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FAQs on Establishing Cycling in Freshwater Systems 2

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 1, Establishing Cycling 3, Establishing Cycling 4, Cycling Products, Biological Filtration, Cycling Trouble-Fixing, & Freshwater Filtration, Freshwater Environmental DiseaseNitrates in Freshwater Aquariums, Ammonia, FW Nitrites, FW Nitrates, Chemical Filtrants,

Monocirrhus polyacanthus Heckel 1840, the Amazon Leaffish. Some fishes are much more sensitive to cycling than others.

Cycling - 7/11/6 It's been 2.5 weeks since tank started to cycle. I reckon to do this right would be to wait for about another 5 - 6 weeks so it can cycle properly. <<Are you adding pure ammonia everyday to cycle the tank?  Google WWM re fishless cycling.>> Am I right to do this - an educational guess tells me I am. I have put in beneficial bacteria and though my LFS has said you can put in fish 1 - 2 days later I just don't believe them to be honest. <<The bacteria need food in the form of ammonia in order to survive.>> I want my fish to live not just survive. Their (LFS) pH is on the hard side and of course they have all types of fish available but when my tank is ready for fish I just won't be able to bring myself to buy half a dozen neon tetras knowing full well that they 'ideally' want a pH of (as I understand it) 6.8 when I have one around 7.5 <<It is more important to have a steady pH than an absolute, by the books accurate one.>> I am now using the forums and am sorry if I have emailed Bob / crew about 8 times over the last few weeks but I would much rather rely on experts than someone else. Wishing you well. Steve. <<Hope that helps. Lisa.>>

No ammonia spike yet   6/16/06 Hi I have a new tank set-up... my first since I kept a goldfish 20 years ago and all this cycling stuff is kinda new. Back then I just put the fish in and never had much trouble. <You were "lucky"> Well the thing is I have a tank that's about 35 gallons and it has been up with fish in for two weeks now and I am yet to register any ammonia or nitrites. I even did a double test with tap water to make sure I wasn't having trouble matching the colours. The tank has 5 Rummynose tetras (fish i have since read should not be added to a new tank) <Correct> and one zebra danio it did have two but one committed suicide (tank cover off). I have used StressZyme as per directions and have a small bunch of Ludwigia plant in it. What is happening? Does the StressZyme produce enough bacteria to jump straight to nitrates? <Nope> (I don't have this test kit...yet) It seems most people don't think StressZyme etc are worth it. Do you know of any published research on such products it all seem very anecdotal (everyone's opinions) coming from a healthcare background I like hard evidence. excellent site by the way thanks DaVid <... Not a good idea to place livestock in all new settings... your system may not have cycled as yet... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

New Planted Tank and Fish Death 10/11/05 Hello, The crew has given me solid advice in the past, and I want to share a recent experience with you all. I help my parents set up a 75 gal planted community aquarium. We went fairly low tech: no CO2 injection, low light, 2 Penguin Bio Wheel 350 power filters. All the planting was done immediately. We then cycled the new setup using established aquarium water and sponge squeezings from a mature filter. We were able to observe the complete nitrogen cycle.  After our nitrite readings were zero, we added fish. The complete cycle took a little over 3 weeks. The initial stocking consisted of 40 Neons, 24 Rummy Nose, 5 Siamese algae eaters, and 5 Amano shrimp. All the Neons died over a 5-7 day period, a few every night. All but 3 of the Rummy Nosed died in the same period. 3 of the Siamese died also during this period. None of the shrimp perished.  During the week of death, we continued monitoring all water parameters. There was never any change in ammonia, nitrite, pH, or nitrate. I am wondering if we stocked the tank too fast. If that was the case wouldn't there have been an ammonia/nitrite spike? Is there more to an established aquarium than just the nitrogen cycle? Are there other organisms that add to the bio-balance of a mature aquarium making it more suitable to life? Once a tank is cycled, is it mature? Or does that take months? I am trying to figure out if we received some bum fish, or the tank wasn't ready for the new fish. Any thoughts? <I'm sorry you and your fish had such a rough week. I have a few thoughts/questions. What did you use for your ammonia source when cycling your tank? Fish food? Ammonia from the grocery store? Since you had cycled your tank, I assume your ammonia or nitrites were down to zero. What was your pH? Nitrate level?  Tetras are known to be touchy when you put them into tanks. Did you test the fish store water's pH? Maybe they experienced a dramatic change in pH. I'd consider a mature tank one that's been up for about a year or so. It does have its own collection of microfauna. Levels of trace elements have evened out.  I think you probably stocked the tank a bit too fast -- the fish may have died before they were able to create an ammonia spike. Since your shrimp didn't die, you might have had some fish disease that wiped out most of the tank. Shrimp are very sensitive to ammonia, indicating that your test kits are speaking truth. You could have just had some bum fish, but your death levels are really high.  I'd suggest adding about 10 tetras at a time for a little while. What is going to be the final composition of the tank? You could start with your hardiest fish. You might want to consider a quarantine tank -- introducing a disease into a 75 gallon would be a nightmare to clean up.> Thanks, CW  <Anytime, Catherine W> 

Dead Guppy and Soft Water  9/29/05 Long time to chat (over two weeks, anyway). Haven't really had the need to until now. I had one of two Guppies I purchased last Wednesday pass away last evening. I saw it suddenly start going (swimming upside down and in circles) so I put it in a bag (the bag it came in). Within another 5-10 minutes it was gone. I returned it to the LFS where I got it and they asked if it was in water from the tank. I said yes, but it was from last evening. They tested the levels and said the Nitrite level was off the scale (over 2 ppm). I've been testing my water every day and the highest Nitrite level I've ever seen was 0.25 ppm. Note that I have 4 other adult Guppies, 4 that are a little over a month old, and 11 that are a few weeks old and they all seem fine. Oh, there is a 3" Pleco in the tank, too. 3 of the 4 adults were purchased nearly 2 months ago. pH is OK (6.8 - wish it was higher), and Nitrate is 2.5 ppm. You may recall I had a 20G tank and I did have high Nitrate levels on that one (typically 40 ppm). I actually emptied that tank a couple nights ago after giving up on the cause for the high Nitrate levels. This tank is a 29G tank and my highest nitrate levels have been 7.5 ppm. It's been running for about 3 weeks now. BTW, the fish purchased last Wednesday were never in the 20G tank - only in the QT tank and the 29G tank (both of which have absolutely identical specs - pH, NO3, NO2, NH3, kH, gH, and temperature). Wouldn't a dead fish being in a bag with ~1.5 cups of water for nearly 24 hours have a negative effect on the water quality in that bag? They didn't think so at the LFS. < As the bacteria in the water break down the dead tissues of the fish they are giving off ammonia as a waste product. This can very depending on the water temp and available oxygen in the water.> While I'm writing, I am having a consistent pH issue. It keeps wanting to drop. At the suggestion of the LFS (same one as above), I've been adding baking soda to the water to bring up the pH. (IS that a good idea?) I can add a little and bring it up to 7.0, but the next day it always seems to be back down to 6.8. kH is 35.8 and gH is 125.3. Should I continue to add the baking soda to bring up the pH? Will the kH eventually raise and stabilize the pH? Thank you, Joe M. < I would get some pH buffer by Seachem. Take a 5 gallon bucket and fill it with tap water. Check the pH. Check it again in 24 hours. Add the buffer to bring the pH up to where you want to keep it. Then add it to your tank when you do water changes. You have fairly soft water with not much buffering capacity so this will help stabilize your tank and keep your guppies alive too.-Chuck>

New Tank Woes  9/27/05 Hello <Hello, Catherine here.> Your site is great - a bit overwhelming for a newbie, but excellent.  I would like help with my ever decreasing fish population.  I purchased a 30 gallon aquarium about 10 days ago.  Set it up and let it run for 24 hours.  I bought 2 barbs, 2 albino barbs, an algae eater, a dwarf Gourami, 4 zebras, 2 mollies, 2 hatchet fish and 2 codo loaches.  Big mistake.  <Yep.  You should shoot your LFS for letting you do that.>  Almost everything has died.  <Not surprising.>  I have done partial (about 20%) water changes almost daily with care to match the temperature in the tank.  We have well water that is very hard with lots of lime.  <Excellent.>  When I test the pH it still registers very high on the hardness scale with a pH of at least 8.  <Some areas of the country have hard, alkaline water.>  I have added the pH "fizzing" tablets and also add the pH liquid stabilizer when I change the water.  <Can help, can also cause bigger problems due to pH swings.  The mollies actually like the high pH.  Until your tank has stabilized, I wouldn't try to modify the pH.>  Nitrates are  reading in the stress level even with the frequent water changes.  <That is surprising.  New tanks have to cycle. Basically, fish poop contains ammonia.  Ammonia is toxic to fish.  Bacteria (from the air) colonize the filter and the gravel in the tank and change ammonia into nitrites.  Nitrites are toxic to fish.  Another type of bacteria colonize the tank that change nitrites into nitrates.  Nitrates are toxic to fish, but only at higher levels.  Your tank should read 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and nitrates less than 20.  It takes about 6 weeks for a tank to cycle, which means you usually don't get nitrates for a while.  I suggest checking your tap water for nitrates.  Some regions have really high levels of nitrates naturally occurring or from agricultural waste.  If your tap water is high you either need to get a reverse osmosis water system for your home, or you need to buy the fish distilled water.  For more information on cycling, read here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm.  You may also want to use the product BioSpira by Marineland, if you can find it.>  Now the fish have ich, which I have been treating for the last three days. <Treating with what?  Many treatments are toxic and others kill your good bacteria.  I suggest raising the tank's temperature to ~85F over a few days and adding 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts per 5 galloons of tank water.>   Any suggestions that could help us out?  I am almost ready to tear everything down and start from scratch again.  I hate to see the fish suffer.  Thanks so much for your time.  <Keep asking questions, Catherine> Re: New Tank Woes  9/27/05 Hi Catherine <Hi Karen>, Sorry to bother you again.  <No problem.>  I was thinking about a couple of things today and had a few questions for you.  I was able to locate some BioSpira and it is being shipped to me.  <Great!>  However, would it be better to break down the tank to help get rid of the Ich parasites and also to change to distilled water.  Also, is the Ich now imbedded in the bio filter?  I know you are not supposed to replace it but should I in this circumstance.  I don't want to waste the BioSpira (liquid gold) while I am doing all these water changes and adding Epsom salts.  What're your thoughts on this?  I really, really appreciate your time and help. <The problem is your fish probably still have ick on them.  Are they still spotted?  Even if you totally break down the tank, wash everything in hot water and continue, you will still have some of the parasites.  If you immediately dump the fish into distilled water, they will all die from the pH shock (Your water was quite basic, right?).  If you haven't changed the carbon in your filter, I would add more carbon just to make sure all traces of the ich medication have been removed.  Continue the daily water changes.  Once the BioSpira arrives, my advice would be to do a 50% water change with the salt.  Then add BioSpira.  Don't do a water change for a day or two.  Then, if you still have ammonia and nitrites, start doing the smaller water changes with distilled water.  Once the tank has cycled, do the weekly water changes with distilled water.  That way the pH will change slowly.  You might want to look into getting a product that will add trace elements.  They are normally present in tap water but absent in distilled water.  The Kent's brand sells one. Hope it helps.  Catherine> Re: New Tank Woes  9/27/05 Thank you so much for your help and quick response as I only have 5 or 6 fish left - who knows how many by the time I get home today.  <I hope the situation stabilizes.>  I will try the salts and BioSpira.  Thanks for reassuring me about the pH.  I was really worried that was doing them in.  <Some fish don't like a pH that high, but many just need a constant pH.>  I will check the tap water today.  I forgot to tell you that I was vacuuming the gravel because I thought maybe I overfed the fish and read on other notes on your <not my site, I'm just on the crew> site that may not be a good idea right now.  <You may not want to vacuum the gravel, or just run the vacuum lightly over the top.  Feed the fish less, maybe only once a day and only what they consume in a minute or so.  It's better to have the begging for more than have leftovers.>  Again, THANK YOU! <Anytime.>

Re: New Tank Woes  9/27/05 Well, I got home tonight and nobody in the tank was dead- yeh!  <Great!>  I checked the tap water and indeed we have 20 ppm of nitrates.  We do live in a farm area.  I did a partial water change and cleaned the filter, etc.  I rinsed out the bio filter by mistake.  <Oops.  Not too bad, but I'd avoid doing that until you are cycled.  Also, whenever you rinse them, use old tank water.>  Regarding the ich - do I add all the Epsom salts at once?  I just added 3 tablespoons so far because I wasn't sure.  <Easiest to do when you are doing water changes.  Grab a jar and stir/shake salt until it dissolves.  Add a few tablespoons at a time.  Remember that salt doesn't evaporate; only add salt to replace water you've taken out of your tank, top the tank off with treated tap water.>  The product I used to treat the ich was called Ick Guard II by Jungle.  <I don't know that one in particular.>  During start up I also added Tetra Aqua Safe and Tetra Easy Balance per the store.  The pH stabilizers were Wardley Bullseye 7.0 and Jungle correct pH - per the store.  <Not dangerous products as far as I know.  However, the pH stabilizers are typically not long lasting and lead to pH going up and down.  It's also hard to get pH down if you have hard water.>  I do have one larger live plant and a banana plant.  <Cool.>  I think that is all for now.  I really do appreciate your help.  You are great!  <:-), now if I can only convince my advisor of this opinion.  Keep asking questions.  Also, you might want to check out the chat forum on WWM.  People there are really helpful.  Catherine>

