How Close To Cycled Am I?

aoiumi

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I set up a 5.5 gal tank 16 days ago, and am doing a fishless cycle with fish food. There are 2 Java ferns and a few dying duckweed, and very little light. One Java fern can from a tank with a very heavy bioload, but everything else was new.
pH is 7.6, temp is 79.

The entire time I've had it up, there has never been more than .25 ammonia at any point. I test for ammonia about every three days. I've only tested for nitrIte three times in total, but haven't seen any at any point. I should have been testing more, but life got busy and I comforted myself with the fact that there was nothing I was going to kill.

Two days after setting up, I tested for nitrAtes and got a reading of 5 ppm. At this point in time, I had only used bottled water. Whether or not it contained nitrAtes, I don't know. I'd hope not.

Today I tested all three. NitrItes remain at zero. Ammonia continues to be somewhere around 0-.25 ppm. Nitrates, however, are somewhere between 10 and 20 ppm. (probably 15.)

Now, I have about 20 ppm nitrAte in my tap water, and did add about 1 gallon of my tap water to the tank.

All in all, I guess the questions are:

How close to cycled am I?
How much of an effect did my tap water have?
How much of a problem will nitrAtes in the water be, and what could I do to control them? (I.e. what would be the best low-light plants. I can't get fancy lights or CO2 but I will get as many plants as I can.)
 

MrBryan723

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I would guess about 30-45 days out. .25 is pretty low to start a cycle so it will take a long time still. And theres a good chance the .25 is a false positive and your tank hasn't started to cycle at all due to there being no ammonia source to start the cycle in the first place.
 
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aoiumi

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I would guess about 30-45 days out. .25 is pretty low to start a cycle so it will take a long time still. And theres a good chance the .25 is a false positive and your tank hasn't started to cycle at all due to there being no ammonia source to start the cycle in the first place.
Well I've been adding fish food every day for the past two weeks! I'd hope there's some ammonia in there by now!
 

Skavatar

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2 weeks is not enough time to properly cycle a brand new tank. Unless you are using seeded media from your other tank.

The plants could be helping to keep the ammonia low. I would put more fish food, you want to get 4ppm ammonia to get the bacteria to grow a large colony.
 

MrBryan723

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Fish food takes an extra step to break down into ammonia so it will generally take longer to start the cycle, usually you add a fair bit and leave it to decompose only adding more once the bacteria colonies that break down the fish food start to proliferate. If you add it daily you can get a sudden spike in ammonia that's too high for a good cycle. And then the plant thing previously mentioned.
 
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