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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We are doing a fishless cycle on our 75 gallon tank. We are on day 14 and nothing has changed regarding the numbers. We have been testing daily. Water is crystal clear. The Ammonia we are using is the Ace Hardware brand with no additives at all. Prime was used to treat the tap water.

PH: 8.0
Ammonia: 3-4 ppm
Nitrites: 0 ppm
Nitrates: 5-10 ppm (we had this reading straight from the tap before adding ammonia)
Water Temp: 81-82 Fahrenheit
KH: 13
GH: 20

Running 2 Filstar XPL (previously XP3)
Bio Media

  • 70 API Bio Stars (divided)
  • 2 Li Seachem Matrix (divided)

  • Appropriate Filter pads.
Does anyone have any suggestions as to what in the world is going on or better yet what isn't?
 

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Hey mate. I am no expert but these are my ideas and hopefully others will chime in with corrections.
1. Water volume may be a factor. My 10 g took a week to show ammonia levels using fish food. Based on your tank volume it may take longer to register nitrites.
2. Water temp could be an issue. Just a guess, maybe drop it to 78 and see if it makes a difference.
3. Is there any plants in the tank. They maybe taking up ammonia before the bacteria get a chance.
4. Are you still doing waterchanges? If so maybe stop and let it run. The prime maybe binding the ammonia into ammonium. Not sure if the bacteria can use ammonium.

Just my possible solutions. Hope it helps
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
We are not doing water changes. There are no Plants in the tank. Just about every site I looked at said 80 and above was a better temp for fishless cycling.
 

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That's killed three of my ideas. Sorry I couldn't be more help. By the sounds of it you are using pure ammonia. Have you seen ammonia drop at all?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
no, it has stayed the same. no change at all. Considering it has been 14 days that is why we are a bit concerned.

Thanks for trying to help I really appreciate it.
 

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Ammonia is toxic not only to fish but also to the nitrospira bacteria that oxidize it into nitrite (and likewise the nitrobacter that oxidizes nitrite into nitrate). You want levels <= .50ppm, rather than 3-4ppm.
You should do a water change to get the ammonia level down.
You would also benefit from a bacteria supplement product or a bio-seed from another healthy tank.
I would reduce the temperature to normal 76-78F as this is sufficient to culture the beneficial bacteria and cycle the tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Abbeys Dad, You are confusing me to a degree. Everything I have read about doing a fishless cycle says to raise the ammonia level to around 4 ppm. So you are saying that me having my ammonia at 3-4 ppm is what is causing the problem and toxic?
 

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Your ammonia level is only a little high and temperature is optimum for a fishless cycle. I might suggest running your filter on high or running a sponge filter or airstone to aerate and provide oxygen for your bacteria. Keeping the tank dark helps a little.

When your nitrite peaks, you can reduce ammonia to 1.0ppm

Waiting for the bacteria to fall out of the sky into your tank is the hardest part of cycling. Two weeks is not a long time considering you're starting without live nitrifying bacteria or even bottled bacteria.

Dr Tim's One-and-Only, Tetra Safestart and ATM Colony are three brands that contain nitrosomonas and nitrospia, the bacteria that perform the nitrogen cycle.

If you choose to use one of these products, please advise me of the outcome. I'm tracking their usefulness.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
We do have our water level dropped so the outtakes cause more bubbles and agitate the surface of the water more.

We do not know anyone that we can get bio-seed from and the lfs around here seem to have some really nasty tanks complete with numerous dead fish. We will either order online or drive 2 hours to get fish from Bluegrass Aquatics.

I am beginning to wonder if the Prime locked up the ammonia. If it did would that stop the cycle from starting? Also if 3-4 is a little high what should it be?
 

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The temperature is fine.

I agree with AD in that high levels of ammonia will slow down the process. The idea is to provide a similar ammonia load that the fish might produce normally, so near 0.5ppm would be more ideal. The issue is that, as mentioned, the high levels will kill bacteria... I don't consider this a concern for the nitrosomona at the 3-4ppm level but the nitrospira are more sensitive to ammonia (they "eat" nitrites and produce nitrates) and they may not start reproducing until the first stage of the cycle (ammonia drops to zero) is complete thereby slowing down the completion of the entire cycle.

That idea goes against "common" knowledge so you will read more pushing the higher levels as it does work.

14 days is pretty early, from what I understand, to expect much action as anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks seems normal.

Jeff.
 

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Abbeys Dad, You are confusing me to a degree. Everything I have read about doing a fishless cycle says to raise the ammonia level to around 4 ppm. So you are saying that me having my ammonia at 3-4 ppm is what is causing the problem and toxic?
Frankly I'm not an expert on 'old school' fishless cycling. I would much prefer to add (floating) plants, a good bio-seed (bacteria supplement or established tank material) and a couple of fish. Why? It takes much longer for these beneficial bacteria to be beamed down from some netherworld. Also, a fish or two with feeding will slowly produce ammonia at a level the plants and bio-seed can deal with as the BB colony develops. In so doing, you can cycle a tank in as little as 3-4 weeks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I did not know that we were doing an "old school" fishless cycle.

