Why Won’t This Stupid Tank Cycle? Update To Original Post

JellyPopcorn

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9/26 update in the replies

Hi! I’ve been reading posts over here since we started this aquarium journey, but this is my first post. We bought and set up an aquarium about 4 weeks ago. It’s a 20 gal tank with the topfin silent stream filter. We currently have 3 platys and 4 spotted corys.

We initially attempted a fish in cycle with neon tetras and quickly learned those were the wrong fish to use when they all died, so I left it empty for a week and stared at the tank with frustration until randomly deciding to bring a sample to Petco. To my surprise they said the water was great and ready for fish. We added four platys at that point, then a week later added the four corys. Test strips continued to show the water chemistry was “fine”. A few days later we lost a Platy in agonizing fashion, he spent two days looking lethargic and gasping before finally dying. The test strips still showed the chemistry was okay though. I did a 50% water change but no vacuuming when I saw the sick platy because I had not done one yet in hopes it would help the sick fish.

A week later the remaining fish appear healthy although the cories are a bit shy, but now our tank has ammonia present. It was first noted on a test strip at Petco, but now I have an API kit. Since Thursday the ammonia has been between 0.5-1.0, 0 nitrites, and 0-trace nitrates. pH is 7.2. I have done one 25% water change with light gravel vacuuming and one 50% water change with heavier gravel vacuuming. I’m using aqua safe water conditioner each time.

Of note, I was definitely overfeeding up until the platy got sick.

Any thoughts on how I can get the cycle going again? I’m assuming I either overwhelmed the tank with the overfeeding or interrupted the cycle somehow.
 
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JellyPopcorn

JellyPopcorn

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I used a bottle of it when we first started it weeks ago. Will it be helpful to add another bottle?
 

AmazonPassion

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It doesn't hurt, if you do, follow the instructions and then step away for 14 days and do not test your water parameters until the 14 day is over.
 
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JellyPopcorn

JellyPopcorn

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AmazonPassion said:
It doesn't hurt, if you do, follow the instructions and then step away for 14 days and do not test your water parameters until the 14 day is over.
14 days?!?!? But that is such a long time to go without playing with my new chemistry set!

Seriously, though, do I not need to be concerned about the ammonia level getting higher and harming the fish?
 

AmazonPassion

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JellyPopcorn said:
14 days?!?!? But that is such a long time to go without playing with my new chemistry set!

Seriously, though, do I not need to be concerned about the ammonia level getting higher and harming the fish?
Lol. Because it will give you false readings during that time. Read that TSS link I copied in the first response.
 

Hunter1

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I also recommend TetraSafeStart and a 14 hiatus from testing and water changes.

But I would do 50% water changes on back to back days to get ammonia close to 0, wait 24 hours after using water conditioner, then add the bottle of TetraSafeStart directly into your filter.
 

SegiDream

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I recommend prime water conditioner 24hs after applying tss. Test readings are inaccurate because prime protects fish against ammonia+nitrite up to 1ppm. Anything over that can be harmful to fish. If you read the Q&A tetra actually recommends testing the water and doing a water change if the levels become high. It shouldn't hurt your cycle other than possibly extending it. Not testing during cycling has never made sense to me when it is a fish in cycle. I cycled a tank with fish within 3 weeks while monitoring the parameters and doing water changes every other day or so and slowly lowering the number of water changes each week.
 

Hunter1

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SegiDream said:
I recommend prime water conditioner 24hs after applying tss. Test readings are inaccurate because prime protects fish against ammonia+nitrite up to 1ppm. Anything over that can be harmful to fish. If you read the Q&A tetra actually recommends testing the water and doing a water change if the levels become high. It shouldn't hurt your cycle other than possibly extending it. Not testing during cycling has never made sense to me when it is a fish in cycle. I cycled a tank with fish within 3 weeks while monitoring the parameters and doing water changes every other day or so and slowly lowering the number of water changes each week.
The thought is Prime binds the ammonia so it isn’t available to the bacteria as a food source. And this theory makes sense since we use Prime to neutralize ammonia so it doesn’t effect fish.

We all recommend what has worked for us respectively and just putting fish and TetraSafeStart in 24 hours after adding declorinated water has worked for me. And feeding lightly.

