Question Need help with cycling trouble - I'm confused

Bambikill

New Member
Member
Messages
14
Reaction score
18
Location
Sweden
Experience
More than 10 years
Hey there,

I need help with a complicated problem (at least for me) and I can't seem to get any advice on my native (Sweden) forum of preference... I get so confused that I don't even know where to start fixing things :S

Bear with me, I'm a chatterbox, but I kind of need to explain the problem (which for me has too many aspects, some of which I've never encountered before...) And the more I explain, the less questions would need to be asked.

I'm not a noob (aboutish 10-12 years of amphibians and different types of tanks with a ton of species of fish, snails and shrimp) but I've never had much problems with my tanks, so I haven't necessarily needed to read up on certain things and problems - and when they all clump up, I have no idea what to do. The NO2 and NO3 are sky high, the pH is too low, the KH bordering to non-existent and I don't know where to start or what to do. I'm sure the mangrove is the issue, but how to solve everything? I have googled like crazy but can't seem to find answers that clarify a proper course of action that would not disturb any process in the cycle.

Tests are JBL drip tests, which I've always been happy with.
Filter contains no material that will lower pH, only a variety of mechanical filtering and ceramic bio media.
Substrate is coarse sand, no soil nor anything else.
Tank contains no fish - nor will I add until I have control over the nutty fluctuations and values. I don't cycle with fish.


I have a planned blackwater tank in cycling (aboutish 48 gallons but that doesn't exactly matter) - it's been running for about 11-12 days with a stock of mangrove and a few plants - before that, another week or so, but with only sand and an external filter - the water pimped with silt and water from my existing temporary fish tank with a longtime naturally stable, somewhat acidic water + a small filter sponge prepared in the internal filter of that tank.

The nitrogen cycle kickstarted in light speed (I always transfer stuff to get a new tank running faster, but this was an unusually fast process). The reason why I didn't add any stuff to the tank right away, was because I had huge problems with a crappy sand I bought that just refused to stop clouding the water. I changed the sand for my old fav brand and stuff worked out.



From the first addition of mangrove - pH started dropping too low. A new, fairly big root. Solid for most part, I don't buy roots that look porous and like they'd decay fast. I always scrub as much as possible, to remove loose junk.
It wasn't soaked very properly (about 24 hours) and leaked a lot of tannins into the soaking bucket. I figured that - "hey, it's blackwater, it's fine". The purpose was more for making sure it would sink well. It started colouring the water immediately, but not to extremes.
Other, small, roots added at that time - are old, well used and do not leak at all. (Solid, no decay at all). At this point, only a few plants were added since I still haven't gotten everything I've ordered from various places.

Also added; a bunch of corkscrew hazel - many years old, bone dry and at that time boiled and baked. After a few days, most of them started sliming. I've rinsed them twice and removed any loose bark, and the few remaining very thin side branches. They produce only a little slime now. I have nowhere else to sink long branches. They've started to sink to a fair degree by now.
A bunch of elder cones (because I naïvely thought they'd be needed... I've removed them since).


About a week ago, I added another big root, also mangrove. Again - soaking for about 24 hours, it barely leaked at all. Very smooth and solid. It didn't seem to add to colouring. Started testing daily, pH and KH continued dropping. Huge amounts of NO2 and NO3, but sinking NH4. A few more plants added.

Accidentally dosed the wrong fertilizer about that time, I was going to use a micro-nutrient one but used another one, containing N and P. But this should have been gone by now and shouldn't add this much to the extreme NO2 and NO3 load.

Temperature dropped to an astonishing 21-22 degrees (Celsius) when the weather changed, which is rare in my very hot apartment. I usually have to use fans and other cooling strategies in summertime - and have had huge problems with cold water tanks previously. I added a heater so as to not make the bacteria go dormant. That heated too much so I'll have to put in two smaller heaters and try to fix it to my goal of 24-25 C.


Now;

Plants are still sparse since I'm waiting for my delayed delivery of more plants. ATM, only a java fern, a bunch of epiphytes (smallish to small) +a small group of (small) H. difformis. Definitely not enough to help very much.

Have done water changes almost daily, in order to help the KH and eliminate some NO2 and NO3 - but it's back to very low and very high, respectively - levels after a day.

Values keep rising - and/or can only be kept (barely) in check by big water changes almost daily. But I don't know if this is a good idea.

Values;

NO2 and NO3 are very high - and continue rising - but NH4 is dropping steadily? (Down to about 0,05 by now, with a very slight rise today). I've never had such high values of both NO2 and 3, simultaneously. (Bursting the chart, can't even measure them...) Obviously - the bacterial growths are quite good, otherwise I wouldn't have such massive values for both. But this, for me, makes no sense. If I have these values - there has to be a well built flora of both bacteria - but how can the values stay so high, then? Of both?

KH has been as low as about 1... Average is 2 or barely 3. After a water change of about 30 % - it rises to 4-5 but is down to 2-3 again by the next day. My tap water is about 5-6. Never had such issues before, only needed to raise it for snails and shrimp and it has done so readily with added crushed shells.

pH fluctuates between 5,5 and barely 6,5. As a median value - about 6 or slightly lower. (No wonder). Not sufficient for one of the species of fish I plan to have. I want about 6,5 or slightly more - but below 7 - as a steady end result.


