Unplanned Fish In Cycle.....HELP

Jgold622

Member
I have been cycling my 10 gallon freshwater tank for 5 weeks. I had a previous thread about my attempts. It was not yet cycled and I’m actually pretty sure it was stalled so I was contemplating starting over, again. Then my child brought home a small male Betta, Fred, after a weekend with grandparents.
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The path of least resistance is to do a fish in cycle.
I know......and I seriously considered just taking him back but here we are.

I did a massive water change to bring ammonia down to a safe range and treated the water with prime, stability and Microbe Lift Water Care to jump start the bacteria growth. I really want to do this safety and humanely so I am looking for any advice. Here’s info on my tank:

10 gallon long
Filter: Aqueon Quiet Flow 10 Power Filter with standard cartridge and foam ammonia media.
Air stone
Tetra heater set to 78 degrees
Gravel substrate
One medium piece of driftwood with a few mini Anubias attached to the wood.
I also have a few fake plants, plastic and soft.
Food - Omega One Betta Buffett Pellets

And one Red Betta now named Fred.

Day 1 -
Ammonia - .50
Nitrites- 0
Nitrates - Not tested
PH - 7.8 - 8

* I did a partial water change with prime and stability and retested the ammonia, ammonia was reduced to .25 ppm. Dosed with Bacteria

Day 2 -
Ammonia - .50 - 1.0
Nitrites- 0
PH - 7.4 - 7.8
Nitrates- Not Tested

* I did a 30% water change with prime. retested ammonia, ammonia was barely reduced but was closer to .25-.50. Dosed with bacteria.

Day 3 - TODAY

Ammonia - 1 ppm
Nitrites- .25 ppm
PH - 7.4
Nitrates - 0 ppm

* 50% water change, redosed with Prime and stability. Retested ammonia, ammonia is now .25 ppm and Nitrites are showing as blue but I’m thinking it’s somewhere between 0 and .25ppm.


Like I said I wasn’t planning on doing a fish in cycle but my kid will be devastated if we take him back, and I don’t want the cycle to kill him either so I want to make sure I do this correctly and humanely. I’m thrilled that I’m actually seeing nitrites because I never once saw nitrites during my fishless cycle attempts.


I have been acting under the guidance that during a fish in cycle, it is important to test ammonia and nitrites daily and if the ammonia reaches .50 or higher, perform a 30-50% water change, and dose with prime every 24-48 hours to keep the ammonia and nitrite neutralized and from harming the fish. I have been trying not to disturb the substrate too much except to remove poo and uneaten food. I also have not touched the filter. Is this a good process? Today when I did the water change I clearly removed most of the nitrites. Will this be a problem? Will it cycle but take longer?

Any advice is appreciated.
 

12Cin12

Member
Hi! Fred is a beautiful fish! I'm glad you are not going to take him back - he is much more likely to live a wonderful Iife in your hands.
Your post reminded me to check my fish-in-cycle. Ammonia was at .50 which is way too high IMO as I forgot to do a WC for two days :-( (workmen in the house, Ect.). A WC and Seachem Seed will set things aright.
In the planted tank world, they recommend daily WC of 50% for the first week regardless of readings. This is to remove organic waste material that causes algae growth. Therefore, I think you are following a good process, and little Fred is very lucky to have you.
Edit: don't forget that Prime will give false ammonia readings
 

Dechi

Member
I’m wondering why you keep having ammonia readings after WC if you’re not adding any ammonia and have no fish in the tank ?

Have you tester your tap water for ammonia and nitrites ?

As 12Cin12 said, Prime will give false ammonia results. So 0.25 ppm might actually be 0.

I think your Betta will be just fine as long as you keep doing regular WC.
 

RelaxingBettas

Member
Good luck with Fred, and my best advice is 'every fake plant is taking up room from a nitrogen sucker', I would hit it with every heavy feeder I had down to pothos cuttings from the houseplants. Duckweed is a blessing as well as a curse. I'm sure with enough water changes he won't burn his gills, which is the concern. My other advice is my goodness my bettas is heavily tannic water seem to like it, the Thais go heavy on the Indian almond leaves, and so am I.
 

Chris1212

Member
Sounds like you are doing everything right. I second the idea of adding some pothos...it is cheap at a hardware store and the roots look cool in the tank, while also helping with the cycle.
 
