Emergency water help needed

slowdown

I have maybe 7 years' experience with freshwater fish so I have an idea of what I'm doing, but have not faced this before. I had a 20L aquarium going for some years and then set it aside and only used my 55. I recently decided to get the 20 up and going again. Used filter media from the 55, got water into it, let it run a couple weeks, watched water parameters (API kit), everything looked good - nitrates present, no nitrites or ammonia. I ordered new fish - Cory's and white minnows - they are due to arrive TODAY.

I just rechecked my water and was shocked at the results: ammonia near 2.0, nitrites 0.5, nitrates around 60. I have no idea what happened. I've done nothing over the past week besides add plants and a heater (which was in the other tank until 2 days ago).

Is it re-cycling? What do I do with the fish that are due to arrive in 2 hours? Help please...
(The 55 is lightly stocked with a couple rainbow fish, a lot of rasboras, about 10 black/white skirt tetras, a few emerald cories - I could put them in there but didn't know if different cories can mix, and if nano fish (the white cloud minnows) can be in with the rest).
 

BradleyH2O

I was told that heat is pretty important to cycling the tank. The colder it is, the slower the cycle and warmer water will cycle faster. There is water conditioner that will detoxify your water. I prefer Fritz complete, because it’s Made in the USA, but a lot of people use Seachem Prime

What is your pH level?

You can also fill out a Nitrogen cycle template.
 

slowdown

I was told that heat is pretty important to cycling the tank. The colder it is, the slower the cycle and warmer water will cycle faster. There is water conditioner that will detoxify your water. I prefer Fritz complete, because it’s Made in the USA, but a lot of people use Seachem Prime

What is your pH level?

You can also fill out a Nitrogen cycle template.
It's 79 degrees and I have water conditioner in it (Seachem Prime) but that just helps with ammonia, correct? Not nitrites? PH is 6.0-6.5, which is the same as it always is here (I've learned to choose fish that prefer soft water).
 

PurityNWhiteRoses

I think they could be in the 55 temporarily while the tank rights itself. Cories will be fine mixing. They shouldn't have a problem and they won't school together since they are different varieties. The minnows should be okay if you drop your temp down to 70 f or below. Your tank should recycle soon enough and I think your new fish will be fine for now. Best of luck!
 

slowdown

I think they could be in the 55 temporarily while the tank rights itself. Cories will be fine mixing. They shouldn't have a problem and they won't school together since they are different varieties. The minnows should be okay if you drop your temp down to 70 f or below. Your tank should recycle soon enough and I think your new fish will be fine for now. Best of luck!
Thank you.
Are you doing a fish in cycle, fishless cycle or was your tank cycled and you had a sudden ammonia or nitrite spike?: fishless but media and plants from existing tank. Nitrites were 0 a week ago and ammonia/nitrites just spiked. Nitrates oddly have not changed.

Tank
What is the water volume of the tank?: 20L
What type of water are you using in your tank? (tap, well,
RO/DI, other): tap
When did you start cycling the tank?: 2 weeks ago with instant cycle from other tank
What type of filtration are you running on this tank? (sponge, HOB, canister, other): HOB
If canister or HOB list all the media you are running in it. (manufactured cartridges, sponge, etc.):
Do you have good water agitation/surface movement?: sponge from other tank, ceramic Fluval pellets
What is the water temperature?: 78-79


If fish in cycling
What is the entire stocking of this tank? (Please list all fish and inverts): none yet
How often do you feed them and how much?:
Are they showing signs of distress? (fish hiding, staying at the top, looking pale, torn fins, etc):
Do you have live plants in the tank?: Yes
If so are they healthy and actively growing?: Yes, but still small


Products used while cycling
If this is a fishless cycle what ammonia source are you using? (fish food, Dr Tim’s ammonia, other): seeded filter media, that's it
If adding liquid ammonia how often do you dose ammonia in your tank and in what quantity? (1ppm, 2ppm etc.):
If using fish food as your ammonia source how much are you adding and how often?:
Are you using a dechlorinater and if so, which one?:
Are you using bottled bacteria and if so, which one?:
Did you add seeded media from a previously cycled tank?: Yes - filter media
What other products/chemicals are you using? (list them all): Seachem Prime put in over a week ago, nothing since.


