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Cycling Help: Losing my mind!

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Cycling Help: Losing my mind!

Post by moonbather on Wed Jan 04, 2017 11:58 am

Hello. I hope you are all well. I was wondering if you could offer a little help.
I bought a 10g tank from pet smart in August 2016 with a TopFin 10 Power Filter and set it up to begin cycling. I'm a bit of a newbie to the nitrogen cycle, I've owned fish years ago but didn't clue in to the cycling process (which probably explains why those fish didn't last too long) I tried the fishless cycle with just fish food for ammonia, after a month I could not get the cycle to move (and my filter crapped out on me and had to be replaced)
I decided to try a fish-in cycle and bought some rosy red minnows (4) to try that route. It started moving a bit over the next month but didn't progress to the point of getting nitrate and nitrite never got above 0.25ppm. I tried letting the ammonia get as high as I could without hurting the fish (no higher than 3ppm) still nothing but all the fish died. I tried to salvage the cycle by using pure ammonia (another fishless cycle) and it worked amazing for the most part. I got nitrites up and was developing nitrates (5ppm)! But then out of the blue the nitrite dropped off and the nitrate later followed but ammonia stayed above 5ppm. At this point I thought about giving up- but then I went to the Local fish store for some advice. He recommended ATM Colony as he swears by it and uses it in the store, so I brought that home to give it a go.

I started from scratch, cleaned everything, put in new filter media, new air tubing and stone. I used Prime like always and dosed in the ATM colony as the package instructed. I added a tiny tiny bit of pure ammonia (again, fishless cycle) and got the tank to 1ppm of ammonia. And let her go. It's been 4 days now. I'm not getting a nitrite or nitrate reading yet. I added some biomax to the back of my filter to try and increase biocapacity (recommended by the LFS as topfin filter media is tiny) Ammonia did somehow creep up to 2ppm though. PH is steady at 7.4. Temperature is steady at 86 degrees F. Now, I know 4 days is super early in any cycling process, but the ATM colony stuff is supposed to work fast (I know the snake oil argument, but I thought I'd try it). The LFS guy said his works overnight.

For the life of me I cannot get this thing to cycle!!! I don't think I'm missing anything. Perhaps its the TopFin filter itself? The Prime? I dont have any live plants or fish in the tank at the moment, and my tap water's base readings are all zero. The PH doesn't change and the temperature rarely changes. I dont understand! Any help would be appreciated. Thank you!

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Re: Cycling Help: Losing my mind!

Post by alexmtl on Wed Jan 04, 2017 12:23 pm

@moonbather wrote:At this point I thought about giving up- but then I went to the Local fish store for some advice. He recommended ATM Colony as he swears by it and uses it in the store, so I brought that home to give it a go.Now, I know 4 days is super early in any cycling process, but the ATM colony stuff is supposed to work fast (I know the snake oil argument, but I thought I'd try it). The LFS guy said his works overnight.

I presume that you have a 10g freshwater aquarium here since the fish you mentioned were freshwater fish.

ATM Colony Marine is meant for saltwater reef tanks. I assume that your LFS guy knew that you were cycling a freshwater tank not a saltwater tank. The colonizing bacteria/microbes to start the nitrogen cycle are different for fresh and saltwater. If you are expecting the ATM Colony Marine to work in fresh water, I doubt that there will be any progress.

If you have the Freshwater ATM Colony then you may see results, however I have never used the product. In my experience, living cultures do not last long in packaged containers. The best results would be from already established filter media, plants, rocks covered with algae, and high nitrifier plants (java moss is ideal).

The other issue I see is that you scrubbed everything clean. Nitrogen cycle requires living organisms and if you have a sterile environment, you will take a while for the nitrogen incubators to take hold. Try using living plants as they like ammonia... they are the best starters.
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Re: Cycling Help: Losing my mind!

Post by moonbather on Wed Jan 04, 2017 12:33 pm

oh my gosh, seriously? Yes, it's a fresh water tank. It's going to house an axolotl eventually. I discussed this with the LFS guy, I went over the whole history, and he recommended the colony. I didnt realize it was salt water bateria. I figured there was two different ones and he gave me one for freshwater (doesnt say anything on the bottle). Dang.

