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run.without.raincoats

Fishless cycle... so confused

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So I've had two filters cycling in a 5 gallon tub for going on two months. Both have a large sponge and a bag of biomax, one has some carbon that expired after the first month but I figured I would leave it for the bacteria to hang out on.

 

It's my first fishless cycle so I had started it with leftover fish food but then switched to pure ammonia about two weeks in. It was doing fine for a while, I got all my ammonia eaters doing great, and could take any added down to 0 in a day. But then about three or four weeks ago something weird happened. I got sky high nitrites (and to a lesser extent nitrates) that would not drop. I did a series of partial changes for about a week, and then a 90% and 100% change in the same day, but within a few hours it was back off the charts (API liquid test kit by the way, bought it new right before I started with the filters).

 

I tested the tap water and levels were negligible, so it wasn't that and it wasn't a defective test kit. So I tried cleaning the sponges in some tank water, there was some gunk I rinsed off the surface that I believe was rotting food and thought could be causing the spike. That was around the last week of may. After that I decided to leave it, testing every other day or so, and see if it would level out. I stopped adding ammonia almost entirely, just a drop or two here and there to keep those bacteria alive. I also periodically added extra doses of prime since that is supposed to make things easier to break down?

 

It still hasn't, I did two 100% changes today and it's already back to almost the max level on the test card. I'm completely stumped and have no idea what to do at this point. Nitrates are also rising, although more slowly, so I know there are some bacteria doing something. I'd hate to have to start over but I just have no idea what's going on. I don't know if there are some food particles trapped inside the sponge? I can't get them out and I would think they would be mostly gone by now anyway after all these weeks? Anyone have any ideas?

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Let's make sure I have this right.

 

Would you show a picture of this set up?  I find it a little hard to picture two filters running in a 5 gallon tub.  What kind of filters do you have?  

 

You put in fish food for two weeks.  How much did you use? Then you switched to ammonia.  How much?

 

Then you got "sky-high" nitrites and high nitrates.  How much ammonia were you adding at this time?  Would you give some numbers for nitrite and nitrate?

 

 

I did a series of partial changes for about a week, and then a 90% and 100% change in the same day, but within a few hours it was back off the charts (API liquid test kit by the way, bought it new right before I started with the filters).

 

Now I need an explanation.  You changed all of the water in the 5 gallon tub and then got nitrite in excess of 5 ppm.  Did you add ammonia?  If so how much and when?

 

 

After that I decided to leave it, testing every other day or so, and see if it would level out. I stopped adding ammonia almost entirely, just a drop or two here and there to keep those bacteria alive. I also periodically added extra doses of prime since that is supposed to make things easier to break down?

A drop or two of ammonia in a 5 gallon tub is quite a bit of ammonia.  Did you measure the ammonia concentration after these additions?  Extra Prime has no effect on fishless cycling.  You use it only when changing water.  We do use extra Prime when cycling with fish.

 

Did you add ammonia after those two water changes you did today?  

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http://s1060.photobucket.com/user/Anna_Szykman/media/IMG_2016_zpslbobtyn8.jpg.html?filters[user]=143350524&filters[recent]=1&sort=1&o=0

This is my setup, they're Aquaclear 70s.

 

Ah, I'm not sure exactly how much food I used, I just added until I started to see ammonia. It was probably more than I should have, but once I realized that and switched to pure ammonia I netted out the loose food and changed the water. There's no longer any obvious debris but I'm wondering if maybe there's any in the pores of the sponge I can't see. The ammonia I was adding to about 4 ppm each day. I did accidentally overdose a few times, once up to maybe 8ppm and didn't realize until the next day, but after a water change I got it down to 4 or 5 and within a day it was running well again and dropping back to zero. As far as a

 

By sky high nitrite I mean past the 5ppm max color on the test card, it would be bright purple as soon as I added the drops before I even shook it. And a few minutes later it was pretty solid pink. Just about every test was like that. Nitrates would go a bit slower, starting around 40 and rising to maybe 100 ppm. I've been keeping the nitrates below 80 most of the time now with my changes.

