will process that 2ppm down to 0 within 24 hours and you are no longer seeing nitrites your cycle will be done. At that point the nitrates will be pretty high so they will need to be gotten down to about 20ppm with water changes.

When you do your water changes be sure you temp match and add your water conditioner to the fresh water before pouring it in the tank.
 
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Magtom

I would go ahead and change out half the water. That should get both nitrites and nitrates down to more reasonable levels and should also replenish the minerals that tend to get depleted during the cycling process.

Once done run your ammonia test. If it is reading at least 2ppm don't add any more. If it is less than 2 ppm add enough to get it up to that level. I don't know how much it is going to take to get it to that level so just add a little bit at a time until it is up to 2.

When it goes back down close to 0 get it back up to 2ppm. When this tank will process that 2ppm down to 0 within 24 hours and you are no longer seeing nitrites your cycle will be done. At that point the nitrates will be pretty high so they will need to be gotten down to about 20ppm with water changes.

When you do your water changes be sure you temp match and add your water conditioner to the fresh water before pouring it in the tank.
Thanks so much mattgirl. That’s just the encouragement I need. I hope a few more questions are ok? I have a large piece of spider wood that has a slimy whitish patch on the bottom and brown fuzz encircling most of the top section. The plants and some of the rocks have a brownish algae on them too. Is that all par for the cycling course? Or should I be taking that stuff out? I’ve included a picture.
 

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mattgirl

Thanks so much mattgirl. That’s just the encouragement I need. I hope a few more questions are ok? I have a large piece of spider wood that has a slimy whitish patch on the bottom and brown fuzz encircling most of the top section. The plants and some of the rocks have a brownish algae on them too. Is that all par for the cycling course? Or should I be taking that stuff out? I’ve included a picture.
You are so very welcome

This is all par for the cycling course. And should go away in time. Right now you don't want to disturb anything in your tank. Bacteria is trying to get established so disturbing it is going to prolong the process. Don't be too surprised if from time to time you also encounter microscopic living creatures. Most are totally harmless and shouldn't hang around too long.

I am going to link you to my thoughts on fishless cycling and the one thing I feel is missing when only using bottled ammonia. Once you read it you may want to consider adding a small pinch of fish food to help this cycle along.

PSA: Something I am seeing more and more often, fishless cycling.... | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 477380
 
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Magtom

Hi Mattgirl,
I read the article, and it makes sense to use some fish food. I’m going to do that. How much should I use? Also, my ammonia has been going down to about .25 in about 24 hours after adding enough to bring it up to 2ppm. The nitrates and the nitrates have been off the charts though, and I just did a water change about 45%, and my readings are identical: ammonia .25 ppm, nitrate off the charts and nitrate off the chart. The nitrate is like a cherry red I took a picture. It’s hard to tell exactly. Should I do another water change tomorrow? Thank you for your help with us. It seems like things are moving forward though.
 

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mattgirl

Hi Mattgirl,
I read the article, and it makes sense to use some fish food. I’m going to do that. How much should I use? Also, my ammonia has been going down to about .25 in about 24 hours after adding enough to bring it up to 2ppm. The nitrates and the nitrates have been off the charts though, and I just did a water change about 45%, and my readings are identical: ammonia .25 ppm, nitrate off the charts and nitrate off the chart. The nitrate is like a cherry red I took a picture. It’s hard to tell exactly. Should I do another water change tomorrow? Thank you for your help with us. It seems like things are moving forward though.
You can go ahead and do another water change but first I would run dilution tests for both nitrite and nitrates to try to determine just how high they actually are. Start with half tank water and half tap water. If you are still seeing these numbers you will know even a 50% water change isn't going to get them down to readable numbers but if you are seeing them lower another 45/50% water change should be enough.

Just add a very small pinch of fish food. I prefer fish flakes since they can be crushed up really well. Adding a small pinch every third day until the tank is cycled should be all you need to add.
 
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Magtom

Oh excellent. Thank you. That’s such a good idea to just dilute it with an equal amount of tap water! My tap water is reading 10 for nitrate so how do I read the results? Do I take 10 off the reading when I test the 50/50?
 
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mattgirl

Oh excellent. Thank you. That’s such a good idea to just dilute it with an equal amount of tap water! My tap water is reading 10 for nitrate so how do I read the results? Do I take 10 off the reading when I test the 50/50?
At this point we really aren't looking for specific numbers. If the 50/50 doesn't lighten the colors we will know that even one more big water change isn't going to be enough to get them down. The high numbers aren't really a problem when fishless cycling unless they start affecting the process. Keep an eye on your pH level. Quite often the cycling process can cause it to crash. The water change you just finished should prevent that but it is still a good idea to keep an eye on it.

