Opinions- water change or no?

Barrk2

Day 12 of fishless cycle! I had a bit of nitrites yesterday, but today both nitrites and nitrates are spiking hard. The only living things in the tank are plants.
Do I add more ammonia at this point?
Also, will I hurt anything if I do a partial water change to keep the nitrites at a reasonable level?
I’ve been following a few different instructions, and there’s various opinions about whether to feed ammonia every time it drops or not… on one hand, some sources say keep feeding the ammonia->nitrite bacteria. Other sources say more ammonia makes more nitrite which will slow the cycle, and say don’t feed the ammonia until the nitrite starts to drop. What have people here done?
 

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mattgirl

I am one that says to keep adding ammonia until both ammonia and nitrites drop to zero within 24 hours of adding ammonia. Once we start seeing the ammonia we add drop to zero within 24 hours and nitrites are rising I recommend only adding ammonia every third day.

Doing a water change at this point isn't needed but doing one isn't going to affect the cycling process as long as we temp match and add our water conditioner to the water before pouring it in the tank. I consider bacteria to be a living thing thus the reason I recommend temp matching.

As long as nitrites and nitrates are still readable a water change doesn't need to be done. Both look like they are close to off the chart. You may want to run a dilution test to get a better idea as to how high they are. Put half tank water and half tap water in the tube and run the test on this mixture. If the number is lower you will know neither are sky high. If it is still off the chart high you can safely do a water change to get them down.

Neither high nitrites nor high nitrates alone will stall the cycling process. As long as your pH holds up to at least 7 and the ammonia you add continues to drop to zero within 24 hours your cycle is still moving forward.
 

Barrk2

Thank you so much! I will follow your advice and save the water change for the end. It’s gonna have to be big with the nitrate levels that high.
I added ammonia to 3ppm 24 hours prior to the test I posted and it dropped to .25/.5 (whatever that is), is that close enough or should I dose until it’s a true zero?
Sorry for all the questions! Last time I “cycled” was years ago and I thought I could just run my tank empty for a month. Live and learn!
As long as your pH holds up to at least 7
Hmm I’ve been running Co2 for the plants and it drops me down to 6.4-6.6. It doesn’t seem to be stalling me, but would you recommend turning that off? Or just monitoring and assuming that’s my problem if I stop making progress?
 

JTW

I like to keep nitrite levels on the chart. But in your case, things seem to be moving right along. So at this point, I would probably do nothing. Just let it do its thing. Right now it has everything it needs to keep moving forward.

I'd leave it alone until the weekend, and then see what I had. If the nitrites are still high this weekend, then I'd probably do a good sized water change to get everything back to measurable levels. Then I'd dose a small amount of ammonia, probably about 1ppm, and go from there.

That's how I would do it. But its not the only way.
 

Barrk2

I like to keep nitrite levels on the chart. But in your case, things seem to be moving right along. So at this point, I would probably do nothing. Just let it do its thing. Right now it has everything it needs to keep moving forward.

I'd leave it alone until the weekend, and then see what I had. If the nitrites are still high this weekend, then I'd probably do a good sized water change to get everything back to measurable levels. Then I'd dose a small amount of ammonia, probably about 1ppm, and go from there.

That's how I would do it. But its not the only way.
I’m getting that idea! There seems to be lots of correct ways. On the one hand that’s kinda comforting, but on the other it can be confusing! I’m lazy so I might just do whatever I can to avoid a 90% water change at the end haha. Consecutive 30-40%s seems so much more doable for some reason. :D
 

mattgirl

You are so very welcome :)

I would cut the amount of ammonia you are adding. In most cases 2ppm is more than enough. What size tank are you cycling?

Be sure you shake the ammonia testing solution before using. Lots of folks it seem never see a true zero reading for ammonia. Others, like me, that shake all liquids before using do get a true zero. If yours drops to .25ppm and holds there you can consider that your zero reading.

