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Fishless Cycling Problem

Author Topic: Fishless cycling problem  (Read 22558 times)

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Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #100 on: February 25, 2017, 01:43:30 PM »
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@barneyadi I would do exactly as Matt suggests (just using prime to remove chlorine in the normal way) but I don't think this is a panic situation, so what is needed is just to stop it rising massively higher. The levels are rising fast, 0.52ppm yesterday to 1.28ppm today but from the water parameters you gave us the Ammonia test reading (NH3+NH4 remember) gives a toxic (NH3 only) level of 0.001ppm and the upper limit is 0.02ppm.

So this is the time to take sensible action and change enough water to drop the Ammonia back to around 0.5ppm, this will keep your cycle going but the NH3 levels (0.5ppm = 0.004ppm) will be back to safe levels for the fish with a good margin for error.
***In addition reduce the feeding to slow the daily rises and of course test and change water daily until the cycle is completed***

Incidentally I found this in a paper on NH3 toxicity levels, note it refers to 'real' toxic NH3 (free Ammonia) not TAN which is also spoken about as Ammonia.

Rough guide to toxic levels of free ammonia:
Any level above 0.02 (ppm) is considered harmful                                 
0.020 to 0.049 (ppm) is considered 'tolerated' but will cause long term harm to its growth, immune system, health, etc. especially to eggs or very young animals.
0.050 to 0.199 (ppm) is perhaps tolerated for only a few days and is very harmful.                  
0.200 to 0.499 (ppm) is perhaps tolerated for a day or two and will probably kill.                  
0.500+ (ppm) is deadly and will probably kill within a day.

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #101 on: February 25, 2017, 02:27:06 PM »
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ok, this is where I am getting very confused. Some people say don't change the water and others say change it. Which is correct? Or is it just a case of there are different ways of doing cycling?
If I do water change as 0.5 is 40% of 1.28, is a 60% change correct?

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #102 on: February 25, 2017, 02:52:44 PM »
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I also agree with Matt.
I would do a water change of around 50%, then test the water again, to check the ammonia.
Water changes may prolong your cycle slightly, but the health of the fish is always the priority.

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #103 on: February 25, 2017, 02:59:14 PM »
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The 'don't change water' I think is very general advice that is being repeated without reference to what is happening in the tank. You however can see that the Ammonia is building in the tank and in my opinion the correct thing to do is a water change. I would rather not rely on a claim of products blocking the toxic effects of Ammonia when fresh water is freely available :)

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #104 on: February 25, 2017, 03:02:02 PM »
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Do I turn filter off while I water change?

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #105 on: February 25, 2017, 03:16:07 PM »
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If you are worried it will kill the bacteria, don't because it wont. Remember you received filter material in the post to start your cycle so a few minutes of no flow is certainly fine. Just remember to turn it back on again!

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #106 on: February 25, 2017, 03:54:47 PM »
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ok. done about a 55% water change and will check ammonia levels tonight. Do I need to check nitrates as well?

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #107 on: February 25, 2017, 04:16:29 PM »
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I tend to check everything at the same time, out of habit.
I would expect all of the levels to have dropped after a water change. It might be worth checking morning and evening each day to see how quickly the levels rise and to monitor them so that you know when to do water changes until your cycle is complete.

Offline fcmf

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #108 on: February 25, 2017, 05:10:16 PM »
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I agree with all of the others above re changing the water, so glad to read that you have done that.

As I think I mentioned earlier, I used both Tetra Safestart and Seachem Prime during my fish-in cycle, having also struggled with a fish-less cycle (using fish food as the ammonia source); I changed water daily, and my understanding is that the Seachem Prime detoxifies the ammonia/nitrite/nitrates for the following 24hrs rather than actually affecting the levels of them. Hope that this is reassuring.

Offline Sue

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #109 on: February 25, 2017, 06:59:55 PM »
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Do I turn filter off while I water change?

