Cycling with API test kit

ITsJake

40 gallon tank with 2 live plants and sand substrate.

I have been cycling my tank for 2 months. I noticed nitrates starting around 3 weeks ago. Currently my nitrites are at 0 and nitrates around 5-10ppm. Nitrates have been at this level for around 2 weeks. However ammonia has been frustrating to the point where I’m wondering if the API Test Kit isn’t accurate.

For the last week and a half I was dosing my ammonia to 2-3ppm. I would test it the next day and see the ammonia drop to 1ppm. Then test the next day and it would read between .25-.50. So I know my BB was doing its job slowly but surely.

My last dosage of ammonia was 3 days ago and this is my current reading. My wife says it’s around .50 (I’m color blind so to me it looks at 0) but I trust her eyes more than mine. I would just think that after yesterdays ammonia test (.25) it would be at 0 today.

Can someone help me understand what I’m doing wrong here?
 

JuDom

40 gallon tank with 2 live plants and sand substrate.

I have been cycling my tank for 2 months. I noticed nitrates starting around 3 weeks ago. Currently my nitrites are at 0 and nitrates around 5-10ppm. Nitrates have been at this level for around 2 weeks. However ammonia has been frustrating to the point where I’m wondering if the API Test Kit isn’t accurate.

For the last week and a half I was dosing my ammonia to 2-3ppm. I would test it the next day and see the ammonia drop to 1ppm. Then test the next day and it would read between .25-.50. So I know my BB was doing its job slowly but surely.

My last dosage of ammonia was 3 days ago and this is my current reading. My wife says it’s around .50 (I’m color blind so to me it looks at 0) but I trust her eyes more than mine. I would just think that after yesterdays ammonia test (.25) it would be at 0 today.

Can someone help me understand what I’m doing wrong here?
Hello :)

What did your nitrates read at the time of this ammonia test?
 

ITsJake

I can test now and let you know. I just did another ammonia test and it’s at .25. I’ll post the results shortly
 

Bwood22

Show us a picture of the plants too!
 

ITsJake

Nitrates are between 10-20ppm
Here are the plants
 

Bwood22

You aren't doing anything wrong.
What does your nitrite test look like?
 

ITsJake

It’s been at 0 as of my last 4 tests
 

Bwood22

Cool.

Keep doing what you're doing. In 40 gallons just dose 2ppm every 3 days. That's enough.
You be through this before you know it.
Don't get impatient. Just keep doing what you're doing.
 

ITsJake

Okay should I dose 2ppm again tonight?
 

Bwood22

Sure. That'll do.
 

ITsJake

Okay. I’m just hoping it’s going to cycle this week. Thanks for your input!
 

JuDom

I agree with BWood, keep up with what you’re doing.
Also, side note..I believe the two live plants you have are both a variation of Java fern which means they should not be planted directly in your substrate. They should be mounted to a rock or wedged in between something as the rhizome needs to be exposed for proper growth. Those brown fuzzy things at the ends of the leaves are roots, and will become new plants as well, I cut them off of mine and put them in jars of water until they grow large enough baby plants to be placed back into my aquariums.
In the spots you have those plants instead , I’d recommend getting some amazon swords. They will fill out the height of your tank nicely and their light green color will compliment the artificial foliage on your centerpiece. :)
 

Bwood22

So what kind of fish do you plan on stocking?
 

ITsJake

Great idea on the Amazon swords! Maybe I can get Petco to take back the ferns and swap with those!

I like the combo of corys, 2 Bolivian Rams and maybe dwarf gouramis. I’m certain about the corys and rams but would be open to other thoughts on who can pair up with them?
 

Bwood22

Maybe some rasboras-harlequins or CPDs.
I even think a small school of Serpae tetras would look cool in there.
They will do fine with corys and rams.
 

ITsJake

Thanks I’ll take a look!
 

Bwood22

Thanks I’ll take a look!
Cool, check back in tomorrow night with your water test results.

Hey....what's your tank temperature right now?
 

ITsJake

Will do I’m at 79
 

mattgirl

Quite often at this point in a fishless cycle a big water change (50% or more) will get things moving forward faster. If you've not done one recently I do recommend you do one now. Be sure you temp match and add your water conditioner to the fresh water before pouring it in there. I consider the bacteria a living thing so recommend getting the fresh water close to the same temp as what you took out.
 

