Is my tank already cycled? Need water change?

Mbross325

Hello all,

I’ve been cycling the 55 gallon tank since Monday the 16th, I added a bottle of colony freshwater bacteria (good for 25 gal) but I didn’t realize I had not bought enough. Day two I added a bag of seachem matrix that had been soaking in a bucket for a week with old filter media from another cycled tank. Day 3 is when nitrates showed up, I did a 2nd test at night and the nitrates were even higher. I will admit that I did add too much doctor Tim’s ammonia (4ppm), but only because the instructions confuses me. Don’t mind the spices in the background of the pictures, I took the samples in the kitchen near the sink.

Day one (5/16)
pH 7.4
Ammonia 4ppm?
Nitrites 0.25ppm?
Nitrates 0ppm


9D82A2FF-B858-44A6-9ECE-1689B73EE6F2.jpeg

Day 2 (5/17)
Ammonia 4ppm
Nitrites 1ppm
Nitrates 0 ppm


91BE5B8F-268B-4FFD-882C-E6B219CD4476.jpeg

Morning of day 3 (11am EST 5/18)
Ammonia 1ppm
Nitrites 2-5ppm (hard to tell)
Nitrates 20ppm


4EBC0116-DE51-4ADB-8529-8BA55BCE6D09.jpeg

I redosed doctor Tim’s ammonia afterwards to bring ammonia up to 4ppm


9E6E2730-03D7-46A2-BDDE-68D197B13B2C.jpeg

Night of day 3 (10pm EST 5/18)
Ammonia 4ppm
Nitrites 5ppm?
Nitrates 80-160ppm?


0437BC8C-4BAF-4D3F-9993-75D367DB9922.jpeg

I have not done a water change since I started the cycle, but obviously I need to do a water change. I don’t have any aged RO water on hand atm, I will need to gather some tonight for the morning tomorrow. Will 15-20 gallons be enough to bring down the levels? Should I add any more ammonia in the morning or should I just use a pinch of fish food instead? Will add an update picture in the morning but I fear the results would be that nitrites and nitrates are really high
 

Flyfisha

Yes to changing some water. Maybe 30% ? Which is about 20 gallons or so.

Why do you need aged water?
Why are you using RO water

So you have full time access to another tank?
Why not use that tank to seed more ?
 

Mbross325

Yes to changing some water. Maybe 30% ? Which is about 20 gallons or so.

Why do you need aged water?
Why are you using RO water

So you have full time access to another tank?
Why not use that tank to seed more ?
pH after RO water comes out is roughly 8.2, RO water that ages drops down to 6.0, I add salty shrimp gh/kh+ which will lock the pH. I need a lower pH hence the wait. I could do that but I would have to drive 30 mins each way to my dad’s, will be going there anyways in the morning
 

Flyfisha

Ok thanks good news.

When you go to your dads in the morning I am sure you can get an ornament or some media of some kind if you ask nicely. You don’t need much.

Any hard surface will have bacteria on it. You can return the rock/ ornament in a couple of months.
 

Mbross325

Day 4
Ammonia 2ppm (dropped from 4ppm last night)
Nitrites 5ppm?
Nitrates 80ppm (looks unchanged)


A9F7F4EB-7ECE-4B9C-A1C0-519694D32396.jpeg
Will be doing a water change later today but for now I’m getting ready to go out for the day, perhaps buy some plants to control the nitrates. I feel confident that the tank has cycled, just have way too much ammonia and therefore high nitrites. Will give it another day or 2 before I buy the first batch of fish
 

SparkyJones

it's finished cycling when all ammonia and nitrites are nitrates. and then dosing ammonia 1ppm and it goes all the way to nitrates within 24 hours. you really don't need more than 1 or 2 ppm ammonia at a timeand really even less than that. all you are doing is causing a backlog that will turn to all nitrates, and building a huge bacteria colony that will downsize later to your fish stocking level, that will die off because not enough food for them to sustain the size and cloud your water.

as it stands, looks like you are close to enough of ammonia nitrifiers, your nitrite nitrifiers have to catch up next. that's why nitrites are backlogging, adding more ammonia won't help that go faster but it will create a big bacteria colony that your fish can't support.

the nitrate charts are deceptive, they roughly double per color section. but when it's at 80 it doesn't change until 160 and after 160 it's not changing anymore. once you get above 80ppm nitrates it becomes hard to tell exactly how much you actually have anymore, a 50% water change may not drop it out of 80ppm if it's pushing towards 160ppm but the test doesn't show it at 150-155ppm. easier when it's in the 20-40 range.

overall way too much ammonia, there's no fish, it won't hurt anything, but you might find at the end when you stop feeding the bacteria colony, that's its huge and have a massive die off and cloudy water for weeks and weeks.

