Help explain Ammonia and Nitrogen readings

Discussion in 'Aquarium Water' started by Mark7A, Dec 17, 2012.

  1. Mark7AValued MemberMember


    I have been patiently cycling my tank.

    I am on day 15 (post ammonia)
    Here are my readings for the past 15 days (I like to graph things)
    I started testing for Nitrate and Nitrite on the 14th.

    mark7a tank.png
    Blue diamonds is ammonia
    Green triangles is nitrate
    Red boxes is nitrite
    Bottom line is zero - each line increases by one (ammonia is at 4)

    I've only added ammonia once at the beginning.
    pH is around 8.2

    Is this pattern normal? I expected different curves.
    Am I stalled (since the ammonia is not budging)?

    Last edited: Dec 18, 2012
  2. YeoyWell Known MemberMember

    Did you change the water before your nitrates went down? And are there exact values? Also if you are using a strip test kit they can be innacurate. API liquid tests are the most common here. Sometimes cycles take a while. Give it a few days

  3. catsma_97504Fishlore LegendMember

    Welcome to the forum.

    According to your profile you have the API kits. The nitrate kit can give a false result if the #2 bottle isn't thoroughly mixed. Literally beat it against the table/counter/hard surface to get those crystals back into suspension.

    As you are doing a fishless cycle with ammonia I would crank the heat. As high as your heater core will go. Bacteria grows faster in heat.

    Has your pH started to move about yet?

    How often and how much ammonia are you adding? If you add too much it can actually slow things down.

    Good luck cycling your tank!

  4. jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    When fishless cycling, you need to add ammonia if your ammonia levels drops to 0ppm. Ammonia is actually the food source for the ammonia converting bacteria, so it ammonia drops to 0ppm and stays there for any length of time, your ammonia convertin bacteria will start to starve off, then you are back to square one.

  5. Mark7AValued MemberMember


    Oh . I just realized I trimmed the numbers.
    The bottom line is zero, each line goes up by one. The ammonia has plateaued at 4.

    I am using the API test tube kit.

    No water changes have been done yet.


    I didn't know about the API kits. I usually do a light shake, I'll be more shaky with the reagents.
    The heater I think is near the top, I'll confirm, the tank temp has been steady at 82.
    The pH has been 8.2, but yesterday's test, the color was different.
    I only added ammonia once at the beginning.

    Thanks jdheh,

    The ammonia has plateaued at 4 since my original dosing. I think we are still good there.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 18, 2012
  6. skjl47Valued MemberMember

    Cycling article link post
    Hello; Here are some links to articles about nitrogen and cycling. The first is an involved read.


  7. jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    Oops...sorry, didn't look at your chart closely enough (hey it was early!) and thought your ammonia was at 0ppm, not 4ppm. So yeah, you're right, I think your still good.
  8. Mark7AValued MemberMember

    I think the ammonia dropped a bit to 3 (extrapolating between 4 and 2 ppm on the color chart). That makes sense given the nitrite dip. I would expect the nitrate to probable fall off in a day or two.

    I'm thinking I should continue to wait for ammonia to drop close to zero before adding more (shooting for 4 PPM again?)
  9. catsma_97504Fishlore LegendMember

    Not sure if you mistyped, but thought I should clear something up.

    Ammonia is converted to nitrite. And nitrite is converted to nitrate. There is no bacteria that will remove nitrates. This is one of the reasons for water keep the nitrogen levels low enough to not cause health issues for the inhabitants.

    Yes, wait until the ammonia falls below 1 PPM before adding more. You might want to shoot closer to 2 PPM to ensure that you don't accidentally add too much. I've done that and killed the cycle.
  10. matsungitWell Known MemberMember

    Respectfully, there are lots of bacteria strains that will remove nitrates. The key is with the right products, media, and proper dosing. But that is for advanced aquarists. There are countless methods out there and the best method seems to depend on the aquarist and the aquarium. But I must say that nitrate is not the main reason for my water changes.

    You can do away with water changes and just supplement trace minerals and vitamins but nitrate is not the only pollutant that accumulate in the water. There's not enough knowhow out there that will economically get rid of every pollutant in the water. There's some who claim to have done away with water changes for good. But to me I still feel that it's a ticking time bomb.
  11. Mark7AValued MemberMember

    I do know better (a mistype due to my gaining familiarity) . I am eagerly awaiting the need to do a water change. I'll probably use the water to help seed a new tank.

    Okay, wait for <1 then shoot for 2. I guess (if I learned right), that if I get the ammonia up to 4 and the it falls to zero in a day I should be good to go - right?

  12. catsma_97504Fishlore LegendMember

    If our tanks were a perfect ecological system this could be easily achieved. But, this is the beginners forum. Definitely not a subject to introduce to someone just starting out.

    The fewer products used the healthier and the more stable a tank will be.
  13. jetajockeyFishlore VIPMember

    From what I understand, the kind of bacteria that converts nitrate to atmospheric nitrogen is anaerobic and has no place in a basic aquarium setup. The process is called 'denitrification'.

    There are some deep sand bed setups out there but they are quite rare and not something even most advanced aquarists are willing to tackle, as a regular water change routine and/or planting the tank is much easier to maintain.
  14. Mark7AValued MemberMember

    Finishing week 3

    I'm back with new updates

    Just finishing week three

    Ammonia (blue diamonds) at 3 ppm and still pretty flat
    Nitrite (red squares) now 0 ppm
    Nitrate (green triangles) now 2.5 ppm
    pH 8.2
    Temp about 88-90

    tank values.png

    No water changes or additions (water has evaporated a bit)
    I did add some more filter media from another healthy tank almost a week ago

    Why are the Nitrite producing bacteria not consuming ammonia anymore?
    From what I read, I should expect to see ammonia be close to zero while nitrites continue upward.
  15. catsma_97504Fishlore LegendMember

    Try topping off the tank is dechlorinated water. It is hard to say why the ammonia levels are not continuing to drop. But it has been my experience that even a 10% water change can help to get things moving along again.

    With seeded media, things should be happening.
  16. Mark7AValued MemberMember

    Sounds reasonable.
    I just added about 8 gallons of water (with Stress Coat). We'll see what happens tonight.
  17. catsma_97504Fishlore LegendMember

    Hope that helps!

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