Weird occurrence within my cycle… I need help understanding what happened.

Chomas007

I am a beginner in the fish keeping hobby and i need help. So today is day four of cycling my 5 gallon fluval spec tank. I’ll include photos of the tank and as well as parameters of the water so that we can all be on the same page. I’ve done research on the nitrogen cycle so I have a general understanding of how the process unfolds. I’ll explain what happened for each day as best as I can.
Day #1
I set up the aquarium by putting in tap water, gravel, and driftwood. I had washed the gravel thoroughly and boiled the drift wood so that it doesn’t stain and cloud the water (which happened regardless but I’ll explain that later) After filling up the tank, I started the filter and heater and added in 2.5ml of api stress coat to remove chlorine’s and chloramines. Then, I added in 20 drops Dr. Tim’s ammonium chloride to start the nitrogen cycle. And lastly, I added in brightwell microbacter xlf for freshwater.
Day 2
The water became really cloudy. I decided to take a sample to my local fish store to test parameters just because I was curious to see where I was at and I was going to buy some Java ferns they had to put in. The image included shows the parameters for ammonia (green) and nitrite (purple) and pH(blue). The ammonia read 4.0ppm, the nitrite read 5.0ppm and the pH was at 7.6. I was surprised that I had such a high readings of nitrite only after one day but nonetheless I was happy about it haha. I went home and put in the ferns and added a pint of tap water into the tank because some water had evaporated (it was 86 F inside our house and ac was broke lol). After that I added in some more api stress coat (only 1ml) to deal with the tap water and the chlorines.
Day 3
Water started to clear up a bit and I finally got my api master test kit in the mail so I decided to test the water myself. I followed the instructions and everything and again to my surprise there was already a huge drop (or so I think. I’m not sure what is considered to be a normal rate of Diminishing or huge rate for the nitrogen cycle. The ammonia went from 4.0 ppm to 1.0 ppm in one day, the nitrite went from 5.0 ppm to an astonishing 0 ppm and the nitrate was also 0ppm. Not knowing any better I thought this was great until after showing it to the people on the betta fish subreddit. Some said you are no where near finished with the cycle, some said you are almost there and it was essentially just a hodgepodge of opinions. This is where my confusion started.
Day Four/ Today
Did another water test, water was still somewhat cloudy but much clearer than before. This time the readings were ammonia 0.25-0.5ish ppm, 0 ppm nitrite, and 0 ppm nitrate. Showed it to the people on the subreddit again and I didn’t feel like I got good suggestions. I went back to the local fish store again to see if maybe I just got a bad test kit but theirs read the same as mine. The guy asked if I washed my filter before putting in the water probably in response to the slightly cloudy water and I answered honestly… in which I said I had not. He told me to rinse the sponge and media under the tap but I sort of recoiled and said “wouldnt thaf kill the bacteria that’s been growing these past couple days? He said no and I wasn’t taking any chances with killing off anything I had started so I rinsed the sponge and media with de chlorinated tap water.(used 1ml api stress coat) I just want to make sure that I’m not going to end up killing my betta fish. And he is about to be shipped to me in 4 days and the breeder says that he can’t hold him any longer than that so I am sort of panicked and may have to resort to fish in cycling. I know… this is bad and I made a beginner mistake of impulse buying. But with how much time I’ve spent on monitoring this aquarium and literally 7 water changes I did today hoping something different is going to happen I know for sure that this little betta will not die. All I need right now is a clear plan of action so that I can get back on track with this. Any suggestions?
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Azedenkae

The fish subreddits are not the best places to get good info on all these lol. I mean to be fair, the reef and cichlid people are generally very knowledgeable, so are the planted people.The general aquarium one is... okay, but not great. The betta sub is pretty terrible so yeah, probably best not get info from there anymore. To be fair, probably at least one of the suggestions would be right, but well, you can't know given there's probably tens of opposing opinions.

