Help With Tank Cycling

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by Lisa S, Apr 11, 2017.

  1. Lisa SNew MemberMember

    I got back into this hobby after many years absence. I guess I've forgotten whatever I might have known before. I'm confused by conflicting info on internet about cycling tank and correcting issues. I have a 36-gallon bowfront tank, plastic plants, and decorations. I have a HOB Aqueon filter, and a Fluval 306 canister filter. I have 2 air stones (one round and one bar). I have good filtration and aeration.

    I didn't recall anything about tank cycling from before so I set up the tank, waited a couple weeks and added fish - 7 black phantom tetras. About a week later I added what was supposed to be 5 lemon tetras, but the gal at the LFS gave me 1 oddball that I have no idea what it is. I lost 2 phantoms - one I believe from stress and 1 was the victim of fin nipping. I still have 5 phantoms, 4 lemons, and 1 mystery fish.

    As you might guess, an ammonia spike occurred about week 4-5. I started water changes 25-30% every day and/or every other day and used AmmoLok, etc. The ammonia levels continued to climb. 2 days ago I added the Marineland BioSprira. Now I have a bacteria bloom. I did another partial water change. The readings today are ph - 7.5, water is soft, alkalinity is low, Ammonia between 4-8 ppm, 00 nitrites, and about 5 nitrates. I don't know if I am getting false ammonia levels from the AmmoLok or if I need to continue water changes or wait it out.

    The fish seem fine. They do not appear to be gasping for air or hanging at the top, they are eating (always wanting more), do not have clamped fins, and not swimming erratically. One thing I read says don't change water it will slow cycle, the next says do water changes asap. So, please any suggestions are welcome. BTW I just got the liquid nitrite/nitrate test today. Before I used strips and nothing showed on them. Thanks and sorry for long post.
  2. Bizarro252Well Known MemberMember

    First off, unless you are doing a water change right after adding the bacteria I dont think you are hurting anything. The bacteria live on surfaces, not in the water BUT obviously dont suck out the water right after adding the BB :)

    Water changes are a MUST when fish are in there for a cycle, especially with ammonia readings as high are you are seeing (4+!!!) I would do at least 50% if not more daily until you get your params under control, at 4+ppm your cycle will likley stall anyways due to ammonia being so high, even fishless your target is around 2ppm tops. I would start with a 80+ percent change to get that ammonia down near 1ppm, lower would be even better. Keep doing water changes daily until you see it drop under 0.25ppm.

    Your cycle will delay or stall out completely with ammonia levels as high as they are. Ammolock should not be giving you a false high reading, do you have some Seachem prime? I would use that instead as it will condition your water (get rid of chlorine) as well as help detox some ammonia as well as nitrite (once you start getting that)

  3. Lisa SNew MemberMember

    I waited about 36 hours after adding bacteria to do a partial water change. I will start on water changes again tomorrow. I just picked up some Prime today. I just hope the fish survive all the ammonia and water changes. Do you think I need to add more bacteria? I assume it's now established in filter material. Thanks for advice!

  4. goldfishbeginnerNew MemberMember

    If you've had the fish in there for 4 or 5 weeks you should be very close to being cycled. I'd say just do big water changes as well without adding anything. Are you sure those ammonia readings are accurate? You might want to get API freshwater master kit if you're using test strips.

    What about the media in your filters? What's in there?

  5. Dirzo90Valued MemberMember

    Biomedia and sponges is all you need when first cycling your tank. Carbon can kill some of the bacteria. Prime works for me to alleviate the ammonia and nitrite spikes, To help the bacteria better process the ammonia and nitrite.
  6. Lisa SNew MemberMember

    I am using API test kit for ammonia and pH and have been all along. I was testing nitrites and nitrates with strips. Got the API master kit yesterday and found no nitrites (they have never shown up on strips or in the kit). Nitrates are just beginning to appear. The ammonia started spiking and despite daily water changes of 25%, it kept rising. No dead fish, and I'm not over feeding. In fact I skip a day here and there and only use a small pinch. There is no ammonia in my tap water.

    I did a 60-70% water change today and used Prime to treat water replaced in tank. I'm waiting now to let filters cycle for an hour before testing. My HOB Aqueon filter has its carbon replacement filter. The Fluval canister is a 4-stage filtration with course foam media, then bio foam (finer block media), then bio wheels (I think that's what they were called - they are coarse tubes with holes in the middle to harbor bacteria), then the last stage is polishing pads and carbon.

