High Ammonia - Zero Nitrites - Low Nitrates

pamit73
  • #1
My tank is about 6 weeks old. This is my first tank and I learnt about everything I know after adding the fish. They have mostly survived. The continuing issue I have is that my Ammonia Levels keep rising quickly to 2-4 ppm. Nitrites are always very close to zero and Nitrates are also very low 5 ppm. I panic at the high Ammonia and do a ~75% water change every 2-4 days which brings ammonia down but it is back at 4 ppm within 2-3 days. Have been pouring in Bacteria in a bottle all along. It is a 30 gal tank which according to Aqadvisor is stocked at ~98% with filtration capacity in excess at ~120%. I have not changed the filter pads and have a ton of bio stars in the filter. Readings last night were Ammonia - 2.0 ppm, NO2 - 0, NO3 - 5 ppm, pH - 8.2, Cl - 0, Hardness - 300 ppm, Alkalinity 160. Have been testing with strips as well as API master test kit. No live plants. Plenty of aeration, Water Temp 76-78F, <12 hour lighting, Dont have any dead fish. There maybe a dead ghost shrimp that I am not aware of. Water turned cloudy in the early days but stays crystal clear now. No algae growth. Fish appear to be happy. Do try not to overfeed. I realize that the hardness is quite high but it has also been very low when I use softened eater. That seems to have no effect on the ammonia spikes. What am I doing wrong? Appreciate the help in advance.
 
Lh 90 gallon
  • #2
Are you using a water conditioner when you do the water changes? What bottled bacteria are you using?
 
georgelee1000
  • #3
What filter do you use? Do you modify it? When do you pour in your bacteria juice? Right After your water change?
 
pamit73
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
Are you using a water conditioner when you do the water changes? What bottled bacteria are you using?
I sometimes use Prime Conditioner (sometimes also in excess). Don't always use it as my Cl readings are always zero. Should I still be using it? For bacteria, I have used the Quickstart as well as a lot of Marineland bacteria as well as AQI's nitrifying bacteria. I usually pour the bacteria in right after the water change and sometoimes randomly as well.

What filter do you use? Do you modify it? When do you pour in your bacteria juice? Right After your water change?
Filter is Marineland Penguin 300B or something (for a 75 gal) with Biowheel. My tank is only 30 gal. I have two filter pads in it of which only 1 was rinsed and 1 changed over the 6 week period. The filter has a lot of biostars in them. No modifications otherwise. I have also tried using AQI Nitrazorb a few times. Did not do much so I stopped using it thinking that if that removed the Ammonia, the Nitrosomonas will not be able to grow.
 
georgelee1000
  • #5
Filter is good. But I would modify it. Use polyfil and bio rings. Other than that, when you add bacteria. Do it 24+ hours after you dose your conditioner. Conditioner do kill the beneficial bacteria that you are trying to incorporate into the tank water.
 
pamit73
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
Filter is good. But I would modify it. Use polyfil and bio rings. Other than that, when you add bacteria. Do it 24+ hours after you dose your conditioner. Conditioner do kill the beneficial bacteria that you are trying to incorporate into the tank water.
As asked above - Do I need the conditioner if my Cl levels are always zero? I do not add the conditioner half the time. Could no conditioner (with 0 Chlorine reading) possibly kill the beneficial bacteria?
 
Inactive User
  • #7
None of your parameters would suggest that nitrifying bacteria are being inhibited: pH, alkalinity (i.e. carbonate concentration), temperature are all within appropriate ranges.

If your chlorine tests for 0, there isn't much purpose in adding conditioner.

I'm going to suggest something a bit more radical: take your filter media out and scrub/soak it with non-conditioned tap water to kill off the bacteria and start anew.

Why do this? There's quite a lot written in aquaculture about biofilters and the competition between:

(1) ammonifying heterotrophic bacteria which takes up organic carbon from solid fish waste, excess fish food, other organic matter and converts it into ammonia; and
(2) nitrifying chemoautotrophic bacteria, our beneficial bacteria, of which Nitrosomonads take up ammonia and produces it into nitrite, which is then taken up by Nitrobacters and is then processed into nitrate.

Both varieties of bacteria compete for space and oxygen, and because ammonifying heterotrophic bacteria reproduce much more quickly than nitrifying bacteria, the latter can quickly become overwhelmed.

Why does this occur? High organic carbon loading: too much excess solid fish waste and other organic matter. Either you can do more vigorous cleaning, or you can use a filter media like Seachem Purigen which helps to remove carbonaceous (and nitrogenous) matter.
 
RSababady
  • #8
Sorry to hear you are struggling.

