My cycle won't progress! :((

Betta_Blu

Hello, Everyone.

I'm currently doing a fish-in cycle that won't move along. Here's my info sheet:

Tank
What is the water volume of the tank?: 10 Gallons
What type of water are you using in your tank?: Tap (NYC)
When did you start cycling the tank?: I first established the tank on June 28, added plants on July 1 and added fish on July 8.
What type of filtration are you running on this tank?: HOB (Aqueon Quietflow 10 Led Pro)
If canister or HOB list all the media you are running in it?: Started off with original manufactured cartridge only. Led started blinking for change after only 10 days, so I added a second cartridge in front of the old one. I did not remove the original cartridge. They are both there. I also added a sponge on the water spout, to reduce outflow. On July 11 I added a pre-filter sponge as well.
Do you have good water agitation/surface movement?: It's pretty minimal. Bettas and rasboras seem to prefer calmer waters, so I reduced the flow quite a bit.
What is the water temperature?: Started at around 82, currently around 79-80 F. That's room temperature. Heater has been off all along (it would have been set to around 78 F)

If fish in cycling
What is the entire stocking of this tank? (Please list all fish and inverts): One betta, 6 young rasboras and two zebra nerite snails. All added to the tank on the same day, straight from the store (with acclimation, of course).
How often do you feed them and how much?: For the first three days I fed them three small meals a day, yesterday only twice and today only once. In general, very little (if any) food ends up on the bottom. Whatever was offered got eaten.
Are they showing signs of distress? (fish hiding, staying at the top, looking pale, torn fins, etc): No. They seem perfectly fine.
Do you have live plants in the tank?: Yes, at least three steams of each of these - Water Wisteria, Green myrio, Limnophila hippuridoides, Ludwigia Ruby sp. dark red, Ludwigia arcuata and Ludwigia ovalis.
If so are they healthy and actively growing?: Yes, very much so. Not one of them melted after being added to the aquarium two weeks ago.

Products used while cycling
If this is a fishless cycle what ammonia source are you using? (fish food, Dr Tim’s ammonia, other): N/A
If adding liquid ammonia how often do you dose ammonia in your tank and in what quantity? (1ppm, 2ppm etc.): N/A
If using fish food as your ammonia source how much are you adding and how often?: N/A
Are you using a dechlorinater and if so, which one?: Yes. Seachem Prime mainly (but I've also used API Stress Coat once or twice).
Are you using bottled bacteria and if so, which one?: Yes, Seachem Stability (daily for the first 7 days and every 48h since then) and I have also used API Quick Start once or twice.
Did you add seeded media from a previously cycled tank?: No.
What other products/chemicals are you using? (list them all): StressGuard for the past 3 days, 3 Flourish Tabs when plants were first introduced, and Flourish (liquid) once.

Testing and cycling process
What was your knowledge of the nitrogen cycle before beginning to cycle your tank? (none, beginner, intermediate (please explain), advanced): I'd say beginner (in theory), but this is the first time I document a cycle, and take notes of all parameters on a daily basis.
What do you use to test the water?: API Masterkit. I also have Seachem Alert Combo installed.
Did you test your tap water for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and pH, if so post the results below?: Yes.
Have you done any water changes and if so, when?: Yes, twice. Four days ago and two days ago. I would have done one today, but I'll wait for answers to this post.
How much water did you change?: 20% each time.
Did you vacuum the substrate?: Only a small part of the surface (a strip of 10" x 2" right in front), all the rest remains untouched.
Did you clean your filter, filter media, decorations and/or glass?: Never.
If using disposable cartridges have you replaced one recently?: No. I've added one, but kept the old one in with it. "Old" one is very, very brown all over (though it's only 2 weeks old).

