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Old 06-12-2017, 10:32 AM   #1
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Still taking 48+ hours to clear 1 ppm of ammonia

Tomorrow marks week five of my fishless cycle and it is still taking 48+ hours to get 1 ppm of ammonia down in the 0-.25 range. Do I need to wait until it takes exactly 24 hours to convert the ammonia or can I plan on getting my fish within the week?
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Old 06-15-2017, 08:13 AM   #2
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Sounds a little slow - do you have other readings for nitrates, nitrites and PH?
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Old 06-15-2017, 02:19 PM   #3
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Sounds a little slow - do you have other readings for nitrates, nitrites and PH?
Nitrites are consistently 0 and nitrates are about 80 (very high). I don't usually test for pH - would that affect my ammonia? I didn't think it did. I also have a reading of around 0-.25 of ammonia straight out of my tap, but I've been told that eventually the good bacteria would neutralize all of it and I should have a reading of 0. I'm still waiting for that....and waiting, and waiting.....

Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated. I am getting dwarf puffers and they are extremely sensitive to ammonia, so I don't want to order them until I can get my ammonia down to 0 in 24 hours. Any advice??
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Old 06-15-2017, 08:13 PM   #4
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Still taking 48+ hours to clear 1 ppm of ammonia

Some thoughts would be -


What sort of water conditioner are you using? It's possible that the good ones that detoxify ammonia may slow down the process slightly. Not a reason to stop using them but the bacteria may take a little longer to get fully established (just from reading).


I did get a comment that at over 5ppm ammonia the bacteria struggle - I don't believe this from what I've seen but was going to look through links I had this weekend.


Bacteria may slow down below PH 6.4 and get really slow at below PH 6.0. This does seem to occur but some tanks have PH around 6 and are fine - so perhaps certain bacterial populations have issues. Eventually you end up with the bacteria that suit your tank. Also the bacteria will consume carbonates - thus in any case checking PH (as a rough proxy for KH is useful).


The last bit of ammonia processing I have found can be slow.
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Old 06-16-2017, 05:30 AM   #5
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Some thoughts would be -


What sort of water conditioner are you using? It's possible that the good ones that detoxify ammonia may slow down the process slightly. Not a reason to stop using them but the bacteria may take a little longer to get fully established (just from reading).


I did get a comment that at over 5ppm ammonia the bacteria struggle - I don't believe this from what I've seen but was going to look through links I had this weekend.


Bacteria may slow down below PH 6.4 and get really slow at below PH 6.0. This does seem to occur but some tanks have PH around 6 and are fine - so perhaps certain bacterial populations have issues. Eventually you end up with the bacteria that suit your tank. Also the bacteria will consume carbonates - thus in any case checking PH (as a rough proxy for KH is useful).


The last bit of ammonia processing I have found can be slow.
I use Prime.

I only dose to 1 ppm of ammonia. Only dosed to 4 ppm at the very first to establish the nitrites, then once nitrites disappeared and nitrates showed up, did a water change and only have dosed up to 1 ppm of ammonia ever since.

My pH is at 7.6.

I know it can be a slow process, but I have done this before, years ago, and never ran into this issue of having ammonia up to 48 hours at week (almost six now).
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Old 06-16-2017, 06:55 AM   #6
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Done a water change recently?

Unfortunately I've seen it take up to two months often enough that I wouldn't consider it out of the norm.

Also just wondering but if you have ammonia in tap, is the tap water otherwise good quality / drinkable?
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Old 06-16-2017, 07:33 AM   #7
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Done a water change recently?

Unfortunately I've seen it take up to two months often enough that I wouldn't consider it out of the norm.

Also just wondering but if you have ammonia in tap, is the tap water otherwise good quality / drinkable?
I need to correct a mistake I made - my pH is actually now at 6.0. Hadn't tested for a few weeks on that (since beginning the cycle). It was 7.6 then, but is now 6.0.

Yes, the water is drinkable. We do use a Brita pitcher though.