Can you give us the specs of your tap water please? Also, ask you municipality what they add to the water. Are they adding chloramine?
 
pamit73
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
None of your parameters would suggest that nitrifying bacteria are being inhibited: pH, alkalinity (i.e. carbonate concentration), temperature are all within appropriate ranges.

If your chlorine tests for 0, there isn't much purpose in adding conditioner.

I'm going to suggest something a bit more radical: take your filter media out and scrub/soak it with non-conditioned tap water to kill off the bacteria and start anew.

Why do this? There's quite a lot written in aquaculture about biofilters and the competition between:

(1) ammonifying heterotrophic bacteria which takes up organic carbon from solid fish waste, excess fish food, other organic matter and converts it into ammonia; and
(2) nitrifying chemoautotrophic bacteria, our beneficial bacteria, of which Nitrosomonads take up ammonia and produces it into nitrite, which is then taken up by Nitrobacters and is then processed into nitrate.

Both varieties of bacteria compete for space and oxygen, and because ammonifying heterotrophic bacteria reproduce much more quickly than nitrifying bacteria, the latter can quickly become overwhelmed.

Why does this occur? High organic carbon loading: too much excess solid fish waste and other organic matter. Either you can do more vigorous cleaning, or you can use a filter media like Seachem Purigen which helps to remove carbonaceous (and nitrogenous) matter.
Thanks for the detailed reply and suggestions.
1) Can I just put in fresh filter pads since apparently my water does not have chlorine and scrubbing as you suggested will not kill the ammonifying bacteria.
2) I should also remove my biostars for the same reason?
3) Will your approach cause my tank to cycle again with fully loaded fish?
4) What about the ammonifying bacteria in the substrate and all over the tank. Can you selectively kill them?
5) I will try the Seachem Purigen as suggested.

Sorry to hear you are struggling.

Can you give us the specs of your tap water please? Also, ask you municipality what they add to the water. Are they adding chloramine?

See attached. Chlorine is at 0.5 ppm (500 ppb). No mention of chloramines.
 

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Inactive User
  • #10
Thanks for the detailed reply and suggestions.
1) Can I just put in fresh filter pads since apparently my water does not have chlorine and scrubbing as you suggested will not kill the ammonifying bacteria.
2) I should also remove my biostars for the same reason?
3) Will your approach cause my tank to cycle again with fully loaded fish?
4) What about the ammonifying bacteria in the and all over the tank. Can you selectively kill them?
5) I will try the as suggested.

(1) and (2) The filter pads - if you and I are thinking of the same filtration media - are mostly intended as mechanical filters for particulate matter and other solids suspended in the water column. You can replace it if you'd like.

However, when I referred to scrubbing, I meant more so the bio stars. These and other highly porous media have quite a large amount of surface space available for the colonisation of bacteria.

Thank you for correcting me about your non-chlorinated water (for some reason I read it, then immediately forgot about it!). You needn't use chlorinated water, you can simply instead scrub the outer surface of the media: ammonifying heterotrophic bacteria are generally obligate aerobes, and so will typically form the highest density on the outside surface where they can obtain dissolved oxygen from the water column.

You can use new bio stars if you'd like.

(3) It's hard for me to say whether your cycle is progressing at all from your water parameters. It seems that it's more-or-less at a standstill or, at least, unable to accomodate the ammonia loading. Again, my thought is that the nitrifying bacteria are essentially being outcompeted by heterotrophic bacteria.

(4) I should say that in all tanks ammonifiers and nitrifiers are found together to some degree. It's safe to ignore the substrate and other surfaces, as much of the biofiltration activity is concentrated in the filter media itself.

(5) Again, it's a good idea to match Seachem Purigen with more vigorous gravel cleaning.
 
RSababady
  • #11
See attached. Chlorine is at 0.5 ppm (500 ppb). No mention of chloramines.
This is not actually very useful as it is from 29/03/2017. You really need to ask them for something more up to date OR test the water yourself i.e. nitrate level in water +chlorine level because 0.5 ppm chlorine is high!
 
Lh 90 gallon
  • #12
With the presence of chlorine .5ppm (for reference most pools are only 1-3 ppm) I would use a water conditioner every water change. You may be killing off any bacteria you had grown if you don’t
 
cichlid4life
  • #13
Sorry to hear you are struggling.

