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Old 08-04-2022, 06:39 PM   #1
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Cycling question

My tap water contains chloramine which I know leaves behind ammonia after using water conditioner. Iím currently trying to cycle my new 10 gallon tank. I have been testing ammonia levels using the api test kit, however I have seen no drop in the ammonia level or rise in nitrites or nitrates. Out of curiosity I bought seachems multi test for ammonia. I found after using this test that I have almost no NH3 ( free ammonia ) and tons of NH4+ ( ionized ammonia). I want 0 ammonia in my tank but it does not seem to go away. I also believe Iím having a bacterial bloom which has not gone away for almost a week. Please help and provide suggestions to solve these issues as I am new to the fish keeping community and really want to do things right. Thank you.

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Old 08-05-2022, 01:25 AM   #2
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Are you doing a fishless cycle or cycling with fish?

It just takes time. Whichever route you are going cycling a tank takes around a couple of months. How long have you been going?

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 08-05-2022, 01:57 AM   #3
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Are you doing a fishless cycle or cycling with fish?

It just takes time. Whichever route you are going cycling a tank takes around a couple of months. How long have you been going?

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.


Thanks for the response. Unfortunately I donít have anyone to borrow some filter media from. And itís a fishless cycle It has been going for about 4 weeks. My tap water is very strange. There is 0 ammonia but lots of NH4+ ( ammonium ) which I read is not harmful to fish. So I may test my tap water to see if there is Regular ammonia (NH3). If there is in the tap then the tank could possibly already be cycled. I also ordered some fritz liquid bacteria and some fritz fishleas fuel in case the tank is cycled so no bacteria die.
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Old 08-05-2022, 02:39 AM   #4
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Im not sure if you fully understand whats going on with the ammonia/ammonium so ill drop some explanatory stuff just in case.

When ammonia is refered to by most aquatics people, whether they realise it or not, they are actually refering to total ammonia nitrogen (TAN) because thats what the vast majority of test kits test for. TAN is free ammonia + ammonium. Your test kit is one of the few that distinguishes between the two and gives you a fuller picture, but really isnt telling you anything useful while doing a fishless cycle.

Free ammonia and ammonium will be in a proportion determined by pH and water temperature. The higher these are the more of your TAN will be free ammonia and the more toxic your water will be. If your pH rises ammonium will turn to free ammonia and if pH falls the reverse happens.

The bacteria responsible for your cycle turns ammonia (TAN) into nitrite, then nitrate. It doesnt distinguish between free ammonia and ammonium. If you are detecting either you arent cycled. With a fish in cycle it might be useful to know your level of free ammonia, but with a fishless cycle less so because you arent trying to keep anything alive.

If you want to persist with a fishless cycle it needs time. A couple of months is typical, but can take much longer. Raising the temperature is an option with fishless cycling as it promotes bacteria growth. If you have an adjustable heater raise the temperature to 28c/82.5f as this is the optimum temperature for doing this.

How are you dosing ammonia? What level are you dosing to? Do you know your pH?
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Old 08-05-2022, 03:06 AM   #5
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Cycling question

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Originally Posted by Aiken Drum View Post
Im not sure if you fully understand whats going on with the ammonia/ammonium so ill drop some explanatory stuff just in case.

When ammonia is refered to by most aquatics people, whether they realise it or not, they are actually refering to total ammonia nitrogen (TAN) because thats what the vast majority of test kits test for. TAN is free ammonia + ammonium. Your test kit is one of the few that distinguishes between the two and gives you a fuller picture, but really isnt telling you anything useful while doing a fishless cycle.

Free ammonia and ammonium will be in a proportion determined by pH and water temperature. The higher these are the more of your TAN will be free ammonia and the more toxic your water will be. If your pH rises ammonium will turn to free ammonia and if pH falls the reverse happens.

The bacteria responsible for your cycle turns ammonia (TAN) into nitrite, then nitrate. It doesnt distinguish between free ammonia and ammonium. If you are detecting either you arent cycled. With a fish in cycle it might be useful to know your level of free ammonia, but with a fishless cycle less so because you arent trying to keep anything alive.

