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Accidental mini cycle


caylentor
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Last Sunday I did a very silly thing, and changed out some of the sponges in my canister filter (about half) and at the same time, added some root tabs to my substrate.

On Monday I noticed one of my smaller fish was flashing and tested the water - it was very slightly green for ammonia, so I did a water change and that settled it for a bit. However, on Tuesday morning I tested and had 0.25ppm nitrites. I think I accidentally broke my cycled tank, but not entirely (I didn't touch the ceramic media at all, just the sponges).

I'm not entirely sure of the cause - whether it was the sponges or the root tabs - but I've been changing the water twice a day every day to try to keep the nitrites down. They keep creeping up to around 0.2ppm (not as purple as 0.25ppm on the API kit but definitely a deep blue rather than pale or turquoise) over the course of the day and I do a change, which brings it down (though not to 0).

Unfortunately we have chloramine in our tapwater so every water change adds 0.25ppm of ammonium to the water, which I expect isn't helping my nitrite production.

My problem is that it doesn't appear to be changing at all - nitrites seem to be hovering consistently around the same level. The colour is pale but it's darker than that from my other cycled tank so I know they're present. I don't know if all the water changes are helping, or hindering, the tank sorting its cycle out. Should I leave it longer? Is it safe to leave it 24hrs without a change to let the bacteria grow, or is it better to keep the water changes up to keep the fish safe? They've been spawning today and yesterday so I don't think the changes are doing them any harm.

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No cycled sponges unfortunately, I have the old ones but they dried out.

I'm using the API liquid test kit.

Below is a series of tests from today, the furthest left was first thing this morning, then immediately after a water change, then approx. every 2 hours after that. The test on the right is the reference from my other tank:

PXL_20220527_161148755.jpg.a97e2d7769b76abb10063ed76173cfe6.jpg

As you can see there's a progression back towards the darker blue (I've been changing the water at that point so it doesn't go purple again like on Tuesday).

Am I causing problems with so many water changes or is it ok to do so? I just want the fish and shrimp to be ok but if I'm stopping the tank cycling by changing so much then I can adjust.

 

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Sorry! I'm changing approx 70L (2x36l buckets but not full) at a time, the tank volume is 125L. I'm doing that twice a day as over the course of the day (or overnight) the nitrites climb to the darker colour on the left side.

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Again, I’m only a month into this myself, so I’m learning from this as much as you are. That’s the only reason I’m commenting.

That’s a lot of water you’re swapping so frequently. Does your water conditioner neutralize chloramine? I have tap water with it as well, which is why I’m asking. A lot of conditioners do that so that variable might be leading your mind off track? I’ve ammonia tested my water right out of the tap, and then again after conditioning to make sure mine works.

How many root tabs? What’s the Ammonia level?

From what little I understand…it sounds like Nitrosomonus bacteria is doing it’s job quite well (maybe over fed with the root tabs and chloramine?), but maybe the Nitrospira colony got reduced to much by the filter swaps or isn’t getting enough time to make Nitrates out of the Nitrites with the frequent large water changes?

No clue really, just thinking out loud. I probably should just lurk and see what knowledgeable people say.

 

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On 5/27/2022 at 6:48 PM, PithyUserName said:

Again, I’m only a month into this myself, so I’m learning from this as much as you are. That’s the only reason I’m commenting.

That’s a lot of water you’re swapping so frequently. Does your water conditioner neutralize chloramine? I have tap water with it as well, which is why I’m asking. A lot of conditioners do that so that variable might be leading your mind off track? I’ve ammonia tested my water right out of the tap, and then again after conditioning to make sure mine works.

How many root tabs? What’s the Ammonia level?

From what little I understand…it sounds like Nitrosomonus bacteria is doing it’s job quite well (maybe over fed with the root tabs and chloramine?), but maybe the Nitrospira colony got reduced to much by the filter swaps or isn’t getting enough time to make Nitrates out of the Nitrites with the frequent large water changes?

No clue really, just thinking out loud. I probably should just lurk and see what knowledgeable people say.

 

Yeah, the nitrobacter that turns nitrites into nitrates is slower growing than the nitrosomonas that consumes ammonia. I don't know how long it's going to be until it's managing to eliminate all the nitrites that are in the tank though. That's my real question - should I just leave it a bit longer and let the bacteria take care of it? I don't want to hurt my fish and shrimp, and we already lost one shrimp this week.

