Seems like my tank is cycling too quickly? Am I doing this right?

redmare
  • #1
So I'm doing my first ever proper, whole, no shortcut, all the right products fishless cycle. I'm using pure ammonia drops, and I did stick a little piece of filter floss from my shrimp tank in there, but it's fairly new and quite lightly stocked. Using API master test kit, water at 78-80F. I've been keeping a journal of all my numbers, and this is what I have so far...
Day 1: Added 20 drops ammonia
Day 2: Ammonia 1-2ppm, added what was supposed to be 20 more drops but squeezed too hard and got a lot more in there. Tested at 4-5ppm
Day 3: Ammonia 4-5ppm, nitrite 0, nitrate 0
Day 4: Ammonia 4-5ppm, didn't test others
Day 5: Ammonia 4-5ppm, didn't test others
Day 6: Ammonia 4ppm, nitrite 4ppm, nitrate 30-40ppm
Day 7: Ammonia 3ppm, nitrite 2-3ppm, nitrate 40ppm
Day 8: Ammonia 0-0.1ppm, nitrite 2-3ppm, nitrate 30-40ppm. Re-dosed to 4ppm ammonia

No matter how much I read about the nitrogen cycle, I feel like I still don't quite understand the techniques for a perfect cycle. Am I on the right track here? I've heard it takes weeks for the ammonia to start to come down, can it be happening in a few days? I know the cycle is done when 4ppm ammonia can be gotten rid of in (either 12 or 24) hours, what about the nitrite/nitrate numbers? Thanks all!
 
Danny002
  • #2
It seems to me that you're on the right track. Once your nitrates bump up a little more do a water change so it doesn't stall. You've probably already heard that nitrites or nitrates getting too high can stall the cycle, and a water change isn't going to screw it up.

Your bit of floss probably helped. If I remember correctly then most of the ammonia waiting game is just getting enough BB to start things moving so I'd say even just that bit of floss helped spur things along.

For the tank to be cycled it has to be able to get rid of the ammonia AND nitrite in 24 hours, so once you can do this, you'll be good to go fish-wise. Most of what you're doing right now is testing your water every day or two and keeping the nitrates at manageable levels (if I seem to be sticking on this point it's because I had my nitrates get out of control during a cycle and had to drain my tank about 4 times just to get it to 40, so I've got a bit of a personal thing with that lol)

Just out of curiosity, what are your stocking plans?
 
cmid21
  • #3
So I'm doing my first ever proper, whole, no shortcut, all the right products fishless cycle. I'm using pure ammonia drops, and I did stick a little piece of filter floss from my shrimp tank in there, but it's fairly new and quite lightly stocked. Using API master test kit, water at 78-80F. I've been keeping a journal of all my numbers, and this is what I have so far...
Day 1: Added 20 drops ammonia
Day 2: Ammonia 1-2ppm, added what was supposed to be 20 more drops but squeezed too hard and got a lot more in there. Tested at 4-5ppm
Day 3: Ammonia 4-5ppm, nitrite 0, nitrate 0
Day 4: Ammonia 4-5ppm, didn't test others
Day 5: Ammonia 4-5ppm, didn't test others
Day 6: Ammonia 4ppm, nitrite 4ppm, nitrate 30-40ppm
Day 7: Ammonia 3ppm, nitrite 2-3ppm, nitrate 40ppm
Day 8: Ammonia 0-0.1ppm, nitrite 2-3ppm, nitrate 30-40ppm. Re-dosed to 4ppm ammonia

No matter how much I read about the nitrogen cycle, I feel like I still don't quite understand the techniques for a perfect cycle. Am I on the right track here? I've heard it takes weeks for the ammonia to start to come down, can it be happening in a few days? I know the cycle is done when 4ppm ammonia can be gotten rid of in (either 12 or 24) hours, what about the nitrite/nitrate numbers? Thanks all!
You are on a great path. There is no standard time frame when a cycle will complete. It is totally variable. I experienced something similar to you, but my nitrites have been stuck at >0 for over a month.

