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The nitrite struggle


andieb
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Hi guys! 

Full disclosure, I posted a version of this in my local forum but that forum is a whole lot smaller and isn't really a "long-form" discussion type place. I'm really excited to be getting into this hobby and I LOVE discussing it. 

BUT, I made a big mistake and I'm slightly embarrassed to reveal my carelessness, especially cause I really wanted to do this right. I set up a tank a little over two weeks ago and I added plants a little over one week ago. I bought an ammonia sensor, which read <0.02 ppm and after adding the plants I noticed that there were a lot of tiny pond snails and ramshorn snails in the tank. 

Over the past week, the snails were looking healthy and seemed to be growing, and the ammonia remained low so I figured the tank was probably cycled. Don't kill me.. I see the error of my ways now. 
 

IGNORANTLY thinking my tank was cycled, I went out and bought 3 apple snails and 5 ghost shrimps. I was doing a lot of reading about invertibrates beforehand, and read that low pH can dissolve their shells. I wasn't too worried about this since my water here is moderately hard and tends to be above 7.00. But I also used fluval stratum substrate, which can lower pH. So I decided to go out and get a test kit, mostly to make sure the pH wasn't too low.

BUT these are the results I got:

GH: 60-120 ppm
KH (Ca2+, Mg2+): 0 ppm
pH: 6.5
Nitrite: 1 ppm
Nitrate: 20 ppm
Ammonia: <0.02 ppm

I was horrified to see that my tank that I thought was cycled, actually has nitrite in it! I really wish I would have tested this before putting anything living into the tank. Live and learn... except my snails and shrimps may not live...

Anyways, I've been testing the water multiple times a day and doing daily 30% water changes using a 1 x dose of Seachem Prime to dechlorinate the water. I don't have access to filter media from an established tank to speed up the cycling. My nitrite is still at 1ppm unfortunately. 

This morning, I saw a really interesting video where the youtuber reached out to Seachem Prime to ask the exact dose needed to detoxify ammonia and nitrite.
Here's a summary:
A 1x dose will detoxify 1 ppm of ammonia and 2 ppm of nitrite, a 5x dose will detoxify 5 ppm of ammonia and 10 ppm of nitrite. A 1x dose is 1 ml per 10 US gal. 

Here's a link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wqio4O3dwKQ&feature=emb_title&ab_channel=TrafishAquatics

I realized a problem - I've been adding a 1x dose of Seachem prime based on the volume of the bucket of new water (0.6 mL Seachem Prime for 6 gal bucket, to do a 30% water change of my 20 gal tank). But, to detoxify the nitrite in the tank, I should be calculating the amount of Seachem based off the volume of the tank, not the bucket of new water. 

So today, I added 0.6 ml of Seachem Prime to dechlorinate the new water in the bucket, then I did the water change, and now I'm about to add another 1.4 ml of Prime directly to the tank. 

That gives me a total of 2 ml of Seachem prime, which is a 1x dose for my 20 gal tank. 

I probably could have just added 2 ml of Seachem Prime to the bucket to dechlorinate the water and hope that it detoxifies the nitrite in the tank when I do the water change, but I don't know if that makes it less effective - probably doesn't matter - but I feel that adding the Seachem directly to the tank can't hurt in terms of detoxifying the nitrite. What do you guys think? 

Also today I didn't feed the snails and shrimps. 

Does this seem like an ok plan to bring down the nitrite until the cycle is finished? Thank you for your help!

I attached a pic of the tank and a pic of two of my snails, which are named Rex and Devin.. 

IMG_6133.jpeg

IMG_6205.jpeg

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If the snails and shrimp are okay, 1 ppm nitrite wouldn't bother me. I wouldn't worry about de-detoxification as that is just adding more chemicals into your aquarium.