Re: New Tank Woes  10/4/05 Hi - it's your favorite pest again.  <Webster's Dictionary: Pest: Avid Fishkeeper>  I have added BioSpira to the tank.  Should I still do my water changes or will it remove the BioSpira? <I'd cut down water changes unless ammonia or nitrites go over 1.>  Also, it did not come packaged in ice and I left it on the counter for two days.  I see it needs to be refrigerated.  Do you think the bacteria were dead?  <Bacteria are tough.  Some may be dead.  But there may still be benefit.>  Thanks a million as usual.  <Let me know how it's going.  Catherine>

Re: New Tank Woes 10/11/05 Hi Catherine! Happy Monday!  <Hi Karen! Happy Monday!> Just a friendly update. Well, I think my tank has finally cycled and there has been no fish kill recently. <Great!> Still adding a little bit of Epsom salts to the water and doing some changes - just in case. <Keep checking your water, if your ammonia and nitrites are at 0 and your nitrates are under 20, you can probably cut your water changes to once a week.> Right now I have a golden Gourami, a blue Gourami (who chases the golden), 3 black tetras, 3 zebras, 2 mollies and two teeny tiny algae eaters.  <Your blue and golden Gouramis are the same species. They are known to be nasty to each other, especially if both are males. This may become an increasing problem. I'd add a few more hiding spots.>  I would like to add a couple more fish - would that be too many (30 gallon tank)?  <If your nitrates are under 20 and your algae eaters aren't going to grow into monsters, you probably could add a few more fish. What are you considering?>  Also, they seem to always be hungry. I try not to overfeed them, but worry they are not getting enough. I use tetra min flakes and pellets.  <Aren't fish good beggars? As long as everyone seems to be getting something to eat, they should be okay. You might also add a few algae wafers for the your algae eaters. The algae eaters and mollies also like peeled peas. Everyone would like a few bloodworms (they come frozen in blister packs) occasionally.> That's all for today. Thanks for your help. You are awesome!  <Thanks! Glad your tank is doing better! Catherine> 

Re: New Tank Woes 10/13/05 Thanks again. I was thinking about a bumblebee goby or two,  <These are brackish fish.>  and a few catfish for the bottom. <Cory cats? They like to school and are neat fish.>  Found out last night that are water softener went out with the power outage a couple of weeks ago. No wonder my water was so hard. Hopefully that will be better. I am enjoying my tank so much now I want a bigger one - HA!  <Addiction has commenced.>  I will get the food treats for them - they really are beggars. Take care and have a great day! It's nice to be able to have someone to chat with : )  <Have a great day! Check out the WetWebMedia Chat Forum. The link is on the lower right part of the home page. Chat with lots of nice, knowledgeable folks all day, every day. Catherine> 

Cycling Bacteria  9/26/05 Sorry for pestering you all with questions, but please answer this question for me. As I told you before I have a Green Terror, a pair of convicts, and a gold nugget Pleco. I plan on putting them in a 55 or larger tank. I heard about the different chemicals that have bacteria in them. (Marineland's Bio-Spira and Hagen's Cycle) Hagen's says that it is impossible to over dose but Marineland says it is very important not to overload. What's the difference and which one would you recommend for me. And after putting in the chemical could I put all my fish in after 24 hours? >> the bacterial supplements to start your tank are based on either bacteria, or different enzymes or a mixture of microorganisms. Nearly all of them will do the job, and you should simply follow the instructions on the bottle. Good Luck, Oliver

Migrating Bacteria  9/25/05 Sorry, but I have another question. <No need to apologize.> I read about the Fishless cycle you provided for other aquarists. ( http://www.thepufferforum.org/viewtopic.php?t=331 ) For the bacteria source, what does it mean by squeezing the filter media and gravel? <I'm not the author of the article but I think what PufferPunk is describing is squeezing filter media like sponges or filter floss to ring it out to get some good bacteria to transfer to the new tank.> And do you know any other sources of bacteria I could get from my 10 gallon tank. (Soon to be 55 gallon) I have so two plants that are in fuzzy gray material, is that "rock wool". Would that be sufficient? <Bacteria is going to colonize all over your tank, in the gravel, on the glass, on the decorations, in the filter, everywhere.  The idea is to find something that this bacterium has colonized on that is easy to transfer from one tank to another.  Gravel (or any substrate), filter media, and decorations are great vehicles for bacteria transfer.  The plants and the material that they are planted in is a good way to transfer bacteria to the new tank.  Hope this helps, Gage>

Bio Spira  9/19.5/05 Hi. Can Bio-Spira be purchased at most LFS's, or does it have to be ordered over the internet? Thanx. <Hard to find in stores. Of three pretty good stores in my area only one carries it. I would hit the yellow pages then order it if you can't locate. Don>   Guppies, Water Quality, Cycling - (IV?) - 09/13/2005 Replies threaded in... <<Ahh, okay....  it's going to get a bit tough for you/us/our readers to go through, but we'll try these double-carrot-thingies for my current replies>> WWM FAQ Crew wrote: > Guppies, Water Quality, Cycling - (III?) - 09/11/2005 > As a follow-up to my below message, > <I do realize it's a follow-up, but I can't quite discern from your previous correspondence who was helping you....  so ya get me (Sabrina) today!  I hope to be of service.> Bob answered my first post. I'm awaiting an answer on post #2. This is #4. I take it you don't see all the quoted text? <<Nope, it didn't come through intact, apparently.  I'll blame this on our Webmail system (grin)>> The previous topic (post #1 and #2) was "Guppy food question & a few other Guppy questions" <<Okay>> > I got a water test kit today. It's made by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, Inc and is a Freshwater Master Test Kit. Everything seems good (well, acceptable) except one item that really sticks out. Here are the specs: > pH  6.6 > <Probably low for guppies, but do-able.  Is the pH from your tap this low, as well?  I'm not a proponent of augmenting your pH when avoidable, but I'd really like to see this a bit higher.> My tap water specs are as follows: (all ppm except pH) pH      NH3/4 (Ammonia) NO2 (NITRITE)   NO3 (NITRATE)    7.1 0.10 (almost 0) 0.00 2.00 So I think that's pretty good. Before I got your reply, I did a 50% water change which lowered the NO3 to 20, but that still seems too high. I'm not sure what is causing this. The gravel was also cleaned (which I do every time I change the water). <<Yes, agreed.  I begin to think that your tank has some "stockpile" of organic waste somewhere....  I'd like to see that ammonia hit zero, as well.>> > NH3/4 (Ammonia) 0.25 > NO2 (NITRITE) 0.25 > <Any ammonia or nitrite above zero should be considered toxic....  Please bring these down with water changes.> As I mentioned above, this is already started. <<Quite good.>> > NO3 (NITRATE) 40 > <Pretty high, indeed....  Again, water changes....> Will do. <<Cool.>> > Also, water temp is about 79-80 degrees. > <Not too terribly high, this is okay.> I had it a little higher for the fry. <<Yes, no worries on the temp at all.>> > The pH is a little low, but I don't think it's way out there. The NH3 and NO2 specs are pretty good. > <As above, bring these to zero.> Will do. These test kits never really say what things should be. I just thought low was good. <<Yeah, I do wish test kits could be a little more clear/obvious on this point.>> > But the NO3 seems high. Could this have been caused by a algae tablet I put in for my Plecostomus a couple hours before the test? > <Unlikely.  Nitrate accumulates over time from dissolved organics (fish waste, dead plants, etc.) and of course can be influenced by stocking too many fish and not having the biological filtration capacity to handle them.> Until the latest fry, there were 10 guppies - 6 adult and 4 fry (or was it 5 fry...).  I was going to save this until later in the post, but I just got a great deal on a 30 Gallon tank complete with an oak stand (base and top) that looks like a piece of furniture much more than most wood stands I've seen. It was $89 complete! <<Ooh, rock on!!>> The tank was made in April, 05, so it's not very old. The stand looks about the same vintage. <<Sounds wonderful.>> I filled it last night with tap water and started the filter (also used but better than my current one). It's made for up to 60 gallons, I think so it should handle the 30 fine. It has a dual outlet. It's a Whisper model 60. <<This is fine.>> Anyway, I've started it and will wait until it gets cloudy then clears up which should indicate that the bio cycle is up to speed (or close). <<Mm, usually the cloudiness (and clearing thereof) is just a bacterial bloom....  Test results will tell you the real tale.  Try to get some "filter goo" and/or gunky, used gravel from your current tank to add to this new tank.  That'll help the cycle immensely.>> Then, I'll transfer the adults to the 30 Gallon and leave the fry in the 20 gallon tank (although I'll likely upgrade the filter on that one, too - 16 is a lot of fry). <<Sounds great.>> > In hindsight, I know - I should have done the test first. I put the tablet in because it seemed the Pleco was doing such a great job on the tank it may have been underfed the last couple weeks. > <Ah, no worries.> > After I put the tablet in, I noticed algae starting to build up on the glass again. The Pleco seems OK with the tablet, but the Guppies seem to really like it. > <There's no accounting for tastes!  Have you SMELLED those things??  Yuck!> Honestly? No. :-) I don't think I want to from your question. <<Heh!  Completely understandable!>> > OK, the questions: > <Okay.> > 1. Due to the algae build-up on the glass that I didn't see (you have to get really close to see the small algae spots), was the algae tablet a mistake? > <Nah.  He'll get to it.  Furthermore, please consider foods like blanched zucchini or cucumber for the Plec, as this is a better nutritional option.> For the Pleco or the Guppies, too? <<Sure.  Err, yes?  Uh, that is to say, the guppies will probably appreciate the veggies you feed the Plec.>> As for the algae, I tried to wipe some off while the water was low. I can't wipe it off with my finger. It must be some kind of super algae! I did get some off with a scraper. <<Sounds like normal.  If the tank is glass, at least you need not fear scratching it with your algae scrubber.  A bit of "elbow grease" will help.  Just use caution if its an acrylic tank, as acrylic is so easy to scratch.>> > 2. Is the tablet OK for the Guppies? > <Sure.  They like their veggies.> > 3. Is the NO3 level something that I should be concerned with? (will it > drop on its own?) > <It won't drop on its own, but you can (should) lower it with water changes.  Try to maintain it below 20ppm, if possible.> > Note that I change the water about 10% every 3 or 4 days. That seems normal (works out to 20% per week). Should I be changing more? > <Mm, in this initial/cycling stage, yes, probably.  Anything to get those levels down.> How long (roughly) until the cycle gets stable? (rough estimate) <<Highly dependant upon your system....  all are different.  And, again, I am starting to think there may be something "wrong" to be causing you so much trouble with nitrate.>> > Also, I have no live plants, but have 5 adults, 5 near adults (almost a month old) and 16 fry that are almost 2 weeks old. > <I don't see tank size listed in your previous correspondences; please just try to ensure that the tank is not overstocked.> 20 Gallon, but adults will be in the 30 gallon tank in a few weeks if all goes well. <<That's quite a few guppies, but you should be able to keep up with these, especially with your maintenance.>> > (oh, and the 2" Pleco as the maintenance engineer for algae control - he was only about 1.25" when I got him a few weeks ago) > <He will reach a couple feet given proper space, care, time....  You might consider trading him for an Ancistrus "Bushynose" Plec, which also eats algae, and stays a more manageable 4-5 inches.> I wish I had known that a few weeks ago. I asked several LFSs about a smaller one that would do the same job. None knew of any. One LFS owner wasn't sure about the Chocolate Pleco, but said it was possible it might stay smaller. I would have certainly gone with the Ancistrus "Bushynose" Pleco. Do they look the same as a young regular Pleco? (so I can more easily find them in the stores) <<They're actually a bit more nifty.  They can be found albino or "plain", and have "fronds" on their noses....  hence "Bushynose" or "Bristlenose".  Try a google search on either of these for images.>> When I had an active tank 15 or so years ago, I had a variety of fish (guppies, mollies, kissing fish, angelfish, and a Pleco). My Pleco outlasted everything and grew over a foot in the same 20G tank, so I'm familiar with their size issues (and waste issues). Back then I didn't know anything about checking the water conditions. I only came to know that through your site. Without that info, I might have well lost the entire tank. THANK YOU! <<I can't tell you how glad I am that you have gained this information.  Water quality is perhaps the single most important thing to understand, with regards to fish.  Thank you for these kind words!>> BTW, I'm not interested in anything but Guppies now. Not showing them or anything - just as pets. I have the Pleco for housekeeping and since they are usually not aggressive. <<Sounds fun!>> > 4. I understand Guppies would rather have a higher than neutral pH rather than lower. If the pH is too low, what is the best way to raise it? Is 6.6 too low? I know it's not that great a figure. > <Check the pH out of your tap....  if it is higher, try to determine what in the tank is dropping it.  Driftwood, overly gunky filter pads, an un-vacuumed substrate, undergravel filter....  Otherwise, consider using a buffer or adding a small filter sock of aragonite sand in your filter.> It's 7.1 out of the tap, so something must be an issue. <<Agreed, very much.>> No driftwood. I do have undergravel filters in everything I've ever had - including the new one. While I'm on the topic, how do you clean those without total removal of everything? <<AHH!  I fear the undergravel filter plates may very well be the culprit - not only of your pH issue, but of your nitrate issue, as well.  Organic material will build up under the filter plates over time and make a pretty awesome amount of "gunk" which, as it decays, can and does increase nitrate and acidity (drops the pH).  You could *try* feeding an airline hose down your lift tubes and start a siphon, and try to pull some of the "gunk" out that way, but in all honesty, when you have that 30 up and running, I would move everyone over and pull those undergravel plates out.  You will be seriously amazed at what you find.  I can almost promise that.>> Filter pads are not bad, and were replaced a couple weeks ago. I'm getting ready to change it again soon. My bio filter is the air type that uses air to draw the water through the filter. I thought this was better than the power filters I had in the past that put out a huge volume of water out into the tank. I wanted to keep the currents down. This new filter does that but is a power filter. <<.... is this like a Duetto filter?  Or....?>> Unvaccumed substrate? Is that the gravel filter plastic? <<??  I'm getting lost, here....  Err, I guess I'll rephrase:  Do you use a gravel vacuum (a big, clear tube attached to a siphon hose) to clean the gravel when you do water changes?>> What is a buffer and what would the sand do? <<A buffer is any material that will (safely) raise and maintain pH....  Aragonite sand is made of calcium carbonate, and is a good option for using as a buffer for this fact.  I do not believe you will have need of it, or any buffer, once you fix the root of your problem (the mulm under your undergravel filter plates).>> > 5. Do you think these numbers had anything to do with the adult female I lost (reference previous message quoted below)? They don't seem that bad all things considered. > <Entirely possible the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate contributed.  The gill irritation may have been evidence of this, as well.> > Any comments on how you would deal with these figures would be appreciated (if you feel it's necessary to deal with them). Would just more frequent water changes do the trick? > <Or larger water changes.  Probably better to do larger changes right now to get those readings down.> OK. I was concerned about the chlorine. <<Just be sure to use a chlorine/chloramine neutralizer when you add new water.>> I didn't want to make too drastic of a change all at once. How much of a change and how often would you recommend? (what % water change and how often?) <<With the major different in pH from your tap to your tank, you'll want to make sure you don't alter the pH more than 0.2 per day if possible.>> > I don't want to change the water too often (is that even possible?) > <Mm, not really.> You can't stop the bio cycle once it's started? <<Well....  If you do something that kills a bundle of your bacteria, you can.  Medications, HUGE changes in water chemistry....>> > 6/7/8. As I understand it, the cycle is NH3 --> NO2 --> NO3. Then what? > <Then either a water change to dilute NO3, or plants consume NO3, or denitrification (very difficult to achieve in typical freshwater tanks) breaks it down into nitrogen and oxygen.> I think the live plants are starting to look good if I continue to have high NO3 levels in the new tank. (if the filter doesn't take care of it) <<Live plants are great.  Look into java moss, java fern, and Anubias sp.  These are low-light, easy maintenance plants.  Your Plec won't eat them, either.>> > Is the NO3 the last step before the fish turn the NO3 back to NH3? > <The fish don't use NO3.  They're too busy turning fish food into NH3 (grin).> Understood. ;-> > If that is the case, wouldn't abundant NO3 be a good thing? > <'s not the case.> > 9. Is it NH3 that makes the water cloudy? > <No....  usually algae or bacteria cause this.> Visible algae? (I have very little visible, and what is visible is very small and sparse) <<Visible, yes, inasmuch as microscopic floating algae can be when massed together.  Usually a pale or greenish cloudy tinge to the water.>> How could I test for bacteria? <<Mm, can't, really; but can look at 'em under a microscope.>> > Mine is slightly cloudy, but nothing like the first startup about 7 weeks ago or so. > <Probably just bacteria feeding on excess nutrients in the water.  Larger water changes are in your future!> Yep. So, you can be overly conservative, as witnessed by my tank. <<Yes.>> > Sorry for all the questions, but I'm sure I'm not the first nor will I be the last with them. :-) > <True on both counts, my friend!> > BTW, I'm one of those "don't really care for chemicals unless absolutely necessary" types (even for myself). > <I as well.> > But, I will go with whatever advice you give. > <Hey, that's a lot of pressure!  Definately feel free to shop around and form your own opinions after you've accumulated information.> I will once I learn all this stuff. Until then, I'll be relying on your (collective) advice. <<Do please make use of all resources available to you....  there is so much information out there....>> No pressure - I trust you much more than I would trust my own judgment at this stage. <<Yikes!!  Uh, I mean, thanks!!>> > Would adding salt help? If so, how much? If not, when would you add salt if ever. I've read that some people like that solution since it's OK for the Guppies. I know - salt is a chemical. But, it doesn't seem as bad as some of the other solutions (pun intended). > <I don't use salt most times.  Guppies tend to do well ("enjoy?" dunno) with it, but I don't use it in my guppy tanks.  You could.  Might be worthwhile.> What exactly would that do? (raise this / lower that - wise) <<Might increase the buffering capacity of the water a bit.... but.... I really wouldn't do anything until the fish are in a more stable environment (minus the organic sludge under the filter plates).>> How much would you add per gallon? <<1-2 tablespoons per ten gallons, and no more.  Keep in mind, salt does not evaporate, so only replace when you do water CHANGES (and only for the amount you change out), not just when you top off for evaporation.>> > Well, back to trying to absorb all the info on your great site! > <Good luck!  Three years after stumbling upon WWM myself, and I STILL haven't found the end....!> OK, but you're way ahead of me! <<You're getting there - just keep going.>> > Oh, one more question. Should I test all the factors every week? Should I test some more than others? (sorry - that was two questions) > <Test until your water quality is optimal, then as often as you deem necessary to monitor levels until you get a feel for how much/often you need to change water to keep up.> > As always, thank you again! > <Any time, my friend!> > Joe M. > <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> Thanks again, Joe M. <<Good luck with this and all your endeavors,  -Sabrina>>

