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Old 04-23-2013, 01:54 PM   #1
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I've tried everything...tank won't cycle!

hello- (sorry this is so long...)
I bought a 20 gallon Marineland aquarium kit at PetSmart. It came with the Penguin 150 biowheel powered filter, heater, LED day/night hood, etc. I decorated it with plants and decor only from the fish section, plus 20 lb of the natural colored gravel. I waited a few days after filling the tank before adding fish. I didn't really know about a fishless cycle at the time, so I did a fish-in cycle. After confirming my water had no ammonia, and good pH and temp about 80*, I added 4 platies on Feb 11th. I was feeding them small amounts twice a day, and testing using the strips for the first couple of weeks. Ammonia spiked, so I did some small water changes (10-20%) every other day, the ammonia would decrease, but rose again quickly, so I started doing bigger water changes (40-50%). Always the ammonia would go down, but no nitrates or nitrates.

After a couple of weeks, I bought the API water titration kit, and a gravel vacuum for the water changes. I was still doing pwc frequently, 2-3x per week. With the test kit, still no nitrates or nitrites, and ammonia never goes all the way to zero. Hovers around .25 ppm according to the API color chart. Also, around this time I switched from Tetra AquaSafe to Prime for my water conditioner. Also, at around the 2 week mark, my orange Mickey Platy (Garnet) died. He never really adjusted well, always hiding, didn't eat much.

Petsmart recommended I reduce the frequency of my water changes, so I tried that (sometime in mid-March). Ammonia seemed to stay relatively low, although never 0. I thought maybe I had just missed the tank cycling and that maybe Prime was giving me high ammonia readings, so I started thinking about adding a few more fish.

April 7 (8 weeks since my first fish were introduced), I added 3 new platies. So this brought the total fish in my aquarium to 6. After a brief acclimation period for old fish and new, they started getting along pretty well. They seemed active and always hungry and eating well, so I figured things were going well. I continued the testing about every other day (plus my extra ammonia monitor hangs on the inside of the tank in case of emergency spikes.

April 21, Thinking about adding 2 more fish. but then April 23, I woke up to find that my favorite fish, a sunburst platy "SunDevil" was dead. I tested the water, everything seemed the same as always. A little bit of ammonia, no nitrates or nitrites. She was one of the originals, so she was 10 weeks in my tank. No physical signs of illness or stress.

Lastly, I tested my home tap water, no ammonia, nitrates or nitrites. Only chlorine is used, not cloramines. pH, about 7.5.

Let me know if I am missing any details, or if there are any new ideas out there. I feel like I have read so much information, but I must be missing something!

Thanks!!!!
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Old 04-23-2013, 02:32 PM   #2
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I think the problem is that you have given the fish names. It's always the kiss of death in my experience.
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Old 04-23-2013, 02:45 PM   #3
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I think you ve done a good job of it & have done your research. Probably wouldn t add any more fish until it cycles. Can you get some filter media from an established filter? Either from the LFS or a friend? That may help speed things up. Good luck. Always hard to lose fish.
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Old 04-23-2013, 03:02 PM   #4
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I am having the same problems and I have been looking for someone with cycled media.
My readings are always 1 ammonia, 0-5 nitrate ,and 0 nitrites.
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Old 04-23-2013, 03:17 PM   #5
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Sorry, joking apart i have always found the following tactics to work fine (with 5 tanks ranging from 19litres to 210 litres);

Buy tank and set up (de-chlorinated water, give gravel a really good clean).
Run it for a couple of days.
Add used filter media and 6 schooling fish like head and tail lights, harlequins or zebra danios (all of those are extremely hardy). Also at this point add some well used gravel / sand and mix in, and some used plants.
Next day add 6 more fish. Hardy ones again.
Leave for a week and add a few more. Maybe some peaceful hardy cichlids.

Running for a couple of days will make sure the equipment works and let the water stabilize.

Adding media will add useful bacteria.
Adding used plants will do likewise.
Adding gravel will add bacteria and the crap for it to feed off.
Adding fish will add the crap for the bacteria to feed off.
But you need to add this all together.

Then you just gradually build up.

And platies are not as hardy as people make out by the way.
And keeping doing that many water changes will de-stabilize water parameters. Based on my advice, i would do my first one after 2 weeks, and only about 15%.
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Old 04-23-2013, 04:52 PM   #6
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You need to let the biological filter become established. The water changes aren't so much of a problem, but vacuuming the gravel right now is. Do it very sparingly in the beginning. The beneficial bacteria needed to process ammonia grow and live on surfaces in the tank and filter. Vacuuming the gravel is removing a lot of what is trying to grow. Also, never add more fish when ammonia is present. It further strains the cycle you're trying to establish and it's very hard on the fish. I would recommend using Dr. Tim's One and Only. It has the right bacteria for aquariums (a lot of the products in pet stores are based on sewage treatment bacteria, which aren't the same kind that live in your tank), and it has its own substrate (you can't see it, but it's there) which it allows it to rapidly establish itself in your tank. I've tried many and this one really works. My 120 gallon was cycled in twelve days. If you want to try it you can find it here: www.drtimsaquatics.com . They have a lot of good information on the subject of cycling. Good luck and let us know how things are going for you!
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Old 04-24-2013, 01:41 PM   #7
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Good Suggestions!

Thanks for the help, I found a good LFS that wants to help me with this. Trying the SeaChem Stabilizer for a week, and see if that will get the cycle going. Also, they said I might need to feed more, which I hadn't really thought of, until someone on here mentioned that. Ammonia alert looked like it was going down close to "safe" this morning, but I ran out of time to do the real test. Tonight I will test and tomorrow a small water change (w/o gravel vacuuming) and report back.
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Old 04-24-2013, 11:01 PM   #8
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Aha! Ammonia dropped to "safe" on the monitor, and detected 0 nitrites, about 10 nitrates. Big sigh of relief.
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