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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First post on this forum. I'm sure some of you will be quite helpful. I've had a community tank for over 20 years so I'm not new to fishkeeping but this is my first Cichlid tank.

Short story- I have a new 65 gallon tank with Mbuna. I overstocked the tank too quickly and have overloaded the Bio filter. Battling high Ammonia level and looking for help. Now the details:

65 gallon tank
25 Mbuna (not juveniles) of 5 different species (added in batches of 4-5/week over about 5 week period)
Fluval FX4 filter (have "pimped" it with replacement foams, loose Poly fill, and added 2 boxes of additional Fluval Bio Max media in addition to what came with the filter. Also running an 11 oz bag of Chemi-Pure Blue under bottom tray).
CaribSea Aragonite substrate
Good aeration with Powerhead at top of tank
Slate rocks stacked for caves
NO plants

Performed fishless cycle with ammonium chloride prior to adding fish. Got that done and it passed the test after spiking with ammonia. However, for the past several weeks, have been struggling with elevated ammonia levels. Nitrite at 0 and Nitrates present (try to keep around 20 or less with water changes). Being new to Cichlids, I read about lots of emphasis on frequent water changes so that is what I did from the beginning. I use a Python and was dosing the entire tank with Prime at each 20-40% water change. I suspect what was happening was that our water in north Texas has high levels of Chloramines and this was killing off the nitrifying bacteria before the Prime could neutralize it, so I have started preparing water batches in a Rubbermaid garbage can with Prime BEFORE adding to the tank to address this. It certainly cannot hurt doing it this way.

Have been protecting fish with 2x normal dose of Prime every 48 hours. They are all active and appear healthy (eating aggression, etc).

Here are the parameters from todays' tests...

Temp 79
pH 7.8
Total Ammonia (API test kit) 1.0-2.0 (having to interpret color)
Seachem Ammonia Alert badge ALERT
Nitrite 0+ (very slight tint of purple)
Nitrate 20
GH 11
KH 11

I have also been using Seachem Stability and Fritz Zyme 7 after water changes to try and fortify the bacteria. Over the past month, I have added a TON of bacteria and you can see where I am at. Cannot believe that I am not yet winning this battle!

Is 3 pounds of Bio media enough for this bio load? If not, should I add a HOB filter? If so, which one? I have pretty much maxed out the amount of Bio media that I can get in the FX4 trays. There's no question that the FX4 has the water circulation capability. It's more a question of media at this point.

I know that I made a mistake in adding too many fish too quickly. What's done is done-it just needs to be fixed. Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated at this point. I love the fish and just want things to settle down to where I just need to make my water changes and enjoy the tank.
 

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MbunaJay said:
Short story- I have a new 65 gallon tank with Mbuna. I overstocked the tank too quickly and have overloaded the Bio filter. Battling high Ammonia level and looking for help.
Do 50%-75% daily water changes until the bio filter catches up. For the chloramine I would double or triple the dose of prime. I've tripled or quadrupled the stated dose for years after using 1-1/2 times the dose one time and losing some fish due to my water company doing work in my area and flushing the lines with chlorine.
 

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Welcome to Cichlid-forum, and hope we can help.

Adding media does nothing.

What are the dimensions of your tank? With 5 species I would expect you to have a 72" tank and 125 gallons. I would probably remove fish. How many will depend on what the dimensions of your tank are (not gallons).

When you cycle with ammonia you should be able to add all the fish at once. Assuming the tank size can handle the fish you are stocking.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
It's 36" long x 18" deep x 24" tall. I intentionally overstocked it to mitigate aggression. Again, I'm new to keeping Cichlids. They all seem to be getting along for the most part and swim all over in the taller tank. It's one of the characteristics that made Mbuna attractive to me. There is lots of chasing and some occasional "fighting" (striking, lip locking- same species). For the purposes of this discussion, here is the list:

5- Yellow Labs
5- Yellow Tail Acei
6- Pseudotropheus Elongatus (Ornatus I think- these are by far the largest and most aggressive fish in the tank)
5- Demasoni
4- Red Zebra

I'm certainly not planning on adding any more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
[/quote]Do 50%-75% daily water changes until the bio filter catches up. For the chloramine I would double or triple the dose of prime. I've tripled or quadrupled the stated dose for years after using 1-1/2 times the dose one time and losing some fish due to my water company doing work in my area and flushing the lines with chlorine.[/quote]

I checked Seachem's site for dosing guidance with Prime. My tap water is running at 1.0 ppm Ammonia. Seachem says that 2x the normal dose is good for up to 2.0 ppm. My tank is running somewhere between 1.0 and 2.0 (kind of hard to tell excatly) at the moment. I'm going to continue daily water changes (did 2 today) using pre-treated water with 2x dose of Prime and see what happens. Thanks :thumb:
 

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The number of species and individuals would be overstocked (to the correct level) for a 72" 125G tank.

Stock by length. In a 36" tank I would 12 demasoni and that's it. Or the 5 yellow labs alone would work as well. The other species are not likely to work in a 36" tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
DJRansome said:
The number of species and individuals would be overstocked (to the correct level) for a 72" 125G tank.

Stock by length. In a 36" tank I would 12 demasoni and that's it. Or the 5 yellow labs alone would work as well. The other species are not likely to work in a 36" tank.
Not likely to work. What do you mean by that? Again, I'm new to all of this and apparently have found (and used) some bad information about stocking levels from someone who seemed credible.
 

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For acei and elongatus we recommend 48x18 or larger.