Chloramine wise, conditioner will neutralise the chlorine but that leaves ammonium free (not ammonia) - it shows up in a test and is consumed by nitrosomonas in the same was as ammonia but is safe for aquatic life. I use Prime myself.

I put in 14 root tabs which might have been overkill, but I was just following the instructions on the box! Ammonia is ~0.25ppm, but then so is my tap water, and with the volume and frequency of changes I've been doing I don't know if that's just prolonging the problem.

Prior to the weekend, the tank had been happily cycled and while it'd get 0.25ppm ammonium as part of the water change that would usually be gone within a day, with no sign of nitrites.

If it's worth going down to one change a day to encourage the bacteria colony to propagate, I can give that a try, if that won't endager any of the tank inhabitants. The tank was originally cycled fishlessly, so I've never done a fish in cycle before.

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I'd leave it alone as long as it doesn't get too much higher. A lot of water changes can actually stall the nitrite oxidizing bacteria for a short time, especially if the population is weak. Adding about 0.5 grams or 0.5 mL of salt to a 125 L tank will completely detoxify 0.25 ppm of nitrite for your fish. I don't know if it does the same for shrimp though.

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I'm wondering if it has stuck - the ammonia and nitrite reads have been the same in the morning and evening for the past two days (Thursday, Friday and this morning) so it doesn't seem to be making any progress.

Does Prime genuinely work for 24 hours? Would it be safe to leave them longer? I don't really know what to do.

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I've been through this and it is about changing the smallest amount of water to keep the numbers in the safe zone  (less than 1ppm) while the bacteria catches back up.

You should be ok to leave it around 0.25 just test regularly and if it climbs switch out a bit maybe 1 bucket or less

Don't overthink the prime ammonium thing it just throws more confusion in my opinion it might be showing on an ammonia test but not while we are looking at nitrates. 

No one is sure about the detox thing (lots of threads debating) but it's what I use and in the short term it does bind some so will be helping you with this. 

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Thank you 🙂

 

I thought any amount of nitrites were dangerous? We did lose a shrimp on Tuesday when it hit 0.25ppm so I'm wary about letting it get that high again, but I don't know if that was a coincidence or not.

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On 5/27/2022 at 11:28 PM, caylentor said:

Does Prime genuinely work for 24 hours? Would it be safe to leave them longer? I don't really know what to do.

Ammonia/nitrite detoxifiers were originally made for shipping fish. They probably weren't tested much beyond shipping times which could be why they list the 24, 48, or 72 hour time limits. But that's just a guess. It could just be temporary like they say. But detoxifiers weren't really meant for aquariums and should really only be used along with water changes. Using them is a good buffer just in case.

But anyways, Flumpweesel gave you some really good advice. But you're also absolutely right to be as careful as you are. There's often a lot of guess-work in solving water quality problems. Sometimes all you can do is what feels right to you and hope for the best.

 

On 5/28/2022 at 6:31 AM, caylentor said:

I thought any amount of nitrites were dangerous?

It depends a lot on the species of fish. The 96h LC50 (the level where 50% of the population dies after 96 hours of exposure) of nitrite can be between 1.0 ppm and over 300 ppm.

The chronic toxicity level (where the stress can cause disease after usually 30 days of exposure) also depends on the species and can be as low as 0.2 ppm.

Most species haven't been tested though so it's always best to assume the lowest number. I don't know if this all applies to shrimp too. I should look into that.

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On 5/27/2022 at 7:45 AM, caylentor said:

I'm not entirely sure of the cause - whether it was the sponges or the root tabs

I would venture it's a combination. I typically don't add ferts on the days I clean the tank. May be an old wive's tale, but when I started keeping fish and plants together, I was told to skip ferts if I cleaned the filter or gravel vacced.

On 5/27/2022 at 11:52 AM, Patrick_G said:

@PithyUserName I think you’re on the right track. It’s entirely possible that the first part of the cycle is working but the bacteria that process the Nitrites are lagging a bit. 

This has consistently been my experience, the denitrifying bacteria seem to replicate at about half the speed....

On 5/27/2022 at 12:36 PM, caylentor said:

Chloramine wise, conditioner will neutralise the chlorine but that leaves ammonium free (not ammonia) - it shows up in a test and is consumed by nitrosomonas in the same was as ammonia but is safe for aquatic life. I use Prime myself.

