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White Fluffy Substance Appeared On Substrate During Fishless Cycle

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Offline Dr Um

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Hello all,

I'm currently attempting to fishless cycle my first tank (using SafeStart, as I read that it could speed things up).  Details as follows:

Tank: Fluval Roma 125 (with the heater, U3 filter and light that came with it)
Substrate: Tetra Complete & sand
Live plants
Lights on a timer for 10 hours a day
AquaSafe added

Pre-cycle water parameters after tank set up and running for 24 hours (using API Master Test Kit):
 
High pH: 7.4
pH: 7.6
GH: 15.5 (from local water co. website)
Ammonia: 0 - 0.25
Nitrite: 0.5
Nitrate: 40 ppm (local water co. website says this should be more like 22.5)

I then added ammonia (KleenOff) to 2ppm (as I read that this level is better when using SafeStart) and the SafeStart.  After which, I realised that I had forgotten to shake the SafeStart bottle and had a royal grump!

Day 1 (24 hrs later)
Ammonia: 1.5 - 2.0
Nitrite: 0.5 - 0.75
Nitrate: 40
(I'm really struggling to read the colours on the chart!)

Day 2
Ammonia: 1.5 - 2.0
Nitrite: 1 (not sure if this was correct, as again struggling to read all the colours!)
Nitrate: 40

Day 3
Ammonia: 1.5 - 2
Nitrite: 0.5 - 0.75
Nitrate: 40
After some research to check if it was ok to do so, added a further dose of SafeStart, thoroughly shaking it this time!

Day 4
Ammonia: 1
Nitrite: 0.25
Nitrate: 40

Day 5
Ammonia: 0.75 - 1
Nitrite: 0.25
Nitrate: 40

Day 6 (Today)
Ammonia: 0.5
Nitrite: 0.5
Nitrate: 40

This morning, I noticed a strange, white fluffy substance which had appeared on the sand.  Will try and attach a photo below.

Could anyone please advise what this is?  Do I need to remove it, or is it part of the cycle? 

Does it sound as if the cycle is heading the right way?  Not sure when to add more ammonia, as some people have said that using SafeStart can "skip" the nitrite stage?  This fishkeeping malarkey is complicated!

Thanks in advance!

Offline Dr Um

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2017, 08:25:32 PM »
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Hopefully, here's the photo...

Offline Sue

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2017, 08:36:27 PM »
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It looks like some kind of mould. I would be inclined to leave it alone for the moment; you will need to do a water change before getting fish and you can try to remove it then.

Not only does the Safe Start have the potential to confuse the cycle, so do the plants  :) They prefer ammonia to nitrate as fertiliser so any drop in ammonia could be due to the plants. And they don't like ammonia at 3 ppm, so using a lower dose was good for them too.

I would wait until ammonia shows a clear zero and see what the nitrite level is then. Don't forget that daylight is best for comparing the tube to the chart with the ammonia tester, with old fashioned incandescent bulbs or LED bulbs as second best. Fluorescent tubes, including energy saving CFL bulbs, can make the tube look greener than it really is.


Re the difference between your nitrate reading and the water company's value, I need to check that you are shaking bottle #2 and then the tube like the instructions say? Though failure to do all that shaking usually gives a false low rather than a high nitrate.

Offline Dr Um

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2017, 09:12:41 PM »
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Thanks Sue - I'll just keep an eye on it for now and try to remove it when I do my big pre-fish water change.

Your comments about the ammonia might explain why my pondweed (in sharp contrast to the Bacopa caroliniana) is going absolutely crazy; it's practically doubled in height in a week! 

I'll wait until the ammonia drops to zero as you suggest.  I am using daylight to do readings where possible, but having to use halogen lights to supplement natural light some days.  I am definitely shaking the No. 2 nitrate bottle like crazy before I add it, and then shaking the test tube for 1 minute too!

Offline kdt1

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2017, 11:02:20 PM »
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one thing I do is do a Ammonia check on my tap water, some companies put Ammoni in but will read as Ammonia on the test.

Offline Dr Um

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2017, 08:35:02 AM »
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Thanks kdt1 - I did this prior to filling the tank and, sadly, did get about the same reading of 40ppm.  Seems weird as water website says it should be lower.  Think I'll check it again...

