Aquarium Setup • Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Rhinox » Wed Apr 07, 2021 3:41 pm

FWIW, I checked my pH and KH and found they haven't really changed since I started cycling. I'm still around 7.6 with KH still starting to change at 5 drops, and completely changing with the 6th drop. I did top off some evap loss over the past week. I've added back in 6 liters of tap in total. Still no nitrites, today being day 21 since adding ammonia. I did not dechlorinate the top off so I'm aware I hit my filter with a much diluted low dose of chlorine that gassed off in a handful of hours. If that's what's hitting the breaks on my cycle I'd be surprised but also would accept my wrist slapping and vow not to do that again. (can anyone give me a recommendation for a basic dechlorinator that only dechlorinates and doesn't do (or claim to do...) anything else? Is it Sodium Thiosulfate what I'm looking for?)

Going to be focusing more on getting the rest of the setup straightened out and just let the sump keep doing it's thing it will eventually do.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby SenorStrum » Fri Apr 09, 2021 11:55 am

I see you being really close to having an awesome tank that runs great. You are taking in alternative information and challenging the status quo. It sounds super arrogant, I admit that... but I think that the conventional wisdom in fish-keeping is just not as correct as it could be. I personally disagree with all the answers you got to your other 3 questions above. You already pointed out all the reasons.

I see you close with sentences like this:
"Now, looking back, could it be some of my problems were related to never allowing the heterotrophic bacteria to really develop? maybe... Could it be that regular large water changes offset my lack of heterotrophic bacteria? Is that why problems occurred so quickly after falling just a little bit behind on w/c's?"

I came to exactly the same conclusion for tanks I had run in following conventional wisdom. I was not able to stock as heavy, water was not as clear, parameters would have a tendency to swing hard and fast, and I fought various algaes constantly.
Anecdotal story here (we all know these prove nothing, but we love them, don't we?): BEFORE I had ready aquariumscience.org, I helped my mom set up a 75 gallon planted angelfish aquarium. I knew all the conventional wisdom. I'd watched all the youtubers discussing the best HOB filters. Knew all about the cycle. She had relatively low stocking on this tank and 2 HOB filters the size of which would indicate that the tank was "over-filtered." Nope. This tank had all kinds of problems. Nana wanted her little fishies to be happy and healthy and she cleaned everything. All the time. 3-4 months since setting this up, I had read aquariumscience.org and began changing my behavior. I bought her a sunsun 303b, filled is only with coarse sponge and put it on her tank. I told her she was allowed to clean anything she wanted, but don't open the canister. All her issues went away within a month once the filter broke in, and she got mad at me, because she didn't have much do to in her tank anymore.

I also agree pretty fully with your last statement:
"I guess broken down to it's simplest concepts, the debate could be between allowing allowing all waste to break down to nitrate and managing the nitrate vs. managing the waste directly to prevent the nitrate from ever forming."
Yes. Once I finally understood this, I elected to go the nitrate route. Mostly because this is what's going to end up happening in your tank anyway. I wrote a lot about this in another thread about whether mechanical filtration is actually necessary. I contend that if you're not going to frequently clean stuff out before it breaks down, you're better off letting it all break down instead of trying to clean it out and disturbing the biofloc. Again, I'm taking a queue from the reef-guys. If you want to manage nitrate in a tank without water changes, do what the reef guys do. Change your mechanical filtration every 3 days. Get a protein skimmer to pull stuff out before it breaks down into nitrate, and clean it frequently. Maybe get a felt roll to constantly keep everything clean instead of filter socks. Possibly get an algae scrubber to take care of the rest that you didn't pull out before it broke down to nitrates. Then get a TON of liverock to just eat the remaining nitrates and only have just a few fish in there because if you put too many, nitrates will build too fast.... It's the last one that keeps me out of reefing. I want lots of fish.

The other key to this is to feed a really high protein food (Also make sure it has enough roughage to stave off bloat, but I'm not going to have that debate here). This seems counter intuitive because the higher the protein, the more nitrate the food will leave in the water, but what's more important here is what's NOT there. What is not there is a lot of carbohydrates. Carbs break down into sugar. Sugar is used by heterotrophic bacteria to make bioflocs. If you have too much sugar, too much ineffective biofloc builds up and plugs your filter. It's the same reason I stopped putting any water conditioners that contain Aloe in there. Aloe is just sugar. Note - when I start a new tank, I DO use aloe for exactly this reason. I want to jump-start the formation of biofloc.

