Newish tank. Levels all wacky and I don't know how to fix it.

  • #1
HI everyone! I've had fish in my tank for about 6 weeks now. I've done water changes, but sporadically. About 4 so far, I think. I've only just recently learned how to vacuum the gravel properly (thank you YouTube). I changed about 30% a few days ago. I put a new fake rock thingy in without rinsing it first and I think that's what made the water cloudy. So like I said I changed it 30%, gave it a good vacuuming, put about half a cap of Complete Water Conditioner and Bio-Boost from Jack's. I bought some Melafix a while ago for Tiger Barbs that were eating eachother's fins, and it says you can use it for adding new fish too. So when I added a new tiger barb today I added a does of that, as well. Right now my levels are: Ph 6.4 Ammonia .5 Nitrite 2.0 and Nitrate 5.0

I was in Jack's a couple weeks ago b/c a tiger barb they sold me died like a day later, and they were saying that because of the length of my setup, my changing the water could have screwed up the cycle and I had somehow prevented it from being able to cycle because I changed the water, which to me sounded absolutely ridiculous. I had it set up and cycling empty for about a month before we added fish, and I changed the water two weeks after we added them b/c I had heard that's what you're supposed to do. I only had three fish at the time so I waited 2 weeks before I did the first water change. So if Jack's was right, then I should have gone a month after adding the first fish before changing the water? You're not supposed to do that, are you?

So now I don't know what to do for my lil guys. How do I get the levels right? I'm afraid to change the water again so soon after changing it b/c I'm getting conflicting advice on whether I should or not. Tell me, was the person at Jack's talking out of their , or can changing the water after having the tank for 6 weeks prevent the water from cycling? She said if I continue to change it, it will continue to not cycle. So I'm just baffled, b/c I'm hearing that you should keep your tank clean clean clean, but then I have this lady basically saying "but not TOO clean."

I have 5 tiger barbs, one rainbow shark (I had two but exchanged one for another tiger barb today based on what I've read on these forums), 3 dalmation lyretail mollies (who are losing their lovely lyres thanks to the tiger barbs), and one algae eater. I'm trying to work out how much to feed them and I think I'm either just right or a wee bit over. I don't see flakes floating around the tank like I used to, so I figure I'm on the right track. I'm giving about a teaspoon of flakes twice a day, or sometimes I swap flakes for bloodworms or brine shrimp. What do you think about that? More? Less? I also give the algae eater one tab a day but don't always get the remnants out, because I don't find them right away, so they often sit for a day or two before I see it. The fish don't seem alarmed, but I also have seen the fish rubbing their faces on stuff, and they were sipping air at the top a few weeks ago so I got a bubbler b/c at that time levels were fine (this was a couple weeks ago). That seems to have helped a little, but I still see the algae eater darting up to grab a sip of air from time to time, so I know all is not well. They don't rub their faces on the rocks constantly, but I've seen them do it more than once.

So, veterans, what say you? Should I leave things be and see if they work out? Or do I change the water?
  • #2
Welcome to fishlore!

Change the water. When you let the tank sit for a month did you add anything to it? It will not cycle unless you put in fish food or pure ammonia because there is nothing for the bacteria to eat. It sounds like your ammonia recently spiked and your nitrites are on their way up. This is another good reason to change the water- nitrites can kill fish at lower levels than ammonia. How big is your tank?

It sounds like you're feeding your fish better too. I feed mine a pinch at a time every minute or so until they stop eating so fast. I would give them some flakes every day, then either a little bit of bloodworms or brine shrimp, as a treat. I would also feed the shark every other day because if you have remnaints of wafers, he's getting enough to eat.

If possible, separate the mollies and barbs, or return/ trade in the mollies. The tiger barbs will stress them out with all that fin nipping and make them more susceptible to disease.

Don't give up- everyone has problems when they start fishkeeping. It's very rewarding in the end.

  • #3
Changing water wouldn't prevent your tank from cycling unless you were using TSS or something similar. Since you said you cycled fishless then I am assuming not. The majority of the beneficial bacteria live in the filter media. How big is this tank? How long have the readings been 'wacky?' Did it fully cycle when you cycled?
  • #4
Welcome to FishLore!

