55 Gallon Tank My Cycle adventure

Charistory
Member
OK, this is a report on how my tank is cycling. This is not the recommended way to do it. If I did it again, I'd go fishless but I didn't know better. This is just a report on how mine is working out.

I have a 55 gallon tank. My tap water is on the soft side at 80 GH, with a pH of 7.4-7.6 and alkalinity around 80 ppm. The temp is between 74° (where the heater is set) and 78° (warmer than that we start running the A/C)depending on weather conditions. I have no real plants, only plastic ones and some rock & wood plastic decorations (I'll post a picture someday...)

Day 1: I set up the tank, added tap water and the requisite amount of Tetra AquaSafe. I let the tank/filter/heater run to equalize everything.

Day 4: Had the water tested, which I was told was "fine" and brought home 5 platys. I have been feeding them 2x a day for 3-5 minutes, making sure there is little leftover. I've noticed the platys actually swim down to the gravel and start picking stuff out of it--I assume it's the few flakes that they missed in the initial feeding.

Day 7: Had the water tested again. Everything reported as normal, no ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, etc.

Day 10: Had the water tested. Everything same as before. It appears the tank hasn't started cycling at noticeable levels yet. Platys are more brightly colored than when they came home. I spotted a baby Platy!

Day 11: I did a 10% water change. Added Aquasafe to the new water while still in the bucket. Did a temp check before adding the water. It was 76°, same as the tank.

Day 12: Got my ammonia dipsticks (I'll get the API Master Test Kit when they're used up). One fish is not looking so good. I tested and got a 0.5ppm reading on ammonia. The fish died. The baby is still doing fine, when I can find it. They are good hiders.

Day 13: Talked to a longtime fishkeeper, distributer & now store owner about my tank. I was advised by members here to get Tetra Safestart, but couldn't find it locally. Instead the pet store owner recommended API's Stress Zyme+. He says it contains waterborne bacteria, and unlike the manufacturer's recommendations you only need to use it for the 14 day schedule then stop. The 14 day schedule is add it day 1 (today), add more day 7, then add more day 14. No water changes during this period. Dosage is 10 ml per 10 gallons. I put in 60 ml. I put 40 ml in the filter (power filter w/bio wheel) and 20 ml in the tank. Readings are still 0.5ppm ammonia, no nitrite or nitrate.

more to come...
 
Aquarist
Sounds good, love to see some pics of your tank soon! Are you going to have anything other than Platys eventually?
 
fishingman001
Member
Day 12: Got my ammonia dipsticks (I'll get the API Master test kit when they're used up). One fish is not looking so good. I tested and got a 0.5ppm reading on ammonia. The fish died. The baby is still doing fine, when I can find it. They are good hiders.
The ammonia is probably much higher than .5.

Day 13: Talked to a longtime fishkeeper, distributer & now store owner about my tank. I was advised by members here to get Tetra Safestart, but couldn't find it locally. Instead the pet store owner recommended API's Stress Zyme+. He says it contains waterborne bacteria, and unlike the manufacturer's recommendations you only need to use it for the 14 day schedule then stop. The 14 day schedule is add it day 1 (today), add more day 7, then add more day 14. No water changes during this period. Dosage is 10 ml per 10 gallons. I put in 60 ml. I put 40 ml in the filter (power filter w/bio wheel) and 20 ml in the tank. Readings are still 0.5ppm ammonia, no nitrite or nitrate.
Stress Zyme contains the wrong kind of bacteria for aquarium. If you want Tetra SafeStart you can order it online or go to Petsmart.
 
  • Thread Starter
Charistory
Member
HI Aquarist,

Yes, I have a stocking plan that I hope to get over the next several months once the cycling is done. It'll include a group of some variety of corydorus, yet to be determined, another group of small schooling fish (I'm leaning toward the pristella tetras), a Siamese Algae Eater and a few gourami (again not completely set on which kind). My 7 year old son really likes the ghost shrimps so I may get a few of those too. I need to learn more about them first. Then there snails, and plants!

Just for posterity's sake, my readings today are .5 ppm ammonia, 0/0 nitrite/nitrate. All other readings the same as before. The fish look like they are doing fine, including the little guy who is now showing some black in his previously clear tail area. I still only see him about 30 seconds total throughout the day as he hides really well in a 55 gallon tank!
 
fishingman001
Member
My 7 year old son really likes the ghost shrimps so I may get a few of those too.
Ghost shrimp are bred as food (I feed them to my Convicts) so very little care is put in to breeding them. If you want shrimp I would go with Red Cherry Shrimp. They are VERY cool. I purchased mine for $1.99 a piece.
 
