In trouble here...

  1. m

    manzellicd Initiate Member

    First Tank. Freshwater 29 Gal TopFin starter tank. It's been running for just shy of four months. I tried to do a fishless cycle. I used store bought drift wood (from a tank), bacteria starter, and a water conditioner (which I didn't realize had an ammonia remover inside it).

    -4 Weeks-

    After four weeks I added a male Swordtail, female Marble Lyretail Molly, and female Panda Platy. The molly died by the end of the weekend so I decided to just keep taking things slow. I kept up with weekly water changes 10%-20%.

    -10 Weeks-

    The sword and the platty kept going strong so after six weeks everything looked good so I bought three male Guppys.

    -12 Weeks-

    Two weeks ago the terrace I had started falling and wouldn't stay up so I replaced it with a new decoration to hide the hoses for my decorations. I rinsed it with cold water like I was supposed to. Realizing a lot of bb probably was lost when the terrace left I stepped up my weekly water changes to 25% assuming ammonia may spike.

    -14 Weeks-

    Everything was going well until something didn't seem right on Friday. One of the guppy's started gasping at the surface. I checked my ammonia and it was at 2ppm. I immediately started 50% daily water changes. Before each change I checked the ammonia and each time it was holding steady at .5ppm. In the last 24 hours I've lost 2 of the guppys and the third one has started gasping at the surface as of this afternoon when I got off work. He's been acting "ok" after this evening's water change but so did the other two yesterday.

    It finally dawned on me today, four months later that my water conditioner has an ammonia remover in it. I'm wondering if my tank even had the chance to start cycling. Everything I've read suggests that unnecessary chemicals are not the way to go if it can be avoided so I immediately bought just a straight dechlorinator, no frills, just killing the chlorine and chloramine. After tonight's water change I decided to check my ammonia content again. It's still .5ppm after just over a 50% change. I checked the water coming out of my tap, which is county water NOT WELL and it's coming out of the tap at 1ppm. What do I do? Do I start buying distilled water till this tank cycles? Do I buy a really big brita filter? I'm at a complete loss... I'm frustrated and getting pretty mad as I'm about a grand and four months in and the only thing that has survived my 29 gal tank is a sword and a platty and a guppy that's probably gonna be belly up by morning... Sorry if I come off as a tool but I'm at my wits end, I have no idea what I'm doing wrong.

  2. Lchi87

    Lchi87 Fishlore VIP Member

    I'm sorry, that sounds very frustrating. What dechlorinator and testing kit are you using?

  3. peregrine

    peregrine Member Member

    manzellicd First welcome to the forums and sorry for your issues.

    second: take a deep breath everything will be ok :)

    Now a few questions. What are all your parameters? What filter are you using? and which water conditioner?

    Most don't actually remove ammonia they just bind to it so its less toxic to fish. Removing the one decoration should not have caused that big of a swing. Most Beneficial bacteria is stored in your filter.

    And don't worry about how you sound. Everyone is here to help and will try our best to get you through this frustrations. Most people here have spoke about no matter how long you do it, there will be frustrating moments. Which is why this forum is here :)

  4. Z

    Zed Initiate Member

    Hey manzellicd, welcome to the forum. I recently joined FishLore because I was having similar issues. After 3 months, and after having stocked my tank, I realized that my cycle wasn't established, at first I was devastated, mainly because I didn't want to put my fish through that. I'm now well on the way to recovery, and here's how I did it (the answer might be a little long)

    First of all, your conditioner does not remove ammonia, what it does is convert it to ammonium which is much less toxic, so if you have large ammonia concentrations, then it's probably a good idea to keep using it (Beneficial bacteria will consume ammonium/ammonia which is the first part of the cycle). Also, the 1ppm of Ammonia in your tap water is coming from the chloramine, which is combined chlorine and ammonia. more and more water districts are using chloramine these days due to the fact that it doesn't evaporate the way chlorine does.

