Nitrate developing without Nitrite?

Swatson

Hello! Have another newbie question about the cycle, checked most of the other threads to see if anyone had a similar problem but there were only a few details in common with me. About nine days ago I started up a fishless cycle, using an ammonia solution- Fritz Fishless Fuel and Seachem Stability. I know that's still pretty early to have any results so soon in, but I figured I should see some sort of readings by now. For more detail: The day after I started everything the Ammonia reading was 1 ppm on the API Freshwater test kit, zero nitrates/nitrites- seemed like standard readings, proceeded to dose more Stability according to the directions as the days went on. Up until this morning, I haven't gotten a consistent Ammonia reading. Seems to go back and forth between 1ppm, .50 ppm, .25ppm and back with no change in Nitrate/Nitrites- again, fine, figured they'd go where they're supposed to go with time. But then I just checked this morning and Ammonia is somewhere between .50 and 1ppm on the chart, 0 nitrites - but 5.0 ppm Nitrates. Could nitrites spike overnight and start converting to nitrate, then go right back to 0? From what I've read and heard, it doesn't seem likely. Still too early to say?

As far as other current parameters:
pH: 7.6
Temp: 78 F - Have a preset heater.

Tap has zero nitrates/nitrates
 

mattgirl

Welcome to Fishlore :)

What size tank are you cycling? The one thing I have found when using Stability is the lack of stability and consistency. For one tank it does great, for others nothing and then everything in between.

I will recommend you get the ammonia reading up to 2ppm to start with and go from there. To answer your questions though. Yes, it is possible to see nitrates without seeing nitrites. The reason being the bottle bacteria. Some folks do report never seeing nitrites.
 

Swatson

I'm working with a 20 High. And I'll get that Ammonia up, too!
 

Azedenkae

Hello! Have another newbie question about the cycle, checked most of the other threads to see if anyone had a similar problem but there were only a few details in common with me. About nine days ago I started up a fishless cycle, using an ammonia solution- Fritz Fishless Fuel and Seachem Stability. I know that's still pretty early to have any results so soon in, but I figured I should see some sort of readings by now. For more detail: The day after I started everything the Ammonia reading was 1 ppm on the API Freshwater test kit, zero nitrates/nitrites- seemed like standard readings, proceeded to dose more Stability according to the directions as the days went on. Up until this morning, I haven't gotten a consistent Ammonia reading. Seems to go back and forth between 1ppm, .50 ppm, .25ppm and back with no change in Nitrate/Nitrites- again, fine, figured they'd go where they're supposed to go with time. But then I just checked this morning and Ammonia is somewhere between .50 and 1ppm on the chart, 0 nitrites - but 5.0 ppm Nitrates. Could nitrites spike overnight and start converting to nitrate, then go right back to 0? From what I've read and heard, it doesn't seem likely. Still too early to say?

As far as other current parameters:
pH: 7.6
Temp: 78 F - Have a preset heater.

Tap has zero nitrates/nitrates
So a lot of cycling guides will have this stock standard diagram or explanation that there has to have a nitrite spike. Unfortunately, this is misleading at best. There is no actual rule to say it has to happen that way.

Let me explain.

The purpose of cycling is to establish enough nitrification capacity to handle ammonia produced by your live stock. I won't argue whether the exact goal is to handle any level of ammonia produced, or more specifically all the ammonia produced by a full tank stock here, but either way.

So to do that, one needs to establish enough nitrifiers to convert ammonia to nitrite, then nitrite to nitrate.

A lot of cycling guides seem to believe that after adding ammonia, there HAS to be a nitrite spike. This is based on the belief that nitrite-oxidizers (the nitrifiers that convert nitrite to nitrate) grow slower than ammonia-oxidizers (the nitrifiers that convert ammonia to nitrite). So the ammonia-oxidizer will reproduce and get to work on the ammonia faster, producing more nitrite than what can be consumed by the nitrite-oxidizers, that has to catch up. Thus because nitrite production is higher than consumption, nitrite increases and thus the 'spike'. This sounds good on paper, but in reality there's a few issues with it.

