New Aquarium owner - possible cycling problems - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 12 Old 06-26-2009, 12:12 PM Thread Starter
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New Aquarium owner - possible cycling problems

Hey everyone. Just to give you a quick background of my situation before I ask some questions...

I bought my first 46 gal aquarium some time ago and finally got it all set up. The aquarium came with a heater and I bought an emperor 400 filter, some rock, fake plants and a fake log. Anyway I filled the aquarium with water and got the filter running. Having looked up several articles on fishless cycling I decided to go the pure ammonia route. I picked up (what i thought was) clear pure ammonia from the grocery store and put in several drops. Well I noticed the next day that there were a decent amount of bubbles on top of the water and on the bio-wheels and the water was cloudy. This didn't seem right so I looked into it further and sure enough the ammonia had 'surfactant'. Doing further research on it came up with this definition: "Surfactants are wetting agents that lower the surface tension of a liquid, allowing easier spreading, and lower the interfacial tension " I assumed this was fine as it wasn't described as a detergent but then stumbled on a forum post that specifically said to avoid any ammonia with surtactants, dyes, scents, detergents, ect... Anyway, long story long, I ditched the ammonia and picked up actual pure ammonia at Ames. I brought the ppm level to 5+ (according to my test kit) and added activated charcoal to the 2 extra blank filters provided with the emperor. Well that seemed to clear up the cloudy water and the bubbles and it now looks great. The only thing is its been 3 weeks since I started the process and I still do not have any reduction in ammonia levels...

Basically if you read all that, did I screw it up from the start with that original ammonia or am I just being impatient with the cycle time? I really don't want to do a full water change and start all over again. I have read cycle times anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 weeks which is quite the spread and I don't want to wait 4+ weeks to find out that I am SOL. Anyone make this mistake with Ammonia and have it cycle just fine? Man the Aquarium looks great! just needs fish!
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post #2 of 12 Old 06-27-2009, 12:39 AM
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Have you tested for nitrites at all? If not, do that first, see what it says, also maybe try a water change if no results.

Not sure about the surfactant situation though, maybe it did throw things off balance.

"Everyman dies, not every man truly lives." - William Wallace
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post #3 of 12 Old 07-01-2009, 10:02 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Arkamaic View Post
Have you tested for nitrites at all? If not, do that first, see what it says, also maybe try a water change if no results.

Not sure about the surfactant situation though, maybe it did throw things off balance.
No luck, tested the water yesterday after almost 4 weeks and the ammonia level is still at 5ppm and the Nitrite is 0. It doesn't appear that any bacteria seem to be growing as it isn't even gradually coming down from the 5ppm Ammonia level. This is definitely frustrating as its a great looking tank just sitting there and running in my living room fishless...

Maybe I will try a water change but I am pretty sure the Ammonia levels are only at 5ppm and not more (it is hard to tell in the tester as dark green is dark green...)

Last edited by Joe; 07-01-2009 at 10:06 AM.
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post #4 of 12 Old 07-04-2009, 02:17 PM
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I would try a considerable water change and see what happens

3 Glofish
1 Fruit Tetra
1 Red Eye Tetra
3 Cories
1 Bleeding Heart Tetra
1 Black Skirt Tetera
1 Serpae Tetra
2 algea eaters
And 1 tiger looking fish (forgot the name)
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post #5 of 12 Old 07-06-2009, 03:26 PM Thread Starter
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Well on the 4th I put a few gallons of treated water in the tank to compensate for all the evaporation over the last month or so. I cleaned out the jets of the filter and turned it all back on again. I decided to give it another week before doing a huge water change and sure enough (4th of July luck?) I tested for ammonia and the level had come down quite a bit. I brushed it off as possible being diluted from the new water I added but checked for nitrites anyway... sure enough, it shot from light blue (0ppm) through the roof! and was dark purple... Maybe the wrong ammonia just delayed the cycle and I was too impatient but after almost 5 weeks I have my nitrite spike and I will monitor for nitrates coming up. Look out for future fish questions when I am finally ready to start stocking...
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post #6 of 12 Old 07-07-2009, 12:47 PM
first off, welcome to the forums, secondly, even though your tank is cycling, i would recommend several large water changes during the cycle period. Even though it would impede your cycle, the surfactant may harm your fish. Also, if surfactant does not evaporate, the same or similar concentration of the chemical may still be in your tank.
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post #7 of 12 Old 07-16-2009, 11:46 AM Thread Starter
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So a strang thing is happening while testing my cycle. I use an Aquarium Pharmaceuticals test kit with the drops and test tubes.

At the beggining of the cycle when I hadn't even developed any bacteria for the ammonia I testing for nitrites just for fun. The drops went in blue and stayed blue at the end of 5min like they should for 0ppm. Well now that I spiked I've been testing daily. I noticed that when the drops go in they immediately turn a dark purple which means its 5+ppm. When the spike happened this stayed purple. Lately I've been watching closely hoping the spike will come down and sure enough every time I test for nitrites now the drops go in dark purple but after the 5 min wait the water is light blue? This doesn't make any sense to me and I don't know if this means they came down to 0ppm or not. Logic says the drops should never turn purple if there is no nitrite to react with. Anyone have this test kit of have any idea what this means?

Last edited by Joe; 07-16-2009 at 11:48 AM.
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post #8 of 12 Old 07-16-2009, 12:19 PM
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I'm thinking that you delayed "killed off" good bacterial grow with that thing that you put in first time, and now slowly but surely it's coming back. If you want to speed up the process I recommend you get "Cycle" from any pet store and add it to you tank. It will colonize your tank and make it goooooood :)

I will hold your fish hostage! Unless you pay me one billion dollars.
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post #9 of 12 Old 07-16-2009, 12:34 PM
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Hey Joe,

My fishless cycling was taking forever too so my local fish store gave me a nice big gloppy hunk of filter medium that he took out of one of his big tanks. I put that in the back of my filter (i have a bio-wheel 200) and within 4-5 days, I was fully cycled.

Maybe you can find a good LFS in your area if you don't know of one already. They're usually happy to give you some biological gunk.

Good luck.
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post #10 of 12 Old 07-19-2009, 09:27 AM Thread Starter
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Well sure enough I thought the cycle was over because my nitrite tests kept turning light blue (0ppm) so I did an 80% water change and just for the heck of it I put a tiny but of ammonia back in the tank. Tested it a few hours later, 8 hours later, and then this morning and the ammonia is long gone but the nitrite insn't going anywhere. It's still dark purple (5ppm). I can't honestly explain this, it really doesn't make any sense. 2 months later and still no finished cycle. I will head down to the local fish shop and try a couple of your suggestions.
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