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Old 07-09-2011, 02:47 PM   #1
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Newly cycled tank crash with MAJOR ph drops!!!

My tank cycled fishless on June 29 following faithfully Eco23 's thread on How to..... The only problem I ever had was an occasional drop in ph. My tap readings are a tad darker than 7.6. My existing first tank reads that way until I do a PWC, then it drops to 7.0. This is consistently the way my first tank is. My newly cycled tank starts that way also but drops steadily in the course of five or so hours to readings of 6.7 or sometimes lower, depending on how much water I remove. I must remove water because I have ammonia showing consistently daily at .25 to .50. My bacteria has obviously crashed. What is going on? I have ten Red-Eyed tetras in a 20 gal. Tank. Apparently I am in the midst of a mini-cycle but have no nitrite readings at all. Just ph drops and ammonia increases. Water looks great, smells "yeasty" for lack of a better word. Fish are happy and active, with great appetites. I have a hint of a reading of NiTRates. I was so excited to do the fishless cycling!!! Where did I mess up. how can I naturally bring up the ph and get the ammonia down. This is not acting like a New Tank syndrome or any such thing, nor is it acting like a cycling situation. I removed a decoration that I thought might be a problem. Could the live plants be the problem. I do not have a low ph problem in my other tank. The readings are always higher than normal unless I bring them down with PWCs. HELP!!! I am frantic. I have ordered fish and more plants for this tank. They will be arriving soon. This tank must be in order!
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Old 07-09-2011, 03:14 PM   #2
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Odd. Have you left a glass of tap water sitting out for 24 hours (preferably with an air stone in it) and tested after that time? Something's probably buffering your water and gassing out resulting in pH drops.

The bacteria can be stunned by pH crashes or sudden drops causing it to go dormant (IMO/E) or causing a die off if allowed to drop low enough. That's what's probably causing the ammo to not be converted efficiently. Do pwc's for the time being to keep ammo below .25.

The fact you had such fluctuations during the cycle seems to show your water is very low in alkalinity. I'm normally against altering water chemistry, but I think a small mesh bag of crushed coral or aragonite is the solution for you.

Pick up a mesh media bag, and throw a small handful of the CC into it. Throwing it into the filter is the most efficient, but anywhere (even in or under the substrate) will help. The CC will buffer the water, hold the pH steady and keep everything balanced and efficient.

The key is to find the right amount where it buffers, but doesn't cause extreme pH rises on it's own. Depending on the size of your tank (my DT is 46 gallons), a small handful or a bit less is the best way to start.

Keep me posted and let me know what's happening. Sorry it took me a bit to see the thread.
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Old 07-09-2011, 03:26 PM   #3
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Eco- What can I do until I can get to my LFS? I live in a small town that is not convenient to one. I had read something about baking soda. Would that work? If so, what dosage for a 20 gal. tall tank. Do most LFS carry these things like mesh bag and crushed coral or must I order on-line and from whom?
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Old 07-09-2011, 03:30 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newfisher
Eco- What can I do until I can get to my LFS? I live in a small town that is not convenient to one. I had read something about baking soda. Would that work? If so, what dosage for a 20 gal. tall tank. Do most LFS carry these things like mesh bag and crushed coral or must I order on-line and from whom?
Baking soda will take some research. If I remember correctly it raises kH but not GH. In the time being...I think water changes to refresh the buffers in the water are your best bet.