Also, there is a concern with really high nitrates that they oxidize and become nitric acid which will lower pH and KH and burn up the carbons in the water, which will create carbonic acid and lower the pH further causing a crash.

Really need to take it easy with the ammonia, don't add anymore and when you do, just a little bit. it's already on the right track, it can't go any faster, all you are doing it making it bigger than it needs to be and you'll pay for that with tons of water changes later after the cycle finishes to remove nitrates and remove dead bacteria cloudiness.

the bacteria in the bottle that you bought is clearly working, and you don't need any more of it it's kickstarted you well enough if you have conversion of ammonia and nitrites

1 ppm ammonia converts to 2.7ppm nitrites, and then 3.6 nitrates. you've dosed 8ppm ammonia, this will create 21.6 nitrite, 28.8 nitrate. No idea with all the other nitrates are coming from, unless you've dosed more ammonia overall, or the test isn't right.

your last update after dosing 8ppm ammonia was 2ppm ammonia, and 5 nitrites. that's 3 of 8 ppm ammonia accounted for, if the remaining were converted to nitrates already, should be about 9 nitrates, not like 90.

I don't trust that nitrate test. something's wrong there. there's not another nitrate source. it really can't be as high as it's testing.
 

CMT

Please don't add fish "in a day or 2". Your tank is not cycled and ready for fish until ammonia and nitrite are 0, then you dose 1-2 ppm ammonia, and they are still 0 24 hours later.

If you've been overdosing ammonia, a water change will help bring levels down to where you can better see where things stand. But you are not "a day or 2" away from being finished and ready for fish with those current readings.
 

Mbross325

Please don't add fish "in a day or 2". Your tank is not cycled and ready for fish until ammonia and nitrite are 0, then you dose 1-2 ppm ammonia, and they are still 0 24 hours later.

If you've been overdosing ammonia, a water change will help bring levels down to where you can better see where things stand. But you are not "a day or 2" away from being finished and ready for fish with those current readings.
I understand, I thought I understood how the nitrogen cycle worked and that I was getting close. I guess I was encouraged by the fact that nitrates were building up so in my mind the bacteria were present and working. I know better than to buy the fish so soon. What I meant was a day or 2 after I got 2 days of consecutive 0 ammonia/0 nitrites. I’ll see where I’m at after the water change and not dose as much ammonia
 

CMT

I understand, I thought I understood how the nitrogen cycle worked and that I was getting close. I guess I was encouraged by the fact that nitrates were building up so in my mind the bacteria were present and working. I know better than to buy the fish so soon. What I meant was a day or 2 after I got 2 days of consecutive 0 ammonia/0 nitrites. I’ll see where I’m at after the water change and not dose as much ammonia

I think you have reason to be encouraged. You have nitrites and nitrates, so you have the right bacteria working. You just don't know if you have them in the correct proportions yet.

In my opinion, you have been dosing way too much ammonia. If it were me, I would do a nearly full water change, then dose ammonia to 2 PPM max and wait to see what happens. Your cycle may be done at a reasonable level but since you dosed so much ammonia it could take a long time to fully convert all of it and then you'll need to do a large water change anyway because you are left with a huge amount of nitrate at the end. Start fresh now and you may find you are close to done. Changing the water isn't going to meaningfully harm your bacteria and you just have too much nitrogen in total in there right now.
 

Cherryshrimp420

Hello all,

I’ve been cycling the 55 gallon tank since Monday the 16th, I added a bottle of colony freshwater bacteria (good for 25 gal) but I didn’t realize I had not bought enough. Day two I added a bag of seachem matrix that had been soaking in a bucket for a week with old filter media from another cycled tank. Day 3 is when nitrates showed up, I did a 2nd test at night and the nitrates were even higher. I will admit that I did add too much doctor Tim’s ammonia (4ppm), but only because the instructions confuses me. Don’t mind the spices in the background of the pictures, I took the samples in the kitchen near the sink.