I rinsed everything yes. I figured that'd help keep any bad bacteria from interfering with Colony. Well shoot! I guess I was going to have to restart the whole cycle anyway, but the colony was a useless attempt and waste of $10.

Thank you so much for your help, alexmtl. I do plan on getting a couple live plants (java fern and some sort of anubias i think) I hope that can help some.

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Re: Cycling Help: Losing my mind!

Post by l_l_l on Wed Jan 04, 2017 12:33 pm

Hello!
What Alex said is spot on,
Also, when doing a fishless cycle, don't prime your water Wink
This will false your readings.
What type of test kit are you reading with?

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Re: Cycling Help: Losing my mind!

Post by alexmtl on Wed Jan 04, 2017 12:55 pm

@moonbather wrote:I rinsed everything yes. I figured that'd help keep any bad bacteria from interfering with Colony. I do plan on getting a couple live plants (java fern and some sort of anubias i think) I hope that can help some.

No problem with the rinsing (no detergents, no cleaners, no soap, right ??). There is no bad thing as bad bacteria. I am a believer in Walstad's planted aquarium writings, in that a tank is a living ecosystem. Artificial products can never replicate a biologic system. Java moss (not java fern), duck weed, floating water plants are good nitogen starters. Avoid the planted and potted plants for now since they may be emersed forms, not the submerged version of the plant (the emersed form will die back).

Axolotls are so interesting and I have never kept one, just watched Youtube videos. They are particular to water conditions so you have a good start with a water test kit. I see that you are from Nova Scotia. Do you know where your water supply is from ? You should prefer to have alkaline vs soft water for these animals. In that case you should look to add cuttlefishbone (from your local pet food store, the type that is used to for birds). The ammonia will also spike with the cuttlefish bone since these still have high protein, and will add GH to your water.

The funny thing that the internet does not mention about the nitrogen cycle is that the organisms required to start the cycle are found just about anywhere. Even rocks from a nearby freshwater stream will host the organisms. I have even used organisms in highly acid environments (read about archaea). Ammonia shift to nitrate to nitrites is not a cycle that is done just once, but several times. What the internet does not mention is that when one form shifts to another the previous feeds the next. The flow therefore must be balanced, which these quick fishless cycles do not necessarily do in the short time that they advertise. Natural starts are the best way to establish the aquarium. While the quick fishless cycles and the store bought nitrogen starters may work, you need to have an established ecosystem in order to keep balance for the long term.

In this case you are starting from scratch. Have patience and watch some plants grow. In a few weeks you will be amazed.
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Re: Cycling Help: Losing my mind!

Post by Tashina on Wed Jan 04, 2017 10:32 pm

Hi there and welcome:)
I started with a 10 gallon not too long ago myself and had so much to learn... especially to be patient lol.
I posted my experience of a fishless cycle here http://www.canadaquaria.ca/t2320-first-journey-with-a-10-gallon-tank maybe it can be helpful to you.
I dont know if it is important or not but I had an old used hob filter and put my own filter media in (no cartridge, no carbon) just a filter sponge and a bag of those ceramic rolls for plenty of beneficial bacteria. No live plants in the tank and I never added any organic matter (like food) just the dose of pure household ammonia.
I tested the water every day (sometimes 5 times a day) and added ammonia as needed to keep the recommended level until finally after nitrite, the nitrates showed up. It is my understanding that without having ammonia in there for longer than some hours the beneficial bacteria will starve and die quickly and the cycle is stalled. I did not use any bacteria-in-a-bottle but I did use a tap water conditioner (is that a primer?) when doing any water changes as my tap water has chlorine in it which, as I understand would kill any beneficial bacteria. It was a tough and looooong journey back then but in the end, it worked Smile
I wish you best of luck and success with this cycle now, just dont give up!!!
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Re: Cycling Help: Losing my mind!

