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Old 10-16-2011, 10:43 PM   #1
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Exclamation Question on the Cycle (any chemists or pros?) I'm stuck!

My cycle has been doing weird things, so I just wanted to ask here..google hasn't been much help.

Essentially, my question is..what does the ammo > nitri > nitra cycle look like? If I add ammo, how long does it take to convert to nitrite and then to nitrate? Will you be able to detect a rise in nitrite levels, or does it get converted to nitrate at an equal speed?

I've been cycling my tank for awhile now (3 weeks) and I *think* its cycled, but I'm not sure.. I dose it to 4 ppm ammo every day (it will drop to zero). About a week ago the nitrite levels were off the chart, with very little nitrate.

Now, my nitrite levels are close to zero (yay!) but my nitrate levels are only around 40ppm...here's where it gets weird.. I'm using the API liquid tests. I tested for nitrate last night as per the directions (waited ~10 mins before reading, shook bottle 2 extremely well/banged on the floor to get the powder off the bottom), came back with the same reading i've been getting for a week. I then got distracted with the kids and forgot to rinse it out. When I got up this morning, the colour was way darker, like closer to 80-100ppm. Anyone have any idea what's going on here? Is the test accurate after 5 mins like it says in the instructions, or is my overnight reading correct?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 10-16-2011, 10:52 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pearls-before-swine
My cycle has been doing weird things, so I just wanted to ask here..google hasn't been much help.

Essentially, my question is..what does the ammo > nitri > nitra cycle look like? If I add ammo, how long does it take to convert to nitrite and then to nitrate? Will you be able to detect a rise in nitrite levels, or does it get converted to nitrate at an equal speed?

I've been cycling my tank for awhile now (3 weeks) and I *think* its cycled, but I'm not sure.. I dose it to 4 ppm ammo every day (it will drop to zero). About a week ago the nitrite levels were off the chart, with very little nitrate.

Now, my nitrite levels are close to zero (yay!) but my nitrate levels are only around 40ppm...here's where it gets weird.. I'm using the API liquid tests. I tested for nitrate last night as per the directions (waited ~10 mins before reading, shook bottle 2 extremely well/banged on the floor to get the powder off the bottom), came back with the same reading i've been getting for a week. I then got distracted with the kids and forgot to rinse it out. When I got up this morning, the colour was way darker, like closer to 80-100ppm. Anyone have any idea what's going on here? Is the test accurate after 5 mins like it says in the instructions, or is my overnight reading correct?

Thanks in advance!
Your overnight reading cannot be trusted, no. Your results need to be taken within reasonable time as per the instructions. There are a massive amount of variables involved to give you one answer I think, but on average, naturally speaking, I believe the cycling process takes around 3-4 weeks to do well. 40 ppm of nitrate is quite good and it sounds to me like your tank is pretty much cycled. Stop dosing with ammonia. Wait for your nitrite to drop. I would perform a large water change (90%) and start looking at adding your first fish.(assuming your other parameters are ok.) I would expect your nitrate to continue to rise from now on but you can now keep the cycle going with fish!
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Old 10-17-2011, 12:11 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pearls-before-swine
My cycle has been doing weird things, so I just wanted to ask here..google hasn't been much help.

Essentially, my question is..what does the ammo > nitri > nitra cycle look like? If I add ammo, how long does it take to convert to nitrite and then to nitrate? Will you be able to detect a rise in nitrite levels, or does it get converted to nitrate at an equal speed?

I've been cycling my tank for awhile now (3 weeks) and I *think* its cycled, but I'm not sure.. I dose it to 4 ppm ammo every day (it will drop to zero). About a week ago the nitrite levels were off the chart, with very little nitrate.

Now, my nitrite levels are close to zero (yay!) but my nitrate levels are only around 40ppm...here's where it gets weird.. I'm using the API liquid tests. I tested for nitrate last night as per the directions (waited ~10 mins before reading, shook bottle 2 extremely well/banged on the floor to get the powder off the bottom), came back with the same reading i've been getting for a week. I then got distracted with the kids and forgot to rinse it out. When I got up this morning, the colour was way darker, like closer to 80-100ppm. Anyone have any idea what's going on here? Is the test accurate after 5 mins like it says in the instructions, or is my overnight reading correct?

Thanks in advance!
If the ammonia is dropping from 4ppm > 0 and the no2 has dropped on it's own...it should mean you're are either cycled, or on the verge. Make sure you're monitoring your pH level as crashes are common at this point which can potentially stall or revert your cycle.