    I kept seeing extremely high levels of ammonia (4ppm at times) in spite of my regular water changes. My tap water has 1-2 ppm of ammonia... But the problem was that I didn't have any nitrites or nitrates in the water, indicating that my cycle was non-existent.

    so I did a 50% water change using store bought spring water and another 1 the next day bringing down my ammonia levels to 0.25ppm, but I had a fully stocked tank with no where to move my fish, even my fish store refused to take the fish, understandably. I also started dosing Sachem stability daily, which adds beneficial bacteria to the system in order to jump start the cycle. Nonetheless, it is a slow process, and mandates quite a bit of patience. Meanwhile, I kept adding prime to my water daily to detoxify my ammonia. I also added ceramic media in my filter to start establishing bacteria colonies in there. I stopped doing daily water changes for the purpose of letting things run their course.

    I was adding stability for the bacteria and prime for the ammonia everyday, and my fish looked healthy and happy and calm, I kept feeding the fish, but only every other day to reduce the ammonia build up. I also added a couple of plants in the tank, but I can't say for sure that they helped. Anyways, less than a week later, I started seeing low levels of nitrites and nitrates in my water, and it was a huge relief, but now I just needed to stay on top of everything and wait for the bacteria numbers to grow.

    Most importantly, when I started this process, I didn't disturb my filter or my gravel bed since I didn't want to hinder the growth of my beneficial bacteria colonies. I can tell you that the hardest part of it was not knowing whether or not any of it was working, but you just need to let the process run its course. Now, my cycle is almost there, and using prime has saved all of my fish.

    I understand that you're frustrated, but I suggest that you invest in a bacteria additive (stability runs for about $12 on amazon for the 500ml bottle) get yourself a couple of bottles, and don't add anymore fish. it might take a couple of weeks but eventually you'll get there. after overcoming this, I'm not upset that it happened because I learned a lot about the hobby, and my aquarium is not just decoration anymore. This hobby requires patience and education, but also its about learning from your mistakes. I'm pretty sure everyone here can attest to that. Chin up, and good luck :)
  5. OP

    manzellicd Initiate Member

    The dechlorinator I have been using is AmQuest Plus Conditioner/Ammonia Detoxifier. The new dechlorinator is TopFin Concentrated Dechlorinator (the stuff that's 2 drops per gallon).

    Test Kits are:
    API 5 in 1 Test Strips pH, N02, N03, KH, GH
    API Ammonia Test Kit (liquid drops kind)

    Parameters Are:
    Ammonia: .5ppm
    Nitrate & Nitrite: Near 0 not quite enough color to call it anymore than that.
    pH: 6 - 6.5 for the life of me with 50% water changes I can't make it raise naturally.
    KH & GH : Near 0.

    Filter is the TopFin Starter tank filter. Mechanical HOB with charcoal filter media. Manufacturer says replace once a month so I've been adhering to that to the day.

    Water changes include weekly gravel vacuuming. However I have been using the gravel vacuum for my 50% water changes but I don't vacuum more than 25%-30% of my gravel at any water change.

    I guess at this point do I need to look at dosing this thing with chemicals? And if so I'm assuming roll with the original dechlorinator and start running Stability and Prime in the tank?
  6. peregrine

    peregrine Member Member

    Ok before you do that. I think your ph is where your problem is. I have read here that low of ph kills the live bacteria. You should try and find some crushed coral. It will help raise your ph.

    Basically that low of ph is killing the beneficial bacteria that should be starting your cycle.

    I haven't had a ph problem so hopefully someone who has can comment on how to naturally raise ph because dosing will just mean more dosing each water change and naturally is always better. I will try and find the post i saw
  7. lfabb

    lfabb Member Member

    I have low ph as well. Bought crushed coral (could use limestone or even crushed sea shells) put it in a media bag and dropped it in my filter. Ph has risen and remained constant at around 7.0 now and KH and GH have also increased. You'll want to replace it every 2-4 weeks depending on your reading.

    if you're replacing your filter monthly you're getting rid of all your helpful bacteria since they live in the filter and filter media. You want to clean it in tank water in order to keep the colonies alive and kicking.

    im also dealing with a tank going through a mini cycle. Change your water 2-3 days dosing it with prime to help bind the ammonia so you don't lose anymore fish. You'll want to add a quick start or another beneficial bacteria along with the prime to help build up some nitrates.
  8. OP

    manzellicd Initiate Member

    What do you mean about cleaning the filter in tank water? How do I do that? I know that sounds completely stupid...
  9. Dragones5150918

    Dragones5150918 Well Known Member Member

    Hi, welcome to the forums! Glad to have you here.

