Still having problems with levels/ fishless cycle

CourtneyLeigh97

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So I've been trying to fishless cycle my tank since the start of the month.. these are my parameters in the last couple days, as you can see I've been struggling with nitrate and was recommended to do 4 bucket water change on 22nd, they were still high on 23rd and still high today... surely I can't do another few buckets water change? My ammonia is now 0 and nitrite low but if I add ammonia my nitrate will go sky high again, can someone please help!? I'm new to the whole cycling thing and it seems as soon as I get somewhere something happens, thanks

20/8
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite:5
Nitrate: 10-20
Ph: 7.2
+80 drops

21/8
Ammonia: 2 (add 50 drops) now at 4
Nitrite: between 2-5 still between 2-5
Nitrate: 80 now between 80-160
Ph: 6.6 (1tbsp bicarbonate) now 7.6
1 bucket water change

22/8
Ammonia: 0 (100 drops added) later 4
Nitrite: 0.50-1ppm later same
Nitrate: 160 now 20-40
Ph: 7.6 later 7.8
4 bucket water change and 100 drops ammonia added


23/8
Ammonia: 1/2 back to 0 60 drops added
Nitrite: 2 now 1/2
Nitrate: 80-160 now 80
Ph: 6.8 (1tbsp bicarbonate) later 7.6
3 buckets changed

24/8
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0.25
Nitrate: 80
Ph: between 7.2 and 7.6
 

MnGuy

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So I've been trying to fishless cycle my tank since the start of the month.. these are my parameters in the last couple days, as you can see I've been struggling with nitrate and was recommended to do 4 bucket water change on 22nd, they were still high on 23rd and still high today... surely I can't do another few buckets water change? My ammonia is now 0 and nitrite low but if I add ammonia my nitrate will go sky high again, can someone please help!? I'm new to the whole cycling thing and it seems as soon as I get somewhere something happens, thanks

20/8
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite:5
Nitrate: 10-20
Ph: 7.2
+80 drops

21/8
Ammonia: 2 (add 50 drops) now at 4
Nitrite: between 2-5 still between 2-5
Nitrate: 80 now between 80-160
Ph: 6.6 (1tbsp bicarbonate) now 7.6
1 bucket water change

22/8
Ammonia: 0 (100 drops added) later 4
Nitrite: 0.50-1ppm later same
Nitrate: 160 now 20-40
Ph: 7.6 later 7.8
4 bucket water change and 100 drops ammonia added


23/8
Ammonia: 1/2 back to 0 60 drops added
Nitrite: 2 now 1/2
Nitrate: 80-160 now 80
Ph: 6.8 (1tbsp bicarbonate) later 7.6
3 buckets changed

24/8
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0.25
Nitrate: 80
Ph: between 7.2 and 7.6
I've never cycled a tank with ammonia. I've always used bottled bacteria or seeded filter material from an established tank. That said, it can take several weeks to cycle a tank, especially a cold water tank. Tropical tanks cycle faster because of the heat. Make sure your tank is also well oxygenated with a filter or airstone.

I'd say it's not unusual that your cycling is taking almost a month. I cycled a 33-gallon coldwater tank and it took a month.

That said, from everything I've read it it sounds like you're not supposed to do water changes during an ammonia cycle, and that you're adding too much ammonia. From this website: Aquarium cycling without fish.

Using Pure Ammonia to Cycle the Aquarium
Instead of using fish food for ammonia production, you can introduce pure ammonia to the tank.

After the tank has been set up, add five drops of ammonia per ten gallons into the water on a daily basis.

Ammonia will rise to five ppm and higher. As soon as nitrites are measurable, reduce the ammonia input to three drops per day. Nitrites will rise to similar levels. Keep adding two to three drops until the measurements of ammonia and nitrites come out with zero ppm. The tank has then completely cycled.

Seeding the tank can significantly enhance this process. It is possible for a cycle to complete in seven days with seeding; otherwise this method takes two to three weeks.

The bacteria colonies produced using this method are large enough to handle a well-stocked aquarium.

Some aspects to consider
  • The tank has to be well oxygenated because the bacteria require oxygen.
  • The ammonia used should be free of any perfumes and additives.
  • Do not treat the water with conditioners that remove ammonia.
Water changes are only necessary if the ammonia and nitrite levels are far off level, which should only occur if more than five drops are used per ten gallons of water. After the cycle has been completed, use activated carbon to remove any possible perfumes or additives that might have been in the ammonia.

