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Old 08-23-2014, 09:49 PM   #1
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Nitrate reading during cycling

I have a question about cycling. I am cycling a 36 gallon Aqueon bowfront (with two Aqueon 30 hang on filters) with 12 fish (yes, I am one of those people who didn't know about cycling when I set up). Happy to say that after about 7 weeks of almost daily partial water changes of 25-50% my ammonia reading is finally dropping off to nearly zero and I am beginning to show trace signs of nitrite finally. My fish are all happy and lively and in the mix are two little silver dollars (I have a 120 gallon on order which arrives next week).

That said, today I decided to test the nitrAtes and got a reading of 5ppm. Is it normal to get a NitrAte reading when you haven't gotten a nitrIte reading yet? I did already cycle a 5gallon tank with two platys and got nitrites before nitrAtes, so this scenario is different. (FYI, I will be doing a fishless cycle on the 120 gallon).

So my questions are: 1) Is is normal to get a NitrAte reading before getting a nitrite reading? 2) would a male Betta work in a 5 gallon with two female sunburst platys?

Thanks for any input!
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Old 08-23-2014, 10:28 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by pbkuhn123 View Post
I have a question about cycling. I am cycling a 36 gallon Aqueon bowfront (with two Aqueon 30 hang on filters) with 12 fish (yes, I am one of those people who didn't know about cycling when I set up). Happy to say that after about 7 weeks of almost daily partial water changes of 25-50% my ammonia reading is finally dropping off to nearly zero and I am beginning to show trace signs of nitrite finally. My fish are all happy and lively and in the mix are two little silver dollars (I have a 120 gallon on order which arrives next week).

That said, today I decided to test the nitrAtes and got a reading of 5ppm. Is it normal to get a NitrAte reading when you haven't gotten a nitrIte reading yet? I did already cycle a 5gallon tank with two platys and got nitrites before nitrAtes, so this scenario is different. (FYI, I will be doing a fishless cycle on the 120 gallon).

So my questions are: 1) Is is normal to get a NitrAte reading before getting a nitrite reading? 2) would a male Betta work in a 5 gallon with two female sunburst platys?

Thanks for any input!
It sounds like either the nitrates were in the water you used to fill the tank with as it does not usually appear until after the bacteria converts the nitrItes into nitrAtes in an uncycled aquarium or you may have read the test results wrong.
The natural progression is ammonia converted to nitrites, nitrites converted to nitrates. It can't (naturally) happen differently to my knowledge.

As for the Betta question, yes, it should be able to go in the 5 as long as the platys leave him alone.

Hope this helps
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Old 08-23-2014, 10:41 PM   #3
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Are there any plants in the tank? If not filler up ! Get some Niteout II and some Biolift Special Blend.

I was able to get through the bulk of the cycling process in a 5 weeks. I would not have believed it myself, but my Nitrites are 1.6, Ammonia 0 and Nitrates 6 ppm.

The plants and the Special Blend have helped a lot.

The special blend smells like *ss, but works very well.


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Old 08-24-2014, 09:49 AM   #4
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Fish In Tank Cycling

Hello pb...

Cycling a tank with fish is efficient and safe for the fish provided you have the right fish and monitor the tank water daily. Large water changes will keep the tank water pure for the fish, but do nothing for the growth of the good bacteria. Probably why you're still cycling the tank after 7 weeks. The process at most takes a month.

You should test daily for ammonia and nitrite. If you have a positive test, remove and replace one-quarter (25 percent) of the water and replace it with pure, treated tap water. Just test the water every day and remove a little when needed. When several daily test show no traces of ammonia or nitrite, the tank is cycled. Nitrates are at the end of the nitrogen cycle and fish will easily tolerate it. Just concentrate on the other two, more toxic forms of nitrogen.

If you haven't already add some stems of Hornwort. This floating plant really helps keep the tank water cleaner between water changes.

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Old 08-24-2014, 04:53 PM   #5
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It sounds like either the nitrates were in the water you used to fill the tank with as it does not usually appear until after the bacteria converts the nitrItes into nitrAtes in an uncycled aquarium or you may have read the test results wrong.
The natural progression is ammonia converted to nitrites, nitrites converted to nitrates. It can't (naturally) happen differently to my knowledge.

As for the Betta question, yes, it should be able to go in the 5 as long as the platys leave him alone.

Hope this helps




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Old 08-24-2014, 05:13 PM   #6
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Nitrate reading during cycling

I just checked my ammonia and nitrites. Both zero. To make sure I didn't make a mistake on the nitrAtes, I just checked them again and they are 10-20ppm. For about a week I wasn't really checking nitrites because I was just doing partial water changes anytime my ammonia went above .5ppm regardless (which was almost daily). Yesterday ammonia dropped to .25 and today zero. No water change either. Happened on its own. Was waiting for the big nitrite moment and none thus far. Could I have missed the nitrite phase in the short week I didn't check those perhaps?

In my five gallon the nitrites lasted at least a week. Just don't see how I could have missed the nitrite phase in a 36gal from a few days of not checking them. Odd.

NitrAtes in tap water are 0. So by best guess the tank is cycled? Click image for larger version

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Old 08-24-2014, 11:13 PM   #7
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You may not have missed it because you've been diluting it with the water changes. ( You may have missed it by not checking them daily before the water changes. ) Tank size does not really effect the length of time these stages take. Once the nitrifying bacteria take hold, things can change rapidly.

Here's an article that may help you better understand what's going on in your tank. https://www.cs.duke.edu/~narten/faq/cycling.html

Hope this helps
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Old 08-25-2014, 12:15 AM   #8
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Thanks Andy,

I think since I saw the ammonia drop off on it's own in the small 5 gallon tank, I used that as an indicator to begin checking nitrites. I didn't keep checking nitrites in the 36 gallon when my ammonia was hovering at .5ppm. I just knew to perform a small water change to keep toxins from rising and to keep fish healthy since my bio load was higher than it should have been. When ammonia in the big tank began to drop off I started checking nitrites but kept getting 0 (actually the color may have showed a trace). So I just decided to check nitrAtes (did it twice) and they were shockingly reading 10-20ppm. This made me think I must have had a lighting fast nitrite phase that I must have missed during the week when only checking ammonia. I will keep checking all three this week and see what happens, just in case. Thanks for the feedback! Really hope my newly arriving 120 gallon fishless cycle goes well. Would welcome any input on that too!
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