High Nitrites-at a loss - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 45 Old 01-21-2014, 08:38 AM Thread Starter
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High Nitrites-at a loss

Good Morning,
I'm new to the forum, but I'm not new to fish keeping. But this one has me at a loss.
We got our daughter a 2.5 gallon fish tank for a Betta on Christmas.
We got the gravel, and some anacharis and one decoration and things were going great.
But this Nitrogen cycle has me so confused.
Using the Master test kit, these are my results
pH 8.2
Ammonia .25
Nitrite-off the chart
Nitrate ~20

Ammonia is .25 coming out of the tap, which bothers me, but it can be dealt with. I have Prime to use.
pH has been stable, the plants are growing.
The Betta is completely fine. He eats out of your hand and swims around his tank, and his color is good. He's even built a bubble nest, But the Nitrites have been off the scale now for over two weeks.
We do almost complete water changes and I treat the water before adding it to the tank, and then I also add extra prime to lock down any Nitrite left in the tank.
But 24 hours later, the Nitrite is off the chart.

I know the tank is cycling I was hoping the plants would have helped with this issue, but there has to be something else going on that I'm not thinking of.

Tank has a whisper internal filter and heater.

This is the smallest tank I've ever tried to cycle. I'd appreciate any advice or insight.
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post #2 of 45 Old 01-21-2014, 09:15 AM
the filter in the tank, when was it last cleaned ?

your right, has me baffled as well
a higher ph will push more ammonia, this might make the bacteria work extra hard to keep up, ... and then the trickle down effect as the next stage in the nitrogen cycle has more than normal to work with.

a lower ph won't fix this, but may make things easier (easier being a relative term) - not something i'd recommend just changing as we'd all rather avoid stressing the fish

as for other suspects (other than a filter full of waste)
could check your prime
could check your test kit (no idea how to test a test kit other than getting a new test kit and seeing if it gives the same results)
check the water going into the tank (that might work to test your test kit - but i don't know much about ammonia & nitrites and such in city waters, ... other than chloramine is clorine and ammonia together, which is very toxic and goes through some even more toxic stages in the pipes as it gets to your taps.

(i am so grasping at air here)
have a look into what conditions are key to a betta wanting to lay eggs/build a next, ... might be a better indicator of what's going on in the tank as it sounds like your fish (your daughters fish) is very very happy. this also has me wondering if the test kit is accurate or not
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post #3 of 45 Old 01-21-2014, 09:30 AM Thread Starter
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Test kit was just bought, and I did test the tap water coming out of the sink at both T0 and about 24 hours later. That's how I knew the ammonia was .25 coming from the tap. Both Nitrite and Nitrate are at 0 coming from the tap.

I've never cleaned the filter (Trying to keep those colonies working :)) But the filter isn't very dirty even after running for almost a month here.

I have had to vacuum the gravel a few times because my son tried to help and fed the fish like we had more than one fish in there.............but that was a few weeks ago. We feed him now only as much as he'll eat out of our hands.

Prime was just bought too and given how high the Nitrites are, it has to be locking them down otherwise even the Betta would be showing ill effects.

Just to confirm my kit, I tested bottled water and got zeros across the board.

It's strange.....
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post #4 of 45 Old 01-21-2014, 10:11 AM
could squishy your filter media in a bucket of water, ... just to squeeze out any excess detritus it may have collected (no chlorine or such toxins though)

sure will loose some bacteria, but most will be stuck to the filter media itself, so i'd guess it should be alright

only quickly for this point, what we are told about the nitrogen cycle is overly simplified, ... sure there is a cycle, but there's also far more bacteria types that can interact in that cycle, ... some will move things in the direction we are accustomed to, others may move it backwards ... over-all i wouldn't worry about this as it's possibilities and not likely realities.

