Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Chaotic 12-24-2007 02:18 PM

Ammonia - not typical
Hello all, I'm new here, but not new to keeping fish, but I have something odd going on. I have a 120g tank that has been running for about a month. I have about 75lbs of gravel on under-gravel filters, canister filter with the discharge going in to a wet/dry.

A week after it was up I put in 2 Corydoras from another tank. They did not do well at all, but they looked like they were suffering from ammonia... I didn't test before putting them in, I didn't feel the need. I tested the water and the reading was well above 8ppm, which was as high as my test kit registered. Not believing this could be the issue I picked up another ammonia test kit and got the same results.

The tank has now been running for 3 of its 4 weeks with no fish at all in it and the ammonia is still off the charts... There is no uneaten food in the tank, as nothing had been in there long enough to be fed. I don't understand where this is coming from. I keep thinking it has to go down sooner or later, but so far nothing.

fish_4_all 12-24-2007 02:37 PM

Well, that is a little odd. My first thought would be that there is some sort of cantiminant that is killing the bacteria. It could be a trace of soap or some other anti bacterial substance that accidentally got in the tank. It is also possible that the wet dry filter could be doing the same thing. A more detailed description of all your parts could help us to get to the root of the problem.

Temperature needs to be between 75-80F for optimul bacterial growth.
There needs to be plenty of oxygen exchange, which you should have already with the wet/dry.

If you have not seen any trace of nitrites, then there has to be something that is preventing the bacteria from establishing itself. Try taking some gravel from the other tnak putting it in some old nylons and putting that in either the wet/dry or in the tnak itself and see if that helps.

Chaotic 12-24-2007 05:25 PM

I rinsed everything with well water (only) before setting up.

I have a couple of 6' air stones in the tank as well as the wet/dry, so oxygen exchange is fine as you said.

Nitrites are rising rapidly, so I know nitrosonomas are converting to nitrite.

Also nitrate is starting to come up, so there's my nitrobacter.

Water temp is 77F and quite stable due to the size of the tank.

The only thing that isn't new is the gravel. It came out of a fish shop that was closing down, it was rinsed and stored in old salt buckets. When I pulled it out I rinsed it and put it in the tank. This is the only thing I can think that could be holding ammonia, but I don't see how it could hold it for so long and after being rinsed.

Fast351 12-24-2007 06:27 PM

Not sure why it took so long for the bacteria to form (maybe there was something in the water killing the bacteria that's now gone, chlorine eventually evaporates for example).

It sounds to me that you're roughly at day 12 on that graph.

I would wait a few more days, I bet you'll all of a sudden see your ammonia go to 0. I cycled my tank with barbs and used some resin to keep the ammonia under control, but for me it was just like you described. Nitrites went through the roof and nitrates became measurable. All of a sudden 2 days later the ammonia went to 0.


Chaotic 12-24-2007 10:09 PM

I set the tank up on november 17th. We have well water, so no chlorine. I've cycled many tanks on this water and never seen this before. Over the years I've had probably 30 tanks of various sizes, bred angels and discus (had to collect rain water for that adventure oy vey!).

Ammonia should be gone by now, especially since I only put 2 small fish in 120 gallons and did not have them in there long enough to feed them. In fact I put the cory's in the day after thanksgiving and pulled them late that night.

fish_4_all 12-25-2007 01:05 AM

Well there is the off chance that there was something organic left over in the substrate from the LFS. This could have produced for a while and could still be producing ammonia to some extent.

The best thought right now is patience. It sounds like the cycle is going according to some plan since all the components are there. May just be one of those off the wall things that happens in the hobby that we never figure out an explanation for. Keep an eye on your ammonia to see if it does start to drop. If it does start to drop, then you are well on your way to a finished cycle. Just make sure to add ammonia or food when you do see the ammonia levels drop to keep the cycle going in preparation for adding more fish.

Like when I cycled 2 tanks side by side doing a fishless cycle for the first time. Both tanks were exactly the same and one cycled in 3 weeks where the other showed signs of ammonia for 2 months. Just never know until how things will happen sometimes.

Chaotic 12-25-2007 11:40 AM

I've never cycled without fish. Can I add plain ammonia? I assume this is something I can pick up at the store?

Merry Christmas everyone!

fish_4_all 12-25-2007 03:02 PM

I think it is 2-3 drops of plain ammonia per 10 gallons but remember for sure. Check out the sticky at the top of this section and it has the details.

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