Struggling To Get The Tank To Cycle And Losing Fish

stultus

Long story that I will try and make short.

I have lost a couple fish in the kids tank. It's only a 10 gallon tank. I am meticulous and keep records and water changes. I grew up with a pool so I at least have basics of water quality.

I purchased a tank for the kids and tried to cycle it without fish by using the bio boosters and some fish food. I thought I had it worked out. I had petco test the water before they sold me a platy and a green lantern. I let those fish have about 2 weeks and everything seemed fine. We added 2 more platys and everything was good for about a week. a day or two later in the morning the green lantern was face down in the plastic tall skinny plant (more on this plant later). My test strips and the petco water test said everything seemed good.

They replaced the fish and my kids chose a sword tail koi and we added an albino bristlenose pleco.
I did a 25% water change and changed the filter. I was testing the water everyday and everything seemed right on. One morning the pleco was dead and one of the platys was on its way out. We took the fish and a sample to petco and they said my ammonia was over 2 ppm. They suggested another water change and to keep less fish.

A couple of weeks later I started to get algae and asked about how to deal with that. They sold me 3 octos. I looked up online using the aqua advisor and it says we are in the high 90s for tank load. I am ok with changing the water out and keeping on top of it so I thought I was ok.

We had the octos for about 4 days and found one of them dead and beat up looking in the tall skinny green plant and one of them seemingly stuck in it. I have found several of our fish at different times seemingly stuck in this plant. I removed the plant this morning.

I have been keeping track of this tank a lot (daily) and my ammonia level ranged between .75 and .25ppm generally toward the middle of that range. The nitrites are around .25pp and the nitrates are 0. PH is gnerally 7.8 to 7, but is currently between 6.6 and 6.8 somewhere. The temperature is controlled by a little heater and stays right in the middle of the green range on the thermometer.

From what I have read online based on the temperature and the PH the ammonia levels will be N4 and not N3 and should not be a real problem. So why do I keep loosing fish.

I know now that I probably changed the filter too soon and lost some of the bacteria I needed, but I use spring water for the changes right now and I use the stress coat water prep stuff and a bio booster.

Still learning this process, but I am at a loss.
 

Loetje

HI stultus,

Sorry to hear about your fish This happens a lot unfortunately. But you're not doomed!

First: test strips are notoriously inaccurate. It would probably help to get a liquid test kit like the API Master Test Kit.
Second: it appears the cycle didn't really complete, as your having significant ammonia and nitrites. Any ammonia is bad ammonia, unless you're cycling.
Third: Don't change the filter. That's where the cycling bacteria live!

What can you do?
Do a lot of large water changes (50%) regularly and dose prime and stability
Get a liquid test kit and post the results
Search the internet for 'fish in cycle' to get the how-to's on cycling
Remember, Petco just wants to sell you stuff..

Good luck with your tank.
 

Momgoose56

Long story that I will try and make short.

I have lost a couple fish in the kids tank. It's only a 10 gallon tank. I am meticulous and keep records and water changes. I grew up with a pool so I at least have basics of water quality.

I purchased a tank for the kids and tried to cycle it without fish by using the bio boosters and some fish food. I thought I had it worked out. I had petco test the water before they sold me a platy and a green lantern. I let those fish have about 2 weeks and everything seemed fine. We added 2 more platys and everything was good for about a week. a day or two later in the morning the green lantern was face down in the plastic tall skinny plant (more on this plant later). My test strips and the petco water test said everything seemed good.

They replaced the fish and my kids chose a sword tail koi and we added an albino bristlenose pleco.
I did a 25% water change and changed the filter. I was testing the water everyday and everything seemed right on. One morning the pleco was dead and one of the platys was on its way out. We took the fish and a sample to petco and they said my ammonia was over 2 ppm. They suggested another water change and to keep less fish.

A couple of weeks later I started to get algae and asked about how to deal with that. They sold me 3 octos. I looked up online using the aqua advisor and it says we are in the high 90s for tank load. I am ok with changing the water out and keeping on top of it so I thought I was ok.

We had the octos for about 4 days and found one of them dead and beat up looking in the tall skinny green plant and one of them seemingly stuck in it. I have found several of our fish at different times seemingly stuck in this plant. I removed the plant this morning.

I have been keeping track of this tank a lot (daily) and my ammonia level ranged between .75 and .25ppm generally toward the middle of that range. The nitrites are around .25pp and the nitrates are 0. PH is gnerally 7.8 to 7, but is currently between 6.6 and 6.8 somewhere. The temperature is controlled by a little heater and stays right in the middle of the green range on the thermometer.

From what I have read online based on the temperature and the PH the ammonia levels will be N4 and not N3 and should not be a real problem. So why do I keep loosing fish.

I know now that I probably changed the filter too soon and lost some of the bacteria I needed, but I use spring water for the changes right now and I use the stress coat water prep stuff and a bio booster.

Still learning this process, but I am at a loss.
Ammonia and nitrites are toxic to fish at any level, your tank is still cycling, otos are an extremely sensitive fish and your lfs should have never suggested them for an uncycled tank, and your fish are dying because of the ammonia and nitrite levels.
SO, we can help! You'll need to do a giant-75%- water change first. Get some Seachem Prime from your lfs and dose your tank with that. It will bind with the ammonia and nitrites still in the tank after the water change and will need to be redosed every 48 hours and with every water change. You'll need to do big enough water changes every two or three days to keep ammonia plus nitrite levels between .5 and 1.0 ppm for the Prime to be most effective. Your tank will continue to cycle. It may take a few more weeks for it to completely cycle now because there are fish in there. You may lose a few more fish and I advise against adding any more fish until the cycle is complete. You will know when it's complete when your tests show 0ppm ammonia and nitrites all the time and that your tank is producing nitrates.
You don't need Stability, but it might help speed things up a bit. Tetra Safe Start will do the same thing if you prefer that option.
 

stultus

Thanks for the responses!