I personally do not dechlorinate top-off water. I know this is OK for me because my locality does not use chloramines which can stay in the water for a very long time. My municipality doses chlorine gas only to 1ppm. By the time it comes out of my tap, the water routinely tests under 1ppm for total chlorine. If you have chloramine, though, this could actually have an impact on the cycling bacteria, but I honestly doubt it.

Have you considered a bacteria in a bottle product to get the cycle started? Or a handful of dirt? :wink: I've actually had pretty good luck with Fritz Zyme 7 bacteria if you can find some and are getting impatient. Use it to start though, and then build your own bacteria.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Rhinox » Sat Apr 10, 2021 11:15 am

I'm not really getting impatient... Yet. That will come once I have all of my other projects done and my sump still isn't cycled... :? :roll: But, there is a subtle difference between being impatient and not wanting to waste time and effort. It's day 24. I expected Nitrites by now for sure. They're about 10days late based on my own experience with near identical base water parameters. The difference is less ammonia initially (both ppm and total) now vs. past. I wouldn't have expected that to slow things down so much. I'm starting to wonder how much longer do I wait before suspecting something present in the sump inhibiting bacterial growth, dump the water, rinse everything out, and start over... (Not there yet but... The idea is starting to grow in the back of my head)

I read about the dirt thing. I'm not sure I'm ready to take that step yet. I do think I have to draw a hard line at adding urine though :lol: . I did end up throwing some of my old food in. I figure what's the worst thing can happen, if it doesn't help and gets too dirty I can just clean it. I wanted to ask you strum, I know I've seen you say that anything in an established tank (food or waste) breaks down in about 3 days. But I still see little pellets in my foam that definitely aren't breaking down yet. How long should it take the heterotrophic bacteria colony to start growing initially to begin breaking them down? I don't think I need to be adding any more food in until what is in there starts breaking down. All the pellets were definitely caught in about the first inch to inch and a half of the first red 20 ppi foam. Does the heterotrophic bacteria feed on the solids directly? Does that mean the bacteria will primarily form in the first sponge? Or does food and waste sort of break down into smaller particles and disperse throughout the water column so that the heterotrophic bacteria can grow everywhere?

I definitely had a film of flaky white something growing on the outside of my vinyl tubing. I was hoping it was the good bacteria I'm trying to grow. I sort of rubbed it all off of the vinyl tubing so it would anchor into the filter foam and hopefully start exponentially growing in there.

Also I'm not intending to challenge conventional wisdom / status quo. I've learned most of what I do now from this site and it's members, as well as a couple other places around the internet. But really only have a small amount of personal experience myself. So I am just always trying to keep learning, because one thing I do know is that it's very rare that something in any field can be perfected and then never improved upon again.

There are still people out there who would consider any fishless cycling to be "progressive". When I went to my LFS 12 years ago to buy fish for the first time, I talked with the owner (very experienced with cichlids, he's dove (dived?) In malawi even) and mentioned that I knew all about the nitrogen cycle and did fishless cycling so I knew I was ready to add lots of fish safely. He looked at me kind of funny, asked, "what did I add fish food or something?" Told him no I added pure ammonia and waited until it all turned to nitrate within 24 hours. He just kind of looked at me funny, dismissively, said something about he doesn't know about all that. But of course he still happily sold me whatever fish I asked for.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Rhinox » Thu Apr 15, 2021 4:27 pm

Image
Test from last night. Today is the start of week 5, day 29. :popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn:

I started adding more ammonia and some fish food April 5th so it's been 10 days now at higher ammonia concentrations. So if too little ammonia at the start was the issue I'd give it until Monday to see nitrites (14 days after upping the ammonia).

If nothing by then? idk time to do a water change or something. I'd have to start suspecting there's something in the tank/water interfering with the cycling process. Maybe try the dirt thing idk :D .