We are planning a mbuna cichlid tank and due to needing to add so many fish at once thought the fishless cycling method we kept reading about was the way to go. I feel guilty buying fish that are of no interest to us other than cycling the tank and cycling with cichlids is way to risky and expensive.

So I am thinking y'alls recommendation is for us to do a water change to drop the ammonia and purchase a bacteria in a bottle. Purchasing plants would have to be done online as the ones in the lfs are so gross looking. (covered in algae and not very healthy looking for any plant type) We are currently still in full winter mode where I live and plants might not make it unless I pay more for shipping than for the plants lol.

It looks like things are about to get stupid expensive for us and this new hobby.
 

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Ammonia concentration at 3~4ppm is completely acceptable level for fishless cycling. Once I have done it with 5~6ppm dosed daily, and it was still cycled in 6 weeks. If your cycle is completed with low level of ammonia dosed daily, you won't be able to full stock your fish tank when it is done. When the tank is cycled with 5~6ppm ammonia, you have the option to fully stock the tank at once.

The real toxic level (toxic enough to stall the cycle) is above 6ppm.

No change 14 days into fishless cycling is also completely normal. I have done multiple successful fishless cycling in the past. Without heavy seeding, it usually takes up to 3 weeks before there is any change at all.

If you want to speed it up, you can do the following,
1. raise temperature to above 80F
2. add extra air stone to increase oxygen level
3. heavy seeding. You can do it by getting Dr. Tims's (Tetra SafeStart). I have used it twice and it really work the wonder as a form of heavy seeding for cycling. Yes it is meant to be used for cycle with fish, but it certainly work for fishless cycling too. With Tetra SafeStart, the usual time for fishless cycling can be as short as a few days to a little more than a week even for high concentration of ammonia dosage.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
We only dosed our tank once to get it to 4 ppm, not dosing that amount daily and have not added anymore to it since. It has remained at the 4 ppm with no change, well if there has been change it is to small to register with the API master test kit.

Thank you for that link, I read it and bookmarked it for the other half to read too. I can get a product called Microbe-lift Nite Out II, is seems to be the same as The tetra, are you familiar with it?
 

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I apologize for possible confusion after saw your reply.

I did not dose 5~6ppm daily. I was merely making sure the ammonia concentration to start each day is 5~6ppm. So if there is 0 progress (means at the end of the day there is still 5~6ppm ammonia concentration in the tank), I do not add any more ammonia. If there is less than 5~6ppm remaining (sign of slight progress), I will add a little to make it go back to 5~6ppm. By the end of the cycling, I was able to add 5~6ppm daily because the tank was able to convert 5~6ppm ammonia daily.

Of course, you don't have to dose that much ammonia if you have the option to add a few fish at a time. I had to make sure the cycled tank can take on full stock at once because I had to buy all my fish online all at once, or the shipping cost would be $35 each time regardless if I order one fish or 100 fish.

I have never heard of "Microbe-lift Nite Out II". There are more than a few products out there claim to be able to cycle your tank. The only proven working ones are Bio-spira and Tetra SafeStart (rebranded bio-spira).
 

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I did not know that we were doing an "old school" fishless cycle.
I believe a fishless cycle with ammonia, prong or fish food is old school now that we have so many reliable bottled bacteria supplements on the market (or access to a healthy aquarium for the bio-seed).
I know a lot of people [still] don't trust the bottled products, but they have truly come of age. So I think it's much more practical to add a bio-seed, some floating plants and fish and just monitor.
 

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Hi AbbeysDad,

This might be off topic a little. What are some other proven working bacteria products out there beside Tetra SafeStart? I would like to get some more up to date information myself. :)

You know not so long ago many products can't really permanently cycle the tank because lots of them have the wrong species of bacteria which will die in the water after a week, and by then the cycle will crash. It meant the user would have to keep dosing those products or the cycle will crash. Tetra SafeStart was different because once it cycled the tank, it is permanent.
 

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I have used many of the bacteria in a bottle, and the one that has always worked for me is the Dr. Tim's One and Only. I keep a bottle in the fridge, and it had never failed to work. Live plants and bacteria, and I usually use a sponge filter in a new tank that I have run in an old one for a month, so that it had bacteria in the sponge. Always try to plan ahead for setting up a new tank. Hope this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
We are in the same boat regarding the fish we get. We either order online or drive 2 hours to a reputable lfs. So we want to get all our fish at one time. Not only because of transportation costs, but because being cichlids it is best to introduce them all at one time for less fighting.

When the other half gets home I will let him know the suggestions and let him see that site. Guess we will be ordering some Tetra Safestart this evening. It is a lot cheaper online then at our local store, like 50-70 % cheaper.

I do wish we knew someone with a healthy tank that could give us a boost, but that is not the case sadly. I am glad to know that there might be a better option that sit and wait for the right bacteria to drop down from the sky and cycle my tank.

Thanks for clearing up the dosing of Ammonia, I thought we had been misunderstanding what we had read.
 

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What are some other proven working bacteria products out there beside Tetra SafeStart? I would like to get some more up to date information myself. :)
In addition to Tetra SafeStart there's Dr. Tim's One and Only, Seachem Stability, API Quick Start...
 
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