Our Tank Hasn't Started Cycling - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 11 Old 07-03-2012, 07:51 AM Thread Starter
Question Our Tank Hasn't Started Cycling

I'm trying to work out whether my tank is going to cycle or not. It has been running for over 3 weeks now, and I still haven't seen an nitrites in the tank.

I've kept a log of levels for pH, ammonia, nitrites & nitrates of the tank.

We initially started trying to see the tank using tropical fish food flakes, and when we failed to get a decent ammonia reading, we tried seeding the tank with a raw prawn in a stocking. The prawn was in the tank for about 5 days to get the ammonia reading.

We have had a decent ammonia reading for almost 2 weeks now, and no nitrites have formed. Over the last two weeks I have been adding Seachem Stability once a day to provide bacteria to the tank, but it doesn't seem to have had any effect.

The steps and time frame for all these actions has been summarised in a Google Docs spreadsheet - http://bit.ly/itsb-fish
Some have suggested buying some media from my local fish shop from an established tank to try kick starting the cycle given that it hasn't started yet.

Alternatively we are considering emptying the tank, letting it dry out, and possibly starting again, hopefully with a better end result.

What other options are open to us so we can get fish in our tank?
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post #2 of 11 Old 07-03-2012, 09:29 AM
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The cycle usually takes a minimum of 4 weeks, but up to 8 weeks to complete. The Ammonia -> Nitrite leg of the cycle I think takes longer than Nitrite -> Nitrate (at least in what I've seen myself).

On the Nitrate test, do you shake & knock the #2 bottle for awhile? The directions say 30 seconds, but most say to do up to 2 minutes. Without it being well mixed, I believe it will give a low reading.

Also, do you have any live plants?
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post #3 of 11 Old 07-03-2012, 10:09 AM
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First of all, I'm extremely impressed with the spreadsheet...kudos to you!

Second, I am one of those who didn't know about the cycling process when I first set up my 55G and ended up doing a live cycle with 6 fish, 3 of those I lost...I know it is a long process but at least you aren't losing fish, it was pretty hard to deal with the fact that I was pretty much endangering my fish and killed them.

Third, it seemed like FOREVER when my tank was cycling, and I didn't even know when it was happening until the nitrites spiked. It took close to a month and a half, maybe 2 months for my tank to finally stabilize and now my fish are thriving. Just keep doing what you're doing and it'll get there. Personally, if it was me and I might be wrong about it, I would stop adding the bacteria, if your water clouded then you probably already had a good bacterial bloom happen. But I've only been in the hobby for about 3 months so I could be wrong.

Good Luck!
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post #4 of 11 Old 07-03-2012, 11:20 AM
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Live plants is the only safe method, and you can add a few fish from the start provided you have sufficient plants and some of them are fast-growing (floating plants are ideal).

Establishment of the nitrifying bacteria Nitrosomonas and Nitrospira varies from tank to tank due to several factors including temperature, pH, water chemistry, etc. But with live plants, all this is a mute point.

I personally would never use "stuff" from anyone else's tanks (store, friend, etc) as you may well be introducing pathogens you will regret. Even media from your own tanks can be problematic. A true bacterial supplement will help, Seachem's Stability, Tetra's SafeStart, or Dr Tim's One and Only all work. Some others may, but these three are 100% live bacteria and they do speed up the cycling--which is not the same as "instant cycling" which only the latter does claim.

Byron.

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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post #5 of 11 Old 07-03-2012, 01:23 PM
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Patience. It took mine over 8 weeks for nitrites to spike. Our situations are different, but it will happen.

Consider the needs of your fish before acting on your desires.
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post #6 of 11 Old 07-03-2012, 07:33 PM Thread Starter
Thanks for the comments guys.

First of all, we don't have any plant life in the aquarium at all. I was informed NOT to do this because plants take up the nitrogen from ammonia, nitrites and nitrates and thus leaves less food for the bacteria to establish from. This came from a guy with 25+ yrs experience.

I understand that it takes time to eventually cycle, but after a week of ammonia readings, I expected to start to see some nitrites by now, we are still yet to see that, even with adding Seachem Stability (which I thought added bacteria).

