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FAQs on Establishing Cycling in Freshwater Systems 1

Related Articles: Establishing Cycling, Freshwater Filtration, Know Your Filter Media, A Concise Guide to Your Options by Neale Monks, Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium, Tips for BeginnersWater Quality and Freshwater Aquariums

Related FAQs:  Establishing Cycling 2, Establishing Cycling 3, Establishing Cycling 4, Cycling Products, Cycling Trouble-Fixing, & Freshwater Filtration, Freshwater Environmental DiseaseNitrates in Freshwater Aquariums, Ammonia, FW Nitrites, FW Nitrates, Chemical Filtrants,

Live plants can readily fast-cycle a system. Lemna here.

More on Cycling a New Tank Hey Steven, this is Karen again --I had asked you about setting up a new tank for two small goldfish. thanks for the quick response--I went and read through the various postings under frequently asked questions and looked at the info on freshwater tanks but I guess I didn't locate anything very specific on cycling a tank. Did I miss it? I followed your link. I have read articles on this elsewhere but still have questions about the process --for instance do I need to feed the bacteria ammonia before the fish are put in--if I want to go the more time consuming route and seed the tank with rocks/filter medium from the established tank--and if I do how often do I put ammonia in and how much? The bacteria need something to produce waste for them right? that has to come out of a bottle or from fish right? I hope this is not taxing your patience but I want to be clear on this. What I asked before was about speeding the process up ( if you really don't recommend this then I can do it the long way--but I need a step by step guide--is there one?) As for the speeded up version... If I understand you correctly I should just transfer as much of the small tank into the new tank as possible--the filter, the rocks the plastic plants and the fish and presumably the water? I guess I fill the new tank up--and let it settle for 48 hours or so--then do the transfer? I don't want to shock my Golds--they seem to be doing well enough in their small tank but I want to make them more comfortable in the 29 gallon. I will not be happy if I manage to kill them because the irony of it is--that I rescued the feeder gold from a friend who only had it for Persian New year (Narouz) and was going to let it die or chuck it in the bayou--goldfish can't survive in a bayou can they? then I bought the other one so it would have a companion--this has become a very stressful and expensive rescue LOL but after all this work, filtration decisions, tank location, deciding what to put the tank on--still debating a heavy lateral file--an IKEA heavy duty cabinet and a shorter cabinet--and I still don't have plants or new gravel, ( : I want to get this right. It's funny I have been keeping tropicals for 20 years or so but probably not as well as I could do. Still learning thanks for the help Khaire, Karen <OK, here is the procedure. Day one, fill up the new tank with tapwater and a water conditioner/dechlorinator and get the tank and filter operating properly; temperature, circulation, aeration, etc. Day two, transfer goldfish and some water into another container or bag. A large Zip-Lock bag would work and allow them to float in the new tank. Then move the old floss and carbon filter into the new tank, do not change or rinse the media. I do not know if there is space in the back for the airline or if you will have to leave the top open for sometime. Lastly, move the old gravel into the new tank. Rinse it in the remaining old bowl water to remove as much dirt as possible. You may have to remove some of the new tank water as you add items to it. Finally, release your fish into their new home. After two months you can be sure that bacteria have moved and have populated the BioWheel on the Eclipse filter. At this time you can remove the old filter. -Steven Pro>

Cardinals need help ASAP!!!  - 06/20/2006 Hi, <Greetings> Nice site. <I think so too!> I have a 55 gallon tank with 3" of  eco-complete, a 250 watt heater, light, driftwood, moderate amount of plants,  etc. The temperature is 84 degrees, ammonia .25, nitrate 20 ppm. I waited a week  for it to establish, then added 16 cardinal tetras (1") and 5 "pea puffers"  (3/4"), as well as 30 or so glass shrimp. That was this past Saturday. Monday  morning, I found 3 tetras dead on the filter, 2 of them with their fins torn,  but with no other visible damage. 2 Glass shrimp were also dead at the bottom.  In the afternoon, I found one puffer drifting around with the current, but not  quite dead (fins were still moving), so I placed him in a small betta cage that  attaches to the inside of the tank to isolate him. A few hours later he was  dead. Today at 1 PM, I put Hagen cycle in the tank (help with cycling/ammonia).  An hour later, another cardinal was dead, another laying down on the gravel,  still alive, but barely.  They all seem to be  eating alright, and I thought I took care of the cycling with the eco-complete  and plants, so I don't know what's wrong! What is killing all of my fish? Please  tell me how I can remedy this problem. <Ammonia and/or other toxins are killing your fish.  The .25 reading of ammonia you currently have is very bad - you definitely need that reading to be at zero.  Bottom line, your tank isn't cycled (and the Hagen Cycle isn't going to cut it) - you need to do a large water change ASAP, and you need to continuously monitor the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels until you see them spike then return to zero.  At that point, the cycle will be complete.  The catch is that you currently have live fish in your tank - you absolutely cannot allow any ammonia or nitrite to remain in the tank while the fish are there.  Best to cycle the tank w/o live fish (using a little bit of fish food works just fine), but now since you already have the fish, all you can do is lots and lots of water changes. Do read here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwset-up.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm Basically, you completely overloaded your tank's ecosystem by adding way too much livestock at one time.  Please take advantage of this "nice site" to do some reading prior to sacrificing any more fish.  This problem has been addressed time and time again in the FAQs, and there are many helpful articles devoted to properly setting up an aquarium.> Thanks, Anthony <You're welcome. Jorie>

Cardinals need help ASAP!!! PART 2  6/21/06 Um, would bio-media from another tank be helpful? I have  a 125 gallon that has been established for over a year. <Yes, transferring biomedia from an established tank will help speed up the cycle.  You may even want to use some of the water from the established tank in your new tank.> Also, I thought  that water changes slow down cycling, or is this just a myth? <No, it's not a myth - right now you have a catch 22 - while you need your tank to cycle, since you have fish in it, you cannot allow the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate to spike as they could in a fishless tank.  In order to preserve the fish, you need to change the water and keep the toxins out of the tank.  You are correct in that this will slow down the cycle, but with livestock in the water, you really don't have any other choice.> Thanks, Anthony <You're welcome.  Next time try fishless cycling, as mentioned previously. Jorie.>

Cardinals need help ASAP!!! PART 3 a/k/a cycling a FW tank with fish  6/21/06 Hi, Time for part 3! <Indeed.> This morning I found three more dead fish! A puffer and two cardinals. I did a 40% water change as soon as I could. Should I add bio-media  from the other tank later today, or wait till tomorrow? Should I continue to add Hagen cycle? Should I do water changes everyday until it is finished cycling?  Fresh water or from another tank? What percent of water? Finally, do you  think they will all die? Sorry about all the questions, I'm just worried! Thanks, Anthony <OK Anthony, I will be as clear as I possibly can.  This is what I would do: 1. Invest in a good liquid test kit that measures ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, at a minimum.  I personally like Tetra's Master freshwater kit. 2. Take a reading of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. 3. If there is *any* ammonia or nitrite present, do a substantial (50% at least) water change with clean, fresh water matched as closely as possible for pH and temp. (you don't want to shock the fish you have).  A small amount of nitrate present is acceptable, as nitrate is the least toxic to fish out of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, but it's still harmful in large quantities.  Generally, you don't want to have a reading higher than 20 PPM.  The test kit you are using should have a chart for you to consult. If unsure, do another water change - that certainly can't hurt. 4. Take another ammonia, nitrite and nitrate reading *after* doing the water change. 5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 as needed. I am not quite sure how to make this any clearer: ANY DETECTIBLE LEVELS OF AMMONIA OR NITRITE WILL VERY QUICKLY KILL YOUR FISH.  You must remove these toxins ASAP or your fish will continue to die.  Don't just do water changes daily, but keep changing the water until ammonia, nitrite, and ideally, nitrate, levels are at zero. Do a search on the internet for "how to cycle a freshwater fish tank" or something similar - you'll find tons of articles and information. Once you've gotten the toxins under control, you may want to do another water change, this time using cycled water from your larger, established tank as the replacement water.  I'd say no more than 25%. Ditch the Hagen product - it's worthless in my opinion.  Just be diligent with testing for toxins and doing your water changes and everything will take its normal course (i.e., cycle). Finally, don't overfeed your fish...just feed a tiny little bit, especially while the cycle is establishing itself.  Uneaten food on the bottom of the tank will only contribute to the toxin build-up you are experiencing. I am, as always, glad to help, but you really need to educate yourself on the process of the nitrogen cycle in freshwater tanks, my friend...please take the initiative to do some reading on your own, and everything I'm telling you will become more clear and understandable... Best of luck, Jorie> Re: Cardinals need help ASAP!!! PART 4 a/k/a cycling a FW tank with fish PART 2 a/k/a source water with ammonia  6/21/06 Hi, <Hello...again> Part 4! <Mmm hmm...> I greatly appreciate all of your help. I have been continually testing  (with 2 new kits!) and changing water as stated. I also know of the nitrogen  cycle and have cycled many tanks before, without a problem like this one. This  afternoon, I tested the water with both kits. One said the ammonia was .25  (Mardel) , the other, .6 (Jungle). So I changed 40% of the water, and tested  again immediately after- to my surprise, it was actually higher! On both test kits. I was in disbelief, it just didn't make sense! Then, I  thought to myself, could it be my tap water? I tested my tap water, and to my  surprise, it was between the .25 and .50 on the Mardel one, and darker than .6  on the jungle (as high as it goes). SO, my tap water's ammonia is  higher than my tank's water! So, should I stop changing water, and  just wait? Thanks, Anthony <OK, good that you've identified that the source water is the problem.  I'm curious how this doesn't affect your other tanks... In any case, doing nothing isn't an option, as it truly is a matter of time before all your livestock will die.  Depending upon how much water you want to produce at one time, you can either (1) buy RO/DI (reverse osmosis/de-ionized) water from your LFS, (2) purchase your own RO/DI unit (I recommend products from www.airwaterice.com), or purchase the "Tap Water Filter" made by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals.  The first option may be your best bet to get some clean, non-toxic water ASAP, but in the long run, the RO/DI unit will serve you well.  The Aquarium Pharmaceuticals product is a much less expensive product that gets the job done (e.g., removing impurities), but takes a long time and uses cartridges fairly quickly, especially if your source water is particularly bad.  I believe www.drsfostersmith.com sells the Tap Water Filter, as do most chain pet stores. With either the RO/DI unit or the Tap Water Filter, you will need two additional products - I use a combination of ElectroRight and pH Adjust.  Basically, when these filters are taking all of the toxins out of the water, they are also removing some beneficially minerals and other substances.  Use according to direction on the bottles.  I make water in 5 gal. jugs (I have a couple left over from many years ago when I purchased RO/DI water from the LFS) and this works well. Finally, you may want to look into an additional filter media called PolyFilter...although it isn't a substitute for manually removing ammonia via water changes, it can help by removing some toxins as well. Do look into finding a good source of water ASAP - you still need to change the water again if those ammonia readings are even close to accurate!  Call around to local fish stores and see if you can buy some water for the time being. Good luck, Jorie> Re: Cardinals need help ASAP!!! PART 5 a/k/a cycling a FW tank with fish PART...  6/21/06 Part 5... Just Kidding! <LOL!  Whew...> Thank you! I will look into the RO units - I have been thinking about purchasing one for a while now. <Good idea.  I know they are expensive, but in the long run, they are well worth it.  I absolutely *love* my unit from www.airwaterice.com!> Also, about my other tanks, I think the water company  has just started to recently add ammonia, or something that causes it, as a year or so ago I did test my water and no ammonia was present. <You should be able to contact your local municipality and get this information...> 2.) I only do 10% water changes every 2 weeks or so, so I think the other tanks just handle it! <Possibly...I'm sure these tanks and their inhabitants will much appreciate the RO/DI unit as well, though!> Thanks for all your help - I really do appreciate the crew! Anthony <You're welcome.  Best of luck to you and your fishies...Jorie>

Question about "feeder" goldfish used in Cycling...  - 06/07/06 Hello  :) <Hi there>     I love your site, I have found it very informative and consequently, this is the first time I have felt the need to ask a question.  I have several aquariums, but the one I am concerned about is my 55 gal.  I have had it up for over two weeks now.  I first (after rinsing it thoroughly) let it run with 55-60 lbs of gravel and fake plants.  I let it run without fish for at least 48 hours adding BioZyme to hopefully encourage beneficial bacteria. <Mmm... not a consistent-results product... As you will find> After the 48 hours I added about a dozen feeder goldfish to start cycling the tank. <Not the best practice either... "Feeders" are almost-assured carriers/vectors of infectious and parasitic disease...>   Everything went well till early last week (about one week after adding fish).  I started having some of the fish die (I wasn't surprised by this as I know the water quality is sorting itself out and I was keeping up on water changes) but two or three of the fish started getting something that looked to me like a fungal infection.  Only one seemed severely effected by this (he died).  The infection covered about half his body, and looked like someone had painted diluted Elmer's glue over him.  It was cloudy white in appearance and was not stringy or mucus-like at all.  Any ideas?   <Comets are typically very weak/ened... die easily... particularly when placed in contrasting, vacillating chemical situations.> The other two that had it, and I am not convinced they had the same thing, got only small sections of it which have since gone away.  It is no longer affecting my fish, but I have concerns about adding any new fish.  My plan was to remove the goldfish in a bit and add in a Jack Dempsey cichlid and a Pleco (nothing else).  Should I be worried about this or is it likely trauma of some sort?    <I would be concerned... Please consider/read re Establishing Cycling: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm w/o "Feeders"... If it were me/mine, I'd dump, bleach/sterilize this tank and gear (instructions on WWM), and start again, cycling it w/o fishes... using a better product, BioSpira... to avoid the induced troubles you're likely to encounter here. Bob Fenner>   Any help is very much appreciated.      Shanna

Nitrite Issues in Freshwater setup >First I want to thank you for all your help, you are great. >>All are welcome. >I have two goldfish in a 28 gal tank cycled since two weeks. >>Hopefully those fish are quite small, and the tank is well-filtered. Among pet fishes, predators and goldfish seem to generate the most waste. If they do well, expect them to grow quickly, and be prepared to get them larger quarters. >pH 7.3 steady, nitrate 8ppm steady, KH 6 dGH, GH 4dgh which I will raise it slowly to 10dgh. >>No, my friend. These are goldfish, yes? Unless you have animals that are showing signs of distress (and even if they are), do NOT mess about with pH, alkalinity, etc. Taking a more hands-off approach will work better in the long run. >No chlorine, chloramine in the water, good level of dissolved oxygen with a temperature of 70 Fahrenheit, but the ammonia got a bit up around 0.10 ppm and the nitrite around 0.15ppm. >>To be expected in a new setup. >So I did a partial water change of 20% cleaning only one side of the gravel bed to stabilize the levels. >>Once the bacteria are WELL-established (as long as your ammonia and nitrite readings are not zero, they're not established), this method is best. Next few water changes, don't vacuum the substrate at all. >After that, the ammonia was the same so was nitrite. >>Not surprising. Remember, benthic bacteria need a chance to get a good toe-hold before we can go at them with gravel vacuums. >The second day I did an other 20% of water change and I cleaned the other side of the gravel bed, the ammonia got to 0 but again one more time the nitrite is the same. >>Eesh, please, slow down with the water changes and gravel vacuuming! Let it alone, for a month at least. Hands OFF! >What could cause after all this a resistance of the nitrite to stay at the same level with the probability that will rise more? >>In your attempts to keep the tank clean, you're killing the very bacteria you MUST have for a healthy system. Stop it. >This is worrying me, I take a lot of care for them and I wouldn't want my ignorance about something to cause them illness. >>You've come to the right place. Fish don't need a clean tank, they need a *healthy* tank - big difference, though it's not necessarily intuitive. >My second question is that one of them since I got him always had internal red/brownish streaks in the area between his mouth and his chest (I guess the low jaws area) where other fish are white instead. >>Not unusual for the different variants of goldfishes. Watch for red streaks in the fins, that's a sure sign of trouble. >He occasionally goes to the surface and spits out bubbles, I don't know if it's for food or for some kind of illness. >>Goldfish tend to do this, though they can be a bit sensitive to lower oxygen levels. There are other fishes with organs that actually allow them to take atmospheric oxygen, otherwise, if or when you see your fish doing this constantly, you'll know you need to address oxygen issues. The BEST way to ensure good saturation levels is to make certain the water's surface is well-agitated (this is where the oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange takes place, which is why they go to the surface). >Before he used to be in a smaller tank suffering from swim bladder problem, and sleeping in a vertical position with his head down. >>Fancy goldfish are *very* prone to swim bladder troubles. Roughage is key for good diets - that means plenty of fresh greens, but not so much as to pollute the tank. Some should be partially cooked to break down the cellulose. >Now that he is in a bigger tank he sleeps hidden in the castle in a horizontal position and steady. Apparently he is never stressed, very active and devours food. Thank you very, very much! Marcellino >>Sounds as though the fish are ready to get on their way to being pets, you just need to settle down and not mess about with the tank so much. Yes, Marcellino, I know this is hard, but it's got to be done. Best of luck! Marina 

Help -- tank recycling To the WWM Crew First, if  I may, I must commend you on your work on this site.  There is so much erroneous information out there!  And there you are, steadfast, consistent, and always with a smile it seems.  I have been reading your site for over 6 months now and have been able to answer all of my own questions. However, I have come up against a problem. About 2 months ago, I upgraded tanks.  I never dreamt of keeping fish, but someone gave me an Aquababies kit with 2 ADFs and it snowballed----2 gallon hex, 3 gal eclipse, 12 gallon eclipse, and now we're up to a 55 gallon freshwater planted tank. This tank was doing ok, but then I was bitten by the "planted aquaria" bug, and decided to add laterite and sand to my traditional substrate, ultimately totaling a 4.5" supplemented substrate.  Well, in the process of netting out the fish, their fins became torn.  I never imagined this could happen.  And, I feel so guilty! Well, once the tank was up and running again, with very good water conditions (ammo 0, nitrite 0, nitrates 20) My fish, collectively, started to show signs of fin rot.  I tried some MelaFix, but after a few days(4), it seemed fruitless.  So, I went the antibiotic route (Maracyn/MaracynII). And, then after that my pleco showed Ich spots, so I had to treat the main tank with Malachite Green (No adverse plant reactions---whew!)  So, now my fish are on the mend, and very happy and attentive.  But my tank is starting a cycle all over (darn antibiotics).  What does one do? < Go to Marineland.com and go to Dr. Tim's Library. Look at the header titled " The First Thirty Days". This will give you an idea on what is going on.> I have no where to put my fish while the tank cycles.  I was wondering about doing  a 80% water change and using bio-Spira.  I have had awesome experiences with bio-Spira in the past.  Do you think this is advisable? < Check the numbers. Ammonia should be zero as well as the nitrites. Nitrates should be under 25 ppm. I would d3finaety add Biospira to the tank.>   I have already lost a white cloud, a zebra danio, 3 Corys, and two red-eye tetras. It breaks my heart each time.  I'm a bit melodramatic, I know.  I have been doing 50% water changes every day to keep levels lower, but I am failing as is apparent from the list of casualties above.   Here are my tank specs: 55 FW Long Aquaclear 500 Power Filter 250W heater 81F Currently :  ammo 0 Nitrites through the roof Nitrates 20's Ph 7.0 5 zebra danios 3 white clouds 4 red eye tetras 7 serpae tetras 14 Neons (none have died-I thought they were sensitive?) 1 emperor pleco 2 Corydoras 1 silver angel 1 powder blue dwarf gourami Am I ok on stocking? < Stocking rate is OK but the silver angel will definitely pick on the other smaller fishes as it grows.> My water conditions before the fin rot were always exemplary, so I know this stocking works biologically, but is it too much for the fish.  Well, if you have any suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it! < A couple of ideas. Vacuum the gravel to get rid of built up mulm in the gravel. Feed only enough food so that all of it is gone in a couple of minutes each day. Service the filter often. Keep up with the water changes and watch for dead fish. In the future you might think about a Marineland power filter with a BioWheel . Next time you need to treat the tank you simply remove the wheel and keep it moist. After medication replace the wheel and the tank is as good as new.-Chuck> Thanks again! Angel Oramas

