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paxt0n 11-25-2009 09:13 AM

Confused about cycling and ammonia levels
 
Hello,

I have read many of the stickies about cycling and setting up a new aquarium, but I am still confused by the varying information I am receiving from different sources.

I went to a fish store the other night, to get some starter fish and was told:

1. Do 50% water changes every week for the first two months.
2. Feed VERY little food, every other day. After the first two months you can feed them every day.
3. There should be NO ammonia in your tank, because the Ph level of our water makes it even more deadly (it's around 7.2/7.4)


I've read a book about freshwater aquariums that says nothing about doing water changes while your tank is "setting up", and it says that ammonia may spike to 4.0 before it starts going down.

The information provided in the API Master Test Kit also says that ammonia may spike to 4.0 before going down.

The Nitrogen Cycle care sheet from Petco says that Ammonia should stay below .06 during the first two weeks and be zero after that.

I've also read in other places NOT to use any chemicals to stabilize ammonia levels, because this will supposedly DRAMATICALLY slow down the nitrogen cycle of the tank.

So, my questions are:

1. What is an acceptable ammonia level, in a new tank, with starter fish? (I would prefer not to kill any fish for the purpose of setting up my aquarium)

2. Should I do ANY water changes during the "set up" period?

3. Should I use chemicals to stabilize the ammonia?

Thanks for your help! :-D

Brian

Kelso 11-25-2009 09:41 AM

Youre better off using pure ammonia. It doesnt harm any fish that way. It takes less time than cycling by fish as well. You add pure concentrate, and check back every day to see what the levels are. You keeping adding ammonia as well. By about three weeks, when you add ammonia and it spikes and drops down to zero within a day, youre ready. That's the simple explanation. Look up fishless cycling for a more thorough explanation.

paxt0n 11-25-2009 09:46 AM

I already have fish in the aquarium.

By the way, the Ammonia level is between 1.0 and 2.0 this morning (can't tell the difference between the shades of green)

Nitrates and Nitrites were at 0 three days ago. I'll check them again tonight.

Any answers to my questions, with the understanding that I already have fish in the tank, would be greatly appreciated.

1077 11-25-2009 09:48 AM

What size tank? andhow many and what type of starter fish have you got or planning to get?
Easiest way to Do this without harming fish,daily testing,frequent water changes etc, is to use one or two small uncooked raw shrimp (cocktail) Depending on tank size.
Place the piece of shrimp in the toe section of a pair of nylon stockings with a rock to hold it down. Toss this into the aquarium and leave it for three weeks. This piece of shrimp will feed the bacteria as it decays. after three weeks,test the tank to see that ammonia and nitrites are zero and that there are nitrAtes (prolly high nitrAtes) if levels read zero for ammonia and nitrites and nitrAtes are present, Then simply perform 60 to 70 percent water change just before you add a few (four or five )SMALL fish or one or two medium size fish. Begin changing 25 percent of the water each week from then on. NOTE. tank may begin to smell a little during the process but no fish are harmed and as mentioned , no daily testing or water changes to reduce toxins that harm the fish.
There are a couple other methods but as stated,, the above in my view,is easiest unless you know someone who has a disease free existing aquarium running and has been running for some time.
If this is the case,, you could ask them to let you have some of their filter material(ie) portion of pad,sponge ,or floss. Stick this in the filter of your tank taking care to keep the material wet in AQURIUM water while transporting to your tank. In this way,, you could add a few small fish ,depending on tank size ,and the borrowed material will jumpstart your (cycling)process and be much less harmful to the few SMALL fish you place in the tank for starter fish. Feed fish sparingly and change water anytime ammonia and or nitrites climb above.05. With borrowed material (cycling) can be done more quickly. Do be aware that the bacteria develops in direct proportion to available load(fish)in the tank. Adding too many fish,too large of fish,and overfeeding will cause ammonia and nitrites to spike for the bacteria will not be able to develop fast enough. ALWAYS best to stock slowly and wait a week between adding fish. Should give you plenty of time to research the fish that interest you to ensure that the fish all enjoy same water parameters,same pH,and are compatible with each other. Hope some of this helps and please excuse poor spelling and or punctuation. I ain't inclined to go back and fix it.:roll:

Angel079 11-25-2009 09:54 AM

Welcome Brian, I will try pick this apart for you and hopfully answer all questions.

What happens during the necessary 'cycling' of tanks is that ammonia will be transfered into nitrite by bacteria. Ammonia is toxic to fish and will lead to death, Nitrite are also bad for fish but its not as toxic as Ammonia.
So high levels of either one will be bad news in the tank either way, the best way to control this in the process of cycling is daily water tests with kits such as offered from API. Nitrates should ideally be kept below 40ppm, above that I'd do w/c.
A normal 20-30% w/c weekly should keep these levels in check, I say should because they CAN still peak abouve tolerated levels and then a addtional w/c would be nessesary to not harm your fish.
Nitrate levels are also significantly reduced by having a well planted tank, as the plants will consume nitrates. Now I don't know if you already have plants in there or if you would consider getting some fast growing plants to help you tank to start and also have a nicely planted tank for the future?
When choosing to cycle with fish, it is important to use hardy fish, such as Zebra Danio's for example. What fish did you get, how many, what size tank do you have?
And no you do not want to add chemicals, while your ecosystem is trying to built up a natrual bacteria system to make it a stable environment for the future any add chemicals can slow this process down and/ or harm it.