  • Thread Starter

Jgold622

Member
Thank you for the encouragement.

12CinC- Thank you! He is actually a really playful guy. He was super shy for the first day and hid under the wood but now he is very active. He loves the air stone and is doing figure 8’s around the wood so I think he’s happy. I’m sure anything is an improvement to the cup he was living in

Dechi - I have one Betta currently in the tank so I believe he is the reason I have ammonia even after water changes. I haven’t tested my tap for ammonia though so I will definitely do that today to see if that’s contributing. I didn’t realize Prime could alter the results, I tested the water before adding Prime and that’s when I got the Nitrite reading. I’ve never ever seen nitrites even after using Prime so I feel pretty good about the .25 reading. Either way it’s good to know it can alter results.
 

RelaxingBettas

Member
There's controversy on what Prime does and doesn't do re: ammonia, I use it in moderation for its intended purpose, but don't rely on it to 'neutralize' the effects of sitting in an ammonia bath.
 

mattgirl

Member
RelaxingBettas said:
There's controversy on what Prime does and doesn't do re: ammonia, I use it in moderation for its intended purpose, but don't rely on it to 'neutralize' the effects of sitting in an ammonia bath.
I do agree with this. If there is enough ammonia to warrant Prime there is enough to warrant a water change with Prime added. I never recommend adding Prime in place of a water change. I only recommend using it in conjunction with a water change.

Jgold622 Continue doing what you are doing. I highly recommend you keep the ammonia level down to no more than .25 even if that means doing a water change daily. Removing the nitrites with water changes isn't going to affect the cycling process.

Eventually you will have grown enough ammonia and nitrite eating bacteria to keep both at zero. The cycle is important but when doing a fish in cycle the safety of the fish has to be the first priority. All the water changes may slow the cycle down by a few days but by doing them Fred should never be in any danger.
 
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Jgold622

Member
Thank you, I wouldn’t use Prime in place of a water change either, especially not while cycling with a fish. I check the parameters every morning and if it’s .50 or less (ammonia and nitrites combined) I leave it alone but dose with prime regardless. If it’s more than that I do a water change with prime conditioned water, dosing for the full ten gallons not just what I’m replacing. I also tested my tap water and found zero ammonia, zero nitrites but did see between 5 and 10 nitrates. Atleast now I know the ammonia and nitrites are from the cycle/fish and not from the tap.
Thanks everyone! I’ll post updates soon hopefully!
 
  • Thread Starter

Jgold622

Member
So now I’m running into a situation where I think I’ll have to test the water multiple times per day . This morning around 8 am I tested as I always do. Ammonia was a solid 1ppm, zero nitrites, zero nitrates. I did my 50% water change with prime, retested and ammonia had barely been cut in half, which was frustrating, it was somewhere between .50 and 1ppm. I dosed with the bacteria after the water change. Around 11am, I started to get paranoid because the ammonia seems to be rising more quickly now so I retested ammonia, and I’m glad I did because ammonia was back up to 1ppm after only three hours. I did a second water change and retested just now. Ammonia is down to .50 with zero nitrites. Is this common? To have to test and water change multiple times per day? I don’t want to overdo it with water changes but I don’t want to be cruel either...PH was also much higher today, it has been in the mid 7’s and today was 8.2. Does this mean anything? I know a drop in PH can be bad but a sharp rise like that? I did not feed Fred. I’ve been feeding him three pellets every morning for the past three days but I think we will skip today and see if that helps reduce the ammonia spikes.
 

RelaxingBettas

Member
Does Fred SEEM stressed? It sounds like you're chasing numbers, I am not qualified to really put my two cents in, but when I started I wish I had worried less, and from the advice of people that *are*, I am probably on the right track. When I have a fish or animal whose potential water quality is really making me sweat, I go with rain or spring water I've tested and found acceptable for their needs- at Berkey filters for com they've got an instant (by zip code) link to all the stats for local water quality, is it possible you are ADDING ammonia with all these water changes?
 

mattgirl

Member
What kind of substrate do you have in this tank? Some are known to leach ammonia. There is no way Fred could be producing this much ammonia so it has to be coming from somewhere else.
 

