Cycling Tank, Very High Nitrites And Nitrates

Toni92

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I have a betta fish waiting to be put into a fully cycled tank.

Right now my readings are:
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrites: 5 ppm (not sure if it’s more due to limitation of API test kit)
Nitrates: 160 ppm

What would be your advice at this point? The nitrites reading have been like that for awhile now. Not sure if there is anything I can do to speed up the drop in nitrites. Any help would be appreciated. I can go to the pet store today to pick up whatever too. Just want to get my betta in a healthy environment ASAP.

Once the tank is cycled, do I do a 100% water change (with treatment), let it sit for a day, test the water and put him in if it’s all good?
 

Smalltownfishfriend

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I would do a water change, and see what happens, sometimes the cycle stalls a bit if levels get too high. I would not do a hundred percent water change, just 50 or so when you are ready to get him.
 

jamesw6810

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What are you using to dose ammonia? As said above, do a baseline test with the ApI kit on your source water to see what the real level of nitrate/nitrite is in the tank.
160 is high and only way to bring down is a large water change (without using chemicals)
Looks like its cycling the right way and if fishless, you'll need to wait for the nitrites to drop to zero with an amount of nitrates - with ammonia at 0, you'll need to top that up to feed..

Be useful to post up your equipment and cycling journey so far..
 
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Toni92

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I used fish food as a source of ammonia. Why would I possibly need to add ammonia to the cycle if it’s been converted to nitrites already ?

I was considering doing a water change, but I see conflicting advice with similar posts. Didn’t find a lot of posts though with nitrates that high.
 

jamesw6810

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Ammonia is food for the nitrites, without it for too long they are likely to die off - only when you've 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and a trace of under 40ppm ish of nitrates 12-24 hours ish after dosing ammonia (for example 2ppm) is it cycled and safe to add fish, its also best to repeat this for a few more days after you see those numbers in the test. Also worth noting if nitrites get too high, this will also likely stall the cycle a little

As mentioned by others above, maybe do a 50% water change, in theory should reduce the Nitrates & Nitrites down to a more sensible level during a cycle - then dose ammonia back to 1-2ppm, retest the day after

It might be also worth retesting with the API nitrate kit, did you bash the $%££ out of the second bottle...?

1st job is baseline test the water source and see what level of Nitrite and Nitrate that gives..
 
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Toni92

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Tested the tap, both nitrites/nitrates are zero. And yes, I shook the **** outta the nitrate bottles.

And I suspect the nitrites are higher than the test kit can provide.

Also so cool how helpful everyone is really grateful!
 

jamesw6810

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Ok - well at leat you know its the tank creating the spikes, which means something is going on..

Did you use any bottled bacteria of any type? I would have a go as above and change 50% of the water to reduce both level down, retest and see what they are afterwards. Once reduced to say 2ppm nitrite and 80ppm nitrate, redose ammonia to 1ppm and measure the next day

Quick Q, is the API test in date and do you have another way to test nitrates, its extremely high at 160ppm with a base water value of 0..
 
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Toni92

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Thank you James! That sounds reasonable. I’ll do just that. Thank you all for your help
 

jamesw6810

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Basically what you have going on is a nitrite population that's efficient at scoffing the ammonia, your nitrate isn't so efficient at removing the nitrites as yet so needs to catch up, as you have high levels of both, then a water change sounds sensible to give them a chance. Usually if you high dose ammonia, say 4ppm or over, at a point the nitrites will spike way up - to combat, large ish water changes to reduce and a smaller dose of ammonia is likely to help

Just be sure to dose much lower on ammonia when youve reduce the other 2..
 
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Toni92

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Interesting! Didn’t know bacteria could develop characteristics like that. I’ll have to pick up some chemical ammonia then- don’t know how to do a tiny dose like that with food
 

jamesw6810

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Did you test the ammonia levels whilst adding the food previously? What level did it get to vs what you added?

Bottled ammonia is easier to measure for sure but make sure you get the correct one with no fragrances etc..have a search on here, don't know where your from but there are loads of posts on the correct types of ammonia vs incorrect.

If your only cycling for 1 betta, they have a smallish bioload and if that's the only fish going in, you don't need to create a huge colony fishless with higher doses of ammonia, they will only die off when adjusted to the low bioload of the betta anyway, 1-2 max ppm conversion in 12 hours will likely be enough.
 

mattgirl

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Since you are using fish food for your ammonia source you may want to use your gravel vac to start cleaning it out while doing your water change. I agree with the suggestion to do a 75% water change. You have both ammonia and nitrite eating bacteria in there so are close to a complete cycle. It is now just a matter of balancing it out.

It is much easier to control the level of ammonia if using pure liquid ammonia. Fish food will work but it is hard to control the amount. You may actually be so close to cycled buying ammonia now may not be necessary. Once this tank balances and you are reading 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and some nitrates it will be ready for your fish. He will then produce the ammonia needed to feed the bacteria.
 

Momgoose56

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Toni92 said:
I have a betta fish waiting to be put into a fully cycled tank.

