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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Yes, I read the information available in the Library. :wink:

Here's the background: New 55-gallon tank (presently the only aquarium running), new filter with mechanical media, ample bio-media but as yet no chemical media. Water source personal well, potable, no chlorine/chloramine, low iron but high mineral content, conductivity around 500 uS/cm, KH 214.8 ppm, GH 286.4 ppm, pH 8.0, ammonia 0 ppm, nitrate 0 ppm, nitrate 5 ppm, phosphate 0.0 ppm. Maintaining temperature at 83.4°F.

Here's the situation: I added the ammonia to the tank 9 days ago, and it has only gradually drifted down from 2 ppm to about 0.5 ppm since, not dropped suddenly and certainly not zeroed out. I know the instructions say that can take 7-10 days to happen if you just wait for it, but I haven't just waited for it. After giving the ammonia a couple of hours to circulate I also dosed with API Quick Start (and a couple of pinches of flake fish food in case a bit of phosphate would be helpful to bacteria), and then 2 days later a fellow aquarist gave me the well-colonized filter pads from a healthy, long-established aquarium that he was breaking down so I gently squeezed and rubbed the pads near my filter intake, as well.

One or both of these things should have shortened the time ammonia took to zero out, right? Why didn't they?

Also, given that the ammonia level had at least lowered, I went ahead and took a peek at nitrite on Day 6 (although I know the instructions say not to bother). It read 0 ppm.

If at least some bacterial activity is now working on the ammonia, shouldn't some nitrite have shown up in that test?

And HERE'S THE PROBLEM: I've already ordered fish, a little while back when they appeared on an importer's list for the first time in I don't know how long and as a result I couldn't resist. I'm really not ordinarily impulsive, least of all with living creatures in my care, I promise! (I'm getting some Neolamprologus mustax and BLUE N. sexfasciatus, for those who are curious. :) ) They're now due to arrive in less than 2 weeks! I thought I'd have this cycle well in hand by then, thanks to the Quick Start and/or colonized filter pads...

I figure I'll keep working on the cycle and add Prime when the fish arrive, but is that good enough? If not, what else can I do at this point?

Also, how long can I expect a dose of Prime to keep the fish safe, and what should I do then? Dose with Prime again, or ...?

Thanks for any help you can offer!

Gerry
 

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A fishless cycle takes time and you need to be patient throughout the process. It is normal for nitrite to not be showing as early as you are expecting. I believe it took a little over 1 month for my current tank to fully cycle and be ready for fish. I hope yours is ready by the time your fish arrive because in normal circumstances your tank would not be cycled.
 

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Hi there. I have a very fresh experience- finished my cycle this week. Was Your friend's bacteria source from a tank with similar water parameters?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Respectfully, morris, I'm already beyond the need for general advice. That's why I asked specific questions. :wink:

Interesting question, Ivan. We didn't do any water parameter tests on his tank, but no, I don't think it was very similar water. It was a long-running tank using treated municipal tap water, in which he kept species such as angel fish. I'd bet the water was a fair bit softer and had a lower pH. Hmmm...

Gerry
 

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To be specific then, you should probably see about canceling your order and waiting until you have a proper setup for your fish. I don't think Prime is going to make anything much better when the fish arrive. It is kind of moot in my opinion to answer much of your other questions knowing you have an uncycled tank with fish on the way.
 

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I would not rely on quick start or prime. The established filter media should have worked, but tests don't lie.

The only instant cure is actual established filter media from another tank...if you have that ammonia will go down in 24 hours. Any other fish friends to tap?

We do tell people to rehome their fish until the cycle is complete, barring other options.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Do you foresee a problem resulting from depending on Prime until the biofilter is established, DJR? As I understand it, I'd have to add it every 2 days, which would be a pain, but per Seachem it WOULD render the ammonia and nitrite harmless and WOULDN'T keep bacteria from processing them.

