Question: Advice For Cycling My Tank :/

AxolotlMorty

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Hey everybody, first time posting on here wondering if you guys would be willing to give me some tips or advice.

So, I'm currently invested in getting a pet Axolotl and I've got everything I need for the little guy. I bought a ten gallon tank (wanted to get 20 but I don't currently have the room for a tank that big), got some nice decorations and places he can hide. I put Reptile carpet on the bottom of the tank (Figured that was a good choice so I don't have to worry about him ingesting any substrate or slipping around on a bare tank bottom and getting stressed, plus if it gets dirty I can just throw it out and replace it). Got some food, and various other things like tools to clean and test the water with.

Basically, I'm already to go. Just gotta have the tank go through a cycle so I can build up some beneficial bacteria.....well that's where I'm having some trouble....

First I tried to do the fish-flake method. But after two weeks and not a single sign of ammonia showing up, I decided to try the pure ammonia in a bottle method. So I did a complete water change, and added in the ammonia (Old Country Ammonia, was the only kind of ammonia I could find that didn't have cleaner in it). I got the tank's ammonia up to about 6ppm, and never had to add any more after that. For about a week it sat there, and never changed.

Well it's now been two weeks, and I just tested the water. Success, we have about 1ppm worth of Nitrites. But I'm kind of concerned, cause the Ammonia hasn't dropped. It's still sitting at about 6ppm....in fact, it may actually have gone up to 8ppm and I don't know how, since I haven't been adding any ammonia to the tank. It's kind of hard to tell cause the chart in my API water testing kit goes from 4ppm to 8ppm. I thought as the Nitrites grew, the Ammonia level was supposed to drop.

So am I doing things right? Any advice? Thoughts? Tips? Has anybody else experienced ammonia going up, even though they're not putting anymore ammonia into the tank?

Also How long does this cycling take? I'm kind of an impatient person, is there anyway to speed up the process? I've got the temperature up to about 75 F, but that's as high as I want to go. Otherwise getting the temperature down to 65F is going to be a hassle.
 

Hayleyy

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Are you doing regular water changes?
I don't know about reptile carpet, will it trap waste? Axolotls poop a lot!
If you know anyone with an established tank ask to borrow a decoration as this will bring in beneficial bacteria (filter mwdia will also work). Or, you could buy a simple potted live plant.
I've used bottled beneficial bacteria so that may be worth trying, but I cycled using feeder fish so I'm not sure if it made a difference.
 

AxolotlMorty

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Are you doing regular water changes?
I don't know about reptile carpet, will it trap waste? Axolotls poop a lot!
If you know anyone with an established tank ask to borrow a decoration as this will bring in beneficial bacteria (filter mwdia will also work). Or, you could buy a simple potted live plant.
I've used bottled beneficial bacteria so that may be worth trying, but I cycled using feeder fish so I'm not sure if it made a difference.

Regular Water Changes? I wasn't aware that was something that needed to be done. I thought you had to just drop the ammonia in, keep it at a certain level, and then let it do it's job. Wouldn't water changes just reduce the amount of bacteria I have in the tank over and over again? Wouldn't I be just growing Nitrites and then taking them out with every water change?

I don't think it will, but I'm willing to give it a try. If it doesn't work, I'll just throw it out and try some very very fine gravel. But I can't imagine why it would trap waste. Especially if I plan on doing a spot clean with every weekly water change.

I have a Java Fern in the tank, that's helping. But I sadly don't know anybody with an established tank. :/

I was thinking of trying bottled bacteria, although I've read a lot that they don't work as well as actually growing it from scratch. If this cycling thing doesn't work, I might have to go the bottled bacteria route. Any recommendations of types of bottled bacteria to buy?
 

Hayleyy

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Sorry, I did a fish-in method of cycling so I had to do small water changes every few days. I think even with fish-less you need to do 10% changes if the ammonia, etc, get too high. The bacteria live on decorations and in the filter so water changes shouldn't affect them, other than removing their food source (which is why you don't change too much water). Hopefully someone who understands fishless cycling can help more here :)
Do you have nitrates yet?
If you keep the tank at room temp (25-ish degrees) it should speed up the process, as long as you are able to drop it again before introducing your axolotl.

What is the reptile carpet made of? I'm literally imagining carpet and it's giving me the heebie jeebies thinking about it wet haha If it doesn't work I recommend play sand :)

You're right about the bacteria, I don't know whether it actually works. I used the blue planet brand, but I don't know if that's only available in Aus.
 

AxolotlMorty

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Sorry, I did a fish-in method of cycling so I had to do small water changes every few days. I think even with fish-less you need to do 10% changes if the ammonia, etc, get too high. The bacteria live on decorations and in the filter so water changes shouldn't affect them, other than removing their food source (which is why you don't change too much water). Hopefully someone who understands fishless cycling can help more here :)
Do you have nitrates yet?
If you keep the tank at room temp (25-ish degrees) it should speed up the process, as long as you are able to drop it again before introducing your axolotl.

