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Trying To Establish Cycle, But Confused By My Numbers. 10 Gallon Tank

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by Meldyran, Mar 30, 2019.

  1. MeldyranValued MemberMember


    I have some friends that keep shirmp and snails in their tanks, and they convinced me to join. The goal here- atleast from what has been explained to me by my friend- is to cycle my tank to have a stable environment to introduce shrimp to.

    I am new to aquariums and I have some questions about the number readings I'm receiving with my water, but I would like to give as much context as possible first. Skip to the bottom for the numbers.

    Day 1: I got a 10 gallon tank, filled it with generic aquarium gravel substrate, bought some drift wood, and an aquatic plant (unsure of the name). Installed filter(AquaClear Water Filter 10Gallon) added water. Let the filter run for a few days.
    Day 9: Added about 8 Ramshorn snails. Added another plant.
    Day 10: Fed them a pellet (unsure what its called since my friend donated it to be in a plastic bag. it is not a green wafer). Installed Heater (Mylivell Aquarium heater) set to 72F. Added Moss balls to the water(8). Decided to remove them, since i noticed that on contact with the water there was a bunch of oily residue, I placed them in water in a closed container.
    Day:11 Was told by a friend that my diftwood was potentially dying the water in my tank yellow, so I removed it, poured boiling water on it a few times, and placed it back into my tank.
    Day 12:Fed again
    Day 14: Added MossBalls back in the water.
    Day 15: added 10 drops of de-chlorination (API Tap Water Conditioner)
    in my water, as my friend suggested to prevent my snails from dying.
    Day 17: Added more snails. added three small plants. Installed Seachem Amonia Alert(read safe).
    Day 18 Today: I received my water test strips(Tetra EasyStrips 6), and my total Amonia test kit (API Amonia 130) and these are the numbers I have:

    Nitrate: 20
    Nitrite: 4.0
    Hardness ~200
    Chlorine: 0
    KH: 0
    PH: 6.8
    Total Ammonia: 2.0 mg/L
    Free Ammonia: <0.02 ppm

    I read the nitrogen cycle article, but I am still confused. Basically I am at a point where I am not sure what to do next, since my total ammonia seems high, and both my Nitrite and Nitrate numbers are high (?). I feel like I am at the verge of having a big toxic spike? Am I supposed to be changing the water regularly while my tank is starting to cycle? I was told that I should let it sit for a few weeks, but the more I research the less convinced I am by the advise. So I found this community here! hopefully you guys can give me some advise and join me on my adventure!

    Here is a pic btw.


    Anyway looking forward to any and all advise!
  2. Oliver1209Valued MemberMember

    Wait for nitrifying bacteria

  3. BloodyNosesNew MemberMember

    So a proper cycle with JUST water (especially city/treated water) will take upwards of 4weeks. Sometimes it takes 6 because the chlorine in tap water does such a great job of killing off anything and everything.

    What i've always done, especially for friends starting with small tiny hang on the back filters is take some of this stuff   and dumping the correct amount in. It starts the tank off and you can add the shrimp the same day actually.

    So i think you've dove headfirst into this hobby which is great passion but makes for a worried keeper judging by the scrambled order of your steps.

    Things to keep in mind (please note that I currently have 60 cherry shrimps from an original order of 10, and about 20 yellows living in a 40L planted.
    1. Water changes, shrimp do not like massive water changes because it really stresses them out and what i've found sometimes is that when my tapwater comes out cold in the winter it'll actually stop or delay shedding processes with fatal consequence. So i've always kept my weekly water change at a max of 20%.

    2. Any water change using tap water (please use tap water since rain water is not stable parameter wise) MUST first be dechlorinated and the only two brands i trust are api and seachem, personally i use seachem prime

    3. Do not overfeed when your shrimps do arrive because the excess will be absorbed by the snails which will bread like a rabbit in heat.

    4. Shrimps actually produce very little waste so cycling a tank for ammonia/nitrites/nitrates is actually not important. I've seen in person a MASSIVE 100 Gallon showtank installed in a bedroom wall where the owner didn't want any sounds so other than a very quiet wave maker for oxygen it had NO filtration. The tank was sustained by 40% water changes a week, stirring the substrate before sucking out the water to remove as much dirt as possible and eventually a biological cycle was established in the substrate and he eventually only did something like a 40L change a week. He had a colony of about 150 amano's by the end of the year. He did end up installing a teeny tiny canister filter but that was just to polish the water more than anything.

    5. DON'T STRESS! The best of us hobbyists lose a shrimp or fish every now and then, small things are sensitive so they die easily. Luckily shrimp are quite hardy in that respect so just keep on your weekly maintenance, watch the parameters until you get comfortable and setup a routine and please enjoy the tank it looks fabulous! Shrimp don't care much for ph i've had them in tanks as low as 6 and as high as 8.5. Ammonia and nitrites are a different story so clear that asap. Test strips are btw they always come out more than what's actually there. If possible get a non-expired liquid kit for more accurate numbers. And the rule of thumb for that is to not touch the water or add anything to the tank for two weeks before testing so the results aren't skewed.

    6. MASSIVE MASSIVE ONE LAST RULE. STABILITY. That's it. Keep everything stable. Don't chase ph's don't do weird stuff, just keep a stable, healthy clean tank and everything will be fine. The driftwood will dye the water regardless of you boiling it for a good half a year, but shrimp love that. A water change a week clears up the water some, or you could try activated carbon pads/balls and adding that to your filter unit.