Can you give us the specs of your tap water please? Also, ask you municipality what they add to the water. Are they adding chloramine?
test your tap for ammonia, it could be from your tap water and that may be the problem.
 
pamit73
  • Thread Starter
  • #14
I did measure the tap water for everything. It is all 0 including chlorine. My resolution on chlorine however is 0 or 0.5. The color is solid 0 though.
 
cichlid4life
  • #15
I did measure the tap water for everything. It is all 0 including chlorine. My resolution on chlorine however is 0 or 0.5. The color is solid 0 though.
did you also check ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and ph in your tap?
 
pamit73
  • Thread Starter
  • #16
Yes. Everything 0. pH ~7.5.
 
cichlid4life
  • #17
ok and what about your tank what is the ph of your tank. I think I have this figured out I just need the ph of your tank now.
 
Inactive User
  • #18
I did measure the tap water for everything. It is all 0 including . My resolution on chlorine however is 0 or 0.5. The color is solid 0 though.

That's really all that's needed. There's no harm in adding water conditioner regardless as additional protection, but it would've been quite obvious if there had been residual chlorine given that's incredibly toxic to fish in small concentrations.

There's not a lot of studies conducted on chlorine's toxicity on aquarium fish, but as an example, chlorine's LD50 96-hr (the dose required for a 50% mortality over 96 hours exposure) for most species of trout is around 0.014 ppm.

If your fish aren't dropping dead left and right, it's fairly safe to say that there's next to no (if any) chlorine.
 
cichlid4life
  • #19
My tank is about 6 weeks old. This is my first tank and I learnt about everything I know after adding the fish. They have mostly survived. The continuing issue I have is that my Ammonia Levels keep rising quickly to 2-4 ppm. Nitrites are always very close to zero and Nitrates are also very low 5 ppm. I panic at the high Ammonia and do a ~75% water change every 2-4 days which brings ammonia down but it is back at 4 ppm within 2-3 days. Have been pouring in Bacteria in a bottle all along. It is a 30 gal tank which according to Aqadvisor is stocked at ~98% with filtration capacity in excess at ~120%. I have not changed the filter pads and have a ton of bio stars in the filter. Readings last night were Ammonia - 2.0 ppm, NO2 - 0, NO3 - 5 ppm, pH - 8.2, Cl - 0, Hardness - 300 ppm, Alkalinity 160. Have been testing with strips as well as API master test kit. No live plants. Plenty of aeration, Water Temp 76-78F, <12 hour lighting, Dont have any dead fish. There maybe a dead ghost shrimp that I am not aware of. Water turned cloudy in the early days but stays crystal clear now. No algae growth. Fish appear to be happy. Do try not to overfeed. I realize that the hardness is quite high but it has also been very low when I use softened eater. That seems to have no effect on the ammonia spikes. What am I doing wrong? Appreciate the help in advance.
you said your tank was at ph of 8.2 if you add water of 7.0 then then the ammonia becomes non-toxic (I don't know what is the new harmless ammonia now called) to the fish, but if the ph regulates itself back up to 8, then the (whatever the ammonia became earlier) becomes toxic and it becomes ammonia again. I think that in those two to three days this is what is happening. by the way if I am correct you have an African rift lake Tanganyika tank with most likely some cichlids.
 
Inactive User
  • #20
you said your tank was at of 8.2 if you add water of 7.0 then then the becomes non-toxic (I don't know what is the new harmless ammonia now called) to the fish, but if the ph regulates itself back up to 8, then the (whatever the ammonia became earlier) becomes toxic and it becomes ammonia again.

There's no particular pH at which all free ammonia (NH3) protonates to ammonium (NH4+). It's an equilibrium on a continuum affected by both pH (to the greatest extent) and temperature (to a lesser extent).

For example at a temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit and at 7.0 pH, free ammonia would make up 1.2% of total ammonia (NH3 + NH4+). At 8.2 pH, the proportion changes to 8.27%.

In any case, I don't think changes in pH or free ammonia concentration is what's causing the OP's cycling woes.
 
Jocelyn Adelman
  • #21
Whole bunch of posts here and I’m about to type and run...
1) get rid of test strips and get the apI master test kit. Strips are unreliable.
2) any time you are using tap add declorinator (see #1) chloramines May affect your cycle (if you had one)

Prime also has the benefit of neutralizing ammonia and nitrites up to 1ppm, once you hit 2ppm you want to do a 50-80% Change to drop the level back down while you wait for the tank to cycle. I wouldn’t recommend waiting til it reaches 2ppm.
Keep in mind a 50% Change will reduce values by 50% (assuming tap is negative).

Apologize if this is typed above and I missed it, only got through about half the posts and I have to run but wanted to reach out with this.

