New Aquarium: Cycle Help

Curtis96

This is my first time cycling an aquarium and am looking for some advice.

I have a 125 liter planted tank with rocks and driftwood and used some gravel from an established tank to seed the filter. I am currently on day 26 of cycling, as of day 15 I have been adding 2ppm of ammonia (using Dr Tim's) daily which my tank reduces to 0 in 24 hours. My nitrites and nitrates have been steadily increasing until day 19 when they were both reading off the charts (8ppm+ nitrite, 80ppm+ nitrate) and remained at this level. Yesterday (day 25) I did 2 80% water changes reducing my nitrites to 0.5ppm and nitrates to 10ppm and added another dose of ammonia. Today the ammonia is gone, the nitrites are somewhere between 2-4ppm and the nitrates are 80+ again.

Does anybody have any insight into what is happening , is my cycle stalled? should I stop dosing ammonia? Any advice is appreciated!
 

mattgirl

This is my first time cycling an aquarium and am looking for some advice.

I have a 125 liter planted tank with rocks and driftwood and used some gravel from an established tank to seed the filter. I am currently on day 26 of cycling, as of day 15 I have been adding 2ppm of ammonia (using Dr Tim's) daily which my tank reduces to 0 in 24 hours. My nitrites and nitrates have been steadily increasing until day 19 when they were both reading off the charts (8ppm+ nitrite, 80ppm+ nitrate) and remained at this level. Yesterday (day 25) I did 2 80% water changes reducing my nitrites to 0.5ppm and nitrates to 10ppm and added another dose of ammonia. Today the ammonia is gone, the nitrites are somewhere between 2-4ppm and the nitrates are 80+ again.

Does anybody have any insight into what is happening , is my cycle stalled? should I stop dosing ammonia? Any advice is appreciated!
Welcome to Fishlore :)

If your cycle was stalled the ammonia wouldn't have gone down. I have to wonder how the nitrates could have gone up so much over night. Processing 2ppm ammonia shouldn't have raised the nitrates from 10ppm all the way up to 80ppm. What kind of tests are you using?
 
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Curtis96

I am using an NT Labs liquid test kit but it has nearly run out so I have ordered the API Master test kit arriving tomorow.
 
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mattgirl

I am using an NT Labs liquid test kit but it has nearly run out so I have ordered the API Master test kit arriving tomorow.
Before we do anything else let's see what the API tests tell us. :)
 
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Azedenkae

This is my first time cycling an aquarium and am looking for some advice.

I have a 125 liter planted tank with rocks and driftwood and used some gravel from an established tank to seed the filter. I am currently on day 26 of cycling, as of day 15 I have been adding 2ppm of ammonia (using Dr Tim's) daily which my tank reduces to 0 in 24 hours. My nitrites and nitrates have been steadily increasing until day 19 when they were both reading off the charts (8ppm+ nitrite, 80ppm+ nitrate) and remained at this level. Yesterday (day 25) I did 2 80% water changes reducing my nitrites to 0.5ppm and nitrates to 10ppm and added another dose of ammonia. Today the ammonia is gone, the nitrites are somewhere between 2-4ppm and the nitrates are 80+ again.

Does anybody have any insight into what is happening , is my cycle stalled? should I stop dosing ammonia? Any advice is appreciated!

I am actually not at all surprised by your results. I think that your cycle has not stalled at all, just that your nitrite-oxidizers have not really managed to establish too well yet.

The readings make sense. 1ppm ammonia converts to 2.7ppm nitrite. So if you dosed 2ppm ammonia, you'd expect 5.4ppm nitrite. Plus the 0.5 from yesterday, you'd expect 6ppm nitrite if no nitrite-oxidation has occurred. Given that you are measuring 2 to 4ppm, that means your nitrite-oxidizers have consumed nitrite to reduce it down to the level you are measuring. So yeah, actually it is probably going well, you have both ammonia- and nitrite-oxidizers, just that your ammonia-oxidizers are well-established enough to handle all the ammonia you dose, but the nitrite-oxidizers are still taking time to grow. They will eventually be able to reproduce enough, i.e. establish a large enough population to be able to fully handle your nitrite as well.

My recommendation is to just continue with the cycle. When both ammonia and nitrite read 0, dose ammonia again, and measure ammonia and nitrite every 24 hours. Repeat the above, until ammonia and nitrite read 0 within 24 hours of dosing ammonia, rather than more than that.