I've always found mesh bags pretty easily at the chain stores and lfs. A new, clean stocking will work as well. CC and aragonite are pretty commonly used as substrate...so should be easy to find as well. Since they're used that way, you normally have to buy a big bag...but it's not very expensive. CC is cheaper than aragonite I believe.
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Old 07-11-2011, 10:44 AM   #5
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Eco23- I tested my tap water overnight with a bubble stone. The tap water went from higher than the 7.6 reading that is on the test tube reader to a drop of between 7.2 and 7.0. So what does that mean in terms that my non- scientific mind can grasp? That still does not explain why in my new tank it continues to fall to no indication of ph at all as the ammonia continues to rise. Still no signs of nitrites There is just a trace of NitRates. I have not been able to get to my nearest LFS. They are not open on the weekend and will not open until Tuesday. They are not a chain but a small privately owned store. HN1 suggested a Cuttle bone which I can get at my local food store today. Thanks.
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Old 07-11-2011, 11:02 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newfisher
Eco23- I tested my tap water overnight with a bubble stone. The tap water went from higher than the 7.6 reading that is on the test tube reader to a drop of between 7.2 and 7.0. So what does that mean in terms that my non- scientific mind can grasp? That still does not explain why in my new tank it continues to fall to no indication of ph at all as the ammonia continues to rise. Still no signs of nitrites There is just a trace of NitRates. I have not been able to get to my nearest LFS. They are not open on the weekend and will not open until Tuesday. They are not a chain but a small privately owned store. HN1 suggested a Cuttle bone which I can get at my local food store today. Thanks.
Joy
I'm sure cuttlebone would work (if HN1 said it will, I trust it will). I know they help add calcium to the water for inverts, so I assume it'd serve a similar purpose as CC would for now. I'm curious what is causing this though. How long after finishing cycling did you stock? I assume you did a massive water change before adding fish? Do you have driftwood or peat in your tank?
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Old 07-11-2011, 11:22 AM   #7
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I did a massive water change as per your instructions and added 10 tetras three days after the tank was proven. There was a piece of artificial driftwood in the tank. I took it out and soaked it overnight in a sink full of water. When I tested the water, the ph had dropped significantly. Because of that , I thought the fake driftwood could be a problem so I threw it out. But that was at the very beginning of these problems. And the driftwood was said to be fake.
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Old 07-11-2011, 11:42 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newfisher
I did a massive water change as per your instructions and added 10 tetras three days after the tank was proven. There was a piece of artificial driftwood in the tank. I took it out and soaked it overnight in a sink full of water. When I tested the water, the ph had dropped significantly. Because of that , I thought the fake driftwood could be a problem so I threw it out. But that was at the very beginning of these problems. And the driftwood was said to be fake.
It sounds like you did everything right. I think you're correct that the pH crashes and having an effect on the ammo > no2 bacteria and that is what is causing the readings. Buffering the water will help keep it constant, but I hope we can find the cause. I think we can definitely isolate that there is a specific issue because your other tank is stable.

The "yeasty" smell is the first thing that I wonder about. Did this just happen recently? When you said the decoration significantly dropped the pH level in the bucket...are we talking to dramatically low levels like you're seeing now? Was the DW in the tank during the entire cycle or a more recent addition?

If I had to take a total shot in the dark...perhaps the decoration was for reptiles or another non-aquarium safe product and has leeched something into the water? (guessing). I'd start by running some carbon in the filter to hopefully absorb anything that's in there and continue the water changes.

If there's anything else odd you can think of let me know. Any bacteria booster products you used when starting off? Any possibility something made it's way into the tank like a cleaning agent, air freshener, etc...?
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Old 07-11-2011, 12:02 PM   #9
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The driftwood was in during the entire cycling process. I only removed it when these ph-ammonia issues arose after the cycle was over and the fish were added. I do remember some additives before I started the fishless process. When I first started up the tank I added for three days something the infamous LFS said to use called Cycle. Then I read your thread and realized I screwed up. That is when I started using your guide straight through. I figured no-harm,no-foul in regard to the Cycle additive. Also, a few times during the cycling I added some ph down or some fish food to help the phosphates. I wonder if the addition of the ph down did something or the Cycle at the very beginning. I figured with the addition of pure ammonia, things would start right and they did and everything went according to what it should with the exception of low ph readings on occasion. I am mad with myself though because I am no novice any longer. I knew about fishless cycling and not to add anything but supposedly this was a brand new super product and I believed it!!! This is why I question if it would be better to start again.
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Old 07-11-2011, 12:03 PM   #10
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I forgot.....the yeasty smell has always been there.
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Old 07-11-2011, 12:10 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eco23

It sounds like you did everything right. I think you're correct that the pH crashes and having an effect on the ammo > no2 bacteria and that is what is causing the readings. Buffering the water will help keep it constant, but I hope we can find the cause. I think we can definitely isolate that there is a specific issue because your other tank is stable.

