Struggling with fishless cycle - help!

Devpdx

Hey friends! I’m Devyn (she/her) and I’ve been working on a 10gallon fishless cycle since January! Since then I’ve added a ton of live plants and floaters.

I got close last month and then stalled out. Got some help from my local fish place and they helped me identify my ph bottomed out and my tap water has 0kh. My ammonia skyrotted over 8ppm, my nitrates were through the roof, nitrites through the roof. But because I had 0ph in the tank, my nitrates disappeared.

Anyway, I did an 80% water change, added crushed coral, and kh additive (which they dosed for me so I can use going forward in all water changes) and as of last Sunday my nitrates were 0, ammonia 3ish, nitrites 0, and ph around 7.

Yesterday I noticed my nitrates went back up over 20-40ppm, my nitrites were back up, and ammonia went down! Yay, right?

Today I checked again and my ammonia was almost gone, nitrates almost gone, and nitrites were sky high still.

I called the fish store and asked and he said it wasn’t a huge deal about the nitrates going away because I’m heavily planted.

At this point I’m here when I woke up:

Ammonia: .25ppm (dosed again after)
Nitrate: 5ppm
Nitrite: 2-5ish
Ph: 7.6

I tested nitrates and ammonia twice to be sure.

Anyway, I want to ensure the high nitrites and lower nitrates won’t stall me again. I read another thread here that says as long as you have ph high nitrites isn’t horrific or stall a cycle.

Is that right?

So at this point I keep going as I am now - dose ammonia to keep it over 2ppm until the nitrites are 0, right?

I’m just nervous about the low nitrates (even though I know I have lots of plants)

Any help would be awesome!

Thanks!

top row: Sunday after 80% water change
Bottom row: Friday (yesterday)
last set of three from today (Saturday)


5ED597C0-B0CA-47BC-8F32-117D41A2A91D.jpeg

overnight to this

04BB6E88-A11B-48CD-88E8-5A6E4B004C51.jpeg
 

Seamus111

OKAY...... first, you have NO FISH, RIGHT? So what's the worry? Are you in a hurry to get fish? Plants NEED ammonia to begin with. I have a new tank..... well newish. I planted heavy and left it alone for it to (settle down) for a couple weeks. I added ferts, a small amount, good lighting and didn't check perimeters at all for a few weeks. My plants took off like mad. Oh and I added CO2 for a quicker growth. My Cabomba plants are 2 foot tall. I also took the filter from an established tank and added it to the new HOB, hang on the back filter to help cycle it all. Weeks later, no fish and undecided as to what I wanted. I began checking perimeters and it was pretty good over all. Now....... it's a 45 gal TALL Cherry shrimp tank with many berried, (pregnant) shrimp. Don't over worry yet. And never as they say, "Chase your perimeters".
 
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mattgirl

OKAY...... first, you have NO FISH, RIGHT? So what's the worry? Are you in a hurry to get fish?
She's been working on a 10gallon fishless cycle since January. I would be getting a bit anxious for fish after all this time. I do think anyone would be so hopefully we will be able to get to the bottom of why this cycle isn't done and stable by now.
 
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Devpdx

OKAY...... first, you have NO FISH, RIGHT? So what's the worry? Are you in a hurry to get fish? Plants NEED ammonia to begin with. I have a new tank..... well newish. I planted heavy and left it alone for it to (settle down) for a couple weeks. I added ferts, a small amount, good lighting and didn't check perimeters at all for a few weeks. My plants took off like mad. Oh and I added CO2 for a quicker growth. My Cabomba plants are 2 foot tall. I also took the filter from an established tank and added it to the new HOB, hang on the back filter to help cycle it all. Weeks later, no fish and undecided as to what I wanted. I began checking perimeters and it was pretty good over all. Now....... it's a 45 gal TALL Cherry shrimp tank with many berried, (pregnant) shrimp. Don't over worry yet. And never as they say, "Chase your perimeters".
I’m not worried about anything, I’d just like to get it done.
She's been working on a 10gallon fishless cycle since January. I would be getting a bit anxious for fish after all this time. I do think anyone would be so hopefully we will be able to get to the bottom of why this cycle isn't done and stable by now.
Thank you for understanding!


Tank

What is the water volume of the tank?: 10gal







What type of water are you using in your tank? (tap, well, RO/DI, other): tap

When did you start cycling the tank?: January 2021

What type of filtration are you running on this tank? (sponge, HOB, canister, other): a penguin filter I think.