What should I do?;

Roots;
I'd prefer to not take them out again for boiling and further soaking, but if I really have to - there's no helping it.
How long could it typically take for them to leak out the huge excess of tannins and settle for normal speed? I've never had very big roots before - more of just heavily planted tanks or rocky/silty conditions with small roots. KH of course affects pH but I've never really heard much about the other way around... Googling gives very few discussions about this. But it HAS to be the roots that mess stuff up...? I mean, what else could it be... no fish, barely any plants, so not much decaying plant matter.

Plants; I don't know how much of this they can take - the levels of NO2 and NO3 should be bad in the long run...? They are acidic, after all. Especially in combo with the low pH and very low KH? (Although, GH should be more relevant for the plants?) How much could I actually help out with adding a s*tload of fast growing ones, temporarily? (I can't get hold of the ones I want but I could go for anything, temporarily. I have a bit of other stuff to add, straight away, but they're quite small). I usually don't worry about the plants in cycling, since I've never had these odd values before.
Now I'm basically just waiting for an algae explosion or something :S

pH/KH; The low pH isn't good for the cycle... Should I buffer the KH for now? And in that case - how much? Should I go for a big boost and then lower it when things start leveling out? Bicarbonate...? I'd prefer to go as simple as possible since I'm not much of a fan of store stuff.

Water changes; Could I disrupt the cycle by changing this much and this often? I wouldn't do it in a tank that's not properly stocked in bacteria but my tank sure seems to be...? I've barely ever needed to do any water changes in a cycling tank :S


Or should I just leave everything to manage itself? :S I really don't know what to do or where to start. And I don't understand what's happening, and that bugs me. Big time.
 

mattgirl

Fishlore Legend
Member
Messages
12,832
Reaction score
12,707
Location
Closer to Heaven every day but for now-Arkansas
Experience
More than 10 years
With nitrites and nitrates pegging out the chart the first thing I would do is a massive water change to get both down to at least readable levels. I am sure you know that the bacteria isn't free floating in the water so even an 80% or more water change isn't going to be removing bacteria. Just be sure to both temp match and use your water conditioner if you have chlorine/chloramines in your source water.

Like you the only thing I can think that might be causing this imbalance is the big root. Hopefully it will soon settle down but in the meantime you may want to consider adding a large amount of crushed coral, limestone or crushed oyster shells (I prefer crushed coral) to help counter what the root is causing. The CC should hold your KH thus your pH up to where it needs to be to get this cycle done.

You didn't say what you are using as your ammonia source or if you did I missed it. You did say it went up so from that I am assuming you aren't adding it but something in the tank is producing it. I am surprised to see your nitrites getting this high. That normally isn't the case when using seeded media from another cycled tank. If the tank the media came from was well stocked there should have been enough bacteria on it to quickly cycle this tank.

Right now it is just a matter of getting the parameters in this tank balanced. The big water change will be the first step. That and the CC should help.
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
OP
Bambikill

Bambikill

New Member
Member
Messages
14
Reaction score
18
Location
Sweden
Experience
More than 10 years
mattgirl said:
With nitrites and nitrates pegging out the chart the first thing I would do is a massive water change to get both down to at least readable levels. I am sure you know that the bacteria isn't free floating in the water so even an 80% or more water change isn't going to be removing bacteria. Just be sure to both temp match and use your water conditioner if you have chlorine/chloramines in your source water.

Like you the only thing I can think that might be causing this imbalance is the big root. Hopefully it will soon settle down but in the meantime you may want to consider adding a large amount of crushed coral, limestone or crushed oyster shells (I prefer crushed coral) to help counter what the root is causing. The CC should hold your KH thus your pH up to where it needs to be to get this cycle done.

You didn't say what you are using as your ammonia source or if you did I missed it. You did say it went up so from that I am assuming you aren't adding it but something in the tank is producing it. I am surprised to see your nitrites getting this high. That normally isn't the case when using seeded media from another cycled tank. If the tank the media came from was well stocked there should have been enough bacteria on it to quickly cycle this tank.

Right now it is just a matter of getting the parameters in this tank balanced. The big water change will be the first step. That and the CC should help.
Thanks a lot :) I've been so confused that I don't even know what to start with - in order to correct the mess.

The ammonia... I know, right? It's kind of baffling. I haven't added any ammonia - consciously - what so ever, other than the microscopic amount via the fish tank. That's why I was completely "what?" when everything went so fast. The only amounts added would be water straight into the filter at the start - from the dirtiest aquarium water possible - i.e. just before water changes in the fish tank - plus silt from that tank (it's a silt bottom tank with a bunch of kuhlii - the only fish I have left since the last round of indulging in the aquatic hobby) - and those levels are, of course, very low... definitely not sufficient for kick starting like this. That tank has functioned extremely well for a long time - even when I had to move the whole contents to another one, fairly recently. A "natural tank", or what to call it. It pretty much takes care of itself and is more or less always perfectly balanced - even with considerably less water changes than many other tanks I've had. Overall - my silty black water tanks have always been very well functioning when they've reached that balance. I guess the silt might have been a source, then. (I don't vacuum silty tanks at all - or at least very rarely. There is no need, they're balanced). Then I've added a bit of fish water and silt, every now and then - can't hurt even though it won't add much in terms of filter help. I was more thinking "a bit of food for the bacteria".
Other than the microscopic amounts added that way - the only source would be roots and small amounts of plant decay. There are no snails in the new tank so not even a tiny boost from hidden decaying animals...
I'm not sure how much ammonia would be released from decaying wood, branches and plants... Never even thought about it since I've used food or other stuff as sources when I've started aquariums from scratch.


