Zero nitrates (new tank cycle)

Kuebeecee

I set up a 55 gallon tank over a week ago. It has one Java fern, two anbuias and four Ludwigia Repens.

After the initial setup, I added some water from my 10 gallon tank, ghost fed and added bacteria (aquavitro seed.)

After the first three days, I started testing the water everyday and have consistently gotten a zero reading on ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. As I said before, it’s been almost two weeks and I’ve gotten the same readings everyday.

I am new to the hobby and this is my first large tank, so I am not sure if the cycling process is extremely different when adding bacteria. I tested the water of my 10 gallon tank with the same test kit to make sure there was nothing wrong, and nitrates showed up on that tank.

I guess I’m just wondering if this is normal and if I need to do anything.
 

CMT

If you have not seen ammonia and then nitrite, followed by nitrate, it almost surely has not cycled yet.

It sounds like you are doing a fishless cycle? If so, I would recommend to add some ammonia directly, dosing to 2 PPM, wait 24 hours, then test the water. That will tell you where you are in the cycle.

If you have fish already, do NOT do this though.
 

tapwater

If you have not seen ammonia and then nitrite, followed by nitrate, it almost surely has not cycled yet.

It sounds like you are doing a fishless cycle? If so, I would recommend to add some ammonia directly, dosing to 2 PPM, wait 24 hours, then test the water. That will tell you where you are in the cycle.

If you have fish already, do NOT do this though.
yeah either this or you can use fish food to "feed" your tank while it cycles
 

Azedenkae

I am new to the hobby and this is my first large tank, so I am not sure if the cycling process is extremely different when adding bacteria. I tested the water of my 10 gallon tank with the same test kit to make sure there was nothing wrong, and nitrates showed up on that tank.
It's more so the cycling is very different when you have plants (which is why I don't recommend having plants during the cycle, it makes tracking progress harder). Plants can consume nitrate, and seems like for a lot of people it is very effective, hence why they may read zero nitrate.

Issue here is, you can't really know if ammonia is consistently zero because nitrification is occurring and your plants are uptaking the nitrate, or if the wrong type of microorganism is growing and consuming the ammonia as a nitrogen source, or even if the plants are consuming the ammonia (not sure if yours does, somebody who is more well-versed with plants could probably provide better info here).

Ultimately it technically does not matter - so long as ammonia is safely handled in the tank, it is fine... probably.

Quick question - how have you been ghostfeeding by the way? Or rather, eventually the point is to ghostfeed as much as if the tank is fully stocked. Have you been doing that, or only adding a tiny bit of food each time?
 

Kaity

What fish? If there are none you will have to feed the cycle manually and I will let someone else explain how to do that. But basically to test for nutrient you have to have nutrient coming from somewhere. What in your tank adding nutrients to the water column?
 

CMT

yeah either this or you can use fish food to "feed" your tank while it cycles
Yeah, the ammonia source can be anything...you just need to add enough to actually measure ammonia. Sometimes that is hard with just fish food in a large aquarium, especially if the plants may be processing some of it.
 

Bwood22

Leave the plants in.

And think about it like this:

Your plants love ammonia, so they will suck it all out of the water over time.

But the ammonia needs to be present for the bacteria to grow. If the plants remove all of the ammonia then there is none left for the bacteria.

So keep the ammonia level consistent so that the plants and the bacteria are happy.
 

Kuebeecee

If you have not seen ammonia and then nitrite, followed by nitrate, it almost surely has not cycled yet.

It sounds like you are doing a fishless cycle? If so, I would recommend to add some ammonia directly, dosing to 2 PPM, wait 24 hours, then test the water. That will tell you where you are in the cycle.

If you have fish already, do NOT do this though.
What fish? If there are none you will have to feed the cycle manually and I will let someone else explain how to do that. But basically to test for nutrient you have to have nutrient coming from somewhere. What in your tank adding nutrients to the water column?
I was ghost feeding originally.

I ended up adding five zebra danios four days ago. (It was an emergency and I needed them removed from their other tank.) I figured since the ammonia and nitrite levels were non existent, I would put them in. So far everything has been fine, and the danios have been doing great. I have been monitoring the ammonia and nitrites religiously since the danios are in there now.

I figured when (or if?) I see an ammonia spike, I will get the water change going immediately. I am on the fourth day of having five fish in the tank and the levels are still all zero. I was going to hold off on a water change until I see a change on the water tests.
 

Kaity

I was ghost feeding originally.

I ended up adding five zebra danios four days ago. (It was an emergency and I needed them removed from their other tank.) I figured since the ammonia and nitrite levels were non existent, I would put them in. So far everything has been fine, and the danios have been doing great. I have been monitoring the ammonia and nitrites religiously since the danios are in there now.

I figured when (or if?) I see an ammonia spike, I will get the water change going immediately. I am on the fourth day of having five fish in the tank and the levels are still all zero. I was going to hold off on a water change until I see a change on the water tests.
Danios are a great choice you are probably fine.
 

CMT

I was ghost feeding originally.

I ended up adding five zebra danios four days ago. (It was an emergency and I needed them removed from their other tank.) I figured since the ammonia and nitrite levels were non existent, I would put them in. So far everything has been fine, and the danios have been doing great. I have been monitoring the ammonia and nitrites religiously since the danios are in there now.