The right ammonia concentration for fishless cycling Hi guys, its Spyros again. Jorie thanks for the quick response. I am really grateful !!! <And welcome> Now I started cycling my tank with the fishless method. I have searched all over the internet about how much ammonia I should add daily in the aquarium. Chris Cow suggests that the concentration of ammonia in the tank should be 5ppm. <Mmm, this is too much IMO... about 1 ppm is right> Adding the appropriate dose daily until the nitrite level spikes, is supposed to provide the Nitrosomonas colony with the appropriate food. However, fish in a normally stocked aquarium would produce less ammonia. This means that, when the cycling is over, the ammonia produced by the fish would not be sufficient to cover the needs of the huge bacterial colony, created during the cycling process, and as a result a part of it would die, polluting the water. I decided instead to maintain a concentration of 3ppm for the first stage of the process. Is that too high or too low in order for the colonies to grow? <I would stick with the one ppm> Now another problem I have is that the tap water I use is alkaline (pH= 7.8-8.0) while the aquarium's water has a pH around 7.3. How am I supposed to make water changes without stressing the fish from a pH shift? Should I use chemicals to bring tap water to the desired pH value? Thanks a lot! <Depending on what sort of life you keep... making partial water changes with this tap, best stored, aerated, warmed ahead of actual use, should be fine. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm and the Related Articles, FAQs (linked, in blue, at top). Bob Fenner>

Using ammonia/nitrate removing media during fishless cycle First of all I must congratulate you for your wonderful site. I have recently set up my 25 gal freshwater aquarium. I am using a canister filter, loaded with sponges for mechanical filtration, biofiltration media and Zeolite. <Sounds good> Currently, after 2 days running, I get the following readings: pH=7.3 , [NH3]=0.5mg/L, [NO3-]=12.5mg/l, [NO2]=0.05mg/L, KH=6, GH=3 Tap water from my area is hard and alkaline (pH around 8 and GH around 7). <Tank is cycling...be patient and don't add fish until ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are at zero> The aquarium is decorated with lava rocks and driftwood. <I'd be wary of using lava rocks...it is my understanding these leech chemicals into the water and are not suitable for ornamental aquarium use...> Is it the driftwood (and/or Zeolite) that softens the water and gives me a low pH value? <Driftwood will lower the pH, shouldn't be the Zeolite, which, to my understanding, is simply a brand name of activated charcoal> Is the buffering capacity of my aquarium enough or will I experience sudden pH changes in the future? <You will have to monitor this to see - I can't give you a pat answer.  How big is the piece of driftwood and what is the pH of your original tap water? If need be, you can use something like aragonite sand as a substrate to buffer the water...> I am planning to add a pair of firemouths, a pair of blue acaras and a Bristlenose pleco (A. multispinis). The problem is that the appropriate water parameters listed on the Internet vary from site to site. What are the optimal water conditions to keep these fish? <You will always get different information depending on where you look.  I trust www.fishbase.org to have accurate info, along with others...in general, cichlids like water somewhere around 6.5-7.5 pH, and the Bristlenose pleco would be fine in that range as well.  In reality, pH stability is more important than exact matching...> Now before adding the fish, I am planning to follow the fishless method to cycle my tank. <Wonderful! Good for you...> Is it absolutely necessary to add filter media from established aquariums? <No, this would simply expedite the process.  Not necessary at all.> Should I remove Zeolite from the filter? <No, leave it in place> Once the nitrogen cycle is established, should I use ammonia and nitrate removing media (such as AmmoChips/NitraZorb) or should I leave only the biomedia (BioStars) with their bacteria to filter the water? Will the accumulation of nitrate concentration at the end of the cycling process result in an algae outbreak? I have also read that it is recommended to keep the tank lit during the process. Wouldn't this normally aid algae growth? Should I add the pleco after the nitrite level begins to fall, in order to keep algae under control? <I am not a fan of using chemicals to remove toxins.  Water changes will accomplish everything you need to do, from keeping algae at bay to completing the cycle.  I have always left my tanks lit during cycling, as the algae will also play a part in the cycle as well.  As long as you aren't running power compacts or other super-powerful lights, you shouldn't have too much of an algae problem, but do be aware that most new tanks have various algae blooms during the first several months they are established.  Again, water changes are your friend in this case!> Thanks. Spyros <Thank you, Sypros, for doing your homework and being such a thorough and thoughtful aquarist! Keep up the good work, Jorie>

Are my fry doomed? Hi, <Howzit?> I added my first batch of fish (6 cardinal tetras and 3 platies) to a new tank 6 days ago. <I do hope the tank was cycled... Cardinals, tetras do NOT like new systems...>   On day 2 we suddenly had four adorable baby platies in there as well! <Congrats> So far, everyone seems happy, but I'm concerned that the fry won't survive the cycling process.  (FYI, its a 25 gallon tank with a bio wheel, lots of plants and driftwood.  I set it up and seeded it with gravel from an established aquarium 1 week before adding fish. <Good plan> For the past 6 days, I have tested the water daily and the results have been very stable:  pH is 6.8, ammonia is 0.25, nitrites are 0.5, nitrates are 10).  Any advice on how to improve their odds would be greatly appreciated! Amanda Jackson <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/estcycfaqs.htm I would avail myself of a commercial "cycling" product, watch feeding very carefully, add no more livestock till your system is cycled. Bob Fenner>

Filter Not Maturing Hi! I find your site very, very helpful! I think I got myself in a lot of trouble. I bought a used aquarium + heater + filter, and got some tropical fish. After buying a fish that might have been ill already, everything started to spin out of control. The fish died, one by one, and once it stabilized I added 2 new fish and the whole thing spun out of control again! At the moment I was really feeling like giving up, about 6 weeks ago, I still had 2 mollies left (black & Dalmatian). They seem to be quite hardy and I would love to keep them alive! I am trying to get my filter to mature; it has been in the aquarium for about 6 weeks or so after the last fish treatment, that probably killed all the good bacteria. However, ammonia and nitrite reading are still sky high!!! I do regular water changes (how much can I do? Sometimes I do 75% to lower the ammonia/nitrite), wash the filter media in old aquarium water only, and use AmmoLock to lock the ammonia. I am wondering if I should get a new filter. Mine seems old and I am not sure if this is part of the problem (it's an old internal filter filled with filter wool and Zeolite/carbon). I started adding some salt last week (from the pet shop, recommended for mollies). Now the matter gets more complicated: I just discovered I have 8 baby fry! They look OK. I transferred then into another tank with the most simple box-filter (that has been in my other aquarium for a while, containing Zeolite and filter wool). The ammonia and nitrite reading are still high. I do a 50% water change twice a day. Of course the nitrite level drops after that, but it builds up very quickly! I am completely desperate. I know (now!!!!) that I should have cycled my aquarium properly, but how do I get out of this mess and save my fish? Thanks for your help!!! Paula <I think you need a new filter. Not sure what type this is, or even the tank size, but you do not mention any bio media for the bacteria to grow on. I like the Marineland Bio Wheel type. Get one that will give you a turnover of 4 to 8 times per hour. 40 to 80 gallons per hour for every 10 gallons. Never clean the bio wheel, not even a rinse in tank water. Stop using the ammonia lock. Do as many water changes a day as needed to keep ammonia and nitrites at zero. Use a gravel vac to clean the bottom. I have a feeling you are overlooking this very important part of maintenance. Unless this a very small tank two mollies can not cause ammonia and nitrite spike as quickly as you imply. There is another source of decaying organic matter in your tank. Fish waste and uneaten food are the most likely culprits. Feed lightly until the new filter becomes established. Also, make sure you don't have an old piece of driftwood breaking down in there. Don>

Cycling a Sponge Filter Thanks Don, I appreciate your time and insight. I hate to drag on this issue of filters, but while shopping for a filter I came across a one piece with charcoal on top and foam on the bottom. Keep in mind I only have room for a 4 inches (height) and 2 inches (width) filter in my half gallon. My question is the charcoal/foam combination better than the all sponge filter? You said the sponge never needs to be replaced, but does the charcoal need to be replaced? Would you choose the sponge only or the charcoal/foam combination? If charcoal/foam, because it is one unit both must be replaced and how often would you recommend. One more question. Does the water and filter need to be cycled for a couple of days, before I can put the Bettas in the container. Or the next time I change the water I can introduce the filter, wait a few minutes and then add the Betta to the container? Thanks Again, Mario D. <I would go with just the sponge. Charcoal is only "active" for a short period. If you have to change the whole thing to replace the charcoal, you would loose the beneficial bacteria every time. You would never establish the bacterial colony needed for bio filtration. You only need a tiny sponge in this container. A little bigger than a silver dollar should do it. You could even trim down a larger one if that's all you can find. If the stand pipe is too tall, that can be trimmed also. It will take at least a month to establish the colony. Just add the filter whenever you get it and cut water changes back a little. Never more than 50%, but you want to do them more often at first. A test kit for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate would tell you when the filter is cycled and would clue you as to a healthy water change schedule once established. You can add the sponge at any time, but you will not get the benefits of bio filtration until that colony has darkened the filter. Should it clog up, rinse it in the water removed during a water change. I know it sounds strange, but it needs to be dirty and full of "germs" to do it's thing. Don> 

Slow Cycle Hi there my name is Cody, I would like to say nice web site. Now to the point, I'm starting a 55 gal. tank (fresh water). Its going on 5 weeks. One pleco 12" long. Our ammonia is out of control, around 4.0. I went to the local fish store (good store) and told him my sad story. He said not to do a water change or add anything to it, he said to add about a dozen feeder fish and let them eat. What is you take on this, is this ok or just a waste of money? (don't have a lot of money to waste) We just get kind of tired looking at water and no nice fish. Thanks a lot!! just_married02@yahoo.com <Hi, Don here. No, don't put any more fish in the tank. The 12 inch pleco is making plenty of ammonia. Deadly levels in fact. Invest your money in more dechlorinator, you'll need it. Please do a large (50%+) water change ASAP, then another in a few hours. Do at least one a day until ammonia is at zero. This will slow, but not stop, the establishment of your bio filtration. My concern here is that the tank, after 5 weeks, should be well past the point of an ammonia spike. Are you using any ammonia locking product? Medicine? If so, please stop and do water changes only to control the ammonia. Get back to me with any additives you may have been using and the type of filter you are using>   Uncycled Tank Hi, I am a moderately new aquarium owner with some experience with mollies and guppies in the past, but I have a new 20-gallon tank (charcoal filter, two air stones, heater, and live and plastic plants) and am having issues that I have not run into before. I hope you guys can help. I currently have three guppies, and two female mollies. The tank is about 2 months old now and I have had continual issues with water quality, including ph, nitrates and nitrites. I test the water quality every other day, but I can't get the nitrate and nitrite levels to stabilize. I have added aquarium salt, de-chlorinator, Stress-zyme, and Ammonia-out and keep the temperature around 80 degrees. We recently had a fungus issue and have just finished the treatment for that. Beginning last month, I lost a male guppy, then a female molly, then my male molly to a disease I have not seen before. The fish exhibited a slimming of body and then difficulty swimming smoothly, and then their bodies visibly curved and seemed to tighten till the fish could not straighten and had created a painful "C" form. It seems to take several days for them to die, and it is very difficult to watch and feel helpless. I have not found any reference to these or similar symptoms on the Internet anywhere, nor could my aquarium store give me any information on what could be wrong with my fish/aquarium. I have found something called "shimmy" that mollies are apparently prone to. Is that what my fish are falling victim to? If not, have you seen this disease before? Thank you for your help and time, Worried Owner Amy <Hi Amy, Don here. You need to read up on cycling, but here are some basics. Ammonia and nitrite must be at zero. Nitrate will never "stabilize". It will always climb as two different bacteria convert ammonia (fish waste) into nitrite and finally nitrate. When you use ammonia locking products you can disrupt this "cycle" by starving or poisoning one or both of the bacteria. Not sure what you used for the fungus, salt will deal with most cases, but that may have also killed off the beneficial bacteria you need to keep the water in good shape. If by "charcoal filter" you mean those bubbling box filers, I would suggest an upgrade to a power filter. I like the Marineland line with a "bio wheel". Look for one rated to pump between 200 and 250 gallon per hour. Whatever type you get NEVER clean the bio media. Do not even rinse it with tap water. In the meantime you need to do large (50%) water changes until ammonia and nitrite are at zero. Daily, or more, if needed. Continue until nitrate starts to rise. Then adjust your schedule to keep nitrates below 20ppm. Expect this to take around a month. As to the Molly problem. Lack of salt seems to be one reason. Mollies are really brackish fish. Some say the lack of salt alone will cause the shimmy. Others say it causes the fish to weaken and other infections set in. It may also be a reaction to ammonia or nitrite. Best course of action is to upgrade the filter, use a gravel vac to do frequent water changes, and use nothing but salt in the water. And test often. React to spikes with larger water changes, not chemicals. Good luck>    

Multiple Cycling Problems Hi, Over two weeks ago, my sister got my old 2 gallon tank (which had goldfish in it the day before) <<Hello. What happened to the fish that were in it, and did you transfer any filter media along with the tank? Is there a filter?>> and 3 fish, (I'm not sure what they were, but two were very small, 3/4 of an inch, with a neon color strip on the whole body going from mouth to tail, and there was also a guppy), and she got a plastic coral.   <<Did you get your water tested for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate after this happened?>> At first one of the neon fish died, then the other neon died. then when I looked at the Guppy I noticed that she wasn't moving around like she always was.  The I saw a filmy substance on the guppy, and strands of the substance were dangling from it.   <<Could be a few things, fungus, excess body slime, or perhaps body slime disease, caused by ammonia or other toxins in the water.>> So I took the fish out and put it into a plastic container, with clean water.  I closely looked at the tank, and I noticed that a translucent gewy substance had "grown" on the gravel in patches of about 1/2 inch in size.  The guppy died too.  So we thoroughly washed the tank, and all the plants, gravel, and we got my sister 2 fruit tetras.   <<What about the good bacteria? Did you wash the filter, too? Is this tank heated?>> They were ok for one week, until we discovered one of the tetras dead today.   <<Again, you MUST test the water for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate.>> So I went to see what was going on, again I noticed the substance on the gravel and on the fish, When I closely looked at the live fish I noticed that it had tiny bubbles on its scales( like tiny blisters the people have, but they are all over the fish), <<Ammonia burn.>> and the fins and tail looked as if they had disintegrated, or bitten off. so I took it out and put it into clean water, in a clean container.  I also noticed that the plastic coral that we bought, turned yellow almost brown on the edges.  When my dad was cleaning the tank he said that the yellow and brown, would not come off of the coral, so I asked him if he had washed it with boiling water ( he said he ran it under the sink in hot water) so I think that that might have been the whole problem all along, <<No.>> but I am not sure Please tell me if the fish is going to survive, and how I can help it.  And what could that substance be? Please help Mel <<I doubt the fish will survive, because the water is the problem. The substance is not the problem, the fungus is simply being caused by the same thing causing your fish to die: bad water quality. Please, please get your water tested at a decent LFS, or buy some test kits for the above-mentioned toxins (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate) and test your water regularly: once every few days, for the next few weeks. You seem to be cycling this tank, and with three fish in it, you are definitely going to have high ammonia problems. This needs to be resolved, these fish are not tolerating this at all. Reduce the number of fish to ONE, only one, and continue to test the water until the tank is fully cycled. You can read up on this by doing a web search for "cycling a fishtank" Good luck. -Gwen>>

