My New Betta Fish Tank Is Cycling Weird

Discussion in 'Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle' started by SusieS, Jul 17, 2019.

  1. SusieS

    SusieSNew MemberMember

    Hi, I've started a new tank for a future Betta fish on July 10th. It's a Fluval Spec V with Fluval stratum and a heater. I added 5 gal. of RO water with Seachem Equilibrium. I also added Tetra Safe Start Plus, an Anubias that was attached to coir piece from a planted tank in local Petsmart and 4 marimo balls. I test the water with API freshwater test kit.
    July 11th - ph 6.7 - Ammonia .25 - Nitrite 0 - Nitrate 0 - temp 81
    July 13th - ph 6.6 - Ammonia .25 - Nitrite 0 - Nitrate 4 - temp 77
    July 15th - ph 6.6 - Ammonia .25 - Nitrite 0 - Nitrate 5 - temp 76.6
    July 17th - ph 6.6 - Ammonia .25 - Nitrite 0 - Nitrate 0 - temp 76.8
    There seems to be a cloudy film that's developed on the surface, but the rest of the tank is clear. The marimo balls were hot inside their package from the UPS truck...I put them in water right away and now they have areas that are white?
    My question this tank cycled? The ammonia has never spiked unless it did it on the in-between days when I didn't test. My 6 year old is chomping at the bit to get her new fish, but I want it to be a safe, comfortable environment for a fish.

    Attached Files:

  2. MrBryan723

    MrBryan723Well Known MemberMember

    Your ammonia is a bit low for a good cycle to start. Try to get it to around 2ppm or so. The anubis will pull ammonia and nitrates out of the water as well as the bacteria film, which should go away with surface agitation later in your cycle. If you're not seeing nitrites your tank is still in the 1st stage, the nitrates could come from your water source, or what limited beneficial bacteria came with the live plants. You should see a solid spike in it towards the end of your cycle(20+ppm) this should take several weeks to accomplish and can't really be sped up much even with bacteria in a bottle, which helps a little but not a lot.
  3. oldsalt777

    oldsalt777Well Known MemberMember

    Hello Sus...

    I'm having doubts about your chances for success with this tank. You have too many things going on at the same time and this is always a recipe for eventual failure. Sorry. You don't need any chemicals other than the standard water treatment. Before you get a fish, I would step back and review the "how to" things for setting up a fish tank. I can help you and the 6 year old if you guys have the time. This will save you some future problems.

  4. BottomDweller

    BottomDwellerFishlore VIPMember

    What are you using as an ammonia source?
    The tank is not cycled since there is some ammonia. When it is fully cycled it should be able to convert 2ppm of ammonia into nitrates within 24 hours.
  5. OP

    SusieSNew MemberMember

    I've spent many hours researching before getting this tank and starting the set-up. I'm confused about the "too many things going on"? We have well water here along with reverse osmosis and I read RO is safer as long as it is remineralized (thus the Seachem Equalibrium). The Fluval Stratum is because it's a planted tank. The only thing other than the minerals I've added is the TSS Plus...which I believe is simply bacteria. I also read that it is common for the Nitrites to stay at 0 when you use TSS. Should I add some plain ammonia or some food to get the ammonia up?
  6. BottomDweller

    BottomDwellerFishlore VIPMember

    Plain ammonia is more accurate than using fish food but either can work.
  7. MrBryan723

    MrBryan723Well Known MemberMember

    Are you adding ammonia or food to begin with? There isn't too much reason to dose ferts during the cycle process because the plants will readily take up the ammonia with the extra ferts to grow not leaving enough for your cycle; you can still dose, but cut back a bit until your cycle is complete and that will help it along.(relevant since you're doing fishless) also you don't really need to reminneralize the water until after the cycle since you will just be taking it back out during water changes. A waste of resources and money and the bacteria don't really need much as far as that is concerned.
    I would say reduce the ferts, add your ammonia(or fish food) and just water chlorine remover until your cycle is well on the way to being completed. The bacteria is up to you but it doesn't really do a ton(it does help, but not much)
  8. OP

    SusieSNew MemberMember

    I've not added any fertilizer, food or ammonia...only the Seachem minerals and the TSS plus. I've not added any chlorine remover because I started with reverse osmosis water.

    Old Salt - please explain why you doubt my chance of success with this tank? Where is my error in judgement...should I not have added plants yet?
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
  9. MrBryan723

    MrBryan723Well Known MemberMember

    This explains a bit here... the bacteria you added most likely died of starvation because it didn't have anything to eat. You need to add pure ammonia or fish food to start up the cycle. After a few days of it running with one or the other then you can add your bacteria in a bottle and go from there.

    Nothing wrong at all with adding plants, but they will compete with the BB you're trying to grow for the ammonia so you have to watch it a bit closer. I encourage plants, just understand the extra factor.
    If you're using ro water no need for the dechlorinater so you're right on with that one.
  10. CindyVBPets

    CindyVBPetsValued MemberMember

    Don't worry, you're just sorta starting over since you need higher ammonia to kick off effectively to get back in the swing of things (since your nitrate disappeared).