The "yeasty" smell is the first thing that I wonder about. Did this just happen recently? When you said the decoration significantly dropped the pH level in the bucket...are we talking to dramatically low levels like you're seeing now? Was the DW in the tank during the entire cycle or a more recent addition?

If I had to take a total shot in the dark...perhaps the decoration was for reptiles or another non-aquarium safe product and has leeched something into the water? (guessing). I'd start by running some carbon in the filter to hopefully absorb anything that's in there and continue the water changes.

If there's anything else odd you can think of let me know. Any bacteria booster products you used when starting off? Any possibility something made it's way into the tank like a cleaning agent, air freshener, etc...?
The ph levels in the bucket dropped as significantly to the low levels of the tank.
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Old 07-11-2011, 12:20 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newfisher

The ph levels in the bucket dropped as significantly to the low levels of the tank.
It sounds like we isolated our problem. I can't blame the pH down for anything, the pwc's would have removed it, and I'm sure you didn't add a significant enough amount to have really made an impact anyway.

Now the Cycle on the other hand...that could potentially be your cause for ammo readings...but I'd be more prone to point the finger there if the pH swings weren't included.

I'd run the carbon I mentioned and keep up with the water changes for a while. I think whatever decoration that was leeched something into the water column and is causing your issue. I don't really have a full explanation, but if it did the same thing to a sink full of water...by process of elimination I think that has to be the cause.

Where did you get this thing so we can all avoid it in the future?
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Old 07-11-2011, 12:44 PM   #13
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I got it at Petsmart. It was said to be aquarium-safe. I checked it specifically. I have carbon already in the filter I run. I have a Marineland Penguin 150 Biowheel. It has the Biowheel and a carbon cartridge. Do I need to add more carbon and how. Also, how much PWC? Will the tank & fish be OK for three days? We will be gone for those days ( Weds..-Fri.). Normally they would be fine but how can I insure their safety through all of this while I am gone for three days? BTW...you have been wonderful. And you have not yelled at me for being so stupid
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Old 07-11-2011, 01:00 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newfisher
I got it at Petsmart. It was said to be aquarium-safe. I checked it specifically. I have carbon already in the filter I run. I have a Marineland Penguin 150 Biowheel. It has the Biowheel and a carbon cartridge. Do I need to add more carbon and how. Also, how much PWC? Will the tank & fish be OK for three days? We will be gone for those days ( Weds..-Fri.). Normally they would be fine but how can I insure their safety through all of this while I am gone for three days? BTW...you have been wonderful. And you have not yelled at me for being so stupid
You haven't done anything remotely stupid, lol . Is the ammonia still raised? Do whatever it takes to keep it below .25. Normally for a mini-cycle as well as this situation I'd do 25% pwc's every day for a while. Do you have Prime as your dechlorinator? If so, do a big pwc the night before you leave town and dose 2x the normal amount of Prime. That will buy your fish some time while you're gone because it temporarily detoxifies the ammo.

How old is the carbon? It stops absorbing things after about 30 days. It's a good idea to add more if it's older than that. As you know, the majority of your beneficial bacteria lives in the filter, so you don't just want to replace one cartridge for another. You can cut a slit in the old cartridge and shake the old carbon out into the trash (to make it thinner), and try to jam a new carbon pad right up against it. You don't want to remove or throw anything away if possible. I'm not familiar with your particular filter, but they also sell little bags of carbon by itself that you can probably stick down in there too. My canister filter came with some little bags of carbon made by Fluval. It really is just a little mesh bag full and would probably fit.