Bad Start First of all, great website. I have read many of the sections, but have not seen a section on what to do when it's too late. <Yeah, we need to add that one> Me and my wife started a 29G tank 4 weeks ago. We set it up with an undergravel filter with approx 2" of gravel. <UGFs are a poor second to a power filter with a bio wheel or pad. I would suggest replacing this ASAP. They collect a ton of waste under them and are next to impossible to clean.> We filled it with tap water and added Kordon Amquel+ to dechlorinate, and added Nutrafin Cycle, both per the bottle directions. <OK, now were going to do a fishless cycle, right? 'Cause 'Cycle' simply doesn't> After testing <Good>and all was zero <What was at zero?> with a PH of 7.6 <OK> on day 3, we followed by adding 3 Tetras, 3 Penguins, 1 Clown Loach, 2 clawed frogs, and a Bala Shark (needless to say we jumped the gun). <That was not a gun. It was a cannon! Not only is it far too many fish, it is a very bad mix, IMO. The loach will grow slow, but reach a foot! The shark will hit 14 inches. The frogs are great escape artists. If any are missing in the morning, look on the floor. And if any of the tetras are missing, look in the frog. They'll eat anything they can catch and fit in their mouth.>  All went well, we added the Cycle per bottle directions and after a week of having the fish, we added 3 more Tetras, 2 more Penguins, 2 more Clown loaches, 2 glass catfish, and a rainbow shark. <That Rainbow shark will become very aggressive. Far too many fish> Now we have had the fish for about 4 weeks and the water is cloudy, <To be expected in an uncycled tank> but the fish seem to be fine. <They are not> Ammonia has worked it's way up to 3, <Deadly, you do have a major problem brewing> but dropped and re-rose after adding a touch of the Amquel as I knew it would. Nitrite is still 0 (went to .25 on week 3 before Amquel). Nitrate has been around 5 since a week after putting in fish. <Nitrite and nitrate will not start to rise until the first stage of the cycle kicks in.> I just did a 10% water change. <Good practice. Now do a 50% water change. Do them daily, or more, until the ammonia is at zero.> So we have 6 tetras, 5 Penguins, 3 clown loaches, 2 frogs, 2 glass catfish, 1 Bala shark and 1 rainbow shark in a 4 week old 29G tank.  One of the glass catfish is kinda not so glassy anymore with little white splotches in them. Other than that, all the fish seem good, but the water is still cloudy (white specs floating around). From what I've read, I'm lucky to have a single living fish, much less to have them all, but after reading so many horror stories, I am worried and was wondering what I could do to save my tank <I'm warming up for this> if there is an inevitable fish kill coming. <If you do not act, yes> Would an extra 10-20G Hanging filter help out? <Even bigger> Would a bigger water change help? <Yes, much larger> Am I in for a bunch of the fish dying? Thank you for any help you can give me. <First of all there is no way you can keep all these fish in one 29 gallon tank. You are going to have to return some. No way around it. In fact I think you really need to return them all and start over. I would remove the UGF. They collect tons of waste and are impossible to clean. They do a poor job of bio filtration compared to a modern power filter. Get one rated for a tank larger than the 29. Look for one that pumps around 200 gallons per hour. I like the Marineland line with a "Bio Wheel". Then do a fishless cycle by adding a raw shrimp. After ammonia and nitrite have both spiked and crashed, and nitrate starts to rise, you are cycled and can start to slowly add fish. Plan on 3 to 6 weeks for this to happen. Please research the adult size of any fish before bringing it home. No Clown Loaches or Sharks. Bio Spira is the only product that will instantly cycle your tank. It's hard to find and expensive. It is the two actual living bacteria cultures needed to convert the ammonia first to nitrite, then nitrate. It must be kept cool, so most LFS do not carry it. But even if you find it, it will not allow this many, or this mix of fish to live a full life in a 29, especially with a UGF. Upgrade the filter, find the Bio Spira and you could keep the Penguins and Tetras and add some Corys. Don> Cycling Time Hi folks, got a small Question. I have a 50 Gal freshwater tank. Have 2 giant Darios, 2 Darios and 2 black fin tetra's. I started the tank out about 2 weeks ago also used (cycle). It seems that not much is happening in the cycling process. Do I maybe not have enough fish to cycle the tank or is it the product cycle that is not showing. Not much is going on. <Time is all you need. And a test kit. You have plenty of fish to get the cycle started. You need to check for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. After both ammonia and nitrite have spiked and crashed to zero, your nitrates will start to rise. At this point you are cycled. Normally this will take from 3 to 6 weeks. However, since you already have fish in the tank you are going to have to do some major water changes to control the ammonia  and nitrite. That will slow, but not stop the process. It's far easier, and better for the fish, to simply throw a small raw shrimp in before any fish are added. The shrimp will produce ammonia as it decays and start the cycle. No need to do any water changes as there are no fish involved. But since the fish are in the tank, you will need to do 30 to 50% water changes every day or so to keep the ammonia and nitrite low. If you do not, there is a good chance the fish will not survive. The only product that will instantly cycle a tank is Marineland's Bio Spira. Expensive and hard to find, but it does work. Don>     Thank you much Bill Ammonia, FW Hey Gwen, Hope you had a great vacation (a while back)!!!   I have a question about Nitrate, Nitrite and Ammonia.  Are they all Ammonia problems?  My little girl is starting the same problem as stripes is (my little guy) but my two other ones seem ok (for now).  Last night she was upside-down (this is her first time like that).  I'm getting a little frustrated, I've really tried everything.  (I haven't found daphnia yet). Help again!!!!   W.Leger <Ammonia is the most toxic form of nitrogenous waste. You try and culture good bacteria that will convert the ammonia to less toxic nitrites. The bacteria then breaks the nitrite down to an even less toxic nitrates. The nitrates are converted to nitrogen gas in an anaerobic (no oxygen) situation. Go to Marineland .com and check out Dr. Tim's library for an article titled the "First Thirty Days" for details on how and when this all happens.-Chuck> Confused about new tank cycling Hello, <hey Judy, MacL here with you this fine day.> I'm in the process of setting up a 10 gal freshwater tank. <GREAT!>  My kids and I are planning to get two goldfish. Earlier this year, my son was given a goldfish for his birthday by my sister-in-law (we were not asked first, so we didn't have time to properly prepare), and before we could establish a proper environment, the fish was stressed and became ill, and even though we set up a tank and tried everything we could (including trips to the fish vet and oral antibiotics) the fish eventually died. <That occasionally happens and I'm so glad you didn't get discouraged>  So we're really trying to do it right this time. I'm just a little confused because I get conflicting info from my fish store, which I think of as very reputable, and some Q and As on your website, which also seems extremely reputable and full of great information.<Its possible its not conflicting but just two different methods. Lets read on.>  My fish store told me that we could set up the tank with water that has been dechlorinated (I have done that). <HAVE to do that.> We have an over the back Rio 110 filter. We have also added substrate and some decorative rocks and shells and wood, as well as a synthetic shark decoration from the fish store, which my 5 year old insisted upon (I know this sounds like a lot of stuff, but nothing is very large). <Actually the only problem I see is if they are real shells they will eventually break down in fresh water and give you a ph problem>  All have been rinsed well with water before adding. I would also like to add a couple of plants and was planning on anacharis. <Just for your information goldfish love to pull anacharis up out of the ground. Its okay with the anacharis but wanted you to know what was going to happen.> When I asked my contact at the store about preparing the tank, he told me that I can use Stress Zyme to introduce beneficial bacteria, but I am confused because there is such an emphasis in the correspondence on your web site about letting the tank cycle for a while first before adding fish. <The cycle is basically a very slow introduction of bacteria. There are products that add bacteria and they do work for some people but they can also be bad or cause huge problems.> The store made it sound like I can set up the tank, add the Zyme and add the fish and we'd be good to go. I have read and reread articles and Qs and As and I'm not sure exactly what to do, because the stuff on your site makes it sound harder than that. <Most of the people on this site advocating doing a cycle the slow way, adding the water and then adding ONE fish and waiting a couple of weeks before you add a second fish> (Do I cycle with a little food to get started? <You can add food and let the bacteria build from there then after a couple of weeks add a fish> How long to I wait before adding my first fish? <Gold fish are pretty hearty and you should be able to just add the water then add the ONE fish. Two or three weeks later add another.> What tests do I do while I'm cycling? <You need to test for ammonia and it will rise and then fall as it falls, the nitrites will rise and then fall> Am I making this more complicated than it needs to be? <I think you just want to be sure you do it the right way> What are the steps I need to take to increase my likelihood of getting a couple of fish off to a good start? <Slow slow slow!>  Thank you for your great website and for taking my question, <Judy you are on the right track here, Just put some space between adding the two fish and I think you'll find you have much more success. Be prepared to do a partial water change with new water (dechlorinated) before the second fish goes in. Good luck, MacL> Judy

Re: Confused about new tank cycling Thanks again for your response. <Hey Judy, MacL again.> In your last reply, you suggest waiting to add plants. <If you decide to cycle with a fish wait, if you just do it with food its fine to go on and add them. Let me try to explain why in plain English, the plants put out oxygen during the day and use it during the night so while the tank is establishing with a fish its best to let the fish have priority to begin with.> What is the ideal time to add plants (i.e. anacharis)? I have been told it is okay to go ahead a put plants in now while I'm setting up or when we add the fish. <You can do it, I just like to do things slow and sure.> A note: I stopped at our fish store today to have them check our filter, which hasn't been pulling the water up the intake tube when I turn it on. I learned that the goldfish at the store all have ich, so they weren't selling them right now. I think we'll get the goldfish from a different shop--fortunately we have other small aquarium stores to choose from. Is this a common occurrence at a store, or should this be a big red flag that this shop is not as wonderful as I have been thinking it is? <Actually the fact that they wouldn't sell the fish that were sick is a great sign. It means they care that the customers not have sick fish. I hope this is helping Judy, please let me know how it goes, MacL> Thanks again, Judy

Re: red spots on my lionhead Okay my next question is how long should I cycle the new 36gallon tank before I move the other 4 goldfish into it.  I have read conflicting reports on this.  Some saying that goldfish are a pretty hardy fish and can be added within a week others indicate, that at a higher temp, it will take the tank about 30days to completely cycle.  On site indicated to add danios to the tank after 24hrs because they can stand high levels of ammonia and nitrite and will help cycle the tank with fish and food waste.  I am still only 3months into the aquatic scene and would like to get this right - this time.  Also I would like to get my sick lionhead into a tank by himself, and not just divided away from the others. < Go to Marineland.com and look under Dr. Tim's Library for the article titled the first 30 days. This will tell you what is going on with the tank and give you a better understanding on how the nitrification system works. Then you will know what to test for and can tell how far along your tank is. danios are hardy fish that can tolerate a wide range of water conditions. Separating the goldfish from the danios and other tropicals is a good idea. -chuck>

Re: Beneficial Bacteria Hi crew. Good day to you. Just a quick question. In case of a long blackout how long will the beneficial bacteria, the ones that consumes ammonia and nitrites, can live without oxygenated water. Assuming I'm using an OHF, with chambers and the filter media are submerged, how long can they survive? How about if I'm using a sponge filter? Is it mere minutes or hours? Will they be all gone? < There are many variable here that need to be taken into consideration. The first is the water temperature. Cooler water holds more oxygen than warmer water. The available surface area of the tank needs to be taken into consideration. A tall skinny tank will have less available surface area than a low wide tank with lots of surface area. Depends on the fish load. A heavily stocked tank will lose oxygen faster than a lightly stocked tank. If your power goes out and your fish are gasping at the surface then the bacteria are probably struggling too. In a planted tank the plants will help oxygenate the water if there is any light available, but they will use oxygen in the dark. Canister filters and fluidized bed filters most certainly will kill off the bacteria after a few hours just because the will have no surface area whatsoever. In case of a black out I do water changes and refill the tank using a watering can that oxygenates the water. This keeps the tank oxygenated , clean and warm at the same time.-Chuck> Thanks and more power. Jeto

Blind Tetra only survivor I have had a tank for about 6 months.  When I had the tank completed, I bought six fish, including some neon tetras, a molly, and a blind tetra.  I was told the only thing I had to do was keep the tank clean and feed them.  All but the blind tetra died within a week.  I went back to the pet store and they said I should get a better filter.  Bought one and installed it.  Bought several more fish (another molly, and algae eater, and another tetra). All died again within a few days except my blind tetra.  Went back to the pet store, they said my water was too cold and sold me a heater.  Installed it.  Bought some more fish (catfish, red tailed shark, Dalmatian molly).  Two of the three new ones are already dead.  My albino polly hides all the time so I can't see if he has died yet.  All of these dead fish and my blind tetra is doing great.  Could he be doing something to the other fish?  The pet store said no, but obviously they can't help with much except taking my money.  I love fish, but I don't want to send any more to their death!  I want more in my tank, but until I find out what is happening, I think it is cruel to purchase any others.  Can you please help!!! Thanks, Susan <<Dear Susan; Yes, you really need to do some reading up on "cycling" a tank, also known as New Tank Syndrome. You can do a web search for "cycling a tank" or read this info here at WetWeb: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/estcycfaqs.htm. Basically, your fish are producing ammonia as a liquid waste (like urine) and it is building up to toxic levels in your new set-up. Buying a new filter did nothing, ALL filters have to go thru this process of colonizing nitrifying bacteria. It normally takes a good month, month-and-a-half to cycle a tank. You have only postponed your cycle, so I recommend reading a FAQ on beginning a tank, (and buy yourself some test kits!! Aquarium Pharmaceuticals makes a great Master Test Kit, so you can test your levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Test your tank water every few days during the first week, then once a week or so afterwards, to help you know what is going on in your tank. You may keep track of your levels in a little notebook. I highly recommend this. Even experts with reef tanks test their water weekly!! This is an absolute must in order for you to understand your tank and its citizens. Best of luck, -Gwen>>

Re: Advice for a Very Small Tank <Hi Jennifer, MacL here, Magnus must be busy> Thanks so much for your response! It gave me just the info I was looking for. <I'll pass that along to him>  I'll keep the tank as is for now. We may upgrade to a bigger tank in the future, once I think we've got a handle on care of this one (and it's my son's hobby so he's responsible for any purchases for the fish -he'll have to save his birthday money if he wants more fish/new tank etc). <Very wise to do> So a new set of questions... how long does it actually take to "cycle" the tank. <That depends on the tank size and the bioload on the tank. Let me recommend that you let it take some time and do a good full cycle.> I'm still working hard to keep the ammonia under control, and I wonder now long will it take to build up the beneficial bacteria in this size tank. <The copper will kill off the good bacteria so basically you have to start all over again with the cycle. That's probably why its taking a long time.>  Also, will the CopperSafe that I added (which by the way has cleared up the parasite COMPLETELY) kill off the bacteria so that I have to start over?  I saw that it's harmful to plants, but we just have plastic plants. <Yes it will. And it lingers in the plastic stuff so no snails.> Also, now that I said my platies (sorry, my son's platies) were doing great, one of them is acting a little funny.  Just doesn't seem real energetic, though he eats a bit and swims around slowly, I just have noticed that the other fish is amazingly energetic in comparison.  Is it something I should worry about? I'm keeping a good eye on the water quality and watching for strange behavior etc. <Keep a close eye on them.  One could be getting picked on.> And if I do upgrade to a 5 gallon tank, could I add some female platies to that one (4?) and have all 6 live comfortably in that size? <Yes> Could then my <2 gallon tank be used for quarantine/keeping babies? <Yes for sure> I have perused the articles on your site (and others) and have found much useful info, which I'm sure is what has kept the fish alive in the first place. <I'm so glad you find the site useful, its so much fun talking to people who write here>  I appreciate it!  These little guys have been with us just 10 days, but we're awfully attached to them. They DO have a personality. <They most certainly do!!!, Good luck, MacL> Thanks a lot! Jennifer

FW tank, new, cycling, hopefully Dear WWM: I have a cycled 38 gallon freshwater tank (both my kit readings and a very reputable aquatics store confirmed this).  Ammonia, nitrites, and PH all are in good shape.  Yesterday, I added my first group of fish, which was 2 baby angels and 3 baby Corys.  My water is slightly cloudy, and although I understand that the bio-load is adjusting, I wonder if there is anything other than time that will help clear this up. < You may be over feeding but the cloudy water usually means ammonia. Especially if the water has a fishy smell. If the fish look alright then it may just be dust that came in with the gravel. If the problem is ammonia then you need to change some water and add a water conditioner that detoxifies ammonia. If the water is cloudy from dust then a clarifier will help coat the particles so they are picked up in the filter.>   Should I use my bubble wand, or will this just stir things up more? < If the problem with ammonia then the extra aeration will be appreciated by the fish. If the cause is just dust then the filter will be able to pick it up quicker.>  Also, should I hang another filter on there? < Depends what the problem is. An extra filter will not help with ammonia but may help clear up the dust particles.-Chuck> I read this suggestion, but I believe it was in reference to a saltwater tank.  Any help is appreciated, and keep up the good work! P.S. Most of the time my aquatic advisors tell me to "sit on my hands and let time do its work"...... Cyndy Monarez

Re: Freshwater Tank question Don't think it's ammonia, as the local aquatics store says my water looks good, also there's been no smell, and I remember from the cycling process what ammonia smells like coming from a fish tank.  As for the gravel, that seems odd, as this tank's been in place about 10 weeks, unless the tiny bit of gravel that I transferred when I moved the Corys from the 10 gallon to the 38 gallon was enough to do it.  As I cleaned THAT gravel pretty thoroughly when I set up that tank, however, it seems like 15 or 20 pieces of gravel (at most) wouldn't be enough to cause this cloud, but you're the expert, which is why I wrote.  Could the fact that I moved the Corys the same day as I added the angels have thrown the tank into bio overload? < Depends on what you mean by BIO overload. When you say that term it makes me think of the fish excreting more than the biological filter can transform ammonia into nitrites. That is why I asked about the ammonia levels. That's what a bio overload is.>   All of these fish are babies.  Speaking of which, I was anchoring a plant today and noticed what I guess is a fry from one of the "unions" in my tank.  It was a fully formed, but really, really tiny, fish that was able to swim well enough to swim back to the back of the tank.  Could this romance have anything to do with the cloudy water? < Not likely>   Also, of the following, which would be the most likely to have spawned:  zebra danios (intermediate sized), angels (very young), Corys (babies) or two mollies (intermediate to adult)? < The mollies> Your help and expertise are appreciated.  Also, is Crystal Clear by Aquarium Products a clarifier? < Yes it is. Just a last minute thought. Have you introduced any new rocks that may be dissolving in your water?   I have some of this, but my aquatics store seem to think that this kind of thing just prolongs whatever one is trying to accomplish.  Your thoughts, please... P.S. I don't think I'm overfeeding, but I'm scaling it back and skipping a day here and there just to be sure. Cyndy Monarez

Re: Freshwater Tank question, pH influences, decor/rock Thanks for clarifying the term "bio overload". Obviously, I was using the term incorrectly.   No new rocks, just rocks that have been in there since I first set up the aquarium, and just one of those, which was purchased at an aquatics store. Don't know offhand what type, it's kind of a southwestern-looking rock (clay mixed with white). < Some sedimentary rocks are clay and silt that have become cemented over time. If your water is slightly acidic then it may be dissolving those cements that have held the clay particles together. I would recommend taking the rock out and letting it dry. Add a drop or two of acid like vinegar and see if it bubbles. If it does then it is not safe for an aquarium. > and I HAVE noticed that the rock seems to be developing a slightly yellowish cast on the white areas.  My Amazon sword plants WERE added within the last week, however, could this be a factor? < Only if you had added some amendment to the sand for the plants like laterite.>   I took off the rock wool as thoroughly as I could without damaging the roots. So you'll have some idea of how much remained on the plants, there probably wouldn't have been enough to put in a thimble-but maybe even that's too much.  Your thoughts? < If it is not biological then it must be something in the gravel or rocks dissolving into the water. I would remove one rock in the tank per week and see if the water clears up. If it does then you know it was the rocks. If it doesn't then the problem may be in the sand.-Chuck> Cyndy Monarez/Thomas Nelson

