New Aquarium/Nitrogen Cycle Help

pearlyearlandtheifflers

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Hello everyone,

This is going to be a long post and please don't judge me too much...

I had a betta for several years who got sick and, despite a lot of treatment, passed away. I also had a panda cory in the tank (I've since done A LOT but the pet store told me it would be fine for the cory and betta to be in a 5 gal). The cory was moved to a small bowl while my betta was being treated. Because I was wary of using the old tank that had housed the sick, dead fish and had a lot of chemicals (it is a topfin aquarium so has a lot of nooks and crannies) I decided to set up a new tank with sand as the substrate (because now I know that cories need sand for their little barbs). So I did all of this in another 5 gallon. In the meantime, also read that cories need to be in groups (pet stores are killing me here) and so I got a second cory and another betta. With my previous betta I had not cycled the tank -- I was definitely a beginner and really still am -- so didn't do much research into it now (I know, this was a major mistake). I did buy some Seachem Stability to add to the tank to help start the beneficial bacteria. So I had the 5 gallon, 3 fish. I continued to add the bacteria and check the water, and of course noticed the massive ammonia spike to about 2 ppm. This is when I began to research more into the nitrogen cycle and realized my massive mistake. To bring the ammonia down, I continued to do a partial water change every other day, add a double dose of Seachem prime at every water change, testing the water before and after the change, and add the bacteria as directed on the Stability bottle. I know that prime can effect the ammonia readings, but my readings have never dropped below 1 ppm in two weeks, and I still have 0 nitrites and 0 nitrates. I did lose my newest panda cory (not sure if it was from the ammonia because the other two are fine but it probably was).

So here are my questions/issues.....first, is this normal for my ammonia to not go down even after a water change? Second, is the addition of prime with the stability as well as water changes good measures here? And finally, as I know my current tank is overcrowded and the cory needs other friends, I plan on setting up a second tank and doing a fishless cycle -- instead of adding liquid ammonia to cycle that tank, can I just add the water with ammonia from this tank as well as the stability bacteria and let it do its thing?

Just want to do whats best for my fish!
 

GuppyDazzle

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I've never used bottled bacteria, and your experience shows many of the reasons why. Bottled bacteria will send your test readings all over the place. You might as well not test at all, because your test readings will make absolutely no sense. If you look at the instructions, it's likely they'll say not to do any water changes for a period of time. In my opinion, being aggressive with water changes is the single best thing you can do to maintain a healthy tank, whether it's cycling or not.

I cycle tanks with fish in, live plants to start the bacteria colony, with daily testing and water changes to keep combined ammonia and nitrites at 1 ppm or below. The level of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates will follow a logical progression as they rise and fall. Bottled bacteria supposedly will cycle the tank faster, but I'm not convinced that's true judging by reading about the experiences of you and many others.
 
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pearlyearlandtheifflers

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So would you say to stop using the bottled bacteria? Is that why my ammonia readings are high even after the water change? Would you also continue to use Prime in a double dose or just do the water changes?

So sorry about all the questions!

(Also I'm wary of live plants because in my last tank I had one that rotted and turned my water to sludge in a matter of days while I was away and now I'm terrified)
 

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I'm sorry, but I personally believe that corydoras should be kept in schools of 6+. That is way too small for a 5 gallon, so I would suggest rehome the corys and only house the betta (get a larger tank if you can). 0 nitrates show that your tank is not cycled, unless you have lots of live plants.

Cycling your fish tank will save you stress and prevent ammonia spikes and weird test readings. If you really wanted to jump start the process you could use some sponge filter from a well established tank to add the BB.

Also, with bettas, avoid using plastic and sharp decorations, as it will damage their fins. Stick with live plants, and your betta will be happy. But for now, focus on your tank cycle. Testing after using Prime will give you false readings. Do not test for up to 24 hours (how long it lasts).

Good luck with your new tank and welcome!

pearlyearlandtheifflers said:
So would you say to stop using the bottled bacteria? Is that why my ammonia readings are high even after the water change? Would you also continue to use Prime in a double dose or just do the water changes?

So sorry about all the questions!

(Also I'm wary of live plants because in my last tank I had one that rotted and turned my water to sludge in a matter of days while I was away and now I'm terrified)
I don't know if bottled bacteria actually helps, since I've never used it. Your ammonia readings are high because you have 3 fish in a small space creating ammonia while there is no BB. BB use ammonia and nitrites as food, but since none exists, you will probably have to do frequent water changes to avoid ammonia poisoning.
How high are your readings? Can you give us an exact number? If they are high, I would do a double dose.
 
