5 Gallon Tank Is My Cycle Stalled?

hctwins

Hi all, appreciate the help.
Attached is my log of my Nitrogen Cycle so far.
If you notice, days 13-16 saw rapid drops in Ammonia and Nitrites. Days 16 onward seem to be sluggish in the Ammonia department and no change in Nitrites.
I did a 50% water change on day 20 to try and get more KH in order to stabilize my pH which had dropped from 7.6 to 6.6. The cycle still seems a bit slow compared to days 13-16. Is it stalled? What can I do?
Thank you all for your replies in advance.
 

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mattgirl

Hi all, appreciate the help.
Attached is my log of my Nitrogen Cycle so far.
If you notice, days 13-16 saw rapid drops in Ammonia and Nitrites. Days 16 onward seem to be sluggish in the Ammonia department and no change in Nitrites.
I did a 50% water change on day 20 to try and get more KH in order to stabilize my pH which had dropped from 7.6 to 6.6. The cycle still seems a bit slow compared to days 13-16. Is it stalled? What can I do?
Thank you all for your replies in advance.
Is your pH now holding up to at least the level of your tap water? If it isn't you may want to consider running some crushed coral to stabilize it. If it is still dropping so low water changes alone may keep it up but the CC will keep it from dropping. Keeping the pH constantly above 7 should keep this cycle moving forward. One of the most difficult things to do while cycling a tank is keeping everything balanced. If we can keep it close the cycle will move forward.

If I am reading your log correctly it has only been 3 weeks since you started this cycle. What you are seeing in pretty much on track. Since this is just a 5 gallon tank there is no need to get the ammonia any higher than about 1ppm. Each time it drops down to or close to zero get it back up to 1ppm. What are your plans for this tank? If it is for a Betta 1ppm ammonia will grow more than enough to handle his bio-load.
 
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hctwins

Is your pH now holding up to at least the level of your tap water? If it isn't you may want to consider running some crushed coral to stabilize it. If it is still dropping so low water changes alone may keep it up but the CC will keep it from dropping. Keeping the pH constantly above 7 should keep this cycle moving forward. One of the most difficult things to do while cycling a tank is keeping everything balanced. If we can keep it close the cycle will move forward.

If I am reading your log correctly it has only been 3 weeks since you started this cycle. What you are seeing in pretty much on track. Since this is just a 5 gallon tank there is no need to get the ammonia any higher than about 1ppm. Each time it drops down to or close to zero get it back up to 1ppm. What are your plans for this tank? If it is for a Betta 1ppm ammonia will grow more than enough to handle his bio-load.
Just added crushed coral yesterday. The pH is just under the tap water pH.
Thanks for the ammonia tip.
My plan is to have a single Betta.
Also, thanks for the reassurance about my tank cycle!
 
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mattgirl

Just added crushed coral yesterday. The pH is just under the tap water pH.
Thanks for the ammonia tip.
My plan is to have a single Betta.
Also, thanks for the reassurance about my tank cycle!
Since it has to dissolve to affect the pH level it may take a few days for the pH to go as high as it is going to. As long as it holds it up to 7 or above the cycle should keep moving forward.

You are so very welcome :)
 
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hctwins

Day 5 after 2 tablespoons crushed coral added in a nylon stalking and my pH has dropped from 7.2 to 6.8. KH is still 40. Am I doing something wrong?
In other news, my Nitrates have finally climbed to 20ppm. Help appreciated. Thanks!
 

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mattgirl

No, you aren't doing anything wrong. Things are moving along just as they should. Now that you are seeing nitrates this cycle is almost done. We do want to see a true blue in the nitrite test tube. Is the cycle processing 1ppm ammonia every 24 hours now?

Crushed coral works better if it can be inside a filter. It will still work the way you have it but you may need to help it out by giving it a gentle squeeze once a day. Since you are using the finely ground coral it may cloud your water when you first squeeze it but it will clear up quickly.
 
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hctwins

Thanks! Yes it's processing every 24 hours. I always test in the mornings.
Just gave my coral a squeeze.
I'll wait for a true blue color on my Nitrites.
Thanks!
 