If canister or HOB list all the media you are running in it. (manufactured cartridges, sponge, etc.): it’s a black plastic filter with blue fiber.

Do you have good water agitation/surface movement?: yes

What is the water temperature?: 78.4



If fish in cycling

What is the entire stocking of this tank? Two or three baby bladder snails from plants. I remove them as i find them. (Please list all fish and inverts):

How often do you feed them and how much?: n/a

Are they showing signs of distress? (fish hiding, staying at the top, looking pale, torn fins, etc): they just eat algae.

Do you have live plants in the tank?: yes.

If so are they healthy and actively growing?: yes, for the most part. Some are browning.



Products used while cycling

If this is a fishless cycle what ammonia source are you using? (fish food, Dr Tim’s ammonia, other): Fritz Fishless fuel

If adding liquid ammonia how often do you dose ammonia in your tank and in what quantity? (1ppm, 2ppm etc.): I add and test until between 2-4ppm

If using fish food as your ammonia source how much are you adding and how often?:

Are you using a dechlorinater and if so, which one?: yes, Top Fin water conditioner

Are you using bottled bacteria and if so, which one?:

Did you add seeded media from a previously cycled tank?: no

What other products/chemicals are you using? (list them all): root tabs and sometimes a liquid plant fertilizer by API



Testing and cycling process

What was your knowledge of the nitrogen cycle before beginning to cycle your tank? (none, beginner, intermediate (please explain), advanced): None, just online research.

What do you use to test the water? (API liquid, test strips, other): API liquid test kit and api kh

Did you test your tap water for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and pH, if so post the results below?: yes. Ammonia: .25, ph: 6.6, everything else was 0

Have you done any water changes and if so, when?: I did 80% 6 days ago

How much water did you change?: 80%

Did you vacuum the substrate?: no (grass)

Did you clean your filter, filter media, decorations and/or glass?: I rinsed debris off the filter

If using disposable cartridges have you replaced one recently?: no





*Parameters - Very Important

What are your parameters? We need to know the exact numbers, not just “fine” or “safe”.

Tank water:

Ammonia: .25

Nitrite: 2.0 (maybe higher)

Nitrate: 5ppm

pH: 7.6



Tap water:

Ammonia: .25

Nitrite: 0

Nitrate: 0

pH: 6.6
Welcome to Fishlore :)

I may be able to help you. It would help me help you if you would take a few minutes to fill out as much of this template as you can. Nitrogen Cycle Template | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 494741

A full photo of your tank will help too.
Oops, posted on the wrong comment!


Tank

What is the water volume of the tank?: 10gal







What type of water are you using in your tank? (tap, well, RO/DI, other): tap

When did you start cycling the tank?: January 2021

What type of filtration are you running on this tank? (sponge, HOB, canister, other): a penguin filter I think.

If canister or HOB list all the media you are running in it. (manufactured cartridges, sponge, etc.): it’s a black plastic filter with blue fiber.

Do you have good water agitation/surface movement?: yes

What is the water temperature?: 78.4



If fish in cycling

What is the entire stocking of this tank? Two or three baby bladder snails from plants. I remove them as i find them. (Please list all fish and inverts):

How often do you feed them and how much?: n/a

Are they showing signs of distress? (fish hiding, staying at the top, looking pale, torn fins, etc): they just eat algae.

Do you have live plants in the tank?: yes.

If so are they healthy and actively growing?: yes, for the most part. Some are browning.



Products used while cycling

If this is a fishless cycle what ammonia source are you using? (fish food, Dr Tim’s ammonia, other): Fritz Fishless fuel

If adding liquid ammonia how often do you dose ammonia in your tank and in what quantity? (1ppm, 2ppm etc.): I add and test until between 2-4ppm

If using fish food as your ammonia source how much are you adding and how often?:

Are you using a dechlorinater and if so, which one?: yes, Top Fin water conditioner

Are you using bottled bacteria and if so, which one?:

Did you add seeded media from a previously cycled tank?: no

What other products/chemicals are you using? (list them all): root tabs and sometimes a liquid plant fertilizer by API



Testing and cycling process

What was your knowledge of the nitrogen cycle before beginning to cycle your tank? (none, beginner, intermediate (please explain), advanced): None, just online research.

