Tank cycling just not happening?

jbialik

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Ok here is the recreation of events since the beginning.

Bought and set up a 37gallon freshwater tank on march 9th of this year. Started a cycle with fish, on advice from pet store guy and hadnt read this forum yet on fishless cycle. Anyway began with a few zebra danois, added the seachem stabilty as per instructions on the bottle, used declorinator on the water, also I added a small live plant. Cant remember the name, but it has long vertical leaves, not fanlike, almost like seaweed. I have a master test kit that I bougt and began testing for the first month, and nothing at all changed, ammonia is 0-0.25ppm, nitrates and nitrites are absolutely 0. ph is around 7.8. Now like I say nothing happens for a month, so I figure that the bio-load is too low and the plant is eating the ammonia and there is nothing available for the bacteria to begin.

Then I gradually added 8 neon tetra's, the ammonia never really goes above 0.25ppm and there are still absolutely no nitrate or nitrite. Ok then a week later, this 5 weeks total of tank life-time, a tetra dies. This is the first death, I check tank paramters absolutely the same. Do a water change and treat water with seachem stabilty. A few days later another one is dead, same thing with tank parameters. At this point I added some prime to the tank on the adivce of my friend.

Now I leave on a work trip overseas for two weeks, my wife reports to me about a week after I left the the tetra's are dying daily, and one zebra danios, over a period of 2-3days we lose 4 neon tetras and one danio. Then the fish stop dying and I figure that the tank cycle is done after a spike in nitrite and ammonia. I come home to find that the tank is also very clear, when I left it was really getting murky and now it is crystal clear. Ok I figure that the tank is cycled, I Test the water same thing as before, except now there is 0 ammonia and 0 nitrate and 0 nitrite. Of note as well is the tap water here has about 0.5ppm ammonia out of the tap, even the RO water I buy from the store that you can fill up in those 20L jugs has about 0.25ppm. I'm mostly using that, so clearly something in my tank is reducing the ammonia. I actually did one water change with dsitilled water, that had absolutely 0 ammonia, but it was expensive. Anyway I take the results to the fish store and they say the results are ok and we add another group of fish, 4 minnows and 2 guppies. All is good in the tank and eveything is fine with all the fish. Two weeks go buy and the results of the test are the same ammonia 0-0.25ppm and nitrate and nitrite are pure 0 on the test. It's easy to color code the nitrite and nitrate cause they are so clearly 0.
As stated two more weeks went by and there was not a single fatality, so we added the cool fish we (me and my little daughter) wanted. These were a school of 6 green tiger barbs. They have been in there now two weeks and all is fine. Water test again, after about two weeks of the barbs being added and still EXACTLY THE SAME? trace ammonia and nothing on the nitrate and nitrite. It's been 9 weeks at this point and all I ever used was the seachem stabilty at the beginning and when adding new fish, prime one time, and de-clorinator. Nothing else. Havent washed the filter media. We do water change ever 1-2 weeks, using RO water.
So is this tank cycled? If so why no nitrates? Did I miss simply miss the nitrite spike when I was away, cause i've never seen a nitrite spike either. But Like I say that was when I was gone and the fish were dying, by the time I returned the water was clear and no fish have died.

Could it be that the tank is cycled and the plant is taking care of the nitrate? Of note also is that the plant doesnt look that great, not bad but some of the older longer leaves are dying. Maybe not enough food from nitrates / nitrites?

Am I doing something to reset the tank cycling and I has never actually happened? I read somewhere that adding bio-filter boosters to increase the bacterai growth can actually have the reverse effect and kill the existing bacteria. I don't know though.

Am I in for another mass die-off once the cycle starts or is it done. Again there has been nothing dying at all and the fish appear to be good, active movers, good eaters, etc....

Last note is that the PH is still around 7.8-7.9 could this be a problem?

Thanks for any help



My question is why is there no nitrate present?
 
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jbialik

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I posted that on a different forum a about 1 week ago.

Here is an update since then,

well bad news, I had one of the tiger barbs die last night. Checked the levels again and low and behold the ammonia has actually increased past 0.25ppm almost to 0.5ppm, and of course no nitrites and no nitrates.