    I'll post test results in a bit. I truly appreciate all the help.
  7. AllieStenFishlore VIPMember

    I would dose Prime for your full tank volume while cycling. It will protect your fish better from the high Ammonia level. I use Stability for my bacteria and I use this formula. Not sure if you have to wait between dosing the BioSpira and Prime, so you may have to adjust according the bottled bacteria directions.

    If your Ammonia + Nitrites = less than 1, dose prime and Stability (bottled bacteria) for full tank volume. If your Ammonia + Nitrites = more than 1, do a 50% water change and dose Prime and Stability for full tank volume. Repeat process every 24 hours until cycled. Once you have 0 Ammonia 0 Nitrites and + Nitrates you should be cycled. Then switch back to dosing Prime for replaced water volumes.
  8. Bizarro252Well Known MemberMember

    Agree with everything except this last part, unless you are assuming they are not adding the new water directly to the tank but pre-dosing it in buckets. If you add fresh water directly to the tank it is my understanding that you should dose for the full tank volume, even though you are only changing X% of water - someone please correct me if I am wrong, because if so I am wasting prime! :)
  9. AllieStenFishlore VIPMember

    Ohhhh good point. I WAS assuming they were dosing by the bucket, not directly into the tank. I just used my Python tank filler today for the first time, so it is barely on my radar to do it that way lol

    Edit: @Lisa S I just reread your first post. Your strips said you have soft water and your alkalinity is low. You may encounter pH issues in the future. I would recommend getting the kH/gH testing kit. It will tell you exactly how hard or soft your water is and it's carbonate hardness. (The chemistry goes over my head) anyways you need certain numbers to keep your pH stable. You could experience difficulties on the future. This is easily remedied if need be by adding things to your filter. Simple solution for a potential problem.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2017
  10. Lisa SNew MemberMember

    OK - after the water change - which I used Prime in the bucket adding amount per bucket, which with the amount of water replaced ended up being the amount of Prime for the entire tank volume.

    After 1 hour of filtering, I still get pH of 7.5, Ammonia 4ppm (so down slightly as yesterday it was between 4 and 8), 0 Nitrites, and somewhere between 0-5 ppm Nitrates. I will perform another major water change tomorrow - at least 50% using Prime. I hope it will help with Ammonia overload. FYI - I checked again and no ammonium straight from tap and none in the Prime-treated water - so all ammonia is in tank.

    I have a testing kit for our spa that tests alkalinity, etc. The total alkalinity was 61 ppm. The calcium hardness (CH) is 131 ppm. I'm not sure how that translates to kH/gH. Do you mean it will tend to get acidic as time passes or more alkaline? It seems in my past experiences, it always got more acidic. The LFS says their water stays around 7.5-7.6 range so the fish I buy are used to that range.

    Again, thanks for all the help and suggestions. I was so ignorant in the past when I kept them, but maybe ignorance was bliss. I had very good success in keeping fish. I used to keep mainly cichlids, oscars, pirrhana, pacu, a few catfish, and a plecustomus. I guess I was just lucky or the fish were adaptable!
  11. Bizarro252Well Known MemberMember

    I am still concerned about that ammonia level, a normal dose of prime cant detox that level - and its to high for your cycle to start - at a minimum it is going to dramatically slow your cycle.

    I would do a 75-80% change asap, that SHOULD put you down at ~1ppm, where at least the prime can detox effectively at a standard dose rate - and get your cycle on track. If you do not see your levels drops to ~1 I would start to wonder if your test kit is defective/expired.

    If its impossible for you to get another water change in today I would at least do a dilution test to verify your test kit isnt on the fritz. Fill a vial up to the line with 1/4 tank water, 3/4 tap and test, you should again see ~1ppm.
  12. Lisa SNew MemberMember

    I don't like the ammonia either, but I'm worried another major water change in the same day will also traumatize the fish. Maybe not.

    The ammonia kit is not off. I actually have two. One individual test kit, and one as part of master kit. I get 0 readings on tap water and Prime treated water. Only the tank tests high.
  13. stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    I agree that another water change today, if possible, would be best.

