Tank Cycling for Weeks, 4.00 ppm Ammonia

DrogJustDrog

Member
As the subject line says, I've been cycling a 5.5 gallon tank for about a month I wanna say. At most the tests I do show 4.00 ppm ammonia and I still have no nitrites yet, or nitrates for that matter. I've been using API Quick Start to try and hurry it up but it doesn't seem to be working.

At this point I'm wondering if there is something else I should do or just leave it be. I do refill the tank with tap water and recently got a water conditioner. I am worried it might kill my ammonia however.
 

Flyfisha

Member
Hi DrogJustDrog,
You recently got water conditioner?
Does that mean you don’t have water conditioner in the water in the tank?
The chlorine in tap water is there to kill bacteria.
All water must be conditioned before it goes into a tank.

Adding unconditioned water at any time will kill bacteria.
 
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DrogJustDrog

Member
The last refill I did, I put the conditioner in the water I added since it was from the tap. It's been a while, at least a month so I am not sure if I should put it in the tank directly. I should clarify I am in the middle of a fishless cycle, so nothing will be harmed immediately if I did that.
 

Bettybrown922

Member
What's your pH? I believe a pH under 6 will keep beneficial bacteria from growing at all.
Also, maybe try seeding it with something from an established tank - if you have access to one.
 
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DrogJustDrog

Member
I have a pH of around 7.6 to 7.8 last I tested, I don't know anybody anymore who does this hobby personally.
 

NotActive127112

I’m no expert but I’d probably drain the tank (keep the filter in the tank water you drain,then refill with tap water,condition for entire tank size then reintroduce the filter,I actually find it easier to do a fish-in cycle,guppies are great for this or any other type of hardy fish (im assuming your tank is freshwater,if marine I apologise as that’s out of my knowledge base)as long as you do 50% water changes every other day you’ll be able to keep the ammonia from rising to a level of harm,I’d also advise using seachem prime conditioner as this removes chlorine and chloramine that are dangerous to fish and will kill the bacteria colony,plus it detoxifies ammonia and nitrites so it’s a win win,I’ve used way less seachem prime than I used tetra aquasafe,even more so now I’ve upped my water change game,i measure out the tap water to cover a 50% WC (water change) into a large plastic storage box with lid,I then treat with seachem prime and pop a heater in overnight,then I siphon out my old tank water whilst vacuuming the gravel into a old bucket then once done my new tank water is ready to be siphoned straight in without any issues,it’s pretty easy to do it this way for me but you may find over time that you’ll find ways to make it easier for your situation.
I do agree that the water changes using untreated water straight from tap would most definitely kill off your bacteria colony (the colony can be wiped out so easily,this is why we only lightly clean filters in old tank water before throwing the water away,I find it helps tremendously to keep my filter in water removed from my tank whenever I need to turn it off/clean it etc,I’ve also added a air sponge filter to work alongside my internal filter which polishes the water and helps keep 2 colonies in my tank which helped when setting up my birthing/hospital tank) but as it hasn’t been too long since you last done this it might be easier to keep your filter in old tank water,drain your tank,refill and treat (conditioner) and start again,don’t forget to add tiny amounts of food if doing a fish less cycle to replicate the ammonia produced by fish etc.
Hopefully someone with more experience will be along shortly,I’ve just cycled 2 tanks and are going off of awesome advice that I was given plus my own experience,I really hope that something I’ve said helps,if I can help further please don’t hesitate to reply and let me know,I’m always happy to help anyway I can.
Good luck and would love to see some pics of your project
 
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DrogJustDrog

Member
I'm not sure if I want to drain my tank just yet. Though I am wondering if I should just put the water conditioner straight into the tank already, I've never done that. Today I am thinking about refilling the tank as the water has gotten low so either way I will be using the conditioner.
 

mattgirl

Member
If you are registering 4ppm ammonia in a 5 gallon tank would change out half of the water to get the ammonia down to no more than 2ppm. When you do the water change put your water conditioner in the new water before you pour the fresh water in the tank.

Which water conditioner are you using? Any of the should work just fine when doing a fishless cycle. All water conditioners work almost instantly to remove chlorine from our tap water so it is safe to pour it in your tank as soon as your bucket is filled and treated.

What are you using for an ammonia source? A water conditioner is not going to affect your ammonia. Not using one in the water you are replacing will affect the bacteria you are trying to grow though. Chlorine is added to our source water to kill bacteria. It will do the same thing in our tanks. A water conditioner will remove the chlorine.
 