Parameters

Tank water:
Ammonia: 2 ppm (has been about the same for nearly three days, only goes down slightly after water change)
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 0 ppm
pH: 7.2

Tap water:
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 0 ppm
pH: 6.8 or 7.0 (kinda hard to make sure, since colors are so similar, but it's NYC water and it seems they make it neutral or up to 7.2, which would match my tank water)

Explain your cycling problem in detail. (Please give a clear explanation of what is going on, include details from the beginning of the problem leading up to now)
My cycle is either stuck, or never kick-started.
I imagined that adding 9 living beings to the tank would kick-start it (especially since I fed them normally), but maybe it wasn't enough?
June 28 - Tank was established. Running with sand and decor only (one rock, one medium-sized hideaway). That same day I started Seachem Stability treatment. Full dose, for 7 consecutive days as recommended by Seachem.
July 1 - Plants were added (Water Wisteria, Green myrio, Limnophila hippuridoides, Ludwigia Ruby sp. dark red, Ludwigia arcuata and Ludwigia ovalis). Aquarium lights have been on for 14/15 hours a day since then - I know it's a lot, but I hoped to start producing some algae for the snails that were coming.
July 8 - Fish were introduced. One Betta, 6 Harlequin Rasboras and 2 nerite snails. Water parameters were all 0. By night time I got the first total ammonia reading of 0.25 ppm. Zero nitrites and zero nitrates. Two small feedings, since rasboras had just arrived to the store on that day, so they had probably been starved before that.
July 9 - Total ammonia was 0.5 ppm. Zero nitrites and zero nitrates. Seachem Ammonia Alert remained on Safe (since Ammonia was probably detoxified by Prime and Alert only shows Free Amonia levels). Three small feedings. 20% water change with minor sand surface siphoning (Prime + StressGuard)
July 10 - Total ammonia was 0.50 ppm. Zero nitrites and zero nitrates. Three small feedings. Seachem Stability applied to tank.
July 11 - Total ammonia was somewhere between 1 and 2 ppm. Zero nitrites and zero nitrates. Three small feedings. 20% water change with minor sand surface siphoning (added Prime + StressGuard)
July 12 - Total ammonia was 2 ppm. Zero nitrites and zero nitrates. Bio film has formed on water surface. Two small feedings. Seachem Stability applied to tank.
July 13 - Total ammonia 2 ppm. Zero nitrites and zero nitrates. Bio film remains on water surface. One feeding. Seachem StressGuard + Stability applied to tank.

So.... Yeah! My cycle doesn't seem to be progressing.
As far as I noticed from others' logs, as soon as ammonia starts spiking (anything around/above 2 ppm), they start seeing positive readings for nitrite & nitrates, but mine remain at 0 ppm for both.
Seachem swears that Prime's ammonia binding does not affect cycling, so that shouldn't be the reason.
I'm stumped. And I wouldn't want to add crazy amounts of food to spike it a lot more, because... you know, FISH!

Can anyone shed some light on what my mistakes are (aside from not doing a fishless cycle)?

Thank you in advance.
 

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Azedenkae

One of the things I don't like about fish-in cycling, is that it is hard to track progress in situations like this.

One 'problem' is that you have plants. This makes it hard to track progress, because we can't really easily see 'evidence' of nitrification occurring.

Essentially, there are two possibilities here. Either there is no nitrification, and hence ammonia is building up at a relatively constantly rate, or there is nitrification (since you added all the bottled bac products), but you don't actually see it, possibly because any nitrite produced is also consumed to produce nitrate, which in turn is consumed by plants.

In the former case, your line of best fit on a graph would look like this:

1626229910126.png

In the latter case, it may be more like this:

1626229928620.png
Note: I added 0.125ppm to all readings from day 10 onwards to account for the 20% water change done on day 9 after the initial 0.5ppm reading.

Either way, the 'fit' is pretty good, so can't say anything concrete. I.e., given the situation it is impossible to know if there is ammonia-oxidation or not. Could be no ammonia oxidation, or could be some ammonia oxidation starting to develop, but just not enough to be equal with ammonia production. Of course, this whole thing is exacerbated by the fact that our test kits cannot measure at better resolutions, otherwise the plot would be much cleaner.

