new tank set!

  • #1
I set up a 37 gallon nearly two weeks ago.  I have read a ton about the water chemistry and have been monitoring daily.  The thing is, at my pH (6.8), and at nealry 2 weeks with 7 fish in...I amn only showing .25-.5 amm and 20 nitrite, no nitrate

according to the books I have read, my amm should be higher by now..thus triggering the cycle.  I know I put a couple too many fish in, but I don't think that is any problem now, as my amm levels are pretty low.  does this sound right for this tank, cycling 2 weeks?  also I did add Cycle at the beginning (bacteria) and has a cloudiness on day 2-3, but that cleared up after I did a 20% water change on day 4

I have soft water in the house, so without adjustment, my alk is only 80 and pH 6.8.  I have used Bullseye as a buffer and now my alk is 100-120, but pH is still low.  should I raise it?
  • #2
If it that close to 7, I would just leave it unless you plan on having fish that like high pH, and I don't think there are that many.
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  • #3
thanks tom

do you think the numbers indicate that the tank is cycling ok, for 2 weeks into it? and, how high can the amm go before it is dangerous. I have that I can go to 3, at pH 6.8

it just seems like nothing is happening. I expected by now the amm to peak and the nitrites to really increase. they are at 20, but they have been at 20 since like day 3
  • #4
No don't play with your pH, especially when it's almost perfect. There are people on this forum that would kill for 6.8 pH as the norm in their tank .

As for the ammonia, you spike with it first and then it starts to go down as the nitrite build up. After a while of the nitrite building up, you will start to get nitrate. There are a couple of things to note though. The nitrite you mentioned, did you mean 2.0 or did you really mean 20? At a nitrite of 20 you would be WAY to high to have fish in that tank and I would be surprised that you wouldn't be seeing problems with their behavior. If that is the case then you need to do some water changes. I would be doing 20% water changes twice a day until it gets under control. If it's only 2.0 then you are ok, but still do 20% water changes at least every other day to keep it that low. You will start to see some nitrate soon. Also be sure that you follow the directions on the nitrate test to the letter. If you are using the API master kit then you really need to shake up that second solution for 30 seconds before you use it. Bang the second solution bottle on the table a few times to make sure all the crystals in there break up and get mixed in with the fluid. Without it properly mixed you might never see any results.
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  • #5
thanks....I am using the strips

so..the 'no color' for nitrite is labelled 0, and the next light pink is 20...both are included in the 'safe' zone printed on the comparison chart. so it is reading safe..mayeb it is a units issue.

also, my hardness is virtually 0, as I said I have awater softenere system in the house

how high is OK for ammonia? I read somewhere that at pH under 7 it is making ammounium, not ammonia. woudl that make a diofference to the cycle? I just thought that by now I would see higher nitrites and maybe even a slight rise in nitrates, since I stuck in 7 fish instead of the 4 I should have

I also set up a 15 gallon goldfish tank about 3 days later (long story). and similar results.... about a 0.5 ammonia and 20 in the nitrite, no nitrates
  • #6
To get accurate results, I'd recommend the API master freshwater kit at petsmart or:
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
note: I am using the Mardel 5 in 1 test strips
  • #8
My ammonia never went above 0.5ppm while I did my entire cycle. Granted I was doing water changes but it never spiked for me. The nitrites tried to spike but I upped my water changes to 2 times a day to keep them below 2.0ppm. I think there is something wrong that it says 0 and then the next step is 20... there has to be a unit of measure issue here because at 20ppm nitrite without anything in there to detoxify it, it would be like dipping the fish in acid and they would be freaking out. In any event, it doesn't matter what it's called (ammonia or ammonium) it will do the trick. And the lower the pH the less toxic it will be, so you are good there. What temp is your tank at?

As for the test strips, they can be very inaccurate and that is why most of us (including myself) highly recommend that API kit FLBettaCouple mentioned. It's hard to know the real values of your water without something more accurate but it's workable.