Cycling, Ammonia - 09/11/2005 I set up a 55 gallon fresh water aquarium about 2 ½ weeks ago (I used Stress Coat to condition).  After the set-up and before adding starter fish I gave a sample of the water to a local pet store. <You'll probably want to invest in your own test kits at some point.> I was told the ammonia was sky high (like 8.0 - 9.0) other then this I was told everything else was normal (PH was a little high but not significantly).  That day I purchased Ammo-lock <Not wise to use this during cycling.> a full test kit, <Ahh, good.> 9 Rasbora heteromorpha, <ACK!  Shame on your fish store....  These ammonia levels are deadly high. Please do NOT add any more fish at this point....> and TLC for Freshwater Aquariums (100% live bacteria).  I put half the dose of ammo lock in the tank and then tested it and Ammonia was 0.   <This unfortunately may have delayed your cycle....  In the future don't add stuff to remove stuff; instead, do water changes to dilute toxins.> I also tested the tap water and it was also 0. I added the TLC per instructions and of course the fish.  After a week I added perfect PH 7.0 <Mm, you probably don't need to use pH augmenting chemicals, unless your pH is really, really off what you want.  It is FAR better to have a constant, stable pH than a "perfect" (but fluctuating) pH.> and the second does of TLC.  Now 1 more week later and the Ammonia levels have increased around 1.0, <Dangerous....  Please do water changes to get/keep this at zero.> PH is around 7.0, Buffering is about 180, Hardness less then 120 Nitrite 0, Nitrate maybe slightly above 0.  The tank is very clear and the fish seem happy.  The filter is getting clogged though (I didn't want to change it so I lowered the water flow because water was flowing over the intake tube)   <You can rinse the filter in a dish of water from your tank.> Is this normal?  Shouldn't I be seeing Nitrites first?   <The Ammo-Lock probably "threw off" your cycle some.  You may see ammonia rise further, again, and then nitrite, and finally higher nitrate.  Please be doing water changes through this to keep ammonia and nitrite as close to zero as possible, or you risk harming/killing the rasboras.> When can I add a few more fish (I would like to put some Angel Fish in there). <Not until you've held your ammonia and nitrite confidently at zero for a week or so.  Be VERY sparing in how many fish you add at a time, so your nitrifying bacteria can catch up.  Feel free to browse through our water quality information (in set-up of our Freshwater subweb):   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsetupindex.htm .  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> Cycling, Ammonia, and Thanks - II - 09/12/2005 Thank you so much Sabrina, you confirmed my suspicions and you have definitely aided in my understanding on what to do in this case.  I will take all your advice.   <I'm very glad I was able to help you out!> Oh and I actually think that sample I gave to the pet store was a bad sample or something as I can't seem to find the source of that much ammonia -as the water I added did not contain it, and I don't think the dose (spelled correctly this time) I added could have neutralized that much pH (unless the buffer was really low or something).   <Mm, I don't think the buffering capacity will affect how well or quickly Ammo-Lock will augment ammonia readings.  Perhaps the store's test reagents are old/expired.> Anyhow thanks very much again (you really know your stuff when it comes to cycling) <.... originally gained from experiences such as your own.  I really love this vast information exchange system known as the World Wide Web.> I will start the water changes today after I retest the water. <Sounds great.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Cycling, Ammonia, and Thanks - III - 09/13/2005 Sorry, I hate to bother you once again, but I think my situation has worsened.  Oh and sorry about that bit about Ph, I wrote that with a huge lack of sleep and I still can't figure out what I was thinking. <No worries.  I think I've forgotten what sleep is, most times....> Anyway after the ammonia levels tested the same I did the partial water change (about 20%), and retested directly after and then about 3 hours later, and found the ammonia may have gotten higher not lower. <Yikes!> This influenced me to retest the tap, and now I find .25 in the tap water.   <Very, very disturbing - and perhaps unsafe for human consumption....  You might consider contacting your local water district and health departments.> I'm thinking the levels in the tap may not be constant and me even be higher as the 15-20 gallons surfaced from the tap.  Shall I just leave the tank be until the cycling process improves?   <I fear your only option for using tapwater here is to go ahead and use an ammonia-neutralizing product such as AmQuel+....  I normally discourage using these, especially during a cycle, but you might have no other choice.  The BEST option would be to use reverse osmosis filtered water.> I have noticed a thicker "slime coat" in the tank.  When I moved the heater slightly it actually came off in large chunks.   <Bacteria or algae buildup....  to be expected in new tanks.  Remove if/as possible, otherwise don't worry.  It should pass in time.> The water still looks crystal clear and fish show no signs of stress. <Good indeed.> Oh and I rinsed the filter with the tank water (It was really bad) so I dumped the remaining water, should I have put that water back in the tank?   <Nope, you did right.> A special thanks yet again... I'm sure your work has saved hundreds of aquatic beings, and just as many people from walking away from this hobby. <I can't tell you how great it is to hear things like this....  Thank you, again, for your kind words.  Wishing you the best,  -Sabrina>

Cycling, Ammonia, and Thanks - IV - 09/20/2005 Me again. <AAAAAGH!  No, just kidding, really ;)  Hope all is well with you.> This is more of an update (still concerned).   <Okay> I haven't done anything other then very lightly feed the fish since your last e-mail.   <Mm, at the very least, be testing the water, and make sure to keep wastes (ammonia) diluted.> This weekend I took a sample to another local pet store.  This one used the test tubes rather then the strips. <Ah, yeah - the dipstick type tests, though convenient, can tend to be either inaccurate or hard to read; might want to pick up a liquid reagent kit (the test tube type).> The lady that tested the water about fell on the floor when the ammonia test completed.  She didn't give me a number but she said it was off the charts.   <Numbers are helpful, even necessary; again, I do recommend picking up your own kit rather than having to rely on someone else's.> She adamantly insisted that there must be dead fish in the tank (I recounted them - still 9), and that I was over feeding them - I couldn't express well enough that I don't.  Anyway using the strips here at home I have noticed the ammonia although still high may be dropping (but you can't tell crap from a flower with those tests really).   <Know that ammonia is deadly toxic to fish (as is nitrite).  Your previous reading of 0.25ppm, though disturbing, isn't enough to make me hit the floor - just be sure to keep this as low as humanly possible, and again, if you can't get it zero out of the tap and don't have a RO or DI filter, you'll need to use an ammonia neutralizing product.> I'm still sticking with leaving the tank alone, but I do have my finger on the ammo-lock trigger if need be.  I still see no other good signs other then PH being as she put it "really good" (which must be helping keep the fish alive). Oh and I'm considering doing a small water change with bottled water.   <A fine idea - only, if your ammonia is really "off the charts", I'd plan this to be a major water change....  or several major water changes.> Oh, I purchased one of those test tube kits from another pet store, but I haven't used it yet.   <Now is a great time to start.> They also had a filter specifically designed for tap to fish water for $50.00 that said it removed ammonia; do you know if these are any good?     <Mm, if it's the one I'm thinking of....  well, yeah, sort of....  I would advise you to join our forums at http://www.wetwebfotos.com/talk and ask there in the Equipment or Freshwater sections; I know a couple of our forum members have used these.  You will find me in the forums as "vintage_fish".  Optionally, I would like to recommend that you research reverse osmosis filtration and look at the costs of units at your local Home Depot or other hardware store.> This may sound crazy (more so then the rest of this e-mail), <Eh, we're all a little nuts around here, no worries.> but I personally have had issues where my sweat literally burns skin.   <Uh, yeah, that's a weird one!> It actually burns my eyes badly when I work out.   <I think that's typical.> I always contributed this to pH, but tested negative for high pH levels.   <What about very low pH levels?  Not that I know anything about the pH of the human body, that is.> So now of course I'm beginning to wonder if I am giving off high levels of ammonia which is getting in the samples.  Has anyone else ever suggested this as an issue? :) <Mm, I don't think so - but in all honesty, that's a better question for a doctor.  I fear I have zero background in human physiology.  Sorry for the complete lack of advice here!  Keep testing, keep changing, and in time all will turn out well.  All the best,  -Sabrina>

