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Hey everyone, I tried to search but didn’t actually find anything that would fit right. 

I started my first tank about two weeks ago. 29 gallon with a few live plants. I am a rookie and impatient so of course I put fish in there and they started dying. After a lot of research and watching videos I realize I how I screwed up. 
 

Well now I am having continued issues getting the tank to cycle. Here’s the rundown: 29G with a few live plants, a decent size piece of driftwood and 3 guppies and 3 Rasboras. Seachem Tidal 55 and a airstone. When testing I have small amounts of ammonia but zero nitrites and nitrates. I have done two water changes, around 30%, because I thought I needed to get rid of the ammonia to save the fish. I treated the tank for 1 week with Stability and Prime. Tested today and still like .24 ppm of ammonia and zero of the N’s. 
 

Any suggestions about what to do now? I know not to put anymore fish in there. 
 

Thank you, Mark

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Hi. Welcome to the forum. Glad you are here.  It takes 4 weeks for the ammonia to nitrite bacteria to start really growing.  They are sloooowwww. Patients, test often, do water changes as tests dictate. It will happen and this hobby tries everyone’s patients against their excitement to want things to happen faster. Unfortunately that’s not a quick fix answer.  

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Can you show us pics of the test tubes?  Do you know if your city uses chloramines?  Chloramines can cause a “false” elevation in ammonia on the test kits.  Your plants are “babies” (although the one Amazon sword ready has a spike on it, I suspect it came with that?) and barely getting established after just 2 weeks.  I still haven’t put all my “start up” fish into my 100 gallon angelfish tank since I have quite a few cories I want to add and some of the plants have only been in there 3 weeks so they aren’t well rooted yet.  Most of the plants have been in for over 6 weeks now, but the recent adds need more time to root.  🤷🏻‍♀️ It also looks like you’ve got a Java fern at the back left that is planted fully in the gravel.  Those are epiphytes, meaning they don’t like their rhizome buried or it is at high risk for rotting.  The roots can be buried but the rhizome should be on top of the substrate so water can circulate around it well.  I typically stuff them in a crevice of rock or wood or use superglue gel to glue them onto a rock or wood or whatever decoration you want to use as long as the rhizome isn’t buried.

If your city uses chloramine and your test kit is showing a just barely green tinge instead of clear yellow (I’m making the huge assumption you’re using the API Master test kit), then you can get a false positive reading.  If you are using another test kit or test strips, please show us the test results either way since more information for us means you can get better, more meaningful advice.

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Wow that’s a lot of great responses. Let’s see if I can reply. 
 

On 5/11/2022 at 2:26 PM, Brian said:

Slow down, unless things are dire.  Are you sure the test kit is good.  Also are you using a liquid test kit?  Was the bottle of Stability new?  I think they put a date on the bottle.  When you change water you do leave the filter alone, correct?  

I am using an API Master Test kit. And yes, the Stability is brand new. And I do not touch the filter during water changes. Thank you. 
 

On 5/11/2022 at 2:28 PM, Odd Duck said:

Can you show us pics of the test tubes?  Do you know if your city uses chloramines?  Chloramines can cause a “false” elevation in ammonia on the test kits.  Your plants are “babies” (although the one Amazon sword ready has a spike on it, I suspect it came with that?) and barely getting established after just 2 weeks.  I still haven’t put all my “start up” fish into my 100 gallon angelfish tank since I have quite a few cories I want to add and some of the plants have only been in there 3 weeks so they aren’t well rooted yet.  Most of the plants have been in for over 6 weeks now, but the recent adds need more time to root.  🤷🏻‍♀️ It also looks like you’ve got a Java fern at the back left that is planted fully in the gravel.  Those are epiphytes, meaning they don’t like their rhizome buried or it is at high risk for rotting.  The roots can be buried but the rhizome should be on top of the substrate so water can circulate around it well.  I typically stuff them in a crevice of rock or wood or use superglue gel to glue them onto a rock or wood or whatever decoration you want to use as long as the rhizome isn’t buried.