Okay, you have a few problems going on. The first thing I would recommend is read up on the nitrogen cycle. (<-- should be a link to an article), but basically the cycle goes like this:
1) Fish produce waste which turns into ammonia.
2) Ammonia is highly toxic (even at low levels) and can kill your fish.
3) Over the course of several weeks with ammonia in the water a bacteria will grow in your filter that will consume ammonia and release nitrite
4) Nitrite is highly toxic even at low levels and can kill your fish.
5) Over the course of several weeks with nitrites in the water a second bacteria will grow in your filter media that consumes nitrites and releases nitrates.
6) Nitrates a low levels are harmless.

So the challange is to complete this cycling process without harming and fish. It can be done fishless, where you add an ammonia source to simulate the ammonia the fish would be producing, then after about 5 or six weeks the tank has cycled and you can safely add fish.

But you are "cycling with fish" (whether you relize it or not) as soon as you add fish to an uncycled tank. BTW running a tank without fish for a set amount of time does nothing, no matter what the fish store tells you (unless you add an ammonia source). So when cycling with fish you need to keep your fish safe from ammonia and nitrites since they are toxic. So you would need to do daily 30% to 50% water changes using a detoxing water conditioner such as Prime. Prime has the ability to detox lowish levels of ammonia and nitrite for 24 hours at which point you would be doing another partial water change. These partial water changes also keep the ammonia and nitrite levels low enough that the Prime can fully detox them, keeping the fish safe.

But you added a bacterial additive, which thickens the plot a bit. The bacterial suppliments contain bacteria that will convert ammonia into nitrite and nitrite into nitrate, but sadly with the exception of Tetra SafeStart and possibly Nite Out, they all contain a non self sustaining version of that bacteria. So it ends up dying off after a week or so leaving you uncycled once again. But while the bacteria is alive it is busy out competeing the naturally forming, self sustaining bacteria you really want.

So I would recommend yopu stop adding the bacterial suppliment and picking up a bottle of Prime and start doing daily partial water changes until you are cycled.

Now on to you fish aggression problems. I don't know what size your tank is (if you mentioned it, I missed it) but you could be overstocked which can make fish become aggressive. Additionally, Tiger barbs are very aggressive and really belong in a tank that only has Tiger barbs.

I know that's a lot to take in, but feel free to ask any additional questions you may have.

Good luck!
  • #5
I found that unfortunately most of pet store staff are clueless, and yet they talk as if they know what they are saying - a dangerous combination! There are exceptions to this rule of course, but whenever you hear something from a store employee, please be sure to verify it. I had really bad experience when I was planning to do fishless cycling and was asking in pet stores where to get pure amonia, and the fish store person was trying to persuade me that you would never put ammonia in a tank because you want to always get it out, and that fishless cycling was not necessary any more because now they have this wonderful chemical by Tetra - well, Tetra does make Tetra Safe Start for fish in cycling, except that this store did not carry that but they only had Tetra water conditioner and the store employee was claiming that this made fishless cycling unnecessary, and that I should just put in the fish in 24 hours after setting up the tank. in addition the pet store offered that they could give me their store water to help cycle the aquarium - in reality water contains few beneficial bacteria and thus will not help with cycling (filter media or substrata would help), and pet store water is a risk for getting infections and should not be added to home aquarium. If I had listened to the store employee my fish would have been dead.

Since you do not have ammonia 0 and nitrite 0, this means that your tank is not cycled. Since you have fish in this tank, the fish are in grave danger of dying from ammonia and nitrite poisoning. The main way to protect your fish is through frequent water changes. I have read that if you have fish in the tank while cycling, you should do daily water changes until you get Ammonia 0 and Nitrites 0. the water changes will not negatively affect your cycle because the beneficial bacteria live in your filter and on surfaces and gravel/sand, not in the water. The water changes however may keep your fish alive even during the cycle. Your fish did not die because you did a water change, but rather most likely because you did not change your water often enough and there was ammonia and nitrites in the tank that killed the fish.