Post by JordanG on Thu Jan 19, 2017 9:27 pm

@moonbather wrote:Hello. I hope you are all well. I was wondering if you could offer a little help.
I bought a 10g tank from pet smart in August 2016 with a TopFin 10 Power Filter and set it up to begin cycling. I'm a bit of a newbie to the nitrogen cycle, I've owned fish years ago but didn't clue in to the cycling process (which probably explains why those fish didn't last too long) I tried the fishless cycle with just fish food for ammonia, after a month I could not get the cycle to move (and my filter crapped out on me and had to be replaced)
I decided to try a fish-in cycle and bought some rosy red minnows (4) to try that route. It started moving a bit over the next month but didn't progress to the point of getting nitrate and nitrite never got above 0.25ppm. I tried letting the ammonia get as high as I could without hurting the fish (no higher than 3ppm) still nothing but all the fish died. I tried to salvage the cycle by using pure ammonia (another fishless cycle) and it worked amazing for the most part. I got nitrites up and was developing nitrates (5ppm)! But then out of the blue the nitrite dropped off and the nitrate later followed but ammonia stayed above 5ppm. At this point I thought about giving up- but then I went to the Local fish store for some advice. He recommended ATM Colony as he swears by it and uses it in the store, so I brought that home to give it a go.

I started from scratch, cleaned everything, put in new filter media, new air tubing and stone. I used Prime like always and dosed in the ATM colony as the package instructed.  I added a tiny tiny bit of pure ammonia (again, fishless cycle) and got the tank to 1ppm of ammonia. And let her go. It's been 4 days now. I'm not getting a nitrite or nitrate reading yet.  I added some biomax to the back of my filter to try and increase biocapacity (recommended by the LFS as topfin filter media is tiny) Ammonia did somehow creep up to 2ppm though. PH is steady at 7.4. Temperature is steady at 86 degrees F. Now, I know 4 days is super early in any cycling process, but the ATM colony stuff is supposed to work fast (I know the snake oil argument, but I thought I'd try it). The LFS guy said his works overnight.

For the life of me I cannot get this thing to cycle!!! I don't think I'm missing anything. Perhaps its the TopFin filter itself? The Prime? I dont have any live plants or fish in the tank at the moment, and my tap water's base readings are all zero. The PH doesn't change and the temperature rarely changes. I dont understand! Any help would be appreciated. Thank you!

Sorry to hear all your troubles, unfortunately you have been given a lot of misleading and conflicting information about the fishless cycle.

In my opinion the only 'bacteria in a bottle' for freshwater tanks worth anything is Tetra Safe Start or Dr. Tim's one and only and even that you have to be really careful it hasn't been shipped in the cold and/or has not expired. It may or may not speed things up. It did work for me my cycle was done in a week.

I commend you for doing a fishless cycle, the only safe fishin method IMO is to get filter media from someone with an already setup and established tank. If possible get yourself some ceramic media and put it in their filter for a week and then transfer that to your tank (in tank water of course).

I don't know how strong your chemistry and dilution skills are but when cycling I would never allow ammonia to go beyond 1ppm or 1.5ppm any higher may actually inhibit the growth of nitrifying bacteria. f you  plan on using TSS or Dr. Tim's this point is crucial.

I would also never use shrimp or anything other than pure unscented household ammonia or reagent grade ammonium chloride as a source of ammonia as you need to be able to control the concentration precisely.

Also you should add dechlorinator to the water once at the very beginning and then wait 24 hours before adding bacteria or ammonia. After that you don't use any water conditioners  and don't do any water changes till the cycle is done. If you want to speed up the cycle to a week or two than you will need to the right nitryfying bacteria and TSS or Dr. Tim's are the only ones I would trust.

You should know the Nitrogen cycle goes Ammonia > Nitrite > Nitrate. At first you should just be looking at reduction in Ammonia, if you are using the API freshwater test kit (I recommend it) than likely you won't see nitrites or nitrates at the beginning. I wouldn't even bother testing for nitrites or nitrates until your bacteria have successfully consumed 1ppm of Ammonia within 24 hours at least two times. You can test every 12 hours, when you are getting close to cycle completion the bacteria should be able to consume 1ppm in less than 12 hours. Depending on how often you test you may never see Nitrite. Unless you are adding a high concentration of ammonia(I don't recommend doing this) nitrates will never get very high and may only be 5 - 10ppm or 10 - 20ppm when you are done.

Best of luck with your cycle.

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