Cycle from hell!! Please help!
Hello to all. I am new to this forum, and I am looking for some help with my fishless cycle. Basically, I started cycling my new 200L tank on the 27th June, using Kleen Off ammonia, using the add and wait method, and began dosing at 4ppm. Everything seemed to be going well, and I got the off the chart nitrIte reading after a while (API liquid kit), and before long, I saw nitrAte, and I was redosing 2ppm of ammonia every time I got back to zero. Them my PH crashed, down to about 6, and as I later discovered my KH/GH was near nada, so I did a big 90% WC (with temp matched, dechlor water of course), and this seemed to do me quite well, as my PH was back up into the mid 7's, and I was staring to clear all ammonia and nitrite within 12 hours.
Then suddenly, things started to slow down a bit. My PH keeps falling, and I have been having to add bicarbonate of soda to help buffer the tank and bring it back up. My ammonia is continually dosed back to 2ppm, everytime it falls to zero (but only once in a 24 hour period). Recently, 2ppm of ammonia has been taking about 18-20 hours to clear, and PH keeps slowly falling back into the low 6's. I did another 50% water change just over a week ago on the advise of some people on another forum, and it didn't seem to do much of anything. Nitrate was back down to about 40ppm afterward, and PH was about 7.2, but again, it slowly fell to 6.4 again. Added some more BOS a few days ago, and my PH is now sitting at 7.6, which is fine. I dosed another 2ppm of ammonia last night, tested 12 hours later, and it was still at .50ppm. As I just got home, I have retested again, and everything is currently at:
I am obviously getting a bit frustrated now because it's almost been two months, and I can't clear 2ppm of ammonia in 12 hours, and my PH keeps crashing. Like I mentioned, after I did the 90% WC, the ammonia and nitrate were both clearing in 12 hours for a few days, but then it stalled again. I am obviously waiting until it can clear within 12 hours for 7 consecutive days before I ass any fish. Can anyone see anything wrong that I have been doing, and is seven weeks normal to cycle a tank??
Other bits of info, my temp is about 86F/30C, and my filter outlet is slightly raised to create more aeration/surface movement. Only one live plant in the tank right now, which is doing fine. Play sand is the substrate. Thanks.
First off, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.:-D
There are two issues here, the cycling and the pH. Fortunately there are no fish in the tank (I assume this from your post) as they would be dead by now from either problem.
I'm going to concentrate on the pH as this needs to be stabilized, and using chemicals or baking soda is not the way to do it. Long-term use of baking soda will be problematical.
It is important to have a basic understanding of the relationship between pH, GH and KH/Alkalinity. For this, i am going to refer you to my article in the Freshwater Articles section, here's the direct link:
The afore-mentioned issues are covered in this, so it should give you a better understanding of what's going on.
Then, we need to know the GH, KH and pH of your source water, presumably tap. This will tell us what to expect with respect to the pH fluctuating.
The cycling we can deal with when the water chemistry is stable, otherwise we are just pitting two problems at each other. But looking ahead, what fish do you plan for this aquarium, and are live plants in the plan? If yes on the plants, we can skip the "cycle" altogether, as I can explain later.
I can give you a reading of my PH, GH/KH of my tap water, but I can't really do that until 24 hours from now, as I have no tap water sitting out, and I know that PH can be quite different straight out of the tap from my understanding?
The tank I am planning is a S. American tank, and my stocking plans are basically:
2 x bristlenose plecs
pair or trio of apistogramma cacatuoides
cardinal tertras (about 10-14)
6 x marble hatchetfish (tank has lid)
a pair of angels (when I can find a pair, after the tank is established for a few months)
I am planning on planting the tank, but only moderately, not heavily, with cambomba, vallisenria, some amazon sword, and some type of floating plant, i.e.. water lettuce. Driftwood being the main hardscape. Since I am going the route of fishless cycling with ammonia, I was planning on adding the plants just before stocking, rather than doing a 'silent cycle' type of cycle. Not planning on running co2, just dosing liquid ferts like TNC Lite, and using some root tabs.
But the last time I tested the tank water, the KH was 4 and GH 3.
It sounds to me like you could save yourself a lot of this grief by cycling the tank with live plants. That's what I did, and aside from a few bacteria blooms, it wasn't too bad.
What I am wondering, is if the rule of being able to process 2ppm of ammonia and nitrite within 10-12 hours is definitely sound as far as being fully cycled? That's what i have been told on another forum, but I have also heard some people say within 24 hours is okay?
When I do add livestock after a big WC to get rid of nitrates, I am not planning of fully stocking. Was thinking of adding the plecs and the apistogramma first, then the hatchets later, and the cardinals and angels last. I know plecs can be quite messy, but I am assuming a cycled canister filter can handle a couple of juveniles and some dwarf cichlids?
All the plants mentioned are relatively fast growing, so planting these first will allow you to add a few fish gradually without "cycling" as such. Plants need nitrogen, and aquarium plants prefer it as ammonium (ammonia changes to ammonium in acidic water, and plants can grab either). With sufficient plants and few fish, you will not detect a "cycle" and avoid all that.
The fish mentioned prefer soft water and slightly acidic pH, so this will be fine. No need to be fussing over this.
Tap water GH and KH will not change, so you can measure this straight out of the tap. The pH can vary due to the CO2, so either letting some water sit out or more easily by briskly shaking some to dissipate the CO2 will result in a more accurate reading.
The GH of 3 is a bit low for plants (fish will be fine) as it means the "hard" minerals (calcium, magnesium) will be minimal, but with a good complete fertilizer this may be fine. I would try it for a couple weeks before messing with the addition of hard minerals.
You might want to think twice about a pair of angelfish. Have a look at the profile.
Why the concern about the angelfish? The only reason I was considering a pair is that I have been told that a 200L tank would be too small for a group of 5 scalare? I have kept angels before, and I was thinking of keeping them as my centerpiece fish. I thought that my stocking was okay, but I was told that 5 would be to many, hence the pair.
Ph of water from the tap that has been sat out for 24hrs+: 7.2
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