I have a 29 gallon tank that I have been attempting to cycle for the past 4 weeks. I only recently, however, was able to purchase all of the test kits that I need and began testing the water to determine when the cycle is complete. I am doing a fishless cycle and have been adding flake food ever couple of days and have made no water changes. The ammonia levels has been consistently high over the last week or so, the nitrite level is 0 and nitrates are at 10. I have been reading tons of material trying to figure out how to interpret these results and what, if anything, I should be doing. With ammonia levels at between 4 and 8 should I continue to put flake food in the water? Should I do nothing and wait for the ammonia level to drop? I have been assuming, since I do have a low level of nitrates that the cycle is progressing, but since I have had the ability to test the water the nitrites have been at 0. Thanks in advance for any insight that you can offer me.
I would likely relax a little on the feeding for now, and only top up the ammonia levels to try and maintain a 4ppm level. The ammonia i think seems a little high right now, possibly to the point where your cycle might be stalling???? I'd like a second opinion on this, but i'd be tempted to do a part water change to reduce this ammonia to around 3-4ppm at least. If you manage to reduce it lower than add some food again to increase.. but you really want to maintain a 3-4ppm if you can.
I know it's said not to do any water changes on a fishless cycle but I'm suspecting that as you've been going this long now that your cycle may be stalled. so the pwc may well help re-kickstart it off to get it to move to stage 2.
You will see a sudden spike in nitrite once you hit stage 2 of your cycle, the nitrites are the by-product of the bacteria that are dealing with the ammonia so this is good and exactly what you are aiming for anyway right now.
Thx Jase, I will try making that partial water change that you suggested. I have also read a lot on this subject but am still not sure how often I need to test my water at this point. Don't want to waste the test, but also don't know how long these anticipated 'spike's' last and don't want to miss it. Thanks again for your help!
My nitrite spike occured quite suddenly and went across multiple days.. its not a blink and you'll miss it event trust me I've been helping a friend with a fishless cycle and his nitrites has been peaking for the last 3 days now. (good times!!)
We've tested every single day for nitrites and ammonia during stage 1. Perhaps this was too much, who knows, but i really got quite into the sciences side of cycling and your fish in the long run will certainly appreciate your diligence now, and attention at this cycling stage will make for a more stable tank later i'm sure.
little expense for so much return i'd say.
Good for you!! for doing a fishless cycle, but give this a bit more patience which you obviously have and you will i'm sure see a return on your efforts. It will be worth it in the long run. Lets hope that with this water change now that you will get the cycle kick it needs. If ammonia is super high on your test.. eg. looks much closer to 8 than it does to 4.. then 30%, 40% or even 50% pwc would be my guess.
I did a 30% water change and let the tank rest for an hour or so, then tested again with the results as follows:
Ammonia: <2 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 10 ppm
Would that amount of water change result in such a significant drop in ammonia levels? Given your last advice, I decided to feed the tank again and see if the ammonia level will climb again into the 4ppm range.
Thx again Jase. Keeping my fingers crossed
yeah get it to 4ppm. (3 minimum) 4 maximum.
And then take it a bit easier on the feeds. Try to maintain it between 3 & 4.. its a bit more softly softly and with patience i'm thinking you will see the process kick off how you want it to.
your original post of 4 weeks surprised me that you'd seen no nitrites yet at all so started to think your cycle was stalled and overwhelmed.
Fingers crossed also. Hope you get some nice results soon.
Actually, I was originally wondering if I may have had a nitrite spike and didn't know it, as I had the tank going for a full 3 weeks, before I was able to purchase a nitrite test kit. That is why I was concerned that it may have occurred without my knowing it. Sorry to be such a pain but I have been reading and reading about the subject and trying to determine just where the tank is in the cycling process and with so much conflicting information out there, I have even considered (though only briefly ) emptying the tank and starting all over, now that I have the ability to test and can have a firm grip on what is actually going on. Is it possible that I have inadvertently **** up the entire process??? I never considered anything other than a fishless cycle, as I can not justify torturing any living thing regardless of it's monetary "value" and I plan to keep angelfish and will not purchase any until the water is as perfect as I can make it. Your advice is invaluable, as you are obviously experienced, and kind enough to share your knowledge.
