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Fishless Cycle Help
06-18-2012, 07:18 AM, (This post was last modified: 06-18-2012, 07:20 AM by golfwang.)
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golfwang Offline
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Fishless Cycle Help
I think my cycle has crashed or stalled out. I started my cycle over a month ago for my 20 long with treated Prime tap water and dosed Ace's Hardware pure ammonia to .5ppm. I waited over 3-4 weeks to see if my Ammonia would drop and it hasn't I had nitrites a week ago at 1ppm and now its at 0 and pH 6.8. My thermometer is reading 82/84 degrees, Eheim 2232 outlet nozzle is at full blast and is creating plenty of surface agitation for oxygen. I need help before I drain my tank and start over again because I never got past the first stage of Ammonia turning into Nitrites. I dunno if my substrate Akadama is stripping away the minerals for bacteria to grow? I also threw in 2 big lava rocks from my friends established tank to help boost the cycle, but that didn't work out.
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06-18-2012, 05:22 PM, (This post was last modified: 06-23-2012, 07:02 AM by Thor.)
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
Hi, Welcome to our forum!

You are on the right track for doing fishless cycling.
We will do our best to help you find the problem.
First we need to go through some basic stuff. Please bear it with me. Big Grin

1. What test kit are you using?
Paper strip test kits can be very inaccurate. If you are using a paper stripe test kit, we recommend to ditch it. And a liquid test kit is required. The most commonly used one in fish hobby is API Master kit.

2. Ace Hardware could be selling more than just one type of Ammonia. Only one type is (pure).
Are you sure the Ace Hardware ammonia you bought is the correct type?
Please check the label to see the ingredient. Let me know what you see. The type I used had "10% Ammonia Hydroxide, 90% water". Some other types of ammonia product might have soap in there which will kill the bacteria, not only the tank will never be cycled but they also can't be used for fish aquarium at all.

3. Your only have an ammonia concentration of 0.5ppm, and it is on the low side. It is recommended to have it at anywhere between 2~6ppm. During my own fishless cycling, I was aiming at 6ppm ammonia.

4. Have you ever seen a sign of nitrite? And nitrate? Even just a really tiny amount?

5. Have you changed water at all during the last month?
It is not recommended to do any water change until there is high concentration of nitrate.

6. Your PH is on the low side at 6.8. Combined with Prime, my guess is most of your 0.5ppm ammonia is in the form of ammonium. Although ammonium would eventually turn back into ammonia, there might not be enough ammonia for the bacteria to feed on. This is where higher concentration of ammonia would help.

My suggestion would be
a. Get a different type of water conditioner for fishless cycling. One that does not say "detoxify" ammonia, so it will not turn ammonia into ammonium. Something like Tetra AquaSafe. Do a large water change with AquaSafe, anywhere between 50~70% water change should be fine. (This step might not be needed if you do the next step)
b. Raise the ammonia concentration to anywhere between 2~6ppm.
More ammonia available means there will always be sufficient amount of ammonia in the water as bacteria food even if there is Prime in the water to turn some of it into ammonium. Do not exceed 6ppm on ammonia, it can stall the cycle.
For the most efficient fishless cycle with no factor to slow it down, I would suggest AquaSafe over Prime. Prime is a better water conditioner for after the tank is cycled.




As for your question of Akadama, I was unfamiliar with substrate Akadama. A little research had me learned it is just another aquarium substrate and it shouldn't have a problem at all with aquarium nitrogen cycle.
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06-19-2012, 12:20 PM,
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golfwang Offline
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
Oops I meant my ammonia level was at 4.0 ppm and never got to the second stage.
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06-19-2012, 01:31 PM, (This post was last modified: 06-19-2012, 01:37 PM by Ram.)
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
(06-19-2012, 12:20 PM)golfwang Wrote: Oops I meant my ammonia level was at 4.0 ppm and never got to the second stage.

Would you please answer the questions in my last post?
There are quite a few questions must to be answered by you in order to find a problem. Smile

And how did you get the typo of 0.5ppm when it's 4.0ppm? Rolleyes
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06-19-2012, 01:49 PM,
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
1. API Freshwater Master Test Kit
2. Contains 10% ammonium hydroxide http://www.acehardware.com/product/index...Id=1307957
3. It was really 4ppm my mind must've been elsewhere sorry must be the frustration ~_~
4. Yes, I had .5ppm of nitrite and then I added 2 large lava rocks from my friends established tank and it got up to 1ppm before it disappeared no signs of nitrates.
5. No water changes
6. Yes, its probably my soil buffering the pH I shall find some crushed coral to boost it.
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06-19-2012, 04:12 PM,
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Ram Offline
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
Ok, you mean ammonia hydroxide. Smile Not ammonium hydroxide.