I put in 14 root tabs which might have been overkill, but I was just following the instructions on the box! Ammonia is ~0.25ppm, but then so is my tap water, and with the volume and frequency of changes I've been doing I don't know if that's just prolonging the problem.

Do you double dose on the Prime to accommodate the higher chloramine in your water? When my chloramine is low (barely detectable) I only use 2 drops/gallon. When my chloramine levels leave 0.25 ppm ammonium in the water, I double dose. At 0.5 ppm, I triple dose. Above that, I don't use the tap for the water change.

If I double or triple dose, I also increase aeration.

On 5/28/2022 at 12:28 AM, caylentor said:

Does Prime genuinely work for 24 hours? Would it be safe to leave them longer?

You already got a lot of great advice. Keep an eye on your shrimp, they are more sensitive. On the plus side, the geek in me has joined the geek in others, and Prime appears (in my water, as well as the water of a bunch of people in Australia) to bind up nitrites and ammonia to the point it stops fish flashing from irritated gills, for 48 hours. In softer, acidic water, they were able to get 72 hours of relief. In my hard water, I noticed fish flashing again after 48ish hours.

As long as my nitrites didn't above the 0.5 ppm, I just dosed with Prime and kept monitoring. My experience has been it takes the nitrospira colony a good week longer to get the nitrites down to zero when cycling than it takes the bacteria colony to break ammonia/ammonium down to nitrites. So if it took 2 weeks to get nitrites out of my ammonia, it has typically taken another 3 weeks to get nitrites down to undetectable unless I am heavily planted.

It sounds like the tabs were a little overkill. Do you have a picture of your tank? Do you have floating plants in another tank? Some floating plants will help you get/ keep ammonia and nitrites down better than water changes if you can get enough roots in the water column.

Depending on your plant load in your tank, and the species, it may be less stressful next time to limit root feeding (tabs) to the heaviest feeders (like val) and use liquid ferts in the water column?

I have noticed with my shrimp and snails that they are much happier when I divide the weekly dose of ferts into 7, and just microdose each day (yes, I occasionally forget a day) and surprisingly my plants are also growing better on the smaller, but more frequent doses of ferts. Just something to think about. 

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On 5/29/2022 at 6:30 AM, Torrey said:

I would venture it's a combination. I typically don't add ferts on the days I clean the tank. May be an old wive's tale, but when I started keeping fish and plants together, I was told to skip ferts if I cleaned the filter or gravel vacced.

This has consistently been my experience, the denitrifying bacteria seem to replicate at about half the speed....

Do you double dose on the Prime to accommodate the higher chloramine in your water? When my chloramine is low (barely detectable) I only use 2 drops/gallon. When my chloramine levels leave 0.25 ppm ammonium in the water, I double dose. At 0.5 ppm, I triple dose. Above that, I don't use the tap for the water change.

If I double or triple dose, I also increase aeration.

You already got a lot of great advice. Keep an eye on your shrimp, they are more sensitive. On the plus side, the geek in me has joined the geek in others, and Prime appears (in my water, as well as the water of a bunch of people in Australia) to bind up nitrites and ammonia to the point it stops fish flashing from irritated gills, for 48 hours. In softer, acidic water, they were able to get 72 hours of relief. In my hard water, I noticed fish flashing again after 48ish hours.

As long as my nitrites didn't above the 0.5 ppm, I just dosed with Prime and kept monitoring. My experience has been it takes the nitrospira colony a good week longer to get the nitrites down to zero when cycling than it takes the bacteria colony to break ammonia/ammonium down to nitrites. So if it took 2 weeks to get nitrites out of my ammonia, it has typically taken another 3 weeks to get nitrites down to undetectable unless I am heavily planted.

It sounds like the tabs were a little overkill. Do you have a picture of your tank? Do you have floating plants in another tank? Some floating plants will help you get/ keep ammonia and nitrites down better than water changes if you can get enough roots in the water column.

Depending on your plant load in your tank, and the species, it may be less stressful next time to limit root feeding (tabs) to the heaviest feeders (like val) and use liquid ferts in the water column?

I have noticed with my shrimp and snails that they are much happier when I divide the weekly dose of ferts into 7, and just microdose each day (yes, I occasionally forget a day) and surprisingly my plants are also growing better on the smaller, but more frequent doses of ferts. Just something to think about. 