RayClem

Member
Do you know what your water supplier uses to treat your water? In many places, they use chlorine gas. Even if you do not use a water conditioner, the chlorine gas will usually evaporate in a couple of days.

If your water supplier treats the water with chloramine, you have a much bigger issue. My tap water contains chloramine, a combination of chlorine gas and ammonia. The bond chloramine bond is quite stable, so just allowing the water to sit for a few days will not eliminate it. Sodium thiosulfate, the primary chemical in most aquarium water conditioners will break the chloramine bond and neutralize the chlorine, but it does not eliminate the ammonia. If you do have chloramine, everytime you do a water change, you are dosing your tank with ammonia. You can use an ammonia absorber such as zeolite. This will prevent the ammonia from reaching toxic levels. Other products such as Seachem Prime will also convert ammonia to a non-toxic form, but this affect is temporary.

Check you tap water for ammonia both before and after you add the water conditioner. That will tell you if you have ammonia or chloramine in your tap water.
 
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DrogJustDrog

Member
mattgirl said:
If you are registering 4ppm ammonia in a 5 gallon tank would change out half of the water to get the ammonia down to no more than 2ppm. When you do the water change put your water conditioner in the new water before you pour the fresh water in the tank.

Which water conditioner are you using? Any of the should work just fine when doing a fishless cycle. All water conditioners work almost instantly to remove chlorine from our tap water so it is safe to pour it in your tank as soon as your bucket is filled and treated.

What are you using for an ammonia source? A water conditioner is not going to affect your ammonia. Not using one in the water you are replacing will affect the bacteria you are trying to grow though. Chlorine is added to our source water to kill bacteria. It will do the same thing in our tanks. A water conditioner will remove the chlorine.
I'm just letting fish food decay for the ammonia. I am using Aqueon's water conditioner. I'm not sure if I want to change the water yet but I did refill some evaporated water today.
RayClem said:
Do you know what your water supplier uses to treat your water? In many places, they use chlorine gas. Even if you do not use a water conditioner, the chlorine gas will usually evaporate in a couple of days.

If your water supplier treats the water with chloramine, you have a much bigger issue. My tap water contains chloramine, a combination of chlorine gas and ammonia. The bond chloramine bond is quite stable, so just allowing the water to sit for a few days will not eliminate it. Sodium thiosulfate, the primary chemical in most aquarium water conditioners will break the chloramine bond and neutralize the chlorine, but it does not eliminate the ammonia. If you do have chloramine, everytime you do a water change, you are dosing your tank with ammonia. You can use an ammonia absorber such as zeolite. This will prevent the ammonia from reaching toxic levels. Other products such as Seachem Prime will also convert ammonia to a non-toxic form, but this affect is temporary.

Check you tap water for ammonia both before and after you add the water conditioner. That will tell you if you have ammonia or chloramine in your tap water.
Thanks for that, I probably wouldn't have learned about that until some sort of ammonia spike disaster. I'll look for zeolite or some other ammonia breaker around me if I can find it. They might use chloramine since I let the tank sit hoping what ever chlorine was in there would evaporate but I don't think it did, seeing as just ammonia has stuck around.

I did finally treat the tank itself last night with the water conditioner.
 

RayClem

Member
DrogJustDrog said:
I'm just letting fish food decay for the ammonia. I am using Aqueon's water conditioner. I'm not sure if I want to change the water yet but I did refill some evaporated water today.

Thanks for that, I probably wouldn't have learned about that until some sort of ammonia spike disaster. I'll look for zeolite or some other ammonia breaker around me if I can find it. They might use chloramine since I let the tank sit hoping what ever chlorine was in there would evaporate but I don't think it did, seeing as just ammonia has stuck around.

I did finally treat the tank itself last night with the water conditioner.
Normally, you can check with your water supplier to learn how they treat your water. In many cases, local water departments will publish sumaries of their water testing on the Internet for public review. It used to be that chlorine was used by nearly all suppliers to treat water other than private wells.. However, if the water is stored in tanks for a long time or if the water has to traverse miles of piping, the chlorine residual can be exhausted before the water reaches homes and businesses. That is a violation of health regulations. Thus, many localities have started using chloramine as it does not degrade as quickly. That is great for public safety, but it is not so great for aquariums.
 

mattgirl

Member
DrogJustDrog said:
I'm just letting fish food decay for the ammonia. I am using Aqueon's water conditioner. I'm not sure if I want to change the water yet but I did refill some evaporated water today.

