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The Tribulations Of Cycling A New Tank - Need Advice

Author Topic: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice  (Read 4614 times)

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Offline Nan

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The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« on: May 18, 2019, 11:30:03 AM »
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Ok, I have a 60 litre tank that I'm trying to cycle. It was on the way, with nitrates being produced, when it crashed and we are, apparently, back at square one. The specifics are:

60 litres, with led lighting (Juwel Primo tank)
Eco Complete substrate 1/2 and Unipac sand 1/2
one large piece of bogwood
Planted with two java ferns (on wood), and approximately 10 other plants, including an area of a grassy-looking plant in the substrate that I can't remember the name of. And two mossballs.
Juwel Bioflow One filter (for 80 litre tank)
Prime to condition the water.
The tank lights are on from 9 to noon, and then from 5pm to 9pm.
The temp is about 25c (maybe a bit over).

I also have a little 5 gallon tank, rounded gravel, with a Tetra Whisper and an Eheim filter running. It's stocked and has been up for two years.

Tap water has no nitrates or nitrites, and is very soft. Its parameters (from the Scottish Water) are German 0.94. the CaCo3 is 16.85.  When I initially tested it I was getting between 6.0 and 6.5 on the PH using the API dipsticks. After being in the tank it has dropped to 6.0 (possibly lower, but that was the bottom of the scale).

I had to put a double-dose of API "Up" (sodium carbonate) in to make any noticeable difference in the Ph level.

I am now using the API master test kit and it's a very pale 6.0 Ph (without any "Up" added).

I have put a little packet of what is supposed to be dolomite gravel in each tank, where the water will run over it coming out of the filters.

To aid the cycling, I pulled a small over-the-back filter that I'd had on a five gallon aquarium that has been up and running for two years and put it on this one. I later sacrificed the filter media to this tank.  (I had another filter running on the five gallon and had for two months, so it should have kept everyone alive until the other filter was back. The five gallon was overstocked due to unexpected offspring.)

I had been cycling the 60 litre fish-less since early May, had a nitrite spike that was coming down, and had 20 ppm of nitrates. Earlier this week, the nitrites disappeared, so I was happy until I saw the nitrates were also gone, and the ammonia was up again.

I did a 75% water change and planned to start over in another fish-less cycle try, except that the five gallon tank "crashed" badly at that point and I lost several baby albino corys.  I moved six surviving very young albino corys over to the 60 litre tank, and have been monitoring it carefully. They've been getting a 25% to 33% water change every day to bring the ammonia down.

This morning it was, after 24 hours since the last change, between .5 and 1.0.  I've just done another 33% water change and will be testing shortly to make sure it's ok.  The five gallon tank is pretty much getting flushed every other day and having partial water changes every morning and evening. It contains three adult albino corys and four neons that I am trying to keep alive until the corys can be moved to the large tank. (After which the neons should have a better time of it in there.)

The plants are doing well in the large tank, except the mossballs. They seem to be getting just a bit brown and don't look good, and I'm not quite sure why. I am going to pull them out of the tank and put them elsewhere for a while to see if they perk back up. The mossball in the small tank looked very bad indeed and has been removed. The other live plant in there is doing well. All the other plants have pretty much doubled in size in three weeks, except the java ferns (that seem healthy) and the mossballs.

In a panic yesterday I added Dr. Tim's bacteria to each filter to try to help jump-start the cycle again. (Triple the dose, actually.) And will continue to add to it in the small tank as I am having to do such massive water changes so often.

I am using Prime, and I know that can give a positive reading for ammonia that is temporarily "safe" (24 to 48 hours?). Due to the size of the small tank, I've not got really many other options that I know about other than the constant water changes to keep the fish safe.

Do you have any advice for anything else I can be doing to help these tanks get cycling again? They have to have the fish in them, unfortunately. I'm afraid to move anyone else from the small tank to the large one, but as soon as I can I would like to move the adult corys over one a week. I'm kind of amazed that the six babies (they are about 1 to 2cm long) could raise the ammonia in a 60 litre tank overnight. Could the bogwood have anything to do with that? I have put a sinking wafer in for them, given them a half hour with it, and then removed the remains. Now I'm putting in 1/2 of a sinking wafer daily, and it's disappearing in the half hour. They are very avidly rooting around and up on the bogwood and plants, etc.

Should I use more "Up" to try to raise the Ph slightly in the water that is going into the tanks in a water change?

I am due to get some cockleshells to add to the tank today, assuming my vendor has them in (as he'd hoped).

Other than keeping changing the water, which I'm ok with as I'm retired and home all day, and testing for ammonia/nitrites is there anything else I can be doing at this point?

EDIT: Have just found this handy chart http://www.ecofilms.com.au/aquaponics-health-understanding-ammonia-water-temperature-and-ph-balance/comment-page-1/#comment-676638  and am breathing a bit easier tonight.

Offline Sue

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2019, 07:01:10 PM »
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The best thing is water changes - but for just ammonia you don't need to do them as often as you'd think. Besides using Prime you also have water below pH 7.
As you probably know, ammonia in water exists in 2 forms - toxic ammonia and much less toxic ammonium. The amount of each for depends on the temperature and pH of the water. Temp does not have much effect as we keep out tanks within a very small range for tropical fish. However pH does vary quite widely from tank to tank and the lower the pH, the more of the 'safe' form there is. Our test kits measure 'total ammonia', that is ammonia and ammonia combined; and there are calculators which work out how much of our ammonia reading is in the toxic form. This is the one I use https://www.hamzasreef.com/Contents/Calculators/FreeAmmonia.php
Set salinity to zero then enter the other levels from your test kit and thermometer. On the results side of the page, you want the number for NH3 concentration. If it is less than 0.05, it is OK for a couple of days. If it below 0.02 it is safe. You can delay water changes provided nitrite is zero until ammonia reaches 0.02.