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pearlyearlandtheifflers

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Gel0city said:
I don't know if bottled bacteria actually helps, since I've never used it. Your ammonia readings are high because you have 3 fish in a small space creating ammonia while there is no BB. BB use ammonia and nitrites as food, but since none exists, you will probably have to do frequent water changes to avoid ammonia poisoning.
How high are your readings? Can you give us an exact number? If they are high, I would do a double dose.
Gel0city, yes I agree, I plan on moving the cory so that he can have a bigger school and not be housed with the betta! I just need to get the tank and space set up.

The high readings are even after a water change after 48 hours of dosing with the Prime, which is why I'm confused about the reading. I only have 2 fish now as well. My readings were 2 ppm before the water change today and 1 ppm after the water change. I added 15 drops (1.5 dose for the 5 gal) of prime.
 

Gel0city

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2ppm of ammonia is high, could cause ammonia burn. I would suggest focusing on one tank before cycling two tanks at once. 5 gallons is a small space, so two fish can foul the water quickly, meaning you have to do more frequent water changes.

You have no BB, or just barely, otherwise you would have less ammonia and more than 0ppm of nitrates. Have you read the Nitrogen Cycle? I am fairly new here as well, so I don't know how to provide a link but I will try once I know.
 
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pearlyearlandtheifflers

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Gel0city said:
2ppm of ammonia is high, could cause ammonia burn. I would suggest focusing on one tank before cycling two tanks at once. 5 gallons is a small space, so two fish can foul the water quickly, meaning you have to do more frequent water changes.

You have no BB, or just barely, otherwise you would have less ammonia and more than 0ppm of nitrates. Have you read the Nitrogen Cycle? I am fairly new here as well, so I don't know how to provide a link but I will try once I know.
I have read up on the nitrogen cycle, so I know that the high ammonia and no nitrite or nitrates means that it is not cycled. After 2 weeks I was hoping to see some improvement. My water changes are ~25% every other day and then I vacuum the sand once a week with ~50% water change. Do the water changes/sand cleaning effect the BB? I'm worried it's taking too long for the ammonia to go down and I'm doing something wrong.

I'm very concerned about ammonia burn -- my betta is a very pearly and almost translucent color so it's difficult to tell if he has an discoloration or if it's just his natural color. My cory appears fine, but the other did die. Would you recommend an emergency ammonia block, like Ammolock or Am-guard?

Also my pH is about 7.4 (no higher) and temp is about 78 degree if that helps!
 

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Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle
READ FIRST: Freshwater Beginner Important Topics | Freshwater Beginners 14296

What size water changes are you doing? What you're saying makes no sense at all. For every percent of water you remove and replace, your ammonia should go down by the same amount. a 50% WC should cut your ammonia by 50% and take it from 2 ppm down to 1 ppm.

pearlyearlandtheifflers said:
Would you recommend an emergency ammonia block, like Ammolock or Am-guard?
DO NOT USE AMMOLOCK or AM-GUARD. It will bind the ammonia, and the BB will not be able to use it. Dose with Prime. It will detoxify the ammonia for 24 to 48 hours, but the BB will still be able to use it.
 
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pearlyearlandtheifflers

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Mongo75 said:
DO NOT USE AMMOLOCK or AM-GUARD. It will bind the ammonia, and the BB will not be able to use it. Dose with Prime. It will detoxify the ammonia for 24 to 48 hours, but the BB will still be able to use it.
Ok great thank you for that info! Also yes, I know it doesn't make sense....since the water is diluted the ammonia reading should go down, which is one of the reasons I have been so confused! And I will check out the link provided!
 

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pearlyearlandtheifflers said:
Ok great thank you for that info! Also yes, I know it doesn't make sense....since the water is diluted the ammonia reading should go down, which is one of the reasons I have been so confused! And I will check out the link provided!
Hang in there, this forum has a lot of friendly people that just want the best for the fish and the people. If there is a family-owned fish store in your area they usually have seeded aquarium material to sell. That will have enough BB to cycle a small tank in a couple days. I purchased a large bag of seeded ceramic pod-like things loaded with BB for $15. Only trouble might be various lockdowns due to the current state of things.
 