Carbon Myth Hello, congrats on the great web site. I am new to fish keeping, however have tried to educate myself as much as I can, however find contracting info adding to my confusion. Been having a hard time cycling my 55g freshwater tank, bacteria bloom etc. Today I came across an article that stated "Activated Carbon should not be used in your aquarium because it practically "uncycles" your tank. It should only be used as a reset button. When first used in an aquarium, it immediately start absorbing ammonia (+ other elements we will not mention) Without ammonia, first stage bacteria starves to death. Without first stage bacteria that converts ammonia to nitrites, second stage bacteria dies. Without your beneficial bacteria, your tank basically reverts to become an uncycled tank. I use a Penguin Biowheel Power Filter 330, and has activated carbon in the filter media. Was wondering if this is contributing to my problem of cycling the tank. If that's so, what should be used at first a sponge filter? Thanks beforehand for your help. <<Hello. For what it's worth, I have never experienced an "uncycled" tank despite my own use of carbon. I also have yet to read anything that actually proves carbon removes ammonia. If this were true, then we would all have uncycled tanks. I think a few of us  might have noticed that by now. As far as I'm concerned, carbon does NOT remove ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate. It is possible that the mythology of this comes from someone's active imagination and their misunderstanding of their own tanks cycling process. For example, if someone is using carbon as a filter media, and only changes it out occasionally, chances are that when they throw out the old carbon and put in the new, they will get an ammonia spike because they've just thrown out some of their biological bacteria growing in the carbon bag. The tank re-balances itself as the bacteria re-colonizes in other areas in order to catch up...in the meantime, they will have an ammonia spike. This COULD look like the new carbon is removing the ammonia. But only to the untrained eye, in other words, only to someone who doesn't understand why the ammonia was there in the first place. Suddenly they have ammonia, and the new carbon made it go away! They do not understand that the new carbon has nothing to do with it at all. The bacteria already in the filter will re-colonize quickly, thereby reducing the ammonia levels with a few days time. This myth could also be because people read that they use carbon in waste treatment plants. I did not find any actual evidence that they use it to remove ammonia. Also, please keep in mind that even the highest grade carbon only adsorbs for a few days time. Carbon that has been in your filter for a month has stopped adsorbing and has become a biological filter after the first week. So basically, yes, you may safely use carbon while your tank cycles. Now, if you want to discuss carbon in Oscar tanks, or carbon in planted tanks, feel free to join in the ongoing debates :P -Gwen>>

Re: Carbon Myth II  8/2/04 Good points there, Gwen. I have been trying to get this tank going for over 4 months now and all I get is cloudy nasty water, no matter how many water changes I do.   <<Cut back on the water changes and see what happens. Perhaps you are doing too many, removing too much ammonia, thereby depriving the bacteria of a much needed food source...>> So I guess I am seeking an exterior culprit that is not helping the cycle, besides me and what I am doing: ) I read that its better to start with some established media from a cycled tank to set up a new tank to speed the cycle. <<True.>> However if the media comes from an uncycled tank or from the tank itself being set up the second time, is it better to use that media or new washed everything incase there might be something in the media that was preventing the cycle to start with, is that possible? <<Doubt it. I believe you are simply not letting the tank cycle, by doing too many waterchanges.  Perhaps you are rinsing your filter media too often, also. Do not rinse it under tapwater,  the chlorine will kill your nitrifying bacteria. Do not rinse the BioWheel, ever!>> I do hope its making sense, I read a lot but its not helping me any, and I just don't understand what I am doing wrong. 55g tank parameter( 2 white cloud, Penguin BioWheel 330 filter, parameters are the same for the 10g ( 4 guppies, 3 otos, 4 Corys, filter came tank setup),   pH 6.8 Alkalinity 120 Hardness 150 Nitrite 0 Nitrate 0 Ammonia 0 Temp 76-79 I don't know if the 10g has cycled, but the water just gets cloudy the next day. <<Are you overfeeding? This always leads to cloudy water. Cut back on the food!  Make sure you vacuum your gravel once a week, and only do waterchanges when the nitrates reach 30ppm or so.  If you have no live plants, leave your lights off ALL day, you can put them on at night for an hour of viewing,  if you wish. Also, the cloudy water could always be an algae bloom. Turn the lights off to see if it clears up,  it should take about a week...Keep in mind, you could have two blooms at the same time,  both an algae bloom AND a bacteria bloom.>> Fish are miserable and dying in the 55g and happy in the overstocked 10g, even saved some from  dying from the 55g by putting them here, the clouds are doing ok. I understand that there is supposed  to be an ammonia, nitrite, nitrate spike, but I have never seen that. <<Check your test kits, are they still good? Take a sample to your LFS and have them check your water,  perhaps your test kits are no longer good.>> Recently had a bacteria bloom and instead of changing 50% of water like I used to ( might be doing more damage than good) <<You are.>> I bought a Vortex diatom filter and it has been a worse nightmare. Filter is good if I get it started that is,  might be sending it back though, I managed to blow a bunch of DE in the tank and has slowly getting rid of but have lost some fish in the meantime, so not real happy with it.  I think if other fish keeper can manage a beautiful clear tank without why can't I.  I hope I am being clear and gave enough information, Please advise, thanks for your reply. Teresa Azzopardi <<Teresa, The Vortex diatom may not remove bacteria if it's a bacteria bloom.  It should remove suspended algae, though. You can add Aquaclear and see if the diatom works then.  Trouble is, you STILL need to cycle this tank, and kill off any offending floating algae.  So please try the things I have mentioned and let me know how it's going. Patience, you WILL get there!  To sum up: Check your water at your LFS to see if they get the same results as you.  Cut back on your waterchanges if parameters are indeed low, and turn your lights off for a good week or so.  Good luck! -Gwen>>  

Cycling A New FW Tank Help, <Glad to. Scott F. here today!> I set up an aquarium about 6 weeks ago.  Set up the filter, gravel, etc.  Waited 3 days and put 2 swordtails in.  One of the fish died the next day. Bought a replacement and the water tested well, except the ph was a little high. <Not usually a problem, particularly for Swordtails...> The fish were doing well and about 2 weeks ago, the nitrates and nitrites increased.  I did 3 water exchanges within about 9 days - no change. <Well, ammonia and nitrite will rise rapidly in a newly set up system, then decrease as the tank "cycles" (i.e.; develops sufficient populations of beneficial bacteria to break down these toxic compounds into less toxic nitrate)...Normal. Making the water changes was probably more disruptive than helpful at that point, odd though it may seem> One of the swordtails hasn't been doing well.  I put a Pleco in this weekend.  The water is cloudy, nitrates, nitrites and ph is still elevated. <Whoa...Wait a second, okay? Don't add any new animals I you have detectible nitrite. This is a sure sign that your tank is not yet ready for more fish. Give the system time to adjust and cycle...> I also used something to reduce the ammonia.  Nothing is helping.  I did the last water exchange was last Thursday.  WHAT SHOULD I DO? It's a 10 gallon tank. Help! Thanks, LEW <Okay, Lew. I like the enthusiasm about water changes! A great habit to get into, but you're a bit premature. Give this system more time, as mentioned above. You could perhaps "assist" the process by using one of those "bacteria in a bottle" products (Hagen's "Cycle" comes to mind) that can help "jump start" the denitrifying bacteria population for you. Other than that, a healthy dose of patience and careful monitoring of the water conditions will see you through this normal, initial period of tank establishment. Hang in there! Regards, Scott F.>

What am I doing wrong? Thank you for your response to me inquiry. I was really unaware of all the steps involved in starting a new tank. I have a whisper filter and I am letting the tank cycle. At least I think I am doing it right. I bought spring water from the store and I added in a tablespoon of stress zyme. Since then I've let the filter run and I haven't done anything since. It's been almost a week. I bought a tester kit for Nitrates, Nitrites, Total hardness, buffering capacity, and pH. I've tested the water three times now and the nitrates are at 10 ppm, nitrites at 0, total hardness is 120ppm, buff. capacity is 80ppm, from what I've read on your website I think that I am supposed to see some kind of spike with the nitrates and nitrites, is that true? Also, my pH has remained at 8.4. I know that's high, but I don't know what to do to bring it down. Should I be doing water changes? Is it necessary for me to test for ammonia as well? I've been reading the facts on your website, but there's so many I can't get it straight. I know I am a little ignorant, so I'm sorry if my questions seem trivial. I really want to get it right this time before I introduce fish into the tank.  The water has remained clear, although I've noticed a slight smell recently. I have large (slightly bigger than a marble) rocks as substrate which I purchase at the pet store. I also have 4 plastic plants. I was also wondering about live plants. Is there anything I need to do differently to introduce and maintain live plants in the aquarium? Is it harder to keep the tank balanced with them? I also read that it is helpful to add some hardier fish to the tank to help it cycle. Do you recommend that I do that? Ok one more question and I'm done I promise, how do I know when my tank is completely cycled and I am ready to buy some fish? I'm afraid to get some before the tank is ready. Thank you very much for your help. You really have a great website. <<Dear Tiffany; I read that Magnus recommended you run the tank for a few weeks and add only fish food to cycle with. I am unsure of whether this will give you enough bacteria to support a full bio-load of goldfish, so I will caution you to add fish very slowly, as though the tank were still uncycled. It sounds like you can start adding fish now, ONE small goldfish can be added to your current tank. I believe your previous lack of success was probably due to the fact that you added too many goldfish at once, and your ammonia shot up too fast. This is common problem with ten gallon tanks and goldfish. You are not alone :) Also, you can probably use regular tapwater instead of buying spring water, I doubt the problem was your tapwater... so, yes, please test your water for ammonia!! it is this that the fish produce first, ammonia can build up quickly to toxic levels if the fish are added too quickly. Generally, ammonia spikes first, followed by nitrite, then finally you will get nitrates. You can have high levels of each at the same time, so again, please keep testing your water! Keeping a written track of your levels will help you see how the cycle is going. And keep your levels down by doing regular partial water changes when they get too high, anywhere from 20 to up to 50% at a time, depending on the levels. Ignore your pH levels for now, they will not be stable until the tank is finished cycling. Do not bother trying to add anything to change the pH for now. If you add products that cause pH fluctuations, it will only further stress the fish you will be adding. Wait til the tank is fully cycled before worrying about testing for that. Let me know if you have anymore questions. It is not easy to understand the cycling process, so your questions are valid, do not worry about asking! -Gwen>>

Need help with New Tank syndrome, etc. Hello, I hope you can help me.  I am experiencing what I believe to be New Tank Syndrome in my 29 gallon tank.  The PH crashed to below 6 a few weeks ago, and I have been doing twice weekly water changes of 15 - 20% ever since, trying to correct the PH and the KH (without buffers), but the ammonia has been steadily rising.  I'm getting a reading now of 3.0 - 4.0.  My tap water has a PH of 7.2 and a KH of 3 deg.  Anyway, I read that the ammonia will rise with new tank syndrome when trying to correct it through water changes because beneficial bacteria needs to catch up with the water changes, so what do I do?  I am worried that if I reduce water changing (don't know how long though) the ammonia will continue to rise and kill all my fishies.  Now I read that Amquel + shouldn't be used if there is no alkaline reserve, cause it can drive the PH downwards.  As I've said, my KH is very very low so I can't use it, but they sell Amquel with buffer.  What should I do?  Should I continue doing the water changes (15% twice weekly) or should I add some Amquel with buffer?  My water parameters are as follows:       Nitrates 15, nitrites 0,       ammonia 3.0 - 4.0,      PH 7.0-7.2,     KH l dKH ,      GH is slightly above 150 according to the test strips I use. I have 5 platies, 5 glowlight tetras, and 7 neon tetras in the 29 gallon tank.  I have one Amazon sword plant, and 3 tiny ones, along with two other live smaller plants.  I run a bubble wand, and have a Whisper filter that hangs on the back.  I use Whisper Bio-Bag disposable Filter Cartridges.  Can I ask you if I should be rinsing the sponge that came with the filter out?  The instructions tell you to replace cartridges monthly, but I don't know what to do about the little sponge.   I have one more question that I hope you can help me with.   Ack!  Sorry!  (I guess I need more help than I started out with).   I read that to get a true PH reading you must have a KH of at least 100?  I'm in big trouble then, cause I'm not ever sure of the PH value.  I don't like to use buffers and would rather just do water changes to keep the parameters in check. But, how can I ever get a true PH reading?  I am guilty as far as keeping up with the water changes and I believe that's when this New Tank Syndrome messed everything up   < First of all lets start with the filter. Clean the disposable pad once a week. Just take it outside and hit it with a garden hose and put it back. I only replace them when they get too loose and don't fit the frame anymore. Clean the sponge once every two weeks. Once again take it out and hit it with the garden hose. On the weeks you don't clean the sponge I would vacuum the gravel. You would be surprised how much junk is in there. Watch how much you feed. Left over food in the filter is a great way to get elevated ammonia levels. Make sure that the fish only are fed once a day and only enough food that they will consume in a couple of minutes. NO MORE! It sounds like you have soft water with little buffering capacity. It will take you longer to establish this bacteria bed and it will be more likely to crash. I would add some floating plants too. Plants do a great job of absorbing all forms of nitrogenous wastes. Get a pH kit that is set up for the lower ranges. It may be more accurate. In this tank you really don't have much of a bioload so I really think that over feeding is the main culprit. -Chuck> Please help me soon.   Thanks so much.  This is a great website! Lee

Mysterious Cycling (4/6/2004)  Hello,  <Hi, Michael here this evening>  PufferPunk sent me the following response in regards to some biological filtration problems I am having.  <Karen, I want you to write out the whole story of this tank from beginning to end & send it here to our new guy, Michael. He says he is well versed in cycling knowledge. I just can't figure it out. Sorry. Any other puffer Qs I'll be happy to help you with. ~PP>  <I'll try my best - Michael>  Here goes...  For approx 8 yrs I had run a 30 gal freshwater aquarium. From Aug 2003 to Jan 2004 the only residents were a 4" Pictus and a 3" Rainbow.  In Jan 2004 I began preparing the tank for conversion to brackish water. I installed a new Emperor 400 power filter with double bio-wheels. I used the old filter material to establish the bacteria in the new power filer.  <Is this the only filter you are using?>  In Feb 2004, I removed the ornaments and thoroughly flushed them out with water. (They are pieces are artificial driftwood). I also added a 35.5" bubble wand to the back of the tank. Later, I removed the Pictus and Rainbowfish and slowly raised the salinity of the tank to 1.006 over the course of about two weeks.  In March 2004, I added Four Marimo balls to the aquarium. Later, I added four 1.5" Figure-8 Pufferfish and two 3" Knight Gobies. After adding the fish, the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels shot up. <To be expected...the cycle starts> Within two or three days I moved the Gobies to a tank of their own. <Good idea> Both in hopes that the levels would drop back down and that the Gobies would be able to eat without the Puffers present. The ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels did not go back down. <How many days have passed since the Ammonia spiked? Are you sure there were nitrates present at this point?>  Over the course of the next couple of weeks I tried a couple of different products which did not help; StressZyme - did nothing; Amquel Plus - a temporary fix; and Fritz Turbo Start 700 -drastically dropped the levels but only lasted 1.5 days. <These products would severely interrupt the cycling process the aquarium is\was going through> Please bear in mind that I have been making 60% water changes daily to keep my Puffers alive. <Also causing a "re-cycle" every water change...the tank should have been cycled before the puffers were introduced> I had also lowered the salinity to 1.004. <Further stress upon the nitrifying bacteria>  Last Monday and Tuesday I added Bio-Spira to the tank. It dropped the ammonia and nitrite levels to mere trace amounts but the nitrites soared higher than they have every been. <Did the Nitrites soar or did the NitrATes soar? Should the NitrATes have soared, this would have indicated an almost completed cycled, premature because of the bio-spira> They are WAY over 5ppm. I have no idea how much. I tried diluting the tank sample -- 1/8 tank water with 7/8 tap water -- and the nitrite level was still to high to read. <Odd that it is that high after your frequent 60% water changes however> I have checked my tap water and it reads 0ppm nitrites. I have checked the nitrites of the aquarium using both the Aquarium Pharmaceutical Nitrite Test and the Kordon Aqua-Tru Nitrite Test. Both give the same result. <Are you sure there isn't anything organic that could be breaking down in the tank? No dead fish, rotting plants, uneaten food? Do you have an undergravel filter, per chance?>  This really doesn't make any sense to me. <Seems normal to me until the massive Nitrite spike, if it is indeed the nitrites (you said nitrites twice in the previous paragraph...if the nitrATes are spiking then this would be perfectly normal)> If something were still going to high after using Bio-Spira, I would have expected it the be the nitrates, not the nitrites. <So you're sure it's the nitrITes?> Can you give me some advice? I will not have access to anymore Freshwater Bio-Spira until Marineland starts producing it again sometime this summer. <Not sure how well this product would help a brackish water tank, to be quite honest, wasn't able to find much about the strains of nitrifying bacteria in different salinities...> (Although at this point I am not convinced that it deserves the wonderful reputation it has). The 60% water changes every night are both tiring and expensive. <Is your Nitrite spike still occurring? If it is, try moving all of the puffers to another tank, and either add a goldfish or two to cycle, or fishless cycle the aquarium. Make sure you clean your filter cartridges daily (if you must keep your puffers in the aquarium), but do not clean the bio wheels. Make sure your filter is on 24 hours (on the small chance you're turning it off!). Don't add any ammonia or nitrite removing chemicals or filtration products, and don't make any water changes for a month. Let the aquarium go through a normal cycling process without interference.>  Thank you for any help you can give.  Sincerely, Karen  <No problem, hope we can get this figured out. Let me know what occurs.  M. Maddox>

Fritz Turbo Start 700  3/22/04 Thanks again. I did a 60% water tonight. I will another one tomorrow and keep doing it until the bacteria kick in or I get a product that helps it out. None of the online stores have the freshwater Bio-Spira; there is some sort of shortage and Marineland is telling the distributers that it will be sometime this summer before they are able to provide anymore. I've read a couple of good things about Fritz Turbo Start 700 on wetwebmedia.com. I am going to give it a try. <That probably needs to be updated.  The only LIVE cultures of  nitrifying bacteria is Bio Spira.  Anything else is a waste of $$$ & could hurt your system, by adding dead bacteria (waste) to your already struggling tank.> There is a 35" bubble wand along the back of the aquarium to provide extra oxygen. I guess I'm doing all I can do... just have to wait and see. Good luck with all of your Puffers. - Karen <Just keep testing the water & do water changes accordingly.  Make sure to email Bernie personally about getting B-S.  Tell him your sad story...  ~PP>

Fritz-Zyme Turbo Start 700 Hi Robert, What do you think of this Fritz-Zyme someone just emailed me at WWM & swears it did the same thing as Bio-Spira! If this is the same stuff, this would be great, since Marineland won't have more B-S until the end of Summer. Here's what she wrote: <Fritz Chemical Industries bacteria prep. is very different than the Marineland product... but can/does work if VERY fresh, which it looks like these folks got it... overnighted, refrigerated. Not the least expensive way to "pop" a new tank though> "I had already ordered the Fritz-Zyme Turbo Start 700 by the time I received your email. Fortunately the stuff really works!!! It arrived in a cold-pack and has to be kept refrigerated so it is a little expensive. It was worth it though to save my Puffs! The ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates have all dropped in less than 48 hours! Isn't that amazing? I just wanted to let you know in case you ever have another crash and can't get the Bio-Spira (as I couldn't). Thanks for all of your help." ~Jeni/PP <Bob F>