I'm really starting to think that the whole time this tank actually has not cycled. Could the seachem prime, or maybe the stabilty be resetting the process? It is my understanding that the prime converts ammonia into a non-lethal form to the fish but makes it still available to the bacteria.

The main issue is that I have to use the prime becuase the tap water has aboout 1ppm of ammonia in it already. Also I reseached the use of distilled water and found that it is not good for fish because it has no minerals that the fish need. At this point I' dooing water changes and just using prime, as the de-chlorinator and the water conditioner only, nothing else.
Is there a chance that the prime or somthing else is "resetting" the cycle?


Someone pls help!

Thanks
 

Kunsthure

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Welcome to Fish Lore!!

I'm sorry you're having such a struggle cycling your tank. It's frustrating that's for sure!

Prime will not mess up your cycle. I don't know anything about Seachem Stability so I can't say.

I'd say that one plant isn't enough to use up all the nitrate. It might be looking a little sickly because you don't have enough light or maybe because it's not truly an aquatic plant--many LFS sell terrestrial plants as aquatic but they aren't.

I don't have a good explanation for why your cycle isn't progessing but I'm sure someone will be along shortly that will.

-Lisa
 

catsma_97504

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How soon after adding Prime are you testing? If too soon, I believe Prime can give you false readings.

It is true your plant is using nitrate for its nitrogen source. But, you also have to beat the #2 nitrate test bottle (assuming you are using API Master Test Kit) in order to get a valid reading.

Something else to consider, the Stability you are adding could be messing with your cycle. Most additives do not provide the correct bacteria and can actually hinder the cycle process.

Good luck
 

Prince Powder

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Welcome to Fishlore!

I find it hard to fathom that after a month of cycling with fish that you've gotten nowhere. The first thing I would do is double check expiration dates on your test kit. If you are using the API kits then the last four numbers of the lot number on the bottle is the MM/YY date that the bottle was manufactured. The API tests are supposed to be good for up to 3 years from that date. Second, try retesting for nitrates. Make sure that you REALLY bang bottle #2 for at least 30 seconds. A few solid bangs into the counter usually doesn't hurt either. Then REALLY shake the tube once you have both solvents in there for at least a full minute. With the API kit, the Nitrate #2 bottle contains crystals which if not properly mixed will result if false readings. While live plants will consume some ammonia and nitrate, I doubt that just one plant would be able to process ALL of it. Make sure that you do your tests 24 hours after using Prime as it could mess with your ammonia readings as mentioned above.
 
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jbialik

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How soon after adding Prime are you testing? If too soon, I believe Prime can give you false readings.

It is true your plant is using nitrate for its nitrogen source. But, you also have to beat the #2 nitrate test bottle (assuming you are using API Master Test Kit) in order to get a valid reading.

Something else to consider, the Stability you are adding could be messing with your cycle. Most additives do not provide the correct bacteria and can actually hinder the cycle process.

Good luck
Thanks, I was suspecting that either the stabilty was killing off the colony or maybe the first de-chlorinator I was using. Now all I use is prime as of about 3 weeks ago. This should simplify things.
The only thing I dont understand about the prime is that it removes or neutralizes nitrite, then how would the final stage of the bacteria to convert nitrite to nitrate going to occur?

I know I must be missing something though, as many many people use this.


Yes I got advice about the API nitrate test and bottle solution #2. I revised my method and really shook the heck out of it and then the solution bottle after both are mixed. This time I got a darker yellow, not the bright yellow, but still not orangish to indicate 5ppm of Nitrate. I will use another kit that I borrowed and see if it's any different and report back.

Thanks
 
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jbialik

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Welcome to Fishlore!

