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Where am I in the cycle? Please help.

Discussion in 'Water Maintainence' started by gillian, Jan 31, 2016.

  1. gillian

    gillian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Location:
    brooklyn, ny
    So I am on Day 27 of my fishless cycle and my water parameters today have shown me an odd and unexpected turn. Can someone shed some light on what is going on? Is the cycle going through some kind of set back or worse did I kill my Nitrosomonas bacteria somehow?

    I have been steadily adding 2 ml of Ammonia every night to my tank and it went through expected values with:
    1) high ammonia (4-5 ppm) and zero Nitrites,
    2) then lower Ammonia (1-2 ppm) and high Nitrites (>5ppm),
    3) then the zero Ammonia with high Nitrites (>5 ppm).
    4) Then it went back to 0.25 Ammonia for a few days with the >5 Nitrites.
    5) Then 1 ppm Ammonia with nitrites continuing at >5ppm. Ph has been through out this time above 7, except once awhile back and today. I did a 50% water change and corrected it.

    6) AND then today my parameters are:
    Ammonia 4ppm
    Nitrite 0ppm
    Nitrate 80 ppm
    Ph 6.8 - 6.9
    Temp: 88F

    Yesterday my Ammonia was 1 ppm & Nitrite >5 ppm.

    I will do another water change today to rectify the ph. That isn't a low enough ph dip in one day to cause my BB to die, right? As I understand, after ammonia hits zero, soon after nitrite hits zero, so why the sudden spike in ammonia and plummet of nitrite?

    What the heck? :(

    (I use an API master test kit and have a Hanna instruments digital ph reader.)
     
  2. *Ci*

    *Ci* Goldie Guru

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Can you get a KH test kit please, and post that reading. A low KH (which is the amount of carbonate or alkalinity in the water) will cause the PH to fluctuate - in other words if you have enough it "buffers" the PH so it remains stable. Bacteria consume PH as part of their life cycle, so I'm questioning whether you have a low KH, the growing colony depleted it further and the PH dipped, setting everything back.
     
  3. gillian

    gillian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Location:
    brooklyn, ny
    Thank you. I will have to pick one up tomorrow. I don't have a store near me that is still open. In the meantime, should I just do a large water change? Also, do I use Prime when cycling or will it starve my BB?
     
  4. gillian

    gillian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Location:
    brooklyn, ny
    Update*
    I did a 50% water change. My parameters after are as follows:
    Ammonia: 1-2 ppm, Nitrite: 0.00 ppm, Nitrate: 40 ppm, ph: 7.0
    Tomorrow I will pick up a kh/gh kit.

    I guess my main concern is not that my nitrite finally hit zero. It is that it's coupled with a spike in ammonia. I expected both to be zero when the cycle has completed. So did my tank cycle and then there was a spike in ammonia and I can remedy by some water changes? Or did my nitrosomonas bacteria die and I am back to square one?

    I wish there was a kit that could test the media for the actual bacteria!

    Thankfully, I don't have fish in the tank yet!
     
  5. *Ci*

    *Ci* Goldie Guru

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    If there are no fish in the tank there is no need to change the water or use Prime. I have always done a fishless cycle by testing daily, adding enough ammonia to reach my target goal, usually around 2-3ppm, each day and waiting forever for it to finish (can take up to two months, sometimes longer) Then do one large water change right before the fish are added, to start them with clean water.
    I don't know what happened to bring your ammonia back up - hoping the KH may shed some light. In the meantime I would continue adding your usual amount of ammonia and keep a log of your readings.
     
  6. Fishheadz

    Fishheadz Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Location:
    Moffat, CO.
    Prime should not affect your cycle in any way, although there's really no need(or point) to using it at this point.
    Using Prime w/ no fish is a waste of Prime & $,(...*time & money pun intended).
     
    gillian likes this.
  7. gillian

    gillian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Location:
    brooklyn, ny
    Thank you everyone. I will pick up the kh test kit today and post the results when I get home tonight!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  8. Ununique

    Ununique Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2015
    Location:
    Lancaster, Pa
    With a fishless you can overdo the ammonia as the bacteria has to ramp up to deal with the daily feeding, at which point the concentration is generally much higher than your daily.