  • Thread Starter
Charistory
Member
Here's the latest update:
Day 16 I noticed white salty spots on one of my fish. Readings are still .5ppm ammonia, 0 nitrite, 0 nitrate. I turned up the heater to 82° fearing Ick.
Day 17 I turned up the heat to 86° and did a 10% water change (with gravel vac). Readings still .5/0/0. The fish that had the spots has clamped dorsal and analfins.
Day 19 I did another 10% water change (with gravel vac) and used Prime instead of Aquasafe to treat the new water. The first fish looks better and is swimming normally. I see white spots on all 4 adult fish.
Day 20 I added the next dose of Stress Zyme+. I also added 3 TBSP of Aquarium salt because I was told the water in my area is particularly void of salt. It was recommended I add 1 per 5 gallons, adding 5 TBSP today and 6 TBSP in two days. I'm a bit leary of changing my fish's environment that quickly so I plan to add 3 TBSP per day for the next 4 days (actually only 2 on the last day). I'm also hoping by doing it slowly there will be less shock to my 2 babies, who still look clear of the white spots. Readings are still .5/0/0, but it looks like the pH may have risen a little bit, maybe 7.6 now. Temp is still 86°. The fish look healthy in their behavior but still have white spots.
 
fishingman001
Member
For ICH just raise the temp slowly to 86, add extra aeration, and do gravel vacs twice a week. Do this for 2 weeks.

I would do a large 50% water change to get the salt out of the tank. IMO salt should never be used. It is called Freshwater for a reason
 
riddik1
Member
I think shrimp are a great idea. fun to watch and you could have tons in a 55 and play "find the shrimp"
 
  • Thread Starter
Charistory
Member
Some aquarists and hatcheries use salt for a short time because of the destructive effect it has on external parasites. I do not intend to maintain the salt dosage in the water, but since I only have Platys and they are tolerant of salt (unlike the corys I plan to get if my tank ever cycles), I have decided to add salt. It will come out as I do water changes in the future once the fish have recovered. From what I've read it's the change in salinity that does more damage to the offending parasites than the actual salt content of the water, so it doesn't make sense to me to use it all the time, as many chain pet stores seem to advocate. But as a medicine it seems useful. I'll keep you updated on how/if it works.
Once I have corys and live plants, I will not use any salt. I'm getting a 10 gallon quarantine tank (given to me! yeah!) in the next couple weeks and would add salt to that for a sick, salt-tolerant fish--assuming it works in the case I'm currently dealing with.
 
qazwsx12
Member
Good luck! Keep us posted.
Whats in your tank that the fish are hiding in by the way?
photos
 
  • Thread Starter
Charistory
Member
Hey Sprayart94,

Thanks. The white splotches do not appear to be getting worse, so I hope the salt is working. If you look at my profile you can see pictures of my tank. The stone and wood looking things are all made of plastic and the plants are plastic as well.
 
  • Thread Starter
Charistory
Member
Today is the 26th day. I added the salt per the schedule I outlined above. I did a 20% water change on day 24, but added the appropriate amount of salt to keep the concentration at 1 tbsp per 5 gallons.

The fish look a lot better. The white spots are almost all gone and some of the places where there were white spots just look like flesh now, like the scales got eaten off by whatever fungus or bacteria (Columnaris?) was there.

It's been 3 weeks and 2 days since I added the fish and still no nitrite Tomorrow I'll add the final dose of Stress Zyme+, but I'm seriously considering getting some Safestart because the tank doesn't seem to be progressing in the cycle.

Readings are 0.5 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 0 nitrate. The salt does seem to have raised the pH to around 7.6-7.8. There hasn't been a noticeable change in hardness or alkalinity. Temp has stayed 84-86° for a week now.

I plan to keep the temp elevated for another week, per suggestions here, to make sure the Ick is gone for now. I'm planning to continue 20% water changes with gravel vac every other day but not add anymore salt as it appears to have done it's job. So the salinity will start coming down.

I have noticed since adding the salt that the fish seem more irritable with one another. The male has really started picking on the largest female (the other sunset wag) almost constantly and is especially mean around eating time. He tries to chase her into a corner so she won't eat anything. I make sure she gets plenty to eat, sometimes resorting to chasing the male to the other side of the tank with a net and keeping him there (just holding it near him, not acutally pinning him) while she eats. So from my observation, the salt appears to have helped with the Ick/Columnaris but it's made the fish irritable. Even the two blue rainbow platys will nip at each other once in awhile. I also have only seen one baby in the past four days, so I may have lost the other one, or it could just be hiding really well...