So, carbon, water changes as much as possible and a small mesh bag of crushed coral in the filter until everything stabilizes out is the best I can recommend. Make sure you keep me posted on how it's going
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Old 07-16-2011, 12:25 PM   #15
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Hi Eco...I returned yesterday from our three day mini vacation. Joy of joys...the fish in my problem tank are still alive and happy and the ph is now exactly where it should be and stabile!!! Before we left town I did what you said and did a large PWC, double dosed with Prime, and put a broken up cuttle bone in the filter. I also put in a new carbon filter bag along side of my stripped old bag. The one problem is that the ammonia still will not drop. It was almost at .50 when I came home and consistently goes to .25 every morning after a PWC the day before. The daily PWC is 25%. There is no evidence of bacteria fighting the ammonia! What can I do? I really would like to rehome my starter fish and add my planned new fish and plants that are sort of on hold from HN1. I am.wondering if I should take out the few live plants to see if that makes a difference. They are doing well but I could put them in my other tank if need be. Any ideas? This ammonia and constant PWC is driving me nuts. Everything else reads where it should be.
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Old 07-16-2011, 12:54 PM   #16
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Note: Baking soda will increase PH KH.

Ammonia is more toxic at a high PH.
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Old 07-16-2011, 01:03 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newfisher
Hi Eco...I returned yesterday from our three day mini vacation. Joy of joys...the fish in my problem tank are still alive and happy and the ph is now exactly where it should be and stabile!!! Before we left town I did what you said and did a large PWC, double dosed with Prime, and put a broken up cuttle bone in the filter. I also put in a new carbon filter bag along side of my stripped old bag. The one problem is that the ammonia still will not drop. It was almost at .50 when I came home and consistently goes to .25 every morning after a PWC the day before. The daily PWC is 25%. There is no evidence of bacteria fighting the ammonia! What can I do? I really would like to rehome my starter fish and add my planned new fish and plants that are sort of on hold from HN1. I am.wondering if I should take out the few live plants to see if that makes a difference. They are doing well but I could put them in my other tank if need be. Any ideas? This ammonia and constant PWC is driving me nuts. Everything else reads where it should be.
If anything the plants will help by absorbing ammonia, so I wouldn't take them out. Assuming the pH swings were causing the issue...it can take some time for the bacteria to recover. The lower it gets, the slower nitrification occurs, and if it drops low enough, I've read it can cause the BB to go dormant and potentially die off if the situation is extreme enough. I don't remember how low you said yours fell. I assume you're using an API Master test kit? I'm glad the cuttlebone seems to be doing the trick...I don't know enough about it to say if it's as efficient as CC though.

I wish I had a straight answer for you...but the pH swings from the supposedly safe DW, the ammo spikes and the "yeasty" smell add up to a mystery. The fact the fish are doing well hopefully excludes the possibility of some sort of dangerous contaminant, and I think the only real option at this point is to wait it out. I think you're well within the time frame for the bacteria to be recovering. The fact that it only climbed to .5 over the time you were gone seems to show they're getting back to work IMO.
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Old 07-16-2011, 01:04 PM   #18
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Thanks for your response. My ph was crashing daily but now is stabilized. It is my constantly rising ammonia that is the mystery. The tank is cycled but something is going on. I do not know if it is with the bacteria or not.
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Old 07-16-2011, 01:11 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newfisher
Thanks for your response. My ph was crashing daily but now is stabilized. It is my constantly rising ammonia that is the mystery. The tank is cycled but something is going on. I do not know if it is with the bacteria or not.
I still think the daily pH crashes are responsible for the bacteria not efficiently converting the ammo. They're sensitive little buggers, and when they take some damage...it can take time to bounce back and recover.

Now that you've got the pH stable, I'd expect things to start getting back on track. I had a major pH crash when I first cycled my 46 gallon (one of the reasons I put the guide together was to prevent that from happening to others), and it set me back a good 3-4 days. It was like someone had hit the rewind button on my cycle. And that was just one crash...I'm sure daily fluctuations would have caused a bit more trouble and take more time to recover than it did in my case.
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Old 07-16-2011, 01:15 PM   #20
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Thanks Eco...my first response was to someone else...this is for you. I think what you say gives me hope and is encouraging. Is there anything I can do to encourage or nudge the bacteria along? How long should I wait this out? I have an order on hold from HN1 and an order from my LFS for some RCS, some Oto Cats, and some Cherry Barbs. HN1 said he had no problem working with my schedule but I am not sure about the LFS because my starter tetras are going to be trade-ins for some of the soon to be bought fish from them. This is crazy isn't it? On the other hand I am very happy that the ph is under control. The person who responded before you was talking about ph/rh. What exactly is that?
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