Day one (5/16)
pH 7.4
Ammonia 4ppm?
Nitrites 0.25ppm?
Nitrates 0ppm


9D82A2FF-B858-44A6-9ECE-1689B73EE6F2.jpeg

Day 2 (5/17)
Ammonia 4ppm
Nitrites 1ppm
Nitrates 0 ppm


91BE5B8F-268B-4FFD-882C-E6B219CD4476.jpeg

Morning of day 3 (11am EST 5/18)
Ammonia 1ppm
Nitrites 2-5ppm (hard to tell)
Nitrates 20ppm


4EBC0116-DE51-4ADB-8529-8BA55BCE6D09.jpeg

I redosed doctor Tim’s ammonia afterwards to bring ammonia up to 4ppm


9E6E2730-03D7-46A2-BDDE-68D197B13B2C.jpeg

Night of day 3 (10pm EST 5/18)
Ammonia 4ppm
Nitrites 5ppm?
Nitrates 80-160ppm?


0437BC8C-4BAF-4D3F-9993-75D367DB9922.jpeg

I have not done a water change since I started the cycle, but obviously I need to do a water change. I don’t have any aged RO water on hand atm, I will need to gather some tonight for the morning tomorrow. Will 15-20 gallons be enough to bring down the levels? Should I add any more ammonia in the morning or should I just use a pinch of fish food instead? Will add an update picture in the morning but I fear the results would be that nitrites and nitrates are really high

Not cycled yet, this is just the very start of a cycle. Eventually ammonia will drop to 0 and you just redose to 1 -2 ppm. Or I simply just add a tiny bit of fish food. Eventually nitrite will drop to 0. If ammonia and nitrite stay at 0 even after adding ammonia, then your cycle is done (should take about a month)

Also do not use RO water, you need water with some minerals (GH) and KH
 

Mbross325

I think you have reason to be encouraged. You have nitrites and nitrates, so you have the right bacteria working. You just don't know if you have them in the correct proportions yet.

In my opinion, you have been dosing way too much ammonia. If it were me, I would do a nearly full water change, then dose ammonia to 2 PPM max and wait to see what happens. Your cycle may be done at a reasonable level but since you dosed so much ammonia it could take a long time to fully convert all of it and then you'll need to do a large water change anyway because you are left with a huge amount of nitrate at the end. Start fresh now and you may find you are close to done. Changing the water isn't going to meaningfully harm your bacteria and you just have too much nitrogen in total in there right now.
Yeah I just did a water change of about 15 gallons, will do another 20 gallons tomorrow once I produce the necessary RO water and let it age overnight. I’m limited to just 6 buckets, two are currently being used to soak driftwood. I learned my lesson, don’t confuse TSP with TBSP when it comes to doctor Tim’s ammonia
Not cycled yet, this is just the very start of a cycle. Eventually ammonia will drop to 0 and you just redose to 1 -2 ppm. Or I simply just add a tiny bit of fish food. Eventually nitrite will drop to 0. If ammonia and nitrite stay at 0 even after adding ammonia, then your cycle is done (should take about a month)

Also do not use RO water, you need water with some minerals (GH) and KH
I use salty shrimp gh/kh+ to add minerals back into the water and raise the gh/kh
 

StarGirl

Why do you need a lower pH? Is it for stocking plans? What is it right out of your tap? Im in Michigan too and everyone has hard water. What it says online for the pH range of fish isn't always what to go by. If I went by that all of my fish would be dead in my 8.2 Michigan water. Its mostly a wild caught number. My LFS has 8.0-8.2 water in their tanks also.
 

SparkyJones

Why do you need a lower pH? Is it for stocking plans? What is it right out of your tap? Im in Michigan too and everyone has hard water. What it says online for the pH range of fish isn't always what to go by. If I went by that all of my fish would be dead in my 8.2 Michigan water. Its mostly a wild caught number. My LFS has 8.0-8.2 water in their tanks also.
I have to agree.
The books say the pH for angelfish is 6.8-7.8 however the store I get from runs 8.4, I run about 6.2, a blackwater tank might run as low as 3.5-5pH some blackwater collection sites where angelfish live and are collected from are that low also. its more about knowing how you have to acclimate and less about setting it the way it needs to be by the book. If your store is running 8.2 pH, technically you could do 8.2 also without issue. Want to go lower on your tank or are lower or higher on your tank than the store, just a longer acclimation process to get the fish slowly adjusted to your tank.