Also until you are cycled do not modify or change out/remove anything from your filter (it is fine to add additional bio if desired)
 
pamit73
  • Thread Starter
  • #22
ok and what about your tank what is the ph of your tank. I think I have this figured out I just need the ph of your tank now.
Last night it was 8.2. Same a few days ago before a water change.

you said your tank was at ph of 8.2 if you add water of 7.0 then then the ammonia becomes non-toxic (I don't know what is the new harmless ammonia now called) to the fish, but if the ph regulates itself back up to 8, then the (whatever the ammonia became earlier) becomes toxic and it becomes ammonia again. I think that in those two to three days this is what is happening. by the way if I am correct you have an African rift lake Tanganyika tank with most likely some cichlids.
Nope. It is a bunch of Platyies and white skirt and Neon Tetras with a single molly, gourami and guppy. My aquarium link is posted below.



Whole bunch of posts here and I’m about to type and run...
1) get rid of test strips and get the apI master test kit. Strips are unreliable.
2) any time you are using tap add declorinator (see #1) chloramines May affect your cycle (if you had one)

Prime also has the benefit of neutralizing ammonia and nitrites up to 1ppm, once you hit 2ppm you want to do a 50-80% Change to drop the level back down while you wait for the tank to cycle. I wouldn’t recommend waiting til it reaches 2ppm.
Keep in mind a 50% Change will reduce values by 50% (assuming tap is negative).

Apologize if this is typed above and I missed it, only got through about half the posts and I have to run but wanted to reach out with this.

Also until you are cycled do not modify or change out/remove anything from your filter (it is fine to add additional bio if desired)
1) I do have both the master kit, test strips, and also the continuous ammonia monitor (Seaprime). I understand strips can be unreliable. But right now ammonia is out of whack on all three indicators.

2) just to clarify, it is not that I do not dechlorinate at all. I have done it 50% of the time as I forgot the other times. Use of Prime did not change any outcomes.

Thanks everyone for all the enthusiastic help. So far what I am getting to is the competition between ammoniating versus nitrifying bacteria hypothesis proposed by Minnowette. His/her recommendation was basically starting over and adding the organic adsorbent and adding Prime even if there may or may not be a chlorine or chloramine issue. Any other thoughts?

With prime addition, is it ok to fill the tank and then add prime or treat every bucket I pour in. If so for how long?
 
Inactive User
  • #23
Any other thoughts?

Just to clarify, I did run through some other potential issues in my head, but they don't seem to the explanatory factor here. More specifically, there's more than 20 factors which can influence the nitrification process, and the most common in aquariums tend to be:

(1) Metabolic substrate concentrations: you have a largesse of ammonia, so this doesn't seem to explain it;
(2) Temperature: you're within the optimal range
(3) pH: again, optimal range
(4) Alkalinity (variously referred to as KH, carbonate salt concentration, etc.): your parameters are fine and in any case, nitrifying bacteria are able to utilise carbon dioxide as a metabolic substrate for carbon instead of carbonates
(5) Dissolved oxygen: this is highly unlikely given that you're using a commercially available filter with adequate surface disturbance

The only factor, to me, that is apparent is organic load. Here's an excerpt from Chen, Ling and Blancheton's (2006) study on how water quality factors affect nitrification in aquaculture systems:

"The fecal material excreted by fish and uneaten feed is organic in nature; thus, the water in a RAS [recirculating aquaculture system] may have a significant amount of organics, both in dissolved and particulate forms. Considerable research related to the organic effect on the nitrification process has been conducted, especially in domestic and industrial wastewater treatment. The most important impact of organics upon nitrification is due to the contribution of additional oxygen demand. Particulate and dissolved organics provide substrates for heterotrophic bacteria whose growth will compete with nitrifying bacteria for oxygen and growing space (OhashI et al., 1995; van Benthum et al., 1997 ). With the addition of organic matter, fast-growing heterotrophic bacteria which use organic carbon as their energy source will out compete slow-growing nitrifying bacteria, resulting in a decrease in the nitrification rate. It was reported that heterotrophic bacteria have a maximum growth rate of five times and yields of two to three times that of autotrophic nitrifying bacteria (Grady and Lim, 1980 )."

With prime addition, is it ok to fill the tank and then add prime or treat every I pour in. If so for how long?

