Cycling: What Am I Doing Wrong?

  • #1
I have 2 5 gallon betta tanks I am doing fish-in.

Tank 1:

Est 1/19
Added 1 male betta, 3 neon tetras 1/20

(Started using bottled spring water, which had 5ppm nitrates), tested 2/4: 1, 0.25, 5
2/7: discovered ich, started heat treatment, temp to 86F on 2/8, test same
2/14: switched to tap water. Tap parameters: 0.25, 0, 0, tank: 1,0,0, 50% WC
2/15: 0.5,0,0
2/16: 1,0,0, 50% WC
2/17: 0.5,0,0, 50% WC, rehomed neons
2/18: 0.5, trace nitrite, 0 nitrate
2/19: 1,0.25,0, 50%WC
2/21: moved to new tank, moved filter, 100%WC
2/22: reduce heat to 80, parameters 0.25, trace nitrite, 0 nitrate
2/24: 0.25,0,0

Dose prime 0.5 mL, and stability 1.25 mL each day (with 0 readings, do I still need the old filter?)

Tank 2:
Est 2/10
2/12: added 1 male betta, parameters 0.5,0,0, 84F
2/13: 81F, 0.25,0,0
2/14: 82F, 0.25,0,0
2/15 0.25,0,0
2/16: 81F, 0.25,0,0
2/17: 80F, 0.25, 0.25, 0
2/18: 0.25, trace nitrite, 0 nitrate
2/19: 0.25,0,0, 40% WC with Gravel Vac, for weekly fresh water
2/21: 0.25,0,0
2/22: 0,0,0
2/23: 0.25,0,0
2/24: 0.25,0,0

Tanks are planted with sand substrate. Tank 2 has driftwood leaching tannins. My pH is stable at 8.2-8.4. I only have 3 test tubes now.

What am I doing wrong? Why did I show nitrite then it just disappeared? Did I mess up by doing the water changes? I shake the nitrate bottles like crazy, pet the test instructions. Is my temp not optimal? Why can't I grow bacteria? Do I need to leave time between dosing prime and stability? My son's betta tank seems to have the cycle moving along well, showing nitrite and nitrate, it's been up a little longer though.

Please help!
  • #2
I don't know if it is just me but what is 2/12 supposed to mean?
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Sorry that's the date. I have kept a daily log, it's kinda long and this is my short hand: date; F=temp; ammonia,nitrite,nitrate reading; notes.

CindiL Aquaphobia I'm sorry to tag but I am truly at a loss!
  • #4
I think 50% water changes so frequently are messing you up. I'd go to 25% and unless your ammonia spikes a little or nitrate gets into undesirables once a week change would be fine. I think because you're doing water changes so often it's messing up the cycle in your tank. In larger tanks 50% water changes are good, or in ones that are unfiltered. I don't think you need the old filter at this point because it's not cycled so it's not helping (or not much anyway). If you still have issues after going ahead and doing less changes and a smaller amount you could try getting some plants from a fish shop which may have a few bacteria on to help boost your cycle.
  • #5
Oh. Now it all makes sense.
What filter are you using? Some filter media in my opinion are horrible to grow bacteria.
I have a cascade filter and modified it, I got out the cartridges out and instead filled it with bio balls for biological filtration and put a sponge for mechanical filtration at the end. It works great, the bio balls look nasty as **** but all the fish are happy and the cycle is ON because I have not done a water change in a week and the fish are all alive with 0 signs of ammonia poisoning.

If by the end of this month you have trouble with your cycle you may want to consider asking your LFS to give you some cycled media (bio balls, a piece of sponge, etc...) so you can get your cycle going.
I don't think plants would work to get a cycle going.
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  • #6
I was using a tetra whisper and had that on the new tank with the cascade (300 submersible) that came with this tank, since I was showing some nitrite before the move. I wanted to move any BB I may have grown. But I don't want to keep the tetra. I did modify the cascade by putting some biomax in the carbon basket. I think the large WC's got me. One little betta doesn't have much bioload I guess.

Should I just try a bottle of TSS+ in each tank? I seem to have made no solid progress in over a month...

I got these fish not knowing about the cycle and have taken a crash course. I leave to go out of town for a week in a few weeks and don't want to leave in a mess, since I don't have anyone to deal with water changes while I'm gone. I can get someone to feed them, but water changes and treatments may be too much. If I wasn't leaving I'd just keep puttering along...
  • #7
No, a single Betta does not have much of a bioload.

It took my 3 gallon tank 6 weeks to show nitrates.
  • #8
Hi, I didn't get an alert on this one I don't think, I'll have to double check.

I don't think you're doing anything wrong, bettas just have a super small bio-load and you may never see much in the way of nitrates but that won't mean they're not cycled for the bettas (tiny) bio-load. Just go to once a week 50% water changes, dose prime every 48 hours instead of every 24 hours with ammonia being so low and eventually it will cycle. I wouldn't spend much time worrying about it.

Before you go away for a week, do a large, maybe 75% water change and if they're not over fed they will be just fine while you're gone.
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
Thank you.

I just pulled out their filters. I took some of the carbon out of Indiana's filter and replaced it with biomax, like I had done in Arizona's, swished and cleaned the sponges in tank water and dosed stability directly to both filters and replaced in the tanks. Did about 1/4-1/2 gallon water change, just enough to replace the water I took out to clean the sponges and top off.

That's what I was thinking about the water change before I go. Would it be safer to use those feeding tabs while I'm gone to make sure they don't get over fed? I don't like the idea of fasting them for a week but I don't want to come home to find my friend thinking they were still hungry...

I generally feed food one piece at a time so I don't overfeed. If they don't eat it or they spit it out, they're done. Except Indiana. He'll eat till he explodes! I haven't tested that theory...
  • #10
Whenever I go on vacation, I measure out the amount of pellets I want fed per day and put them in a little 7 day pill box (and hide the food!) lol. People always want to over feed our fishy friends which is the worst thing they can do while you're gone.

Usually my son feeds them for me if I'm gone and where I normally feed twice a day, I have him feed once a day. I usually come home to slimmer fish as I tend to over feed them my self! Its harder with community fish. My male betta I can count out exactly how many pellets I give him which is usually around 4 or so.
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  • #11
Mine won't eat pellets. They might grab them but always spit them out. They like betta flakes (I know not best) and one loves bloodworms(freeze dried) the other will eat them sometimes, I've tried (freeze dried) brine shrimp but they don't eat those either. Grab them and spit them out, swim away.

The bad part is the people I trust to feed right are going with me!
  • #12
Have you tried soaking the pellets first? Sometimes they will spit them out and keep retrying to eat them until they're soft enough or do yours spit them out and not try and eat them?
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  • #13
They spit them out and swim away. An hour later I have to remove the squishy pellet. I haven't offered them in a while. Should I try again?Do I soak it in a little tank water?

Side note: does yours try to swim into the current just to get himself stuck? Current "surf"? I have the sub filter pointed at the corner and turned all the way down.


The other betta leaves his alone, but this ones a little more active and I catch him trying to go in that corner often.
  • #14
Sometimes he does. I think they learn to really like the current, almost like its fun for them.

Yeah, just use some tank water.
  • Thread Starter
  • #15
Tried soaking, no luck. They hadn't had breakfast yet, so they're hungry. Soaked to mush dropped in AZs tank, he hit a piece and didn't touch it again. IN grabbed one and spit it out then grabbed another, chewed it to tiny bits and spit it all out! Betta temper tantrum? They had flakes...

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