As to the buffer, it would be good to have a bit so you don't have to worry about pH spikes or other problems. On the other hand you can have several types of fish in your tank that the rest of us have to work very hard to get our tanks to be under the same levels as you are. So you aren't in that bad of a situation .
  • #9
At 2 weeks, yes your cycle is doing fine, though I also question the "20" number. As has already been mentioned, it is probably just a difference in units of measure that most of us are used to. As has already been pointed out, test strips tend to be inaccurate. Liquid tests will give you much more reliable results. As to what level of ammonia is safe...the short answer is none. Ammonia is toxic, period. However, depending on what kind of fish you have and given your pH, they can probably tolerate the levels you have indicated. I would not let them get much higher though. If you start getting close to 1.0, I would be doing 50% water changes daily to get it back down. In the meantime, watch the fish for redness in the gills and/or gasping. Those would be signs that the ammonia is getting to them and they need help in the form of some significant water changes.
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  • #10
thanks for all the advice....when I got home last night, I checked...I made an error in reporting!.... my NITRATES are 20, and nitrites are now up to 0.5 (I had it backwards yesterday)
also, my ammonia is now between 0.5 and 1. Also, a concertn I have is that my water nitrates started at 20, before fish!

When my ammonia hits 1 I will do a water change...
although, something ammonia guide says that at pH 6.8, fish are safe to amm levels of at least 3 (becuase of the lower pH). but if you guys suggest a water change when it gets to 1, I will do it.

it is just interesting... how water are changes are needed to help the fish during the cycle, but that they are delaying the length of the cycle, by also removing bacteria. This lengthening of the cycle, thus, in turn, prolongs the stress on the fish. so I can see it both ways...less cahnges to make the stressful cycle period shorter, vs more changes making the cycle longer, yet less less acutly stressful
  • #11
Actually, with ammonia, nitrites and nitrates present, you would appear to be almost at the end of the cycle. don't wait until the ammonia reaches 1 because as the the others have said, any ammonia or nitrites at all can kill your fish...I would do a 20-30% change immediately which will reduce these numbers, wait 24hrs and test your water again and see where you are...But having said that, you really would be better off getting the API master kit that the others have recommended...Even though the marcel strips are supposedly the better of the strips on the market, they are still notoriously inaccurate and expensive..I ditched mine within a week after getting results all over the board and went with the API kit..It truly makes life easier.
  • #12
something ammonia guide says that at pH 6.8, fish are safe to amm levels of at least 3 (becuase of the lower pH).

You are correct in that the lower your pH, the less toxic ammonia is. Supposedly at pH levels below 7, you are actually producing ammonium, rather than ammonia, which is not toxic. However, this is not something I have felt the need to put to the test. I think the reason we are advising water changes anyway is out of an abundance of caution. Why tempt fate, eh? Using changes to keep your ammonia below 1 will still allow your tank to continue to cycle, but also errs on the side of caution for the fish's sake.
  • #13
Forget the whole ammonia / ammonium thing. It is either NH3 or NH4+ in your tank and you always have both no matter what your pH is. The NH3 is what's called "Free" ammonia and it is the toxic part. The NH4+ is ionized ammonia and it is generally non-toxic. I say generally because at high enough concentrations it will literally burn the fish as if you dipped them in acid. So even it can be toxic but it just requires more of it in your tank then we normally allow to get in there. The NH3, however, is toxic at a level of 0.02ppm though your fish can tolerate a level that low for quite some time. At your pH of 6.8 if your tank is at 77oF (25oC) then you only have a NH3 level of 0.0035ppm. So it's not at a level that can really hurt your fish, they are still able to breath it in though (NH3 is a dissolved gas that they can breath through their gills and that's why it's toxic, whereas NH4+ can not). Though now that you get getting nitrites too, you should be doing more water changes because that in any form is not healthy for your fish. Also doing the water changes does not remove good bacteria in any concentration that would effect your cycle. It's that they have less food to eat that slows down the cycle (the ammonia and the nitrite is their food). But higher levels of toxins in their water stresses the fish out much more then being in water with very low amounts of toxins longer. When I cycled my tank I did 1 water change per day while there was ammonia in the tank, and 2 times a day once I got nitrite in the tank. I was even using Prime to pretty much totally detoxify anything bad in the tank the entire time, and I still keep doing the water changes because the health of my fish was the most important thing. I was fortunate enough not to lose a single fish in the process either. Regardless of your readings I would still do at least a 10%-20% water change every day until you are done with your cycle... your fish are worth it .
  • #14
hI hotjez may I welcome you to the forum and beg you not to use the strips they are very innaccurate I use the apI test kit and its almost perfect please look at my thread under levels for new tank to see how my tank went through its cycling its on same page as this ... good luck with your adventure ...gilly also what fish do you have in your tank ? if you are cycling with fish you really want fish that are hardy and can tollerate a lot of shifts in temp and levels etc ie danios ,barbs
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  • #15
thank you all for your comments....I plan to get the API kit this evening.