I figured when (or if?) I see an ammonia spike, I will get the water change going immediately. I am on the fourth day of having five fish in the tank and the levels are still all zero. I was going to hold off on a water change until I see a change on the water tests.
Ignore what I said then :). You are now within the rules of a "fish-in" cycle.

5 zebra danios in a 55 gallon planted may just not be producing enough ammonia to show up on the tests yet after the plants may be using some of it. It may just need more time. I don't know what your long-term stocking plan is, but I would add further fish slowly and keep a very close eye on the water parameters each time.

There are better "fish-in" cycle experts than me, so maybe they will chime in. I have more experience with fishless cycling.
 

Kaity

5 zebra danios in a 55 gallon planted may just not be producing enough ammonia to show up on the tests yet after the plants may be using some of it. It may just need more time. I don't know what your long-term stocking plan is, but I would add further fish slowly and keep a very close eye on the water parameters each time.
Agreed... Slow stocking from here out. Hardiest fish first. Watch closely and be prepared to do water changes if parameters require it. If you add too much too
quick you will notice it. Bigger tanks can take a minute.
 

Kuebeecee

Ignore what I said then :). You are now within the rules of a "fish-in" cycle.

5 zebra danios in a 55 gallon planted may just not be producing enough ammonia to show up on the tests yet after the plants may be using some of it. It may just need more time. I don't know what your long-term stocking plan is, but I would add further fish slowly and keep a very close eye on the water parameters each time.

There are better "fish-in" cycle experts than me, so maybe they will chime in. I have more experience with fishless cycling.
Agreed... Slow stocking from here out. Hardiest fish first. Watch closely and be prepared to do water changes if parameters require it. If you add too much too
quick you will notice it. Bigger tanks can take a minute.
I was not planning on adding more fish for a while. If anything, I planned on adding some snails and shrimp next.

The danios weren’t apart of my original stocking plan, so I will be figuring out what I want to do with that.

I was afraid of doing a “fish in” cycle, but after following the instructions with the added bacteria, it was allegedly safe to add fish after seven days of use.

All I can picture is ammonia spiking overnight and instantly killing the fish.
Ignore what I said then :). You are now within the rules of a "fish-in" cycle.

5 zebra danios in a 55 gallon planted may just not be producing enough ammonia to show up on the tests yet after the plants may be using some of it. It may just need more time. I don't know what your long-term stocking plan is, but I would add further fish slowly and keep a very close eye on the water parameters each time.

There are better "fish-in" cycle experts than me, so maybe they will chime in. I have more experience with fishless cycling.
If enough ammonia is not produced, does that mean the tank will never cycle?
 

Kaity

Snails will be fine I'm not a shrimp person but that tank probably won't spike until you add more fish. Don't go crazy with water changes until you actually see some nutrients on the test.
Take the less is more approach. Less fish added a little at a time living is more than a lot of dead ones all at once.
( Less), Smaller water changes will let more bacteria colonize quicker in a bigger tank.

And take a breath as long as you can test and go slow fish in is easy.
 

CMT

If enough ammonia is not produced, does that mean the tank will never cycle?
It's not necessarily that it will never cycle, it's just that the BB will only grow to the numbers needed to process the amount of ammonia available and we're not even sure what is happening since you are not seeing nitrate.

In your case, since all parameters are testing 0 different scenarios could be playing out and it's difficult to know which is which.
- Maybe the plants are using up the little ammonia available and you actually are not growing many BB.
- Maybe the tank is cycled for your bioload but the plants are using up the very little amount of nitrate being produced from the cycle.

The good news is as long as the parameters are 0 everything is good right now for the fish! The bad news is you are going to have to be careful as you add stock because you either have not cycled the tank yet or have only cycled it for a very low bioload. So as you add more ammonia-producing livestock to the tank, just keep an eye on it. Once you have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and measurable nitrate, then you can feel pretty confident your tank is cycled. But even then add more livestock slowly.
 

Kuebeecee

It's not necessarily that it will never cycle, it's just that the BB will only grow to the numbers needed to process the amount of ammonia available and we're not even sure what is happening since you are not seeing nitrate.

In your case, since all parameters are testing 0 different scenarios could be playing out and it's difficult to know which is which.
- Maybe the plants are using up the little ammonia available and you actually are not growing many BB.
- Maybe the tank is cycled for your bioload but the plants are using up the very little amount of nitrate being produced from the cycle.

The good news is as long as the parameters are 0 everything is good right now for the fish! The bad news is you are going to have to be careful as you add stock because you either have not cycled the tank yet or have only cycled it for a very low bioload. So as you add more ammonia-producing livestock to the tank, just keep an eye on it. Once you have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and measurable nitrate, then you can feel pretty confident your tank is cycled. But even then add more livestock slowly.
Thank you for the information. Super helpful.

I am assuming I should not do any water changes until I see ammonia show up on the tests? I was planning on leaving the tank alone for a while.
 

CMT

Thank you for the information. Super helpful.

I am assuming I should not do any water changes until I see ammonia show up on the tests? I was planning on leaving the tank alone for a while.
I would recommend to still follow a normal weekly water change schedule even without measurable ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate. If you get measurable ammonia or nitrite, then more frequent to manage it. Especially when you add more livestock, keep an eye on those parameters.

If you go slowly with adding stock and keep an eye on the water, eventually you will start seeing one form of nitrogen or the other and you will know how to proceed with the cycle (or that the cycle is already good). The plants won't use up all the nitrogen as you add livestock.
 

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