Newbie Needs Help with Cycle - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 14 Old 04-07-2010, 08:14 PM Thread Starter
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Question Newbie Needs Help with Cycle


I got a fish tank about 3 weeks ago and set it up and went to a "professional aquarium store" and told me best way to cycle is to get some hardy fish and throw them in and let the cycle take its course. I got strips to watch my nitrite cycle and got an ammonia kit and everything. I got 2 royal blue gourami and 2 Black swordtail fish. That was about 2 and a half weeks ago. After about 3 days My ammonia level spiked fast and hard. The people at the store said its okay that it does and to make sure you let it ride out that after a week it ‘ll settle. My ammonia was running 8.0 ppm for about 3 days before I changed the water cuz i was starting to get scared that it was too long like that and it went back down to 4.0ppm but my nitrites have yet to start. That was about a week ago. It took 2 days but it was back up to 8.0ppm and stayed like that till yesterday. I changed the water yesterday again this time it didnt touch the ammonia. I unfortunately lost one of my swordtails today and am wondering what Im doing wrong exactly... Is the ammonia supposed to be that high for this long ? Or am I missing a key ingredient to getting this stuff to start up. My nitrite levels have yet to start either. Beginning to think I got scammed to buying the fish and this will never work...

As for what I have, Its a 20 gal tank, I have the said fish along with fake plants. I live in an apartment so having real plants is not exactly Ideal at this time. The fish I have are permanent cuz I like them a lot. I have a heater going and it keeps the temperature between 76-80 degrees. I try to keep my lights not for about 6 hours a day cuz they aren't florescent lights but regular blubs and can heat the water. I have rocks for the fish to hide in and an oxygen source that is set for a 40 gal tank if i need it.

Thank you so much for any and all help I get.
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post #2 of 14 Old 04-07-2010, 08:47 PM
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I'm a newbie as well and am currently waiting for new tanks to cycle. The experts will hopefully see your post and give you some expert advice. I've been reading a lot so all I can say comes from the information I've got from here and other internet sites.

I've read, and been doing, daily water changes to reduce the ammonia, because it's toxic to your fish. From what I've read, doing frequent water changes does not affect the tank cycling and I've also read an article on one of the sites that did some maths to reach the conclusion that it doesn't lengthen the cycling time.

I can also tell you that my cycles have taken a long time. One's been running for nearly a month and has only just started showing the tiniest bit of nitrites. I think you need to be patient.

So, from what I've read, do frequent water changes when you've got readings for ammonia, use a conditioner than neutralizes the "bad" ammonia and be patient. Someone more knowledgeable will no doubt correct me if I'm wrong.

Good luck.
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post #3 of 14 Old 04-08-2010, 03:47 AM
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Welcome to TFK! Have a look at this:

tanker's on the right track. Ammonia levels that high are definitely a bad thing. Do you know your water's pH? I'm guessing it's less than 7.0 otherwise all of your fish would be dead, not just the one swordtail. The reason for this is that at pH < 7.0 ammonia exists as ammonium, which doesn't harm your fish but at pH > 7.0 it exists as ammonia which is quite toxic. No matter your pH you should be doing water changes to keep ammonia levels down. The reason for this is that once the bacteria start to establish themselves and convert ammonia to nitrite, you're going to see a huge nitrite spike if there's a lot of ammonia in the water and nitrite is deadly no matter your pH. Your best bet is to test frequently and do water changes whenever you get an ammonia or nitrite reading.

Once your tank gets settled I think you might also have issues with your stocking. Blue gouramis are one of the more ill-tempered gouramis so you might get aggression issues between them, especially in a 20g tank. I would only have one of them in a tank that size to avoid fighting.

