I am a newbie for starting a tank. I purchased a 10 g aquarium on the last week of may. I also got started with a top fin 10g filter and the store owner suggested I get some live bacteria to help speed the cycling process. I also purchased some sand for the bottom with live bacteria, a few fake plants and a greek urn figure for them to swim around in. I was told that cycling usually take between 6 to 8 weeks and I had to wait until then to get some cichlids which i adore. So, the fish store lady was kind enough to tell me that after a week to get some starter fish to help with the cycling process. I picked some colorful platy fish. I was warned that most of them could die but not to worry about it. I bought 4 fish. About a week later the first one died. I brought my water in to be tested and they told me that the ammonia was starting to rise and that was normal. They told me to get a few more fish so I got two more platys. They also told me to start monitoring and testing the water regularly.
Four weeks into the cycling, another fish died. I also noticed that my fish appeared to be covered in small white bubbles, which i assumed were from the filter. I am a Microbiology major in college, so I became more curious about the little white spots. It turned out after consulting a friend, they were the dreaded ICH! I read more about it and found out that when your fish are super stressed, the ICH can come out and eventually the dam parasite will kill your fish. So my next trip back to the fish store, I showed the owner the pictures I took of my fish who confirmed the ICH. She said she did not want to put medicine in my tank unless absolutely necessary because it could disrupt the cycling process. She recommended I put a tablespoon of aquarium salt daily and get a heater for my tank to maintain a constant temperature. I did this for a week keeping my temperature at a constant 81 degrees, but the fish still looked like they were struggling. I went back and asked her to check my water. The ammonia levels were off the charts, which I suspected. She gave me some PRIME which is supposed to remove chlorine, ammonia, nitrate and nitrites and told me to double does the bacteria I add once weekly. Also to come back in another week to test my water.
7/3/09: ammonia was off charts, nitrite was at 0.5, nitrate was at 0, ph was at 7.8
Six weeks into cycling, my fish looked better and ICH was gone. One of the fish which was originally infected pretty bad died and two days later another one died. (just to clarify the fish were taken out the day the died not left in there for a while to accumulate ammonia) I am down to 2 fish and I tested my water again. The fish store staff assured me this was completely normal. They told me that I should be excited because my tank was progressing with the cycling process nicely. The owner said she did not want my fish to die, so to go home and do a 1/3 water change and add two capfuls of prime. Then to come back the next day and test my water again.
7/14/09: ammonia 0.2, nitrite 0.6, nitrate 10 and pH 7.9
7/15/09: ammonia 0.2, nitrite 0.2, nitrate 10 and pH 7.8
She told me that on 7/15 that it looked well and I could put fish in it, but she suggested I wait one more week to make sure conditions were perfect.
On 7/22, I went in to test my water because I was worried about my fish. They were hovering on the bottom of the tank and not moving much. My water tested at ammonia 0.6, nitrite 0.1 and nitrate at 10 with a pH of 7.8. The fish owner asked me what I had done wrong, because my ammonia went up again and now I could not get fish. She asked how much I was feeding them, which was what they told me 1 flake a fish to prevent food on bottom. She asked when I took the dead fish out like if I left them in my tank for a few days which I responded no. She said then she could not explain why ammonia was up and she recommended me get a bio-wheel in addtion to the cheap top fin filter. I purchased a bio-wheel 100 and she told me to set it up and wait a week again. I got home and set it up (my fish tank is on the side of my bed) and that dam filter is so loud I could not sleep. I called her back and she told me to fiddle with the intake and make sure everything was tight. I did that and there is no change. Is it supposed to be kind lound with a crackiling grinding sound? I was wondering if I should return it. I'm not sure what they are supposed to sound like, but my top fin one is completely silent and runs smoothly. I also am worried because I have no idea now when my tank is going to be finished cycling and these people can't tell me why its not finished. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!