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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys, I have been fishless cycling my 55gallon for over a month now. I run an emperor biowheel filter. I recieved one or the four filter pads off another cycled tank as well as a biowheel off a cycled tank. I have been able to dose ammonia to 4ppm+ and have it go to 0 after a short while, sometimes even under 12 hours. To me this seemed really good, and I figured my cycle was well on it's way. I saw nitrItes for a couple weeks now and over the last weekend my nitrItes started coming up as 0. After getting dosing ammonia and it going to 0 and getting 0 nitrItes for about 4 days straight I decided my tank was cycled, and ordered my fish. My fish are coming tomorrow and so I decided to do a large water change, around 90%, to bring my nitrAtes down and get my tank ready for my fish. I did the water change about 6 hours ago and now I'm getting high nitrItes again, what the heck?!?! I thought my tank was cycled, do I need to wait longer till I test for nitrItes? Did the large water change mess with my readings in some way? I have about 200 dollars worth of fish coming and I don't want to dump them into a tank with super high nitrItes and lose all of them...I don't know what to do! What are my options if my nitrItes don't go down by the morning? I have a 20 gallon tank that isn't cycled, could I just put them in there and do very large water changes multiple times a day until my big tank shows 0 nitrItes? I'm kinda freakin out here
 

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Relax, take a deep breath. It does sound like something happened to upset your cycle a bit, but with almost established bacteria, like it sounds you had, it should bounce back really quickly.

Give us actual numbers - test your water again.

If worst comes to worst, then yes, they can live in an uncycled tank with large water changes - why not then put them in your big tank and do the water changes there? With nearly established bacteria, the cycle should be done really soon, just keep up with those water changes.

What dechlorinator did you use? That's all I can think of that would have upset a cycle in this way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I use the API test kit and I used dechlorinator called "Start Right" made by Jungle. I added more than I should have because I accidentally read the dosing directions for fixing the slime coat so I added approximately enough for 75 gallons in my 55 gallon tank. My readings before the large WC were 0ppm ammonia, 0 ppm nitrIte, 10-20ppm nitrAte. What I don't get is after I did the large WC I added some ammonia to feed the bacteria but didn't test the ammonia at that time. 6 Hours after I did the WC I tested my water and got 0ppm ammonia 2-5ppm nitrIte and 40-80ppm nitrAte. I've read that having nitrItes can actually throw off your nitrAte readings so the high nitrAte reading doesn't concern me as much. But how did my nitrIte and nitrAte all of a sudden go off the charts? My tap water tests out at 0's across the board.

The reason I asked about my 20 gallon tank that isn't cycled is because I was worried that since my tank is apparently still cycling the parameters are hard to control, or so it seems. I was thinking if I just used treated tap water in my 20 and do a lot of water changes I can keep all the parameters close to 0 and keep my fish alive longer. I could be wrong though...this sucks I have 30 mbuna cichlids coming in the morning, my own fault for jumping the gun :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Just thought of something, since I added a small amount of ammonia after I did the large WC, could that ammonia that already reads 0ppm still be in the process of converting to nitrAtes? Could I just do a large WC and not add any ammonia and then see what happens? I dont want to keep messing with it if I should just leave it alone. The fish will be here in about 8 hours
 

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leave it alone. Messing with it too much now will do more harm than good. Most people don't feed the bacteria for the last couple of days exactly to keep nitrates down, so your bacteria will be fine as well.

Jungle is a good product. The reading could very well be the ammonia still converting. You're right to not worry about the nitrate reading.

A completely uncycled tank will be just as hard, if not harder, to keep the parameters straight. The only advantage I can think of of putting them in there is that you have less total water to change with your water changes. This is sort of balanced out by you having to need to do it so much more frequently, because of the much smaller volume of water to dilute fish waste.

Do a large-ish (50% or so) water change just before your fish go in, and watch those levels. You might have to do a 50% every day for a couple of days (maybe morning and evening), but this is a worst case scenario. Chances are your readings will be fine within a day or so. Either way, your fish won't just hit the water and die.