1. Just by pure chance, even without purposefully introducing nitrifiers in any way, you may start with more nitrite-oxidizers than ammonia-oxidizers, so even despite the potential slower growth rate, you may just have enough nitrite-oxidizers from the get go to consume all the nitrite produced by the ammonia-oxidizers.
2. There are MANY different species of ammonia-oxidizers and nitrite-oxidizers, with different oxidation rates and growth rates. So you could get a slow growing species of ammonia-oxidizers, but faster growing species of nitrite-oxidizers, and thus again, the nitrite-oxidizers can grow quickly enough to use up all the nitrite produced.
3. Ammonia oxidation and nitrite oxidation can be catalyzed by the same species. These are known as comammox (complete ammonia oxidation) species, and there's quite a few species characterized, a lot from the genus Nitrospira. As you can imagine, if they can both oxidize ammonia and nitrite, then whatever nitrite they produce is just then oxidized to nitrate by the exact same microorganisms.
4. Regardless of the above, by introducing nitrifiers in higher numbers through some way, such as using established biomedia, dosing bottled bacteria products, or even just accident by taking ornaments, substrates, or basically anything from an established fish tank (say buying some sand from a tank from a local fish store for example) could introduce enough nitrite-oxidizers from the start to handle all the nitrite produced.

In short, if your nitrite-oxidizers can handle all, or even just most of the nitrite produced, you can not see a nitrite spike. It can be very normal no matter how you cycle. Nothing to be surprised about, and sorry that the cycling guides confused you about this. Hope my explanation help explain why not seeing a nitrite spike is normal though.
 

Swatson

It absolutely does!! Thank you both for the help and the info!!
 

jtjgg

Stability and other bottled bacteria contain both types of bacteria, so as soon as the ammonia bacteria consume ammonia and produce nitrites, the nitrite consuming bacteria immediately start comsuming it and produce nitrates.
 

Swatson

Me again. Alright, now that the nitrite debacle is more or less explained, the fluctuation level issue is happening, and this is day 13 or so. As mentioned, last Saturday/four days ago going on I brought the Ammonia level up to 2ppm as suggested. Sunday afternoon, ammonia had already fallen to 1ppm, and I had 5ppm nitrates- heck of a jump, but in the right direction. Then the next day, my nitrates had gone back down to zero, Ammonia went back up to 2ppm. And it's been seesawing those levels basically every 12 hours since. And on top of that, the nitrate level started getting a periwinkle tint- not quite to .25 yet, but a halfway point. I know this is the average time where the cogs start going, but again with the research I've done it's usually a spike in at least one of the categories, not constant fluctuation for days. I've got half a mind to wonder if there's something wrong with the API kit solutions. Stability being the possible issue got mentioned in the first reply, but could there be something I've overlooking/human error? "Shut up and wait it out more"? (I'm patient, I swear ). Might run my water to Petco to get it tested this weekend as a backup.
 

mattgirl

To save yourself some stress, stop testing so often and for right now just keep an eye on the ammonia and pH level. You are still very early in the cycling process. Don't run the ammonia test any more often than 24 hours. Run the pH test every few days. As long as the pH stays at 7 or above the cycle will move forward.

Once the ammonia you add goes down to or close to zero within 24 hours for a couple of days in a row you can start running the nitrite test. Again, no need to run the tests any more often than every 24 hours.
 

Swatson

Back again, hopefully for the last time - on the startup topic, anyway, lol.

This time I don't have as much a problem as much as I'm asking for other people's experience with testing kits/preferences.

To catch up from my last post: I continued to wait it out, only to have the nitrite level seem to be off the charts with a bright, more-pink-than-purple-magenta. I even got a second bacteria bloom that I couldn't figure out the source from that didn't clear up like the first did. My dad, who was very insistent that when he raised fish years ago, he never did a cycle and his fish turned out fine and won awards and such.