I wish I had other things to talk about but haven't really made other progress this past week. My youngest got sick with croup and was home with me a couple days, work got busier so I haven't had free lunch breaks I could sneak downstairs and get something done. Did a little bit more electrical work last weekend to get my basement lights on switches and pretty much at the point where I can throw the breaker and start disconnecting and rearranging the existing wiring. Just want to make sure I have a good block of time before I do that because I won't have lights (or basement sump pump) once I start until I finish, other than whatever I can plug in to the outlets on a separate circuit. Going to have family visiting from out of town from tomorrow evening through sunday so won't get anything big accomplished this weekend either. In the absence of making any other progress, I test water parameters and spend too much time wondering why that pretty shade of cyan blue never turns purple.

What I need to do is knock off some low hanging fruit and wash some rocks and rinse some sand. Even though it won't really get me closer to adding fish any faster, it'll make me feel better to do something fun like play around with hardscape layouts or something :D

One other thing that makes me happy is that, while I haven't yet located a source of available synodontis multipunctata/grandiops yet, I've discovered granulosa is now somewhat more available in the hobby than it was 10 years ago. There's 1 US vendor the folks over at planet catfish were talking about that sells legit F1 tank bred juveniles, and currently have some available. That's a unicorn of a fish I've always admired and might just make it's way into my stocking plans.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Deeda » Thu Apr 15, 2021 4:40 pm

That ammonia result is an odd shade of green, seems to have some blue tint to it. Maybe it's different in person though, what PPM does it come closest to on your color card?

Sorry to hear about your youngest! I remember when my younger brother had similar croup issues and Mom took him into the bathroom and steamed it up to help ease his symptoms.

Glad to hear about getting some work done and understand trying to find time to get it done efficiently.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Rhinox » Thu Apr 15, 2021 8:05 pm

I noticed that about the color too, looking a little weird like that. The picture is about how it looks in person. It's closest to 4ppm but should be about 6ppm I think just based on how much ammonia I've added. Not sure how much the food I put in added to that but I have another picture from like 5 days ago and looks about the same so either it hasn't been changing that much or it's actually way above 8ppm and that's what the color looks like once you reach the end of the kits capability to discern colors. I think 8ppm is supposed to be darker though.

Yeah croup burned through our daycare, all the kids were getting it. Fortunately the cough and congestion weren't too bad but he did run a fever for 2 days straight. Getting back to normal now so we're in the clear.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby SenorStrum » Mon Apr 19, 2021 11:44 am

I'm thinking that your house is very clean and well sealed? With fishless cycling, we're depending on the critters we need getting into the tank somehow- from the air? Skin in the tanks? Fish food, like has been suggested...? I have personally never done that. I've always seeded with something. My favorite and most effective was Fritzyme 7. Or... ya know... dirt :D .

I don't see any concerns with the color of the API test. Once you get past about 4, they start becoming a high-ammonia color I refer to as "Meaninglessly green."
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Rhinox » Mon Apr 19, 2021 3:41 pm

Like I mentioned before I keep having weird deja vu here. I pondered in my thread back in 2009, where does the bacteria come from that we want to grow in the filter? Answers given was that it is/was everywhere and the process of cycling just farms what is present everywhere in small amounts into a large colony. Another answer is it arrives airborne. I joked with someone back then about my house being too clean to have bacteria. Joked, as if it wasn't a real possibility.

Last time I was wondering how I would know when I got seeded naturally. I was having lots of thoughts about doubling time and why wasn't there a time where I would see some nitrites prior to all the ammonia being consumed. It was said back then (or at least I heard) that the doubling time was around a day. If that were the case, there should have been a least a couple days where nitrites were detectable before ammonia was all used up and if I didn't see that did that mean I just didn't have ANY bacteria present? But I, like most others, witnessed the ammonia disappear all at once the same time nitrites shot off the chart (magic day 14). Well someone else claimed the doubling time was more like 4 hours which makes more sense, because that means the colony size would grow 64x bigger each day, and long story short doing the math, the day before all the ammonia disappears (on day 14 in my case), the colony only would have been large enough to consume just 1.5% of the ammonia the prior 13 days combined.

