fishless cycling is making me want to tear my hair out! Can you guys help?

  • #1
First of all, I was here a while ago asking about fish IN cycling.It was going fine until I hit a huge nitrite spike that just WOULD not go down. I went to my LFS and they gave me an unlabled substance with the words "nitrifier" written on it, that was blue. They told me that it contained "professional" nitrifying bacteria and would get me over the hump. Me being gullible (SMH) did it, and used as directed (1 mL per 20 gal, so I used .5 mL for my 10 gallon tank.) This crashed my tank. Its been a month and even with no water changes, my numbers have all been 0,0,0. in that tank. I finally couldnt take my tank being so gross and cleaned it, poor axie!!

I started a second tank a month ago in case the nitrifying solution did not work, and started a fishless cycle with fish food.

Tank 2 is a 10 gallon freshwater tank, about 75-80*F (its in a heated room). I've got an Aqueon over the side hang on filter for it. I'm using goldfish flakes.

When I started 5/4/12, my readings were 0.0.0.
When I checked again on 5/8/12 my readings were .5-1.0ppm Ammonia, .25 nitrite, 0 nitrates.
When I checked again on 5/20/12 my readings were 8.ppm Ammonia, .25 nitrite, 0 nitrates. I stopped feeding at this point, although now i'm not sure if I should have stopped X_X

The last couple readings over the last few days have been 0 Ammonia, maxed out nitrite, maxed out nitrate!

What do I do to get the cycle to complete? Do I need to add more fish food (aka ammonia) to the tank?
I really suck at cycling apparently X_X

I've been told that the cycle will be complete when I add food and within 12 hours the readings are 0,0, <40ppm nitrate. Is this true? Do I just need to keep adding fish food?

could I put an uncycled sponge filter in the 10 gallon tank after its been successfully cycled to get it ready to cycle a 20 gallon long tank? I don't have substrate in ANY tank yet so I can't seed. If I do put sand in the filtered tank, how long will it take to be ready to seed the 20 gallon tank?

thanks in advance, and sorry I have to be asking again!
  • #2
I always use established filter media to cycle, but I believe you should keep using the fish food until both your ammonia and nitrites are at 0.

Sorry you've had so much trouble.

I'm sure others will give you more knowledgeable answers.
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
thanks for responding! I will put in a bit of fish food then, perhaps that was my problem, I saw the maxed levels of ammonia and stopped feeding the tank. SMH! LOL at least there is no fish in that tank while i'm learning Never thought I would be so bad at cycling!
  • #4
0 ammonia is a good thing. now your in the part that takes the longest though. every time I use pure ammonia its much easier. I would add a lil pinch of food every 2 maybe 3 days. I do a 30% water change every week even though I'm cycling, your not removing beneficial bacteria as they are not free floating in the water. this part can take 1-3 weeks USUALLY so be patient. you will know your close when you nitrite starts to go down. when it hits 0 and your ammonia is 0 your tank should be cycled. nitrate really isn't a good indicator, mines been 0 when I was done because I had a very heavily planted tank. I'm sure yours will be high though so do a big water change and good gravel vac when your done.

you will prob have a lot of food in your gravel when your done witch can cause ammonia spikes later if you don't clean it good. but you don't want to take to much beneficial bacteria out of the gravel after the cycle is done. that's the problem with the food method. so you kinda have to pic a middle ground, and make sure you don't add to many fish right away. ill keep a eye on this thread so ask away if I wasn't clear.
  • #5
You don't do waterchanges during a fishless cycle, not because might remove the bacteria but because you are removing the food source thebacteria need to grow the colony.

As stated above you need to provide a ammonia source once it gets to dropping to 0. the bacteria that processes ammonia and the one that processes nitrite are two different bacterias, you need to feed the one that processes the ammonia, or it will die out, and then the nitrite bacteria won't have a food source either.
  • #6
his ammonia was up to 8.0 way to high so taking that down and stopping some feedings sounds like a good idea to me. and iv heard of cycles stalling and water change helped it. and your not taking much ammonia out, its in the gravel where the food is decaying so only gravel vacs will take to much ammonia out. but you have been doing this longer than me so maybe I'm wrong but I don't think so.
  • #7
The ammonia is in the water a 25% waer change will remove 25% of the ammonia, granted any food still decaying may create more, but there is a delayed reaction, and. As it rots away it will stop providing enough for the colny to grow. While a cycle can stall from high ammonia, the ammonia is now zero, w so a water change will only remove what little may be there now feeding the bacteria, before it can register on the test.
  • #8
ok iv always done water changes but I added pure ammonia so didnt really have to worry about it cuz I could add as much as I wanted instantly. maybe that's the difference. but my stall or what I'm pretty sure was a stall happened in this stage. did a water changes via advice from this site and poof done two days later.

my first tank I over feed a lot and had ammonia spikes of 1.0 and I could not get it to go down no matter how many water changes I did. only thing that got rid of it was a lot of gravel vacs. so seemed to me that water changes didnt really help when there was a lot of food in the gravel.

to be clear to the original poster your ammonia will stay 0. just keep adding food every other day, small pinch.
  • #9
Yes, if you can find pure ammonia it is a lot eiasier to dose( and less messy) usually rotting food in the substrate is a problem when there is fish or another source of ammonia already feding the bacteria, then the ammonia from the food is extra.

I was just trying to claritfy, and you are correct about 8 ppm is high, and a partial water change at that point might have helped speed things along. Its just a bit late now.

And (OP) don't worry about the nitrates right now, they can be sky high you will do waterchanges to lower them before the fish are added.
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
thanks all! I'm not sure where the gravel came from as I don't have ANY substrate in that tank right now
I looked all over for the pure ammonia but couldnt find any, hence the darn fish food. THe added benefit of having fish food and no fish though is that my Madagascar Hissers are getting fed fish flakes, which they love

Ok, so dose it every other day to every 2 days, and keep an eye on the levels. Dont water change until ammonia and nitrite are 0, and don't add my axolotl until I do a water change once the levels have hit 0 except for nitrate (which is why i'm doing the water change. AWESOME!! Thanks guys so much!!!!

Thanks for being so helpful and not jumping down my throat I'll pop in and update in case anyone is wondering in a few days/week when there are noticeable changes (or if there arent!).
  • #11
well that prob my fault just figured you had substraight sorry. well you won't have any porb cleaning up all the food when the cycles over. yes that all sounds right hope it goes fast for you testing over and over sucks! the first one is the worst.
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
I"m planning on putting sand in after tank is cycled, axolotls can't be put on gravel as they eat it as they are suction/vacuum feeders and well eat gravel and rocks up to the size of their HEAD O.O
Shes finally old enough that sand is small enough to be safe, so sand will go in after the cycle. Dont really want to mess with it yet

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