Problems With Rising Nitrite

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by Carolyn V, Apr 11, 2018.

  1. Carolyn V

    Carolyn VNew MemberMember

    I have had a 5 gallon tank cycling for about 3 weeks with no fish in it. I would use janitorial ammonia to feed the Safestart Plus bacteria that I put in the tank and then each day I put in a little bit more ammonia as I read to do on many sites on the internet. Anyway, at last, I thought my tank had cycled as one day it read as 0 ammonia, o nitrites and 10 nitrates. I was ecstatic and went and got my new fish, which was one betta fish. He has been happily swimming in his new tank for 3 days. I have an ammonia alert card in the tank and it says there is no ammonia so I did not check any levels. But today I decided to check using the API master test kit. It read as .25 ppm ammonia and 1 ppm of nitrite and I was shocked. Since I have been putting Safestart Plus in my tank each time I would do a water change and actually put in a whole bottle when I set the tank up I can not understand why I have nitrite readings at all. So I did a water change, about 50%. But then I made a big mistake and tested immediately afterward and it still read 1 ppm of nitrite even though I took out half the water. Then I did another water change, about another 50% and measured again and the nitrite went down to .25 ppm. So I left it there and added more Safestart. After that I read on this forum that you are not supposed to test immediately after doing a water change so I am scared for my poor little betta who still is swimming happily around. My question is, if the tank had cycled before I put my betta fish in, why did the tank have nitrites in it and what can I do about it without doing multiple water changes in one day. I also did test the water I added, which was a combination of spring water, treated tap water and RO water. None of them had nitrite in them. Please help.
  2. TexasGuppy

    TexasGuppyWell Known MemberMember

    You probably weren't cycled to a high enough level. Was your tank able to convert 1ppm or more of ammonia all the way to nitrates in 24 hours?
    You could be over-feeding? Also, 5 gallon tanks are harder to manage because small changes have a larger affect on smaller water volumes. It's likely your nitrites were a little over 1 which is why it didn't look like it changed after the first 50%. Going forward, add prime daily. Any time your ammonia+nitrites are 1pmm or more, do a 50% water change. Keep doing this until they both read zero.
  3. OP
    Carolyn V

    Carolyn VNew MemberMember

    Thank you so much for your reply. I didn't know that there was a difference between using Prime and Aquasafe but after reading your email I did some research on that. I am going to run out to my pet store right now and get some and then measure my nitrite reading again. I am too afraid to measure it now but at least my betta seems happy and is swimming around. Can I use Stability at the same time as I use Prime? I read that you have to wait 24 hours before adding bacteria after adding a water conditioner.

    So, reading your reply I should be adding Prime daily until the ammonia and nitrite levels are 0 and only do 50% water changes if the ammonia + nitirites are 1 ppm or more. No need to do water changes if the values are less than that, correct?

    When my tank was cycling I would use small amounts of ammonia each day to see if it would go back to zero in 24 hours. After the initial dose I only added 4 drops into my 5 gallon tank and it did go back to 0 ammonia and nitrites in 24 hours and it had 10 ppm nitrate reading so I went and got my fish and now I am scared for the little guy. He seems to be so happy to be out of his little bowl that the store had him in. Should I just add Prime each day until the nitrites go down to zero or should I also add Stability or Tetra Safe Start as well?
  4. TexasGuppy

    TexasGuppyWell Known MemberMember

    Stability works with prime, no need to wait like with safestart. You need to add prime each day ammonia or nitrites are above zero as they are toxic to fish. Yes on the water changes.
    It sounds like you had a high cycle level. Make sure you always treat water before it enters your tank, and don't use tap water on your filter when cleaning or topping off to restart after WC.
    Depending on filter type, replacing the filter will lose you bacteria. What filter do you have and what's your cleaning/replacement procedure?
  5. Mom2some

    Mom2someWell Known MemberMember

    Welcome & good for you for giving your betta such a nice home! As per above... Prime renders ammonia & nitrites harmless (or less harmful) to fish for 24 hours up to 1.0. So if Ammonia + nitrites <1.0, the Prime can keep your fish safe while your cycle progresses. You did absolutely the right thing by doing back to back water changes given the readings you got. Keep reading here & you will continue to learn (I have)!
  6. OP
    Carolyn V