So I reached the month-into-the-cycle mark, waited a couple of days and the numbers still kept up with the high/off-the charts nitrates with .25 ammonia and nitrates fluctuating between 5.0 and 20 ppm. I went to Petco just for a backup reading, and got more or less the same results with nitrites and nitrates, but the worker's kit put my ammonia level between 2.0 and 4.0 ppm. I figured it was just because the water had been in a tiny jar for the 40+ minute drive compared to straight out of the tank, but it was still very much a dramatic jump that got me scratching my head.

I had initially planned on a partial water change, but then my dad got insistent that something was very, very wrong, it shouldn't be taking this long, blah blah blah. I ended up losing the debate and we did a 98% water change. I figured all my progress went down the drain literally, considering I just hit the average time to cycle.

But we did that a couple of days ago, and for posterity, I just tested the water today with the API and Tetra to compare, not expecting much, if any readings at all, but there's a .25 nitrite reading with a 5.0-ish nitrate reading on the API kit. On the Tetra strips, nitrite looks caught somewhere between 1.0 and 3.0, and there's no/minimal nitrates. I don't know if my setup counts as 'seeded media' if the cycle never technically completed the first time, but both seem like they could be realistic considering my old readings, but the nitrite being that dramatically different between them is my main concern because I don't know which to trust.

So my overall question is that for people who have tried with both kits, what tends to be more reliable, if you follow each instruction to the T? I've fairly convinced my API kit is wonky, but if people have had less luck with Tetra Strips it'll be interesting which one to go by when I'm trying to get the cycle back in gear.
 

jtjgg

what filter are you using? what filter media is in it?

maybe dose 4ppm ammonia and see what happens.

for a fishless cycle 100% water change won't hurt as the majority of the bacteria is inside the filter media.
 

Swatson

what filter are you using? what filter media is in it?

maybe dose 4ppm ammonia and see what happens.

for a fishless cycle 100% water change won't hurt as the majority of the bacteria is inside the filter media.
Aqueon QuietFlow 20, and right now, the media's just the sponge that came with the kit, so maybe "media" was a bit of a strong-ish word there.
 

Swatson

I’ll keep that in mind for down the road! The big thing now is trying to figure out which test is the closest to the actual readings I have as far as levels go. I'm hoping one of them will come around as the week progresses, but I'm not quite sure how to proceed with the dramatic differences between readings without buying a couple of potentially sacrificial fish and putting them in the tank in a few days and hoping for the best, but that's the ultimate last resort.
 

jtjgg

the extra bio media is for establishing a larger bacteria colony. bio media has a lot more surface area for the bacteria to colonize. with a small bag of Fluval Biomax ceramic media, I can instantly cycle a 20g quarantine tank for several small goldfish.

if you use Prime, it'll detox ammonia and nitrites for up to 48hrs.

the majority of fishkeepers agree that the API liquid test kit is more accurate than test strips.
 

mattgirl

Your Dad did not steer you wrong about doing a water change. Doing one to get the numbers down was the right thing to do. The bacteria we are growing isn't free floating in the water. It is growing on your filter media and on all the surfaces in your tank so doing the water change shouldn't have affected your cycle in a negative way. It really should help.

jtjgg gave you some very good advice about adding extra bio-media to your filter. It will be a good place for bacteria to grow on. More than enough filtration and area for the bacteria to grow on is very important when cycling a tank.

As to which tests to depend on. Personally I both use and recommend the API Master test kit. As long as it is used correctly it is as accurate as we need it to be. Lots of times folks think their test is not giving them accurate results but most of the time we find it isn't the test. Now that you have done the water change you should start getting accurate results with your API liquid tests.
 

DoubleDutch

So a lot of cycling guides will have this stock standard diagram or explanation that there has to have a nitrite spike. Unfortunately, this is misleading at best. There is no actual rule to say it has to happen that way.

Let me explain.

The purpose of cycling is to establish enough nitrification capacity to handle ammonia produced by your live stock. I won't argue whether the exact goal is to handle any level of ammonia produced, or more specifically all the ammonia produced by a full tank stock here, but either way.

