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Old 04-16-2006, 07:05 PM   #1
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Some cycling questions...

I've just started my 30-gallon XH tank (got the XH because I intend to have a pair of angelfish), and it's in the process of cycling now. But somehow, I don't think things are going so well...

The tank is filtered by an Emperor 400, which does an EXCELLENT job of providing circulation down to the bottom of the tank. Because of an inability to find pure ammonia, I've had to go with fish cycling, using three swordtails (1M, 2F). They were put in the tank on Thursday afternoon, and the ammonia had spiked by that night. Did a water change, about 20% (6 gallons). pH was 7.0, no nitrites, no nitrates. Did not feed the fish, per expert recommendation.

Friday, the ammonia had spiked again. Another water change, about 30% (10 gallons). pH was again 7.0, no nitrites, no nitrates. Again, did not feed fish.

Saturday: Repeat of Friday, water change of 8 gallons, about 25%. Fish have not eaten.

Now it is Sunday, and my water conditions remain the same as they were Thursday night. I put some old filter media (from the cycled betta tank, a month-old Tetra 3i cartridge) into the filter, behind the media. I have also discovered a free sample of Stress Zyme that came with my aquarium kit. Has anyone here used this product? Is it helpful? Is it safe to use, with fish already in the tank? How much water should I be changing at once during cycling?

Also, the fish still haven't been fed. They're picking at the fake plants, the aquarium walls, and the sealant, and (in my opinion) they're starting to look a little thin. When is it safe to feed them?

One of my swordtails (I believe the male) squeaks--he sounds almost exactly like a mouse. I know it's the fish--I've unplugged the equipment, and the sound continues. Is this normal behaviour, or should I start investigating the parentage of my fish?
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Old 04-16-2006, 07:14 PM   #2
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It is safe to feed your fish. I would feed on an every other day basis. Just be prepared to do water changes for the increased levels. I have never used Stress Zyme so I can not comment on it's abilities. Some fish do make noises. It's not uncommon.
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Old 04-16-2006, 09:10 PM   #3
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What do you mean by the Ammonia spiked? What was the level, and what kind of test kit did you use? Test strips are notoriously inaccurate.

Have you tested your tap water for ammonia? Chloramines in a municipal water supply will turn the ammonia test positive. I only bring this up because I would not have thought 3 swordtails in a 30 gal tank would cause a "spike" so fast. Thus, I was wondering if you started out with some " ammonia" in the form of chloramines. Few test thier tap water, and even fewer would test thier tank before the fish were in, so that chloramines are commonly detected after fish are in and someone is puzzled by the ammoia readings they get.

No, I have never heard a swordtail squeek, but I do have a clicking loach.
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Old 04-16-2006, 10:15 PM   #4
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The local water does have chloromines, I've used Seachem's Prime to treat the water, which does remove them.

I don't know if the ammonia is 'spiking' per se. Both Aquarium Pharmaceuticals and TetraTest (liquid-based kits, both) report the ammonia as 1.5 mg/L. Yes, I'm redundant. But I think it's safer to be redundant than to just rely on one test kit. I don't know what values are considered 'spiking,' but the report sheet with the TetraTest kit says that 1.5 is too high. So, I did a water change.

I definitely tested the water beforehand, both straight out of the tap and once it had been treated by Prime. After Prime, ammonia was not present.
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Old 04-17-2006, 09:28 AM   #5
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Ah-ha! I strongly suspect that the chloramines in your water are responsible for your readings! I have a web page that explains what I have been able to discover about test kits and water treatments at:

http://home.comcast.net/~tomstank/to...s/page0018.htm

Check it out. Aquarium Pharmacueticals, Marine Labs, and Amquel all make the water conditioners and "Ammonia binders." Amquel is more forthcoming with an explanation of the chemistry of its product. All of these companies are in competition, and make claims about thier own products and thier competitors that are hard for a home aquarist to verify.

But the ammonia treatments do not "remove" the chloramines or ammonia from the water. All dechlorinators will break the chlorine-ammonia bond in chloramine, leaving the chlorine to diffuse out of the water and the ammonia behind. The ammonia binders will make the ammonia left behind non-toxic to fish. What is not easy to discover, is the exact effect they have on the salicylate (two bottle) ammonia test. One manufacturer claims that thier product does not effect the salicylate test but thier competitors does, there by "hiding" the ammonia and decieving the aquarist into thinking its gone. The other says thier product is "compatible" with the salicyclate test. Amquel makes no statement about it. So, it appears that the use of ammonia binders may or may not lower the ammonia reading of a salicylate test, possibly depending on which brand is used. All manufacturers agree that they cause false way high results on a Nessler reagent ammonia test.

So, I think your ammonia readings in the 1 to 1.5 ppm range at this stage of your cycle are due to the chloramines. Chloramines, according to the USA water quality websites, can be administered up to 3 ppm. Of all the AA users I have typed to so far, most fall in the 0.5 to 1 ppm range, with one over that, like you. Take some untreated tap water and run your ammonia test. I bet it comes out pretty close to the range you are seeing in your tank. This is the ammonia level going into your tank with each water change, wether your test sees it or not. Perhaps the disappearing and reappearing positive ammonia results is a chemistry question beyond my abilities to explain.

If the ammonia binders do what the manufacturers say, they are keeping your fish safe, and probably also still feeding the nitrifying bacteria. Thats a good thing. Having chloramines in your water is a bad thing, so you must always use water conditioner, a dechlorinator at the minimum. Later, once your biologic filter is established, the ammonia left behind after chloramine treatment of water change water will be quickly diluted by your tank and metabloized by your nitrifying bacteria. Thats a good thing, since after your cycle you can have fish and not worry about it.

So, was your untreated tap water test similar to what you see in your tank?
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Old 04-17-2006, 10:47 AM   #6
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Tests post-treatment of water reveal no chloramines. Tests pre-treatment reveal lower levels of ammonia. As I have previously stated, Seachem Prime does remove chloramines. It is doing its job properly.

So, in other words, no, it wasn't.
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Old 04-17-2006, 11:25 AM   #7
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Well then, you are doing all the right things and are on the right track. Keep up with those PWC's to limit ammonia and nitrite exposure. Like your test kit states, 1.5ppm is too high, and most would recommend keeping it below 1ppm, or even better below 0.5ppm if you can. Obviously, the lower the better. Many people put no faith in the "cycle" products offered for sale, other than BioSpira. And there been some mixed resultes with BioSpira. But I don't think that Stress Zyme will hurt anything, even with fish in the tank, so its up to you. Feed sparingly, only what your fish can consume in a few minutes, and once a day or every other day like fishyfanatic says. Less feeding means less ammonia, hopefully. I wuold advise against adding more fish to the tank until your cycle is over, and then increase slowly thereafter. Hopefully the "seed" from your other tanks will shorten the time required. Good Luck!
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Old 04-17-2006, 01:08 PM   #8
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Is ppm the same as mg/L, just an American version?
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Old 04-17-2006, 01:14 PM   #9
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Yes ppm and mg/L are the same thing.
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Old 04-17-2006, 01:16 PM   #10
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Yes. since one liter wieghs 1000 grams, which is 1 million milligrams, one milligram per liter is the same as one milligram per million milligrams of water, or more easily stated one part per million.
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