As for the bacterial bloom, if the cloudiness of the tank was caused by the bloom, would we not be seeing nitrites & nitrates already?

Something smells fishy (pardon the pun), and for some reason something doesn't feel right about my tank.
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post #7 of 11 Old 07-03-2012, 08:15 PM
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Quote:
First of all, we don't have any plant life in the aquarium at all. I was informed NOT to do this because plants take up the nitrogen from ammonia, nitrites and nitrates and thus leaves less food for the bacteria to establish from. This came from a guy with 25+ yrs experience.
But very limited experience. What is the purpose of cycling? To establish a colony of Nitrosomonas and Nitrospira bacteria sufficient to handle the ammonia/nitrite ocurring in the tank. This will develop in relation to the available food (ammonia/nitrite). Introducing live plants from day one means you can have fish in the tank from day one with absolutely no ill effects on them. And the bacteria will still establish, though at a lower level since the plants out-compete them for the initial ammonia/ammonium. The tank will establish and settle faster. I too have 25+ years at this, and I have always put plants in my tanks and I have never had ammonia or nitrite above zero, ever, in all those years.

Quote:
I understand that it takes time to eventually cycle, but after a week of ammonia readings, I expected to start to see some nitrites by now, we are still yet to see that, even with adding Seachem Stability (which I thought added bacteria).
Every tank is different, because we are dealing with nature, and it is not artificial but very specific. The interaction of so many different factors is almost impossible for anyone but a professional biologist to fathom. Which is why one reads that cycling normally takes from 2 to 8 weeks. Not very specific; and this is "normally," there being the un-normal too.

Quote:
As for the bacterial bloom, if the cloudiness of the tank was caused by the bloom, would we not be seeing nitrites & nitrates already?
No. This is very different bacteria. At this point, i suggest you read my article on bacteria, as it sets out the many different types and what they each do, or can do.
http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/f...quarium-74891/
That should make it "clear."

Byron.

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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post #8 of 11 Old 07-03-2012, 11:28 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Byron View Post
I have always put plants in my tanks and I have never had ammonia or nitrite above zero, ever, in all those years.
So you would recommend adding plants when a tank is started, so that fish can be added from Day 1? To avoid empty tank syndrome for beginners?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Byron View Post
Which is why one reads that cycling normally takes from 2 to 8 weeks. Not very specific; and this is "normally," there being the un-normal too.
This is the annoying part having to wait.

As I said, I would have expected some form of nitrites appearing now, even minor levels but I haven't seen a single on, yet other people have seen both ammonia and nitrites within a week of starting, without plants, this is the frustrating part considering I have had my tank 3 weeks.
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post #9 of 11 Old 07-04-2012, 07:21 AM Thread Starter
Quick question, since I'm still getting ammonia readings, means I don't have nitrifying bacteria. Where exactly do they come from in an aquarium to start the nitrogen cycle?
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post #10 of 11 Old 07-04-2012, 01:30 PM
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Quote:
So you would recommend adding plants when a tank is started, so that fish can be added from Day 1? To avoid empty tank syndrome for beginners?
This is the annoying part having to wait.
Yes. As an example, I reset five of my tanks this past year, replacing the substrate in each. And the filter media was either replaced (pads) or washing under the tap each time, so obviously that killed/removed all bacteria. I plant fully on day 1, and in go the fish.

Now, as someone once told me, after 20+ years I know what I am doing when setting up a new tank; so my advice to others that are at the beginning stage with fish tanks is to go slow with this. I know how many and which species of plants will handle which species and number of fish. But for those starting out, well planted and then a few fish and gradually building is safer.

Quote:
As I said, I would have expected some form of nitrites appearing now, even minor levels but I haven't seen a single on, yet other people have seen both ammonia and nitrites within a week of starting, without plants, this is the frustrating part considering I have had my tank 3 weeks.
As I said previously, each tank is different. I've no idea what may be in your tap water; what temperature; what pH; did you use dechlorinator; etc.

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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