RelaxingBettas

Member
PS there's a resin filter product called Purigen that says it will remove crazy amounts of organic waste, I don't think that's probably applicable, but it exists, if you decide to try it (I am keeping it around just in case). Good luck.
 
  • Thread Starter

Jgold622

Member
I have a black gravel substrate. Ammonia doesn’t seem to be going any higher than 1ppm so I’m not super concerned, I’ll just continue to dose with prime during my morning water change.

I’ve tested my tap water and there is zero ammonia and zero nitrite but there is a small amount of nitrates. I had been doing a fish less cycle before we got him. I did a very large water change before adding him because I had been keeping my ammonia levels at 1-2 ppm. I didn’t scrub the tank becuase I didn’t want to remove any good bacteria that may have been there. The filter was completely replaced because the filter died and honestly it wasn’t working well anyway which is probably why I couldn’t cycle the tank to begin with. I’m sure there was still some ammonia in the water from my fishless cycle attempt, and not all because of Fred. He seems perfectly happy so I think I just need to stop worrying and keep doing what I’m doing. From what I’ve read when you do a fish in cycle the wrong way it goes bad quickly and since I’m not seeing any signs of stress, he’s eating normally and is very curious and playful with the air stone I think we’re doing okay. Fingers crossed!
 

RelaxingBettas

Member
Yay Fred!
 

mattgirl

Member
Ammonia was a solid 1ppm, zero nitrites, zero nitrates. I did my 50% water change with prime, retested and ammonia had barely been cut in half, which was frustrating, it was somewhere between .50 and 1ppm. I dosed with the bacteria after the water change. Around 11am, I started to get paranoid because the ammonia seems to be rising more quickly now so I retested ammonia, and I’m glad I did because ammonia was back up to 1ppm after only three hours.
Is it possible someone else is feeding Fred and he isn't eating all the food? I can't imagine Fred producing this much ammonia this quickly. Could there be decomposing food in the bottom of the tank or pulled into the filter?

If this were my tank I would change out no less than 75% of the water. If the ammonia is still above .25 I would go ahead and do another water change. I would get and keep the ammonia level down to no more than .25 even if that meant changing out up to 75% of the water daily. Hopefully it won't take that much but my main concern is one day your nitrites are going to spike.

If your ammonia is already spiking this high so quickly and then you add in the spike in nitrites it may start affecting Fred in a negative way. When that happens large daily water changes should keep him safe.
Jgold622 said:
I have a black gravel substrate. Ammonia doesn’t seem to be going any higher than 1ppm so I’m not super concerned, I’ll just continue to dose with prime during my morning water change.
I wouldn't think the gravel would be leaching ammonia so it has to be coming from somewhere else.

I’ve tested my tap water and there is zero ammonia and zero nitrite but there is a small amount of nitrates. I had been doing a fish less cycle before we got him. I did a very large water change before adding him because I had been keeping my ammonia levels at 1-2 ppm. I didn’t scrub the tank becuase I didn’t want to remove any good bacteria that may have been there. The filter was completely replaced because the filter died and honestly it wasn’t working well anyway which is probably why I couldn’t cycle the tank to begin with. I’m sure there was still some ammonia in the water from my fishless cycle attempt, and not all because of Fred.
Depending on how large, the water change should have removed most of the ammonia you had been adding. Even if some had been left it wouldn't explain why the ammonia is spiking so quickly now with all the water change you've been doing.

When you say the filter was completely replaced do you mean you started over with all new media in a new filter? If that was the case it did set this cycle back. It will just take time to regrow the bacteria that was lost.

He seems perfectly happy so I think I just need to stop worrying and keep doing what I’m doing. From what I’ve read when you do a fish in cycle the wrong way it goes bad quickly and since I’m not seeing any signs of stress, he’s eating normally and is very curious and playful with the air stone I think we’re doing okay. Fingers crossed!
It is really good that Fred is doing so well. I have my fingers crossed for both you and him Since you know the importance of fresh clean water I feel sure he will come through this a happy healthy little guy.
 

