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Old 05-11-2006, 04:57 PM   #1
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Problem with cycling my new tank or normal results?

Some of you may recall an earlier post on this board in which I asked for advice on moving the inhabitants of my 25-gallon tank over to a 46-gallon. I had originally planned to move everything over - filter, fish, plants, wood, etc. for an easy cycle.

However, my boyfriend convinced me that we really should keep the 25-gallon going, because it looks so nice, it's already cycled, and we can have more fish. How could I argue? So I bought an XP1 for the 46-gallon and we got it set up last weekend. On Tuesday night, I moved 12 fishes (slightly less than half the fish from the 25-gallon) over to the 46-gallon. Yes, my 25 was way overstocked, hence setting up the 46. I moved 3 Sterbai cories, 4 marbled hatchets, and 5 zebra danios. None are full-grown. I realize the cories and hatchets are delicate fishes, but I found it so incredibly difficult to catch everyone that I figured the stress of being chased around the tank and having all the plants torn up should not be repeated. Have you ever tried to catch zebra danios in a densely planted tank? I think I caught the neons 10 times each, but the danios were near impossible.

I also moved about half of the Eheim Ecco filter media into the XP1 at the same time as the fish. After 24 hours (Wednedsay morning), my readings were:

Ammonia - 0.5 ppm
Nitrite - somewhere between 0 and 0.25
Nitrate 0

So, I took this to mean these 12 fishes were producing somewhere above 0.5 ppm ammonia per 24-hours (assuming the plants absorb some). My results were still the same this morning, however. Should I do a water change to keep the ammonia below 0.50? Should I add more bio-media from the other filter? The conditions on the 25 are perfect in spite of the loss of half its media, probably since so many fish were removed and the plants are well established. At least they were, until I pulled them all up Tuesday night!

Perhaps my bacteria in the XP1 is experiencing transplant shock and will kick it into high gear soon, but I was disappointed to see any ammonia, truthfully. Is it worth it to buy some Bio-Spira, or would that be a waste of money? Please give me some advice.
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Old 05-11-2006, 05:43 PM   #2
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I'm not surprised you're seeing some ammonia and nitrite. This method of cycling has worked well for me in the past, but it's not instant. You should do a pwc asap to get that ammonia and nitrite down, and keep testing every day and changing water until the tank cycles. You could add some more filter media, just make sure you leave enough in your other tank to avoid a mini cycle there. Your new tank should cycle within a week, IME... but I should warn you that you're starting out with a lot larger bioload than I did the last time I did this. I started a 55 gallon with 6 flame tetras and only saw a small nitrite spike. I wouldn't personally spend the money on the Bio Spira, but I'm just cheap like that I guess.

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Old 05-12-2006, 02:14 AM   #3
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Hello severum mama, thanks for the reply. Do you think the lack of "instant cycle" is due to the fact that a large part of the bacterial colony is in the gravel, not just the filter? I still think the bacteria might experience some transplant shock. I plan to move more media from my 10-gallon guppy fry tank tomorrow morning.... I figure the risk of introducing a disease is minor compared to the potential harm from toxic water.

I tested again tonight before doing a 40% water change and the levels were the same (0.5 ppm ammonia, nitrite barely detectable). The fact that the nitrite is not zero gives me some hope, as does the fact that the ammonia has not spiked above 0.5 ppm in 48 hours. I assume that if I had not moved any media, the ammonia would be much higher and there would be zero nitrite. Should I aim to keep the levels below: 0.5 ppm ammonia and 0.5 nitrite? I know some fish can handle more but we are talking about hatchets and cories.

And you are right, that is a large fish load to start with, but considering that I moved less than half the fish, and half the media, I thought it would work. None of the fish seem too distressed, but who knows - the hatchets always just hang out at the top, the Sterbais always hide and only come out when they think I'm not looking, and the danios are manic as always. But everyone is eating well, which is a good sign. I am only feeding them once a day for now.
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Old 05-12-2006, 09:56 AM   #4
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If I were you I would cut down on feeding to once every 2-3 days until the tank cycles. Your fish will be fine without eating every day, and it will cut down on waste.

