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Old 07-06-2021, 11:03 AM   #1
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Newbie Questions

Sorry for the long post. I tried to include all of the info I've seen people ask for when troubleshooting.

A few questions from a newbie. We have 3 tanks. 2 10's and a 30. Our tap water (well) tests around 6.3 ph and 0 for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates.

30 gallon is mid-ish cycle. We have a few large java ferns, a few baby java ferns, some anacharis, some hornwort, a water Sprite, and some type of bushy grass planted in it. Using fluval stratum for substrate and I added root tabs when I set it up. A heater is keeping it around 79. We have an led light, but a more appropriate light on the way. So far a little melt from the anacharis, but everything else looks good. My husband chose the filter, no idea what it is, but i know we went with a higher capacity (flow rate?). And an air stone. It's about 13 days into its cycle.
Ph has been wavering between 6 and 6.6. Ammonia got as high as 3, and gradually dropped to 0 3 days ago.
Nitrites went up to 2 5 days ago and have been there ever since.
5 days ago nitrates went from 3 to 15 to 30 to 40 and have stayed at 40 for two days.

For tank 1 do I need to continue to provide ammonia until nitrites drop to 0 or just wait for nitrites to drop without interfering?

Second tank is a 10 gallon tank. 10 days into the cycle. Fluval stratum, heater at 79, air stone, filter for a 30 gallon. It had some anacharis, but it melted hard so I removed it yesterday. Still some baby java ferns, water Sprite, and lucky bamboo. A few root tabs. Hygger 18 watt light. Set it to the default 24 hour cycle, 10 hours of full light with long ramp up and down. I've only been testing this tank for 4 days.
Ph has been 6 to 6.6.
Ammonia started a little over .75 and has dropped to .5 for two days.
Nitrites have been 0 since I started testing
Nitrates have been hanging around 4-5

What is up with tank 2? Why do I have 0 nitrites but 5 nitrates? What do I need to do to continue the cycle? Should I provide an alternate ammonia source since I have removed the melting anacharis?


And tank 3. This was our first tank. Almost 2 months in. Gravel substrate, heater to 78, air stone, and filter for a 20+ gallon. A few windelov javas, 2 amazon swords. Same hygger light as the other 10 gallon. We set it up, used the quick start stuff recommended by LFS and added a betta a few days later. My husband and daughter were handling this one until the cycle crashed, bacteria blooms, algae, and after a few of their attempts to fix things I took over. Ph had dropped to 6, ammonia skyrocketed. It took 3 days of 50% water changes to even begin to register close to the highest end of the scale. (betta is fine and living elsewhere until we get this right) When the ammonia finally started to drop we tried baking soda. Did half of what the lfs recommended and still wound up with a ph of 8.
Through out all of this the plants are doing well and growing a bit.
Over the last 4 days of testing:
Ph 8.1 to 7.4
Ammonia 8 to 4 after 50% water change. Next day 4 to 2 after 50% water change
Today it held steady at 2. I'm planning to skip the water change for a day now to see if it stays steady.
Nitrites 0
Nitrates 0
Two days ago I added quick start

What should I do here for tank 3? Just leave it? Should I be trying to keep ammonia at 4 until the cycle kicks off? Anything else?

Any other general advice?

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Old 07-06-2021, 11:31 AM   #2
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Sorry if i missed it, but how are you introducing ammonia?

Do your daily water tests. If ammonia is below 1ppm redose it to 2ppm. When you are able to dose 2ppm ammonia and ammonia and nitrite are both 0ppm after 24 hours you are cycled. This typically takes 6 to 8 weeks.

While your testing is something to base decisions on, they arent all that accurate. Expect a few unexpected readings. Its a home test kit, not laboratory testing and all sorts of things can give odd readings.
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Old 07-06-2021, 11:48 AM   #3
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Ammonia sources:
Tank 1 (30 gallon) ghost fed. Went up to 3 and then was around 2 on 6/30. Added the betta when ammonia was under .25 temporarily until an alternative stable tank was located for him. Ammonia dropped to 0 with him in. He's been out 24 hours and still 0.

Tank 2 (10 gallon 1) the melting anacharis seemed to be the source. I just tossed plants in to hold them until I could get them split between the tanks. By the first time I tested ammonia was at .75 and nitrates were already present. (This is the tank with 0 nitrites since I started testing)

Tank 3 (10 gallon 2) ammonia was off the charts (guessing betta and melty plants) by the time I took over. It has dropped with water changes to 2. Holding steady for 24 hours now at 2.

