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Old 11-24-2021, 01:45 PM   #1
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Cycle stuck

Hi. I am a bit vexed... can someone advise please. 2 weeks ago I set up a 150l tank, conditioned water, about 10 grass plants, decent light, overfiltering with Fluval 407. I added ammonia about a week ago it so it read 2.0 ppm on my test kit and by this time the nitrite was already high at 4.0-8.0 ppm. So I reasoned the cycle was already well underway. For a few days I added a touch more ammonia to keep the levels up and this maintained the high nitrites. For the last 4 days I have stopped adding ammonia - what seems odd to is the ammonia levels have remained the same but the nitrites have dropped to a very light pink (less than 0.25ppm). What I am worried about is that I have a tank that will now be stuck with high ammonia and no nitrite. Has the cycle stalled in some way, it would make no sense to have? Any ideas would be great. Thanks.

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Old 11-24-2021, 02:39 PM   #2
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You are basically 1.5 week into possibly an 8 week process. Give it time. Eventually your ammonia will drop in a more consistent manner.

You need to have patience.
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Old 11-25-2021, 02:32 AM   #3
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OK, thanks Aitken Drum. Have put testing kit away for a week and not going to touch it. Not sure if I need to maintain the ammonia level artificially but will see what happens?
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Old 11-25-2021, 02:34 AM   #4
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To cycle a tank you need to grow denitrifying bacteria to consume ammonia and nitrite that your tank produces. The bacteria needs an ammonia source to grow colonies sufficient in size to consume all the ammonia and resultant nitrite and turn it into nitrate which typically you remove through your regular water changes.
A fishless cycle uses an ammonia source to replicate the fish waste that a tank of fish would produce. This ammonia source can be pure ammonia, an aquarium specific ammonium chloride product like Dr Tims Ammonium Chloride, a cocktail shrimp or fish food.
Ill assume we are using an ammonium chloride product.
Set up your tank. Make sure everything is running smoothly. Make sure you have used a water conditioner product with any tap water you have put in your tank. If you have an adjustable heater raise the temperature to 28c/82.5f.
Dose the ammonia chloride to approx 4ppm and start testing daily for ammonia. Once your ammonia drops below 1ppm redose it back to 2ppm. This may take a couple of weeks.
Start to test daily for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Whenever your ammonia drops below 1ppm redose it back to 2ppm.
You should start to see nitrite and possibly nitrate in your daily tests. Over time your nitrite should start to rise and the amount of ammonia should start to drop further. Your ammonia may start to not be detectable in your daily tests. Keep redosing ammonia daily if you see it below 1ppm. Your nitrite may rise off the testing chart. I prefer to keep nitrite within measurable levels so it shouldn’t hurt to do a water change to keep readings on the chart. Remember to add water conditioner whenever you put tap water in the tank. Nitrate should appear in your water test at some point too.
Over time your nitrite should level off and begin to fall in a similar manner to what your ammonia tests did. When you are able to dose ammonia to 2ppm and 24 hours later see 0 ammonia and nitrite you are cycled. At this point you have enough denitrifying bacteria to consume all the ammonia and nitrite of a moderately stocked tank. You may want to continue dosing ammonia for a few days to make sure it continues to consume all the ammonia and nitrite and be sure your cycle has properly established before proceeding.
You nitrate will likely be very high. Do a big water change to get nitrate down. Preferably below 10ppm. Adjust your temperature to the needs of your fish. Get your fish, acclimate and add to your tank. I would advise stocking lightly to start with and slowly adding fish until fully stocked.
A fishless cycle typically takes 6 to 8 weeks.
A good way to speed up this process would be to put a small amount of filter media from an established filter into your filter, or get a sponge from an established filter and squeeze it into your tank water. Perhaps you have a friend who keeps fish who could let you have some? This will seed your filter with the bacteria you are trying to grow and speed up the process.
Another option is bottled bacteria like Dr Tims One + Only or Tetra Safestart. These products wont instantly cycle a tank as they claim but in a similar manner to adding established filter media they can seed your filter with the bacteria you are trying to grow to establish your cycle. These products are hit and miss as to whether they work at all, but are an option if established filter media isnt obtainable and may speed up the process from several months to several weeks.
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Old 11-25-2021, 03:16 PM   #5
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Thanks Aitken for the guidance notes.