I did water changes during the fishless cycling to keep ammonia and nitrite levels within measurable limits, I did a large water change during cycling when my pH dropped down too low, and I did a huge water change the night before adding the fish. My tank cycled in less than a month of fishless cycling with pure ammonia, and I did a lot of water changes during the cycling. Since getting the fish, I have been changing about 20% of the water at least once a week, and sometimes more often especially if I accidentally over fed my fish then I siphon some water out even if it has not been a week yet. My water parameters have been very stable, the tank remains cycled, and the fish appear healthy and happy.

For feeding I read that it is better when in doubt to feed less than to over feed. I feed the fish one time a day only, and only so much as they can consume in about 3 minutes. I actually have a little timer that I put on to make sure that I am not feeding too long. My son actually does the feeding, but since he is only six years old, I assist by putting a bit of fish food in my palm, and then he takes a pinch at a time, and I make sure he waits for the fish to finish eating before giving them another pinch until the timer runs out. If we feed wafers or vegetable, if there is left over food the next day, I make sure to get it out. Leftover food will negatively affect water quality.

Until your cycle is complete, you should feed your fish even less food, since leftover food creates ammonia and the better your fish are fed the more they pee and poop and that creates more ammonia. Thus, until your aquarium is cycled it is better to underfeed the fish.

We have live plants, and small physa snails got into our aquarium on the plants. I am glad they did because the snails are not only fun to watch, but also they eat leftover fish food, but also physa are a good indication that we are not over feeding since if we were feeding too much the snails would multiply like crazy, whereas I have seen at most five snails in there at any one time, so I think that confirms that we are not over feeding.

Good luck!
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
Thanks for the input, everyone! I did add some kind of stuff that was supposed to be like fake fish poo? to get the cycle started artificially when I first got it. Yes it cycled before we put fish in. Huh. I never thought of that when the lady told me maybe my tank hadn't cycled yet. Yes it had, I just now remembered my bf doing the test tube thingies. The tank is 20 gallons. This is the first time I tested it and it was like this, although I didn't test it when it first got cloudy b/c of the new rock. I know, I should have :"/ I just tested it today, the last time was a week ago when I got the rainbow shark and mollies. I had taken water to Jack's that day because of the fish sipping the air, and they said it was fine and suggested the bubbler. So it's been bad less than a week. Sometime around the time I added the new fish, I guess.

What is 'filter media' exactly? I do have a filter appropriate for my size tank, we changed the filter a week or two ago. Bf did it, I want to say it was a week ago. Also what is bacteria additive? The stuff from Jack's, or the Melafix? Why shouldn't I add it? Bottle says I'm supposed to add it every time I change the water. And surely you don't mean for me to change the water every single day, do you? Or do you only mean until the levels are right?

I will go ahead and change the water tomorrow and see if that helps. 25% or 50% ?

Also, I read somewhere that when the fish start rubbing the faces on things they could have ich. Any way to tell for sure? Do they do this a lot, or is occasionally rubbing their face on stuff normal?
  • #7
Even if your tank was cycled before you added the fish, additional fish could have caused a mini-cycle to start. You may have not had enough beneficial bacteria for the amount of fish. The bacteria will multiply and catch up with your fish load. Yes, the daily water change is only until your ammonia is 0 and nitrites are 0. Once you have achieved that then change the water about once a week, or as needed if you have water quality issues. If I were you, I would do a large water change first, and then measure again.

If the water conditioner that you are using is either Amquel or Prime, it will detoxify the ammonia, but only for 24 hours, however, these water conditioners that detox ammonia make test kits less reliable, so you should then not test the water after the water change, but rather right before the next day's water change. The only chemical that you really need to add to the water is a water conditioner that removes chlorine (Amquel, Prime, or Tetra AquaSafe are examples of such products). You do need to add this water conditioner / dechlorinator to the water before you add it to the tank, and do that every time you change the water. This is because the chlorine will harm your fish, also chlorine is added to water to destroy all bacteria, and that includes the beneficial bacteria along with bad ones.