I went out of town for the weekend and when I can back, my 15 gallon goldfish tank looked a little cloudy, and worse, the two fish were lying at the bottom. clearly in distress. I tested water, nitrates 20 (still) , nitrite 1, and ....amm was 3!!!

so I did a 50% water change.

it brought nitrite down to 0.5 and amm down to 0.5

I then checked my 37 gallon, and although those fish looked good, it was the same number, so I did a 40% change

numbers went down the same as with the other tank...I will test tonight (with the new kit) and do another change if nitite is over 0.5, or if amm is over 1. does this sound right?

in terms of what the 15 gallon tank, 2 fancy goldfish (I know I should only have one in that size, but he looked lonely). I just plan on taking extra care in monitoring and water changes, even after the cycle

the 37 g tank (kept at 78 degrees) has one small catfish, 2 gouramis, 2 guppies, 2 platies. so, 7 total (I know I should have stayed with 4...but I got greedy)
that said, the tank has been cycling for over 3 weeks now and all those guys look good.

the goldfish perked up after the water change, but I notice on one, the tail is looking a little ragged. I think I can take care enough so that all survive. I am trying my best, so I hope so!
  • #16
Sounds like you are doing the best you can which is all your fish can ask for. Getting those levels under control is a good thing and although the tank was cloudy with high levels, that is still a sign of a cycling tank. So you are on track. Once you have the API kit you will really know the condition of your tank and how to keep everyone happy. As to the goldfish, his tail could be showing the signs of the elevated levels of ammonia or nitrite in the tank. Though if those test readings were close to accurate they weren't all that high. It could also be fin rot if it's looking like it is shredding or tearing or has white tips. If it is then it can be treated with various chemicals. I've never cared for goldfish or dealt with fin rot so I don't know what's the most effective. One of the others would know more. Any chance of a picture to be sure it is fin rot and not something else?
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  • #17 the test strips were !

here are my new results with the apI kit

15 gallon tank (15 days cycling) with 2 goldfish
nitrate 5.0
nitrite 0
pH 7.9 (my test strips said 6.8!!)
amm between 1 and 2

37 gallon tank (17 days cycling) with 7 small fish (guppies/gouramis/platies)
nitrate 5.0
nitrite 0.25
pH 7.9
amm 1.0

after this reading, I used pH - to bring the pH down....that pH is I guess OK for the goldfish, but not for th tropicals

so...the fish in the 37g tank look fine, no distress, but the goldies are hiding horribly in the plants (fake) and neo's fish look separated and shaggy...I think it is ammonia stress? so.....QUESTION...does a 5.0 nitrate at about 2 weeks mean the tank is cycling? I wonder because in my 15 gallon tank...the nitrites are zero....and since I was testing before with the strips, I don't really know if it has risen and now fallen....
  • #18
Nitrates <20 are good. The less the better.....Any ammonia and nitrites are bad. You counteract this by doing water changes to lower the concentration.