I do appreciate all the advice, I just want to know how it all works! If I understand what's going on then I can  maybe do it better later 🙂

I've been overdosing on Prime this week with changes. My usual routine is to change 1 bucket (~36L) into which I put 1.2-1.5ml of Prime, which is technically an overdose I think, then move that into the tank. It seems to have worked ok so far.

My water is very soft, current pH is 6.8 which is low (it's usually around 7 and is 7 out of the tap - is that because it's first thing in the morning?) but I have some sensitive fish who will flash or glass surf if there's anything upsetting them in the water so they let me know if I need to do a test.

I switched over to tabs because we've had a really bad algae outbreak so I wanted to stop fertilising the water column - I'll be getting some extra Amano shrimp once I've got this under control to see if we can get on top of it. Eight weeks ago all these plants were bright green and the rocks were grey:

AK-vWKQvhv44wBKOs5VVNGNqjwvYyKPP8WAgtmrzKdwGpZEoaHQBnWkWPisBCvM-a0-80VIVXIqQHK17yvcHncYAwe1PSCloqe_-bzpKiW4cC6-e-ZokamNcsvYMoI3r3RiIKEQdwFtCvTZ8W1ThsiZQ7pYQgebLEMNWO_2-dFohFePF2oV8v49Pa58UhfTsKZSogfjaUoRhDN4rPcAU6c8USz4cKgig6OgWLumFNwbag_MhG6t5VjEL5KElCL119i7tcRtDvxGRyWfAxEoeUixn8xOl5EgXibllAFr3o0UNyDhTS0tgImVi8Rc0QvHlL6cQInYwliMJltS51-cAHfaTMdhX8VDFzQjRnUM93cvwE6wBv9yTWfaQQk07cxtHbEl12MmYgQw9dGSH6r4fReTpZGYyhijmtRQNGEoC4EVmUw6gQLi47TC_a0Spfqg2PhIRe_rTjOdtt2-7wD6zGQRbbSN7GK_LM5laLnvOkekK6J-PqQ8K-tD_fbjPRGoSIFN4P2Y0nd7P8iJacN6RAg33E-LFNkKVYeyqyWtOWTuNDYMgC515Gq9lRfmSMXpPZj6ciVCb-3ckbwfdX6-YW9e7H9rouNbrgHFJ_jwUTpVlvKxg6cWWGSeI3gX5hLxhTD01Tr22jlI1S-6ztax1V5_25oXEnTK8Ymn8PYyNOXNFJ4a4fCjJUHtBcIy7URaYmX3TPseIfXkqJAMxXg9FLV1bxAGQAx7EyaWutCIBAQAwMy3k-32lWgmVPh_S=w1706-h1279-no?authuser=0

We've also had fish health issues that are still ongoing so I'd like to get off daily water changes so I can medicate them again!

Thanks for all the help.

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@Seattle_Aquarist is the guru on identifying plant deficiencies. I simply use this chart to help me identify by only looking at *new growth* to indicate if I am correcting a problem as aquatic plants will steal nutrients from old leaves to fuel the growth of new leaves.

1096612204_LINE_1590950663622(2).jpg.f5f219b4c2aa1bf22f9f583fc22cded3.jpg

Taking information from the above chart, and cross-referencing with this link I've been improving my plant success.

Side effect of daily dosing a microdose, along with the light siestas (I don't run CO2, so lights go off after 4 hours, and come back on 4 hours later) is there is exactly the right balance of light, CO2, and nutrients for the plants, and none to spare for the algae. Even got rid of the cyanobacteria with a bit of diligence... just currently identifying what our water treatment facility has changed, because kH has suddenly gone to non-existent.🤷🏼‍♂️

If you aren't running CO2, shorter light periods really help keep the algae under control. If you are running CO2, Seattle Aquarist and Mmiller are going to be a lot more help. I think gjcarew, too.

 

 

 

 

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No CO2 here, it's a low tech tank. I don't think I've got the right light cycle, but I'm using a twinstar 900S light with the following schedule:

09:00: 3%

11:00: 20%

13:00: 40%

15:00: 40%

17:00: 20%

19:00: 3%

I originally had the light period two hours shorter but the plants were looking unhealthy, so I upped it. We were already getting algae at that point but increasing light made it worse - I had hoped that the low intensity would make up for the longer photoperiod but apparently not.

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