Anyways, I don't really think my house is clean and well sealed, at the bacterial level. We open windows and have recently, we don't use air purifiers, our furnace filter is only coarse enough to catch dust and pet hair not bacteria. I have young kids who track who knows what who knows where. That said, the sump is down in the basement where there's not really any air circulating and there is a top on the sump to reduce evap but not sealed so tight to prevent it entirely. There's a cutout left over from where the HOB used to be, and my hands go in the tank every time I check params. I think I even left the cover off overnight a couple times accidently.

I'm hoping it's just the low ammonia concentration I started with. Recall I started at 1ppm and over the first ~18 days it pretty much dissipated down to nothing again without showing up as nitrite or nitrate. Today is 14 days after I upped the ammonia concentration and it has stayed high since. I did not detect nitrites yesterday morning but given the math problem I worked through above it would not be surprising to detect nothing yesterday morning and then have the nitrites present this afternoon when I test. So I'm crossing my fingers for today's test.

Or, if somehow I just started out so sterile that I hadn't had that first introduction of a single bacterium into the water to start things off, impossible as that is to believe, then maybe another 1-3 days until it's been 14 days since I added food (don't recall the exact day I added) along with the claimed trace amounts of BB in the food.

If I don't see some nitrites this week I think my first step needs to be to just do a big water change, maybe some chemical/soap or some such that doesn't dissipate got in on the new media/equipment or when I rinsed the vinyl tubing in the up stairs utility sink or something. The water in the sump does get more bubbly than I expected when I squirt water in from my medicine syringe for example, or when shaking the test tube. And I've noted that submerged surfaces felt slippery (which I had hoped was organic film and not some chemical). It's probably nothing but I'm starting to suspect everything since I'm not seeing progress. (it's not the ammonia though, or at least I really doubt it, because the ammonia bottle doesn't bubble at all when I shake it). Hopefully I can just change the water to remove/dilute whatever it is enough, and its not something that would require a more thorough rinsing and tearing everything apart and really starting over.

I did have that white film grow on my submerged vinyl tubing that I assumed was something organic. It hasn't come back after I rubbed it off, but there is a more brownish looking film/shading near the tubing discharge on the inside (I haven't shut the pump off to see if I can scrape it out yet). Kinda assuming that if the water is ok enough to grow whatever those presumed organics are, it shouldn't be toxic to nitrifying bacteria, but idk.

But also I wonder because I'm not sure if the heterotrophic bacteria are showing up to break down the fish food I threw in. It's been nearly 2 weeks and I can still see the pellets where they got caught by the foam. They're all swelled up like they absorbed a lot of water, but they don't appear to be "rotting" or being consumed by heterotrophic bacteria or anything... unless the little circles that still look like the pellets are little ball shaped pockets of the heterotrophic bacteria that consumed the pellets and then just stayed there as "biofloc"? I haven't been adding pellets every day because I figured what's the point if they're not breaking down yet, plus having plenty of ammonia present already. Downside of doing it how I'm doing it I guess. If I was just using fish food, I'd get confirmation when the ammonia showed up.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Rhinox » Mon Apr 19, 2021 5:00 pm

Rhinox wrote:So I'm crossing my fingers for today's test.


No Nitrites today...
They are still eluding me!
Now I go cut grass.


...maybe the bacteria will like my haiku? :lol:
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Auballagh » Mon Apr 19, 2021 7:51 pm

Jeeeze man..... in a bad kind of way, this thing is becoming sort of epic. :-?
-
Hmmmmm.... is there any chance you could haul some of your foam filtration media over to a friends house with an established aquarium in it? I've found that vigorously wringing/rubbing new filtration media together with fully cycled/established media in a bucket partially filled with tank water, can help in colonizing the new media with the beneficial bacteria you need.
inoculation.
And what the heck, at this point you may need to try something new to get those little guys growing in there for you. :?
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby SenorStrum » Tue Apr 20, 2021 2:26 pm

I agree. This is turning out epically strange. If I were in your situation, I would go find a culture to inoculate my sump with. That being said, I also would have absolutely lost my mind by now. I would have done it probably on day 2. I have like NO patience... which is why I've never even tried it.
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