New tank - is my Nitrogen cycle established?
I recently started my first tropical aquarium. It's a 68L (15 Gallon) tank and I've had it up and running for 4 weeks (it is an Askoll Pure Large).
I've been using the API master test kit to test for Ammonia/Nitrate/Nitrite and I've always had a reading of 0 for all of them, does this mean that the Nitrogen cycle has been established? I have been advised that I may not see a spike during my first month.
I was advised by my local fish dealer to add fish after a week to speed up the nitrogen cycle. I added 6 guppies after a week and (not surprisingly) lost a few. A week later I added 2 dwarf gouramis and last week 8 diamond neon tetras.
Apart from the fish I have ~10 live plants, 3 pieces of bogwood (which I soaked prior to adding to remove the tannins) and some lava rock.
Are the readings 0 because I have bacteria? How likely is it I'd never see any of them reading above 0 during this time? If I should have seen above 0, is there another reason that I'm not seeing any of them registering?
Sounds to me like you are established, but I am a newbie too.
How often have you tested the water over the past 4 weeks?
During the first week, before you added the guppies, did you add anything to provide an ammonia source (fish food, a piece of shrimp, ammonia)?
Right after the guppies died, did you check your water parameters?
As the tank cycles you should have received readings from the tests on your Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrates.
With roughly 15 fish currently in the tank and readings of 0 it would seem that the tank has cycled, otherwise you'd see parameter readings or dead fish or both if the tank wasn't cycled.
However it seems puzzling to me that through the entire process you never encountered readings...
And I forgot something: WELCOME to the Tropical Fishkeeping Forum!
The usual way to tell is: if you're seeing a rise in nitrate every week, then your tank is cycled.
But, if you have enough plants, you may not even see this.
A lot of people, myself included, have to ADD nitrate to their tanks as the plants just eat it up....
Not all plants are equal in ammonia-processing. Ten Anubias or Java fern is not the same as ten Watersprite or Hornwort.
The end result of a functioning nitrogen cycle is nitrate. Depending on stock, this should increase measurably between weekly pwc's.
Plants mostly eat ammonia, so nitrates never occur. I can't imagine adding nitrates for any reason. Why are you doing that?
Therefore I dose with Potassium Nitrate (dry fert) to 5.0 ppm which prevents the cyano.
Didn't add anything during the first week except plants etc, I was advised that adding fish would be fine (since read a lot of information to the contrary!).
Yes, after the first guppy died I took a water sample to my local supplier and they tested ammonia, nitrate, nitrite and PH. They said PH was a little high and the rest were 0 so they gave me a little starter bacteria to add in to help kick start everything.
My last tank also didn't really spike eitherand I think it was due to using some "dirty water" from another aquarium filter and that it was heavily planted. Sounds like you may be experiencing the same thing.
After 4 weeks you should be ok to do a water change. Nonetheless, I'd keep monitoring ammonia and nitrite levels.
Using dirty water does nothing much more than transfer dirty water as the micro organisms are adhered to the various surfaces in the tank creating a biofilm, not free floating in the water. While there may be some stragglers that do get transferred, they are not enough to make any significant difference in the cycling process.
With 10 plants, even the plants that you have, if you haven't added a bunch of ammonia directly, you could expect to see little to no spiking in ammonia and little to no spiking of nitrites either. Also, the nitrates will build up much more slowly as the plants circumvent the whole cycle by absorbing ammonia before it gets oxidized into nitrite and will use some amount of nitrate on the backside. I have yet to test anything over 5ppm nitrate in one tank even after extended periods between water changes. Some higher energy tanks (lots of light, CO2 injection and fertilization) will run dry of nitrates as well... as mentioned already.
The idea behind not doing water changes during a cycle is to maximize the amount of ammonia concentration for the ammonia oxidizers... which is counter productive if you are in a hurry or trying to do a fish in cycle.
As soon as there are fish involved, water changes should commence:
- If levels are measurable, then every day or two while using a conditioner like Prime that renders the ammonia and nitrites non-toxic to the fish.This allows the fish in cycle to provide ammonia to the growing micro organisms while protecting the fish from the effects of the toxins.
- If levels are not measurable then whatever your schedule may eventually be.
Doing changes will not stall or affect the cycle if there is a regular source of ammonia production in the tank (fish and fish waste). In pure ammonia cycling you are effectively bringing the concentration up by adding ammonia and in that case changing the water is only advisable if the concentration reaches or exceeds 1ppm.
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