The best way forward is to keep dosing Prime and/or do more water changes to keep ammonia from getting too high, and hopefully eventually ammonia will start to stop rising, and then actually start decreasing. Of course, if nitrite starts to be apparent in the interim, that's also a good sign too - at least then we know it was the former case and eventually ammonia oxidation was occurring.
 
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Betta_Blu

The best way forward is to keep dosing Prime and/or do more water changes to keep ammonia from getting too high, and hopefully eventually ammonia will start to stop rising, and then actually start decreasing. Of course, if nitrite starts to be apparent in the interim, that's also a good sign too - at least then we know it was the former case and eventually ammonia oxidation was occurring.

Thank you for your in-depth assessment!

Even before I added the fish my filter was already highly populated with whatever that is (I imagine beneficial bacteria, since I had been adding it to the tank regularly).
Some web articles say "don't change water", "don't remove any waste", others suggest daily water changes and deep waste removal. My brain is like a tennis ball, going from one side to the other at high speed right now. LOL!
My goal, of course, is for the fish to suffer as little as possible.
So your suggestion is that I keep doing the 20% water changes every 48h with Prime, which makes sense to me.
 

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mattgirl

You are still very early in the cycling process. It isn't unusual not to see nitrites for up to 3 weeks. You won't see nitrates until the nitrites rise and then start going down. Since you are doing a fish in cycle i will recommend you keep the ammonia level down as low as possible with water changes. I would keep it down to no more than .25 Once the nitrites spike you want to keep the total amount of ammonia plus nitrites below one. It is good you have Prime. it is going to help protect your fish while this tank goes through its cycle.

Although you added bottled bacteria it doesn't always help. It seems in this case it didn't do much to help speed up this cycle.
 
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seananderson68

Hey! I wouldn't be concerned by your levels! They're all on point! My concern is the amount of fish you have and how often you're feeding them! That's a lot of fish for a 10 gallon tank...do water changes every week and only feed them once a day for now..if your tank hasnt started to cycle yet you don't wanna dirty up the water too much before it starts!
and your tank looks really great! love the setup!
 
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Betta_Blu

Hey! I wouldn't be concerned by your levels! They're all on point! My concern is the amount of fish you have and how often you're feeding them! That's a lot of fish for a 10 gallon tank...do water changes every week and only feed them once a day for now..if your tank hasnt started to cycle yet you don't wanna dirty up the water too much before it starts!
and your tank looks really great! love the setup!
Hello. Thank you for the advice!
I followed AqAdvisor's lead for this setup.
According to the website, my tank is at 78% capacity.
I did not plan to add them all at the same time, though. It just happened that way.
Rasboras need to be in groups of 5 or more and I had heard it was better to introduce the betta to the aquarium after the other fish were in, so they wouldn't feel like they were invading HIS territory.
But when I went to get the rasboras, I couldn't resist that guy. I had to bring him home as well...
Thanks again.

My Tank on AqAdvisor
You are still very early in the cycling process. It isn't unusual not to see nitrites for up to 3 weeks. You won't see nitrates until the nitrites rise and then start going down. Since you are doing a fish in cycle i will recommend you keep the ammonia level down as low as possible with water changes. I would keep it down to no more than .25 Once the nitrites spike you want to keep the total amount of ammonia plus nitrites below one. It is good you have Prime. it is going to help protect your fish while this tank goes through its cycle.

Although you added bottled bacteria it doesn't always help. It seems in this case it didn't do much to help speed up this cycle.
Thank you very much!
You're right... Deep down I'm fully aware that the cycle has just started (or at least I hope it has), but at the same time I just want it to be over with, so my fish can be happy and I can sleep at night. :)
I already did another 20% water change today. Maybe I could start doing daily changes for a week and see if it helps.
I just want to make sure I don't halt/crash the cycle.
Have a great week!
 

