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Old 02-11-2013, 07:20 PM   #1
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endless fishless cycle - what now?

Dear all,

I would like to keep tropical fish (platys and guppies) and set up a 10 gallon tank with a heater between 25-28 degrees nearly 1 month ago.

I wanted to do a fishless cycle, so added 2-4 flakes of ground fish food per day. I don't have an ammonia test kit but nitrite AND nitrate showed up day 13, peaked around day 20 and have stayed at the same high levels until now (day 30) despite a 30% partial water change on day 22. Can I expect the nitrite to level off within the next month? My fish keeping book says a cycle should only take 10-14 days! If nitrate values do not drop within a month (8 weeks after the tank has been set up) should just I introduce some platys/danios anyway and change the water frequently??? I'm getting tired of looking at an empty tank!!

Many thanks

P.S the KH and PH have increased slightly over time, the latter from 6.8 to 7.6
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Old 02-11-2013, 08:19 PM   #2
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First of all, cycling rarely takes only 14 days, it normally takes at least a month. Second of all, what test kit are you using? You need to be able to test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and ph, so I recommend using API Freshwater Master Test Kit. You can get them for $22 on ebay (they are more like $35 at petsmart). Secondly, I would give it some more time, cycling takes patience, and I think that your levels will begin to drop soon.
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Old 02-11-2013, 08:41 PM   #3
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Hi and welcome! Dosing fish food isn't as accurate as pure ammonia.....without an ammonia test it's hard to know what those levels are and if they are too high it can stall things too. High nitrites are a good sign; the nitrite phase is the longest, taking about 3 weeks on average; prolonged nitrite can stall the cycle though too. Which test kit are you using?

Try doing a full water change; see if you can get nitrites down to a readable level on the chart. Unfortunately without an ammonia test it's going to be difficult to tell whether you have any ammonia in there or not. I'd highly suggest getting one if you can; it's going to be difficult to continue without one (or take a sample of water to the fish store, some local stores may test water for free).
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Old 02-12-2013, 07:10 PM   #4
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Okay, thank you very much for your suggestions and advice. I am using the '6 in 1' test kit that Tetra do. Its pretty comprehensive but does not include ammonia. I was talked into buying a product from the pet shop today when I told them about my tank: 'Nutrafin cycle: biological aquarium supplement'. I take it that I should just be patient and hold out out for a week or two longer before using this product as I have already started the fishless cycle without it???????? Suggestions very much welcome!!
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Old 02-12-2013, 07:37 PM   #5
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If I were you I would follow the directions here:
The (almost) Complete Guide and FAQ to Fishless Cycling

And have patience. it gives you time to research which fish you want and decorate your tank. My fishless cycle took 6 weeks give or take.
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Old 02-12-2013, 08:04 PM   #6
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okay, I'll buy an ammonia kit-what should the levels be, is it 4-5ppm per day or lower? I won't add the cycle product and will just continue to wait!!!
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Old 02-12-2013, 08:12 PM   #7
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You dose it to 4ppm or so.
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Old 02-12-2013, 08:15 PM   #8
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ok thanks, will let you know how I do ...!
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Old 02-12-2013, 08:22 PM   #9
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A syringe is handy for dosing the ammonia. Just redose it after it drops to about 1. It won't be every day for a while.
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Old 02-20-2013, 10:41 AM   #10
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Hi there friends, I thought that I'd give a litle update.....

I purchased an API ammonia kit and now have the following readings for my tank, approximately 12 hours after adding one pinch of fish flake to it:

Ammonia: 0-0.25 ppm (mg/L) API
Nitrite: 10 (mg/L) N.B max the kit can read, TETRA
Nitrate: approximately 250 (mg/L) (has increased slightly in last 24hrs), TETRA

I would prefer to continue with the flake method as I suspect my nitrite will crash soon and will find it hard to source pure liquid ammonia.

What would you recommend-should I add enough flakes to get the ammonia level up to 4ppm and then monitor the ammonia in 12 hours?

Is my ammonia so low because it is being ingressed into the nitrogen cycle so I should just continue to add the 1 flake?

Will my high nitrite levels stall the cycle and what effect could inconsistent ammonium levels have on the cycle's progress?

I look forward to some advice and many thanks
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Old 02-20-2013, 10:46 AM   #11
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I've never done the fish food method but I know it can take quite a bit of food to decompose into enough ammonia to show up on the test. It's hard to know exactly how much to add to get to X amount of ammonia. Have you tested PH at all?

Since nitrites have been high for a while I'd do a full water change, wait an hour or so and then retest. If they are still high, do another water change to get them down (about 2 or less). The strips aren't the most accurate either so it's hard to know exactly what the readings are. Then once you get nitrite down some add some more fish food.
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Old 02-20-2013, 11:29 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by librarygirl View Post
I've never done the fish food method but I know it can take quite a bit of food to decompose into enough ammonia to show up on the test. It's hard to know exactly how much to add to get to X amount of ammonia. Have you tested PH at all?

Since nitrites have been high for a while I'd do a full water change, wait an hour or so and then retest. If they are still high, do another water change to get them down (about 2 or less). The strips aren't the most accurate either so it's hard to know exactly what the readings are. Then once you get nitrite down some add some more fish food.
+1 What she said. High nitrates can stall your cycle. Water changes won't hurt your cycle. Don't forget to dechlorinate.
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Old 02-20-2013, 04:20 PM   #13
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okay, thanks for the info. When you say a high water change, would soemthing like 75% be enough? Is the purpose of thsi step to remove nitrites?
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Old 02-20-2013, 04:22 PM   #14
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p.s PH is around 7.2-7.6
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Old 02-20-2013, 04:26 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by maryprincess View Post
okay, thanks for the info. When you say a high water change, would soemthing like 75% be enough? Is the purpose of thsi step to remove nitrites?
That's a good starting point.
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Old 02-25-2013, 03:02 PM   #16
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Hi all,

I did a 90% water change today so current readings are:

Nitrite: 1ppm (down from 10)
Nitrate: 25ppm (down from between 100 and 250)
Last ammonia: <0.25 ppm

I will continue to monitor levels. There must be bacteria present in the tank....This is now the 6th week since the tank has been running empty. Hypothetically speaking, if nitrite levels continue to rise and I do not observe the sudden drop by week 8/9, would it be acceptable to do a massive water change again and add a couple of platys to the tank? I would do a pwc every other day and pay strict attention to nitrite levels????????????!!! I.E. would the biological filter be advanced enough to cope with this low bio-load?
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Old 02-27-2013, 01:59 PM   #17
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hi all,
my readings are:

Nitrite: 0ppm (down from 1)
Nitrate: 25ppm (down from between 100 and 250)
Last ammonia: <0.25 ppm

These have been my readings for the last 48 hours, despite me adding a pinch of finely ground fish food to the tank 24 hours ago....

I'm going to add two fish to the tank tomorrow!!
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Old 02-27-2013, 09:44 PM   #18
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Good luck!
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Old 05-28-2013, 10:44 AM   #19
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I would just like to thank you ALL for your lovely advice and apologise for not saying thanks earlier! I did a massive water change (90%) as recommended, the nitrite levels went down to 0 and the nitrates to 25ppm. 2 days later I bought some 'starter fish' (danios, black widows and black neons). I have since added some platys to my batch. Thank you for your sound advice especially Hholly and Library girl!!
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