I'm surprised you have nitrates present in your 15 gallon after just 15 days.....Smaller tanks inherently take longer to cycle. It's important to follow the two part nitrate test instructions to the letter. So be sure to read the manual and follow the instructions carefully.
  • #19
Number 1... don't change the pH. The fish will get used to it, however, having it change on them will stress them out more then any toxin in the water. 7.9 is fine for all of the fish you mentioned once they get used to it.

As for the tanks, the 0 nitrites with some nitrate. Did you seed this tank from another tank? Either taking water from one tank and putting it into the other? If so then that would bring nitrates with it. If you still have ammonia though then you are not through the cycle yet as they would be at 0 before the nitrite would go to 0. Be patient, it will happen, however, do a water change to keep that ammonia level down. Now that we know the pH isn't a nice low 6.8, that means that you have much more toxic ammonia in that tank. At a total ammonia level of 2 and a pH of 7.9, if you tank is around 77oF then you have 0.08ppm of toxic ammonia in that tank right now and that is a VERY stressful level to the fish. Do a water change and try to keep that ammonia level at more like 0.5ppm. That would still mean that you have 0.02ppm of toxic ammonia but they can live with that level longer then with 0.08ppm. Also if you have been using Amquel+ or Prime then the fish should be safer, but still do the water changes.

The other tank is doing well with the nitrite showing up now. So that tank will also need a water change to get that ammonia level down, but you are well on your way to a cycled tank. Watch those nitrites like a hawk though. They have a tendency to spike all of a sudden and water changes will be needed to keep that under control. Good Luck!
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  • #20
dear luniyn

well...thanks for the advice but bad news...I checked everything friday and numbers were a little high so I did a smaller water changed (this in the goldy 15 gallon tank). we left for big bear frI night, and got home today (sunday ) abotu an hour ago.

my fancy goldy neo was dead. BUMMER. and now the other one, cortex, has white spots. he is also still acting lethargic. I took neo out right away and tested. here are the SPIKED data

15g goldy talk, established april 17 (20 days ago) also, tank usually at 72F (room temp, no heater), but dropped to 68F (this OK for goldfish?..I think so)
today: pH 7.9
amm 4.0!!!!!!
nitrite 0-0.25 (not zero anymore, but no quite purple enough for the 0.25)
nitrate- 5-10

and no, I did not seed from another tank. perhaps there are nitrates in my home water? I will test that.

so, I immediately did a 50 % water change. should I get some CYCLE (with the nitrifying bacteria). this tank doesn't seem to be cycling! I just don't see the nitrites going up as they should!!!

but, some good news...

in my 37 g tropicals tank. all fish look happy. est. april 15 (22 days ago)
pH 7.8 (are you sure this is OK for tropicals? tank at 78F

amm 0.5 (DROPPING!!)
nitrite 2.0 (rising was 1.0 day before yest)
nitrate 10 (also rising)

so....question...I already water changed 50% in small tank...why isn't it cycling?

and...with the 2.0 nitrites in my 37 g tannk. can I leave it go, or should I change, and if so how much???

  • Thread Starter
  • #21
one more that cortex (the fancy goldy with the new white spots, ich right?) I will keep him alone in this tank until all is good. should I use a medicine?
  • #22
Sorry to hear about your fish. Unfortunately this is a pretty stressful time for your tanks and they really need to have around a 10%-20% water change per day to keep the levels from rising like you are seeing. Also yes that does sound like ich that your fish has. . Unfortunately I'm not an expert on illnesses and maybe someone else on here that has had more experience with treating ich can help with this one.

