previously cycled tank moved, filter died, and now nitrates climbing--pleasehelp

Discussion in 'Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle' started by betsyab, Apr 12, 2012.

  1. betsyabNew MemberMember

    I am new to having an aquarium. I've spent a lot of time reading up on the nitrogen cycle and understanding how to care for fish. However, I am not prepared on how to handle this situation, and am at a loss for what to do.

    1. 10 days ago a friend was moving, and passed on their aquarium to me. It was drained, rocks were not rinsed off but everything else was. Tank was well established and had no problems. The tank was re-set up in my house, and about 25% of the water was transferred with the fish. Everything was treated and put back together.

    2. 5 days later everything seemed to be fine, and then the filter died. I went out and got a new AquaClear 50 filter (20 gallon tank) as I had read good things. I did a water change and gravel vac when I replaced the filter as it had been off for a few hours so I thought a 30% change might be good. I also purchased a new fish as there had been a previous death a few months back and I thought I'd replace him. I also added some nutrafin cycle as it was recommended by the store.

    3. Here we are today: I use the API test kit and test everything again, previously everything was 0 and the pH was 7.0. Today, everything was the same but the nitrates read between 10-20. I did a 30% water change and gravel vac, and re-tested the nitrates about 15 minutes later, and got a level of 80ppm. Yes, I did followed the directions and shook everything exactly as directed.

    What gives? What do I do? Is my tank in some sort of mini-cycle? Am I overdoing it? Under doing it? Too many fish? (4 glo tetras, 3 neon tetras, 2 mollies, and 2 other fish I don't know the size of the mollies, and 1 pleco that has grown to about 6 inches) Do I need to get some Nitra Zorb to put in the filter?

    Previously the tank had been under monthly maintenance only.

    Thank you in advance!

    Oh--forgot to mention I am using Prime to treat the water, and Tetra tabs to control the pH as we have really hard water.

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 12, 2012
  2. Kilala_94New MemberMember

    Most of the beneficial bacteria that propel the nitrogen cycle live in the filter so by changing it they were lost. The best thing you can do now is daily water changes to keep the nitrate down while it re-cycles

  3. ryanrModeratorModerator Member

    Good advice on handling the mini-cycle.

    Did you test your tap water? Nitrates shouldn't go up with a water change...

    Also - IMO, ditch the pH contolling tabs - they're not necessary and will likely cause more problems than they solve.
  4. Wendy LubianetskyWell Known MemberMember

    Welcome to Fishlore. We are glad to have you.

    If your tank is in a mini cycle, your ammonia and nitrites should be climbing not your nitrates. And, like ryanr said something is wrong because nitrates do not go up after a water change. Retest your water and keep making water changes until the nitrate is under 20 ppm. Obviously when you test the water the ammonia and nitrite should be 0,. How long had it been since you changed the water in the tank? The only way the nitrates got up that high is if the water had not been changed in a while. And, when you moved 25% of the water with the fish, that does not help. You are only taking the bad pollutants with you. Fish like Fresh Clean Cycled water. So, do not hesitate to change all the water if you have to.
  5. toosieWell Known MemberMember

    Welcome to FishLore!!

    Prime will skew the test results when the water is tested so soon after a water change. Wait 24 hours and then run the tests again.

    Edit: Also, even though your LFS recommended you to use Nutrafin Cycle, I'll recommend you stop using it. Nutrafin Cycle can interfere with the development of your natural beneficial bacteria. The bacteria inside cycle will compete with the natural bacteria for food, aka... ammonia and nitrites. This will prevent a good strong beneficial bacteria colony from developing and you will have to add Nutrafin Cycle for the entire time you are fish keeping, or you will have to stop Cycle at some point and let your beneficial bacteria develop naturally. Might as well do that now before you spend too much money on Cycle.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2012
  6. catsma_97504Fishlore LegendMember

    Welcome to Fishlore.

    If I am understanding correctly you have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and some nitrates. Correct? This is the expected test results for a fully cycled tank. If the ammonia or nitrite are anything but 0, then the tank is going through a mini cycle.

    Definitely test your untreated tap water. And beat the #2 nitrate bottle against a counter for about a minute. This is the only way to get the crystals back into suspension to obtain valid test results. If your tap tests positive for nitrate, then there are things we can suggest to help your tank.

    I recommend not purchasing any additional fish at this time. You need to know exactly what is in your tank currently and whether or not it is large enough to house them. For example, the pleco is most likely a Common Pleco which grows well over a foot and needs to be housed in a 100+ gallon tank. Maybe post some pictures of your fish and we can help identify what those mystery fish are.

    BTW - Weekly or bi-weekly water changes are recommended to keep a tank healthy and stable.

    Good luck with your new tank!
  7. ryanrModeratorModerator Member


    Forgot to ask - did you stir up the substrate/gravel while doing the water change? Nitrates can be trapped in the substrate and if you gave it big swirl-up, it could have released nitrates back into the water.

    Still check your tap water though (it's more likely to be the cause)
  8. betsyabNew MemberMember

    I was not aware that checking shortly after adding Prime could skew the results, good to know!

    I did also do a gravel vac when doing the change--I was told to always do a gravel vac when doing a water change. Is that not good advice?

    Tap water has 0 nitrates.

    It is now 9 hours later, I read above on your advice to wait 24 hours, but I thought I'd check the nitrate level again to hopefully see if they have come down at all. Nitrates still reading 40-80ppm (who can tell the difference between those 2 reds?)

    This is just really not making it has only been 10 days, and the water has been changed twice in that time. From what I understand with the Nitrogen cycle, nitrates can only be removed via plants or water changes, as the bacteria that would break that down can't live in an aerobic environment. So this isn't making sense to me as to how quickly this nitrate level is going up, considering I've only added 1 fish to the tank that had perviously been kept for years, and there has not been an ammonia or nitrite spike in the 10 days I've had the tank!

    I know the person before me who had the tank for a year (it was also passed on from somebody who was moving--who was the person who had originally set up the tank at least a year prior) never tested the water.

    Is this still just leftover craziness from using prime less than 12 hours ago? Ahhhhhh.....I just did a search on seachem site, and this is a thread that states clearly that using prime will skew your results. They also state that you have to remove the sample from your tank and let sit for 48 hours BEFORE testing and then you can get an accurate result.  

    They also state that by being a Prime user, that it detoxifies nitrate and nitrite, as well as ammonia, so even if they are in the tank they cannot harm the fish.

    Interesting! Have others found this to be true?

    Thank you again for your help!
  9. betsyabNew MemberMember

    Oh--if you use the seachem test kits, prime will not skew the results, as they use a different way of testing than the way API does. (that is what their site says)
  10. ryanrModeratorModerator Member

    Gravel vac is fine, but really messing it up so to speak (or aggressive vac) can bring out all the nasties lurking under the surface.
  11. Fall RiverValued MemberMember

    Filling out your tank info (size, stock, chemicals, etc.) will help us greatly in understanding what's happening here.
    It cannot be overstated how much you need to beat up the #2 bottle on the nitrate test!! I run my ammonia and nitrites at the same time, while I wait the 5 min for them to develop I'm banging, shaking and rattling that bottle the whole time.
  12. betsyabNew MemberMember

    I had it listed in my initial post, but I also filled out the info for my profile.

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