For zebras we recommend 48x12 or larger.

A longer tank...even with half the gallons...can house more fish. The fish are territorial and want to claim a section of the substrate. The average chase is 3 feet...having a 4 foot tank means the fish being pursued has a chance to escape.
 

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MbunaJay said:
My tap water is running at 1.0 ppm Ammonia. Seachem says that 2x the normal dose is good for up to 2.0 ppm. My tank is running somewhere between 1.0 and 2.0 (kind of hard to tell excatly) at the moment. I'm going to continue daily water changes (did 2 today) using pre-treated water with 2x dose of Prime and see what happens. Thanks :thumb:
If I were dealing with this I would at least triple the dose during each daily water change until my bio filter catches up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
DJRansome said:
For acei and elongatus we recommend 48x18 or larger.

For zebras we recommend 48x12 or larger.

A longer tank...even with half the gallons...can house more fish. The fish are territorial and want to claim a section of the substrate. The average chase is 3 feet...having a 4 foot tank means the fish being pursued has a chance to escape.
The Elongatus are definitely the most aggressive. 4 are probably mature (around 5") and are very aggressive. The other 2 are smaller and seem to be OK. I will probably remove the 4 large Elongatus and see what happens as they all grow. I can always remove more if needed. Thanks for the advice. Guess I should have done better research earlier.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
ken31cay said:
MbunaJay said:
My tap water is running at 1.0 ppm Ammonia. Seachem says that 2x the normal dose is good for up to 2.0 ppm. My tank is running somewhere between 1.0 and 2.0 (kind of hard to tell excatly) at the moment. I'm going to continue daily water changes (did 2 today) using pre-treated water with 2x dose of Prime and see what happens. Thanks :thumb:
If I were dealing with this I would at least triple the dose during each daily water change until my bio filter catches up.
Thanks. It certainly cannot hurt! Prime is supposed to be safe at up to 5x normal dosing. Better safe than sorry. I appreciate the advice.
 

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I hope everthing works out ok. Note that per Seachem's instructions that when adding the Prime to your tank (as opposed to adding it directly to the new water before it goes in your tank) we're supposed to dose for the entire tank volume, not just for the amount of the new water. Some people don't realize this and they calculate only for the new amount of water during their water changes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
ken31cay said:
I hope everthing works out ok. Note that per Seachem's instructions that when adding the Prime to your tank (as opposed to adding it directly to the new water before it goes in your tank) we're supposed to dose for the entire tank volume, not just for the amount of the new water. Some people don't realize this and they calculate only for the new amount of water during their water changes.
My understanding of this is that if you are "pre-treating" water prior to placing in the tank, you dose for the volume of water being added. If using a Python to add water directly, you dose for the entire tank. Is that correct? I am pre-treating my water and then adding to the tank to ensure that no Chloramine gets in there as I work to reestablish the bio filter.
 

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MbunaJay said:
My understanding of this is that if you are "pre-treating" water prior to placing in the tank, you dose for the volume of water being added. If using a Python to add water directly, you dose for the entire tank. Is that correct? I am pre-treating my water and then adding to the tank to ensure that no Chloramine gets in there as I work to reestablish the bio filter.
Yes this is all correct.

In your case you also need to add more due to the ammonia in your tank which Prime will temporarily attach to and neutralize. In the case where you add the Prime to you tank, for each ammonia molecule Prime attaches to there is that much less available to neutralize Chloramine, and vice versa.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Guys,
I have been pre-treating replacement water with Prime (3x normal dose) prior to changes and doing daily water changes of 30-40% for nearly a week now. Am not seeing any reduction in ammonia (it's staying at around 1.0 ppm). Seachem Ammonia Alert badge showing just a slight tint of green (it's not quite yellow- SAFE but not at ALERT either), so the Prime appears to be "locking" the free ammonia like it's supposed to. Nitrite is 0 and my Nitrates are staying between 10-20. I have also been dosing tank daily with 3 capfuls of STABILITY to try and fortify the bacteria, so I just don't understand why I cannot get things to where they need to be. Relevant to this discussion is my other tank- it's a 29 gallon Community tank with Tetras that has been running for nearly 20 years. Same municipal water source using same treatment methodology and the Ammonia level in that tank is at 0. That tells us that it is possible to get a tank fully cycled with my water. What do I need to do to get the Cichlid tank "over the hump"? I'm guessing larger water changes (50-75% has already been suggested) but am open to any and all suggestions. Thanks.
 

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Just be patient, it will eventually fully cycle. Small frequent water changes will get you there.
Going forward controlling your nitrates may be your problem with the number of fish you have, you really want to be reducing them by half.
 

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If your tank was fully cycled before you added more fish then your tank is experiencing a mini cycle, which should resolve in 5-10 days and recommended = or > 50% daily water changes. Though I would do 75% since the tank is so overstocked.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I understand that water changes will eventually do the trick. Since my tap water already has 1 ppm of ammonia, what is the benefit of doing larger (50-75%) water changes, other than for reducing Nitrates?
 

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I think you should contact your water authority.
 

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MbunaJay said:
Am not seeing any reduction in ammonia (it's staying at around 1.0 ppm).
So the 1ppm ammonia in your tank is due to the uncycled tank or is the reading from the chloramines from your tap water as is known to happen? If your other tank, which I assume uses the same tap water, has a reading of 0ppm ammonia then for this new tank I suppose you either need to let the mini cycle resolve or you need to use more Prime. Assuming I'm understanding all this correctly.
 
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