Yep, that'll be fine. If you're dosing the conditioner into the tank, dose according to the tank's total water volume (and not the volume of the water change).
 
pamit73
  • Thread Starter
  • #24
Just to clarify, I did run through some other potential issues in my head, but they don't seem to the explanatory factor here. More specifically, there's more than 20 factors which can influence the nitrification process, and the most common in aquariums tend to be:

(1) Metabolic substrate concentrations: you have a largesse of ammonia, so this doesn't seem to explain it;
(2) Temperature: you're within the optimal range
(3) pH: again, optimal range
(4) Alkalinity (variously referred to as KH, carbonate salt concentration, etc.): your parameters are fine and in any case, nitrifying bacteria are able to utilise carbon dioxide as a metabolic substrate for carbon instead of carbonates
(5) Dissolved oxygen: this is highly unlikely given that you're using a commercially available filter with adequate surface disturbance

The only factor, to me, that is apparent is organic load. Here's an excerpt from Chen, Ling and Blancheton's (2006) study on how water quality factors affect nitrification in aquaculture systems:

"The fecal material excreted by fish and uneaten feed is organic in nature; thus, the water in a RAS [recirculating aquaculture system] may have a significant amount of organics, both in dissolved and particulate forms. Considerable research related to the organic effect on the nitrification process has been conducted, especially in domestic and industrial wastewater treatment. The most important impact of organics upon nitrification is due to the contribution of additional oxygen demand. Particulate and dissolved organics provide substrates for heterotrophic bacteria whose growth will compete with nitrifying bacteria for oxygen and growing space (OhashI et al., 1995; van Benthum et al., 1997 ). With the addition of organic matter, fast-growing heterotrophic bacteria which use organic carbon as their energy source will out compete slow-growing nitrifying bacteria, resulting in a decrease in the nitrification rate. It was reported that heterotrophic bacteria have a maximum growth rate of five times and yields of two to three times that of autotrophic nitrifying bacteria (Grady and Lim, 1980 )."



Yep, that'll be fine. If you're dosing the conditioner into the tank, dose according to the tank's total water volume (and not the volume of the water change).
Note that oxygen should not be an issue. In addition to having a largely oversized filter, I pump air in for several hours a day.
 
pamit73
  • Thread Starter
  • #25
Complete details of my tank setup. See attached.
 

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RSababady
  • #26
I'm going to suggest something a bit more radical: take your filter media out and scrub/soak it with non-conditioned tap water to kill off the bacteria and start anew.

Go for it!. Once everything from the filtered is washed with tap water, take a gallon of tank water out of the tank and rinse the filter and its media just to remove any traces of chlorine - this will help the bacteria colonize the media a jiff quicker.
 
pamit73
  • Thread Starter
  • #27
HI all, I am glad to report back that my tank appears now to be cycled or at least almost there. My original issue was high ammonia and zero nitrites and nitrates even after several weeks. Thanks to all the good suggestions to my post I did the following:

1) Washed out filter media.
2)Threw away biostars and put in fresh new ones in.

Above two were in response to the suggestion that my tank was probably overrun by ammonifying bacteria in competition with nitrifying bacteria.

3) Vacuumed out substrate more than usual.
4) Did a near complete water change.
5) Treated with Prime water conditioner every time even though my water did not indicate any chlorine.
6) Used Prime Stability, which is similar to API Quickstart. Continued using API Stresscoat and Stresszyme.

Within a week of this ammonia dropped (still not zero) and saw appearance of nitrites and nitrates. I check levels with everything - Master Test Kit, Strips for Ammonia and everything else, pH Meter, Seachem Dial for ammonia.

My Original Chemistry on Sept 4th was

Ammonia - 2 ppm (3.0 with strip, Toxic on Dial)
No2 - 0 (0.75 with Strip)
NO3 - 5 ppm (10 with Strip)
pH 8.2
Alkalinity 160
Cl - 0

Now as of September 18 it is

Ammonia - 0.25 ppm (1.0 with strip, Safe <0.25 on Dial)
No2 - 0.1 ppm (1.5 ppm with Strip)
NO3 - 25 ppm (25 with Strip)
pH 7.8 (8.02 with probe)
Alkalinity 110
Cl - 0
Hardness 300

Hopefully this thread and the posted outcome helps others. I think what did it was resetting the cycle with fresh bio-media, conditioning the water regularly and using Prime Stability. Also I am pleased with the Seachem Ammonia Dial Continuous monitor. Initially I was skeptical as it always showed toxic but it was right. Now corresponding to the other numbers, it shows safe. This little dial is good for 1 year and costs ~$8. They also make one for pH monitoring. Nothing like continuous Ammonia and pH monitoring!

BTW, I just lost 1-Platy with a decent water chemistry. There are a lot of other Platys in the tank and they seem fine. Maybe just individual sickness.

