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Old 05-13-2003, 07:40 PM   #1
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Fishless Cycle: Too much ammonia for bacterial colony??

Ok - this is an offshoot of the thread I started on how to calculate volume of NH3 to create 5ppm..

The story: a 125g setup being cycled "fishless". salts/minerals/ph were all set, water was dechlorinated. I added about a half gallon or so of thick sponge mud from an established tank, a piece of established filter material in the sump, as well as 4 large pieces of tufa stone from the established tank (they were in the established tank for 3 years, lots of pores full of good bacteria. )

anyway - the calculation was right for gallons of 10% NH3 solution to create 5ppm in 125g, but my conversion from gallons to cups was off, and I added almost double the N03 solution I should have (I should have started small!!) Now I measure NH3 at at least 7ppm (my indicator goes no higher, I can smell it in the water, and the "recipie" for the fishless cycle called to stop at 5ppm) My guess is that the actual content is about 10ppm as I effectively doubled what the correct calculation called for to generate 5ppm.

Now there is an impressive bacterial bloom going on - as I did provide a rather healthy amount of established bacteria to gobble up all the ammonia.

My question is - can too much ammonia in the water harm the bacteria that thrive on it? Should I just wait out the bloom and continue with the "fishless cycle recipie" once it reaches 5ppm or do a quick partial water change? My gut says a bacterial bloom is good, wait it out. Thoughts?
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Old 05-13-2003, 08:10 PM   #2
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If it is a bloom, it must be a bloom of what eats NH3. I am also no expert so lets wait to see what they ahve to say.
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Old 05-13-2003, 09:43 PM   #3
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exactly.. definitely a bloom -within 30 minutes of adding the NH3, the water turned from clear to white.. quite beautiful in fact when you know what it is had I not supplied such a supply of established bacteria, I think I'd be worried, or wanting to start all over.. I'm just wondering how to proceed with the fishless cycle now that I've "overdosed" on the ammonia on the first day..
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Old 05-13-2003, 11:01 PM   #4
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IMO, if you'll leave things alone, it will right itself. Keep the water moving as the excess bacteria will be using a lot of O2...you want to maximize gas exchange at the surface. I think the bloom you're seeing will die off and things will be fine. JMHO.
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Old 05-14-2003, 07:54 AM   #5
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I would tend to agree.. Correct me if I'm wrong here- my understanding is this - by introducing all that filter sponge mud and established fuma rock, I was providing a startup colony of bacteria - all three types; the ones that convert NH3 to N02, and N02 to NO3.. Suddenly there's alot of NH3, so the first type start eating away, producing N02.. It wouldn't seem there would be enough of the N02->NO3 bacteria to remove all the NO2 being produced from the sudden influx of NH3.. Yet, while the bacterial bloom seems to be settling, my NO2 measurement is still at zero.. Is it that the NO2->NO3 bacteria are cleaning up that fast? At what point should I see the NO2 spike?
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Old 05-15-2003, 08:01 AM   #6
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update -

Ok, after reading an article by Chris Cow (the original author, as far as I can tell, of the fishless cycle method) http://www.tomgriffin.com/aquamag/cycle2.html he states
Quote:
It IS possible to add too much ammonia to the tank (generally several times the amounts suggested in either recipe), as some individuals discovered by mistake (thanks Boozap). What happens in this case is that the ammonia will spike very far off the chart then the nitrite will spike as well (also way off the chart), and it will continue to spike for a very long time....The solution is quite simple, however. If you realize that you've added way too much ammonia simply do a water change, or if necessary a series of water changes to bring the ammonia and/or nitrite levels back into the readable range on your test kit. Then proceed as normal with daily additions of ammonia until the tank is cycled.
ok, so after reading that (24hrs after initially adding too much NH3) I did a 40% water change - NH3 was surprisingly still off the chart. So I then performed a 55% water change and the NH3 is just barely "off the chart" - I think it's just over 7ppm.. N02 is still at 0ppm. I guess later I'll do yet another water change and try to get it to 5ppm, and then continue with "the recipie" the next day..
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Old 05-15-2003, 01:46 PM   #7
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I am just wondering why you wouldnt let it all work itself out. That high of an ammonia content had to get the nitrite pot boiling and so on and so forth....wouldnt that just make your biological filtration that much stronger? why dilute it with a water change?
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Old 05-15-2003, 03:16 PM   #8
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well I was going to let it all work itself out, until I read Chris Cow's comments (not quoted above, but quoted here from his article
Quote:
Another likely possibility is that the ammonia levels are high enough to inhibit growth (through a biofeedback mechanism) of the bacteria rather than promoting it.
see I wasn't seeing any Nitrite - constant reading of 0ppm, but a very high (waay off the chart NH3 reading that wasn't going down..) The biological filtration that is establishing itself (well, maybe it was, maybe it was inhibited, I don't know) would be established on the biowheel, rocks, substrate anyway - the nitrifying bacteria don't live in the water, they attach themselves to surfaces, so diluting the water shouldn't remove any of the bacteria.. even after all that dilution, the NH3 level is still just over 7ppm, which is plenty, and hopefully, won't inhibit the process from proceeding.

of course, please correct me if I'm wrong!

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Old 05-15-2003, 03:24 PM   #9
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To be honest, all that mess is too ridiculously technical for me. If you do not have fish in there, nothing should be suffering the effects of what is naturally occuring and by doing water changes, you are just slowing down the process that you want to happen anyway.
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Old 05-15-2003, 03:55 PM   #10
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How is the water pH? If I know my chemistry, NH3 is a descent base. Could that be causing any problems?
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