Testing and cycling process
What was your knowledge of the nitrogen cycle before beginning to cycle your tank? (none, beginner, intermediate (please explain), advanced): I've kept tanks for 7 years and have a decent understanding of what to do.
What do you use to test the water? (API liquid, test strips, other): API liquid
Did you test your tap water for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and pH, if so post the results below?:
Have you done any water changes and if so, when?: Just now
How much water did you change?: 75%
Did you vacuum the substrate?: No
Did you clean your filter, filter media, decorations and/or glass?: No
If using disposable cartridges have you replaced one recently?: n/a



*Parameters - Very Important
What are your parameters? We need to know the exact numbers, not just “fine” or “safe”.
Tank water: 79, just turned down to 78
Ammonia: 2.0
Nitrite: .5
Nitrate: 40
pH: Was 6.0-6.5 when tested in the 55 just over a week ago

Tap water:
Ammonia:0
Nitrite:0
Nitrate: 5
pH: 7.6 (highest I've ever seen it)
 

Azedenkae

I have maybe 7 years' experience with freshwater fish so I have an idea of what I'm doing, but have not faced this before. I had a 20L aquarium going for some years and then set it aside and only used my 55. I recently decided to get the 20 up and going again. Used filter media from the 55, got water into it, let it run a couple weeks, watched water parameters (API kit), everything looked good - nitrates present, no nitrites or ammonia. I ordered new fish - Cory's and white minnows - they are due to arrive TODAY.

I just rechecked my water and was shocked at the results: ammonia near 2.0, nitrites 0.5, nitrates around 60. I have no idea what happened. I've done nothing over the past week besides add plants and a heater (which was in the other tank until 2 days ago).

Is it re-cycling? What do I do with the fish that are due to arrive in 2 hours? Help please...
(The 55 is lightly stocked with a couple rainbow fish, a lot of rasboras, about 10 black/white skirt tetras, a few emerald cories - I could put them in there but didn't know if different cories can mix, and if nano fish (the white cloud minnows) can be in with the rest).
That's very odd that'd you suddenly see results like that. I mean based on your description, it sounds like it would be expected once you have the fish in because you did not necessarily cycle it in the first place with how you described setting it up.

Regardless, I presume there is no fish in there? If so, the safe thing to do is just do a 100% water change. Then when the fish comes, you can go ahead with it as a fish-in cycle.
 

slowdown

That's very odd that'd you suddenly see results like that. I mean based on your description, it sounds like it would be expected once you have the fish in because you did not necessarily cycle it in the first place with how you described setting it up.

Regardless, I presume there is no fish in there? If so, the safe thing to do is just do a 100% water change. Then when the fish comes, you can go ahead with it as a fish-in cycle.
I used the sponge filter from my other, long-standing tank, and let it sit for a couple of weeks before ordering new fish, which I thought would make it instantly cycle - and it seemed like it did, with 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and 40-60 nitrates until now. It is really odd and I can't figure out what changed.
I'm torn between putting the fish in and doing a fish-in cycle or putting them in the existing tank (water is warmer because of the inhabitants) and moving them once this one stabilizes.
 

Azedenkae

I used the sponge filter from my other, long-standing tank, and let it sit for a couple of weeks before ordering new fish, which I thought would make it instantly cycle - and it seemed like it did, with 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and 40-60 nitrates until now.
So that really is not how instant-cycling a tank works. It'd only be the case if the sponge filter is rated for 20 gallons, which it rarely is (presuming you only took a portion out of your 55 gallon tank). That'd also be why it would be necessary to test the nitrification capacity of the new tank once seeded with nitrifiers from another tank.
It is really odd and I can't figure out what changed.
This is where it is puzzling. Something must have been producing the ammonia. Any chance something fell into the tank and is decomposing in there? Or rather, anything that may be decomposing at all? Plants, etc.?
I'm torn between putting the fish in and doing a fish-in cycle or putting them in the existing tank (water is warmer because of the inhabitants) and moving them once this one stabilizes.
Fish-in cycling is not too difficult nowadays. It's a matter of dosing 1x Prime per 1ppm ammonia/nitrite, and then doing a 50% water change each time it comes close to 5ppm. ^_^ Either way works.
 

slowdown

So that really is not how instant-cycling a tank works. It'd only be the case if the sponge filter is rated for 20 gallons, which it rarely is (presuming you only took a portion out of your 55 gallon tank). That'd also be why it would be necessary to test the nitrification capacity of the new tank once seeded with nitrifiers from another tank.

This is where it is puzzling. Something must have been producing the ammonia. Any chance something fell into the tank and is decomposing in there? Or rather, anything that may be decomposing at all? Plants, etc.?