I always use dechlorinator, btw. More than most. I don't even rinse plants nor soak roots without it...
The dechlorinator I use is Happy Life liquid filter media - which also works as dechlorinator. Usually I don't put much trust in bottled filter media, but I wonder if Happy Life might have helped out in this case... But of course it doesn't contain ammonia so it doesn't explain anything except a possible extra boost for the bacteria.


BUT... I was messing around with the tank all afternoon - and decided to take out the cork screw hazel and scrub them again + peel off the rest of loose bark - in case they might be the problem. And I discovered that this time around - they really coloured the water in the bucket. And a couple of them definitely did not smell right. I didn't put them back in, but left them in a bucket of dechlorinated water.
I think I'm going to test that "hazel water" daily for a couple of days and see what happens in the bucket - and in the aquarium. No idea whether they release ammonia but definitely something... Might be the cause for the pH going nuts...
I also did a 30 % water change in the tank at the same time, plus vacuumed the roots clean from small junk that had been falling off and also the sand a bit - pieces of wood and such (every single little bit might count at this stage... even if the bottom is supposed to be silt eventually, a functioning silt bottom takes time to build...) in order to see if anything changes until tomorrow - with some water out and hazel out.
If nothing changes until tomorrow - I was planning on doing a more massive change tomorrow, depending a little bit on what opinions others might have.

About the water changes - what I was pondering on, was whether I might remove too much NH4 if I keep doing massive changes nonstop. The NH4 values have been unusually low all along, which, I guess, has to be because of the transferred filter material that probably established the bacterial colonies as fast as the NH4 could build up. I would have assumed that the process hadn't come very far, if it weren't for the excessive amounts of NO2 and NO3, which does prove that there is a functioning nitrification cycle.


I even doubted the accuracy of the tests - even if they're fresh and newly replaced - because everything was so weird. But they seem fine since the measurements for the temporary fish tank and the temporary plant tank, are as expected. And the values in the cycling tank were normal at first.


I'll wait until tomorrow, maybe another day after that - and see if the removal of the cork screw hazel (and partial water change after that), had any effect. When I've seen if anything starts to change, I'll try adding crushed shells, per your suggestion, since I happen to have a huge bag in my stashes, left from when I've had snails and shrimp. I'll try that first and then I'll have to see about coral in case the first solution doesn't work.
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
OP
Bambikill

Bambikill

New Member
Member
Messages
14
Reaction score
18
Location
Sweden
Experience
More than 10 years
mattgirl said:
You didn't say what you are using as your ammonia source or if you did I missed it. You did say it went up so from that I am assuming you aren't adding it but something in the tank is producing it.
Found it... it was the corkscrew hazel...

I just tested my "hazel water" from the bucket, since the scent was strong and I figured that there should be readable values. There was...
NH4 was quite high. About 1, or slightly below. Sure, it's a small mass of water but in barely 18 hours, there was that amount of NH4 accumulated in clean, dechlorinated tap water.
Slight presence of NO2 and NO3 as well but those were, of course, from what the branches have sucked up from the tank.

pH and KH were pretty normal (6,5 and 4) compared to how the tank has been behaving--so my conclusion is that the corkscrew hazel has to be what has been overfeeding the bacteria and the low pH is caused by the mangrove.

With water changes, the NO2 and NO3 should start to drop in the tank.

Added some crushed shells last night, I'll see later today how the values look, I had no idea how much to use but we'll see what happens.
 

mattgirl

Fishlore Legend
Member
Messages
12,832
Reaction score
12,707
Location
Closer to Heaven every day but for now-Arkansas
Experience
More than 10 years
Sometimes it takes a process of elimination to get to the bottom of something unusual going on in our tanks. I am happy you have found the cause of what is happening by removing and testing pieces of decor. More than once I've asked folks to remove pieces of decor (more often than not artificial) and when they do they find it was that piece causing whatever was happening.

You are experienced enough to know what is happening has to have been caused by something you have added to this tank. Sounds like you found the culprit(s). The corkscrew Hazel causing the ammonia and the mangrove lowering the KH thus lowering the pH. Hopefully by soaking, the hazel will eventually leach all the ammonia out and you can counteract the effects of the mangrove with shells or coral until it too has settled down.
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
OP
Bambikill

Bambikill

New Member
Member
Messages
14
Reaction score
18
Location
Sweden
Experience
More than 10 years
mattgirl said:
Sometimes it takes a process of elimination to get to the bottom of something unusual going on in our tanks. I am happy you have found the cause of what is happening by removing and testing pieces of decor. More than once I've asked folks to remove pieces of decor (more often than not artificial) and when they do they find it was that piece causing whatever was happening.

