Freshwater cycle - waiting for nitrites I think

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jordanl17

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Aug 24, 2021
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Started with a used (by us), stored for 2 years 10 gallon tank. washed everything with hose water only. filled with water and then added Seachem Prime, added heater, and filter, turned all on. added Seachem Stability 20 minutes after. then added some fish food to try to start a fishless fish food cycle. waited for many days.. zero's on all API testing. water is about a pH 7.8.
got tired of waiting, so vacuumed out fish food flakes from bottom on tank (only put in like 4). bought Dr. Tims ammonia and FritzZyme 7. added Dr. Tims (but only half dose), then added 4oz FritzZime (gave it a good shake first). next day; API tests were all zeros! So I added the normal dose of Dr. Tims ammonia. BOOM, next day Ammonia was probably 5+ maybe 6,7? (I know, not good) zero nitrites, pH was 7.8ish, so that's good. Next day (day 3, today) ammonia has dropped to maybe 4, but still zero nitrites.
side note; the tank has been cloudy since the day after adding FritzZyme; it's slowly clearing up it seems.
I have tank about about 85f. It think the cycle is working? but I'd LOVE to see some nitrites! if ammonia dropped, why would there be zero nitrites? I thought those are produced by ammonia eating bacteria?
thanks guys! I'm learning a lot. I think I'm close.
pic attached is of day 2 tank in the AM. it's better now. but still cloudy. I think it's a bacteria bloom, but not sure what they are blooming on if I can't detect nitrites!!

PXL_20210822_133054187.jpg
 

fishorama

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I think you've added too much ammonia at 1 time. It's dropping now, so that's good. Don't worry about the cloudiness yet, it doesn't matter right now. I think I'd shoot for 2ppm ammonia. Too much ammonia (over 4ppm) can stall the cycle...I never go above 3ppm. Lets see what others say.

Another side issue you might address is you need a background to block some of that window light...eventually. Cloudiness can be from bacteria...or algae in the water.

Like I said in your other post I've never used Fritzyme...but I have read that Dr. Tim's or Tetra Safe Start both work...so if you need to buy another "bacteria in a bottle" product I choose 1 of those 2 & follow the directions.

I'm pretty old school when it comes to cycling. Ammonia for 5-6 weeks or filter media from an established tank so I'm not really informed on other forms of "jump starting" things...Others are, be patient, they'll be along
 
Last edited:
Apr 2, 2002
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You have poured a soup of stuff into your tank and most of it is going more harm than good. For a start, the bacteria in our tanks were identified some years back. The nitrospira does the conversion to nitrite. It used to be thought that nitrobacter did this. However, ammonia and nitrite levels in cycling tanks are considered to be low level. This is most certainly the case in a cycled tank. The other side of this coin is that different strains of the bacteria colonize based on the levels of ammonia and nitrite.

What this means is no matter what bacteria one pours into a tank, when all is said and done what you added may not be there and the needed bacteria are. As the bacteria noyt needed die, they can help to produce the cloudy water.

Next, the bacteria we want in out tanks is a kind that multiplies by dividing. They do not form spores. Look at what is in the products your are addings. Stability contains spores not living bacteria. As for Fritzzime 7 or 9 here is what their site states:
the true nitrifying species of bacteria, Nitrosomonas (NS) and Nitrobacter (NB), which are found in FritzZyme® 7 and 9.
So why do Stability and Fritzzyme appear to work? I have to do with the way the cycling process progresses. The initial amount of ammonia added in a fishless cycle is somewhat high. Lets assume we are working with 3 ppm on the total ion scale. The ammonia bacteria in Fritzzyme get a big dose of ammonia and go to work right away, this produces a bunch of nitrite. The nitrobacter will handle higher levels of nitrite. So you get the ammonia reading, but you may not see a nitrite one. This is because the bacterial additives, whether they contain nitrobacter or nitrospira, are ready to handle nitrite right away. So you often do not see nitrite in a tank with starter bacteria added. This can be true even when we use bacteria we seed from other tanks.