And honestly your store should have no problem testing their water and giving you their pH and KH and GH all that jazz so you know what you'd need to do to acclimate fish you buy. All the fish are generally kept in the same system of water for all tanks, they might keep African cichlids at higher pH, (like a non chain store that specializes) but they might have acclimated them to whatever all their tanks are also (like petco or pet supermarket). You just never know without finding out. But fish can all acclimate to basically whatever.

Sometimes pH or hardness or softness might be necessary for breeding purposes, but most fish are pretty flexible and most pet stores are selling fish acclimated to water their customers would be using also and for simplicity.
 

Mbross325

I guess I could try, I didn’t really bother before because the KH is extremely high. And no GH which I think killed the RCS I had for a bit years ago. Basically, I wanted softer water with no iron and control the GH/KH however I wanted
 

FishDin

I used to cycle my tanks to 4ppm ammonia. It's not a problem. It's just not necessary most of the time. It's usually done if you plan on heavily stocking a tank immediately after cycling so you can build up the bacteria to a suficient number to handle the heavy load.
 

Mbross325

Day 5 pre-water change
Ammonia 0.50ppm
Nitrites 5ppm
Nitrates 40ppm


24EC8292-06CA-42EC-AF75-84BBACB34F00.jpeg

Post water change
Ammonia 0-0.25ppm
Nitrites 5ppm
Nitrates 20-40ppm


1C5FA930-A72B-4371-BE9F-872F786C0E50.jpeg

Did a water change of about 20 gallons bout an hour ago, nitrites don’t seem to going down at all while nitrates definitely went from a darker orange to a lighter orange. Is there a test kit specifically for nitrites that’s accurate? Should I dose seachem prime according to the emergency instructions (up to 5 capful) to help neutralize the nitrite?
 

CMT

I don't think your test is inaccurate, you just have a ton of nitrite from your cycle and all the ammonia you dosed.

I would just wait it out. It will clear as your tank's cycle continues. If you are worried about it being too high, do another water change, but if you just changed 40% I would just wait now and see how it goes.

As I understand you are doing a fishless cycle, so there is no reason to worry about dosing prime in response to nitrite.

You are at the part of tank cycling where only patience is required.
 

Mbross325

I don't think your test is inaccurate, you just have a ton of nitrite from your cycle and all the ammonia you dosed.

I would just wait it out. It will clear as your tank's cycle continues. If you are worried about it being too high, do another water change, but if you just changed 40% I would just wait now and see how it goes.

As I understand you are doing a fishless cycle, so there is no reason to worry about dosing prime in response to nitrite.

You are at the part of tank cycling where only patience is required.
I added plants to the tank yesterday, will they be fine with the high nitrites? Got 3 crypt green, 2 crypt bronze, 2 crypt red (all wendeii), bunch of dwarf sag, Java moss, ludwigia repens, and 3 bunches of hornwort. Might move the Java moss and hornwort to the 10 gal I was gonna set up for RCS
 

FishDin

Did a water change of about 20 gallons bout an hour ago, nitrites don’t seem to going down at all while nitrates definitely went from a darker orange to a lighter orange. Is there a test kit specifically for nitrites that’s accurate? Should I dose seachem prime according to the emergency instructions (up to 5 capful) to help neutralize the nitrite?
As long as there are nitrites present the nitrate test is meaningless. That's because the nitrate test works by converting nitrate to nitrite and then tests for nitrite to tell you how much nitrate was in the sample. If there are nitrites present when you test for nitrates you are actually measuring the combined nitrite and nitrate. The nitrate test will not be valid until the nitrites are zero.

Why do you think the seachem nitrite test is not accurate?
 

Mbross325

I think the tank might actually be fully cycled now. This was the test 2 nights ago, I didn’t check yesterday

5/21/22
Ammonia is between 0-0.25ppm
Nitrites is over 5ppm
Nitrates is between 10-20ppm
Didn’t do a water change since 5/20 if I remember correctly

EF9E2846-D8AF-4B15-8D68-5DCDF02A461B.jpeg
5F0FB900-82CA-49D1-AD5A-E2B058F9112C.jpeg

Fast forward to tonight and I get these results
Ammonia 0ppm
Nitrites 0ppm
Nitrates 0ppm (how!?)


