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High Nitrite And Nitrate Levels But 0 Ammonia

Author Topic: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia  (Read 4772 times)

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Offline Annie

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High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« on: June 29, 2014, 09:15:47 PM »
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Hi, we are very new to keeping fish and would be grateful for some help. We were very naive and I realise now, quite ignorant in venturing into this. We have a 25l tropical aquarium and currently our Nitrite and Nitrate levels are very high but ammonia is showing as zero. We thought we had cycled the tank before we put the fish in but now I'm not sure if our tank is finished cycling. (we left the tank running for two/three weeks before adding fish and it's now been 4 weeks since we put the first fish in.) Having looked online the advice seems to be conflicting, some say partial water changes every day and add bacteria, what I assume they mean by this is stress zyme? Other advice I've had is to stop doing the partial changes and leave it be. Can anyone tell me what is the best thing to do? I'm worried that if the cycle is not complete that I'll stop it by doing partial changes but equally I don't want the fish to be stressed or die.

Offline ColinB

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2014, 08:25:41 AM »
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Hello Annie, and welcome to the forum.

First thing to do is lots of water changes to bring the nitrites down... say an 8litre change twice a day with de-chlorinated water of roughly the same temp. Nitrites are toxic, but you don't want a huge and sudden water change as this is also very bad for the fish.

When you say we left the tank running for two/three weeks before adding fish did you add a source of Ammonia? If you didn't then there was no cycling going on at all and you're doing a fish-in cycle. If you read about it here then you'll know exactly the route to take.

How many fish (and what sort) did you add?


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Offline Sue

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2014, 12:18:55 PM »
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It does sound as though you are doing a fish-in cycle so you will need to do lots of water changes till you have zero nitrite as well. A tank is cycled when both ammonia and nitrite stay at zero. The highest safe-ish level of nitrite is 0.25, so if yours is above that I'm afraid you will need to do water changes. If it is very high, you need to do more than Colin's 8 litres to get it below 0.25 but once you've got it there the 8 litres twice a day will probably be enough to keep the reading low.

Very few bottled bacteria products do anything at all to help the tank cycle, I'm afraid. Even the few that are known to work don't work all the time as mishandling during transport and storage can kill the bacteria in the bottle. And Stress Zyme is not one of those that are known to work I'm afraid.

As Colin asks, what fish do you have and how many? High levels of ammonia and then nitrite are made worse when there are a lot of fish.

Offline Annie

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2014, 06:37:10 PM »
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Thank you Colin and Sue for coming to our rescue.  I've come straight home from work and done a partial water change of 10l . So grateful for your advice. The more I get into this the more I realise how much we didn't know before we started. I'm embarrassed to say from the sound of it we have done everything it is possible to do wrong. You asked whether we had added a source of ammonia in the run in cycle, I know this is going to sound incredibly stupid but we didn't know to do that, we only added stress zyme which I guess isn't right. Also from what I have read since, I suspect we are overstocked. We have 9 neon tetras, 7 guppies and a small catfish. (We were told by the shop that this was ok.)  So....can I recover this situation? I'll continue to do the twice daily water changes until we get the levels down. I assume I shouldn't attempt to clean the filter or the gravel while all this is going on? Also should we add live plants to get rid of the nitrates?  I've attached a picture of our tank. On the plus side, the fish all still seem quite lively, so fingers crossed. Thank you so much again for your help.

Offline Sue

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2014, 06:51:57 PM »
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Very very few shops will tell you about fishless cycling. Mostly they are old school and say to just add fish, not bothering to tell you about the water changes or that they'll make more money when all your fish die. Or they will sell you bottled bacteria and omit to mention that most of them say to stock the tank slowly.
And it is all to common for shops to lie to make a sale. They should not have sold you all those fish for a 25 litre tank. Well, I suppose they could just be totally ignorant.....  :-\


You should clean the gravel. There will be fish poo and uneaten fish food in there decomposing to make even more ammonia. If you haven't cleaned it yet, do some of it at the next water change. The mess will have mounted up (unless you have been doing gravel cleans) and you won't get round all of it at one go. Once it has all had a deep clean, next time you'll be able to do the whole lot in one go.
But don't touch the filter unless the flow from it is visibly slowing down. If you do need to clean it, squeeze/swoosh the media in the water you take out during a water change.