I would expect to see higher nitrates once nitrite dips down to zero.
I'd seen a great graph somewhere while i was cycling my first aquariums, so just went to find it again. It shows quite nicely how the levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrates peak and trough, and when you should really be testing for each of the parameters in your water..
Credit to novalek.com for the image.
It shows just nicely that if you'd had your nitrite peak already and its gone to zero then really you should expect to see alot more nitrates with your testing. Nitrates tend to be very noticeable in a cycled tank.
Thank you for the compliment, i'm indeed humbled, but being truthful, i'm still very much a novice compared to some of the folk who post on this forum such as JohnArthur, Steve (SouthernCreature), KasiaJB and well many others. I bow to their knowledge every time. If i don't really know the answer readily off the top of my head, i go away usually and research it and i learn how it works myself before passing advice on.. this way you learn.. and i learn at the same time.
I love this hobby/interest now, and much like yourself care very much for how I treat my fish too.. its a major major thing if I ever lose a fish or if its ill.
NItrates in a planted, well maintained (regular water changes) and in fully cycled established tank can stay very close to zero. You definitely do not want nitrates higher than 20-25ppm, however saying that it's also important to know that nitrates (as opposed to ammonia and nitrites) at higher concentrations 30-50ppm can be tolerated for short periods of time. Plants use nitrates as nutrients.
If you continue to have high ammonia with no nitrites it would mean your tank is not yet cycled and it's in its 1st phase of cycling. The length of the cycling would suggest your tank should rather be at the 2nd phase (nitrite spike instead of ammonia spike). Have you used any products or gravel from established tank to speed up the cycling? The only way is stay patient and eventually you will be rewarded XD or seed the tank with bacteria from cycled tank
Well, I'm back again, several weeks later and still have seen NO nitrites, in spite of maintaining a 4-5ppm ammonia level in my tank. I have been only testing for ammonia and nitrite for the past few weeks, but today, I decided to test pH and nitrates, as well. I found that my pH is a disappointing 6 (my tap water measures 6.8) and was shocked to see nitrates at 80ppm. Can anyone tell me what is going on with this tank?? I am determined not to add any living creature, this time around, until the tank is completely cycled, but am beginning to despair What am I doing wrong?? Could the low pH be to blame? HELP!!
You may be adding too much food every other day. To find out, wait a week, check the ammonia level, then add only a SMALL pinch of food if any. A 29 gallon tank can take more than a month to cycle, but ammonia should be decreasing by now. Since it's not and since the pH is lower than that of your tap water, I suspect the added fish food is generating too much ammonia.
Does the aquarium have a gravel substrate, and are you operating the filter 24 hours a day? The temperature should be appropriate for the fish you intend to keep, and the light should be operating ten or eleven hours a day. I you operate all the aquarium accessories and do nothing else for a week or so, the ammonia level will probably decrease, and the cycle will be closer to its second stage. Waiting is always difficult, but doing nothing is better than doing the wrong thing.
Your tap water has lower pH than most municipal water systems. It should be fine for South American Cichlids, but you may need to add some calcium to increase pH for other fish species. The pH up and down liquids tend to act only in the short term and can thus cause pH swings that are dangerous to the fish.
Good luck, and please keep us posted.
Thanks johnarthur for your insight! My tank does have a gravel substrate and I am operating both an outside filter and and U/G filter. I have added additional air stones during this cycling phase and the temp of the water is in the low to mid 80's. I am leaving the filters going full time and have kept the light on full time, as I read that lots of light and air helps to speed up the cycling process. I will stop "feeding" the tank, as you recommended for a week or so and recheck everything. Can you tell me how my nitrates can be so high and yet I have never seen nitrites?