    Yes, you're not cycled and adding some ammonia will be faster than using some fish food or other methods. I used Dr. Tims since it also has explicit instructions on the website. In fact I'm cycling with it in a bucket right now for future use. But because I have established tanks I started with some beneficial bacteria/media.

    Here it is on Amazon. Might be available at pet stores or you can use generic plain ammonia. But his gives precise dosing - good for feeling confident.,aps,249&sr=8-3

    You might enjoy the guy at Aquarium Co-op. He has a ton of videos and this one in particular talks about cycling a planted aquarium and the various options. Not to confuse the issue, just to flesh out the various ways people do it. He's good at explaining stuff. For example how bacteria can double every day or die off quickly, too (as was mentioned upthread).

    I cycled a 5 gallon without ammonia just using plants and fertilizer (but I had some established media, too)...something he talks about. I'm not suggesting it just offering the info.

    If you want more plants you can throw the plant and the wool it's packed in in the little cup into the tank and you'll have a little biological from the store! Just let the plant float around in the top. Bettas love heavily planted tanks that includes not really being "planted" in the Stratum, even just floating. (my tank in my icon has a Betta and Stratum, too!)

    You might skip the nitrite phase, like in my case using with Dr Tim's or Stability BB and plants but regardless, you're not cycled until the ammonia is converted to nitrates within a day as mentioned upthread. So you have to see the ammonia go up then disappear to know that. My cycled planted tanks always have a bit of nitrate...never zero.

    Fishless cycle with plants (and using ammonia)
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
  11. OP

    SusieSNew MemberMember

    Thanks All!! I'm wondering if the low ph is slowing the cycle down as well (the fluval stratum buffers ph). I was thinking of starting off with Dr. Tim's One and Only, but decided on the TSS after reading a review of someone that compared several different ones. I will get the ammonia today...thanks again!
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2019
  12. CindyVBPets

    CindyVBPetsValued MemberMember

    Could be a factor. My Stratum has caused a constant battle between me and my tap water because my tap is 8.4! So I can't just do a 50% water change dump into my Stratum 6.6! Strong PH change will kill him. You can dump some higher ph bottled water in for now if you want. Stratum will probably just bring it down anyway LOL. Zephryhills is 7.5.if they have that in your state. (I'm in FL) Publix brand is very high around 8.

    Test your well water out of the tap since that's ideally what you'd want to keep using. So you know what lays ahead! 6.6 is okay for the Betta, though so if you're lucky your out of the tap will be low, also. If it's high....welcome to my world haha.

    Right now I"m trying to slowly raise my tank a little with crushed coral in the filter since water changes otherwise involves lots of bottled water to average out to 6.7 ish.

    Even Crystal Geyser (Walmart) is a bit too high to mix with my tap! and it's 6.9. Ironically today I'm going to get a couple other brands *sigh*

    I understand the Stratum will "weaken" as it gets older but I'm not waiting a year for a solution. My new tank I'm going with SAND. (one Betta, 5 gal)

    It's an option for you too, to change substrates. Plants will grow in sand and other neutral media like Seachem's Flourite. You just need a tab of fertilizer at the root (root tab) for plants who feed from the root and occasional dosing in the water itself for the other type plants.
  13. OP

    SusieSNew MemberMember

    I hadn't thought about the water changes affecting the ph. I need to test the ph out of the RO system and see what it starts with. Thanks for that reminder! I did read about the stratum weakening after a couple years.
  14. Momgoose56

    Momgoose56Well Known MemberMember

    A low pH will definately slow the growth of nitrifying bacteria. You can add crushed coral in a media bag in your filter, to raise your pH temporarily while your tank cycles, then remove it once the fish are in there. RO water pH is usually around 7.0 and the stratum is lowering it even further.
  15. OP

    SusieSNew MemberMember

    My RO water and the tank water have similar low ph 6.6. I've added ammonia.
    Current parameters are Ammonia 2.0, Nitrites still 0 (always), Nitrates 5.
  16. Orion1066

    Orion1066Valued MemberMember

    What type of heater do you have?
  17. OP

    SusieSNew MemberMember

    I's a Marina 25w

    Tucks in there nice.
  18. Orion1066

    Orion1066Valued MemberMember

    Thank you for the link. I have been narrowing my selection down to 25 Watts, and sized to fit the Spec V tank. This should do it.
  19. CindyVBPets

    CindyVBPetsValued MemberMember

    Unfortunately RO water can go as low as 5.0 - usually more like 5.0 to 6.0. when exposed to air. I'm curious to know if Stratum might actually raise ph in r/o (for once LOL)

    What is the pH of Reverse Osmosis Water? | Water Ionizer Expert
  20. Orion1066

    Orion1066Valued MemberMember

    Cindy(?) This is the same filter I have, and I am also trying to reduce the outflow. I also have the same filter floss, that I have not tried.

    I will keep an eye on your thread so I can learn more.