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Ammonia and nitrates, but no nitrites? (Fishless Cycling)

Kc0olm

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you don't need to put any charcoal in at the moment, you are right the media in bags go where the sponge media would go (you can quite literally pack the whole compartment with media).
you could still have some fish food still decaying which would cause the ammonia spike. dr tims one and only is nitrifying bacteria and won't contain ammonia.
make sure to keep the water warm, well oxygenated and with a good ph, once you have the hob set up run it for an hour then switch it off, add cap full of bottled bacteria to the filter, leave to settle for half an hour then switch back on, make sure the water has 4ppm ammonia, retest following day then top back up to 4ppm, repeat process till both ammonia and nitrites are both zero then top back up for a further two days to be sure, only do water change it cycle is finished or nitrates are 110ppm or higher, make sure the water is dechlorinated before hand. because you have a partially established bacteria colony in the tank you will only have to wait for it to expand and colonise the hobs bio-media.
Sorry I didn't see this earlier. I have the HOB running, but I haven't shut it down after adding the bacteria. Will try that tomorrow when I add the bacteria.

Odd thing is, the ammonia has been steady at 1 ppm of maybe a little more, forever! No nitrites, no nitrates. So, I also have Dr. Timms straight ammonia. Should I add some more ammonia?

Also, the water is between 69 - 70 degrees Farenheit, which is even a little warm for the future axolotl. Does it need to be warmer for the bacteria to colonize?
 

wolfen

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add the ammonia to bring it up to 4ppm and see whether the level goes down, what is your ph? even without adding bacteria there should be some development.
warm water will accelerate the bacteria growth and speed up the cycling.
what salts/minerals are you using if any?
is the water oxygenated enough, do you have air-stones?
have you been doing water changes? adding prime or amquel+
once the tank is cycled it can cool down once done so warm the tank up to tropical tank temperatures, cooling down once done won't harm the bacteria but warming the water helps.
make sure you have good ph, low ph slows down the breakdown of ammonia and can even halt it.
don't do any water changes unless the nitrates are 110ppm or higher or it has finished cycling, because it takes time for dechlorinators to remove chlorine there can be chlorine remnants that can harm the growing bacteria colony.
using chemicals like prime or amquel+ to remove/reduce toxity of ammonia can make it harder for bacteria to consume/convert it.
as the name states aerobic bacteria require oxygen to break down/consume ammonia/nitrites, make sure the water is oxygenated.
if the ph is low ie.. below 7, add enough bicarbonate of soda to increase the ph to 7.4 - 7.6, also it is worth while testing kh and gh if the ph drops as it is a sign of low kh and possible gh.
 

Kc0olm

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add the ammonia to bring it up to 4ppm and see whether the level goes down, what is your ph? even without adding bacteria there should be some development.
warm water will accelerate the bacteria growth and speed up the cycling.
what salts/minerals are you using if any?
is the water oxygenated enough, do you have air-stones?
have you been doing water changes? adding prime or amquel+
once the tank is cycled it can cool down once done so warm the tank up to tropical tank temperatures, cooling down once done won't harm the bacteria but warming the water helps.
make sure you have good ph, low ph slows down the breakdown of ammonia and can even halt it.
don't do any water changes unless the nitrates are 110ppm or higher or it has finished cycling, because it takes time for dechlorinators to remove chlorine there can be chlorine remnants that can harm the growing bacteria colony.
using chemicals like prime or amquel+ to remove/reduce toxity of ammonia can make it harder for bacteria to consume/convert it.
as the name states aerobic bacteria require oxygen to break down/consume ammonia/nitrites, make sure the water is oxygenated.
if the ph is low ie.. below 7, add enough bicarbonate of soda to increase the ph to 7.4 - 7.6, also it is worth while testing kh and gh if the ph drops as it is a sign of low kh and possible gh.
I had some success: I added ammonia to bring it up to 4 ppm; then I turned off the filter, and added a capful of Stability; waited half an hour, and turned the HOB and sponge filters all back on. In 3 days the ammonia came way back down to <1 ppm. so I added the ammonia again, and repeated the dosing of the bacteria. it has been two days since, and i have added bacteria every day. the ammonia is still high, but I am assuming it will drop tomorrow, as it did the first time.

as mentioned, I use sponge filters - 2 of them - which provide oxygenation.
The pH is 7.6 - 7.8
The water temp is 70 F.Is that warm enough?

