Tank won't cycle after almost 6 months, now growing brown/orange algae. Help for a newbie please.

Kdurham

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Help for a newbie please. We got my daughter a 10 gallon tank for Christmas. I had it set up right after and was attempting to cycle it. Her dad got excited and got her a betta fish just after new years, tank was no where near cycled (was adding a small amount of food, minimal ammonia levels at that point) but we decided to attempt a fish in cycle.

Well, since then I have checked the levels regularly with a Fluval Master test kit, ammonia has gotten up to a max of like 0.08 mg/L (pH is around 7.4-7.6) and we have never registered ANY nitrites or nitrates. I have been putting water changes off as to try and get some nitrates going. Only done 2 25% water changes in that time and just top up's when it evaporates down low. When I add new water it is town tap water treated with tetra aquasafe plus. NO idea what I'm doing wrong here.

Now over the last 2 weeks the tank is developing a brown/orange algae. I did a water change last week and cleaned EVERYTHING as best I could to get it off, but now it's back again. Any and all help is greatly appreciated!!
 

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kattiq

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You should see nitrItes before seeing any nitrAtes (it took me quite a few weeks of the cycle to even see some nitrates in my tank) The bacteria will eventually grow within your filter media, decor and gravel. So whenever you detect any ammonia/nitrites do a partial water change instead of waiting, clean water for your fish is essential during this period. Also if you absolutely NEED to take out decor to clean it (but really try not too right now so the bacteria can grow on it too), make sure you clean it in tank water, I find a toothbrush works great!
I think maybe the bacteria keeps dying off because of all the cleaning unfortunately. :(
And when you get to the point where you need to clean your filter out too, make sure to not change out all the media at once, not sure what type of filter you have- but I bought some cheap sponges off Amazon that I cut off into chunks to fit into mine so I wouldn't have to buy the expensive cartridges.
As far as the algae goes, new tanks sometimes suffer from algae blooms. My new tank definitely got hit pretty hard with some brown hair algae so I feel your pain! What I did was made sure the tank lighting was good and not on too much- I've currently reduced my time from 9 hours to 7 hours a day to see if that helps for right now. Also make sure the tank isn't near a window with bright light and the lights are on a timer.
If that doesn't work, I also did a black out method where I covered the tank with a dark towel (but left the back part open so air could get in, and left it dark for a few days and that helped too.
Good luck, I'm sure others around here have more advice too! Cycling is literally the most annoying part of this entire process.
 

mattgirl

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With just the one little fish in a 10 gallon tank it really doesn't matter if the tank never cycles. Personally I would just change out half the water each week and not stress over never seeing nitrites or nitrates. A cycled tank is more for us. With a fully cycled tank we don't need to change out as much water to keep the ammonia down. Bacteria cleans it up for us. Water changes will do the same thing.

Is it possible that your light is on too long or is too bright. Brown algae grows on the top side of items in our tanks where the light constantly shines on them.
 
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Kdurham

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kattiq said:
You should see nitrItes before seeing any nitrAtes (it took me quite a few weeks of the cycle to even see some nitrates in my tank) The bacteria will eventually grow within your filter media, decor and gravel. So whenever you detect any ammonia/nitrites do a partial water change instead of waiting, clean water for your fish is essential during this period. Also if you absolutely NEED to take out decor to clean it (but really try not too right now so the bacteria can grow on it too), make sure you clean it in tank water, I find a toothbrush works great!
I think maybe the bacteria keeps dying off because of all the cleaning unfortunately. :(
And when you get to the point where you need to clean your filter out too, make sure to not change out all the media at once, not sure what type of filter you have- but I bought some cheap sponges off Amazon that I cut off into chunks to fit into mine so I wouldn't have to buy the expensive cartridges.
As far as the algae goes, new tanks sometimes suffer from algae blooms. My new tank definitely got hit pretty hard with some brown hair algae so I feel your pain! What I did was made sure the tank lighting was good and not on too much- I've currently reduced my time from 9 hours to 7 hours a day to see if that helps for right now. Also make sure the tank isn't near a window with bright light and the lights are on a timer.
If that doesn't work, I also did a black out method where I covered the tank with a dark towel (but left the back part open so air could get in, and left it dark for a few days and that helped too.
Good luck, I'm sure others around here have more advice too! Cycling is literally the most annoying part of this entire process.
Thanks for the advice! I'm not sure cleaning is the problem since I've only water changed it twice in almost 5 months and only scrubbed the stuff the once (and did so in the old tank water)

I have the tank light on 8 hours right now on a timer, so I might reduce that and see if it helps with the brown gunk.

mattgirl said:
With just the one little fish in a 10 gallon tank it really doesn't matter if the tank never cycles. Personally I would just change out half the water each week and not stress over never seeing nitrites or nitrates. A cycled tank is more for us. With a fully cycled tank we don't need to change out as much water to keep the ammonia down. Bacteria cleans it up for us. Water changes will do the same thing.