After stocking your tank with fish, general maintenance of the aquarium is all that is required. The bacteria will adjust to the fish load, and if you plan to add new fish, the bacteria will have to adjust again.

Remember to feed your tank with ammonia until you introduce fish. The waste generated by your fish will then provide the tank with all that is needed to balance the environment.

With the ammonia drop method, all aquarium types can be cycled in a very short period of time.

Professionals use this method to keep live sand and rock alive to sell in their stores.

We recommend you read about the nitrogen cycle so you have an understanding about what happens during this cycling period. You will also need ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate test kits to perform your daily testing of the water.

......


Good luck!
 

Murk

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Unless I'm misinterpreting, it sounds like your tank is cycled (or close to it), but you just don't really understand the point of a cycled tank?
Like, it sounds like you're doing all the steps and taking all the measurements, but you don't really know why?

What makes me think so is that you're "struggling with nitrates" and that you say "but if I add ammonia my nitrate will go sky high again", which is the whole point of the cycle.

So, apologies in advance if the below is unnecessary, but I'm just going to write out the very basic summary of cycling a tank.
I assume that once you better understand why you are doing things, it will start to make sense.


---------

So, cycling a tank. What is the point?

The point is that living things produce ammonia. Poop, pee, rotting material all produces ammonia.
Ammonia is very toxic even in low amounts. You don't want it in your water.
Luckily, there exist ammonia-eating bacteria.

The ammonia-eating bacteria eat the ammonia, and turn it into nitrites. So that's good, because they get rid of the ammonia.
Sadly, nitrites are also very toxic in low amounts. You also don't want it in your water.
Luckily, there exist nitrites-eating bacteria as well!

The nitrites-eating bacteria eat the nitrites and turn them into nitrates.
Nitrates are slightly toxic, but not as much as ammonia or nitrites. Where any ammonia or nitrites is dangerous, having a bit of nitrates (up to 80 ppm) is still safe.

When we talk about cycling a tank, this is what we mean: to have bacteria turn the ammonia into nitrites and the nitrites into nitrates.
Basically: to turn dangerous ammonia into far-less-dangerous nitrates.

--------

How?
An uncycled tank doesn't have these ammonia-eating or nitrites-eating bacteria. These bacteria will only start to breed once there is food for them.

So, you are putting in ammonia to help the bacteria grow (either pure, as you did, or by putting fish or rotting food or other sources of ammonia in).
Once you have ammonia in the tank, the ammonia-eating bacteria will think "There's food here!" and start to breed.
Their population will grow until it's big enough to eat all the ammonia you put in.

This will take some time, so right after you start putting in ammonia you will see the ammonia rise.
Once the bacteria population is big enough, the ammonia will get eaten and the ammonia levels will go down. This is what they call the "ammonia spike".
You know the ammonia spike is done when you can add ammonia, and it disappears in a day. That means there are enough bacteria eating it and turning it into nitrites.

It's similar for nitrites-eating bacteria.
At first, there's not a lot of them, because there's nothing for them to eat.
Once the ammonia-eating bacteria start turning the ammonia into nitrites, suddenly there are nitrites to eat! So, the nitrite-eating bacteria start to breed and become bigger and bigger.
This also takes some time, so once the ammonia spike is done, you will probably see an increase in nitrites. After a while the nitrites-eating bacteria have grown enough, and the nitrites will start going down. That's the "nitrites spike".

The nitrites-eating bacteria will turn all the nitrites into nitrates, so the nitrates start rising.

The only way to get rid of nitrates is through plants or water changes.
Since it's far less toxic, you're not in a hurry. Doing a small water change every week is often enough.

To summarise, I drew a crappy picture. There are better pictures on google.

Capture.PNG

---------

Long story short:

- "Struggling with nitrates" - yes! The end result of a cycled tank is a tank with zero ammonia, zero nitrites, and rising levels of nitrates. You'll have to do water changes every now and then to remove nitrates.
- "As soon as I add ammonia, nitrates levels go up" - yes! This is the point of the cycle.

As long as you keep adding ammonia, your nitrates will rise. Once you have axolotl(s) in the tank, they will poop out ammonia themselves.
Probably much less than you're adding right now, though, so nitrates will also go up slower.

Does your ammonia drop back to zero within a day after you add it?
Do you see zero nitrites (or only small amounts shortly after you've added ammonia)?
Do you see rising nitrates?

