Can the nitrifying bacteria grow with high levels of ammonia?
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Can the nitrifying bacteria grow with high levels of ammonia?

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Can the nitrifying bacteria grow with high levels of ammonia?
Old 07-09-2013, 12:47 AM   #1
 
Can the nitrifying bacteria grow with high levels of ammonia?

Hello, So roughly about a month ago I decided to move to a larger tank (20 gallons), My 10 gallon tank was fully cycled and would constantly read ammonia levels well under .25 ppm every 10 days before doing 10-15% partial water changes. Unfortunately ever since I got this new 20 gallon tank I've been having such a hard time to get it to cycle fully and have tried pretty every technique that I could possibly use.

My current fish are 5 mickie platies and 3 black skirt tetras.

So basically my idea was to use the so called "seeding method", after intalling my 20 gallon tank and waiting 48 hours for the ph to neutralize, I removed entire filter (filters at 100 gph) and placed it in my new tank. The ammonia levels stayed at bay for at least a week and even the nitrite levels started rising but then my ammonia levels started rising faster my nitrite levels which would imply the growing nitrifying bacteria just wasn't keeping up with the ammonia load. So I reduced the ammount of food my fish were getting which was already not too much btw; soon after, I register .50 ppm so I thought adding fish bacteria (safestart) would alleviate the problem and probably jump-start the process but my plans failed miserably and my ammonia levels continued to rise to 1 ppm and eventually to 2ppm and nitrite levels have gotten down completely but I notice my fish were extremely active despite high levels of ammonia so sth was not adding up and after testing my ph it came out at 6.0. As many of you know already, ammonia becomes ammonium under 7.0 ph which as far I understand is less toxic than ammonia (NH3) but it also means that bacteria can't grow with ph levels that low so the Ph levels needed to be brought up. As of now, I'm battling ammonia at 4ppm with 40-50% with daily water changes using prime as my dechlorinator since it neutralizes ammonia but I don't see my ammonia levels going down which is starting to make me worried and quite sad frankly so my question is should I continue with the water changes? and can the nitrifrying bacteria grow with ammonia levels that high (4 ppm) ? is there anything I can do at this point? I already added two live plants thinking it would help with the ammonia but so far everything has stayed the same. My Ph has become stable at 7.4-7.6. Please reply back, I really need help from you guys.

Last edited by platykeeper; 07-09-2013 at 12:50 AM..
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Old 07-09-2013, 12:56 AM   #2
 
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Originally Posted by platykeeper View Post
Hello, So roughly about a month ago I decided to move to a larger tank (20 gallons), My 10 gallon tank was fully cycled and would constantly read ammonia levels well under .25 ppm every 10 days before doing 10-15% partial water changes. Unfortunately ever since I got this new 20 gallon tank I've been having such a hard time to get it to cycle fully and have tried pretty every technique that I could possibly use.

My current fish are 5 mickie platies and 3 black skirt tetras.

So basically my idea was to use the so called "seeding method", after intalling my 20 gallon tank and waiting 48 hours for the ph to neutralize, I removed entire filter (filters at 100 gph) and placed it in my new tank. The ammonia levels stayed at bay for at least a week and even the nitrite levels started rising but then my ammonia levels started rising faster my nitrite levels which would imply the growing nitrifying bacteria just wasn't keeping up with the ammonia load. So I reduced the ammount of food my fish were getting which was already not too much btw; soon after, I register .50 ppm so I thought adding fish bacteria (safestart) would alleviate the problem and probably jump-start the process but my plans failed miserably and my ammonia levels continued to rise to 1 ppm and eventually to 2ppm and nitrite levels have gotten down completely but I notice my fish were extremely active despite high levels of ammonia so sth was not adding up and after testing my ph it came out at 6.0. As many of you know already, ammonia becomes ammonium under 7.0 ph which as far I understand is less toxic than ammonia (NH3) but it also means that bacteria can't grow with ph levels that low so the Ph levels needed to be brought up. As of now, I'm battling ammonia at 4ppm with 40-50% with daily water changes using prime as my dechlorinator since it neutralizes ammonia but I don't see my ammonia levels going down which is starting to make me worried and quite sad frankly so my question is should I continue with the water changes? and can the nitrifrying bacteria grow with ammonia levels that high (4 ppm) ? is there anything I can do at this point? I already added two live plants thinking it would help with the ammonia but so far everything has stayed the same. My Ph has become stable at 7.4-7.6. Please reply back, I really need help from you guys.
In order to help you will need much more than 2 plants and they need to be fast growing stem plants. Using the prime and the water changes will keep your fish as safe as possible until you get through this cycle. Are you using liquid tester or test strips? You are doing everything you can do at this point, you will just have to let the tank complete the cycle. Are you registering any nitrates? This is a stressful time for any aquarist. Stay diligent. It WILL cycle. It just may take a little longer.
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Old 07-09-2013, 05:42 AM   #3
 
