Tank Cycling seems to have stalled.

NewTankGuy

After doing much research and following some advice on the subreddit for aquariums, I am still at a loss for why I'm having issues with cycling my 20Gallon.

First, I want to start off talking about when I started my cycle. I filled the tank on the 10th of June of this year. So as of now, I have been cycling for around 2 months exactly. I have been using dechlorinator every time I add water that was loss to evaporation, as well as when adding anything.

When I dosed the ammonium chloride, I dosed to 4ppm, as Dr. Tims recommended on the bottle. Cool. I have ammonium chloride added. I also added some API quickstart. A few weeks go by and I see some progress. I start getting nitrites. It was also around this time that I got some shells to put in the tank (boiled before putting them in the tank) as I am making an african cichlid shelldweller tank. Added the dechlorinator just in case. My nitrites continued to go up and then peaked at a very dark purple. Awesome, I'm making progress. Unfortunately, the nitrites were just not converting to nitrates. A week or 2 go by of not seeing any change in nitrites. I finally had enough and order some Fritzyme 7. This took the nitrites to 0 within a week and changed them into nitrates. Awesome. Another week goes by and my ammonia is still the same as when I last tested my ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Only difference in the tests were no nitrites and no new nitrates. Odd. I asked reddit what they thought and someone suggested that I do a 50% water change to kinda give the BB an easier time breaking down the ammonia. I did that, used dechlorinator and dosed again with the Fritzyme 7. Nitrates went down and the ammonia went down slightly. Another week goes by and still the same level of ammonia as after doing the water change. No new nitrites and no new nitrates. I continued dosing the past 2 weeks with Fritzyme and used the whole bottle, as it was only 4 doses for my tank (32oz bottle and 20Gallon tank I'm beginning to lose hope to be honest. No ammonia in water source and my API test isn't faulty. Hope to have some answers. Thanks in advance :(

pH is around 7.9-8.1
Temperature is set to 78°F
gH is around 15dgH
kH is around 8dkH
Marineland Penguin 150
 

Frank the Fish guy

You need to tell us what your ammonia levels are. They are likely too low.

Keep in mind that bacteria grow faster when more ammonia is present. Large spikes in ammonia is what leads to bacteria growth. The ammonia is the food of the bacteria. So you need to feed the cycle, get the ammonia up to encourage bacteria growth. Changing the water to remove ammonia slows down the cycle.

Also the cycle needs oxygen. More aeration may be needed. Also adding too much dechlorinator can use up oxygen, so do not use any more than you need to actually remove the chlorine. Better yet, aerate the water first to remove chlorine. The aeration also adds oxygen.

Don't clean your filter, and make sure you have plenty of surface area like porous rocks, gravel and good filter media to build up the bacteria. Don't clean filters. The gook that builds up is your bio filter.
 

FishDin

You mentioned that you added Dr. Tim's and then a few weeks went by. That's not how Dr T's is to be used. It should have come with clear instructions taking you through a step-by-step process for cycing.

Can you list your current test results for Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate?

As mentioned, don't overdose dechlorinater.

Bacteria in a bottle often do not perform as advertised.
 

NewTankGuy

You need to tell us what your ammonia levels are. They are likely too low.

Keep in mind that bacteria grow faster when more ammonia is present. Large spikes in ammonia is what leads to bacteria growth. The ammonia is the food of the bacteria. So you need to feed the cycle, get the ammonia up to encourage bacteria growth. Changing the water to remove ammonia slows down the cycle.

Also the cycle needs oxygen. More aeration may be needed. Also adding too much dechlorinator can use up oxygen, so do not use any more than you need to actually remove the chlorine. Better yet, aerate the water first to remove chlorine. The aeration also adds oxygen.

Don't clean your filter, and make sure you have plenty of surface area like porous rocks, gravel and good filter media to build up the bacteria. Don't clean filters. The gook that builds up is your bio filter.
Right now, the ammonia is at around 2ppm. I have been seeing conflicting information on this site about water changes so not sure what to do with that information. Some people say the water doesn't matter in BB growth, some say it does.
You mentioned that you added Dr. Tim's and then a few weeks went by. That's not how Dr T's is to be used. It should have come with clear instructions taking you through a step-by-step process for cycing.