Should I continue to ghost feed when ammonia is needed or try to find an alternate source of straight ammonia?
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Old 07-06-2021, 12:34 PM   #4
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I dont like using fish food as an ammonia source as its difficult to know how much to feed to reach the desired ammonia levels. I prefer an aquarium specific product called ammonium chloride. There are a few brands. Its up to you if you want to continue with food, if you think you can get the ammonia up to decent levels.

Tank 1. Continue with fishless cycle. Only just started.

Tank 2. Again, only just started. Need to get an ammonia source in there.

Tank 3. Difficult to say where you are. All the water changes to bring down ammonia will also have brought down nitrate. Presence of nitrate would be a sign of your cycle progressing. Leave it a few days and see where you are.

You mention an established tank. The best way to speed up your cycle is to put some filter media from an established filter into your filter. You can seed 1 cycle from another. Is is an option to get hold of a little established filter media?

Edit. What test kit are you using?
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Old 07-06-2021, 12:54 PM   #5
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Thank you! I've been googling for days trying to find similar situations with good advice. You've been awesomely helpful!

Ill try to get some ammonia today.

For tank 2 is there any concern that nitrites are at zero even though ammonia is around .5 and nitrates are at 5? Our water source shows 0 nitrates. Do I just bump the ammonia up to 2 and let it go?

Using the api master test kit for fresh water and picked up api kh test.
(Our kh is 1-2 out of the tap. Measuring about 3 in tanks 1 and 2. Tank 3 was 2 but bumped up to 4.5 when I added the baking soda and the ph jumped.)

We took the betta to a friends when we went to visit. They had just tossed their old filters after letting them seed the new so they didnt have anything to offer us. It's a bit of a drive for us, but if we have a chance we will try that.
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Old 07-06-2021, 01:44 PM   #6
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I wouldnt worry about the readings on tank 2. Cycling isnt exact, testing isnt exact, none of this is exact. You have only been going a few days.

Lets say a little ammonia went to nitrite. Maybe not enough to show in a test. A little of that went to nitrate enough to show in the test. Possibly contaminants, small errors in test. Lots of things can throw off a test.

Yes, just dose ammonia to 2ppm and let it run until it drops below 1ppm. Then redose back to 2ppm. Keep doing that until you are seeing 0ppm ammonia and nitrite after 24 hours. Bumping the temperature up can help. 28 to 30c (83 to 87f) is optimum. Already cycled media is a big help. Bottled bacteria might help.

Information on pH and cycling.

Generally a stable pH is better than trying to chase ideal numbers. Fish can adapt to a wide variety of water conditions, and unless you are wanting to keep fish with very specific needs or your parameters are way out there, its usually best to let pH settle wherever it naturally does. However low pH can slow down your cycle. Its obviously possible to cycle a tank with low pH as many people do. You can increase pH by adding a bag of crushed coral into the filter.
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Old 07-09-2021, 11:28 AM   #7
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Just a quick update from Tuesdays numbers. Things are looking about the same in all three tanks.

Tank 1 (30 gallon) ammonia is dropping to 0 each day after dosing, nitrites have dropped ever so slightly. I did a diluted test (half tank half tap) to see if that helped differentiate the colors between 2 and 5. It came back between 1 and 1.5. Nitrates went up to 70. 20% water change brought them to under 30 and they rose ever so slightly over the last 24 hours.

Tank 2. Everything is about the same. Did a small water change and levels dropped correspondingly and ammonia/nitrates have risen over the last two days.

Tank 3. Leaving this one alone for the most part. Ammonia has risen from 2 to 3. Still no nitrites or nitrates.

Trying to be patient...
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Old 07-10-2021, 10:51 AM   #8
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Tank 1 (30 gallon) saw another drop in nitrites with a diluted test today down to .75! Ammonia is still dropping to 0 quickly. Nitrates did drop from 30 to 15 though.

Could that be the plants using more nitrates?
As long as I have some nitrates is everything good?

Progress!
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Old 07-10-2021, 11:35 AM   #9
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Nitrate is the end product of the cycle, so assuming there is no other nitrate going into the system then seeing nitrate is a good sign.

There are processes that remove nitrate. Anaerobic bacteria will consume nitrate and give off nitrogen gas. This is difficult to achieve in a freshwater aquarium however. Plants will also take up nitrate (and ammonia), especially fast growing surface plants. So yes, depending on how heavily planted you are, how much ammonia is going into the tank, and what kind of plants you have they could be using up the available nitrate. The other answer is inaccuracy of the water test kit.

