Trying to complete fish-in cycle, but levels aren’t rising

arabis

Hello everyone!

Thank-you so much for your help with my earlier questions. I am trying to complete a fish-in cycle (four weeks in, four surviving fish, 20 gallon tank), but I haven’t seen any spike of ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate in all this time. My levels are consistently reading <0.25 ppm, 0 and 0 respectively (testing every day). How can I get this tank cycled when my ammonia levels are consistently 0-0.25 ppm?

I would welcome any information/resources you could share!
 

ProudPapa

As long as you aren't seeing ammonia or nitrites I wouldn't worry about it, but keep checking, at least every few days.

Do you have live plants? If yes, they may be using up the nitrates.
 

Azedenkae

Hello everyone!

Thank-you so much for your help with my earlier questions. I am trying to complete a fish-in cycle (four weeks in, four surviving fish, 20 gallon tank), but I haven’t seen any spike of ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate in all this time. My levels are consistently reading <0.25 ppm, 0 and 0 respectively (testing every day). How can I get this tank cycled when my ammonia levels are consistently 0-0.25 ppm?

I would welcome any information/resources you could share!
I just want to check, is it your perception that ammonia (and nitrite) has to spike for there to be a cycle?
 

PAcanis

I have two tanks that had ammonia, nitrite and nitrate right off the bat. My water has 5ppm nitrate. Then a rise in ammonia and then nitrite, then slowly came back down... and they've been reading 0 across the board for three weeks even with fish added to the one.

Pretty sure this isn't an exact science. You just need to be ready to react to what arises.
 

Dunk2

Hello everyone!

Thank-you so much for your help with my earlier questions. I am trying to complete a fish-in cycle (four weeks in, four surviving fish, 20 gallon tank), but I haven’t seen any spike of ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate in all this time. My levels are consistently reading <0.25 ppm, 0 and 0 respectively (testing every day). How can I get this tank cycled when my ammonia levels are consistently 0-0.25 ppm?

I would welcome any information/resources you could share!
What are you using to test?
What kind and how many fish did you start with?
What kind of fish are still in the tank?
What is your pH level?
How much and how often have you been changing water?
What kind/brand of filter are you running?
 

Mbradley17

I didn’t think my tank would ever cycle… patience, it will happen :rolleyes:
 

arabis

I just want to check, is it your perception that ammonia (and nitrite) has to spike for there to be a cycle?
That was my assumption, yes. I thought that because ammonia --> nitrite ---> nitrate, that I needed to see levels of each in turn before I could consider my tank cycled. I take it this is incorrect?
What are you using to test?
What kind and how many fish did you start with?
What kind of fish are still in the tank?
What is your pH level?
How much and how often have you been changing water?
What kind/brand of filter are you running?
Thank-you so much for your reply!

I am use API Freshwater Master testing kit.

I have two platties and two guppies. I originally started with 20 fish in September before I knew anything about cycling or water testing or dechlorinator. To exactly no one's surprise, all but four of them died. I drained, cleaned, and refilled my tank at the first of November.

My pH is sitting at 8.0-ish.

The water question is a tricky one to answer. As I mentioned, I drained and refilled my tank in November because I wanted to start fresh (I had added so many different chemicals to the water that I needed to get back to baseline). From that point, I did a 20% water change every week, but I was adding pH down to the water because my tap water is 8.2-ish. mattgirl told me that 8.2 is fine, so I ditched the pH down and started daily 20% water changes until my pH levels were closer to baseline normal. Now I am monitoring my water every day to determine when and how much to change (i.e., if ammonia or nitrite go up, do a big water change. Otherwise, change 30% once a week). However, my ammonia is consistently <0.25 ppm, and my nitrite/nitrate are zero.

My tank is 20 g Top Fin starter tank, so I am using the filter that came with it.
 

Bwood22

That was my assumption, yes. I thought that because ammonia --> nitrite ---> nitrate, that I needed to see levels of each in turn before I could consider my tank cycled. I take it this is incorrect?
Just because you don't see the levels in your test results doesn't mean that it isn't in there.
If it registers in your test then its getting too high for your fish.

The fact of the matter is.....you feed your fish, they poop and they breath. Every single one of those things produce ammonia.

So its in there.

Water changes, plants, and bacteria keep the ammonia levels at bay.
The bacteria will grow to a point to sufficiently handle the ammonia being produced.
Same thing with nitrite.
If you don't see nitrate rising its because of the water changes, the plants, and a low bioload on the tank.

Just keep changing water.

Have you lost any fish during this process?
 

arabis

Just because you don't see the levels in your test results doesn't mean that it isn't in there.
If it registers in your test then its getting too high for your fish.

The fact of the matter is.....you feed your fish, they poop and they breath. Every single one of those things produce ammonia.

