Help! Cycling mishaps and densely stocked tank

StinkyLoaf

Member
I have two empty aquariums that due to emergencies were undergoing fish-in cycles: a 15 and 5 gallon. I dosed on Seachem Prime daily and later incorporated water changes as recommended to me. Both tanks got to a point where their fish needed to be transferred to my already cycled 30 gallon in my bedroom, and now the 30 gallon is densely stocked and I don’t know what to do. I‘m not in a situation where I can give these fish away because these fish belong to others in my house, who would decline giving them away. The 30 gallon is running a Fluval 307 for filtration and an airstone. No live plants, but the substrate is sand and the tank also includes driftwood, spiderwood and rocks, things I feel would alter the chemistry of the water but I’m unsure how.

The other two tanks remain fishless and I’m worried that the effects the fish-in cycles have had can’t be reversed without restarting the aquariums completely. I fear that the bacteria died out, and due to too many fish being used in the cycles, the parameters as they stand can’t improve (this I’ve experienced when testing using a drip test kit). Dosing on Prime daily begun having no effect and wouldn’t protect the fish, causing them to gasp. I also heard that by using Prime, you can’t get an accurate ammonia test reading. I strongly believe that something mysterious also depleted bacteria of food before needing to add fish but I don’t know what. For several weeks the nitrite stayed at 5ppm and ammonia 0ppm until fish were added. The tanks have been cycling for nearly two months.

What I need help with is 1.) advice on monitoring my densely stocked 30 gallon aquarium and if the current setup I talked about can help, and 2.) can I take fish out of the fish-in cycle and still manage to cycle the tank somehow? I have searched for answers online and asked my retailer already. Now I have signed up to Fishlore to ask you guys for help. Thanks.
 

Fae

Member
mattgirl
 

mattgirl

Member
When doing a fish in cycle you have to do water changes. Sometimes even daily water changes. Please read this thread. Fish In Nitrogen Cycle Simplified | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 414083

I fear that the bacteria died out, and due to too many fish being used in the cycles,
too many fish while doing a fish in cycle is not going to cause the bacteria to die out. The problems you were having were caused by lack of water changes. I do recommend using Prime while fish in cycling but only along with water changes. NEVER in place of a water change. If there is enough ammonia and/or nitrites to need Prime then there is enough to warrant a water change along with adding Prime.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
mattgirl said:
When doing a fish in cycle you have to do water changes. Sometimes even daily water changes. Please read this thread. Fish In Nitrogen Cycle Simplified | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 414083


too many fish while doing a fish in cycle is not going to cause the bacteria to die out. The problems you were having were caused by lack of water changes. I do recommend using Prime while fish in cycling but only along with water changes. NEVER in place of a water change. If there is enough ammonia and/or nitrites to need Prime then there is enough to warrant a water change along with adding Prime.
Thanks for all the information, I really need it. The fish had to be taken out due to my mistake and are in my community tank now. Can I continue on cycling the tanks without the fish that were in them?
 

mattgirl

Member
CrustyDusty said:
Thanks for all the information, I really need it. The fish had to be taken out due to my mistake and are in my community tank now. Can I continue on cycling the tanks without the fish that were in them?
You can but you will need an ammonia source. That ammonia source can be fish food (I highly recommend finely crushed flakes), a piece of raw shrimp (smelly but will work) or liquid ammonia. If you are going to use liquid ammonia I recommend you get Dr. Tim's ammonuim chloride. It comes in a dropper bottle so is easy to dose the correct amount.

How is the community tank doing? Are you having ammonia/nitrite spike in it because of the extra fish? You may need to do some extra water changes on it to compensate for the higher bio-load even if the numbers aren't spiking.

What are the numbers in the 2 tanks you are trying to cycle?
pH:
ammonia:
nitrite:
nitrate:
temp:
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
mattgirl said:
You can but you will need an ammonia source. That ammonia source can be fish food (I highly recommend finely crushed flakes), a piece of raw shrimp (smelly but will work) or liquid ammonia. If you are going to use liquid ammonia I recommend you get Dr. Tim's ammonuim chloride. It comes in a dropper bottle so is easy to dose the correct amount.

How is the community tank doing? Are you having ammonia/nitrite spike in it because of the extra fish? You may need to do some extra water changes on it to compensate for the higher bio-load even if the numbers aren't spiking.

What are the numbers in the 2 tanks you are trying to cycle?
pH:
ammonia:
nitrite:
nitrate:
temp:
Thank you. I have been doing a daily dose of flake food in small amounts to feed the bacteria. I actually tested my 30 gallon tank a moment ago. The readings were:

Ammonia - 0ppm
Nitrite - 0ppm
Nitrate - 20ppm
pH - 7.0
Temp - 25°C

I haven’t tested the other two yet. I will tomorrow once I know the Prime has worn off so I can get an accurate reading for ammonia.
 

mattgirl

Member
CrustyDusty said:
Thank you. I have been doing a daily dose of flake food in small amounts to feed the bacteria. I actually tested my 30 gallon tank a moment ago. The readings were:

Ammonia - 0ppm
Nitrite - 0ppm
Nitrate - 20ppm
pH - 7.0
Temp - 25°C

I haven’t tested the other two yet. I will tomorrow once I know the Prime has worn off so I can get an accurate reading for ammonia.
It looks like your main tank is doing well.

The fish food should be keeping the bacteria fed. I've actually never noticed Prime affecting the ammonia reading. It doesn't remove the ammonia. It simply detoxes it. If there is ammonia there it will still show up in the test tube.