You are experienced enough to know what is happening has to have been caused by something you have added to this tank. Sounds like you found the culprit(s). The corkscrew Hazel causing the ammonia and the mangrove lowering the KH thus lowering the pH. Hopefully by soaking, the hazel will eventually leach all the ammonia out and you can counteract the effects of the mangrove with shells or coral until it too has settled down.
Yeah... I feel fairly confident that I've been able to figure stuff out, but I guess the actions will have to prove me wrong, or right. After your replies, I felt that I probably was on the right track. Also, I eventually got some response on my native forum and some agreed on the actions to take but not necessarily on the reasons--while others found the hypothesis reasonable on both parts.

Yesterday's testing didn't really show much improvement at all, except a slightly lower NO3, so I decided to do a massive water change. I went for about 75 % and also gave the hoop-net (wonder if that's the correct word... some words are kind of elusive since I've never used them in English... haha...) a good shake since I figured it might be too compact. I don't want to spread the shells all over and I don't have any mesh nets atm + the bottom is pretty stuffed with small plants that I moved into the bigger tank in order to suck up at least a little bit of the excess. So I opted for placing a "hoop-net" filled with shells on a suitable piece of root.
The shells released a ton of dust so I guess they were packed a bit too tight in there.

I couldn't wait a full 24 hrs for re-testing, I was too curious, so I re-tested earlier today, after about 18 hrs.
The pH was up to approximately 7,0 and the KH was about 3-4. Up a bit, which is an improvement--but still considerably lower than my normal 5-6 tapwater, and since I added so much water last night--something has obviously eaten away at it during the night... But WHAT? :D
(NO2 was still over measurable amounts--but might be slightly closer to max than it has been before, but NO3 had gone down significantly--which is natural, though--considering the large water change. NH4 had also gone down and was about 0,05 again--compared to closer to 0,1 before the water change last night).


There simply is no other explanation than that tannins--and NO2 + NO3 (or the nitrification bacteria--which one user over here claimed to eat carbonates) depletes the water of carbonates. I mean--what else could it possibly be? There just is no other component one could suspect to be the culprit...

I don't know how much shells I added, but approximately a couple of deciliters or so (I have no idea what that would correspond to in the US system) but maybe I should add more.
It would be easier to add bicarbonate directly, but I'm far from certain how much I should add.

I don't quite know where I could get a hold of crushed coral, but probably somewhere.
However--this might be a stupid question, but since I've never used it; is that really okay from an environmental aspect? I mean, coral reefs are already in a state of acute emergency. I don't know how and from where the crushed coral is collected and whether it disturbs the eco system in any way?
I'm more than a little bit picky about stuff like that... :S
 

AvalancheDave

Well Known
Member
Messages
2,376
Reaction score
1,530
Experience
More than 10 years
Most if not all tannins are acids. You also have normal nitrification consuming kH and also producing acid. If you have soft water you will notice the effect on pH very quickly.
 

mattgirl

Fishlore Legend
Member
Messages
12,832
Reaction score
12,707
Location
Closer to Heaven every day but for now-Arkansas
Experience
More than 10 years
I don't quite know where I could get a hold of crushed coral, but probably somewhere.
However--this might be a stupid question, but since I've never used it; is that really okay from an environmental aspect? I mean, coral reefs are already in a state of acute emergency. I don't know how and from where the crushed coral is collected and whether it disturbs the eco system in any way?
I'm more than a little bit picky about stuff like that..
I understand why you would be wondering about this. I have to think the coral I purchased for my tanks was collected from already dead coral. To be perfectly honest though I have not dug into it deep enough to know exactly how the coral I bought was sourced. I can't imagine it coming from a living coral reef though. I may just be naive about it though.

Hopefully the shells you added will counteract the effects of the mangrove root but if they don't I feel sure adding enough CC should do it for you. I run CC in my filters and have shells in the body of the tanks. By adding both my pH holds at a steady 7.2 Every once in a while I run the test. if I see it drop to 7 I know it is time to add a bit more CC.
As the shells gradually dissolve I just replace them with fresh ones.

I am curious as to what part of the world you live in. I love the fact that I am able to "talk" to folks from around the world from my home here in Arkansas USA.
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
OP
Bambikill

Bambikill

New Member
Member
Messages
14
Reaction score
18
Location
Sweden
Experience
More than 10 years
AvalancheDave said:
Most if not all tannins are acids. You also have normal nitrification consuming kH and also producing acid. If you have soft water you will notice the effect on pH very quickly.
Yes, of course :) But here, the pH seems to affect the KH quite a bit, not just the other way around. And that's what makes me surprised. This way around, isn't something that's discussed very often and most people don't even seem to agree on the fact that pH affects KH much. Only the opposite (which is, of course, a given).
But some have written in articles and discussions, that tannins and NO2/NO3 does eat away at KH to a fairly considerable degree.
Of course, with time, KH is depleted due to natural processes--but here the stock has been emptied in less than 24 hours, until I made a huge water change and also added the crushed shells. Today is the first day that it has been able to keep at 3-4 after a day. (Which I attribute to the bigger water change yesterday).
The smaller daily water changes only replenished it for a while, with values down to about 2--3 at the most--and sometimes as low as 1, after only one day. (My tapwater holds about 5-6, I don't remember how soft/hard it is since I haven't had a GH test kit for some time. (GH is what should be called "hardness", not KH). But I'm going to buy one since I want to keep tabs on the (general) hardness too, not only the carbonates.)