Since you are seeing both nitrites and nitrates it is time to move to adding ammonia every third day.

One other thing I am going to recommend you do is start feeding the bacteria a little bit of fish food. This thread will explain why I am recommending you do this. PSA: Something I am seeing more and more often, fishless cycling.... | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 477380
 

Barrk2

You are so very welcome :)

I would cut the amount of ammonia you are adding. In most cases 2ppm is more than enough. What size tank are you cycling?

Be sure you shake the ammonia testing solution before using. Lots of folks it seem never see a true zero reading for ammonia. Others, like me, that shake all liquids before using do get a true zero. If yours drops to .25ppm and holds there you can consider that your zero reading.

Since you are seeing both nitrites and nitrates it is time to move to adding ammonia every third day.

One other thing I am going to recommend you do is start feeding the bacteria a little bit of fish food. This thread will explain why I am recommending you do this. PSA: Something I am seeing more and more often, fishless cycling.... | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 477380
I shake them all! I had a little panic a while ago when I switched from strips to the liquid kit on a nano I’m running because the nitrate was measuring zero and I thought my cycle crashed. Nope, just didn’t shake bottle number two haha.

It’s a 55, and I was hoping to add 15 furcata dwarf rainbowfish and 8 peacock gudgeons (aqadvisor says that’s a 70% stock) once the cycle completes, then slowly add the rest of the stock in groups of 2-4 fish. Since neither of my initial species is particularly hardy I figured overkill on the cycling might be a good idea.

I will read!
This thread will explain why I am recommending you do this.
Interesting! I also have some decomposing plants in there because a few of the new ones melted (they have new growth already- just transplant stress I think) so that’s already helping with the organic ammonia. I’ll start dropping a pinch of flakes too
 

mattgirl

Hmm I’ve been running Co2 for the plants and it drops me down to 6.4-6.6. It doesn’t seem to be stalling me, but would you recommend turning that off? Or just monitoring and assuming that’s my problem if I stop making progress?
I do know running CO2 does affect the pH level so in this case just keep observing. As long as the cycle keeps moving forward I wouldn't change what you are doing.
I shake them all! I had a little panic a while ago when I switched from strips to the liquid kit on a nano I’m running because the nitrate was measuring zero and I thought my cycle crashed. Nope, just didn’t shake bottle number two haha.

It’s a 55, and I was hoping to add 15 furcata dwarf rainbowfish and 8 peacock gudgeons (aqadvisor says that’s a 70% stock) once the cycle completes, then slowly add the rest of the stock in groups of 2-4 fish. Since neither of my initial species is particularly hardy I figured overkill on the cycling might be a good idea.

I will read!
Over kill is a good idea when we plan on starting out with close to fully stocked. What I would do though is grow enough bacteria to process 2ppm ammonia. By keeping the amount of ammonia lower we will prevent huge spikes in nitrites and nitrates. Once the cycle will process 2ppm ammonia through to nitrates within 24 hours you can increase the amount of ammonia gradually. After each increase give the bacteria time to catch up with the higher amount.

To be perfectly honest though. I don't think it is necessary to grow enough bacteria to process any more than 2ppm. I actually used to think growing more bacteria was needed but once I really gave it some thought I realized it isn't needed. I based my recommendations on the size of the tank. Meaning the bigger the tank the higher the concentration of ammonia. I have come to realize that isn't the case and now recommend 2ppm ammonia for most tanks no matter the size except for tiny tanks. I only recommend 1ppm for small tanks that will only house a single fish.

When you think about it, fish just add a little bit of ammonia at a time but do it almost constantly. Once a tank is fully cycled and if we've grown enough bacteria to process 2ppm ammonia the bacteria is constantly removing the little bit of ammonia as it is being produced.
 

Barrk2

I do know running CO2 does affect the pH level so in this case just keep observing. As long as the cycle keeps moving forward I wouldn't change what you are doing.

