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memorygirl 01-27-2012 01:33 PM

Bad water change advice during cycling from LFS?

I am ready to pull my hair out over the advise I am getting from what I have been told is the best LFS in the area. I put the 4 fish in my 46 gallon tank, on their recommendation, on Wed. afternoon and this morning lost one fish. I was planning on doing a partial water change (day 2) today and ended up preforming the change after I removed the fish that passed. When I took the "old" water, fish and "new" water to the LFS, I was told I shouldn't have done the water change. They told me that a few loses are expected, but not to change the water for a month! I questioned the theory and they told me if I continued the partial water changes when the ammonia spiked, I would interfere with the cycling. Also, the partial water changes, more than once a week, was highly stressful to the fish and more harmful then having them go through the ammonia spike. I was also told that most fish adapt to their conditions and do fine through the spike. This is a company that not only exclusively is a reef and freshwater store, but sets up both fresh and reef tanks in customers homes. They said they are advising me just as they would set up in a clients home. I asked if I should be testing daily and was told that water changes hour to hour so I would be just driving myself crazy. They said just bring the water in about once a week so they monitor the progress. I am so confused. They have been in business for over 25 years and get great reviews. Am I dealing with old school/new school?

My gut tells me their wrong and I bought a Seachem Ammonia Alert to watch during the process. I am really scratching my head over this. When I cycled a 45 gallon about 15 years ago I remember doing many water changes.

Thanks for any insight, but this just may end up being a rant on my part.

I forgot to add that I was told that since I was using Prime, which they recommend, any water testing could be inaccurate.

beetlebz 01-27-2012 02:18 PM

They are right, and they are wrong. but then they were right again :-) lemme explain.

NOT doing water changes will absolutely help the bacteria establish their population faster. The DOWN side is the fish suffer, and the ones that do survive most likely will not live long healthy lives. IMHO, and the opinion of 99% of the people of this fine forum, is to do whats called a fish-less cycle. It involves using a source of ammonia besides a live fish to reduce the suffering of the poor buggers that get stuck living in water with 10ppm ammonia.

This can be done by returning the fish you have, or keeping them in a separate tank with LOTS o water changes, and using another source of ammonia, be it actual ammonia, prawns, fish food, etc. This will produce ammonia and allow the colonies to establish without killing your fish.

As for prime, ive seen it hotly debated weather or not it will affect the cycle. It changes the chemical composition of the ammonia (from what to what, someone else will have to answer) and the debate centers around whether or not the changed ammonia will feed the bacteria. It will, however, as I have been told, give false positive readings of ammonia, as it changes the ammonia into a form that will still show up on tests, even though its a form that is non, or less toxic to fish.

If you just let it go, it will eventually cycle, but it kills me to lose all those fish, and torture the ones that are left :-(

AbbeysDad 01-27-2012 02:57 PM

I guess it depends on how we define spike.
With a new tank there is no nitrosomonas or nitrobacter bacteria. They take some time to develop, especially without a bio-seed or fish. But even with the presence of some nitrosomonas, they need ammonia (food) and time to reproduce and create a colony relative to the ammonia. Nitrobacter can not exist until there is food (nitrites created by the nitrosomonas converting [oxidizing] the ammonia)....
The rub is that ammonia is not only toxic to fish, but in higher concentrations are toxic to nitrosomonas bacteria as well. So if there is a high concentration (real spike) a water change is required so nitrosomonas can reproduce uninhibited.

Prime can be helpful during the process since it detoxifies ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. Ammonia is converted to ammonium, which tests like ammonia, but is non toxic. However, the detox that Prime provides only lasts from 24-48 hours. In an established tank, this is more than enough time for the bacteria to safely process the elements. In a new cycle, it may or may not make a difference and a partial water change may be required to maintain appropriate concentration levels.