Since you no longer have fish in these tanks you don't want to be adding extra Prime. In fact any of the many water conditioners will work just as well if not even better. With no fish in a tank we don't need to ammonia detoxed. We do need the chlorine/chloramines removed so we need to add our water conditioner to all new water going in the tank.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
mattgirl said:
It looks like your main tank is doing well.

The fish food should be keeping the bacteria fed. I've actually never noticed Prime affecting the ammonia reading. It doesn't remove the ammonia. It simply detoxes it. If there is ammonia there it will still show up in the test tube.
Thanks. I read on Seachem’s website that Prime can create a false reading for ammonia, but I learned this too late to use this information to my advantage during the fish-in cycles. Every time I tested the tanks there was a high reading of ammonia, which confused me when accompanied with the high amounts of nitrite and/or nitrate. I was never sure which stage of the cycle I was at. Should I still use Prime even without the fish or can I use a tapsafe instead when changing water?
 

mattgirl

Member
CrustyDusty said:
Thanks. I read on Seachem’s website that Prime can create a false reading for ammonia, but I learned this too late to use this information to my advantage during the fish-in cycles. Every time I tested the tanks there was a high reading of ammonia, which confused me when accompanied with the high amounts of nitrite and/or nitrate. I was never sure which stage of the cycle I was at. Should I still use Prime even without the fish or can I use a tapsafe instead when changing water?
Since you no longer have fish in these tanks you don't want to be adding extra Prime. In fact any of the many water conditioners will work just as well if not even better. With no fish in a tank we don't need to ammonia detoxed. We do need the chlorine/chloramines removed so we need to add our water conditioner to all new water going in the tank. Your Tap Safe should work just fine.

When fish were in these tanks and you had a high reading for ammonia and nitrites it was time to do a water change. If you were seeing all three (ammonia, nitrites and nitrates) it was telling you that you had both ammonia and nitrite eating bacteria but there wasn't enough to clear out all of the ammonia and nitrites.

Water changes would have kept them down to safer levels and over time enough bacteria would have grown to take out all of the ammonia and nitrites. You would have just been left with nitrates. At that point your cycle would have been done.

Since you have no fish in these tanks now it is just a matter of time for the ammonia and nitrites to go down to zero. The only time you need to use your water conditioner is if you have to do top offs or when you do your water change to remove any left over fish food and get the nitrates down before putting the fish back n there.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
mattgirl said:
Since you no longer have fish in these tanks you don't want to be adding extra Prime. In fact any of the many water conditioners will work just as well if not even better. With no fish in a tank we don't need to ammonia detoxed. We do need the chlorine/chloramines removed so we need to add our water conditioner to all new water going in the tank. Your Tap Safe should work just fine.

When fish were in these tanks and you had a high reading for ammonia and nitrites it was time to do a water change. If you were seeing all three (ammonia, nitrites and nitrates) it was telling you that you had both ammonia and nitrite eating bacteria but there wasn't enough to clear out all of the ammonia and nitrites.

Water changes would have kept them down to safer levels and over time enough bacteria would have grown to take out all of the ammonia and nitrites. You would have just been left with nitrates. At that point your cycle would have been done.

Since you have no fish in these tanks now it is just a matter of time for the ammonia and nitrites to go down to zero. The only time you need to use your water conditioner is if you have to do top offs or when you do your water change to remove any left over fish food and get the nitrates down before putting the fish back n there.
When reintroducing the fish, should I do a few at a time to avoid a spike in newly cycled water?
 

mattgirl

Member
CrustyDusty said:
When reintroducing the fish, should I do a few at a time to avoid a spike in newly cycled water?
How long were the original fish in the tanks? How long have they been out of them? If it has just been a few days there really should be enough bacteria in there to handle the ammonia they will produce. If you are still adding close to the same amount of food as you were when you were feeding them in these tanks I feel sure you will be able to move all of them back to their original homes.

I do have to ask though. How many fish are we talking about?

I do want to point out. We are not cycling the water. Cycling a tank simply means growing enough ammonia and nitrite eating bacteria to process the ammonia the fish are producing. This bacteria is growing on all the surfaces in the tank. The strongest colony is going to be on the filter media because food (ammonia) is constantly being pulled through it. When we do our water changes we are not removing bacteria because it isn't free floating in the water.

As long as we temp match and add our water conditioner we could change out half the water every day and we would still not be removing any bacteria. We would be removing some of its food source but if fish are in there they are constantly adding more.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
mattgirl said:
How long were the original fish in the tanks? How long have they been out of them? If it has just been a few days there really should be enough bacteria in there to handle the ammonia they will produce. If you are still adding close to the same amount of food as you were when you were feeding them in these tanks I feel sure you will be able to move all of them back to their original homes.

I do have to ask though. How many fish are we talking about?

I do want to point out. We are not cycling the water. Cycling a tank simply means growing enough ammonia and nitrite eating bacteria to process the ammonia the fish are producing. This bacteria is growing on all the surfaces in the tank. The strongest colony is going to be on the filter media because food (ammonia) is constantly being pulled through it. When we do our water changes we are not removing bacteria because it isn't free floating in the water.

As long as we temp match and add our water conditioner we could change out half the water every day and we would still not be removing any bacteria. We would be removing some of its food source but if fish are in there they are constantly adding more.
I understand that the cycle is about building bacteria colony.