Can you list your current test results for Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate?

As mentioned, don't overdose dechlorinater.

Bacteria in a bottle often do not perform as advertised.
Currently, after doing the 50% water change, my ammonia levels seem to be at around 2ppm. I originally dosed with 4ppm. Nitrites are at 0 (have been for the past week and a half) and nitrates are at around 5-10. I understand that they have instructions on the back. The issue is that people have said too much ammonia can harm the BB more than nourish it. Just difficult when there is so much anecdotal data to follow.
 

Cherryshrimp420

So ammonia was added twice? It should be added consistently ie every day/2 days

But even with small amounts of ammonia the tank can still develop some nitrifying bacteria. With your hard water and filter and lots of surface area it should naturally cycle by now

The whole testing procedure on the other hand, is a lot more prone to human error
 

Frank the Fish guy

Find a local fish store and buy some plants with a chunk of dirt and gravel attached. Get some dirt from their established tank into yours.
 

Flyfisha

You have nitrates. That is only possible whe you have both kinds of bacteria.
The tank is close to having a full working nitrogen cycle/ a full house of bacteria.

You should never see nitrites again unless something is wrong.
You will always have some nitrates as long as you have fish or add ammonia.

A 20 can only hold enough fish to produce around 2 ppm ammonia. No need to build enough bacteria to consume 4 ppm as the tank will never have that many fish./ that much daily poop and waste.
 

FishDin

Right now, the ammonia is at around 2ppm. I have been seeing conflicting information on this site about water changes so not sure what to do with that information. Some people say the water doesn't matter in BB growth, some say it does.

Currently, after doing the 50% water change, my ammonia levels seem to be at around 2ppm. I originally dosed with 4ppm. Nitrites are at 0 (have been for the past week and a half) and nitrates are at around 5-10. I understand that they have instructions on the back. The issue is that people have said too much ammonia can harm the BB more than nourish it. Just difficult when there is so much anecdotal data to follow.
Dr Tim says to keep ammonia and nitrite below 5ppm. When I do a fishless cycle I dose to 4ppm so I can heavily stock my tanks from day one. Most people have no need to dose more than 2ppm.

From Dr. Tim: "High nitrite is very common when you rush the process or add too much ammonia too
quickly. High nitrite inhibits the bacteria and stalls the cycle. If you have super high nitrite do a
33-50% water change without disturbing the substrate."

So do a water change if your ammonia or nitrite are over 5ppm. Otherwise, you don't need to do a water change until the cycle is done. At that point you will need to do a water change to remove the nitrate that has been accumulating.

"so much anecdotal data" -yup

Dr. Tim actually does research. He's a real Dr. (PHD). He doesn't deal in anecdotes.
 

vaporbon

It can take that long for a new tank to cycle if you are starting from scratch.


Patience is really all you can do. All that tinkering might have done more harm than good but your water parameters are good. Id' just keep adding ammonia, like a lot actually. The BB can handle faaaaar more ammonia than what we typically add to cycle tanks (like im talking about upper hundreds of ppm into the thousands of ppm). It sounds like you might not be adding enough ammonia, which is very common for those of us who obsess over the numbers.

I would respectfully ignore Dr Tim's instructions to keep nitrites and nitrates low. These numbers simply don't matter while you are cycling provided that you are doing a fishless cycling. His paper that he cites has since been completely flooded by other papers from multiple authors and the results from dsid papers have been replicated multiple times.

The only thing I would watch out for during cycling is the ph, making sure not to let it drop down below 7 or worse, into the lower 6s. Adding tons of ammonia will naturally bring down your ph especially if your water isn't naturally buffered. I'll start adding ph ups like baking soda if that was the case. Reason for this is that nitrification process stalls below ph of 6.5 or thereabouts and the BB processing the ammonia lowers ph due to creation of acids related to that process (this is a gross simplification on my part, the science is more complicated).

If the water starts smelling, then add more oxygenation as well and the smell will go away in time. Aerobic nitrification requires tons of oxygen.

I would not do any water changes nor would I touch the filter. Leave everything be. The only input i'd be doing is to simply add more ammonia.

Remember, we are growing the same BB that is used in industrial scale processing of waste water. The ammonia/nitrite/nitrate levels on that water is in the thousands of ppm.
 

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