5209A7DF-FDDB-4C45-BE74-9F8CBC4A5B38.jpeg
I forgot to add ammonia yesterday so I’ll add more doctor Tim’s ammonia up to 2ppm and see where I’m at tomorrow night.

This is what I’m looking for right? And it has to be repeated 24 hours later?
 

Flyfisha

Hey Mbross325
How much water did you change?"??

Having some nitrates is normal in any cycled tank?

A cycled tank never shows any nitrites.

Having a tiny amount of ammonia on a test with fish is I believe just the colour chart. Having zero ammonia on a test without fish is ok . But as your know you need to keep feeding these new bacteria.
 

Mbross325

Hey Mbross325
How much water did you change?"??

Having some nitrates is normal in any cycled tank?

A cycled tank never shows any nitrites.

Having a tiny amount of ammonia on a test with fish is I believe just the colour chart. Having zero ammonia on a test without fish is ok . But as your know you need to keep feeding these new bacteria.
Not sure how many gallons I changed altogether, somewhere in the ballpark between 60-75 gallons since last Monday, with the last water change on the 20th (20 gallons). I know I did at least 4 WC to try and bring the nitrites/nitrates down before I gave up after the 20th. With the exception of yesterday, I’ve been adding ammonia every day since. I dosed another 2ppm tonight.

I ordered an eheim automatic feeder for when I’m gone for several days, not sure if I want to get fish before this weekend as I’ll be gone for 2 days. Or if I should wait until next week, the first batch will likely be the black neons
 

FishDin

I would not add fish yet. Something isn't right. The last water change was on the 20th. On the 21st you had 10-20 ppm nitrate and then 2 days later there are no nitrates. Nitrates don't just disappear. You have to remove them yourself.
 

Mbross325

I would not add fish yet. Something isn't right. The last water change was on the 20th. On the 21st you had 10-20 ppm nitrate and then 2 days later there are no nitrates. Nitrates don't just disappear. You have to remove them yourself.
Don’t plants use nitrates? Especially hornwort?
 

FishDin

Yes they do. Ammonia too. Is your tank heavily planted? To remove 10-20 ppm of nitrate in 24hrs would require a large plant mass.
 

Mbross325

Yes they do. Ammonia too. Is your tank heavily planted? To remove 10-20 ppm of nitrate in 24hrs would require a large plant mass.
That was the goal, to have a heavily planted tank. I had 3 bunches of hornwort, 10 crypts, 3 bunches of Java moss, and a bunch of ludwigia repens. I bought 2 big Amazon swords but haven’t added them in yet, they’re from petsmart
 

Flyfisha

The amount of ammonia, nitrites and nitrates plants use is not as much as is often believed.
Pothos with its roots in water and leaves in the air is considered to be one of the best consumers of nutrients. My experience with even normal stocking is weekly water changes are still needed to keep nitrates below 40 ppm.
338287A8-D05D-46D1-8D3D-139E73246993.jpeg
Upwards of 40 pothos plants per tank makes only marginal gains on the nitrates levels .

Nbross325
I seriously doubt the tank will be ready for fish in the next few days. It’s needs to be nitrites free in the test .
 

CMT

If you dosed to 2 PPM ammonia last night, please post the results tonight (24 hours later). Your nitrite test above looks good, but I agree the low nitrates are suspect. In my experience I agree with what is said above about plants using nitrogen. Of course they do, but I would not expect them to come anywhere near clearing enough that dosing 2 PPM ammonia results in very little nitrate 24 hours later.

Also make sure you are following the instructions on the nitrate test very closely. That's the one that gets messed up sometimes because you really do need to shake the bottles/test tube vigorously as stated.
 

Mbross325

12 hour test (out of curiosity)
Results so far
Ammonia 1ppm
Nitrites 5ppm?
Nitrates 10-20ppm


D1FFD1E8-3E27-4B54-B0EE-E9DEA50A6120.jpeg
Only other change I made to this tank is moving all 3 bunches of hornwort to my 10 gal which I just started cycling. The hornwort filled up about 3/4 the 10 gal. Should I move the hornwort back?
 