If you want to persist with a fishless cycle it needs time. A couple of months is typical, but can take much longer. Raising the temperature is an option with fishless cycling as it promotes bacteria growth. If you have an adjustable heater raise the temperature to 28c/82.5f as this is the optimum temperature for doing this.

How are you dosing ammonia? What level are you dosing to? Do you know your pH?


I understand now. I was confused if ammonium made a difference or not. My ph is around 8 using the judging from the api test. I do have an ammonia API test kit so I will use that from now on to measure total ammonia. The ammonia on the API test measures really high at 4 ppm, and I have not been dosing ammonia. All of the ammonia in the tank is from the tap water. I have ordered ammonia to dose with though. Do you think It would be better to switch to a fish in cycle? Or do you think I should leave the tank as is for now and dose once the ammonia finally goes down? Thank you for responding and sorry for all of these questions. I just want to get everything right and I havenít been able to get a response from other forums.
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Old 08-05-2022, 03:55 AM   #6
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There is no need to apologise for the questions. Its what the forum is here for.

At a pH of 8 and lets say a water temperature of 24c you should be seeing 0.2ppm free ammonia from 4ppm TAN. Thats very high for free ammonia. Ive never used the test kit you are using for free ammonia so i dont know what the lower level is for the test to detect, but if it should be able to detect 0.2ppm free ammonia then it could be an issue with one of the tests you are doing.

4ppm ammonia from chloramine in your tap is really high. Is that drinkable? Do you have access to your tap waters water quality report from your water company? Normal level of chloramine treatment is 2 to 4ppm of chloramine. Here in the UK maximum chloramine level is lower at 1.5ppm i think. About 1/4 of the chloramine should be coming out as ammonia so 0.5 to 1ppm ammonia is what most people who have chloramine treated water see.

Personally i wouldnt switch to fish in cycle at the moment, as im not sure what we are seeing. If your free ammonia test is correct then its would be safe to switch. If my working out of what free ammonia you should be seeing based on TAN and pH is correct, any fish would die quite quickly. Longer term, if your tap water really is 4ppm ammonia and with such high pH it might not ever be safe to keep fish in it as everytime you did a water change you would be putting in very toxic water.

For now i would leave things to cycle fishless.

See if you can get a water report from the water company as it will be more accurate than your own tests. Here in UK you can get water quality reports online. Im not sure if thats available where you are located, but you should be able to request a report if you cant access it online. If you are able to get hold of this, look for chloramine levels, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, general hardness (GH) and carbonate hardness (KH) and let us know what it says.

Treat a jug of water with water conditioner, let it sit overnight and test it for pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Compare it with what you see in your tanks water. Let us know the results of this comparison.
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Old 08-05-2022, 04:16 AM   #7
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There is no need to apologise for the questions. Its what the forum is here for.

At a pH of 8 and lets say a water temperature of 24c you should be seeing 0.2ppm free ammonia from 4ppm TAN. Thats very high for free ammonia. Ive never used the test kit you are using for free ammonia so i dont know what the lower level is for the test to detect, but if it should be able to detect 0.2ppm free ammonia then it could be an issue with one of the tests you are doing.

4ppm ammonia from chloramine in your tap is really high. Is that drinkable? Do you have access to your tap waters water quality report from your water company? Normal level of chloramine treatment is 2 to 4ppm of chloramine. Here in the UK maximum chloramine level is lower at 1.5ppm i think. About 1/4 of the chloramine should be coming out as ammonia so 0.5 to 1ppm ammonia is what most people who have chloramine treated water see.

Personally i wouldnt switch to fish in cycle at the moment, as im not sure what we are seeing. If your free ammonia test is correct then its would be safe to switch. If my working out of what free ammonia you should be seeing based on TAN and pH is correct, any fish would die quite quickly. Longer term, if your tap water really is 4ppm ammonia and with such high pH it might not ever be safe to keep fish in it as everytime you did a water change you would be putting in very toxic water.

For now i would leave things to cycle fishless.