I was cycling a 15 gallon using three apple platies, and a 5 gallon using another three apple platies originally, but I slowly introduced more (up to 7 in there) and later realised that this is a bad idea when cycling with fish. I needed them out of my community tank. They were both cycling for about two months with fish (since Christmas) and I started changing some of the water every now and then towards the end of these stressful two months. I was changing around 40% every few days to try and lower ammonia in the 15 gallon until someone else I live with changed the filter settings and left it overnight (a failed attempt to speed up the cycle), and I was going to continue doing daily 50% changes to the 5 gallon, but the fish in there were gasping and the Prime stopped taking effect in the 5 gallon somehow. That’s when I ended up removing the fish from these tanks and into my community tank.

The fish from the 15 gallon have been in the community tank for about 2 days, and the fish from the 5 gallon have been in the community tank for around 24 hours.

Tomorrow I will collect test results for both the tanks.
 

mattgirl

Member
I am not sure what you mean by the prime stopped taking affect. Prime isn't going to remove the ammonia. When doing a fish in cycle it is critical to keep both ammonia and nitrites as low as possible with water changes. Prime will protect the fish up to a point. Anything higher than the 1ppm (ammonia plus nitrites) needs to be lowered with water changes.

Since the fish haven't been out of the tanks for very long there will still be ammonia in there to feed the cycle. A tiny pinch of fish food daily should keep the bacteria fed and I have the think this will be a short lived fishless cycle. Now that there are no fish in the tanks don't change any water. Just let the bacteria clean out the ammonia and nitrites. I think once you start getting a reading of 0 ammonia and 0 nitrites you can go ahead and put the fish back in there. Once the cycles are complete you can add the original fish to the 15 gallon but I wouldn't add any more than 1 or 2 to the 5 gallon.

It is of course up to you as to whether you want to continue fishless cycling these tanks or put the fish back in and finish up the cycle with them in there. If you choose to put the fish back in you need to change out most of the water before putting them in there and then keep the numbers down as low as possible with water changes. Should you choose to put fish back in I would only put one or maybe two in the 5 gallon. You could put 3 or even 4 in the 15 gallon. After fish being in these tanks for a couple of months I have to think there is sufficient bacteria in there to handle this low bio-load. Daily water changes may not need to be done but be prepared to do them just in case.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
mattgirl said:
I am not sure what you mean by the prime stopped taking affect. Prime isn't going to remove the ammonia. When doing a fish in cycle it is critical to keep both ammonia and nitrites as low as possible with water changes. Prime will protect the fish up to a point. Anything higher than the 1ppm (ammonia plus nitrites) needs to be lowered with water changes.

Since the fish haven't been out of the tanks for very long there will still be ammonia in there to feed the cycle. A tiny pinch of fish food daily should keep the bacteria fed and I have the think this will be a short lived fishless cycle. Now that there are no fish in the tanks don't change any water. Just let the bacteria clean out the ammonia and nitrites. I think once you start getting a reading of 0 ammonia and 0 nitrites you can go ahead and put the fish back in there. Once the cycles are complete you can add the original fish to the 15 gallon but I wouldn't add any more than 1 or 2 to the 5 gallon.

It is of course up to you as to whether you want to continue fishless cycling these tanks or put the fish back in and finish up the cycle with them in there. If you choose to put the fish back in you need to change out most of the water before putting them in there and then keep the numbers down as low as possible with water changes. Should you choose to put fish back in I would only put one or maybe two in the 5 gallon. You could put 3 or even 4 in the 15 gallon. After fish being in these tanks for a couple of months I have to think there is sufficient bacteria in there to handle this low bio-load. Daily water changes may not need to be done but be prepared to do them just in case.
When I say the Prime stopped taking effect I meant that I was adding Prime to the tank but the fish would still gasp, which lead me to believe that it wasn’t detoxifying dangerous elements somehow. I became concerned with surface agitation maybe being a culprit but I’m not sure how that could have became a problem either. I could be wrong with both, and I probably am, but I definitely don’t want to do a fish-in cycle and I think your plan to feed small flake portions daily is better.

When you say ‘short lived fishless cycle’ do you mean it won’t take long or it will likely fail?

When my parents are at work tomorrow and nobody is around to scold me for using the test kit “too often“ I will test the tanks to see where I’m at. I will try this throughout the week and keep track of progress. I’m happy to have an answer to the cycling problem after two months of struggle.
 

mattgirl

Member
CrustyDusty said:
When I say the Prime stopped taking effect I meant that I was adding Prime to the tank but the fish would still gasp, which lead me to believe that it wasn’t detoxifying dangerous elements somehow. I became concerned with surface agitation maybe being a culprit but I’m not sure how that could have became a problem either. I could be wrong with both, and I probably am, but I definitely don’t want to do a fish-in cycle and I think your plan to feed small flake portions daily is better.

When you say ‘short lived fishless cycle’ do you mean it won’t take long or it will likely fail?

When my parents are at work tomorrow and nobody is around to scold me for using the test kit “too often“ I will test the tanks to see where I’m at. I will try this throughout the week and keep track of progress. I’m happy to have an answer to the cycling problem after two months of struggle.
Yes, I mean it shouldn't take too long to finish up this cycle. I am sorry to hear that you are not able to test as often as you would like without being scolded for doing it.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
Hi! I’ve just tested my community tank and the results are different to last time. It had a 40% water change yesterday.

Ammonia - 0ppm
Nitrite - 8ppm
Nitrate - 80ppm

I’ll get the other tanks tested soon but I’m wondering what to do with my community tank given the results. I don’t know wether to do another large water change or not once nitrite is all that‘s left of the three, but the results tell me that the ammonia spike is over and the bacteria is sorting the nitrite out right now.