Bwood22

Quite often at this point in a fishless cycle a big water change (50% or more) will get things moving forward faster. If you've not done one recently I do recommend you do one now. Be sure you temp match and add your water conditioner to the fresh water before pouring it in there. I consider the bacteria a living thing so recommend getting the fresh water close to the same temp as what you took out.
Not a bad idea....i also forgot to mention adding a pinch of fish food.

But lets wait until the test results tomorrow since he just dosed some ammonia tonight.
 

mattgirl

I just read through your other thread about this same tank. In it your nitrates were not going up although you were adding ammonia up to 4ppm for quite a while. I really suspect you are going to find they are much higher than your test is showing. I do highly recommend you change out most of the water in this tank.

You may want to take a minute to read this thread. Symptoms of a Stalled Fishless Cycle and How to Fix it | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 429601

The fact that your ammonia isn't going down as it should be at this point in the cycle and according to your nitrate test it isn't going up as it should be leads me to believe something is way out of balance. A big water change should help balance it out so this cycle can finish up.

It seems some folks fear doing water changes. The bacteria we are growing isn't free floating in the water. It is growing on our filter media and on all the surfaces in the tank. Water changes are not removing bacteria. The fresh water is replacing minerals depleted by the cycling process. If you will do this you may very well find that your cycle is actually done.
 

Bwood22

I just read through your other thread about this same tank. In it your nitrates were not going up although you were adding ammonia up to 4ppm for quite a while. I really suspect you are going to find they are much higher than your test is showing. I do highly recommend you change out most of the water in this tank.

You may want to take a minute to read this thread. Symptoms of a Stalled Fishless Cycle and How to Fix it | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 429601

The fact that your ammonia isn't going down as it should be at this point in the cycle and according to your nitrate test it isn't going up as it should be leads me to believe something is way out of balance. A big water change should help balance it out so this cycle can finish up.

It seems some folks fear doing water changes. The bacteria we are growing isn't free floating in the water. It is growing on our filter media and on all the surfaces in the tank. Water changes are not removing bacteria. The fresh water is replacing minerals depleted by the cycling process. If you will do this you may very well find that your cycle is actually done.
That's a good observation. I was curious myself about the stalled ammonia....no nitrite....and low nitrate.
Even though my responses were short and sweet in my head im thinking that either 3ppm is too much of a bioload, something has disturbed the nitrosomonas colony, and/or the plants are sucking up more nitrate than ammonia.
Either way, im curious as to what his next set of test results tell us this evening.
He just dosed another 2ppm last night.
 

ITsJake

Yeah I will test the water in 8 hours (6pm CST) and post the results here. I intend to do a 60% water change afterwards as well
 

ITsJake

Tested the water after dosing 2ppm yesterday. Same results as yesterday. Ammonia is at .50, nitrite 0 & nitrate is between 10-20
 

Bwood22

Go ahead and change 50-60% of your water then run your nitrate test again.

Have you done any water changes yet during this process?

This was your nitrate test yesterday...would you say today's test is lighter or darker than yesterday?

You must be registered to see images
 

ITsJake

No changes yet. I’m going to do one now. Nitrates look slightly darker if I had to choose one or the other.
Okay after a water change I tested again. .25 Ammonia and nitrate looks to be around 10.
So at this point should I continue dosing ammonia to 2ppm?
 

ITsJake

Just an update, I got a new API Test kit bc my other one was set to expire in January. This one is much easier to read the colors!

I dosed my ammonia to 2ppm the night before last and just tested it now and it shows 1ppm. Nitrite is still at 0. Nitrates are between 10-20. Am I still close to the end of my cycle?
 

Bwood22

Odd I thought your ammonia was converting faster than that...might I suggest an experiment?

Next time you dose ammonia, first make sure that your tank has 0ppm ammonia in it - change a bunch of water out so that your nitrate reads 5ppm or less - then dose the tank with a smaller amount of ammonia. Maybe 0.5ppm to 1ppm.

The question is: How much ammonia can I convert in 24 hours?

If you start with 0.5ppm ammonia did it all convert to nitrate the next day? Is the nitrate test darker?

If yes, then try 1ppm.....did it all convert in 24 hours and did it all convert to nitrate?

