10g sand tank cycling issues
from reading these fora i attempted to make and cycle a 10g corydora tank with a sand substrate. However, i was doing the "rotting food" + "filter from established tank" technique for quick cycling. I was basing the finished cycle on 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and a nitrate reading > 0. I was using test strips rather than the liquids at the time, and i waited until nitrates showed a reading and the other two did not (about 5 days)
Since the nitrates were the only reading above 0, i figured the tank was cycled and put in a baby albino corydora and monitored the no2,3 and nh4. Everything seemed right. When i added my two established corys, though, the tank went to hell, i had to purchase ammonia neutralizing stuff because the meter went into "danger" range (.2 ppm) but the nitrites were at nil (not even reading) and nitrates were at "don't need a water change yet" range. I did a vacuum and 30% drain so i could add more plants and pull out any food that got trapped in the sand and fake log. I added a air filter, it has a sponge and an air line, the LFS said that the waterfall style i had would get jammed up with sand in the propellor and make a lot of noise, and since corydoras like bubbles, i may as well add that filter. So i am running both, concurrently right now. I re-did the swishing the established tank filter in the new tank again, and the ammonia finally went to barely above 0, the color was so close to "yellow" that we were hard pressed to read it as above zero. (i have the API master test kit with liquids now, as well as an in tank meter that is reading 0 but it's not very fine grained).
Now, here's the rub (and the tldr) - my water supply has nitrates at 40ppm WITH a filter in line. I always filter my tap through an on tap filter, and replace it as needed. I also use the anti-chlorine/chloramine stuff too, per the instructions for the amount i am adding. I tested the reverse osmosis "25 cent a gallon" filtered water on my apartment grounds to see if that could get the nitrates out, and that still has 20ppm-40ppm, so around 30ppm i'd guess, per the color of the test tube.
my first question is this: should i get a chemical that eats nitrates? i mean i have fully planted tanks, here, nitrates shouldn't be an issue! And my water changes aren't really improving conditions at 40PPM nitrates, which is the theoretical max nitrates for an established tank anyhow.
another question What ph do corydoras want? my tap water ph here is ~7.3 but the sand aquarium runs ~8.2 and my established tank is in the 7.6 range. i've read conflicting things about corydoras, that stability is key, and that 7.0 ph is key. Which should i do? i'd like to avoid chemicals, and i vaguely recall that corys prefer alkaline water.
third and final question How does one clean sand substrate? do i just replace the sand when i vacuum with fresh rinsed sand? the sand binds and jams my vacuums pretty badly, i've tried four different siphons and attachments, i can't really get into the sand without large amounts going into the waste water. Can the corys deal with me swishing the substrate like i do in my large tank? i've read they're sandy river fish so maybe they can deal with sandy water for a minute?
Please advise because i love my catfish as much as i love my cat and the thought of them suffering is completely depressing me.
Edit here: i've done 3 partial water changes and added salt per the test kit's recommendations; with aquarium salt, i made absolutely sure to filter it in properly and used a salinity meter to ensure i didn't add enough to raise the specific gravity at all. This was the recommendation per the nitrites being high. I've really trying to avoid stressing them out with water changes and chemicals and moving them between tanks and all this other stuff, and trying to help them deal with my unacceptable screw up with not buying adequate testing equipment.
I would not get any chemicals. Did you say water you buy for 25 cents a gal has nitrates at 20-40ppm? That seems really strange. You should get a liquid test kit, rather than the strips, and if your tap water is that high, you should look at do water changes with bottled water. As far as sand, no you don't replace with new sand. When you vacuum sand you don't need to put the syphon in the sand like you do with gravel, just hover it over the sand and pick up obvious debris, but don't get in the sand. If you have plants and need to move around them, you can take off the bottom piece of the plastic syphon and it's easier to get around the tank with that larger piece not on. Try that, but you should not be getting so much sand in the syphon tube that it's "clogging"
Let's take things one step at a time. There is quite a jumble of questions in your post, genewitch.
First, buy an API liquid test kit. At this stage with a newish tank, i would get the Master that contains tests for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH. [When you use the API nitrate test, shake Regent #2 for 2 minutes, not just 30 seconds as the instructions say, to avoid a false (high) reading.]
Second, nitrates. If there are nitrates in the source water (tap, bottled) a conditioner that detoxifies these is one option for water changes. Prime (made by Seachem) does this, I can't recall another that does. Live plants should handle nitrates aside from the initial influx at a water change. Sometimes changing less water more often helps. You want to avoid huge swings, so this will depend upon the nitrate level in the tank once that is settled, and the actual nitrates in the source water. It might be better to use tap water direct, not having gone through the "filter," but we can pursue this later.
