HELP!! Cycle still has ammonia but appears otherwise done

  • #1
We are new to fishkeeping and are in the process of the fish cycle from **** on a 29 gallon species tank with tiger barbs.

Initially we had readings of ammonia and nothing else. This continued until we added bio spira.

A few days into our first dose of bio spira we saw both nitrites and nitrates appear simultaneously. We had steady readings for more than a week of:

ammonia .25 to .50,
nitrite .50
nitrate 5.0

We did do water changes during this time...not knowing any better. We lost one tiger barb when the nitrite first appeared our smallest, shyest and weakest one.

We added a second dose of bio spira , waited three days to change water and then with regular 30-50% water changes trying to keep the ammonia and nitrite to .25 or less not much changed. Our PH is naturally very high 8.4 which is why we keep up the water changes to be safe. We use an API master test kit.

Now finally we see our readings change.

Our ammonia is still .25 (turns out it comes right out of the tap this way)
our nitrites are at 0
our nitrates vary between 5.0 and 10 depending on water changes.

This is consistent for two days now regardless of water changes.

We lost one more tiger barb tonight despite the fact that the nitrite is gone, and the ammonia is pretty much where it has been this entire cycle regardless of water changes. We did start using prime as our conditioner to try to add an extra buffer for the fish. We also used some aquarium salt during the nitrite spike.

We can't tell if we are cycled because the nitrites disappeared after more than a week of steady .50 readings. Since the nitrate is still detectable at
5.0 to 10 we would think so except for those darn ammonia readings. Could the prime be converting the ammonia found in our tap water to ammonium leading to the .25 readings? The concern is that even after 24 hours the ammonia reading still exists. Shouldn't the bacteria remove it in that time?

What now? We don't want to continue to lose fish. They look great, seem happy until suddenly one starts swimming sideways and dies shortly after. We are keeping up with water changes, and the levels seem healthier than they have been all along. So we are at a loss!
  • #2
Hello and welcome to fishlore!
Sorry to hear about your problems with setting up your new tank. Its always such a better idea to cycle your tank without fish, in the event such as yours happens. Once you have fish in the tank, they are susceptible to what ever conditions arise and are defenseless. I have cycled with both fish and fishless and found that cycling fishless was the best way to go and the cycle completed itself faster since I did not need to do the water changes.
Having done the water changes when you did, probably saved your other fish from the fate of the first tiger barb. So that was a good thing.
I have not had experience with the bio spira but have heard great things about that product, and others here that have used it hopefully will stop in and give you some better advice on that.
It sounds like your tank has finally cycled and if you are using the prime, it is turning the ammonia to ammonium and that is good, less toxic for your fish. Continue using the Prime with every water change.
Hopefully now that your tank has settled down your other fish will now survive the ups and downs of those water readings. Its a wonder that any survived that high a reading of nitrites. You were lucky...
Good luck with your tank and fish and again.. welcome to fishlore! ;D

~ kate
  • #3
Welcome to FishLore! It's great to have you with us! What type of test are you using for the ammonia? Some tests can show false positives for ammonia. The Aquarium Pharmaceuticals master test kit contains a 2 part ammonia test that goes from yellow to green and should give you a true ammonia reading. If you go to the PetSMart website and print the page this master test kit is on, then take it to your local store, you should be able to save about half the price of buying one locally. The online price is about $15.00, and they should honor that price at the store if you take the printed page. The liquid ammonia tests that go from yellow to orange, or the test strips can give you false positive readings for ammonia when something like Prime or Amquel plus is used to treat the water. Let us know what you are testing your water with, and we will go from there!
  • #4
When we reset our tank up we used bio spira. Added it the day of set up then added the 3 fish we had left from the first attempt to sustain an aquarium the next evening.

I have done no water changes since setting it back up. Have been testing it daily. I've added a little extra prime here and there whenever the ammonia read anything 1.0 or higher.

I've also abandoned the idea of using salt in the aquarium this time around. The only thing we have used has been Bio Spira and Prime, and the fisha re doing great and appear to be healthy.

Have only lost two guppies, but I believe that is due to a bully fish in the tank that I have not caught yet since both guppies in question has fin tearing and body bruising.
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
We are using an API master test kit

Hi, Thanks for the help. We are using an API master test kit. We purchased online today a test kit by Sea Chem that is supposed to be able to test the two different ammonia separately and we are hoping this will let us know for sure if we are cycled. Our levels are holding consistently at ammonia .25, nitrite 0 and nitrates 5.0 to 10. It's been about 48 hours this way consistently without any water changes. We are using prime as well for our water changes so we are hoping that maybe it has converted our tap water ammonia into ammonium which is reading on the API test kit. We have heard it will take us longer to clear the ammonium once and for all with the nitrates, but that it shouldn't be toxic to the fish. The bad news is that unless the biological filter becomes strong enough to convert the ammonium then each water change should put us in the same boat because of the ammonia of .25 straight from the tap. Are we understanding this correctly or way off base? We'll keep you posted once we get the sea chem kit. Might be a week since we ordered it online! Thanks again for the warm welcome and the help.:;pumpkin
  • #6
I'm not sure about the prime, but I've used Amquel plus to battle ammonia spikes, and the ammonia test in the master test kit shows the true ammonia level. Just a guess, but maybe the prime works differently?
  • #7
My experience has been similar to soulm8salways, I used the bio spira also. However, the ammonia level has never changed - still .25 (and it does NOT come out of the tap that way), and no nitrites or nitrates have ever appeared. it's been 3 weeks and I have no idea where my tank is in the cycle.
  • #8
How are you 'feeding' the cycle?
  • #9
I'm feeding the cycle with two otos. I *thought* it would be okay to put them in since I'd added the Bio Spira, and the fish do seem to be fine. I know it says they don't add a large bio load, but I think their bio load killed my betta because I couldn't get the ammonia under control.. etc. Anyway, with a 5 gallon tank and the two otos the ammonia stays around .25, but last week it slo-o-w-l-y crept up. I did a 50% water change and we started again. I added more Bio Spira, and I test every day, but still - nothing but water and ammonia. I really want to try again with a betta, I adore my Mr Bojangles at work, but I will NOT endanger another betta; that ammonia has to come down!

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