I want to determine how much your plants are influencing the ammonia reduction vs the bacteria if at all.

Having nitrate in your tank is a good sign but if you could test your tap for nitrates that would be a good piece of information to be aware of.

This is just a suggestion to try. You won't hurt anything by testing this out.
 

ITsJake

Okay so let my ammonia get to 0 then change like 80% of my water, then add the 1ppm ammonia. I’ll do it as soon as it reads 0
Also, would removing my plants speed up the process?
 

Bwood22

Okay so let my ammonia get to 0 then change like 80% of my water, then add the 1ppm ammonia. I’ll do it as soon as it reads 0
Also, would removing my plants speed up the process?
No leave them in
 

ITsJake

I just tested my tap water and it reads around 20ppm nitrate. Is that unusual?
 

Bwood22

I just tested my tap water and it reads around 20ppm nitrate. Is that unusual?
Ok.......that answers a lot of questions.

Im afraid that your plants are sucking up the ammonia and your nitrates are from the tap and not from the cycle.

Oh boy....That's a tremendous amount of nitrates in your tap water.
 

ITsJake

No ammonia in my tap water
But I’m still confused about where I’m at in this cycle considering I’ve been cycling for 2 months. I’ve seen my ammonia cover to nitrite then the nitrite convert to nitrate.
So that goes back to my original thought of removing my plants but I’m not sure what to do at this point :(
 

Bwood22

You need more plants.
And you should contact your local water board and ask them why in the world is there so much nitrate in the water.

You see....with the amount of time that you have been dosing ammonia....your nitrates in your tank should be sky high before you did your first water change 2 days ago.

The zero nitrites have been a concern but i wanted a few more tests and ammonia doses before I gave it more thought.

Something wasn't adding up.

So i think you can scratch the experiment.
You need more plants.
Or a different water source.
I need to think more on this and I'd like to see some input from others as well.

We can work through this.
No ammonia in my tap water
But I’m still confused about where I’m at in this cycle considering I’ve been cycling for 2 months. I’ve seen my ammonia cover to nitrite then the nitrite convert to nitrate.
So that goes back to my original thought of removing my plants but I’m not sure what to do at this point :(
Ok so you have seen the nitrite rise and zero back out.....that's fantastic.

Maybe then we should continue to try and determine how much ammonia you can get rid of in 24 hours.

Because if all of the nitrite is converting then it might be safe to add small batches of fish.

But lets not jump to that just yet....and you will want more plants to eat the nitrate.
 

ITsJake

Okay, thanks for helping me it’s very much appreciated. I do remember having nitrite at one point for a week or 2. Nitrates weren’t present until about 2 or 3 weeks ago. I thought my nitrates would be low after the water change this week but now it’s all making sense.

I guess it could be possible that my city can change water parameters throughout the year but I’m not certain about that.

Am I okay with keeping my ferns in the substrate or will they eventually rot?
 

JuDom

Are you in the US? Max allowance of nitrate present in tap water is 10ppm.
I would express your concern to your local municipalities about this issue.

There is the possibility that the test was taken inaccurately however. Did you shake the mess out of nitrate bottle #2?
When I first started using liquid testing kits, I was unaware of the different methods for each test. That’s why I ask.
Okay, thanks for helping me it’s very much appreciated. I do remember having nitrite at one point for a week or 2. Nitrates weren’t present until about 2 or 3 weeks ago. I thought my nitrates would be low after the water change this week but now it’s all making sense.

I guess it could be possible that my city can change water parameters throughout the year but I’m not certain about that.

Am I okay with keeping my ferns in the substrate or will they eventually rot?
Also, nitrates should have been present with the very first test you took if they are in your source water right?
 