I find it hard to fathom that after a month of cycling with fish that you've gotten nowhere. The first thing I would do is double check expiration dates on your test kit. If you are using the API kits then the last four numbers of the lot number on the bottle is the MM/YY date that the bottle was manufactured. The API tests are supposed to be good for up to 3 years from that date. Second, try retesting for nitrates. Make sure that you REALLY bang bottle #2 for at least 30 seconds. A few solid bangs into the counter usually doesn't hurt either. Then REALLY shake the tube once you have both solvents in there for at least a full minute. With the API kit, the Nitrate #2 bottle contains crystals which if not properly mixed will result if false readings. While live plants will consume some ammonia and nitrate, I doubt that just one plant would be able to process ALL of it. Make sure that you do your tests 24 hours after using Prime as it could mess with your ammonia readings as mentioned above.
thanks, the only thing I didnt do was wait 24hrs after adding prime. Since I did a water change yesterday I will test today and then see if the results are any different.
 

flyin-lowe

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I started to cycle a tank once with fish and after 8 weeks I still had ammonia .25-.50 and no nitrites or nitrates. It is a lot slower process with fish. I finally ended up going with the Tetra Safe Start and got it done a week later.
 

jdhef

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Welocme to FishLore!

Stability contains bacteria that will convert ammonia into nitrites and nitrites into nitrates, but it is terrestial based and will die off eventually in an aquatic environment. If you don't keep adding it, eventually you will get high ammonia and nitrite levels as all the bacteria in the Stability dies off and you have no aquatic based bacteria to process it.

When you use Stability it processes the ammonia right away, and aquatic based bacteria never gets a chance to grow, since the stability eats it's food source and out competes it.

But you would think that even with a planted tank, that you would see some nitrates, but maybe you bio load was low enough that there was only a small amount of nitrates and the plants were able to consume it all.

I think your path forward would be to do daily water changes with Prime until your tank fully cycles. The Prime detoxes the ammonia and nitrites for 24 hours, but still leaves them in a form that the benificial bacteria can consume.

Good luck!
 
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jbialik

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Well some encouraging news, I test the for nitrates in the tank, and then compared to nitrate sample from the tap. A lthough the tank nitrates are not quite orange on the test, it is definately different than the tap water. The tap water is a bright yellow, and when contrasted to the tank sample you can defintely see a hint of orange.

I'm thinking maybe I'm right at the end and that now I'll see the ammonia continue to decrease and the nitrates rise.
Still no nitrites however.
 

Kunsthure

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You may never see the nitrite spike, it can happen very quickly. Once you get your ammonia to 0 and have nitrates, you're ready to go even if you've never seen any nitrites.

Seeing that nitrate tube start to orange up after so many weeks of yellows is so exciting, isn't it!

-Lisa
 
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jbialik

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Hi Lisa,

Totally exciting watching that tube start to go organge! In fact I performed a test a half hour ago and it's definately more orange than yesterday!
Also, over the last couple weeks I see a definate improvement in the plant. The dead leaves fell off and now it's mostly all green again. Maybe it's finally getting the nitrates it needs!

Thanks for the responses guys and gals,

One last question,

The ph seems to be a bit high, its around 8 I think, It's kinda hard to tell exactly on the colors for that high ph test, but seems 7.8-8. Should I slowly lower it to 7, everything I read seems to indicate 7 is optimal, especailly for the Tiger barbs.

Merged back to back posts.
Thanks!
Ken
 

Aquarist

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Good morning JB and Welcome to Fish Lore.

I have moved your thread to the Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle section of the forum to help you to receive more responses.

Thanks!
Ken
 

Tigerfishy

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I would not mess with your pH as it can cause further problems, most fish can adjust to that pH, as long as it remains stable. Adding a chemical pH changer can cause a crash, which can be devaststing for a tank. Leave the pH and acclimate any new fish slowly so they get used to the difference in pH.
Congrats on the cycle!
 

Prince Powder

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I agree completely with Tigerfishy on the pH issue. With a few exceptions, almost all fish can adapt to a pH outside their recommended range. It is generally best to allow your tank pH to settle as close to your tap pH as possible so that differences won't need to be accounted for during water changes. A stable pH is far more important than hitting a specific number. Besides, while your tank is cycling your pH will naturally fluctuate a bit so you can't really know the actual pH of your tank until the water parameters have stabilized.
 
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