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Old 09-28-2013, 11:28 AM   #1
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HELP Newbie, Couple of Qs on my Cycling Tank

Hey guys, got a couple of questions for you (posted one in a different forum but thought I'd expand to General Discussion for faster responses):

1. Can you do a water change on a still cycling, fishless, planted tank?

2. If one fears that their cycle has stalled (as in ammonia won't go down past .5ppm, even though it went to 0ppm last week for a couple days), would a water change help?

Reason I'm asking is that my 18 gallon freshwater tank (no fish, but live plants and drift wood), has become inundated with diatoms and hair algae and some of my plants are suffering from this coating of algae. My light is probably considered low/medium, but the plants are definitely growing. The tops on all of them look great, but down where there is more diatom accumulation, leaves and roots and stems seem to be dying. (Note: Lights are only on 6 hours tops a day).

Really I would prefer my plants to not die, especially because I just received more yesterday.

Question 2 pertains to the frustrating possibility that well, I think my cycle stalled. I'm not sure what's going on but nitrItes have been perpetually at 'off the charts' for two weeks (in that the solution turns purple as soon as it hits the bottom), and my ammonia refuses to go below 0.5ppm. This all happened around the beginning of this week. Before then things were going really smoothly, right on track. Now... doesn't seem as much.

I fear I may have shocked some of the bacteria when I topped off the tank level on Sunday or so. My house gets warm, and while mostly lidded, water just evaporates fast. But I think my last top-off had the water too cold? I'm not sure. That's all I can think of and so now the bacteria are trying to catch up.

Any thoughts? HELP.
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Old 09-28-2013, 12:18 PM   #2
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Water changes will not hurt the cycling. If your nitrites are that high, do several water changes in a row to bring them down to get a more accurate reading. If the nitrites stay high for a long period of time it can negatively affect the cycle. Sometimes a PH crash will happen when you cycle. Low PH will negatively affect the beneficial bacteria. Are you using a liquid test kit? If you have a PH test check it. If the PH has dropped to 6 or near that, add a pinch of baking soda to get it closer to 7. You can add eggshells, crushed coral, seashells, or limestone to buffer the water and prevent PH drops. Check out the article on fish less cycling on the main page. It gives you a lot of info to create a healthy bacteria colony.

The diatoms will go away after the silicates are gone. It can take a while. Just be patient. You can clean the plant leaves with a sponge or something so they can get light. What type of light are you using? Are you using CO2? Are you using any fertilizers? New tanks go through a lot of changes before they settle. I encountered every problem you can think of when I first set up my tank.
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Old 09-28-2013, 12:44 PM   #3
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Water changes will not hurt the cycling. If your nitrites are that high, do several water changes in a row to bring them down to get a more accurate reading. If the nitrites stay high for a long period of time it can negatively affect the cycle. Sometimes a PH crash will happen when you cycle. Low PH will negatively affect the beneficial bacteria. Are you using a liquid test kit? If you have a PH test check it. If the PH has dropped to 6 or near that, add a pinch of baking soda to get it closer to 7. You can add eggshells, crushed coral, seashells, or limestone to buffer the water and prevent PH drops. Check out the article on fish less cycling on the main page. It gives you a lot of info to create a healthy bacteria colony.

The diatoms will go away after the silicates are gone. It can take a while. Just be patient. You can clean the plant leaves with a sponge or something so they can get light. What type of light are you using? Are you using CO2? Are you using any fertilizers? New tanks go through a lot of changes before they settle. I encountered every problem you can think of when I first set up my tank.
Holy crapola, my PH is almost 6! I never even thought to test that, as my tap water PH is 8.

1. Ok so basically I'm going to do a huge WC today when I get back from an outing, and hopefully that'll fix the current PH problem for at least the short run. In the mean time, should I add a pinch of baking soda, or just wait till I do the WC?

If I were to add egg shell as a buffer, would I used crushed, or just pieces, and put it in my filter? (I have chickens... so there is a lot of egg around this house).

EDIT: I also have crushed oyster shell. Would that be something that would work as well?

Lights: 2 CFL day light bulbs, 1170 lumens each, etc. I think it's all fairly low light, but that's OK by me.
CO2: No injection set up, but I use the Flourish liquid CO2 each day.
Ferts: I put a little Flourish Comprehensive in once a week or so.
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Old 09-28-2013, 12:54 PM   #4
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I would do the soda, the egg shells can take a bit of time to break down to raise your ph and it sounds like you need a quicker fix. Just do a pinch in a cup of tank water to disolve and then add it to your tank. Do the water change just as soon as you get a chance to!
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Old 09-28-2013, 01:00 PM   #5
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I also suggest while your tank finishes cycling to put a small amount of the oyster shell in a media bag or woman's knee hi nylon and either add it to the filter or hang it under the filter overflow. This will ensure you have enough buffers in the tank until cycling is complete. Then you can just remove them.

