10 Gallon Tank What happened to my cycle?

attheworld

Member
On January 31st, 2021 I bought one of those stock, beginner freshwater Top Fin aquarium kits for a 10 gallon tank. At the time, my betta fish, Prince Deva of Celtica, was living in a bowl, with a mystery snail I've named Dairy Queen. I bought the aquarium for Prince after just under a month of research. At first I tried to a fishless cycle, and asked for help here on FishLore. Many members told me to scrap the fishless cycle and do a fish-in cycle since it would be much healthier for my betta. I obliged and I did research on a fish-in cycle. I stumbled across a website which told me I could complete my cycle with just prime... and I've been doing that for the past 3 or 4 weeks. This guide told me to dose with Prime and test daily for ammonia, then ammonia and nitrites, then ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. I only were to do a water change if ammonia reached 2 ppm, or if combined levels of ammonia and nitrites reach 4 ppm. Let's just say it never happened and I just water changed around weekly, irregularly though, and sometimes I water changed if I spotted debris in the tank. I thought it was fine.

Skipping ahead to February 20th, I finally got my first nitrite spike at 1 ppm. I swiftly did a water change and the next day nitrites and ammonia were at .25. Next day, the same. And then on February 23rd, my test kit reads ammonia, nitrites and nitrates at 0 ppm. For some reason I didn't test the pH. For the next week my test kit reads 0-.25 ppm ammonia, and 0 ppm ntirites and nitrates.

Now we reach today.
Ammonia: .25
Nitrites: 0
Nitrates: 0
pH: 7.6

After these readings, I did a 35% water change and vacuumed half the substrate. Should I test my tank water again?

I think my cycle crashed, but I'm confused as to why the ammonia isn't rising again. Today I went onto FishLore and read other threads of people's experiences. I have learned that Prime can give false ammonia readings, which really frustrates me because I've been dosing almost daily for the past month or so, and I just dosed before I wrote this thread. Help?

Additional information (from the emergency template):

Tank
What is the water volume of the tank? 10 gallons
How long has the tank been running? 27 days
Does it have a filter? Yes
Does it have a heater? Yes
What is the water temperature? 79°F
What is the entire stocking of this tank?
1 crowntail betta, 1 mystery snail, 2 baby amazon swords (roots are being devoured by my snail, one of them is worse than the other), 1 marimo moss ball

Maintenance
How often do you change the water? Weekly (ish)
How much of the water do you change? 20-30%
What do you use to treat your water? SeaChem Prime
Do you vacuum the substrate or just the water? Just the water unless there is visible debris

*Parameters - Very Important
Did you cycle your tank before adding fish? No
What do you use to test the water? API Freshwater Master Test Kit
What are your parameters?
Ammonia: .25
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0
pH: 7.6

Feeding
How often do you feed your fish? In the morning and evening, alternating between shrimp & pellets each day. Every other day I feed my snail
How much do you feed your fish? 1 pellet or some shrimp for my betta. 1/3 of a wafer for snail (each is about 1cm in diameter)
What brand of food do you feed your fish? Aqueon betta food and Hikari sinking wafers
Do you feed frozen or freeze-dried foods? Yes, I feed my betta frozen brine shrimp. I have freeze-dried bloodworms but Prince kept refusing to eat them around a few weeks ago and I haven't tried feeding bloodworms since.

I will answer any questions as best I can. I appreciate any and all advice. I can link the guide I used if need be, I didn't want to since I am unsure on the rules for linking other fish websites.
- Att
 
