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Old 09-05-2017, 11:01 AM   #1
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Fishless cycle help/advice?

I have a 10 gallon planted tank that I'm currently 2.5 weeks into fishless cycling. The LFS recommended I use Sea Chem Stability so I've been using that for about 6 days. I took some readings this morning and here are my numbers. Seems off the charts to me, but this is the first tank I've had to cycle. I have not done a water change(was told not to during cycling) in over a week.

There's no fish or shrimp in the tank. I'm currently using Fluval Shrimp Stratum so the lower PH was expected...but it didn't change at all during the first week so I didn't expect that much of a swing. All readings were taken with an API Freshwater Testing kit.

Nitrite - 5ppm+
Nitrate - 60ppm
Ammonia - 2ppm
PH - 6.4

What does this mean? Is the tank a lost cause or is this normal? After the first 7 days I tested and almost everything was super low. I've been adding a couple grains of shrimp food every other day to bring the ammonia up while using sea chem. I've been noticing some almost brown colored stuff covering parts of my amazon swords and a tiny bit of the slate tile over the last few days(you can't see it in the picture as it was taken over 4 days ago). I've also been running co2 for the plants. It's a DIY set up. Should I discontinue that or? Any advice would be awesome. I run the co2 during the day and night(not shut off for it), but I have an air stone pumping a massive amount(tetra 40gal pump) of bubbles during the night to help get rid of the excess co2 and raise o2 levels.

My goal is to have a colony of Red Cherry Shrimp in here, maybe add some Crystal Red Shrimp eventually.

The only thing I think I need to do is maybe a 25% water change. I figured I would ask before doing anything as the LFS guy said not to do water changes during the cycling process. I think if I did water changes maybe twice a week it could even out. Any advice would be awesome here.
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Old 09-05-2017, 11:48 AM   #2
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A 25% water change during a fishless cycle isn't going to do much. It will remove 25% of whatever is in the water. Either ride it out or do a much larger water change.

The high nitrate levels are inconsistent with the point in the cycle where you appear to be. I would guess they are coming from your soil or some type plant related additive. What type of soil is that and are you adding anything else to the tank?

You definitely want to keep your ph from crashing as it will inhibit the cycling of your tank. what is your kh and ph out of the tap? Depending on how low your kh is starting out as you many need to adjust your co2 regimen, do more frequent water changes or add something to buffer kh. We would need to know your kh out of the tap to determine that though.
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Old 09-05-2017, 12:13 PM   #3
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I know for sure the Ph is almost a prefect 7 out of the tap. My city water is very good and not super hard. But that's going off the yearly newsletter. I dont have a tester for hardness ir TDS yet. Maybe I'll swing by the store and get one. I dosed some terra fert a week ago. It's 0-0-.1. Ive also been using sea chem stability, not sure if that matters.

The substrate is fluval shrimp and plant stratum. It buffers the water, lowering. The ph. I know co2 can also lower the ph so that's why I ask about that.
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Old 09-05-2017, 12:26 PM   #4
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Make sure you get a kit that tests carbonate hardness(kh) and not just general hardness(gh)

I am not familiar with that substrate but it claims to promote a ph of around 6.6. I didn't see any info on how it is doing that. It would be interesting to see if your ph stays at 6.4 or continues to drop.
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Old 09-05-2017, 02:32 PM   #5
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The local petco didn't have hardness or TDS testing kits. Bummer. I did talk to a guy there and he told me the hardness shouldn't be a factor when cycling a tank(at least with water from our city). He recommended RO if I get into crystals. He said he breeds shrimp mostly. Just the parameters I listed should be observed.

He recommend I stop adding fish food and do a small water change to bring it down a bit, but that it could still be establishing and I should mostly leave it be.

I am worried though. I noticed brown on my swords and other plants. I thought the plants were browning from lack of nutrients, but it rubs off when I rub it so I'm thinking this is algae. It almost looks brown. Should I rub the leaves or leave them alone? I see it on most of my plants. My swords are still pearling so I assume it's fine, but I have no algae eaters in the tank so I'm worried about it getting crazy and blocking light from my plants. This will be the first time I've had algae in my tanks.
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Old 09-05-2017, 02:43 PM   #6
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The reason kh is important is because it tells you how hard it is to move ph around.

If you have a low kh, you have to be careful with co2 or any additives that destroy carbonate hardness as they can cause a ph crash.

For now, just keep an eye on your ph and if it continues to drop do a large(>50%) water change to bring it back up.

Lastly, "the guy who works at petco" probably wouldn't be my first choice as a reliable information source. While it is possible you happened to run into a knowledgeable aquarist. The vast majority of them don't have a clue.
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Old 09-05-2017, 03:00 PM   #7
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Ohh ok. I think I get it now. Bacteria not cycling properly if the PH is too low makes total sense now.

I did a 25%-30% change this morning. I'm going to run my Airstone 24/7 for now on and cut the co2 off until this tank appears cycled. I think that may be the cause of this brown algae I'm seeing, at least based on what I'm reading. High nitrates(my case), low light(not a problem for me), and low o2(no drop checker so may be the case).

I will rub the brown algae off right before the next water change and hopefully that's enough to get it under control. I'm worried because it's on my smaller leaved plants as well. Even my dwarf hair-grass and baby tears. Hard to clean those without uprooting them or damaging them. If I can get this cycled and get some shrimp in there, maybe they'll eat it. I know they eat green algae...so hopefully they'll snack on this as well. I was thinking of adding an oto catfish as well. Not sure if that's over stocking the tank.

Yeah I always worry about that when I get into a new hobby. This guy seems to know quite a bit, but that's only based on his knowledge matching up with what I've been reading online the past few weeks.

Thanks for all the help man!
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