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Joe 06-26-2009 12:12 PM

New Aquarium owner - possible cycling problems
Hey everyone. Just to give you a quick background of my situation before I ask some questions...

I bought my first 46 gal aquarium some time ago and finally got it all set up. The aquarium came with a heater and I bought an emperor 400 filter, some rock, fake plants and a fake log. Anyway I filled the aquarium with water and got the filter running. Having looked up several articles on fishless cycling I decided to go the pure ammonia route. I picked up (what i thought was) clear pure ammonia from the grocery store and put in several drops. Well I noticed the next day that there were a decent amount of bubbles on top of the water and on the bio-wheels and the water was cloudy. This didn't seem right so I looked into it further and sure enough the ammonia had 'surfactant'. Doing further research on it came up with this definition: "Surfactants are wetting agents that lower the surface tension of a liquid, allowing easier spreading, and lower the interfacial tension " I assumed this was fine as it wasn't described as a detergent but then stumbled on a forum post that specifically said to avoid any ammonia with surtactants, dyes, scents, detergents, ect... Anyway, long story long, I ditched the ammonia and picked up actual pure ammonia at Ames. I brought the ppm level to 5+ (according to my test kit) and added activated charcoal to the 2 extra blank filters provided with the emperor. Well that seemed to clear up the cloudy water and the bubbles and it now looks great. The only thing is its been 3 weeks since I started the process and I still do not have any reduction in ammonia levels...

Basically if you read all that, did I screw it up from the start with that original ammonia or am I just being impatient with the cycle time? I really don't want to do a full water change and start all over again. I have read cycle times anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 weeks which is quite the spread and I don't want to wait 4+ weeks to find out that I am SOL. Anyone make this mistake with Ammonia and have it cycle just fine? Man the Aquarium looks great! just needs fish!

Arkamaic 06-27-2009 12:39 AM

Have you tested for nitrites at all? If not, do that first, see what it says, also maybe try a water change if no results.

Not sure about the surfactant situation though, maybe it did throw things off balance.

Joe 07-01-2009 10:02 AM


Originally Posted by Arkamaic (Post 209320)
Have you tested for nitrites at all? If not, do that first, see what it says, also maybe try a water change if no results.

Not sure about the surfactant situation though, maybe it did throw things off balance.

No luck, tested the water yesterday after almost 4 weeks and the ammonia level is still at 5ppm and the Nitrite is 0. It doesn't appear that any bacteria seem to be growing as it isn't even gradually coming down from the 5ppm Ammonia level. This is definitely frustrating as its a great looking tank just sitting there and running in my living room fishless...

Maybe I will try a water change but I am pretty sure the Ammonia levels are only at 5ppm and not more (it is hard to tell in the tester as dark green is dark green...)

ashalon24 07-04-2009 02:17 PM

I would try a considerable water change and see what happens

Joe 07-06-2009 03:26 PM

Well on the 4th I put a few gallons of treated water in the tank to compensate for all the evaporation over the last month or so. I cleaned out the jets of the filter and turned it all back on again. I decided to give it another week before doing a huge water change and sure enough (4th of July luck?) I tested for ammonia and the level had come down quite a bit. I brushed it off as possible being diluted from the new water I added but checked for nitrites anyway... sure enough, it shot from light blue (0ppm) through the roof! and was dark purple... Maybe the wrong ammonia just delayed the cycle and I was too impatient but after almost 5 weeks I have my nitrite spike and I will monitor for nitrates coming up. Look out for future fish questions when I am finally ready to start stocking...

SinCrisis 07-07-2009 12:47 PM

first off, welcome to the forums, secondly, even though your tank is cycling, i would recommend several large water changes during the cycle period. Even though it would impede your cycle, the surfactant may harm your fish. Also, if surfactant does not evaporate, the same or similar concentration of the chemical may still be in your tank.

Joe 07-16-2009 11:46 AM

So a strang thing is happening while testing my cycle. I use an Aquarium Pharmaceuticals test kit with the drops and test tubes.

At the beggining of the cycle when I hadn't even developed any bacteria for the ammonia I testing for nitrites just for fun. The drops went in blue and stayed blue at the end of 5min like they should for 0ppm. Well now that I spiked I've been testing daily. I noticed that when the drops go in they immediately turn a dark purple which means its 5+ppm. When the spike happened this stayed purple. Lately I've been watching closely hoping the spike will come down and sure enough every time I test for nitrites now the drops go in dark purple but after the 5 min wait the water is light blue? This doesn't make any sense to me and I don't know if this means they came down to 0ppm or not. Logic says the drops should never turn purple if there is no nitrite to react with. Anyone have this test kit of have any idea what this means?

Unrulyevil 07-16-2009 12:19 PM

I'm thinking that you delayed "killed off" good bacterial grow with that thing that you put in first time, and now slowly but surely it's coming back. If you want to speed up the process I recommend you get "Cycle" from any pet store and add it to you tank. It will colonize your tank and make it goooooood :)

Romad 07-16-2009 12:34 PM

Hey Joe,

My fishless cycling was taking forever too so my local fish store gave me a nice big gloppy hunk of filter medium that he took out of one of his big tanks. I put that in the back of my filter (i have a bio-wheel 200) and within 4-5 days, I was fully cycled.

Maybe you can find a good LFS in your area if you don't know of one already. They're usually happy to give you some biological gunk.

Good luck.

Joe 07-19-2009 09:27 AM

Well sure enough I thought the cycle was over because my nitrite tests kept turning light blue (0ppm) so I did an 80% water change and just for the heck of it I put a tiny but of ammonia back in the tank. Tested it a few hours later, 8 hours later, and then this morning and the ammonia is long gone but the nitrite insn't going anywhere. It's still dark purple (5ppm). I can't honestly explain this, it really doesn't make any sense. 2 months later and still no finished cycle. I will head down to the local fish shop and try a couple of your suggestions.

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