A couple answers to questions from Loetje:

First: test strips are notoriously inaccurate. It would probably help to get a liquid test kit like the API Master Test Kit.
>>> I forgot to put this in there, but one of the things I learned was that the test strips are garbage. I have been using the API kit for about 2 weeks now.

Second: it appears the cycle didn't really complete, as your having significant ammonia and nitrites. Any ammonia is bad ammonia, unless you're cycling.
>>> What I think (could be wrong) is that I used the bio booster didn't actually get the tank cycled when I thought it had. It turned hazy and had bubbles on top and everything then went clear before I added fish (about a week and a half). BUT where I think I messed up is the timing. I added the new fish AND changed the water AND filters at the same time. I think that basically took the little progress I had made and erased it.

Third: Don't change the filter. That's where the cycling bacteria live!--
>>>How often do you change them? It suggests once a month. Is it ok to change them that often once the tank has cycled?

Do a lot of large water changes (50%) regularly and dose prime and stability
>>>I have been doing 1/3-1/2 water changes with gallon jugs of spring water every 3 days. I have been treating them with the API water treatement + stress coat. Is the Seachem Prime really that much better that I need to get it instead?

Remember, Petco just wants to sell you stuff..
>>> PetCo has actually been pretty helpful and has recommended going slowly and provided a couple of good resources.. This forum for one. I think I have just don'e a couple things that through the cycle off and the test strips were a major problem. They test the water every time I go talk to them and give me recommendations. They recommended not "medicating" the tank and just using water changes and stress coat to make it through the cycle.

MomGoose56:
otos are an extremely sensitive fish and your lfs should have never suggested them for an uncycled tank
>> When Petco checked my levels everything seemed good. They use the test strips too though so maybe that was the issue.

You'll need to do a giant-75%- water change first. Get some Seachem Prime
redosed every 48 hours and with every water change.
>>>Seachem prime is the recommended one of APIs equivalent? how much every 48 hours for a 10 gallon tank? The recomended amount from the directions?

keep ammonia plus nitrite levels between .5 and 1.0 ppm for the Prime to be most effective.
>>>>My levels have been generally between:
PH - Between 6.7 and 6.9
Ammonia - Has bounced around a little but generally between the .50ppm and .75ppm. However after putting the octos in it bounced to 1.2ppm
Nitrites - Have maintained right around .25 ppm but jumped to .50 ppm yesterday. I assume this means the tank is starting to cycle a little more.
Nitrates - I haven't seen anything here but 0 ppm but I have been doing the water changes every 3 days.


You may lose a few more fish
>>> The 2 platys and the swordtail koi seem to be doing really well. I lost another octo and the last one seems to be ok for the moment. Will they make it without havign more fish to school with? Can he make it a couple of weeks on his own before I add 2 more in?

and
that your tank is producing nitrates.
>>I think this was the part I was missing. I never saw nitrates show in the test. I assumed it was cycled because the ammonia and nitrites were really low or 0, but I think it hadn't actually even started yet or was really weak.
 

Loetje

HI Stultus,

Nice that you got the test kit!
Cycling can/will take weeks. It seems to me that your suspisions are right. Changing all filter media will kill the starting cycle you had going there.
I have some filter pads, some ceramic media and finally blackwater stuff. I have only changed the blackwater extract, and have the same ceramic media/sponges etc I have had for 6 years. I rinse them now and again in tank water.
Just change it when it starts falling apart.

I don't know what API water treatment is.. The benefit of Prime is that it reduces ammonia toxicity. There must be a lot of other similar products that do the same thing, but prime is most recommended on this forum IME.

On petco: they don't exist in my country But, chain stores do - and in my hometown they should only give advice for plastic-fish-care .. so maybe I'm a bit judgemental
 

Nallan

Long story that I will try and make short.

I have lost a couple fish in the kids tank. It's only a 10 gallon tank. I am meticulous and keep records and water changes. I grew up with a pool so I at least have basics of water quality.

I purchased a tank for the kids and tried to cycle it without fish by using the bio boosters and some fish food. I thought I had it worked out. I had petco test the water before they sold me a platy and a green lantern. I let those fish have about 2 weeks and everything seemed fine. We added 2 more platys and everything was good for about a week. a day or two later in the morning the green lantern was face down in the plastic tall skinny plant (more on this plant later). My test strips and the petco water test said everything seemed good.

They replaced the fish and my kids chose a sword tail koi and we added an albino bristlenose pleco.
I did a 25% water change and changed the filter. I was testing the water everyday and everything seemed right on. One morning the pleco was dead and one of the platys was on its way out. We took the fish and a sample to petco and they said my ammonia was over 2 ppm. They suggested another water change and to keep less fish.

A couple of weeks later I started to get algae and asked about how to deal with that. They sold me 3 octos. I looked up online using the aqua advisor and it says we are in the high 90s for tank load. I am ok with changing the water out and keeping on top of it so I thought I was ok.

We had the octos for about 4 days and found one of them dead and beat up looking in the tall skinny green plant and one of them seemingly stuck in it. I have found several of our fish at different times seemingly stuck in this plant. I removed the plant this morning.