Yes.Turn off both the filter and heater.

If the level of water drops below the filter pump it will empty of water and run dry. This can damage filter pumps.

If a heater turns on when out of the water there is a risk it will shatter. Some heaters are designed to turn off in these circumstances but I don't think the Juwel heater does.

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #110 on: February 25, 2017, 07:02:50 PM »
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Ok water change done and new reading taken

Ammonia 0.25
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 2.62

Thought I would be nearer 0.5 ammonia as changed 50% water but at least figures have dropped down.

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #111 on: February 25, 2017, 07:55:48 PM »
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Good to see that your levels have dropped.  :)

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #112 on: February 26, 2017, 01:40:25 PM »
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So todays readings as follows

Ammonia 0.13ppm
Nitrite 0.57ppm
Nitrate 3.61ppm

Interestingly the first time I have seen nitrites, does it mean my cycle is on track?

Offline Sue

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #113 on: February 26, 2017, 02:00:05 PM »
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It could be. Keep an eye on the nitrites as there is no safe form of this as there is with ammonia. Anything over 0.25 is harmful for fish.

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #114 on: February 26, 2017, 02:16:45 PM »
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if it continues going up should I consider another water change?

Offline Sue

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #115 on: February 26, 2017, 02:23:03 PM »
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With nitrite at twice the 'safe-ish' level I'd change at least half the water asap. Then test half an hour after the water change (to allow the new water to mix in) and if it is still over 0.2, do another water change. The reason I say over 0.2 is because it will go up after the water change and you need to keep it below 0.25.

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #116 on: February 26, 2017, 02:56:46 PM »
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strange, just retested and got 0.03 nitrates. wonder if other reading was an anomaly?

Offline Matt

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #117 on: February 26, 2017, 03:09:43 PM »
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Best way to tell would be to do another test... then we'll know which one is the anomaly  :D

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #118 on: February 26, 2017, 03:17:26 PM »
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well last night was 0.05 so would probably say the 0.03 is more correct. Will do another test after 7pm and see how it is.

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #119 on: February 26, 2017, 03:25:39 PM »
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With nitrite at twice the 'safe-ish' level I'd change at least half the water asap. Then test half an hour after the water change (to allow the new water to mix in) and if it is still over 0.2, do another water change. The reason I say over 0.2 is because it will go up after the water change and you need to keep it below 0.25.

Ooooo, I had the safe level from a book as 4ppm. I checked my records and I have never been near either so not a problem.....phew!

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #120 on: February 26, 2017, 03:35:42 PM »
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@Sue Just a thought what other toxicity limits do you use, I have:
Ammonia (NH3 NH4) A general 1ppm but completely depends on temp and pH
Free Ammonia (NH3) 0.02ppm
Nitrate (NO3) 50ppm but opinions on normal levels differ in the 20-100 range so it's probably controversial
Phosphate 25ppm
CO2 30ppm

Offline Sue

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #121 on: February 26, 2017, 04:51:32 PM »
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The figures I use for total ammonia (ammonia and ammonium combined) and nitrite are both 0.25 ppm.
Using a caculator or table to work out the proportion of ammonia in the total ammonia, I use 0.02 as being the safe limit, though it can go up to 0.05 for a day or two.

I don't use CO2 so I don't have a figure for that.
I don't know the safe limit for phpsphate either, though that's more to do with plants and algae than fish.

Nitrate - I used to say below 100 is safe for fish but there is now evidence coming out that 20 ppm is the safe limit for nitrate. However, I need to find out is that's nitrate-N or nitrate-NO3.
UK water companies and our test kits give the reading as the amount of actual NO3. Amercian water companies give the reading as the amount of N in the NO3. Since the gram molecular weight of N is 14 and NO3 is 46, using nitrate-NO3 gives a number almost 3 times higher than using nitrate-N. This is why American forum users are shocked by our water companies having 50 ppm as the max permitted levelof nitrate while theirs is 10.  Our permitted max converts to 15 on their scale while theirs converts to 32 on ours.