CMT

12 hour test (out of curiosity)
Results so far
Ammonia 1ppm
Nitrites 5ppm?
Nitrates 10-20ppm


D1FFD1E8-3E27-4B54-B0EE-E9DEA50A6120.jpeg
Only other change I made to this tank is moving all 3 bunches of hornwort to my 10 gal which I just started cycling. The hornwort filled up about 3/4 the 10 gal. Should I move the hornwort back?
I don't think it matters with the plants either way. Those results look as expected. See how long it takes for the ammonia and nitrite to clear and that will tell you where your cycle is. The presence of the nitrate is good to see.

Do not add further ammonia until both the ammonia and nitrite are 0. If that takes more than 24 hours, repeat the process until it clears in 24 hours or less. Then you will be fully cycled.
 

Flyfisha

No need to move hornwort around.
i think CMT covered everything.
 

ProudPapa

I ordered an eheim automatic feeder for when I’m gone for several days, not sure if I want to get fish before this weekend as I’ll be gone for 2 days. Or if I should wait until next week, the first batch will likely be the black neons

Hello,

If the consensus is that your tank is cycled you can go ahead and get the fish. They'll be perfectly fine going a few days without feeding. I know you said you'd already ordered an automatic feeder, but I'd much rather skip feeding a few days than trust an automatic feeder to not dump too much and foul the water when I'm not there.

It's not unusual for the guppy and shrimp tank on my desk at work to go four days without feeding. I haven't noticed any ill effects.
 

Mbross325

Here’s the results after 24 hours:
Ammonia 0ppm
Nitrites 2ppm (definitely not as dark as this morning)
Nitrates 10ppm (This also went down)

I will admit I moved the hornwort back this morning so I suspect they are the reason my nitrates are going down. Didn’t do a water change either


CB2247AD-C7A2-4693-B27D-522D36051B2B.jpeg

Guess this means the tank isn’t ready, should I add the ammonia again to keep the cycle going? I won’t be able to dose ammonia on Friday
 

Flyfisha

There possibly is no correct answer to if you should add ammonia today or Saturday?
Ether you are replicating a continuous supply of ammonia as the tank would have with fish pooping in it or you are trying to stop the nitrites getting to high .

Cycling a tank is not a race.Both adding a tiny amount every day and waiting for zero and zero before adding more works just fine.

If it was me I would be adding a small amount every day.
We don’t feed our fish everyday anyway.

Sorry I am not giving you a definite answer because I believe there is no one way ahead.
 

FishDin

There's no need to do nitrate tests while you have nitrites. The nitrate test converts the nitrate into nitrites and then measures nitrite to tell you how much nitrate you have. So as long as you have nitrites the nitrate test won't be accurate. At this point you need to focus on ammonia and nitrites. You can worry about nitrates once the tank is cycled.

I would take some of the water that tests zero for nitrates and have it tested at you LFS or by a friend. I've had a nitrate test kit fail me before. Like you, I thought my ton of plants in my new tank was removing the nitrates when it turned out that my nitrates were sky high. I didn't realize it until fish started dying. It probably doesn't happen often, but it does happen.
 

CMT

Here’s the results after 24 hours:
Ammonia 0ppm
Nitrites 2ppm (definitely not as dark as this morning)
Nitrates 10ppm (This also went down)

I will admit I moved the hornwort back this morning so I suspect they are the reason my nitrates are going down. Didn’t do a water change either


CB2247AD-C7A2-4693-B27D-522D36051B2B.jpeg

Guess this means the tank isn’t ready, should I add the ammonia again to keep the cycle going? I won’t be able to dose ammonia on Friday
I know there is a definite urge to "do something", especially when first setting up an aquarium. But I think the most important step in fishless cycling a new tank is to literally sit back and do nothing and let the cycle do it's thing. There is absolutely no need to add ammonia to "keep the cycle going". If you want to know where you are, wait for the nitrite to clear, then re-dose.

I don't think adding SMALL amounts of ammonia is likely to hurt anything, but it's unnecessary, and will likely just delay feedback on where you are with the nitrite-to-nitrate part of the cycle.
 

Mbross325

Yeah I’m just gonna let it sit for a couple days, I’ll check tomorrow morning before I go on the trip Friday morning. Should be ready when I get back hopefully
 

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