I did finally treat the tank itself last night with the water conditioner.
Gotcha. I agree. If you are using fish food for your ammonia source you really don't want to be removing or lowering it with water changes.

Most water conditioners now are designed to remove both chlorine and/or chloramines. If you've not been using a water conditioner before now it is possible each time you topped of the evaporated water you were killing off any bacteria that had grown. Now that you are using a water conditioner to remove chlorine/chloramines your cycle should start moving forward.
 
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DrogJustDrog

Member
Alright, I do plan to test my water soon (would've done it today) so hopefully everything should be cycling smoothly by then. Thanks!
 
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DrogJustDrog

Member
Sorry for resurrecting this thread, but today I refilled my tank and tested the water (ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates) and at this point I am inclined to believe it's at 8.00 ppm ammonia with 0.00 ppm for the other two. I should either do a huge water change or just drain the tank because clearly something has gone horribly wrong here.

I've done doses and doses of water conditioner, API quickstart, and refilled it as tentatively as I could. I'm feeling discouraged.
 

redmare

Member
Oh my, this must be frustrating as heck!!! Here's what I recommend... get some live plants and stop adding any ammonia source. Change out a bunch of water to get it no more than 3-4ppm ammonia. The plants will help eat that ammonia! Check out Aquarium Co-Op's videos on cycling with live plants- makes a lot of sense.
 
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DrogJustDrog

Member
Thanks, I'm thinking about getting some plants (and a better tank heater) this holiday season. I'll also look at Aquarium Co-Op in a bit.
 

mattgirl

Member
What if anything have you been doing with this tank since you last posted? Did you ever do the water changes we recommended? Are you still adding fish food?
 
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DrogJustDrog

Member
Yeah I did two water changes, (around 25-45 percent) and I've only added fish food once after the initial accident when I accidently dumped a whole bunch in there. I'm thinking that might've thrown everything off.
 

mattgirl

Member
DrogJustDrog said:
Yeah I did two water changes, (around 25-45 percent) and I've only added fish food once after the initial accident when I accidently dumped a whole bunch in there. I'm thinking that might've thrown everything off.
If you've not done so yet I recommend you vacuum out as much of the food as you can. It isn't going to hurt anything if you end up vacuuming out most of the water while doing it. Once you get done, refill the tank with temp matched water that you have added your water conditioner to. Be sure to add the conditioner to the water before you pour it in there.

Doing this should get that ammonia level down to a reasonable number. What kind of filter are you running on this tank?
 
  • Thread Starter

DrogJustDrog

Member
mattgirl said:
If you've not done so yet I recommend you vacuum out as much of the food as you can. It isn't going to hurt anything if you end up vacuuming out most of the water while doing it. Once you get done, refill the tank with temp matched water that you have added your water conditioner to. Be sure to add the conditioner to the water before you pour it in there.

Doing this should get that ammonia level down to a reasonable number. What kind of filter are you running on this tank?
I'll try and do a massive water change, and I'm hoping to get most of whatever is left over from that accident out by then. I have a HOB filter, it's from API. Intended for 5-10 gallon tanks.
 
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DrogJustDrog

Member
I just did that massive, 50 percent water change. I got some flakes out. Most of them have almost completely decayed but some are still sticking around and only come out of the gravel after being kicked up. Though it should have taken care of some of the ammonia at least.
 

mattgirl

Member
DrogJustDrog said:
I just did that massive, 50 percent water change. I got some flakes out. Most of them have almost completely decayed but some are still sticking around and only come out of the gravel after being kicked up. Though it should have taken care of some of the ammonia at least.
Good job. I would do the same thing again tomorrow. While doing it stir up the substrate so you can vacuum out as much of the food as possible. Once we get all this excess food out of there I think you are going to find that your cycle is done or very close to done. Right now it is just so far out of balance it is struggling to do what it needs to do. These water changes are going to help get it more balanced.

Don't add anything other than your water conditioner. Meaning no quick start or anything else that comes in a bottle. Like I said before, as long as you add your water conditioner to your fresh water before pouring it in there your bacteria will not be harmed. The fresh water is going to add the minerals needed to keep this tank moving forward.

An hour or so after you do the second big water change run all the tests. I am hoping you will see the ammonia down to zero but will be happy to see it somewhere less than one.
 
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DrogJustDrog

Member
mattgirl said:
Good job. I would do the same thing again tomorrow. While doing it stir up the substrate so you can vacuum out as much of the food as possible. Once we get all this excess food out of there I think you are going to find that your cycle is done or very close to done. Right now it is just so far out of balance it is struggling to do what it needs to do. These water changes are going to help get it more balanced.