Right now my readings are:
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrites: 5 ppm (not sure if it’s more due to limitation of API test kit)
Nitrates: 160 ppm

What would be your advice at this point? The nitrites reading have been like that for awhile now. Not sure if there is anything I can do to speed up the drop in nitrites. Any help would be appreciated. I can go to the pet store today to pick up whatever too. Just want to get my betta in a healthy environment ASAP.

Once the tank is cycled, do I do a 100% water change (with treatment), let it sit for a day, test the water and put him in if it’s all good?
Your tank is nearly cycled. I think if you do a couple of back to back 75% water changes and get those nitrates down below 40 you may find that you are cycled. The best way to check is to get the nitrates down, add pure ammonia to get the level to 1 ppm then retest ammonia in 24 hours. If it has returned to 0pmm and your nitrites remain at 0, you'r tank is ready for your betta.
 
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Toni92

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Alrighty so I did a water change. For my curiosity, I decided to do an early test for nitrites. The reading is the same as before at the max value for the API test. Do I let the water sit and let the bacteria from the filter, gravel etc be established ? Even though the reading is so high. I’d say about 40 for the nitrate. Just wait and do another water change tomorrow ?
 

mattgirl

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Toni92 said:
Alrighty so I did a water change. For my curiosity, I decided to do an early test for nitrites. The reading is the same as before at the max value for the API test. Do I let the water sit and let the bacteria from the filter, gravel etc be established ? Even though the reading is so high. I’d say about 40 for the nitrate. Just wait and do another water change tomorrow ?
that is telling us that the nitrites were unbelievably high.
I would do another water change. You could wait until tomorrow but it wouldn't hurt to do it today. How much water did you change? Did you vacuum out some of the fish food?
 
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Toni92

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I vacuumed at as much as I could without changing too much water. I did about a 50-60% water change so far. What proportion would you recommend next ?
 

mattgirl

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Toni92 said:
I vacuumed at as much as I could without changing too much water. I did about a 50-60% water change so far. What proportion would you recommend next ?
I would change the same amount. You want to get the nitrites down to a readable level. Be sure to try to get more of the food out of there if there is lots left. You don't want to get all of it out though since it is your ammonia source. Once you get most of it out you could add just a small pinch daily between now and when you see that the cycle is complete.

I truly do think you will find that your cycle is done or very close to done once you get those numbers down.

You could run a dilution test to find out just how high the nitrites really are. You do one by adding 1ml of tank water and 4mls of your source water to your test tube and run the test on that mixture. If you are still seeing off the chart royal purple you will know that the nitrites are still very high.

If you see something less than 5 it will tell you that an 80% water change will get the nitrites down to a reasonable level.
 

Momgoose56

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Toni92 said:
I vacuumed at as much as I could without changing too much water. I did about a 50-60% water change so far. What proportion would you recommend next ?
75%. Be better to do it today. Another 75% change will get your nitrates down to around 10-20ppm. You may need to still do another large change to get the nitrites down to around 1 ppm which is where you need it.
 

TacoRoberts

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You want the bacteria to establish. Doing excessive cleaning will get rid of the bacteria you want to establish.

Feed your fish once a day, whatever they can eat within a few minutes. As long as their bellies aren’t sunken in, they are fine.


Get some Seachem prime, and give it as per instructions every 24 hours (the stuff comes out of the water within 48 hours, so don’t worry about overdosing. You can even use 5x the normal dosing as per manufacturer’s recommendation).


Keep your temps between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit

Keep your pH between 7.0 and 8.0

Keep your KH around 4

These are safe numbers - your fish AND nitrifying bacteria can live with numbers outside these parameters. BUT - they definitely CAN live within these parameters.

You want SOME nitrites in the water (if you change the water so much that you keep it at 0, there will be no food for the bacteria that eat nitrite. Once they establish, they will keep nitrite at 0 on their own.)
 

mattgirl

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TacoRoberts said:
You want the bacteria to establish. Doing excessive cleaning will get rid of the bacteria you want to establish.
Water changes won't be removing bacteria. Very little of it lives in the water.

Feed your fish once a day, whatever they can eat within a few minutes. As long as their bellies aren’t sunken in, they are fine.
This is a fishless cycle

Get some Seachem prime, and give it as per instructions every 24 hours (the stuff comes out of the water within 48 hours, so don’t worry about overdosing. You can even use 5x the normal dosing as per manufacturer’s recommendation).
Good information and a good product to have on hand once the cycle is done and the tank has fish in there. A normal dose is all that is needed in most cases.
 

TacoRoberts

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mattgirl said:
Water changes won't be removing bacteria. Very little of it lives in the water.

****REPLY****
When I said "excessive cleaning" - I meant "don't scrub the **** out of the tank walls, vacuum everything to ****, and rinse the **** out of your filters"


With that said though about water changes....


This is true that the bacteria for the most part do not live in the water column.... once it establishes, it will form a bio film and live in the filter as well as random surfaces on the tank. I do not see a point in changing the water while trying to cycle a tank, unless you don't have anything to raise pH.