As for the tanks, no don't bother using Cycle. It's not the right kind of bacteria that you need in order to actually help the cycle. You are doing fine, you just need to do some water changes to get those levels under control. The fact that you are starting to see nitrites means you are getting there, so just keep it up. Just a note, if you end up moving the fish out of the tank so there aren't any in it (i.e. to treat for ich) then be sure to drop in a few fish flakes every 12 hours so that you keep the ammonia levels constant. Otherwise the good bacteria that eats the ammonia will run out of food and die off and you'll be back to square one. Also if you do move out the fish, no need to treat the tank for ich as they will die off on their own without any fish in the tank to attach to. Just raise the temp in the tank (that article I linked above talks about this method of letting the ich die off without meds). As to the pH, yes 7.8 is fine as long as it stays there and doesn't raise or lower each day. The fish will adjust and chances are if 7.8 is from your tap, then you local fish store probably has the same level in their tanks, so the fish are already used to it. Go ahead and start on about 20% water changes in the larger tank to keep that nitrite level from rising too much higher. When I reached that level of nitrites I was doing 20% water changes 2 times a day. You could probably get away with once a day, but consistent smaller changes are better on the fish then large ones every few days. Keep it up... you're getting there!
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  • #23

I also just ran and got some prime (that you mentioned). I just did a 20% change on the big tank and the nitrites are back to 1.0

I checked the nitrate level from my tap, and thankfully it is 0.

I will check my pH to see.

the thing is, I have soft water, so I use bullseye 7.0 to raise my alkalinity. (naturally, without the treatment, it is below 80. ) but I won't worry anymore about the pH...I will just keep the alk up by adding bullseye from time to time

thanks again, I will keep you posted.

got some ich meds and am trying it now
  • Thread Starter
  • #24
some goodnews! my 37g tropicals tank is now mostly cycled...the amm has gone to 0 on its own and now the nitrites are down to 0.25, nitrates at 5-10

so that's good. I am still VERY puzzled why my small tamk is not cycling. it keep spiking ammonia, I water change etc....and the nitrites DO not go up. in 3 weeks. any help on this one???
  • #25
Its not unusual. It takes 4-6 weeks average, and it some cases even longer than that. Keep doing what you are doing...all is well!
  • #26
I agree, you are doing a great job. Just keep up with the water changes to keep that ammonia level down and you will eventually see nitrites.
  • Thread Starter
  • #27
ok....thanks. now, I have been having to change water once a day 20-30% in the small tank. as every day when I get home the amm is at close to 4!!!

onl one fish in there...and now the water has gone very cloudy.

also, please bigger tank is good on the numbers....but it is cloudy, so I bought a tank clarifier

acurel F

and it has made it soooo much worse

does anyone know what's up with that , or what the causes are for tank cloudiness at the end of the cycle?
  • #28
Yep keep it up, that spike is usually near the end of the ammonia phase of the cycle and they should drop way down shortly while the nitrite start to spike. Keep doing the water changes and you'll get there.

As to the cloudy water, it's ok and will clear on its own. It's just a part of the cycle sometimes just like the brown looking algae (diatoms actually) is also a part of the cycle as well. Some people get 1 or the other, some both, and some neither. But they clear on their own so it's nothing to worry about. As for the "acurel F" if it's what I think it is (there is next to nothing about it in the description other then "it clears cloudy water") then it should work as a binding agent. Sometimes the particles in your tank are too small for the filter to get out efficiently in any short amount of time. By using a binding agent like acurel F it will join together with a lot of the particles and make larger ones. These larger particles are much easier for your filter to remove and usually leads to a cleaner tank. If it didn't help like it would appear it didn't, then maybe you need to look at the flow of water in your tank? If you are using a hand on back power filter, then they usually don't come with a long enough intake rod for a lot of tanks. It should reach down to just 1" above your gravel (3" above if you have gold fish). This will help create a good flow of water in your tank because the outflow from the filter will usually throw the water toward the font of the tank and it will usually flow around in a circular motion back to the intake with is down low in the tank. If it's up to high then it will miss a lot of the particulate matter and lead to the cloudy water taking a lot longer to go away. Though it will still get to it over time. I would just wait it out really.

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