    But if you are seeing any significant conversion from ammonia->nitrate you have a population, you either have to reach whatever particular level you are aiming at (say 1ppm per day), or add your fish and let the balancing finish with the fish in their home.

    In other words, after the first week you've added a total of 7ppm ammonia, since the bacteria had to ramp up, it probably reached a population able to convert like 2-3ppm per day which will then die off to a level supported by your daily feeding of 1ppm. This same process would also happen with your nitrite->nitrate bacteria. By the time those bacteria reach a high enough concentration to start converting it usually overshoots your daily as the concentration was going up before the population was large enough to make a dent.

    So its not unexpected to see the levels seesawing. At this point you want to ensure you are actually converting 1ppm (if thats the goal). I'd suggest a 100% water change and then add in your daily 1ppm ammonia, and then the next day test to verify its working as expected and you haven't killed off, or have had your bacteria die off.
    You would also see this seesawing when you add the fish to reach a balance based on fish load. Again you'd see it if you increase feedings or fish load down the road. You'd also see this on an hour by hour basis if you tested all day long just from feeding time to the next feeding. These bacteria colonies are constantly in flux and adjusting to the conditions in the tank.

    Curious what the water volume is and what sort of filtration you have in place? Also, with your pH readings, what are they from tap?
     
    Fishheadz likes this.
  9. gillian

    gillian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Location:
    brooklyn, ny
    Hello,

    So unfortunately, both pet shops near my job did not have anything better than the 5 in 1 test strips that include Kh & Gh. I don't trust test strips, but I got them anyway because better that than nothing. Here are my parameters today (day 28)

    Ammonia 0.5 ppm
    Nitrite: 0.0 ppm
    Nitrate: 40-80 ppm
    Ph: 7.6
    Temp: 87.8F
    Gh: 0-30
    Kh: 0

    Only the Gh & Kh were read with a strip. Ph & temp with a digital meter, which I recalibrated to be sure. And, the rest with the API Master test kit.

    Can the strip be correct that my Kh is really zero? I did it twice because I hate strips! It didn't even change color for ph on either try.

    I am going to order it on Amazon. By the time I find it at a crappy Petco or Petland, it will be here since I have Prime.

    On a sidenote, I remember when I had my first goldies that I struggled with a low ph all the time. I had to buffer all the time. I didn't think that would be something I had to think about in an empty tank that's cycling.
     
  10. gillian

    gillian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Location:
    brooklyn, ny
    (I have half a bottle of API Quick Start. Should I toss it in or don't panic yet?)
     
  11. *Ci*

    *Ci* Goldie Guru

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Test the KH strips by putting a pinch of baking soda in a glass of water - that will bring the KH way up and if you get a reading, I would say that you may have zero KH in your tank (strips may be innacurate but zero is zero).
    A KH of zero is a recipe for disaster. PH will have no buffer and can flutctuate all over the place. Plus, as I mentioned, bacteria need KH to grow.

    If you do need to adjust your KH there are a few ways. I like good old baking soda because I can add the correct amount with each water change and be guaranteed my target KH (I like to keep it at around 6-8 dkh, which keeps my PH at a steady 8.2). Other people use coral, oystershell or aragonite in the filter or as a substrate, but I don't think that brings the values up fast enough - making a fluctuation that stresses the fish.
     
  12. gillian

    gillian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Location:
    brooklyn, ny
    Hi Ci,

    Just did it. And, yup the strip reading went off the richter scale with the water and a pinch of baking soda.

    With my last tank, I tried crushed coral, but you are right, it did take to long to correct values, so I went with baking soda. I didn't even think I would need to do that now since I am fishless for now. I will start adding some in!

    Do you think I lost all my nitrifying bacteria? Should I add more in to try and speed it up, although that Dr. Tim's was a waste of money...

