So frustrated with nitrogen cycle

Jeffg9

Hi Everyone,

I have been lurking for a few months but I am wit's end. I bought a topfin 20-gallon tank and filter etc for my 7-year-old who wanted glofish. I got Dr Tims ammonia chloride and followed all directions for a fishless cycle. I was at it for 4 months. Could never get rid of the 2ppm overnight. I had nitrite spikes and then they went away and I never saw them again. I got nitrates so that seemed good. Just could not get rid of the ammonia overnight always .25 registered on the API chem tests. I used 2 bottles of Dr Tims one and only and couple of Tetra Safe Start+ over the course of the 4 months. I put Matrix in the filter. My PH ranged 6.8-7. Temp is 78 in the tank. After my son made the joke to guests that we have cool invisible fish, I knew he was frustrated. I got 3 glofish tetra to see if I could get the rest of the way with fish. It has been 3 weeks and every morning there is .25 PPM of ammonia and I have to do a water change. How the heck do I get this silly cycle to complete???? Thanks for the help!
 

mattgirl

Welcome to Fishlore :)

It is very possible the .25 you are seeing is a false positive. Do you shake the ammonia testing bottles? Sometimes doing so gives a more accurate reading.

Since you went through your nitrite spike and are now seeing nitrates i really do think this cycle is done and it is possible the cycle has been done for quite some time.
 

StarGirl

Have you checked your tap water for ammonia?
 

Jeffg9

Welcome to Fishlore :)

It is very possible the .25 you are seeing is a false positive. Do you shake the ammonia testing bottles? Sometimes doing so gives a more accurate reading.

Since you went through your nitrite spike and are now seeing nitrates i really do think this cycle is done and it is possible the cycle has been done for quite some time.
Yes, I shake the bottle and also just opened a new testing kit and it is the same.
Have you checked your tap water for ammonia?
Yes, there is no ammonia.
 

mattgirl

Yes, I shake the bottle and also just opened a new testing kit and it is the same.

Yes, there is no ammonia.
To be perfectly honest I would not be stressing over what you are seeing. You may never see a true zero reading.

What size filter are you running on this tank? It may not seem possible but it is possible to under filter a tank. If it isn't circulating the water as much as it should it can cause some ammonia to hang around in the tank. To clear out all the ammonia all of it needs to be pulled through the filter.

Unfortunately the makers of these filters highly over rate them. Since you have a 20 gallon tank I recommend you run a filter rated for no less than 40 gallons. We can never have too much filtration. Too much water movement is possible if it is affecting our fishes ability to swim but never too much filtration.

It is overkill but right now I am running a HOB filter rated for a 55 gallon and up on my 5.5 gallon tank. The smaller filter quit. I had this one in my backups and figured why not use it. I can turn the flow down although I've not seen the need to do so because i just have small mystery snails in the tank.
 

Jeffg9

To be perfectly honest I would not be stressing over what you are seeing. You may never see a true zero reading.

What size filter are you running on this tank? It may not seem possible but it is possible to under filter a tank. If it isn't circulating the water as much as it should it can cause some ammonia to hang around in the tank. To clear out all the ammonia all of it needs to be pulled through the filter.

Unfortunately the makers of these filters highly over rate them. Since you have a 20 gallon tank I recommend you run a filter rated for no less than 40 gallons. We can never have too much filtration. Too much water movement is possible if it is affecting our fishes ability to swim but never too much filtration.

It is overkill but right now I am running a HOB filter rated for a 55 gallon and up on my 5.5 gallon tank. The smaller filter quit. I had this one in my backups and figured why not use it. I can turn the flow down although I've not seen the need to do so because i just have small mystery snails in the tank.
Thanks Mattgirl, I actually have a 40 gallon on there.
 

mattgirl

Now that you have fish in the tank I will recommend you go to your weekly water changes. I actually think you can add more fish. If this tank has been processing 2ppm ammonia down to .25 and you are working on your second bottle of Dr.Tim's ammonia I have to think you have grown enough bacteria to handle the bio-load of more than 3 fish.

I am sure you, your son and your guests will enjoy seeing visible fish in this tank :D
 

Pfrozen

The API test will show 0.25 if there is any ammonia at all, even trace. I had this issue with false positives until many months went by. I think it shows true 0 now because my tank is well matured
 

bored411

I've literally been having the same problem with my tanks. I've got a 3 gallon and a 10 gallon that have been at 0.25 ammonia and 10-20 nitrates with 0 nitrites for over 2-3 months now. That 0.25 ammonia just did not go away and I decided to add fish more fish (I did a fish-in cycle for an ammonia source). Now, the ammonia in the 10 gallon is at 1 and nitrite went up to 0.5. Did a 50% water change, dosed with Prime, and am keeping an eye on it.