Anyways, moving on.

1. I'd recommend testing your tap water, just to get a baseline. Your tank does not look very 'filled up', so I'd find it strange that 20 drops of ammonium chloride that should give 2ppm would result in 4ppm, not to mention the presence of nitrite, which would suggest that there was a lot of ammonia coming from somewhere, if not from your tap.
2. Can you provide details on exactly how many water changes you did, and how much? From what I can gather, between the really high ammonia and nitrite readings, to when they were basically zeros, you did not do any water change, right?
3. In case you were wondering, reading nitrate is probably not too surprising here if your plant could have soaked it all up. I don't know the rate at which a java fern of that size consumes nitrate though, just to be clear.
4. Topping up with water or doing water changes is fine, same with water changes during the cycle. If necessary, that is. I'd recommend from now on, de-chlorinating the water before adding it to the tank though.
5. You are right to be wary of washing the biomedia under tap water by the way. Yes nitrifiers have been found to seemingly be more resistant to chlorine and chloramine than other microorganisms, but they can still be killed by high levels of chlorine/chloramine, often the concentration in a lot of tap water is enough. Also, they seem to be more resistant when there are also a higher concentration of other microorganisms, when there is probably more ways to defend against chlorine/chloramine (in a biofilm). At the start when there's not that much bacteria, chlorine/chloramine can definitely kill.
6. Fish-in cycling is not too big a deal, especially since it's one betta. The tank size is on the smaller side, so the concentration of ammonia produced in that tank will be higher. But again, should be okay.
7. Okay, on to the actual cycling part. If your parameters really spiked that high, and neared zero now, then it's truer to say that you are probably close to having your tank cycled.

We don't have a lot of time though with four days, but let's see what we can do. Otherwise yeah don't fret, you'll be fine fish-in cycling.

So let's see.

I'd recommend adding another 20 drops of ammonia, and measure ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate about 30 minutes later. Then measure 24 hours later, and see what the parameters are. That'll give us time to see how ammonia is being processed within 24 hours, and decide on a possible course of action with three days left to spare. Plus/minus a day or so, I guess, accounting for shipping.

If you have any questions, feel free to let me know! Happy to explain my logic behind everything I said above and you can judge for yourself if it makes sense or not.
 

Chomas007

The fish subreddits are not the best places to get good info on all these lol. I mean to be fair, the reef and cichlid people are generally very knowledgeable, so are the planted people.The general aquarium one is... okay, but not great. The betta sub is pretty terrible so yeah, probably best not get info from there anymore. To be fair, probably at least one of the suggestions would be right, but well, you can't know given there's probably tens of opposing opinions.

Anyways, moving on.

1. I'd recommend testing your tap water, just to get a baseline. Your tank does not look very 'filled up', so I'd find it strange that 20 drops of ammonium chloride that should give 2ppm would result in 4ppm, not to mention the presence of nitrite, which would suggest that there was a lot of ammonia coming from somewhere, if not from your tap.
2. Can you provide details on exactly how many water changes you did, and how much? From what I can gather, between the really high ammonia and nitrite readings, to when they were basically zeros, you did not do any water change, right?
3. In case you were wondering, reading nitrate is probably not too surprising here if your plant could have soaked it all up. I don't know the rate at which a java fern of that size consumes nitrate though, just to be clear.
4. Topping up with water or doing water changes is fine, same with water changes during the cycle. If necessary, that is. I'd recommend from now on, de-chlorinating the water before adding it to the tank though.
5. You are right to be wary of washing the biomedia under tap water by the way. Yes nitrifiers have been found to seemingly be more resistant to chlorine and chloramine than other microorganisms, but they can still be killed by high levels of chlorine/chloramine, often the concentration in a lot of tap water is enough. Also, they seem to be more resistant when there are also a higher concentration of other microorganisms, when there is probably more ways to defend against chlorine/chloramine (in a biofilm). At the start when there's not that much bacteria, chlorine/chloramine can definitely kill.
6. Fish-in cycling is not too big a deal, especially since it's one betta. The tank size is on the smaller side, so the concentration of ammonia produced in that tank will be higher. But again, should be okay.
7. Okay, on to the actual cycling part. If your parameters really spiked that high, and neared zero now, then it's truer to say that you are probably close to having your tank cycled.