What I meant by filter media is the filter cartridge or sponge that is used in the filter. If the filter that you have uses activated carbon, that is only good for about a month or two (I am actually not sure about that, so worth verifying with others), and then needs to be changed. If you have a sponge filter, then you can just squeeze out the sponge and swish it around in a bucket of aquarium water before putting it back. I have both a filter with an activated carbon cartridge that I have not changed yet, but probably will soon, since it will soon have been there for two months. However, changing filter cartridge too early may be a problem since a lot of bacteria live on the filter, and if one changes the cartridge when the bacteria colony is not established enough, this could result in a mini-cycle. Aha! You say that your bf changed filter about a week ago - see, this could have contributed to your mini-cycle along with the new fish, since then you would have had fewer beneficial bacteria after the filter was changed, and a greater need for them due to the new fish. I also have secondary sponge filter, as a backup filter for when my main filter breaks, also I read that it is good to have two filters because over filtering results in cleaner water which is good, and finally I figure that if I change the activated carbon filter cartridge if I do not clean the sponge filter the same week then at least one of my filters will have an undisturbed beneficial bacteria colony, and thus I hope to reduce the risk of a mini-cycle.

I know I have answered only some of your questions. I hope someone else will answer about the ich for example, since I do not know about that yet. I am still learning too, although I have already done a lot of research and so far so good in our tank. I wish you all the best with your tank!

  • #8
I looked once again at the chemicals you are using.

Do continue to use the complete water conditioner, or better yet replace it with Amquel or Prime (while you are having ammonia issue at least, since they detoxify ammonia).

The BioBoost is most likely worthless - the only similar stuff that I read actually works is tetra Safe Start, but I think you are supposed to use it only once at the beginning when first adding fish to an uncycled aquarium (if doing fish-in cycling).

The Melafix is a treatment for torn fins and for minor injuries. Since some new fish get injured while captured at store with net, so it may make sense to treat new fish with it, but I have read different opinions: some people are all in favor of treating new fish with medications just in case, while others say to only treat fish if fish appear sick of injured (two different schools of thought).

As for ICH:
- in late stage of this illness the fish have white spots like grains of salt on them.
- Earlier on: clamped together fins and abnormal swimming (but this may be due to other causes not just ICH)
- fish will also rub against stuff, because the parasite is irritating. This is what you are observing, but they may also be rubbing for other reasons (other things they are irritated with), such as the elevated ammonia in your water.if that is what is irritating your fish they should be doing it less after daily water changes. If even after you get your ammonia and nitrites under control, you still have reason to worry about ICH, and you still are not sure, you may want to post a new thread asking about it in the diseases section of this forum.

  • #9
Bio Boost would be the bacterial additive I mentioned in my previous post. The reason you are supposed to add it with every weekly water change is because the bacteria in it dies off in about a week. Then you once again have no bacteria to convert ammonia into nitrites and nitrites into nitrates.

If you were cycled, changing the filter media (i.e. cartridge, sponge etc) will leave you uncycled once again. Since all the bacteria that converts ammonia and nitrite lives in your filter media, changing the media removes all the bacteria and it needs to grow once again. You should only replace the filter media when it is totally falling apart. All you need to do is rinse the media in a bucket of used tank water during a water change.

Also, I believe you have an overstocked that. That will make it more difficult to keep the water parameters in check and also add to aggression.
Fall River
  • #10
HI and welcome to Fishlore.
Step one: As Jdhef mentioned above, read up on the nitrogen cycle.
Step two: Read, understand, and follow, TO THE LETTER, the directions for your test kit.
Step three: BEFORE your next water change carefully test your water and post your results here, so you, and we, know where your tank is in the cycling process.

Research, and a good testing kit/routine, are the best weapons to keep your fish alive through the cycle, and for keeping them healthy AFTER cycling.