Even if your nitrate is 0 thats not a bad sign. As long as there is ammonia going into the tank and no ammonia or nitrite showing in your test you are good. As you say the available nitrate could just be going into plant growth. Its possible to rely solely on plants to remove waste from your tank and not be cycled at all in a traditional sense.
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Old 07-10-2021, 11:57 AM   #10
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I see a lot of different examples of "heavily planted." I think our 30 is maybe mid level plant wise. Would this be enough to put a dent in nitrates?
There are:
10 long stems of anacharis about half of those are 12-18" to make a little messy canopy in one corner
8 long stems of coon tail hornwort
About 10 more short pieces floating around of both
8 large java ferns
5 baby java ferns (with about another 8 babies still attached to the mommas)
A golf ball sized portion of java moss
A water sprite sprig that has tripled in size
Some bushy grass. It was about a 6"x2" section but has grown significantly.

All of the plants have had a bit of growth. Some have grown exponentially. The tank has been going for 17 days now. A new appropriately sized light should be here today. The current light is pretty undersized. We got the tank, light, hood, two filters, and a bunch of other stuff for $10 locally. We bought a new filter (marineland penguin 350b 70) but used the current light.
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Old 07-10-2021, 12:14 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Relova View Post
I see a lot of different examples of "heavily planted." I think our 30 is maybe mid level plant wise. Would this be enough to put a dent in nitrates?
There are:
10 long stems of anacharis about half of those are 12-18" to make a little messy canopy in one corner
8 long stems of coon tail hornwort
About 10 more short pieces floating around of both
8 large java ferns
5 baby java ferns (with about another 8 babies still attached to the mommas)
A golf ball sized portion of java moss
A water sprite sprig that has tripled in size
Some bushy grass. It was about a 6"x2" section but has grown significantly.

All of the plants have had a bit of growth. Some have grown exponentially. The tank has been going for 17 days now. A new appropriately sized light should be here today. The current light is pretty undersized. We got the tank, light, hood, two filters, and a bunch of other stuff for $10 locally. We bought a new filter (marineland penguin 350b 70) but used the current light.
That seems like a decent amount of plants. So, possibly yes they could make a dent in nitrate. They will also be taking up some ammonia, so you will be producing less nitrate. Depends on how much ammonia is going in really.
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Old 07-11-2021, 12:35 PM   #12
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Nitrites dropped to .25 today! Full test, not diluted. Before today the full test always showed at least 2. The diluted tests showed 1.5 then .75 the days before.

Ammonia still 0. Nitrates up to between 20 and 30!

Almost there!
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Old 07-11-2021, 02:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Relova View Post
Nitrites dropped to .25 today! Full test, not diluted. Before today the full test always showed at least 2. The diluted tests showed 1.5 then .75 the days before.



Ammonia still 0. Nitrates up to between 20 and 30!



Almost there!
And what you can do when you have a cycled tank is seed another filter with media from the cycled filter. Take a small amount of cycled media and put it in the non cycled filter. Or squeeze out a sponge from the cycled filter into the water of the uncycled tank. Careful not to take out too much media (no more than about 20%) or you risk crashing your cycled system. Monitor the tank from which you removed media and be prepared for an additional water change or 2 while the filter re-catches up, but this shouldn't take too long.

Bacteria growth will get a massive kickstart with some already populated media. If you have a big filter full of cycled media you can even instantly cycle a small filter if the amount you can safely remove from filter 1 will fill filter 2. I do this often to cycle small quarantine or hospital tanks.
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Old 07-11-2021, 06:36 PM   #14
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How long would it take a second filter to have enough bacteria to be useful? We added an extra cartridge about a week ago hoping to be able to do this to tank 3 if the cycle wasnt further along.
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Old 07-11-2021, 06:44 PM   #15
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How long would it take a second filter to have enough bacteria to be useful? We added an extra cartridge about a week ago hoping to be able to do this to tank 3 if the cycle wasnt further along.
You want to take a cartridge from tank 2 and add it to tank 3? You would get some benefit from it after its been used for a couple of weeks assuming that tank 2 is cycled.
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Old 07-11-2021, 07:14 PM   #16
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We want to take one of the extra filters carts we put in tank 1 30 gallon (the almost cycled) into tank 3 10 gallon (the tank with just ammonia that originally housed the betta). We plan to wait just didnt know how long to wait

Tank two seems to be on its way. Ammonia is starting to drop a little quicker and nitrates are starting to rise. That's going to be my shrimp and plants tank. I just wanted to get the betta back into tank 3 quickly for my daughter.
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Old 07-15-2021, 10:39 AM   #17
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Exclamation

Tank 1 is cycled! Ammonia is dropping within 24 hours. Nitrites are 0 since the 12th. Nitrates are present. Did a large water change the 13th and everything still looks good. We added our light a few days ago. Added two bunches of jungle val and some java moss. Plants are doing really well! Anacharis has recovered from its initial melt.