I'm surprised by how much ammonia the mangrove produces. Even if the corkscrew hazel obviously was the big culprit--something is still feeding the nitrification bacteria since the NO2 stays at that level. Sure, it's only two days since I took the latter out, but since the bacteria obviously keeps producing, there has be food.
I would have assumed that the bacteria from the latter group had taken a beating, since there are so much nitrites, but that can't be the case since the nitrates as well have been accumulating to crazy levels. Today was the lowest I've had--which is natural considering yesterday's big water change.

Right now I'm mostly trying to decide which action to take--continue large water changes and see what happens and possibly add more shells, or just make a smaller water change, add more shells and see if that will manage to keep the KH at the same level until tomorrow--or whether to skip a change today and add shells..and see how much it will affect things until tomorrow. If the NO3 by then has accumulated like crazy, but the nitrites have fallen a bit--there isn't as much ammonia produced now. But if NO2 keeps going nuts--something is producing a lot of ammonia in there. And if NO3 stays low while NO2 stays high--I'll know that the population of the latter group of bacteria have been damaged.

I could just continue with big water changes, add shells and see how it progresses, but that won't really tell me what actually was the action that solved the problem. Trial by error would be the way to go in order to understand the issues better, but the question is how much longer I can afford to challenge fate before I crash the cycle with the pH dips...
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
OP
Bambikill

Bambikill

New Member
Member
Messages
14
Reaction score
18
Location
Sweden
Experience
More than 10 years
mattgirl said:
I understand why you would be wondering about this. I have to think the coral I purchased for my tanks was collected from already dead coral. To be perfectly honest though I have not dug into it deep enough to know exactly how the coral I bought was sourced. I can't imagine it coming from a living coral reef though. I may just be naive about it though.

Hopefully the shells you added will counteract the effects of the mangrove root but if they don't I feel sure adding enough CC should do it for you. I run CC in my filters and have shells in the body of the tanks. By adding both my pH holds at a steady 7.2 Every once in a while I run the test. if I see it drop to 7 I know it is time to add a bit more CC.
As the shells gradually dissolve I just replace them with fresh ones.

I am curious as to what part of the world you live in. I love the fact that I am able to "talk" to folks from around the world from my home here in Arkansas USA.
No, I hardly think that they would collect live coral, that would be a scandal worthy of global attention and boycott. But the thing is that even collection of dead coral, could possibly be a bad thing since it increases activity at the sensitive reefs, and disruption of the balance. Scuba diving, although it might seem harmless--actually causes a lot of damage due to irresponsible guides and clueless tourists. I ditched a scuba diving company in Kenya due to this matter--and changed to another one--since the guides at the first one were morons and damaged the reefs not only with boats but by scurrying about and breaking coral whereever they went--without any kind of information, warnings nor education for the noob divers they took there.

I'm just not too sure about whether it feels okay or not. I'll have to look into it, I'm sure there has to be information about it. Environment groups will surely have made statements about it, and environmentally aware aquarists as well :)

I was thinking about adding shells directly to the filter but I don't have any bags at home and I figured that they release so much dust that it should get sucked in anyway (since I've placed the shells close to the intake).
It feels like I might have to try different ways in order to find something that'll be stable. And likely, I'll have to keep buffering (more than needed) for quite some time, and then just lower pH with leaves and perhaps peat. Better to raise KH and then manually lower it with a sufficient buffer stock, than to venture into low pH tanks without knowing whether I can keep it stable enough...

I live in Sweden :) Born and bred--though I'm particular about being ethnically Finnish (second generation immigrant) and always correct people who call me a Swede... lol...
I've always had a shitton of hobbies that brings me to international circles, since I've always been pretty much alone with the interests I've happened to get hung up on :) I'm obsessive about everything Asian so I've gotten to know tons and tons of people all around the world, who share my passion for Asian comics/anime (yeah, I'm a nerd... haha...) as well as Asian cinema and tv. I also study languages as a hobby, so it's been helpful in shaping up skills :D
 

Utar

Well Known
Member
Messages
643
Reaction score
492
Location
Texas
Experience
4 years
I have known for sometime now that baking soda will raise ph. I just did a search for this and found this website.
 

mattgirl

Fishlore Legend
Member
Messages
12,832
Reaction score
12,707
Location
Closer to Heaven every day but for now-Arkansas
Experience
More than 10 years
Normally when I recommend either shells or coral I mention rinsing the dust off before adding either to a tank but in your case since no fishes lives will be affected by a fast spike I didn't mention it this time. The shell dust will have raised the numbers quickly but once that happens the affects will slow down.

Since you are unable to put the shells in your filter, putting them where water will flow over and through them should have the same affect. It will be the same with CC should you decide to go that route.