Haven't done a water change in about a week or two.
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Old 06-16-2017, 08:48 AM   #8
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I know the current "bandwagon" is the fishless tank cycling because it is supposed to be a more "humane" way to start your tank. I've only tried it twice without much luck. I'd get to right where you are and begin to wonder if I could ever get my fish in. My first attempt I waited 10 weeks, then gave up; did a 25% water change and put in some Danios that I knew I wanted to keep anyway. My tank finally "normalized" after a week. I asked a friend who is a veterinarian why this was and his explanation was that fish waste is not just ammonia. That the healthiest nitrogen fixing bacteria need more than just elemental ammonia to become well established. So my suggestion: do a 25% water change to drive down the nitrates, introduce some hardy fish, that you already intend to keep, then plan to do 10% water changes every week, like normal. Your tank should normalize in a week or so and you can start stocking with your favorites. Good luck.
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Old 06-16-2017, 09:49 AM   #9
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I know the current "bandwagon" is the fishless tank cycling because it is supposed to be a more "humane" way to start your tank. I've only tried it twice without much luck. I'd get to right where you are and begin to wonder if I could ever get my fish in. My first attempt I waited 10 weeks, then gave up; did a 25% water change and put in some Danios that I knew I wanted to keep anyway. My tank finally "normalized" after a week. I asked a friend who is a veterinarian why this was and his explanation was that fish waste is not just ammonia. That the healthiest nitrogen fixing bacteria need more than just elemental ammonia to become well established. So my suggestion: do a 25% water change to drive down the nitrates, introduce some hardy fish, that you already intend to keep, then plan to do 10% water changes every week, like normal. Your tank should normalize in a week or so and you can start stocking with your favorites. Good luck.
The problem with this method is: I plan on having a species only tank of only 3-6 dwarf puffers. They are scaleless and very sensitive to any amount of ammonia. Therein lies my problem. I have a beautiful planted tank to look at daily, but no fish because I only want dwarf puffers and I will not put them in to anything except pristine conditions for them.
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Old 06-16-2017, 10:02 AM   #10
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I need to correct a mistake I made - my pH is actually now at 6.0. Hadn't tested for a few weeks on that (since beginning the cycle). It was 7.6 then, but is now 6.0.

Yes, the water is drinkable. We do use a Brita pitcher though.

Haven't done a water change in about a week or two.


I'd do a water change and let the ph lift back up above 7. That should help the bacteria.
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Old 06-16-2017, 10:08 AM   #11
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I'd do a water change and let the ph lift back up above 7. That should help the bacteria.
Will try that! Thanks.
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Old 06-16-2017, 10:16 AM   #12
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The problem with this method is: I plan on having a species only tank of only 3-6 dwarf puffers. They are scaleless and very sensitive to any amount of ammonia. Therein lies my problem. I have a beautiful planted tank to look at daily, but no fish because I only want dwarf puffers and I will not put them in to anything except pristine conditions for them.


I see your dilemma, but this is just a short bump in the road. Someone may need to help me out with the biology of this, but here goes: Nitrosomonas bacteria (family name, just too many species to name) convert Ammonia to Nitrites, the Nitrobacter bacteria "fix" the nitrites to nitrates. After that you either change the water to reduce the nitrates or have enough plants to take in the nitrates to be used for their biological processes. The problem you are running in to is the natural negative feedback loop that is created by the nitrates. When the excess nitrates are not removed from the system, the Nitrosomonas bacteria begin to die, thus slowing the first step. These bacteria are actually rather fragile. They are flagellated, if I remember correctly, photophobic (dislike the light) and reproduce rather slowly. Nitrates inhibit their reproductive process. This is why ecosystems are actually quite fragile. Bottom line is: To get your pristine conditions, you need to remove the nitrates. Either hope your plants catch up, which can take quite a while, or start changing out the water to reduce your nitrates. Just don't forget you still need an ammonia source for the Nitrosomonas. I hope this helps somehow.
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Old 06-16-2017, 10:20 AM   #13
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I see your dilemma, but this is just a short bump in the road. Someone may need to help me out with the biology of this, but here goes: Nitrosomonas bacteria (family name, just too many species to name) convert Ammonia to Nitrites, the Nitrobacter bacteria "fix" the nitrites to nitrates. After that you either change the water to reduce the nitrates or have enough plants to take in the nitrates to be used for their biological processes. The problem you are running in to is the natural negative feedback loop that is created by the nitrates. When the excess nitrates are not removed from the system, the Nitrosomonas bacteria begin to die, thus slowing the first step. These bacteria are actually rather fragile. They are flagellated, if I remember correctly, photophobic (dislike the light) and reproduce rather slowly. Nitrates inhibit their reproductive process. This is why ecosystems are actually quite fragile. Bottom line is: To get your pristine conditions, you need to remove the nitrates. Either hope your plants catch up, which can take quite a while, or start changing out the water to reduce your nitrates. Just don't forget you still need an ammonia source for the Nitrosomonas. I hope this helps somehow.
Yes it helps tremendously! I am doing a water change now to get the nitrates down. Should I just plan on doing a water change every time I see the nitrates rising above 40-60? I will replenish ammonia source with my ammonia after I get the water change done. Thanks again for this helpful information!
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Old 06-16-2017, 10:51 AM   #14
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Here is what my water test looks like after a 50% water change. Nitrates came down to about 40 and pH is back up to about 7.6.
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Old 06-16-2017, 10:56 AM   #15
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Yes it helps tremendously! I am doing a water change now to get the nitrates down. Should I just plan on doing a water change every time I see the nitrates rising above 40-60? I will replenish ammonia source with my ammonia after I get the water change done. Thanks again for this helpful information!