    Carolyn VNew MemberMember

    Thanks again for the help. I definitely need it. I have two filters in the tank. One is a plain sponge filter because I heard that bettas are not strong swimmers and don't like filters that have strong outflow currents that can blow them around. Then I have a small DIY filter that uses an airstone inserted into a small glass that has an activated carbon and zeolite cyrstals mix from Imagitarium, plus a layer of filter fiber and a layer of a sponge on top of that. The tank came with an HOB filter but I never used it as I am afraid the current might be too strong for the fish. As yet, I have not cleaned either filter because it is a new tank.

    I am really puzzled now, because on Tuesday I had the problem with the nitrites and did 3 water changes which brought the count down to .25. Yesterday I read your reply and ran out and bought some Prime and Stabilty and then came home and measured the nitrites and to my amazement it was at 0, so I did not add any Prime. Then, today I measured again and it is still at 0 so I am even more amazed. I cannot explain what is happening. When I did the water changes on Tuesday I did also add more Safestart Plus but it is hard for me to believe that it took care of the nitrites when it hadn't taken care of them before. Do you have any idea as to why the nitrite level is okay now even though I have not done anything to the tank after I did the 3 water changes on Tuesday.

    Also, I am a bit confused when you say not to use tap water when topping off my tank after a WC. I thought it was okay to use tap water as long as it was treated with water conditioner such as Prime or Aquasafe. I do know that I need to rinse off my filter sponge in tank water that has been removed but what kind of water should I use to replace the water that I take out?

    I felt so sorry for all the poor bettas living in little bowls in the store so I felt happy that I could at least save one of them. If I can manage to give this one a good home and get some good experience I might even set up another tank for another one later on. I was afraid that doing 3 water changes at once would stress the fish out but so far the only one that is stressed is me. If you read my previous reply to Texasguppie you will see that since those changes I have done nothing and not added any Prime and the nitrite reading is 0, which is really surprising to me. I have an ammonia alert card in the tank and that also says there is no ammonia so I guess for now I am good. My little betta is swimming around happily. But having the Prime in the house on standby certainly makes me feel better.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 13, 2018
  7. TexasGuppy

    TexasGuppyWell Known MemberMember

    Sorry, I meant straight/untreated tap water. Some people with HOB filters have used water straight from the tap to fill it up to prime it, and that kills the bacteria. Use the water from the tank to top it up/prime it. I like to do larger water changes instead of multiple smaller ones if you are trying to lower numbers..
    TSS-plus is really good at populating the bacteria that converts nitrites. It's possible you were very close to cycled and the WC's brought your numbers down to the level they can handle. I would just monitor for the next 3-4 days and if everything says at 0, you are good. Just add any future fish spaced out so you don't overwhelm the existing bacteria too much and cause a mini-cycle.

    Also, that zeolite needs to be periodically changed or I believe can start releasing ammonia back into the tank. You may be better just letting your BB grow to the ammonia level it needs than artificial chemicals like that.

    Lucky little Betta :)
  8. Frozen One

    Frozen OneValued MemberMember

    Between feeding and the Betta excreting waste the bioload might be larger than what your BB was cultivated for. You’re now experiencing a fish in mini cycle lol. In the future after your readings suggest that you are cycled, wait another week and test the water each day. If you read 0 0 X each time you test then you would truly be ready for fish. Just some things to keep in Mind.
  9. Mom2some

    Mom2someWell Known MemberMember

    So glad to hear your cycle completed. The nitrites often convert much more quickly than ammonia for some reason. Enjoy your fish & cycled tank!
  10. TexasGuppy

    TexasGuppyWell Known MemberMember

    For a normal cycle without added bacteria bottle of any kind, nitrite converting bacteria actually take much longer to grow, but TSS+ is the opposite as it has a really good version of that type of bacteria. Nothing beats stealing some media from an established tank however. :)