Cycling, Ammonia, and Frustration - VI - 10/01/2005 Wow now that time has healed I look back on this e-mail, and I must have been very upset, <Ah, no worries, we all have stressy moments....  Starting a tank, and having problems in the beginning, can be pretty trying; we've all been there.> but wait... there is good news!   <YAY!> But before that I wanted to apologize for that last e-mail <Not necessary at all, my friend.> and to say that I hope you are feeling better.   <Getting there, thanks for the thought!> Perhaps if I had a degree in illnesses I could send you some advice, but well I don't... sorry. <Heh, thanks anyway ;)  Starting to think I should go into otolaryngology....  sigh.> After I sent that last e-mail I also tested the tap water with the new kit, and it says there is no ammonia in the tap.   <Very good.> This made me strongly question how the ammonia got in the tank before the fish, and I think the issue was I used a garden hose and the outside faucet to get the water in the tank (otherwise I would have spend 55 trips from the sink with a 1 gallon water jug (I can't use my 5 gallon bucket it's a mess - I use this and a siphon to remove the water).   <Mm, I know the last thing you want to hear right now is "spend more money", but think about asking a family member or significant other for a "Python" for Christmas....  Check 'em out when/if you get the chance; Wal-Mart has the cheapest deal on 'em (though I have to mention I boycott Wal-Mart....)> At the same time I started thinking the ammonia readings in the tank were false (as you also theorized).  I mean after all the fish in the tank were happy and the tank was clear.  So stupid me added more fish (Angel fish, some Mollies and some neon tetras).  Well 1 neon died in the bag before I even floated it, because the moron at the pet store put all these fish in 1 bag, and realizing there was not enough water to handle them just, you know... throw some untreated tap water in the bag!   <Yikes!!> Well 3 days later and all the mollies are dead, the angel fish too (one must have jumped out because I never found it floating, but it's not in the tank).   <Bummer.> The other neon tetras survived though, but they are always hiding, I think their school is too small so they are afraid of the rasboras.   <Could be.  Err, some compatibility issues to think about, angelfish grow large enough to easily eat Neons....  just for future reference.> This prompted me to start doing some serious water changes (50% twice a day).  I was trying to save that last Angel who jumped anyway!  I'd test the tank water, the water going in and then the tank water after the change (and yes I spent an hour going from sink to tank with 1 gallon jugs).   <A Python hose system will change your life.  But, again, they're costly; think about it for some time down the road, when buckets have become your worst enemy and you're sick of feeling like you've fallen into a swimming pool every time you change water.> I'm happy to say that as of last night the water appears to have less then .25 ppm's of ammonia.   <Much, much better.> It looked just slightly darker then 0 though.  Now I'm a little stuck though. I think these drastic water changes have further delayed my cycle, as I still see no nitrates, even with the new kit.   <Likely.> Without the bacteria I'm assuming the ammonia might just continue to rise though.   <Nah, they'll come.  Just keep on top of ammonia with water changes as bacteria grow in.> So if I keep doing water changes to keep it down, how am I ever going to get a cycle going? <It'll happen.> Will it happen anyway, just take longer?    <Bingo.  See?  You've got the right ideas; it will all come together with time!  Diligence and patience will pay off, as you will see.  Keep up the good work!  -Sabrina>

Cycling, Ammonia, and Frustration - VII - 10/06/2005 It's Alive!! Alive!! I tell you!  <Aagh! Run! Oh, wait, you mean good. Whew.> I tested the water last night, and I'm now seeing Nitrites and Nitrates.  <Ahh, yay!> Although very good news at last I'm still a little concerned. Nitrites are boarder-line toxic, and are certainly within the stress zone. I bet that's what killed that one Rasbora I lost (it look pregnant the day I got it though). Anyway Nitrates are getting at mid to high levels too though, so I'd expect the nitrites to start going down.  <I urge you to keep up with the water changes to keep the remaining fish out of harm.> If I don't see improvements soon I will do another water change and retest (I stopped the water change since Friday since the ammonia has been holding at 0).  <I'd start up again; nitrite is toxic as well.> Question on the "Python"... Does it put the water directly in the tank from the tap, and if so can you just dump untreated water in the tank and then treat it?  <Mm, I always used to fill a preliminary container to prepare the water before pumping it into the aquarium.... but I know of others who treat as they add the new water. I imagine if your water changes are not large, you could get away with this.> Also using a product such as stress coat, should you wait a certain time before adding the water into the tank, or just do it right away?  <I tend to mix it up a bit.... it's fine to add just a bit before putting the water in the tank. Glad to hear the good news on the progress of your tank!! Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Foam on non cycled tank... happens 8/24/05 Hello to all at WWM today! My name is Erin, and I have been using your wonderful website for several months now. And what a help it has been. But with my recent issue, I have not been able to find anything (possible I just never found it) even after much looking. Here is my situation: I have recently bought a 29 gallon tank for my tiger barbs, to give them a bigger and happier home for them to grow in. I bought the tank used from someone here on WWM, that used it as a SW tank. I took it home, cleaned it all out (no soap) and set it up. I was letting it run, when about 24 hours after I set it up, there was layer of bubbly foam on the surface. I had this problem with my first one gallon tank, and did the same procedure of cleaning all the gravel out (again), scrubbing the tank out with a washcloth, and replacing all the water. Again, I have been letting it run before I cycle the tank fishlessly. The tank seemed to be foam-less when I went to bed that night, but when I awoke, it had mysteriously returned. Again. I have no idea what it is or what is creating this foam. The tank right now only has a 300 watt heater, a bubbler, 30 lbs. of gravel and an Eheim filter (sponge only, no filters in it yet) for a 50 gallon tank. Any advice would be appreciated. <Is just a bit of surfactant action with the bit of life/residue... trapping air... I would leave it as is, do some partial water changes weekly... in time it will go. Bob Fenner> Re: Greedy Goldfish and Instant Cycle 8/14/05 WWM Crew-- <Jason>      I recently wrote the WWM crew about trouble I was having with a lethargic, corner dwelling, face down goldfish.  I am happy to say that I have mostly solved his problem -- I kept the nitrite levels low and added some aeration to the tank and he perked up overnight! Apparently the poor goldfish was suffocating. <Thank goodness you solved "the mystery" here>      I purchased a 55 gallon aquarium from a newspaper ad and moved the sick fish's companion from our 10 gallon aquarium to the 55. Then, after a few days of recuperation, I moved the formerly sick fish there as well.      I have noticed that the formerly sick fish still has problems with his equilibrium. <This often takes weeks to solve... sometimes much longer to never> I think that during his ill phase, he may have suffered permanent damage to his swimbladder.  Despite his handicap, he swims around and even happily plays in the bubbles.  However, if he manages to eat too much, he will spend the evening floating at the top of the tank.      The trouble is, this goldfish is a real pig.  He is just a lot better at getting to the food than his tankmate.  How can I separately feed my fish in one tank so that I can prevent my floater from overeating? <Mmm, likely the best route is to go with a larger feeding pellet, wafer... and place the food at two ends of the tank...>      I also have a question related to my new tank.  I purchased it used from a newspaper ad.  It has been dry since January.  It employs a 40-60 hang on power filter, as well as an UG filter with two powerheads.  I have done much research into the care that needs to be taken in cleaning with UG filters.      I carefully cleaned the gravel, tank and filters using just water when I got the tank.  Thick layers of brown goo came off of everything.  Then I started my tank up and began to watch ammonia and nitrite levels.      I have 0.5 PPM ammonia in my tap water.  Overnight, this went down to 0 PPM, as well nitrite was 0 PPM.  After a day, I added 1 fish, and there was no ammonia/nitrite spike. <Good... some of the previous "goo" was useful bacteria...> After two more days, I checked nitrate levels, and they were at 10 PPM! <Not surprising... and not dangerous> I have continued to check ammonia and nitrite, but my nitrate has continued to climb; I had to do a partial water change at 20 PPM. <Am sure you can find the bits on WWM re countervailing nitrate accumulation strategies>      I believe that my tank has "instantly" cycled.  How did this happen?  I thought that the good bacteria died after the gravel dried out. Jason <Mmm, no... as a matter of interest, there are those that consider "bacteria" to be the one, largest, oldest organism on this planet... it can/could be argued that they "coat" the planet, under oceans, ice... continuously... can be dried out, even freeze-dried in cases... and come "back to life"... Cheers, Bob Fenner, getting more coffee for my endo-symbiont mitochondria/l bacteria, as they're "informing" me that I've got to be more awake, get them some carbohydrates, keep going a while longer before they ultimately consume me in decomposition...>

Cycling a FW Tank 8/2/05 G'Day Chuck Thank you for answering my questions on cycling my 15g tank (I was less stressed knowing that I was doing the right things - have since replanted the plants). But as my good luck would have it my 15g tank developed a leak so all 11 fish, filter and heater all moved into a 3g tank.  So my questions are:- 1. I used water from my 15g in the 3g one so the filter should continue to cycle yeah? < Using the same water is helpful.> 2. I couldn't fit any gravel or plants into the 3g. The filter will still continue to cycle yeah? <Keep the filter and plants moist until you get the 10 gallon up and running again. The filter will continues to cycle but you may lose the good bacteria in the filter when you clean the filter.> I can't get BIO-Spira in Australia so I am trying to research a similar product here in Australia. Thanks in Advance Tash. < Get some used gravel at a store right out of the tank when you set up again.-Chuck>

Cycling a New Tank 7/26/05 Hello Mr. Fenner, I have had my 20 gallon freshwater tank cycling since July 14, 2005 using the cocktail shrimp method. It is now July 25, 2005 and I have been testing my tank and over the past 2 days every thing is at safe levels.  Can this be correct or has the cycle peaks not even started?  In most of the post and reading it should take 2- 4 weeks to cycle, I have never seen the nitrate of ammonia peak too high.  The highest I have seen the ammonia was at 1, then .50 now for 3 days it has been at .25. Can you please advise me correctly if this is possible before I harm the fish? Thanks Chris < Try adding a few fish and see what happens to the readings. If you want to be certain I would recommend that you get some Bio-Spira from Marineland , add it to you tank and then add your fish. A few to start just to be sure. To find out more about the cycling process go to Marineland.com and look under Dr Tim's Library for and article titled "The First 30 Days". Very informative and easy to understand.-Chuck> Cichlid tank Cycle / parasite problem 7/22/05 A buddy's tank is having some problems and I am a little stumped as to where to go from here. Tank is a 29G. I guess he wanted to cycle it quickly so he started with 9 Mbunas about 3-5" long and adding "Cycle" to the water every day as directed by the bottle. <Too much...> This was definitely too much load for that small of a tank and a few days after he said he lost a couple fish. They would start breathing heavily and stopped eating and soon died. <...> He also purchased a 125G tank, filled with water, add water conditioners and ran for 24 hours. After 24 hours he moved the remaining fish to the 125G tank and  again started adding "Cycle" to the tank. He said this seem to be ok and ran it for a week with no problems. After a week he bought several large fish (Frontosas, large Haps, etc). Everything seems fine for a few days. After that again a few fish start breathing heavily and stop eating. <... Stop!> Here is where I come in and test water. Water is un-cycled with a very high nitrite spike and small ammonia spike. We do a large water change and add Bio-Spira live bacteria. <Ah, thank goodness for friends like you> I have always had excellent success with it before cycling a tank almost overnight. After a couple days still the same situation. Tank appears to be mostly cycled now and nitrates are rising, but the few fish that were breathing heavily are still breathing heavily and not eating. <They, and the microbes in the BioSpira were poisoned, hemolyzed in the fishes' case, by the ammonia...> I also notice a peacock with white spots on him appearing to be ick. Instead of adding medications we bring the temp up to about 83 and add Kosher salt to bring the salinity up. <Excellent> I figured that even if it was not ick this should help most fungal diseases of the gills if that was causing the problem. <Yes> Now here we are a few days after with salinity around 1.002-1.003 and temp around 83. The fish suspected to have ick no longer has any white spots on him. Also made sure water surface had plenty of movement and added airstones. <Good> Everyone seems to be fine except for the few that are still breathing heavily. Will they ever get better and return to normal or is it too late for those. Thanks <Very likely these fishes will survive, improve in the next few weeks. If only every community had "fish gurus" as yourself. Thank you for writing. Bob Fenner>

Recycling I have a 39 gallon tank with 5 bleeding heart tetras and a recently added juvenile 1 inch Ancistrus catfish. Before I bought the cat fish, my tank had been stable and cycled for several months (I have a freshwater master kit and the ammo was o, nitrite o nitrate between 20-30), but the tank developed a horrible algae problem. I bought the catfish, put it into quarantine in a 10 gallon tank with small sponge filter that I had been keeping in the main tank. In the meantime, I cleaned out the algae by scrubbing the sides and the ornaments and fake plants with a scraper, rinsed out the HOT filter in tank water, and did a 50 percent after change. One week later, I tested the water pre change and found that the ammo had gone up to .25, nitrites still o , nitrates still 20-30. Strangely enough, the quarantine tank had also begun to cycle, the ammo was up to 1.0, nitrites were high also (can't remember the reading). I took the catfish out of quarantine and placed it in the main tank after I did a 75 percent water change. One week later, I checked the water in the main tank, ammo now up to .5 but nitrites are 0 and nitrates around 10. Another water change, 50 percent and I added Bio Spira. I checked the water  1 day later and the parameters are now ammo 0, nitrites 0. The pH remained 8.4 , as it is usually, through out all of this. My question is, what happened? Why did the main tank start to cycle after being stable for several months? Why was the quarantine tank cycling even with the sponge filter that had been seeded in the main tank. I didn't add any chemicals or medicine to my tanks. I would like to add a few more fish, but I'm quite concerned that this will happen again. Thanks for your help in advance. <When you removed the sponge filter from the main you also removed a good deal of the bacteria that control the water quality. You got a small ammonia spike until the bacteria became more strongly established in other parts of your tank and filter to compensate for that lose. The Bio Spira was a good move, but I don't think it was needed. A few water changes and all would come into balance again. It's not as clear why you got a bigger spike in the QT. It could be that the change stressed the bacterial colony. Again, a little time and a few water changes and all should be well. Don>