Here was recent tank I setup without cycling. I just added fish and plants on day 1. Here is a graph of the aquarium cycling over the next few weeks after setup. As you can see ammonia, nitrite and nitrate and rose and fell with no harm to the shrimp, snails or fish in the aquarium.

image.png.165c29a5a55ceb2e0842b47b10c63f

 

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Here’s why I think you’re doing way more work than you need. The cycle is supposed to have nitrites at one point, and that’s ok. The snails and shrimp will be fine with how low that is. In my opinion, all the water changes are just slowing the cycle down, because the bacteria isn’t growing to consume the nitrite if you’re changing it out. 1ppm is barely toxic and the bacteria colony will grow and consume it, which is the point of the initial cycle period. Now, there is an issue with your water but not with the cycle. It’s your Kh, or carbonate hardness. Ideally you want it at 3 or higher because below 3 it’s gonna crash your pH. If your pH drops below 6.4, the ammonia instantly converts to ammonium and isn’t consumed by the bacteria in the cycle. Ammonium, thankfully, isn’t toxic to fish, but the problem is that the longer the pH stays low, the more bacteria dies off without a food source. Since you have hard water, when you do a water change the pH will rise again, and will convert all the ammonium back to toxic ammonia, but now it’ll be at a very high level and you won’t have the necessary amount of bacteria to process it fast enough. So you need to buffer your Kh up. I’ve used crushed coral and seachem alkaline buffer, both with success. Crushed coral is set it and forget it whereas alkaline buffer requires testing and dosing and then testing again with each water change. So, pick your Kh buffer and buffer your water up to at least 3, then don’t do anything for a few days and you should see the nitrite go away on its own.

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Posted (edited)

Wow, this is awesome! Thank you so much for all your replies! 

1. The nitrites

On 2/27/2021 at 1:12 PM, Daniel said:

If the snails and shrimp are okay, 1 ppm nitrite wouldn't bother me... As you can see ammonia, nitrite and nitrate and rose and fell with no harm to the shrimp, snails or fish in the aquarium.

On 2/27/2021 at 1:23 PM, Steph’s Fish and Plants said:

All the water changes are just slowing the cycle down, because the bacteria isn’t growing to consume the nitrite if you’re changing it out. 1ppm is barely toxic

That makes perfect sense how detoxifying and taking out all the nitrite will actually slow the cycle. I didn't do a water change today and stopped adding in Seachem Prime to the tank. I tested this morning, and the nitrites were solidly under 1 ppm, but not 0.

2. The KH situation 

On 2/27/2021 at 1:23 PM, Steph’s Fish and Plants said:

So you need to buffer your Kh up. I’ve used crushed coral and seachem alkaline buffer, both with success. Crushed coral is set it and forget it whereas alkaline buffer requires testing and dosing and then testing again with each water change. So, pick your Kh buffer and buffer your water up to at least 3, then don’t do anything for a few days and you should see the nitrite go away on its own.

That is really interesting and something I was completely unaware of, so thank you so much for catching that. I watched a bunch of videos about KH and pH to understand this better. I noticed that the pH (7.0), KH (80 ppm ) and GH (180 pom) of my tap water are pretty ideal but after a water change, progressively over the course of hours, the pH would drop to 6.5, KH to 0 ppm, and GH to 60 ppm. 

Unfortunately my local pet store only sold crushed coral by the LOAD and they didn't have any alkalinity buffers, so instead I got 2 cuttlebones which I crushed up and put in a bag in the filter. Some chunks of cuttlebone came out and the water was a tiny bit cloudy for about a minute. I noticed my shrimps were actually eating the chunks! About an hour after I put it in, I tested pH and it's at 6.0 😞 Do you think the cuttlebone will work eventually? Does it not work as well as crushed coral

I'm wondering what could have contributed to the pH, KH and GH dropping so much. The only potential causes I can think of are: my small piece of drift wood (which I didn't boil before putting in the tank), the fluval stratum, or plant matter breaking down...

Also, forgot to mention: since I may have set back the cycle and I was scared that when I added in the crushed cuttlebone it might cause an ammonia spike, I decided to get Seachem Stability, which I added to the tank. Tested nitrites a couple hours later and they are practically at 0, ammonia remains <0.02 ppm. 

Thanks again! 

Edited by andieb
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On 2/27/2021 at 1:42 PM, Maggie said:

Hi andieb! You're in the right place for detailed "nerm" questions and answers (plus some fun stuff too). (Do a forum search of "nerm" to see where it originated - it was Cory's tiny little mispronunciation that has escalated to a special definition on here.) 

lol I think I might have been a nerm this whole time, and I'm glad to have found the other nerms out here in the world 

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