Offline Matt

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #122 on: February 26, 2017, 05:02:21 PM »
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I found this the other day which might help:

Rough guide to toxic levels of free ammonia:
0.020 to 0.049 (ppm) is considered 'tolerated' but will cause long term harm to its growth, immune system, health, etc. especially to eggs or very young animals.
0.050 to 0.199 (ppm) is perhaps tolerated for only a few days and is very harmful.
0.200 to 0.499 (ppm) is perhaps tolerated for a day or two and will probably kill.
0.500+ (ppm) is deadly and will probably kill within a day.

Offline Matt

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #123 on: February 26, 2017, 05:05:26 PM »
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And

The nitrite level should always be zero, or as close to zero as you can get it. Under certain conditions, even relatively low nitrite levels of 0.25 mg/l may be enough to weaken sensitive species. Anything above 0.1 mg/l should be viewed as unacceptable and a potential cause of stress, although some fish might tolerate very high levels.

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #124 on: February 26, 2017, 06:50:22 PM »
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So just checked Nitrite again, and is showing as 0 so the 0.57ppm reading must have been an error. Seems I might have left the test on Ammonia instead of changing it to Nitrite. At least readings are ok. So correct readings are

Ammonia 0.16
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 3.61

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #125 on: February 26, 2017, 07:07:15 PM »
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That's better.  ;D

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #126 on: February 26, 2017, 07:22:52 PM »
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I found this the other day which might help:

Rough guide to toxic levels of free ammonia:
0.020 to 0.049 (ppm) is considered 'tolerated' but will cause long term harm to its growth, immune system, health, etc. especially to eggs or very young animals.
0.050 to 0.199 (ppm) is perhaps tolerated for only a few days and is very harmful.
0.200 to 0.499 (ppm) is perhaps tolerated for a day or two and will probably kill.
0.500+ (ppm) is deadly and will probably kill within a day.


Hey @Matt No fair, that is my quote you quoted back at me   :rotfl:

Offline Matt

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #127 on: February 26, 2017, 09:09:41 PM »
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Lols  :yikes:

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #128 on: February 27, 2017, 12:09:33 PM »
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Todays scores as follows

Ammonia 0.20
Nitrite 0
Nitrates 3.13

Was hoping ammonia might have dropped to 0 by now, but does everything look to be moving in right direction?

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #129 on: February 28, 2017, 12:05:48 PM »
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Todays scores

Ammonia 0.10
Nitrite 0.09
Nitrate 3.02

Annoyingly close to 0 ammonia and nitrite.

Also a forum member on another forum I use has said this:-

Those readings would appear as 0 on the API test since the lowest they recognize is the .25. I know you're using the new reader, it is very normal to have trace nitrites in any tank, even after cycled, though usually lower like .02-.03. You have to remember the fish constantly produce ammonia so it is always in the tank being converted over. I think it all is going really well.

I'd add in a couple more fish this week, dose prime every 48 hours or so from here on out if you see ammonia or nitrites any higher than where they're at (over .10).

What do people think of the suggestions to get more fish etc?
 

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #130 on: February 28, 2017, 07:16:42 PM »
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@barneyadi Hummm, I'm not sure about more fish, my inclination would be to stick with what you have and watch for a few days rather than take a decision based on a couple of readings.

You didn't mention it you are still doing daily water changes, if you were I would definitely say stick with what you have because you would be artificially lowering the pollutants and not the filter.

What is you percentage stock level compared to the community calculator? I think that this would be a help in deciding if the Ammonia input (in poop) is starting to be dealt with in any sort of volume by the filter or if the load is very small and it is still just building up without much being processed.

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #131 on: February 28, 2017, 07:42:17 PM »
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@barneyadi Hummm, I'm not sure about more fish, my inclination would be to stick with what you have and watch for a few days rather than take a decision based on a couple of readings.