What do you use to test the water? (API liquid, test strips, other): API liquid test kit and api kh

Did you test your tap water for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and pH, if so post the results below?: yes. Ammonia: .25, ph: 6.6, everything else was 0

Have you done any water changes and if so, when?: I did 80% 6 days ago

How much water did you change?: 80%

Did you vacuum the substrate?: no (grass)

Did you clean your filter, filter media, decorations and/or glass?: I rinsed debris off the filter

If using disposable cartridges have you replaced one recently?: no





*Parameters - Very Important

What are your parameters? We need to know the exact numbers, not just “fine” or “safe”.

Tank water:

Ammonia: .25

Nitrite: 2.0 (maybe higher)

Nitrate: 5ppm

pH: 7.6



Tap water:

Ammonia: .25

Nitrite: 0

Nitrate: 0

pH: 6.6
 

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mattgirl

Great looking tank. Everything looks like there should be no problem getting this tank cycled. Have your nitrites ever gone down to zero at anytime after their first spike?

Does your ammonia drop back down to zero within 24 hours each time you add it? If it does do you go ahead and get it back up each time?

For a 10 gallon tank I would only be getting it up to 2ppm.

Can you tell me more about your filter? It is possible it isn't doing its job well enough and could be at the bottom of this problem.
 
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Devpdx

Great looking tank. Everything looks like there should be no problem getting this tank cycled. Have your nitrites ever gone down to zero at anytime after their first spike?

Does your ammonia drop back down to zero within 24 hours each time you add it? If it does do you go ahead and get it back up each time?

For a 10 gallon tank I would only be getting it up to 2ppm.

Can you tell me more about your filter? It is possible it isn't doing its job well enough and could be at the bottom of this problem.

Thank you!

last night was the first time the ammonia disappeared overnight. Nitrites have never ever ever dropped. Only climbed.
My filter uses Marineland Penguin Rite-Size A. I also have a bio wheel. It wasn’t spinning consistently until I added the media bag of crushed coral to the filter and now it spins *most* of the time. It had plant debris on it last week so I just sink water to wash it off then put it back. Didn’t clean it clean it.
Thank you for helping me!
Great looking tank. Everything looks like there should be no problem getting this tank cycled. Have your nitrites ever gone down to zero at anytime after their first spike?

Does your ammonia drop back down to zero within 24 hours each time you add it? If it does do you go ahead and get it back up each time?

For a 10 gallon tank I would only be getting it up to 2ppm.

Can you tell me more about your filter? It is possible it isn't doing its job well enough and could be at the bottom of this problem.
Oh and yes, I continue re-adding ammonia and never let it go to zero. Last night was the lowest its gotten on its own
 
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mattgirl

Do you know which marineland filter you have. I tried to search but found there are several different sizes. If you have one rated for a 10 gallon tank I have a feeling that is one of the reasons this cycle isn't growing like it should. I always recommend getting a filter rated for a much bigger tank than we actually have. Those that make these filters badly over rate the size tank they can handle.

If at all possible I am going to recommend you upgrade your filter to one rated for at least a 20 gallon tank but 30 would be even better. If you can't do that then I will suggest you add a sponge filter to the tank. Sponge filters are bacteria magnets and they also aerate the water.

If the only media in the filter is the blue fiber/black plastic cartridge there isn't much area for bacteria to grow. The bio-wheel should also be a place for bacteria to grow but if it isn't working as well as it is supposed to it too may be part of the problem.

The ammonia needs to be pulled through the filter. If your filter isn't turning over enough water it has been known to impede the cycling process.

This really is the only things I can think of to cause this cycle not to have already been done. If it was just stalled the 80% water change you did 6 days ago should have gotten things moving forward.
 
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Devpdx

Do you know which marineland filter you have. I tried to search but found there are several different sizes. If you have one rated for a 10 gallon tank I have a feeling that is one of the reasons this cycle isn't growing like it should. I always recommend getting a filter rated for a much bigger tank than we actually have. Those that make these filters badly over rate the size tank they can handle.

If at all possible I am going to recommend you upgrade your filter to one rated for at least a 20 gallon tank but 30 would be even better. If you can't do that then I will suggest you add a sponge filter to the tank. Sponge filters are bacteria magnets and they also aerate the water.

If the only media in the filter is the blue fiber/black plastic cartridge there isn't much area for bacteria to grow. The bio-wheel should also be a place for bacteria to grow but if it isn't working as well as it is supposed to it too may be part of the problem.