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pearlyearlandtheifflers

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fishkid16 said:
Hang in there, this forum has a lot of friendly people that just want the best for the fish and the people. If there is a family-owned fish store in your area they usually have seeded aquarium material to sell. That will have enough BB to cycle a small tank in a couple days. I purchased a large bag of seeded ceramic pod-like things loaded with BB for $15. Only trouble might be various lockdowns due to the current state of things.
Do you know if you can order those online? I'll definitely look for some online so maybe I can get this mess under control.
 

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pearlyearlandtheifflers said:
Do you know if you can order those online? I'll definitely look for some online so maybe I can get this mess under control.
Filter - Active Sponge Filter, there is at least one thread on this forum I found that someone used this one from this company to great success. I assume you have a HOB (hang on back) filter so you will probably have to cut this one. Giving there customer service number a ring might be a good idea to make sure that will work for you.

My Experience With Buying A "pre-seeded" Filter Online | Fish Tank Filters 387683

link to that thread I referenced.
 
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pearlyearlandtheifflers

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mattgirl said:
Since the water changes don't seem to be lowering your ammonia have you run the test on your source water to see if some of the ammonia is coming from there?
I use distilled water since it is a small tank and our water has high water levels (our community tests it every week so that's how I know). Not sure if the iron would hurt the fish but I don't think the distilled water has anything any it. I haven't actually checked though, just assumed, which is never great to do.
 

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pearlyearlandtheifflers said:
I use distilled water since it is a small tank and our water has high water levels (our community tests it every week so that's how I know). Not sure if the iron would hurt the fish but I don't think the distilled water has anything any it. I haven't actually checked though, just assumed, which is never great to do.
Are you adding something like equilibrium to the distilled water? Distilled water has had everything stripped out of it so without adding the minerals back into it I feel it isn't the best choice for use in our tanks without adding the minerals back into it. Spring water or just plain drinking water would be a better choice if you can't use your tap water.

It is always a good idea to run the test on whatever water we are using so we know exactly what we are putting in our tanks.
 
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pearlyearlandtheifflers

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mattgirl said:
Are you adding something like equilibrium to the distilled water? Distilled water has had everything stripped out of it so without adding the minerals back into it I feel it isn't the best choice for use in our tanks without adding the minerals back into it. Spring water or just plain drinking water would be a better choice if you can't use your tap water.

It is always a good idea to run the test on whatever water we are using so we know exactly what we are putting in our tanks.
I add absolutely nothing except for prime to balance out the water I didn't remove, if nitrates or in this case, since my tank isn't cycled, ammonia. I honestly never thought about the minerals not being in the water....is there an equilibrium product that you prefer to use?
 

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pearlyearlandtheifflers said:
I add absolutely nothing except for prime to balance out the water I didn't remove, if nitrates or in this case, since my tank isn't cycled, ammonia. I honestly never thought about the minerals not being in the water....is there an equilibrium product that you prefer to use?
My water is both very soft and very low in minerals so I add Seachem Equilibrium to it. It may be better in your case though just to switch to a different water. Just normal drinking water would have the necessary minerals in it.
 

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pearlyearlandtheifflers said:
So would you say to stop using the bottled bacteria? Is that why my ammonia readings are high even after the water change? Would you also continue to use Prime in a double dose or just do the water changes?

So sorry about all the questions!

(Also I'm wary of live plants because in my last tank I had one that rotted and turned my water to sludge in a matter of days while I was away and now I'm terrified)
I can't speak from experience on bottled bacteria because I've never used it. My opinion on it is based on the steady stream of people using it whose test readings are not logical and are all over the board, and they're losing fish because after all, "instant cycle," "add fish immediately," suggests the products provide and instant cycle and you can add fish immediately, which is not true.

My suggestion is to stop using the bottled bacteria. Don't do water changes based on a set schedule and percentage, do water changes based on test readings, otherwise you're just guessing. Once you're cycled you can see what the water change frequency and volume should be, but it's still based on test results. Folks will say "Change this % this often" because that works for them in their situation. No two tanks are exactly alike. Keep combined ammonia and nitrites at 1 ppm or below. You'll see ammonia decrease as nitrites rise, then nitrites decrease as nitrates rise. For example, if you have .5 ammonia and 1.0 nitrites, that's 1.5. If you do a 50% water change the readings will lower to .25 and .50.

Make sure you follow the instructions for the testing. You need to shake nitrate bottle #2 for 30 seconds before adding the solution to the test tube, then shake for 60 seconds and wait five minutes for the reading.
 

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