More questions for you,
1. Have you been kept adding ammonia? Or did you only add it once in the last one month?

2. Was ammonia always at 4ppm during the entire month?

3. How long exactly have you been doing this fishless cycling?
You said 3~4 weeks. If it is really just 3 weeks, it is perfectly normal for "nothing happens". I have been there. It took 3~4 weeks to see the first sign of nitrite.


4. When did the nitrite appear? When did it disappear?



Since you are using API master kit, I would like to make sure you have used it correctly.
The nitrate test of this kit require special procedure. You must shake the test bottles for up to 1 minute really hard before adding them into the testing tube. After you mixed them up, once again you must shake the tube really hard for up to a minute before letting it to settle down. Wait a few minutes to see the result.
Fail to do the two "shaking" steps above will result in false 0ppm nitrate reading. One time I have forgotten to shake the bottles first, the result was 0ppm nitrate while it shouldn't be. After I retested it with correct procedure, I got a reading.
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06-19-2012, 11:55 PM,
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golfwang Offline
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
1. I only dosed ammonia once to my tank and waited a whole month.
2. It was always at 4ppm.
3. Its been at least a month and I haven't gotten to the second stage.
4. Nitrite appeared around the start of week 2 and disappeared just last week.

Quick question how much crushed coral do you think I need to boost my pH to a healthy range for the bacteria to colonize?
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06-20-2012, 03:37 PM,
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Thor Offline
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
You shouldn't mess with PH.
Let it stay at where it supposed to be.

Have ever had any nitrate reading at all? Did you shake the bottles before the test?

It is still normal for the first stage of fishless cycling take up to a month or even more. You shouldn't be worried. Once it reaches the second stage it shouldn't take more than 2 weeks for it to complete.
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06-20-2012, 10:39 PM,
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
(06-19-2012, 11:55 PM)golfwang Wrote: 1. I only dosed ammonia once to my tank and waited a whole month.
2. It was always at 4ppm.
3. Its been at least a month and I haven't gotten to the second stage.
4. Nitrite appeared around the start of week 2 and disappeared just last week.

Quick question how much crushed coral do you think I need to boost my pH to a healthy range for the bacteria to colonize?

No need to attempt raising the PH. If you worry about your ammonia is in the form of ammonium, stop using Prime as water conditioner during the cycle.

I still think you might have overlooked the procedure of the nitrate testing. If the nitrite had gone, it must be turned into nitrate. If you are not getting any nitrate reading after the nitrite turned into 0ppm, you must be not doing the test correctly.

Try to do the nitrate test again according to the instructions on the nitrate bottles. Lets see if you can get a reading. Smile
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06-20-2012, 11:37 PM, (This post was last modified: 06-20-2012, 11:43 PM by golfwang.)
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
Okay I just did another test before I have to work this morning and my results are:
Ammonia: is at 1ppm to my surprise after waiting a month it finally dropped!
Nitrite: Still at a 0
Nitrate: 40ppm looks more red orange than orange

Where have all the nitrite disappeared to? And thanks again guys for the help I really appreciate it you guys are awesome!
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06-20-2012, 11:42 PM, (This post was last modified: 06-20-2012, 11:42 PM by Ram.)
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
(06-20-2012, 11:37 PM)golfwang Wrote: Okay I just did another test before I have to work this morning and my results are:
Ammonia: is at 1ppm to my surprise after waiting a month it finally dropped!
Nitrite: Still at a 0
Nitrate: 20ppm

Well, congratulations for entering the third stage of fishless cycle. Big Grin

There are obviously good number of beneficial bacteria for both ammonia and nitrite. The nitrate reading speaks for it.

Don't let ammonia go down to 0 for more than a few hours.
You need to dose more ammonia to have it get back to anywhere between 2~6ppm. Test it again in 24 hours.
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06-20-2012, 11:52 PM,
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
(06-20-2012, 11:42 PM)Ram Wrote:
(06-20-2012, 11:37 PM)golfwang Wrote: Okay I just did another test before I have to work this morning and my results are:
Ammonia: is at 1ppm to my surprise after waiting a month it finally dropped!
Nitrite: Still at a 0
Nitrate: 20ppm

Well, congratulations for entering the third stage of fishless cycle. Big Grin

There are obviously good number of beneficial bacteria for both ammonia and nitrite. The nitrate reading speaks for it.

