How high should nitrite get during a cycle?

baph0meat

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hi! i’m going through a fishless cycle in my first ever tank, a 8 gal/30 L moderately planted. I have hygrophilia polysperma, helanthium quadricostatus, and anubias nana that are all thriving (tons of new runners/new leaves, very visible difference in size/lushness every 24 hours), and taiwan moss that is doing okay-ish (there doesn’t seem to be much growth but it doesn’t look sickly or anything.) i’m dosing with fish food because I can’t get ammonia for a multitude of reasons, quarantine among them.

from startup to about the three week mark my nitrites have risen from 0 to 1.6ppm, and just today (2 days after that reading) they’re starting to drop to 1.2 ppm. i’m excited to see that they’re dropping, but I also feel like i’ve seen tons of stuff about people’s tanks shooting all the way up to 4-5ppm nitrite and i’n wondering if 1.6 being my “peak” is abnormally low? I had been dosing fish food twice a day and dialed back to once a day because I was getting a huge bloom of diatoms all over the glass as well as a small amount of green algae and I was worried I was throwing off the balance with too much food (there’s a lot of debris from the broken down food resting on my driftwood and i’m sure there’s tons on the substrate that’s hard to see), so i’m not sure if the nitrite drop is actually the cycle progressing or if maybe it’s just a cause and effect from lowering the amount of ammonia i’m introducing to the tank.

i’m relying mostly on the nitrite levels because the plants make the other parameters kind of complicated; i’ve consistently tested 0 ammonia even though the nitrites are progressing and i’m assuming it’s bc the plants are using it, and I have 15ppm nitrates naturally occurring in my tap water but i’ve been testing 10ppm in the tank lately so I guess the plants are consuming that too, so it’s hard to tell what the nitrates would be at without them.

my eventual stocking plan is one nerite, 2-4 amanos, and 4-6 tiger shrimp (which i’ll add first as the plants grow in completely), then a few weeks later/whenever I think the plants are at a sufficient cover level just to be safe, i’ll add one male betta, so my eventual bioload won’t be huge. (i’m also a little worried about the tiger shrimp because my water is very hard, and because they’re smaller than the amanos so the betta might go after them, so if anyone has any thoughts on that too i’d appreciate it. i’ll skip them if it’s a bad idea.)
 

Blueberrybetta

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its going to be difficult and a big mess to deal with using fish food. you should have a high nitrite spike so there's enough to convert to nitrates. 1ppm nitrite is too low but the fact there is some is a good thing! you need to be adding more fish food, not less. you need ammonia to reach atleast 3ppm which would probably take the whole bottle of fish food... you need the parameters higher to keep the cycle going and to make sure the BB is eating.
 
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baph0meat

baph0meat

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okay, that’s what I was worried about. I looked harder and tried different search terms and actually did finally find unperfumed/pure ammonia solution I could buy online — from a specialized lab supply website, haha. i’m in spain and it’s been extremely difficult to find it on any normal consumer sites like amazon, etc. it’s ordered and until then I guess i’ll stick with the fish food dosing until it gets here to keep whatever bacteria I have going!

what ppm of nitrite is probably a “normal” peak level that I should be looking for, once i’m able to get my ammonia dosing more stable?
 

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It is like a workout regiment. Don't worry about the numbers (weight, pounds lost etc), just try to focus on what you want to accomplish.
The goal of cycling the tank is to create beneficial bacteria that converts toxins to less toxic compounds. That is it. To build colonies of these beneficial bacteria they need "food" to sustain them. One is ammonia the other nitrite. The amount of "food" you have in the tank is irrelevant in my opinion. The bacteria will not reproduce any faster by having more "food" in the tank. I would dose ammonia up to around the estimated bio-load of the tank each time it reaches zero until the cycle is complete. I wouldn't worry about the specific nitrite or nitrate number.
 

mattgirl

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Warning:Going against the grain here

It sounds to me like things are going well for you. Ghost feeding a tank will cycle a tank. There are those that will disagree with me but I think you will get a more natural cycle the way you are doing it right now. The bacteria is getting the same type of food it will get once you stock this tank. I would continue adding a pinch of food daily. That way you are getting a constant supply of ammonia. The food has to decompose to form ammonia. As long as you are adding some daily there will be some constantly decomposing so there will be no break in the supply of ammonia.

To be totally honest I had never heard of using liquid ammonia to cycle a tank before joining this forum. I had never even considered doing a fishless cycle. By doing it the way you are dong it just seems more natural to me. You don't have to see sky high nitrites. You just have to see them go up and then drop back to 0. You won't be growing a huge colony of bacteria but there should be enough to handle the bio-load of your planned stock.