We don't have a lot of time though with four days, but let's see what we can do. Otherwise yeah don't fret, you'll be fine fish-in cycling.

So let's see.

I'd recommend adding another 20 drops of ammonia, and measure ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate about 30 minutes later. Then measure 24 hours later, and see what the parameters are. That'll give us time to see how ammonia is being processed within 24 hours, and decide on a possible course of action with three days left to spare. Plus/minus a day or so, I guess, accounting for shipping.

If you have any questions, feel free to let me know! Happy to explain my logic behind everything I said above and you can judge for yourself if it makes sense or not.
Thank you so much for your detailed explanation. Its so much better than having someone say no your tank isnt cycled without really answering my question. Ill definitely keep updating this thread. I feel so much calmer now. Seriously though, thanks a lot. OH. No there was no water change between days two to three. I had changed the water on day four later on in the day though and that was about maybe a 20-25 percent change.
 

Azedenkae

Thank you so much for your detailed explanation. Its so much better than having someone say no your tank isnt cycled without really answering my question. Ill definitely keep updating this thread. I feel so much calmer now. Seriously though, thanks a lot.
You're welcome. ^_^ Hopefully we'll get through this unscathed lol.
OH. No there was no water change between days two to three. I had changed the water on day four later on in the day though and that was about maybe a 20-25 percent change.
Sounds good, just wanted to check. But yeah, test your nitrification capacity with 2ppm ammonia and see how it goes.
 

Chomas007

You're welcome. ^_^ Hopefully we'll get through this unscathed lol.

Sounds good, just wanted to check. But yeah, test your nitrification capacity with 2ppm ammonia and see how it goes.
btw i just did another water test... the parameters are ammonia 2.0 ppm, nitrite 0 ppm. I didnt bother checking nitrate bc well... you know. Oh also didnt mention this but before the water change I added 10 drops of ammonia and it was like 4.0 ppm. Thats was prompted me to do the water change and after I added 2.5ml api stress coat.
btw i just did another water test... the parameters are ammonia 2.0 ppm, nitrite 0 ppm. I didnt bother checking nitrate bc well... you know. Oh also didnt mention this but before the water change I added 10 drops of ammonia and it was like 4.0 ppm. Thats was prompted me to do the water change and after I added 2.5ml api stress coat.
We will get through this I know!!
 

mattgirl

Welcome to Fishlore :)

I suspect the nitrites you saw so soon after starting this cycle came from the bottled bacteria you added. It isn't unheard of to get some unexpected reading when we add bottled bacteria.

Doing a fish in cycle with a Betta is totally doable without the fish ever being in harms way. Just keep an eye on the ammonia and nitrites. If either or both get up to .25 do a water change to get them back down. It is as simple as that. As long as you keep both down your fish will never be in any danger.

I will recommend you get a bottle of Seachem Prime. It will replace the stress coat as your water conditioner. It is first and foremost a water conditioner but goes one step farther and also detoxes low levels of ammonia. Be sure to add it to any water going in the tank before you pour the water in the tank, even top off water.

It is good that you followed your own instincts about not rinsing your media in straight tap water. That can be done once a tank is both fully cycled and firmly established but doing it while cycling a tank is asking for trouble.

I would cut the amount of ammonia you are adding in half. Unfortunately it seems if we follow the directions on the bottle we end up with twice as much as we need. It almost seems like they doubled the strength of the ammonia but failed to change the instruction to account for it.