I am thinking we have at least one other member here that lives in Sweden and for the life of me I can't remember exactly who it is. I am actually ashamed of that because S/he is a very active member. :(

I actually think you are much better versed in water chemistry than I am so I feel sure you are going to get to the bottom of what is going on in this tank. :)
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
OP
Bambikill

Bambikill

New Member
Member
Messages
14
Reaction score
18
Location
Sweden
Experience
More than 10 years
Utar said:
I have known for sometime now that baking soda will raise ph. I just did a search for this and found this website.
Yeah, it would work exactly like bicarbonate, which was what I was considering to use as an instant buffer instead of experimenting with how much shells to add. I just don't feel too sure about how much bicarbonate to add, if I would use that. And it has to be replenished all the time--probably on a daily basis as things are right now. Shells (or coral) gives a long term effect, it's just that I don't know what amount would be right. When I've used shells for shrimp/snailtanks, it's been enough to just add a little bit, but here the KH gets eaten away so quickly that I might have to add huge amounts. (Which I can't really fit anywhere in there... I don't want to get it in the sand since it would be a b*tch to get out when I do get the balance right. My fish--both current (living in another tank) and planned ones--are bottom dwellers that dig around so they would spread the stuff everywhere even if I would put it in a tidy heap in some corner. If I get nets, I might be able to shove it in the filter for now.

I don't know whether there would be a difference in pure bicarbonate and baking soda, regarding this use--but my reasoning is that bicarbonate would be better since baking soda contains starch and acidic components in addition to the bicarbonate. While pure bicarbonate is just that--pure bicarbonate :)
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #14
OP
Bambikill

Bambikill

New Member
Member
Messages
14
Reaction score
18
Location
Sweden
Experience
More than 10 years
mattgirl said:
Normally when I recommend either shells or coral I mention rinsing the dust off before adding either to a tank but in your case since no fishes lives will be affected by a fast spike I didn't mention it this time. The shell dust will have raised the numbers quickly but once that happens the affects will slow down.

Since you are unable to put the shells in your filter, putting them where water will flow over and through them should have the same affect. It will be the same with CC should you decide to go that route.

I am thinking we have at least one other member here that lives in Sweden and for the life of me I can't remember exactly who it is. I am actually ashamed of that because S/he is a very active member. :(

I actually think you are much better versed in water chemistry than I am so I feel sure you are going to get to the bottom of what is going on in this tank. :)
Yeah, I would usually rinse anything dusty (even so--I had a nightmare with the first sand I bought for this tank...) but with the shells, I figured that the dust is actually beneficial since it'll be sucked in straight away, so I left it unrinsed. And yeah--no fish, so no risks involved :)

I wonder how long it'll take before I CAN add any fish... sigh. I reckoned I would be almost done by now--with fish in a week or so--but no. Might take quite a while before I feel comfortable even considering it. I want at least a week (or more, perhaps) of stable pH before I even start thinking about placing an order for fish.

I think that I'll do a moderate water change today, skip adding more shells, and see what tomorrow brings in terms of values. If KH stays at today's levels, I'll add more shells tomorrow and see what happens the day after that. If it has dropped by tomorrow, I'll do a large water change and add more shells and then see.
I think it'll be the smartest way to go--changing one component at a time. And the KH and pH is better to start with for evaluation, and then see about lowering the NO2 and NO3 after that--if the water changes and more stability in pH doesn't help with that aspect. I really don't want to take out the roots but if this keeps dragging out forever, I guess I'll have to. Since they obviously do release quite a bit of ammonia. It can't be that much residual stuff left from the hazel...

I'm not that knowledgeable about this stuff, really. I know the basics but haven't really dwelled into such particular problems, since I've never had them. This time, nothing made sense and I was just scratching my head because I didn't know where to start sorting out the mess. But now I had a good reason to read up on finer nuances of the different aspects of water chem. And the mess does bring some pros. A kick start of the cycle (although, the benefit might not be worth it if the problems can't be fixed quickly) but above all; learning and adding another experience to the pile of "good-to-know"s.


Ahh... Well, it'd be reasonable that there would be other Swedes here, since aquatics are fairly popular in Sweden, although mostly at a "pet tank" level than hardcore aquarium-freaks. And Swedes have fair to very good skills in English as well--at least if they're, say, under 40ish or so. :) (Since 20+ years, Swedish schools teach English from pre-school level, so unless one is a bonehead or lazy, most under 40 are fairly fluent. At least to a degree that allows for less advanced conversation/reading/writing). But the popularity has kind of dwindled with time. Swedes are nuts about their cats :D And dogs. Other than that, it seems most pets have lost popularity. That might be partly attributed to the fact that few pet stores sell live mammals and birds, nowadays. (Which is great, IMO. Then people have to really think before they buy a pet--and will have to go to a breeder instead of picking something up on impulse... It has always been prohibited to sell cats and dogs in stores, but before, they'd sell the basic stuff. Rodents, small birds and such. Some stores sell reptiles and amphibians, but not many. Fish is pretty much the only pet you can buy in almost any pet store. Not that that's a good thing... It breaks my heart that one can walk in and buy species that'll grow huge in the end--or other things that make them unsuitable as pets for the average owner--without getting adequate information about what they're actually getting :S)
 

mattgirl

Fishlore Legend
Member
Messages
12,832
Reaction score
12,707
Location
Closer to Heaven every day but for now-Arkansas
Experience
More than 10 years
As you know it is almost impossible to set a time line for cycling a tank. We know what has to happen but how much time each step takes is going to take what it takes. Since so much ammonia is being leached into this tank we can know you will have enough bacteria once you start seeing 0 ammonia/nitrites to handle just about any bio-level you add. We can know as long as both ammonia and nitrites are rising it is still going to take some time before even considering fish. As long as you can keep your pH up this cycle should keep moving forward.

