Suddenly! Ammonia, Nitrites AND Nitrates?


Hello! I'm still super new, making plenty of mistakes. This is day 38 (12/8) of trying to cycle my 20 gal (AFTER I had to start over completely after taking bad advice.) And, I just got my water tested and out of nowhere I have both nitrites and nitrates. I'm a little confused, I was under the impression this was supposed to happen differently.

So, the stats first. I have:
A 20 gallon freshwater tank,
A Quiet Flo filter rated for 30 gallons
Some activated carbon
"aquavitro" seed bacteria that I have used every day for the past 2 ish weeks, plus one dose after water changes,
And lastly I use "API" Stress Coat for dechlorinating my water.

As far as fish, for the last 38 days I have had 3 Platies, fed one flake each a day. Except for Thanksgiving they had brine shrimp.

Water changes have been all over the place. The first couple weeks were 50% water changes, and the last few have been 15-20%.

Now, I just did a small water change today (15-20% on 12/8), and noticed my water was maybe not cloudy, but not really clear either. So I got it checked, and the results were: Ammonia at .50 ppm, Nitrites at .50 ppm, and Nitrates between 5-10 ppm. Prior to this I had no nitrites at all.

Sorry for the long post, any information is welcome.


With those reading you will have to do a large water change. I would suggest 50% first off and then possibly another 50% in a few hours depending on the readings.

Do you have an API Master Test Kit? so you can monitor the parameters yourself or are you relying on LFS Many of whom only test using dip tests which are extremely unreliable.

Do you have Prime conditioner and Seachem stability on hand if not will you be able to purchase some.

You said for the "for the last 38 days I have had 3 Platies",are these the only fish in there currently have you had any others previously?

You also say your "Water changes have been all over the place" I would suggest keeping to a schedule.

Right now though those fish are in trouble with the high nitrite and nitrate readings but what is your ammonia reading. ammonia should be 0, Nitrites should be 0 and nitrates should be <20. Once nitrates reach 40 and above they too become toxic to fish. What are the nitrate readings from your tap water?

My suggestions are large water change of 50% that will reduce you nitrite for the moment to 0.25 and your nitrate to 25, Then another 50% water change a few hours later to reduce this further. Try and get the new water to the same temp or as close to the temp in the tank.

Purchase your own test kit so you can monitor the water parameters rather than having to waiting on and relying on LFS, purchase Seachem Prime water conditioner and Seachem Stability BB supplement

Prime Conditioner:Prime is an excellent and properly the most respected of all water conditioners by so many fish keepers of all standards , it removes chlorine and chloramine and also hard metals from tap water.
The genius thing about Prime unlike its competitors is that it can keep fish safe where ammonia and nitrites have spiked and are very dangerous to the fish. As the ammonia reading is under 1ppm Prime will treat the entire tank for a period of 24 hours and keep the fish free from the burning effects of the ammonia as the prime will convert the ammonia into ammonium for the 24 hour period but please note that it will convert back to ammonia in the 24 hour period. Re-test the water again after that time period and if the ammonia reaches to 1ppm or over 0.50ppm and or if the nitrites are still very high at the end of the 24 hour period you will need to do another 50% water change and again re-dose the prime to the tank.
There are some that say 48 hours of conversion but I prefer to keep to the 24 hour model to err on the side of caution. This is just my personal preference and it never caused my fish any issues rather, I would say it had saved their lives.
Each drop of prime treats 2 litres of water.

Dropper: If you get a small bottle of prime it will have the dropper on the lid but bigger bottles don’t so this can be remedied by purchasing a medicine dropper or vaccination syringe from the pharmacy. It is important to dose the accurate amount of prime which is why a dropper is better as it will enable correct dosage.

Air Stone or other extra aeration:
Prime is a reductor meaning that it reduces the oxygen supply in the tank when this treatment is done so it is best to add extra aeration via air stone or power head to agitate the surface area of the tank to replenish the depleted oxygen.

Seachem stability: This is an excellent BB supplement as it adds beneficial bacteria to the tank and filters and is not killed off by prime and the water changes where as other BB supplements are. This will help colonise your tank with the BB to the bio load of the fish and help cycle the tank. Stability still uses the ammonium as ammonia food source while it is in this converted state. I would triple dose or even quadruple stability directly into the filter media and in the opposite side of the tank to get a good distribution of it around the tank and in the filter media.

API master test kit:


welcome to Fishlore!

I've never heard of that bact brand before, but you're right, the general movement of things are ammonia > nitrites > nitrates. out of curiousity, what do your tap/whatever water you use for water changes parameters read like?

TSS+ is the brand of BB I use and they have a ridiculous concentration of nitrifying bacteria. when I was cycling the 40 I did see nitrites, but with Lilac and Brave's tanks it was literally ammonia dosed > nitrates right away without nitrites ever being present. it's entirely possible that your BB has a relatively comparable amount of ammonia-eating and nitrifying bact, so it's allowed to happen simultaneously.


The best thing about Seachem Stability BB is that it doesn't get killed off by water changes or Prime. It is a very respected BB supplement and works well when situations like this occur i.e. needing to do large water changes urgently and adding a BB supplement to seed and promote Beneficial Bacteria. From my understanding with the use of TSS water changes can't be made for 2 weeks and TSS can be added for 24 hours after prime has been added. That is the dilemma during urgent situations like this and needing to get the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates down to a safe level so as not to poison the fish


that is entirely true, unsure of why I didnt factor in timing into my answer.

I'm in no way bashing Stability, in fact I'm using it right now to cycle a brand new tank (for... reasons) and will be my go-to purely based on its ease of availability to me and the missus (we had to get TSS+ in via air mail from America). I did use TSS+ for my 40G fish-in, and my gups were okay through it all from start to finish, it cycled in 3 weeks (had to do water changes and dose stability after, ironically, to get the final 0.25 ammonia down)


Hi, welcome to the forum

Aquavitro is a great product and is a separate Seachem line (just FYI if you haven't heard of it).
Its normal while cycling to see ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. It just means you have some of both types of bacteria (nitrosonomas and nitrobacter/spira) but not enough of either.

Because you're cycling with fish you want to keep your ammonia + nitrites under 1.0 at all times to keep your fish safe along with dosing SeachemPrime daily for the full volume of the tank. Once they get up over 1.0 (when added together) do at least a 50% water change. Just keep doing this until ammonia and nitrites are both consistently 0.

This will be a lot easier for you if you pick up the API Master Liquid Test Kit as mentioned. Test once a day for ammonia and nitrites.

Also, what is your ph?

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