I've not seen any studies on how water changes affect the length of time it takes to establish the bacteria. They *will* establish with water changes (obviously, because folks do it all the time). However - I don't see any reason that water changes are necessary, and I can see them potentially making the process take longer.


This is a fishless cycle

***REPLY***

Ah, I assumed it was a fish in cycle because you spoke of removing food. If there are no fish in there, why the concern with removing food at all? The more food in there, the more stuff for the nitrifying bacteria to eat. Ideally, you want want MORE nitrifying bacteria to establish than what your fish can support, and then they just kinda die back a little bit to match the bio-load of the fish, rather than having fewer bacteria establish than can handle the bio load of the tank (and having ammonia/nitrites spike a little after the addition of the fish).

Right?

TLR unless there's something I am unaware of, there should be no reason you need to remove excess food during a fishless cycle.

Perhaps keep a check on the pH, and if it becomes too acidic add something to raise pH.




Since this is a fishless cycle... ****... keep your tank in the dark (the nitrifying bacteria are photosensitive, more so before they establish and form their bio-film). It may help the cycle happen more quickly.


Good information and a good product to have on hand once the cycle is done and the tank has fish in there. A normal dose is all that is needed in most cases.
****Reply*****


Thanks
 
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Toni92

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Alrighty may have completely messed up my cycle by changing too much water.

Tested every day since my last post. Today I am getting 0 for nitrites and nitrates. Didn’t add ammonia because I got a light reading at 0.25 ppm. Yesterday and the day before the nitrites and nitrates were not 0.
 

mattgirl

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Toni92 said:
Alrighty may have completely messed up my cycle by changing too much water.

Tested every day since my last post. Today I am getting 0 for nitrites and nitrates. Didn’t add ammonia because I got a light reading at 0.25 ppm. Yesterday and the day before the nitrites and nitrates were not 0.
You didn't mess up your cycle. You want a get a zero reading for nitrites. Now that they are down to zero you shouldn't see them again. The water changes could have lowered your nitrates down to negligible levels. Since you are using fish food for your ammonia source go ahead and add a small pinch daily to continue feeding the bacteria or it is possible that this tank is ready for fish. For now you don't need to do another water change. If there is still fish food in there it should be producing ammonia so the nitrates should start going back up.

Normally I would recommend you add enough ammonia to get it up to 2ppm and if it is back to zero within 24 hours you could consider the cycle complete but by using fish food it isn't as simple as that.
 
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Toni92

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Just tested again for nitrates and it is very slightly oranger than the 0 ppm reading. Currently ammonia 0.25 ppm.
 

mattgirl

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Toni92 said:
Just tested again for nitrates and it is very slightly oranger than the 0 ppm reading. Currently ammonia 0.25 ppm.
I feel sure this is telling us that if not cycled it is very close. Unfortunately it seems lots of folks never see a zero reading for ammonia while using the API test so now it is getting difficult for me to tell someone whether or not their cycle is complete.

If it continues to show .25 for a few days and the nitrates continue to rise I have to think the cycle is done though.
 

TacoRoberts

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mattgirl said:
I feel sure this is telling us that if not cycled it is very close. Unfortunately it seems lots of folks never see a zero reading for ammonia while using the API test so now it is getting difficult for me to tell someone whether or not their cycle is complete.



Mattgirl - If folks are testing their water shortly after adding tap water/a water conditioner, the ammonia levels will raise. Since chloramine is chlorine + ammonia, when the conditioner breaks that bond, it puts ammonia in the water.

Ask folks to wait a while after doing any water changes before testing ammonia. (IDK how long it takes for the bacteria to eat the ammonia, so IDK how long to tell people to wait... but testing for ammonia right after a water change won't give you the most informative results).

Water which has X ppm chloramine, will immediately have X ppm ammonia/ammonium immediately after using a water conditioner.
 

mattgirl

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TacoRoberts said:
Mattgirl - If folks are testing their water shortly after adding tap water/a water conditioner, the ammonia levels will raise. Since chloramine is chlorine + ammonia, when the conditioner breaks that bond, it puts ammonia in the water.

Ask folks to wait a while after doing any water changes before testing ammonia. (IDK how long it takes for the bacteria to eat the ammonia, so IDK how long to tell people to wait... but testing for ammonia right after a water change won't give you the most informative results).

Water which has X ppm chloramine, will immediately have X ppm ammonia/ammonium immediately after using a water conditioner.
I realize this but some folks never see a zero reading no matter when they do the test. They don't even get a zero reading even if they run the test on bottled water.
 

TacoRoberts

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Huh... weird

I use an API kit, and I can definitely get 0 ppm readings. So it IS possible to get a 0 ppm reading with the API kit.

I wonder if it's a bad batch, user error, or color perception issues.
 

mattgirl

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TacoRoberts said:
Huh... weird

I use an API kit, and I can definitely get 0 ppm readings. So it IS possible to get a 0 ppm reading with the API kit.

I wonder if it's a bad batch, user error, or color perception issues.
Same here. My tanks always register 0 ammonia with the API test so I agree 0 is totally possible but more and more folks never seem to see a true yellow in the test tube. I don't understand it but know it happens for some odd reason.
 

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