You didn't mention it you are still doing daily water changes, if you were I would definitely say stick with what you have because you would be artificially lowering the pollutants and not the filter.

What is you percentage stock level compared to the community calculator? I think that this would be a help in deciding if the Ammonia input (in poop) is starting to be dealt with in any sort of volume by the filter or if the load is very small and it is still just building up without much being processed.

My first thought was to wait until at least the weekend. Not done anymore water changes since ammonia surge. Stocking level is 17% according to calculator, if I have worked it right. I have 105 litres of water which equates to 105cm of fish and I have a maximum of 18cm (4 harlequin rasboras).

Offline Sue

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #132 on: February 28, 2017, 07:59:24 PM »
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It is always a good idea to wait till you've had zero readings for a week - without needing water changes - before getting more fish.

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #133 on: February 28, 2017, 08:15:02 PM »
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But how zero should the readings be? Absolute or can they be slightly above?

Offline Sue

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #134 on: February 28, 2017, 08:19:32 PM »
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The ammonia tester never looks zero for some people; the way our eyes work vary from person to person and some never see that yellow zero colour.
But if the calculator/tables show that your free ammonia is lesss than 0.02 you can count that as zero.

Nitrite needs to be that sky blue colour to count as zero, without even a hint of purple.

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #135 on: February 28, 2017, 08:48:15 PM »
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Hi Sue

Is free ammonia the NH3 part?

Offline Sue

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #136 on: February 28, 2017, 09:04:25 PM »
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Yes, sorry I should have made that clear.

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #137 on: February 28, 2017, 09:21:32 PM »
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@barneyadi Remember you are seeing levels that the colour charts can't display, the Ammonia and Nitrite charts start reading at 0.25ppm. So most people will only know they are a shade of yellow on the Ammonia scale and refer to this as zero. I think you should be able to read down to 0.05ppm ish with your kit if you are squeaky clean with your test kit method. This isn't zero but nor is it a problem, it's just your better resolution makes it visible to you.
Yes the free part is NH3 and 0.02ppm is the upper limit, I am sure you will get it well below this once the cycle is complete and you are in a good maintenance mode. This NH3 limit will translate to a higher NH3 NH4 limit that is determined by your tanks temp and pH. You know this calculation because you have done it before. The API test is reading NH3 NH4 so your 0.1ppm is not damaging the fish.
Stay on track, you are getting there :)

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #138 on: February 28, 2017, 09:35:21 PM »
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Ok, so from a NH3 level, the last 3 days have been 0.0038, 0.0047 and 0.0024, after calculation, so I could class them as 0 so I have had ammonia and nitrites at 0 for 3 days. Is that correct?

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #139 on: February 28, 2017, 09:51:21 PM »
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@barneyadi You could view it that way, I would be inclined see this as a partially cycled tank that is looking after the occupants of a fish-in cycle. The danger will be to get complacent and throw fish at it and have a series of unfortunate events in two or three weeks time.
If you can stay patient and let nature take its course :)

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #140 on: February 28, 2017, 10:25:04 PM »
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Ok I think this is where I get confused. As I understand it if ammonia and nitrite stays at 0 for 7 days with no water changes then the tank is cycled? Is this the right way to think about it?

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #141 on: February 28, 2017, 11:28:45 PM »
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Well, as with all things natural - sort of. ONCE you have established a full community of bacteria, both the ones that process Ammonia into Nitrites and the ones that process Nitrites into Nitrates ....and you have Ammonia and Nitrites at 'zero' for 7 days with a source of Ammonia still being fed into the tank (from the fish) THEN you have a cycled filter.
What we need to be sure is that you have the bacteria and not just clean water, so this where the term cycle comes from. We expect to see a rise in Ammonia, then a fall as it is processed followed by a rise in Nitrites again followed by a fall ending up with Nitrates Only then can you say there must have been bacteria doing the processing and you have a Biofilter and not just a tank of clean water.
The water changes and limits complicate this process but they are needed to keep the fish alive.

