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Need some serious tank help!

Kiruru

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Hello, I forgot this forum existed online and that I made an account years ago when my first axolotl got sick. Finally getting my butt in gear to ask some serious questions because I am seriously at my limit now.

I've had my newest axolotl, Captain, since July. His tank cycled for an entire month (June) before I got him and everything went smoothly. In October, I missed a week to do a tank change and it slightly messed up the cycle for a moment but I got it back on track pretty quickly. That was until the Middle of November when the entire cycle just suddenly crashed with no warning other than my axolotl being a zoomy boy. He didn't have any ammonia burns or anything that told of stress but his tank refused to go down no matter how many tank changes I did. I immediately tubbed him and did a 50% water change every week to help bring down the water. This did not work! I've done everything for this tank and now I'm biting a loss that I might never get my little guy back in before May or October (I have events out of town and I don't really know if anybody can help keep a good eye on him in his tub or even change the water in the morning.)


I've got two good filters in the tank (Fluval AquaClear and a Sponge Filter), an Aquarium chiller, Seachem primer and everything I believe to be axolotl safe essentials (Like Almond leaves!)
I tried to introduce Duckweed at one point but it died and forced me to redo the entire tank in general due to decaying matter causing problems (Gross gray sludgy dead stuff hidden everywhere!) but that shouldn't be another portion of the issue due to the amount of cleaning I did to get rid of it. So essentially, I started over on the cycle with fresh new tank, did not scrub the filters to keep any living bacteria (but did remove the decay if any was there) and left it alone for a solid 5 weeks. I decided to test my tank to see how far along I was and holy smokes, EXTREMELY high ammonia and everything else was fine.
I thought maybe a 50% to bring that down was a good idea but now I've just overwhelmed and hyperfixated on my tank again from doing that. I thought I knew how to cycle this tank but I guess I'm doing something wrong and I'm lost on what else to do. I don't want Captain to die or give him away, I just can't do that!


Can someone please give me some advice on this matter? Cycling tips, how to know that this ammonia spike isn't something worry about or why this axolotl-less cycle is being such a burden! Am I the problem?
 

wolfen

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make sure both ph and kh are good, ph ideal 7.4-7.6 kh 3°-8° (54-143), whilst cycling allow the water in the tank to be warm, in normal use (with axolotl in situ) 15°-18° don't let it drop below 10°c.
ensure that there is an adequate amount of bio-media, ensure adequate oxygenation, whilst trying to cycle don't use prime (or any other ammonia controller) other than a standard dechlorinator if required for top up.
low ph will stop ammonium from breaking down into ammonia causing the cycle to crash, low temperatures (below 10°c) aren't suitable for filter bacteria causing them to become dormant, low kh can allow the ph to drop due to the waters inability to buffer, the colder the water is the slower ammonium breaks down, filter bacteria is aerobic and require good water oxygenation, conditioners such as prime lock ammonium slowing its break down, although ammonium is non toxic it needs to break down into ammonia for it to be removed, sponges are fine as mechanical filtration to remove debris but the pores are quite large (making a small amount of surface area) and hold a small amount of bacteria compared to bio media that has small pores (which has a large surface area), even if you have adequate bio media the pores may be clogged, make sure to rinse/clean in old tank water.
as a side note ensure that the gh is good 7°-14° (125-250) as a good mineral level benefits both axolotl and filter bacteria.
duckweed tends to be quite hardy in most cold water tanks and will even grow in water with slight salinity (although at a slower rate).
 

Kiruru

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make sure both ph and kh are good, ph ideal 7.4-7.6 kh 3°-8° (54-143), whilst cycling allow the water in the tank to be warm, in normal use (with axolotl in situ) 15°-18° don't let it drop below 10°c.
ensure that there is an adequate amount of bio-media, ensure adequate oxygenation, whilst trying to cycle don't use prime (or any other ammonia controller) other than a standard dechlorinator if required for top up.
low ph will stop ammonium from breaking down into ammonia causing the cycle to crash, low temperatures (below 10°c) aren't suitable for filter bacteria causing them to become dormant, low kh can allow the ph to drop due to the waters inability to buffer, the colder the water is the slower ammonium breaks down, filter bacteria is aerobic and require good water oxygenation, conditioners such as prime lock ammonium slowing its break down, although ammonium is non toxic it needs to break down into ammonia for it to be removed, sponges are fine as mechanical filtration to remove debris but the pores are quite large (making a small amount of surface area) and hold a small amount of bacteria compared to bio media that has small pores (which has a large surface area), even if you have adequate bio media the pores may be clogged, make sure to rinse/clean in old tank water.
as a side note ensure that the gh is good 7°-14° (125-250) as a good mineral level benefits both axolotl and filter bacteria.
duckweed tends to be quite hardy in most cold water tanks and will even grow in water with slight salinity (although at a slower rate).
I'm sorry, I'm not very good at using my brain but I didn't understand half of that and my ammonia levels are way over 8ppm with letting it cycle untouched for a few weeks..and I don't know if touching anything at this point is going to help it.
 

wolfen

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test your ph, if it is below 7 add enough bicarbonate of soda to bring it up to 7.4 - 7.6
what are your nitrites and nitrates.
 

Kiruru

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test your ph, if it is below 7 add enough bicarbonate of soda to bring it up to 7.4 - 7.6
what are your nitrites and nitrates.
My ph is currently 7.4 to 7.8 right now according to the api test kit. No Nitrate but I had 0.25ppm of Nitrite meaning it's trying to get itself going. My ammonia still 8ppm currently as I double checked incase.
 

wolfen

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had a look at the aquaclear, if you have carbon pad in the filter throw it away if it has been used for longer than 1 month (not needed whilst cycling but should be replaced monthly when it is in use), squeeze/rinse the foam in old tank water, rinse bio-media in old tank water, as for air-sponge filter squeeze/rinse in old tank water, do not use prime for anything apart from water top up (don't use it to treat high ammonia etc..). remove all the muck from the decomposing duck weed as it could be restricting flow and inhibiting the bacteria.
apart from prime do you use any other chemicals/medications in the tank?
make sure you have air stones in the tank to provide adequate oxygenation.
if you can get some pond filter start bacteria (the bacteria is better suited to cold temperatures and will help boost the bacteria which is already in the tank/filter)
try and fit as much bio-media in the filter as possible.
 
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