I have been keeping track of this tank a lot (daily) and my ammonia level ranged between .75 and .25ppm generally toward the middle of that range. The nitrites are around .25pp and the nitrates are 0. PH is gnerally 7.8 to 7, but is currently between 6.6 and 6.8 somewhere. The temperature is controlled by a little heater and stays right in the middle of the green range on the thermometer.

From what I have read online based on the temperature and the PH the ammonia levels will be N4 and not N3 and should not be a real problem. So why do I keep loosing fish.

I know now that I probably changed the filter too soon and lost some of the bacteria I needed, but I use spring water for the changes right now and I use the stress coat water prep stuff and a bio booster.

Still learning this process, but I am at a loss.

Do they have an airstone? if not they may be suffocating? Were there any symptoms on the dead fish such as red gills or discolorment?
 

H Farnsworth

I never change my filter just clean it every now and then
 

Kjeldsen

Is the Seachem Prime really that much better that I need to get it instead?

Stress Coat and Prime are basically the same. I believe Stress Coat contains aloe vera (they all have their gimmicks), but most sodium thiosulfate conditioners work the same way by breaking the chloramine (ammonia + chlorine) bond.. Because of this they also contain additives for reducing ammonia toxicity, so there's no reason to go out and buy more until you run out.
 

Momgoose56

Thanks for the responses!

A couple answers to questions from Loetje:

First: test strips are notoriously inaccurate. It would probably help to get a liquid test kit like the API Master Test Kit.
>>> I forgot to put this in there, but one of the things I learned was that the test strips are garbage. I have been using the API kit for about 2 weeks now.

Second: it appears the cycle didn't really complete, as your having significant ammonia and nitrites. Any ammonia is bad ammonia, unless you're cycling.
>>> What I think (could be wrong) is that I used the bio booster didn't actually get the tank cycled when I thought it had. It turned hazy and had bubbles on top and everything then went clear before I added fish (about a week and a half). BUT where I think I messed up is the timing. I added the new fish AND changed the water AND filters at the same time. I think that basically took the little progress I had made and erased it.

Third: Don't change the filter. That's where the cycling bacteria live!--
>>>How often do you change them? It suggests once a month. Is it ok to change them that often once the tank has cycled?

Do a lot of large water changes (50%) regularly and dose prime and stability
>>>I have been doing 1/3-1/2 water changes with gallon jugs of spring water every 3 days. I have been treating them with the API water treatement + stress coat. Is the Seachem Prime really that much better that I need to get it instead?

Remember, Petco just wants to sell you stuff..
>>> PetCo has actually been pretty helpful and has recommended going slowly and provided a couple of good resources.. This forum for one. I think I have just don'e a couple things that through the cycle off and the test strips were a major problem. They test the water every time I go talk to them and give me recommendations. They recommended not "medicating" the tank and just using water changes and stress coat to make it through the cycle.

MomGoose56:
otos are an extremely sensitive fish and your lfs should have never suggested them for an uncycled tank
>> When Petco checked my levels everything seemed good. They use the test strips too though so maybe that was the issue.

You'll need to do a giant-75%- water change first. Get some Seachem Prime
redosed every 48 hours and with every water change.
>>>Seachem prime is the recommended one of APIs equivalent? how much every 48 hours for a 10 gallon tank? The recomended amount from the directions?

keep ammonia plus nitrite levels between .5 and 1.0 ppm for the Prime to be most effective.
>>>>My levels have been generally between:
PH - Between 6.7 and 6.9
Ammonia - Has bounced around a little but generally between the .50ppm and .75ppm. However after putting the octos in it bounced to 1.2ppm
Nitrites - Have maintained right around .25 ppm but jumped to .50 ppm yesterday. I assume this means the tank is starting to cycle a little more.
Nitrates - I haven't seen anything here but 0 ppm but I have been doing the water changes every 3 days.


You may lose a few more fish
>>> The 2 platys and the swordtail koi seem to be doing really well. I lost another octo and the last one seems to be ok for the moment. Will they make it without havign more fish to school with? Can he make it a couple of weeks on his own before I add 2 more in?

and
that your tank is producing nitrates.
>>I think this was the part I was missing. I never saw nitrates show in the test. I assumed it was cycled because the ammonia and nitrites were really low or 0, but I think it hadn't actually even started yet or was really weak.
Okay, API Ammolock is similar Prime -but has to be redosed every 24 hours instead of 48. It also doesn't stimulate slime coat production like Prime does.
Sounds like youe lfs may have a couple employees that know something about fish so that's good.
Don't change the filter media. Ever. Unless it's falling apart or too clogged to clean. Mine, on my HOB's get replaced maybe twice a year.
You're using bottled spring water? With a pH between 6 and 8 you really don't need to. Youe tap water would be fine.
While you are cycling, the only reason you are doing water changes is to keep your ammonia and nitrite levels low. If they aren't low enough, do bigger and/ or more frequent water changes.
Your oto will be fine alone if the ammonia and nitrites don't kill him. Don't put any more fish in the tank until it's cycled. (My opinion)

Stress Coat and Prime are basically the same. I believe Stress Coat contains aloe vera (they all have their gimmicks), but most sodium thiosulfate conditioners work the same way by breaking the chloramine (ammonia + chlorine) bond.. Because of this they also contain additives for reducing ammonia toxicity, so there's no reason to go out and buy more until you run out.
That is completely inaccurate. Stresscoat does not bind ammonia or nitrites and it does not stimulate slime coat production by the fishes own skin. It ONLY eliminates chlorine and provides an artificial slime coat and aloe vera. Stress coat is fine for use in a cycled tank, USELESS for binding ammonia and nitrites in a cycling tank.
 

stultus

I do not have an airstone. I read somewhere they didn't provide much. I try to keep my water a little lower so the water from the filter aerates the water. Not sure if that is good enough. I did not see any discoloration on the gills. They just seemed to become a little crazy then not move much and then go lifeless for a few hours.