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hctwins

Sorry...another question. Is it normal for Nitrate levels to drop from 20 to 5 in 24 hours during cycling? Picture from yesterday showing Nitrates at 20ppm and picture from today showing Nitrates back at 5ppm. No water change. Only thing in between was adding ammonia after yesterday's reading. Should I be doing something different? Thanks again for the help.
 

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mattgirl

This doesn't normally happen. Once they start going up they normally continue going up. Maybe you didn't shake bottle #2 well enough with the last test?
 
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hctwins

Tested again. In the pictures you can see that yesterday even the test strip showed a darker pink nitrate level (higher Nitrates) than just now. I'll keep monitoring it. Thanks for all your help!
 

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mattgirl

I will admit. I don't know where they went. The number really isn't that important at this point though. The important numbers are the ammonia and nitrites. We want to see zero ammonia and zero nitrites 24 hours after adding ammonia. Once we get there we can first do a little happy dance and then get to enjoy getting our fish. That is a day for celebration and for patting ourselves on the back for having the patience to do a fishless cycle. :) I have to think that day is very very close now.
 
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hctwins

I will admit. I don't know where they went. The number really isn't that important at this point though. The important numbers are the ammonia and nitrites. We want to see zero ammonia and zero nitrites 24 hours after adding ammonia. Once we get there we can first do a little happy dance and then get to enjoy getting our fish. That is a day for celebration and for patting ourselves on the back for having the patience to do a fishless cycle. :) I have to think that day is very very close now.
Hi! Here are my levels this morning. PH is at 6.6 (despite crushed coral...should I add more?). First time Nitrites are not purple...more like a greenish blue like the pH colors. The strip still shows a lot of Nitrites which is confusing. What do you think? Cycled or still close? Thanks again for all your help!
 

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Ouse

Knowing what API test strips are like, the Master Kit is very likely showing the correct readings.

The nitrite tube colour looks strange, but it seems to read somewhere around 0mg/L. Test results can look different in photos and the manufacturer can’t guarantee the colour of the reagent will be the same as the colour on the paper.
 
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mattgirl

I would be inclined to trust the API test over the strips. The photo looks blue to me but of course you can better determine the color than I can on my screen. The blue does seem to be a lighter blue than I normally see in my nitrite test tube though.

From what I can tell you should have enough CC in there. It may take a daily squeeze to keep it working. It does work better if it can be placed inside a filter but since you are running a sponge filter in this tank you will have to help it out. We really don't want the pH to drop lower than what you are seeing right now while finishing up this cycle.

Would it clash too badly if you sprinkled some on or mixed some in with your substrate? This may not be necessary though since this cycle is so close to done. Hopefully your weekly water changes will keep the pH up close to your tap water. Have you ran the 24 hour test on your tap water? Meaning put some in a container, run the pH test right away and then again 24 hours later. If the pH drops within those 24 hours that number is your true pH. You may have to always keep CC in the tank to keep it up.

How long has it been since your changed any water? If it has been 2 weeks or more go ahead and do a 50% water change. Once done get the ammonia back up to 1ppm. I suspect you will see both ammonia and nitrites down to zero 24 hours later. If so then it is time to get your fish.
 
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hctwins

Knowing what API test strips are like, the Master Kit is very likely showing the correct readings.

The nitrite tube colour looks strange, but it seems to read somewhere around 0mg/L. Test results can look different in photos and the manufacturer can’t guarantee the colour of the reagent will be the same as the colour on the paper.
I would be inclined to trust the API test over the strips. The photo looks blue to me but of course you can better determine the color than I can on my screen. The blue does seem to be a lighter blue than I normally see in my nitrite test tube though.

From what I can tell you should have enough CC in there. It may take a daily squeeze to keep it working. It does work better if it can be placed inside a filter but since you are running a sponge filter in this tank you will have to help it out. We really don't want the pH to drop lower than what you are seeing right now while finishing up this cycle.

