Nitrite Spike In Cycled Tank, Post Water Change

Discussion in 'Aquarium Water' started by Mom2some, Apr 7, 2017.

  1. Mom2some

    Mom2someWell Known MemberMember

    So I did a 30% water change today with gravel vacuuming. Added my normal dose of Prime & Flourish (this is new the past 2-3 weeks).

    Tonight my fish were all at the surface, even my albino BNP had come out from his log & was hanging out closer to the surface, snails, everyone. Added an extra dose of Prime just because.

    Re-tested the water tonight:
    ammonia = 0, nitrite = 1.0!

    Last night:
    ammonia = 0, nitrite = 0, nitrates = 10-20

    Tap water Tonight:
    ammonia = 0, nitrite = 0 (shocking, since last tap water test on 3/15 my tap ammonia = 4!, nitrites have always been 0)

    Where did this nitrite spike come from?
    Getting ready to do a 50% water change on the tank, since my source water seems to have 0 nitrites.

    @CindiL?, @jdhef?, @TexasDomer? anyone have an idea what is up?
  2. Tyler Fishman

    Tyler FishmanValued MemberMember

    What else is in the tank? Nitrate spikes are common with plecos as they produce a large bioload, is this a planted tank?
  3. AllieSten

    AllieStenFishlore VIPMember

    Could it be related to your dip in gh/kH? Didn't you just have to add more coral this week?(I think it was coral anyways). Maybe it caused a bit of a mini cycle?
  4. OP

    Mom2someWell Known MemberMember

    Coming back after a 50% water change with another double dose of Prime (just in case) while I wait 30 minutes or so for the water to fully circulate so I can re-test. Fish are once again swimming around the tank... so initial signs are good.

    Thanks @Tyler Fishman, but it is a nitrite spike, not a nitrate spike. I agree with you about the bioload of plecos however.
    @AllieSten - I did just add 2 handfuls of crushed shells on 3/22 (good memory!), which didn't displace anything in my filter. But last night my kH was 6 drops, ammonia = 0, nitrites = 0 - so I don't think it was a mini-cycle from the crushed shells.

    After I did my 30% water change I dosed 2 teaspoons of Prazipro due to ongoing super long stringy poop from the honey gourami. I also fed a cube of defrosted (in tank water) frozen mixed food (looked like some blood worms, some brine shrimp, some other) and a pleco algae wafer. When I went in to do my second vacuum tonight I vacuumed up a fair amount of the pleco wafer. But wouldn't it be producing ammonia not nitrites if it was fouling the water in less than 8 hours? Still thinking & waiting to retest my water. I am getting low on one of my ammonia bottles... I better not run out tonight.
  5. jdhef

    jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    I'm not sure this is relevant, but a few years ago I lost all my fish due to nitrite poisoning.

    Unbeknownst to me at the time, I have a very low kH (and gH). I think my kH was 3 drops. So for whatever reason, my pH dropped down to 6.0 (actually maybe even lower since 6.0 is as low as the API kit goes).

    When pH is that low, all ammonia turns into ammonium. Then because there is no ammonia, your ammonia converting bacteria goes dormant, so your ammonium level elevates (I assume mine was pretty high). I then did a 50% water change on a Sunday morning. Since my tap water's pH is about 7.4, my pH raised and all that ammonium turned back into ammonia. Suddenly my ammonia converting bacteria wakes up and starts feasting on the ammonia. But since the ammonium wasn't being converted into nitrites, my nitrite converting bacteria starved off.

    So I suddenly had a huge nitrite spike. Sadly it happened after I went to bed, but my wife told me after the fact that the fish were all splashing around at the surface. Anyway, I wake up on Monday morning to find all but 3 of my fish dead (they all suffocated). The 3 survivors died within a week of two.

    It was a hard lesson learned. I still can get the image of that carnage out of my head.
  6. OP

    Mom2someWell Known MemberMember

    30 minutes later, or so...

    Ammonia = 0
    Nitrites = 0.25
    pH = 7.6 (stable for the past several months)

    Fish look much more normal, so I am going to bed.
    I will continue to listen to ideas and suggestions as people have them!
    @jdhef - that would make sense if I hadn't been so on top of my kH and pH recently. The pH has been steady since my cash (last summer?), but I realized my kH had dropped again... so I added shells to bring it up about 2 weeks ago, and as of testing last night it seemed to have worked. Your story sounds like it must have been really tough.
  7. AllieSten

    AllieStenFishlore VIPMember

    I totally thought that you added more coral just a few days ago, not a few weeks. So that is definitely not the issue.

    I don't have any other suggestions. Only thing I could think of is maybe your Ammonia in your tap was elevated only for a day or two, and you might have missed it by testing afterwards. Seems unlikely, but not unheard of.
  8. OP

    Mom2someWell Known MemberMember

    Well, this morning they look like they are gasping again. I need to do somethings before I can test or change the water, but I am confounded.
  9. AllieSten

    AllieStenFishlore VIPMember

    Have you tested your tank gh/kH? Just as an added piece of info. I know your pH is ok, but one more piece of info couldn't hurt.