Thank you again to all the posters in this thread.
 
cichlid4life
  • #28
If I were to be a 8 year old child, I would think this thread is for geeky/nerd scientist and not a bunch of fish keeping hobbyist!
My tank is about 6 weeks old. This is my first tank and I learnt about everything I know after adding the fish. They have mostly survived. The continuing issue I have is that my Ammonia Levels keep rising quickly to 2-4 ppm. Nitrites are always very close to zero and Nitrates are also very low 5 ppm. I panic at the high Ammonia and do a ~75% water change every 2-4 days which brings ammonia down but it is back at 4 ppm within 2-3 days. Have been pouring in Bacteria in a bottle all along. It is a 30 gal tank which according to Aqadvisor is stocked at ~98% with filtration capacity in excess at ~120%. I have not changed the filter pads and have a ton of bio stars in the filter. Readings last night were Ammonia - 2.0 ppm, NO2 - 0, NO3 - 5 ppm, pH - 8.2, Cl - 0, Hardness - 300 ppm, Alkalinity 160. Have been testing with strips as well as API master test kit. No live plants. Plenty of aeration, Water Temp 76-78F, <12 hour lighting, Dont have any dead fish. There maybe a dead ghost shrimp that I am not aware of. Water turned cloudy in the early days but stays crystal clear now. No algae growth. Fish appear to be happy. Do try not to overfeed. I realize that the hardness is quite high but it has also been very low when I use softened eater. That seems to have no effect on the ammonia spikes. What am I doing wrong? Appreciate the help in advance.

Are you using a water conditioner when you do the water changes? What bottled bacteria are you using?

What filter do you use? Do you modify it? When do you pour in your bacteria juice? Right After your water change?

I sometimes use Prime Conditioner (sometimes also in excess). Don't always use it as my Cl readings are always zero. Should I still be using it? For bacteria, I have used the Quickstart as well as a lot of Marineland bacteria as well as AQI's nitrifying bacteria. I usually pour the bacteria in right after the water change and sometoimes randomly as well.


Filter is Marineland Penguin 300B or something (for a 75 gal) with Biowheel. My tank is only 30 gal. I have two filter pads in it of which only 1 was rinsed and 1 changed over the 6 week period. The filter has a lot of biostars in them. No modifications otherwise. I have also tried using AQI Nitrazorb a few times. Did not do much so I stopped using it thinking that if that removed the Ammonia, the Nitrosomonas will not be able to grow.

Filter is good. But I would modify it. Use polyfil and bio rings. Other than that, when you add bacteria. Do it 24+ hours after you dose your conditioner. Conditioner do kill the beneficial bacteria that you are trying to incorporate into the tank water.

As asked above - Do I need the conditioner if my Cl levels are always zero? I do not add the conditioner half the time. Could no conditioner (with 0 Chlorine reading) possibly kill the beneficial bacteria?

None of your parameters would suggest that nitrifying bacteria are being inhibited: pH, alkalinity (i.e. carbonate concentration), temperature are all within appropriate ranges.

If your chlorine tests for 0, there isn't much purpose in adding conditioner.

I'm going to suggest something a bit more radical: take your filter media out and scrub/soak it with non-conditioned tap water to kill off the bacteria and start anew.

Why do this? There's quite a lot written in aquaculture about biofilters and the competition between:

(1) ammonifying heterotrophic bacteria which takes up organic carbon from solid fish waste, excess fish food, other organic matter and converts it into ammonia; and
(2) nitrifying chemoautotrophic bacteria, our beneficial bacteria, of which Nitrosomonads take up ammonia and produces it into nitrite, which is then taken up by Nitrobacters and is then processed into nitrate.

Both varieties of bacteria compete for space and oxygen, and because ammonifying heterotrophic bacteria reproduce much more quickly than nitrifying bacteria, the latter can quickly become overwhelmed.

Why does this occur? High organic carbon loading: too much excess solid fish waste and other organic matter. Either you can do more vigorous cleaning, or you can use a filter media like Seachem Purigen which helps to remove carbonaceous (and nitrogenous) matter.

Sorry to hear you are struggling.

Can you give us the specs of your tap water please? Also, ask you municipality what they add to the water. Are they adding chloramine?

Thanks for the detailed reply and suggestions.
1) Can I just put in fresh filter pads since apparently my water does not have chlorine and scrubbing as you suggested will not kill the ammonifying bacteria.
2) I should also remove my biostars for the same reason?
3) Will your approach cause my tank to cycle again with fully loaded fish?
4) What about the ammonifying bacteria in the substrate and all over the tank. Can you selectively kill them?
5) I will try the Seachem Purigen as suggested.



See attached. Chlorine is at 0.5 ppm (500 ppb). No mention of chloramines.

(1) and (2) The filter pads - if you and I are thinking of the same filtration media - are mostly intended as mechanical filters for particulate matter and other solids suspended in the water column. You can replace it if you'd like.

However, when I referred to scrubbing, I meant more so the bio stars. These and other highly porous media have quite a large amount of surface space available for the colonisation of bacteria.