But there is no safe form of nitrite, it is all toxic. You need to do a water change for any reading of nitrite other than zero, no matter what the calculator shows for ammonia.



If the levels in one tank are higher than the other, it would be worth moving all the fish into the lower level tank. I suspect the larger tank will take longer for the levels to rise simply because there is more water to dilute ammonia and any nitrite made from it.

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2019, 09:41:19 PM »
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Well then, according to the calculator I have several days. (pwew!) It is definitely safe, at 0.0006 before the last water change, according to this calculator. On the good side, if that log was leaching tanins, I've removed quite a lot of it. And the small tank needed a good flush anyway.

I'll watch the nitrite as well - there was none yesterday evening, and no nitrates. I had planned on moving the three adult corys over there to the big tank anyway. I'll keep an eye on them in the 5 gallon, to give the plants just a little longer to root in before the little bulldozers get turned loose on them.

I am curious if the Dr. Tims will work or not. I've read that the ammonia concentration (read this online anyway, it's not on the bottle) needs to be around 2.0 before it really starts working. I saturated all three filters with it, and dumped quite a bit in each tank as well. I guess we'll see?

Offline Puffin

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2019, 08:07:04 AM »
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Is there any reason why you didnít just put the old filter and tank inhabitants in the new tank? Asking because am hoping to upgrade too in the near-ish future.

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2019, 08:43:18 AM »
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I was advised to try to get the tank established and cycled up before doing that, and the little tank was stable. The big tank was on the way, actually - ammonia had dropped and nitrite was coming down (although still too high on its own), and I had some nitrate, when it all crashed. Also, not all of the inhabitants of the old tank are going to the new tank, just the corys.  Basically, I was trying to give both the plants and the microbes a head start. I have two small filters on the small tank, and actually did transfer one of them over to the big tank, for a while, and sacrificed its filter material to the big tank. Unfortunately, the other small filter wasn't established enough (it'd been in there for over a month, which was not long enough, I guess) and the little tank crashed.

Best laid plans of mice and men, and all that...  ;)

There is still no nitrite showing in the big tank this morning, but just a trace in the small one - which I assume the Prime will take care of for a day. So I guess the big corys are moving sooner than I planned.

Offline jaypeecee

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2019, 10:04:05 AM »
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Do you have any advice for anything else I can be doing to help these tanks get cycling again? They have to have the fish in them, unfortunately.

Hi Nan,

Trying to put things right at this stage is not easy, which is not what you want to hear. But one vital ingredient may be missing to keep the bacteria happy. And that is phosphate/phosphorus. Nitrifying bacteria need a source of phosphorus to grow and multiply. If the cycle crashes - particularly when nitrite is being converted to nitrate - this may be a sign of phosphorus deficiency. This nutrient is often present in tap water but it's difficult to know if this is always the case. It appears that Water Authorities throughout Europe are not required to publish phosphate figures. I don't know if this also applies in your native USA. There are phosphate test kits for aquarium use and I have one but they tend to be a little bit more expensive than other kits.

So, what to do? If you have any aquarium plant fertilizers that contain phosphorus, you could try adding a dose of that. Take a look at a fertilizer bottle. Phosphorus is the 'P' of the NPK figure. But be aware that you would also be adding nitrogen - possibly as nitrate - in some form. An alternative would be to grind up a few pieces of fish food flake and add that to the tank. Or use a phosphorus fertilizer such as Seachem Flourish Phosphorus.

JPC

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2019, 10:30:37 AM »
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Hi JPC. 

I didn't expect it was going to be easy, but, hey, was happy it was actually coming along as quickly as it was.
The last place I lived in the States had some seriously mineralized water, so I've never actually run into this before. I never checked the water other than for chlorine/chloramine/heavy metals/pollutants. (Prior to cycling.)

The baby corys are in the big tank and seem to be getting progressively larger every time I look at them.  :) Would fish flake be needed, with them in the tank? I'm not feeding them heavily, and they are spending a lot of their time exploring the plants, rock, and log (which I assume means they are eating whatever they find  there).  There is also bogwood in the tank - probably driftwood, as bogwood is terribly expensive. I may take another sample of water down to the aquarium shop and let them test it - I'll mention the phosphorus and see if he can check that for me.

The plant fertilizer I have is Tropica Plant Growth Premium and the label is so tiny I cannot read it. In looking at their adverts online, I note they say it contains no nitrogen or phosphorous. The plants (other than the moss balls) are doing extremely well - most are twice the size they were when I planted them a month ago. I looked at the Scottish Water figures I could find online and they don't provide nearly as in-depth a report as I would have hoped. I'm going to email them and see if I can get a reply.

It looks like the little tank is starting to cycle a bit - I hope, anyway. The ammonia is within limits and there is now a trace of nitrite. (There was none yesterday evening.)  The big tank shows a trace of ammonia and no nitrite. (I didn't check for nitrate, as without nitrite....)

Interestingly, in support of your hypothesis, I had taken most of the plants back out of the small tank (it had never been planted, other than having a moss ball, and I had added quite a few plants last week) and we're getting some semblance of the cycle starting. I left one plant in there that is doing incredibly well. So I'm wondering if there is just enough phosphate in the water for the plants to use, but not enough for the bacteria then? I also wonder if that is what could have caused the previously very happy moss ball to start going south in the little tank - the addition of a lot of other plants. It will be interesting to see what the water tests at when I can get it to the shop.