It realy does sound like you did everything right. At worst, your bacteria will play 'catch up' for a day or two.

Congratulations on the new fish, by the way :) What are you getting?
 

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I agree with Nina - leave it alone. If your tank was cycled and stable and you did a large water change the nitrates should have dropped. When you dosed ammonia again (which isn't a bad thing) two things should happen as the ammonia is processed. The nitrites and nitrates should rise. Keep testing because the issue isn't the nitrites it's how long it takes for then to resolve. If you end up in 24 hours or so with 0 ammonia (which you said you already have), 0 nitrites and some nitrates everything is as it should be.

GL with your new guys!

Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The fish will be here soon so I can't wait 24 hours :( Will it be safe to put them in after I do a 50% WC? Or should I put them in my 20 gallon for a couple days? The 20 gallon is basically a fresh tank not cycled at all
 

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It will be safe to put them in. Much safer than an uncycled tank.

Then, test frequently (once a day) and do water changes as needed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Ok, thanks Nina for all your support I really appreciate it!

I'm getting Rusty's, Yellow Labs, and Yellow tail Acei. (10 of each, going for 1m:4 or 5 fm)

I also have 2 bristlenose pleco's coming, 1 regular 1 albino.

I'm doin a 50% WC right now as the fish will be here in the next 2 hours, I really hope they make it!

My wallet really hopes so too :wink:
 

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My fish are coming tomorrow and so I decided to do a large water change, around 90%, to bring my nitrAtes down and get my tank ready for my fish. I did the water change about 6 hours ago and now I'm getting high nitrItes again, what the heck?!?! I thought my tank was cycled, do I need to wait longer till I test for nitrItes? Did the large water change mess with my readings in some way?
I've seen the same thing and try to warn folks whenever I can, as others have reported this also. Avoid doing a massive water change after the tank has cycled because it can cause a minor setback in cycling. The good news is that it's minor.

Leave things alone. Don't do any more water changes and don't add any more ammonia. Let the nitrite levels come down to 0 and you'll be fine. In my case and the case of others the nitrite spike was brief, maybe a day or so. Hopefully yours will be the same.

This happened to me the first time I fishless cycled years ago. I've seen it reported here by others several times since then. My theory is that the biofilm that the nitrifiers live in and which protects them hasn't been built up as much as it eventually will be and they are somewhat vulnerable. The water change does something to knock the nitrite converters down. The ammonia converters never seem to be affected. They do bounce back strong though.

Don't add the new fish to the uncyled 20. Use a detox and add them to the 55. Don't feed at all until nitrite is 0. Keep an eye on them. Do water changes only if need be, meaning the fish are showing signs of gasping at the surface etc. Then just do small, frequent changes, not another massive one.

Let us know how it goes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks Tim! Bad news is I just did a 40-50% WC...trying to get the nitrItes down, if I saw your post 2 minutes sooner I would have held up. I have a good feeling about this because the bacteria in my tank have been able to take a large amount of ammonia to 0 within a very short period of time, sometimes like 8ppm to 0 while I was at work (8-10 hours). What I take from you guys is that you can't fix anything with a fishtank quickly, just have to wait. I got a little anxious and was hoping there was a quick fix but I'm just going to watch the fish and make sure they seem ok, if they show any signs of stress I will do a small WC, what % do you think? And by detox..do you mean dechlorinator or should I quickly go buy something else to add?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
The wierd thing is even after I just did that 50% WC the nitrItes are still at 2-5ppm (hard to tell the difference in purple). I'm still just going to observe the fish and do WC as they dictate but it just seems odd to me, makes me feel like I'm testing incorrectly or something. I just add the 5 drops and shake for 5 seconds so I'd find that hard to believe.
 

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If they are showing signs of gasping at the surface I would start with around 20% WCs. Like Nina said they arent gonna die as soon as they hit water. It does seem weird that your testing the same ppm's on nitrite before and after the WC tho.

