Okay. Took out those pads in the front of the filter; they were BLACK with gunk of some kind. Flow is much better through the Aqueon without them.
Took new readings on the water; did a very small (two-bucket) water change with Prime after seeing them:
Ammonia: Seems to have jumped to 0.50ppms Nitrite: Still 0ppms Nitrate: Still the dark yellow color
I swooshed/dunked the Aqueon floss cartridges in removed tank water, as well, as it seemed like there may have been some overflow over them when I looked in the media chamber; nothing really came off the pads, though, even though they were pretty brown and gunky....
Would appreciate if you could analyze the latest readings I took and advise what to do next; I have been having some major issues with my Aqueon filter, in that it's developed a horrible vibration that doesn't seem to improve no matter how we adjust the lid as well as loud splashing noises since I removed those ammonia pads in front (I also noticed, after taking the lid off the filter and looking at the floss cartridges, that there was major overflow around them, so the filter wasn't actually FILTERING anything for god knows how long -- these were the floss pads that came in the box with the filter, and I since took them out and replaced them with new ones from a three-pack we had purchased...but it doesn't make any sense that these were already clogged, because they didn't look THAT bad when I removed them and I had previously dunked/rinsed them in removed tank water during a small water change).
I'll get to some more filter questions after I post my readings here...
Today (7/10)'s readings were:
Ammonia: Somewhere between 0.25 and 0.50 Nitrite: STILL 0 Nitrate: Somewhere between 0 and 5.0 (STILL the dark yellow color)
I also don't understand why, at this point, we STILL have a bacterial bloom in the tank. Shouldn't this have cleared up by now?
I have some filtration questions that I hinted at above; I am thinking that we either got a defective Aqueon unit (it is now making a loud bubbling sound from the media chamber that's seemingly unrelated to the return flow issue) or this HOB just isn't right for my needs anymore -- I was considering changing it out for another AquaClear, possibly the 70 model, but do you think this is wise? Should I swap the Aqueon for the AquaClear at this point, and would the 70 be enough filtration alongside the 110 model I already have on the tank?
So the ammonia is lower but not being converted to either nitrite or nitrate, can't make much of these results, maybe the Stability doesn't do anything, or the amounts are too small (because of tank size/stocking) to be picked up by the tests. If they are right and it takes 7 days of treatment, ammonia should go down to 0 tomorrow or the day after.
I take it the fish are still fine, so you just have to wait it out now. If the Stability works, the ammonia should be gone in 2 days. If it doesn't then your tank will still be cycling, that can take a long time.
Yes, unbelievable as this may seem, the fish are doing fine and actually GROWING -- they have grown considerably in the couple of weeks we've had them. They're eating, active and constantly playing throughout the day in the tank.
But I don't understand what's going on with the ammonia -- shouldn't I WANT to see a spike of some kind, at least temporarily? We never saw this level go beyond the 0.50 range...
Why is nitrite still at 0? And why hasn't nitrate moved past 0.25? Even Seachem can't explain this (I will attach a copy of their latest response in a moment)...
It sounds to me like your tank's in a weird middle area that does occur, but isn't common. I've seen this situation happen in tanks with insufficient filtration to handle the ammonia load while still being able to process the nitrite. From what you've described with your one filter, this is the likely situation since most HOB filters with a horizontal bypass (rather than the vertical of your AquaClear) aren't as effective as vertical bypass. I'd get another AquaClear and load it up with biomedia and rely on your other one for mechanical. This is how I tend to run a dual-filter system since it's easy to clean junk out of the media during water changes and more bio media is always better. Speaking of water changes; I'd stick to a single 5 gallon bucket per change. When adding Purigen to an HOB filter, I like to put it after the mechanical and bio media to make sure the bacteria have access to the incoming dirty water. This will keep the bio filter going at maximum effectiveness and will increase the longevity of Purigen or chemical filtration.
As far as the haze, if it's milky white it's a bacteria and if it's greenish or full-on neon green it's a single celled algae. Neither of which are harmful and indicate the ecosystem trying to reach biological equilibrium. While they can be unsightly, they're not anything to be worried about and will go away once things are in balance.
If you do end up replacing your filter; if possible, snag one of the surface skimmer attachments, they're awesome and will keep any surface scum from forming.