Offline Sue

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2019, 12:22:13 PM »
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You do need to be careful when adding phosphate as you should not overdose it; I would not add it without a tester. People who have a lot of phosphate in their tap water use special media to remove it. The 'plant people' will be able to tell you the phosphate range to aim for.

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2019, 12:27:50 PM »
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Thanks, Sue. I'm not going to add anything until someone else tests my water for me. And then, if I do, it'll be a very diluted plant food, I think. I've done hydroponic gardening in the past and I always found it was better to put in half of what any bottle recommended, or less, to see how things react.

I did get a twitter response from Scottish water that they are forwarding my request for info onto their lab guys and that I should hear something soon.

EDIT:  Scottish Water says they aren't required to track it, so they have no information to provide to me about any water parameters other than those required by law.  :(

Offline fcmf

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2019, 05:19:24 PM »
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I've just skimmed this thread and thought I'd add the following point:

* I would get your water checked for phosphates at a local fish shop, if you can - my water had a reading of 2 first time I tested it but 5 on subsequent tests which is quite high. I put this down to possibly the following: https://www.scottishwater.co.uk/en/Help-and-Resources/Document-Hub/Factsheets-and-Leaflets/Factsheets - Factsheet 3, Item 7 states "Phosphate may be added at our water treatment works to help prevent lead being absorbed from lead service pipes at customersí properties." As Sue recommends, I think it would be worth identifying your phosphates level to avoid it becoming too high.



Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2019, 06:53:00 PM »
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Yeah, we're going to hoof it the three miles to the nearest one tomorrow, and then have lunch nearby. So hopefully we'll know more by tomorrow evening.

Offline jaypeecee

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2019, 07:02:55 PM »
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You do need to be careful when adding phosphate as you should not overdose it; I would not add it without a tester. People who have a lot of phosphate in their tap water use special media to remove it. The 'plant people' will be able to tell you the phosphate range to aim for.

Hi Sue,

Yes, phosphate needs monitoring and controlling - just like most water parameters. In the natural freshwater environment, average phosphate level is 0.01 mg/l. I maintain phosphate at less than 0.1 mg/l in the water column. This, I find, helps to keep algae under control. If root tabs are used that contain phosphate, then phosphate in the water column can be reduced even further. My last phosphate reading was less than 0.02 mg/l.

JPC

Offline jaypeecee

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2019, 07:49:28 PM »
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The baby corys are in the big tank and seem to be getting progressively larger every time I look at them.  :) Would fish flake be needed, with them in the tank? I'm not feeding them heavily, and they are spending a lot of their time exploring the plants, rock, and log (which I assume means they are eating whatever they find  there).  There is also bogwood in the tank - probably driftwood, as bogwood is terribly expensive. I may take another sample of water down to the aquarium shop and let them test it - I'll mention the phosphorus and see if he can check that for me.

Interestingly, in support of your hypothesis, I had taken most of the plants back out of the small tank (it had never been planted, other than having a moss ball, and I had added quite a few plants last week) and we're getting some semblance of the cycle starting. I left one plant in there that is doing incredibly well. So I'm wondering if there is just enough phosphate in the water for the plants to use, but not enough for the bacteria then? I also wonder if that is what could have caused the previously very happy moss ball to start going south in the little tank - the addition of a lot of other plants. It will be interesting to see what the water tests at when I can get it to the shop.

Hi Nan,

If your LFS can do a phosphate test for you, the minimum phosphate level that I aim for is 0.2 mg/l throughout the cycle. It is quite probable that the LFS staff are not aware of the importance of phosphorus in the development of nitrifying bacteria. To be honest, a year ago I wasn't aware of this. But the evidence is there for anyone that has the inclination to read about it.

JPC

Offline jaypeecee

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2019, 08:01:00 PM »
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I think it would be worth identifying your phosphates level to avoid it becoming too high.

Hi fcmf,

Just a point of clarification. If the phosphate level is too high, that can cause its own problems, e.g. algae growth. But for successful development of nitrifying bacteria, the concern is too little phosphate.

JPC

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2019, 08:13:54 PM »
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Understood. I am also using plant tabs, but they are buried in the substrate in the back, near the plants. (Tropica Nutrition Capsules for Aquariums. It says it contains both nitrogen, phosphorus, iron and micro nutrients. )

The substrate, Eco-complete, advertises "contains volcanic basalt incorporating over 30 different elements. This substrate has all the mineral nutrients necessary for luxuriant aquatic plant growth without nuisance algae. It is also rich in iron to eliminate the need for messy laterites. Features: Flora-Spore Root Enhancement Symbionts; No rinsing; Packed in water conditioning solution for immediate results."  I've never used anything like that before. No chance that has been messing with the process? For the first several days after the tank was set up we noticed a sort of slight filmy growth on the substrate, and along the bottom of the sides of the tank, but only where there was substrate.

The ammonia in the big tank tonight is at about 1, so still very safe. No nitrites, no nitrates. Going to move Big Bertha the cory over tomorrow, and see how that goes. We are getting a bit of nitrites in the little tank now.

The guy I'm taking the water to really seems to know his stuff, so he'll be thorough, I'm thinking. I will bring up the phosphorus thing with him, for sure.

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2019, 02:48:08 PM »
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LFS guy is not in today. Will go back down on Saturday to have him test the water.

60 Litre tank is at 6 or less Ph, 1.0 ammonia, no Nitrite, no Nitrate. Tank is at 77F.

5 gallon tank now is at 6.0 or less, 1.0 ammonia, up to .5 Nitrite (possibly a bit higher), no Nitrate yet, so it's starting. Tank is at 77F.