Once your tank settles down, i.e. the nitrates are less than 60ppm, you should be good to do 10% changes weekly. I've never done a planted aquarium; so, be sure you can keep your nitrates "up" enough for plant growth/maintenance.
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Old 06-16-2017, 11:34 AM   #16
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Here is what my water test looks like after a 50% water change. Nitrates came down to about 40 and pH is back up to about 7.6.


Are you using tap water for your water changes? If so, get some one gallon, or larger containers that you can fill about 90% of the way and let us sit for 2-3 days so the chlorine can dissipate. I like to use empty milk jugs, they have caps and I can keep 10 of them hidden in my fish stand for water changes.
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Old 06-16-2017, 12:32 PM   #17
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Are you using tap water for your water changes? If so, get some one gallon, or larger containers that you can fill about 90% of the way and let us sit for 2-3 days so the chlorine can dissipate. I like to use empty milk jugs, they have caps and I can keep 10 of them hidden in my fish stand for water changes.
I understand that the chlorine will dissipate, but what about the ammonia? It will dissipate after sitting for 2-3 days?
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Old 06-16-2017, 02:58 PM   #18
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Just read this on my city government water treatment page. Chloramines do not dissipate through the air, so sitting it out won't help. How about what they say about the carbon filter? Would that help? I don't usually use one, but if it will help with my situation, I will do it.
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Old 06-16-2017, 05:24 PM   #19
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Just read this on my city government water treatment page. Chloramines do not dissipate through the air, so sitting it out won't help. How about what they say about the carbon filter? Would that help? I don't usually use one, but if it will help with my situation, I will do it.


Your municipal water company is absolutely correct, sort of. Free chlorine has a half-life of approximately 2hrs. Your basic rule of thumb is that it takes 5-6 half-lives for a chemical to achieve full effect or to "wash out." That is why tap water that is only treated with chlorine can be "chlorine free" in less than 24hrs. Chloramines, on the other hand, have a half-life between 18-28.5hrs. That is why you have to wait a few days, typically 5-7, but 3 will do in a pinch if you really need the water. Now, this is all assuming that the water is left open to the air, hence the reason to fill your containers only 80-90% full. If you fill them all the way up and cap them, there is no exposure to "use" the chemicals.
Activated charcoal will work, but so will ultraviolet radiation. Even if capped, UV will cause the chlorine and ammonia to off-gas, but the resulting pressure could make your container(s) burst.
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Old 06-16-2017, 05:29 PM   #20
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Very good - I chose to add the activated carbon cartridge that came with my aquaclear 50 hob filter. I added it in and took the sponge out and got out a filter I used to use (penguin 150) and added the sponge in there so I wouldn't lose the bb that was in that sponge. Now I think I have MORE than enough filteration for this 28 gallon tank - even for messy dwarf puffers! LOL
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