However, what then happens is the ammonia levels in the tank do not stay high- that is after you add it it goes away faster each time. When fish are added, the ammonia is produced all day long- it might add up to 2 ppm in a day, but there is never ammonia detected. The bacteria handle it as it is produced. But what is happening under the hood is that, as the rate of ammonia creation declines, there is not enough nirite to keep nitrobacter thriving and it pretty much dies off. At the same time the nitrospira are happy as clams with the level if nitrite being made and the nitrospira thrive.

With Stability most of what is in the bottle does not persist over time in terms of nitrifiers. For sure the ones that do anything with ammonia and nitrite are replaced. They are the wrong kind of bacteria.

There is a reason why most bacterial starter products do not contain nitrospira. The methodology for detecting them and the bacteri athemselves have been patented. This was done by Dr. Timothy Hovanec et.al. while he ran the Marineland lab in CA. The patent was shared by Dr. Tim and Marineland. The company was acquired by a conglomerate which also owned Tetra. So the patent was put under Tetra and they created SafeStart. basically both products contain the "proper" bacteria. Dr. H chose not to move to the new company and instead took over the Marineland facility and started his own company.

I would advise you to start over from scratch. I would use either Dr. Tim's or SafeStart (I use the Dr, Tim's when I need such a product and have for years). Go to Dr. Tim's site where he has explicit instructions for doing a fishless cycle with his product. Do not question the directions, do not alter them, just follow them. You should be ready for a full load of fish in 7 -10 days if you do.
https://www.drtimsaquatics.com/resources/library/quick-guide-to-fishless-cycling-with-one-and-only/

One note- Scientist like Dr. H. use the Nitrogen scale to measure ammonia (NH3), nitrite (NO2) and nitrate (NO3). This considers 1 ppm ammonia = 1 ppm nitrite = 1 ppm nitrate. All the nitrogen scale measures is the N. Most hobby kits, including API's us the Total Ion Scale. These count not only the N but also the Os. Think of this like miles and kilometers. Both measure distance and can be converted to each other. The same applies to the Nitrogen and Total Ion Scales.

So when Dr. Tim says to add his ammonium chloride to produce 2 ppm and you test using an API kit you will get a reading of abuut 2.6 ppm. If you want to follow Dr. Tim's directions using kits like those from API, you will need to convert his numbers. Use the following conversion:
For Ammonia multiply his advice by 1.28. Conversely you can divide the API results by 1.28 to turn them into the scale used by Dr. Tim.
For Nitrite multiply his advice by 3.28. Conversely you can divide the API results by 3.28 to turn them into the scale used by Dr. Tim.

Finally, you have two options for dosing ammonia. One is to use Dr. Tim's Ammonium Chloride- this is somewhat pricey but will be easy to use. Or, you can buy pure ammonia, find an online ammonia calculator and dose that way. You can buy the Dr. Tim's products more cheaply on Amazon. You also need to be aware of the fact the heat and freezing kill the bacteria. You never want to see them in 100F type temps. I prefer not to see them get much over the low 90s. for any amount of time. How the bacteria is stored and shipped matters depending on the weather. If they arrive DOA you have no way of knowing they were mishandled until you see they are not working.
 

jordanl17

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Aug 24, 2021
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ok, first, thank you for the brain dump of information. amazing. here's what I did:
fully drain tank, clean (water only) everything. got new substrate.. more like sand for the Corydoras we want to get. bought Tetra SafeStart+ and AquaSafe. dechlorinated with Aquasafe, added whole bottle of SafeStart+ (smaller bottle), and then added 35 drops of Dr. Tims ammonia. (40 drops for 10gal seems like a lot)
BOOM. next day I'm at about a 4.0 ammonia and I've got Nitrites!! like .25 maybe more(both measured on API master test kit). I did not do any conversions.
 
Apr 2, 2002
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Not bad ;)

I keep thinking of that saying (modified to be gender neutral) "Give a person a fish and they eat for a day, teach them to fish and they eat for a lifetime."