ITsJake

I’ll test again. Normally I shake bottle one up for 10 seconds, apply 10 drops, move the tube around to mix the water with the solution, shake bottle #2 for 30 seconds, apply 10 drops, shake the tube for 1 minute. Then wait 5 minutes for my reading
Oh wow I feel really really realllllly stupid. I totally overlooked the label on the box and bought a….saltwater test kit. My gosh I’m going to never let this go. I’m sorry for the confusion

I will make sure I get the right test kit tomorrow and try this again ‍
 

JuDom

I’ll test again. Normally I shake bottle one up for 10 seconds, apply 10 drops, move the tube around to mix the water with the solution, shake bottle #2 for 30 seconds, apply 10 drops, shake the tube for 1 minute. Then wait 5 minutes for my reading
Oh wow I feel really really realllllly stupid. I totally overlooked the label on the box and bought a….saltwater test kit. My gosh I’m going to never let this go. I’m sorry for the confusion
‍♂️‍♂️‍♂️
Well...I guess you have one now for whenever you start a reef tank. :hilarious:
When you get the correct test kit, let us know what your results are. :)
 

JuDom

Am I okay with keeping my ferns in the substrate or will they eventually rot?
Variations of the java fern and many other types of aquarium plants require the rhizome to be exposed in order for the plant to grow.
So, the roots can be under the substrate but not the kind of woody looking stick part, the rhizome. I usually weight my plants that require this method down with rocks or wedge it in some driftwood until it takes hold.
So, I wouldn’t say your plants will die right away but they won’t grow either. And growth is important because the plant is pulling nutrients from the water column as it grows and therefore assisting your nitrogen cycle. :)
Hope this helps.
 

mattgirl

Ok so you have seen the nitrite rise and zero back out.....that's fantastic.
and this is why it is best to keep all of this on the same thread. We went through this on the other thread. I still suspect the nitrates in this tank to be astronomically high.This tank has been processing up to 4ppm ammonia for about 2 months and now we find nitrates in the source water too.

It is going to take some serious water changes to get them down. Of course we can only get them down to the level of the tap water but if they can be gotten down to that level I really think we will find that this cycle is done and has been for a while.

The biggest clue to what I am saying is the fact that the ammonia will not zero out.
 

ITsJake

I just tested the water with the right kit this time lol. I have .25ppm ammonia and 5ppm nitrates.
Tap water test showed 0ppm nitrates
 

Bwood22

I just tested the water with the right kit this time lol. I have .25ppm ammonia and 5ppm nitrates.
Tap water test showed 0ppm nitrates
Tank water or tap water?

Let us know both plz.
 

ITsJake

Tank water is .25 ammonia and 5 nitrates.

I only tested my tap water for nitrate and it was 0
 

Bwood22

Tank water is .25 ammonia and 5 nitrates.

I only tested my tap water for nitrate and it was 0
Ok good.

I don't think any of us are too worried about the 0.25ppm ammonia, it could be a false positive.

But you could ammonia test the tap and tank and compare them.

I would throw 1ppm of ammonia in the tank and see what happens in 24 hours. See if it all converts.
 

ITsJake

Yeah seems like it stays at that level so I’m not sure what to make of the ammonia readings. I’ll test my tap for ammonia and post the results. I’ll dose to 1ppm as well, thanks
 

Bwood22

Even if it really is 0.25ppm ammonia....if you dose Prime it detoxifies it and your bacteria will convert it so its not an issue regardless.
 

ITsJake

Yeah so if my nitrites go back down to .25 in 25 hours I’m going to consider myself cycled at this point. I do use prime so that will protect my future fish
 

Bwood22

Yeah so if my nitrites go back down to .25 in 25 hours I’m going to consider myself cycled at this point. I do use prime so that will protect my future fish
You mean ammonia?

You said your nitrite was at zero.

But yeah, if your tank processes 1ppm of ammonia in 24 hours then your cycle can handle that much.

My next question would be if it can handle 1.5ppm.

Or.


Since you have your nitrate down to 5ppm you can continue dosing the 2ppm if you want and keep building your bacteria up to handle 2ppm.

You might already be there. So either try it all (2ppm) or step up over the next few day from 1ppm to see how much your tank can handle.
 

ITsJake

Yeah sorry I meant ammonia. I’ll start with 1ppm today and if it can handle it I’ll try 2ppm the next dose
 

JuDom

Yeah sorry I meant ammonia. I’ll start with 1ppm today and if it can handle it I’ll try 2ppm the next dose
Glad to hear your source water doesn’t have 20ppm nitrates. :O
As BWood stated, increasing your ammonia dose now and seeing how it converts will tell you where to go from here.
IMO, I think as long as you’re using prime, you can start adding small batches of fish.
They also make a Stability formula that adds beneficial bacteria to help when you add new fish. :)
 

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