Puffers and Fritz-Zyme Turbo Start 700   3/27/04 Hello again PP, <Hello there> I had already ordered the Fritz-Zyme Turbo Start 700 by the time I received your email. Fortunately the stuff really works!!! It arrived in a cold-pack and has to be kept refrigerated so it is a little expensive. It was worth it though to save my Puffs! The ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates have all dropped in less than 48 hours! Isn't that amazing? I just wanted to let you know in case you ever have another crash and can't get the Bio-Spira (as I couldn't). Thanks for all of your help. Karen <Well, the jury's still out on this one.  Here is the response I got from a friend, Robert T Ricketts, who has written countless articles on filtration & cycling processes: "Well, if is really Nitrosomas, that is not going to get it in FW, as they are not the ammonia-oxidizers which establish.  They have changed their tune to say Nitrococcus for the other, nitrite-oxidizing species.  But in practice the proof is in the pudding.  If it works, then they have captured the right species; if it doesn't, they have not.  Only trials will tell. If they are cold-packing it that is also a good sign. But their hedge statement: " Only Fritz-Zyme contains naturally occurring nitrifying bacteria that has been successfully used thousands of times during emergency conditions to radically drop lethal levels of ammonia and nitrite in record time."   Really makes me wonder if those bacteria do establish.  Nitrosomas and Nitrobacter are ammonia and nitrite oxidizing bacteria, they just do not establish in FW.  If they were shipped and kept live, they could metabolize and do the job, they just would not establish.  Do the instructions specify to keep adding the material, like Cycle? Nitrospira and Nitrococcus can establish and maintain the colonies indefinitely.  Is their product a quick (and temporary) fix, or is comparable to Bio-Spira?  I don't have the tanks up to test it. (PS: they also misspelled "successfully" - meow!) Also the "used thousands of times" makes it sound like the old Cycle business - which was pure bull.   The statement starting the whole thing off: "Presently Fritz is the only company in the world producing live saltwater and freshwater bacteria." Is of course an out and out lie, as Bio-Spira is live bacteria, and available FW and SW.   So it will take some time for the aquarium hobby to show whether or not the stuff really works like Bio-Spira or doesn't.  There are still thousands who really believe that Cycle works. Sorry not to be more help... Robert" So, I'm glad it worked for you!  ~PP>

Response About Bio-Spira Supply  3/22/04 From: Fishstoretn@aol.com Date: Sun, 21 Mar 2004 18:22:06 EST Subject: Re: HELP! In great need of Bio-Spira! I'm sorry but the FW Bio-spira is just not available.....don't know of any other store online that even sells it, much less has it in stock.  Only chance would be to check with a local physical store to see if they have any left. Bernie Bernie @ Fish Store "The Lighthouse" <That's too bad.  I guess the hunt is on, huh?  I looked up to see if Marineland's stock is for sale, but no go.  Would have been a great investment!  ~PP>

New Tank Cycling I've got a 10 gallon freshwater tank with 5 tiger barbs, this tank will become the QT for my larger 72 gallon freshwater tank. I set this little tank up about 12 days ago. It has a UGF with air stone and a Mini Penguin with Bio-wheel for filtration. Couple of questions: I have been measuring high ammonia of 1.0 ppm for the last 3 days, this is where it has plateaued, and still no nitrites. How long does this portion of the cycle take? I've done one 30% water change and will do another one. What is a good way to naturally lower pH? Here in the Bay Area of CA water comes out of the tap at 8.0 pH. What can I do to lower the pH in a somewhat natural way. I was given some phosphate product, but that does not seem to last long and it will not work in my larger tank, soon to be set up, since that will be a planted tank. My little tank pH is currently 7.8! yikes I tried putting some peat moss in a pouch and put it in the Mini penguin, but it didnt seem to do much. Thanks for your help. Todd <As for lowering your pH, what kind of fish do you plan to keep? 7.8 is not a problem for tiger barbs and many cichlids, livebearers, etc. If you want to lower it further, you will need to use a larger quantity of peat.. The amount you are using now is insufficient, but you only need to lower it to around 7.4 in order to keep most community fish. Try setting up a Rubbermaid bin with a powerhead and filter attachment. Run the peat through this, and test the pH after a day or so. Add more peat until you reach the level you wish to be at, this will give you a general idea of how much peat you need to run on your tank to keep the pH at the level you wish. Hope this helps :) -Gwen>> Hi, Well,  The 5 barbs seem to be doing OK.  Lots of dashing about and fin nipping.  It's been another week and the ammonia is still high with no nitrites.  Are you saying that too many fish create too much ammonia for cycling to happen?  IS the ammonia killing the beneficial bacteria? Thanks, Todd <<Hello again Todd; Yes, the high ammonia can kill your fish. It will not kill the bacteria, since the bacteria use ammonia as a food source. Cycling IS happening, you just need to keep the ammonia levels in check by doing partial water changes. This is to keep the fish from dying if the ammonia gets too high too quickly. Please test your water, and try to keep ammonia and nitrate levels at around 0.50ppm or less. Good luck! -Gwen>>

New Tank Cycling I've got a 10 gallon freshwater tank with 5 tiger barbs, this tank will become the QT for my larger 72 gallon freshwater tank.  I set this little tank up about 12 days ago.  It has a UGF with air stone and a Mini Penguin with Bio-wheel for filtration.  Couple of questions: I have been measuring high ammonia of 1.0 ppm for the last 3 days, this is where it has plateaued, and still no nitrites.  How long does this portion of the cycle take?  I've done one 30% water change and will do another one. What is a good way to naturally lower pH?  Here in the Bay Area of CA water comes out of the tap at 8.0 pH. What can I do to lower the pH in a somewhat natural way.  I was given some phosphate product, but that does not seem to last long and it will not work in my larger tank, soon to be set up, since that will be a planted tank.  My little tank pH is currently 7.8! yikes  I tried putting some peat moss in a pouch and put it in the Mini penguin, but it didnt seem to do much. Thanks for your help. Todd <<Dear Todd, heck yes, you will have ammonia problems, as 5 fish in a new ten gallon are too many to start off with. You may need to do a number of water changes to keep this level low. Your nitrites should start soon, and will give you even more grief, as nitrites tend to plateau for much longer, up to weeks at a time. I would advocate returning 2 of your fish to the store you bought them at, as they sold you too many. If this is not possible, just keep testing and water changing. As for lowering your pH, what kind of fish do you plan to keep? 7.8 is not a problem for tiger barbs and many cichlids, livebearers, etc. If you want to lower it further, you will need to use a larger quantity of peat.. The amount you are using now is insufficient, but you only need to lower it to around 7.4 in order to keep most community fish. Try setting up a Rubbermaid bin with a powerhead and filter attachment. Run the peat through this, and test the pH after a day or so. Add more peat until you reach the level you wish to be at, this will give you a general idea of how much peat you need to run on your tank to keep the pH at the level you wish. Hope this helps :) -Gwen>>

New to the hobby and all its water quality issues, arcane terminology! Bob,               I am new to this whole fish stuff.  My fiancé convinced me to do it and it's not going so well.  I have a 30 gallon tank with a heater and a penguin 170.  Currently there is 3 Plecos and 4 Dempseys and 3 convicts in the tank. < Your Jack Dempsey's get up to 8 inches long and will eventually get too big for your tank.>    I am having some real ammonia problems lately, and after contacting my LFS I have done everything they told me to do. Frequent water changes.  And use ammo lock.  But I hesitate to do that; I gave it a try anyways.  Now for some reason my ammonia has spiked beyond even 8.0ppm (I know its higher but my testing kit only goes to 8.0) Anyways the nitrate is going up as well but the ammonia has not changed a single bit.   I do not know exactly what is going on. < Here is what is going on and how to solve it. First check the ammonia of your tap water. Many water systems now use chloramines instead of just chlorine. Chloramines are a combination of Chlorine and ammonia! Check your tap water with your ammonia test kit. Not all water conditioners get rid of chloramine and this is what you could be reading on your test kit. Use Amquel from Kordon or a new product called Ultimate. Both will tie up the ammonia. Usually what happens in a new tank is the fish excrete waste and any left over food is broken down into ammonia, especially in an aquarium in which the pH is greater than 7.0. In an established tank the ammonia is broken down into nitrite. This is less toxic than the ammonia but is still not good. This may take a couple of weeks. Eventually the nitrites are once again broken down into nitrates. These are not good either but they are the least toxic of the three. Nitrate levels should be kept no higher than 25 ppm, but some fish can take them as high as 50 ppm. Make sure you are not overfeeding and make sure you clean the filter often. The excess food may be accumulating in the filter and adding to the problem. You need to get the waste out of the system on not just let stay in the filter.> After calling the same LFS they told me to do a huge water change.  90%, which I did very carefully as to not harm the fish.  I ran the test again and my ammonia is still sitting at 4.0ppm.  And all I left was 1 ½ inches of water. < Fill up the tank and keep the system running. You may have too many fish to get things started. The good news is your fish are fairly tough. Fill up the tank, feed once a day with only enough food that you fish will have it all consumed in a couple of minutes. Get a 5 gallon plastic bucket and check the water for chloramines and treat according to the directions on the bottle. Check again and make sure it works. You may still have the ammonia in the water but it may be ties up by the chemicals and reading on your test kit. The water should be clear and have no odor. Ammonia makes the water very cloudy. If the water is clear and the fish are doing fine then I would not worry too much about the test kit results.-Chuck>  I do not know what is going on any insights as to help with this?   I am attaching some data below for youre review as well.  

New Tank Hello...we have a new tank in our household. Have a few Tiger Barbs for it and maybe 2 others. My problem is this. We got the tank 2 weeks ago. I transferred some plants from our other tank when I did a water change in it and added some new decoration. I have had the tank running and filtered for the past two weeks, have a small Pleco in it that is doing great, but the Nitrite and Nitrate are off the chart. How can I help this before I put any fish in the new tank? Thanks. JJ >>Hello Jeff; The best thing you can do is to let the tank cycle. Chances are you have too many fish in the tank to start with. How many gallons is it? How many fish? While there are products you can add to help keep your fish alive, they will slow the cycling process. What exactly do the nitrites and nitrates measure? Nitrites are the more toxic...and anything above 1.0 or 2.0 nitrite should have a water change, keep testing and do the water changes every time the nitrite measures that level. Some fish are more sensitive, so choose your level according to how the fish react. If it is higher than 2.0, you may add some Nitra-Zorb or other product from your LFS to help lower the nitrites. Unfortunately, the tank will still need to cycle, but it will give you a chance to catch up on your water changes. You have another two to three weeks to go before your tank will be completely cycled, give or take. -Gwen<<

FW set-up Good afternoon. I need some help. I have a 55 gallon "complete kit" you can purchase from Wal-Mart. The kit includes everything you would need to get the tank up and running. I have had the tank running for about two weeks now. I have a 4" albino Oscar, 2 Bala sharks (1" each) and a silver tip shark (about 1"). <That is too many fish to add to a new tank. especially with fish such as these that produce quite a bit of waste.> My tank has been showing about a 2-4 reading on the ammonia level. <That is because the fish waste is starting to break down and the tank is still in it's cycling period.> I have been watching and waiting for the nitrite levels to climb for the cycle to begin but the nitrite levels have stayed at ZERO since I started. <Your cycle has already begun, the moment you put the fish into the tank the added bioload started the process.  The fish release ammonia directly through respiration and more indirectly through urine and eliminated solid wastes , bacteria converts it to nitrites, then others convert to nitrates.  The aquarium, in its brand new state is sterile.  It can support fish and other life simply because there is no toxins to kill them.  A tank like yours will not support a full population for quite a while yet!.  If there are too many fish they will simply poison themselves with ammonia build up.  How is this possible?  Quite easily, as they live and breathe, the fish will excrete and create ammonia.  Unlike a natural pond or river, an aquarium has a limited surface area for ammonia to dissipate, so it builds up in concentration.  It doesn't take all that much to cause serious damage.  This is an ongoing process for the tank to cycle.  You will most likely start to see the nitrites starting to build up now that you are in the two week window.  But with such fish like those the amount of waste might push it to week three before you see the nitrite.   Then expect around the month mark to see the highest levels of nitrites.  From there the bacteria should be converting it to nitrates and back into the safe zone. > I added the package of enzyme starter when I first started the tank. Have read all the info on having to have ammonia to get the cycle started (reason for the fish) My question(s) The fish that I currently have, is this too many fish for the tank to cycle? <It would have been better to add these fish slowly to such a new tank.  Give the tank a chance to catch up to the bioload.  Think of it this way: It's the bacteria that handles the ammonia, and there isn't enough bacteria to handle the load yet.  Once the bacteria spread and increase in numbers they will be able to get ahead of the waste production and you will see the decline in the ammonia levels and increase in the Nitrite levels.> I think I have done everything I should to start the tank. What do I need to do to get the nitrite level to start ,which in turn, would get the cycle to start? Any info would be very helpful. It shouldn't be so difficult, should it? Please HELP!!!! <I had been sent a great image of the Nitrogen cycle of the home tank.  And I would like to pass it on to you.  It gives a great visual reference to what to expect with the cycling process. http://shell.pubnix.net/~spond/gif/nitriteg.gif Your tank will cycle, all water systems will cycle given the proper time.  You should just let the tank keep maturing on its own.  Just be careful not to over feed the fish during this time.  That will only add to the ammonia build up.  Adding chemicals to the tank might not be helping the growth but only hindering it.  Patience should win over in this case.> Hoping for a trouble free and prosperous freshwater tank experience. Thank you. Deric <Good Luck -Magnus>  

New Tank Syndrome  I have recently purchased a new 55 gallon tank.  I set up the tank with rocks and gravel, and let it run for 24 hours. This while having the ph level neutralized, water conditioned, and other preventive steps taken. <This waiting time is referred to as letting the tank "Cycle".  Which is when the beneficial bacteria begins to grow in the tank.  This bacteria is what helps break down the waste and such in the tank.  This process takes a few days to a couple of weeks depending on how large the tank is and how you help speed the process up.> But when I have introduced fish to the aquarium, they have started to get ick, hemorrhaging and other problems.   <Most likely because you didn't give the tank enough time to mature enough to handle the fish load you had placed in there.  The fish were producing waste and there wasn't enough bacteria in there to break it down.  So, the water levels were way off (Ammonia, Nitrites and nitrates) which can be harmful to fish that aren't very hardy.> I'm down to a silver hatchet and a tiger barb.  that is all that is left after just one week in the tank.  I guess I should have told you what I have lost,  two Bala sharks, two silver hatchets, and four tiger barbs. <These fish are sensitive to high ammonia levels in a tank.  That is most likely why you had lost them.  Their immune systems were not working well due to the stress from being in a new tank.> also, there is this nasty cloudy gel like substance growing on the rocks,  and a lot of stringy floating debris. <Most likely these are fungus which has been feeding on the build up waste.> My plants are getting covered with this debris.  Please help me.  Like I said I don't know if it is just New tank Syndrome, or a sign of a bigger problem. <New Tank Syndrome is merely rushing into setting up a tank.  I suggest you purchase a testing kit that will tell you exactly what the Ammonia, Nitrite, nitrate, etc... are of your tank.  When the levels are at zero, it means the tank is leveled off and it is safe to SLOWLY start adding fish.  Adding Lots of fish all of a sudden is a shock to both the fish and the tank itself.  Add these fish slowly over a matter of weeks, it gives the fish time to settle in and the tank enough to build up the bacteria bed to handle these fish.  Think of it this way, a tank needs enough bacteria to balance out the bioload (fish, etc...) in the tank.  If you add a single fish slowly the bacteria have time to build up and catch up to the amount of waste the fish is producing.  If you suddenly add a large amount of fish, then it's like tossing an bucket full of baseballs at a single catcher.  It's to much to handle all at once.  Slow and steady is the best way to work with aquariums. What you should do is treat the fish you have now with medicines like Maracide or CopperSafe, Use Maracyn-Two, Maracyn, Tetracycline or TriSulfa to prevent secondary infections from bacteria.  After the fish have gotten better do a large water change in the tank.  Then slowly replace the fish you lost.  Be sure to check out our FAQ section of the website.  Starting here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwset-up.htm > Thanks for any help, Timmy <Good Luck. -Magnus>

Missing Articles (FW cycling) Many of your articles appear blank. They have a title but no information. <Yes. Regrettably, many such "article holding spaces" have been made in anticipation of the actual articles to accommodate FAQs files> I particularly want to a clear explanation of "cycling". Everyone uses this term all the time in your forums but without the initial article it is difficult to know what you are talking about. I have filled my daughter new tank with water, rock and gravel and it has been filtering for a week or so. Is this cycling? <The actual process... establishing bio-geo-chemical nutrient cycling can be an involved topic. There is some coverage of the topic under the root/marine web here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm the same principles apply> But mainly can you tell me why I can't see some of the articles.  Mal <They don't exist. I strongly suggest you look into a good all-around freshwater "book"... We unfortunately do not (as yet) have a complete enough set of subjects covered here. Bob Fenner>

Water tested Dear crew, I have a 58 gal. and 15qty 2" fish freshwater setup with UV light,404 Hagen canister filter with bio media.. I have gotten a r/o filter for the water changes for a algae problem. I change10-15% water every week, I did not add fish but I have seen my water change. clean the filter every month. The ammonia is zero, but the nitrite is .025ppm and nitrate 40-50 ppm. Do I need to buy a wet/dry filter? If so which one? or something? <You do not have to purchase a wet/dry filtration system for this aquarium. I suggest that you cycle this aquarium and remove the fish until the nitrite reads zero. The switch from tap to the RO/DI unit was a smart move. Good luck, IanB> John Michtich

- Cycling a Freshwater Tank - Hi, I've had a 125 gallon reef tank running in my living room for almost two years.  It's my obsession and I love it.  My wife worries sometimes, but there are worse things that I could get hooked on.     My 7 year old daughter shares my interests and recently mentioned that she would like to try keeping some freshwater livebearers (specifically guppies).  That's all the inspiration I needed.  Now I have a 72 gallon bow-front that I am setting up in my game room.  Initially, I don't plan on any live plants, just fish.  Is it OK to cycle the tank with the livebearers? <That's an awfully inclusive word - livebearers - which ones did you have in mind? Not all livebearers are good candidates as cycling fish.> If so, what would be a good number to start with? I don't want to over do it and I want to have enough to get it properly started. Any help would be great.   Your website is awesome.  I was a real resource when I was struggling through the learning curve on my reef tank.  It was comforting to know that I'm not the only one to have struggled with red slime, hair algae, fish aggression, etc.  I wish I would have found it sooner and saved myself a bunch of gray hairs. -Larry <Get back to me on what fish you were thinking about. Cheers, J -- >