Is it possible that your light is on too long or is too bright. Brown algae grows on the top side of items in our tanks where the light constantly shines on them.
I really want to add a Cory but have been holding off due to the uncycled tank and high ammonia levels. I have been holding off on water changes thinking they might ruin the cycle but you think they would help instead? I have and led tank light on for 8 hours a day, the tank is in a like area hidden from the window so doesn't get direct sunlight. Maybe I should reduce the hours the tank light is on?
 

kattiq

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Kdurham said:
Thanks for the advice! I'm not sure cleaning is the problem since I've only water changed it twice in almost 5 months and only scrubbed the stuff the once (and did so in the old tank water)

I have the tank light on 8 hours right now on a timer, so I might reduce that and see if it helps with the brown gunk.
I would try doing maybe 6 hours and see how it goes, but since you do have fake plants, you technically do not even have to have the light on unless you are looking at it.
And I'm not sure that is the issue either with the cleaning, but since you just have 1 fish they probably don't produce as much ammonia to feed a really big colony. After reading Mattgirl's post it does make sense, however if you wanted to add more fish in then you definitely want to make sure it's cycled.
And I wouldn't add just 1 cory- they prefer bigger loose schools of 5-6+. I have some pygmy cories that are a lot smaller than regular ones and they are adorable!
If you wanted to add something in that would help with algae you could always try a Malaysian trumpet snail or a nerite snail. But they do produce trace amounts of ammonia too so just be aware of that. :)
 

mattgirl

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Kdurham said:
I really want to add a Cory but have been holding off due to the uncycled tank and high ammonia levels. I have been holding off on water changes thinking they might ruin the cycle but you think they would help instead? I have and led tank light on for 8 hours a day, the tank is in a like area hidden from the window so doesn't get direct sunlight. Maybe I should reduce the hours the tank light is on?
I highly recommend you do water changes. The bacteria doesn't live in the water so doing them isn't going to be removing any. I am really surprised that you aren't seeing some nitrates after this long and only a couple of water changes. You really should be seeing some after 5 months.

I am not familiar with the Fluval tests so I don't know how high .08 is compared to the API test kit but it doesn't sound like it is overly high. I know with the API Master kit lots of folks never see a true zero. I am wondering if that may be the case with this test too.

With only 2 water changes in a 5 month period I have to think you have what I often call dead water. Water changes do more than just lower nitrates. They also add necessary minerals present in our tap water. With just the one little Betta in there for now I would change out half the water no less than every 2 weeks mainly to keep the water fresh.

Is there anyway you could get your water tested at your Local Fish Store? I am not understand the readings you are getting so a second set of eyes on the numbers might help. Like I said, there really should be some nitrates after all this time.
 

Debbie1986

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there should be a 10-30 % water change each week depending on the bio-load in the tank vs tank size.

1 betta - 10% water change is perfect, maybe 30% at month's end

I wipe down tank glass & decor at least 1x a month.

fish tanks are small eco systems

you wish to cultivate good bacteria and negate bad.

tannins - leaves, driftwood
plants- help relieve bioload & natural for fish java moss, java fern or whatever other plant appeals

out of all 15 of my tanks over the past year, algae develops. I use a scrub brush purchased at pet store for that task or paper towel dabbed into tank water & rub against glass inside.

I would slowly replace 10% of the water each day over the next week *IF* you are not using something like 'Renew' which reduces the need for water changes as it literally replaced minerals etc used up by live fish. JMO I think regular old water changes are easier than trying to mimic natural freshwater water.
 
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Kdurham

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mattgirl said:
I highly recommend you do water changes. The bacteria doesn't live in the water so doing them isn't going to be removing any. I am really surprised that you aren't seeing some nitrates after this long and only a couple of water changes. You really should be seeing some after 5 months.