One thing you can do is to move some gravel over from one of your established tanks. Put some in a new sock or new nylon stocking, and tie up the end, unless the gravel is the same color in all your tanks and you don't care about keeping the old gravel in there. When I started my 55 gallon with just some media and some tetras, the cycle took about 4 days to complete. With your larger bioload, it will take longer, but just keep doing what you're doing. You're on the right track and I think you'll find that this will go much faster than a traditional fishy cycle. Good luck and keep us posted!
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Old 05-12-2006, 10:39 AM   #5
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I also have seen short low level nitrite when using the biomedia transfer method for seeding a new filter. The good news is that the ammonia and nitrite will be short lived, perhaps less than a week, so your PWC's will be fewer, a lot fewer, than if you had not seeded. Obviously, not enough bacteria went over to the new tank to handle the number of fish that are in there now. However, you are starting with a far greater number of bacteria than if you did not seed, and the bacteria in the filter media are active and more viable than if you did not seed. Thus, with doubling times of 7 to 14 hours, as long as they have substrate to grow on, they will quickly catch up. In addition to the transfered biomedia from the established tank, I presume you also have new, uncolonized media in the new filter for the bacteria to expand onto. Likewise for the filter than you took the seed from, new uncolonized biomedia should be added to that filter too. And definitely feed less till this passes. And don't add more fish until it is over.

And yes, I do think that some of the biologic filter lives in the substrate. I bet the old tank that you robbed the biomedia from has no ammonia or nitrite, right?
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Old 05-12-2006, 10:44 AM   #6
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Oh, and one more thing! Have you tested your tap water for ammonia? If your municipal water supply uses chloramines, that could explain why your ammonia level shot right up to 0.5 ppm.
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Old 05-12-2006, 05:51 PM   #7
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This morning the reuslts were slightly less than 0.5 ppm ammonia and slightly darker on the nitrite, but still not purple (i.e. 0.25 ppm). The decrease on ammonia is probably due to the water change last night rather than the growth of nitrifying bacteria, but hey, its's an improvement.

severum mama, hello again. Ok, I will cut back on feeding, even though it pains me! I know rationally that they are fine without food for a few days but I feel bad when I go over to the tank and they get all excited... only to be disappointed every time when I just take a water sample. I like the gravel in a nylon idea - the 2 substrates don't mix well at all, actually (Flourite in the 25 and Tahitian Moon Sand in the 46), so that will allow me to get the new sand seeded without ruining its appearance. Then I can just return the gravel to the 25-gallon after a couple of months.


Hi TomK2,

Thanks for the information, I definitely feel reassured. In response to your questions - no, there has not been a spike in the other aquarium (25-gallon), so you are right. I know that a lot of bacteria lives in the gravel, I just didn't realize how much in relation to the actual the filter media.

I have tested my tap water and there is zero ammonia and nitrates. Our KH is very low at 1-2 dKH, hardness is only 2 dGH. It makes it hard to work with in planted tanks, and makes my water changes more complicated since I have to try and buffer the KH in preparation for DIY CO2.

I do not plan to add any more fish until things straighten out. I hope it happens soon, though, because I have two wild Sterbais on hold at the LFS and need to pick them up ASAP. But they understand that if my tank is not ready, I can't take them. I suppose I could put them in the 25-gallon but that leads to more stress for everybody when I have to pull them out and move them later.
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Old 05-19-2006, 02:00 AM   #8
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Well, here we are on day 10 and the ammonia is long gone (it was 0 within six days, never went above 0.5), and the nitrites are nearly gone - just barely detectable below 0.25. The nitrites never went above 0.25, either. So this method obviously works, just not as quickly as I thought.

Guess I'll never know if it would have worked better had I moved the entire filter over... but again, it all goes back to the bacteria that is growing in the gravel and throughout the rest of the tank. Nonetheless, I would say that my fishes have experienced a fairly mild cycle. Not even the hatchets ever stopped eating, which is a good sign.

Thanks for your encouragement and advice. I plan to slowly resume feeding daily and see how it goes.
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