Third, corys occur in soft water that is usually acidic or slightly acidic, but the "common" species that are commercially tank-raised adapt to basic water (pH in 7's). But messing with pH can be dangerous for fish. The variation in pH between your tanks suggests something is affecting it and this needs to be sorted out.
If your tap water is 7.3 and the sand tank is 8.2, the sand is likely calcareous (containing calcium) which will dissolve continually, raising hardness and correspondingly the pH. What type of sand is it?
Gwen answered your question on cleaning sand. With live plants, it is best to leave the substrate alone. I never vacuum it at all. Th waste should break down and settled down into the sand where bacteria decompose it and produce nutrients for the plants. Small snails help in this, the Malaysian Livebearing Snail is especially useful as it burrows throughout the sand keeping it oxygenated. Pond snails and acute bladder snails are also good. These sometimes arrive on plants for free.
Tell us about your sand and we can work out the pH issues.
Firstly, I did buy a liquid test kit, specifically because my tank wasn't cycling properly with the information from the strips.
Secondly, the sand was "Play Sand" per recommendations on this site, rinsed till the water turned clear quickly after swishing it around.
Regarding snails: i was originally trying to avoid them in the smaller tank, but they got moved in when i transplanted some wisteria or fern from my large tank, i just trimmed off some and put it in a new sponge bit and buried it in the sand.
Sorry everything was a jumble, i was trying to explain before going to bed such that any questions would be answered about what sort of kits and water i was using.
Byron: It was you who recommended the sand I bought http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/c...e2/#post719666 the sand at the LFS seemed like it was calcified or had other salts in it and cost 10x as much :lol:
No problem with playsand, so that is not the culprit. It will not affect water chemistry. Something else must be; is there any rock in this tank? M ight as well tell us what is in the tank, any filter media (aside from pads/floss), what water conditioner you use, and is any other substance going in the water?
And when testing nitrate with the API, you are shaking Regent #2 for 2 minutes?
* I didn't put any rocks in, just plants and a fake log for hiding spots.
* I used Nutrafin Aqua Plus as a conditioner, at the recommended dosage (10ml per 10g).
* I have an aqueon hanging filter/pump thing that uses medium filter media which is active carbon in cotton or something.
* There's also currently a sponge filter with air bubbles in the tank, that has rocks in the bottom, like large rounded gravel, maybe 20 pebbles or something. As i mentioned, the better LFS said the aqueon would make a ton of noise if i didn't use a sponge filter to get the sand particles out of the water quickly.
* The only other substance i used was Aqueon "Ammonia Neutralizer" for 3 days when i realized the tank wasn't cycled and the ammonia went to ~0.2ppm.
As i mentioned before i've done 3 partial water changes since putting the fish in to try and battle the nitrites and nitrates and ammonia. They were looking so stressed i didn't want to risk catching them and putting them in the large tank, although if you recommend that i will. My only concern is that the corys are happy and healthy at this point.
ph value recap: new tank with sand 8.2, tap 7.4, established 30g tank 7.6-7.7
I see a couple of things here. First, the rocks in the filter, any idea what they are? If they are limestone, dolomite, marble, lava or coral, they will easily raise the hardness and pH. In my 115g tank with water at 1 GH out of the tap I can raise the GH by 2-3 dGH just with a couple tablespoons of dolomite, for example; doesn't take much over time. If you don't know what the rocks are, remove them.
Second, the Ammonia product might have a bearing. I can't remember specifically, but I know it was mentioned a while back about one of these product ts affecting the water. Water conditioners used in excess can also do this. Be very careful what substances go in the tank. I'm not saying this s the culprit, just a general caution.
We are of course talking about the tank with the pH of 8.2 here.
Something else occurs to me reading back through this thread. You are no longer adding rotting food or anything re the cycle, I assume? Do you have live plants?
The test strips had a hardness measurement and that was "HIGH", really deep forest green color on the mardell 5 in 1 strips. - this was for my tap, established tank, and new tank. I can't get water stats for my area easily, since we're under AUM which is 2 additional layers between the actual municipal water supply.
would the hardness/pH affect the nitrifying bacteria's ability to reproduce, thus slowing the cycle down?
Update: Called LFS, asked what the rocks were "that's just gravel, no dolomite or anything"
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