General rule or thumb is when you dose ammonia into the tank after waiting 24 hours your ammonia AND nitrite levels will read zero. Then do a large water change to rid the water of nitrates (only way other than plants to rid the tank of nitrates) and you are finished. I would just continue on the path that you started, redosing every time ammonia hits zero. You can even wait several days if you would like to re dose. 4-5ppm ammonia risks killing the beneficial bacteria but it seems to be working alright for you. I would suggest stay the course.
 
redmare
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
Thanks so much! Is there a specific number as far as nitrites/nitrates go that I should water change at or before?
I'm planning on cardinal tetras and salt and pepper cories
 
cmid21
  • #5
I don't high nitrites or nitrates will actually stall a cycle as frequently touted on this forum. I would be interested in research that would prove this fact. (absolutely no sarcasm intended, generally would be interested in scientific proof) I think it can seem as though the cycle has stalled on a high spike as the test kit won't measure that high. For example: if you have an actual nitrite spike of 10ppm, the cycle still might be continuing except it won't be perceived by the fishkeeper as a change from 10ppm to 8ppm won't be read on the test kit.
 
Danny002
  • #6
Thanks so much! Is there a specific number as far as nitrites/nitrates go that I should water change at or before?
I'm planning on cardinal tetras and salt and pepper cories
Try to keep nitrates below 100 and nitrites below 6. And your fish sound like they'll look very nice
 
cmid21
  • #7
Thanks so much! Is there a specific number as far as nitrites/nitrates go that I should water change at or before?
I'm planning on cardinal tetras and salt and pepper cories
I wouldn't worry about water changes or even nitrate numbers for that matter. I can't see any reasoning why water changes would speed up a cycle. It just takes time for beneficial bacteria to colonize.

I think water changes does sometimes give the allusion that the cycle has sped up but in reality you are just diluting the water and the readings with it. The bacteria will grow at the same speed regardless.
 

Danny002
  • #8
I don't high nitrites or nitrates will actually stall a cycle as frequently touted on this forum. I would be interested in research that would prove this fact. (absolutely no sarcasm intended, generally would be interested in scientific proof) I think it can seem as though the cycle has stalled on a high spike as the test kit won't measure that high. For example: if you have an actual nitrite spike of 10ppm, the cycle still might be continuing except it won't be perceived by the fishkeeper as a change from 10ppm to 8ppm won't be read on the test kit.
It's not so much a stall the cycle thing as it is a huge pain to get the numbers down for me. I just hear a lot about high numbers stalling the cycle so I figure might as well go ahead and throw that in there. Now that you bring it up I would also be interested in seeing if that holds up. Might do a little experiment of my own over the summer...
 
cmid21
  • #9
It's not so much a stall the cycle thing as it is a huge pain to get the numbers down for me. I just hear a lot about high numbers stalling the cycle so I figure might as well go ahead and throw that in there. Now that you bring it up I would also be interested in seeing if that holds up. Might do a little experiment of my own over the summer...
Well that I can agree with. It will take much longer to get 10ppm nitrites down to 0ppm than it would 3ppm. So really it is just a matter of time-frame, not stalling the cycle per say.
 
redmare
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
It's not so much a stall the cycle thing as it is a huge pain to get the numbers down for me. I just hear a lot about high numbers stalling the cycle so I figure might as well go ahead and throw that in there. Now that you bring it up I would also be interested in seeing if that holds up. Might do a little experiment of my own over the summer...
Definitely keep us posted if you do that experiment, would be very interesting to find out! Besides, what else is there to do but play with water right now...
 
Danny002
  • #11
Definitely keep us posted if you do that experiment, would be very interesting to find out! Besides, what else is there to do but play with water right now...
Will do! I'll go ahead and throw together a cheap bare bottom with a sponge filter and some java moss or something and just see what happens.
 
cmid21
  • #12
Definitely keep us posted if you do that experiment, would be very interesting to find out! Besides, what else is there to do but play with water right now...
Agreed! Haha, I actually did do water changes in my cycle, because as you state what else are you going to do! Just staring at an aquarium isn't very exciting. It doesn't hurt the process so why not.