New Tank & Bio-Spira Question Dear PufferPunk, I have a 10 gallon Eclipse tank that sat for 1 week before introducing a 3 inch fish (Chinese Sailfin Shark) 5 days ago.  I know that eventually I will need a bigger tank as he grows.  At the moment, he is small.  When I put him in the new tank, I also added Bio-Spira. I now have ammonia in the tank just over 0.25 ppm.  I did a water change and the ammonia is at the same level. What should I do?   <Try testing the ammonia out of your tap.  Although ammonia should really be at 0ppm, 0.25, isn't too bad--yet.  Are you using any sort of ammonia removers at all?  What kind of conditioner are you using?  If you read the B-S bottle, it says not to use anything with B-S that will remove ammonia.> I do have another packet of Bio-Spira.  Although, I was thinking I should wait to use it for when the nitrites start to spike as I can not get any more Bio-Spira.  Nitrites are at 0 right now.  Also, what do I do when the nitrites start to spike?  I appreciate any advice you can give. <At that point (if it does indeed happen) you should be able to do a water change on the tank to keep them down.  If you can't get any more B-S, then save it until you really need it.  ~PP>

Bio-Spira & Ammonia Issues  6/9/05 Hi Pufferpunk, <Hello again> Thanks for responding back. I keep a juvenile Chinese Sailfin Shark, which will stay in the 10 gallon tank for about a year.  Once he is five inches, I will get a much bigger tank for him.  As of right now, I have no interest in any other fish so he will be alone in the tank.  The place where I bought the B-S is reputable. It was refrigerated and when I bought it, they packed it with dry ice.  There is no other fish store in the state that sells it at the present time.  My fish does not seem stressed but as of this morning, the ammonia is at 0.50 and still no nitrites.  Is it normal for there to be ammonia in the tank when I used B-S?  At which point do you think I should put the second application of B-S in the water--when the nitrites start? Thanks for you help PP. <I think that you need to check out these Marineland FAQs to see if you did everything according to their instructions: http://www.marinelandlabs.com/cus_faq.asp#60  The only other thing I can think of is a 10g just can't support that fish somehow.  I would definitely find a bigger tank before it reaches 5".  I am a little curious as to why you picked me for these questions.  Not that I don't support the use of B-S, it's just usually, I'm called upon for puffer (& sometimes brackish fish) questions & I see that you asked for me specifically.  Of course, I'm happy to help in any way I can...  ~PP>

Bio-Spira Issues  6/10/05 Dear PufferPunk, http://www.aquariacentral.com/forums/member.php?u=217 this is the reason why I asked for you.  I was impressed by reading the Q&A page.  You should take it as a compliment since I am stating who I am and how I can be reached in my signature.  Have I made a mistake by requesting your help? <Absolutely not!  I do take it as a compliment that you asked for me.  Like I said, I was just curious how you found me here, that's all, since this is the 1st non-puffer Q being asked of me at this venue. =o) > I know that many people don't follow directions clearly.  I on the other hand follow directions thoroughly.  The fish is tiny when compared to the tank; at the present time, the tank is big enough. He is getting fed very sparingly.    <Did you check out those FAQs?  I'd contact Marineland about your issues.  ~PP>

Results about Bio-Spira Issues Dear PufferPunk The advice from Marineland worked 100%.  By the next day, Saturday, the ammonia was gone.  Today, Monday, there still remains no ammonia and no nitrites have developed in the tank.  He said you don't want to pour the B-S over the filter because this gets changed so you don't want the bacteria to adhere to the filter.  He said that is what B-S does; the initial dose adheres to what ever it is poured on.  If poured directly in the water, that is the worse thing to do.  If poured on the filter, when you change the filter, the tank may develop problems.  Hence, the bio-wheel never gets replaced so that is the logical spot to pour the B-S onto.  All I can say is that it worked successfully.  It will probably behoove Marineland to revamp their instructions in how to use their product since I poured in directly in the water the first time. <Thanks for the update.  I'm glad you are having success with the Bio-Spira product finally.  As most folks do not have BioWheels, I do feel the next best option is to pour the product into their filter.  It may be a good idea not to rinse the filter material for a couple of weeks after doing so though.  I rarely suggest actually "changing" out the filter material.  ~PP> - Nitrogen Cycle Question - Hello I am still 2 weeks into cycling. I have been doing 10% water changes everyday and adding 'cycle'. <I suggest you stop changing the water until your cycle is complete - you're making the process take longer by adding new water.> I still have not seen any nitrites. I want to buy my first fish tomorrow. can you recommend a hardy species of fish so the clerk doesn't trick me into buying a fish that's picky about water. is there a hardy fish that lives with high levels of ammonia or nitrites? <There are, but it's rather cruel to subject any animal to such adverse conditions. I suggest you wait for the tank cycle to complete before adding anything.> 30g tank, empty, nitrites 0, pH 7.0, no other test kits. soft water. thanks. james <Cheers, J -- >

Jump Starting the Cycle Don, I have found Bio-Spira online and will receive it on Saturday. I was thinking of doing a large water exchange (70-75%) to remove as much ammonia as possible before adding the Bio-Spira to the tank (29 gal with two 6 - 7 inch goldfish). What do you think of this idea or what would you suggest? Also, how does the un-ionized (toxic) form of ammonia (NH3) vary with pH? If the water is too acid or too alkaline, what is the best way to adjust this for this aquarium? Many thanks! This has been a real rollercoaster ride but we're still hanging on and looking better each day. David <I would stick with 50%. You want a little ammonia in the tank when you add the Bio Spira. It is the food the bacteria need. Ammonia is more toxic at a high pH. But I would not attempt to alter your tank over this. Get the bio filtration going and it's no longer an issue. Unless you are keeping fish that need a high or low pH, and your Goldfish can handle any, it's best to try to keep your tank the same as your tap. This makes water changes stress free for your fish. It's a change in pH that causes stress and death, not an "incorrect" pH. Getting the ammonia and resulting nitrite out is your short term goal. Keeping the pH steady is the long term. Don>

Bio-Spira Issues  6/10/05 Dear PufferPunk, I just got off the phone with Marineland.  I was told to cease with all water changes.  He then said to pour the remaining B-S over the bio-wheel.  The B-S works most effectively if it attaches to the bio-wheel when this type of filtration is being used.  Within 2-3 days the ammonia should go down to 0 and nitrites should not occur in the tank.  I will keep you posted as to how this turns out. <Thanks for the update.  I always pour the B-S directly into the filter.  I wonder though why that is the reason the 1st application failed though.  Eventually the bacteria would have made it there.  I'm glad you got your answer!  ~PP>

Short Cycled FW System Hi, I set up at 26 gal. bowfront 2 weeks ago. I have 5 small fancy goldfish. The tank has cycled, pH and ammonia as well as all other levels are normal. I noticed that my red Oranda, Mr. Bubbles, has developed a hole in his tail. I have treated the tank with aquarium salt. Now there is a white substance on the other section of his tail. He is swimming fine and eating well. Additionally, my black moor, Darth Vader, seems to spending a lot of time in one spot near the bottom of the aquarium, though when he is swimming he's fine and is eating well. Thanks for the help! My other tank has never had health problems and the fantails in it are 10 and 14 years old!!! AJD <Unless you treated your tank with Bio Spira there is no way your tank could have cycled in two weeks. When posting a question please tell us what you are testing for and give the actual numbers. With five goldfish in a two week old 26 gallon tank I would think you have quite a bit of ammonia and/or nitrite in the water. You should be testing for both as well as nitrate. you are looking for zero ammonia and nitrite, nitrates under 20ppm. Do as many water changes as it takes to correct the spikes. Read here on establishing FW bio filtration. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm  Don>

Short Cycled - II Hi Don, Sorry should have told you I used Bio Spira. Have tested daily for Nitrate (somewhere between 0 and 20ppm), Nitrite (0.5), Total Hardness (between 50 and 120) Total Alkalinity (between 120 and 180) and pH which is about 7.4. The fin situation became worse, it spread to several areas on Mr. Bubbles other fin. I also noted that Scooby's tail has split. I didn't want the situation to get any worse so I removed the filter and am using Neomycin and Pimafix (as directed on the packages). Should this clear up the problem? Should I do a 10% or greater water change daily? What effect will removing the filter for 3 days have on the tank? Thanks again, AJD <I would have tried much greater water changes, like 50% a day, before medicating the tank. The Bio Spira you added contained living bacteria that will populate your filter and gravel and consume the ammonia and nitrite in your system. Medicating the tank has probably nuked the bacteria. If so you have an ammonia spike brewing. This can cause all the problems your fish are having. Make sure ammonia and nitrite are ZERO. If not, do a water change. Always use a gravel vac to get the waste out of the system. Since the meds are already in place I would continue for a full treatment period as per package instructions. Just keep testing and changing as needed. Always replace the meds in the fresh water. Don> 

New Tank Problem Hello! I really liked your website and added to my favorite list and I now read information about my fish from your web portal. Thanks. I have 20 gallon tank, which I set up just 9 days before. I have three Mickey mouse platys (one male and two females) and two emerald green Corydoras (not sure about gender). I have some live and plastic plants and gravel at bottom. Yesterday, I noticed that one of the female platys has big stomach as compared to the another female. Her stomach is big in round in shape bulging under. she always swim on the top levels and the male chases her all the times. However, she is not hiding at any places and eating a lot all times. Is she pregnant? I am not sure whether she is pregnant or not. <A healthy adult Platy spends her entire life pregnant, so chances are very good.> I have also tested water for ammonia and found that ammonia in water is high level. I knew from discussion that it is because of the new tank set up and ammonia level would reduce by time. I have also added cycle liquid and freshwater BioZyme to minimize the cycle for the new tank. After adding, BioZyme powder I found that I have very small particles floating in all water and also have small white things sticking on the every surface of the aquarium. These small white things are attached to the surface of aquarium glasses, plants and gravels. I wonder what these white things are and are they harmful to the fish. Thanks a lot in advance. Min <I wouldn't worry about the white particles. You will remove them with the series of water changes you are about to start. You need to get that ammonia out of your system. No chemicals except dechlorinator, do 50% water changes daily until at zero. Then read here on establishing FW bio filtration. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm - Don> 

A New Tank is Cycling Hello, Well I am pretty new at all this fish business, and it seemed to be going well until a few days ago. I have had my tank up and running for about 4 weeks, and have 2 female guppies, 2 males, and 2 white cloud minnows. My male guppies are about the same size, but I noticed that the yellow one has been staying at the bottom a lot, just I know more than he should. But he can still swim, and his stomach is really big compared to the other male. His stomach looks bigger than the females' stomachs! I know he's a male because of his colors...and all the other fish seem fine. I haven't tested my water, but did all that they told me at the store, except I haven't put any salt in. Could that be the problem? Thanks. <A little Epsom salt may help. About one tbls per 5 gallons. Swelling can be caused by just about anything. From constipation to an internal infection. But with a month old tank I would guess the underlying problem is high nitrite. It is very important to test for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Especially while a new tank is cycling. Nothing in your email about a water change schedule, but you should be doing a lot of them right now. 50% at a time, siphoning from the bottom with a gravel vac. You may need to do this daily or every few days. Without a test, it's all a guess. Pick up some test kits and read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm  Don>