Best Answer - View mattgirl's answer

Spidey

Member
Hi,
I never do fish-in cycles, but I think that your problem might be the water changes. Think of it this way: cycling the tank is basically the process of growing beneficial bacteria that manage the nitrogen cycle and keep your water healthy (by making ammonia into nitrites and then into nitrates). These bacteria use the ammonia that your fish produces as "food," per say. If the food is removed (i.e. through water changes), the bacteria will exist in smaller numbers (as there is not enough for everyone) and will not be able to handle the amount of ammonia that the tank produces.
I would suggest moving your betta back to the bowl (and doing regular water changes on that) while dosing the 10 gallon with ammonia to where the tank is maintained at 2ppm ammonia (but not more than this, as too much ammonia can crash the cycle; I've made that mistake). Do not do water changes unless you accidentially overdose the tank with ammonia. It will take probably a month or so before the tank is cycled, but this is a lot faster than it would be with just your betta and snails, as they produce little ammonia and you have to do water changes with live animals in the tank. It will also be safer for your fish, as higher ammonia levels (anything above 0) can cause illness in fish. Goldfish can handle it because of the sheer amount of ammonia that they produce, but I would be worried about a betta. I cycled my betta tank using the method that I described (a 5 gallon tank) and it only took about 3 weeks. I added cycled filter media from one of my other tanks, and this helped immensely (because it adds established bacteria into the tank instead of making it start from scratch).

Good luck, and let me know if there is something that I didn't cover!
I used Dr. Tim's Ammonia in my tank; it is pure ammonia that is safe for aquariums and does not have any additives like some household cleaning ammonia.
 

mattgirl

Member
I think you are causing yourself way more stress than necessary. You only have a Betta and a mystery snail in a 10 gallon tank. Simply do water changes as needed to keep ammonia and/or nitrites down to negligible levels. Contrary to some things you may have read the tank will cycle while doing the necessary water changes. The bacteria isn't free floating in the water so changing it isn't removing any.

Even if you were doing water changes daily (not necessary in this case) the tank will still cycle because you will not be removing all of the ammonia. The fish and snail are constantly adding it. It is good that you are using Prime but I highly recommend you only add it when you are doing a water change. Prime does nothing to help a cycle along. The most important thing when doing a fish n cycle is keeping the ammonia and/nitrites down as low as possible with water changes and then just giving the cycle (bacteria) time to grow.

It is very possible your ammonia isn't rising because you have ammonia eating bacteria removing it as it should. I would NEVER advise anyone to allow the ammonia to get up to 2ppm or the ammonia plus nitrites to get up to 4ppm when dong a fish in cycle. In my humble opinion that is a very cruel thing to do to any fish.
 

Spudsssy

Member
Totally agree with mattgirl. I have just finished a fish in cycle and I did multiple large weekly water changes until it was cycled. I never let ammonia or nitrites build.

Fishless cycling is far easier and quicker.
 

Dunk2

Member
mattgirl said:
Contrary to some things you may have read the tank will cycle while doing the necessary water changes. The bacteria isn't free floating in the water so changing it isn't removing any.
Thank you mattgirl.

The belief that water changes shouldn’t be done while cycling or shouldn’t be done often while cycling seems to have become more popular of late.

If you’re doing a fish-in cycle, testing often and doing water changes when the test says it’s time are not optional. AND the cycle will be just fine.
 
  • Thread Starter

attheworld

Member
Thank you, everyone.

Yeah... I don't know what I was thinking when I decided I could use Prime to guard my fish and not do any water changes. I should've done more research before jumping into the cycle and basically wasting a few ounces of Prime over the course of weeks. I will switch up my method now, and I thank you all for your help.

There's just a couple things I'm worried about still. Since I bought the tank when I didn't know DIY filter media was option, I have to deal with the stock cartridge that came with the filter. Worst part is, I bought a 6 month supply of the things, and now I have 6 cartridges. I despise them and I want to switch up my filter media, but I know that's not the wisest thing to do in the middle of a cycle. What's more concerning, though, is the filter is telling me to change out the cartridge, but I don't want to replace it because that will damage my cycle. Can I sufficiently clean it by just taking it out for a moment and swishing it around in some tank water?

Secondly, if bb is eating ammonia as quickly as it's being produced... where's the bb? Nitrite and nitrate still read 0 ppm when I test. Can a cycle work underneath a negative test result? Or did my excessive use of Prime give me false readings?