I am now pouring the bacteria (Stability) directly into the HOB, and waiting 1/2 hour to start it up. is that ok? is it better than just putting it in the water?

I use the Prime for every drop of water I add to the tank.

Again, I think the problem all along was not enough ammonia to get the bacteria to spawn. it just stayed a 1 ppm for weeks, and I added Stability every day, but the ammonia never changed. Still not sure what that was about. But now, adding ammonia, and bacteria, I've seen the closest to an actual cycle yet.
 

wolfen

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there should be enough bacteria in the tank so no more need to dose just allow them to grow.
unless you need to do a water change (which shouldn't be done unless the nitrates get to 110ppm or higher) you don't need to add prime, prime can cause problems when cycling as it can lock the ammonia as ammonium which is harder for the bacteria to break down.
bringing the temperature up to tropical tank temperature will speed things up ie.. 25°c/78°f.
although sponge filter use air to pull water through the sponge the amount of dissolved oxygen they produce is low due to the size of the bubbles, large bubbles don't dissolve into water as easily as smaller finer bubbles although some oxygen can be absorbed at the surface due to agitation.
the ammonia measured in a test is TAN (total ammonia nitrogen) this measures NH3 and NH4 (free ammonia "toxic" and ammonium "non-toxic"), free ammonia is produced as ammonium breaks down,the rate at which ammonium breaks down depends on a few things, mainly ph and temperature, the higher the ph and temperature the faster ammonium breaks down, it can also be seen as the lower the ph and temperature the slower the break down, free ammonia that break of is the toxic deadly part of ammonia but is also the part that the bacteria consume, when your tank is topped up to 4ppm then the amount of consumable ammonia (free ammonia) is 0.105ppm (this is with ph of 7.8 and temperature of 70°f, also quite deadly) and the amount of ammonium is 3.895ppm without being consumed these levels would stay relatively stable but the bacteria consume the free ammonia making the ammonium continue to break down and the free ammonia produced continue to be consumed until the TAN is 1ppm (which is where your cycling gets stuck) at which point the free ammonia is 0.0263 and the ammonium is 0.973, the less ammonium is left the smaller the amount of free ammonia being broken of is and the longer it takes to consume.
the idea of breading such a large amount of bacteria is that it consumes the free ammonia as soon as it breaks from the ammonium speeding up the process.
the big misunderstanding that most people have is that the ammonia measured is just one ammonia and also that the filter bacteria consume all ammonia.
the bacteria require oxygen both to live and consume/covert the nitrogen compounds ie.. NH3 (free ammonia) which is one part nitrogen and three parts hydrogen has the hydrogen removed and oxygen put in its place as NO2 (nitrites) one part nitrogen two parts oxygen, now other bacteria convert the nitrites adding another oxygen making NO3 (nitrates) one part nitrogen three parts oxygen, this is why good oxygenation is so important.
by decreasing the oxygen, ph, temperature or by adding chemicals that make the ammonia safe (locking it as ammonium) it slows the process down until it gets to the point where the amount of free ammonia produced stops, the bacteria starve and die, the cycle crashes, this happens at times to established tanks called old tank syndrome.
now there are times that the ammonia will spike but the tank inhabitants seem fine and unaffected, this is due to the fact that even though the ammonia (TAN) is high the free ammonia is low, for example if the ph was 7.6, temperature is 60, ammonia (TAN) is 1ppm then the free ammonia is 0.0109 which is quite safe in a cycled tank as the bacteria will convert such a small amount quickly.
now if you increased your tank temperature whilst keeping the same ph but increasing the oxygen saturation it should speed the process up, keep topping up to 4ppm daily to increase the colony that should now be established and hopefully it shouldn't be too long now.
to find out the free-ammonia levels use this ..Free Ammonia Calculator
to find out the safety levels use this .. Your Guide to Ammonia Toxicity - Aquarium Advice - Aquarium Forum Community
 