So to do that, one needs to establish enough nitrifiers to convert ammonia to nitrite, then nitrite to nitrate.

A lot of cycling guides seem to believe that after adding ammonia, there HAS to be a nitrite spike. This is based on the belief that nitrite-oxidizers (the nitrifiers that convert nitrite to nitrate) grow slower than ammonia-oxidizers (the nitrifiers that convert ammonia to nitrite). So the ammonia-oxidizer will reproduce and get to work on the ammonia faster, producing more nitrite than what can be consumed by the nitrite-oxidizers, that has to catch up. Thus because nitrite production is higher than consumption, nitrite increases and thus the 'spike'. This sounds good on paper, but in reality there's a few issues with it.

1. Just by pure chance, even without purposefully introducing nitrifiers in any way, you may start with more nitrite-oxidizers than ammonia-oxidizers, so even despite the potential slower growth rate, you may just have enough nitrite-oxidizers from the get go to consume all the nitrite produced by the ammonia-oxidizers.
2. There are MANY different species of ammonia-oxidizers and nitrite-oxidizers, with different oxidation rates and growth rates. So you could get a slow growing species of ammonia-oxidizers, but faster growing species of nitrite-oxidizers, and thus again, the nitrite-oxidizers can grow quickly enough to use up all the nitrite produced.
3. Ammonia oxidation and nitrite oxidation can be catalyzed by the same species. These are known as comammox (complete ammonia oxidation) species, and there's quite a few species characterized, a lot from the genus Nitrospira. As you can imagine, if they can both oxidize ammonia and nitrite, then whatever nitrite they produce is just then oxidized to nitrate by the exact same microorganisms.
4. Regardless of the above, by introducing nitrifiers in higher numbers through some way, such as using established biomedia, dosing bottled bacteria products, or even just accident by taking ornaments, substrates, or basically anything from an established fish tank (say buying some sand from a tank from a local fish store for example) could introduce enough nitrite-oxidizers from the start to handle all the nitrite produced.

In short, if your nitrite-oxidizers can handle all, or even just most of the nitrite produced, you can not see a nitrite spike. It can be very normal no matter how you cycle. Nothing to be surprised about, and sorry that the cycling guides confused you about this. Hope my explanation help explain why not seeing a nitrite spike is normal though.
Only thing is that the nitrite oxydisers in Seachem are temporary ones (not the ones in actual cycle).

So don't let them fool you
 

Swatson

Thanks for all the help again, y'all! As for all that's been established, I don't think I'll add any seachem/etc for a bit since I'm already in far better shape than I thought I would be in post-'reset' as far as levels go. And as far as filter media, I'll definitely look into it. This month wasn't too kind on the wallet, so I just have to wait on that a bit, lol.
 

Azedenkae

Only thing is that the nitrite oxydisers in Seachem are temporary ones (not the ones in actual cycle).

So don't let them fool you
They have four different types of bacteria in their product, two are nitrifying, two are not. I presume the two nitrifying ones are an ammonia oxidizer and a nitrite oxidizer. Are you saying the ammonia oxidizer is fine, but the nitrite oxidizer is not? Also, do you happen to know why the nitrite oxidation is temporary? Do they just get killed off during the process or something?
 

DoubleDutch

They have four different types of bacteria in their product, two are nitrifying, two are not. I presume the two nitrifying ones are an ammonia oxidizer and a nitrite oxidizer. Are you saying the ammonia oxidizer is fine, but the nitrite oxidizer is not? Also, do you happen to know why the nitrite oxidation is temporary? Do they just get killed off during the process or something?
What I am saying is that a lot.of bcterial starters DO contain nitrifying bacteria, but mostly heterotrophic species that do the same job but not the ones that will populate filter and tanks on the long run.

So ammonia and nitrites levels will be kept low till the real.ones take.over.

So throw a starter in a tank and ammonia and nitrites will be oxydized immediately (there won't be spikes) but if one thinks it is cycled it defintely isn't.
 

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