Would it clash too badly if you sprinkled some on or mixed some in with your substrate? This may not be necessary though since this cycle is so close to done. Hopefully your weekly water changes will keep the pH up close to your tap water. Have you ran the 24 hour test on your tap water? Meaning put some in a container, run the pH test right away and then again 24 hours later. If the pH drops within those 24 hours that number is your true pH. You may have to always keep CC in the tank to keep it up.

How long has it been since your changed any water? If it has been 2 weeks or more go ahead and do a 50% water change. Once done get the ammonia back up to 1ppm. I suspect you will see both ammonia and nitrites down to zero 24 hours later. If so then it is time to get your fish.
Thank you both!
It has been 12 days since my last water change close enough to do a water change?. I have been squeezing my CC every day.
I have not done the 24hr pH test on my tap...will start that now.
Thanks again so much!
 
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mattgirl

Thank you both!
It has been 12 days since my last water change close enough to do a water change?. I have been squeezing my CC every day.
I have not done the 24hr pH test on my tap...will start that now.
Thanks again so much!
Yes, it is close enough to 2 weeks to go ahead and do the water changes now. Be sure you add your water conditioner to the fresh water before pouring it in there. I also recommend getting it close to the same temp as the tank water. Doesn't have to be exact but I see the bacteria as a living thing so recommend treating it as well as we would if fish were in there. :)

We may find that we will need more CC to keep the pH up but wait until we find out what happens to your water after sitting out for 24 hours.
 
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hctwins

Did a 50% water change. Before my Nitrites go light blue-green after 5 minutes, the immediate color is a light purple. In case that means anything. Someone said that means my Nitrites are off the charts high. If that's the case, should I do daily water changes to bring it down? Don't want to stall my cycle.
 

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mattgirl

Did a 50% water change. Before my Nitrites go light blue-green after 5 minutes, the immediate color is a light purple. In case that means anything. Someone said that means my Nitrites are off the charts high. If that's the case, should I do daily water changes to bring it down? Don't want to stall my cycle.
I really don't think that is the case. To be perfectly honest I've not heard that before. If they were off the chart high they would be a deep purple. Just give them time to drop to zero.
 
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hctwins

I did a 100% water change last night, added ammonia, and the pic shows my levels this morning. From here I'll keep adding ammonia and checking levels. Seems like the Nitrites are still high. Does this mean I still have a ways to go with my cycle?
My tap pH went from 7.6/8.2 to 7.6/8.0 in 24 hours.
 

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mattgirl

I wish I could answer that question but I can't. Nitrites are gonna do what nitrites are gonna do. It can seem like they are never going to drop and then one day they will be gone. I do have to wonder though how they have gone up this much after a 100% water change. Of course they could have been hanging out in your filter and substrate.

I would not be doing any more water changes unless absolutely necessary until this cycle is done. Absolutely necessary will be if all of a sudden your ammonia stops going down. Other than that just keep the pH up and let the bacteria grow to complete this cycle.
 
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hctwins

I wish I could answer that question but I can't. Nitrites are gonna do what nitrites are gonna do. It can seem like they are never going to drop and then one day they will be gone. I do have to wonder though how they have gone up this much after a 100% water change. Of course they could have been hanging out in your filter and substrate.

I would not be doing any more water changes unless absolutely necessary until this cycle is done. Absolutely necessary will be if all of a sudden your ammonia stops going down. Other than that just keep the pH up and let the bacteria grow to complete this cycle.
Hi again. So my pH has dipped under 7.0 again. I already have 2 tablespoons of crushed coral in my 5gallon tank. I also squeeze it 10x every morning. Should I add more crushed coral or do a water change to get it back up? Thoughts?
Thanks!
 

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mattgirl

How is your ammonia doing? Are you still adding it each time it drops close to zero? Is it still going down daily? If it has been more than a week since you've done a water change go ahead and change out half the water. I seldom ever recommend doing a100% water change. We don't want to remove all the nitrite eating bacteria's food so don't want to pull all the nitrites out of there.

