Beginner stuff: Cycling and Water Changes - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 27 Old 11-08-2009, 08:46 PM Thread Starter
Beginner stuff: Cycling and Water Changes

Hi everyone,

I've really enjoyed being a member of this forum. Lots of knowledge and resources!

Two questions:

1. I set up my tank about a month ago. Thought I'd do fishless cycling with plants but it didn't really work (I think I should have added ammonia but didn't). I added a bristlenose pleco before the tank cycled (I'm an amateur and the guy at the fish store told me it would be okay). Well, I researched afterward and realized it was absolutely not okay to add a pleco to an uncycled tank and I felt horrible. So I took out the pleco and put him in a little temporary tank and added six skirt tetras to my larger tank to do rapid cycling. The tank is 30 gallons with a few plants. (I should update my photos on my profile). The day I added the skirts (about a week ago) I added smart start (or something--the live bacteria). I check the water every day. The ammonia level has stayed at about .25ppm and the nitrate has been at a steady 5-10. I actually put the pleco back in the large tank yesterday because the ammonia was out of control in his little two gallon tank (even with daily 50% water changes! and he's still a baby!). So here's my question...why are the ammonia and nitrate levels so stable? Is a week long enough to see an increase in nitrate or a decrease (or increase) in ammonia? Should I do a water change at this point? I think I've made enough mistakes already that I'll have a long time before a really stable, thoroughly cycled tank.

2. This leads to my next question: Do I turn off my water filter when I do a water change? Is it better to take water from the top or syphon it from the bottom? I've never done a water change in my 30 gallon tank.

Thanks so much. What a long post!

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post #2 of 27 Old 11-09-2009, 12:53 AM
MoneyMitch's Avatar
a cycle can take about a month or two to complete. what i do with my tank is whenever i get high nitrItes or ammonia at or abover .25 ppm i do a wc untill i get the levels to where i want them. the frequency and the amount will vary depending on tank size.

when u do a w/c vac from the substrate and try to get any poo debris or w/e off the bottom to reduce your nitrates and ammonia from decaying matter.
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post #3 of 27 Old 11-09-2009, 07:10 AM
Angel079's Avatar
I've done fish less cycle in all my tanks (planted). It can very well be your tank had cycled in these 4 weeks empty, sometimes the peak comes & goes SO quick you won't even catch it and its so minimal sometimes you won't test it neither.
Now there's a few question I'd have to help with more answer's for you:
What are the ammonia and nitrate levels from your tap water? It may well be there's already some in your tap hence the fact they're the way they are in your tank.

No you do not need to turn off the pump when you do w/c.
Since you had the fish in there for week already. I would begin the weekly water changes and exchange about 40% of the water each week, like MoneyMitch said vacuum accessible gravel parts on the ground to remove debris. Therafter make sure you do the excerise each week (I do mine every Sat).
Meanwhile keep checking your water levels, so you can see if something goes way outta hand, eg. ammonia, then if you see this do a larger water exchange strait away (thou I kinda doubt you'll have this problem).

And on a side note, don't be so hard on your self! We've all started at some point and had to learn, no one was born as the know-it-all fish person. And lots times people in the pet store really are NO help, after all they're Sales people and that's what they wanna do sell you fish & products you may simply not need.
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post #4 of 27 Old 11-09-2009, 07:11 AM
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Oh and YES please update pictures
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post #5 of 27 Old 11-09-2009, 09:43 AM Thread Starter
Thanks! I know my fishless cycling didn't work b/c when I bought a testing kit, the nitrates were zero...everything was zero. I think I'll do a water change tonite just for safe measure even thought the ammonia hasn't gone up at all.

Oh, and I have checked my tap water and it doesn't seem to have ammonia in it. But thanks for the tip!

One mistake I made was adding ammonia remover to my orphan tank when my pleco was in it, and I added some of that water with him (or her) when I put him back into the big tank. I'm anticipating that will throw things off just a bit. But we'll see!
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post #6 of 27 Old 11-09-2009, 10:18 AM
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If your readings hadn't gone up, I'd not do any 'extra' w/c only the regular one and then keep monitoring your readings.
It may be a lil more hassle right now for ya, but you'll do just fine. And with your next tank you'll know better what to do
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post #7 of 27 Old 11-09-2009, 05:03 PM
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I think Angel is probably correct, your tank is cycled. If you are getting daily nitrate readings of 5-10 it appears to be. Plants cycle tanks immediately, provided there are enough of them and not too many fish.

When did you start using the test kit and have zero readings? I'm assuming prior to this last week, when the nitrate has been 5-10.

The only puzzle is the ammonia, it has to be coming from somewhere. Are you still adding ammonia (hope not)? What is your pH? And to confirm, the tap water tests zero ammonia, correct? You test tap water before using the water conditioner. And just so we know, what brand is the water conditioner?


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #8 of 27 Old 11-09-2009, 07:59 PM Thread Starter
Wow thanks for the advice. I just checked my tap water (one test for untreated tap water and one test for tap water treated with Aqua Plus). By the way I'm using the API test kit. They both measured almost 1ppm of ammonia! Disturbing. So then I checked my tank again and it's almost zero! Now I'm convinced my tank is cycled. I was just waiting for that last budge for the ammonia to go down to zero. I didn't test the others so I wonder if the nitrates and nitrite is stable.

In response to your question (Byron) I started testing the water when I bought the pleco about three weeks ago. At that point all levels were zero. Then I added skirts and took out the pleco, and the nitrate slowly started rising (without an ammonia spike...probably because I added live bacteria at the same time I added the skirts?).

I just can't believe I almost did a water change and my new water has quadruple the ammonia that was in the tank.

Should I, then, wait on a water change until my nitrates level goes up to make sure there are enough bacteria to "fix" the ammonia in my tap water? Or just go buy water from the water store?
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post #9 of 27 Old 11-09-2009, 08:00 PM Thread Starter
p.s. No, I'm not adding ammonia (aside from fish food and pleco food, but not directly) and my pH is 7.8.
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post #10 of 27 Old 11-09-2009, 09:32 PM
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Uhm yea no...difficult one really, and I'd not do a water exchange meanwhile. Do you have another water source that could test ammonia free, eg. neighbor with a well or something?
Realistically I'd contact the water company, I'm not sure about the law's there, but you should not have ammonia in your drinking water, I mean gee I'd not wanna feed that to a baby!
I know there's some kinda 'trace' limit of ammonia where you'd consider it safe for the fish, but honestly I do not know what magic number X this is...We'll have to ask BYROOONNNNN or someone lol
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