The API nitrAte test is so finicky I don't personally hold it accountable for a conclusion. In a situation like this the ammonia and no2 levels are all we truly need to be concerned with. If you're zeroing out 4ppm ammonia down to zero with 0 no2 in 24 hours...you're cycled.

Check out the article in my signature for some info
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Old 10-17-2011, 12:30 AM   #4
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So i read the article in your signature, just tested my pH.. went from 7.4 a few days ago to 6.0 now... Also, I have hard water so that's only making it worse Gonna do a water change (also think I overdosed ammo this morning... Doh!) and hopefully things will perk up in the morning!
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Old 10-17-2011, 12:34 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by pearls-before-swine
So i read the article in your signature, just tested my pH.. went from 7.4 a few days ago to 6.0 now... Also, I have hard water so that's only making it worse Gonna do a water change (also think I overdosed ammo this morning... Doh!) and hopefully things will perk up in the morning!
Yep, massive pwc to restore the natural pH value of the tap water, dose it up to 4ppm once more, and if you can drop that to zero with zero no2 in 24 hours... you're cycled . Worst case scenario is that the pH crash shocked the bacteria and it'll take a day or two to recover. Either way...you're knocking on the door. You'll have fish within the next few days. Great job
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Old 10-17-2011, 12:45 AM   #6
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Thanks.. I do have one other question tho, regarding substrate.

When I set up my tank originally a month ago, I only had 1 bag of substrate (I'm using sand). Now I know that the bacteria not only grow in the filter, but also on every other surface in the tank. I am planning on adding an additional bag of sand -will this impact the cycle in any way? Will the bacteria on the original substrate die if I "top up" my substrate?
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Old 10-17-2011, 12:50 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by pearls-before-swine
Thanks.. I do have one other question tho, regarding substrate.

When I set up my tank originally a month ago, I only had 1 bag of substrate (I'm using sand). Now I know that the bacteria not only grow in the filter, but also on every other surface in the tank. I am planning on adding an additional bag of sand -will this impact the cycle in any way? Will the bacteria on the original substrate die if I "top up" my substrate?
You're right that it does live on every surface of the tank, but the VAST majority is in your filter media. I wouldn't foresee any negatives by adding the additional substrate. For example, I've switched out every single piece of gravel in a tank and replaced it with sand...and I never had any sign of a toxin spike. On the other hand I've pulled out pieces of filter media to give to friends or set up other tanks and had a mini-cycle for a few days. So that will show how large of a proportional difference there is between the two.

That said, the very end of your cycle is a tedious balance point. The bacteria will adjust almost exactly to the ammonia input, so by losing some there's the slight potential it will have some negligible impact...but really nothing I'd be concerned about
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Old 10-17-2011, 12:52 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pearls-before-swine
Thanks.. I do have one other question tho, regarding substrate.

When I set up my tank originally a month ago, I only had 1 bag of substrate (I'm using sand). Now I know that the bacteria not only grow in the filter, but also on every other surface in the tank. I am planning on adding an additional bag of sand -will this impact the cycle in any way? Will the bacteria on the original substrate die if I "top up" my substrate?
I use sand regularly with good results. Be aware though that usually sand will form much higher concentrations of anaerobic bacteria. This CAN be a good thing but if disturbed can release some deadly toxins into the tank, though eco23 sounds like he can probably give you more info on that. I wouldn't imagine that the actual process of dumping the sand in will affect your cycle greatly.
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Old 10-17-2011, 12:57 AM   #9
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I use sand regularly with good results. Be aware though that usually sand will form much higher concentrations of anaerobic bacteria. This CAN be a good thing but if disturbed can release some deadly toxins into the tank, though eco23 sounds like he can probably give you more info on that. I wouldn't imagine that the actual process of dumping the sand in will affect your cycle greatly.
Agreed. Since the substrate is a fairly low oxygen environment compared to the media, there's not many of the true nitrifiers down there. The gas pockets can be prevented with burrowing snails like MTS, and I've also been told deep rooting plants help to avoid it. Personally I stick my hand in there every couple pwc's and churn it all over to prevent the gas pockets from forming in the first place (in addition to burrowing snails and my plants).
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Old 10-17-2011, 01:36 AM   #10
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Thanks guys! just finished my pwc (stupid pH..gotta love pythons though!) Added a small amount of ammo, will check in 20 mins to see where's it at, and hopefully it will be down again by the afternoon.

Eco > you deserve some sort of AA Most Appreciated Newb Helper of the Year Award or something!
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