Poor Platies Hi guys, I have been reading through the FAQ's for about an hour now and haven't found what I am looking for. Sorry if this has been asked already. 3 days ago I bought a 5 gallon bow front fish tank. It came with a whisper micro filter. Well apparently I have what the fish hobbyist call New Tank Syndrome though not intentionally. I have owned goldfish for around 7 yrs and since they are such hardy fish I never had any problems with them at all (until I introduced a sucker fish from Wal-mart who had several diseases - I should have know better than to buy a fish from Wal-mart but I was only 14).  Anyways I bought three red platies, 2 female and 1 male. I didn't cycle the tank because I had no idea I needed to, I know your thinking those poor fish! I have added a tablespoon of aquarium salt and also added Aqua Safe, and will start to change 50% of the water which I will continue to do every day for the next couple of weeks. I have also been feeding them only a tiny bit twice a day. I am watching them eat to make sure all food is consumed and it is only enough for them to finish in 1 minute or less. Is there anything else I can do to make sure they live?  I will put a quarter teaspoon of Aqua safe in with the water changes, but how much salt should I put in with a 50% water change, half a table spoon? I don't want them to die or suffer. For now they are swimming and eating well. Please help, I do care but was just uneducated! Thanks, Jenny <I think you got it! Water changes are the answer. Not sure you even need the salt, but at one tbls per 5 gallons it will not hurt anything either. You should mix the salt and dechlorinator in the new water before adding it to the tank. For a 50% water change you just add a half tbls to the new water. Salt will not evaporate, so only replace it when you remove water. Any top off water should be salt free. What you really need is a test kit for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Very important always, more so while cycling. Read Bob's paper on FW cycling here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm  Don> New Tank Problems Hi, I set up a 12 gallon tank 6 days ago. I would like to have some advice why my ammonia rises and falls much slower than nitrite level. On the first day I set up this new tank, I add in some gravel & filter media/floss into my box filter from an established tank (which was set up 4 months ago). Also 2 cups of established tank water was added to the new tank. I read from an article that this will speed up the cycle of the tank.  In the cycle tank, since the first day I placed a Java Fern plant, anti-chlorine fish medicine and 1 tablespoon per 5 gallon of aquarium salt (was mixed in the tap water). After 24 hours, I added in a Betta to help me complete the cycling process faster. He was very active and healthy till now. I changed 20% of the water in the 5th day. (sit for 24 hours added in appropriate aqua salt & anti-chlorine fish medicine) Here is my measurement from test kit: (temperature remains steady daily at 27degree C/80 degree F) Day 2- nitrite 0.1 ppm & ammonia 0.5ppm Day 3- nitrite 0.1 ppm & ammonia 0.5ppm PH 7.0 Day 4- nitrite 0.05 ppm & ammonia 0.25ppm PH 7.0 Day 5 (measured after 20% water changed)- nitrite 0 ppm & ammonia 0.25ppm PH 7.0 Day 6- nitrite 0 ppm & ammonia 0.25ppm PH 7.0 I am wondering if there is anything wrong with the cycle as the nitrite level falls to zero faster but ammonia falls in a slower rate. My Betta was feed lightly and I'm sure there is no left over decayed food. There is two filters running in the new tank since the first day. They are a sponge filter and a side box filter all with air tubes attached. The water is very clean. (even if I change 20% of water on the 5th day.)  I intend to keep one adult lionhead goldfish in this tank. But I know it's being cruel to put it into a un-cycled tank as it will only soon lead to the death of a poor fish. Therefore, my intention was to let my new tank cycled with a Betta for at least 2-3 weeks before going down to LFS to get/select the fish. Therefore I would really appreciate if someone experience could give me some advise on this. Thanks a lot! < Go to Marineland.com and go to Dr. Tim's Library and check out the article called " The First Thirty Days". It may help explain your different rates of levels. Other factors are involved including pH and temperature. I think everything is normal. Be patient.-Chuck> 

Cycling a New Tank Hi Bob, I have a few quick questions for you if you have a minute... I recently - 2 weeks ago - set up a new 10 gallon freshwater tank. I have read this site extensively, and realize there is a side of marine systems That I had no idea even existed. Many of the people I speak with didn't know many of the things about tank cycling or anything either. Anyways, back to the issue at hand. I set up this new 10 gallon tank after extensively reading. I did purchase 1 female beta to add to this tank as well as a few plant bulbs. I chose these things because I read that live plants will reduce ammonia, while the single beta will produce ammonia waste. I chose the beta, because is inexpensive, so if it does die during the cycle, I'm not out much, and it will add the needed ammonia to the system to help Nitrospira to flourish. Am I right so far?  < So far so good.> About 5 days ago, my ammonia levels were about .2 - .3 ppm I did 30% water changes 2 times during the next few days. Now today, ammonia started to go down, but nitrites went through the roof. I tested nitrites tonight, and looked like 10 ppm... while ammonia was still about .2ppm I added ACE to remove ammonia and stop conversion from ammonia to nitrites... was that a good idea? < There were other options that may have worked better.> Then did another 30% water change immediately following to reduce the nitrite levels. After the 30% water change I checked levels again. The nitrites were down to around 3 ppm . I know this is still high, and I will do another water change if you suggest. I have appograndia <Likely Aponogeton> bulbs and Water lilies. The lilies are growing like wild, and I was wondering would the high nitrite spike hurt those plants? < No it really helps get them going. They will take the nitrogenous wastes in any form they can get.> I really don't want to see the beta die either, but if so I guess will have to happen since I have no place for her. Can you let me know if what I am doing is good/bad any tips suggestions for plants or the beta. All your help would be appreciated. Thank You, Sincerely, Josh Clowers < Go to Marineland.com and check out Dr. Tim's Library for an article titled "The First Thirty Days". There you will find what is going on with your tank. I would do a 30% water change, vacuum the gravel and change the filter. Cut back on the feeding to once a day and only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes. Excess food should be siphoned out of the tank after 2 minutes. Add Bio-Spira by Marineland to quicken the nitrification process.-Chuck> 

Cycling a freshwater tank Hello <Hi there> I have a question about some fish I have and cycling a tank. I have a 55 gallon freshwater tank with various common freshwater plants which I quarantined with potassium permanganate prior to introducing. <I hope not too concentrated, too long... hard on biota> I put Cycle... <This and the other products you're mentioned are proper nouns... s/b capitalized> ...in the water left alone with filtration going. Two Penguin BioWheels and a bubble wall across the back. I have just introduced 5 fish almost 1 week ago. Two blue Gouramis semi aggressive, a Butis butis... <Neat fish> ...which is carnivorous and two blood parrot fish. <Mmm, these fishes are not compatible...> At the time I didn't know that the blood parrot fish were the hybrid kind and it's too late now. I figured my LFS would tell me this information, I didn't think they matched the description on the web but I called back and indeed they are.. The Butis butis is a headstander, very personable 2-3" long now estimate 6 " total. <Mmm, this isn't this species... see here: Abramites. My wide guess is that you have an Abramites... put this term in fishbase.org or other search tool...> I want to feed the right types of foods. So far he only nibbles on flakes and gobbles down shrimp pellets. I don't want to have any problems with vitamin deficiencies since he's only a meat eater, I even thought about snails small 2-3 mm which I have on hand separate tank been quarantined keep reproducing at an alarming rate.  I tried feeding him Plecostomus wafers he spit out. so far has rejected the Jungle product antiparasitic food, I recently ordered tetras antiparasitic and bacterial food hoping he will like it better.  <You need to correctly identify this fish... then you should be able to look up, find what sorts of foods it takes> Also I was considering using a product called Prazipro TOMORROW since butis is probably wild caught I've never seen one of him before. I will  quarantine any other fish introduced but I want these fish to be in the tank for a month at least. I understand it does take 2 months to cycle. I also have a 5-6 inch sucker in my quarantine tank, which size scares me.  Basically I made the mistake of not quarantining my last tank which I had for a year and lost all my fish except sucker. I was sick about it and now I have learned my lesson. I plan to introduce sucker in 3 more weeks he's, been treated and shows no signs of problems. I tried feeding an antiparasitic food and butis if being picky already. I want to be proactive with these fish I don't want disease lurking in my tank. I change my water 1/4-1/3 a week I add 1 teaspoon aquarium salt to  water changes and a small fertilizer for plants maybe once a month or every couple of weeks.  I plan to start my 125gal saltwater tank soon and one of my last inhabitants planned is a valentine puffer. I have been reading your site and don't want any vitamin deficiencies with any of my fish. So again I just want to know your opinion on Prazipro for 5-7 days without carbon filters or ammo chips just as a preventative, and I want to feed antiparasitic, antibacterial food for 2 weeks or so. <You could use this material...> Although for the first week fed them normal food. so now butis is spoiled I need some advice on varying his diet, to avoid vitamin deficiencies.  <Again... the headstanders are not easily misidentified with sleepers... something is amiss with your identification here> Thanks for your time. <I do wish we could start back with your plan, before your purchasing livestock... and placing them in a new system... the Hagen product is not a good gamble here... Good luck with this mix. Bob Fenner> 

Cycling a used tank Hi Everyone, <Hi there Bob> First, let me congratulate you on a terrific website. <Thank you> I have a question on cycling a used 55 gallon tank. I originally had this tank setup about two years ago. I had to shut it down for various reasons but I am starting it up again. I did more research this time around and I am doing a fishless cycle. The only new purchase that I have made so far was a Rena Cal 300w heater. I kept everything else the same as  before. I have two Aquaclear 500 filters. I kept the gravel the same as well as some driftwood. The tank has been up and running for about a week. The ammonia reading is between 2 and 4 ppm.  <Yikes... may be so high that it will delay the establishment of useful bacteria populations... I would make massive water  changes to keep ammonia below at most 2 ppm> Nitrites are still at 0. My question is why the nitrates are reading at 20 ppm? Could this be because I used the original gravel in the previously setup tank?  <Yes, could be> Should I vacuum the gravel or not worry about it until ammonia and nitrite are at 0?  <I would at least change the surface/non-gravel water... and not worry re the nitrate at this point> Also, I would like to add live plants. From what I've read, I should start out with fish and then add plants, correct? <Mmm, actually... most plants are better, fine to put in ahead of animal livestock> Are the rules that apply for adding fish, also the same for adding plants? In other words, can I add a grouping of plants at once or should I add 1 or 2 at a time? <Most can/should be placed at the same time... Bob Fenner> 

Re: Cycling a used tank Thanks for your advice Bob. I will do a massive water change and monitor the ammonia level daily and make water changes as needed to keep ammonia at or below 2 ppm. Bob <Ah, good. This should do it... along with time going by. Other possible "gooses" posted here: http://wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner> 

Long Fishless Cycle Hi I have been cycling my aquarium fishless for appr. 3 months now. For the past 20 days or so, I have been getting nitrite readings of 0.05ppm. Nitrates are around 25 ppm (kept under control with water changes). Brown algae has started covering the glasses. I am seeding the aquarium daily with pure ammonia. The problem is that nitrites seem to be stuck and won't get to zero. Should I add any fish or wait for the nitrites to come down to 0ppm? Thanks Spyros <.05 nitrite is a tiny amount. Smaller than most aquarium test kits will show. As long as you don't mean 0.5 you are good to go. Just continue to test. It's normal to see small spikes as your bacterial colony adjusts to the new bio load in your tank. Just stock slowly and do small water changes to correct the spikes. BTW, no reason to do water changes when doing a fishless cycle. It will only slow things down. Three months is about twice average. You can just do a few large water changes at the end to lower the resulting nitrates. Don>

The End of A Fishless Cycle Hi! I have a question that is very important to me because I began this fishless cycle due to the loss of my friend "George" the Betta. He died for my inexperience in cycling a fish tank with a fish in it. Never, never again will I do that. Lesson learned.  Okay, I started this fishless cycle (although my LFS says you cannot fishless cycle with ammonia, that I should use a fish...imagine that) in a 3 gallon Eclipse tank, temperature raised to 84 degrees with used media from a trusted friend (2 rocks, water, handful of gravel), a little Bio Spira, I have added ammonia each day, starting with 5-6 drops and 2 thereafter. I have watched the Ammonia spike to 4.0 and 2.0 (2 times) and drop to 0 (twice) currently and the Nitrites to 2.0 now dropping to .20 now and Nitrates are 80+.  I guess I should also mention that I have 2 small Java Moss plants in this tank. I have removed no water since the start, I still have the carbon cartridge filter that I started the cycling with...as I move toward getting my new fish (1 Betta) should I change this filter before adding the new Betta? How much water should I change? And lastly when do I begin vacuuming?  After I change the water I plan to observe the temperature/heater for a couple of days and continue to test the tank to monitor any changes, sorry for the dumb questions but I really do not want to make any mistakes like I did before and would appreciate your expert advice.  The other question I have is a question I probably do not want to hear the answer to, but I need to ask and if I have to start over, I will start over but it came to me just yesterday.  I had George in this tank (for awhile before I moved him to a hospital tank, I am still uncertain what condition he actually died of; however, I treated him with Maracyn I and II in this tank and then after a break started Kanaplex in the hospital tank, it was just too late), although I tore the Eclipse down and scalded every little part, including the inside motor workings (impeller), I remembered the "BioWheel"! There was no carbon filter in the Eclipse when I treated it but I did not do anything to disinfect the BioWheel...should I have replaced it with a new one? If you say yes I will just start this whole thing over (I truly have learned patience with all of this and I do not want to fight disease so soon again due to my inexperience). Thanking you in advance for all your much appreciated wisdom and advice...Sue <I'd give the cycling another few days to clear those nitrites. Just keep feeding the ammonia. There are two bacteria at work here. You do not want to starve out the "ammonia eaters" waiting for the much slower growing "nitrite eaters" to become strongly established. If the .2 hangs in there much longer you may want to have your LFS verify your reading. Could be your test. Before stocking do a few daily 50% water changes to get the nitrates down below 20. Keep adding that ammonia and continue testing.  When the nitrates are in line and the ammonia and nitrite read zero you are good to go. Expect to see small spikes after stocking as your colony adjusts to the bio load of the tank. A few small water changes will correct them. As far as the bio wheel. It would have been better to bleach it since you were starting over anyway. If it was in the system when you treated the last Betta I would not worry at all. If it was removed, and therefore untreated, there is a chance of moving some nasty back into the system. But I would say that chance is small. Great job doing a fishless cycle. But in the future you may want to consider a small, raw shrimp instead of the liquid ammonia. Much easier. Just add it and forget it for a few weeks. Don>