The platies are staying around the surface, the corydoras are surfacing more often and the rest of the fish are behaving normally albeit with slightly faster breathing. I lowered the water level to try and oxygenate the water more and that did cause the fish to breathe slower and become a bit more active. It’s only a selection of fish that have changed their pattern of activity due to this spike.
 

mattgirl

Member
when adding the fish from the other tanks it raised the bio-load in the community tank. Even though it was cycled there wasn't enough bacteria in there to take care of the extra ammonia the new fish are producing. The tank has already grown enough ammonia eating bacteria but now the nitrite eating bacteria has to catch up. I would do another water change and do it daily until the nitrites drop back down to zero. Hopefully the nitrites will drop in just a couple of days. The water changes will also help keep the rising nitrates down. I hope you are allowed to do the necessary water changes without being scolded for doing so.

If I am understanding correctly you added 10 or more fish to this tank all at the same time. You started the 2 tanks with 3 fish each and then and then added up to about 7 more. Was it 7 more to each tank or a total of 7? Either way there were too many to put in this tank all at the same time. It is going to take a few days for the bacteria to catch up to the higher bio-load.

You said others in your home will not allow rehoming any of these fish. Does that mean these other tanks are for them? If they do are any of them helping you take care of the tanks? I will be here to help you any way I can but I do hope you can also get support from others in your home.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
mattgirl said:
when adding the fish from the other tanks it raised the bio-load in the community tank. Even though it was cycled there wasn't enough bacteria in there to take care of the extra ammonia the new fish are producing. The tank has already grown enough ammonia eating bacteria but now the nitrite eating bacteria has to catch up. I would do another water change and do it daily until the nitrites drop back down to zero. Hopefully the nitrites will drop in just a couple of days. The water changes will also help keep the rising nitrates down. I hope you are allowed to do the necessary water changes without being scolded for doing so.

If I am understanding correctly you added 10 or more fish to this tank all at the same time. You started the 2 tanks with 3 fish each and then and then added up to about 7 more. Was it 7 more to each tank or a total of 7? Either way there were too many to put in this tank all at the same time. It is going to take a few days for the bacteria to catch up to the higher bio-load.

You said others in your home will not allow rehoming any of these fish. Does that mean these other tanks are for them? If they do are any of them helping you take care of the tanks? I will be here to help you any way I can but I do hope you can also get support from others in your home.
The apple platies are my mum’s. They are for the 5 gallon aquarium (originally 6 but my dad bought 4 more home as a “surprise”). Three of the platies have died since and we do currently have seven. When the other tanks cycle, I will begin by adding 4 to the 15 gallon and two to the 5 gallon. In the 5 gallon I discovered an abandoned platy fry, so I rescued it… and my koi angelfish ate it straight away!

There are actually even more non-natives introduced into my tank in the form of five neon rainbowfish and three emerald catfish. We got them because a trusted and knowledgeable staff member of my fish retailer tested the water in the 15 gallon. Despite using a test strip (unreliable), he said “had there been any results to worry about, I’d use a drip test afterwards”. They don’t use drip tests on a Sunday despite it being their busiest day, which I feel is a mistake. I felt that getting these fish would be no trouble, and I didn’t want to decline getting fish after he was confident that the water is ok, but two of the seven original neon rainbows died instantly upon entering the tank (one was a male which looked very healthy and the other looked decrepit), even with Prime in the system to detoxify anything that could harm the water. So that’s a brief story about that. I wouldn’t say my parents are dedicated to helping me cycle these tanks because they are fussy about how much I test and change water. I’m more diligent in fishkeeping than they are.

I managed to sneak in some tests on the tanks today. Here are the results for:

5 gallon:
Ammonia - 0.2ppm
Nitrite - 0ppm
Nitrate - 0ppm

15 gallon:
Ammonia - 0.5ppm
Nitrite - 0ppm
Nitrate - 0ppm

Should I change the waters given these results? My parents will be home soon but should be less fussed because they are fishless. I’ll convince them to order some more tapsafe and Prime so I can continue with changing water.

Some side notes which may be of use: the 15 gallon has diatoms on the decorations and a biofilm at the surface. I also just did a 40% water change on my community tank because of a nitrite reading of around 4ppm and a nitrate reading of 80ppm just before changing the water (the nitrite is lower than it was this morning so yippee!).
 

mattgirl

Member
Since there are no fish in the 5 and 15 there is no need to do water changes. You do not need to be adding Prime to the 5 and 15 gallon tanks. Prime does nothing to help cycle a tank. Your Tap Safe will work best for these tank should you need to do top offs. You don't want the ammonia detoxed when doing a fish less cycle.

Since you are going through a mini-cycle in the 30 gallon tank I will recommend you use Prime during the water changes but ONLY when doing a water change.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
mattgirl said:
Since there are no fish in the 5 and 15 there is no need to do water changes. You do not need to be adding Prime to the 5 and 15 gallon tanks. Prime does nothing to help cycle a tank. Your Tap Safe will work best for these tank should you need to do top offs. You don't want the ammonia detoxed when doing a fish less cycle.

Since you are going through a mini-cycle in the 30 gallon tank I will recommend you use Prime during the water changes but ONLY when doing a water change.
I haven’t been priming the 5 and 15 since the fish were removed. All I’ve been adding is crushed flake in tiny portions daily, and removing some using a net when I feel there may be too much flake at one time. Does dosing on Pure Aquarium bacteria balls encourage bacteria to grow? If so then I can add one or two since it’s one ball for every 25 litres of water.

