Biological supplement during nitrogen cycle or not?
Another newbie hoping for some advice from more experienced fishkeepers. I have been cycling a new 14 gallon tank for the last two and a half weeks. I had my water tested a few days ago and discovered my nitrites were high and PH was a little low. I noticed my Platy (that I'd moved from a smaller established tank) was hiding in an ornament and not happily greeting me as he used to, so I asked the lady at the pet store for help. She said to place a cup of salt in the tank and to add a product called Nutrafin Cycle. I did both and was glad to see my fish return to being his old lively self and the two White Clouds he shares his home with seemed happy too. My only concern is that I have now read that adding Nutrafin may actually mess up the cycling process in the long run, creating unstable conditions. I am going back for a water test in a few days, but want to know if I should add more Nutrafin during my next water change. Or is this ultimately a bad idea? Also, the lady at the store sold me some powder to raise my PH to 7.0. Will it be neccessary to continue adding that product?
Well not an expert but I have learned quite a bit since being here, so heres my 2 cents. The actual water parameters would be very helpful if you don't already you should look into master test kit, most here will recommend the API freshwater master test kit. Platies should be in water on the basic side of the pH scale, unsure what the reason for the cup of salt was. Nitrites are common in the cycle process but are deadly to fish and should be dealt with immediately with water changes and using a water conditioner such as Prime that will help detoxify the nitrites. Unsure what Nutrafin will do to the cycle process I will let someone else answer that but I suspect it will drag the cycle out. Be careful adding any chemical to your tank let alone one that changes the pH value, if your pH changes too dramatically it could cause the fish to suffer shock.
Also might be helpful if you haven't already to read the cycling sticky http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/freshwater-aquarium/beginners-guide-freshwater-aquarium-cycle-38617/
First, do not use pH adjusting chemicals in a tank with live fish; they may not be live for long if the change is sudden and significant.
The pH of water is dependent upon several factors, one of which is the hardness. The degree of KH (carbonate hardness) acts as a buffer to maintain a stable pH, and attempts to alter the pH with chemicals may be ineffective long-term, resulting in fluctuating pH which is far worse on the fish than a steady pH even if it is not actually preffered for the species. It is also very unwise to fiddle with pH when the tank is still cycling. Once the tank is cycled, it will then stabilize, and when that occurs the pH will be what your tap water is or lower, depending upon the hardness and other factors in the aquarium. What is the pH of your tank, and tap water? This is extremely important to know; a good pH test kit like API's is a good investment rather than relying on trips to the fish store, as pH is something you should monitor long-term. If you're getting a test kit, get the API freshwater kit, it has pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate; these are the important tests. Your water supply people can tell you the hardness of your tap water.
Nutrafin's Cycle should not interfere with the cycling; all this is supposed to do is jump-start the bacteria. Cycle is not live bacteria (as far as I know) but as you have it, use it. Don't buy more.
The salt will alleviate nitrite issues, and with livebearers this is tolerable. Some fish are highly sensitive to salt, fortunately your platy and white clouds are not among these, but still it is not something to continue once the nitrite problem has been resolved. If is far preferable however to solve this issue by daily water changes of 50%, using a good conditioner--Seachem's Prime is perfect during cycling as it detoxifies ammonia, nitrite and nitrate.
Give us the numbers of the pH of the tank and tap water (let the tap water sit in a glass or jar overnight before testing it for pH, the CO2 if present in the water will result in a faulty pH reading but CO2 dissipates out of water as it stands for 24 hours or so. We can then best advise on follow-up action.
Thanks for the very helpful answers. I am really impressed with this forum. I was thinking about investing in a test kit, but now will do it for sure. I'll probably actually save money in the long run, since it's a long drive to the pet store for weekly water tests. My PH tested at 6.2 last week before the lady at the store sold me that powder. Thanks for letting me know NOT to try to change PH like that in the future. I will put some water on the counter overnight tomorrow, take it and the tank water in for tests Tuesday, and post the results. The three fish that are in this new tank were fine in my last aquarium (a little five gallon) and I never added any powders to change PH during or after the cycle.
It is also interesting to know that, contrary to what I was told at the pet store, more frequent water changes are okay during the nitrogen cycle. I am glad to know this because my Platy is acting a little subdued again and hanging out near the bottom, which is not typical. I'm pretty attached to this guy because he was one of my first fish and he usually swims right to the glass when he sees me. Hopefully the water changes will help! I will continue to treat water with Prime, but skip the Nutrafin once this bottle is empty.