Took one of the large  corys over to the large tank yesterday. She's happy as a clam. (And six times as big as the little guys now in there. She's a veritable behemoth!)) It was interesting - this was her first time seeing actual sand. It took her a bit to get acclimated, and then she started rooting in it as if she'd always done. Good to see her being able to exhibit natural behaviors.  ;D

Offline jaypeecee

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #16 on: May 23, 2019, 02:27:38 PM »
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60 Litre tank is at 6 or less Ph, 1.0 ammonia, no Nitrite, no Nitrate. Tank is at 77F.

5 gallon tank now is at 6.0 or less, 1.0 ammonia, up to .5 Nitrite (possibly a bit higher), no Nitrate yet, so it's starting. Tank is at 77F.

Took one of the large  corys over to the large tank yesterday. She's happy as a clam.

Hi Nan,

Putting together each of your statements above, you are obviously still getting high ammonia readings in both tanks. But your cory survived because the pH is low (6.0 or less). If you measured ammonia at 1.0ppm and pH=7.5, for example, then your cory would be subjected to free ammonia, which is toxic. The higher the pH, the more toxic the ammonia becomes. This is what Sue was saying in a previous post. But here is the dilemma. The optimum pH range for cycling a tank is from 7.4 - 8.0. At pH=6.0 and below, nitrifying bacteria struggle or die. If we can raise your tank pH readings to around 7.4, then the nitrifying bacteria should start to multiply in numbers and this, in turn, will start to reduce ammonia. Didn't we discuss this on another one of your threads a couple of weeks ago?

So, I would approach this by gradually increasing alkalinity/KH. I have done this without any ill-effects for soft water fish (German Blue Rams) by using sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda). The API KH test kit is a suitable option for monitoring changes. In your 60l tank, just 2g sodium bicarbonate should increase KH by approximately 1dKH. So, we're talking small quantities. This should approximate to 1ml of sodium bicarbonate. That's about one-fifth of a UK level teaspoon. You will need to use proportionately less for your 5 gallon tank.

With further additions of sodium bicarbonate and careful monitoring of KH, pH and ammonia, you may be able to change the water chemistry sufficiently to bring the nitrifying bacteria to life. In fact, it may be a good idea to add Tetra SafeStart to supplement whatever nitrifying bacteria you already have.

I offer the above with a degree of hesitation. I seem to recall that you wanted to keep your fish in these tanks despite the water conditions being unfavourable. My preference at the outset would have been to start up a new tank in which you could have safely housed your fish but only when the cycle had been completed. But, we are where we are. So, let's see what can be done.

JPC

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #17 on: May 23, 2019, 03:51:34 PM »
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Hi JPC - The five gallon tank was doing fine, and I was trying to keep the fish there until the 60 litre tank had cycled without fish in it.

Unfortunately, although I thought having a second filter running in the 5 gallon for 4 or 5 weeks would have gotten a decent bacterial colony going in it, that didn't happen. (Apparently?)  I moved one of the little filters from the 5 gallon to the 60 litre, and sacrificed the filter media to that tank. I put the filter back into the the 5 gallon tank after several days with a fresh filter media and the tank crashed. I lost several babies overnight.  It is now starting to cycle again. I've poured half a bottle of  bacteria on the sponges. I am using Prime, and now that the Nitrites are showing I am also doing water changes.

The big tank had finally started to have the nitrites drop from obscenely high, and I had some nitrate reading. It arbitrarily crashed. I now have ammonia only (and am using Prime), no nitrites, no nitrates (as of yesterday afternoon).

As the water in the big tank is more stable, although not ideal, I've moved the babies into it, along with their mother, Bertha, until the 5 gallon tank cycles. I'm keeping a close eye on it.

There are still two corys and a few neons left in the 5 gallon. They are all acting as if things are well, and I'm checking water chemistry twice a day.

Yes, we had talked about changing the Ph in another thread. I have API "Up", and it takes a double dose of it in the big tank to have any appreciable change in Ph. Until I can get to the LFS and get some cockleshells or crushed coral, I'm in "just keep everyone alive" mode. Now that the fish have been in there for a while and we are getting ammonia, I'm watching to see if we get any nitrite. If not in a few days, I'll be changing some of the water out and will replace it with water that's been treated with "Up." Then the same, if necessary.  I have treated the water with Prime before it goes into the tank, because we have chloramines in the water. The gent who I had hoped would test the water for phosphate was not available yesterday, so it will be Saturday before I can get back down there again to his shop.

I ordered Tetra Safe Start Plus early last week, and am waiting for it to be delivered by Amazon. It seems to be taking forever.

Offline Sue

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #18 on: May 23, 2019, 04:20:20 PM »
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The problem with adding an extra filter is that unless you also increase the number of fish in the tank to get the bacteria to make more of them, the bacteria will stay in the old media. The same number of fish = the same number of bacteria to deal with their waste so they just stay where they are.



Personally I so not like using sodium in a tank because it makes the water unlike anything found in nature. It ay not affect the GH of the water but it increased TDS (total dissolved solids) which is the opposite of what dost water fish need. Calcium carbonate (and magnesium carbonate to a small extent) is better as that add the minerals found naturally in harder water. In other words, shells, coral, limestone, aragonite and especially dolomite are better that bicarbonate of soda. But bicarb dissolves instantly raising KH and pH instantly while shells. coral etc are a long term solution as they dissolve very slowly.
But in your case, the tank would cycle faster with higher KH and pH (though ammonia is more toxic the higher the pH) and once it is cycled, you can gradually stop using bicarb/pH up and use more natural ways of boosting KH. Having a low pH is perfectly OK with fish that prefer acidic water.