    I'm not terribly experienced but it seems to me that high ammonia levels will be more harmful to the fish. I made the same mistake years ago with a goldie and we did water changes like crazy when we figured out our mistake. It worked out for us and our little guy loves water changes to this day :)
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 12, 2017
  14. Bizarro252Well Known MemberMember

    I get what you are saying, I just think the ammonia is more of a stressor than a water change will be - imagine living in a house full of smoke, thats what its like :(
  15. gilques85New MemberMember

    Hi, I'm still somewhat new to thus hobby as well. But I had a similar situation as you're having. Bizarro, Annie, and several others helped me TREMENDOUSLY! I can't thank them enough!
    Here's what I did with Ammonia reading over 4.
    I stopped using AmmoLock. It does give up a +1 reading on top of what you already have. From Tap and Tap with Prime, I got a 0 reading on both. But from Tap plus AmmoLock, I got a 1 reading. So I stopped using AmmoLock and used only Prime.
    I did 70% WC on day 1. Was still getting a high reading of 4. Did another 70% WC on day 2. Seeked advice on here and was told to immediately do another large WC. So on the same day, did another 70%WC. 3rd day, levels were starting to drop. Did a 50%WC and progress was showing! By this time I was at about 0.25Ammonia. Next day did a 25% WC and FINALLY, I was at 0ppm Ammonia! Now after I took the water out for each change, I was dosing with Prime for the full volume of the tank, Before I put the water back in. I threw AmmoLock away.
    I then seeked the advice of these great members amd was told to wait 24-48 Hours, if the Ammonia still reads 0, then to Dose with TSS for the full volume of the tank. Waited about 36 hours and Ammonia was still at..........0!!!!! Whew!!! I had my TSS on standby already, and dosed the full volume of TSS and everything has been so smooth since then! I check my levels weekly, do WC every 10 days and readings are at a constant 0Amm, 0Nitrites, and 5-10 Nitrates.
    I'm sure my fish hated the amount of WCs everyday. But I know its way better than having the amount of Ammonia that I did.
  16. AllieStenFishlore VIPMember

    I agree that Ammonia is more of a stressor, but it is more like swimming in battery acid. It can burn the skin/scales off of a fish at those high of levels. The only way to remedy it is massive water changes consecutively and dosing with Prime for full tank volumes. If it was me I would do 2 50% water changes within a few hours of each other. Then wait an hour and test. If you are still above 1, I would probably do 1 more 50% change (making sure to dose with Prime with every water change), then wait until the following day to do any further testing and then decide what to do next. Prime can handle detoxifying 1ppm for 24-48 hours. But 4? No way, still toxic.
  17. Lisa SNew MemberMember

    I'm working on water changes. Lugging the water is about to kill me!!! The bad thing is I am leaving for Hawaii in less than a week, and I'll be gone for almost 2 weeks. Unless this situation resolves in next couple days, I plan to take fish back to LFS and hope they will babysit or rehome/isolate. Fortunately, the Lemons are looking perfect! A couple of the Phantoms have some fin damage, but I believe that to be from fin nipping as the bigger ones have no damage at all. The Lemons still have their red eyes, which I've read means they aren't too stressed or unhealthy. I am hoping some of the high readings were due to the AmmoLock. It even states it will cause false positive.

    Thanks again for all the help! I may have to cycle fishless for a while since I have no fish friends to help out locally with my tank while I'm gone. Wish me luck, and I hope if not resolved, I can get fish store to take them!

    Thanks gilques85 for your post as I do feel like their is hope!
  18. Bizarro252Well Known MemberMember

    Take a look into a python water changer thingy :) I do not think I would have more than a 10 gal if I didnt have that thing - I could not imagine doing weekly/twice weekly 50% changes on my 75gal Mbuna tank without it - I doubt I would even have it lol.
  19. MelPaulATLValued MemberMember

    Hey @AllieSten, an article I read about Prime, advises that we need to wait 24 hours before retesting after dosing with Prime , stating that one will not get an accurate reading until that time.
    Your thoughts?

    I have 3 cycling right now. So, I was dosing daily for quite a while, too.
  20. Lisa SNew MemberMember

    Finally some progress!! After another 60-70% water change, Ammonia is down to 1-2 ppm; 0 Nitites; 0-5 Nitrates; and pH still 7.5. I plan to a 50% water change later tonight and another 50% tomorrow and see where I am then!!

    Hopefully, the tank will be in good enough condition to make it while I am gone.

    My tank is in my bedroom and the faucets in my bathroom don't have threads - so I don't think any water system will work. I can't even hook up a hose of any kind unless anyone knows of a threadless adapter that wouldn't leak!

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