So my big question is, How long should I need to wait until I see nitrite? My ammonia has never gotten to 1 ppm yet and I only have 4 adult platys in a 55 gal, which I know is a lot of water with relatively little ammonia. Any suggestions on helping to get the process going would be appreciated. Even if the suggestion is just to be patient.
 
fishingman001
Member
Charistory said:
Today is the 26th day. I added the salt per the schedule I outlined above. I did a 20% water change on day 24, but added the appropriate amount of salt to keep the concentration at 1 tbsp per 5 gallons.

The fish look a lot better. The white spots are almost all gone and some of the places where there were white spots just look like flesh now, like the scales got eaten off by whatever fungus or bacteria (Columnaris?) was there.

It's been 3 weeks and 2 days since I added the fish and still no nitrite Tomorrow I'll add the final dose of Stress Zyme+, but I'm seriously considering getting some Safestart because the tank doesn't seem to be progressing in the cycle.

Readings are 0.5 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 0 nitrate. The salt does seem to have raised the pH to around 7.6-7.8. There hasn't been a noticeable change in hardness or alkalinity. Temp has stayed 84-86° for a week now.

I plan to keep the temp elevated for another week, per suggestions here, to make sure the Ick is gone for now. I'm planning to continue 20% water changes with gravel vac every other day but not add anymore salt as it appears to have done it's job. So the salinity will start coming down.

I have noticed since adding the salt that the fish seem more irritable with one another. The male has really started picking on the largest female (the other sunset wag) almost constantly and is especially mean around eating time. He tries to chase her into a corner so she won't eat anything. I make sure she gets plenty to eat, sometimes resorting to chasing the male to the other side of the tank with a net and keeping him there (just holding it near him, not acutally pinning him) while she eats. So from my observation, the salt appears to have helped with the Ick/Columnaris but it's made the fish irritable. Even the two blue rainbow platys will nip at each other once in awhile. I also have only seen one baby in the past four days, so I may have lost the other one, or it could just be hiding really well...

So my big question is, How long should I need to wait until I see nitrite? My ammonia has never gotten to 1 ppm yet and I only have 4 adult platys in a 55 gal, which I know is a lot of water with relatively little ammonia. Any suggestions on helping to get the process going would be appreciated. Even if the suggestion is just to be patient.
IMO salt upsets fish. Like you saw it makes fish irritable. I would stop using salt.

Since it has almost been a month you shoud have seen nitrites a while ago.

I would stop using the stress zyme and salt. Do a large 50% water change and another 50% change tomorrow. Then add TSS.
 
MindTravel3r
Member
It looks like you did not have measurable levels of ammonia until day 13. If this is the case, then it has only been 11 or 12 days since you have been seeing ammonia, and you have done a couple of small water changes since then. While it does seem like a long time not to have seen a nitrite reading, it does not seem out of the question.

Also, the strip test kit you have might add another variable to the mix.

Fishingman's suggestion of using TSS certainly seems reasonable. Especially from the perspective of doing water changes to protect the fish from ammonia. 55 gallons is a big tank for water changes several times a week. TSS would likely speed up the process as your current environment is developing kind of slow.

With that said, I think over time it cycle will progress.
 
  • Thread Starter
Charistory
Member
Just in case someone reads this in the future and wants to know how it ended I figured I would make a final post. I had a family emergency come up that kept me occupied for about a week. I wasn't able to do any water changes or testing and barely had time to feed the fish once a day. The columnaris cleared up and I haven't had any fish health issues since then. Around day 40 I tested the water and had 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and something less than 20 nitrates. So in about 5.5 weeks my tank cycled with the 4 fish I had in there. I did lose both the babies that had been swimming around in there, so I assume the nitrites spiked the week I wasn't able to watch it.

I am still doing 10% water changes weekly and not adding salt, so the saline is coming down. I have lowered the temperature to around 78-80°F. There's a new little one swimming in the tank now. I was feeding the fish twice a day, but they seem to be doing fine being fed once a day. All in all things appear to be going well. I am now on a hunt to find some easy live plants to add and then hope to purchase Odessa Barbs after Thanksgiving.

Thanks to everyone for their advice and help. I know this may be contrary to many others' opinions, but for me it appears the salt was quite helpful at resolving the sickness issues without having to introduce meds.
 

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