Once you get a constant reading of 0 for ammonia, your nitrites drop to 0 and the nitrates go higher than what comes from your tap you can consider the cycle complete even if your nitrites never go any higher than they are right now.
 

cmid21

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mattgirl said:
Warning:Going against the grain here

It sounds to me like things are going well for you. Ghost feeding a tank will cycle a tank. There are those that will disagree with me but I think you will get a more natural cycle the way you are doing it right now. The bacteria is getting the same type of food it will get once you stock this tank. I would continue adding a pinch of food daily. That way you are getting a constant supply of ammonia. The food has to decompose to form ammonia. As long as you are adding some daily there will be some constantly decomposing so there will be no break in the supply of ammonia.

To be totally honest I had never heard of using liquid ammonia to cycle a tank before joining this forum. I had never even considered doing a fishless cycle. By doing it the way you are dong it just seems more natural to me. You don't have to see sky high nitrites. You just have to see them go up and then drop back to 0. You won't be growing a huge colony of bacteria but there should be enough to handle the bio-load of your planned stock.

Once you get a constant reading of 0 for ammonia, your nitrites drop to 0 and the nitrates go higher than what comes from your tap you can consider the cycle complete even if your nitrites never go any higher than they are right now.
Not that I disagree at all with what you have said here. But ammonia is ammonia isn't it? (not considering ionized vs un-ionized) Whether it is generated from the decomposition of organic materials in the tank or from the metabolism of protein through fish waste, I'm not sure that there is a difference. (I don't know for sure, so any information to the contrary is welcomed)
I'm not sure it is any consequence to the bacteria on how the ammonia is produced.
 

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cmid21 said:
Not that I disagree at all with what you have said here. But ammonia is ammonia isn't it? (not considering ionized vs un-ionized) Whether it is generated from the decomposition of organic materials in the tank or from the metabolism of protein through fish waste, I'm not sure that there is a difference. (I don't know for sure, so any information to the contrary is welcomed)
I'm not sure it is any consequence to the bacteria on how the ammonia is produced.
You could be totally correct and ammonia no matter where it comes from could be exactly the same but I think, and of course there is no way I can prove it, using fish food to supply the ammonia also adds extra nutrients not present in pure ammonia alone. I have to think that is why so many folks come here because they can't get their fishless cycle complete. They appear to be doing everything right but months go by and their cycle is still not finished.

When doing a fish in cycle it is mostly the food being processed through the fish producing the ammonia. I seldom see anyone coming here because they can't complete their fish in cycle. Follow a simple set of steps, do water changes and the cycle moves forward along a predictable path. It seems all bets are off when doing a fishless cycle with bottled ammonia.

As always just my humble opinion and thoughts. :)
 
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baph0meat

baph0meat

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thanks for all your responses, guys. even though i’ve already bought the ammonia it’s a relief to see that fish food will probably get the job done anyway — the site I ordered from gave me no shipping time estimate whatsoever, and with things being the way they are I wouldn’t be surprised if the delivery were delayed or canceled, maybe without me being notified.

BUT, two days ago my nitrites were 1.2 and now they’ve nosedived down to 0.3; and my nitrates are down to 5ppm! (or maybe between 5-10... i’m using a JBL liquid kit that jumps from 5 to 10 and the colors are almost identical.) should I be worried about that? does it mean something went wrong? I re-tested my tap water in a fit of paranoia and it’s also testing in that 5-10ppm range, closer to 10, instead of the 15ppm I said originally. I think it’s far more likely that I misread the test the first time than that my tap water parameters have suddenly changed, but either way it means my nitrates aren’t rising even though nitrite is dropping (it seems unrealistic to think that my plants would be consuming it that quickly even though they’re growing very robustly, but maybe i’m wrong?)

cmid21 said:
I would dose ammonia up to around the estimated bio-load of the tank each time it reaches zero until the cycle is complete. I wouldn't worry about the specific nitrite or nitrate number.
with the ghost feeding method i’ve seen people say to basically feed the amount you’d be adding to the tank normally, so i’ve been dosing more than i’d feed the single betta, to account for the shrimp and the nerite; one pinch AM and one pinch PM, and i’d say it totals to about twice what i’d expect to feed the betta alone. is there another way to estimate what the bioload of my eventual stocking plans would be? or is it okay for it to be a rough estimate like this? when I try to google “bioload calculator” I only get stocking calculators like aqadvisor, I haven’t really found anything that equates amount of livestock = ppm ammonia they’ll produce.
 