RelaxingBettas

Member
mattgirl said:
When you say the filter was completely replaced do you mean you started over with all new media in a new filter? If that was the case it did set this cycle back. It will just take time to regrow the bacteria that was lost.
Ding ding went my bell reading that, gosh, bacteria are touchy little buggers, it's taken me a week to clear up a tank with what proved to be inadequate filtration (I had borrowed the 'extra' sponge filter to start another tank, as one does, and the good HOB media was stuck in the mail) after a wretched ghost shrimp decided to die and I didn't have a good balance- fish went out, mechanical and biological filtration applied en masse, and now it's as clear as a bell. In earlier fishkeeping incarnations I wondered why people would spend so much on weird little heavy puzzle pieces to stick in filters and stack behind plants. Now I know lol.
Others possibly feeding Fred is brilliant, I didn't think of it, no one randomly feeds mine, so it didn't occur to me as a possibility- other than the testing media being wonk itself, what could it be?! The best advice I think was already given- water changes, water changes, water changes (and if you are inclined to play with filter media, I sure can recommend those little puzzle pieces, bacteria in the water making it cloudy looking for a home- it's the same beneficial bacteria in our filters, just excess from too many nutrients- like a dead shrimp stuck in the plants- once they have surface area to grow in, how quickly things clear up!)
I just realized, apologies if it was already addressed, but is there still carbon in that new(ish) replacement filter (assuming you are using the pad)? Because the reason no one uses them (except for extremely specific situations) is that (to the best of my layman's understanding) they do their little thing, and then *release* all that lovely ammonia they've been holding onto, right back into the system.
With a few 'extra' feedings, it wouldn't take much to overload the capacity of what existing bacteria you have...
 
  • Thread Starter

Jgold622

Member
mattgirl said:
Is it possible someone else is feeding Fred and he isn't eating all the food? I can't imagine Fred producing this much ammonia this quickly. Could there be decomposing food in the bottom of the tank or pulled into the filter?

If this were my tank I would change out no less than 75% of the water. If the ammonia is still above .25 I would go ahead and do another water change. I would get and keep the ammonia level down to no more than .25 even if that meant changing out up to 75% of the water daily. Hopefully it won't take that much but my main concern is one day your nitrites are going to spike.

If your ammonia is already spiking this high so quickly and then you add in the spike in nitrites it may start affecting Fred in a negative way. When that happens large daily water changes should keep him safe.

I wouldn't think the gravel would be leaching ammonia so it has to be coming from somewhere else.


Depending on how large, the water change should have removed most of the ammonia you had been adding. Even if some had been left it wouldn't explain why the ammonia is spiking so quickly now with all the water change you've been doing.

When you say the filter was completely replaced do you mean you started over with all new media in a new filter? If that was the case it did set this cycle back. It will just take time to regrow the bacteria that was lost.


It is really good that Fred is doing so well. I have my fingers crossed for both you and him Since you know the importance of fresh clean water I feel sure he will come through this a happy healthy little guy.
I agree it’s odd. Before we got Fred, we were doing a fishless cycle using Dr. Tim’s Ammonia. I wasn’t using any form of fish food for the cycle so there wouldn’t have been any kind of decomposing food in the tank before getting Fred. From the beginning I’ve only fed him three maybe four pellets per day and I remove anything he doesn’t eat or misses. I completely replaced the filter becuase it died. I replaced all of the media as well. Looking back I wish I had atleast used some of the media but I didn’t. I replaced the filter, media and took out 75% of the water when we got Fred but I’m sure there was still some ammonia in the water when we put him in.

In any case, todaythe ammonia was not nearly as high, yesterday I did a 50% water change because ammonia had spiked to 1ppm toward the end of the day. This morning ammonia was .50 ppm, zero nitrites and between 0-5 ppm Nitrates. I didn’t do a water change but I redosed with prime. I had .25 ppm nitrites on day three of this cycle but I haven’t seen any since. I wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t see them again. I’ll probably have to do a water change tomorrow morning. I’ll just keep at it and check back if anything comes up.

Thank you again!
 
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Jgold622

Member
Ok anyone know what this white stuff is that’s covering the driftwood?? Good thing or..?
 

Dechi

Member
Jgold622 said:
Ok anyone know what this white stuff is that’s covering the driftwood?? Good thing or..?
It appears on most new pieces of wood. Totally harmless. Some fish will eat it or you can scrub it off but it will go away on its own.
 