When I did the 40% water change almost an hour ago now I used Prime to condition the water. I only use small doses when changing water because you can treat such a large volume of water using so little Prime. Since doing the change the water contains less tannins than usual… the fish look like they are flying rather than swimming!

I think it’s about time to test my community to see if the nitrite and nitrate levels have lowered.
 

mattgirl

Member
The Pure Aquarium bacteria balls may help. I feel sure they won't hurt so go ahead and add them.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
I just tested the water in my community tank for after the 40% change.

Nitrites - 0ppm
Nitrates - 0ppm

These results may be wrong because the colours you are supposed to judge by on a test kit are quite similar to each other, but whatever the test kit is reading is very low in concentration.
 

mattgirl

Member
CrustyDusty said:
I just tested the water in my community tank for after the 40% change.

Nitrites - 0ppm
Nitrates - 0ppm

These results may be wrong because the colours you are supposed to judge by on a test kit are quite similar to each other, but whatever the test kit is reading is very low in concentration.
Seeing 0 nitrites sounds about right. Between the water changes and the bacteria catching up it is not surprising to be seeing them at zero now. The amount of water you changed shouldn't have removed all the nitrates so I wouldn't expect to see them reading zero. I really wouldn't be overly concerned about it though. The important numbers are 0 for both ammonia and nitrites.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
Hi! This may or may not seem off-topic to our discussion, but I have some arising questions.

My 30 gallon when I first got it cycled in just two weeks without ever using food as a source of ammonia. We just added the bacteria balls, tapsafe and waited two weeks until adding the first fish, who I recall were fine. Is this normal or did I likely go wrong somewhere? I wasn’t as experienced as I am now and I never tested the water back then.

Also, the surface scum in the 15 gallon… is this a problem? There is lots of it and it makes the birdseye view of the tank quite misty. I want to get rid of it because it’s unattractive and I don’t want it to compete with the bacteria colony. Brown algae is also present in this tank but blooms are normal when cycling and are supposed to be harmless.

Update: I tested the 30 gallon again this morning and the results are the same as last time with the exception of the nitrate level being either 20ppm or 40ppm this time (I’m having issues comparing the colours because it looks like both). This has risen quite quickly but I hope this level of nitrate remains constant if not lower.
 

mattgirl

Member
CrustyDusty said:
Hi! This may or may not seem off-topic to our discussion, but I have some arising questions.

My 30 gallon when I first got it cycled in just two weeks without ever using food as a source of ammonia. We just added the bacteria balls, tapsafe and waited two weeks until adding the first fish, who I recall were fine. Is this normal or did I likely go wrong somewhere? I wasn’t as experienced as I am now and I never tested the water back then.
If there was no ammonia source the tank didn't cycle. If you had the water in this tank tested at your LFS the numbers would have come back good because no ammonia had been added. Cycling a tank simply means growing bacteria. Without an ammonia source the bacteria isn't going to grow. How long have you had this 30 gallon up and running with fish in it? How many fish did you start out with?

Have you run the nitrate test on your tap water to see if any are there?

Also, the surface scum in the 15 gallon… is this a problem? There is lots of it and it makes the birdseye view of the tank quite misty. I want to get rid of it because it’s unattractive and I don’t want it to compete with the bacteria colony. Brown algae is also present in this tank but blooms are normal when cycling and are supposed to be harmless.
Do you have an airstone running in this tank or does your filter agitate the surface of the water? Any body of still water will form this surface scum. The scum isn't going to compete with the bacteria colony.

Update: I tested the 30 gallon again this morning and the results are the same as last time with the exception of the nitrate level being either 20ppm or 40ppm this time (I’m having issues comparing the colours because it looks like both). This has risen quite quickly but I hope this level of nitrate remains constant if not lower.
Like you, I can't tell the difference between 10/20 or 40/80 To solve that problem I just look for orange. As long as I see orange in the test tube I consider it good enough.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
mattgirl said:
If there was no ammonia source the tank didn't cycle. If you had the water in this tank tested at your LFS the numbers would have come back good because no ammonia had been added. Cycling a tank simply means growing bacteria. Without an ammonia source the bacteria isn't going to grow. How long have you had this 30 gallon up and running with fish in it? How many fish did you start out with?

Have you run the nitrate test on your tap water to see if any are there?


Do you have an airstone running in this tank or does your filter agitate the surface of the water? Any body of still water will form this surface scum. The scum isn't going to compete with the bacteria colony.


Like you, I can't tell the difference between 10/20 or 40/80 To solve that problem I just look for orange. As long as I see orange in the test tube I consider it good enough.
The water and bacteria colony in the 30 gallon had come from a previous tank I had. The first fish to go in were harlequin rasboras in a small shoal. We decided to upgrade it to the 30 gallon to create more room and a better scape for our fish. It’s been nearly three years since the original tank was set up and over a year since the upgrade. I’ll definitely test my tap water - I live in a hard water area.

The filter agitates the water in the 15 gallon. No airstone is in there but if the scum won’t be an issue then the only real downside to it is being a bit unattractive. If this is a sign of the agitation being too low then I’ll take precautions to resolve this.

The colour for both nitrite and nitrate for the kit I use is pink. A clear colour indicates lower concentrations and a darker, saturated pink indicates that there is more. It varies only slightly, but it was one of the two readings I mentioned. I’ll keep testing the tank to monitor the growth of nitrate in the tank and do water changes accordingly.