The End of A Fishless Cycle pt 2 Hi! Thank you Don for your response and valued help, I do appreciate being able to talk to someone who actually knows something rather than my LPS. Okay, today the Ammonia was 0, the Nitrites were 0 and the Nitrates continued 80+...as you recommended, I did a 50% water change at this point and did add a few more drops of Ammonia (you can't imagine how I cringed when I did this!) after I replaced the water. When I added the new water back into the tank, I looked up at the top of the tank water and there were a lot of white particles floating/circulating and then also in one corner of the back of the tank around the heater at the top there were a couple patches of whitish floating scummy stuff...what on earth is this and what did I do wrong now???? Is this something that is supposed to happen and if so does it leave on it's own or do I remove it?  Holey moley, this process is amazing but it really is stressful!  Thank you again, Sue <My guess is it's part of the bacterial colony you have been growing. It will form on any hard surface. You probably just knocked some free doing the water change. No problem, I'd remove it. Just continue to feed the ammonia until the day before you go to adopt your new Betta. Test the water before you head out that day so there are no problems later. You are looking for 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and less than 20ppm nitrate. Make sure you bring him home in the same water he has been living in. Don't let them fill the bag with water from another tank. Then when you get home test the pH and compare to your tank. If the same, float for twenty minutes or so and release. If the two pHs differ, add small amounts of tank water every 30 minutes or so until the two converge. Your actual pH is not very important. But a quick swing can kill. Then release. Net him out of the bag, do not pour the water into your tank. Good luck! You are doing a great job! Don>

The End of A Fishless Cycle pt 3 Hi...just one more time! Thank you for getting me through this cycling process and kind words of encouragement, I could not have done it without you, the advice I have received from you is truly PRICELESS! This tank is more than ready for a new Betta (but I just have to be sure). The readings are daily (and I am adding 2-3 drops of ammonia daily and doing the recommended water changes): 0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite, 10-15 Nitrate, PH is 7.  I have been watching the temperature in the tank (Eclipse 3) as I lowered it after the cycling process to the 77 mark, the problem is there is a 25w heater in the tank and it never comes on because it appears the water temperature stays between 80-82.9 (with or without the lights and through the night)! Is this too warm for a Betta? I really don't understand why it won't go down especially with the heater not coming on. I do leave the tank lights on for a few hours a day (for the plants). I was really shooting for a temperature of 78-79-80 but looks like this tank will not do that.  I also need to know when I should vacuum the gravel in this tank? I don't want to do this too soon and mess up the bacteria that I have painstakingly grown but I don't want the new Betta to have problems because there is too much bacteria in the tank...?  I have some decorations that I added to the tank for culturing the bacteria to start the cycling process from a friend's tank, they are decorations that I really don't want in there but would like to know how long I have to keep them in the tank? (they are not too pretty and they take up a little too much room), I am afraid disturbing anything too soon will mess up the bacteria I have grown.  One last question, since I have been using bottled pure ammonia, is a 50 percent water change enough, prior to adding a Betta, to be sure that the ammonia I have been adding will not hurt him? I guess what I mean is, if the reading for Ammonia is 0, there are no other harmful things the bottled ammonia can bring into the tank? (really bad question, but I am still "marked" from my first and very incorrect "fish in tank" cycling experience!) Thank you again, you can't imagine how much your responses have helped me through this! Sue <Not sure why the temp will not come down, but 82 or so will be fine. Possibly the filter pump is overheating the water. Without an outside energy source the tank would stabilize at room temp. I would get the tank set up the way you want and then just wait a day and test. A good deal of the bacteria will be growing in the bio wheel. You should be fine. And even if you get a little spike it will correct quickly. In fact removing competing colonies will leave more "food" for the colony in you bio wheel. It will adjust and grow. I gravel vac with every water change, at least once a week. But again, as you make these small adjustments in the set up you may see small spikes. A small water change to protect the fish, and a day or two later the bio filter will be back at work. As to the bottled ammonia. As long as it's not the sudsy or scented type you should be fine. If you have been using Lemon Scented Ammonia all this time....well it's time to start over. Check the ingredients on the bottle. If it is "pure", but water diluted, ammonia then all you need to change is enough to lower nitrates below 20ppm. No need to worry about the ammonia. It no longer exists in your tank. It has been converted first to nitrite and nitrate. The nitrate we remove in a water change is really the ammonia we or the fish added, chemically changed by the bacterial action. Your readings are perfect. As long as the ammonia bottle checks out, go adopt a new Betta. Good luck. Don> 

Bouncing Bio Wheel Here I am resending this email. Oh and by the by, all my ammonia issues have finally resolved themselves! <Great. Probably the number one killer of fish. Bio filtration is very important> Greetings, and my deepest thanks for ANYTHING you can help me out with. Ok, so here's my issue, but first, I'm sure you will want to know all about my tanks, and such, (although that isn't terribly pertinent to my question). I have two ten gallons (I'm 16 and I baby-sit, so my income is hilarious, otherwise I'd have 55 gallon tanks or something) one of the tens is filtered with a penguin bio wheel mini, and the other, has two of these absolutely dirt cheap box filter thingy deals. And up until recently the cheapo filters had run for a year, with no fish killing problems.  One of the tens, houses about 10 or 15 Dalmatian lyre tail molly fry, which are almost a month old. And to be brutally honest, I have no idea why they are still alive, and apparently thriving. Crazy ammonia levels have forced me to perform water changes just about every other day, which I fear is only sending the ammonia/nitrate/nitrite cycle dealy even more out of whack. <Your work at water changes are why the fry are alive. Water changes will slow, but not stop, the establishment of the bacteria needed to cycle. I would suggest a simple change here. Replace the boxes with sponge filters. Since there is no floss to replace, bacteria will continue to thrive in the filter rather them be thrown away when you service the box. There is no real need for particle (floss) or chemical (charcoal) filtration if you do partial water changes as needed.> You'd think that would be my problem, but it isn't. Moving along to the OTHER tank, all of ITS issues started, when I started switching the filter's around in the different tanks. I moved the bio-wheel from the now-molly fry tank, to what I christened the Death Tank, so that the babies wouldn't all get sucked up into it. This of course, left the fry tank filter-less, so I put the two box filters in there.  Well, unfortunately, in the past week or so, I've switched them around again, because the fry are big enough to NOT get sucked up and I want them to have the nicer filter because they are oh-so endearing. Gosh, I'm really sorry to whoever is reading this, I realize it's long and confusing but please bear with me. So, here's where the question comes in: Because my death tank seems to have un-cycled itself (and by that I mean, the ammonia which had previously been flawless, is high, and who the heck knows what the nitrate and nitrite are even doing?!)... <You should be testing for nitrite and nitrate, not just ammonia. Very important>  ...fish have been succumbing to these stresses and developing illnesses. A week ago, one of my cherry barbs (which I've had for a year-ish) decided to get dropsy. He looked hilarious, but it ended sadly, when after treating with some Jungle Fungus stuff in conjunction with Jungle Parasite stuff. (I'd read it could be either, although I'm not sure my diagnosis was correct.) He died. Yesterday, I started treating my death tank for Ick. <Most bloating is caused by an internal bacterial infection. Fungus and parasite meds would be of little use. A medicated anti bacterial flake food may have been a better choice. Even a good wide spectrum antibiotic in the water may have been better. And why are you treating for Ich? First, you make no mention of white spots on the fish. Second, you already treated for parasites. Do not treat unless you need to>  Here's the part that I simply don't understand: For all of these medicine's I've been using to treat my cursed tank, they say to discontinue carbon filtration, which with my set-up, is all the mechanical filtration I've got. So what I've been doing, is putting the box filters into the fry tank, which has remained untreated, putting the bio-wheel filter into the death tank, which I first take the filter pad out of, because of course, it contains carbon. No wonder my tank is so screwed up!  Can the bio-wheel alone handle the filtration of 1 female Betta, two adult mollies, and two barbs? I sort of doubt it. <There are three types of filtration. Particle filtration simply removes any junk floating in the water. Any waste or old food that hits the bottom will usually stay there until removed with a gravel vac during water changes. This is less important than most people think. A good water change schedule removes far more junk than even the best filters. The second type of filtration is chemical. Usually done by adding charcoal. You only need chemical filtration if you are trying to remove a chemical, such as at the end of a med treatment. You can simply cut the black plastic cage on the filter insert and shake out most of the charcoal. The third, and by far the most important, is bio filtration. This is establishing a bacterial colony to convert the ammonia produced by the fish into nitrite, then finally nitrate. Most of the bacteria in your system lives on that bio wheel. It must be considered as if, and treated like, it was alive. In fact it is, with millions of lives working to keep your fish alive. When you start moving bio wheels around you may stress or kill the colony. Also, antibacterial meds will nuke the colony. That's what causes the ammonia to spike. Please read here on establishing FW cycling. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm>  Could you possibly tell me how in the world I'm supposed to keep the tank clean, while medicating it? Any light you can shed on this would be greatly appreciated. <Stop all treatments and work towards re establishing your bio filtration. If you do treat you must do water changes to correct ammonia or nitrite spikes, replacing the med with each> Thank you so much again, I'm sorry this is so long. Liz <No problem. Don>

Cycle Complete? Hi Crew, I have been cycling my 5g since Jan. 16 with 2 Betta's, a separator between them and a sponge filter with a heater. For the past two weeks my ammonia has not moved from .25, but my nitrites has fallen from 2 to 1 and is now at zero, and my nitrate is approx. 5 to 10. Is my system still cycling? <Looks like you are cycled, but that trace of ammonia is troublesome. Check your source water.> Is the ammonia holding at .25 after the nitrite fell to zero normal? <Not normal, you may be adding it from your tap. Check the water 24 hours after a water change. Should be zero.> Should I be doing something beside 25% water changes twice a week to get the ammonia to zero without using chemicals? <Nope. But I would not lock myself in to two 25% WCs a week. While cycling you do what it takes to keep at zero and no more. After you are cycled, enough to keep nitrates below 20ppm.> I have read the term "an Epsom bath" used on your site. What is an Epsom bath and how long can a fish stay in the water treated with Epsom salt? <A type of salt used to reduce swelling in humans. It is added to the tank for bloat, constipation and Popeye. Used on a "when needed" bases. You do not mention any reason to need it, so I wouldn't use it> Can I substitute it for aquarium salt? <No.> Is it better for the fish than aquarium salt in preventing illness in the fishes? <Not better, just different. Used for different reasons> I have a male Veil Tail Betta his body is about 3.5 inches long. His tail and bottom fins are about the same length. How can you tell if his fins are getting too long, and will he benefit from having a trim? <No. Never give a Betta a trim. The size of his fins are set by his genetics.> Thanks, Mario D.  <You're welcome. Don>

Having BIG Problem Setting up Fresh water Tank  I fill with water with air and underground filter running everything o.k. couple days then I start my outside filter running (whisper) starts smelling maybe like ammonia. No fish added yet. What's wrong I'm and going crazy with this, done this 4 or 5 times PLEASE HELP!! <Ok, take a big breath and relax! First off, I'm super glad to hear you haven't put any fish in the system yet - kudos to you in doing this the responsible way. Do you have a test kit, one to measure (at least) ammonia, nitrite and nitrate? I'd suggest you test your tap water as soon as it comes out of the faucet, then also test your tank. Take some time to do reading on what's known as the "nitrogen cycle" on WWM and other internet sites (you can search for that term on Google and come up with some helpful articles and diagrams). Also, I'd recommend either buying or checking out from a local library a great beginner's book called "The Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums" by David E. Boruchowitz - he, too, does a great job explaining the cycling process, as well as helpful tips to setting up a first aquarium. Good luck, and take your time - there's a lot of information to absorb! Jorie> 

Cycling Problems Hi:  Thank you for helping me with the questions I have had so far. I really appreciate it. I have been cycling a 20 gallon tank with 2 blue gouramis for about 11 days now. My ammonia levels are getting higher (about 1.0) and though I have tested many times, cannot see any nitrites on the scale yet. <Yet is the operative word here>  When I first got the aquarium, I filled it up with normal Chicago tap water to check for leaks. I left it running with the Penguin Biowheel 125 filter for about a week before adding any fish. I'm afraid that by doing this I exposed the bacteria on the Biowheel to chlorine, killing them off. Should I get a new Biowheel (even though they don't need replacing)? <No, not necessary> My fish have been really stressed lately and their feces seems to be clear. Are they sick? <Mmm, not likely sick in the sense of pathogenic biological disease, but stressed, yes, by their changing improper environment> I've added several chemicals to the tank that I thought would help (i.e. Cycle, Liquid Regulator, pH Down), but now I'm just scared that I've blown the whole thing to hell. <Best to hold off on these at this point... feed the fish very sparingly... and just let time go by> They also aren't eating very well (or not at all). I've read so many different opinions that I'm really starting to get stressed (all I worry about all day is my aquarium). If you could just give me a few suggestions I would really, really appreciate it. Thank you so much for your time. -Ben <There are ways to "speed up" establishment of biological filtration... products better than "Cycle" (e.g. BioSpira) for instance... do be ready to effect water changes if ammonia (or nitrite) approaches 1.0 ppm... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above... decide for yourself what is factual, the path you will take... and your stress will diminish. Bob Fenner> 