Over kill is a good idea when we plan on starting out with close to fully stocked. What I would do though is grow enough bacteria to process 2ppm ammonia. By keeping the amount of ammonia lower we will prevent huge spikes in nitrites and nitrates. Once the cycle will process 2ppm ammonia through to nitrates within 24 hours you can increase the amount of ammonia gradually. After each increase give the bacteria time to catch up with the higher amount.

To be perfectly honest though. I don't think it is necessary to grow enough bacteria to process any more than 2ppm. I actually used to think growing more bacteria was needed but once I really gave it some thought I realized it isn't needed. I based my recommendations on the size of the tank. Meaning the bigger the tank the higher the concentration of ammonia. I have come to realize that isn't the case and now recommend 2ppm ammonia for most tanks no matter the size except for tiny tanks. I only recommend 1ppm for small tanks that will only house a single fish.

When you think about it, fish just add a little bit of ammonia at a time but do it almost constantly. Once a tank is fully cycled and if we've grown enough bacteria to process 2ppm ammonia the bacteria is constantly removing the little bit of ammonia as it is being produced.
That makes sense to me! Thank you again, this has been really helpful! I will keep you posted on how things turn out. :)
 

mattgirl

Interesting! I also have some decomposing plants in there because a few of the new ones melted (they have new growth already- just transplant stress I think) so that’s already helping with the organic ammonia. I’ll start dropping a pinch of flakes too
The decomposing plants will help but I think the pinch of fish food really helps. The issue with a mini cycle after doing a fish-less cycle doesn't happen to everyone but was happening often enough to prompt me to try to find out why. Adding the fish food along with the liquid ammonia while doing a fish-less cycle seems to mimic a fish in cycle since the bacteria is getting the same food it will get once fish are added.
That makes sense to me! Thank you again, this has been really helpful! I will keep you posted on how things turn out. :)
Please do. I love reading about successful cycles :)
 

Azedenkae

Absolutely do not keep adding ammonia until BOTH ammonia and nitrite drops to zero.

There is no reason to keep dosing ammonia when nitrite is present. It can just a. prolong the cycle by causing nitrite to spike very high and take a long time to decrease, or worse, b. stall nitrification itself.

There are plenty of threads here where nitrite has gotten so high it stalled everything and a 100% water change, or multiple (because we can never really do 100% in reality) were needed.

This is a lesson that has been learnt over and over again.

So yeah, do not re-dose ammonia until both ammonia and nitrite reads zero.

If you want to know more about the science behind this, let me know.
 

Barrk2

Alright! Day 13 and I’m testing zero zero 20. I tested nitrites twice. I blame the plants for the nitrate drop haha. (Please don’t mind the ugly moss wall attempt- that’s coming down when I get a chance to redo it) And I’ll triple check that nitrate measurement before I introduce any fish because it seems fishy…

Here I go on my testing dose! Wish me luck!
If you want to know more about the science behind this, let me know
Hit me! It’s been a hot minute since chem and microbio 101 but hopefully I still understand the basics ;)
 

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Azedenkae

Hit me! It’s been a hot minute since chem and microbio 101 but hopefully I still understand the basics ;)
Sure.

Nitrifiers are actually a rather wide group of organisms, not just bacteria but also archaea. Thus 'beneficial bacteria' is a bit of an erroneous term, especially since nitrifying archaea have been suggested to be the dominant type of nitrifier in freshwater aquariums.

But anyways. So nitrifiers do have variations, but they do share certain features. They have generally been found to be capable of undergoing prolonged periods of ammonia starvation - weeks to months depending on the species. And this is before they start to really go dormant or die off. One study starved a species of ammonia for a year and upon supplementation of ammonia immediately saw transcriptional responses.

So there is really no reason to constantly supplement nitrifiers with ammonia if not needed. They won't decrease in numbers. In contrast, what is of concern is nitrite. It is far better to let nitrite drop to zero.
 

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