If the tank pH is 6.2 I can understand the platy's difficulties. Livebearers are basic harder water fish. But again, don't mess with it until we know the tap water and the cycling is complete. Between the cycling and pH though, you shouold be prepared to possibly lose the platy; it is clearly being affected by all this. The white clouds should manage fine (as far as pH goes). Post your numbers Tuesday and we'll go from there.
I agree completely about not trying to mess with the pH, the fish will aclimate as long as the pH is stable (except of course for extremes like with discus in pH 9 water etc)
I also agree with using Prime which will bond with ammonia and nitrites making them less toxic but still usable by your cycle.
If you have an existing tank that is running with fish and has been for at least three months, then borrowing half of the filter material from that tank and placing it in the tank you are cycling will be far more effective than bacterial supplements with regards to helping establish a bacteria colony.
You spoke of an existing ten gallon tank?
I did have an established five gallon tank, but unfortunately discarded the filter when I dismantled it three weeks ago. Now I wish I'd placed part of that in my new aquarium instead of using Nutrafin. The good news is my water tested zero for nitrites and nitrates today. The ammonia monitor inside the tank also says the water is in the safe zone. Strangely, my aquarium water PH is 6.2 and my tap water is 6.8 though. Does Prime or Nutrafin change the PH? I am glad to know that, either way, it's best not to try changing PH with these fish.
I did do a 50-percent water change Saturday and yesterday. Will do another 40 to 50-percent tomorrow. The Platy has perked up a little, although she hides in the ornaments a lot more than she used to. Maybe she's just adjusting to a bigger home.
As the aquarium stabilizes, the biological processes will tend to acidify the water and the pH will lower. The extent and speed depends upon several factors: the hardness of your source water, any calcareous items (rock, gravel made from limestone, dolomite, coral, marble, etc) in the aquarium, any real wood, and the fish load (the type and size). Calcium and magnesium in the source water (or in the aquarium from the afore-mentioned rock or gravel) will work to buffer the pH and prevent it shifting. But the buffering capacity is limited, and once exhausted the pH can suddenly drop. Sudden dramatic shifts in pH can be detrimental to fish; slow gradual changes less so.
The pH lowering from 6.8 in the source (tap) water to 6.2 suggests minimal buffering (hardness) of your source water, especially considering the relative short time frame. It would be useful to know the hardness of your source water; this you can find out from the water supply people. If you can get the numbers for general hardness and/or carbonate hardness, I can comment further. And before commenting further on this with respect to the fish, I have a comment on cycling under these conditions.
Ammonia produced by the fish and biological processes changes to ammonium in acidic (below pH 7) water. Ammonium is basically harmless to fish and plants; if you had plants in the tank, they would grab the ammonium as their preferred source of nitrogen. Nitrosomonas bacteria also use ammonium equally with ammonia, so no change there. The real benefit of slightly acidic water is never having to worry about ammonia because it will never exist in that toxic form.
So, back to the fish. With (probably) soft and slightly acidic water, you are ideally suited to soft acidic water fish. You are the envy of many an aquarist who has hard water coming out of their taps. The only fish that will not do well in your water are livebearers and rift lake cichlids, at least long-term. Some aquarists manage to maintain these fish in slightly acidic water, but the risk of health issues is much greater because the fish simply do not have the minerals they need and are designed by nature to have.
South American fish, SE Asian fish and West Central African fish are all generally (with a few exceptions) soft acidic water fish. Go that route and you will have no issues with water. Plants are also ideally suited, and with these fish are certainly a bonus for the fish.
I really appreciate the very helpful information Byron. The pet store worker who tested my water last night said GH is 25 ppm and KH is 40 ppm. I can also check with our water supplier to make sure numbers are on target. I did buy an API test kit yesterday, but it looks like it only tests for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. At least it will save me some driving back and forth.
So, for now, it looks like my tank water is soft with a low PH. There aren't any real plants, coral, or driftwood in this tank. My last one had some coral and some Java ferns that were doing poorly with brown leaves. My ammonia levels would go up every week, even after the tank was cycled, so I threw the plants out when I bought this new aquarium. I would ultimately like to try live plants again, but want things to stabilize.
I am glad to hear that my soft water and low PH are good for certain types of fish and I will try to do more research to see what's out there. So far,I have only tried the white clouds and Platy. It sounds like the livebearers (Platy) don't thrive in these water conditions,so I may want to expand my horizons. Also, because the two White Clouds are doing fine right now, I might expand their school in a few weeks. My dad has tried to talk me into Angel Fish, but I am nervous because they seem so sensitive.
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