Don't add anything other than your water conditioner. Meaning no quick start or anything else that comes in a bottle. Like I said before, as long as you add your water conditioner to your fresh water before pouring it in there your bacteria will not be harmed. The fresh water is going to add the minerals needed to keep this tank moving forward.

An hour or so after you do the second big water change run all the tests. I am hoping you will see the ammonia down to zero but will be happy to see it somewhere less than one.
Thanks, I will do that.
 

RayClem

Member
mattgirl said:
Gotcha. I agree. If you are using fish food for your ammonia source you really don't want to be removing or lowering it with water changes.

Most water conditioners now are designed to remove both chlorine and/or chloramines. If you've not been using a water conditioner before now it is possible each time you topped of the evaporated water you were killing off any bacteria that had grown. Now that you are using a water conditioner to remove chlorine/chloramines your cycle should start moving forward.
That is not quite right. The water conditioners reduce the dissolved chlorine to chloride ion, which is non-toxic. If the water contains chloramine, it will split the molecule into chlorine and ammonia. It will then convert the chlorine. However, either an ammonia absorbent like zerolites or beneficial bacteria will have to take care of the ammonia. In a tank that is not yet cycled, chloramine will raise the ammonia level.
 
  • Thread Starter

DrogJustDrog

Member
I just did the second 50 percent water change. I even gave the API test tubes and some of the décor a bath in the replacement water. Fingers crossed this fixes my stalled cycle.
RayClem said:
That is not quite right. The water conditioners reduce the dissolved chlorine to chloride ion, which is non-toxic. If the water contains chloramine, it will split the molecule into chlorine and ammonia. It will then convert the chlorine. However, either an ammonia absorbent like zerolites or beneficial bacteria will have to take care of the ammonia. In a tank that is not yet cycled, chloramine will raise the ammonia level.
I have tested my water after conditioner, it didn't have any ammonia. Thanks for telling me about this though.
 

mattgirl

Member
DrogJustDrog said:
I just did the second 50 percent water change. I even gave the API test tubes and some of the décor a bath in the replacement water. Fingers crossed this fixes my stalled cycle.

I have tested my water after conditioner, it didn't have any ammonia. Thanks for telling me about this though.
I really really hope this will get things moving forward. What are your plans for this tank? If you plan on just having one fish in there you really don't have to go through all you are going through.

At this point if it were me I would get ALL of the fish food you have been adding out of there so it will stop producing ammonia. I would rinse off the filter media so I was sure all of the decomposing food was out of there too. By doing all of this the tank should be filled with fresh dechlorinated water.

Once done I would get my fish. I would keep an eye on the ammonia level. If I saw any I would change out some of the water to make sure it never goes above .25 I would make sure I never poured any water in the tank that hadn't had water conditioner added to it first. I would never go more than a week without changing out half the water. If you will do this your pet should live a long happy healthy life.

After doing all of this I would just take time to enjoy my new water pet.
 
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DrogJustDrog

Member
mattgirl said:
I really really hope this will get things moving forward. What are your plans for this tank? If you plan on just having one fish in there you really don't have to go through all you are going through.

At this point if it were me I would get ALL of the fish food you have been adding out of there so it will stop producing ammonia. I would rinse off the filter media so I was sure all of the decomposing food was out of there too. By doing all of this the tank should be filled with fresh dechlorinated water.

Once done I would get my fish. I would keep an eye on the ammonia level. If I saw any I would change out some of the water to make sure it never goes above .25 I would make sure I never poured any water in the tank that hadn't had water conditioner added to it first. I would never go more than a week without changing out half the water. If you will do this your pet should live a long happy healthy life.

After doing all of this I would just take time to enjoy my new water pet.
I plan on either getting a betta, or a pea puffer. Since I neglected to check the filter media this water change I'm planning to check it next refill or change.

Yeah it does seem like a lot. I'm just trying to take it as well as I can, I'm viewing as getting the "hard lessons" first before "easy sailing" I guess. Thanks for all your help though!
 

mattgirl

Member
DrogJustDrog said:
I plan on either getting a betta, or a pea puffer. Since I neglected to check the filter media this water change I'm planning to check it next refill or change.

Yeah it does seem like a lot. I'm just trying to take it as well as I can, I'm viewing as getting the "hard lessons" first before "easy sailing" I guess. Thanks for all your help though!
After struggling with this tank for 3 months I have to think it is time to put the "hard lessons" behind you and time to finally start enjoying this tank.
 

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