  • Thread Starter

Jgold622

Member
Thanks! I’m also starting to get excited because this morning ammonia reading was .25ppm! I tested yesterday and ammonia was 1ppm, zero nitrites and 0-5 nitrates. I wanted to do a water change but the day got away from me and I wasn’t able to. I did dose the tank with prime to buy some time, but I didn’t get a chance to do a w/c. This morning I was really surprised that ammonia was .25ppm but I don’t have a higher nitrate reading. I’m hoping the tank is cycling but I’m just not sure. I have a few small anubias on the driftwood that seem to be thriving so could they be taking care of the nitrates?
 

mattgirl

Member
Jgold622 said:
Thanks! I’m also starting to get excited because this morning ammonia reading was .25ppm! I tested yesterday and ammonia was 1ppm, zero nitrites and 0-5 nitrates. I wanted to do a water change but the day got away from me and I wasn’t able to. I did dose the tank with prime to buy some time, but I didn’t get a chance to do a w/c. This morning I was really surprised that ammonia was .25ppm but I don’t have a higher nitrate reading. I’m hoping the tank is cycling but I’m just not sure. I have a few small anubias on the driftwood that seem to be thriving so could they be taking care of the nitrates?
I agree with Dechi what's growing on your driftwood is normal and happens to most new wood we put in our tanks.

You have every right to be excited. I am excited for you. As long as the ammonia goes no higher than the .25 you are seeing right now, hold off on the water change. If it holds at that number or hopefully even lower wait a week before doing a 50% water change. Give the bacteria a chance to do its job.

Plants will use up some of the nitrates. When using the API liquid tests it is difficult to detect slight differences in the color. Your nitrates could be going up but we can't detect the difference just by looking at the color chart. Personally I would not be stressing at all about the nitrate number. Seeing any at all is telling us that your cycle is moving forward. The exact number isn't important. Once the cycle is done seeing orange in the test tube is close enough. Seeing red prompts the need for a water change.

Your weekly 50% water changes should keep them down in the orange range. If you find them climbing up into the red before the week is out you may need to start doing one bigger water change each month. I change out 50% of the water in my tanks each week but once a month I do a bigger water change. I consider this water change my reset. It gets the nitrates down to almost nothing and prevents a slow creep up of the numbers we would see over time if just doing smaller water changes.

Over time with testing you will get a feel for how much water you will need to change with each water change to keep your water pets safe and healthy.
 
  • Thread Starter

Jgold622

Member
Thank you! I’m starting to think the tank might be cycled. On Sunday and Monday I tested and ammonia was low, maybe .25, zero nitrites and trace nitrates. I skipped the water change Monday.
Tuesday I tested, ammonia was closer to .50, still zero nitrites and trace nitrates. I did a 50% water change mainly becuase I could tell Fred was not a fan of the gunk on the driftwood. He usually lays on and under it but he wouldn’t go near it and was glass surfing and just seemed stressed. I went ahead and did a water change and rinsed off the wood as best I could without scrubbing it, which helped a ton and it was funny becuase once I was done and put it back, Fred went right to it and laid on it. Anyway I didn’t test yesterday becuase I forgot but today I tested and ammonia is ZERO!! I even retested and got the same result. Zero nitrites and 5 nitrates. I’ll keep testing daily to check for a spike and I’ll stick to weekly water changes unless something changes. Could it be cycled, that quickly? It’s been two weeks.

***** The only concern I have now is PH was 8.4! That’s the highest reading I’ve ever seen with this tank even when I did a fishless cycle. Should I do anything about that or is it fine to leave? Posting a picture of the colors I got. In order from right to left : Ammonia, Nitrite, PH, Nitrate. Also worth noting that the water we use for the tank is tap water and it is very very hard water. I’ve considered starting to use distilled spring water but I wanted to wait until the tank was cycled to avoid wasting money with frequent water changes. Could that help? I have the API PH lock 7.6 but I haven’t used it because it says it isn’t good for live plants.
 

mattgirl

Member
Congratulations.I have to think you are right and this tank is now cycled. I wouldn't do anything about the pH at this point. Since it normaly isn't this high I would give it a few weeks to see if it comes down.

I wouldn't use straight distilled water but it may not be a problem should you choose to use it by adding half tap and half distilled when you do your water changes. By doing so the pH should be lower because of the half distilled and the necessary minerals will still be there because to the half tap. I would do this instead of adding any kind of pH adjusting products.
 

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