I got ride of the long skinny sharp plant that they seemed to keep getting stuck in. Atleast 3 of the fish that died were face down in the plant. One we found face down deep in the plant but once we got him out he seemed find.

I have been using seachem prime and doing water changes. I am finally seeing some nitrites, but barely any nitrates at all.

The other Octo died so I am down to 2 platys and one swordtail koi.

I noticed the other day that the PH was way down to the very low sixes. I read online that you could use 2 tsps of baking soda per 10 gallons of water to slowly bring up the PH. I used a single tsp and made it on the small side. About 30 minutes later I noticed the koi was darting back and forth frantically. I checked the PH and it was as high as my kit would read (7.6). I immediately started doing water changes until I got it down to between 7.2 and 7.0. Things seemed fine after that.

It seems like the tank is cycling, but very very slowly. I haven't done a water change or added seachem in about a week now and todays measurements were (July 7th):
PH 7.0
Ammonia 0.5PPM
Nitrites 0.5PPM
Nitrates somewhere just above 0 but less than 5 PPM. Its really hard to see those low colors. Say maybe 2.5PPM which is what it was when I checked it on the 3rd of this month.

I added a tiny bit of the prime and some of the bio booster.

Tank looks clean and the water is clear. They haven't been fed since the 3rd when we went on vacation (until we got home today). There is some very fine white strands of algae growing on the heater and on the thermometer.

Thanks for all the help. Learning a ton here.
 

Momgoose56

I do not have an airstone. I read somewhere they didn't provide much. I try to keep my water a little lower so the water from the filter aerates the water. Not sure if that is good enough. I did not see any discoloration on the gills. They just seemed to become a little crazy then not move much and then go lifeless for a few hours.

I got ride of the long skinny sharp plant that they seemed to keep getting stuck in. Atleast 3 of the fish that died were face down in the plant. One we found face down deep in the plant but once we got him out he seemed find.

I have been using seachem prime and doing water changes. I am finally seeing some nitrites, but barely any nitrates at all.

The other Octo died so I am down to 2 platys and one swordtail koi.

I noticed the other day that the PH was way down to the very low sixes. I read online that you could use 2 tsps of baking soda per 10 gallons of water to slowly bring up the PH. I used a single tsp and made it on the small side. About 30 minutes later I noticed the koi was darting back and forth frantically. I checked the PH and it was as high as my kit would read (7.6). I immediately started doing water changes until I got it down to between 7.2 and 7.0. Things seemed fine after that.

It seems like the tank is cycling, but very very slowly. I haven't done a water change or added seachem in about a week now and todays measurements were (July 7th):
PH 7.0
Ammonia 0.5PPM
Nitrites 0.5PPM
Nitrates somewhere just above 0 but less than 5 PPM. Its really hard to see those low colors. Say maybe 2.5PPM which is what it was when I checked it on the 3rd of this month.

I added a tiny bit of the prime and some of the bio booster.

Tank looks clean and the water is clear. They haven't been fed since the 3rd when we went on vacation (until we got home today). There is some very fine white strands of algae growing on the heater and on the thermometer.

Thanks for all the help. Learning a ton here.
I really don't think baking soda is a good idea. It will raise your pH very rapidly and is very short acting. Crushed coral, aragonite or limestone chips, 1 cup per 30 gallons tank water in a mesh media bag directly in your tank filter overflow will bring your pH up slowly and be much better tolerated by the fish. Plus your tank will cycle better with a consistent pH over 7 AND the crushed coral will keep your pH stable so it's not dropping then going back up with every water change. If your tap water has a decent pH use that instead of spring water. It contains everything your fish need.
 

stultus

So with Water changes and a little Seachem Prime I have been able to keep the tank at about 7.2 PH, The ammonia between 0.25 ppm and .75 ppm tending more toward the .75ppm side, 0.5ppm nitrites, and 2.5 ppm of nitrates. The tank still doesn't seem to want to fully cycle. I only have 2 platys and the one swordtail koi in there now. Why won't this tank cycle? I got the PH up a little, I have tried some of the biobooster, there is clearly enough ammonia and nitrites to stimulate the bacterial growth. What am I missing?
 

Lcas1

So with Water changes and a little Seachem Prime I have been able to keep the tank at about 7.2 PH, The ammonia between 0.25 ppm and .75 ppm tending more toward the .75ppm side, 0.5ppm nitrites, and 2.5 ppm of nitrates. The tank still doesn't seem to want to fully cycle. I only have 2 platys and the one swordtail koi in there now. Why won't this tank cycle? I got the PH up a little, I have tried some of the biobooster, there is clearly enough ammonia and nitrites to stimulate the bacterial growth. What am I missing?
Just a little patience lol the nitrite phase can take 3 weeks or so my tank took 6 weeks to complete and that was a fishless cycle.
 

stultus

This tank has been operating for probably more than 2 months now. Yes. I shake the nitrate bottle for 30 seconds. Then the tube for 1 minute. I feel like something must be stunting the bacterial growth.
 

