Freshwater cycling

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Apr 2, 2002
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Hang on a minute @Jazon Z. What is the pH an temp of your tank? Ammonia (NH3) in water turns mostly into ammonium (NH4). Ammonia is doing damage at 0.05 ppm. But, how much of this is in your 0.50 reading can only be determines if we know the pH and Temp. The higher these are, the more of the ammonia is in the toxic form.

Nitrite can be handled by adding a small amount of salt aka sodium chloride, in order to get the chloride into the water. It blocks the nitrite from entering the fish via the gills. Water changes always act to slow a cycle. So they should be done only with cause and not because most folks do not understand the above and always say you should do a water change no matter what.

Re a softener. Do you know how it does the softening exchange? Often they use salt.
Typical home water softeners soften water using a technique known as ``ion exchange''. That is, they remove calcium and magnesium ions by replacing them with sodium ions. Although this does technically make water softer, most fish won't notice the difference. That is, fish that prefer soft water don't like sodium either, and for them such water softeners don't help at all. Thus, home water softeners are not an appropriate way to soften water for aquarium use.
from http://fins.actwin.com/aquariafaq.html click on Your First Aquarium

Next, what is in your source water that makes you use a whole house softener? Mollies like harder water= 15-30 dH. They also like a bit of salt.
 

Jason Z

AC Members
Sep 23, 2020
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Hang on a minute @Jazon Z. What is the pH an temp of your tank? Ammonia (NH3) in water turns mostly into ammonium (NH4). Ammonia is doing damage at 0.05 ppm. But, how much of this is in your 0.50 reading can only be determines if we know the pH and Temp. The higher these are, the more of the ammonia is in the toxic form.

Nitrite can be handled by adding a small amount of salt aka sodium chloride, in order to get the chloride into the water. It blocks the nitrite from entering the fish via the gills. Water changes always act to slow a cycle. So they should be done only with cause and not because most folks do not understand the above and always say you should do a water change no matter what.

Re a softener. Do you know how it does the softening exchange? Often they use salt.

from http://fins.actwin.com/aquariafaq.html click on Your First Aquarium

Next, what is in your source water that makes you use a whole house softener? Mollies like harder water= 15-30 dH. They also like a bit of salt.
PH has been holding at 7.4 and temp is steady at 79-80F.
 

Jason Z

AC Members
Sep 23, 2020
9
1
3
50
PH has been holding at 7.4 and temp is steady at 79-80F.
My softwater system does use sale but I do not know the levels. I will find a test for that. The mollies are still doing well but I am getting worried as the ammonia keeps climbing slowly and nitrites climbing as well.
 
Apr 2, 2002
2,828
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OK now for the science in your tank. I will have minor problem without knowing if there is any salinity level in your tank. For now I will work under the assumption that it is 0. Using the higher temp of 80F and a pH of 7.4 here are your levels of toxic NH3 if your total ammonia reads: (remember the red line number to stay under for NH3 is 0.05 ppm)
0.50 ppm NH3 = 0.0082
0.75 ppm NH3 = 0.0122
1.00 ppm NH3 = 0.0163
1.50 ppm NH3 = 0.0245
2.00 ppm NH3 = 0.0326
3.00 ppm NH3 = 0.0489
3.10 ppm NH3 = 0.0506

As you can see your ammonia level is not an issue and any salinity helps some. However, I usually suggest that when one has Total Ammonia of over 2.0, no matter how little NH3 there is, one needs to monitor fish carefully. While NH4 is way less toxic than NH3, it can still cause harm. I would suggest that you not allow your ammonia reading to get above 2.0 for any amount of time. If it does, do enough of a water change to get ammonia closer to 1 ppm than 2. That leaves headroom for it to still build up a bit again.

I would treat nitrite with salt, but it is the chloride not the sodium in salt that blocks nitrite. Most cycles stall because of too much nitrite, but the level for that happening is over 3 times the maximum level an API nitrite kit can measure.

Your plants will consume NH4 faster than bacteria can consume NH3. Although you do not have enough of either to hold ammonia at 0 yet, the ammonia that plants consume does not produce any nitrite or nitrate.

Finally, all of this stuff goes away once your tank has cycled. Without plants and no seeding of bacteria, a cycle takes about 6 weeks with fish. However, the ammonia component should be under control in somewhere between 15 and 20 days. However, the more water changes done, the longer this can take. Cycling with fish is a real balancing act between the need to get it done ASAP and the desire not to cause harm to fish. This is one of the best parts of fishless cycling. No matter how much one may screw it up, no fish will be harmed. Also, at the end of a fishless cycle one can fully stock a tank immediately. With a fish in cycle it can take months to reach full stocking.
 

Jason Z

AC Members
Sep 23, 2020
9
1
3
50
OK now for the science in your tank. I will have minor problem without knowing if there is any salinity level in your tank. For now I will work under the assumption that it is 0. Using the higher temp of 80F and a pH of 7.4 here are your levels of toxic NH3 if your total ammonia reads: (remember the red line number to stay under for NH3 is 0.05 ppm)
0.50 ppm NH3 = 0.0082
0.75 ppm NH3 = 0.0122
1.00 ppm NH3 = 0.0163
1.50 ppm NH3 = 0.0245
2.00 ppm NH3 = 0.0326
3.00 ppm NH3 = 0.0489
3.10 ppm NH3 = 0.0506

As you can see your ammonia level is not an issue and any salinity helps some. However, I usually suggest that when one has Total Ammonia of over 2.0, no matter how little NH3 there is, one needs to monitor fish carefully. While NH4 is way less toxic than NH3, it can still cause harm. I would suggest that you not allow your ammonia reading to get above 2.0 for any amount of time. If it does, do enough of a water change to get ammonia closer to 1 ppm than 2. That leaves headroom for it to still build up a bit again.

I would treat nitrite with salt, but it is the chloride not the sodium in salt that blocks nitrite. Most cycles stall because of too much nitrite, but the level for that happening is over 3 times the maximum level an API nitrite kit can measure.

Your plants will consume NH4 faster than bacteria can consume NH3. Although you do not have enough of either to hold ammonia at 0 yet, the ammonia that plants consume does not produce any nitrite or nitrate.

Finally, all of this stuff goes away once your tank has cycled. Without plants and no seeding of bacteria, a cycle takes about 6 weeks with fish. However, the ammonia component should be under control in somewhere between 15 and 20 days. However, the more water changes done, the longer this can take. Cycling with fish is a real balancing act between the need to get it done ASAP and the desire not to cause harm to fish. This is one of the best parts of fishless cycling. No matter how much one may screw it up, no fish will be harmed. Also, at the end of a fishless cycle one can fully stock a tank immediately. With a fish in cycle it can take months to reach full stocking.
Thank you so much for your response! I feel much better about the levels after reading this. Yesterday, before reading this, I did a partial water change but I will stop doing that now. This morning my levels were:
Ammonia .25 ppm
NO2 .50 ppm
NO3 20-30 PPM

From this point on I will just let the tank continue to cycle. I am seeing some of the plants start to turn brown and the tank is not crystal clear by any means but it probably just needs to continue cycling.

What type of salt do you suggest adding if the nitrite levels increase?

Thanks again for all your help!
 
Apr 2, 2002
2,828
435
92
New York
Somewhere on this site I posted it in a thread.

I just PM'd you a copy.
 
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