Right now it doesn't look like your pH is low enough to stall the cycle but it might not be a bad idea to add more CC to the media bag. Be prepared for the cloud and spike if you don't rinse it first.
 
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hctwins

How is your ammonia doing? Are you still adding it each time it drops close to zero? Is it still going down daily? If it has been more than a week since you've done a water change go ahead and change out half the water. I seldom ever recommend doing a100% water change. We don't want to remove all the nitrite eating bacteria's food so don't want to pull all the nitrites out of there.

Right now it doesn't look like your pH is low enough to stall the cycle but it might not be a bad idea to add more CC to the media bag. Be prepared for the cloud and spike if you don't rinse it first.
My Ammonia was going down daily so I paused checking it for now (focussing on testing Nitrites every other day). Just dosed with ammonia again so I could test to see if it went down tomorrow morning...?
It's been 11 days since my last water change so I'll do a 50% today.
Will rinse and add 2 more tablespoons to the stalking.
Thanks so much for all your help!
 
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mattgirl

My Ammonia was going down daily so I paused checking it for now (focussing on testing Nitrites every other day). Just dosed with ammonia again so I could test to see if it went down tomorrow morning...?
It's been 11 days since my last water change so I'll do a 50% today.
Will rinse and add 2 more tablespoons to the stalking.
Thanks so much for all your help!
Maybe i am misunderstanding but you said you weren't checking the ammonia. Does that mean your weren't adding any or were adding but not testing? I do hope you were adding. If you've not been adding ammonia I would hold off on the water change. No need to pull the nitrite eating bacteria's food out of there.

If that is the case, just add more CC to the media bag instead of a water change to get the pH up.
 
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hctwins

Maybe i am misunderstanding but you said you weren't checking the ammonia. Does that mean your weren't adding any or were adding but not testing? I do hope you were adding. If you've not been adding ammonia I would hold off on the water change. No need to pull the nitrite eating bacteria's food out of there.

If that is the case, just add more CC to the media bag instead of a water change to get the pH up.
I've been adding ammonia daily just not testing. Is that ok?
I've already put more cc in the stalking. So no water change?
 
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mattgirl

I've been adding ammonia daily just not testing. Is that ok?
I've already put more cc in the stalking. So no water change?
Gotcha. It would be best to check the ammonia level at least every second or third day. We want to be sure what we are adding is actually going down.

Right, check your ammonia level and if it is still zeroing out no water change need be done yet. I am a bit confused by your nitrate numbers. At one point they were 20, then dropped to 5. After that I just see x's. Does that mean you aren't testing or are you not seeing any?
 
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hctwins

Gotcha. It would be best to check the ammonia level at least every second or third day. We want to be sure what we are adding is actually going down.

Right, check your ammonia level and if it is still zeroing out no water change need be done yet. I am a bit confused by your nitrate numbers. At one point they were 20, then dropped to 5. After that I just see x's. Does that mean you aren't testing or are you not seeing any?
Ok. For my Nitrates I haven't been testing. Tomorrow I'll test for everything and see if anything is weird.
Note: when I tested for Nitrites today, the color was blue for about 5 seconds before slowly turning purple. I got excited
Thanks so much again for all your help!
 
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mattgirl

Ok. For my Nitrates I haven't been testing. Tomorrow I'll test for everything and see if anything is weird.
Note: when I tested for Nitrites today, the color was blue for about 5 seconds before slowly turning purple. I got excited
Thanks so much again for all your help!
At this point in the cycle we need to keep an eye on all the numbers. By doing so we can catch a small problem before it becomes a bigger one. Seeing all the numbers will help me help you. :)
 
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hctwins

At this point in the cycle we need to keep an eye on all the numbers. By doing so we can catch a small problem before it becomes a bigger one. Seeing all the numbers will help me help you. :)
Thanks! Will do!
 
