Getting Past High Nitrites (newbie)

KatieSommer
  • #1
HI folks. First aquarium here. We have a 3 gallon tank with filter and heater set up on Feburary 24. My 10-year-old son and I set it all up before I knew about the nitrogen cycle, etc., so we've had some fish deaths in the process. (Please don't criticize, it has been hard enough on my sweet, sensitive, animal-loving son. We just didn't know. Trust me, I'd do it completely differently if I could.) So when I read about fish and fish less cycles, I guess I have both. I currently have no fish in there.

Since last Saturday, my nitrites have been very high--I don't have the exact numbers but I'd bet they were around 5.0. The water test was done by a guy at my LFS. He specifically said my ammonia wasn't bad, but I don't have the number on that either. Did a PWC with gravel vacuum per the guy at LFS. Again brought in sample to LFS to test on Monday--nitrites were still very high. Bought my own freshwater kit (AMI master) yesterday and tested myself last night. Ammonia was .25-..50, Nitrites were around 5, and Nitrates were 5. Did a partial water change (maybe 25%) with gravel vacuum per our LFS, tested again, and stats were the exact same. I'm probably expecting too much by wanting to see lower…something-or-other this soon but I'm starting to wonder if I'm doing something fundamentally wrong to be stuck for almost a whole week on these high nitrites.

I'm not sure what to do at this point. Any ideas? I am open to anything. Like I said, the tank is just running with the filter, airstone, and heater, with no fish in it. But since there USED to be fish in there, there's still food debris, etc., so I didn't feel the need to add more.

t just want to get this cycle going. Thanks for your input.
 
Tesla
  • #2
Welcome to fishlore and trust me there are plenty in here with a similar start as yours! My very first tank was no different, the good thing is you caught it and are working to fix it.
Nitrites and Ammonia are both very harmful to fish.

I would suggest few steps to help, firstly do a 70-80% water changes daily over next 2-3 days to get nitrites down and secondly with every water change add prime as it will help with both ammonia and nitrites up to 1ppm. Once you get the nitrites down below 1ppm do a regular water change every 2-3 days to keep nitrites below 1ppm and with every water change remember to add prime. As you can see, water test kit, water changes and prime are your best friend for next few days until you get the beneficial bacteria established.
Lastly, if possible get a used / seeded filter pad from a friend / LFS (healthy tank) which has beneficial bacteria on it and add it to your filter - it will help speed up the BB cycle. And add some media to your filter to give more area to BB to establish.
 
KatieSommer
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Thank you Tesla. When you say "regular water change"-- you don't mean a 100% water change right? Water changes are such a mental hurdle for me. I feel like we're introducing such a huge variable into the cycle with such substantial changes!

I use the Tetra Whisper filter and carbon filter cartridges--when you say "seeded filter pad", can you explain how I do that?

Thank you for your kindness and understanding! Forums like this are the BEST.
 
mattgirl
  • #4
Tesla gave you some very sound advice. The only thing I would add is since you are now doing a fishless cycle you will have to add an ammonia source to feed the bacteria. You can buy ammonia at a hardware store and probably other places as well. You want pure ammonia, not one that has had anything added to it such as soap or fragrances. If it forms bubbles when shaken it isn't pure ammonia.
 
Tesla
  • #5
mattgirl good catch! in a hurry I completely missed the fishless part !! My apologies to OP, the advice and suggestions was for a fish-in cycle.

I would suggest doing couple of 60-70% water changes to bring down the nitrites to 2ppm, never do a 100% WC
I am a big fan of the article Fishless Cycling that explains the details in a step by step way. As mattgirl explained above get pure ammonia / Dr Tim's ammonium chloride and use that as the source for ammonia, keep ammonia and nitrites below 2 ppm. I would request to read the article link posted, it is really informative.

By seeded filter pad I meant a used filter pad that will look a bit dirty and will have beneficial bacteria on it.
 
KatieSommer
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
OK super. I've read everything I can find on this, including that ammonia article, so I feel like I have a good grasp of the process. I just didn't know if I was technically a fish or fish less cycle, considering the history of the aquarium! Is adding ammonia like starting from scratch, though? Is it better to dump and rinse everything and start over?

I have Prime and added some. I will see how tomorrow's tests are. If the ammonia goes down, maybe I'll skip that part, but if it's still the same I will run out and get some to add.

THANK YOU!
 
mattgirl
  • #7
OK super. I've read everything I can find on this, including that ammonia article, so I feel like I have a good grasp of the process. I just didn't know if I was technically a fish or fish less cycle, considering the history of the aquarium! Is adding ammonia like starting from scratch, though? Is it better to dump and rinse everything and start over?

I have Prime and added some. I will see how tomorrow's tests are. If the ammonia goes down, maybe I'll skip that part, but if it's still the same I will run out and get some to add.