I will recommend you change out most of the water in this tank the day before your fish is scheduled to arrive. Don't add any more ammonia at that point. By doing so your little guy will be starting out with fresh ammonia free clean water.
 

Chomas007

Thank u so much for your help I truly appreciate it. I love this community already lol.
 

Chomas007

Hey guys... its me again. And I have updates! It finally looks like my tank is consistently showing nitrites and nitrates now!
I think I mentioned in this thread that my betta fish (that I will now name Bingus as per friend suggestion) should have arrived today. Turns out he's arriving on Friday. But that's a good thing because I don't have to inhibit the cycle wooooooo. Unfortunately (not that it is...) I did a 50-55 percent water change yesterday before I found out when he'll arrive but its okay lol. Anyway, here's my dilemma. I did a water test today and here are the parameters. I'll link a picture too. Ammonia 0.5 ppm (before the water change it was at 1 ppm), nitrite is at 1-2 ppm (its really hard to tell), and nitrate is at 10-20ish ppm (again, really hard to tell). Should I let the tank be? or should I do a water change again? Thanks guy! Have a great day :)


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Dunk2

Hey guys... its me again. And I have updates! It finally looks like my tank is consistently showing nitrites and nitrates now!
I think I mentioned in this thread that my betta fish (that I will now name Bingus as per friend suggestion) should have arrived today. Turns out he's arriving on Friday. But that's a good thing because I don't have to inhibit the cycle wooooooo. Unfortunately (not that it is...) I did a 50-55 percent water change yesterday before I found out when he'll arrive but its okay lol. Anyway, here's my dilemma. I did a water test today and here are the parameters. I'll link a picture too. Ammonia 0.5 ppm (before the water change it was at 1 ppm), nitrite is at 1-2 ppm (its really hard to tell), and nitrate is at 10-20ish ppm (again, really hard to tell). Should I let the tank be? or should I do a water change again? Thanks guy! Have a great day :)


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I’d suggest you let the tank be for now (no need for a water change yet).

As mattgirl suggested above, you should do a large water change the day before your fish arrives.

When your fish arrives, test your water parameters daily and do water changes based on your test results. And come back here with questions!
 

Chomas007

I’d suggest you let the tank be for now (no need for a water change yet).

As mattgirl suggested above, you should do a large water change the day before your fish arrives.

When your fish arrives, test your water parameters daily and do water changes based on your test results. And come back here with questions!
Will do! I'll send pictures
Will do! I'll send pictures
how large of a water change though?
Will do! I'll send pictures

how large of a water change though?
Also I forgot to mention something about seachem prime. Im not quite sure how much i should dose and when... ive been doing 1-2 ml for the most recent water change and i only dose when i top off and do water change. However i feel like that will change as soon as i add in the fish. I understand that prime binds low levels of ammonia and nitrites so that it makes the water safe for the fish. What will dosing with prime look like for a 5 gallon tank with a fish inside it? do I dose everyday? every other day?
 

mattgirl

Change out at least 75% of the water the day before your fish arrives. Don't add anymore ammonia after the water change. Be sure your add Prime to the fresh water before pouring it in the tank. we want to be sure the chlorine is out of the water before it goes in the tank.

Now that your tank is cycled just add enough Prime to treat the water you are changing each week. I always recommend changing out 50% each week. With just the one fish 50% may be overkill but the very best thing you can do for your fish is give them fresh water. Don't be overly concerned about overdosing the prime. It isn't going to hurt anything but is a waste of prime. 1/2ml prime with each water change would not be too much.

You should not see any ammonia or nitrites in a cycled tank but it is a good idea to keep an eye on the levels for a while to make sure everything is stable.
 

Chomas007

Change out at least 75% of the water the day before your fish arrives. Don't add anymore ammonia after the water change. Be sure your add Prime to the fresh water before pouring it in the tank. we want to be sure the chlorine is out of the water before it goes in the tank.