See if you can get a water report from the water company as it will be more accurate than your own tests. Here in UK you can get water quality reports online. Im not sure if thats available where you are located, but you should be able to request a report if you cant access it online. If you are able to get hold of this, look for chloramine levels, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, general hardness (GH) and carbonate hardness (KH) and let us know what it says.

Treat a jug of water with water conditioner, let it sit overnight and test it for pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Compare it with what you see in your tanks water. Let us know the results of this comparison.


I was thinking it was a very high reading as well but Iíve double checked with the 2 different tests and it seems to be accurate. I found the water quality report here ď https://www.cityofkeller.com/home/sh...77724257470000 ď. I was also worried about the water change situation you mentioned. I did some research on that and in other forums I found it was recommended to use seachems prime which detoxifies the ammonia for 24 hours allowing the bacteria to consume the ammonia without harming the fish in the process. But this does also worry me because if Iím reading the water report correctly, the nitrate is 10 ppm, which makes me think that I would have to do constant water changes since the new ammonia from the water change would just raise the nitrates back to where I started. Really sucks if this is the case. I will go ahead and treat some water tomorrow and let it sit through out the day since it is currently late at night here. I will reply with those results tomorrow.
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Old 08-05-2022, 04:45 AM   #8
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There is no need to apologise for the questions. Its what the forum is here for.

At a pH of 8 and lets say a water temperature of 24c you should be seeing 0.2ppm free ammonia from 4ppm TAN. Thats very high for free ammonia. Ive never used the test kit you are using for free ammonia so i dont know what the lower level is for the test to detect, but if it should be able to detect 0.2ppm free ammonia then it could be an issue with one of the tests you are doing.

4ppm ammonia from chloramine in your tap is really high. Is that drinkable? Do you have access to your tap waters water quality report from your water company? Normal level of chloramine treatment is 2 to 4ppm of chloramine. Here in the UK maximum chloramine level is lower at 1.5ppm i think. About 1/4 of the chloramine should be coming out as ammonia so 0.5 to 1ppm ammonia is what most people who have chloramine treated water see.

Personally i wouldnt switch to fish in cycle at the moment, as im not sure what we are seeing. If your free ammonia test is correct then its would be safe to switch. If my working out of what free ammonia you should be seeing based on TAN and pH is correct, any fish would die quite quickly. Longer term, if your tap water really is 4ppm ammonia and with such high pH it might not ever be safe to keep fish in it as everytime you did a water change you would be putting in very toxic water.

For now i would leave things to cycle fishless.

See if you can get a water report from the water company as it will be more accurate than your own tests. Here in UK you can get water quality reports online. Im not sure if thats available where you are located, but you should be able to request a report if you cant access it online. If you are able to get hold of this, look for chloramine levels, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, general hardness (GH) and carbonate hardness (KH) and let us know what it says.

Treat a jug of water with water conditioner, let it sit overnight and test it for pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Compare it with what you see in your tanks water. Let us know the results of this comparison.


I have a reply responding to your previous reply incoming including a link to the water quality report. Just needs to be approved since Iím a new user. Just another quick question, will the bacteria feed off of ammonium itself? Or do they only feed on pure ammonia?
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Old 08-05-2022, 05:44 AM   #9
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I was thinking it was a very high reading as well but Iíve double checked with the 2 different tests and it seems to be accurate. I found the water quality report here ď https://www.cityofkeller.com/home/sh...77724257470000 ď. I was also worried about the water change situation you mentioned. I did some research on that and in other forums I found it was recommended to use seachems prime which detoxifies the ammonia for 24 hours allowing the bacteria to consume the ammonia without harming the fish in the process. But this does also worry me because if Iím reading the water report correctly, the nitrate is 10 ppm, which makes me think that I would have to do constant water changes since the new ammonia from the water change would just raise the nitrates back to where I started. Really sucks if this is the case. I will go ahead and treat some water tomorrow and let it sit through out the day since it is currently late at night here. I will reply with those results tomorrow.
Your water report roughly indicates a level of chloramine about 4ppm which is normal. That should come out as about 1ppm ammonia. Do the 24 hours testing on your tapwater and see what the level is. If it still shows 4ppm ammonia then its possible your water company has temporarily increased the amount of treatment added due to some issue in the network. If it shows the expected level of 1ppm in the tapwater, then something in the tank is contributing, the substrate is a likely source. This ammonia will gradually get less as the ammonia rinses out from wherever its coming from.