THANK YOU!
No, adding the ammonia is just replacing the ammonia that was being produced by the fish. Now that they are no longer in there you have to continue to feed the bacteria that has started growing in there. I wouldn't break it down and start over. It looks like you are already well into your cycle. Just continue feeding the bacteria ammonia.
 
KatieSommer
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
HI folks. I'm the OP. Wanted to update and see if anyone had any other ideas. I have had extremely high nitrites for almost 2 weeks now (since at least 3/9, which is the first time I tested). I have never seen it under 5ppm. I've been following this article: Fishless Cycling to a "T", adding ammonia etc. for a fishless cycle and the ammonia easily goes to 0 but nitrites don't budge. I'm using Prime and Stability as well. 30% water changes every day. I'm not vacuuming or anything since it's fishless. Starting to get a little frustrated. How can I get this cycle going? What am I doing wrong?
 
mattgirl
  • #9
HI folks. I'm the OP. Wanted to update and see if anyone had any other ideas. I have had extremely high nitrites for almost 2 weeks now (since at least 3/9, which is the first time I tested). I have never seen it under 5ppm. I've been following this article: Fishless Cycling to a "T", adding ammonia etc. for a fishless cycle and the ammonia easily goes to 0 but nitrites don't budge. I'm using Prime and Stability as well. 30% water changes every day. I'm not vacuuming or anything since it's fishless. Starting to get a little frustrated. How can I get this cycle going? What am I doing wrong?
The way I look at things if what I am doing is not working then it is time to change things up a bit.

I would stop adding stability. Apparently it isn't working for you. I would do a 75% water change now and then dose the ammonia up to at least 3. Look at it this way, when one does a fish in cycle there is a steady amount of ammonia. It never drops down to zero. You are trying to recreate that environment without putting fish in harms way.

I believe you need a steady supply of ammonia to help your cycle complete its job. For some reason the nitrites are not getting what they need to convert over to nitrates. I would also do a 30% water change daily and as soon as I saw the ammonia hit .25 or so I would dose it back up. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to see your nitrites drop to zero within 3 or 4 days.

I could be totally wrong but at this point your cycle is stalled at the nitrite stage and it needs to be jump started.

edited to add: normally water changes are not necessary when doing a fishless cycle. I only recommend them in this case because of the stalled nitrites.
 
GirlFriday
  • #10
I'm just going to throw this out there because I made this mistake.
When you are doing water changes, you should treat the water in a bucket for cholorine, leave it a few hours or overnight and then add it to tank.
Me NOT adding water directly from the tap balanced out my cycle in a few days.
Hang in there!
 
mattgirl
  • #11
I'm just going to throw this out there because I made this mistake.
When you are doing water changes, you should treat the water in a bucket for cholorine, leave it a few hours or overnight and then add it to tank.
Me NOT adding water directly from the tap balanced out my cycle in a few days.
Hang in there!
Good catch! but you really don't have to age the water after adding Prime. Prime instantly makes tap water safe.

I am really glad you caught your problem and was able to get your tank back on track quickly.
 
KatieSommer
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
Thanks folks. I fill my bucket with tap water, treat, then put in the aquarium (although I don't leave for that long). Thank you for the suggestion, though--glad it kicked yours into gear!

mattgirl, I think you're right. I keep going back to the ammonia, also. Ammonia has never ever been my problem, it's always been nitrites, so that seems like a good place to start. Can I ask why you suggest discontinuing the Stability? Thank you!
 
Goldiemom
  • #13
I actually just learned this myself and it may help you. It helped me after 5 weeks of cycling a pond. Anyway, when you keep adding ammonia, your nitrites continue to stay high to keep up with the ammonia. Don't add anymore ammonia until both the ammonia AND the nitrites have dropped to 0. Then add enough ammonia to get your ammonia to 2.0 again. I did this and within a few days, my nitrites had dropped and I had nitrates. My pond was cycled. This will only work if you haven't done the water change yet and lowered everything already. I honestly thought when I read it that the site was crazy but in desperation I tried it and it did work. Don't want to confuse you. Go ahead and do what you all planned but if it doesn't work, then you may want to try this. I have cycled a number of tanks and was ready to pull my hair out until I tried this. I guess we can all learn something new everyday.

mattgirl good catch! in a hurry I completely missed the fishless part !! My apologies to OP, the advice and suggestions was for a fish-in cycle.

I would suggest doing couple of 60-70% water changes to bring down the nitrites to 2ppm, never do a 100% WC
I am a big fan of the article Fishless Cycling that explains the details in a step by step way. As mattgirl explained above get pure ammonia / Dr Tim's ammonium chloride and use that as the source for ammonia, keep ammonia and nitrites below 2 ppm. I would request to read the article link posted, it is really informative.