- Cycling a Freshwater Tank, Follow-up - J, My intention is to keep readily available species such as Guppies, Platies or Swords.  I would also like to keep as school of Cory cats as well.  Are there any compatibility problems between these species? <Don't think so.> I was thinking that the Cory cats might be a better choice for cycling. <Hmm... well the main complication with cycling with any fish is the potential for introducing disease right out of the gate. You're better off using a fish-less cycling method by adding food or other source of ammonia to get the tank kicked off... wouldn't use cleaning ammonia, but you do have other options. I'll refer you to an article on cycling marine tanks, but the same methods can be used in freshwater: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm > Larry <Cheers, J -- >

Fresh Water Tank Cycling Hi, <Ahoy> I've had a 125 gallon reef tank running in my living room for almost two years.  It's my obsession and I love it.  My wife worries sometimes, but there are worse things that I could get hooked on.     <That's my excuse too.> My 7 year old daughter shares my interests and recently mentioned that she would like to try keeping some freshwater livebearers (specifically guppies).  That's all the inspiration I needed. <Awesome, get her hooked when she is young.> Now I have a 72 gallon bow-front that I am setting up in my game room.  Initially, I don't plan on any live plants, just fish.  Is it OK to cycle the tank with the livebearers? <Sure, you could also just toss a bit of food in the tank to get the cycle started, you know the routine, keep an eye on Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate.> If so, what would be a good number to start with? <Whatever you choose it will no doubt double in no time.4-6 maybe?> I don't want to over do it and I want to have enough to get it properly started. Any help would be great.   <I can picture a 72gal bow front with a dense planting of Water Sprite (really easy to keep alive, grows about as fast as guppies breed, and great nutrient export) and a bunch of Fancy Guppies with their sassy tails swimming around.> Your website is awesome.  It was a real resource when I was struggling through the learning curve on my reef tank.  It was comforting to know that I'm not the only one to have struggled with red slime, hair algae, fish aggression, etc. <Tell me about it brother, you should see the hair algae in my reef right now.> I wish I would have found it sooner and saved myself a bunch of gray hairs. <Maybe that is where all of mine are coming from.  Best Regards, Gage>   -Larry

- Cycling Questions - Hi, I've gotten a lot of good information from your site.  Thanks!  I have a couple of questions relating to cycling. A book I read recently suggests you can "cheat" on cycling a new tank by adding a filter from an established tank along with your bio load.  I decided to try this, and it isn't working 100%, leading to a couple of questions.  But first, the details: This is a new 15 gal. There are fake plants, fake rocks, lots of hiding places.  I added an old  Whisper 2 power filter from my established tank (did not clean or rinse it -- moved it complete with its existing BioBag, carbon, and Biofoam (where the bacteria supposedly colonize.))  I also threw in a couple of handfuls of gravel from the established tank.   At the same time, I added 2 swordtails, 15 Neons, and 2 cories.   It has been about 3 weeks  I have been testing the water daily.  The reason I say the "cheat" has not worked is that I have been getting low-level ammonia readings.  Here are my parameters:   a.. Ammonia:  Ammonia started off at about .25 ppm and over 5-7 days increases to 1 ppm, at which time I do a 40% water change.  This cycle repeats.   b.. Nitrites: After about 7 days, I registered a small blip in Nitrites (.25ppm), but it quickly went back to 0 and has not reappeared.   c.. Nitrates:  Nitrates are at around 5ppm, but don't seem to be rising (Maybe due to the water changes every 5-7 days?) I really don't want to stress out the poor fish, who are victims of my failed attempt to "cheat" the cycle.  So I added some Bio-Spira.  Which leads me to my questions: 1.  Marineland says that you will get low levels of Ammonia when cycling with Bio-spira.  They say this is "harmless" if less than 2ppm, and not to do water changes. <I second that last part - you should skip the water changes until you are certain the cycle is complete.> This sounds crazy to me, I thought 1PPM was enough to kill! <Extended exposure to... that will do it, but it's toxic affect is not usually acute unless off the scale.> What are your thoughts on this? <Think you should follow the instructions if you choose to use the Biospira.> I have no interest in torturing these fish, and plan to continue water changes! <I would not do this.> (BTW, no noticeable change in my water params after adding the bio-spira.  Of course, they were already low...) 2.  Obviously, the tank is not cycled because there is Ammonia. <Not entirely certain about this either... if tank were not 'cycled' there should be no [zero-point-zero] nitrates.>  Where in the cycle do you think I am? <Somewhere in the middle, or somewhere at the end with poor test kits. I would take a water sample to the store for a second opinion on the results.> I don't want to add more fish until I am out of the woods, but I think the male swordtail is going to go nuts if he doesn't get some "action" soon. <Doesn't pay to anthropomorphize here... sword tail will be better off if you can be patient.> Since his mate disappeared (see below), he has been very active, and he now chases the poor cories around... <Lack of previous distraction.> 3. If I were to put Zeolite in the filter to help keep down the Ammonia, would that slow down the cycling? <It would keep down ammonia and would likely stall the completion of the cycle.> 4. I have read conflicting info on cleaning the tank during the cycle.  Should I refrain from vacuuming the gravel and scraping off algae? <I'd hold off on the gravel vac for a while, is ok the clean the algae on the glass.> (There is lots of algae already.)  The gravel looks dirty enough to me that I figure it could be contributing to the low level Ammonia readings, but I've left it alone. I should also mention that there have been some deaths, though I am not convinced they were from Ammonia.  A few neons died in the first few days.  My PH is a bit high for neons at 7.4, and I think they couldn't take it, though the rest seem fine. <Would agree, improper pH was the likely culprit.> Last week, the female swordtail died.  She seemed perfectly healthy and did not show signs of Ammonia poisoning prior to her death.   I figured the male may have exhausted her -- he was constantly following her around.  Could these deaths could have been from Ammonia at less than 1 ppm? <Doubt it but it is possible.> Sorry for the long question!  Thanks for the wonderful site! <Cheers, J -- >

Freshwater Tank Cycling  HI, thanks for responding so quickly, but sadly Eddie passed away yesterday:(  <Sorry to hear that>  He was swimming to the side, and a few minutes later he was no more.  <To that great fishbowl in the sky.>  I cleaned out the tank (I wasn't sure if he had any sickness) so now I'm back to the beginning of a new cycle. I added Cycle to the tank, all new water, etc. I'm going to leave the tank with no fish for a week -2 weeks, but how do I know when the tank has correctly cycled? I've also heard I should add a bit of food, to start the new cycle, is this correct? I don't want to have another dead fishy. Thanks so much for your help!  Mel  <The cycle should get the cycle started, you could also add a couple flakes of food too. Just test your water, when the Ammonia and Nitrite are down to zero you are good to go. Adding a Goldfish to a 6gal tank is going to cause another ammonia spike when you add him, they are messy fish, so be sure to keep up on water changes. Best of luck, Gage >

Short cycle, stagnant water Hi there, <Hello, Sabrina here today, watching minutes tick by> I have an aquarium that just lost 3 guppies.  Did a water change and cycled for about 3 days.   <Three days is not long enough for a tank to cycle completely....  I assume there were no fish in it at the time?> Now have a few cherry barbs and gold barbs (2 each).  Now I have an oil slick at the top of the tank.  My ammonia is 0. <Please test for nitrite, nitrate, and pH, as well - and keep testing for ammonia.  I expect you'll be seeing a spike in ammonia very soon (unless it's happened and fallen back already), then shortly after, a spike in nitrite, and as that falls, nitrate will rise.  You'll need to do water changes to keep ammonia and nitrite down until the cycle's complete.  After that, when adding fish, only add one or two at a time.> What is this slick and what should I do about it?   <This film is likely indicative of inadequate circulation in the tank - what kind of filtration are you using?  Any aeration?  It may also be a result of using aerosols in the room (hairspray, air freshener) or from any other airborne contaminants.  For a quick fix, dip a small cup in at just the top of the water and pour the filmy water out; do this repeatedly until it's gone.  Another quick fix is to get a paper towel and lay it on the surface of the water, then quickly remove it.  You might have to do that several times.  For a long-term fix, be sure you have a good lid on the tank, use adequate filtration, add aeration if you have none, and do not use aerosols in the room.  This is important, as too much buildup on the surface will prevent gas exchange and effectively suffocate the fish.> Help!  I don't want to lose my new fishies! <Hope all goes well for your and your new finny dudes!  -Sabrina> Thanks from a novice in Texas

Short Cycle, part Two:  Shorter Cycle. Hi Sabrina, <Hello!> Thanks for writing.   <You bet.> Well, Lindsey (my 11 year old daughter) and I took the plunge!  We bought a 10 gallon tank 2 nights ago which is a big upgrade for us.   <Wonderful!> We used new gravel, new plants & rocks, it has a 10 gallon Whisper filter, a pinch of BioZyme (recommended by our local fish expert) and a wonderful hood with green lights (Lindsey picked those).   <I'm really not a fan of incandescent lighting; fluorescent lights are much more efficient - but otherwise, all sounds great!> We moved our barbs over just a while ago this evening (after bagging them and letting the bag sit in the new tank water for 30 minutes).  They're swimming frantically trying to get their bearings and territory but appear to be ok.   <Just keep testing for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates (daily) as the tank cycles, and do water changes to make sure the values don't get harmful - hopefully the BioZyme will help some with the cycle, but I imagine you're gonna be hauling buckets for a few days before everything settles down.  Other than that - sounds awesome!  I hope everything goes well for you, and that you gain much enjoyment and learning from your new tank!> Wish us luck! <Absolutely - good luck to you!> Thanks again for writing back, <Any time.  -Sabrina> DJ in Texas

New tank setup: ammonia problems (10/10/03) Hi!   <Hi! Ananda here today...> I've had a new tank (29 gallons) for a little over a month. It seemed to cycle quickly. I had negligible ammonia readings and then none at all. I never got a nitrite reading. I used BioZyme & started with 3 white cloud minnows. I added 3 more white clouds about a week later.  During this time I never had any ammonia problems & all the fish appeared healthy. A week after that I added 2 panda Corys. Everything still seemed fine - and this was on a Monday.  On Friday (10/3) I did a water change of about 20%. I also did another dumb thing. I changed my filter at the same time.   <Uh-oh...I bet that filter was harboring some of your beneficial bacteria...> The next day I had an ammonia spike. Since then I have been adding BioZyme every day and using Ammo-lock every 2 days, as the instructions indicated. The first couple of days after the spike I was doing a 20% water change. I did the last one on Monday. I was then told to let it sit & have not done anything (other than BioZyme & Ammo-lock) since then. My ammonia levels are not going down, and now I've noticed a filmy looking something on the bottom of the tank. It looks kind of clear & almost fuzzy. The water also looks cloudy. <Both are signs of insufficient bio-filtration... it's possible that by using the ammo lock, your nitrifying bacteria aren't getting enough to work with, so the tank is stuck and the cycle can't finish. Ammonia *is* very dangerous to fish. But you're using the Ammo-lock, which doesn't get rid of the ammonia completely, it just turns it into a different form. But I bet your ammonia test does not differentiate between the more harmful ammonia and the "locked" ammonia.> Help! What do I do? Should I take everything out & start over, or should I just be patient & try to let the tank turn itself around?   <You have a couple of choices, here. You could get a 10 gallon quarantine/hospital tank, transfer all the fish to that, and do daily water changes to keep the ammonia/etc. down while the main tank finishes cycling. Or, you could get a packet of Marineland Bio-spira. This is the only thing I trust to really cycle a tank overnight. It must be kept refrigerated, as it's live bacteria. Bio-spira is rather expensive, though, and it isn't available everywhere.> My fish look fine, but I'm worried about them, especially my pandas.  I didn't feed them for a couple of days, hoping that might reduce the ammonia levels.  I did feed them yesterday, after a 3-day hiatus.  My pH hasn't changed (it's 8) and I have no nitrites.  My GH is 12 and my KH is 13.   <Kind of high for the cories, but they should be okay if that's what the local water parameters tend to be.> Any helpful hints you could give me would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks! Jodi <You're welcome! --Ananda>

Too much heat from lights in an Eclipse tank Hi! <Hi! Ananda here tonight...> You have a fantastic web site!!!! <Thanks, from many people who have contributed.> I have an Eclipse System Six aquarium....I know...only a 6 gallon tank...but I wanted to start off small.  I have had it for about 5 weeks now.  I turn the light on about 5 - 7 hours a day.  When I do, the temp. goes up in the tank approximately 2 to 4 degrees which is no good.  I try to keep it at 78 degrees....but it usually goes up to 82 to 83 degrees.  I have 4 platies and 1 catfish.  All are doing fine!!   <Good to hear... when the platies get bigger, I would suggest a 10 gallon tank for this crew.> So, how do I get the temp. down....I have done approximately 3 water changes because my nitrites were skyrocketing.  I noticed when I do a water change....I can get the temp down to about 77 degrees.  My heater is set on 76....it never comes on at all....I don't know why I even bought it since the light seems to heat the tank.  Any suggestions on how to get and keep the temp. down?   <We had an Eclipse 5 set up for a while, and we saw the same thing. What worked for us was that we opened the little door in the hood when we turned the light on.> And do I need to keep doing weekly water changes to keep nitrites down??   <At five weeks, you shouldn't have any nitrites! Nitrates, yes, and you do need to keep doing water changes to keep those down. But if you have nitrites, that's a pretty good indicator that your tank is overstocked: the BioWheel can't harbor enough nitrifying bacteria to convert all the nitrites to nitrates.> Ammonia levels are good.   <Um. Only if that means they are zero.... :) > Thanks for your help!! <You're welcome. --Ananda>

Molly sensitivity and cycling I'm cycling an additional 15 Gal. aquarium (have established 55 gal.,3 10 gal., and a 5 gal already) and put in a couple platys, 2 adult Mollies (white Lyretails) and a couple half grown white mollies to aid in starting the cycling. <There is an alternative to subjecting the fish to harmful ammonia and nitrite spikes - do a google search on 'fishless cycling' - also, since you have pre-existing tanks, you've got a major help - just take some gunky filter media from an established tank and put it in with the filter on the new tank.  A bit of gravel from an established tank would help, as well.> After 21 days now, the mollies appear suddenly stressed. The adult female was found dead last night, The adult male was in obvious trouble, and the two young mollies appear humped back, with swimming & breathing problems. <Very likely all a result of the cycle, I would think.  Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH test results at the time would have given more insight, perhaps> I give them a dip in an antibiotic solution, then put them in a quarantine tank. The adult male seems to be recovering, the small ones are still questionable. The platys seem to be doing fine, although I treated the 15 gal. tank with the antibiotic (contains nitrofurazone) before I checked the ammonia and nitrite levels. <A good med choice.  Especially if it is ammonia/nitrite poisoning.> The treated water shows a trace of ammonia, and barely registers nitrite & nitrate (probably skewed by the medication). <Any ammonia whatsoever is bad.  Any nitrite whatsoever is bad, as well.  Both are quite toxic to fish, and will cause gill damage.> Are mollies more sensitive to nitrite, etc. than the platys? Any other suggestions? <Some fish are more sensitive than others, to be sure.  Some of the molly strains are particularly inbred and weaker than other strains.  Another point about mollies - they do much better in brackish or full saltwater conditions than in fresh.  In freshwater, they prefer hard, alkaline water to remain in the best of health.  In any case, water changes will be your best ally right now.  Do plenty of water changes, get those ammonia/nitrite readings to zero  -Sabrina> Thank you. Jess

Cycling Hello to all at WWM, <Hello, Gage here, just back from the Giants game, and wreaking of garlic fries.> Hate to bother you guys again.  But I really need some advice/help.  I just started another 10g tank and I put some "dirty" water out of my established tank in it about 2-3 g. My new tank has only been set up a week the ammonia hardly spiked then immediately went to zero but my nitrites are way to high.  I have 3 tiger barbs in it I was wondering  can the ammonia part of my cycling go this quickly?  I am doing daily water changes to try to get the nitrites down.  Can I do them twice a day or just do larger changes or will I kill off any good bacteria I've already got started?  Thanks for any help.  Your site has been so helpful.  I refer to it often. Thanks Amy <I would not be too worried.  Small daily water changes, or even every few days should be fine, unless the nitrites are off the charts. -Gage>

Convicted of overstocking! Hello, <Morning! Ryan with you today>  I have been reading through the FAQ on your site, and have found them very helpful, however I am still a little confused on several points... <I'll clear up what I can!>        1) I am cycling a 29 gal setup with power filter (came as a package), right now I have 2 nearly full grown Convicts and one smaller convict...since I made the mistake of adding other fish to soon (I had put 3 others with them in there two weeks  into cycling, and when everyone started looking ill even with the water changes, I went on the net and realized my mistake so I gave the others away.)  <OK- You've overstocked.  Already I can see BIG problems if you don't change the dynamics of this tank.  2 Full grown convicts in a 29 gallon is overdoing it, and the reason you can't get anything in order.> I have been doing VERY frequent and sometimes very big water changes to keep the water safe for them, and it seems to work...They are acting normal and feisty and lay eggs about every two weeks but then the eggs disappear, I guess because the water isn't ready to support the fry, or they are eating them... Whenever they start looking ill or they stop nipping and chasing one another I assume the ammonia or the nitrite levels are up so I do a big water change, but now that the tank has been running about one month (and I have been doing these changes since the beginning) I read that I was not supposed to be using treated water that hasn't been sitting for 24 hours?! <Yes, a good idea> I have been siphoning from the bottom, and then filling a 1 gal pitcher from the tap, treating it with 10 drops of chlorine treatment and sometimes stress coat or stress zyme and pouring it in. <I would recommend distilled water over tap> I did not realize that the water wasn't treated instantly as the package never mentioned letting the water sit. The sheer volume of water changes I have been doing would make it difficult.  So should I start letting the water sit? I am in southern NM and temps have been consistently over 100, inside with the AC the tank sits at around 77 degrees and even the massive emergency 60% changes (I had to do 2 -when the cons were hovering sickly at the bottom in week two and after I made the mistake of adding more fish and everyone got ill) have not altered the temp more than 1 degree, but if I leave the water sit outside won't the hot water be more stressful?  <Leave a 5 gallon bucket of water inside- should be plenty for your weekly water change on a 29 gallon.> Would  the chlorine take this long to kill them, or is it OK to keep doing it this way since they appear to be OK? <No, they're a very hardy fish.  This doesn't mean they LIKE it though- aged water is a great benefit and chemically much more stable.>        2) Then to make matters worse, my husband said that the filter was running too slowly- the water used to have more force and now it doesn't- so he took out the blue carbon cartridge and rinsed it in the sink...didn't this just upset the cycling that I had nearly finished? I had been afraid to change the pad because of that...then he does this! So just when everything should be balancing out I have to start over? <NO>  Not only that but the water does not flow any faster as a result. So is my filter broken? Is it OK to replace the cartridge without upsetting the cycle? Does rinsing the pad mess up anything/everything? And shouldn't I change the pad every month? Does that mean I need to recycle the tank endlessly? <No, in ideal conditions the colonies of beneficial bacteria will repopulate the filter media in just a day or two.  Your tank may re-cycle if it's not stable to begin with- watch the ammonia and nitrite levels, and do water changes when detected.          3) When the time comes (in a few weeks hopefully) to add new fish, how many fish can safely be added at first? I am considering tiger barbs as tank mates, and ideally would like them to be nearly full grown so the Cons won't kill them (right away at least...) Could I safely add 2? Then 2 the next week? Or is that too quickly?  I read that tiger barbs like to be in groups of 6...would they be OK until I could safely reach that number over several weeks? What if I added young tiger barbs slowly, my tank has plenty of hiding spaces, would they be OK with the cons? Would 6 tiger barbs and three convicts overstock my 29 gal? Or Can you recommend a better match for my Cons? <You're going to have to remove at least 2 of the cons to add anything.  1 convict and 2 small fish would probably be alright, as long as you continue the water change regimen.> Thank you for taking the time to read this, I realize that the whole cycling thing must be pretty repetitive to you guys, but I cannot seem to find the specific information I need...And I have spent this last month reading everything I can find, but so much of it is contradictory, everyone has another method or system.  <The beauty of this hobby!  Every aquarium is different in it's own way.  You've got to "finesse the ever-changing living dynamic in your aquarium on a daily basis."> Thank you so much! Melissa <You're welcome. Ryan>