Momgoose56

So with Water changes and a little Seachem Prime I have been able to keep the tank at about 7.2 PH, The ammonia between 0.25 ppm and .75 ppm tending more toward the .75ppm side, 0.5ppm nitrites, and 2.5 ppm of nitrates. The tank still doesn't seem to want to fully cycle. I only have 2 platys and the one swordtail koi in there now. Why won't this tank cycle? I got the PH up a little, I have tried some of the biobooster, there is clearly enough ammonia and nitrites to stimulate the bacterial growth. What am I missing?
What you are missing is time. You essentially 'started' cycling your tank at the end of June. You had a rough start, a bunch of fish died, you unknowingly removed much of the biological bacteria you did have growing, then came to this forum for help. You are exactly where you should be in your cycling and have it under control now, congrats for sticking with it! Because you are cycling with fish in the tank, you don't have the freedom to let the ammonia and nitrites rise to the high levels, and mess with pH and temperature a lot which would help your tank cycle faster. So it IS a slow process.
Keep doing exactly what you're doing now. Keep that pH up, and if you're controlling it with water changes, I again highly recommend adding crushed coral to your filter overflow to bring it up a little closer to 7.8. That might boost your bacteria growth a little more. 1/3 cup in a mesh media bag in the filter overflow would be enough for a 10 gallon tank.
Keep up with the water changes to control the nitrites and ammonia and keep dosing with Prime.
I'm guessing that you will see ammonia levels start dropping on their own in the next couple weeks and nitrites gone within a month after that. You are doing great! Keep up the diligence and patience!
 

Lcas1

I would try what momgoose said sounds to me like it is probably your ph that is slowing things down mine has been at 8.0 all the time in my tank and from my tap!we have very hard water where I am just make sure you don't replace your media and things will soon start to get there. Just when your about to give up it will suddenly be cycled then you can enjoy your fish good luck!
 

teakwandolover234

I never change my filter just clean it every now and then
doing that is very bad for your fish and lets carbon into the fishes system causing things like hole in the head and other diseases
 

hanra85

doing that is very bad for your fish and lets carbon into the fishes system causing things like hole in the head and other diseases
I'm assuming you're talking about not changing hang on back cartridges which is essentially just filter floss and carbon fused to a ventilated sheet of plastic... if you're using those, they're terrible and should be upgraded to the cheaper yet far superior option of a 30ppI sponge aquaclear makes different sizes that will fit most hang on back filters, buy a size up and trI'm if needed... then buy a ceramic media like Biomax. Only media you would want to change out entirely is your carbon (if you use it at all, I don't) which will eventually leach stuff back into the system when it is exhausted and filter floss which just gets gunked up from polishing fine particles. I've been using the same sponges and biomedia for over 15 years straight now in my system... Just because your filter didn't come with it doesn't mean it can't be upgraded, they want people to think they need to throw their media out every so many weeks or months. Not a lecture, just hoping to save you some money long term...
 

Momgoose56

I'm assuming you're talking about not changing hang on back cartridges which is essentially just filter floss and carbon fused to a ventilated sheet of plastic... if you're using those, they're terrible and should be upgraded to the cheaper yet far superior option of a 30ppI sponge aquaclear makes different sizes that will fit most hang on back filters, buy a size up and trI'm if needed... then buy a ceramic media like Biomax. Only media you would want to change out entirely is your carbon (if you use it at all, I don't) which will eventually leach stuff back into the system when it is exhausted and filter floss which just gets gunked up from polishing fine particles. I've been using the same sponges and biomedia for over 15 years straight now in my system... Just because your filter didn't come with it doesn't mean it can't be upgraded, they want people to think they need to throw their media out every so many weeks or months. Not a lecture, just hoping to save you some money long term...
Just a reminder, adding media is always a good idea but while you're cycling you don't want to remove anything, filter cartridge, carbon (unless you're medicating fish), decorations or substrate.
 

Islandvic

stultus here is a LINK to a thread on the forum that may help you get your tank cycled and stay cycled. It is a write up about adding DIY media to your filter. It is stickied in the filters and filtration section of the forum.

It is possible there is not enough media in the filter to colonize enough beneficial bacteria, especially if you're using cartridges.

I saw you are using spring water for tank refills. Any particular reason why? That may be the cause of the pH fluctuations.

Also, are you thoroughly doing a substrate vac when performing water changes? Maybe it is possible that there is a build up of detritus and other organic matter in the substrate causing the ammonia.

Eventually your parameters should get down to 0/0/5-20. That will show the tank is cycled.

I have a 10 gallon also, but was lucky enough to use some cycled media and a sponge filter from another tank to start it up.

Keep up the good work. Once you get it cycled, it should be smooth sailing.
 

teakwandolover234

I'm assuming you're talking about not changing hang on back cartridges which is essentially just filter floss and carbon fused to a ventilated sheet of plastic... if you're using those, they're terrible and should be upgraded to the cheaper yet far superior option of a 30ppI sponge aquaclear makes different sizes that will fit most hang on back filters, buy a size up and trI'm if needed... then buy a ceramic media like Biomax. Only media you would want to change out entirely is your carbon (if you use it at all, I don't) which will eventually leach stuff back into the system when it is exhausted and filter floss which just gets gunked up from polishing fine particles. I've been using the same sponges and biomedia for over 15 years straight now in my system... Just because your filter didn't come with it doesn't mean it can't be upgraded, they want people to think they need to throw their media out every so many weeks or months. Not a lecture, just hoping to save you some money long term...
\
I only have a 5 gallon aquarium and I am in school so I do not make a salary so it is very difficult to upgrade a bunch of stuff but I will look into it.
 

hanra85

\
I only have a 5 gallon aquarium and I am in school so I do not make a salary so it is very difficult to upgrade a bunch of stuff but I will look into it.
Yep, that's what I was getting at, again not a lecture just trying to help, take the advice if you want. But cost wise, buying and replacing filter cartridges gets far too expensive over time. It's actually cheaper to do a little upgrade, the sponges that aquaclear makes only cost a few dollars as well as a small box of ceramic bio rings. I'm assuming you use a hob or an internal filter, if that's the case you would likely be able to use these (or the larger versions if you'd like, which aren't much more expensive) with your existing filter and it's actually probably cheaper for 6 dollars than your next package of cartridges, for something that'll last decades vs cartridges that'll only last a month or two... Most people just don't realize they can utilize this kind of media when they're starting out because the manufacturer wants them coming back every month for more. Feel free to do a Google search of your specific filter on Google or YouTube even with tips on how to optimize the media specifically for that unit, you'll be glad you do. Hope this helps!

