nitrogen cycle question

cabfish

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Hi to all!

I have my new tank, having cut my teeth on a smaller one for a year I am ready to take the plunge for a much bigger one. For the first time I am trying a no fish cycle but am having some problems or questions - here is what I have done:

1 - new tank 250 litres
2 - set up tank with gravel bottom
3 - added water and started pump and heater 26*C, removed chlorine etc and neutralised pH
4 - left tank for 1 week
5 - half drained tank and added plants and refilled
6 - restart filter, heater and neutralised pH, also started cycling tanks - 5 drops ammonia/10gallons = 25 drops per day, started monitoring ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels and repeated that each day - test, add ammonia repeat next day

so at this stage we are at day 7, all readings are 0

Day 10 - ammonia reads 0.25ppm - others still 0
Day 11 - ammonia .1ppm, nitrite .1ppm mg/L, nitrate 0

Not much of a "spike" so still adding the 5 drops ammonia per 10 gal

Day 12 - 14 - all readings 0 again
Day 15 - ammonia up to 0.25 again all others zero
Day 16 - ammonia 0.25 still - noticing algal growth for the first time
Day 17 - same again - more slime
Day 18 - 0.25 ammonia, 0 nitrite and 5ppm mg/L nitrate

Now the slime isnt very heavy, just in a few pockets at the bottom of the tank.

My question - is that 1 low reading of nitrite my nitrite "spike" and has this tank now cycled? In the 7 days before I started cycling have I actually already done most of the cycle? The presence of nitrate and slime suggests to me that with a 30% water change I am now set to go? Does this sound right to everyone? My doubt exists souly because I expected a higher more sustained nitrite level.

Thanks for the help!
 

Gwenz

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When I cycled my tank using ammonia, I did not get a very high nitrite spike either, so I think that you might have had it.

I'd say you were nearly there. Keep doing waht you were doing before until your ammonia level is 0, then you can do the 30% water change and you'll be ready.

hope this helps.

Gwenz
 
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cabfish

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Thanks for that!
I suspected that - I will continue to monitor until the ammonia hits zero again, cycle 30% water. I have a couple of mollys I will then put in and will keep an eye on them. The plan is to add 9 tiger barbs to the tank. If they pick on the mollys I'll move the mollys back out to my other tank.

Thanks again!
 

Gunnie

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Also, most folks add enough ammonia to make the ammonia level hit 5.0, and each time the ammonia level goes back down to zero, they add more to get the level back up.  This continues until ammonia goes back down to zero within 24 hours, along with the nitriates.  Then a large water change is done to get the nitrates down to a  safe level (20 or less) and the fish are added.

P.S. Why are you changing the ph? What is the ph level before you add anything to the water?
Altering the ph is probably not necessary.

P.P.S.  Welcome to FishLore!   
 
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cabfish

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Hi again and thanks for more input and the welcome! Dont you love the internet for finding help - between work and hobbies it is essential!

Firstly the pH - our water is very alkaline and the tank on initial setup was up around a 7.6pH. With the plan to keep tiger barbs in the tank I read they like a pH in the range of 6 to 7 so I figured a "neutral" starting point was a good idea. My mollys are kept at about 7.3 and seem happy. Once the tank is fully up and running I hope to only tweak any new water I add.

Second the ammonia - I have been going off 3 articles I have read and all pointed at adding 4~5 drops/10 gallons daily and none mentioned spiking the ammonia straight away. I guess this might be a faster way to do it. I also guess that the gradual, sustained build up might be easier to track when monitoring? Don't really know! This is my second year of fish keeping and I am no expert. Not having cycled before this is all new ground so I want to make sure I get it right before putting the fish in.

So does this tank sound like it has cycled to you? The clincher for me was the algal slime - a sure sign of nitrates I would have thought and the test kit bears this up. Having nitrates would seem to suggest that nitrites are being converted, especially as the nitrite levels are zero.

Thanks again for the help - the LFS seems very surprised I have gone nearly 3 weeks without having stocked the lovely new tank they sold me!!!!
 

Gunnie

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You know your tank is cycled when the ammonia and nitrites are both at zero, and you have nitrates. Sometimes cycling can take up to 6 weeks to complete.

As far as the ph goes, a stable ph is much more important that a high or low ph for most fish. The fish most sensitive to ph would be your wild caught fish or those you want to spawn. Even discus can do well in a higher ph water, but their eggs won't hatch. I really don't think the fish you have need a certain ph. You will get tired of having to adjust it every time you do a water change, and it's really not necessary. Plus the use of chemicals to alter ph tends to make the ph fluctuate which can cause sickness or even death if it fluctuates too much too quickly.
 
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cabfish

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Thanks again for the advice and help. I will lower the adding of ammonia to 3 drops per 10gal and monitor it all - if the ammonia levels continue to stay at zero along with the nitrites I should see the nitrates rise and the tank is cycled. Its interesting to hear your views on pH. Naturally the LFS's first "tip" is keep the pH spot on and not to let it go out of the comfort zone of the fish. To them the comfort zone is anything more than 1 step off neutral! With my first tank I did find that once it was up and running I never needed to adjust the pH at all anyway.

What is the forums view on plant food? Fish + fish food = fertiliser in my book, so having established the plants in this fish free cycling phase I shouldn't need to feed the plants ever again?

Thanks again for the advise ;D
 

Gunnie

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I very rarely add plant food to my tank.  I'm with you, the fish provide enough food for the plants, but then I also have low tech tanks, and don't have special lighting or CO2.  However, I do have some crypts that have good root systems, and when I have an algae problem and the algae starts to cover their leaves, I will add root tabs in the gravel to encourage new growth and it usually gets rid of the algae.
 
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cabfish

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So now I have everything - ammonia, nitrites and nitrates at zero and its taken 3 weeks. Now this slime seems to be increasing - a sort of brown algal type bloom, very thin in texture and it sits on the bottom of the tank and on the leaves of the plants as you just described... I did a 30% water change 3 days ago and vacuumed up as much as I could but it is still there. Any ideas what is causing it and how to get rid of it? I thought maybe the nitrates were building up but the testing is consistent at 0% for the last 3 days? Am I right to think it is nutrient related and could be something in the plant pots from the plants I put in 2 weeks ago? Should I wait for it to go before adding fish, or if all levels are good, is it something they wont mind and will gradulally clear up by itself?

Thanks again for the help!
 

Gunnie

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The pots very well could be the problem. All that junk wrapped around your plants needs to be removed. Also, you need to have a nitrate reading with the ammonia and nitrites at zero before the tank is cycled. Is the tank now heavily planted?
 
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cabfish

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Moderately planted - not exactly a jungle but dense enough that there are hiding places towards the back of the tank and a 30% coverage of the gravel bottom. The plants all look pretty healthy 2 weeks on - I lost 2 in the first week but the rest are doing fine. As for nitrates, I have a zero reading on that one too - basically everything is at zero and the adding of ammonia drops has no effect - they seem to be converted easily now. I am wondering whether it is phosphate in the plant pots? I tried to be as careful as possible when planting to not disturb the roots so the pot content went straight into my substrate and gravel bottom without cleaning them off? My plan was to:

1 - cycle 50% of the tank water out
2 - allow 5 days to settle done again
3 - add some algal eating fish - 2~3 ottos in a 50gal tank?
4 - continue to monitor all levels daily - ammonia, nitirite and nitrate

How does that sound to you - the ottos would be living with Tiger Barbs eventually? That should be OK I would think?
 
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