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hctwins

Hi again!
Just tested all parameters. My KH is back to 0 and my pH is still at 6.8. My Nitrites have gone down to 0.25. Nitrates are I think 80. It's a pretty deep red. Ammonia is 0.
Thoughts?
Thanks!
At this point in the cycle we need to keep an eye on all the numbers. By doing so we can catch a small problem before it becomes a bigger one. Seeing all the numbers will help me help you. :)
PT 2:
I guess I'm also wondering if I should do a water change to bring the KH up or should I wait for the newly added crushed coral to kick in?
Thanks again!
 

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mattgirl

It looks like you are in good shape for now. Give the CC time to work. I suspect the nitrites to drop to zero any day now. At that point add ammonia one more day. If both ammonia and nitrites are zero 24 hours later it will time to do your water change and add your fish.

If you aren't going to add your fish right away just add ammonia every few days to keep the bacteria happy. :)
 
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hctwins

Hi again,
My pH is now 6.6. Should I do anything? Will it stall the cycle?
Thanks.
 
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mattgirl

Hi again,
My pH is now 6.6. Should I do anything? Will it stall the cycle?
Thanks.
It shouldn't stall it but may slow things down. It sounds like a low pH is going to be an ongoing issue with this tank. Often all it takes is running crushed coral to hold the pH up but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

Do you by any change have a TDS meter or if not can you get one? It is a very inexpensive little meter that measures the total dissolved solids in our water. It doesn't tell us what those solids are but tells us how high or low they are. I was struggling with live plants. Fish did well in my soft water but plants struggled. I bought a meter and it let me know my tap water is almost devoid of minerals. I get a reading of 21 straight from the tap. I didn't understand what that meant but was told that number is close to RO water.

The minerals in our water is one of the things that determine how stable the pH of the water will be. I had to run a lot of crushed coral in my tank to hold the pH up but found I needed more minerals. I now add enough Equilibrium to raise the TDS up to 100 in my main tank and 150 in my shrimp bowl. This is something you may need to consider going forward.
 
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hctwins

It shouldn't stall it but may slow things down. It sounds like a low pH is going to be an ongoing issue with this tank. Often all it takes is running crushed coral to hold the pH up but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

Do you by any change have a TDS meter or if not can you get one? It is a very inexpensive little meter that measures the total dissolved solids in our water. It doesn't tell us what those solids are but tells us how high or low they are. I was struggling with live plants. Fish did well in my soft water but plants struggled. I bought a meter and it let me know my tap water is almost devoid of minerals. I get a reading of 21 straight from the tap. I didn't understand what that meant but was told that number is close to RO water.

The minerals in our water is one of the things that determine how stable the pH of the water will be. I had to run a lot of crushed coral in my tank to hold the pH up but found I needed more minerals. I now add enough Equilibrium to raise the TDS up to 100 in my main tank and 150 in my shrimp bowl. This is something you may need to consider going forward.
Thanks! I'll get a tds meter.
It shouldn't stall it but may slow things down. It sounds like a low pH is going to be an ongoing issue with this tank. Often all it takes is running crushed coral to hold the pH up but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

Do you by any change have a TDS meter or if not can you get one? It is a very inexpensive little meter that measures the total dissolved solids in our water. It doesn't tell us what those solids are but tells us how high or low they are. I was struggling with live plants. Fish did well in my soft water but plants struggled. I bought a meter and it let me know my tap water is almost devoid of minerals. I get a reading of 21 straight from the tap. I didn't understand what that meant but was told that number is close to RO water.

The minerals in our water is one of the things that determine how stable the pH of the water will be. I had to run a lot of crushed coral in my tank to hold the pH up but found I needed more minerals. I now add enough Equilibrium to raise the TDS up to 100 in my main tank and 150 in my shrimp bowl. This is something you may need to consider going forward.
Thanks! I'll get a tds meter.
It shouldn't stall it but may slow things down. It sounds like a low pH is going to be an ongoing issue with this tank. Often all it takes is running crushed coral to hold the pH up but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

Do you by any change have a TDS meter or if not can you get one? It is a very inexpensive little meter that measures the total dissolved solids in our water. It doesn't tell us what those solids are but tells us how high or low they are. I was struggling with live plants. Fish did well in my soft water but plants struggled. I bought a meter and it let me know my tap water is almost devoid of minerals. I get a reading of 21 straight from the tap. I didn't understand what that meant but was told that number is close to RO water.

