Not Your Average Aquarium, Need Help

Threadfin
  • #1
Hi, New to the forum, I came across the forum after a couple of google searches, joined and used the search bar on the site, but haven't really found an answer for my situation and thought I'd try to ask some aquarium experts. First, I have a unique tank that is around 450-500 gallons and is used to store my bait fish (shad) for my fishing. The shad are caught once every couple weeks and stored in the tank/aquarium then taken fishing and I repeat the process. The tank is kept outside in full shade has a 5 gallon mechanical filter and a 55 gallon drum bio filter that is kind of a mix of a canister and skippy pond filter. I had the tank cycled and a freak cold front in Georgia froze my bio drum filter late winter/early fall, (a separate 55 gallon drum) and killed my bio. I started adding more bait to the tank during the 1st of fishing season and the bio couldn't keep up as it had usually and crashed the tank. I had EXTREME ammonia levels, low nitrites and med level nitrates and my fish were turning up dead after a couple days when it could keep bait for a couple months before. After multiple large water changes,time, and removing all but 3 of the surviving fish, my tank has started the cycling process again. I now have 0.0 ammonia, but SKY HIGH nitrites and nitrates, to the point it was off the chart on my API kit. I was worried it would stall the cycle so I did a 50% changes this morning and tested it a couple hours later the nitrites were still off the charts and nitrates were now between the 100-160 ppm range. I then did another 90% change and it has brought my nitrites down to 1.0-2.0ppm and 20 ppm nitrates.

So my question to you aquarium experts, since I'm getting nitrites, I know my ammonia is being converted and the nitrites are getting converted at some rate due to the nitrates showing up so I am cycling at some level. SO should I do another water change to get rid of the nitrites and slowly start adding fish or let it finish cycling and then add fish?

Sorry for the long post, but wanted to get as much info about the system as possible out. If this is not the correct place in the forum, please move. Thanks in advance.
 
mattgirl
  • #2
You need to be sure to have an ammonia source in there so if it were me I would add a few fish. I don't think just 3 will produce enough ammonia to keep your cycle growing and without enough ammonia what bacteria you have now will start dying off.

I think I would hold off on the water change for a little while longer now that you have your nitrates down to 20. You don't want to remove what little ammonia is in there right now.
 
Adriifu
  • #3
I would add some more fish and use Seachem Prime to detoxify the nitrites while the tank finishes cycling.
 
Small Tanks
  • #4
I think you need to put some plants in there to suck up nitrates. Duckweed is a good choice for ponds.
 
Threadfin
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
Thanks for the replies. How many 4-6inch fish should I start adding in there? I have been adding Prime to the tank already.
 
mattgirl
  • #6
Thanks for the replies. How many 4-6inch fish should I start adding in there? I have been adding Prime to the tank already.
With a tank that big I would have at the very least a dozen of them. If you find that the ammonia is climbing too high too quickly you can remove some of them but I don't think you will have to.
 
Threadfin
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
I think you need to put some plants in there to suck up nitrates. Duckweed is a good choice for ponds.

I added some Pothos yesterday morning in my Bio drum and in the tank itself. I don't have a pond system, and duck weed would spread out pretty heavy across the top making it hard to net the fish quickly. Attached is a picture of my setup.
 

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Threadfin
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
I wanted to follow up with you fish experts. I went Saturday and restocked my tank with around 3 dozen shad (4-5 inches) and another 2 dozen or so bream (size of you hand). I checked my NH3 levels later that night and it jumped up to about 2.o. I checked it today and my ammonia has dropped to 0.50. Nitrites are at or above max reading (5.0) on API kit, and Nitrates were around 5.0 and now are somewhere between 40-80. Most of my fish did die this time around, HOWEVER, the filter pump battery died on my transportation boat tank and they were really stressed when I got them in the tank to the point I don't think they would have survived on any tank. Any tips on what to do with this thing? I'm kind of torn between keep stocking fish and letting it do its thing, or removing all fish and starting over a fishless cycle. I am in kind of a hurry with it, because the live bait fishing season will be done mid-August.
 