Offline jaypeecee

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #19 on: May 23, 2019, 04:43:25 PM »
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Hi Nan,

Thanks for the update.

Although Seachem Prime is well-respected, I have never used it. Also, when you say "I've poured half a bottle of  bacteria on the sponges", which bacterial product did you use? With reference to Tetra SafeStart Plus, that is a new product if I understand rightly. Perhaps that's why it's taking so long to arrive. It may be worth asking Amazon to swap it for SafeStart as that is an excellent product.

JPC

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #20 on: May 23, 2019, 05:05:32 PM »
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Hi JPC/Sue.

I used Dr. Tim's One and Only. I have been reading comments online that say it won't really start working until the ammonia is around 2. (???)  There is definitely something going on in the little tank, just not the big one.

I checked the tracking on Safe Start Plus and it's due here any day - it came from the States and has been turned over to Royal Mail as of Tuesday down in England. So it should be here tomorrow or Saturday.

The little tank was badly overstocked and so I assumed there was more than enough stuff to feed the bacteria in two filters. The corys spawned and a goodly number of them survived. (!) I've never had that happen before, so I was caught by surprise. I had been planning to get a bigger tank, but was waiting to see how Brexit shook out - if we were going to have to leave or not - but had my hand forced by the addition of so many babies.

The API "Up" treatment says to add .5 teaspoon for every 25 gallons. I assume that's US gallons. Since a 60 litre tank is around a 15 US gallon tank, I gave it .25 of a teaspoon in some extra water. I will check the Ph again later tonight, and tomorrow if it hasn't changed I'll add another .25 with some fresh water. If memory serves, early on in the cycle that had been working I did add enough to raise the Ph, and it took a double-dose for it to even register.

So, the bacteria should be attaching the the filter, the gravel, and the stuff in there (the bogwood, etc.) and not be free-floating in the tank water, correct? So if I change some water out tomorrow (to hypothetically refresh any phosphorus that's been used up) it's not going to be removing the bacteria?

Edit: I just checked the water in the big tank again and had my daughter look at the colors for me (she's an artist and has a very good eye for colors). No change. Ph shows at 6, though it's very pale. Ammonia at 1. No nitrite, no nitrate.  The corys are doing extremely well in there and are growing. Now that the mother, Big Bertha, is in there, they are all schooling together. Very cool to see, really.  ;D


Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #21 on: May 23, 2019, 05:07:12 PM »
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Just a thought. Calcium carbonate. Would that be the same calcium as in human calcium carbonate dietary supplement tablets?

Offline jaypeecee

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #22 on: May 23, 2019, 05:46:52 PM »
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Personally I so not like using sodium in a tank because it makes the water unlike anything found in nature.

Hi Sue,

I would need to check if sodium is found in natural waters. In the meantime, are you aware that domestic tap water can contain up to 200 mg/l of sodium? That's its PCV (Prescribed Concentration or Value). Last year, in my regional tap water supply (South East Water), the measured range for sodium was from 19.0 to 37.6 mg/l. Apparently, it comes from sodium hypochlorite (bleach), which is used as a safer alternative to chlorine gas as a disinfectant. Here is a bit of bedtime reading:

  https://www.lenntech.com/processes/disinfection/chemical/disinfectants-sodium-hypochlorite.htm

Furthermore, sodium is one of the elements used in Seachem Replenish for remineralizing RO/DI water. Other companies producing freshwater remineralizing electrolytes also include sodium.

JPC

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #23 on: May 23, 2019, 05:56:24 PM »
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That is interesting, JPC.

I just did the daily test on the little 5 gallon and it's chugging.
Ph is 6.6 (so it IS something in the other tank that's dropping the Ph! It's either the Eco substrate or the bogwood, I assume? Probably the latter?)
Ammonia 2 to 4, closer to 4 I think
Nitrite 1.0
and, surprisingly, Nitrate, 5.0. There was a definite color change.

I had put a half bottle of Dr. Tim's on the sponges in both filters in this tank several days ago.  I believe I'll do a partial water change now (with Prime), because even if I do and even if Dr. Tim's really does need 2.0 Ammonia to work, there will still be enough left to meet that. If it's a lack of phosphorus, this added water should replenish it.

Back before the addition of all the babies and the crash, I was doing a 30% water change weekly and the tank had been healthy and stable for over a year. So hopefully we can get back there again soon. I am going to leave the second small filter in there just so it builds up some bacteria. In case of future emergencies in either tank, at least it'll be a backup.


Offline Sue

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #24 on: May 23, 2019, 07:07:24 PM »
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My water quality report gives min 4.4, max 8.7, mean 6.55 mg sodium per litre.


I know that using salt on a routine basis is not good for soft water fish, though hard water fish do have a better tolerance. It is fine to use it for a limited period but not routinely.
But it all depends on just how much sodium is added to a tank. If the addition of bicarb is kept as low as possible - just enough to get KH high enough for cycling, and then for keeping the pH stable once there are fish - it is probably OK. My tap water has KH 3 and my pH is stable because I do regular water changes to replenish it. The danger would come if a fishkeeper added a lot of bicarb to increase very low KH to, say, well over 10.
This is my main reluctance in advising the use of bicarb - we can never know just how much someone reading a post will actually use in their tank.

Offline jaypeecee

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #25 on: May 23, 2019, 08:15:12 PM »
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My water quality report gives min 4.4, max 8.7, mean 6.55 mg sodium per litre.