Spidey said:
Hi,
I never do fish-in cycles, but I think that your problem might be the water changes. Think of it this way: cycling the tank is basically the process of growing beneficial bacteria that manage the nitrogen cycle and keep your water healthy (by making ammonia into nitrites and then into nitrates). These bacteria use the ammonia that your fish produces as "food," per say. If the food is removed (i.e. through water changes), the bacteria will exist in smaller numbers (as there is not enough for everyone) and will not be able to handle the amount of ammonia that the tank produces.
I would suggest moving your betta back to the bowl (and doing regular water changes on that) while dosing the 10 gallon with ammonia to where the tank is maintained at 2ppm ammonia (but not more than this, as too much ammonia can crash the cycle; I've made that mistake). Do not do water changes unless you accidentially overdose the tank with ammonia. It will take probably a month or so before the tank is cycled, but this is a lot faster than it would be with just your betta and snails, as they produce little ammonia and you have to do water changes with live animals in the tank. It will also be safer for your fish, as higher ammonia levels (anything above 0) can cause illness in fish. Goldfish can handle it because of the sheer amount of ammonia that they produce, but I would be worried about a betta. I cycled my betta tank using the method that I described (a 5 gallon tank) and it only took about 3 weeks. I added cycled filter media from one of my other tanks, and this helped immensely (because it adds established bacteria into the tank instead of making it start from scratch).

Good luck, and let me know if there is something that I didn't cover!
I used Dr. Tim's Ammonia in my tank; it is pure ammonia that is safe for aquariums and does not have any additives like some household cleaning ammonia.
If I had the knowledge I have now when I agreed to take them off a friend's hands, my betta and snail would've never had to go through this.
I don't want to be ignorant of your experience and success with your method, but I must disagree. Considering what I've heard of bettas living in bowls. I don't know if it would be best. Wouldn't the daily water changes stress my betta and snail? And isn't fish in a bowl just a mini cycle? In the cycling 10 gallon, compared to the 1 gallon bowl I have, I think my snail and betta would be so much happier. They are both active and eager to eat, and moving them to the 10 gallon had positive effects on their behaviours.
 

mattgirl

Member
You can go ahead and use the cartridges if you want to. I chose not to so have quite a few of them sitting on a back shelf. Personally I would either remove or tape over that change filter warning light or what ever it is. As long as the water is still flowing freely through the cartridge you don't need to do anything. If you find it has slowed down just rinse it off in some water you have pulled from the tank during a water change.

When the cartridge clogs up and needs to be changed cut the fiber off the plastic frame. Toss the frame and put that piece of fiber in the filter with a new cartridges or should you choose to do so just replace the cartridge with a piece of foam cut to size.

With just one fish and a snail in a 10 gallon tank there won't be a great deal of ammonia produced. It may take longer to start getting a nitrite and/or nitrate reading. Personally I would not be concerned about it. As long as you keep both ammonia and nitrites when they show up down as close to zero as you can with water change it won't matter if you never see nitrates. The important numbers are the readings for ammonia and nitrites.

I am very glad you understand having your water pets in a 10 gallon cycling tank is much better than having them in an uncycled 1 gallon bowl.
Dunk2 said:
Thank you mattgirl.

The belief that water changes shouldn’t be done while cycling or shouldn’t be done often while cycling seems to have become more popular of late.

If you’re doing a fish-in cycle, testing often and doing water changes when the test says it’s time are not optional. AND the cycle will be just fine.
I try to correct it when I see it being said but I am sure I miss quite a few of them. All we can do is just keep on advising water changes and hope it sticks. I agree, when doing a fish in cycle, water changes are not optional. Our first priority has to be the safety of the fish. That means keeping up with the water changes as needed.
 
  • Thread Starter

attheworld

Member
mattgirl said:
You can go ahead and use the cartridges if you want to. I chose not to so have quite a few of them sitting on a back shelf. Personally I would either remove or tape over that change filter warning light or what ever it is. As long as the water is still flowing freely through the cartridge you don't need to do anything. If you find it has slowed down just rinse it off in some water you have pulled from the tank during a water change.