My water temperature is 24c so will raise it up to 28c.
I have a bottle of Dr Tims Ammonium Chloride, yes.

So, since Saturday 18th November (I set the tank up the weekend previous to that date) I have been taking a mobile photos of daily test readings along with writen notes as a reference.

From 18th-20th November
Ammonia (2.0ppm) – Dark Green
Nitrite (4-5ppm) – Dark Red
I continued to add a half a teaspoon or so of Ammonia on these days (started doing this a few days previous) as I assumed it would keep the levels up but I didn't notice the levels really going down or up.

Since 21st November
Ammonia is similar colour (2.0ppm) – Dark Green
Added another half teaspoon on one day
But Nitrite steadily down to 0-0.25ppm today (25th)

An API 5 in 1 test strip kit arrived today, got the following readings:

Nitrates and GH as well:
Testing strip r
GH: 180ppm
KH: 120ppm
pH: 7.5
NO2: 0.25
NO3: 10ppm

So both Nitrite and Nitrate are negligible. If the Nitrite had already peaked (which I thought might be the case with the high Nitrite levels end of last week and through the weekend) I would expect the Nitrate to be up? But this makes no sense anyway with the Ammonia levels still quite high?

I can't think of anything to account for the high Nitrite levels at the weekend that aren't a consequence of cycling: I have 8-10 small grass plants. I tested the tap water and no readings there. The filter is using the ceramic tubes, sponges and some activated charcoal that it came with it.

I am thinking now, should I boost the ammonia and assume the Nitrites will rise?

Thanks again!
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Old 11-25-2021, 03:27 PM   #6
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Just test everyday and if ammonia drops below 1ppm then top it up to 2ppm.

I have a theory on why cycles seem to start well and then stall after a few days. You tend to start a cycle with a bacterial supplement like tetra safestart. This adds the bacteria needed to cycle a tank into the water and in the short term it will work while in the water. Longer term however it needs to establish in your filter media and any bacteria that doesnt dies off after a period of time and your cycle stalls. Only a theory of mine but it explains how cycles start well and seem to regress.

Whats happening in your tank is the ammonia to nitrite stage started well but has now stalled (see above). Your nitrite to nitrate stage also started well, but now that not as much ammonia is going to nitrite the nitrite to nitrate stage will stall until the nitrite starts being produced again.
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Old 11-25-2021, 03:40 PM   #7
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Hello Again,

I have just had a bit of a thought.. I turned the temperature down from 27c to 24c a week ago, I am now thinking that might have thrown a spanner in the works and stalled the cycle? I'll crank the temperature up to 28c and keep the ammonia topped up and keep testing every day or two. Hopefully I'll be able to report back success sometime in December.

Thank you.
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Old 11-25-2021, 03:41 PM   #8
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I dont think dropping the temperature will cause things to go backwords. It would just cause slower progress, not undo progress you had already made.
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Old 11-25-2021, 03:55 PM   #9
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OK, I see your point, thanks. I'm not in a rush so I'll be patient, if it takes weeks, it takes weeks. I saw your theory... I only used ammonia and not a bacterial supplement with it, I got the impression it wasn't essential. But anyway, bit more heat and the right ammonia levels and fingers crossed.
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Old 11-26-2021, 01:59 PM   #10
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Hello again.

As I am now effectively starting again with cycling the tank is there anything about the filter media being in a 'failed cycle' state that might impede the bacteria growing to produce nitrite? If this is the case would it make sense to clean the filter out with tap water?

Many thanks.
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Old 11-26-2021, 02:05 PM   #11
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You arent starting again, your cycle didnt fail. You have been dosing ammonia, your cycle is progressing you just need to be patient and give it more time.
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Old 11-26-2021, 02:39 PM   #12
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OK, noted. Cheers.
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