    Thanks,
    Gillian
     
  13. *Ci*

    *Ci* Goldie Guru

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Bottled bacteria are snake oil, IMO. Consider how easy it is for a colony to die off without an ammonia source for food or oxygen. Sometimes you get a die off if you even turn your filters off for a few hours. If they can be bottled live and live indefinitely in an oxygen depleted sealed bottle it would be easy to intantly cycle a tank, but it isn't. There are only two products that are actual live nitrifying bacteria and they need to be shipped overnight with a cold pack:

    http://keetonaqua.com/products/beneficial-microbes/ki-nitrifier/
    http://www.fritzzyme.com/index.php?p=fritzzyme-turbostart

    Since you already have the bottle, you can try using it, but don't hold your breath....
     
  14. gillian

    gillian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Location:
    brooklyn, ny
    Guess what you guys!?

    My parameters tonight showed Nitrite and Ammonia. I am not excited by the Ammonia, but I am by the Nitrite! It's ALIVE. ha.

    Tonight is Ammonia 0.25, Nitrite 0.5, Nitrate 40-80, ph of 7 and 86.3F

    I added my usual 2ml of Ammonia last night and a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and went to bed with my fingers crossed.

    Tonight, I again added my 2ml of Ammonia. Things are looking up!

    Thanks Ci for the great advice.
     
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  15. gillian

    gillian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Location:
    brooklyn, ny
    thanks for answering that. i wasnt sure if the chlorine would harm my bb.

    Also, as an update. My addition of 2 ml of ammonia was just over a 12 hours ago and already my parameters are as follows:
    Day 30 (AM Check)-
    Ammonia 0.0 ppm
    Nitrite >5 ppm
    ph: 7.2
    T: 87.7F

    Last night, I also buffered the ph a tad more with another 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. My anxious mind feels better that it isn't at the cusp of dipping below 7. A ph 7.2 makes me better, than right at 7, since my meter's instructions say it can have an error margin of +/- 0.1

    Also, I hope my daily updates in the last 2-3 days haven't driven you all crazy! Maybe it will help someone else one day experiencing the same trouble. At the end of the journey, perhaps I can upload a full excel sheet of my daily parameters since Day 1.

    :eek::)
     
  16. *Ci*

    *Ci* Goldie Guru

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Use the Prime to dechlorinate if you are adding or changing water - yes, the chlorine may harm the bacteria. However, I don't see the need to change water until the very end of the cycle to clean out the nitrate before adding fish.
     
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  17. gillian

    gillian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Location:
    brooklyn, ny
    I think my tank is making great progress!
    Yesterday morning I had zero ammonia & >5 nitrites, but both were zero by nightfall. And for today - this morning showed again zero ammonia, but 2 ppm Nitrite. But again, tonight both are back to zero.

    Am I correct that once both of those values can reach zero ppm 12 hours (not 24 hours) after adding my nightly pure ammonia, the tank is cycled?
     
  18. *Ci*

    *Ci* Goldie Guru

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Pretty much, but I would make sure that is happening every day for a while before I add the fish.
     
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  19. gillian

    gillian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Location:
    brooklyn, ny
    Thanks for all the advice! It's almost there!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  20. gillian

    gillian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Location:
    brooklyn, ny
    My tank is finally cycled! And, I finally put a ranchu on reserve on ECR. Wawhoo! I do want another, but I am hoping some new stock is posted in the next few days. Otherwise, I may just have the one until I find another I adore. I put a lot of effort into picking my fishie and reading up on ranchu standards. I feel like my last tank helped me get my feet wet (pun intended), but this time around, I have been able to focus on even finer details of the hobby. It has been fun.

    Anyhow, I thought i read somewhere once the tank is cycled, I can turn the heater down to a normal temp, even though I haven't picked up my fish yet. Is that correct?

    I do plan on continuing to add my ammonia and checking parameters until my newbie(s) are home!
     
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