Prime "claims" it will detoxify ammonia for a short period of time. Lets assume it does. In which case it will give your cycle time to remove ammonia and cycle it to nitrate once you are cycled.

Nitrate at 10ppm isnt much of an issue. I have similar. In a cycled tank you have nitrate. Your cycle produces nitrate. Nitrate is safe at quite high levels. 40ppm is generally considered a good upper limit, but many people keep fish healthy and happy are much higher levels than that. You are correct that water changes with 10ppm nitrate wont bring the levels down as much as it would be if the new water was clear. But, if you stock sensibly and change water weekly you should easily be able to keep nitrate at safe levels.
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Old 08-05-2022, 05:46 AM   #10
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I have a reply responding to your previous reply incoming including a link to the water quality report. Just needs to be approved since Iím a new user. Just another quick question, will the bacteria feed off of ammonium itself? Or do they only feed on pure ammonia?
Ive approved your post.

Bacteria will feed off ammonium. It doesnt care if its free ammonia or ammonium. When cycled you will see neither.
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Old 08-05-2022, 12:08 PM   #11
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Your water report roughly indicates a level of chloramine about 4ppm which is normal. That should come out as about 1ppm ammonia. Do the 24 hours testing on your tapwater and see what the level is. If it still shows 4ppm ammonia then its possible your water company has temporarily increased the amount of treatment added due to some issue in the network. If it shows the expected level of 1ppm in the tapwater, then something in the tank is contributing, the substrate is a likely source. This ammonia will gradually get less as the ammonia rinses out from wherever its coming from.

Prime "claims" it will detoxify ammonia for a short period of time. Lets assume it does. In which case it will give your cycle time to remove ammonia and cycle it to nitrate once you are cycled.

Nitrate at 10ppm isnt much of an issue. I have similar. In a cycled tank you have nitrate. Your cycle produces nitrate. Nitrate is safe at quite high levels. 40ppm is generally considered a good upper limit, but many people keep fish healthy and happy are much higher levels than that. You are correct that water changes with 10ppm nitrate wont bring the levels down as much as it would be if the new water was clear. But, if you stock sensibly and change water weekly you should easily be able to keep nitrate at safe levels.


Good to hear about the nitrate. I will go ahead and condition some of my tap water and report back later with the results. Thanks!
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Old 08-06-2022, 12:22 AM   #12
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Ive approved your post.

Bacteria will feed off ammonium. It doesnt care if its free ammonia or ammonium. When cycled you will see neither.


Alright Iíve tested my conditioned tap water.
Results:

Ph 7-7.2
Nitrate is 10 ppm
Nitrite is .5 ppm
Total Ammonia is less than .2

Iíve also just tested my aquariums total ammonia and the test showed 4ppm. Aquarium also has a ph of 7.6-7.8 .
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Old 08-06-2022, 03:52 AM   #13
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Ok. That seems more like what i would expect to see based on your tapwater report and does open some options.

Firstly that ammonia in the tank is coming from somewhere, its not in your tapwater. It could be leeching out of your substrate, maybe leeching out of some driftwood do you have any live plants that may have some die off? It should stop leeching out after a while, maybe it already has.

Its really up to you how to proceed. You can either proceed with your fishless cycle and wait it out, or do a 100% water change and switch to a fish in cycle. Pros and cons with each route.

I will say we get a lot of traffic on this forum with problems cycling tanks. By far i see more people having issues with fishless cycles than fish in cycles. They dont really understand how to do fishless, expect it to run to a timetable, etc. Almost every time they make the switch it resolves their problem and their tank cycles.