I would try a little experiment, like take out a gallon of tank water and test it. then change out half of that gallon and retest after a little. It should go down by half. If it doesnt maybe suspect either your testing method or an outdated test kit???? There should be a date or date code on the bottle to find out when it goes bad as per the manufacurer.

Good luck and keep us posted on your new little friends with some pics when you get a chance!
 

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And by detox..do you mean dechlorinator or should I quickly go buy something else to add?
Prime claims to detox nitrite. I'd suggest using that.

If you do a 50% water change, it'll cut the nitrite level in half regardless of what the kit shows. These test kits aren't precise. And you don't need to know precisely what level is in the tank. A lot is a lot and that's enough to know.

If fish are gasping, it's a situation that requires an urgent remedy. Water changes and detox product. I'd suggest starting with a 30-40% change and see how it goes. If the fish haven't improved, do another. I'd probably suggest doing that even if fish seem ok. Water changes are ok, it's the massive 90% changes that seem to cause the problems. If you're in the position to, do 25% or so 2-3 times per day.

And do not feed!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I looked at my bottles and they all have a lot number above the label. My nitrIte one is LOT 26A1210 and what API says is the last 4 digits are the month and year of manifacture. So December 2010 is when my nitrIte bottle was manufactured so I should be OK there. I took 1 gallon of tank water out, tested it, got the max ppm of nitrIte that the test kit will show, added 1 gallon of tap water (which tests at 0's across the board) and got the same nitrIte reading, I mean 100% the same color in both test tubes. The wierd thing is my tap water shows 0 nitrites, if my kit was bad wouldnt I see some nitrItes in the tap water too? Maybe my nitrItes are so high that even diluting it with a gallon of water doesn't make a difference. This has me stumped.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Fish just got here! Man, a certain online dealer really does a nice job! Ended up getting an extra rusty and all but one of them is twice the size he said they would be! Yellow labs are already really yellow and my Acei already have a purplish color to them. One of my smaller Acei was in the corner of the bag upside down but still moving his fins but the other fish were pecking at him. I put him into my 20 gallon right away with my Zebra Danios and he is just kinda sitting on the bottom not moving much, I hope he makes it. My 2 pleco's are also really nice and healthy, I'm acclimating them to the tank right now.
 

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I had a similar thing happen, a few weeks ago when I did my fishless cycle. I was doing massive water changes all weekend to get the nitrites down. I got the same advice, to leave it alone, don't add anymore ammonia, that the cycle had stalled. So I didn't touch it for a day. Next day, my nitrites dropped to .25 ppm added some ammonia saw the nitrites spike a hours later, by the time I got up for work they were down to 0ppm. 75 gallon, with 33 fish and I don't have any problems at this point. I've been testing every couple days seeing this whole thing is new to me and trying to get an approximate WC schedule going so I don't have to test as much in the future.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I'll post pics once I find my camera, I have cell phone pics but those are next to useless. I ran to my local chain pet store and picked up some prime as my fish were chilling in their bags acclimating to the water. I followed the directions and added 5x the normal dose which is supposed to detoxify nitrite. Hope there isn't too much water conditioner in my tank since I added the normal dose of regular conditioner earlier this morning after my 50% WC. Fish seem happy, zooming around their bags, pleco's are trying to eat the side of the bag :D I'm going to let the Prime do it's thing for another 20 minutes or so then start slowly taking the fish out of the bags and putting them in the tank. Thanks to everyone for the advice and support through this stressful time!
 

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Maybe my nitrItes are so high that even diluting it with a gallon of water doesn't make a difference. This has me stumped.
That'd be it. The 'ppm' is a %, parts per million. If you cut the sample in half, it cuts the nitrite in half, it has to. It's impossible that it didn't. Cut it by 1/4 or even more and test again. Eventually you'll get a reading. But, again, a lot is a lot. The exact amount, whether it be 4, 6, 8ppm isn't really that important, it's a lot.

Sounds like you're doing all the right things. I'd keep the water changes to 40%, no more. Looking forward to seeing the pics.
 
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