Also just so you know anytime ph falls to below 6.5 biological activity slows. If ph falls to 6 or below biological activity not only stops but beneficial bacteria begins to die off.
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Old 09-28-2013, 01:00 PM   #6
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PHEW ok, put some in, it's a bit closer to 7 now. I might raise it just a smidgen more though, since it's going to be a bit until I can do the water change. BUT IT WILL HAPPEN TODAY. (Also correction, my tap water is closer to 8.8. I somehow feel that my topping off of the tank's water level almost every day may have saved me from TOTAL annihilation of the cycle).

Oh my god, though, somehow I feel so relieved to have at least found SOMETHING out. ....And that somehow my plants are doing just fine through all of this (despite some parts dying from algae).

Tanks.... so temperamental....
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Old 09-28-2013, 01:04 PM   #7
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I also suggest while your tank finishes cycling to put a small amount of the oyster shell in a media bag or woman's knee hi nylon and either add it to the filter or hang it under the filter overflow. This will ensure you have enough buffers in the tank until cycling is complete. Then you can just remove them.

Also just so you know anytime ph falls to below 6.5 biological activity slows. If ph falls to 6 or below biological activity not only stops but beneficial bacteria begins to die off.
I knew having chickens would pay off one day (kidding...Sort of.)! And I even have some old nylons lying around, so I'll definitely be putting some of that in the tank. Should I do it now, or wait till after the water change?

I had never read that before but now it makes so much sense (the slowing or stopping of biological activity. That'd explain why while my plants ARE growing, they're doing it much slower now compared to before. ...As well as the whole failure in converting ammonia completely).

Thank you!
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Old 09-28-2013, 01:15 PM   #8
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You can add the oyster shell now. You don't have to wait to do the WC.
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Old 09-28-2013, 01:20 PM   #9
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Ok, awesome. I wish I had time to do the WC now, but 20 minutes will definitely not be enough lol. Can do the oyster shell though, which makes me feel better.

Thank you!
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Old 09-28-2013, 03:46 PM   #10
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You can add the eggshells crushed or in halves to buffer the water against PH swings. Most people suggest seashells or crushed coral but I live out in the country and could not find crushed coral. Way to expensive to order on line for me. I have lots of chickens around though. I just washed the egg halves, removed the internal membrane (I was told later that wasn't necessary. The fish will eat it.) and then made little huts out of them for the fish. The shrimp loved them. I hide them under the plants. Brown eggs are easy to hide in the plants. I did this for my mystery snail tank when I was hatching them. They stayed around the shells all the time. You can also make your own calcium supplement from powdered egg shell. One teaspoon has around 600 mg of calcium. Great to supplement for invertebrates or humans.
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Old 09-28-2013, 06:16 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by wildroseofky View Post
You can add the eggshells crushed or in halves to buffer the water against PH swings. Most people suggest seashells or crushed coral but I live out in the country and could not find crushed coral. Way to expensive to order on line for me. I have lots of chickens around though. I just washed the egg halves, removed the internal membrane (I was told later that wasn't necessary. The fish will eat it.) and then made little huts out of them for the fish. The shrimp loved them. I hide them under the plants. Brown eggs are easy to hide in the plants. I did this for my mystery snail tank when I was hatching them. They stayed around the shells all the time. You can also make your own calcium supplement from powdered egg shell. One teaspoon has around 600 mg of calcium. Great to supplement for invertebrates or humans.
That's really interesting and good information! Learn something new all the time.
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Old 09-29-2013, 01:27 AM   #12
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@Wildrose: What an excellent idea! So you just leave the halved, cleaned shell right there in the tank? I may have to try that some time. I got the oyster shell hanging under the tank's water out-put....hopefully that's an acceptable place. But the egg thing.... I even have a chicken that lays dark brown eggs.



Update: Ok, did a 90% WC this afternoon, and ended up rescaping things and adding more plants (because they came in yesterday). Things look good, and the PH seems to be OK right now. I raised the ammonia to 2ppm (tried to aim for 1, but overshot it).

HOWEVER... the nirtIte levels are still super high. not AS high as before, but still turning a little purple once the solution hit the tube's bottom. There was a difference though between today's earlier test, and the one after the WC.
..... But the question is:

How can I lower it more, or keep it from harming everything again? Should I do a PWC tomorrow?

(I think what caused all this was that I was dosing the ammonia back up pretty high, and just went too high for too long and the nitrite converting bacteria weren't numerous enough to handle the load. Thus... way too much nitrite and no where for it to go, which then caused the PH drop and the stall. Man oh man. )
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Old 09-29-2013, 01:34 AM   #13
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You can add the eggshells crushed or in halves to buffer the water against PH swings. Most people suggest seashells or crushed coral but I live out in the country and could not find crushed coral. Way to expensive to order on line for me. I have lots of chickens around though. I just washed the egg halves, removed the internal membrane (I was told later that wasn't necessary. The fish will eat it.) and then made little huts out of them for the fish. The shrimp loved them. I hide them under the plants. Brown eggs are easy to hide in the plants. I did this for my mystery snail tank when I was hatching them. They stayed around the shells all the time. You can also make your own calcium supplement from powdered egg shell. One teaspoon has around 600 mg of calcium. Great to supplement for invertebrates or humans.
That's so smart! We have about 30 chickens so I will have to remember this!
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Old 09-29-2013, 10:09 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Zoomy;2668925 Update: Ok, did a 90% WC this afternoon, and ended up rescaping things and adding more plants (because they came in yesterday). Things look good, and the PH seems to be OK right now. I raised the ammonia to 2ppm (tried to aim for 1, but overshot it).