*Just to clarify: you are doing a fishless cycle correct? Because fish cycles do require water changes. You said ammonia drops but just wanted to make sure.
 
redmare
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
*Just to clarify: you are doing a fishless cycle correct? Because fish cycles do require water changes. You said ammonia drops but just wanted to make sure.

Yes fishless!
 
cmid21
  • #14
Will do! I'll go ahead and throw together a cheap bare bottom with a sponge filter and some java moss or something and just see what happens.
The issue I see here is all the variables that would interfere with your experiment. You almost would need pristine scientific conditions. Colonization of beneficial bacteria are influenced by many different factors: light, DO (dissolved oxygen), temperature, pH etc. that it would almost be impossible to create a control and also identical set-ups for the different variable experiments. But definitely publish your thoughts here after you are completed.
 
Danny002
  • #15
The issue I see here is all the variables that would interfere with your experiment. You almost would need pristine scientific conditions. Colonization of beneficial bacteria are influenced by many different factors: light, DO (dissolved oxygen), temperature, pH etc. that it would almost be impossible to create a control and also identical set-ups for the different variable experiments. But definitely publish your thoughts here after you are completed.
Yes, it wouldn't be perfect, but I figured it would be something to do! I'll definitely be posting my findings on here.
 
mattgirl
  • #16
I don't high nitrites or nitrates will actually stall a cycle as frequently touted on this forum. I would be interested in research that would prove this fact. (absolutely no sarcasm intended, generally would be interested in scientific proof) I think it can seem as though the cycle has stalled on a high spike as the test kit won't measure that high. For example: if you have an actual nitrite spike of 10ppm, the cycle still might be continuing except it won't be perceived by the fishkeeper as a change from 10ppm to 8ppm won't be read on the test kit.

I don't want to be seen as argumentative but I have seen cycles stall when both nitrites and nitrates are off the chart. I can't say with 100% certainty that it is the high numbers that have stalled the cycle though. It could be any number of things that are actually causing it to stall. I don't consider a cycle truly stalled if the ammonia is still going down. If the ammonia is going down the cycle is still moving forward.

If that happens a water change will get it moving forward again. The water change does more than one thing so we can't say for sure just getting the nitrites and nitrates down is helping to restart the cycle or the high number is what caused it to happen. It could also be the fact that the fresh water is replenishing the minerals that have been depleted during the cycling process.

In most cases though the water change will get things moving forward again.

redmare It looks like the piece of media helped to jump start your cycle and it looks like you are right where you need to be at this point. A piece of seeded media is one of the very best things one can use to seed their new cycle. Bottled bacteria helps some folks but media from a tank that has already been cycled with your water is a much better way to start a cycle. The bacteria on it was grown in and is used to the chemistry of your source water so it thrives in a new tank.

Don't be afraid to do water changes if necessary as the cycle progresses. The bacteria you are growing isn't free floating in the water so water changes won't be pulling it out of there. Just be sure if you do water changes you treat the new water to remove chlorine if you have it in your source water and temp match the water. We can;t see the bacteria but it is a living thing and needs to be protected from temp swings and chlorine.
 
redmare
  • Thread Starter
  • #17
Ok so I'm confused again in my cycle. 3-4ppm ammonia will disappear in like 15 hours. But nitrite and nitrate are off the charts. I did a 60% water change and they are still crazy high. There are plants in my tank now, too. My main question is should I wait a day (or more) before re dosing with ammonia? And also any other advice. The photo is after the 60% wc and honestly looks identical to the readings right before the change.
20200423_140210.jpg
 

cmid21
  • #18
Refresh my memory, what day of the cycle are you on again?

It looks like you are on the right track, unfortunately this is the worst part because it requires some patience. I recently cycled a tank where my ammonia-->nitrite bacteria formed very quickly, then the last part of the cycle took around 2 months to develop.

