Cycling water in turtle tank, nitrite in tap water

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Cria

AC Members
Original poster
Oct 8, 2019
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Hello,

I recently became a turtle parent when an African sideneck turtle was found in my next door neighbor's back yard. because of this, I didn't have time to learn everything and cycle and aquarium before putting the turtle in.

I have a Hydor 250 canister filter for a 55g bow front tank (which I've heard means it is only 46 g for some odd reason), and it is a little over half full of water. Shelly the turtle is about 6 inches long, eating, pooping and seems to be doing fine. (I've had him about 6 weeks now, I've had the current filter going for about three weeks or so)

I finally got a water testing kit as the water had looked good, then when I left town for the weekend, it got VERY cloudy. I did a big partial water change and a few smaller partial water changes and the water is much clearer now. When I first tested the water the ammonia was very high (maybe greater than the max of the test), and the nitrite and nitrate were 0. I did the partial water changes and rechecked the water. the next day and the ammonia came down and the Nitrite was high, but no nitrate, which made me think maybe the cycling was starting. Did more partial water change to bring down the Nitrite. Yesterday and today ammonia was ~1-2 ppm, Nitrite looked like it was 2.0-5.0 ppm (not much difference in the color on the key) and Nitrate looked like it was starting to show up at 5.0 ppm

I changed out about 3 gallons and rechecked, no change in nitrite, did another 3 gallons, still no change in nitrite. Decided to test my tap water. Tap water came back with Nitrite slightly lower than the tank water looking to be in the 1.0-2.0 ppm range. So clearly, doing more water change at this point makes no sense. Odd to me that the first test I did of the tank water showed NO nitrite, but now both the tank and the tap are high. If the tap water had nitrite in it all along, shouldn't it have showed up in the initial test of the tank water?

How am I supposed to monitor/adjust the water to make sure the bacteria get established in the biological filter media?

Using the API freshwater master test kit with the test tubes and liquid test solutions. I'm following the directions to the "T", even called the city water department to ask about nitrite, but only got the answering machine.

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.
 

Cria

AC Members
Original poster
Oct 8, 2019
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45
Well I thought I'd provide an update. When I found the tap to have nitrite I called the city water department and left a message.
All my water tests since that day have come back with ZERO nitrite, including another test on the tap water. Nitrate came back at between 0 and 0.25 for a couple tests but is now back to zero also.

The water department called me back yesterday and stated that there are certain pockets with elevated nitrite in their water but they know where they are and the maximum readings that they have found is 0.4 ppm, never 2-5 ppm like I found.

Not sure what was going on that day, but the water department guy encouraged me to call if I had another elevated level and I told him I'd save a sample next time as well!

my ammonia was up to 4 ppm so I did about a 4 gallon water change (on about 25 gallons) last night. Any hints on getting the cycle starting?
 

dudley

Eheim User
Feb 9, 2005
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Medina, Ohio
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Dee
You need to keep the ammonia and nitrite levels as low as possible since you have wildlife in the tank and this can be done by doing larger or more frequent water changes. It requires more frequent water changes to keep your pet safe.

Some people use a bottled bacteria product to help cycle a tank but you need to follow the product instructions exactly as they differ between brands.

Also be sure to rinse the test tubes and caps thoroughly after use and let dry between tests. IF your tap water has zero ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, rinse them with tap water or you can get a gallon of deionized (DI) or reverse osmosis (R/O) water and use that to double rinse the test tubes and caps.
 
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