1077 11-25-2009 09:57 AM

#$%^!@ By the time I finished my previous post you already answered MY question. You have fish in the tank .Depending on numbers and size of tank, It may require daily or twice daily water changes to reduce ammonia levels. The levels you posted are DEADLY as the API test kit booklet clearly states. At this point,you can help yourself by not overfeeding the fish and by testing daily to see that levels do not rise above .05 for the next three weeks. Be sure and use a dechlorinator such as PRIME or AMQUEL+ that clearly say on the bottle that they detoxify CHLORINE,CHLORAMINES,and AMMONIA. And try not to add water that is too cold or too warm to the aquarium/.

Angel079 11-25-2009 10:00 AM

I'm with you 1077...You type & type and then there new posts already by the time your done.

YES def do w/c this AM as your Ammonia is this high. Then as I said , keep checking it daily.

Sill: What tanks size do you have, what fish are in it and how many?

Twistersmom 11-25-2009 04:03 PM

Hello! I agree with 1077.

Every one has their own opinion on how to cycle a tank. The people that say it is fine to let ammonia hit 4 ppm, are the people that are using the fish only to cycle, and do not care about the well being of the fish.

This is how I cycle a tank, if it can not be seeded with cycled filter media.
***test once or twice daily.
***Water changes once or twice daily, if needed to keep ammonia and nitrites under .25 ppm.
***Use Prime.
***Feed Little and only once a day, while getting readings for either ammonia or nitrites.

(most cycle fish, "hardy fish" can handle ammonia/nitrites close to .25, other sensitive fish, this would be too much.)

paxt0n 11-25-2009 06:30 PM

Wow!

Thanks for your replies. I had no idea that 2.0 ppm ammonia would be deadly. That is why I'm confused. The API kit says ammonia could peak at 4.0 during setup and so does the book I read. Neither said that level was deadly.

So I should do water changes, as needed, to keep ammonia and nitrate below .25?

I've been using a dechlorinator, but nothing for ammonia. Should I use something that treats ammonia?

I have a 10 gal with a male betta, 4 white cloud(?) minnows, a zebra danio and two ghost shrimp.

It is probably too many fish for starting, but I had the betta before I even got the 10 gallon, then I got three zebra danios. The betta killed two of them, then I got the minnows and shrimp. The betta hasn't killed anymore fish yet...

I am leaving work now and will do a water change as soon as I get home.

Doing the water changes isn't going to mess with the cycle, though?

Byron 11-25-2009 07:23 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by paxt0n (Post 280178)
Wow!

Thanks for your replies. I had no idea that 2.0 ppm ammonia would be deadly. That is why I'm confused. The API kit says ammonia could peak at 4.0 during setup and so does the book I read. Neither said that level was deadly.

So I should do water changes, as needed, to keep ammonia and nitrate below .25?

I've been using a dechlorinator, but nothing for ammonia. Should I use something that treats ammonia?

I have a 10 gal with a male betta, 4 white cloud(?) minnows, a zebra danio and two ghost shrimp.

It is probably too many fish for starting, but I had the betta before I even got the 10 gallon, then I got three zebra danios. The betta killed two of them, then I got the minnows and shrimp. The betta hasn't killed anymore fish yet...

I am leaving work now and will do a water change as soon as I get home.

Doing the water changes isn't going to mess with the cycle, though?

The effect ammonia has on fish depends partly on the pH and temperature; the higher the pH (more basic or alkaline) the worse ammonia is at lower levels, and worsens with higher temperatures as well. For instance, at a pH of 7.0 and a temp of 77F, an ammonia reading of 3.5 is considered dangerous and requiring immediate action (partial water change, etc). At a temp of 68 this can be at 5.0. At a pH of 7.5 and a temp of 77F, 1.2 ammonia is dangerous. In acidic water (pH below 7) it is basically harmless because ammonia converts to ammonium which is not toxic like ammonia is. But there is still the nitrite at the second stage.

I second TM's advice, monitor ammonia and nitrite daily and do a pwc of 50% if levels exceed .25 for either. Use a good water conditioner; those that detoxify ammonia (like Prime) do so by changing it to ammonium which as I said is harmless. But again, the nitrite is still going to spike.

When you do these pwc, just siphon out water from the top half, and refill with conditioned water. Don't vacuum the substrate as you might remove the bacteria. Bacteria colonize all hard surfaces in the aquarium; they are not in the water. So not cleaning the filter and substrate is advisable until the tank is cycled.

You certainly have too many fish in a new tank, but that is a done deal, so now you can only make life easier for them (and hopefully save them). Ammonia and nitrite both cause internal damage that may not surface for weeks or months.

Byron.


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