When the cartridge clogs up and needs to be changed cut the fiber off the plastic frame. Toss the frame and put that piece of fiber in the filter with a new cartridges or should you choose to do so just replace the cartridge with a piece of foam cut to size.

With just one fish and a snail in a 10 gallon tank there won't be a great deal of ammonia produced. It may take longer to start getting a nitrite and/or nitrate reading. Personally I would not be concerned about it. As long as you keep both ammonia and nitrites when they show up down as close to zero as you can with water change it won't matter if you never see nitrates. The important numbers are the readings for ammonia and nitrites.

I am very glad you understand having your water pets in a 10 gallon cycling tank is much better than having them in an uncycled 1 gallon bowl.

I try to correct it when I see it being said but I am sure I miss quite a few of them. All we can do is just keep on advising water changes and hope it sticks. I agree, when doing a fish in cycle, water changes are not optional. Our first priority has to be the safety of the fish. That means keeping up with the water changes as needed.
Thank you, mattgirl!

I appreciate the tips for the cartridges, I didn't realize how little you really need to do. I'll keep the cartridges since there's no point in adding more waste to the world, and I might use them in the future. The warning mechanism is just a hanging plastic thing which will turn up red on the outside if it's pushed to the right. It looks useless and I'm removing it.

That is a neat trick! I'm taking notes. I'm probably going to switch to DIY media the moment it's safe to.

Understood, I'll test for ammonia and nitrites daily and if they consistently show 0 readings WITH a positive test result for nitrates, then I can assume my tank is adequately cycled.

<3

Ooh, can I quote you?

- Att, who appreciates all your help
 
  • Thread Starter

attheworld

Member
Update: 21/03/01 (Monday)

This is the 26th day of the cycle, nearing the 3rd week. I have had 0 readings for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate for 7 days now. I am extremely confused, but at least there are no ammonia/nitrites to harm my livestock. The only reason I can think of is some mineral/hardness imbalance, but I'm not any type of scientist and I don't have anything other than my master test kit.

Today:
pH: 7.2
Ammonia: 0.25
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0

Recently, I dosed my tank with calcium (1 1/2 tsp of pulverized eggshells for 10 gallons) for my mystery snail and added a medium piece of malaysian driftwood. (I boiled it once for 20 min, soaked it for a week without water changes [it was digusting, do not recommend], boiled it again for 15 min, soaked it for a week with water changes, now it is being weighed down by a rock.) Are they altering the chemical balance in my tank? Is something causing negative results? Or has my cycle crashed and is starting up as if it were a new tank?

My main concern is my fish. In an uncycled tank, they are not safe, and their safety is my top priority. I know I am probably stressing over this too much- it is only 1 betta and 1 snail!! But I can't help it. :confused:

- Att, who appreciates any and all help given
 

Dechi

Member
attheworld said:
My main concern is my fish. In an uncycled tank, they are not safe, and their safety is my top priority. I know I am probably stressing over this too much- it is only 1 betta and 1 snail!! But I can't help it.
As Mattgirl said, your biolad is so low, even if you‘re not cycled, as long as you do water changes, everyone will be fine.

I do think you are cycled though, and you might have so little nitrates that it’s not even showing up on the tests.

Relax and enjoy your fish ! :)
 
  • Thread Starter

attheworld

Member
Dechi said:
As Mattgirl said, your biolad is so low, even if you‘re not cycled, as long as you do water changes, everyone will be fine.
Yeah, I'm doing my best to relax. Water changes are actually a life saver.

Dechi said:
I do think you are cycled though, and you might have so little nitrates that it’s not even showing up on the tests.
Probably. It took a long time for ammonia to show up when I first began the cycle. With my super low bioload, nitrogen takes a long time to build up, so I was surprised my nitrites spiked and disappeared within a few days. The cycle is truly different for everybody.

Dechi said:
Relax and enjoy your fish !
I will try my best!

Thank you all for the reassurance and advice!
You all have my appreciation.

- Att.
 

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