Offline Sue

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #142 on: March 01, 2017, 09:28:34 AM »
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And after 7 days of zero readings, with no water changes being done, it means the tank is cycled for the amount of fish currently in the tank. It does not mean the tank is cycled for a tankful of fish as it would be with fishless cycling. This is why more fish should be added slowly.


Say you added the same amount of fish as you have at the moment. You'd have twice as many fish as you have now and they'd make twice as much ammonia as the fish you have now. But you'd have only enough bacteria to eat the ammonia made by the first batch of fish; you'd have to grow a lot more bacteria to eat the ammonia made by the new fish. You'd end up having to do water changes again while the bacteria grew.

The rule of thumb is that it is safe to add new fish that are  equal to a third of the fish already in the tank. The bacteria can grow enough bacteria for the new third quickly enough that ammonia and/or nitrite won't build up, and if they do appear it won't last long.
With 4 fish it is tricky to add a third of that number (one and a third fish) so the most I would add would be 2 new fish. You'd then have 6 fish. Then test the water again and when you've had zeros for a week, add more fish. A third of 6 fish is 2 fish, so you could add 2 more fish, making 8. Then test the water and when you have double zeros for a week, add 3 more fish, making 11. Then when you've had double zeros for a week, you can add 4 new fish, making 15 in total. A third of 15 is 5 so the next addition could be 5 fish. And so on till you have all your fish.

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #143 on: March 01, 2017, 09:58:18 AM »
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Thanks Sue and Andy

So as I understand things I have had 3 days of 0 ammonia and nitrite. If I have another 4 days of zero readings then you are saying that my tank is cycled enough for the 4 fish I have. Is that correct?

If it is then I plan to add 2 more Harlequins and then wait till ammonia and nitrites have been zero for 7 days, and then add another 2.

What about water changes, should I do any and if so when?

Offline Sue

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #144 on: March 01, 2017, 10:07:09 AM »
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That's right.

Water changes - do them if you see ammonia and/or nitrite; and if you don't see any, once a week. Wth only a few fish you won't need to do a large weekly water change but you'll need to increase the amount changed as you get more fish till you are doing 30 to 40% once the tank is fully stocked.
Remember you have soft water with low KH so you'll need to do bigger water changes than most people just to keep the KH topped up. I have low KH too and with an overstocked tank I find that 40% a week is fine.

Offline barneyadi

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #145 on: March 01, 2017, 12:14:41 PM »
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perfect. So checked today and ammonia and nitrate both 0.05 and nitrate 4.18. So that makes 4 days of zero readings.

Re water changes, when I get to day 7, should I do small water change then before adding new fish?

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #146 on: March 01, 2017, 12:23:21 PM »
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Re water changes, when I get to day 7, should I do small water change then before adding new fish?

That would be the logical time to do a water change. The fish already there will have settled in and you won't stress new fish by doing a water change shortly after they are put in the tank and haven't settled in yet.

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #147 on: March 01, 2017, 03:58:27 PM »
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ok, so plan is if ammonia and nitrites stay at zero, will do 20% water change on Saturday or Sunday, and then add the 2 fish the following day. Does that sound like a plan?

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #148 on: March 01, 2017, 04:01:52 PM »
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That sounds good.
You could add fish later the same day if the timing is convenient for you.

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Re: Fishless cycling problem
« Reply #149 on: March 01, 2017, 07:18:59 PM »
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Can anyone suggest a similar fish to a Marble Hatchetfish as my LFS doesn't seem to have them. Other fish that will be in tank will be Harlequins, Panda Corys, Neon Tertras and a bolivian ram. Would also consider another fish similar to neons and harlequins.
I understand you can get fish by post, but would rather get from LFS if possible.

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