By seeded filter pad I meant a used filter pad that will look a bit dirty and will have beneficial bacteria on it.
Be sure the seeded pad stays wet...don't use a dirty filter pad that has dried out or the bacteria will have died.
 
Tesla
  • #14
At this stage you need to add ammonia once every 2-3 days upto 2ppm. Keep regular water changes going daily 50% and it should help keep nitrites in check. With prime you need not age the water, I used to directly fill up the tank and dose prime at beginning and mid way. Just do not add water from tap directly into the filter.
 
Goldiemom
  • #15
I would really suggest reading Dr. Tim's Fishless Cycle. It is wonderful. He also has a video on how to do a fishless cycle. It was my bible the first time around.
 
KatieSommer
  • Thread Starter
  • #16
At this stage you need to add ammonia once every 2-3 days upto 2ppm. Keep regular water changes going daily 50% and it should help keep nitrites in check. With prime you need not age the water, I used to directly fill up the tank and dose prime at beginning and mid way. Just do not add water from tap directly into the filter.

Thank you Tesla. This is exactly what I've been doing (per the great article you directed me to above), except 30% vs. 50% pwc, and I just can't believe how high the nitrites are staying. It sounds like lots of people get frustrated at this point so maybe I just need to sit tight, dose with ammonia, nix the Stability, and do a 50% change. Should I test for nitrites right after the water change?
 
mattgirl
  • #17
I actually just learned this myself and it may help you. It helped me after 5 weeks of cycling a pond. Anyway, when you keep adding ammonia, your nitrites continue to stay high to keep up with the ammonia. Don't add anymore ammonia until both the ammonia AND the nitrites have dropped to 0. Then add enough ammonia to get your ammonia to 2.0 again. I did this and within a few days, my nitrites had dropped and I had nitrates. My pond was cycled. This will only work if you haven't done the water change yet and lowered everything already. I honestly thought when I read it that the site was crazy but in desperation I tried it and it did work. Don't want to confuse you. Go ahead and do what you all planned but if it doesn't work, then you may want to try this. I have cycled a number of tanks and was ready to pull my hair out until I tried this. I guess we can all learn something new everyday.
That is very interesting. I am thrilled that you finally got your pond cycled. If one thing doesn't work it is great that there are other things to try.

It still amazes me as to why something works perfectly in one tank and someone else does the exact same thing and it doesn't. The only thing I can think of to be the cause of it is the differences in the water chemistry from place to place.

Thanks folks. I fill my bucket with tap water, treat, then put in the aquarium (although I don't leave for that long). Thank you for the suggestion, though--glad it kicked yours into gear!

mattgirl, I think you're right. I keep going back to the ammonia, also. Ammonia has never ever been my problem, it's always been nitrites, so that seems like a good place to start. Can I ask why you suggest discontinuing the Stability? Thank you!
I only suggested discontinuing it because apparently it isn't working. I've never used it so can't say whether it is helping or hurting but since you have been stuck in limbo it doesn't appear to be working. you may have said previously and I missed it. Are you seeing any nitrates yet?

From all I have read Stability is a great product to use when adding new fish though to help the BB build up quickly to handle the heavier bio-load.

Under normal conditions I would just be recommending water changes to get the nitrites down because that is what worked in my tank but for some reason that doesn't work for every tank and it ends up just trial and error to find what works in others. Its a mystery to me.
 
Goldiemom
  • #18
I agree, mattgirl. I have even done the exact same thing for 2 different tanks. One worked and the other didn't. I actually think it is good that we all have a little different take on how to do the cycles. Then you have other people that have tried other things to benchmark off of when something isn't working for you. When something goes wrong, it reminds me that I don't know everything.
 
KatieSommer
  • Thread Starter
  • #19
I agree, mattgirl. I have even done the exact same thing for 2 different tanks. One worked and the other didn't. I actually think it is good that we all have a little different take on how to do the cycles. Then you have other people that have tried other things to benchmark off of when something isn't working for you. When something goes wrong, it reminds me that I don't know everything.

Agreed 100% with this, but SO very frustrating for newbies like me! Just thankful to learn something new from kind people, though.
 
Tesla
  • #20
Thank you Tesla. This is exactly what I've been doing (per the great article you directed me to above), except 30% vs. 50% pwc, and I just can't believe how high the nitrites are staying. It sounds like lots of people get frustrated at this point so maybe I just need to sit tight, dose with ammonia, nix the Stability, and do a 50% change. Should I test for nitrites right after the water change?
If you hitting that high nitrites with daily water changes and alternate day feeding it means your nitrites are way higher than 5ppm atm. You need 50-60% water changes daily and no feeding for 2-3 days to get it back below 2ppm. Also check your source water to see if it has ammonia or nitrites. Check nitrites after wc to see how much it is bringing it down.
 
Tesla
  • #21
Also next few ammonia feedings keep it to 1ppm
 

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