Thank you for correcting me about your non-chlorinated water (for some reason I read it, then immediately forgot about it!). You needn't use chlorinated water, you can simply instead scrub the outer surface of the media: ammonifying heterotrophic bacteria are generally obligate aerobes, and so will typically form the highest density on the outside surface where they can obtain dissolved oxygen from the water column.

You can use new bio stars if you'd like.

(3) It's hard for me to say whether your cycle is progressing at all from your water parameters. It seems that it's more-or-less at a standstill or, at least, unable to accomodate the ammonia loading. Again, my thought is that the nitrifying bacteria are essentially being outcompeted by heterotrophic bacteria.

(4) I should say that in all tanks ammonifiers and nitrifiers are found together to some degree. It's safe to ignore the substrate and other surfaces, as much of the biofiltration activity is concentrated in the filter media itself.

(5) Again, it's a good idea to match Seachem Purigen with more vigorous gravel cleaning.

This is not actually very useful as it is from 29/03/2017. You really need to ask them for something more up to date OR test the water yourself i.e. nitrate level in water +chlorine level because 0.5 ppm chlorine is high!

With the presence of chlorine .5ppm (for reference most pools are only 1-3 ppm) I would use a water conditioner every water change. You may be killing off any bacteria you had grown if you don’t

test your tap for ammonia, it could be from your tap water and that may be the problem.

I did measure the tap water for everything. It is all 0 including chlorine. My resolution on chlorine however is 0 or 0.5. The color is solid 0 though.

did you also check ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and ph in your tap?

Yes. Everything 0. pH ~7.5.

ok and what about your tank what is the ph of your tank. I think I have this figured out I just need the ph of your tank now.

That's really all that's needed. There's no harm in adding water conditioner regardless as additional protection, but it would've been quite obvious if there had been residual chlorine given that's incredibly toxic to fish in small concentrations.

There's not a lot of studies conducted on chlorine's toxicity on aquarium fish, but as an example, chlorine's LD50 96-hr (the dose required for a 50% mortality over 96 hours exposure) for most species of trout is around 0.014 ppm.

If your fish aren't dropping dead left and right, it's fairly safe to say that there's next to no (if any) chlorine.

you said your tank was at ph of 8.2 if you add water of 7.0 then then the ammonia becomes non-toxic (I don't know what is the new harmless ammonia now called) to the fish, but if the ph regulates itself back up to 8, then the (whatever the ammonia became earlier) becomes toxic and it becomes ammonia again. I think that in those two to three days this is what is happening. by the way if I am correct you have an African rift lake Tanganyika tank with most likely some cichlids.

There's no particular pH at which all free ammonia (NH3) protonates to ammonium (NH4+). It's an equilibrium on a continuum affected by both pH (to the greatest extent) and temperature (to a lesser extent).

For example at a temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit and at 7.0 pH, free ammonia would make up 1.2% of total ammonia (NH3 + NH4+). At 8.2 pH, the proportion changes to 8.27%.

In any case, I don't think changes in pH or free ammonia concentration is what's causing the OP's cycling woes.

Whole bunch of posts here and I’m about to type and run...
1) get rid of test strips and get the apI master test kit. Strips are unreliable.
2) any time you are using tap add declorinator (see #1) chloramines May affect your cycle (if you had one)

Prime also has the benefit of neutralizing ammonia and nitrites up to 1ppm, once you hit 2ppm you want to do a 50-80% Change to drop the level back down while you wait for the tank to cycle. I wouldn’t recommend waiting til it reaches 2ppm.
Keep in mind a 50% Change will reduce values by 50% (assuming tap is negative).

Apologize if this is typed above and I missed it, only got through about half the posts and I have to run but wanted to reach out with this.

Also until you are cycled do not modify or change out/remove anything from your filter (it is fine to add additional bio if desired)

Last night it was 8.2. Same a few days ago before a water change.


Nope. It is a bunch of Platyies and white skirt and Neon Tetras with a single molly, gourami and guppy. My aquarium link is posted below.




1) I do have both the master kit, test strips, and also the continuous ammonia monitor (Seaprime). I understand strips can be unreliable. But right now ammonia is out of whack on all three indicators.

2) just to clarify, it is not that I do not dechlorinate at all. I have done it 50% of the time as I forgot the other times. Use of Prime did not change any outcomes.

Thanks everyone for all the enthusiastic help. So far what I am getting to is the competition between ammoniating versus nitrifying bacteria hypothesis proposed by Minnowette. His/her recommendation was basically starting over and adding the organic adsorbent and adding Prime even if there may or may not be a chlorine or chloramine issue. Any other thoughts?

