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Fishless Cycling Problems

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Fishless Cycling Problems
Old 05-27-2011, 11:30 AM   #1
 
Unhappy Fishless Cycling Problems

Hi everyone!

A bit of history on me and my tank:
In April I started with a 5 gal hex tank. PetSmart said to let it "sit" for a week and then bring water in to test. I did this and they said water was "perfect." I purchased 3 Danios. I then did some research and learned about cycling with fish. I bought the API master test kit and tested every day. I did water changes 1-2x a day to keep ammonia under 0.25. After a couple of weeks I learned my tank was too small for them so I upgraded to a 12 gal bowfront. The water levels stayed the same. I never saw a drop in ammo and I never saw nitrates or nitrites during this time. After 3 weeks in the new tank, I did a large 70% pwc to get ammonia down from 0.25. Not sure what happened but all fish died overnight. My best guess is that it was stress and/or gasses from replacing water too quickly, other than that I have no idea. I use Prime as my dechlorinator.

That was about a month ago. I've been fishless cycling with pure ammonia since then (ACE Hardware janitorial strength ammonia). I turned up the heater to about 85 degress F, turned up my 4" air stone. For three weeks, my levels did not move (no drop in ammo, no nitrates, no nitrites). My PH has mostly stayed at around 7.6 or more (usually it's a deeper blue than 7.6 on the API test) and my high range PH has been about 7.4-ish, but the last couple of days it seems to be at about 7.8. I have also tested untreated and treated tap water at 1 hour, 18 hour, and 24 hour intervals; I can post those results if needed. Some unusual results there (tap water ammo rises to 0.5 from 0 after a day, PH tends to go up and down, etc). At day 3 I added one ground up flake of fish food. The next day my water was a milky cloudy color and has stayed that way since. It got worse after a week and now seems to be slowly clearing a bit, but I did a pwc the other night for a foam/suds issue (more on that below) so that could have cleared some fo the cloudiness too.

At approaching week 3 I began to get impatient and heard good things about active seeded sponge filters being sold from a company online. I bought one and installed it last Saturday (3" cube sponge filter attached to airline tubing and air pump); the 3" cube takes up quite a bit of room in my tank, but I figure if it helps then I don't care.

Within 20 hours of installing the filter, my ammonia dropped from about 2-3 ppm to 0.5 ppm and I saw nitrAtes for the first time, which were about 2.5 ppm. No nitrItes (first weird thing). I then dosed the ammo back up to about 4 . That was almost a week ago; since then, no drop in ammo at all (other than from a pwc which brought ammo down to about 2-3). NitrAtes have climbed a bit to about 5, but still no nitrItes.

48 hours after installing the sponge filter I noticed the top of my tank filled with foam, mostly on the right side where the tank's water pours back into the tank from the filter (pic below, the one with all the suds lol; the other two are from last night). I know I'm using the right ammonia (no surfectants, etc), and I didn't add or clean anything in the tank, I hadn't even put my hands in there lately, so I did not (and still do not) know where the foam came from. After waiting a day and the foam/suds persisting, I did a 5 gal water change; this brought the ammo back down to about 2-3 which is where it still is now. Most of the suds/foam has dissipated but stil some larger bubbles on top of the tank and smaller white frothy ones on the sides (pics below from last night). I also turned off the 4" air stone since the seeded sponge filter will probably provide enough oxygen and I wanted to see if turning off the air stone would reduce the bubbles.

I also emailed the company where I purchased the seeded filter thinking/hoping it was somehow causing the foam (proteins in the filter maybe, etc) but they replied saying they had never seen that before (I emailed them the pic below), the tank where the sponge came from didn't have suds in it.

Last night when I tested the water (levels the same: ammo 2, no nitrites, nitrates at 5) I noticed the new sponge filter came unattached from its airline hose and the air hose was pumping oxygen right into the water. I'm guessing it was probably like that for at least a few days. Not sure if this would have contributed to the foam/suds, and not sure if it somehow would have impeded the seeded filter which is why ammo hasn't dropped since last Saturday, but I'm mentioning it just in case it's relevant. I put the air tube back into the sponge filter last night when I noticed it came out. The other two pics below are from last night.

I also tested my tap and aquarium water for GH/KH as well (not sure whether this is needed or relevant and not whether this would be accurate while the tank is cycling, but I tested anyway) and for aquarium water my GH is 5 and KH is 4, for untreated tap water my GH is 3, KH is 2.

So, to summarize my questions:
-Any idea on the foam/suds/bubbles? Should I be worried?
-Why am I not seeing nitrItes?
-Why isn't my ammonia going down nor my nitrates going up? If my ammo dropped after 1 day of adding the filter, shouldn't it be continuing to drop?
-Would the sponge filter work better if I cut it up and put it in with the tank's filter? It really does take up a good amount of space and if I can get it out of the tank and still have it work OK I think I'd prefer that.