When the kit expires I want to get an API Master Test Kit because it‘s cheaper, probably easier to find and can perform more tests than most kits (much more cost-effective IMO).
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
The nitrate reading for my tap water is 5ppm or 10ppm. The colour is really pale.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member

0BDC369E-B146-49F3-8613-60D63C1227F1.jpeg

Hi! I just tested the 5 and 15 gallon tanks and I’m happy to say that both have nitrite now. Woohoo!

After testing I stirred up the substrate of both tanks and they were filled with flake and fungi. I used a net to remove the waste buildup once it was stirred. What daily quantity of flake is enough? I’ve definitely been adding too much yet I’ve been very cautious with how much goes in each day.

The 5 gallon has dropped in pH significantly. 6 is the lowest my kit can detect. This must be because of the excess flake I cleaned out being too numerous. I attempted the KH test and failed. Surely though if the pH has gone down to such a low level, then the KH must’ve dropped too. How can I bring the pH and KH back to equilibrium?

What other conclusions can you draw from the results in the image? I’m more concerned about the progress of the 5 gallon; I’m going to try and get my hands on a gravel vacuum for occasional use. Thanks again for your help!
 

mattgirl

Member
Water changes in the 5 gallon tank should get the pH back up. Since it is so small parameters are going to change quicker. I would siphon out most of the excess food in both tanks. I would just be adding a tiny pinch of crushed up flakes every third day. It takes about that long for it to decompose so adding it every third day should keep the bacteria fed.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
mattgirl said:
Water changes in the 5 gallon tank should get the pH back up. Since it is so small parameters are going to change quicker. I would siphon out most of the excess food in both tanks. I would just be adding a tiny pinch of crushed up flakes every third day. It takes about that long for it to decompose so adding it every third day should keep the bacteria fed.
Thanks. I will perform a large water change later and I‘ll also buy a gravel vacuum to siphon out all of the waste.

I’m so sorry to hear that you haven’t had a good day.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
Just a quick update. Today has been a productive day for me. I got a gravel vacuum from Pets at Home and used it on the 5 and 15 gallon tanks until both were about 50% empty. I got so much waste out of both and added a teeny tiny amount of new crushed flake into them for the first time since Thursday. Some of the flakes I siphoned were quite large because I wasn’t crushing them finely enough beforehand. The new amount of flake I’m adding goes out of sight after a while of being in the tank so I worry it may not be enough. However I’ll add this much flake every three days so next time will be on Wednesday. I can’t allow too much waste to build up.

I’ll wait until tomorrow and then retest both tanks for ammonia, nitrite and pH. I’ll aim to keep the ammonia level low but not zero.

How often should I use the gravel vacuum?
 

mattgirl

Member
CrustyDusty said:
Just a quick update. Today has been a productive day for me. I got a gravel vacuum from Pets at Home and used it on the 5 and 15 gallon tanks until both were about 50% empty. I got so much waste out of both and added a teeny tiny amount of new crushed flake into them for the first time since Thursday. Some of the flakes I siphoned were quite large because I wasn’t crushing them finely enough beforehand. The new amount of flake I’m adding goes out of sight after a while of being in the tank so I worry it may not be enough. However I’ll add this much flake every three days so next time will be on Wednesday. I can’t allow too much waste to build up.

I’ll wait until tomorrow and then retest both tanks for ammonia, nitrite and pH. I’ll aim to keep the ammonia level low but not zero.

How often should I use the gravel vacuum?
If you still have no fish in these tanks there is no need to vacuum again until the cycles are complete. We don't need to keep the ammonia low if there are no fish in there to be harmed.

You are trying to mimic what you would be feeding fish if there were any in there. The tiny bit of crushed flakes is the food you would be feeding them.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
mattgirl said:
If you still have no fish in these tanks there is no need to vacuum again until the cycles are complete. We don't need to keep the ammonia low if there are no fish in there to be harmed.

You are trying to mimic what you would be feeding fish if there were any in there. The tiny bit of crushed flakes is the food you would be feeding them.
Ok. I only put a really tiny amount in. I wasn’t originally aiming for adding the same amount I’d add when feeding fish. If I were feeding fish I wouldn’t crush their flake up so finely either. Should I perhaps add some more to the tanks now or wait for the three days until adding more?
 

mattgirl

Member
CrustyDusty said:
Ok. I only put a really tiny amount in. I wasn’t originally aiming for adding the same amount I’d add when feeding fish. If I were feeding fish I wouldn’t crush their flake up so finely either. Should I perhaps add some more to the tanks now or wait for the three days until adding more?
I would wait for 3 days. It isn't going to take a great deal of fish food to finish up these cycles. Keep an eye on the ammonia level. As long as you are seeing some then you have added enough. If all of a sudden it drops down to zero you will know you have enough ammonia eating bacteria to keep it at zero. Are you seeing or have you see any nitrites yet? Are you seeing any nitrates at all?

It would probably be best if you could also add liquid ammonia but since you don't we will just have to work with what we have.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
mattgirl said:
I would wait for 3 days. It isn't going to take a great deal of fish food to finish up these cycles. Keep an eye on the ammonia level. As long as you are seeing some then you have added enough. If all of a sudden it drops down to zero you will know you have enough ammonia eating bacteria to keep it at zero. Are you seeing or have you see any nitrites yet? Are you seeing any nitrates at all?

It would probably be best if you could also add liquid ammonia but since you don't we will just have to work with what we have.
The last time I tested the tanks there was nitrite, meaning that your advice is working. I haven’t tested for nitrate on the two tanks yet but I will tomorrow when I perform the tests. I’ll wait for the three days and on Wednesday morning I‘ll go ahead and add flake again, albeit a bit more than I did today.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member

20BC0466-0850-4BD7-9E4C-91AF0A0514E5.jpeg

Ok so I did tests on both tanks and here are the results for today.