I know that using salt on a routine basis is not good for soft water fish, though hard water fish do have a better tolerance. It is fine to use it for a limited period but not routinely.
But it all depends on just how much sodium is added to a tank. If the addition of bicarb is kept as low as possible - just enough to get KH high enough for cycling, and then for keeping the pH stable once there are fish - it is probably OK. My tap water has KH 3 and my pH is stable because I do regular water changes to replenish it. The danger would come if a fishkeeper added a lot of bicarb to increase very low KH to, say, well over 10.
This is my main reluctance in advising the use of bicarb - we can never know just how much someone reading a post will actually use in their tank.

Hi Sue,

My mean sodium level in tap water is 26.06 mg/l, four times higher than in your location. Perhaps this figure correlates with population density. It's pretty heavily populated where I am - 30 miles West of London.

When you refer to salt, I assume you are referring to sodium chloride. But sodium bicarbonate will behave differently, won't it?

I think most fishkeepers - including beginners - realize that they can't just add 'chemicals' to a tank without checking the recommended dosage first. For my part, that is why I gave detailed instructions to Nan specifically for the size of tanks being discussed.

JPC

Offline Sue

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #26 on: May 24, 2019, 12:08:38 PM »
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Sodium chloride and sodium hydrogen carbonate are both salts in the chemical sense. A soluble salt will dissociate completely into its ions when dissolved in water. So both sodium chloride and sodium hydrogen carbonate will result in sodium ions in the water. It's the other half, the anion, which is different. Chloride does nothing to the hardness (GH or KH) and will not affect the pH. The hydrogen carbonate anion will affect KG and pH but not GH.
But both put sodium into the water, and this is the 'bad' half of the molecule.

I agree that everyone will try not to overdose chemicals. This is easy when there are instructions on a bottle of a medication, but I do wonder if someone reading "bicarb helps during cycling" will stop reading at that point and just throw in a handful.
I should add that I have used bicarb during a fishless cycle as I have low KH. When I did my first fishless cycle, I had no idea how low it was and the pH crashed. Adding bicarb saved that cycle.



I'm in the North Yorks/County Durham border area which is not highly populated. Our water comes from Kielder reservoir in the wilds of Northumberland which is why my tap nitrate is so low at a mean of 2.2165 ppm, something I am very grateful for.

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #27 on: May 24, 2019, 01:15:01 PM »
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So, I checked the big tank. Ammonia is going up and nothing else happened. Had put in 1/4 teaspoon of "Up" last night, no change. Have put in another 1/4 teaspoon this morning, will check this evening and re-dose again, and then check in the morning.

The Tetra SafeStartPlus has arrived and been deployed, per the instructions on the bottle.

Edit: no appreciable change in Ph after the second 1/4 teaspoon dose, so it's had another not long ago (around 4pm). Ph is now reading 6.4. Will check it again in the morning, and possibly put another 1/8th teaspoon in. Don't want to raise it too much due to the ammonia level. The 5 gallon tank is starting to cycle with Ph of 6.4, so fingers are crossed for the big one.

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #28 on: May 25, 2019, 09:50:00 AM »
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Small tank is definitely cycling, have appreciable nitrAtes showing. For some odd reason, the heater got it up to 80F overnight. The alarm on the tank alerted me (aka woke me up in the middle of the darned night!) and I was able to turn the previously perfectly functional heater down. It is now back to 77F. As it's cycling for sure, I did a 33% water change to drop the nitrites down. Used water that I had treated with  Prime two days ago and had left sitting out, so the Prime shouldn't interfere with any of the bacteria.  Will check again later this evening and possibly do another one, as I still have aged water left over. The fish are doing well.

The big tank - the Ph is back down to 6 (or less) this morning. I added another 1/4 teaspoon of "Up" to bring it back up a bit to the 6.4 range. The fish appear to be doing well.


Edit:  Big Tank this morning, several hours AFTER adding .25 teaspoon API "Up".

Temp 77F
Ph  6, perhaps just a bit higher but not to the next color
Ammonia 2
Nitrites - none detectable
NitrAtes - It seems there is a trace there, as it's not pale yellow but not as deep a color as the lowest non-yellow on the API chart.

Added another .25 of Ph "Up" to the tank.
Added the weekly plant food. Some of the plants are not looking too good.
The corys are still appearing happy and healthy.
I have finally sourced a supply of crushed coral (in a small amount) and it should be here in a few days. I will be adding it to the tank to help buffer the water.

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #29 on: May 26, 2019, 05:38:02 PM »
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Yeah, ok, I'm in a time warp with the big tank. (The small tank is going through the thing as it should.)

Temp 77F
Ph  6, perhaps just a bit higher
Ammonia 2
Nitrites - none detectable
Nitrates - not really any detectable

I put in half a teaspoon (in quarter-teaspoon increments a few hours apart) of API "Up" (sodium carbonate) every evening and get nada, and with another quarter teaspoon a reading  closer to the next color on the chart (6.4?).  Next day it's gone.

On the good side, I don't believe the fish are suffering any ill or harm. On the bad, I don't have a cycling tank, even after the addition of a  bottle of good bacteria (or, two half-bottles: Dr. Tim's and Tetra SafeStart Plus).
I did put some of the dolomite gravel in, in a mesh bag hanging by the filter, but I assume that will take a long time to do much of anything.

I wonder if it's safe to put a higher dosage of "Up" in there? Will give it another 1/4 teaspoon in a bit.

I have changed 25% of the water (yesterday). I have not been able to get to the LFS to have the Phosphate checked.  The guy at the LFS, when I was buying sand from him, said he just used local tap water, but put in cockleshells and his fish are great. Of course, he sells fish and they are not in planted, bog-wooded aquariums. So I think it's gotta be more the Ph than Phosphorus - or his tanks wouldn't do well on "only local tap water".... At one point since the crash I changed most of the water, before the fish went in. I've done periodic 25% changes since then. I guess I'll just keep doing periodic water changes to keep whatever minerals are in the tap water going into the tank until I can sort this out.