    Just have fun with it, and don't rush it. A good cycle as i said before is a minimum of 4 weeks and a max of 6 if all you're dealing with is chlorinated tap water + dechlorinator added. A live nitrifying bacteria like the fritz product will instantly kick start that cycle allowing you to add shrimp on the day (but to be safe I usually give it a week). Which would be an option for you now since you've already waited for so long without result. All that's in it is live bacteria, no harmful chemicals or anything that affects your water parameters.


    Edit: Please keep in mind the only thing shrimp seem to be sensitive to is temperature. They thrive around 20-22 degrees centigrade, do not at any time add a heater or heated water, but obviously don't dump ice in either. A great way to make sure you're never shocking the tank is to do small room temperature waterchanges and in winter that's as easy as filling a bucket with water, adding dechlorinator and waiting an hour before pouring it in. Cheers!

  4. MeldyranValued MemberMember

    First off, thank you so much for your long and thoughtful explanation, I really appreciate it! It cleared up some things and exposed me to some stuff I hadn't thought about!

    So I actually went to the fish store today and picked myself some Seachem Stability - the only nitrifying bacteria they had left. Ill update this threatd if anything comes up!

    Thanks again! :)

  5. MeldyranValued MemberMember

    I had another question regarding the water cyle!

    If I was considering replacing the substrate, would that be tantamount to me restarting the cycle?

    I was mainly considering replacing it with a black substrate that has more nourshment for plants.

    I am also curious about how many shrimp could I keep in my tank?
  6. DuaneVWell Known MemberMember

    No. Your cycle lives in your filter media. There is bacteria on everything in the tank, but the majority of it lives in the filter media as thats where the water is drawn through constantly. Changing substrate might cause a minor spike, but if youre cycled it should take care of it. Not sure what substrate youre referring to, but if you have plants that aren't planted, the substrate is irrelevant. Also, if you have "easy" plants, substrate is irrelevant. In the photo I can see Anubias and moss balls. Substrate has no effect on either. Anubias is a water column feeder and you cant plant it or its rhizome will rot and kill it. Moss balls just roll around (theyre actually algae). Your driftwood wasnt dying the water, it was releasing tannins, which are super healthy for the inhabitants of your tank. Some people dont like the look of it, I get that, but I love it.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2019
  7. jjohnwmWell Known MemberMember

    Hmmm...lots to address here. I'd especially love to hear more about the "colony" of 150 Amanos. Quite interesting.

    This calls for some tact. @mattgirl?
  8. mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    Any time you have living creatures in a tank no matter if they are snails, shrimp or fish the ammonia level needs to be kept as low as possible with water changes.

    The fact that you are seeing nitrates makes me think your cycle is close to done unless you have nitrates in your tap water. You need to run the nitrate test on your tap water to see if there are any there. If not then you are well on your way to a cycled tank.

    For now I wouldn't add or remove anything from this tank. The only thing you should be doing is water changes. Be sure to add your water conditioner to the water you are adding before pouring it in the tank. If you have chlorine or chloramines in your source water it will kill off the bacteria if you don't add a water conditioner first.

    I highly recommend Seachem Prime but your API tap water conditioner will work too.

    I am thinking you need a well established tank for shrimp so I would hold off on adding any until your tank reads 0 ammonia and 0 nitrites for at the very least a couple of weeks.
  9. MeldyranValued MemberMember

    Are water changes the only way to get rid of nitrites?
  10. mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    No, time and growing the bacteria that eats them will remove them. Once you have grown enough nitrite eating bacteria you should never see them again.
  11. McFlyValued MemberMember

    Patience grasshopper. Aquariums are relaxing...
    Things move slowly and take time, there's no rushing
    nature... Your numbers WILL drop to zero, in time.

    Till then, get some fish stickers and put them on the glass. :D

    J/K ;)
  12. MeldyranValued MemberMember

    Hey Guys! Thank you all for your answers so far, they have been very helpful!

    I have been testing my water regularly, and for the last couple of week or so I have been consistently getting these numbers:

    Nitrates: 20
    Nitrites: 0
    Ammonia: 0

    I have been doing regular water changes every week of about 20-30%

    I have added a few more plants since the update, and I actually ended up changing the substrate against some of the advise to not change anything. I have attached an updated image below.
    I was starting to notice some issues with my plants and on another thread someone suggested a general fertilizer, which I started to doze last THU- and I have already seem some improvement and rapid growth in some.

    I have also noticed the coloration of the water increase, not sure if its related to the fertilizer, but Im sure its no cause for concern.

    Lots of snail eggs, and lots of new snails coming up. - So all updates relative un-eventful aha

    Am I out of the woods yet with this cycle?

    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
  13. MeldyranValued MemberMember

    Hi guys!

    Sorry to bump this thread! I just wanted to get some clarity. Are my Nitrates supposed to go down on their own, or is this done only through water changes?
  14. KiksWell Known MemberMember

    Nitrates are mainly removed by performing water changes. When your nitrates hit around 20 ppm it's time to remove them.
  15. J. MacGregorValued MemberMember

    Plants will also use nitrates. In other words if you have lots of plants in your tank you shouldn't see too many nitrates.

    Now just for good measure steady low nitrates does not mean that you don't have to do water changes. I say this because I would hate living in a habitat where I had to live in my own waste!
  16. MeldyranValued MemberMember

    So at this point could I consider my tank cycled?
  17. mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    I would have to say Congratulations and yes your tank is cycled :)
  18. MeldyranValued MemberMember

    Thank you! Time to introduce some fishes to this tank
  19. J. MacGregorValued MemberMember

    As far as weather or not your tank is cycled I wouldn't have a clue! I haven't cycled enough tanks to really know when a tank is cycled just by the readings I would go by the advice on a forum like this. I suppose that in time I will get to where I know but at this point in time I'm not as sure of my self as I should be to offer advice as to weather a tank is cycled.