This is also why I would always recommend waiting for nitrite to reach 0 to dose ammonia again, rather than dosing ammonia each time ammonia reaches 0. Reality was, back when you had sky high nitrites, you had no idea what was going on. Here, we could actually mathematically calculate how much nitrite you should have, versus how much you actually measured, and therefore determine that there is consumption of nitrite (unless there is something wrong with the tests).

As for nitrate, that's normal to read such high values too. My recommendation is to not measure nitrate when nitrite is measurable. Why? Because the nitrate test is affected by nitrite. The nitrate test actually converts a portion of nitrate to nitrite first, then measuring that as a proxy. If you already have nitrite, that'll just cause nitrate falsely high.

Because mattgirl is right, dosing 2ppm ammonia should not increase nitrate from 10 to 80ppm. 2ppm ammonia would only produce 7.28ppm or so nitrate, so 10 to 20 maybe makes sense, not 10 to 80. But yeah, it's just because of the way the nitrate test kit works. I bet you if tomorrow you do the test again and sees that nitrite has reduced from its current point, nitrate will also read lower than 80ppm.

^_^

Hope that helps! If you have any questions, do let me know!
 
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Curtis96

I am actually not at all surprised by your results. I think that your cycle has not stalled at all, just that your nitrite-oxidizers have not really managed to establish too well yet.

The readings make sense. 1ppm ammonia converts to 2.7ppm nitrite. So if you dosed 2ppm ammonia, you'd expect 5.4ppm nitrite. Plus the 0.5 from yesterday, you'd expect 6ppm nitrite if no nitrite-oxidation has occurred. Given that you are measuring 2 to 4ppm, that means your nitrite-oxidizers have consumed nitrite to reduce it down to the level you are measuring. So yeah, actually it is probably going well, you have both ammonia- and nitrite-oxidizers, just that your ammonia-oxidizers are well-established enough to handle all the ammonia you dose, but the nitrite-oxidizers are still taking time to grow. They will eventually be able to reproduce enough, i.e. establish a large enough population to be able to fully handle your nitrite as well.

My recommendation is to just continue with the cycle. When both ammonia and nitrite read 0, dose ammonia again, and measure ammonia and nitrite every 24 hours. Repeat the above, until ammonia and nitrite read 0 within 24 hours of dosing ammonia, rather than more than that.

This is also why I would always recommend waiting for nitrite to reach 0 to dose ammonia again, rather than dosing ammonia each time ammonia reaches 0. Reality was, back when you had sky high nitrites, you had no idea what was going on. Here, we could actually mathematically calculate how much nitrite you should have, versus how much you actually measured, and therefore determine that there is consumption of nitrite (unless there is something wrong with the tests).

As for nitrate, that's normal to read such high values too. My recommendation is to not measure nitrate when nitrite is measurable. Why? Because the nitrate test is affected by nitrite. The nitrate test actually converts a portion of nitrate to nitrite first, then measuring that as a proxy. If you already have nitrite, that'll just cause nitrate falsely high.

Because mattgirl is right, dosing 2ppm ammonia should not increase nitrate from 10 to 80ppm. 2ppm ammonia would only produce 7.28ppm or so nitrate, so 10 to 20 maybe makes sense, not 10 to 80. But yeah, it's just because of the way the nitrate test kit works. I bet you if tomorrow you do the test again and sees that nitrite has reduced from its current point, nitrate will also read lower than 80ppm.

^_^

Hope that helps! If you have any questions, do let me know!

Thanks a lot for the advice! Although I do have one question, I have been using this site as a guide to cycling https://fishlab.com/how-to-cycle-aquarium/, and it states that when your ammonia reaches 0 you bacteria begin to starve, hence why I have been doing ammonia daily, so is it safe for the bacteria if I wait for the nitrites to drop before dosing again?
 
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JeremyW

Thanks a lot for the advice! Although I do have one question, I have been using this site as a guide to cycling https://fishlab.com/how-to-cycle-aquarium/, and it states that when your ammonia reaches 0 you bacteria begin to starve, hence why I have been doing ammonia daily, so is it safe for the bacteria if I wait for the nitrites to drop before dosing again?

Yes it is safe to wait for a while. You certainly don't need to dose everyday. I've experimented a fair bit with fishless cycles and I've never found that daily dosing was necessary. Dosing ammonia a couple of times a week is definitely enough to keep things moving.

Bacteria don't starve very quickly. Otherwise all those bacteria in-a-bottle products would never work. And we know they work at least some of the time.

Based on my own experience, I believe that the majority of people are dosing far more ammonia than is necessary to cycle their tanks.
 