With prime addition, is it ok to fill the tank and then add prime or treat every bucket I pour in. If so for how long?

Just to clarify, I did run through some other potential issues in my head, but they don't seem to the explanatory factor here. More specifically, there's more than 20 factors which can influence the nitrification process, and the most common in aquariums tend to be:

(1) Metabolic substrate concentrations: you have a largesse of ammonia, so this doesn't seem to explain it;
(2) Temperature: you're within the optimal range
(3) pH: again, optimal range
(4) Alkalinity (variously referred to as KH, carbonate salt concentration, etc.): your parameters are fine and in any case, nitrifying bacteria are able to utilise carbon dioxide as a metabolic substrate for carbon instead of carbonates
(5) Dissolved oxygen: this is highly unlikely given that you're using a commercially available filter with adequate surface disturbance

The only factor, to me, that is apparent is organic load. Here's an excerpt from Chen, Ling and Blancheton's (2006) study on how water quality factors affect nitrification in aquaculture systems:

"The fecal material excreted by fish and uneaten feed is organic in nature; thus, the water in a RAS [recirculating aquaculture system] may have a significant amount of organics, both in dissolved and particulate forms. Considerable research related to the organic effect on the nitrification process has been conducted, especially in domestic and industrial wastewater treatment. The most important impact of organics upon nitrification is due to the contribution of additional oxygen demand. Particulate and dissolved organics provide substrates for heterotrophic bacteria whose growth will compete with nitrifying bacteria for oxygen and growing space (OhashI et al., 1995; van Benthum et al., 1997 ). With the addition of organic matter, fast-growing heterotrophic bacteria which use organic carbon as their energy source will out compete slow-growing nitrifying bacteria, resulting in a decrease in the nitrification rate. It was reported that heterotrophic bacteria have a maximum growth rate of five times and yields of two to three times that of autotrophic nitrifying bacteria (Grady and Lim, 1980 )."



Yep, that'll be fine. If you're dosing the conditioner into the tank, dose according to the tank's total water volume (and not the volume of the water change).

Note that oxygen should not be an issue. In addition to having a largely oversized filter, I pump air in for several hours a day.

Complete details of my tank setup. See attached.

Go for it!. Once everything from the filtered is washed with tap water, take a gallon of tank water out of the tank and rinse the filter and its media just to remove any traces of chlorine - this will help the bacteria colonize the media a jiff quicker.

HI all, I am glad to report back that my tank appears now to be cycled or at least almost there. My original issue was high ammonia and zero nitrites and nitrates even after several weeks. Thanks to all the good suggestions to my post I did the following:

1) Washed out filter media.
2)Threw away biostars and put in fresh new ones in.

Above two were in response to the suggestion that my tank was probably overrun by ammonifying bacteria in competition with nitrifying bacteria.

3) Vacuumed out substrate more than usual.
4) Did a near complete water change.
5) Treated with Prime water conditioner every time even though my water did not indicate any chlorine.
6) Used Prime Stability, which is similar to API Quickstart. Continued using API Stresscoat and Stresszyme.

Within a week of this ammonia dropped (still not zero) and saw appearance of nitrites and nitrates. I check levels with everything - Master Test Kit, Strips for Ammonia and everything else, pH Meter, Seachem Dial for ammonia.

My Original Chemistry on Sept 4th was

Ammonia - 2 ppm (3.0 with strip, Toxic on Dial)
No2 - 0 (0.75 with Strip)
NO3 - 5 ppm (10 with Strip)
pH 8.2
Alkalinity 160
Cl - 0

Now as of September 18 it is

Ammonia - 0.25 ppm (1.0 with strip, Safe <0.25 on Dial)
No2 - 0.1 ppm (1.5 ppm with Strip)
NO3 - 25 ppm (25 with Strip)
pH 7.8 (8.02 with probe)
Alkalinity 110
Cl - 0
Hardness 300

Hopefully this thread and the posted outcome helps others. I think what did it was resetting the cycle with fresh bio-media, conditioning the water regularly and using Prime Stability. Also I am pleased with the Seachem Ammonia Dial Continuous monitor. Initially I was skeptical as it always showed toxic but it was right. Now corresponding to the other numbers, it shows safe. This little dial is good for 1 year and costs ~$8. They also make one for pH monitoring. Nothing like continuous Ammonia and pH monitoring!

BTW, I just lost 1-Platy with a decent water chemistry. There are a lot of other Platys in the tank and they seem fine. Maybe just individual sickness.

Thank you again to all the posters in this thread.
I mean this is a lot of information and it is great but it is also an overload of information and I am not just mentally exhausted but also I think I am physically exhausted too!
 

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