I'm starting to fear this tank will never cycle. Thank you for any amount of help or insights you can give!
Attached Images
File Type: jpg foam.jpg (44.8 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg DSC00150.jpg (76.7 KB, 36 views)
File Type: jpg DSC00151.JPG (69.5 KB, 36 views)

Last edited by librarygirl; 05-27-2011 at 11:35 AM..
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Old 05-27-2011, 01:13 PM   #2
 
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I hate to say this but strip the tank, rinse everything thoroughly to be sure there was no detergent on some errant item. It really looks like suds from some detergent to be honest. How did you prep the tank? If you can get some of this offending foam and smell it to see if it has a smell that can be identified with some detergent you have possibly used?

At this point the tear down and complete cleaning top to bottom then starting the fishless cycle again will definitely not hurt any. It will be a setback but at least you are not spinning your wheels trying to figure this out and wasting more time.
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Old 05-27-2011, 02:39 PM   #3
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by demonr6 View Post
I hate to say this but strip the tank, rinse everything thoroughly to be sure there was no detergent on some errant item. It really looks like suds from some detergent to be honest. How did you prep the tank? If you can get some of this offending foam and smell it to see if it has a smell that can be identified with some detergent you have possibly used?

At this point the tear down and complete cleaning top to bottom then starting the fishless cycle again will definitely not hurt any. It will be a setback but at least you are not spinning your wheels trying to figure this out and wasting more time.
Its' just odd b/c the suds/foam didn't build up like it is in that first picture until a day or two after I put in the sponge filter and I didn't do anything else to the tank. After the fish died, all I did was change 100% of the water and added/removed some decor (but rinsed the new in nothing but tap water). Maybe your'e right, just to be on the safe side, but the foam/suds haven't returned like they were on that first day, just the larger bubbles you see at the top on the second and third photos; is this not normal as well given that the sponge filter puts out bubbles?

I don't know what to do I'm just frustrated that my levels aren't moving and I seem to be having more problems and setbacks rather than enjoying fish. Thanks for your input.
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Old 05-27-2011, 06:57 PM   #4
 
Well I got nervous so I drained 90% of the water out of the tank, took out the decorations and soaked/swished them in Prime treated tap water in case anything got on them that would cause the foam/suds issue. I rinsed the tank's filter in old aquarium water (ick, turned the water a light brownish color). As the water was being siphoned out of the tank it was fizzing/bubbling as it was going into the buckets, so something was/is wrong.

I then turned on the power strip and....nothing. No power. Nothing was turning on. The power strip had gotten a bit wet so I thought it was a safety mechanism, tried a different strip and still nothing. Plugged the strip into a different outlet and it was fine. So something blew out the sockets near the tank. I used the power strip to turn everything off at once in the beginning so maybe that did it? I have no idea. So temporarily I attached two strips together to reach a second plug but it can't stay like this and I have no idea how/if I can fix the plug closest to the tank.

I think I have a fish curse.

I just finished all this and dosed a bit of ammo and will test in a bit to make sure it isn't too high. I did save some tank water to do an API kit with to test the levels prior to the large pwc but haven't tested it yet, I need a break.

If I hadn't spend so much money and time in this I would just give up. Maybe I still should. I don't know.
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Old 05-27-2011, 11:56 PM   #5
 
Hey there, sorry to hear about your troubles. But with as with everything concerning life, it will always take unexpected twists and turns before it starts to get brighter. But it will get brighter! I know its hard, waiting for your cycle to finish before adding fish, but its worth the wait in the long run.

Ok, so to your cycling. Where did you buy your sponge filter? What website/company? How much ammonia are you dosing? If it helps, you can read up on my log for cycling a tank. I update it daily, and tell in detail on what I do, what I add, etc. so you can have an idea on how long/any tips or hints to help you cycle.
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Old 05-28-2011, 10:55 AM   #6
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by excal88 View Post
Hey there, sorry to hear about your troubles. But with as with everything concerning life, it will always take unexpected twists and turns before it starts to get brighter. But it will get brighter! I know its hard, waiting for your cycle to finish before adding fish, but its worth the wait in the long run.