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TheLadyFreedom

So, am I reading correctly that I can simply pull the cartridge and layer these different medias (similar to my fluval and penn plax)? I hate cartridge filters, but this one came with the tank, its a Tetra Fin something or other!
 

hanra85

So, am I reading correctly that I can simply pull the cartridge and layer these different medias (similar to my fluval and penn plax)? I hate cartridge filters, but this one came with the tank, its a Tetra Fin something or other!
Yep, hang on back filters are essentially just a water pump with a box and an intake attached to it, just because the manufacturer tells you this is what they've made for them (to give them recurring sales) doesn't mean that's the only thing, let alone the best thing, you can do with it. Any filtration basically works by taking water and continuously running it over the media that holds bacteria, depending on what filter exactly you have, it's hard to get specific since there's so many different dimensions based on brands, model and such... you might require different size of sponge or a have a slightly different optimal layout. Guaranteed though if you look around online there's someone who's already got the same filter as you that's posted a video or something on how to maximize it's potential with media that doesn't require weekly replacements. Just trying to plant some idea seeds aha. Good luck!
 

TheLadyFreedom

Yep, hang on back filters are essentially just a water pump with a box and an intake attached to it, just because the manufacturer tells you this is what they've made for them (to give them recurring sales) doesn't mean that's the only thing, let alone the best thing, you can do with it. Any filtration basically works by taking water and continuously running it over the media that holds bacteria, depending on what filter exactly you have, it's hard to get specific since there's so many different dimensions based on brands, model and such... you might require different size of sponge or a have a slightly different optimal layout. Guaranteed though if you look around online there's someone who's already got the same filter as you that's posted a video or something on how to maximize it's potential with media that doesn't require weekly replacements. Just trying to plant some idea seeds aha. Good luck!

I am going to certainly research this some more. I know I added ceramic media to my penn plax, and when I cleaned it last week the bio floss was mostly melted... I restuffed it with my fluval sponge and it started back up like a champ
 

stultus

Thanks for all the help!!

So I finally have the PH staying around 7.2, Ammonia is falling and is just above 0 now. I did lose another fish overnight with no warning. He was one of the first ones too. Nitrites are in the .75ppm range and nitrates are somewhere around 5ppm. I gave the tank a small treatment of the seachem prime and a 30% water change. So it is very slowly cycling. I think I started to see a lot more progress when I got the PH up above 7. My Aqueon Quiet filter 10 has been anything but quiet since the day I started it. I constantly have to move it to get it to stop vibrating. So after reading this thread I bought one of the Aqua clear 10 filters with the 3 layers. I put the filter in the tank and started it so they are both running. How long should I keep them both running to ensure I don't remove all the bacteria out by removing the other pump? My plan is to stay with the one koi swordtail and one platy but eventually add some octos. Is this a good idea? Should I add snails instead?
 

Islandvic

teakwandolover234 and TheLadyFreedom , I provided a LINK in a previous post on this thread, that shows what hanra85 is talking about. You can eliminate using cartridges and increase your filtration for under $10.

stultus , did you get an Aquaclear 20? I'm not sure if they make a 10 model.

You can use a pair of scissors and cut off the white felt looking material from the Aqueon's cartridge. Then place the material in your Aquaclear. What little beneficial bacteria that accumulated in the Aqueon will now have been transferred to the new Aquaclear.

Also, there is some instructions that Fluval/Aquaclear gives that is in the instruction manual and printed on the box. They basically recommend to discard and replace the media every few months, staggering the replacementent of the foam/carbon/bio-max.

The foam sponge block and small bag of bio-max will never need to be discarded. Just swish it in a container of tank water to wash it. The carbon will be exhausted in 4-6 weeks. Afterwards, it can be discarded. Carbon is totally optional to use. Most people substitute another foam spong block, Polyfil or other media in its place.

So, have you pulled the Aqueon filter off and cleaned its impeller? That may solve the problem with it making noise.

If that quiets down the noise, you can run both filters if you want. A block or foam sponge similar to what came in your Aquaclear can be used instead of the cartridge.
 

hanra85

Yah, unfortunately manufacturers recommend replacement of biomedia and sponges but its just a money grab and dangerous to your cycle but they all recommend it because at the end of the day, they're all in the business to make money... Their products are good so I'll kinda forgive the sneaky advice their marketing team gives us. In 15 years I've never replaced ceramics, biomedia or sponges in my filters only replace your carbon and filter floss if you even use them, those two are optional though anyway.
 

JenC

Nitrites are in the .75ppm range and nitrates are somewhere around 5ppm. I gave the tank a small treatment of the seachem prime
Just want to double check that you're treating the whole tank with Prime daily to protect fish from the nitrites, not just when you do water changes? The hint of ammonia is fine with the low pH (it's nontoxic ammonium) but any level of nitrite can be harmful.
 