The ammonia needs to be pulled through the filter. If your filter isn't turning over enough water it has been known to impede the cycling process.

This really is the only things I can think of to cause this cycle not to have already been done. If it was just stalled the 80% water change you did 6 days ago should have gotten things moving forward.

Thank you for the in depth info!
I’m not 1000% sure which filter it is specifically, but it came in a “kit” which had the filter, tank, light, and heater.

I can surely look for a better filter!

as of the moment, do you think the nitrites will stall me again? Or just keep pushing and waiting? Haha. I keep doing all this troubleshooting and it’s almost half way through the year. ‍♀️‍♀️
 
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mattgirl

Thank you for the in depth info!
I’m not 1000% sure which filter it is specifically, but it came in a “kit” which had the filter, tank, light, and heater.

I can surely look for a better filter!

as of the moment, do you think the nitrites will stall me again? Or just keep pushing and waiting? Haha. I keep doing all this troubleshooting and it’s almost half way through the year. ‍♀‍♀
Sadly most kits come with a subpar filter. I do think if you can upgrade your filter this cycle will finally be behind you. As far as I can see you are doing everything right. pH is good, temp is good. You are using ammonia designed for cycling a tank. The only thing that stands out to me is the filtration.

I don't think the amount of nitrites are stalling the cycle. Your ammonia eating bacteria is producing them, Since your ammonia has finally started going down it tells us you have ammonia eating bacteria. That bacteria is producing the nitrites. We just need to get enough nitrite eating bacteria to get them down to zero.

I really do think if you can get a stronger filter you are going to see this cycle moving forward quickly. When you get it either run both filters or at least move the cartridge and the bio-wheel from the original one over to the new one. You may have to smash or cut apart the bio-wheel to get it to fit in the new filter. Most of the bacteria you have grown so far is going to be on those 2 items.

I actually run a filter rated for an up to 35 gallon tank on my 5.5 gallon tank. There is no way in the world this filter could possibly work on a 35 gallon tank. As I said, they really over rate the effectiveness of their filters.
 
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Devpdx

Sadly most kits come with a subpar filter. I do think if you can upgrade your filter this cycle will finally be behind you. As far as I can see you are doing everything right. pH is good, temp is good. You are using ammonia designed for cycling a tank. The only thing that stands out to me is the filtration.

I don't think the amount of nitrites are stalling the cycle. Your ammonia eating bacteria is producing them, Since your ammonia has finally started going down it tells us you have ammonia eating bacteria. That bacteria is producing the nitrites. We just need to get enough nitrite eating bacteria to get them down to zero.

I really do think if you can get a stronger filter you are going to see this cycle moving forward quickly. When you get it either run both filters or at least move the cartridge and the bio-wheel from the original one over to the new one. You may have to smash or cut apart the bio-wheel to get it to fit in the new filter. Most of the bacteria you have grown so far is going to be on those 2 items.

I actually run a filter rated for an up to 35 gallon tank on my 5.5 gallon tank. There is no way in the world this filter could possibly work on a 35 gallon tank. As I said, they really over rate the effectiveness of their filters.
Thank you!! I will look for a new filter now! I appreciate your help!!

One last question- will a larger filter increase the flow of the water? It’s already a fairly strong current going. I believe I read about being able to slow the flow. Will I need to do that extra for a larger one?
 
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mattgirl

Thank you!! I will look for a new filter now! I appreciate your help!!

One last question- will a larger filter increase the flow of the water? It’s already a fairly strong current going. I believe I read about being able to slow the flow. Will I need to do that extra for a larger one?
You are so very welcome. I am looking forward to hearing that this cycle is finally behind you.

If there is too much flow it can be baffled. I run penn-plax cascade filters on my tanks. They have a knob right on top to slow down the flow. Comes in really good at feeding time.

I run one of the biggest ones on my 12 gallon pleco grow out tank. I keep the uptake wide open but have the outflow baffled with a piece of foam attached to it. That piece of foam is another really good place for bacteria.

You may want to look into getting completely away from using the cartridges most HOB filters use. By doing so you will never have to buy expensive cartridges again. In place of the cartridges you can use a piece of foam cut to size and add permanent media such as matrix, lava rock, ceramic rings in a media bag. This type of media will last for many many years.

Islandvic has some great advice on upgrading your filter media. You may want to check out his thread. Diy Media Guide For Top Fin Silenstream, Aquaclear And Other Hob Filters | Aquarium Filter Forum | 385506
 
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