I wanted to mention, lots of folks report never seeing a true zero reading for the ammonia. They see a constant .25 reading. I truly do think you will eventually see zero but for now we are going to consider yours zero when it goes down to .25

When you start adding the tiny pinch of fish food you may experience a slow down on the ammonia. Don't be alarmed and think something has gone wrong. The bacteria is just adjusting to the new form of ammonia it is getting and will soon start registering zero again. By this happening now you will avoid it happening once fish are added.

The spike in ammonia after adding fish once a fishless cycle is complete doesn't happen to every tank but it happens often enough to have got me wondering why it was happening and coming up with a way to prevent it.
 
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Magtom

Thank you! Here is a picture of the test. Same reading; nitrites and nitrates off the char( I think, if I’m reading them correctly). Also, ammonia is zero. Should I be adding powdered ammonia AND fish food, or just the pinch of fish food? Also, do you think big water changes every few days would bring down the “trates n trites”? The PH was about 7.5 (as best I could read the high PH color chart) before I did the water change yesterday. Today it is about 8.0.
 

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mattgirl

You want to be adding the ammonia along with the tiny pinch of fish food. Even though the numbers are high it isn't a problem when doing a fishless cycle as long as the ammonia you add continues to go down. Should it stop going down you may need to do a water change but the water change you did should have replenished the minerals. I would just add ammonia and the fish food and just let the cycle finish up. The nitrates will continue to rise but the nitrites will start gradually going down as more nitrite eating bacteria grows.
 
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Magtom

Yes. Ok. That’s what I figured. Thank you for your time on this seemingly simple thing. I’ve just never done it before and I am determined to do my best not to unintentionally kill any fish!
 
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mattgirl

Yes. Ok. That’s what I figured. Thank you for your time on this seemingly simple thing. I’ve never done it before and I am determined to do my best not to unintentionally kill any fish!
To me it is a simple thing but to someone new to doing it it can seem very complicated. Once we understand what is happening we see what has to happen to get to a cycled tank. We are simply growing bacteria.

To put it in its simplest terms. Like most, if not all living things, the bacteria needs food. In this case the food is ammonia. Then like most living things, even bacteria poops. What it poops out is nitrites. Soon after the nitrites show up another kind of bacteria starts growing. This one eats nitrites and it poops out nitrates. Most of us never grow the type of bacteria that eats nitrates so we keep them down with water changes.

Once we have grown enough of each kind of bacteria to eat all of the ammonia and nitrites we consider the tank cycled. It isn't well established though so we want to treat it gently for a few more months. This bacteria is growing on every thing in our tanks. The strongest colony of it is going to be on the filter media simply because that is where the most food is going to be.

During these months we don't want to over clean. We can of course do water changes and since the bacteria isn't free floating in the water doing them isn't affecting the cycle. We can scrape the inside of the glass if necessary but not all sides at the same time. We can rinse our filter media but gently and only if water is no longer flowing through it freely. It would be best not to gravel vac too deeply so just skim the surface if needed. The less we do to disturb the bacteria during this time the better it will be.

Once a cycle is firmly established we would almost have to be trying to kill off the bacteria growing in there to affect the cycle. As long as we temp match and add our water conditioner to remove all chlorine/chloramines from the water before pouring it in the tank even huge water changes should not have a negative affect on our cycle.
 
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Magtom

Ha! Thanks for making it so simple. I actually did a 60% water change yesterday, and, although the nitrites and nitrates still were reading off the chart, this time when I diluted them with half tap water, the nitrate was noticeably, although not much, lower. I took that as a good sign. It’s at about 100. The nitrite is at about 3.0.
I read in a Fishlore article on fishless cycling with ammonia, to boost up the temp to the mid 80’s and put in an air stone. I have t been able to get it past 80°, but I did put an air stone in. Do you have thoughts on if this is helpful, or maybe even harmful? Thanks again for your time, mattgirl!!
 
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mattgirl

Ha! Thanks for making it so simple. I actually did a 60% water change yesterday, and, although the nitrites and nitrates still were reading off the chart, this time when I diluted them with half tap water, the nitrate was noticeably, although not much, lower. I took that as a good sign. It’s at about 100. The nitrite is at about 3.0.
I read in a Fishlore article on fishless cycling with ammonia, to boost up the temp to the mid 80’s and put in an air stone. I have t been able to get it past 80°, but I did put an air stone in. Do you have thoughts on if this is helpful, or maybe even harmful? Thanks again for your time, mattgirl!!
The higher temps have been known to help bacteria to grow a bit faster but I think 80 should be fine. I'd not heard about having an air stone helping the cycle. It shouldn't slow it down though. As long as we have a filter working I feel sure the bacteria will get all the oxygen it needs.
 