Adriifu
  • #9
I wanted to follow up with you fish experts. I went Saturday and restocked my tank with around 3 dozen shad (4-5 inches) and another 2 dozen or so bream (size of you hand). I checked my NH3 levels later that night and it jumped up to about 2.o. I checked it today and my ammonia has dropped to 0.50. Nitrites are at or above max reading (5.0) on API kit, and Nitrates were around 5.0 and now are somewhere between 40-80. Most of my fish did die this time around, HOWEVER, the filter pump battery died on my transportation boat tank and they were really stressed when I got them in the tank to the point I don't think they would have survived on any tank. Any tips on what to do with this thing? I'm kind of torn between keep stocking fish and letting it do its thing, or removing all fish and starting over a fishless cycle. I am in kind of a hurry with it, because the live bait fishing season will be done mid-August.
You seem pretty close to a cycle. Just keep up with water changes. If it goes past 1 ppm for either ammonia, nitrites, or both, perform a 50-80% water change. Anything under that can be detoxified by Prime and will help the tank cycle. Starting over fishless will take a month or two. Maybe less if you use the same filter media. Choice is yours.
 
Threadfin
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
So my nitrites are probably over 5.0, should I do a major water change or let it cycle out?
 
Adriifu
  • #11
So my nitrites are probably over 5.0, should I do a major water change or let it cycle out?
Major water change. Maybe 50% today and another tomorrow to get it close to 1 ppm. How many fish are left?
 
Threadfin
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
Maybe 6 - 10. I can restock in a day or 2.
 
mattgirl
  • #13
Instead of adding more fish to keep the ammonia up I would just be adding pure liquid ammonia to the tank to keep feeding the cycle. With nitrites off the charts and seeing nitrates going up you are very close to finishing this cycle. I don't think you need to start over at this point. You can find pure ammonia at places like Ace Hardware. Just make sure it has nothing in it but ammonia. Some have soap type products in the and you don't want that.

oops, I see you still have some fish in there....scrub the adding ammonia. They will do it for you. the rest is still a go though.
 
Adriifu
  • #13
Maybe 6 - 10. I can restock in a day or 2.
All right. Let us know what happens.
 
Threadfin
  • Thread Starter
  • #14
update: Had several work emergencies since last post. All my baitfish have died and I haven't had time with work and a teething baby to go back out and restock. On Saturday I did a 50% water change and dosed with Prime and tested my levels. They were 0 NH3, 2-5 nitrite, and 5 nitrate after the change. I then started adding 10% liquid ammonia for a 2ppm reading daily which drops to 0 within 24hrs, Nitrites are still 5+, and nitrates are now 40ppm. This nitrite cycle seems to be taking WAAYY to long. Could something in the tank be causing it not to complete the cycle? I know something is working because I'm getting a 35 ppm nitrate increase in 5 days.
 
Threadfin
  • Thread Starter
  • #15
Not sure if this will matter or not, I did have an algae bloom that started and started turning the water green, which is another reason I did a 50% water change. I also added a UV clarifer to stop the bloom.
 
mattgirl
  • #16
It seems like for a lot of folks the nitrite phase takes the longest to balance out. The fact that it is processing the ammonia within 24 hours and the nitrates are rising is a positive sign. I feel sure it is just a waiting game now. What ever you do don't let the ammonia get down to and stay zero for any length of time.

I don't think the algae bloom would have affected the cycle but I don't know what kind of affect the UV sterilizer will have on it. Hopefully someone that does know will stop by and comment.
 
Threadfin
  • Thread Starter
  • #17
Thanks. Should I add NH3 every day or wait a couple days to let the nitrites settle down? If wait a couple days, how many should I wait? Also, is 2ppm about right?
 
mattgirl
  • #18
Thanks. Should I add NH3 every day or wait a couple days to let the nitrites settle down? If wait a couple days, how many should I wait? Also, is 2ppm about right?
You actually need to add a steady supply. I wouldn't go more than a day without dosing it back up. Without a food source bacteria starts dying off. I can't swear to the timeline but in this case better to be safe than sorry.

Since this is a bait fish tank it will at times be overstocked so you need to build a fairly big colony of bacteria since an overstocked tank will produce a lot of ammonia. I would think dosing it up to at least 4 wouldn't be too much. The more food (ammonia) the tank has the bigger the bacterial colony will be.