What is the reptile carpet made of? I'm literally imagining carpet and it's giving me the heebie jeebies thinking about it wet haha If it doesn't work I recommend play sand :)

You're right about the bacteria, I don't know whether it actually works. I used the blue planet brand, but I don't know if that's only available in Aus.

What's considered too high? It's at 6-8ppm right now, which is what I thought was the recommended amount of ammonia. Where do you think the sweet spot is that I need to hit when it comes to how much Ammonia I need in the tank?

I do, It's been two weeks and I've got 1ppm of Nitrites. It's just, I thought as the Nitrites grew, the Ammonia was supposed to shrink. Which it hasn't. It still seems to be leveled the same it was two weeks ago.

Reptile Carpet, this is the kind I bought...Here

Thanks so much, for all your help.
 

AxolotlMorty

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So UPDATE!!

I Got Nitrates! It's only about 0.5ppm, but they're there.

But so is about 3ppm worth of Nitrites and 4ppm worth of Ammonia. I thought this cycling process was supposed to come in spikes. You have a spike of Ammonia, which goes down to zero and is replaced with a spike in Nitrites, which in turn go down to zero and produce a spike in Nitrates.

So my new question for anyone who can help me, Is this normal behavior when cycling the tank? Is it normal to have ammonia and Nitrites in the tank the same time Nitrates are developing? What should I do?

I'm thinking I might do a few water changes this week. Just ten percent every other day. Try and get the Ammonia down a bit more. I want the Ammonia to go to zero, but keep the Nitrites and Nitrates. Any idea how I can go about doing this? I know some pet stores sell ammonia water remover, should I try that?
 

Biev

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Yes, it's normal. You will still have some ammonia when you get the nitrite spike, and some nitrites (possibly a little ammonia as well) when you get the nitrate spike. It makes sense, if you think of how the bacteria populations are developing. Think of two bell curves overlapping.

If you have nothing living in your tank (besides bacteria), you do not need to change the water unless the ammonia or nitrite levels are so high that your cycle is at risk of stalling. 4 ppm is a good amount of ammonia to begin the cycle with, but once you're getting nitrites, it's best to do a water change or use Prime whenever ammonia or nitrites are approaching 4 ppm. (Prime will not ruin your cycle - the bacteria can still convert ammonium, and one dose of Prime only neutralizes 0.5 ppm nitrites, so you will have plenty left).

Your method is correct, you just need to be patient. If you didn't add bottled bacteria, it's normal for the cycle to take a little longer.
 

AxolotlMorty

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Yes, it's normal. You will still have some ammonia when you get the nitrite spike, and some nitrites (possibly a little ammonia as well) when you get the nitrate spike. It makes sense, if you think of how the bacteria populations are developing. Think of two bell curves overlapping.

If you have nothing living in your tank (besides bacteria), you do not need to change the water unless the ammonia or nitrite levels are so high that your cycle is at risk of stalling. 4 ppm is a good amount of ammonia to begin the cycle with, but once you're getting nitrites, it's best to do a water change or use Prime whenever ammonia or nitrites are approaching 4 ppm. (Prime will not ruin your cycle - the bacteria can still convert ammonium, and one dose of Prime only neutralizes 0.5 ppm nitrites, so you will have plenty left).

Your method is correct, you just need to be patient. If you didn't add bottled bacteria, it's normal for the cycle to take a little longer.

Thanks for the response, the tank is still reading that there's quite of bit of ammonia in it. I've been doing about 10-20% water changes every other day trying to get the ammonia down. But it's not dropping. So i'll go out and try that prime stuff. That'll hopefully help get the ammonia to a more manageable place. Any specific brand of Prime you'd recommend?

Yeah, I'm not the best at patience. ADHD, and all that. But this brief headache and painful wait now, will hopefully help in the long run.
 

AxolotlMorty

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Whelp.....I give up.

It's been a long time, and so far my tank still hasn't fully cycled. I've got a little bit of Nitrates and 7ppm of Nitrites. Ammonia is now down to 0. But the tank hasn't moved from that spot in almost months.

I'm sick of waiting. I'm buying beneficial bacteria in a bottle. Nutrafin Cycle is what I'm using.
 

tsolkin

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I would say that you probably just need to stick with it. once the ammonia drops below 4 ppm in 24 hrs, you are going to need to add more ammonia to get it back to 4 ppm. i'm 7 weeks onto cycling and I haven't seem any decrease in Nitrites. they are well above what the test can identify. I've been having to add ammonia every day to keep things going. Cycling takes forever, don't get discouraged.
 
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