I also agree that Barbs and long finned fish (such as Lyretail Mollies) do not mix well. Researching the fish you want before you buy them will save lots of headaches.
Don't get discouraged (it gets easier), you'll get a lot of good advice here.
  • #11
Ok, now I am a bit confused: I thought activated carbon only lasts a month or so, so if one has an activated carbon filter, I thought one does need to change that more often - is that wrong? Also I thought that while most/many bacteria live in the filter, a lot also live in gravel or sand and on every surface in aquarium, thus from what I read replacing the filter would just reduce bacteria not result in an uncycled tank. However, since the filter does have a large percentage of bacteria, changing it does pose risk of mini-cycle, which is why it is a good idea to have second filter and/or keep the old filter cartridge together with the new in the tank for a while so that the new has time to establish bacteria while the old is still there. Is any of that incorrect? The main thing I am confused about is the activated carbon filter: should one change that regularly or not?
  • #12
Aha! I found a prior fishlore thread on activated carbon filter changing, which you may find helpful, too. (I did.)

So I think the bottom line is that the activated carbon looses efficacy, and thus should be changed regularly, but a filter has more than one function: activated carbon does chemical filtration, but the beneficial bacteria do the biological filtration. If you do not change an activated carbon filter for too long then it is not useful in chemical filtration part any more. But if you change the filter, then the beneficial bacteria are removed, and thus biological filtration suffers. I still think that the best way around that dilemma is to have a second filter, and then one can change the carbon filter regularly without harm to beneficial bacteria. Sponge filters are relatively cheap and quite effective, though not as powerful and thus probably not good as sole filter but great as a secondary filter. Also I am thinking of upgrading my filter some time in the medium future to an external canister filter, and with canister filter one can use several different filter media in the canister including carbon which one would regularly replace and sponge which one would only replace when it is falling apart. Best!
  • #13
Yes, activated carbon should be changed every 3 to 4 weeks. But changing the filter cartridge will put you back into uncycled mode.
Since carbon is not necessary, many people just cut a slit in the cartridge and dump the carbon out. But if you want, you can add loose carbon back in.

That is why I like the AquaClear filters so much. They come with a basket that contains a sponge (filtering out the large debris) a bag of carbon (removes impurities) and a bag of ceramic bio media (contains the bacteria). It is very easy to remove and replace the bag of carbon, rinse the sponge and not disturb the bacteria in the ceramic bio media.

While there may be bacteria in the gravel etc, the ammonia/nitrite laden water is not circulating thru it, so only the water that comes in contact would get the ammonia/nitrites converted. The filter on the other hand circulates all the tank water thru the bacteria laden filter where ammonia/nitrites will be converted.
  • #14
Ah, now it all makes even more sense. Thanks jdhef! Questions: am I correct that if one has the second sponge filter that is strong enough for the size of tank then as long as the sponge filter is undisturbed that week changing the activated cabin filter would be ok? Also I don't know about Babyjo's setup, but my tank also has something called a bio wheel which is supposed to collect bacteria and the water does run though that, and so I assume that as a result changing the filter cartridge will not cause uncycled tank, or will it? Also I read somewhere that one can put new cartridge on top of old filter cartridge (or was it the other way around old on top of new?) and then run the tank with both for a while so that the old can seed the new? If so, which one should be on top, and how long would one need to have both in? I am trying to figure out a way to get the new activated carbon benefit without disturbing bacteria too much, or is this just not worth the trouble? I know that activated carbon is not necessary, but how much does it really help, or not?
  • #15
Normally, you only develope enough bacteria to handle the bioload in your tank. That is why adding too many fish to a cycled tank can put you into a minI cycle.

So in my opinion, putting extra media in the filter prior to a filter change will no prevent a minI cycle since you would only have enough bacteria on the two medias to handle the bioload. So removing the old media would definitly be leaving you short on bacteria.

But bacteria supposedly doubles every 24 hours, so assuming 1/2 of the bacteria was in each media, within 24 hours you should have enough bacteria on the new media to handle the bio load.

I had a Eclipce 12 which had a bio-wheel, and in theory the bulk of the bacteria is supposed to live in the bio-wheel to prevent a minI cycle when changing the cartridge. But too be honest, I never trusted it, so I never tried changing the cartridge. I just ran it without carbon.