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mattgirl

Based on my own experience, I believe that the majority of people are dosing far more ammonia than is necessary to cycle their tanks.
I totally agree with this. It is why I try to advise folks to base the amount of ammonia on the size of their tanks. We are trying to base the amount of bacteria we grow on the future bio-load of the tank. For a 5 gallon tank 1ppm ammonia is more than enough but 4ppm isn't too much for a 100 gallon tank.
 
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JeremyW

I totally agree with this. It is why I try to advise folks to base the amount of ammonia on the size of their tanks. We are trying to base the amount of bacteria we grow on the future bio-load of the tank. For a 5 gallon tank 1ppm ammonia is more than enough but 4ppm isn't too much for a 100 gallon tank.

I agree that we need to adjust the volume of ammonia. But I disagree that we need to adjust the concentration.

1ppm of ammonia is just about 0.0038ml/gal.

So a 100 gallon tank with 1ppm ammonia has 0.38ml of ammonia in it.

And a 10 gallon tank with 1ppm ammonia has 0.038ml of ammonia in it.

Both tanks may process the same 1ppm in 24 hours. But the 100 gallon tank is processing 10 times the volume of ammonia compared to the 10 gallon tank.

So without changing the concentration at all, we've already adjusted for a 10 times larger bio-load just by adding a greater volume of ammonia.

Edit: My math was off. Decimals in the wrong place, haha. Fixed now.
 
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Azedenkae

Thanks a lot for the advice! Although I do have one question, I have been using this site as a guide to cycling https://fishlab.com/how-to-cycle-aquarium/, and it states that when your ammonia reaches 0 you bacteria begin to starve, hence why I have been doing ammonia daily, so is it safe for the bacteria if I wait for the nitrites to drop before dosing again?

So I had a read of that article, and while it is broadly good enough as a cycling guide (and will probably work for most people), there are issues with it.
  1. The article is wrong in saying you need to dose ammonia daily to feed the beneficial microorganisms. This has been proven over and over by researchers, that nitrifiers as far as have been found, are very resilient when it comes to ammonia starvation. They can go for months before they become significantly dormant, and even then bounces back quickly. They take even longer to actually die. Here's one article out of many I can link: Influence of Starvation on Potential Ammonia-Oxidizing Activity and amoA mRNA Levels of Nitrosospira briensis. Yes it is an actual scientific article, written by actual scientists. A few days or weeks will not result in your nitrifiers dying.
  2. There is no need to aim for higher concentrations of ammonia with larger fish tanks. JeremyW is correct, and I will try to iterate through another way. Let's say you have 5 neon tetra in a 10 gallon tank, versus 50 in a 100 gallon tank, yes the 50 will produce 10x more ammonia than the 5 (presuming all else is comparable, i.e. 10x amount of food is used for the 50 versus 5 neon tetras), but there is also 10x more volume of water, so the 10x more ammonia will be diluted by 10 and... the concentration itself will be the same. So no, there is no need to go for different concentrations at different tank sizes.
  3. Caveat actually, in that sometimes you may need to account for higher concentrations the smaller the tank is. I am not debating ethics, just the reality of things - some people keep a single betta in a 10 gallon tank, others in a 2.5 gallon tank. The amount of ammonia produced by a single betta will be the same (again, provided they are fed the same amount, etc.), but the concentration of ammonia will be 4x higher in the 2.5 gallon tank versus the 10 gallon.
  4. 2ppm is also already what one expects even if one 'overstocks' a tank. The whole background behind '2ppm' was from cichlid keepers 'overstocking' their tanks and therefore need higher nitrification capacities than other fishkeepers, and 2ppm/day consumption is already that higher nitrification capacity. Just to clarify, if someone wants to ensure their nitrifiers can actually handle 4ppm ammonia/day, I am 100% cool with that. over-overkill, but that's not a bad thing inherently.
  5. There is also the diagram that I hate so much, the one where it shows nitrite rises after ammonia decreases. To clarify, I really don't want to hate the graph itself, but what basically every cycling guide comments alongside it - that one must see nitrite rise after ammonia decreases, etc. That's not true. Especially if you are using bottled bac products, where there can be enough nitrifiers to convert any nitrite produced to nitrate right away, so, and it is not uncommon, to see no nitrite 'spiking', instead just seeing nitrates instead.
Anyways sorry for the tldr, just because I see so many issues with these cycling guides and they just keep on being parroted on and on across multiple articles and it annoys me. But anyways, to be fair, these guides are not exactly bad to follow, they are just lacking in certain knowledge areas. Which is... fine. Most of us are not microbiologists, I presume.
 
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