It would be great if lots of research was done before one gets into this hobby but folks new to it don't realize what it takes to have a healthy tank until they actually get into the hobby. Fortunately there are forum such as this where we that have been there can give them some pointers.

I got into the hobby long before the internet and having information available just a click away. I had a leaflet that gave me the basics. The one thing it stressed above all else was how important water changes will be to the health of my fish. To this day that is the one thing I stress to anyone that will listen. I have to think following that one piece of important information is the main reason I have never had to deal with any kind of disease in any of my tanks.

Like everyone that stays in this hobby for any length of time I have lost some fish over the years but it is usually just one here and there. Sometime I lose young ones but more often than not they have lived a long life for a fish.
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #16
OP
Bambikill

Bambikill

New Member
Member
Messages
14
Reaction score
18
Location
Sweden
Experience
More than 10 years
mattgirl said:
As you know it is almost impossible to set a time line for cycling a tank. We know what has to happen but how much time each step takes is going to take what it takes. Since so much ammonia is being leached into this tank we can know you will have enough bacteria once you start seeing 0 ammonia/nitrites to handle just about any bio-level you add. We can know as long as both ammonia and nitrites are rising it is still going to take some time before even considering fish. As long as you can keep your pH up this cycle should keep moving forward.

It would be great if lots of research was done before one gets into this hobby but folks new to it don't realize what it takes to have a healthy tank until they actually get into the hobby. Fortunately there are forum such as this where we that have been there can give them some pointers.

I got into the hobby long before the internet and having information available just a click away. I had a leaflet that gave me the basics. The one thing it stressed above all else was how important water changes will be to the health of my fish. To this day that is the one thing I stress to anyone that will listen. I have to think following that one piece of important information is the main reason I have never had to deal with any kind of disease in any of my tanks.

Like everyone that stays in this hobby for any length of time I have lost some fish over the years but it is usually just one here and there. Sometime I lose young ones but more often than not they have lived a long life for a fish.
Ooooooh yeah... I've had tanks cycle for everything between a few days to about eight weeks... Although, the quicky ones have been more or less moving a big portion of contents from one tank to another--so it's not really cycling... The eight week one was the first tank when I had no material from a previous tank, to use as a quick start. But I'd say, my average has been about four weeks. This one was totally nutty. About a week for NO3 to shoot through the roof... :p

But it pretty much proves how extremely well functioning the bio filter of my fish tank is.
(And I barely do anything with it. The most success I've had with tanks--are the ones I leave mostly to care for themselves. For every water change I do--most people probably do at least four or five... It's just not needed, since everything takes care of itself... I did disrupt it when I had to move the whole contents to another tank due to a crazy heat wave and that tank is hard to cool down. After that the values have been less stable and I have to care for it like I would for a "normal" tank.) The only time I've had disease in that tank--is about five or six years ago when I got ich on the Kuhlii when I had to change/add water often due to a horrid heat wave. They don't like water changes and can react negatively to any big disturbances of their mucky, cozy home :p
Overall--water changes is what has triggered the few cases of ich (which is the only **** I've had on my fish) and fungus with an Axolotl. I'd say that it depends highly on the species and their preferred conditions. Some fish (and other critters) really need super clean conditions as to not become sick or even die--while others prefer what many would call "dirty". Of course, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates aren't "dirt", but toxins--so that's different--but when you get one of those "muck tanks" balanced, they're pretty amazing. They just... work.
(But they take time to establish, though. And during that time, one has to be careful.)

You should've seen the last version of my Axolotl tank :) People not very familiar with the concept of "natural tanks" nor the natural habitat of some species--almost fainted. Because people are so indoctrinated in thinking that "dirt" is bad. It isn't--if it's in balance. They were crawling around in a thick layer of silt, the water was murky and dark and it pretty much looked like a real life gooey river bottom. But the values were rock solid and my Axolotl were thriving, as opposed to many I've seen in sterile environments that are completely unnatural for them. The only time I got health problems in the tank was when one developed a fungal infection in a chewed-off leg. (They're feisty for food and have crappy vision... I guess the Lotl-leg looked yummy...)
But also--I like natural looking tanks. Especially blackwater and silty, murky ones. So it's perfect for me :)

Water chemistry is another thing that many don't give a **** about learning about. Because they're not told to... :S I had a friend, who seriously had never tested her tanks. Ever. After 20+ years of fish keeping. I had to explain the nitrogen cycle to her... (And why some fish shouldn't be kept with others, since their needs are so vastly different...) It was kind of an "heureka" moment for her when she suddenly understood the reasons for some problems she had had in the past. I still see experienced aquarists who have little to no knowledge of water chemistry, except the absolute bare basics. I guess they've been really lucky if they've had no/only a few issues :S


What I think kills the most fish--are inexperienced and/or "whatever" shop clerks/owners. They just don't bother to inform people. Not only is the information about suitable species, far too sparse--but they just won't open their mouths and dare to say "I don't think that's a good idea". And they're so fixated on sales that they assure people that those bottles of this and that, will magically just replace any naturally developing biofilter. They buy the whole set, go home, and expect everything to work out perfectly just because they had something that claims to be all that with a cherry on top. And then they don't read up on stuff--and just expect things to go well because the fish are in water and they get food. And they forget about everything else. Food = everything covered.