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seananderson68

Hello. Thank you for the advice!
I followed Aquarium Advisor's lead for this setup.
According to the website, my tank is at 78% capacity.
I did not plan to add them all at the same time, though. It just happened that way.
Rasboras need to be in groups of 5 or more and I had heard it was better to introduce the betta to the aquarium after the other fish were in, so they wouldn't feel like they were invading HIS territory.
But when I went to get the rasboras, I couldn't resist that guy. I had to bring him home as well...
Thanks again.

My Tank on Aquarium Advisor

Thank you very much!
You're right... Deep down I'm fully aware that the cycle has just started (or at least I hope it has), but at the same time I just want it to be over with, so my fish can be happy and I can sleep at night. :)
I already did another 20% water change today. Maybe I could start doing daily changes for a week and see if it helps.
I just want to make sure I don't halt/crash the cycle.
Have a great week!
i hear you! good luck! The live plants will definitely help too!
 
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mattgirl

Thank you very much!
You're right... Deep down I'm fully aware that the cycle has just started (or at least I hope it has), but at the same time I just want it to be over with, so my fish can be happy and I can sleep at night. :)
I already did another 20% water change today. Maybe I could start doing daily changes for a week and see if it helps.
I just want to make sure I don't halt/crash the cycle.
Have a great week!
You are so very welcome.

Let your test numbers be your guide as to when to do water changes and how much to change each time. The math will guide you as to how much water needs to be changed to get the numbers down. If you are seeing 1ppm ammonia you will know changing half the water will get it down to .5ppm and then changing half of it again will get it down to .25ppm In my humble opinion that is the only safe level for fish even when using Prime to detox the ammonia.

Keep in mind. Bacteria isn't free floating in the water so doing water changes isn't removing any. The bacteria is growing on your filter media and on all the surfaces in the tank. Please don't clean anything inside the tank unless it is absolutely necessary. Only rinse your filter media as needed to keep water flowing through it freely. Skim the surface of the substrate during water changes if necessary but don't deep clean it. Bacteria is pretty tough but we want to give it time to get well established on all the surfaces.
 
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Betta_Blu

Hi, Everyone.
Just a little update.
Since Thursday (Jul 15) the Nitrite test colors had been slowly moving away from powder blue (0 ppm), but on July 17 I had the first very clear lavender test (0.25 ppm) and today it looks like a 2 ppm to me.
I've been doing 40% water changes (Seachem Prime, Stress Guard and Stability added with each change), every single day since my original post here.
Ammonia is still around 1 ppm (even with all the changes), but I'm hopeful it'll start decreasing as the cycle progresses.
Thank you all for your advice so far!
 

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mattgirl

Seeing nitrites tells us this cycle is moving forward. At this point I would stop adding both stress guard and stability. The only thing I would be adding is Prime with the water changes.
 
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Betta_Blu

I just wanted to update and say that I've pretty much got a cycled tank, thanks to Tetra SafeStart Plus!

My 5+ppm Nitrite spike had already lasted over 12 days.
I did a 95% water change, tested the water as soon as I finished it, and there was still 1ppm nitrites! 12h later it was back to nearly 5 ppm.
I say "5+ppm" because several times I would test half tap/half tank water to have a more precise reading (since 2 and 5 ppm have such similar color on the chart), but the half & half results always looked just as dark as the original.
It was nuts, and it was driving me nuts!
I read so many people swear by Tetra Safestart, that I had to try it as a last ditch effort.
I dumped 100ml bottle of Tetra Safestart Plus into my tank.
Twelve hours later my nitrites reading was 0.50 ppm.
Today, just under 72h later, I've got a beautiful, perfectly blue nitrite test to show for.
Of course I'll keep watching it for the next few weeks, but I'm finally breathing again.
 

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