Offline Sue

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #30 on: May 26, 2019, 06:36:20 PM »
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How well planted is the tank? If there are lots of plants they should remove the ammonia instead of the bacteria. Always provided they are plants that like soft acidic water, of course.

On another forum is a chap who has virtually no GH or KH in his water and the pH often drops as low as 4.5 (he bought a test kit that goes that low). He does nothing to increase GH, or KH or pH and keeps only soft water fish. He has a fishroom rather than a couple of tanks and all his fish thrive.

With your pH, that ammonia is safe. You have no nitrite so that's OK. As long as you have no nitrite, you don't need to worry. Once the plants start to grow well, they should take care of the ammonia. Bacteria will grow slowly over time.
Of the bacteria you've added, some will grow at low pH and those are the ones you need. They will survive and multiply albeit slowly.

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #31 on: May 26, 2019, 11:38:05 PM »
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It has quite a few plants, and most of them have doubled in size since we put them in. The moss balls looked bad after a while so they are now in a glass bowl in my kitchen instead.  My guess is that the bogwood is taking the Ph down, since the little tank registers at 6. to 6.4 pretty reliably. So I'll just change some water every few days.  If it takes 3/4 of a teaspoon to raise the Ph up to around 6.2 (guessing), and the instructions on the "Up" say a normal dose is 1/2 teaspoon for 25 gallons, and I'm giving it 3/4ths teaspoon for basically 15 gallons to have something show up over 6 in the test, it must be low indeed!

Well, on the good side, I don't have to worry about the tank cycle crashing if there isn't one to start with! No, still no nitrites. Ammonia has not gone over 2. Looks like just keeping tabs on it daily is the way to go. Glad I ordered some API ammonia strips. ;) I have crushed coral due to arrive sometime next week, and perhaps I'll put a bit of that in a bag as well, as I did with the dolomite. Just so there are some minerals in the water, other than what goes in with the plant food weekly.
 
I think we're going to just have the corys in this tank, after all. They just seem so happy in there, and we have so many of them, that it seems the best plan. And they, if memory serves, prefer their water a bit on the acidic side.

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #32 on: May 29, 2019, 01:05:52 AM »
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Still no nitrites. No nitrates. Same pH issues. Ammonia, after a 25% water change, is hanging at about 1ppm, possibly a bit less.

The small tank is cycling - ammonia going down, Nitrites are up (water changed, then Prime). Possibly some Nitrates - hard to tell. Could be a trick of lighting.

We seem to have an algae beginning to coat the bogwood in the big tank. And there were spots of brown algae (now removed) on the side of the filter and back glass. I think that corys don't actually eat algae. Perhaps we might need a large snail for that purpose. Except I don't want a snail if it's going to eat the live plants? Then again, in nature, the log would probably have algae on it, so.... ::)

Have moved the remaining corys to the big tank. They seem happy. They are extremely endearing little fish. The down side is that we used to have three, and each had a name. So now we have 9, and although I can easily still identify the original three, I'm thinking that eventually the other six are going to be indistinguishable from each other!

The neons remaining in the small tank seem somewhat traumatized. It was not easy to get the corys out of the tank, and a lot of the tank decor had to be removed to do it.  It's back in, but things have been moved around a bit. Their water is being watched closely.

Offline Sue

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #33 on: May 29, 2019, 09:13:34 AM »
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Brown algae is usually diatoms, common in new tanks. It's the ammonia that encourages it to grow. The good news is that once the tank is established, it goes away.

This is assuming that you have diatoms - does the brown wipe off easily?


Cories don't eat algae. They are primarily 'meat' eaters (meaning tiny creatures in the wild).

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #34 on: May 29, 2019, 10:44:52 AM »
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Yes, it wipes right off.

Sigh. They're breeding again. If the current offspring were older I'd just assume that if I cut back on their sinking wafers they'd eat the eggs. But the eggs are quite a bit larger than their little mouths. And if I cut back on the wafers, the bigger corys will eat the wafers and the young won't get them. I assume the adults will eat a lot of the eggs anyway, but some will likely survive. She's strategically placing them all over the tank.

I guess the two adult males have to go back to the small tank until the current juveniles are a bit larger (and can eat eggs), or I'm going to be up to my eyeballs in albino corys!  :(

Unless there is a small soft-water fish, other than a cory, that doesn't need to be with its own kind, and likes to eat algae AND cory eggs? FEMALE betta?

Offline Matt

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #35 on: May 29, 2019, 03:01:52 PM »
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This isn't a fish suggestion... but an Amano shrimp would be perfect...

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #36 on: May 29, 2019, 04:17:48 PM »
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They do well in acid water?

Offline Matt

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #37 on: May 29, 2019, 10:47:23 PM »
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Only checked one website... which simply says below ph6 they may struggle...

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #38 on: May 29, 2019, 10:57:49 PM »
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Yeah, that's what I saw. And this water is doing well to get up to 6.  Might have to go with a female betta to handle the eggs, unless I can find something else.  The algae isn't that bad, really.

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #39 on: May 31, 2019, 03:05:14 PM »
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The pH in the small tank is up a bit - probably due to the small amount of dolomite gravel I sprinkled in. It's at 6.4 to 6.6. Ammonia is down, nitrites are down a bit, but not seeing nitrate yet, reliably. There are now only 4 neons in the tank, so the pressure is off the filters a bit.

