Set up tank in Janaury, still struggling with ammonia.

mentatsndietcoke

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After a near 15 year break I've gotten back into the hobby and set up a brand new aquarium. While I'm not a total beginner, I've still needed a thorough refresher. I've spent a ton of time reading up on stocking, filtration, cycling, and equipment and believe that I've made most decisions in what I think are an educated and deliberate manner. I settled on a 29 gallon tank (the largest that fit the space), a Tidal 55 filter, Aquasky 2.0 light, and a 150 watt glass heater. As for substrate I'm using thoroughly rinsed black diamond blasting sand, the tank has been decorated with two sizable pieces of driftwood and several granite type rocks that I've recovered from river beds in my area. Of course the driftwood and rocks were thoroughly sanitized before being added to the tank.

Given that my work allows me to work from home the majority of the time with a decent of amount of down time, I decided that I would do a fish-in cycle. It's what I have done in the past when setting up my tanks and since I have the time to responsibility manage it I'd rather not stare at an empty tank. So sfter the tank had been up and running for a week I simultaneously added 6 glowlight tetras and 3 Java ferns in addition beginning to dose Stability exactly as instructed on the bottle. Once the bottle of Stability had been emptied (I used one of the smaller bottles) I had noticed zero change in my tests so I purchased a large bottle of Tetra Safe Start+ and followed the instructions exactly as written. That was 2/7 and by 2/18 my nitrites began to rise after ammonia peaked at .50 ppm. The nitrite levels peaked at .50 on 2/20 and was accompanied by a significant drop in PH (normal for me is 6.6-6.8 and it crashed to sub 6). Of course these ammonia and nitrite spikes were managed with an aggressive regimen of high volume water changes and seachem prime dosing that resulted in zero fish loss. I noticed very little stress behavior either, on the off chance I did an immediate 50% plus water change was performed.

By 2/28 my ammonia and nitrite levels had zeroed out and remained there while my nitrates held steady at 5.0. Thinking my cycle was finished I purchased 2 very small mystery snails several days later to help clean up some of the algae that had built up in addition to 2 adult female Glowlight tetras. My school had turned out to be 5 males and 1 female and they were hounding my very eggladen female to no end. She was beginning to show signs of stress and her fins were showing light damage. Luckily the pressure is spread out now and she has rebounded wonderfully. However, I believe I made my first major blunder that week. Several days after purchasing the snails and tetras my levels held constant at 0,0, 5 so I removed a somewhat sizable rock that I decided did not like anymore. With no further issues and a week passed since my last additions to the tank I added a Bolivian Ram on 3/9. By 3/11 my levels were completely out of whack again, my ammonia was .25, nitrite has spiked to the highest level I've seen in the tank 1.0, and the PH tanked to below 6. Obviously I did an immediate water change and managed to stabilize things without losing any fish.

This brings us to my current state, since that day my ammonia has been bouncing between 0.0-.25 and hasn't settled on either. Thankfully, my nitrites haven't returned and I've managed to stabilize my PH by adding some crushed coral to the filter to raise the KH. I've been testing my water every day with the plan of swapping to once a week once fully cycled, so my readings for the last 10 days are as follows:

PH Ammonia Nitrite Nitrate
6.6 0.0-.25 (Color is between the two) 0.0 5.0 3/16
6.6 .25 0.0 5.0 3/17
6.6 .25 0.0 5.0 3/18
6.6 .25 0.0 5.0 3/19
6.6 .25 0.0 0.0 3/20
6.6 0.0 0.0 5.0 3/21
6.6 0.0 0.0 5.0 3/22
6.6 .25 0.0 5.0 3/23
6.8 0.0-.25 (Color is between the two) 0.0 0.0 3/24
6.8 0.0-.25 (Color is between the two) 0.0 0.0 3/25
6.8 .25 0.0 0.0 3/26

Tank temperature is 26 degrees Celsius on all tests.

As for filter media, I'm using an intake sponge, the sponge that comes with the filter, a small bag of poly fiber, 100 mg seachem purigen (to remove the tannins from driftwood), crushed coral, and seachem matrix in that order.

As far as feeding goes, I've tried to cut back to see if that makes a difference. But, the Ram is still quite picky and will only eat 50% of what actually makes it past the tetras and floats down to him. So a decent amount of food is still going uneaten if the snails pass on it.

Sorry for the wall of text, but I just wanted to make sure I included any and all potentially relevant info. I'm at a complete loss and am hoping you guys might have some suggestions. As frequent water changes and prime aren't getting it done. Looking forward any input that you guys might have, thanks in advance!
 

mrsP

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I might be wrong, but looks like adding ram added quite a bit of bioload in form of a fish, and part of fish food not being eaten by fish and ending up decomposing to bottom. That would mean a lot more work for your beneficial bacteria, and since there isn't enough of it, a minI cycle. It just takes more time and water changes, but it looks like it's getting there, based to ammonia stedily lower.
 

JettsPapa

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It's my understanding that 0.25 ppm ammonia is within the margin of error. As long as it doesn't get higher I wouldn't worry about it.
 
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mentatsndietcoke

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I appreciate the responses guys. I know at that level that the vast majority of the ammonia is locked up in ammonium and poses very little threat to this fish currently in the tank. But, I still can't help but it find it disconcerting that my tank is still showing ammonia. Maybe I'm just old school or maybe I'm just impatient and want to finish stocking my tank. Its probably a bit of both.

Jetts, I've seen that sentiment in a few places. Would the API Master Kit really have a margin of error that large? .25 PPM seems pretty significant when you consider that its the increment by which the results are separated.
 

JettsPapa

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mentatsndietcoke said:
Jetts, I've seen that sentiment in a few places. Would the API Master Kit really have a margin of error that large? .25 PPM seems pretty significant when you consider that its the increment by which the results are separated.
I don't know what else to say, other than the fact that I have trouble telling the difference between 0 and 0.25 anyway, so I don't worry about it.
 

faydout

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I've got color vision issues, and literally cannot see a difference between 10 and 20 nitrates. I look at the colorful tubes, make my guess, then get my wife to tell me what they actually are and compare how far off I was.
 

mattgirl

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You may want to consider a small shoal of corys to help with the extra food that makes it to the bottom and is left uneaten. I call my corys my little vacuum cleaners because they clean up any and all food that lands on the bottom. Of course they get their own food too but I always make sure to feed my top and mid swimmers and extra pinch or two to make sure some makes it to the bottom for my corys. They don't eat algae like some fish and/or snails do but they are perfect little bottom cleaners.

There are many varieties of corys. I have albino and bronze. I actually have way more than I really should but I only started with 3 albino and 3 bronze. They are different colors of the same species. After 4 years I now have at least 25 bronze. They are very prolific breeders.

Actually though. If there is constantly left over food in there decomposing your bacteria should catch up with the ammonia so like you I am wondering why you are still getting an occasional ammonia reading. Also like you I would have a very hard time just accepting a .25 ammonia reading. I want to see pure yellow in the test tube for ammonia and that beautiful sky blue in my nitrite test tube.

I think if it were me I would be adding a bit more crushed coral and try to get and keep the PH a bit higher. I would want to keep it no less than 7. If you can get and keep it there hopefully this cycle will finally stabilize.
 

JettsPapa

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faydout said:
I've got color vision issues, and literally cannot see a difference between 10 and 20 nitrates. I look at the colorful tubes, make my guess, then get my wife to tell me what they actually are and compare how far off I was.
I can't either, but if it's that low I figure the exact value doesn't matter anyway.
 

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