I'm afraid just the neons makes the tank overstocked. Adding the guppies pushed you to 200% stocked according to the community creator. And it depends on what the catfish is as to how much that adds to your stocking. A corydoras or otocinclus won't add much but the problem with them is they are shoaling fish and you'd need at least 6 of them. If it's a plec of some sort, there are none suitable for a tank your size I'm afraid. And they are poo machines  :(

To make this tank work, you could keep just the guppies. That would make it almost full. But you would need to rehome the neons and catfish. Or rehome the lot and get either 1 betta (siamese fighting fish) or 6 male endlers.

Oh, and I should ask, are the guppies males, females or a mixture? Guppies breed worse than rabbits which will only make the situation worse.

Offline Annie

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2014, 07:08:28 PM »
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Oh no, we really have got it wrong haven't we.  :(  if we were to start again, get a bigger tank, do a fish less cycle on that then transfer them all over, would that work if I can manage to keep them all alive meantime with water changes? If so, what size would we need to house our mob?

( the guppies are all male and the catfish is, I think, a plec .)

Offline Sue

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2014, 07:31:23 PM »
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Just about the plec first. If it is a bristlenose you need a tank at least 60cm long x 30cm wide. If it is a common plec, you need a minimum of 120cm x 45cm. Common plecs grow huge.


Since you are already half way cycled, the simplest thing with a bigger tank would be to move everything into that - fish, water, decor, gravel (cleaned in the transfer) and the filter. The filter might be too small for a new tank in which case put all the media inside a new filter and use the media that comes with that to fill up the spaces. The media inside the filter you have now contains most of your ammonia eaters and probably some nitrite eaters. You just need to grow more of them. There will also be some bacteria on all the surfaces in the current tank but not nearly as many as in the filter. Moving the decor will transfer a few bacteria as well. The reason that most bacteria grow in the filter is that has a constant flow of water bringing them food and oxygen making it a desirable residence.


A 60 litre, 60cm long tank would be fine for the guppies and neons, but not the plec even if it is a bristlenose.
A 100 litre, 80cm long tank would be fine for the guppies, neons, a bristlenose and even a few more fish.
If it's a common plec, you'd need much, much bigger. They'd probably outgrow even that 120cm long tank that Seriously Fish recommends. To be blunt, if your plec is a common, I'd rehome it.

And you could use the 25 litre for a quarantine/hospital tank, or get a betta!

Offline ColinB

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2014, 07:33:44 PM »
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EDIT: Sue posted while I was writing this... but I'll leave it as it is.

Hey Annie, I see you've managed to get the gravel to stay at the top of the tank.  :rotfl:  (sorry - couldn't resist!)

On a less flippant note - a bigger tank is a good idea. Go to Fish Articles (here) and either open a bottle of red or get a big pot of coffee on and then read lots of them.

I'm afraid you'll be lucky to keep all the neons and guppies alive, they're both notoriously weak species that really should only be added to a mature (i.e. 6 month old) tank.

The plec will out grow the tank.

You have been given absolutely awful advice from your fish shop and I think you're entirely within your rights to go in there and kick up a big fuss. You must demand that they take the pleco back and see if you can get the others back as well....... and never go in there again!!

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Offline Annie

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2014, 07:46:15 PM »
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Thanks Sue, that's a great help and Colin, man after my own heart, doesn't everyone have their gravel on the top  ;D ? Looks like I have a lot of reading and thinking to do. Thank you both, I'm hugely grateful for your support.

Offline ColinB

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2014, 07:54:02 PM »
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Excellent!

What ever you do - don't give up. The first six months of keeping fish is a very steep learning curve.... and we've all made mistakes and fish have died. However; once you've got it sussed it's such a great thing to have in the house and I spend many a happy hour with a glass of red (or two..... or.....) just watching my tank. Ask loads of questions.... we love helping and watching progress. 

Cheers!  :cheers:

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Offline ColinB

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2014, 08:10:23 PM »
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oooo - just as an after-thought. Guppies need hard water and neons need soft water.... d'you know what the hardness of your water is? You can find out from your water suppliers web-site. They will have a page where you can put in your postcode and it will give you a run-down of your water quality.

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Offline fishcake76

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2014, 08:25:11 PM »
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Hey Annie,

Just wanted to say Hi  :wave: and let you know that I made nearly all the same mistakes as you guys!!!!! (Read some of my earlier posts and you'll see what I mean!!!! ::)) It's easily done.  We think owning fish will be easy and relaxing and then find out it's actually quite stressful and hard work..........but extremely rewarding when you get it right!!  :cheers:

I have had my tank going since January and started with a 21L.  I now have a 54L as it was obvious my fish (at the time 4 platies and 2 corys) were not happy with their lack of space. We now have 2 platies and 2 corys as we have just lost 2 of the platies to disease (still working on that one!!!!! :()  but I have learnt so much from the guys on here - especially Sue ( maybe you should write a book Sue - an encyclopaedia of stupid things that first time fish keepers frequently do wrong!!).  You won't go far wrong if you stick with us here!!!!