If your city uses chloramine and your test kit is showing a just barely green tinge instead of clear yellow (I’m making the huge assumption you’re using the API Master test kit), then you can get a false positive reading.  If you are using another test kit or test strips, please show us the test results either way since more information for us means you can get better, more meaningful advice.

I do not know what my city water has in it. But yes the API ammonia test has a slight green tint to it, that’s why I was thinking it was so low. Great guess! Also, what is the rhizome? And yea, the Sword came with that on the top, not sure if we needed to trim that. Should I leave that in the little pot it came in? The store said I should. Thank you

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On 5/11/2022 at 1:43 PM, Mark C. said:

Wow that’s a lot of great responses. Let’s see if I can reply. 
 

I am using an API Master Test kit. And yes, the Stability is brand new. And I do not touch the filter during water changes. Thank you. 
 

I do not know what my city water has in it. But yes the API ammonia test has a slight green tint to it, that’s why I was thinking it was so low. Great guess! Also, what is the rhizome? And yea, the Sword came with that on the top, not sure if we needed to trim that. Should I leave that in the little pot it came in? The store said I should. Thank you

Good to hear on the API Master kit.  Show us results next time you test.  If you can stand up the test tubes in front of the white part of the card between the color swatches, ideally in natural light, that would be perfect.

The rhizome is the part where the leaves and roots originate.  It looks like a horizontal stem, can be very short, usually green in Java ferns where the roots are often brown or black and wiry.  Your Anubias (left front) also has a rhizome but it looks like it’s still in the rock wool in the little pot they come in.  They will usually tolerate being in those little pots OK as long as the rhizome is at the surface or close to the surface.

Swords are heavy root feeders so I like to take them out of the pot and plant them in the substrate with root tabs.  I would give that plant at least 2-3 root tabs, buried as deep as you can get them, at least 1” away from the base of the plant.  The sword plant prefers to have the roots fully buried but likes the crown (where the leaf stems meet in the center) right at, or no more than barely below, the surface.  You don’t need to trim the spike unless you are seeing issues with the parent plant.  Since the plant is new to the tank, I would sacrifice the spike if survival of the parent plant is in question.  Don’t discard the baby, plant it even if it isn’t showing roots yet.  If both plants are doing well, let the baby grow some roots (at least 2” is ideal) then cut the spike and you can plant the baby.  You might want to plant it in another tank (and so begins MTS) since 2 Amazon swords (Echinodorus bleherii) would really take over your 10 gallon.

I don’t usually leave anything in the pots unless I’m in the process of accumulating plants right before setting up a new tank.  If it’s only going to be a few weeks, they stay in the pots.  If it’s going to be longer, sometimes I take them out but that depends on the species since many plants resent their roots being disturbed.  Swords are fairly tolerant of roots being disturbed.  Crypts for instance, not so much, they can sometimes melt at any disturbance.

Depending on your local regulations, the city usually has to make water quality information public.  You should be able to find it on line or at least find out if your city is required to make it public by local or state laws.  Usually there is some sort of city water quality report that will have chlorine levels, chloramine levels, nitrate levels, coliform bacteria levels, etc, and most publish on line these days.  You can always request a copy of the water quality report.

On 5/11/2022 at 2:06 PM, Mark C. said:

I found it. I don’t see anything anywhere about chloramine. 

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That’s results from 3 years ago.  Nothing newer?

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Welcome!

If you are using Prime with every water change you should be fine as far as chlorine and chloramine. With few fish in the tank, your bio load might be low so it could take longer to establish your nitrogen cycle so be very patient. At this point, you are working on keeping your water habitable and you will primarily do that through water changes as needed. You also might need to add a fertilizer like Easy Green to make sure you have enough nutrients for your plants.