    Hope things turn around for your tank today.
  10. Dragones5150918

    Dragones5150918Well Known MemberMember

    Off in left field here, have you had your phosphate checked? To little or to much of it can effect the nitrite eating bacteria. Maybe hit a shop that has salt tanks and have it checked?
  11. jdhef

    jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    I'm sorry, I thought your pH/kH thing was recent.
  12. OP

    Mom2someWell Known MemberMember

    Teach me about Phosphates please...

    Group brain storming session please: what would cause a nitrite spike?
    @CindiL, @jdhef
    This morning 's result.
  13. jdhef

    jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    Well, the obvious answer would be that you do not have enough nitrite converting bacteria to handle the amount of ammonia that is being converted into nitrites. But the question is why did your nitrite colony shrink? I'm not familiar with the phosphates thing, but that would be one avenue to explore. And since we ruled out the whole low kH/pH thing, I'm outta ideas...sorry.
  14. Dragones5150918

    Dragones5150918Well Known MemberMember

  15. OP

    Mom2someWell Known MemberMember

    So in about 12 hours the tank went from 0.25 nitrite to 1.0 nitrite.
    I did about a 70% water change, assuming my tap water parameters are the same as they were last night with 0 nitrite.

    I have no idea what could have affected my bacteria. I haven't touched my filter since mid-March - so it has been running fine for 2-3 weeks. @Dragones5150918 - thanks for the links. I will read them later I hope. Right now I have to focus on that whole parenting thing, since this morning's tank crisis seems to be averted & the fish are swimming well again. What could have caused a mini cycle that just affected the bacteria which convert nitrites to nitrates? So strange. I guess it will require more investigation.
  16. Dragones5150918

    Dragones5150918Well Known MemberMember

    Do you have a lot of algy build up? How are the plants in the tank? High phosphates can cause a big algy bloom, and plants to grow like weeds. The bacteria....Well it kind of stuns them, kind of like osmotic shock in fish. It doesn't kill them, it like it puts them in stupid mode and forget what they are doing. I'm not sure if I'm explaining it right though. I mean they are there, they are just like "Uhhhh, what?" And when they get that way, algy booms, and the tank goes wonky. That's the way I understood it through my research in the past.

    Now to little can have the same effect, except instead of making the bacteria dumb, it stuns them and slowly starve to death.
  17. TexasDomer

    TexasDomerFishlore LegendMember

    Maybe clean the filter media in old tank water, if you haven't already? It might be possible that it's too gunky, and is suffocating some bacteria. Sorry, I don't know what else it could be :(
  18. OP

    Mom2someWell Known MemberMember

    I would think, given my poor plant growth (water sprite/wisteria) for the last couple of months that I might be on the "too little phosphate " end of the spectrum - if I had to guess. So maybe my bacteria that turns nitrite into nitrate starved? I don't know - thinking about it is making my head spin. Does Flourish have phosphate? I started using it 2-3 weeks ago once per week, about half a capful.

    Instead I will stop focusing on why and start focusing on "what next".
    1. I will disassemble my canister filter & check the bottom for gunk.
    2. I will rinse my sponges.
    3. I will mentally prepare to test & water change every 12-24 hours for the next couple of days while my bacteria stop being stupid or repopulate as needed.
    4. Minimizing feeding while water parameters are so weird. (They were fed frozen food yesterday, so a couple days of fasting should be alright).

    Any other suggestions for the to do list?
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2017
  19. Dragones5150918

    Dragones5150918Well Known MemberMember

    Yes, flourish has phosphates in it.

    There is 2 forms of phosphate. Organic (phosphate) and inorganic (Phosphorus). Phosphate test only test inorganic most of the time. There is some that test organic, but they are few and far between. Salt tanks use more inorganic, so that's why you can find phosphate tests for reef tanks.

    The more i'm thinking about it, the more i'm wondering what is going on. Using flourish should put in both phosphates, but your plants are giving you a hard time. You got a lot of organic phosphates from your tap, food, waste, plants eroding, and so forth. The major sign of to much phosphate is algy growth. To much can effect shrimp especially after molting. Can effect the bacteria. To little can harm plants, stun cycle, and stop algy. You show sings of both, so now totally I'm confused.
  20. OP

    Mom2someWell Known MemberMember

    The Mystery Continues...
    Setting: the following evening
    Place: my fish tank
    Action: Fish gasping at surface
    Numbers: ammonia = 0, nitrites = 0, nitrates <5, kH = 4 (same level as my tap), gH = 9,
    pH = 7.6 (stable)

    What the heck! Most of the fish are gasping! The pleco was out for a while (bad sign), but is in hiding again. Even the angel is at the surface now... not the corys or the bamboo shrimp, but everyone else. What the heck is going on in my tank? I am thinking I will drop the water level a couple of inches so the canister outflow creates more surface agitation. The air pump I have is too powerful for the tank, I have tried it before and it makes the tank look like it is boiling.

    Open to more suggestions. I am debating doing another water change... the fish has been looking better after them, but I don't know what I would be removing from the tank at this point. And I have done 2 water changes in 36 hours, 30% and 70%... so it is almost all fresh water. At this point I just don't like that they look like they are in distress, but I can't find anything clearly wrong.
    @Dragones5150918 @CindiL looking for any ideas or advice about what to do at this point.