I could probably get more filter media from someone, but as last time it would be someone I don't know and would come with the associated risk of introducing some disease/parasite to the tank. I'm newly returned to fishkeeping, as I mentioned, and moved long distance to a rather rural area not very long ago, so I don't actually know any other fishkeepers around here. Last time I put out a request online to an aquarium club not too far away and luckily a nice fellow about 40 minutes away told me he was breaking down a tank AND spoke convincingly to me about how he'd had it running a very long time with no newly introduced fish and no signs of illness. What I'd turn up after repeating my request is anybody's guess...

And because I don't actually know any aquarists around here, I couldn't see trying to place my fish with any of them. I really doubt they'd accept the responsibility for expensive new imports on behalf of a total stranger, too.

Gerry
 

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I think the Prime makes a dent but I would be surprised if it handles everything.

The other option is large daily water changes to keep ammonia and nitrite under 1ppm. That can get old if your cycle takes six weeks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Yeah, daily water changes would be rather worse than treating with Prime every other day. But maybe all those water changes would be suitable penance for my impetuosity in ordering those fish...

It's just that I'd kept watching importers' lists all those years while I was waiting to get back into the hobby, and I watched pretty much all of my desired Tanganyikan species become first uncommon, then rare and finally essentially nonexistent on those lists. And then, once I'd finally started gearing up to start an aquarium, lo and behold, not one but two of those species appeared on a list! Who knows if/when I'd see either of them again? It was simply more than I could resist.

Oh well, what's done is done. Now I need to do what I can to provide the fish with an acceptable (or better - much preferably better!) environment when they arrive.

Thanks again for your thoughts, DJR!

Gerry
 

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gbin said:
I'm newly returned to fishkeeping, as I mentioned, and moved long distance to a rather rural area not very long ago, so I don't actually know any other fishkeepers around here. Last time I put out a request online to an aquarium club not too far away and luckily a nice fellow about 40 minutes away told me he was breaking down a tank AND spoke convincingly to me about how he'd had it running a very long time with no newly introduced fish and no signs of illness. What I'd turn up after repeating my request is anybody's guess...

And because I don't actually know any aquarists around here, I couldn't see trying to place my fish with any of them. I really doubt they'd accept the responsibility for expensive new imports on behalf of a total stranger, too.
This past April I attended my first meeting of the OCA - the Ohio Cichlid Association - at the urging of a new friend I made on this board.

I was quite surprised at the welcoming nature and amount of friendliness/helpfulness shown to me by the club.

You might be rather surprised to the extent which folks who really have a passion for the hobby will go.
 

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wryan said:
gbin said:
I'm newly returned to fishkeeping, as I mentioned, and moved long distance to a rather rural area not very long ago, so I don't actually know any other fishkeepers around here. Last time I put out a request online to an aquarium club not too far away and luckily a nice fellow about 40 minutes away told me he was breaking down a tank AND spoke convincingly to me about how he'd had it running a very long time with no newly introduced fish and no signs of illness. What I'd turn up after repeating my request is anybody's guess...

And because I don't actually know any aquarists around here, I couldn't see trying to place my fish with any of them. I really doubt they'd accept the responsibility for expensive new imports on behalf of a total stranger, too.
This past April I attended my first meeting of the OCA - the Ohio Cichlid Association - at the urging of a new friend I made on this board.

I was quite surprised at the welcoming nature and amount of friendliness/helpfulness shown to me by the club.

You might be rather surprised to the extent which folks who really have a passion for the hobby will go.
Agreed.

It wouldn't hurt to ask, especially considering the situation you are currently in. You are liable to put in your new fish, which I imagine weren't cheap, and they don't make it because the tank isn't ready for them. You said you have two weeks, which gives you some time to game plan. I hope whatever you end up doing works out for you and your fish. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
One of my opening questions still haunts me, though, and I'd appreciate the thoughts of a knowledgeable person on it:

Why did my tank's ammonia level gradually drop from 2 ppm to 0.5 ppm, where it now appears determined to sit, if nitrification wasn't responsible? My later nitrite check still showed 0 ppm, as I mentioned and I just checked nitrate again, too, to see if maybe I'd simply missed a brief nitrite spike (but in that case then why did the ammonia stop getting processed?) and that displayed 5 ppm, same as at the start.