    Let me address the biggest problem first. The gh, kh, pH. Beneficial bacteria needs the minimum of 6.4 pH to live. Below 6.4 they stop eating, and 6.0 they die. Every time your tank drops below 6.4 your stalling your cycle, and when it raises back up from water changes your restarting your cycle. pH instability is a big problem and a lot of us here go for stability more then the proper pH. Now, your kh (carbonated hardiness) helps maintain your pH. The lack of kh causes pH swings and crashes. The best way to increase your kh is using things like crushed coral, aragonite sand, limestone, Texas holey rock, sea shells, bird cuttlebone, etc. Things that have calcium in them. For short term quick fixes baking soda can be used, which will also bring up your PH and your kh, but it only last a short time. Gh (general hardiness) is all the other minerals in your water. Think of your gh like the multi vitamin for fish. If you have little to no gh, it is preventing the fish to have proper osmosis function. One way to bring it up is using Replenish to add it back in.

    Since I read through your thread, I have a questions. Your water source, it is straight from the tap or are you on a filtering system like water softener, reverse osmosis, water purification?

    On to other targeted issues I see. I recommend you change out those test strips to the API Master Test Kit. I wouldn't throw the bottle away though because you need that gh/kh part and that give you a ball park range of what's going on with those. But test strips are notorious for being inaccurate....And here is why. Unless each strip is independently packaged in a sterile pack, each time you open the container to get one out, your creating cross contamination. Air has its own pH, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite, so when it opens your allowing new air in and the pads on the strips are picking it up. After a few weeks, they start to change readings of the tanks. The longer you have had them, the more inaccurate they become. The change can be the difference in a whole pmm in the reading.

    As for the filter media....Well they suggest you to change out your cartridge once a month because it makes them money. Those cartridges are not cheap. We do not buy new filter systems monthly, so they need to make their money some how. The truth is, 95% of your beneficial bacteria live in the floss of the cartridge, the other 5% is in your water, gravel, decorations. So basically if you throw away your cartridge, your throwing away your cycle. You should only swish your dirty cartridge in old tank water or dechlorinated water to remove the loose particles, and put it back in. The only time you should change the cartridge is if the old one becomes to worn and thin. Then you should cut off the floss and put it on the new cartridge floss so you don't loose your cycle. If you feel the need that fresh carbon should always be added, cut a slit in the top, dump out the old carbon, and add new, or use a media bag and add new carbon to your filter that way.

    As for your dechlorinaters, amquest is good, but I'm going to recommend moving to Seachem Prime for now. Since you have to reestablish your cycle, prime will make your ammonia and nitrite less toxic for the cycle. It works for 24 hours up to 1ppm. I would also recommend to use a beneficial bacteria like Seachem Stability to move your cycle along and take less time for it to establish.
  10. el337

    el337 Fishlore Legend Member

    manzellicd Just a question - did you mean you use AmQuel Plus? If so, that is just as good as Prime since it also detoxifies ammonia and nitrite. It's just less concentrated than Prime so more expensive.

    You can stop using TopFin though bc Amquel handles the chlorine and chloramines as well.
  11. jdhef

    jdhef Moderator Moderator Member

    One thing to note: Amquel+ is designed to be used with NovAqua+. Actaully, if you do not have a need to detox ammonia, nitrite and nitrates you only need NovAqua+. The reason being is that Nov Aqua dechorinates the water and removes heavy metals, but doesn't detox ammonia/nitrite/nitrates. Amquel+ dechlorinates the water and detoxes ammonia/nitrites/nitrates, but does not remove heavy metals. So basically you eithe ruse just NovAqua or NovAqua and Amquel.

    I used to use NovAqqua and Amquel, but one day had a pH crash that ended up killing all but one of my fish. I was told by someone who used to frequent this forum that long term use of Amquel was known to cause pH crashes in tanks that had low gH and low kH. Turned out my water did have low kH & gH. So I switched over to Prime
  12. el337

    el337 Fishlore Legend Member

    Thanks jdhef! Forgot that about AmQuel+!
  13. OP

    manzellicd Initiate Member

  14. Dragones5150918

    Dragones5150918 Well Known Member Member

    Does your ph goes up if it sits for awhile?