Don't let ammonia go down to 0 for more than a few hours.
You need to dose more ammonia to have it get back to anywhere between 2~6ppm. Test it again in 24 hours.
Okay I shall add more ammonia later today after work and see what my results are in the next few days.
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06-21-2012, 12:35 AM,
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Ram Offline
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
(06-20-2012, 11:52 PM)golfwang Wrote: Okay I shall add more ammonia later today after work and see what my results are in the next few days.

You should be testing at least once a day instead of every a few days.

Because the nitrogen cycle bacteria will start to starve to death after 24 hours without a food source - ammonia and nitrite in this case.

I was doing two tests per day, one in morning, one at night, during my fishless cycle.
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06-21-2012, 11:28 AM,
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
Alright I just dosed another 2ppm so it should be around 3ppm ammonia in the tank now I'll report back if anything occurs. Thanks again!
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06-22-2012, 12:03 AM,
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
My test results for this morning are:
Ammonia: 1ppm
Nitrite: 0ppm
Nitrate: 40ppm
I also tested my pH before bed last night and it was 6.6 or 6.4 should I be worried?
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06-22-2012, 12:36 AM, (This post was last modified: 06-22-2012, 12:38 AM by Ram.)
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
So it looks like you are close to the end of the fishless cycle.

You had 3ppm ammonia last night, this morning it's 1ppm. Nitrite is 0ppm because all of it was converted into nitrate.

Your PH is slowly dropping because the process of producing nitrate is acidic. It eats away the water buffer. When you get home today, do a 50% water change to restore the water buffer before adding more ammonia. Without large water change, the PH will go down further and it can stall the cycle when it is too acidic.

You might want to add more than just 3ppm ammonia from now on. I was always aiming for 5~6ppm. Not only I can make sure the bacteria will always have a food source, but it can also guarantee there will be enough bacteria at the end of the cycle to sustain full stock of fish at once.

keep us updated. Smile
Good luck!
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06-22-2012, 10:07 AM, (This post was last modified: 06-22-2012, 10:11 AM by golfwang.)
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
Alright thanks for the heads up Ram, I just did a 50% water change I'll probably test my water again in a few hours before dosing ammonia.
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06-22-2012, 12:18 PM,
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
I just tested my water:
pH: 7.2-7.0ppm
Ammonia .25ppm
Nitrite: I didn't test for this, but I'm pretty sure its at 0
Nitrate: 40ppm I guess this morning it was at 80ppm kinda hard to distinguish the two

Now I'm going to dose 4ppm of ammonia.
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06-22-2012, 02:23 PM,
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
It might be a good idea to add ammonia right after the water change. After each water change, the ammonia and nitrite concentration is even lower than before the water change if there was any at all to begin with. Minimize the time the bacteria lack of food source will speed up your cycle. Use both nitrate concentration and PH as indication for the need of new water change.

Your fishless cycle is obviously near the end. It should be completed in a week or so, although there is no set time. Keep it up. Smile

Do you have a plan to add fish? Since the nitrogen cycle is near completion, the plan for what fish species, how many fish, and when to add should be considered. Smile
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06-22-2012, 03:15 PM,
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
When my cycle is complete the first test subjects will be Otocinclus, probably 5-6 of them and one Nerite snail. If those sensitive Oto's survive in my tank I will then introduce dwarf shrimp Crystal Red Shrimp.
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06-22-2012, 03:58 PM,
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
If your cycle can be completed with 5~6ppm ammonia converted daily, then you will be ok to add everything at once as long as it won't overstock your particular tank size.

I would wait on Otocinclus catfish though. They need algae as food which a new tank can't provide. A tank established for at least six months to a year is recommended for them.
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06-23-2012, 12:21 AM, (This post was last modified: 06-23-2012, 12:23 AM by golfwang.)
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
This mornings test results of last ammonia dose 12 hours ago
pH: 7.0-6.8ppm
Ammonia: 1ppm
Nitrite: 1ppm
Nitrate: 40ppm
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06-23-2012, 02:38 AM,
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
Are you dosing ammonia at every night now?
If so, you might want to test the water before dosing more ammonia.

How much ammonia did you dose?
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06-23-2012, 02:51 AM,
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
Yes I check before dosing. I dosed 4ppm around 7pm last night.
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06-23-2012, 11:43 AM,
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RE: Fishless Cycle Help
My results before dosing more ammonia tonight.
Ammonia: 1ppm
Nitrite: 2ppm

Dosing another 3ppm of ammonia in just a minute.
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