Water changes will not make the process go any faster despite what others advocate. (as you found out) I just don't see the scientific reasoning behind such claims. (would definitely welcome scientific proof showing the opposite) Your cycle hasn't "stalled" because of high nitrites or nitrates, it just takes time for beneficial bacteria to colonize.

If you wanted to, you could just empty around 80%-100% of the water and re-dose ammonia. Water changes will not hurt the cycle. This will only let you perceive the progress but will not make the cycle faster. ie you can see nitrites go down from 2ppm to 1ppm but not 8ppm to 7ppm (even though you are making the same progress) due to limitations in the tests.

Another misconception that is thrown around this forum quite often, is that the nitrifying bacteria will die in a couple days if it doesn't receive ammonia. This is not true. You could technically wait until the nitrites go to zero before dosing more ammonia if wanted.

If I were you, I would do a large water change to get your nitrites back on the charts. (only so you can physically see the progress you are making, and you don't need a bacteria colony to convert 5+ppm) Wait around a week or two weeks, then test again. You should see some progress. You can dose ammonia whenever. (also you don't need to dose to 3ppm or 4ppm. <2ppm is just fine) Maybe every three days or so?
 
mattgirl
  • #19
You may want to back off on the amount of ammonia you are adding. By doing so you will give the nitrite eating bacteria a chance to catch up with the ammonia eating bacteria. There is no need to add ammonia daily at this point in the cycle. You may want to just add 1 to 2ppm ammonia every other day or even every third day.

We know even though your nitrites and nitrates are off the chart high your cycle is still moving forward. As long as the tank is still processing the ammonia we know your cycle is not stalled. Should it stop processing the ammonia then it will be time to do a water change to get nitrites and nitrates down to readable levels and the cycle moving forward again.
 
redmare
  • Thread Starter
  • #20
Refresh my memory, what day of the cycle are you on again?

Day 11 now. So still quite early, I suppose. I got so eager when the ammonia started disappearing so fast!
 
cmid21
  • #21
Day 11 now. So still quite early, I suppose. I got so eager when the ammonia started disappearing so fast!
11?! Common estimation puts the cycle development at around several months. Your cycle is off to a great start, it will eventually get there, just have patience. (so hard I know!)

Let us know if you should have any other questions along the way.
 
redmare
  • Thread Starter
  • #22
So my nitrites were really bugging me by being so high. I did a 90% water change today- and then they were down to 1-2ppm. They must have been REALLY high... Nitrates now around 10ppm and no ammonia. Should I add more ammonia or give it a few days?
 
mattgirl
  • #23
So my nitrites were really bugging me by being so high. I did a 90% water change today- and then they were down to 1-2ppm. They must have been REALLY high... Nitrates now around 10ppm and no ammonia. Should I add more ammonia or give it a few days?
You need to continue feeding your bacteria so yes, add more ammonia.
 
redmare
  • Thread Starter
  • #24
Ok so 3ppm ammonia is gone in 12 hours and much of the nitrite is clearly being converted..... I did almost 100% water change last night so I had 0.25ppm nitrite and less than 5ppm nitrate, then added the 3ppm ammonia. 12 hours later, no ammonia and nitrates are crazy high, but it looks like no nitrites have gone. I just... I just dont get it. What is happening?
20200428_120645.jpg
 
mattgirl
  • #25
Please correct me if I'm wrong but I am thinking this is a 5 gallon tank. If that is the case 3ppm ammonia is more than is necessary in a tank this size. There is no way you will ever need enough bacteria to process that much ammonia.

I would do another close to 100% water change. Run your nitrite and nitrate tests immediately after the water change. Both should be very low. Once done add no more than .5ppm ammonia. By adding this low amount of ammonia your nitrite bacteria should be able to catch up with the ammonia eating bacteria. Over the next few days add no more than .5ppm ammonia each day. I think if you will do this you will soon see 0 nitrites and your nitrates shouldn't climb as quickly.
 
redmare
  • Thread Starter
  • #26
Please correct me if I'm wrong but I am thinking this is a 5 gallon tank.