New Aquarium... Needs to Cycle Before Adding Livestock! Hi, I read your Q & A section, and didn't find a question that is totally like mine, LOL.  I purchased a 55 gallon aquarium, the double bio-wheel filtration system.<ok>  I have an air stone with air going into my aquarium.  I have nine fish, as starter fish (the pet store said that was pushing it, but should be ok, since I purchased hearty fish).  I have two swordtails, two red-tail sharks, a Gourami, a red velvet female sword, two mollies, and one that I cannot remember the name of.<Ok first of all you should wait until your aquarium cycles to add fish, you can cycle an aquarium by adding food and letting it sit there or buy purchasing some feeder fish... I don't advise purchasing Gouramis etc for cycling>  They are all small fish. <yes> The fish were added to my two day aquarium on Saturday, June 28.  This is now day 10, and my fish appear to be healthy.<good>  The one molly seemed to be ill for a couple days, then perked up a bit. <good>  I am approaching my question, LOL, but wanted to tell you all about my set up first.  I have done three water changes of 25%, tested at least four times weekly.  My ph is 7.5, my co2 is in the accepted range, and all my other tests, the no2, etc....are good.  The only one bad is my nh3, nh4, ammonia.  It began ok, then shot up to 1.5.  I know this is lethal, but as yet it has not taken any of my fish.  It has been 1.5 since day 4, so has been there for six days.  I have read that it peaks between 5 and 13 days, then should start balancing.<normally takes from 2-4 weeks for an aquarium to cycle>  Even when I finish doing a water change, and re-test the water, it is still 1.5.  I read on your site where you told someone to do a daily change, but their situation was a little different than mine.  I am leaving Thursday evening and won't be home until Sunday.  Will this affect my caring for the water and fish????<it could...would ask someone responsible to look after your fish... maybe perform one or two small h20 changes...and feed very very sparingly>  Would it be better, as I have read, to not feed the fish for the time that I am away, <you can feed them but just once or twice but very sparingly> than to give them the timed released food???  Also, why is it that all my other levels tested are fine, but I cannot get the ammonia down? <the tank is cycling> Thanks for any information you can give me.  I don't want you to feel rushed, however, I would sure appreciate an answer before going away for the weekend.   Carol BTW, I purchased one cup of established rock from my pet store and added it one week ago, doesn't seem to have changed anything. <this really doesn't speed things up too much, good luck, IanB>

Cloudy water I have a 30 gallon tank, and no matter haw many times I clean my tank, or change my filters the water never gets clear. I clean my tank every week, and take about 75% of the water out. I also clean my power filters about 5x a week am I doing something wrong?<YES!> Thank for any input THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY JENNIFER GREGORY<You should not be doing 75% water changes every week (do like a 5-10 gallon water change every week). Your cloudy water is probably due to a bacterial or diatom bloom or the fact that you do such large water changes that your aquarium has not even cycled yet. I would read over articles pertaining to setting up new systems on WWM. Good Luck, IanB>

High Ammonia in established tank (06/28/03) <Hi! Ananda here today....> I have a 48 gallon freshwater aquarium that I've had for 6 months.  My tiger barbs came down with a case of ich, so I treated tank with Quick Cure for 2 days then did a 25% water change on the 3rd day.  Still noticed some ich so I treated the tank again for 2 more days. <QuickCure does kill all the beneficial bacteria in the filtration system....> Prior to this outbreak of ich I made the mistake of washing my foam filter under the tap water, now I have an ammonia spike and I'm not sure what action to take as I am supposed to do a water change tomorrow and add my carbon back in my filter.   <Water changes, and lots of them. Look for Bio-spira -- if you can find it, it will help jump-start your tank's bio-filter.> Do I do the water change to try and bring ammonia down?   <Most definitely. A couple of big water changes may be needed.> If so do I clean the gravel to get out the dead cysts from the ich outbreak?   <Yes. Use a gravel vac or good siphon tube.> Do I continue to feed my fish? <Since they are stressed, I would continue to feed them, even though that will produce more ammonia. You will need to be vigilant about testing your water and doing frequent water changes for a while.> Your help would be appreciated. <You're welcome.> My tank is stocked as follows: 3-5" Blood Parrots 2-1" Blood Parrots 8-1" Tiger Barbs 5-2" Buenos Aries Tetras 1-6" Pictus Catfish 2-5" Bristlenose Pleco 2-3" Cory cats Thanks...Irene <This tank is very overstocked...which is contributing to the problems with the tank. Do consider another larger system. --Ananda>

Cycling freshwater Hello, <Hey! Ryan with you today!> Right now I have a fully cycle and healthy marine tank. <Great> I want to start a new one but for Tanganyika guys. <Sounds fun> May I use some sand, water and filter media to speed up the cycle period? <Better to start fresh, with a clean slate. No magic shortcut here, I'm afraid.  Just give the tank a good substrate such as dolomite or crushed coral (may help naturally buffer pH).  Africans dig, and will need plenty of room to allow for this.  Consider borrowing a handful of substrate from another healthy African tank.> Can the "good" bacteria adapt from saltwater to freshwater? <No, I'm sorry.  Too many potential problems arise.  Just patience and control.> Thanks a lot. <Sure, lots of great info on Africans of all sorts.  Read up!  It'll be a great advantage in the long run.  Until next time, Ryan> Rodrigo.

Ammonia in new aquarium I just moved and am in the process of setting up a 55 gallon freshwater aquarium.  I have a 20 gallon aquarium that is cycled at the old place.  I am planning on taking the filter, decorations, fish, etc and moving them into the new one.  I am using a new filter (but new media) for the 55 and plan on using 2 filters on it. I set up the new aquarium, installed all the hardware (filter, air pump, heater, etc..) put in my gravel/background, filled it up and added dechlorinator.  I let it run for 24 hrs and then tested the water to see if it was ok to add fish. The test showed an ammonia level of 1.0 ppm.  I took the water to the LFS to see if my readings were right and they came up with the same thing.  I'm trying to find out where the ammonia came from.  All I have is an empty tank w/brand new gravel.   Could it have come from the used filter (its the kind that hang on the back of the tank)?<could have been where the ammonia came from>  The filter had crud built up on it that I tried to scrub off w/water and elbow grease  Could it be something else in the tank?<maybe. did you clean the aquarium with Windex? or some sort of cleaning agent?>  The tank was used for fish when I bought it and they didn't seem to have any problems.  I'd like to find out the source of the ammonia and figure out the best way to treat it.<I would just let the aquarium cycle first and then introduce fish in a couple to a few weeks. the ammonia will go away once the tank is cycled>  The LFS had no idea where it might have come from.  They suggested I drain the tank and clean it with vinegar, but I don't want to go to all that hassle if I don't have to.  Any suggestions? <I would just let the tank cycle again>  I'm willing to try anything reasonable.  I would appreciate any help you can give me.<good luck, IanB> Paul Chinn

Re: Sick Zebra Danios My second zebra Danio is showing signs of distress. I euthanized the first last week. Same symptoms: red in gills, mouth constantly moving, belly (under gills) somewhat emaciated although he seems to be eating. Spends his time in the plants. I thought I had seen something re red gills on your site but can't find it now. <Take a look at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfshparasites.htm and I think youll find what you were looking for.> LFS tells me I only need to test ammonia which is always in "safe" range. <What are they calling safe? Anything above 0ppm is not safe. The same goes for nitrites.> I have a newly established 20 gal tank with total 10 zebra Danios and two Corys, 1 panda and 1 albino.   <How newly established?> I've been cleaning gravel once a week/water changes 30-40%. <If your tank is old enough that its gone thru its cycle period then these water changes are too drastic. Cut them back to 10% weekly or about 15% bi-weekly.> Any suggestions. You guys are great. I love your website. Marty <Its probably a parasite infection. The link above should help. Thanks for the compliments! Ronni>

Re: Sick Zebra Danios Thanks for the reply Ronni-I'll do some reading. The LFS told me I only needed to check ammonia levels and the kit they sold me indicates only a category ("safe, dangerous") no numbers. He said I didn't need to check for nitrites. <Unfortunately, many LFS do this and it results in the needless loss of fish. Nitrites can be as much a killer as ammonia and its best to have a test kit (for each) that gives numerical readings. That way you know if theres even a slight shift and that can alert you to possible problems so you can take care of them before they become disasters.> The tank has been set up about a month. What is a "go through a cycle?" I read about it on your site but don't know exactly what it means. <The cycle is the initial phase an aquarium goes thru to establish the good bacteria that helps keep ammonia and nitrites at 0. When you set up a new aquarium there are no beneficial bacteria in it. For these to develop, the tank will cycle and go thru several stages. The first will be a spike in the ammonia. The ammonia will then turn to nitrites. After that, the nitrites will turn to nitrates which are not harmful in a fish only aquarium unless its in huge amounts (although they can cause a bit more algae than most people like). Once the tank has gone thru these stages its considered cycled and the beneficial bacteria are established. Small, frequent water changes are necessary during the cycling process to keep the ammonia and nitrites from becoming too high and killing your fish (and even the good bacteria). Since your tank has been set up about a month it should be finished or nearly finished with the cycle but I would still recommend testing the water and also continue doing at least weekly testing. Water changes should be done no less than once a month or as I mentioned in the last message, small ones every week or two are better. If your fish lived thru a high ammonia and nitrite spike (assuming your water now tests normal) they may have an internal infection. Take a look at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfshparasites.htm for some info on problems and treatments. Also check out http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm for some good info on cycling. That page discusses marine cycling but it applies to freshwater also.> Please help. Thank you. Marty <Hope this helps! Feel free to write if you have any other questions. Ronni>

Establishing biological filtration in freshwater hello, is there a way to establish a freshwater aquarium naturally as it is done by the Berlin method in saltwater aquariums ( no external biological filters, etc...) ? thank you Koko <Yes. Useful microbial populations can be introduced in a few ways into the actual display. Please see here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm this reference is for marine set-ups, but applies to freshwater as well. Bob Fenner>

Re: Eclipse 6 Question Thank you for your prompt and informative reply.   <Youre very welcome!> I have a couple of follow-up questions: if I do decide to return my barbs and replace them with a couple of Gouramis, do I need to wait for the tank to finish cycling?   <It would be best to wait.> It appears to be reaching the ammonia spike point, which is registering around 4-5 ppm (which is kind of strange since it has been two weeks since the fish were introduced, but I am working on bringing it down with water changes and less food).   <Yes, this definitely needs to be brought down. Water changes and a little lighter feeding is a good plan and the best way to do it.> Or would adding the Corys be better first so they could ensure that no food reached the bottom to rot and add ammonia?   <Definitely not, Cories are very touchy fish and would most likely not survive the ammonia and nitrite spikes.> Finally, with two dwarf Gouramis, do I need to get a male and a female, and do they have to be the same color? <Any gender should be fine and you should be fine going with two separate species/colors.> Thanks, Matt <You're welcome! Ronni>

TANK RE-CYCLING CONCERNS >I have apparently killed the bio-filter in my 29 gallon aquarium. >>Bummer. >It is not overstocked ... It has two Discus (just a bit larger than silver dollar sized) and a single Corydoras.  I noticed there was something wrong after I cleaned the filter and changed ten gallons of water about a week to ten days ago.  The discus stayed at the top ... Sort of "hanging out".  I tested for ammonia and it was high ... So I treated the tank with AP's ammo-lock2.  Now my nitrite is rising, too. >>If you have killed off your culture, this is to be expected.  More water changes would be in order to avoid stressing the discus. >I think my mistake was compounded (if not actually caused) by the addition of a reverse-osmosis water system in my apartment.  I was under the misguided assumption that RO removes the chlorine and chloramine.   >>Oh man, I feel for you.   >I think chloramine in the RO water may have killed my bio-filter. >>I would tend to agree.  A bit of Sodium thiosulfate or a product with that as the active ingredient will have to be used, even with your new RO/DI unit. >I have been treating the RO water with 3ml of ammo-lock and a tablespoon of AP aquarium salt.  I have recently started "cutting" the RO water with tap water rather than using "electro-right".  I'd really like to avoid chemically altering the water. >>Do the discus mind the salt?   >My question is this ... Will it be okay to keep the current fish in the tank and change 5 gallons each day?  One discus seems to be okay ... It goes down to the bottom and scrounges around for food from time to time. >>Yes, this seems the prudent course of action to me. >I haven't seen the other discus eat for a week.  It's fins are clamped (but it has been improving since I've been doing a daily water change).   >>This may have stressed him, if the ammonia readings are still high I would expect this. >I cut down on the amount of food I give at each feeding.  I am feeding twice a day now with a quarter cube of Wattley's discus formula, a few Tetra brand "color bits" and a couple shrimp pellets. >>Since you're doing the big water changes, I'd keep the feeding regimen as it was. >My filter is a Fluval 204.  It has fresh "ammo-chips", fresh activated carbon and Fluval BioMax media. >>So, it just needs to form a new culture. >Am I on the right track or have I doomed my fish? >>Yes, you're on the right track, and no, you haven't doomed your fish. >Thanks for any help!  Tyrin Price >>You're welcome, I do hope this has helped!  Marina

Re: Bad timing, now what? I've got a new set up (used tank), 55 gal. that I've had water in, de-chlorinated, filtered (UGF w/2 powerheads, one running a bio-wheel), about 20 inches of air-stone, heated to 78 degrees for 13 days now. On day seven, I added "Cycle", as per instructions, and 10 Tbsp. of un-iodized salt. Introduced 2 Swords, 5 small Platys, 3 small Mollies, and 4 Zebra Danios. All seem to be doing quite well in general. Ammonia today is .50, Nitrite is .50ppm, and Nitrate still shows 0. Yesterday, I found out I'll be going out of state (family emergency) for about 2 weeks. I bought an automatic feeder, and prepared about 17 gal. of water for an exchange (de-chlorinated, salted, and heated). LFS (who I don't really trust) advised against water change, said that it would start cycle all over; predicted that day 11 ammonia peaks at lethal level, by day 14 I should add few fish, never any before. Said any fish that I have now probably won't survive the cycle. Sounds like a death sentence which ever way I go. Which gives the fish a better chance... water exchange, with second dose of "Cycle" today, or leave as is, adding the "Cycle", and hoping for the best? We'll be leaving in the morning...  Thanks for any help or encouragement... Jess <Jess, hope this catches you before you leave and that all goes well on your trip. You do need to do a water change at the very least but if at all possible I would recommend taking the fish back to your LFS and start over upon your return. Your other option would be to have someone you trust come in and do 25% water changes every other day while youre gone but this is easier said than done because its hard to ask friends to do this large a chore for you. Your LFSs advice that the fish wont survive the cycle period is absolutely wrong. With a good maintenance program you shouldnt lose any fish during the cycling period but being out of town is going to definitely cause loss of fish. If you do trade the fish back in and start over when you return, read http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwtips4beginners.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsubwebindex.htm and the related FAQs for lots of info. These pages will talk you thru setting up the tank and getting thru the cycling period without loss of fish. Ronni>

Re: help ammonia to high Hello to all at WWM <Greetings, Ronni here this AM> I really need some help I have a 10g tank (I'm a beginner). I have emailed you before and I know my tank is overstocked. I really am now considering 2 mollies have had babies 16 to be exact. I am setting up another 10g tank to put the babies in. <Very good.> My problem is I have 3 mollies and 3 neon's in my new tank I have been checking my water daily and doing daily small water changes as you suggested I do but my ammonia levels are way to high 7 to be exact have been for 2 days now so far all my fish appear healthy but I am really worried because despite daily water changes its not going down yet. Is there anything I can do in an emergency to get it down?   <Wowzers! You need to do larger water changes and cut back or even stop feeding for a couple of days. Do a 25% water change morning and night and until this goes down only feed a very small amount once every two or three days. I cant remember but did you get a bacterial start from your LFS when you started this tank? If not, it wouldnt hurt to go get one from them now and put it in.> I've read about water treatments and ammonia chips do these really work or will it only waste money and make my fish sick? <Ive never used them myself and dont recommend them but some people have had good results with them. I prefer the more natural approach of water changes.> I really wish the LFS had been more helpful I told them upfront that I was a beginner with a new tank.   <Thats a common problem. So many stores are only interested in making a buck that theyll tell a person anything. I recently had one try to sell me a large Cichlid to go in a 10 gallon tank.> I'm sure that after it has cycled I will get lots of enjoyment out of it but so far all I've had is lots of worries. <Patience is the key here (and water changes!). It can take a while for a tank to cycle but youre right, once it does youll get a ton of pleasure from it.> Thanks so much your site is a real lifesaver especially for beginners who have morons at the fish store. Amy <Youre welcome! Ronni>