Offline Sue

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2017, 09:28:27 AM »
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Water companies don't add ammonia but some of them do add chloramine as a disinfectant instead of chlorine. Chloramine is an ammonia and a chlorine joined together and the ammonia half registers in the ammonia tester. Then when dechlorinator is added, that splits the chloramine up into ammonia and chlorine, removes the chlorine and leaves the ammonia in the water. Some dechlorinators contain an 'ammonia detoxifier' to make this ammonia harmless but even then it still registers on the ammonia tester.

Offline Dr Um

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2017, 11:01:58 AM »
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Good to know, thanks.  Just tested tap water again and definitely showing as 40ppm.  I've heard some people mention SeaChem Prime as a water conditioner - would this be better for our water than Tetra AquaSafe?

Offline Sue

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2017, 12:49:32 PM »
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I would not use Prime during fishless cycling because it detoxifies both ammonia and nitrite and you need to know what the levels of both of those are. (It is useful during fish-in cycling as it protects the fish to some extent, though the effect wears off in 24 to 48 hours so water changes still need to be done).

Tetra's website says AquaSafe removes chlorine and chloramine, binds metals and 'Protects gills and mucous membrane of fish'. It does not say anything about detoxifying ammonia, though this web page says it does.

Does your tap water have any ammonia in it, either plain tapwater or tapwater that's been treated with dechlorinator? If it doesn't, your water company uses chlorine and you don't need an ammonia detoxifier. I have just chlorine and I use API Tap Water Conditioner. All that contains is thiosuphate to remove chlorine and EDTA to bind metals. Like Prime it is very concentrated (the main reason people use Prime). The smaller bottles' dose rate is 1 drop per US gall (3.75 litres) and the larger ones use 1 drop per 1.25 US galls (4.75 litres)

Seachem don't say what is in Prime, and this is the reason a lot of people won't use it. Every chemical we add to the tank ends up inside the fish, so the less we add the better.



There is another way to find out if your water company uses chloramine. You said in another post you are in Yorkshire Water's area, so look at page 44 of this document at Nitrite and Nitrate. "....   Yorkshire Water supplies water with a chloramine residual to consumers living in and around Doncaster, Skipton, Whitby, York and Pateley Bridge"
I know this is a 2014 document, but their 2015 and 2016 documents don't seem to contain this information.

Offline fcmf

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2017, 03:42:59 PM »
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I would not use Prime during fishless cycling because it detoxifies both ammonia and nitrite and you need to know what the levels of both of those are. (It is useful during fish-in cycling as it protects the fish to some extent, though the effect wears off in 24 to 48 hours so water changes still need to be done).

Seachem don't say what is in Prime, and this is the reason a lot of people won't use it. Every chemical we add to the tank ends up inside the fish, so the less we add the better.

MA sells this product https://www.fishkeeper.co.uk/product/microbe-lift-xtreme-118ml which seems very similar to Seachem Prime in what it does. The same, therefore, probably applies to not using it during fishless cycling either for the same reasons.

Offline Matt

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2017, 08:36:41 PM »
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Quote
("instant aging")

Quote
Provides the basis for the habitat of beneficial bacteria

Interesting...   :yikes:

Offline Sue

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2017, 09:15:13 PM »
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I think 'instant aging' refers to the process of allowing water to stand so that chlorine gasses off - called aging the water - so they mean that the product instantly removes chlorine. But of course they can't say something as simple as that, they have to dress it up so it sounds amazing  ::)

As for 'providing the basis for the habitat of beneficial bacteria', well if you remove the chlorine it can't kill them  ;D

Offline Matt

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #12 on: August 28, 2017, 08:59:17 AM »
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As for 'providing the basis for the habitat of beneficial bacteria', well if you remove the chlorine it can't kill them  ;D

My thoughts exactly!!!

Interesting to know 're ageing water definition too... I thought you still needed to do the bind heavy metals bit that most water treatments do??

