New 10 gallon: advice needed on fishless cycling and stocking
I'm new here! 8) I bought a 10 gallon tank kit back in April and have been on a long road to actually owning fish. So far, I have no real experience with an aquarium... I've just had a couple of bowl bettas before I knew any better. Initially I set up the tank for a fishless cycle but added too much ammonia so I tore everything down, rinsed it and patched a small leak while it was empty. I restarted the tank on May 23rd and added ammonia 2 days later to begin the fishless cycle again. Anyhow, long story short, I still haven't seen any nitrites and it has been over 4 weeks. I know that it can take up to 8 weeks, but I have some questions regarding the process-- I live in Arizona so the water from the tank evaporates VERY quickly. Will it stall the cycle if I am adding water to keep it at a reasonable height even if I am maintaining 5 ppm ammonia until nitrites show? Also, I changed the filter cartridge after 3 weeks which I have since read was probably a bad move. I thought the bacterial colonies would form in the permanent media, but I was hoping to get some info on this.
I was also wanting some opinions on stocking the tank once the cycling business is behind me (I'm so impatient!!)... I know I want a male dwarf gourami and hopefully 3 leopard cories if I can find them nearby, but I haven't had any luck yet. In addition to those, I'm thinking of either trying a small school of 5 cardinal tetras or about 4 sunset platies. Thoughts/opinions on this would be appreciated, especially if it looks like I might border on overstocking.
Thanks so much for reading this novel! I will try not to be so long-winded in the future! :-D I have attached a picture of my set up, so suggestions on that are also welcome (especially regarding the marbles in the substrate and how that might work with the cories)! The pictures are off of my phone, so sorry about the quality!
Hello & welcome to the forum.
Although topping off the tank with new water should not kill your cycle, to be on the safe side I would declorinate first.
Changing out the media, was a bad move. A lot of the bacteria you need grows on the filter media. Make the media last as long as you can. If it looks dirty, you can clean it off in some tank water.
Not sure whats going on with the cycle. Does the ammonia drop during the day? Do you have to keep adding ammonia every day?
Yeah, I make sure to dechlorinate the water that I use to top off the tank. Ammonia levels really haven't changed much, but usually I add a drop or two if I add water... I'm using 10% strength and the directions I'm following say to add just enough to keep the level at 5 ppm until nitrites show, then to back off to 3 ppm until nitrates appear. I should also point out that I did not seed the tank with anything... I guess I'll keep waiting but I really hope it happens soon. Thanks for the feedback! :-)
If there is a consistent source of ammonia, the nitrosomonas bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrite should appear within 5-8 days. Once they do, the nitrospira [science now believes this is the bacteria, not nitrobacter] bacteria will begin to appear and within another 4-7 days and the nitrite readings will peak and then drop back to "0". However, the cycling process can take from 2-8 weeks depending upon this and that.
Removing the filter media would have set the cycle back, perhaps completely. These two types of bacteria colonize all the surfaces in the tank, but since water is continually passing through the filter, bringing oxygen with it, it is in the filter that many of the bacteria first appear and the cycling sets off. During the cycling period, when you do the wekly partial water changes don't vacuum the substrate, and don't change or rinse the filter (it won't need rinsing for the cycling period, unless something happens to create a mess of debris), all aimed to keep the bacteria multiplying.
Are you sure you're adding the same amount of ammonia every day? And what are the test readings?
No, I don't add ammonia every day... according to the directions I'm following I only add ammonia if I drop below 5 ppm. I also don't exactly do water changes, I just add some water once a week because so much evaporates that the water level drops probably an inch per week. So, I only add a few drops if I add water so as to keep the ammonia level at 5 ppm. Anyway, I guess I shouldn't have changed the filter cartridge after three weeks... so I should leave that alone until after it cycles and then I change it every 3-4 weeks?
My water test readings say that I have no nitrites, nitrates, or chlorine. I have 5 ppm ammonia with a pH between 7.2 and 7.8... I also have hard water. Thanks again!
Here's the link to the directions I'm following for my fishless cycle:
Freshwater Fishless Cycling - Rate My Fish Tank
Not sure why your pH fluctuates; what is the pH of your tap water? If there is something in the gravel making it rise you might want to look into it, but let's know your tap water pH first.
Looking to the future, I personally do not believe in replacing filter media until it literally falls apart or is useless. I'm referring to the wool pads or foam that traps particulate matter. Once the tank is cycled and has fish, this material should only be rinsed (in tank water or with declorinated tap water at close to the same temperature as the tank water) when it is necessary, that is, when the trapped matter impedes the flow of water. This won't occur for sure until there are fish in the tank. Filter makers tell you to replace the media regularly, but I'm afraid they are only trying to sell their stuff. Filtration is mechanical (removing particulate matter from the water) and biological (the bacteria that colonize everything in the tank). Rinsing the media to remove the particulate matter (but not the good bacteria) is all the filter cleaning necessary. A third type of filtration is chemical, where the water passes through some type of chemical medium, like carbon. I never use this, and it is not necessary unless for a specific purpose (clearing medications or toxic substances in an emergency). And in a planted tank carbon should never be used as it removes nitrates (until it wears out, which is fairly quick, hence the instructions to keep replacing it).
On another future note, as you have hard water there will be mineral deposits from the evaporated water. Once fish are in the tank, the water should be partially changed and not just replaced so that these minerals do not build up.
If it is now about a week since the filter replacement, the nitrosomonas should be establishing themselves and the ammonia will start to fall. Then the nitrite will rise and then fall as I said before. I think you're on the right track, hang in there.
Okay cool, thanks for the advice. On the pH, I just meant that it fell between 7.2 and 7.8 on the color guide when I tested using strips, not that it was fluctuating. I just got the API master liquid test kit so I will have to get a more precise reading with that. The ammonia and nitrite testing has been done with the API test though. Anyway, I guess I will just be patient and I will let everyone know what happens. :-)
Any comments on stocking and set up are still welcome! ;-)
As for your suggested fish, I would just point out that your water is slightly basic (alkaline we used to call it) so livebearers would be right at home with the pH and hardness. Cardinal tetras can be adapted to this type of water, but with some reservations. They are acidic water fish, strongly so (the Rio Negro where the Brazilian form lives has a pH of 3.5 to 5 depending upon the specific site) and most of the cardinals are wild caught. Aside from this, in hard water they are known to develop blockage of the kidney tubes by calcium salts. I am sure there are others who say never mind, but I don't like pushing the bounds of fish too far for their health and well-being. There are safe methods of acidifying/softening water, namely peat filtration and RO units, if you really want to go that way. Do not use the chemicals to lower pH, they work short-term (less than 24 hours) but the natural buffers in your water will cause the pH to jump back up and a fluctuating pH is worse on any fish species.
It has been years since I've had gouramis, but I recall some other posts recently that mention some issues with tetras and other fish, but I'll leave it for those more familiar with gouramis to comment.
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