cmid21

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Hello baph0meat ,
baph0meat said:
BUT, two days ago my nitrites were 1.2 and now they’ve nosedived down to 0.3; and my nitrates are down to 5ppm! (or maybe between 5-10... i’m using a JBL liquid kit that jumps from 5 to 10 and the colors are almost identical.) should I be worried about that? does it mean something went wrong? I re-tested my tap water in a fit of paranoia and it’s also testing in that 5-10ppm range, closer to 10, instead of the 15ppm I said originally.
I think you are getting too over concerned about this. :D Which technically is a good thing! Too many people just dive into this and don't do their research, so by you coming here and learning is a great thing. It looks as though your cycle is well on its way. The only way Nitrates leave the water is through water changes and/or plants as plants will use Nitrates. (also will use ammonia nitrite)
Nitrate levels of 5-15ppm is completely acceptable.

baph0meat said:
but either way it means my nitrates aren’t rising even though nitrite is dropping (it seems unrealistic to think that my plants would be consuming it that quickly even though they’re growing very robustly, but maybe i’m wrong?)
This is not an unrealistic assessment. I cycled a tank that never had any nitrates present due to being heavily planted. I used organic dirt that released huge amounts of ammonia and got a huge nitrite spike, but never any substantial nitrates.
The only part of the cycle you should be worried about is the ammonia and nitrite readings. Once these go to zero within 24 hours of dosing the tank with ammonia, then you are cycled. Don't worry about the nitrate readings especially when they are insignificant as 5ppm. These will be managed through regular water changes. (which I recommend everyone do)

baph0meat said:
with the ghost feeding method i’ve seen people say to basically feed the amount you’d be adding to the tank normally, so i’ve been dosing more than i’d feed the single betta, to account for the shrimp and the nerite; one pinch AM and one pinch PM, and i’d say it totals to about twice what i’d expect to feed the betta alone. is there another way to estimate what the bioload of my eventual stocking plans would be? or is it okay for it to be a rough estimate like this?
I wouldn't estimate at all. If it were me, I would add the amount of fish food you expect to feed your livestock plus some extra for the plants. Ammonia is introduced to the beneficial bacteria through two sources. Decomposing fish food and fish waste. So I guess initially estimate this amount but then check the water parameters.
I would add food until my next day (I think this is adequate time to let the food break down but someone might have a more accurate time) ammonia reading is 2ppm+. If you test your ammonia levels consistently, then you won't be guessing or estimating. This is why I have never used fish food to cycle a tank as it is less precise and takes more time to establish ammonia. With pure ammonia, you can add a precise amount to get precise ammonia levels.

If you ever get your pure ammonia you can use this calculator for calculating how much ammonia to add. Fishless Cycle Ammonia Calculator
 

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baph0meat said:
thanks for all your responses, guys. even though i’ve already bought the ammonia it’s a relief to see that fish food will probably get the job done anyway — the site I ordered from gave me no shipping time estimate whatsoever, and with things being the way they are I wouldn’t be surprised if the delivery were delayed or canceled, maybe without me being notified.

BUT, two days ago my nitrites were 1.2 and now they’ve nosedived down to 0.3; and my nitrates are down to 5ppm! (or maybe between 5-10... i’m using a JBL liquid kit that jumps from 5 to 10 and the colors are almost identical.) should I be worried about that? does it mean something went wrong? I re-tested my tap water in a fit of paranoia and it’s also testing in that 5-10ppm range, closer to 10, instead of the 15ppm I said originally. I think it’s far more likely that I misread the test the first time than that my tap water parameters have suddenly changed, but either way it means my nitrates aren’t rising even though nitrite is dropping (it seems unrealistic to think that my plants would be consuming it that quickly even though they’re growing very robustly, but maybe i’m wrong?)



with the ghost feeding method i’ve seen people say to basically feed the amount you’d be adding to the tank normally, so i’ve been dosing more than i’d feed the single betta, to account for the shrimp and the nerite; one pinch AM and one pinch PM, and i’d say it totals to about twice what i’d expect to feed the betta alone. is there another way to estimate what the bioload of my eventual stocking plans would be? or is it okay for it to be a rough estimate like this? when I try to google “bioload calculator” I only get stocking calculators like aqadvisor, I haven’t really found anything that equates amount of livestock = ppm ammonia they’ll produce.
Seeing your nitrites go down is a very good sign that your cycle is moving in the right direction. This is what we want to see happen. Just continue feeding as you have been and keep an eye on both ammonia and nitrite levels. When they both hit and stay at 0 you can be assured that your cycle is complete.

Your plants could very well be keeping up closely with the production of nitrates and you may not see a huge spike in them. They may not rise any appreciable amount until you actually start feeding fish instead of just ghost feeding.
 

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