So... Am I Cycled Or Not? Skipping Nitrite Stage?

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Online Fishbeard

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So... am I cycled or not? Skipping Nitrite stage?
« on: July 05, 2018, 11:40:19 PM »
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So, long story short, I had to leave my tank with some elderly neighbours for about 6 weeks. They fed them, but I was only able to get up there to clean the tank and change the water once a fortnight. I gave the tank and filters a clean each time, but wasn't able to check the water and, even if I had spotted any problems, I wouldn't have been able to do anything about it, due to the circumstances I was in at the time. Everything had seemed fine when I'd been up before (the water was a bit cloudy, and the filter was a bit muckier than usual, but I attributed this to fortnightly cleaning instead of weekly), but in the week I went to pick them up, all six neon tetras, and one honey gourami had died.

I got the tank back home about a fortnight ago and broke out the API test kit. Nitrite was at zero and nitrate was abnormal for my tank, but ammonia was through the roof. A bit of online digging told me that neons were particularly susceptible to ammonia poisoning and their gills had been a rather pinkish-red colour.

Whilst I don't really know quite how it happened, I took it to be that my tank's cycle had stalled, so I was left with doing a fish-in cycle to try to get it back on track. For the last two weeks, I've been doing daily 50-75% water changes, and dosing with Tetra SafeStart, because even though I know the results vary, I figured anything was worth a shot. I've not lost any more fish since getting the tank home, and they all seem quite content - swimming and feeding as usual - so I believed I was tackling the problem.

I've been checking the water most days too, and the issue is that my test results seem a bit odd.

To start with ammonia was high, with no nitrite and low nitrate, and the ammonia began to decline over time. Last Thursday, I measured 1ppm of nitrite, and thought I was moving on to the second stage, as ammonia was between 0 and 0.25 (yellow with a slight green tinge), and nitrate was about on a par with my tap water. The next day, I had no nitrite and ammonia was a bit higher than it had been.

It's now been a week, and I've got 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and 5-10ppm of nitrate. I had the same yesterday and possibly Tuesday, though as said, I'm not great at reading the ammonia, but I had my mother up today and she confirmed the same readings I made, so at least that's a second opinion for today's readings.

Based on the threads here, it seems like 2 weeks is too fast and only having one day with a nitrite reading makes me wonder if something's gone wrong somewhere. Do you think my tank is cycled?

Offline Sue

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Re: So... am I cycled or not? Skipping Nitrite stage?
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2018, 09:13:21 AM »
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Something obviously happened to kill some, if not all, of the bacteria. If there had been a total loss of all the bacteria, there would have been nothing to 'eat' the ammonia and turn it into nitrite, so that could explain the high ammonia and zero nitrite.

But there may have been a few bacteria of both types left alive; not enough ammonia eaters to eat all the ammonia made by the fish resulting in the high ammonia but enough nitrite eaters to eat all the tiny amount of nitrite made by the few remaining ammonia eaters.
I suspect this latter scenario because as you did the water changes which removed whatever it was that killed the bacteria both species started to reproduce. Because there were some of each left alive, the nitrite eaters could keep up with the slowly increasing amount of nitrite made by the increasing number of ammonia eaters. The slight increase in nitrite was probably because the nitrite eaters don't multiply quite as fast as the ammonia eaters so they lagged behind a bit. And the SafeStart most likely helped as well as that does contain the right nitrite eaters.


The answer to your question is yes, the tank could be recycled in 2 weeks, especially if some bacteria had survived. This would be the same as using mature media to seed a cycle, which can progress very quickly.
I would monitor both ammonia and nitrite several days yet just to make sure. But it does sound like either you did have some bacteria left alive, or the Safe Start had been handled correctly before you bought it resulting in a bottle full of live bacteria. Wait a few weeks before getting more fish to make sure whatever happened to the bacteria is over.





Could the neighbours have unintentionally done something to affect the bacteria in the tank? Though usually things that kill the bacteria also kill fish  ???

Fish Community Creator Tanks
Siamese Fighting Fish (male) (1) - Snails (1) - Slender Harlequin (15) - Peacock Goby (4) - Otocinclus (5) - Pygmy Cory (3) - Axelrods Rasbora (5) - Japonica Shrimp (80) - Snails (5) - Neon Tetra (18) - Honey Gourami (1) -
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Online Fishbeard

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Re: So... am I cycled or not? Skipping Nitrite stage?
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2018, 12:55:51 PM »
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Thanks for your answer Sue, it's encouraging news, so I'll keep monitoring and cross my fingers.

My neighbours weren't cleaning the tank at all and weren't topping up the water due to their age (even with the warmer weather, the water levels weren't decreasing so rapidly that this would be a problem - even when I went to do maintenance, the water level had barely dropped). I know that moving the tank wasn't a particularly straightforwards experience - it spent a good 6 hours with the heater and filter turned off, but from what I've seen here, that shouldn't be long enough to cause a problem. I did change the tank to sand a few weeks before the move and, because the move was unplanned and sudden, I didn't have chance to remove the filters before moving it, so could a lot of sand have gotten into the filter and gunked it up? The first time I was able to clean it, the filter was quite mucky, but everything still functioned and it's back in my kitchen now where it appears to be working fine.

The neighbours were careful of the tank, I asked them not to use any cleaning fluids on/near to the tank (it was on an isolated island in their kitchen, so it wasn't a big ask), and I also asked them not to use air freshener too, just to be on the safe side. I know that their grandson (2-3 years old) took a shine to the tank, but he was only able to see the tank when sat in a high chair at their dinner table, so he was out of reach and the tank lid's secure enough that he wouldn't be able to throw anything in. I did ask how they'd been looking after the tank, but didn't want to probe too hard, considering that they were doing me a huge favour - without them, all the fish would have died so I'm not going to hold it against them, considering that they aren't fishkeepers.