So, if you do decide to add fish, start with only a few, and be sure to still check the levels the day after you get them to make sure the levels don't get high and dose it properly if they do.
 

Azedenkae

Pfrozen is correct.

Jeffg9, your tank has been cycled for a very long while now. A very long while.

It is very normal to measure 0.25ppm ammonia even in very established tanks. Some people measure it, some don't, but essentially it can be treated as 0 ammonia.

After all, if you think about it, there should be no reason why the nitrifiers would consume all that ammonia, but leave 0.25ppm behind each time. It's not like they are these picky eaters that don't want to finish their meal. They'll use the ammonia if they can.

A few theories as to why aquarists keep on measuring 0.25ppm - likely there is just a very small amount of ammonia above 0ppm that is constantly produced that is yet to be consumed by the ammonia-oxidizers. Think of it like when you got to a McDonalds and keep on seeing food at the pick up window. It's not that McDonalds is not constantly being consumed by customers, just that there's a point where the food might be ready but the customer has yet to pick it up yet. Same concept here. You are measuring the minute amount of ammonia floating around just prior to consumption. As for why it shows as 0.25ppm? Well, the resolution on test kits may be more absolute, and if it can't show 0, it'll show the next number, i.e. 0.25ppm.

Tldr; Measuring 0.25ppm ammonia is common, even in established tanks, I wish more people knew this.
 

Jerome O'Neil

Those tests are far from scientific. If you are adding ammonia and it is dropping a lot, and you are seeing a comparable increase in nitrates, you are probably good to put in a couple of fish.

Don't overload the tank, and don't overfeed. And you might try a different test kit.
 

Jeffg9

pH 6.8-7 and temp 78'F. you can have around 4ppm ammonia and it would be safe, b/c it would be almost all ammonium.

also, the nitrogen cycle is slowed by low pH.

http://www.aztic.org/wp-content/upl...re-on-Ammonia-pH-Water-Temperature-v-2017.pdf
Thanks jtjgg! This is helpful!
Pfrozen is correct.

Jeffg9, your tank has been cycled for a very long while now. A very long while.

It is very normal to measure 0.25ppm ammonia even in very established tanks. Some people measure it, some don't, but essentially it can be treated as 0 ammonia.

After all, if you think about it, there should be no reason why the nitrifiers would consume all that ammonia, but leave 0.25ppm behind each time. It's not like they are these picky eaters that don't want to finish their meal. They'll use the ammonia if they can.

A few theories as to why aquarists keep on measuring 0.25ppm - likely there is just a very small amount of ammonia above 0ppm that is constantly produced that is yet to be consumed by the ammonia-oxidizers. Think of it like when you got to a McDonalds and keep on seeing food at the pick up window. It's not that McDonalds is not constantly being consumed by customers, just that there's a point where the food might be ready but the customer has yet to pick it up yet. Same concept here. You are measuring the minute amount of ammonia floating around just prior to consumption. As for why it shows as 0.25ppm? Well, the resolution on test kits may be more absolute, and if it can't show 0, it'll show the next number, i.e. 0.25ppm.

Tldr; Measuring 0.25ppm ammonia is common, even in established tanks, I wish more people knew this.
Makes sense!!
Pfrozen is correct.

Jeffg9, your tank has been cycled for a very long while now. A very long while.

It is very normal to measure 0.25ppm ammonia even in very established tanks. Some people measure it, some don't, but essentially it can be treated as 0 ammonia.

After all, if you think about it, there should be no reason why the nitrifiers would consume all that ammonia, but leave 0.25ppm behind each time. It's not like they are these picky eaters that don't want to finish their meal. They'll use the ammonia if they can.

A few theories as to why aquarists keep on measuring 0.25ppm - likely there is just a very small amount of ammonia above 0ppm that is constantly produced that is yet to be consumed by the ammonia-oxidizers. Think of it like when you got to a McDonalds and keep on seeing food at the pick up window. It's not that McDonalds is not constantly being consumed by customers, just that there's a point where the food might be ready but the customer has yet to pick it up yet. Same concept here. You are measuring the minute amount of ammonia floating around just prior to consumption. As for why it shows as 0.25ppm? Well, the resolution on test kits may be more absolute, and if it can't show 0, it'll show the next number, i.e. 0.25ppm.

Tldr; Measuring 0.25ppm ammonia is common, even in established tanks, I wish more people knew this.
Makes sense!! It is confusing when everywhere says you must see 0 ppm to know it is cycled.
 

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