The minerals in our water is one of the things that determine how stable the pH of the water will be. I had to run a lot of crushed coral in my tank to hold the pH up but found I needed more minerals. I now add enough Equilibrium to raise the TDS up to 100 in my main tank and 150 in my shrimp bowl. This is something you may need to consider going forward.
Thanks! I'll get a tds meter.
It shouldn't stall it but may slow things down. It sounds like a low pH is going to be an ongoing issue with this tank. Often all it takes is running crushed coral to hold the pH up but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

Do you by any change have a TDS meter or if not can you get one? It is a very inexpensive little meter that measures the total dissolved solids in our water. It doesn't tell us what those solids are but tells us how high or low they are. I was struggling with live plants. Fish did well in my soft water but plants struggled. I bought a meter and it let me know my tap water is almost devoid of minerals. I get a reading of 21 straight from the tap. I didn't understand what that meant but was told that number is close to RO water.

The minerals in our water is one of the things that determine how stable the pH of the water will be. I had to run a lot of crushed coral in my tank to hold the pH up but found I needed more minerals. I now add enough Equilibrium to raise the TDS up to 100 in my main tank and 150 in my shrimp bowl. This is something you may need to consider going forward.
Thanks! I'll get a tds meter.
 
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hctwins

Hi!
I just got my TDS meter and my tap shows 424ppm and my tank shows 589ppm.
Thoughts?
Thanks!
 

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mattgirl

Hi!
I just got my TDS meter and my tap shows 424ppm and my tank shows 589ppm.
Thoughts?
Thanks!
Oh my, seeing the TDS this high and the pH so low and dropping is beyond my knowledge. I am going to call in some folks that may be able to help us understand what is going on and what if anything we need to do about it. It looks like your water has a high mineral content but not the minerals that hold the pH up.

MacZ RayClem and although our shrimp guru he may have some thoughts on this, richiep

I hope y'all can help us out here since I am in over my head on this one.
 
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MacZ

Well, besides the fact that indeed low pH with high TDS is possible... is the meter calibrated? Not all models come precalibrated. I can't see it on the display, but usually TD meters can also measure conductivity. Is absolutely clear that those are the TDS readings and not conductivity?
I would also check the bb-date of the pH-test.

All mistakes in testing have to be ruled out before anything can be said.
 
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RayClem

A TDS meter is useful for monitoring changes in tank water and tap water, but never rely totally on the reading. A TDS meter is measuring the conductivity of the water which is related to the ionic charges of the minerals and gasses dissolved in the water.

If you were to do 50% water changes on a daily basis, your tank water should have a TDS reading close to your tap water. However, if you do water changes less frequencty as would be typical, the tank reading is expected to be higher than the tap water. When you add fish food, fertilizers, CO2, etc. to the tank, they will raise the TDS above the level of the tap water. If you add fertilizers to your tank, you might see a jump of 100 ppm TDS,

Since your tap water is fairly hard at 425 ppm, if you replace water lost to evaporation with tap water rather than RO water or distilled water, the hardness level in your tank will continue to increase. When you do water changes, the hardness should drop back towards the level in the tap water.

For example, if the tank water is 589 ppm and your tap water is 424 ppm and you do a 50% water change, the TDS should end up around 507 ppm.

How often do you do water changes and what percentage of the water do you change each time? Since your tank water TDS is nearly 40% higher than your tap water, either you are adding a lot of fertilizer or you need to do larger, more frequent water changes.
 
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richiep

I know the meter is showing two different readings but one is ppm and the other shows nothing I think this also needs to be addressed along eith macz sdvise
 
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hctwins

I know the meter is showing teo different readings but one is ppm and the other shows nothing I think this also needs to be addressed along eith macz sdvise
Thanks! The screen blinks "ppm" and my phone's camera didn't happen to catch it mid blink.
 
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