Offline Sue

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #13 on: August 28, 2017, 09:55:24 AM »
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The term aging is an old one in fish keeping. It dates from before dechlorinators and knowledge of the nitrogen cycle. Since fish keepers back then had such limited knowledge to work with, they discovered things by trial and error. I assume that they discovered that if they left a tub of water to stand for a few days before doing a water change, the fish suffered less from the water change. So that "aged water was good for fish" without knowing why.
In theory, the levels of metals allowed in tap water shouldn't cause any problems, but we have a lot more delicate species of fish nowadays, and shrimps and snails are now popular which are very sensitive to metals - old time fish keepers would not allow a snail anywhere near their tanks. When I first had fish in pre-internet days, a book in the library said that snails were bad and must not be allowed anywhere near a tank of fish because they passed on diseases. (This book also said not to do a water change for at least a week before going on holiday in case the fish died while you were away)


The product in the link does bind metals, it's just that their blurb wants to think it does something special by 'instantly aging' the water but all dechlorinators do that. I think the author got carried away.
"By containing electrolytes and a mucous membrane protecting the creatures lasting protection."
That sentence wouldn't gain many marks in an English exam, I presume the blurb is a literal translation from another language.

Offline MarquisMirage

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2017, 01:08:00 AM »
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I had this white fluffy stuff all over my volcanic tank setup.  Started slowly but eventually got everywhere.  Had to get everything out and give it a good clean before I dared put fish in and it seemed to fight against the plants for nutrients.  It comes off easy enough while it's white (it goes grey and sticks to everything) so I'd recommend syphoning out as much as possible rather than waiting.  I'm still not exactly sure what it is or where it came from but I wouldn't wait it out again.

Offline Dr Um

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #15 on: September 06, 2017, 01:17:27 PM »
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Thanks marquismirage.  I eventually ended up with brown algae (diatoms, I think?) everywhere - it seemed like the white stuff went brown and then the algae took over, so no idea what really happened there.  I hadn't done any water changes in my tank for the first 2 weeks, as I'd used SafeStart at the beginning of my fishless cycle and you're told not to, but by this point I was starting to despair of the whole thing as it looked a complete mess - this is my first experience of fishkeeping, and I haven't even got the fish yet!  So, this weekend just gone, I siphoned out pretty much all the water, gave everything a really good clean (just rinsed the filter media in tank water!), got rid of some plants that were melting and then put everything back in.  After a couple of days, one of the pieces of wood started growing white fluffy stuff again, so that came back out!  Other than that, it's not looking too bad so far, fingers crossed, and doesn't seem to have knocked my cycle back, so I'm hoping it'll stay that way until it's time to get fish!

Offline Sue

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #16 on: September 06, 2017, 01:30:41 PM »
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Diatoms are common during cycling. It's caused by all that ammonia and light. This is why if there are no live plants the lights are left off during cycling. The good news is that it goes away once cycling is finished, though it sometimes takes a month or two.

White goo on wood is also common. There is some debate about whether it is poisonous to fish or not. There are reports of fish dying after eating it but others, including me, have fish that have come to no harm by eating it. It's a type of mould that grows on some types of wood. One of my pieces of wood was soaking in a bucket for almost a month to get it to sink and the white goo grew on it in the bucket, so maybe try leaving your wood soaking somewhere other than the tank. Or just scrub it off when it appears.

A total water change won't harm the cycle as log as you dose ammonia again once the tank is refilled  :)

Offline MarquisMirage

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #17 on: September 06, 2017, 02:51:23 PM »
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Totally agree with Sue on the brown diatoms.  I've had them in all my planted tanks during cycling and consider them a normal part of the process.

Offline Dr Um

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Re: White fluffy substance appeared on substrate during fishless cycle
« Reply #18 on: September 06, 2017, 07:13:55 PM »
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That's good to know re. the diatoms, thanks, as I suspect my efforts won't have come close to removing them completely!  The wood had previously been soaking in a bucket, due to being put "on the naughty step" after it started staining the water first time round.  I've literally just put it back in when I cleaned and refilled the tank at the weekend and it's already started spouting the white goo so has come out again.  Since the water change, I've been redosing 1ppm ammonia again, which is clearing pretty much overnight, but the nitrite's still spiking the day after adding the ammonia and then taking a few days to drop down to zero, so I'll keep plugging away...

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