As long as there is a steady supply of ammonia the nitrites should soon finish their job and should convert to nitrates so quickly they will no longer show up in the test. The ammonia and nitrites will still be there but with enough bacteria to eat them they will be almost instantly converted to nitrates.
 
Pescado_Verde
  • #19
I added some Pothos yesterday morning in my Bio drum and in the tank itself. I don't have a pond system, and duck weed would spread out pretty heavy across the top making it hard to net the fish quickly. Attached is a picture of my setup.
As a guy I kind of geek on stuff like your bait tank and am wondering if you'd mind explaining the plumbing. Maybe some individual pictures and if you can use MSPaint or some other editing software, some arrows and labels? Lol, sorry to bug you like this but I come from a family of engineers and I'm a fisherman too so my curiosity is doubly piqued.

Oh, and listen to mattgirl she knows her stuff!
 
Threadfin
  • Thread Starter
  • #20
As a guy I kind of geek on stuff like your bait tank and am wondering if you'd mind explaining the plumbing. Maybe some individual pictures and if you can use MSPaint or some other editing software, some arrows and labels? Lol, sorry to bug you like this but I come from a family of engineers and I'm a fisherman too so my curiosity is doubly piqued.

Oh, and listen to mattgirl she knows her stuff!

Yes Sir. I'm a huge Striper fisherman and use this setup to keep gizzard, threadfin, and blue back herring in the summer, and trout and big gizzards in the winter. Let me see if I can explain this but its pretty simple. I have a 550 gallon round water stock tank with the top cut out to help off gas and have roughly 400 gallons of water. I then have a 2,000 gallon per hour Jebao pump in the center of the tank. I then ran a 1 1/4 in pipe up and over to a 5 gallon bucket that is a mechanical pre-filter to collect scales, etc. Its then flows from the bottom of the bucket to the bottom of a 55 gallon drum that is a bio filter. The water enters the drum and is T'ed off with 45's on each side to create a swirling effect. I have some plastic light egg crate material on top of the pipe to allow for a little head space for solids to collect. Under the create I have 2 air stones for extra O2. On top of the egg crate I have it stuffed with dollar store sponges, scrubbies, and lava rock all mixed together. On top of the drum I have a 2in pipe that feeds back to the tank to the spray bar that is set in opposite directions to create a circular rotation. the very top pipe coming out of the drum is an over flow pipe in case of rain, or filter clog that will go back into the tank. I have an extra 500 gph pump with an dancco venturI that is angled to keep solids on the bottom rotating so the pump can pick them up and produce extra O2. Back on the main pipe from the pipe from the pump, I have another "T" with a 3/4 ball valve that is normally off, but I can hook a water hose up to it, turn on the valve and fill my boat tank with with the same water the bait is in and hit the lake. If you got any other questions, I can send you a video through text if you want. Excuse my rough paint drawing, but maybe you get the point. Also, these pics were some I had on file when I finished the tank and not filled to the top.
 

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Pescado_Verde
  • #21
Sweet! I need to study it for a bit to digest it but it looks pretty straight forward. I've got a friend who guides for stripers on Lake Whitney (Between Dallas and Waco), he has a small lake about 20 minutes from the one he guides on where he gets his shad. Not supposed to be doing that (transporting between water bodies) so he may not be doing that anymore. We've had zebra mussels invade our waters over the last decade or so and we're trying like crazy to keep them from spreading. Shad need a lot of oxygen but you seem to have that covered. Best of luck to ya!
 
Threadfin
  • Thread Starter
  • #22
shad don't need nearly as much O2 as you might think, which is a good thing about keeping them. Our problem here, and probably and yours too, is keeping them cool, they get soft in hot water. Also, the hardest part is netting them and transporting them without or knocking off too many scales, hurting them, and stressing them out; they are pretty fragile fish.

I'm glad we do not have Zebra Mussels here! I often go from one body of water to another to net bait (depending on what I'm after) and fish them at a complete other. But do you want you need to save the stripes! they are an amazing fish.
 

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