I am not familiar with the Fluval tests so I don't know how high .08 is compared to the API test kit but it doesn't sound like it is overly high. I know with the API Master kit lots of folks never see a true zero. I am wondering if that may be the case with this test too.

With only 2 water changes in a 5 month period I have to think you have what I often call dead water. Water changes do more than just lower nitrates. They also add necessary minerals present in our tap water. With just the one little Betta in there for now I would change out half the water no less than every 2 weeks mainly to keep the water fresh.

Is there anyway you could get your water tested at your Local Fish Store? I am not understand the readings you are getting so a second set of eyes on the numbers might help. Like I said, there really should be some nitrates after all this time.
Ya I've been second guessing these test results. I'll start doing regular water changes and keep testing and see what happens. Im not sure if my local fish store does water testing but things are a little hard right now with lockdown and such. I'm worried I'm messing this up bad so I am so thankful for any advice!
 

mattgirl

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Kdurham said:
Ya I've been second guessing these test results. I'll start doing regular water changes and keep testing and see what happens. Im not sure if my local fish store does water testing but things are a little hard right now with lockdown and such. I'm worried I'm messing this up bad so I am so thankful for any advice!
I would very tempted to get an API Master Freshwater test kit if at all possible. It is the most recommended test kit here on the forum. It is the one I use so I understand the readings for it. The one you have may be fine but seeing no nitrates after going on 6 months just isn't making any sense to me. Even though there is only one little Betta in there I would expect to be seeing at least a low reading for nitrates.

You really aren't messing up. If your little water pet is healthy I have to think you are doing some things right. :) I am really glad you came to us. We will do our best to get you on track and this tank ready for the corys you are wanting to add. Since this is just a 10 gallon tank you may need to try to get a shoal of some of the smaller species. There are some that don't get over an inch or so long. Others can get up to 3 inches and would be too big for a tank this size.

The main thing you can do for right now is partial water changes. I know earlier I said 50% every other week but 50% weekly may be best until we are sure this tank is cycled. Even if we determine it is cycled you may see spikes in both ammonia and nitrites when you start adding fish because there will only be enough bacteria to handle the bio-load of the Betta. The bacteria will have to catch up with the higher bio-load of more fish. We can help you through that when the time comes.
 
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Kdurham

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mattgirl said:
I would very tempted to get an API Master Freshwater test kit if at all possible. It is the most recommended test kit here on the forum. It is the one I use so I understand the readings for it. The one you have may be fine but seeing no nitrates after going on 6 months just isn't making any sense to me. Even though there is only one little Betta in there I would expect to be seeing at least a low reading for nitrates.

You really aren't messing up. If your little water pet is healthy I have to think you are doing some things right. :) I am really glad you came to us. We will do our best to get you on track and this tank ready for the corys you are wanting to add. Since this is just a 10 gallon tank you may need to try to get a shoal of some of the smaller species. There are some that don't get over an inch or so long. Others can get up to 3 inches and would be too big for a tank this size.

The main thing you can do for right now is partial water changes. I know earlier I said 50% every other week but 50% weekly may be best until we are sure this tank is cycled. Even if we determine it is cycled you may see spikes in both ammonia and nitrites when you start adding fish because there will only be enough bacteria to handle the bio-load of the Betta. The bacteria will have to catch up with the higher bio-load of more fish. We can help you through that when the time comes.
Thank you so SO much! I am happy I found this place and will keep you posted for sure! I'll do a 50% water change tomorrow and go from there.
 

Fishcatzpets

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Kdurham said:
I really want to add a Cory but have been holding off due to the uncycled tank and high ammonia levels. I have been holding off on water changes thinking they might ruin the cycle but you think they would help instead? I have and led tank light on for 8 hours a day, the tank is in a like area hidden from the window so doesn't get direct sunlight. Maybe I should reduce the hours the tank light is on?
You cant add just one unfortunately. You need to get at least 6 and the only cory that can be kept in a ten gallon is the pygmy cory.
 

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Echoing what's been said. The regular, weekly water changes are imperative for your Bettas health. It's pretty amazing if his fins and health are fine.

Personally don't suggest you add any other fish in with a betta. Ever. Not just because you are new to fishkeeping but because Betta's are aggressive, territorial fish and it doesn't always work out. There's a lot to consider when adding more than one species to a box of water-aggression, temperature compatibility, water flow, bioload etc.

Additionally, unless you have a spare setup to quarantine new fish before adding them in with the Betta, you risk introducing disease and or parasites.

Hope all goes well.
 

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