 

As of now I haven't added ammonia in three days, none was added after these changes. When I tested directly after the second change today I had .5 nitrite and 20 nitrate. I tested again just now and have nitrite at 4 ppm and nitrate at 40.

 

Thanks so much for the help, let me know if there's any other info that would be helpful

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I would do a 100% WC, add ammonia to bring it up to 1ppm and test ammonia,nitrite and nitrate in 24 hours. Report your results here. :)

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When you change water, do you also change the water in the filters?  With such a small tub, the filter contains a substantial portion of the total water in the system.  If you change all of the water and test immediately afterward, you are testing your tap water.

 

You suspect the sponges of contaminating the water.  You can test this by simply removing the sponges.

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Ok, all set. Full water change, sponges removed sitting in their own bucket, parameters in the tub (tap water) were 0/0/20, now 1/0/20. We'll see what happens.

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They'll be fine.

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It's not a 1:1 ratio--1 ppm ammonia doesn't produce 1 ppm nitrite. What is your ph and KH?

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One nitrite ion has almost 3 times the weight of one ammonia molecule. (Those Os are heavy.) Since ppm are by weight, you would expect an increase in nitrite  ~ three times the decrease in ammonia.

 

Just out of curiosity, what reading did you determine for that last nitrate test?

 

Do you have municipal water?  Would you check on what they get for a nitrate reading?

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Ok these are my 24 hour mark tests

http://s1060.photobucket.com/user/Anna_Szykman/media/IMG_2043_zpswvt5eaq6.jpg.html

http://s1060.photobucket.com/user/Anna_Szykman/media/IMG_2040_zpsexzhh9cs.jpg.html

 

Ahhh ok, someone told me it was 1:1, I thought that seemed odd I should have checked it. pH is pretty steadily around 8.0 for both tap and tub, KH I don't have a test kit for. Would that be helpful? I know from other fish people in the area that it's on the harder side but not an exact value

 

Yes I do have municipal water, but our county doesn't have an online report. Are you suggesting calling someone to test it? I live in an apartment building so I may be able to ask at the desk if any measurements were taken during our last monthly plumbing shutoff. Sorry for the quality of that nitrate picture, I guessed at around 20 but then nitrate is always confusing to read

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Hardness us GH, KH is different. If your ph holds steady at 8 and your GH is on the harder side your KH is most likely decent.

It looks like it has processed the ammonia so now it's just a waiting game for the nitrite to nitrate bacteria to catch up. I'd leave things as is for today and retest nitrite in 24 hours. :)

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You can call the water department and ask what nitrate level they read on the water they are sending out.  I see the tests as showing a tap nitrate level of 10-20 ppm.  I'm wondering if these are expected levels for  your water supply.

 

This  looks pretty good.  The ammonia is almost zero, the nitrite about 2.0, and the nitrate 40-80 ppm, which shows you have both ammonia oxidizers and nitrite oxidizers working.  Now you just need to build up the populations of each.

 

I assume you have a tank that these filters will go in.  What stops you from putting them in the tank?  The small volume of water in your tub probably contributes to the rapid concentration changes.  With only 5 gallons of water a small increase in the amount of nitrite (or whatever) can cause a big change in the concentration.

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At the 48 hour mark parameters have not visibly changed from the last test :/ 

 

I do have a tank ready but I was still building the stand and was reluctant to fill it with 400 odd pounds of water and then have to empty it all to be able to lift it onto the stand. If you think that might help I'll hopefully have the stand ready in a day or two.

And I'll call the water company tomorrow! 

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What size tank do you have?  Once you get it set up, you can just  fill it half way (since you will do a 100% water change before adding fish), put on the filters and finish the cycle there.  Then we can start looking at what to do with your high tap nitrates.  

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