I decided to pick up this new hobby during lockdown and telework, and was finally up and running. I did a fish-in cycle with two dwarf gouramis in a twenty gallon planted tank. It went through a very normal cycle and was firmly established after a month or so (I am using the master liquid kit, not strips). I added four balloon mollies next, and the cycle maintained itself for two weeks after that. However, one of the mollies snuck ich into the tank. It got out of control, so I used API Ich Cure, which cured the parasites as advertised. However, between the medicine and having to change the filter after treatment, my cycle went kaput.
I changed filters three weeks ago. Within a few days, my ammonia rapidly spiked from 0 ppm
to 4.0 ppm
. I did a large water change, and the next day it was down to between 1.0 and 2.0. My nitrites have remained at zero, and my nitrates have remained low but present. The tap water ph here is usually around 7.4. I have been using API Quick Start and Prime with water changes since Iíve started. Ammonia has never gotten to sky high levels again, but it has been hovering between 1.0 and 2.0 for the better part of three weeks.
A complicating factor Iíve had is that my tap water (Northern Virginia) registers a noticeable amount of ammonia. It has been at 1.0 ppm
ammonia (today itís at 0.5 ppm
, it was at 0 when I started this new hobby two months ago), so even with total water changes it wonít solve the issue. I condition with Prime to make sure it is detoxifying the ammonia in the tap water for a bit. But my bio filter is not finally out-processing the ammonia. I donít know if thereís some chemistry trick going on with the Prime and chloramine I donít understand, or what. Iím confused that nitrites have remained zero this whole time, but Iíve been getting some nitrates even between the big water changes and my plants growing healthily; so thereís some processing going on. I have a separate Betta tank that registers zero, so itís not a faulty test kit. I have been vacuuming sections of the gravel at a time so as to limit disturbing the bacteria. Iíve cut back feeding to once a day for awhile now.
I have a large piece of drift wood thatís releasing some tannins into the tank, but Iíve never read that that would cause any issue, and the color is not noticeable in the test tubes to throw off the results.
Should I just keep being patient and changing water when the tank ammonia gets above the tap ammonia levels? Is this a false positive from the chemical interaction? The fish were lethargic and unhealthy immediately after the treatment, but now are social, active, and voracious at feeding time. The plan was to top things off with a small school of cories, but I donít want to do that until this is under control. Any advice would be appreciated.