HOWEVER... the nirtIte levels are still super high. not AS high as before, but still turning a little purple once the solution hit the tube's bottom. There was a difference though between today's earlier test, and the one after the WC.
..... But the question is:

[COLOR=red
How can I lower it more, or keep it from harming everything again?[/COLOR] Should I do a PWC tomorrow?

(I think what caused all this was that I was dosing the ammonia back up pretty high, and just went too high for too long and the nitrite converting bacteria weren't numerous enough to handle the load. Thus... way too much nitrite and no where for it to go, which then caused the PH drop and the stall. Man oh man. )
You don't want to lower the nitrites too low as you want enough for the bacteria that's needed for nitrates. You don't want it off the charts but you want some to keep the cycle moving. Also the nitrite cycle is the longest part of the cycling process.

Where you have the oyster shells is perfect.
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Old 09-29-2013, 10:24 AM   #15
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You don't want to lower the nitrites too low as you want enough for the bacteria that's needed for nitrates. You don't want it off the charts but you want some to keep the cycle moving. Also the nitrite cycle is the longest part of the cycling process.

Where you have the oyster shells is perfect.
Ah, ok. I'll keep things as-is then, for the time being. Wasn't sure if having the tube turn purple at the bottom before shaking was OK (though last night, while it did that, it turned dark purple when I inverted the tube, compared to earlier that day when it'd actually turn light purple and then blue). Hopefully things are as they should be now.

Thank you!!

I will post an update when I have one.
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Old 09-29-2013, 11:41 AM   #16
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What kind of fish are you planning to stock? If you are interested in South American fish like tetras, Rams, Discus, etc. I would caution against raising the ph
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Old 09-29-2013, 12:04 PM   #17
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What kind of fish are you planning to stock? If you are interested in South American fish like tetras, Rams, Discus, etc. I would caution against raising the ph
In this case the OP's ph was crashing which is common during cycling therefore the tanks ph needed to be raised. The oyster shell is only temporary to keep buffers in the tank so there is not another large ph drop which stalls cycling. Once the tank is cycled the oyster shell will no longer be needed.
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Old 09-29-2013, 07:37 PM   #18
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What Rivercats said (thanks) 8D! Thing stalled out on me because I was dumb, hence the oyster shell.

But none to worry anyways. The tank's going to be getting a betta fish and some corys, and maybe either some shrimps or a couple otos (hesitant on the otos, but we'll see. I keep reading that they're really finicky/intolerant of tank changes, and I'm not sure yet if my set-up will be stable enough for them). Thank you for bringing that up, though! I hadn't mentioned it before.
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Old 09-29-2013, 07:51 PM   #19
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The thing with Oto cats is first they need to be put in a mature tank (4-6 months old) to ensure water parameters are stable and there is adequate bio-film in the tank. The reason Oto's seem so delicate is because a good portion of them are caught using cyanide which stuns them and makes collecting them easy. If the poison doesn't kill them outright it causes issues and that combined with all the various holding stations and shipping they go through before getting to a home aquarium only a small portion are strong enough to make it. Also many won't eat processed food or fresh veggies. I recently got 25 Oto's and they are the best one's I've gotten in ages. They all took to blanched zucchini and Repashy Algae Superfoods right away. I've got some pretty old oto's that I've still never seen eat anything other than what they forage from the tank.
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Old 09-29-2013, 10:03 PM   #20
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The thing with Oto cats is first they need to be put in a mature tank (4-6 months old) to ensure water parameters are stable and there is adequate bio-film in the tank. The reason Oto's seem so delicate is because a good portion of them are caught using cyanide which stuns them and makes collecting them easy. If the poison doesn't kill them outright it causes issues and that combined with all the various holding stations and shipping they go through before getting to a home aquarium only a small portion are strong enough to make it. Also many won't eat processed food or fresh veggies. I recently got 25 Oto's and they are the best one's I've gotten in ages. They all took to blanched zucchini and Repashy Algae Superfoods right away. I've got some pretty old oto's that I've still never seen eat anything other than what they forage from the tank.
Oh wow, really?! Those poor buggers... Their delicate health makes much more sense now; I hadn't realized they get put through so much to get from point A to B to C and so on, let alone the cyanide thing. Are most 'hobby' otos farm bred/raised, or are they wild caught?

I'll definitely be waiting then before getting those guys, if I end up wanting some. Glad you've got some really nice stock though, from the sound of things!
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