I personally like to run carbon, even though its not necessary. You could easily put some loose carbon in a media bag and stuff it somewhere in the filter.
  • Thread Starter
  • #16
Wow that was a ton of info to digest! Thanks you guys! And thank you Google. I love that I stumbled across this page. And hey don't lecture me for assuming the people at Jack's new their . I'm pretty sure the first gal I talked to did, but the other ones I'm beginning to realize are pulling it out of their butts.

Anywho, just did a 50% water change. Man but that's a chore I could do without. Prior to changing the water it was Ph 6.0-6.4, Ammonia .25, Nitrate 0-5, Nitrite 2.5 Added the water conditioner and the Bio-boost (I hadn't read this yet). Next time I'll nix the Bio Boost. The water conditioner is just the Jack's store brand. "Complete Water Conditioner" it says here. My filter is an Aqueon for a 20 tank, your standard pet store fare, nothing fancy. this one:

I'll do another change tomorrow. I may get a sponge filter, find out what that's about. Changing the filter and then adding a large number of fish causing a cycle makes sense. If I'm overstocked, what do you recommend? Who gets cut? I had visions of little brightly colored fishes swimming around my tank. You're killing my dreams!

Seriously though, thanks for all your help. I will master this! I'm frowning determinedly right now. You can't see, but I am.
  • #17
If you click the underlined words Rainbow Shark, it will take you to a fish profile page about them. The minimum tank size recommendation is listed as 55 gallons.

Here is a link to the profile for Tiger Barbs:

Here is a link to the profile for Mollies:

And since I don't know what kind of Algae Eater you have, I can't really advise, but if it is a Pleco, odds are it will get too large for your tank.

Additionally Mollies and Plecos are hugh waste producers making it harder to keep your ammonia levels at zero since they produce so much. There is a general guideline (that a lot of people hate) that says 1" of adult size fish pre gallon of water. The reason people hate it is because there are a ton of caveats, but I think it is valuable for a beginner to get an idea of proper stocking. Some of the caveat's are that minimum required tank size trumps the 1" guideline. For example even though a Molly only gets to be 4", you wouldn't put any in a 10 gallon tank because 20 gallons is the minimum recommended tank size due to their needing a lot of horizontal swim space. (Not to mention they probably produce too muuch waste for a typical filter for a 10 gallon tank can handle.)

Another caveat would be that you wouldn't put a fish that gets to be 10" long in a 10 gallon tank.

Stocking a tank as a lot of nuance to it and is a little more art then science.

  • Thread Starter
  • #18
In that case using the 1 inch guideline would mean I'm not overstocked. I suppose I could get rid of the pleco (lil guy, bout two in long) but he's so cute I kind of hate to. Plus I had a fish tank when I was a kid and I remember having one bc it was necessary to eat the excess algae in the tank. But now I'm hearing no, this is not the case? Lame.

If it's a choice between the mollies and the rainbow shark I'll lose the mollies b/c they aren't doing so hot with the tiger barbs anyway. I'm keeping the rainbow shark, he's too pretty. Upgrading to a larger tank later isn't out of the question but for now he's only like two inches long and seems to be coping just fine.