Re: Cycling and Compatibility I have a 15 gal freshwater tank that is in the process of being cycled but it seems to be taking a long time. Its been about six weeks (weekly additions of cycle, no fish in the tank, but heavily planted) and my pH is still about 7.6 and my nitrites are at zero. When can I expect the nitrites to peak and then level out? Do I have to have fish in the tank in order for this to happen? <Since the nitrites are 0, you can try adding just one or two small fish to start with. Closely monitor your ammonia and nitrite levels after adding them but I think youll be fine if you go slowly.> In my second tank, a 25 gal tall hex tank, I would like to get a pair of angels. I also have a nice, deep cave and would like a peaceful, cave-dwelling cichlid to live there. Are firemouth cichlids peaceful and shy? Or is there a better cichlid you can recommend to mix with Angels that would like the cave and not make trouble? <Firemouth Cichlids are considered mildly aggressive but really they are going to get too large for this tank with a couple of Angels in it. If you have your heart set on Cichlids, check into some of the dwarf species such as the Rams. They are rumored to be a hard species to keep because of their touchiness on water quality but the parameters they require are very similar to Angels and they are recommended as tank mates for Angels. They are also cave dwellers so your set-up should work good for them as long as you stay on top of the water quality.> I really appreciate your informative website. Thanks! Lindy <And we really appreciate all of you who make it possible! Ronni>

Re: First fish tank Hello to all at WWM <Hello!> I have several "stupid" questions.   <The only stupid question is the one that doesnt get asked) I have never had very much luck with fish and I really wish I had found your site and done my homework before I started. I bought a 10g starter kit and bought 3 mollies and 3 neon tetras and 1 pleco after reading on your site I realize these were not the best choices for beginners.  My question is while I am cycling my new tank how often should I do small water changes? <With this many and these fish (particularly the neons and pleco) you are probably going to have to do water changes daily.> I think I have to many fish for my tank and I don't want them to die before it cycles. <Keep an eye on your ammonia and nitrite levels and be vigilant about the water changes.> Should I do this every couple of days or once weekly?  Also when I add the water will I shock my fish with the temp change if it is at room temp?  So far my tank is staying at about 78-80d. <Yes, you will. The water that is put into the tank needs to be the same temp as the water already in the tank. Put a heater in the bucket of water overnight to get it to the right temp.> One last question do I need to remove my fish when I make these small water changes or do I leave them in the tank even when vacuuming the gravel? <Nope, your fish can be left in, just make sure you dont suck them up in the hose/vacuum.> Thank You so much your site and online support are a life saver for those of us who are aquatically challenged. Thanks for your help. Amy <We are all challenged in one way or another, mine is vertically! Ronni>

Re: Is my tank cycled? Hi sir, <Hello, Ronni here> Tank size: 37 Gallon UK <For our US readers, this converts to approximately 44g US> Tem      : 21C <At this temp you are only going to be safe keeping cold water fish like goldfish. If you want to keep any tropicals you will need to get a heater and set it to 24-26C (76-80F)> Ph       : 7.5 <A good average range for many fish> under gravel filters Sir today is the 43 day of my aquarium. Can I assume that my cycle is completed? <While your cycle should be completed by mow, never assume that it is. Water testing is the only way to know for sure.> If so how many fishes can I add to my 37 gallon tank. <Would depend on the species you want to keep.> I have no testing kits except for ph because these are not available in my city. <Any LFS should be able to test your water for you. Test kits can also be mail ordered, many companies will ship to the UK and there are also quite a few over there that you could order from. Follow some of the links from WWM or search the internet for UK based companies. Ronni>

First Time Fishkeeper Hello to all again....thanks for all the advice! And as expected I have many more questions...I have a 29 gallon FW tank and was going for the Fluval 204 canister, but what the hell. I got the Fluval 304. Bigger is better they say... <Very good> I receive it in 5 days so in the mean time I decided to try and start cycling...I bought 12 feeder goldfish, but they all died. In the store they were in cold water, so I left them in their bag, floating in my tank (room temp) for 20 mins, and then let them out. Minutes later they were all dying. <Oops, not so good. First off, 12 are way too many. Start with no more than 2 or 3. You also need to wait until your filter is up and running before putting them in. Goldfish can live (sort of) in an unfiltered tank but since youre going to be running a canister filter you need to wait until the filter is installed before starting your cycle. Your biological filtration will also be in your canister filter eventually so starting the cycle without the filter attached doesnt do any good. When you add new fish to your tank, you need to float the bag to adjust the temp and then add some tank water to the bag and let it float for a little bit longer. This should ideally be repeated several times to adjust the fish to your Ph. When you do release them, net them out of the bag and place them in your tank. Dont add the bag water to your tank as its horribly nasty.> They did manage to crap a lot in my tank, so I left the "dirty water" sitting there. Of course I removed all the corpses....my first question is: can I leave the dirty water for the 5 days until I get my filter (for the sake of bacteria build-up), or should I just dump it all out? <Better to just dump it all. In the time it takes for your filter to get to you, all of the good bacteria will have died off.> My next question pertains to QT tanks...does a regular fish bowl without a filter suffice for a QT tank? <Nope, the QT tank needs to have a filter running whenever there are fish in it. The WT tank does *not* need to be set up all of the time though. Set it up around the time you get your new fish. Use water from your main tank. Ive found that the little hang-on type filters (Whisper, etc) work good for QT tanks as they dont require gravel over them like an under gravel filter. And theyre relatively inexpensive. You should be able to find a 5-10 gallon complete set-up for under $50, these are perfect for QT tanks.> And how long should new fish be isolated before introduced to my main tank. Do I quarantine new plants as well, and how long for those? <Plants and fish both need to be quarantined at least 2 weeks, 4 weeks are better. Plants can spread diseases as easily as fish.> Oh yeah. What do you think about adding a Chinese fire-bellied toad? They look really cool in the pet store. <This would depend on what else you plan on having in the tank and on how aggressive the toads get. Some species of frogs/toads get very aggressive as they get larger so be sure to do your homework on them. Search at www.wetwebmedia.com using the Google search box and also search the web to find out info on them.> Also, do you have any advice as to what location is ideal for the intake tube, and also for the output tube of my filter? <I like to have them in the back corners of the tank. Intake on one side, output on the other.> Once again I thank you...and I can feel the beginning of the madness!!! <It can easily become an obsession but its tons of fun! Ronni>

New Aquarium:  Am I on the right track???? Revisited - 02/16/03 Thanks for the quick reply.   <You're welcome.> After I emailed you, the water cleared up. Nonetheless, one gourami grew sick and his tail began to deteriorate.  One of the dwarf flag cichlids died (I will obviously not replace the cichlid). The cat and silver dollars seemed lazy. <Likely stressed from the water chemistry.> I've since done a water change (4 gallons or so) and will do another one Tuesday (which is about a week after the first), added some Ammonia Lock, some aquarium salt, changed the filter and added some Cycle to it.  These actions were not taken all at once. <Most fast-cycle products are of dubious quality....> The fish rebounded nicely and now are behaving normally. The ammonia also went down to about .25 and remains so. <Eventually it should get down to 0 and hopefully stay there.> However, today I noticed that water is more cloudy than ever.  The fish, however, seem unaffected so far. I eventually want to get a 55-gallon for at home (the 20 gallon is in my office) and transfer the fish to that tank.   <Good idea.> I will put community fish such as guppies in the 20 gallon (more appropriate for an office anyway). <And you can take the inevitable fry home as treats for the fish there.> However, I cannot do so right away. I hope that I have some time to keep the current fish in the 20 gallon until they grow some more.  How long do I have, if any time at all??? <Until the fish outgrow the tank? Difficult to say, as the fish will likely grow at different rates.> Also, if the ammonia eventually goes down, will the nitrites then spike up??? <Yep, that's the next step of the cycle.> Thanks for your advice.  I really appreciate it.  I will spread the word about your great website...... <You're welcome -- we're glad it has helped. --Ananda>

Re: "New Tank" Cycling Greetings WWM Crew...It has been six weeks since I set up my 75-gallon freshwater tank. Three little tetras have been in it for a month. It seemed the little fish were not providing enough bioload to get things started, so I went ahead and added three quite small Bala "sharks." (No, I didn't quarantine them, but I have since set up a QT for future additions.) <Very good. I like seeing this. :o)> I have been adding a weekly dose of Cycle. About four days after I put the Balas in the tank, I noticed measurable ammonia in my tank for the first time. (I don't know exactly how much; my Tetratest Laborett water test set increments jump from .25 mg/l to 1.5...It was more than .25 but less than 1.5.) <Best to get a test that shows more detailed results.> I did a 25% water change to dilute the ammonia. I'm curious about the cycling, so I have checked the water every day, looking for increased ammonia and the beginning of nitrites. The ammonia has been present, but not increasing (.25 or less) for three days. Everything else is stable--pH is 8, GH and KH 5, temp 78. I scraped the big outbreak of algae off the glass; a little algae continues to grow. Six little fish are active, eating well and seem to get along fine. Shouldn't I be seeing nitrites by now? <Yes, you really should be seeing them by now. Its possible that your test kit isnt good and is just not showing them. Try taking some water to your LFS and have them test it to see if they show any nitrites. If not, Im not sure what could be causing this but just keep on watching it and see if they do eventually go up, it may just be taking a while. Thanks for your help. The wealth of info on your site really helps to instill a confidence that I am doing things reasonably correctly. Charlie <Sounds like youre doing OK and were glad to help. Ronni>

- Freshwater Questions - Thanks, Jason (and Gage for your response earlier). <My pleasure.> I plan to add three Balas and some kind of algae eater and see what happens. Is that too many at one time? <I think so, yes... I believe in taking it very slowly... like one every couple of weeks to a month. If the fish are tiny you could add a couple at a time, but again - we're not sure if the tank is properly cycled - too much too quick will invite problems.> Eventually, I want to have a larger school of balas, a catfish and maybe some tinfoil barbs. I realize these fish get quite large, but I'm prepared to make a much bigger home when necessary. <Try to stand this on it's head and get the larger tank before you get the fish. It will force you to stock sensibly.> Does this plan make sense? <Just don't forget the quarantine! Or is that Ovaltine...> --Charlie <Cheers, J -- >

Freshwater Nitrate Help Please Howdy! <Hi there> I have just about everything that I could on your awesome website regarding Nitrates and the treatment thereof.  I have a 30 Gallon tank with 3 medium sized fish.  I am using the Power Filter that came with the tank, Air pump w/ check valve on a 10 air stick aerator, heater, and an additional Fluval 404 canister filter for biological filtration.  I have had some water quality issues with ammonia until I purchased the Fluval 404.  Please take a gander at the following and let me know what I can do with this setup to knock the Nitrates down to a more acceptable level.  Also will the NITRITE level drop down back to 0 on its own with the Fluval biological filtration? Thanks!!! <No pic or graphic, but need to know what sort, size are these three fishes? What do you feed them? Nitrite will hopefully go to zero with use of some "permanent" filter media (like ceramic rings (e.g. Ehfimech), sintered glass (e.g. Siporax)) that you don't ever take out, clean completely. Any chance of adding, tying in another ten or more gallon "sump" with your thirty? Here you could grow, culture some true aquatic plants, have a deep gravel bed... that would go a long way in reducing nitrate accumulation. Bob Fenner>

Freshwater questions - Lighting and filtration Hi Guys, have really enjoyed the sight and loved your previous advice.  A couple new questions. <Excellent> 1. I am finishing cycling my new 72 Gallon freshwater tank.  I don't plan to make it heavily planted - but I do want to grow a few plants.  Currently I have 4 java ferns, 1 Bolbitis fern and some Java Moss all attached to small pieces of bogwood or coconut shell caves. (If you haven't guessed, I was thinking easy maintenance, low light requirements, movable plants - LOL).  Now I am also thinking of adding some Riccia fluitans (attached to a mat that can be secured to some rocks, etc to give a lawn effect). <I have found that hair nets work well to secure the Riccia, fishing line works too, but the hair nets I bought were 3 to a pack so I got to wear one while decorating.  It takes aquascaping to a whole new level.> Currently I have a single fluorescent strip light that came with the tank - (it has a 40 watt G.E Aqua Ray 9325K bulb).  From what I have read, 2 to 3 watts per gallon is recommended for heavily planted tanks.  So I since I am at about .6 per gallon, I know I am way under that. <That watts per gallon business totally depends on your plants, the depth of your water, surface agitation, how thickly caked with water deposits the glass in your hood is (I've got some pretty nasty ones), and other factors.> Will the plants I chose do ok with just this single light? <I would add a full spectrum bulb at least, two could not hurt.> If not, would you recommend going to a dual fluorescent strip (80 watts), a triple strip (120watts), or a compact fluorescent (110 watts). <It depends on how sick your obsession is.  I like the power compact idea.> Also, I know from your articles, you favor the Vita-lite (or similar bulbs in the 5500k range).  Is my Aqua-Ray bulb the wrong range for what I want to do? <I am not familiar with the Aqua-Ray bulbs.> If I have to go to more than 1 bulb - could I mix a 5500k and my existing 9325k bulb? <sure, as long as they are both the same type of bulb/correct bulb for your fixture.> 2. Second question - I a filtering this 72 gallon with a wet/dry sump filled with bio-balls (the tank was reef ready).  I feel comfortable this is pretty sufficient - but I have been toying with the idea of adding a second "backup" filter if I can find a used canister fairly cheap.  My main reasoning would be to use this as both a failsafe - Plus while I would have the canister do some biological filtration, I would mainly use media for more mechanical filtration.  Is this overkill or a reasonable idea?  Any downside to this idea. <Like I said, it depends upon how sick your obsession is, I think the wet/dry will be fine, but the more filtration the merrier.  With the wet/dry on the tank I would focus the canister on mechanical filtration.> Thanks, John <You might also want to try rigging up some DIY CO2.  Check out the planted tank articles on our site as well as the links below.  Best Regards, Gage http://aquabotanic.com/ http://www.thekrib.com/  >

Re: am I cycling again? More than that! Hi-- you guys are life-savers. Your site is such a help, I can't tell you. <thanks kindly... sorry for the delay in response. Catching up with e-mail> But I need a bit of specific steerage, I think-- or maybe just a hand-holding to tell me I'm doing okay now... I have a long-established, planted 50 gallon discus tank which had three part-grown fish. I added two and four tiny ones (I know-- when they reach adulthood, I will be overcrowded-- but I'm not expecting them to all  make it. And if they do, I know a fish guy who will gladly adopt). <Yikes... there are two huge flaws in this strategy. Discus (like many FW fishes) give off growth-inhibiting hormones that stunt the growth of smaller/weaker individuals. Unless you are doing daily water changes, these smaller specimens you have added don't have a prayer of growing. Now, as far as you statement that you don't expect all to survive... I am dumbstruck as to why not?! I would like to think you keep all fishes well enough to have every confidence they will survive> My problem: I had an acid crash which I think was precipitated by a huge drop in my carbonate hardness, simultaneous with the addition  of the two new guys. <I hope this was not from using untempered RO/DO or Distilled water. Never to be done... always buffer a bit. Even for Blackwater Amazonian species (which you do not have)> Though I stabilized the Ph as carefully as I could, one of my old discus and one of the new ones died. I did 25% water changes every couple of days over the last week, and bought two more new guys to replace the lamented dead-- who happened to be the two biggest ones in the tank. Everyone now looks fine-- spread fins, bright eyes, good color, active schooling, happy exploration around the tank in group missions. But one of the new darlings, on close inspection at home under good light, turns out to have gray skin-- that fungal infection. <its not a fungal infection. Fungal infections are extremely rare in fishes. Protozoan infections from unquarantined discus are very common and contagious, however. I have to say, my friend... I am torn here between wanting to help you on one hand, and wanting to berate you on the other for your reckless disregard for life. Even on base terms of financial investment... why would anybody take a disease-prone family of fishes (Discus) and add new undersized ones into a tank with an unfair advantage... unquarantined(!)... and only days after kin had died? Even though you explain the deaths as pH related... what of the increased risk of disease with the stressed survivors? I am truly saddened to hear of the whole affair. You need a lot more patience and information to keep discus... perhaps fishes at large.> I treated that this morning with Jungle's Fungus Eliminator. <a good medication, but ineffective here... and what's worse is that you treated the main tank! Not only was this medication a waste of money, but this antibiotic has killed a portion of your biological filter> Everyone still seems happy, though, <relative to...?> with the exception of the ravenous babies, they're picking at food very lightly. I'm removing it with a wide pipette as best I can when it gets left (easy with a piece of Discus delight, not so easy with wandering frozen bloodworms). My nitrates, which had been over 110 (as high as the kit tests) <actually... you have staggering nitrate levels... likely from a lack of water changes (which also mitigates acidosis like the pH crash you've experienced). Nitrate on a test kit needs to be multiplied by 4.4 to get the actual nitrate levels (Nitrate ion versus nitrate as nitrogen). So even if your tank was known to be at only 110ppm on the test kit... your actual nitrate is around 500ppm (possibly much higher). This level is obscene and quite indicative of water quality> when the acid fall happened, are now, with the water changes and the use of Nitra-sorb in my box filter (Tetratec 300)  somewhere between 20 and 40. <yes... water changes please> But my carbonate hardness still wants to keep switching down, testing daily at 30 or 35 although I am carefully adding Kh booster in the recommended amounts. And my Ph, which I am trying to sketch down to 6.5, wants to stay at 7.0 even though I am adding daily Ph Adjust down in the recommended amount. The fish all came from 7.0 or higher, but really, I know they'll be much better off with the lower P, if I can just get it to settle down around 6.5. Nitrites and ammonia both tested at zero until this evening, when I got trace ammonia and light nitrite readings. <that would be the medications used in the display (and not a proper QT) killing nitrifying faculties> I added some Cycle, <a waste of money IMO> assuming my biological filter's been sorely depleted by all the water changes. <ahhh...no. Water changes have absolutely no impact on nitrifying bacteria unless you are throwing away bio-media. These faculties are benthic and not touched by the dilution of tank water> So. Is the tank in a cycle stage again (if so, fine. I'll just watch it like a hawk and do gentle, frequent water changes. <simple damage from meds> But how do I get the carbonate hardness to behave and the Ph to reduce slowly? <a better test kit and a better buffer would be my advice> And should I put in Ammo Lock 2 if the ammonia sketches up any further by morning? <just a water change please> A major water change is, due to the Fungus Eliminator, out as an option until Friday a.m.-- <I'm not sure why it would be out of the question? This drug (like most) has a life in aquarium water of less than 12 hours (actually about 4-6 hours in this case). Hence the reason for daily and twice daily dosing of most meds. You water change will not phase efficacy after 6 hours of the dose> but then, the aquarium's biological filtration isn't going to much care for yet another big water change, is it? Judy Waytiuk <I'm thinking that you would benefit tremendously from attendance of a good local aquarium society. Some better books at least. The sheer number of misinformed choices and perceptions that you've recited tells me that you may not be getting accurate advice from your local fish store or other counsel. The help you need is far bigger than a single e-mailed reply. Let me apologize for the disappointment and dry wit above, but I am truly saddened to hear the choices you made and the rationale (assumptive) behind them. Please take my advice and spare some lives and your labor: don't by another fish until you've bought some better books and read them. And then still don't buy another fish until you've bought a simple QT tank to put all potential new fishes in first for 4 weeks (no exceptions). Read more in the wetwebmedia.com archives about protocol for quarantine. Best regards, Anthony>

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