Fish-in cycling is not too difficult nowadays. It's a matter of dosing 1x Prime per 1ppm ammonia/nitrite, and h
Thanks for all of this. I'd put an extra sponge filter in my 55 months ago and used it in its entirety (the 55 has 2 HOB filters, this came out of one). There are a few dying leaves on one plant, so I assume that is the source of the ammonia. But shouldn't the BB/nitrates take care of that before, avoiding nitrites?
 

Blacksheep1

I always thought media had to have water filtering through for it to make a difference too so maybe if it just floated it didn’t do much good. I wonder if your ammonia source was converted to ammonium with the low ph level
 

slowdown

An hour after the water change, ammonia is 0.5 and nitrites are 0 -
I always thought media had to have water filtering through for it to make a difference too so maybe if it just floated it didn’t do much good. I wonder if your ammonia source was converted to ammonium with the low ph level
The filter has been running since I put it in, so plenty of water flow. Hadn't thought about that with ammonium -
 

Azedenkae

Thanks for all of this. I'd put an extra sponge filter in my 55 months ago and used it in its entirety (the 55 has 2 HOB filters, this came out of one). There are a few dying leaves on one plant, so I assume that is the source of the ammonia. But shouldn't the BB/nitrates take care of that before, avoiding nitrites?
The presence of nitrite would indicate that there is not enough nitrite-oxidizers handling the nitrite produced by the ammonia-oxidizers, which yeah would be indicative that you kickstarted the cycle (which is great), but it is still occurring. A robust nitrification capacity should be able to handle ammonia produced from decaying plants relatively easily.

But it is good to see ammonia and nitrite nearing zero now.
 

slowdown

The presence of nitrite would indicate that there is not enough nitrite-oxidizers handling the nitrite produced by the ammonia-oxidizers, which yeah would be indicative that you kickstarted the cycle (which is great), but it is still occurring. A robust nitrification capacity should be able to handle ammonia produced from decaying plants relatively easily.

But it is good to see ammonia and nitrite nearing zero now.
So basically go ahead with fish-in, but monitor all levels daily, and water change/treat with Prime as needed? I'm assuming that the presence of nitrates means I'm on the better side of the curve -
 

Azedenkae

So basically go ahead with fish-in, but monitor all levels daily, and water change/treat with Prime as needed? I'm assuming that the presence of nitrates means I'm on the better side of the curve -
You say your nitrite is at zero now, right?

Can you measure nitrate again? Nitrate measurements by the API test kit is affected by the presence of nitrite, so your initial nitrate measurement may not be accurate.
 

slowdown

You say your nitrite is at zero now, right?

Can you measure nitrate again? Nitrate measurements by the API test kit is affected by the presence of nitrite, so your initial nitrate measurement may not be accurate.
Nitrite is 0, nitrate is also now 0, which is not what I wanted to see.

I'm thinking of putting the Cories into the 55, since they are less hardy, and the minnows into the 20.
 

Azedenkae

Nitrite is 0, nitrate is also now 0, which is not what I wanted to see.

I'm thinking of putting the Cories into the 55, since they are less hardy, and the minnows into the 20.
Can I just check - you mentioned you did a 75% water change just now. Did you do any other water change since then?
 

Blacksheep1

Could the zero nitrates be because of the water change and no bio load? You clearly have good knowledge and would be able to spot a problem but personally I’d keep the fish together for quarantine purposes instead of maybe infecting the established 55g. If you’ve ordered a decent amount of both fish , you’re likely to go through another ‘mini’ cycle with raised ammonia levels from stocking anyway so just test and wc as needed
 

slowdown

Can I just check - you mentioned you did a 75% water change just now. Did you do any other water change since then?
No. I'm honestly confused and am wondering if I somehow had some sort of faulty reading along the way. The 75% change is the only change the tank has had since it was set up.
Could the zero nitrates be because of the water change and no bio load? You clearly have good knowledge and would be able to spot a problem but personally I’d keep the fish together for quarantine purposes instead of maybe infecting the established 55g. If you’ve ordered a decent amount of both fish , you’re likely to go through another ‘mini’ cycle with raised ammonia levels from stocking anyway so just test and wc as needed
Good point about QT - last thing I need is a problem with the other tank.
 

Azedenkae

No. I'm honestly confused and am wondering if I somehow had some sort of faulty reading along the way. The 75% change is the only change the tank has had since it was set up.
I think it makes sense, the readings. You probably had minimal to no nitrate in the first place.

75% water change would indeed bring 2ppm ammonia to 0.5ppm, and nitrite probably now to being so minimal that it does not affect the nitrate testing, and thus now nitrate actually reads what it really is.

Have a watch of this video:

It explains (briefly) why the presence of nitrite affects nitrate readings.
 

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