40 Gallon Tank Is it almost cycled?

Karen627

Thanks in advance for reading all of this.

If you’ve seen my previous threads you know I’ve been trying to get my 40 gallon breeder tank cycled for a bit over a month before I add two fancy goldfish. I’m back with more questions.

Long story slightly shorter: My nitrates were up between 20-40, I was getting hopeful, then they plummeted back down below 5 a few days ago. The next day I was about to go get fish food and crushed coral (and maybe a bottle of TSS+ and just start all over), but before I left I tested the tank again and the nitrates were back up between 20 and 40. What the…?

Also, back on 10/13 I added baking soda to get my declining PH back up to around 7.6, and it’s been holding steady around there ever since. Go figure.

So I’ve been adding 2ppm ammonia and waiting for the ammonia and nitrates to go down. Ammonia’s at 0 now, nitrites are at under .25, but the nitrates have dropped a bit since yesterday. Here’s how it’s been going since I last added ammonia:

10-/16,
PH. 7.6 appx
Ammonia 0
Nitrites 8?
Nitrates near 20 PPM (Okay, this is encouraging)
ADDED 80 drops ammonia — 2 PPM

10/17
PH 7.5?
Ammonia 0
Nitrites 2? 5?
Nitrates 0-5 (What?)

10/18. 6:30 PM
PH 7.5?
Ammonia 0
Nitrites 2? 5? Higher?
Nitrates near 40 (Wait. What?!)

10/19
Ph 7.5
Ammonia 0
Nitrites 2
Nitrates near 40

10/20
PH 7.5
Ammonia 0
Nitrites under .25
Nitrates 20 - is this drop normal?

Is this going in the right direction? Am I anywhere near cycled? (And why did I even start this in the first place? :) )
 

ChrissFishes01

What test kit are you using?

It sounds like you might be doing the tests a little different each time - the API liquid test kits can be pretty varied with their results if you don't get the exact number of drops in the test tube with exactly 5ml of water after you shook the living daylights out of all the reagent bottles. Specifically nitrate and ammonia bottle #2, if I remember correctly. If you're using test strips, make sure you're following the timing instructions very closely - for example, some of them say "Dip into tank, hold underwater for 10 seconds, and immediately read.", while others say "Dip into tank, hold it level in the air for 30 seconds, and read."

What's your water like out of the tap? I personally wouldn't bother with stuff like baking soda for this kind of tank - crushed coral should do it. If it declines a bit over time, that's totally fine, as long as it doesn't begin to decline too far into the 6's, but the crushed coral should help prevent that. Having a hardness test would be quite beneficial for sorting this out.

TL;DR - no, that drop isn't normal, but is easily explainable by faulty testing (or lots of plant or algae growth, if you have those in there). I wouldn't be too worried about your PH, as long as you're using crushed coral.
 

Karen627

I have a few plants, and a fair amount of brown algae which I understand will take care of itself eventually. I’m not sure it’s enough to have that much of an effect, though.

I’ve been using the API master test kit, following the instructions to the letter, and I’m making sure to smack the bottom of the #2 nitrate bottle and shake for 30 seconds. I’m also stupidly meticulous about making sure I’m testing exactly half a tube of water — not a drop more or less. I’ve been consistent, so unless the test kit is inconsistent I’m not sure if that’s the problem.

Since the tank water is holding steady right where I want it, I’m not sure I want to mess with it right now, but when/if it drops again I’m going to put crushed coral in the filter. (My tap water PH is just a little higher.)

Thanks!
 

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ChrissFishes01

I have a few plants, and a fair amount of brown algae which I understand will take care of itself eventually. I’m not sure it’s enough to have that much of an effect, though.

I’ve been using the API master test kit, following the instructions to the letter, and I’m making sure to smack the bottom of the #2 nitrate bottle and shake for 30 seconds. I’m also stupidly meticulous about making sure I’m testing exactly half a tube of water — not a drop more or less. I’ve been consistent, so unless the test kit is inconsistent I’m not sure if that’s the problem.

Since the tank water is holding steady right where I want it, I’m not sure I want to mess with it right now, but when/if it drops again I’m going to put crushed coral in the filter. (My tap water PH is just a little higher.)

Thanks!
Nice tank :)

Yeah, those few slow-growing plants likely wouldn't make a large difference.

It is possible that the kit isn't testing consistently, but that's relatively rare IME. You may want to try and re-run your nitrate test, to see if you can get the same result twice - just to rule the test kit out as a problem. Large decreases like that in a day don't usually happen unless you're changing water or have some insane plant/algae growth.

Personally, I'd go ahead and throw a little bit of the crushed coral in the filter. It definitely won't hurt, and without a hardness test kit you won't know how much your PH fluctuates. The crushed coral won't effect your PH directly as much as it'll dissolve and add minerals (raising hardness) to the water, causing your PH to be more stable.
 

Karen627

edit: re-ran the test again. It’s around 20.
 

ChrissFishes01

edit: re-ran the test again. It’s around 20.
Well, the drop doesn't seem normal, but there's not a ton we can do retroactively to figure it out. I'd keep testing regularly, and hopefully no more anomalies occur.
 

mattgirl

To be perfectly honest I wouldn't be stressing over the nitrates. The fact that you have some tells us your cycle is moving forward. The exact number really isn't important. As long as the ammonia you add drops to zero within 24 hours I would go ahead and get the ammonia back up to 2ppm each time it does so.

Since you've not been adding more ammonia each time it drops to zero I suspect your nitrites will go back up once you do. If it does don't get concerned about it. It will go back down over time. Allowing both ammonia and nitrites to drop to zero before adding more ammonia is one way of doing it.

Personally I recommend adding ammonia each time it drops to zero until nitrates show up. Nitrites will go up but over time will go down to zero never to be seen again. Once we start seeing nitrates I recommend adding ammonia every other day. Adding ammonia every other day will slow down the production of nitrites and give the nitrite eating bacteria time to catch up with the ammonia eating bacteria.
 

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