So its in there.

Water changes, plants, and bacteria keep the ammonia levels at bay.
The bacteria will grow to a point to sufficiently handle the ammonia being produced.
Same thing with nitrite.
If you don't see nitrate rising its because of the water changes, the plants, and a low bioload on the tank.

Just keep changing water.

Have you lost any fish during this process?
I have lost so many fish during this process. The first 15 or so I will write off to my own ignorance, because I didn't know about pH, dechlorination, gravel vacuums, etc. But the last 10 that died did so when I was checking water levels every day, doing weekly water changes, treating with Seachem Prime, monitoring water temperature every day, etc. I have no idea why my fish are dying during the fish-in cycle when my levels are 0s across the board.
 

Bwood22

I have lost so many fish during this process. The first 15 or so I will write off to my own ignorance, because I didn't know about pH, dechlorination, gravel vacuums, etc. But the last 10 that died did so when I was checking water levels every day, doing weekly water changes, treating with Seachem Prime, monitoring water temperature every day, etc. I have no idea why my fish are dying during the fish-in cycle when my levels are 0s across the board.
Like I said.....it's in there.

What symptoms do they show before they die?
And when was the last time you lost a fish?
Have any fish died since you stopped using PH down?
 

arabis

Like I said.....it's in there.

What symptoms do they show before they die?
One day they will be acting normally, then I notice them isolating, usually in the corner of the tank behind the tree. They sometimes lie on the substrate or lie against the tree itself. They don't eat, don't swim around, and then the a day or two later, they're dead.

I have also noticed that my guppies will sometimes dart around the tank really fast. I don't know if that's normal behavior or a precursor to the above behaviors.

Edited to add: I have examined their bodies when I net them out of the tank. They look normal--no swollen or distended bellies, no bulging eyes, no ich or unusual coloration, no obvious injuries.
 

Bwood22

One day they will be acting normally, then I notice them isolating, usually in the corner of the tank behind the tree. They sometimes lie on the substrate or lie against the tree itself. They don't eat, don't swim around, and then the a day or two later, they're dead.
Ok that is ammonia.

When you say you are "Treating with Seachem Prime"....what exactly are you doing?

My recommendation is that you go ahead and dose Prime for the entire volume of the tank every 24-48 hours.

Do this regardless of water changes, which you should still be doing. The ammonia is in there and you need to keep it detoxified.
 

arabis

Ok that is ammonia.

When you say you are "Treating with Seachem Prime"....what exactly are you doing?

My recommendation is that you go ahead and dose Prime for the entire volume of the tank every 24-48 hours.

Do this regardless of water changes, which you should still be doing. The ammonia is in there and you need to keep it detoxified.
When I say treating with Seachem Prime, I mean that I add enough Prime to treat a 20 g tank to my water bucket prior to adding the water to the tank itself.

I appreciate your feedback. I guess I am just baffled how my fish can be dying of ammonia when my ammonia levels are reading 0 most of the time. My highest ever reading was 0.25 ppm. What is the purpose of testing with the API freshwater master test kit if I can't trust the results?

ETA: I sincerely appreciate you taking time out of your day to answer my many questions. This forum is beyond amazing.
 

Bwood22

When I say treating with Seachem Prime, I mean that I add enough Prime to treat a 20 g tank to my water bucket prior to adding the water to the tank itself.

I appreciate your feedback. I guess I am just baffled how my fish can be dying of ammonia when my ammonia levels are reading 0 most of the time. My highest ever reading was 0.25 ppm. What is the purpose of testing with the API freshwater master test kit if I can't trust the results?

ETA: I sincerely appreciate you taking time out of your day to answer my many questions. This forum is beyond amazing.
Ya know....I say "Hey, that's ammonia!" Like im standing there in front of your tank.

The symptoms you describe are what happens when a fish is having adverse effects of ammonia exposure.

Nitrite is a bit different....you will see your fish "gasping for air" at the surface because nitrite inhibits their ability to extract oxygen.

Since you are "fish-in" cycling and the symptoms that you describe look like ammonia....that's why I said ammonia.
And that could be 100% true.

Some fish are just not as tolerant to ammonia as others....and Im not talking about species...i mean the individual fish.
Some can take the heat....others cant.

It could be genetics, it might be a bad batch of fish.
It could be aerosol spray that got in the tank.
Or maybe you washed your hands with antibacterial soap before you messed with the tank.
There are alot of variables and fishkeeping isn't an exact science. We just have to do our best and learn as we go....and we all kill fish.
It sucks. But you will get there, you will be fine.

For now I would keep up with your maintenance and keep giving them fresh, dechlorinated water. And dose the entire tank with Prime daily.