Now that your tank is cycled just add enough Prime to treat the water you are changing each week. I always recommend changing out 50% each week. With just the one fish 50% may be overkill but the very best thing you can do for your fish is give them fresh water. Don't be overly concerned about overdosing the prime. It isn't going to hurt anything but is a waste of prime. 1/2ml prime with each water change would not be too much.

You should not see any ammonia or nitrites in a cycled tank but it is a good idea to keep an eye on the levels for a while to make sure everything is stable.
Thank you so much. I hope that I make everyone here and Bingus proud
 

Chomas007

Okay so I got my betta early and hes been in his new home since yesterday... I gotta say he is VERY Hyper active. He hasn't really slowed down lol... its like he's on a constant sugar rush. Anyway, I did a 70-80 percent right before he was put in. The parameters jumped again today so I did another big water change today about the same amount as yesterday. I dosed with prime both times also around 1ml. I know that with a fish-in cycle you have to keep a constant eye on parameters and do a water change everyday essentially but im not sure how much of the water to change each time. some advice would be cool. Thanks guys!
 

Dunk2

Before I answer your question, what exactly were the water parameters before today’s change?
 

Chomas007

Before todays water change, the parameters were Ammonia 0-0.25 ppm, nitrite 2.0 ppm, nitrate, 10-20 ppm
Also i noticed that after todays water change, I noticed he was "yawning" or "gasping"? First of all im not sure if there is a difference between a yawn and a gasp and second of all is that something I should be concerned about?
 

Dunk2

The amount of water needing changed depends on the results of your daily tests.

For fish-in cycles, my suggestion is to keep the combined level of ammonia and nitrites at or below 0.50 ppm. Some folks recommend keeping the combined level below 1.0 ppm, but I like 0.50 better. :p

To use a simple example. . . If your daily test shows ammonia of 0.50 ppm and nitrites of 0.50 ppm (1.0 ppm combined total), a 50% water change would reduce the combined level to 0.50 ppm. And a 75% water change would reduce the combined level to 0.25 ppm.

Make sense?
 

Chomas007

makes sense. Thanks a lot!
 

Chomas007

One more thing... Is it okay to do more than one water change in a day? I just tested water again... ammonia is 0 ppm, nitrite 2 ppm, and nitrate 10-20 ppm?
 

mattgirl

Before todays water change, the parameters were Ammonia 0-0.25 ppm, nitrite 2.0 ppm, nitrate, 10-20 ppm
I just tested water again... ammonia is 0 ppm, nitrite 2 ppm, and nitrate 10-20 ppm?
Something isn't making sense to me. How much water are you changing? You may have answered this at some point but have you tested the water you are using for your water changes? The reason i asked is other than the ammonia the numbers are the same before and after the water change. If you have no nitrites or nitrates in your tap water the water change should have lowered both.

To answer your last question though. Yes, you can do more than one water change a day. It is better to do one big enough to get the numbers down though.
 

Chomas007

Hi guys. I have another nitrogen cycle related question. So I am at a point where I am showing no signs of ammonia. However I show 2.0 ppm nitrites consistently. Even after huge water changes. Like 80-90 percent to be exact. Usually, after the water change, the nitrite goes down to 0.5 ppm and after like 5 hours it spikes back to two. Its been like that for the last 4-5 days. Is this normal?
 

mattgirl

Yes, perfectly normal. You have enough ammonia eating bacteria but not enough nitrite eating bacteria. Since there are fish in this tank I highly recommend you change out at least half the water daily until the nitrites drop to zero. We want to keep the nitrites diluted.
 

Chomas007

I added in more plants into the tank... they are root feeders such as amazon swords, cryptocorynes and staurogyne repens. because of that i added in some root tabs. Should I leave them in or take them out?
 

mattgirl

I added in more plants into the tank... they are root feeders such as amazon swords, cryptocorynes and staurogyne repens. because of that i added in some root tabs. Should I leave them in or take them out?
Leave them in.
 

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