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The answer is yes - the nitrifying bacteria will grow just fine at high ammonia concentrations. When doing a fish less cycle, it is recommended to bring the tank up to 4 ppm.


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Old 07-09-2013, 09:15 AM   #4
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The threshold is around 10ppm before they are overloaded, and that is not even a hard number.

Having the tank for only a month I would be curious what all the techniques were as typical cycle times reported are 6 weeks and up... not much will work that fast to prove it a failure or success... other than loading up with lots of plants.

Water changes every day or two using a conditioner such as Prime (de-toxifies ammonia and nitrites) until the ammonia and nitrites drop to zero, it takes as long as it takes but it will get there.

Jeff.
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Old 07-09-2013, 10:11 PM   #5
 
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In order to help you will need much more than 2 plants and they need to be fast growing stem plants. Using the prime and the water changes will keep your fish as safe as possible until you get through this cycle. Are you using liquid tester or test strips? You are doing everything you can do at this point, you will just have to let the tank complete the cycle. Are you registering any nitrates? This is a stressful time for any aquarist. Stay diligent. It WILL cycle. It just may take a little longer.
Thanks for the feedback. I use API's liquid test kit and I checked for nitrates just yesterday night and it was right around 40 ppm. I'm really hoping it will cycle soon since my 10 gallon cycled in less than a month but I'm supposing every tank will be just different.
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Old 07-09-2013, 10:13 PM   #6
 
Thanks to all of you, I really appreciate that you took the time to post a reply. I knew I was in the right place when I came across these forums
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Old 07-09-2013, 10:19 PM   #7
 
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The threshold is around 10ppm before they are overloaded, and that is not even a hard number.

Having the tank for only a month I would be curious what all the techniques were as typical cycle times reported are 6 weeks and up... not much will work that fast to prove it a failure or success... other than loading up with lots of plants.

Water changes every day or two using a conditioner such as Prime (de-toxifies ammonia and nitrites) until the ammonia and nitrites drop to zero, it takes as long as it takes but it will get there.

Jeff.
I'm glad to know the bacteria growth won't be hampered by such high levels of ammonia. I knew low PH levels could pontentially stall the entire process but I wasn't sure what negative effects high ammonia could have on the bacteria's reproduction.
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Old 07-10-2013, 07:13 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by platykeeper View Post
I'm glad to know the bacteria growth won't be hampered by such high levels of ammonia. I knew low PH levels could pontentially stall the entire process but I wasn't sure what negative effects high ammonia could have on the bacteria's reproduction.
Oh... I should clarify, that is specifically for the ammonia oxidizers. The nitrite oxidizers' threshold is 1ppm ammonia. The high levels initially will still allow the first stage to propagate and once they are up to snuff and dealing with the ammonia, bringing it below 1ppm, then the second stage kicks in. The high initial levels won't stop it but it will slow down the final cycle. I tested this and was able to get a full cycle setup in 7 days on a small scale using fishfood by keeping the ammonia levels at or below 1ppm with water changes.

Something I also ran across, not sure how accurate it is but it was interesting if even close. At pH values of 8, of the total ammonia / ammonium in the water, ammonia only makes up 10%. As the pH rises this value also rises, to around 50% at 10-11 I think. Seeing that the ammonium is non-toxic this makes ammonia rather potent. I thought (without any research) that the levels might have been closer to even until hitting a pH of 7.

Jeff.
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