It's 10 gallon, if that makes a big difference. There is a 5 gallon in the background of this photo though if that's what you were going off
 
mattgirl
  • #27
oops, sorry. I was reading your aquarium details and didn't dig deep enough over there. But my recommendation still stands even in your 10 gallon tank. By adding lower doses of ammonia you will allow the nitrite bacteria time to catch up with the ammonia bacteria. Cycling a tank is a balancing act. Too much of one thing can throw something else out of whack.
 

redmare
  • Thread Starter
  • #28
oops, sorry. I was reading your aquarium details and didn't dig deep enough over there. But my recommendation still stands even in your 10 gallon tank. By adding lower doses of ammonia you will allow the nitrite bacteria time to catch up with the ammonia bacteria. Cycling a tank is a balancing act. Too much of one thing can throw something else out of whack.
sounds like a plan! thank you very much
 
redmare
  • Thread Starter
  • #29
Ok I changed all the water and had just tiny readings of nitrite/nitrate. I added 10 drops ammonia, 30 drops got me to 2ppm. Will check in tomorrow and see how things are doing. Thank you so much mattgirl for all your help!
 
mattgirl
  • #30
Ok I changed all the water and had just tiny readings of nitrite/nitrate. I added 10 drops ammonia, 30 drops got me to 2ppm. Will check in tomorrow and see how things are doing. Thank you so much mattgirl for all your help!
You are so very welcome.
 
Fisch
  • #31
You are so very welcome.
Being a fresh 'Cyclist' I kept also an eye on the pH value as it can crash during this time and stall a cycle. Could that be a factor?
 
redmare
  • Thread Starter
  • #32
Being a fresh 'Cyclist' I kept also an eye on the pH value as it can crash during this time and stall a cycle. Could that be a factor?
thanks for tuning in! this tank is now well cycled and has had fish in for over a month i just needed patience!
 
Fisch
  • #33
thanks for tuning in! this tank is now well cycled and has had fish in for over a month i just needed patience!
Yes, the patience thing is the hardest, totally missed looking at the date
 
lilirose
  • #34
Just as an offhand anecdote, I fishless cycled four tanks last summer. One of them cycled in three weeks- I'm pretty sure people on this forum told me this was probably impossible when I mentioned it, but the tank has been heavily stocked for a year now with no issues. Another cycled in about six weeks, another stalled in the fifth week due to extremely high nitrates- it was mattgirl who helped me figure out how to fix it with a large water change! The last one ended up inadvertently fish-in cycling when I had a bunch of hitchhiker fry hatch in the tank after using it for plant quarantine. Ten of the fry survived and I kept them in the tank until they were about 1/2 an inch long, at which point I brought them back to the LFS that sold me the plants.

All four tanks are still running and healthy now, and I'm about to start the journey again with four more... fishless cycling all the way!
 
redmare
  • Thread Starter
  • #35
Just as an offhand anecdote, I fishless cycled four tanks last summer. One of them cycled in three weeks- I'm pretty sure people on this forum told me this was probably impossible when I mentioned it, but the tank has been heavily stocked for a year now with no issues. Another cycled in about six weeks, another stalled in the fifth week due to extremely high nitrates- it was mattgirl who helped me figure out how to fix it with a large water change! The last one ended up inadvertently fish-in cycling when I had a bunch of hitchhiker fry hatch in the tank after using it for plant quarantine. Ten of the fry survived and I kept them in the tank until they were about 1/2 an inch long, at which point I brought them back to the LFS that sold me the plants.

All four tanks are still running and healthy now, and I'm about to start the journey again with four more... fishless cycling all the way!
This was the first tank I had done a PROPER, no shortcuts fishless cycle to. The waiting sucked, but I don't think I'll ever do it another way again! And it only took about three weeks
 
lilirose
  • #36
This was the first tank I had done a PROPER, no shortcuts fishless cycle to. The waiting sucked, but I don't think I'll ever do it another way again! And it only took about three weeks

Yes- the waiting will be much easier this year because I already have four gorgeous tanks to stare at! I actually plan to let the plants grow in for quite a while before I add fish or shrimp.
 

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