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Magtom

Hi again mattgirl,
I’m having some worry as I gaze into my cycling tank which is being lit up by the ne Fluval programmable planted light I bought. I’ve included a picture. There are algae blooms ungulating like sea anemones, my spider wood is covered with fuzzy, stringy (beautiful actually) blooms too, I’m seeing tiny worms wriggling around as they are swept on by the current and lots of teeny tiny specs all over the tank. I thought they were flecks from the pinch of food I’ve been putting in each day, but the light is showing me they are air bubbles, because I see them coming from the filter as the water hits the tank water and is then pushed around by the current it creates. Is everything really ok in there?

thank you-
Magi
 
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mattgirl

I suspect all is well. As it cycles and settles in you will see various things happening. It is not unusual for things to grow on new wood but even those things should go away in time.

I am not seeing a picture
 
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Magtom

Hello! The tank had 5 or 6 long waving algae strands, and since the nitrate and nitrite were still off the chart high, I did a 50% water change again, and the next day and for the following 3 days, ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate about 40! Would you say I’m cycled? I also washed the algae off of the wood (there’s still a lot on the tank walls near the plants though). Also, the Dwarf Sag is very light green. From my YouTube searches, I believe it needs iron. Would it be safe to use a fertilizer for the plants at this point? Tha k you!
 
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mattgirl

Yes, I would have to say this tank is cycled. Adding ferts shouldn't affect the cycle. Your cycle is still new so don't do any major cleaning yet. Give the bacteria plenty of time to get firmly established.
 
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Magtom

Ok. Thank you for all your help! ❤️
 
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mattgirl

Ok. Thank you for all your help! ❤
You are so very welcome. Please check in from time to time. I love reading success stories
 
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Magtom

Haha! You got it!!
 
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Magtom

So I thought of you just now. I added some crypts and a Madagascar lace plant to the 40 gallon tank and continued to measure the parameters for about a week ( I think I was just scared to transfer the glow light tetras to the new tank from my established 10), but I finally plucked up the courage to do it yesterday. I watched them off and on into the night and then around 10:00 this morning, turned on the light and noticed they were chasing each other all over the tank. I was worried they were not adapting well and looked on YouTube to see what to do. There was a suggestion that spawning looks like breeding, and, low and behold, that’s what they were doing!! It is fascinating to watch. The males are relentless to get the females to release those eggs. But the reason I thought of you is that you helped me as I spent so much time and energy trying to get the tank to be just right, and I was so worried... and it turns out, they must be near perfect if my fish are spawning in there the day after I transferred them! Anyway, great relief. Thanks for your help.
I meant to say, “spawning looks like fighting g”
 
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mattgirl

Thank you for the update I remember the first time my black skirts got old enough to start breeding. Up until then they just slowly swam around. Never chasing each other. Once in breeding mode they were chasing, bumping each other and just all round acting out of character. Thankfully there was no nipping so no damage was done. They do that about once a month now.

It sounds like your little guys are very comfortable in their new home. If the 10 gallon is still up and running keep an eye on it. These little guys may have scattered some eggs before they were moved. If so those eggs may have a chance to hatch and with nothing in there to eat the fry they should grow up in there.
 
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Magtom

That’s funny that you mention that they may have left some eggs behind. About two weeks ago, I was looking into the long roots of the water lettuce, and was surprised by one little fry, very still, in the roots near the heater! I was so taken aback. Had no idea where it came from because I didn’t know the glow lights were prolific breeders, and the guppies are all females. He’s been doing fine. I figured out how to feed the other fish in a different part of the tank and get some very crushed up flakes to him In the roots. Before I figured it out, the other fish would just eat all the food near him. When do you think it would be safe to put home in the 40 with the others?
 
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mattgirl

That’s funny that you mention that they may have left some eggs behind. About two weeks ago, I was looking into the long roots of the water lettuce, and was surprised by one little fry, very still, in the roots near the heater! I was so taken aback. Had no idea where it came from because I didn’t know the glow lights were prolific breeders, and the guppies are all females. He’s been doing fine. I figured out how to feed the other fish in a different part of the tank and get some very crushed up flakes to him In the roots. Before I figured it out, the other fish would just eat all the food near him. When do you think it would be safe to put home in the 40 with the others?
Congratulations. I would probably want him to be at least 1/2 to 3/4 the size of his parents.
 
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