If the answer to all three is "yes", your tank is cycled.
Hurray!

--------

Again, sorry if this was too basic.
I see a lot of people trying to cycle a tank without really understanding what they're doing - hopefully this helps a bit.
If there's a better way to explain, let me know!
 
Last edited:

CourtneyLeigh97

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Unless I'm misinterpreting, it sounds like your tank is cycled (or close to it), but you just don't really understand the point of a cycled tank?
Like, it sounds like your doing all the steps and taking all the measurements, but you don't really know why?

What makes me think so is that you're "struggling with nitrates" and that you say "but if I add ammonia my nitrate will go sky high again", which is the whole point of the cycle.

So, apologies in advance if the below is unnecessary, but I'm just going to write out the very basic summary of cycling a tank.
I assume that once you better understand why you are doing things, it will start to make sense.


---------

So, cycling a tank. What is the point?

The point is that living things produce ammonia. Poop, pee, rotting material all produces ammonia.
Ammonia is very toxic even in low amounts. You don't want it in your water.
Luckily, there exist ammonia-eating bacteria.

The ammonia-eating bacteria eat the ammonia, and turn it into nitrites. So that's good, because they get rid of the ammonia.
Sadly, nitrites are also very toxic in low amounts. You also don't want it in your water.
Luckily, there exist nitrites-eating bacteria as well!

The nitrites-eating bacteria eat the nitrites and turn them into nitrates.
Nitrates are slightly toxic, but not as much as ammonia or nitrites. Where any ammonia or nitrites is dangerous, having a bit of nitrates (up to 80 ppm) is still safe.

When we talk about cycling a tank, this is what we mean: to have bacteria turn the ammonia into nitrites and the nitrites into nitrates.
Basically: to turn dangerous ammonia into far-less-dangerous nitrates.

--------

How?
An uncycled tank doesn't have these ammonia-eating or nitrites-eating bacteria. These bacteria will only start to breed once there is food for them.

So, you are putting in ammonia to help the bacteria grow (either pure, as you did, or by putting fish or rotting food or other sources of ammonia in).
Once you have ammonia in the tank, the ammonia-eating bacteria will think "There's food here!" and start to breed.
Their population will grow until it's big enough to eat all the ammonia you put in.

This will take some time, so right after you start putting in ammonia you will see the ammonia rise.
Once the bacteria population is big enough, the ammonia will get eaten and the ammonia levels will go down. This is what they call the "ammonia spike".
You know the ammonia spike is done when you can add ammonia, and it disappears in a day. That means there are enough bacteria eating it and turning it into nitrites.

It's similar for nitrites-eating bacteria.
At first, there's not a lot of them, because there's nothing for them to eat.
Once the ammonia-eating bacteria start turning the ammonia into nitrites, suddenly there are nitrites to eat! So, the nitrite-eating bacteria start to breed and become bigger and bigger.
This also takes some time, so once the ammonia spike is done, you will probably see an increase in nitrites. After a while the nitrites-eating bacteria have grown enough, and the nitrites will start going down. That's the "nitrites spike".

The nitrites-eating bacteria will turn all the nitrites into nitrates, so the nitrates start rising.

The only way to get rid of nitrates is through plants or water changes.
Since it's far less toxic, you're not in a hurry. Doing a small water change every week is often enough.

To summarise, I drew a crappy picture. There are better pictures on google.

View attachment 85466
---------

Long story short:

- "Struggling with nitrates" - yes! The end result of a cycled tank is a tank with zero ammonia, zero nitrites, and rising levels of nitrates. You'll have to do water changes every now and then to remove nitrates.
- "As soon as I add ammonia, nitrates levels go up" - yes! This is the point of the cycle.

As long as you keep adding ammonia, your nitrates will rise. Once you have axolotl(s) in the tank, they will poop out ammonia themselves.
Probably much less than you're adding right now, though, so nitrates will also go up slower.

Does your ammonia drop back to zero within a day after you add it?
Do you see zero nitrites (or only small amounts shortly after you've added ammonia)?
Do you see rising nitrates?

If the answer to all three is "yes", your tank is cycled.
Hurray!

--------

Again, sorry if this was too basic.
I see a lot of people trying to cycle a tank without really understanding what they're doing - hopefully this helps a bit.
If there's a better way to explain, let me know!
Thank you so much! You've explained it a lot better than what I've been told previous, I've just been going along with it and not really understanding 😅 so thank you!
 
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