The 5 gallon is nearing the end of the cycle as there is nitrate. These parameters should be very new because when using the gravel vacuum yesterday I removed 50% of the water. What must have happened is that upon removing the water it allowed the bacteria to catch up with the amount of ammonia and convert it, but this is just a speculation. I was wondering if I should do a water change because the parameters are very high, but I won’t unless it’s recommended.

The 15 gallon surprised me. Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are all at 0ppm. I vacuumed this tank until 50% of the water was removed too, but the aftermath isn’t the same as with the 5 gallon. I’m wondering if I should wait and see if the parameters spike again because spikes happen slower in a larger tank. Nitrite was never too high in the 15 gallon so I’m not sure which stage the cycle is at or if the bacteria is having a hard time. When vacuuming I got more waste out of the 15 gallon than the 5 gallon.
 

mattgirl

Member
I would go ahead and do another 50% water change on the 5 gallon. Go ahead and use your gravel vacuum just in case there is still some decaying food still in there. Once done either add your tiny pinch of crushed up flakes or go ahead and put 1 fish in there. Personally I would go with the fish but of course that has to be your decision.

It is unusual not to be seeing any nitrates in the 15 gallon but to be perfectly honest I think it is time to put the fish back in this tank. If you think there may still be some decomposing food in the gravel you may want to do another 50% water change while deep cleaning the gravel. If you feel sure you cleaned it well with the last water change then go ahead and put 2 or 3 fish in there.

Should you choose to put the fish in these tanks feed very lightly and only every other day. Watch them and make sure they eat all the food you put in there. I think we all make the mistake of way over feeding our fish and that leads to problems.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
mattgirl said:
I would go ahead and do another 50% water change on the 5 gallon. Go ahead and use your gravel vacuum just in case there is still some decaying food still in there. Once done either add your tiny pinch of crushed up flakes or go ahead and put 1 fish in there. Personally I would go with the fish but of course that has to be your decision.

It is unusual not to be seeing any nitrates in the 15 gallon but to be perfectly honest I think it is time to put the fish back in this tank. If you think there may still be some decomposing food in the gravel you may want to do another 50% water change while deep cleaning the gravel. If you feel sure you cleaned it well with the last water change then go ahead and put 2 or 3 fish in there.

Should you choose to put the fish in these tanks feed very lightly and only every other day. Watch them and make sure they eat all the food you put in there. I think we all make the mistake of way over feeding our fish and that leads to problems.
With the 5 gallon I’d put flake in because if I add one fish it might get lonely. The platies have had a visibly stressful time since I got them so I would keep using flake, just not much. I’d add enough flake in there to satisfy two or so fish after the deep clean.

Adding two beginning fish in the 15 gallon should be enough and after I do I’ll monitor their progress closely. Hopefully my sister watches them but no matter how much I tell her to keep an eye on the tank she never bothers to. If the parameters are still safe when I retest the tank tomorrow then I’ll go ahead and add two fish. That way I’ll know if the tank has finished it’s cycle and stocking is safe.

The 15 gallon definitely was vacuumed better than the 5 gallon. I vacuumed the 15 gallon after the 5 gallon and only then did I begin to get the hang of it. I learned that by inserting the nozzle deep into the gravel you can get lots more waste then by holding it 10cm above the gravel as instructed by the packaging. I’m going to apply this trick I learned when I clean the 5 gallon. Thank you!
I just did the 50% clean out on the 5 gallon. I dipped the nozzle of the vacuum into the gravel and collected lots of waste. I mixed hot water with cold water to temp match, used Prime as the dechlorinator and after filling the tank back up I added some Fluval liquid bacteria as a booster.

Upon finishing the clean out I went ahead and added some flake into the tank. I added as much as I feel would feed two fish and used a net to scoop up any excess flake or churned up waste.

If I confirm a spike in either tanks tomorrow I’ll do a water change (and add flake after if required). I’m hoping that the nitrate in the 15 gallon rises by a tiny bit by tomorrow because then I’ll know where the cycle is.

Tomorrow is the earliest I want to add fish to the 15 gallon. Then again I’m not sure what stage of the cycle it’s in because the last time I tested it there was only small traces of ammonia and nitrite. I suppose that yesterday’s vacuum lowered the parameters but I want to test it tomorrow to find out if it’s safe for fish.
Sorry but the update on the clean out merged with my last post. Give me a shout if that gives you a notification.
 

Elkwatcher

Member
Having an established tank already is a bonus...
You might run an extra HOB filter or a small sponge filter in your 30 gallon community tank to gain extra beneficial bacteria. This would be an excellent way to jump start a cycle in a new tank or for cycle stalls. Also moving medium over such as a net bag of substrate or sharing established filter medium. I have squeezed out dirty filters in dechlorinated tank water, and added commercial bacteria starters such as Safestart or Nurtafin Cycle daily, and tested till the parameters were 0-0-0-5/10 ppm nitrates.
 

mattgirl

Member
I can only advise. You have the final say in what you are going to do and that is how it should be. Hopefully these 2 tanks will soon be stable and provide a healthy home for your fish.
 