Kc0olm

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there should be enough bacteria in the tank so no more need to dose just allow them to grow.
unless you need to do a water change (which shouldn't be done unless the nitrates get to 110ppm or higher) you don't need to add prime, prime can cause problems when cycling as it can lock the ammonia as ammonium which is harder for the bacteria to break down.
bringing the temperature up to tropical tank temperature will speed things up ie.. 25°c/78°f.
although sponge filter use air to pull water through the sponge the amount of dissolved oxygen they produce is low due to the size of the bubbles, large bubbles don't dissolve into water as easily as smaller finer bubbles although some oxygen can be absorbed at the surface due to agitation.
the ammonia measured in a test is TAN (total ammonia nitrogen) this measures NH3 and NH4 (free ammonia "toxic" and ammonium "non-toxic"), free ammonia is produced as ammonium breaks down,the rate at which ammonium breaks down depends on a few things, mainly ph and temperature, the higher the ph and temperature the faster ammonium breaks down, it can also be seen as the lower the ph and temperature the slower the break down, free ammonia that break of is the toxic deadly part of ammonia but is also the part that the bacteria consume, when your tank is topped up to 4ppm then the amount of consumable ammonia (free ammonia) is 0.105ppm (this is with ph of 7.8 and temperature of 70°f, also quite deadly) and the amount of ammonium is 3.895ppm without being consumed these levels would stay relatively stable but the bacteria consume the free ammonia making the ammonium continue to break down and the free ammonia produced continue to be consumed until the TAN is 1ppm (which is where your cycling gets stuck) at which point the free ammonia is 0.0263 and the ammonium is 0.973, the less ammonium is left the smaller the amount of free ammonia being broken of is and the longer it takes to consume.
the idea of breading such a large amount of bacteria is that it consumes the free ammonia as soon as it breaks from the ammonium speeding up the process.
the big misunderstanding that most people have is that the ammonia measured is just one ammonia and also that the filter bacteria consume all ammonia.
the bacteria require oxygen both to live and consume/covert the nitrogen compounds ie.. NH3 (free ammonia) which is one part nitrogen and three parts hydrogen has the hydrogen removed and oxygen put in its place as NO2 (nitrites) one part nitrogen two parts oxygen, now other bacteria convert the nitrites adding another oxygen making NO3 (nitrates) one part nitrogen three parts oxygen, this is why good oxygenation is so important.
by decreasing the oxygen, ph, temperature or by adding chemicals that make the ammonia safe (locking it as ammonium) it slows the process down until it gets to the point where the amount of free ammonia produced stops, the bacteria starve and die, the cycle crashes, this happens at times to established tanks called old tank syndrome.
now there are times that the ammonia will spike but the tank inhabitants seem fine and unaffected, this is due to the fact that even though the ammonia (TAN) is high the free ammonia is low, for example if the ph was 7.6, temperature is 60, ammonia (TAN) is 1ppm then the free ammonia is 0.0109 which is quite safe in a cycled tank as the bacteria will convert such a small amount quickly.
now if you increased your tank temperature whilst keeping the same ph but increasing the oxygen saturation it should speed the process up, keep topping up to 4ppm daily to increase the colony that should now be established and hopefully it shouldn't be too long now.
to find out the free-ammonia levels use this ..Free Ammonia Calculator
to find out the safety levels use this .. Your Guide to Ammonia Toxicity - Aquarium Advice - Aquarium Forum Community
thanks. excellent information. Now, how to increase the oxygenation? and the temperature? buy more equipment?

if I understand correctly, 1 ppm TAN is safe. I did buy another kit that measures bot TAN and free ammonia. I will try that test and see what the results are
 

wolfen

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your ph is 7.6 - 7.8 (we will go with 7.8) with a temperature of 70°f and a TAN of 1ppm so the NH3 would be (using the ammonia calculator I linked on previous post) 0.0263 which is in the dangerous level.
how safe the ammonia is depends on ph and temperature, for example at 7.6 with a temperature of 60°f the NH3 is 0.0109ppm which is safe (safe = 0 - 0.025ppm, danger is 0.025ppm - 0.05ppm, deadly is 0.05ppm and up), if the ph is increased to 8 for example the NH3 would be 0.0269ppm which at the level of dangerous, if the temperature was increased to 70°f instead then the NH3 would be 0.0167ppm which is in the safe zone. ph has more of an effect on the harm and lethality of ammonia compared to temperature. whilst cycling having high temperature and ph is useful to build the bacteria colony faster then at the temperature that is used for keeping axolotls in.
also although adding salt reduces NH3 it is a very small level, but it is used to reduce the effects of ammonia in animals.
increasing temperature can be done using a heater, to increase oxygen a air-stone can be placed at the bottom of the tank, the finer the bubbles produced the better the oxygen dissolved.
 