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post #4 of 14 Old 04-08-2010, 12:31 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the advise I'm gonna start changing the water more frequently and hope that the cycle starts. I have been patient and will continue to be so but I wont lie it has been frustrating cuz I was told at that aquarium store it takes a week lol...

iamnitbatman. Thanks for the link. I read saw it earlier and wish I would have known some of those other methods first but to late for me at this point. I had my water tested by the aquarium store and I have a pH tester and my pH is always around the 7.6-8.0 range. Which The store told me is normal for tap water and I didnt need to worry about it. I have a De-chlorinating for my water and I make sure I put that in with every water change. I'm hoping the tank is established I can put in a few angel fish, guppy's and maybe some shrimp/bottom feeders in the end to finish it off. Again the store told me I shouldn't have problems but I'm new to this whole thing so I dunno who to trust
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post #5 of 14 Old 04-08-2010, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Guko View Post
Again the store told me I shouldn't have problems but I'm new to this whole thing so I dunno who to trust
I promise you that you can trust us. Based on the info you were given at the "pet store" I wouldn't be taking any more advice from them anytime soon. Any reading for ammonia or nitrite is toxic to fish. "Riding" it out is sure to cause more fish deaths. Batman's advice, to test your water and to do a water change when you get a reading for ammonia or nitrite reading, is the proper thing to do.Your tank will eventually cycle, and hopefully without any further fish loss.

If you don't stand up for something you'll fall for anything...
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post #6 of 14 Old 04-08-2010, 05:52 PM
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I read you have a strip test, if you could invest into an API Master Liquid Test Kit it would be better and you would have more precise readings. When doing the water changes, keep your filter media and only rinse it thru the old remove aquarium water. Doing this, you will keep the good bacteria's and the cycling will go good. Just keep a close eye on the readings and do a partial water change as needed and once a week when the readings stabilises.
Before adding fishes to the aquarium, create a new thread for fish stocking and really good advises will be provided.
Good luck with the cycling and do not hesitate to ask questions.
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post #7 of 14 Old 04-13-2010, 09:42 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the help so far everyone. I am managing to get the ammonia levels down with the Frequent water levels. I assume I still cant put in any new fish. Or am I able to get a new swordtail cuz my male is looking lonely...

As an aside I was changing the water today and When I moved one of my decorative rocks some white stuff began floating around. Almost looked like dissolving toilet paper all over the place. I managed to use my fish net and get most if not all of it out that i saw floating around. Just wondering if thats the fish flakes I'm using or if its something I should be worried about...

Sorry If I'm being a pain. Being new to this whole thing I'm experiencing things I don't really know to well. Its like walking through some uncharted land or something lol...

Last edited by Guko; 04-13-2010 at 09:44 PM.
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post #8 of 14 Old 04-14-2010, 03:58 AM
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How much are you feeding? You shouldn't be feeding so much that there's a large amount of leftover food like that.

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post #9 of 14 Old 04-16-2010, 10:07 PM Thread Starter
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I'm feeding them twice a day once in the morning and once at night.
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post #10 of 14 Old 04-17-2010, 11:29 AM
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First, do not add more fish until the tank is cycled. If you read the link iamntbatman gave you will see this takes a few weeks. Until then, the bacteria have not multiplied sufficient to handle the ammonia the present fish produce, and adding another fish will only increase the ammonia (fish produce a lot of ammonia) and lead to stressed fish and probably more deaths.

Second, twice a day feeding is not necessary; once a day, preferably in the morning (fish are generally more active then) and only what they clean up in a few minutes. One or two flakes is sufficient nourishment for a fish each day, so don't keep feeding just because they seem hungry; fish have a natural instinct to eat when they find food. A hungry fish is a healthy fish.

Third, the pH is not a problem for the fish you have. It is the ammonia and nitrite that are toxic, and the cycling has to run its course. Daily water changes of 50% to keep ammonia below .25 and nitrite below .25 when it starts to spike are fine; use a good declorinator--one that detoxifies ammonia as well as chlorine, chloramine and heavy metals is a good idea; some like Prime also detoxify nitrite.

Lastly--you are not a pain. Keep asking questions, and keep us posted. We are here to offer help, we have all gone through these cycling issues.

And welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping.


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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