Cale24

To add some insight to why not to use Spring water when cycling- it’s often very soft water and a cycle needs suitable KH / carbonate hardness to help beneficial bacteria colonize. A level of KH 4 would be good (4 dKH / drops from a liquid test kit). This came up in a recent thread. And a 7.2 PH is a good level for the process so try keep it around there.
Warmer temperatures help the process as well, as high as the fish can tolerate given they are in there now. I find crushed coral takes a long time to dissolve and it only does so below neutral / PH 7 unless I am mistaken? I use it in one of my tanks but that has a lower PH. Not tried argonite/ limestone so can’t say how well that works. There are various powder and liquid form KH boosters, but all need to be used carefully so we not to shock your fish.
Baking soda used in small, measured amounts can work fine - even with fish, but would be ideal without. Its not great for plants but that’s not an issue for now!
Always rinse filter media in your tank water - unless I missed that. Don’t clean the tank glass either during the cycling process as bacteria develops everywhere and even that will assist the process until there’s enough of it everywhere else. I recently fresh cycled a tank so went through it all again.
Good luck and hope things go well- sounds like you are on the right track.
 

stultus

Just want to double check that you're treating the whole tank with Prime daily to protect fish from the nitrites, not just when you do water changes? The hint of ammonia is fine with the low pH (it's nontoxic ammonium) but any level of nitrite can be harmful.
I have been putting in very small amounts of it every 48 hours.

teakwandolover234 and TheLadyFreedom , I provided a LINK in a previous post on this thread, that shows what hanra85 is talking about. You can eliminate using cartridges and increase your filtration for under $10.

stultus , did you get an Aquaclear 20? I'm not sure if they make a 10 model.

You can use a pair of scissors and cut off the white felt looking material from the Aqueon's cartridge. Then place the material in your Aquaclear. What little beneficial bacteria that accumulated in the Aqueon will now have been transferred to the new Aquaclear.

Also, there is some instructions that Fluval/Aquaclear gives that is in the instruction manual and printed on the box. They basically recommend to discard and replace the media every few months, staggering the replacementent of the foam/carbon/bio-max.

The foam sponge block and small bag of bio-max will never need to be discarded. Just swish it in a container of tank water to wash it. The carbon will be exhausted in 4-6 weeks. Afterwards, it can be discarded. Carbon is totally optional to use. Most people substitute another foam spong block, Polyfil or other media in its place.

So, have you pulled the Aqueon filter off and cleaned its impeller? That may solve the problem with it making noise.

If that quiets down the noise, you can run both filters if you want. A block or foam sponge similar to what came in your Aquaclear can be used instead of the cartridge.
I think you are right. It's the 20. So the carbon aqueon filter has been in there for over a month and its carbon based. Should I still put it in the new filter? I have not tried cleaning the impeller, but it has been loud since day one.
 

JenC

I have been putting in very small amounts of it every 48 hours.
You want to treat the whole tank volume as long as there are nitrites. That's about 20 drops every 24-48 hours to treat 10g.
 

Islandvic

Yes, you can put the old carbon media from the Aqueon in the new Aquaclear.

You can let it run with the new media. It will help "seed" the bacteria as it starts to colonize on the Aquaclear's foam sponge block and bag of bio-media.

After carbon is depleted and can adsorb no longer, it is no longer effective at removing contaminants from water, though it probably had beneficial bacteria colonizing in it.

Some people advise that after long enough time goes by, carbon will slowly release and leach out whatever it adsorbed. I won't make a case for if it does or does not do that, but I am not particularly worried that it will.

If the filter gas been loud since the begining, here is a LINK to a thread on the forum dealing with Aqueon Quietflow filters and how to service them with they are loud or have reduced flow.
 

stultus

This tank is finally cycled ( I think). My ammonia is down to less than .25 PPM. The PH is around 7.2, the Nitrites are 0, and the Nitrates were around 5 ppm. I ran both the Aqueon and the aquaclear filters for a while then finally removed the aqueon from the tank. I checked the impeller and its completely clean.

I have an power strip controlled by alexa that turns the lights on and off. I had them on for an hour or 2 in the morning and then off during the day and then back on for a few hours at night. I did this because the algae seemed to be taking off really quick. about a week ago I set the lights so they are on about 8 hours of the day. I don't see any of the green algae forming yet, but there are some nearly translucent strands on the heater and the little ship I have in there.

Since we are down to the 1 swordtail koi (female) and 1 platy I was thinking about adding another fish or two. The kids liked the octos and they really liked the albino bristlenose plecco, but I think my daughter crushed it with the net trying to get another dead fish out a while back. What kind of fish would you recommend?

As always Thanks for your help. This took forever and I probably would have given up if not for the info here.
 

Momgoose56

This tank is finally cycled ( I think). My ammonia is down to less than .25 PPM. The PH is around 7.2, the Nitrites are 0, and the Nitrates were around 5 ppm. I ran both the Aqueon and the aquaclear filters for a while then finally removed the aqueon from the tank. I checked the impeller and its completely clean.

I have an power strip controlled by alexa that turns the lights on and off. I had them on for an hour or 2 in the morning and then off during the day and then back on for a few hours at night. I did this because the algae seemed to be taking off really quick. about a week ago I set the lights so they are on about 8 hours of the day. I don't see any of the green algae forming yet, but there are some nearly translucent strands on the heater and the little ship I have in there.

Since we are down to the 1 swordtail koi (female) and 1 platy I was thinking about adding another fish or two. The kids liked the octos and they really liked the albino bristlenose plecco, but I think my daughter crushed it with the net trying to get another dead fish out a while back. What kind of fish would you recommend?