Here is what was going on under the hood. A 10 gal. tank will not ever hold 10 gal. of water. For a start, you will not fill it to the point where one more drop will over flow. Next, you have things in the tank that displace water. Substrate, rocks, wood etc. An external filter adds a small amount of volume not worth considering. I normally suggest to people that they substract at least 10-15% of the advertised tank volume for dosing purposes. Sometimes more.

So you really have more like 8 gals and that would have meant you should have added only 32 drops. That should have made about 2.6 ppm on the API kit. Because you added 40 drops that was 25% more than needed and would produce about 3.25 ppm of ammonia. These are rough numbers. And you did not add so much ammonia s to make it an issue. However, I would suggest any more ammonia additions should be more like 30 drops maybe even 28. I am making sure you do not have to wait any longer than needed and that you may have misread the ammonia level by a bit. It may have been a tad lower.

Now, for what are you seeing and why. The bacteria in the bottle must wake up. The bacteria are also ones for converting ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate. The ammonia ones go to work first and this is why I think your ammonia was really a bit less than 4 ppm. Between the time you added the bacteria and tested for ammonia and nitrite, some of the ammonia was processed. We know this because you have nitrite. And if you processed some ammonia and the 4 ppm reading is accurate- it was higher when you added it.

Anyhow, the reason you have a nitrite reading is because the nitrite bacteria has to wake up as well and it is a bit behind the ammonia one. What you should see from here is the ammonia continuing to drop and the nitrite might go a bit higher or even stay the same, and then it will drop. Do not worry about nitrates.

I have not read the SafeStart directions in a while. I assume you reach a point where you add the 28-30 drops of ammonia and can test in 24 hours and have 0 ammonia/0 nitrite/some nitrate. At that time the idea is to do a large wc and fully or close to fully stock the tank. If you need to wait a few days to do this, then you need to feed the bacteria and do weekly water changes. The bacteria do not need to be fed every day, every other day is fine and add 28 drops of the ammonium chloride. Change 50% of the water weekly. On the day you will add fish, change 50% before adding the fish.

What your fishless cycle does is to establish more than enough bacteria to support a full load of fish in a the tank. If you do not stock close to fully, there will not be sufficient "food" for all the bacteria and they will stop reproducing as fast. This results in a decline in their total numbers to a point where it thrives on the amount of ammonia the tank generates.

Test this evening and see where things are. Cycling is a process and testing is how we can know what is going on. The progrssion of those numbers over time reveals where in the process things are. So regular testing amd recording of ammonia and nitrite and occasional monitoring of pH and temp. matter as well.

There is another advantage to stocking a new cycled tank fully. It serves as both the quarantine and ultimate tank. If all the fish come from the same place, they are likely all exposed to the same things and would all need to be treated if one does. If you do not stock fully, then it is a good idea to quarantine future additions in another tank/purpose for that purpose.
 

jordanl17

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Aug 24, 2021
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welp, here are my day 3 and 4 numbers:
day____ammonia__nitrite____nitrate
3________3-4______ .25_______ 5-10
4 _______3-4_______ 0 ________ 5-10

I'm confused why nitrite just dropped to 0, and ammonia is holding at 3-4. got some nitrates so I think that's good. but I think I was REALLY hoping for an ammonia drop. We did just place a new decoration late yesterday (after washing it with water). I wonder if our arms in there affected levels?!
 
Apr 2, 2002
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What is the pH and KH? I told you the nitrite might drop. I am more concerned with the ammonia level. Once it starts to drop it should continue to do so. But if the ammonia is not dropping then nitrite is not being created. Remember- it is a process and it follows and order. It begins with ammonia.
 

jordanl17

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7.7 to 7.8 pH. I don't have the kit to measure KH. hopefully tomorrow Ammonia starts to drop.
 

fishorama

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I think both 2tank & I suggested 2-3 ppm ammonia for optimum results. Don't dose more until you see it start to drop below 2ppm. Too much ammonia can stall the cycling process. Seeing some nitrate is a good sign...
 

jordanl17

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for sure I'm not dosing more ammonia. I'm still on the original dose. I'm hoping tomorrow it's lower.
 
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