While you are patiently waiting, :classic_wink: keep browsing and researching. One thing to read up on are the different types of algae. As your tank matures, it will go through different stages. Knowing the types of algae will help, as well as understanding what is developing so you can embrace the changes and welcome the algae.

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There are some options to help speed things up.

If you know someone else that has a fish tank, or maybe your local store will help, you can get a bit of filter material to help seed the tank with the bacteria you need.

There are a few different 'quick start' products that add bacteria to the tank.

Adding more live plants won't hurt either.

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Welcome; you are now where most of us have been. I remember the worry very well 😞

When I started my 20g I thought I was covered for cycle because I used gravel and wood from my mature betta tank, but apparently the BB that were able to handle the waste of one betta took a long time to build up to the level of being able to manage 8 guppies and 3 adult platies. Ouch.

What helped me was putting in a ton of pothos cuttings. I basically cut up every pothos in the house and stuck it in there, and did water changes every day. At that time, I did not know about bottled BB or I would have bought some. 

I hope your tank smooths out for you soon, and you have lots of fun with your tank going forward.

 

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Welcome to the Nerms!!!

All of us, if we are 100% honest, have been there at least once. It happens, whether it was an impulse buy, an emergency save, or not enough information when we set up our very first tank. Luckily, the nerms in here are incredibly gracious with sharing knowledge.

 Here's a link on various options for keeping nitrates down (once you have them) and interesting thing: Plants absorb ammonia and use it as food, even easier than nitrates! So feel free to get lots of a plants growing, and watch your tank go through the half dozen algae evolutions that represent the various "awkward teen" stages of a tank getting seasoned... all while knowing the plants are acting as a protective barrier for your fish' gills.

As far as testing with the API liquid, it is the most accurate test as long as all of the directions are followed, including shaking first the #2 reagent bottle, and then the test tube, until you are pretty sure your arm should fall off. The reagents for nitrate don't like to stay suspended in liquid and require *MASSIVE* agitation to get accurate results😅

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On 5/12/2022 at 12:13 AM, Torrey said:

Welcome to the Nerms!!!

All of us, if we are 100% honest, have been there at least once. It happens, whether it was an impulse buy, an emergency save, or not enough information when we set up our very first tank. Luckily, the nerms in here are incredibly gracious with sharing knowledge.

 Here's a link on various options for keeping nitrates down (once you have them) and interesting thing: Plants absorb ammonia and use it as food, even easier than nitrates! So feel free to get lots of a plants growing, and watch your tank go through the half dozen algae evolutions that represent the various "awkward teen" stages of a tank getting seasoned... all while knowing the plants are acting as a protective barrier for your fish' gills.

As far as testing with the API liquid, it is the most accurate test as long as all of the directions are followed, including shaking first the #2 reagent bottle, and then the test tube, until you are pretty sure your arm should fall off. The reagents for nitrate don't like to stay suspended in liquid and require *MASSIVE* agitation to get accurate results😅

Thanks for the info. Yes, I follow the directions on the test kit to the T! I set timers on my shaking bottles and test tubes. I think I’m gonna go try and get another plant or two to add to the tank. 

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On 5/11/2022 at 10:19 PM, Mark C. said:

 

Thanks for the info. Yes, I follow the directions on the test kit to the T! I set timers on my shaking bottles and test tubes. I think I’m gonna go try and get another plant or two to add to the tank. 

My o-chem teacher's instructions were "shake the reagent bottle until your arm wants to fall off, and then shake some more"🤣

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On 5/11/2022 at 11:15 AM, Mark C. said:

I started my first tank about two weeks ago. 29 gallon with a few live plants. I am a rookie and impatient so of course I put fish in there and they started dying. After a lot of research and watching videos I realize I how I screwed up. 
 