We want to add neon tetras and neocaridina shrimp maybe 15 of each eventually. How many should we start with to maintain the cycle without overwhelming it? I've read to start with 3 neons, but that seems like too few for a 30 gallon/for them to be comfy together.

I havent tested tank 2 yet today but as of yesterday the ammonia was dropping to under .25 but not quite 0. Nitrites are 0. Nitrates have been hanging out between 5 and 10. Added some java moss, subwassertang, and more baby java ferns.

Tank 3 still showing just ammonia, but we will try moving some filter media/substrate from tank 1 in a week or two.
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Old 07-15-2021, 12:49 PM   #18
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Tank 1 is cycled! Ammonia is dropping within 24 hours. Nitrites are 0 since the 12th. Nitrates are present. Did a large water change the 13th and everything still looks good. We added our light a few days ago. Added two bunches of jungle val and some java moss. Plants are doing really well! Anacharis has recovered from its initial melt.

We want to add neon tetras and neocaridina shrimp maybe 15 of each eventually. How many should we start with to maintain the cycle without overwhelming it? I've read to start with 3 neons, but that seems like too few for a 30 gallon/for them to be comfy together.

I havent tested tank 2 yet today but as of yesterday the ammonia was dropping to under .25 but not quite 0. Nitrites are 0. Nitrates have been hanging out between 5 and 10. Added some java moss, subwassertang, and more baby java ferns.

Tank 3 still showing just ammonia, but we will try moving some filter media/substrate from tank 1 in a week or two.
If you are cycling out 2ppm of ammonia in 24 hours that is a lot more than a normally stocked tank will have to deal with over the same period. So technically you could stock the tank to a fairly full degree once cycled.

Your stocking seems quite low, so purely from the point of view of being cycled you could just put all those in 1 go.

But, im not a shrimp person. I understand they need a well established tank with established biofilm and algae.

To be on the safe side, lets say 10 neons tetras and if they do good add your other 5 after a couple of weeks.

As for the shrimp, maybe a new thread asking your specific question about how long an established tank would be good before adding those specific shrimp would get someone with more first hand knowledge than i could give you.
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Old 07-18-2021, 01:55 PM   #19
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Tank 1 has inhabitants.

Tank 2 is housing the betta for now. We wanted him back home and figured he would help maintain the cycle until tank 3 is ready for him.

48 hours in and both tanks show 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and nitrates present.

Tank 3 was just cleaned, refilled, and a filter cart from Tank 1 will be added shortly. Just wanted to ask a question first.

When I move a filter cartridge from tank 1 to tank 3 do I put the cart in the filter of do I squeeze the water from tank 1's cart into tank 3's filter? I was also going to take a scoop of tank1's substrate to put into tank 3.

What should tests read from there?
How long do I wait before testing?
Does it instantly cycle or will it still take some time? No rush, just want to know what to look for.

Thank you for all your help!
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Old 07-18-2021, 02:10 PM   #20
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I would monitor things regularly for a while after adding bioload to a tank. Maybe twice a weeks for a couple of months. You will get a feel for things. If you are consistently seeing no problems you will 000cut back massively on testing, probably stop testing at all unless you see something off.

Will the cartridge from tank 1 fit in the filter of tank 3? If so just slot it in. Moving some substrate over might help but not as much as the filter cartridge. It probably wont instantly cycle. An instant cycle can happen if you are seeding a small tank with media from a big tank. For example, i have a biggish canister that has a lot of media in it on a 200 litre tank. I have a 10 litre tank i use for quarantining small fish. A small amount of media from the canister will fill the 10 litre filter and cycle it enough to deal with 1 tetras bioload.

Just do your testing the same as you have been doing so far. Dose ammonia to 2ppm, when it cycles out to 0ppm ammonia and nitrite in 24 hours you are cycled.

Once cycled you shouldnt be seeing any ammonia or nitrite in your test. If you suddenly see these a water change is in order and you should go back to regular testing and water changes until you are cycled again. Your nitrate should start to steadily rise and this is removed through water changes. Typically you want to keep below 40ppm nitrate.
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