back tor reality, ...
low ammonia, good
very high nitrites - has us baffled
high nitrates - good for plants, not for fish, but acceptable

different question, ... where are your nitrites coming from ?
typical cycle ammonia is produced and converted to nitrites.
your ammonia is acceptable.
so where are your nitrites coming from
would have me wondering in this moment, what else is going on, not accusing your daughter but is she putting anything in the tank though the night or otherwise giving your fish more to play with (i'm assuming a young girl)
... i dono, just random guesses.

i have heard there is a sweet spot on the pH scale for bacteria production for the nitrogen cycle
don't remember what it is, ... :(
but even saltwater tanks get cycles going with a higher pH than 8.2

lots of ideas, lots of guesses, ... otherwise, like yourself, it just doesn't make sense

maybe just start over. not a few bowl, not starting from scratch with new substrate & filter media, ... but give everything a cleaning (nothing that would kill any of the bacteria - so no chlorine or whatever is in your tap water), but there's something that's going from somewhere in the tank into the water
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post #5 of 45 Old 01-21-2014, 10:34 AM Thread Starter
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That's what has me so baffled. I was having ammonia at 2ppm daily but the ammonia has gone down. But even when the ammonia was at 2ppm, the Nitrites were off the chart. Between the plants and the bacteria, I'm assuming the ammonia is going to be at zero here soon.

My daughter is 12 and I've had a 29 gallon tank most of her life so she knows what to do as I've taught her. She doesn't add anything unless she asks first and how much :)

I can clean the filter tonight, as I'm sure I'll be changing the water again unless the Nitrite magically goes to zero :)

The Anarachris is growing like crazy so it has to be absorbing some of the ammonia.
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post #6 of 45 Old 01-21-2014, 10:37 AM
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Hello and welcome to the forum.

Another thought: Prime neutralizes nitrites. Does it make them unavailable to bacteria? Maybe your denitrifying bacteria (the stuff that converts nitrite to nitrAte) is being starved by the prime.
I'm just theorizing here, I've never seen or heard of anything like this!

Very high nitrites usualy kill fish very quickly. Even slightly high (1.0-2.0) readings are often deadly. For you to be off the chart and your fish acting normaly is a real puzzle.

Also very high nitrites usualy leads to the rapid development of a large and prosperous colony of denitrifying bacteria. Maybe all you need is a little more time?

Good luck! And please keep us posted, id really like to know the answer to this riddle.

"Be the change you want to see in the world."

Last edited by rsskylight04; 01-21-2014 at 10:43 AM.
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post #7 of 45 Old 01-21-2014, 10:45 AM
but a betta can breath air right ? would nitrites still be toxic ?

could you take something from your larger tank and move it to the 2.5 gallon to give it a boost ?
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post #8 of 45 Old 01-21-2014, 10:58 AM Thread Starter
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Unfortunately when we moved, my 29 gallon tank did not make it from South Carolina to Indiana :(
But I'm working on a 55 gallon set up as soon as I work some things out with my wife :D

While he breathes air, this does allow for him to handle Nitrites "better" but I have to believe that it is the Prime detoxifying it that is helping. I can't describe how purple that tube is after 5 minutes.....it's darker than royal purple.

But I'm going on two weeks here of "royal purple" in the Nitrite tube. It should be going down. Even with changing almost all the water every day.
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post #9 of 45 Old 01-21-2014, 11:04 AM
while risky, maybe leave things in a less than great state, ... not as much prime, not as much water change, ... more encouragement for the bacteria you want to colonize

other then that, i don't know
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post #10 of 45 Old 01-21-2014, 11:10 AM Thread Starter
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I've thought of doing less water change and if I had another home to put "Zeus" in I'd consider it. She has grown very attached to him and he has such a personality I'd hate to put him in distress.

Maybe I'll rinse the filter, only do 50% change and I'll test the Nitrite after that and see where we are at. I'll probably still use prime to detoxify the Nitrite as I don't want him getting sick.

I guess the only other piece of Info is we are using the Aqueon betta pellets. He loves them. Takes them from our hand and sometimes even plays with his food by taking it in his mouth and shaking his head like a dog. It's very amusing.
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