  • Thread Starter

StinkyLoaf

Member
Elkwatcher said:
Having an established tank already is a bonus...
You might run an extra HOB filter or a small sponge filter in your 30 gallon community tank to gain extra beneficial bacteria. This would be an excellent way to jump start a cycle in a new tank or for cycle stalls. Also moving medium over such as a net bag of substrate or sharing established filter medium. I have squeezed out dirty filters in dechlorinated tank water, and added commercial bacteria starters such as Safestart or Nurtafin Cycle daily, and tested till the parameters were 0-0-0-5/10 ppm nitrates.
Thanks for stepping in and helping. I’ve managed to sort out the problem that the 30 gallon was facing and I’m only focused on the 5 and 15 gallon tanks cycling now.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member

423DEBE1-6CAE-4B92-8219-FB5ED5E63AAF.jpeg

Here are today’s test results. I just wanted to update you on the tanks again because the 5 gallon is doing poorly and I’m not sure why it keeps spiking. I’ve never seen the nitrite and nitrate reagents become so dark in colour before; they were almost purple. I did a 60% water change but I haven’t retested the tank since doing it. I’m not sure if waiting until tomorrow to test the 5 gallon is a good idea because it might spike again in that time.

On the bright side the 15 gallon seems about ready to accommodate fish. I’m going to add two of the apple platies later in the day and perhaps add another two after a week has passed. I want four of them in the 15 gallon and three in the 5 gallon.

I’ll definitely follow your advice: feed them once every other day. Seeing as they were fed this morning they won’t be fed tomorrow but rather the day after. If they want a light snack then they can graze on whatever is left of the brown algae seeing as livebearers are partial algae eaters.

Eventually the five neon rainbowfish and the three brochis will be going back into the 15 gallon so I think a rule of two or so fish every week will ensure that the bacteria can outperform the ammonia. With the brochis it could be one per week and I’ll begin adding them after all of the neons and the four platies have been added.
 

mattgirl

Member
It does sound like the 15 gallon is ready for its first fish.

Since there are no fish in the 5 gallon to be harmed you may want to just let the cycle work in it. Just add the tiniest pinch of fish food no more often than every 3rd day. Don't add enough to feed 2 or 3 fish. We don't need that much in there at this point. We want a steady supply of food for the bacteria but we don't want to overload it either.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
I added the two fish to the 15 gallon. They are doing ok and are exploring their new environment.

Ever since I added them the fish in the 30 gallon have been behaving strangely. The rest of the platies rose to the top and rainbows and cories have also become quite erratic. I’m not sure why this is but most of the fish are behaving as normal. I see no signs of rapid breathing and I usually look at my larger rainbows for this.

Perhaps netting the two of the fish out stressed some of the other fish. Maybe something was on the net that’s bad for the tank. Or they could miss the two platies?

I did a water change just now in attempt to resolve this. The last water change was on Saturday.
 

mattgirl

Member
I really don't think many kinds of fish miss tank mates. They could be reacting to the net being in the water. They should settle down soon. Turn the light off if it's on and give them some quiet time.
 
  • Thread Starter

StinkyLoaf

Member
mattgirl said:
I really don't think many kinds of fish miss tank mates. They could be reacting to the net being in the water. They should settle down soon. Turn the light off if it's on and give them some quiet time.
They’ve calmed down now and are back to their usual business. I’ve never seen them stress so much over a net before.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
Just a quick update since it’s been a while.

The 15 gallon just got a 30% water change done and then an addition of two more platies (four in total). I’ve turned the lights off early to let them settle into their new home. There is a huge quantity of brown algae so I’m considering getting algae eaters that have a low bioload (considering shrimp and snails), but that’s a different story for a different day.

In the 30 gallon some other fish have gone. A harlequin rasbora and the last tuxedo platy died recently and I want to get more Prime this weekend before doing another water change since I’m running low on conditioner.

In the the 5 gallon’s case I haven’t tested in a long while but I’ve been letting it cycle without me intervening (with the exception of adding small flake portions every third day). When I have time soon I’ll check on it’s progress and change water accordingly.
 
  • Thread Starter

StinkyLoaf

Member
Ok so it’s been a very long time since I last tested the 5 gallon (and posted on this thread). I tested it just now and instantly came here because I’m not sure what to think. I was adding small flake portions every three days and that’s all I’ve done to the tank for a while. A biofilm has formed in the 5 gallon too. The biofilm and brown algae in the 15 gallon cleared up on it’s own.

Here are the results for the 5 gallon just now:

ammonia - 0ppm
nitrite - 0ppm
nitrate - 5ppm
pH - 7.5

It would seem alright but there’s reasons as to why these results confuse me. My tap water also has 5ppm of nitrates so It’d appear that the flake has changed nothing, which doesn’t seem logical. Before doing the 60% water change I did a while ago the nitrite and nitrate were sky high, but seem to be really low now. This water change must’ve been effective.

I shook the reagents, I shook the tubes, I placed the tubes under the tank light to guarantee accurate results and I waited for as long as the kit instructs.

The results seem anomalous so I’d like your thoughts. Thanks!

(It seems strange being back here because I’m beginning to help other users with their cycles now that I’ve learned more. It’s just things like this that I can’t explain.)
 

mattgirl

Member
Do you have any plants in the 5 gallon? It so that would tell us where the nitrates have gone. Seeing no ammonia or nitrites is a really good sign that the cycle in this tank has finally finished. With the tiny bit of fish food added every 3 days there wouldn't have been a great deal of ammonia produced. The amount of ammonia produced determines the nitrate number. The water change most likely lowered the nitrates and now you have enough bacteria to clear out all the nitrites.

I would be comfortable adding a fish to this tank now.
 
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StinkyLoaf

Member
Thank you so much. There are no live plants in there but if there were I’d know where the nitrate is going.

Initially I thought the cycle was done but I was concerned over the low production of nitrate. Again, thanks!
 

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