Ok, so to your cycling. Where did you buy your sponge filter? What website/company? How much ammonia are you dosing? If it helps, you can read up on my log for cycling a tank. I update it daily, and tell in detail on what I do, what I add, etc. so you can have an idea on how long/any tips or hints to help you cycle.
Thanks, I appreciate your response. I bought the sponge filter from Angels Plus. I heard really good things about them and I have no local means of getting mature media so I figured I'd give it a try. The foam started right after I installed the filter, but not sure if that's the cause. As for ammo, I think I might be dosing too high, probably at least 4 on the API kit (another issue I have is finding that kit very hard to read, hard to distinguish between colors and whether holding the tube against the card or hovering it over the card gives a more accurate reading). After the water change yesterday I redosed the ammo and it looked like at least 4 if not higher, so I did another 4 gal water change but the ammo seemed to be about the same, but I left it for now (couldn't stand to lug any more buckets yesterday lol).

I checked the tank this morning (pics below) and the water is still clear but I did start noticing some bubbles on the top of the tank and some smaller ones on the right side water line (pics below). The top middle front seems to be where the form, after the water output forms bubbles and pushes them that way, then for some reason most of them don't pop but just tend to build up. I don't know, I'll leave it for now I guess unless anyone else has some great insight as to what the heck is happening to my tank lol

I'll definitely check out your log, thanks!
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File Type: jpg DSC00158.JPG (29.7 KB, 27 views)
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Old 05-28-2011, 11:50 AM   #7
 
Also, why don't I have nitrItes? I never had nitrites in this tank. I only started showing nitrAtes a day after I added the seeded sponge filter I bought, but zero nitrITes and it's been a week since I added it. I test every day so I doubt I missed the spike. And if the nitrItes are being eaten up too fast for me to catch them wouldn't that mean that the ammo should be dropping faster than it is? I'm confused lol I think the laws of science don't work for me lol
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Old 05-28-2011, 01:36 PM   #8
 
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Are those live plants I can see in the photos? I'll wait for your response before continuing.

And welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum. Glad you joined us. We will get this resolved, don't panic. I know what setbacks can do to one, I have gone through that, we all have.

Byron.
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Old 05-28-2011, 01:58 PM   #9
 
Hey there, just a quick question. When you bought the seeded filter, how long did it take to get shipped to you? And was it completely submerged in water? What type of substrate are you using? If possible, can you give us a complete list of what you have in the tank, including plants and decorations. Also, is your tank glass or acrylic? Cause if its glass, it COULD be something wrong with the seal if you say the bubbles form at one spot. I'm not too sure, but maybe faulty silicone or something mixed with the silicone is causing it?

Also, when dosing the ammonia, you want to dose up to 4 ppm and then let it sit; are you dosing daily, or just letting it sit?
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Old 05-28-2011, 04:13 PM   #10
 
Hi! Thank you both. To answer your questions:

No, no live plants, right now it's two plastic and the rest are silk (I actually hate how the plants look, but that's another story lol). Apparently I can barely keep a tank without fish maintained, never mind the additional stress of live plants (a full tank shot from last night is below).

I shipped the seeded filter 2 day priority and it came on time (last Saturday morning). The sponge was wet but not soaked. It did come in a bag with maybe a few inches of water in it but the whole sponge wasn't submerged in water. I poured the water from the bag onto my current filter and the rest into the tank and put the sponge filter into the tank and attached it with airline tubing to my air pump.

Substrate: normal gravel, Marina (this is a link to the product but not where I bought it).

I'm not sure if the tank is glass or acrylic. I think it's acrylic. It's a Marineland Eclipse 12 gal bowfront. I still have the box and checked it but it didn't say, although a reviewer on Amazon (not where I purchased it) says the tank is acrylic and I think it is. It tends to scratch easily.

Ammonia dosing: I'm not dosing daily or else it would be sky high lol. I've only redosed a couple of times, mostly after pwc (I did a pwc b/c of the foam/suds the other night and I did a smaller one a couple of weeks ago but I forget why) and once last Saturday the ammo dropped from about 2-3 ppm to 0.5 after I put in the seeded filter so I redosed then. Otherwise no I don't dose every day.

The items inside the tank are:

-A heater (I believe it's Aqueon; I had a Marineland Pro in there that was recalled so I took it out and replaced it with the Aqueon)
-The filter intake that came with the tank
-The recently purchased 3" cube sponge filter connected to an airline tube
-A 4" air stone connected to an airline tube
-A mercury thermometer (for aquariums)
-12 lbs of the Marina gravel
-Two plastic plants and three silk ones, although I'm thinking of changing/adding b/c I hate the way it looks
-Decor: just a fake coral replica I bought online (BigAlsOnline) and a decorative aquarium vase bought at PetCo.

If you need any further information please let me know. Thanks for trying to help! I haven't tested the water levels today yet, will do so in a bit and I'll post those as well.
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Last edited by librarygirl; 05-28-2011 at 04:15 PM..
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