4 weeks isnt really enough time to judge whether your fishless cycle is progressing, especially as ammonia has been leeching into the system giving the appearance that it isnt dropping when it might have been doing.

Personally i would change some of the water. If you have some ammonia on the way, i would just as an experiment change it all. See if goes up again while in the tank and if so how quickly. You can dose it with ammonia when it arrives and continue your fishless cycle, or if it isnt rising at a ridiculously fast rate get some fish and change to a fish in cycle.

Either way, as you dont have access to cycled filter media I would try a product like safe start. May or may not work, but worth a try.
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Old 08-06-2022, 12:03 PM   #14
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Ok. That seems more like what i would expect to see based on your tapwater report and does open some options.

Firstly that ammonia in the tank is coming from somewhere, its not in your tapwater. It could be leeching out of your substrate, maybe leeching out of some driftwood do you have any live plants that may have some die off? It should stop leeching out after a while, maybe it already has.

Its really up to you how to proceed. You can either proceed with your fishless cycle and wait it out, or do a 100% water change and switch to a fish in cycle. Pros and cons with each route.

I will say we get a lot of traffic on this forum with problems cycling tanks. By far i see more people having issues with fishless cycles than fish in cycles. They dont really understand how to do fishless, expect it to run to a timetable, etc. Almost every time they make the switch it resolves their problem and their tank cycles.

4 weeks isnt really enough time to judge whether your fishless cycle is progressing, especially as ammonia has been leeching into the system giving the appearance that it isnt dropping when it might have been doing.

Personally i would change some of the water. If you have some ammonia on the way, i would just as an experiment change it all. See if goes up again while in the tank and if so how quickly. You can dose it with ammonia when it arrives and continue your fishless cycle, or if it isnt rising at a ridiculously fast rate get some fish and change to a fish in cycle.

Either way, as you dont have access to cycled filter media I would try a product like safe start. May or may not work, but worth a try.


I do have some live plants which may be the cause. I also suspect the root tabs may have contributed to this since some of them rose out of the sand and dissolved on the surface of the sand.

I will do a complete change of the water and monitor the ammonia. I do have ammonia coming in tomorrow. I may just end up doing fish in if the ammonia does regulate. Thanks for the recommendation.
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Old 08-07-2022, 01:38 AM   #15
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Ok. That seems more like what i would expect to see based on your tapwater report and does open some options.

Firstly that ammonia in the tank is coming from somewhere, its not in your tapwater. It could be leeching out of your substrate, maybe leeching out of some driftwood do you have any live plants that may have some die off? It should stop leeching out after a while, maybe it already has.

Its really up to you how to proceed. You can either proceed with your fishless cycle and wait it out, or do a 100% water change and switch to a fish in cycle. Pros and cons with each route.

I will say we get a lot of traffic on this forum with problems cycling tanks. By far i see more people having issues with fishless cycles than fish in cycles. They dont really understand how to do fishless, expect it to run to a timetable, etc. Almost every time they make the switch it resolves their problem and their tank cycles.

4 weeks isnt really enough time to judge whether your fishless cycle is progressing, especially as ammonia has been leeching into the system giving the appearance that it isnt dropping when it might have been doing.

Personally i would change some of the water. If you have some ammonia on the way, i would just as an experiment change it all. See if goes up again while in the tank and if so how quickly. You can dose it with ammonia when it arrives and continue your fishless cycle, or if it isnt rising at a ridiculously fast rate get some fish and change to a fish in cycle.

Either way, as you dont have access to cycled filter media I would try a product like safe start. May or may not work, but worth a try.


Did a full water change earlier. Couldnít get 100 percent water out but almost all of it. Less than a cup less left from previous water. Rinsed filter media which was brown from Iím for certain the root tabs that dissolved on the surface.

Tested about 4 hours after I finished and ammonia came out to be less than .25 but not 0. Iíll test again in the morning.

Added some fritz bacteria solution for good measures. If the ammonia drops to zero I may add fish for a fish in cycle ( neon tetras probably).

Thank you for your suggestion. Hopefully Iím on the right path now!
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