For the record, my tank is:
Soft water
60x30 footprint, 54l capacity
Sand, mixture of real and silk plants, some bogwood
Oversized internal filter

Inhabitants:
2 honey gourami (1 male/1 female)
6 panda corydoras
4 amano shrimps
1 betta (bought as female, but having been researching potential new tankmates, I re-checked the photographs on here and SF and I'm now thinking I might have a male - I'll take a photo when I get home and let someone else confirm this)

Offline Sue

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Re: So... am I cycled or not? Skipping Nitrite stage?
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2018, 01:55:58 PM »
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The simplest way to determine the gender of a betta is to show it a mirror. Females usually flare at their reflections like males. With males the gills go all the way under their 'chin' and it looks like a beard. With a female betta, the gills only show at the sides of the head, they do not go under the 'chin'

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Note: The user may not necessarily own these fish, these are tanks that they may be building or researching for stocking purposes


Online Fishbeard

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Re: So... am I cycled or not? Skipping Nitrite stage?
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2018, 05:32:04 PM »
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I've tried showing her a mirror, but she seemed utterly disinterested. I spent a good ten minutes holding it in place near to where she was swimming and then another few minutes "following" her around the tank with it, but she either never saw it or just didn't care when she did.

So I've taken a couple of photographs, in the hope that you guys know better. I'm no trained eye, @Sue, but I've seen your recent photos of your mail in the Daily News thread and my first thoughts were "That looks familiar"...

Offline fcmf

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Re: So... am I cycled or not? Skipping Nitrite stage?
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2018, 06:56:20 PM »
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What a lovely, rich colour s/he is. 8)  I'll leave it to the betta experts to comment on whether s/he's a he or a she, as I have no experience whatsoever with them.

I had been wondering, from your first post, how long the filter might have been switched off for the move, and definitely think the 6+ hours has likely accounted for a mini-cycle (and possibly also the sand impeding the filter's function) - mine seemed to go through a mini-cycle for a week a number of years ago when the filter had been switched off for several hours. Hopefully it is / will be "back on track" now.

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X-ray Tetra (5) - Harlequin Rasbora (6) - Cardinal Tetra (3) - Sparkling Gourami (2) - Ram / Butterfly Cichlid (2) - Cherry Barb (3) - Blue Tetra (1) - Ember Tetra (1) - Golden Pencilfish (2) - Glowlight Tetra (1) - Agassiz's Dwarf Cichlid (2) - Galaxy Rasbora (1) - Lampeye Panchax (1) -
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Offline Sue

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Re: So... am I cycled or not? Skipping Nitrite stage?
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2018, 09:40:55 PM »
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I think you have a male. I can't see very clearly in the photos but the dangly things under the betta's head (actually pelvic fins) look to be quite long. Males have long ones, females have short ones. And he does look quite similar to my new betta https://forums.thinkfish.co.uk/general-fishkeeping-chat/think-fish-keepers-daily-news/msg41211/#msg41211 In my second photo you can see how long my betta's pelvic fins are.

I'm afraid that you could have problems because male bettas and gouramis do not get on together. They can co-exist for a while then it is well known for something to make the betta snap and he suddenly becomes very aggressive. Keep a close eye on them and in case something does turn nasty have a back-up plan. Even something as simple as having a fry net in the cupboard so that the betta can be moved into it if he starts attacking the gouramis, or they start attacking him. This would be a temporary solution while you worked out something long term. You'd also need something to cover the net as bettas can jump.

Fish Community Creator Tanks
Siamese Fighting Fish (male) (1) - Snails (1) - Slender Harlequin (15) - Peacock Goby (4) - Otocinclus (5) - Pygmy Cory (3) - Axelrods Rasbora (5) - Japonica Shrimp (80) - Snails (5) - Neon Tetra (18) - Honey Gourami (1) -
Note: The user may not necessarily own these fish, these are tanks that they may be building or researching for stocking purposes


Online Fishbeard

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Re: So... am I cycled or not? Skipping Nitrite stage?
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2018, 09:53:52 PM »
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And so my steep learning curve continues...

Looking at your pictures, I'd say "Princess" (I'll have to stop using that name) has pelvic fins on a par with yours, @Sue, so it's more than just colouring that makes them similar. His pelvic fins are even a dark red colour, like yours. I guess he's now the fish formerly known as Princess?

I'll have to make a trip out tomorrow then, and get hold of something to keep him in, just in case it's required. So far, he's never shown any aggression towards the gouramis, but when I had neons, he did like to sometimes charge into the middle of their shoal and scatter them. I never saw any biting/pecking or any chasing, but he just seemed to enjoy giving them a scare.

I've also checked the tank again tonight. 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and 5 nitrate, exactly the same as last night. For the first time in over a fortnight, I haven't done a water change today, so I'll see what effect (if any) that has on things tomorrow.

Online Littlefish

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Re: So... am I cycled or not? Skipping Nitrite stage?
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2018, 10:06:09 PM »
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When I bought my first betta I thought it was a female, until Sue pointed out that it was a plakat male. He's now called Seb.
My newer one, pale with some marbling towards the rear, and clear fins, he's called Kimi.
Your fish (FKA Princess) has a lovely colour. I hope you don't have any problems with him & the gourami.

Online Fishbeard

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Re: So... am I cycled or not? Skipping Nitrite stage?
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2018, 10:52:52 AM »
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Yeah, I hope so too. I've been out and picked up a fry net, just to be on the safe side, though he's never shown any interest in the gourami before. I can hope I get lucky with him, but... well. Luck's not really been a friend of mine!

And, unsurprisingly, the trip to the LFS is leading me to start a new thread...

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