If you do get a bigger tank, invest in some small, rounded gravel as your plec (if you end up keeping him) will prefer wiffling about in it as large, sharp stones can hurt their barbels.  If your plec doesn't remain then do the same and get come corydoras - they are fantastic little fish and I love watching mine (Bert and Ernie) wiffling and snuffling around.

Best of luck for getting everything sorted and stay committed as it really is a fab hobby once you get your tank sorted. And incredibly addictive!!!! ;D


Offline Annie

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2014, 08:38:24 PM »
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Thanks Colin for the extra info, I'll check that out.  :cheers:

Thank you Fishcake76, you're very kind, and thanks too for the advice.  :cheers:

It's great to know you are all there to call on for help and to share with. Thanks.

Offline Annie

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #13 on: July 07, 2014, 08:11:06 PM »
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Hi

I just thought I'd give you an update. It took a while to work out what we were going to do so kept doing 10l changes twice a day and managed to bring nitrite readings down from 10 to 0.5.  Set up new tank at weekend, followed your advice Sue and transferred filter media, decor and gravel into new tank. Now have a 60 cm 54l tank, though in fact it only took 45 l to fill it, filter however is suitable for 60-100l tank so think we are ok there. ( I hope.) 7 guppies and 9 neon tetras now seem happy in new home and readings are as follows:-
Nitrate 0
Nitrite 0
Ammonia 0
Ph 7
Carbonate hardness 40
General hardness 30  to 60 ( using 5 in 1 test strips)

Long fin ancistrus was taken back by the shop. To be fair to them, they didn't hesitate and I think it could have been cross wires in original conversations.

In the middle of trying to bring nitrite levels down, the one guppy that had been quite sick when we got him home originally, seemed to be going downhill. I did a 5 day treatment of myxazin  which seems to have revived him again. ( he lost part of his tail when he first came home. ) 

Now crossing all my fingers and toes that they will recover fully from all the trauma. I'm willing them all to survive, that's got to count too hasn't it?

Anyway, another photo attached. Especially for you Colin B, I expect you'll find we still have the gravel on top,  ;) I haven't quite worked out why the iPad insists on putting them in upside down !

Cheers one and all  :cheers:

Offline ColinB

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #14 on: July 07, 2014, 08:43:39 PM »
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Looks good!

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Offline fishcake76

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #15 on: July 07, 2014, 09:18:51 PM »
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May I say what an excellent tank choice you made!!!! (I've got the same one!!!!)  ;D

Glad your fishies are doing well and do hope that things settle down for you and you can enjoy them for a while now!!!!

One question regarding the filter that came with the tank - have you used the aeration tube??  I initially did but it was so damn noisy I took it off again and just made sure the filter was agitating the top of the water.  I am now treating my fish with meds for gill and skin parasites, which I have read will lower the oxygen content of the water so I have put it back on again.    ::)

I'll attach a picture of mine too in due course!!

FC



Offline Annie

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #16 on: July 08, 2014, 07:11:07 AM »
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I knew it was too good to be true, one of the guppies died overnight  :(  I guess given all they have been through it was only to be expected.

As for the filter FC72, the air tube is noisy,  I don't know what the answer is to this. Sorry.

Offline fishcake76

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #17 on: July 08, 2014, 09:14:21 PM »
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Hey!

So sorry to hear about your guppy. It's horrid when you lose lots of fish. I hope the rest come through ok.

Thanks for replying regarding the aeration pipe - didn't need a solution really just wanted to know if it was common for that filter. Thanks again! :)

Below (somewhere - hopefully!) is my tank with my 4 fish in (although you can only see one - goldie - a wagtail platy)!!!!!   Did a water change today and possibly worked out why my fish have been scratching so much - I've been using too much dechlorinator (duh!!! :o) Not sure that this could have caused the other two to die but perhaps prolonged exposure could??  Anyone know if that's the case?!

Anyway - plan to visit LFS tomorrow to get my next additions. Will share my purchase with you all in the next couple of days!! (In my own thread -sorry to have hi-jacked yours Annie!!)

FC

Offline Annie

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Re: High nitrite and nitrate levels but 0 ammonia
« Reply #18 on: July 10, 2014, 06:39:43 AM »
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Thanks FC, your tank looks great, thanks for sharing. I hope the new additions are settling in.  :fishy1:

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