I want to replace the mollies with something though, esp if I get rid of Morrissey too (the algae eater). What's something small and colorful that can hold their own against a tiger barb? And that I don't have to get 6 of?
  • #19
Here, here to the Hagen Aquaclear Filter! I love mine and it is really easy to work with as far as keeping your sponge, carbon and bio-media in the basket.
  • #20
Babyjo, That one inch rule is applied not using current size of fish, but adult maximum size for the species. If your pleco is a so-called common pleco it will grow to be 24" in size. the recommended tank size for a common pleco is 100 or 125 gallons. If it is a bristlenose pleco for example then it will only grow to be about 5 inches in size, but even bristlenose plecos poop a lot and thus have a high bioload on the aquarium. I've got a bristlenose pleco and love it, but I realize that I will need to do more aquarium maintenance because of it, not less, because while it eats algae it converts them all to poop, and that means more frequent cleanup potentially. fish are generally sold as juveniles, and many fish grow to adult size or at least much bigger than initially in a matter of months not years, so that's why it is important to plan ahead.
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  • #21
Ok so I just tested again, and changed the water afterwards. My Ph was 6.4, ammonia .25, Nitrite 0-.25, Nitrate 5. I did another 50% water change. I also fed them before I changed the water this time and didn't add any Bio-Boost.
  • #22
Patience, water changes, and the test kit are your best tools right now. I remember whe I was cycling my tank how impatient I got, thinking that surely I was doing something wrong, that I must be crazy, that those who wrote about cycling must be crazy ... and then I got ammonia 0 and nitrites 0, and it was all good. It seemed to take forever though while it lasted, and I am not a patient person! Hang in there!
Fall River
  • #23
+1 to Joanna. Patience and WC will get you there.

When I cycled my first tank it took FOREVER for the last .25 of ammonia to go away. One day the test tube was just yellow! Could not believe it so I tested it again. Yellow never looks as good as it does when you finally see it in that tube!!
  • #24
Patience is a virtue seldom acquired! Make your best effort and hope to succeed.

  • Thread Starter
  • #25
Just in the spirit of keeping you posted, writing to let you know that I'm almost out of the woods. I didn't change water yesterday b/c I had a hectic day but I am going to today. Ph 6.4, Ammonia .25, Nitrite 0 (!), Nitrate 5. Almost there. Encouraging, b/c I didn't change it at all yesterday. I've been doing 50% changes, I may just do 25% today.

I think I have to take the mollies back They're so pretty and playful but their lovely tails aren't lovely anymore. The lyres are totally gone, just looks like a regular fishtail now. If you know lyretail mollies you know that's saying something. That makes me so sad! On the one hand the mollies are the prettiest and gentlest, but I got the tiger barbs first so I feel like this weird loyalty toward them. Plus they're interactive and come up and swim around when I put my face up to the tank ... but so do the mollies, now... Argh! this is so hard! The tiger barbs nibble my fingers though, and that's super cute... I can't pick which baby to give back!
  • #26
Just in the spirit of keeping you posted, writing to let you know that I'm almost out of the woods. I didn't change water yesterday b/c I had a hectic day but I am going to today. Ph 6.4, Ammonia .25, Nitrite 0 (!), Nitrate 5. Almost there. Encouraging, b/c I didn't change it at all yesterday. I've been doing 50% changes, I may just do 25% today.

Well...maybe your almost out of the woods, maybe not. Since you had been using that bacterial additive, it may be that bacteria that has your nitrite at zero and nitrate at 5ppm and not the naturally occuring, self-sustaining bacteria. It will really take a couple of weeks to know for sure whether you developed bacteria or not, so keep an eye on your parameters.
  • #27
Sorry for not seeing this thread before.Do not use Jacks Bio boost it will make your water turn white.I have tried it to see if it works and it doesn't,it made my tank turn real white a few days after I put it in.I like experimenting on different products.The only bacterial suppliment that worked for me so far is Tetra Safe Start.I would also cut down your feeding.

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  • #28
I haven't used the Bio-Boost but did use the water conditioner. Today my Nitrites kicked back up and everything else held, so that's a bummer. I suppose if I were to ask, you would tell me not to get any new fish this weekend until my levels are perfect?
Fall River
  • #29
You'd be right. (no new fish yet) What are your readings?
  • Thread Starter
  • #30
Last night it was pH 6.4, Ammonia 0-.25, Nitrite .25, Nitrate 5.
  • Thread Starter
  • #31
I didn't change last night and now it's ph 6.4, Ammonia .25, Nitrite .25 and Nitrate 5

So I'll do another 50% change. *sigh* this is getting old!
  • #32
Yes, cycling with fish is a real pain (unless you use SafeStart).