As always Thanks for your help. This took forever and I probably would have given up if not for the info here.
Yay! You could try otocinclus catfish (oto's) again or the BN pleco if you want. Just make sure you buy healthy well fed fish from a healthy tank. Keep a close eye on your water parameters for a few weeks after you add them (it)--you'll be adding more bioload to a tank cycled to handle the waste of two fish. Just keep the Prime handy for awhile.
 

stultus

OK.. an update. We got down to the one sword tail koi and the platy. They lived for about a month and a half by themselves. Then suddenly the koi died overnight. I continued to monitor the water and change out a decent amount every 2 weeks. The algae started to build up on the rocks. I went to the store and bought 3 more otos(so 1 platy and 3 Otos). They ate the algae like crazy and cleaned up the tank in about 4-5 days. I added an algae disc each day and kept up with the water checking. Always between 0-.25ppm ammonia, 0ppm nitrites and between 0-5 ppm nitrates. The PH stays around 6.8-7.2. This morning (about a week into the Otos) one of them looks like it is dying. I don't get it. I spend so much time making sure this thing is right. The only thing I can figure is they ate all the algae and they are starving, but there are algae discs in there. I have never actually seen them eat them though.. Thoughts? Why can people just through fish in an aquarium and they live and I spend this much time and can't keep fish alive.
 

Momgoose56

\
I only have a 5 gallon aquarium and I am in school so I do not make a salary so it is very difficult to upgrade a bunch of stuff but I will look into it.
teakwandolover234, you probably should start your own thread if you're having problems and need help rather than posting in someone else's thread where no one will see your specific issue but people advising the OP of this thread.

OK.. an update. We got down to the one sword tail koi and the platy. They lived for about a month and a half by themselves. Then suddenly the koi died overnight. I continued to monitor the water and change out a decent amount every 2 weeks. The algae started to build up on the rocks. I went to the store and bought 3 more otos(so 1 platy and 3 Otos). They ate the algae like crazy and cleaned up the tank in about 4-5 days. I added an algae disc each day and kept up with the water checking. Always between 0-.25ppm ammonia, 0ppm nitrites and between 0-5 ppm nitrates. The PH stays around 6.8-7.2. This morning (about a week into the Otos) one of them looks like it is dying. I don't get it. I spend so much time making sure this thing is right. The only thing I can figure is they ate all the algae and they are starving, but there are algae discs in there. I have never actually seen them eat them though.. Thoughts? Why can people just through fish in an aquarium and they live and I spend this much time and can't keep fish alive.
As you were previously told, and as any professional aquarist will tell you, otocinclus catfish are extremely sensitive to Water conditions and any kind of Stress. Until your tank has been cycled and can consistently support an established population of non-aggressive community fish for several months to a year without any issues, otocinclus probably won't do well in your tank. I advise against putting sensitive fish off this kind in a new, partially cycled tank (water conditions) that is still undergoing stocking changes and fish deaths (stress).
Also, why aren't you doing weekly water changes? Even if your ammonia were 0 and even though your nitrates are low, fresh water changes are essential for removing solid waste, maintaining a stable pH, removing salt and unused mineral build up (because of evaporation) and replacing depleted minerals and electrolytes (calcium, magnesium, potassium and others).
 

Jimmie93

The only way to fix this is do more water changes and test the water until the tank is stable you should have cycled the tank first.
 

stultus

The only way to fix this is do more water changes and test the water until the tank is stable you should have cycled the tank first.
You did see my posts going back months about the water metrics being right on? This tank is nearly 4 months old. According to every metric I am aware of this tank is cycled. The measurements have been the same for quite a while. Is 30% water change once a week the recommended amount?

MomGoose- You were the one that told me I could try them again. I figured they were ok to try again, that something went wrong last time even though the water quality stayed the same. I probably do 3 water changes a month. Sometimes its a week, sometimes its 2 weeks. With only the 2 fish in there and feeding once a day in small amounts it was never very dirty in the substrate. As soon as I put the Otos in there I noticed a difference though. I did a 50% water change after they were in there for 2-3 days. I used seachem to treat the water and let it get to room temperature before adding it.

Is there a better type of fish I can use to help control the algae in a 10 gallon tank. I am fine with having two fish and some kind of algae eater.

From what I have read I think these fish are starving and not having issues with the water. I read something about trying to feed them a piece of boiled zucchini. Is that a good idea?

Thank you all for your responses and help along the way.
 

Momgoose56

You did see my posts going back months about the water metrics being right on? This tank is nearly 4 months old. According to every metric I am aware of this tank is cycled. The measurements have been the same for quite a while. Is 30% water change once a week the recommended amount?

MomGoose- You were the one that told me I could try them again. I figured they were ok to try again, that something went wrong last time even though the water quality stayed the same. I probably do 3 water changes a month. Sometimes its a week, sometimes its 2 weeks. With only the 2 fish in there and feeding once a day in small amounts it was never very dirty in the substrate. As soon as I put the Otos in there I noticed a difference though. I did a 50% water change after they were in there for 2-3 days. I used seachem to treat the water and let it get to room temperature before adding it.

Is there a better type of fish I can use to help control the algae in a 10 gallon tank. I am fine with having two fish and some kind of algae eater.

From what I have read I think these fish are starving and not having issues with the water. I read something about trying to feed them a piece of boiled zucchini. Is that a good idea?

Thank you all for your responses and help along the way.
Nerite snails are amazing algae eaters.
 

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