Have I Started The Nitrogen Cycle? Question

Discussion in 'Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle' started by Hyler, Mar 26, 2010.

  1. HylerNew MemberMember

    Hello everyone, I have a beginner question again. (I suspect I'm going to have those for a while.) The responses I received from my previous one were overwhelming, so here's another one.

    The setup: 10 gallons, gravel, 1 Java Fern, 4 cherry barbs, 1 guppy. Temperature is about 78 F. Age is one week and I am using the API Master Freshwater Kit.

    The story: as expected, I was seeing rising ammonia levels and no nitrites or nitrates. Using ammonia remover between water changes kept the fish alive. I managed to get my hands on a used filter pad (about 4" x 10", it came from a big one) and some water from a cycled, established tank yesterday (less than 24 hours ago as of this writing). I cut out a few small squares off the pad and put them in my filter, while I floated the rest in my tank.

    The readings this morning: ammonia is ~0.25–0.50 ppm, nitrites are 0 ppm and nitrates are ~20–30 ppm.

    The question: what's going on? I have been keeping my ammonia levels at the above range just with water changes and chemicals alone for the last few days. Now that I am seeing nitrates, my understanding of the nitrogen cycle (limited as it may be) suggests that I shouldn't be seeing ammonia anymore, particularly considering the nitrate levels I measured. Those nitrates had to come from somewhere, or they wouldn't be there, right? And the nitrites are at a historic market low of 0, so why the ammonia? Am I in the middle of the cycle, the beginning, or is something else the case? With just those five fish, the ammonia levels should drop to zero eventually, shouldn't they? Or am I simply being too impatient, again?

    Any help or a plausible theory that explains this would be greatly appreciated!

    For the record, I'm not seeing any clumps or formations of any kind on my bio-media that would make me think I am seeing bacteria colonies. Not that I would know what to look for (or if they can even be seen). Still... the nitrates. Whence comest they?

    Thanks a bunch!

    - George
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2010
  2. harpua2002Fishlore VIPMember

    Have you tested your tap water for nitrate? Or, have you checked the lot number on your test kit bottles? A bad test kit could give you some wonky readings.

    The filter pad should help a ton with cycling. However, I would suggest not using the ammonia remover, as it may interfere with your cycle.
  3. LucyModeratorModerator Member

    Cycling is really frustrating!

    NitrItes (not NitrAtes) are the by product of Ammonia.
    NitrAtes are the by product of NitrItes.

    Have you checked your tap water for nitrAtes?
    What products are you adding....water conditioner, bacterial additives?

    Ummm...ok, re-read your post.

    When you add water from another tank and test the new tank, you're getting readings of the OLD water. Not an indication of what your NEW tank is doing.

    However, since you seeded the new tank with used filter media, it's quite possible that you won't see a nitrIte reading.
    Ime, it's possible to transfer more of the bacteria that process nitrItes and the bacteria that process ammonia.
  4. jglove276Valued MemberMember

    well the nitrates would of came from the cycled media you added and as far as the ammonia you may see small traces for a few days until your new nitrates take hold. hang in there looks like your almost there.
  5. jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    As Lucy said, when you transfer water from a previously cycled tank, all you are really transferring is the nitates. The benificial bacteria does not live in the water, so none of that is transfered over.

    Becareful using ammonia remover. If it strips the ammonia from the water, it will starve the ammonia eating bacteria and it will die. A better solution is to use Prime or Amquel+ as your water conditioner. It will detox the ammonia and nititres for 24 hours, but still leave them available to feed the bacteria.

    Lastly, the benificial bacteria isn't visable to the naked eye.
  6. HylerNew MemberMember

    To reply to some questions: yes, I have tested my tap water. Before the seeded media, my tank water would read some ammonia (depending on how recently I did a water change), zero nitrites, and zero nitrates.

    Right now (since the introduction of the seeded pad) I have not added any chemicals at all. Just did a 15% water change last night.

    I don't think I added enough of the established tank's water to affect the reading so much, but it could be.

    I'll watch the chemistry, and report! Maybe I'll even learn something...

    Right now I'm going with (1) the nitrate readings are from the added water, or (2) I've introduced more Nitrobacter than Nitrosomonas.

    - George
  7. jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    Additionally, if you are using the API nitrate test kit you need to really, really shake and pound bottle number 2. Bottle #2 contains crystals suspended in liquid and the crystals tend to seperate from the liquid and clump in the bottom of the bottle. Unless the crystals are resuspended in the liquid you will get a false nitrate reading.
  8. LucyModeratorModerator Member


    Good reminder John!