Kc0olm

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I'm really coming to the end of my sanity here - I am going to hit 2 months soon, of watching this tank NOT cycle. Above I mentioned that I had actualy seen one successful cycle, about a week ago, so I added a little more ammonia - 4 ppm - to test it a second time. It hasn't budged for at least a week.

I even got a stone to create finer bubbles and oxygenate the water better, and a heater, to raise the temperature. Last nigh, I did a 25% water change. None of this seems to have an effect
 

wolfen

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what ph is the water, very strange for ammonia to not be broken down, even in a tank with no filtration given time bacteria that is free floating will start breaking it down.
could you do a step by step of parameters etc.. ie.. ph, ammonia, nitrite, nitrates, temperature, kh gh if possible, what chemicals/salts/minerals are used if any ie.. prime, calcium etc.. , how many and what filters plus media are used, what other items in tank, area the tank is in ie.. near windows etc.., any lighting. was the tank cleaned before use, if so what cleaner.
hopefully something will stand out.
 

Kc0olm

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what ph is the water, very strange for ammonia to not be broken down, even in a tank with no filtration given time bacteria that is free floating will start breaking it down.
could you do a step by step of parameters etc.. ie.. ph, ammonia, nitrite, nitrates, temperature, kh gh if possible, what chemicals/salts/minerals are used if any ie.. prime, calcium etc.. , how many and what filters plus media are used, what other items in tank, area the tank is in ie.. near windows etc.., any lighting. was the tank cleaned before use, if so what cleaner.
hopefully something will stand out.
Very strange indeed. I've been fighting this for too long. Even though I am totally new to this, it seems like it's not supposed to be this hard. Anyway, here are the tank stats for today, with some photos:

1. pH - a little odd. I have two pH tests: one is for "normal", and the other is for high pH. I normally use the normal one, and get 7.8. Today, the normal pH test returned only 6.6 (I did it twice to check). But the high pH test revealed pH of 8.4! So it might be prudent to go with the high reading, and correct for that?

2. Temp is 73 Fahrenheit. You can see the little heater in the photos. Got it cranked but it won't do much more.

3. Ammonia is around 4ppm. Can't be too exact using the color coding. It's just a slight shade darker that 4 ppm.

4. nitrite 0ppm

5. nitrate 0 ppm

I've never gotten a nitrite reading above 0, in 7 weeks.

I added API nitrifying bacteria yesterday, after a 25% water change.

I've tested our source tap water several times. It has 0~ ammonia, and the pH is naturally around 7.6.

As you can see, I do have some hides and some very fine sand in the tank. I have a stone, which produces fine bubbles, a sponge filter, and the HOB The HOB has a sponge, plastic media, and charcoal. The tank is always in the shade, and the external temp is around 68.
IMG_2484.jpg
IMG_2482.jpg
IMG_2480.jpg
 

wolfen

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the ph is odd, normally ph is tested with the normal ph tester and if the test is at the limit then high ph test is used, this is to give a larger overall ph test ie.. ph (or low ph) 6 - 7.6 + high ph 7.4 - 8.8 giving a total of 6 - 8.8 ph.
recheck the normal (low) ph, if it still reads 6.6 then that is the possible cause of the slow cycle, even though your tap reads 7.6 if the kh is low then the ph will plummet.
do you have soft water?
if the test is low add enough bicarbonate of soda to increase the ph to 7.4 - 7.6 (when the ph gets to 7.6 you then test with high ph test)
adding bicarbonate of soda can be used to increase the kh but it won't effect the gh so if your gh is also low then that will need sorting before housing an axolotl (the ph and kh will also need to be under control)
crushed coral in a mesh bag is a common means of bringing both the kg and gh up although at times it can increase the ph up to around 8.
holtfreters + magnesium sulphate will bring the kh and gh more under control as the amount of minerals added are measured.
using large limestone rocks will also help bring the kh up helping to control ph.
with both the coral and limestone only calcium is added as a mineral, there are mineral additives such as seachem replenish (this gives only small amounts of minerals and sodium) which are useful with ro, distilled and soft water to improve gh.
 
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