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Old 09-25-2022, 10:57 AM   #1
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No nitrate in new tank?

Hey all!

I have a fully cycled 10 gallon tank for our goldfish and plecostamus. We want to move them into a 20 gallon tank. I set up the 20 gallon tank with filtered spring water, AquaSafe, and API Quick Start about 6 weeks ago, and dropped our old filters from the 10 gallon tank into the 20 gallon tank.

Our whole family got COVID pretty seriously, and in all honesty we were more focused on survival and recovery than the new tank for a couple of weeks��

Now I’ve been testing the new tank water and ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are all still at zero. We want to move our fish to the new tank, but is this a good idea if nitrate readings are still zero? (I have a test kit so not relying on strips for my readings)

Thanks to everyone - I just don’t want to make a rookie mistake and lose our fishies!

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Old 09-25-2022, 11:25 AM   #2
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Have you been adding an ammonia source to the new tank?
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Old 09-25-2022, 11:32 AM   #3
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A few pinches of fish food here and there but nothing else.
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Old 09-25-2022, 11:50 AM   #4
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No ammonia going in and there is nothing for the bacteria you are trying to grow to feed on and grow. No waste going in for your test to detect.

Fish food is a really bad way of dosing ammonia IMO. You need to be throwing as much food as a tank full of fish will eat every day for several weeks to cycle a tank.

Your options are.

1. Do a fishless cycle properly. Dose much higher levels of ammonia either with food, a cocktail shrimp, ammonia or an aquarium specific ammonium chloride product. This will likely take another 6 to 8 weeks to cycle your tank.

2. Move your fish and do a fish in cycle.

Do you know how to cycle a tank?
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Old 09-25-2022, 12:00 PM   #5
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Maybe I don’t? I always thought that you got your nitrite and ammonia to spike, then the nitrate comes in and levels those two out to zero. But if my nitrate is zero too then I don’t see how the tank can be cycled.

I always thought fish in cycling was a bit risky? So I have no problem waiting 6-8 more weeks, I just need to order an ammonia product online (our closest pet store is an hour away and they don’t often have the products we need anyway). Do you have a specific product you’d recommend more than others?

Thank you so much for all the thoughtful advice!
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Old 09-25-2022, 12:08 PM   #6
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Yes you need the ammonia and nitrite to spike, but if no ammonia is going in how can they spike? Ammonia doesn't just appear from nowhere.

Ill post a thorough method of doing a fishless cycle and i would use Dr Tims Ammonium Chloride, although its just a bottle of ammonium chloride in solution and any other similar product will be exactly the same.
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Old 09-25-2022, 12:08 PM   #7
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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.

You should have a test kit. Preferably a liquid test kit. It should test for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.

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.

Your 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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