I saw in a TetraSafeStart Q&A post on here the lack of testing was because parameters will fluctuate and people will react to those fluctuations.

The only test I would do is PH because the cycling process can lower PH and low PH (6.0-6.4) can stall the cycle.
 

SegiDream

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Prime converts nh3 to nh4- which the bacteria still feed on just not as readily as nh3. Nh4- is not as toxic to fish, allowing fish to survive the cycling process. If it were a fishless cycle I'd say yeah sure ignore the parameters. But a new fishkeeper may not recognize the warning signs without the aid of testing. Water changes would also help keep the ph up..
 
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JellyPopcorn

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Whew, that’s a lot of differing opinions, LOL. I think my plan is going to be to test 48 hrs after adding the TSS, that seemed to be acceptable timing based on the info linked above. I’ll go from there on whether I need to add the prime stuff or do a water change. Does that sound reasonable?
 

Hunter1

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All of us have had success, even when we do things differently so I recommend you develop a plan, like you stated.

Then get on here if you run into problems.
 
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JellyPopcorn

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Checked the water today and the Ammonia was still 0.5-1.0 maybe closer to 1.0 than before, Nitrites 0, Nitrates 5.0. Is it weird to have nitrates and no nitrates?

I’m planning on a 50% water change tonight and hopefully getting prime tomorrow if the ammonia is still at the same level. Does that make sense?
 

SegiDream

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JellyPopcorn said:
Checked the water today and the Ammonia was still 0.5-1.0 maybe closer to 1.0 than before, Nitrites 0, Nitrates 5.0. Is it weird to have nitrates and no nitrates?

I’m planning on a 50% water change tonight and hopefully getting prime tomorrow if the ammonia is still at the same level. Does that make sense?
No its not weird to see nitrates before nitrites. It means your cycle is getting there and that nitrites are getting converted. Hopefully you did the nitrate test right. Prime is great to have on hand, smells like sulfur when you have the bottle open but it's a reliable water conditioner.
 
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JellyPopcorn

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SegiDream said:
No its not weird to see nitrates before nitrites. It means your cycle is getting there and that nitrites are getting converted. Hopefully you did the nitrate test right. Prime is great to have on hand, smells like sulfur when you have the bottle open but it's a reliable water conditioner.
I think I did it correctly, shook the heck out of the second solution, inverted the tube to mix the first solution in then shook the heck out of it after adding the second solution and waited 5 minutes.

So prime covers ammonia and the other conditioning needed if using tap water for water changes? I just used the last of my bottle of conditioner so I can just purchase prime from now on if that’s the case.
 

SegiDream

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JellyPopcorn said:
So prime covers ammonia and the other conditioning needed if using tap water for water changes? I just used the last of my bottle of conditioner so I can just purchase prime from now on if that’s the case.
Yep prime covers the ammonia+nitrite and chlorine and heavy metals and I dunno what else.
 
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JellyPopcorn

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Update: This tank is still not cycled!! I have to be doing something wrong here. Ammonia is consistently between 0.25-0.5, nitrites 0, nitrates are up to 10. I have not used prime because my ammonia levels haven’t gotten that high. I added another bottle of TSS about 1.5 weeks ago and a bottle of the Marineland aquarium bacteria over the weekend (petsmart only had a $30 bottle of TSSplus). I’m sure I’m due for a water change, but was trying to hold off because I was afraid the water changes were somehow messing up the cycling process.

What else should I be looking at? I’m using the filter that came with the tank so I’m guessing I have enough filtration. I do not have any kind of air pump thing. Are there some other tricks that I can try to get this thing done? When I’ve done water changes in the past I have vacuumed the gravel some. Should I do a water change with no gravel vacuuming?

My kids are dying to add a few more fish to the tank but we seem to be stuck here. Try explaining to a 4 year old that the water still isn’t good enough to get new fish when the current fish are swimming around happily!
 

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Try adding some plant fertilizer like flourish - sometimes there is something limiting bacterial growth. Anecdotally..twice when my cycle got stuck I dosed ferts ( flourish) and the next day the high ammonia plunged to 0. Looked it up and indeed research shows that iron and other minerals can help speed things up if they are limiting in your system/tap water. And don’t vacuum until cycled.
 

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