BTW, did you ever test your tap water for a baseline? Sometimes tap water will contain ammonia, nitrites or nitrates.
Fall River
  • #33
Yep, fish-in cycling is very tedious. You can bet your last dollar that the first time I did it was also the LAST time!
IMO you're very close to being cycled. Just keep up with the wc and you'll soon get the oh-so-lovely yellow on the ammonia card. Best day ever! lol
+1 to getting a baseline on all the tap water parameters.

BTW, 20 gallons (your tank) is the amount of water I was changing every day for weeks, so remember, it could be worse!!
  • Thread Starter
  • #34
OK, I think I'm about there! Sunday it was Amm .25 and Nitrites .5, and I did 50% change. Monday it was ph 6.4-6.6, Ammonia .25, Nitrites 0 and nitrates 5, I did 25% change. Today pH 6.6, ammonia was hard to tell between 0 and .25, but looked closer to 0. Might be wishful thinking. Nitrites stayed at 0 (!) and Nitrates stayed at 5. Whew. I did another 25% change tonight. Just looking for a pat on the head here and affirmed that I'm doing right. I decided 25% was more appropriate now that my levels are closer to where they need to be.

What's baseline and how do I check for it? I live in a large city, so I would think it would have good water quality.
  • Thread Starter
  • #35
Oh also, I'm not matching the temperature just right but I thought I read... somewhere, to err on the side of warmer if you can't get it right? Agree? bc that's what I've been doing.
  • #36
Yay! it does sound like you are almost there! congrats! What I would do if I were you is once you get Ammonia 0 and Nitrites 0, I would do a larger water change, even though your nitrates do not appear to be high at all (5 is low for Nitrates), but I find that nitrates are hard to test right - one needs to really shake hard to get accurate readings - and thus I always worry that the nitrate readings may not be accurate. So if you want good water quality to start with, a larger water change can only help (unless your tap water has water quality issues, but if this were the case you would have noticed by now that water changes would have had weird/unexpected effects on test results, so I am assuming your tap water is just fine).

As for the temperature: I always try my best to get it approximately the same as in the tank, but I don't use a thermometer to match - I just use my wrist to get approximate temp. (It's a parent thing: testing temp of bath water with one's wrist

How are your fish doing? Almost safe now! Once you get ammonia 0 nitrites 0 and do a larger water change, you can switch to water changes once a week.

Congrats! you are doing great!
  • #37
I decided 25% was more appropriate now that my levels are closer to where they need to be.

What's baseline and how do I check for it? I live in a large city, so I would think it would have good water quality.

I agree that at this point 25% does seem appropriate.

By baseline what I meant is to know if your tap water conatins any ammonia, nitrites, or nitrates. Many people's tap water does contain some of those. It is good to know because if your tap water conatined .25ppm, doing a 50% water change when your ammonia level in your tank was .25ppm would be of no help. Also, for example, the nitrate level in my tap water is 10ppm. So if my tank has 40ppm nitrate and I do a 50% water change it only drops it to 25ppm.
  • Thread Starter
  • #38
jdhef, how would I get this info?

The fish seem OK. I took the mollies and the pleco back. Ran into the first lady I met at Jack's who actually knew her stuff and advised me to get a minI pleco once my levels are right. (I think I got the name wrong, but you're fish people, you'll know what I mean ) So right now it's just the 5 tiger barbs and the rainbow shark. She's gettin kinda feisty, goes and tries to ram the others form time to time but there are more plants now for her to hide in. Ooh, that reminds me. The reason I asked about the water temperature is I'm starting to worry about bacteria now. The pleco's gone, so nothing's getting rid of the algae, and it kind of looked like one of my barbs had something fuzzy covering him/his poo trail. The LAST thing I need right now is a bacterial infection! Could my water being too warm have caused that? I turned it down to 78, it was at 80. Do I have too many plants? (two green myrio, two red myrio, two banana plants, a few strands of anachris)
  • #39
You can test your tap water the same way you test your tank water.
  • #40
Babyjo, Can you remind me of the size of your tank? I reviewed this thread briefly and could not find it. The reason why I ask is that even those pleco species that remain small have a minimum tank size, and I would like to verify whether your tank is big enough for one of them. Best! Joanna

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