Well now I am having continued issues getting the tank to cycle. Here’s the rundown: 29G with a few live plants, a decent size piece of driftwood and 3 guppies and 3 Rasboras. Seachem Tidal 55 and a airstone. When testing I have small amounts of ammonia but zero nitrites and nitrates. I have done two water changes, around 30%, because I thought I needed to get rid of the ammonia to save the fish. I treated the tank for 1 week with Stability and Prime. Tested today and still like .24 ppm of ammonia and zero of the N’s. 

SO.....

Big disclaimer as a fellow Seachem Tidal owner. I have has some pretty small fish, but please just be aware that you're going to want to run some reduced flow. The fish sleep, they don't really know what's going on, but they likely could end up stuck to the side of the surface skimmer.  Especially wide bodied fish.  The filter is awesome, this is just a really frustrating issue as a result of their design choices and trying to appear to saltwater vs. planted tank enthusiasts.  There is some ways you can mod around and keep your fish from getting stuck in there. That filter has about 50 holes in the intake, so it takes quite a bit of effort.

I mention this, simply put, be careful on the fish you opt in and be sure you run reduced flow as a general rule.  The pumps on the seachems are pretty much the best of all HoB and it shows.

What you need to do right now is to daily be dosing in some bacteria from a bottle. It should be once per day every 7 days to get the tank going.  After that, you're still going to end up wanting to keep an eye on parameters until you show 0 ammonia for 3-4 days.

I would test daily, about 30-60 minutes after you feed the fish. 

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On 5/12/2022 at 1:31 AM, nabokovfan87 said:

SO.....

Big disclaimer as a fellow Seachem Tidal owner. I have has some pretty small fish, but please just be aware that you're going to want to run some reduced flow. The fish sleep, they don't really know what's going on, but they likely could end up stuck to the side of the surface skimmer.  Especially wide bodied fish.  The filter is awesome, this is just a really frustrating issue as a result of their design choices and trying to appear to saltwater vs. planted tank enthusiasts.  There is some ways you can mod around and keep your fish from getting stuck in there. That filter has about 50 holes in the intake, so it takes quite a bit of effort.

I mention this, simply put, be careful on the fish you opt in and be sure you run reduced flow as a general rule.  The pumps on the seachems are pretty much the best of all HoB and it shows.

What you need to do right now is to daily be dosing in some bacteria from a bottle. It should be once per day every 7 days to get the tank going.  After that, you're still going to end up wanting to keep an eye on parameters until you show 0 ammonia for 3-4 days.

I would test daily, about 30-60 minutes after you feed the fish. 

Thank you. Yeah, where you can control how much flow enters the intake tube I have that wide open hoping it would minimize the skimmer intake. But I don’t have any tiny fish in there and probably won’t be. 
 

My water is also pretty cloudy right now. It was cloudy a few days after I started the tank and I figured it was a bacterial bloom, it was and went away. Now it’s been cloudy for a few days and not sure why. 

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Not sure if anyone else mentioned - if you do get more plants, I would suggest some floating plants and/or some faster growing stem plants...they really helped my tank(s) and will feed directly from the water column. If you don't mind the risk of some "pest" (not everyone likes these) snails, I would get a couple of pots (black plastic with rock wool, not the cute ceramic like you have) of stems and leave the pots for a while in your tank...the plants and the pots (with rock wool) will have at least a bit of beneficial bacteria and may help...a little...to jump start your cycle...water sprite is usually pretty easy to find and works really well  as a floating plant or you can plant it...once your cycle is stabilized, just remove one pot each week and your filter will grow enough to make up whatever you are removing...your tank will only "grow" enough BB to handle what is in the tank, so if you remove from somewhere...or add fish...the filter, plants, decorations, gravel, will grow enough over a few days/week to make up for whatever you take out...or if adding...enough to handle additional bio load...if that makes sense 🙂 sorry for the ramble 🙂

You're in the right place and asking the right questions - try to be patient (I totally understand, I am the same way) - you'll be sitting pretty soon enough and will have a great tank to show for it 🙂 my first tank coming back to the hobby was a 29 as well...its a great tank and a great size!

 

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