As far as the API kit....keep testing and make sure that you are following the steps to the nitrate test exactly as they are written...you have to beat the mess out of bottle #2 because sediment settles in the bottle and you need to dissolve it back into the solution before you use it.
 

Azedenkae

That was my assumption, yes. I thought that because ammonia --> nitrite ---> nitrate, that I needed to see levels of each in turn before I could consider my tank cycled. I take it this is incorrect?
Yep! That one. It is very prominent in this hobby, and is also... very not widely applicable nowadays. Absolutely not your fault at all, it is still commonly preached in cycling guides... sigh.

For fish-in cycling, the amount of ammonia produced may never really result in you seeing such a spike, especially because you may be doing constant water changes. Given the lower amount of ammonia produced, combined with the potential that fish can bring in nitrifiers themselves to 'seed' the tank 'better', you may not see a nitrite spike either, if any nitrite produced is consumed. Not seeing you will, but you may. And in fact, I do see this quite often, especially when a very small number of fish are used for fish-in cycling in a larger tank.

For fishless cycling, well it is only applicable if basically the process is entirely from scratch, i.e. where basically you start out with very little of both type of nitrifiers. Using established biomedia, dosing bottled bac, and a whole host of other activities makes it very different.

So yeah nah, long story short it's not really applicable (anymore).

As for your case, if you have persistently measured 0.25ppm ammonia, and presuming there is no issues with the test kit or the testing procedure, and you have not done super duper regularly, then it is likely to be a false positive reading and you can treat it as zero. I highly doubt this is causing your fish to die. Especially since you have been dosing Prime. Unless your ammonia was super high, that should have helped prevent the toxic effects of ammonia.

That still does not answer why your fish are dying though. Sounds like it could also be a disease.

The other thing is your nitrate being zero. Do you have any plants or algae growing?

Though to clarify, how are you doing the tests? Are you shaking the reagents super duper well before dropping them into the vials? Are you shaking the vials rigorously? Are you waiting five minutes to read them? Just wanted to be super sure.
 

arabis

Yep! That one. It is very prominent in this hobby, and is also... very not widely applicable nowadays. Absolutely not your fault at all, it is still commonly preached in cycling guides... sigh.

For fish-in cycling, the amount of ammonia produced may never really result in you seeing such a spike, especially because you may be doing constant water changes. Given the lower amount of ammonia produced, combined with the potential that fish can bring in nitrifiers themselves to 'seed' the tank 'better', you may not see a nitrite spike either, if any nitrite produced is consumed. Not seeing you will, but you may. And in fact, I do see this quite often, especially when a very small number of fish are used for fish-in cycling in a larger tank.

For fishless cycling, well it is only applicable if basically the process is entirely from scratch, i.e. where basically you start out with very little of both type of nitrifiers. Using established biomedia, dosing bottled bac, and a whole host of other activities makes it very different.

So yeah nah, long story short it's not really applicable (anymore).

As for your case, if you have persistently measured 0.25ppm ammonia, and presuming there is no issues with the test kit or the testing procedure, and you have not done super duper regularly, then it is likely to be a false positive reading and you can treat it as zero. I highly doubt this is causing your fish to die. Especially since you have been dosing Prime. Unless your ammonia was super high, that should have helped prevent the toxic effects of ammonia.

That still does not answer why your fish are dying though. Sounds like it could also be a disease.

The other thing is your nitrate being zero. Do you have any plants or algae growing?

Though to clarify, how are you doing the tests? Are you shaking the reagents super duper well before dropping them into the vials? Are you shaking the vials rigorously? Are you waiting five minutes to read them? Just wanted to be super sure.
Thanks for taking the time to type this all out. I thought I was going crazy!

I am following the directions for testing to a tee, right down to timing how long I am (vigorously) shaking the vials/Nitrate2 and waiting for each vial to develop.

I am not noticing any signs of disease, but I am admittedly not an expert. I examine the bodies after I net them out of the tank, and they don't have any noticable discoloration, swollen abdomens, sunken/protruding eyes, or other obvious signs.

I am wondering whether it's water softness or inadequate feeding. I have started timing how long I feed them, and I've noticed they eat everything I give them in like 30 seconds. I've taken to feeding them more (what they can eat in 2-3 minutes) and I haven't had a fish death in eight days (knock on wood). I think it may also have had to do with how many fish I had in the tank. I've read that you can have one 1" fish for 1 gallon, so I thought a 20 gallon tank could hold 20 fish (guppies, mollies, platies). Although again, my ammonia/nitrite/nitrate were all reading zero, so I don't know if that was the issue either.

It's frustrating, but I am committed to figuring this out. I love the hobby!
 

FishDin

Even though these 4 fish survived they probably suffered some damage back when you first started and fish were dying. They may be succumbing to that previous damage. They also would probably be weakened and more susceptible to stress and disease.
 

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