I plan to keep angels in this tank, so the naturally low pH should be ideal, shouldn't it?
It all has to do with the way the nitrogen cycle gets established. This happens by growing three different species of beneficial bacteria in sequence, not simultaneously. The first bacteria type ingests ammonia and converts it to nitrite, which now feeds the second type. This second bacteria colony eats nitrite and converts it to nitrate, which is less toxic than nitrite and is acceptable below levels of 40 ppm. As you may have already guessed, bacteria type three digests most of the nitrate and breaks it down to elemental nitrogen (a plant food) and oxygen. Each type of beneficial bacteria colony grows in response to the available food (in this case toxic nitrogen compounds). In a well balanced aquarium, beneficial bacteria growth responds to the nutrients provided by the fish and decaying organic matter. The primary nutrient is ammonia.
Partial water changes help maintain the balance, while over feeding or over crowding will upset it. That's why it's important to maintain a smaller biological load than the maximum an aquarium system can sustain. Think of it as a safety margin.
Probably it's not a good idea to operate the light 24 hours a day; it could encourage algae growth and is not the normal cycle for live plants.
One final note that has more to do with my questionable opinions than established facts. Too much filtering is fine for crowded or poorly maintained aquariums, but it makes too much turbulence. In turn the turbulence keeps small particles suspended in the water and makes it difficult for some fish to navigate. If you operate only the under gravel filter, the aquarium needs at least two inches of substrate. For rooted plants, a three inch thick substrate is appropriate.
OOOOOOPS. I forgot about the angelfish. They're my favorite aquarium species, but keeping angelfish does offer some challenges. Probably the major one has to do with the fact they mature and keep growing their entire life.
Each mature angelfish usually needs about ten gallons of water volume. A 29 gallon tank would be fine for six juveniles. However, they are fairly large within a year and the hormones start to take over. A spawning pair of angelfish is territorial, very aggressive and needs its own aquarium. From six juveniles you can usually expect to get at least one pair.
One of our forum members, Megham, kept a diary of angelfish spawning: It's very informative, and here's a link:
Thanks again for your help! I did realize that I would probably only be able to keep 2-3 angels in a 29 gallon tank and I am content with that small number. I believe in quality over quantity I would, if my budget allowed it, have multiple tanks and would love to have a much larger one some day.
All of that is for another day, however, as I won't add anything until water quality has been established.
I have about a 2 1/2 in. gravel substrate and only silk or plastic plants, as I always find when keeping a planted tank that I am constantly battling the algae and SNAILS! Nothing against snails, it's just that they can take over a tank, in my experience.
I would love to keep discus, but everything I have read says that you need a minimum of 50 gallons. Has this been your experience?
Discus need lots of room, and they like to be in groups. Of course, they're also very expensive and delicate.
Snails don't need to be a problem, because their population is relatively easy to control. The first step is to avoid over feeding. When you start to see too many snails, float a piece of lettuce or chard for a day, then toss it out along with the snails. The bait and toss treatment may need to be repeated, but it's safe and effective.
Even with just three angelfish you may still get a pair. If this happens, it's not unusual for the spawning pair to kill or harass their tankmates. Aquariums are cheap if you find them at yard sales, etc. Well, here in Phoenix we call them yard sales.
lol, they are called yard sales in South Carolina, too!
It isn't so much the cost of the tank, which a used one, as you say, can be quite inexpensive, (especially as many people decide they want an aquarium, set it up and buy lots of fish, without having any idea of what they are doing. After replacing dead fish for a while (no doubt due to water quality) they abandon the entire enterprise and are quite willing to get rid of the tank) I also have to consider the cost of all of the other necessary items to maintain a tank properly. I do, however, keep my eyes open for bargains
Perhaps, with regards to the angels, I need to rethink it....I really love them, though.
is it bad to add ammolock during the cycle if you live stock in the tank already?