The big tank has a slightly higher pH than it previously has had -  it is noticeably over 6, maybe not quite to the next level. I have a couple of net bags with the dolomite gravel hanging in there by the filter outlet.  Hopefully the added minerals will keep the pH steady and benefit that one poor little snail in there with the translucent shell!  Ammonia is holding at around 1.0 now - I assumed that since there were more fish in there now it would go up slightly, but I think the plants are eating it. Still no nitrite or nitrate. But since the pH is now at or over six instead of well under it, perhaps some bacteria will develop. I think we've got a little algae thing going on in the water, as everything looks just vaguely greenish.  Going to cut the lighting back a bit, I think.

I got most of the eggs scraped out, but there are some on the plant leaves that I can't get. They're not being eaten. I am wondering if a female betta would be the answer here? Or can you keep just one or two guppyies (male only!) in this type of environment for the egg-disposal purposes? I know they eat live guppy offspring, so I'm assuming they'd either eat the eggs before they hatch or get the larvae.  Or is there some other, small solitary fish that would work, I wonder? If mollies didn't get large I'd get one, but I also don't know if they could handle that water. We had, at one time, wanted ember tetras, which are tiny. Need to do more research on them. Do not want to overload the tank, but we definitely need something that'll take care of the results of the perpetually amorous albino corys!

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #40 on: June 01, 2019, 03:37:54 PM »
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More eggs.  :o
Have scraped.

Poor Big Bertha, she's gotta be tired!

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #41 on: June 01, 2019, 07:55:00 PM »
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Ahah.  :D

Big tank - pH over 6 and less than 6.4
Ammonia - between 1 and 2, probably closer to 2
Nitrite - definitely .25 (FINALLY)
didn't test for nitrate tonight.

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #42 on: June 08, 2019, 04:11:44 PM »
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more eggs. same yesterday.

She's laying them faster than I can find them all!

Offline Littlefish

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #43 on: June 08, 2019, 08:33:39 PM »
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Wow.  :o
Bertha really seems to be going for it.

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #44 on: June 10, 2019, 06:20:45 PM »
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Yeah, this can't be good for her? Laying eggs so often? I scrape them off the glass and then just don't feed the fish that day. The eggs vanish.  But if I do a large (more than a few litres) water change or mess with the internal bits of the tank very much at all (like to cut out and remove dead leaves or re-set plants in the gravel), blammo, fish orgy that night!  ???

On the good side, the tank seems to be starting to cycle. I've got ammonia between 1 and 2 (closer to 1, I'd say), nitrites at .25, and nitrates at 10. The pH I'm artificially propping up to just over 6 by doing a few litres of fresh water that has had dolomite sitting in it for a few days, every other day. I also put a few tablespoons of dolomite gravel and crushed coral down next to the sponge filters in the filter housing and dosed the sponges with Tetra's Safe Start Plus (which I'm told by Tetra is the same as Safe Start, just how they market it in the USA) on Friday. Three days later, I'm getting nitrate readings.

Cool.  ;D

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #45 on: June 15, 2019, 01:12:00 PM »
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Ok. The tank is still cycling. Which is ok, as it's cycling and not NOT cycling. ;D

Big Bertha lays eggs faster than I can find and remove them. I think we're going to go with a female betta to help with that problem. Unfortunately, I'm not able to find any shops that stock female bettas regularly.  Pets at Home has a nice little one, but all their tanks are currently quarantined and they're not selling her right now. Not sure I'd want to buy her later, either, with that kind of history....

Does anyone know of a shop in Scotland that sells female Betta fish?

Offline fcmf

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #46 on: June 15, 2019, 06:03:52 PM »
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Does anyone know of a shop in Scotland that sells female Betta fish?
Most of the shops in Scotland are these ones https://www.fishkeeperscotland.co.uk/ and one will vary from another as to what they stock, so best to contact them individually.
Some independents include Riverside Aquaria, Central Aquatics, Waterworld Aquatics, House of Pisces, Discovery Aquatics.
Pets At Home varies from one branch to another in terms of knowledge and care of staff - it might be worth chatting to the staff at the one you've spotted the female betta in, to gauge how much knowledge/otherwise they have and where the stock and that particular betta has come from. At least they're quarantining her and other stock which is a positive sign - that may be for no reason other than precautionary.


Offline Sue

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #47 on: June 15, 2019, 07:09:16 PM »
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Be careful when buying a female betta. Some shops (and more likely their wholesalers) can't tell the difference between females and short finned males. It is common to find a male in a tank of females. Look at the 'beard' if the fish flares. With females, the gill membranes stick out at the side only. With males, the membranes go all the way under the head as well so that it looks like a beard.

And some female bettas are more aggressive than males. Have a back up plan just in case. Even something like a breeding net - with a cover as bettas can jump - will give you breathing space to sort out something permanent.

Offline Nan

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #48 on: June 16, 2019, 02:43:08 PM »
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Ok, is there some other fish, perhaps?

Just looked in the small tank, to which I'd moved some of the clippings from the large tank. There are now 5 fry in there! (Oh my.) Big Bertha has been laying eggs at least twice a week, and I'm not sure I've gotten them all. I think Big B is going to have to go back in the small tank for a while until I can sort out something to take care of all the eggs/fry!

Offline Sue

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Re: The tribulations of cycling a new tank - need advice
« Reply #49 on: June 16, 2019, 03:07:19 PM »
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You could try temporarily separating her from the males. I know they should not be kept alone, but it might be worth trying till you can decide another course of action. Any eggs she might lay in isolation would not be fertile.
At least it'll give you some breathing space!

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