In the case of a 46g tank with 4 fish, I think it would be more like a week (not 2 days) before ammonia should be any level to be concerned about...unless you have ammonia in your tap water (maybe should test for that?).
So you need to guard against harmful ammonia spikes, but not change so much water as to stifle the cycle process.

Hope this helps some.


ladayen 01-27-2012 03:16 PM

I'll just refer you to this article here.

zof 01-27-2012 04:48 PM

Some pretty good post so far, let me throw some ideas out there on why the LFS would tell you some losses are to be expected;

Fish tanks take more work then alot of people think about and if actually told how much maintenance is required most people would walk out of the store buying nothing, so its in the retailers best interest to tell their associates to say this.

Dead fish = more fish you have to replace

Completely ignorant of what is happening in the cycle process

Many sales people will not look at fish as living feeling beings but instead as something that is to be replaced when it wears out.

Who knows what their actually motivation is, but for most I'm sure its just a matter of ignorance and never taking the time to properly learn about their job/hobby.

redchigh 01-27-2012 05:04 PM

Perhaps it has to do with their PH?
In low ph, Ammonia exists as ammonium... which is relatively safe. Nitrite can still kill your fish though. I can't believe the advice they told you... Some fish survive ammonia fairly well... like livebearers and danios... but all fish? I've has tetras and cories die when the ammonia was at 2ppm...

Also, plants can assimilate ammonia, getting rid of the whole cycling need. ;)

memorygirl 01-27-2012 05:49 PM

Thank you everyone for your replies. The LFS is 30 minutes away, so at this point I think I will do my best to see that the fish I do have at least have a chance of making it.

So, I went to petsmart and bought API 5 in 1 Test Strips (they were out of the bigger liquid tests, ugh) and will use it with the Seachem Ammonia meter. I plan on testing daily to watch for Nitrites in particular since that was the only thing that was "slightly" high when my water was checked this morning by my LFS. That probably cause of my loss.

If the nitrites rise or the ammonia, then I plan on doing a partial water change.

I also attempted to find some floating plants, but Petsmart didn't have any. I did add a Moss Ball with hopes that it would provide something beneficial in the cycling.

It's been too many years since I've been through cycling a tank and although frustrating, I know it will be worth it in the end. I wish I would have read up on Fishless cycling before hand, but I just went with what I remembered from years ago and the advise of the LFS.

Thanks again and ALL advise is welcome and appreciated.

memorygirl 01-28-2012 08:34 AM

Well, sadly I woke up to another loss. The second neon rainbow passed. I added the Stability again as directed and the Prime. When I test with the strip it shows 0 nitrites and 20 nitrates and ammonia 0. I think with the Prime and Stability and water change my readings may be off. I think the deaths may be due to stress more than the water since the others seem fine (2 celebes rainbow and the raphael cat). Time will tell.

I had thought about putting the remaining fish in my daughters 5 gallon marineland, but she has a betta and two glo fish in there (about a year old) and I am afraid to stress her fish or mine further.

Inga 01-28-2012 09:22 AM

It has been my experience that when in doubt, water change. The moss ball will help some, yes. The Prime will certainly help some too. If your numbers are Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0 and Nitrate 0 then it seems your tank is cycled but needs some fresh water. I am not a fan of the strips and would recommend that you go with an API test kit for fresh water Aquarium Water Testing: Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Freshwater Master Test Kit It has been said that with the Nitrate NO3 you need to shake it much longer then the directions say to make it accurate. I shake mine for about 2 minutes. It is good for your arms as well. ha ha

I can speak highly enough for the plants in the tank. I set up another tank (awhile ago now) and I put fish in on day 2. It was heavily planted and I never lost even one fish. I didn't lose any fish on my first cycle either but I was doing extreme large water changes daily. It seemed like forever but I made it through. I will never cycle a fresh water tank again without heavily planting it.

I personally would NOT toss my fish into another tank with other fish. Keep up the water changes. Always use Prime with the water changes.

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