But that's not just fish, though... it goes for all pets. I'm one of those rabid raw-feeders and I can't even begin to say how much I loathe kibble. But people sincerely think that they are doing what's best for their dogs and cats--because they trust the companies that make the ****, when they claim that it's what's best. (Or their vets, that get paid for promoting the kibble they sell...) They just forget to think for themselves. Anyone would realize that something is seriously wrong, when food for carnivores contains only miniscule amounts of meat....
Ever read on fish food packs? :S I always do, and I'm usually horrified. It's a pure fact that most of our pet fish are omnivores. Many of them closer to almost solely carnivorous. Yet... how much of the food we give them, actually contains more than negligible amounts of actual animal contents? I don't even know how many people have given me the reply "too much of a hassle" when I've tried to get them to buy frozen food, to supplement their cheap food that's mostly made up from grain and other ****. Or at the very least read the labels when they buy food for their fish.

Well whatever, I'm straying from the topic :p
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #18
OP
Bambikill

Bambikill

New Member
Member
Messages
14
Reaction score
18
Location
Sweden
Experience
More than 10 years
mattgirl said:
It is your thread so you can stray as far away from the topic as you want :D

I am enjoying our conversation on topic or not. :)
I'm VERY good with straying... (Or, more like; completely derailing...) I'm an incurable chatterbox and I get even worse when I actually get to talk about stuff I love... I have absolutely no one to share my hobbies with, IRL, and most people just sigh, roll their eyes and probably just pretend to listen when I go on about aquarium plants, nutritional advice for cats, conjugations of Japanese verbs, some random rant about history or analyzing some obscure comic I read... lol...

I used to be really active in the cat hobby (actually have some offspring from my lines in the US) and then I could talk my head off about cats, but I don't have the energy nor patience for the hysterical breeding world nowadays. But cats are pretty okay to babble about. Everyone I know likes cats. Fish are a bit less interesting, it seems, from the reactions... haha But one can choose a topic of obsession depending on whom one happens to talk to at that given moment :p But I have far stranger hobbies than fish or cats, and there it gets lonely, so the internet is a blessing...

I know what you mean about "getting info before the web era". Sure, I grew up in the middle of its evolution so it's been there most of my life, but there was a vast difference between digging through Altavista for random info back in the 90s--and today's light speed googling yielding millions of results.
When I was a kid, one was dependent on other people for knowledge. One would go to the pet store or ask acquaintances--or they would ask their acquaintances. If the grapevine-search yielded no result-->library. I can't even remember the last time I actually went to a library for any kind of knowledge... 15-20 years ago? :D
It's a pity, though. I love books. I have a lovely old Aquarium book from the 70s, that my dad had as his only reference for his tank. It's corny, it's suuuuuuuper basic and by today's standards; it's beyond lacking. But it's charming :)
 
  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #19
OP
Bambikill

Bambikill

New Member
Member
Messages
14
Reaction score
18
Location
Sweden
Experience
More than 10 years
Finally... an improvement today. I won't be too optimistic until I've seen that things continue on this track--but at least something went the right way.

Made a 30 % (something like that) water change last night, but changed nothing else and didn't touch the shells. I wanted to see how stable the pH and KH would be after changing only one component. (And whether the nitrites would start diminishing.)

Today's readings, 24 hrs after the previous ones--were quite different and definitely an improvement.

NH4 was up a bit--from 0,05 to somewhere between 0,05 and 0,1. But that's nothing to worry about, there is obviously release from the roots, so it should be expected that there will be production until the end of the cycle.
NO2 was at the lowest they've been--about halfway between 0,6 and 0,8 so now there is a great reduction compared to previous values (that haven't been measurable at all, until now.)
NO3 was at their lowest too--somewhere right below 15. But since I made a water change last night, that's to be expected. At least the nitrification bacteria are working properly--since they obviously gobbled up huge amounts of nitrites in the time between yesterday's test and the water change.

pH and KH had decreased--about 6,5 and 3-4 (probably 3 rather than 4--the stupid drip test in combo with coloured water, makes me indecisive every time I measure). So there is eroding of the carbonates--but the values were at least slightly higher than they've been previously from day to day.
The reduced NO2 and NO3 might have a lot to do with it.


I'll do another 30 %-ish water change tonight and this time also shake up the shells in the net--and see what the readings are tomorrow. That should give me a hint about how much the direct release from the shells might affect the KH/pH. If the reduction in KH is the same tomorrow (but the other values keep going the right way)--I'll try 30 % and adding shells--and then see the day after that. If there is no improvement--I'll try a large water change plus shell-dusting. And so on.

I think this approach--trial and error from day to day--will give the best estimate for exactly what will work and what won't. And should give me clues as to what causes what--and what will improve them.

At least I'm happy today that things finally might be heading the right way :)
 

mattgirl

Fishlore Legend
Member
Messages
12,832
Reaction score
12,707
Location
Closer to Heaven every day but for now-Arkansas
Experience
More than 10 years
You are going about this the same way I would. One change at a time in my humble opinion it the best thing to do. This way we know what is working instead of wondering which change headed us in the right direction.
 

New Threads

Similar Threads

Follow FishLore!

FishLore on Social Media

Online statistics

Members online
204
Guests online
3,253
Total visitors
3,457

Aquarium Photo Contests

Aquarium Calculator

Top Bottom