And yes, I certainly believe I've been doing my testing correctly. I spent much of my career engaged in lab work, and these tests are really awfully simple.

I guess a follow-up question that I also have is:

Given what's happened (for whatever reason), should I dose ammonia again to get it back up to 2 ppm even though it hasn't zeroed out as the protocol says I should wait for?

Gerry
 

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Well I would suggest that bringing it back to 2ppm, You have nothing to loose... I would give it a try.

I did something similar as You- I used media from much softer/different water than my current aquarium. I would say they didn't make it. Difference is that my ammonia remained unchanged for almost 20 days... All together, it took 7 weeks to cycle :/ but no worries, it most probably wont be Your case... Uplift back to 2ppm each time and keep an eye on parameters...
 

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I agree with Ivan. Seems you zeroed out or nearly zeroed ammonia and showed some nitrites. The next steps on the library instructions is to feed the new bacteria , check nitrites , do water change. Reapeat until nitrites zero. Those API tests can get pretty tricky to judge "0" when ammonia is that low. Just my opinion but maybe you arent feeding your new bacteria.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I have no problem adding more ammonia, but to be clear on one point, there's NO WAY that it zeroed out. I can very readily tell the color difference between 0.5 ppm, where it currently is, and 0 ppm.

Maybe the bacteria I introduced via the used filter pads managed to process some of the ammonia to nitrite and then on to nitrate before dying off because of differing pH? I went ahead and ran every test last check and it is possible that the nitrate level is (at most slightly) higher. Or not; the rise would have been so slight that it's difficult to be sure.

So I'll add more ammonia, then, regardless of wherever a portion of the first allotment went...

Gerry
 

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My fishless cycle went a little wacky too, I just kept bringing up the ammonia to 2ppm until it went to 0 in 24 hours, it took a very long time for me for some reason.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I thought people might like to know how things are turning out...

It was clear that the bacteria had become established for turning ammonia into nitrite. I've kept feeding them ammonia every couple of days and until yesterday performed 10% water changes twice daily to keep the nitrite level in a reasonable range (I aimed for </= 5 ppm, per the fishless cycle instructions).

Thinking that my previous attempt at seeding the tank using well-colonized filter pads from another aquarist's tank may have failed because of a pronounced difference in pH between his tank and mine, last Saturday (3 days ago) I tracked down yet another aquarist - this time one who keeps African cichlids in hard, higher pH water - and he provided me a bit of surface gravel from 3 different long-established tanks. I bundled the gravel in nylon mesh held together with a rubber band, gently manipulated and swished the bundle next to the filter intake and then laid the bundle on the sand beneath the intake.

Nitrite was decreased the very next morning, and that's rapidly picked up to the point where, as of this morning, virtually all nitrite is being processed in 24 hours. Hurray! Now I'll perform those water changes to keep down the nitrates rather than nitrites.

So, aided by the late addition of colonized media from an aquarist with long-established tanks with water parameters similar to my own, my fishless cycle has been completed in 3 weeks from start to finish. Thank goodness, as the fish that I foolishly ordered before I had a tank running are arriving later this week! I'll keep feeding the newly established tank ammonia, measuring ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels, and performing water changes right up until the fish arrive, though - and I'll keep a bottle of Prime on hand in case anything goes sideways, too!

Woo hoo! :)

Gerry
 

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For future reference if you ever find yourself in this position again, try some SmartStart Complete : https://www.tlc-products.com/startsmart ... nk-set-up/

I used this in the past in an emergency situation with good results on a 75 gallon tank, but, I used a full bottle that is supposed to treat 120 gallons all at once. Dropped ammonia and nitrite to 0 ppm over night.
 

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Two quick things. It is possible to lose a certain amount of ammonia to volatilization. Not sure to what extent it would occur in a fishtank, but its very common when applying fertilizer to soils, particularly alkaline soils. Also, the bacteria responsible for the nitrogen cycle will diminish in acidic conditions, and be pretty much non existent, or at least non functional at pH 6.0 or lower. Interestingly, to me anyway, ammonia loses its toxicity to fish at low pH levels, as it is the NH3 that is toxic but NH4+ is not.
 
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