F/W cycling question Hi. I know patience is a big part of the cycling process, but I've never done this before and have one more question. I'm cycling a 5 gallon tank for my Betta with sponge filter and heater. For the last 13 days my nitrites have been at 2.0 -3.0. That whole time there have been nitrates measurable, first at 10 then up to 20 now down to 10 again. My question is, is it normal for the nitrites to remain at such a high level for so long even in the presence of nitrates? I thought once nitrates develop the nitrites would start to decline. I'm just waiting for the tank to settle but am confused why nothing is changing with the nitrites yet. By the way, ammonia is usually at .25 but every so often rises slightly to about .50.  Thanks. Kim L. < If I didn't already, I would like to refer you to Marineland.com and check our Dr. Tim's Library for excellent articles has written about filtration. Fish waste and excess uneaten food are quickly converted to ammonia in an aquarium with a pH in excess of 7. This ammonia is measurable in the aquarium and remains as ammonia until it comes into contact with the bacteria that will convert it to nitrite. So now you have both. The nitrites then come into contact with a different bacteria that convert the nitrite to nitrates. We often recommend that filters pump at least 3 to 5 times the volume of the entire tank in one hour. This minimizes the free ammonia and nitrite in the water because it maximizes the contact with the bacteria in the filter and in the gravel. Do a 30% water change and gently squeeze out the sponge filter in the water you just removed from the aquarium. Vacuum the gravel under the area that you just removed the sponge filter. Don't over feed your fish. Remove any uneaten food after a couple minutes regardless if he isn't visibly eating or not. Check you tap water for nitrites and nitrates too. Many municipal water supplies have some agricultural run off and may contain nitrates as high as 50 ppm from the tap!-Chuck>

Cycling Hi Crew, I have had my new aquarium for one month now with two fishes. I do water changes, siphoning from the bottom, two a week to keep the ammonia and nitrite below 1ppm. My current readings are ammonia at .50ppm, nitrite at .25ppm and nitrate at 0. My question is would I benefit from using the product called CYCLE at this stage? If yes, the label says it is safe, but with two fish in the tank will it do them any harm? If not should I follow the instructions on the label or do you have another suggestion? Also I would like to add a bit more gravel in my tank, is it too late? If not can I add on top of the old? Mix with the old or somehow add beneath the old? Thanks Again, Mario D. <The 'Cycle' will not harm the fish, I just have my doubts about it's worth in cycling a tank. The only product that will instantly cycle your tank is 'Bio Spira' by Marineland. Expensive and hard to find as it must be kept refrigerated. I would just continue to do water changes to control ammonia and nitrite until you establish the bacteria naturally. You're almost there now. Hold off on adding any more gravel until you are cycled. Then slowly mix it in. Don>     

Cycling a 5 gallon tank Hi. I've read all the information on your site about cycling tank but still have a question. I'm cycling a 5 gallon tank to switch my Betta into. It has a sponge filter and heater. I started just over two weeks ago and added "Cycle" as well as some water from his current tank, as per your suggestion. <Sounds good> The only source of ammonia I've added was fish food each day. My ammonia only got up to about 1.0 on Feb 9. Nitrites were also 1.0 and nitrates were 10. Next day, ammonia .50, nitrites 2.0, nitrates 10. Two days later, ammonia .50, nitrites between 2.0-5.0, nitrates 20. In the last few days nitrites and nitrates have remained the same but ammonia is down to .25. My question is, do I still add fish food? When do I do a water change? <No water change... till all ammonia and nitrite gone... very little food... like a flake/pellet a day... is all you need> Since there are nitrates, should the nitrites start going down soon? <Yes> Is it bad that my ammonia never spiked? <It did... at about 1.0 ppm> Is there anything I could do at this point to speed the process along? I want to add a live plant. What kind would you recommend and at what stage should it be added? <Some floating "grass" variety... Elodea, Myriophyllum, Hornwort...> Thank you so much for all your wonderful advice so far. Kim L. <You're doing fine... patience my friend. With knowledge, diligence, all will work out soon. Bob Fenner>

MicrobeLift and cycling issue... poor water quality, poor advice... good follow-up Good Day, <And to you> I'm having tank cycling issues; I have reviewed your vast online FAQs but found nothing that "directly" relates to my current situation. <Okay> My basic setup is: I have a 30-gal freshwater tank (with no LR/LS... just well rinsed colored aquarium gravel, approx 25-30lbs) a "Top Fin 30" power filter with seeded charcoal cartridge. <Seeded?> Two plastic plants and an ornamental. <Mmm, thinking faster than you're keying...> I have monitored the ammonia and nitrite levels. After three weeks the tank appeared to have cycled, clouding up, the ammonia peaked around 4ppm then dropped about a week later to almost undetectable levels and the nitrites returned to zero. Temp 75°F and pH = 7.0. At that time, I didn't test for nitrates, as I had no test solutions to do so.  <Sounds good thus far> I purchased a quad of zebra Danios, pair of head-light/tail-light tetras. About two weeks later the NH3/NH4 levels were maintaining around 0.25ppm to 0.5ppm. <What?> No detectable nitrites. Nitrates reflected as 10ppm. On the recommendation of several LFS clerks, I felt it was ok to move these six fish to another tank and purchased one Blood Parrot Cichlid. (Yes, my FIRST big mistake) Approximately three weeks later the ammonia levels began to rise to 1.0 to 1.5ppm. The pH levels began dipping south to around 6.8 to 6.4. Over stocking certainly wasn't the issue. <Wow... your water appears to be alkaline/buffer deficient> I don't believe over feeding was either. Two times daily, 2-3 "mini" pellets of Hikari gold cichlid food are provided. (I suppose I should add here every 3-wks, since starting this tank, I've performed 30% water changes, with the exception of yesterday when a 50% change was performed) <Okay> I researched online, spoke to several hobbyists / store clerks, etc. about what could be going wrong. On the recommendations of my LFS, I purchased a product called Microbe-Lift (ML) distributed by Ecological Labs, Inc. Containing Nitrobacter and Nitrosomonas bacteria, the box label touted this mixture to aid in establishment of a freshwater aquatic environment. I did feel that there weren't enough beneficial bacteria in the tank and from all the advice I was getting, I was feeling more correct on my position.  <... these genera of bacteria cannot, NOT be packaged thus> I added this product to my tank and since then I've developed nothing less than a toxic soup. I'd left town for a day and upon return found my tank so cloudy I couldn't see an inch into my tank!! Testing the various levels. Within three weeks of adding this product my NH3/NH4 levels have spiked around 8.0ppm. The nitrites in the 0 - 0.25ppm range and the pH has dropped do 6.1. Nitrates were now undetectable. <Yikes> I figure introducing the ML ended up killing the bacteria already established in the tank and was recycling and I didn't realize it until too late. I immediately performed a 30% water change, added 2 tsp pH buffer and 15ml of AmmoLock. After two hours I retested. The ammonia levels were still exceedingly high at 4.0ppm, nitrites 0.25, and nitrates undetectable. pH = 6.7. <Yikes... do know that (unfortunately) the AmmoLock (and other similar formulations) WILL yield a false positive for ammonia with most test kits...> Three more hours later, I found my blood parrot with his nose sticking out of the water gasping at me. He then just stopped and sunk to the bottom and flopped on his side. I made the immediate decision to move him to a refugee tank (no, not the same tank as the aforementioned fish) as conditions had again worsened to > 8.0ppm and pH = 6.0 (I learned after moving him to the new tank). His color has since returned and appears in good health/normal behavior. <Good save> For one week now, since this bloom, the 30-gal tank has remained at 4.0ppm ammonia, 0.25ppm nitrites and still no detectable nitrates. A very small amount of algae is forming on the glass. Questions:  1. As this particular product (MicrobeLift) is marketed for freshwater aquarium use, not just pond applications as mentioned in another post on your site, how long might it take for these competing bacteria to equilibrate and/or dominate and reestablish the nitrogen cycle. <Should be a few to several weeks> The cichlid remains in his temporary home until the larger tank cycles... but these are cramped quarters at best. I'm closely monitoring the levels in this 2 gal tank and only feeding him sparingly. <Good> 2. Would you suggest that I monitor the O2 levels (aqueous) in my tank. <Mmm, no... too transient to be of value... near saturation at a given temperature is single digits ppm... comes/goes... better to just keep water aerated, circulated...> I had tested the pH, ammonia and nitrite levels just three days prior and while there were levels of NH3 and NO2 present, I imagine that by watching the O2 levels for a sharp drop that could have been a key indicator of the impending bloom.  <You have a good thought here... but pH elevation is an even better indicator... much, MUCH we could say here> 3. I've emailed the manufacturer of MicrobeLift to determine the manufacture date of this bottle... which indicates a shelf life of 3yrs unopened and 1year once opened... but has no production date. While trying mend my wounds from kicking myself for making these previous mistakes, I want to make sure I'm not adding dead organic material to the soup. <Sigh... maybe take a read on Marineland.com's site re nitrification...> 4. Lastly, I was told by the LFS agent to completely drain the tank, yet don't rinse the gravel and recycle the tank. Is this the best approach, or should I just allow the tank to settle down on its own (keeping in mind Q#1, above)? Tad <Good questions and input here, thank you. There is some merit in (considering and) cleaning the tank out, starting anew... But, if it were me, mine, I'd just keep monitoring water quality there... AND move any water changed from the tiny holding tank to the larger, main one... It WILL cycle in time... allow it. Bob Fenner>

Re-cycling Hello! You guys have a great site and I have learned a lot reading through it.  Here's my situation, I have a standard 55 gallon aquarium that has been set up for about three months. The tank has approx. 3 in. of gravel, a Fluval 304 canister filter with fiberfill in one layer, charcoal in another, and some media for biological filtration in the bottom. Almost exactly a month ago I bought my first fish. I purchased four small African Cichlids (approx 1-1.5 in. in size), and 2 Columbian sharks and 1 common 4 in. pleco. After about a week or so in the tank my nitrite levels spiked to 10. I now understand that the tank was going through its normal start up cycle. This was when I began loosing fish. Two of my Africans and all of my Columbian sharks died in the nitrite spike. After doing some research I went out and purchased a product called Cycle to add some helpful bacteria to the tank.  Within a couple of days the nitrite levels dropped to almost zero. At this point I now had 2 Africans and a pleco remaining. About a week after the nitrite level fell to 0 it started to rise again. Now it is at 5. I added some more Cycle when it started to rise but it seemed to have no effect. Is it normal for these levels to spike a second time? Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Jeremy < Go to Marineland.com and look at Dr Tim's Library. Under the articles you will see one called "The first 30 Days". Read this and you will get an understanding of what is going on. You need to keep your tank and filter very clean for the first month or so after you have added your fish. This means cleaning the filter, changing the water and vacuuming the gravel as needed. Do not overfeed your fish. Feed only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes once a day. Any leftover food should be siphoned out. After a month or so you should have enough bacteria built up so it will give you a good buffer and your spikes should be very minimal.-Chuck> 

Re: re-cycling - II Hello again, First I just wanted to say thanks for all your help and good advice. I took your advice and went to Marineland.com and it was very helpful. While I was at their website I discovered a product called Bio-Spira and read quite a bit about it. I went out and purchased some and added it to my tank and already my ammonia, and nitrite levels have begun to go down. I am writing now because my wife looked in our tank today and noticed one of our African Cichlids glancing himself off of rocks and objects in the tank. Also he appears to have a manila colored spot on one of his fins. A couple of weeks ago, during all my other beginning tank woes several of my fish had contracted ich and I went out an bought rid-ich. I learned it was toxic to fish without scales so I immediately did a large water change added the carbon back to the filter did other large water changes, replaced the carbon and then added some CopperSafe to the tank. It cured the ich within a couple of days. I am now at least two weeks post ich. Could he have ich? Is this manila colored spot another disease. Please help, I just want to have a well balanced disease free tank.  Thanks again, Jeremy < If the spot is on the anal fin or soft dorsal fin then it is normal and referred to as an egg spot. These spots are usually on male mouthbrooding cichlids from Lake Malawi and are used to show the females where to spawn.-Chuck> 

Nitrite and Ammonia still high after 5 weeks I have a 10 gal freshwater tank set up five weeks ago. Nitrite levels are still .5 and ammonia .25. I do 10 to 20% water change every 4 to 5 days by vacuuming the gravel trying to get those levels to 0. <I would not change the water... unless the ammonia or nitrite approach 1.0 ppm... and feed VERY sparingly in the meanwhile... the water changes are forestalling the establishment of biological filtration...> Nothing seems to help. The water I'm putting in is reverse osmosis water and shows 0 nitrite and ammonia. <Umm, you'd be better off with at least some mineral content (i.e. non-R.O. water) being mixed in here... try taking out a few gallons (w/o gravel vacuuming) and adding some tap water...> My tank currently has only 1 serpae tetra as all the others have died of ich. I am still treating the tank with CopperSafe until 30 days are up (1 more week). I don't understand why I can't get those levels down. Thanks, Tina <Mmm, Tina, someone/s have not been making known to you more of a/the "full picture"... that is, what you need to know. The Copper is also killing off the beneficial bacteria you need to convert ammonia and nitrite to less noxious products... There are a few things I would do at this point. First and foremost is for you to READ, understand what biological filtration establishment and ich actually are: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm  and http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwich.htm  and the Related materials, linked, in blue, above... I would raise your water temperature to the mid 80's F (this will kill the ich, save your Serpae... and speed up establishment of biological filtration). STOP using the Copper product, all such "medications"... You will soon understand enough of the underlying factual material to be aquarium-confident, proceeding beyond these present troubles. Bob Fenner>

Re: Nitrite and Ammonia still high after 5 weeks Thank you so much for your prompt response. I have read the links you gave me which leads me to more questions. Even though I did a ton of research before I started this tank (which incidentally was a Christmas present for my 8 year old daughter) I seem to have overdone a lot of things.  <Yes> I did let the tank run for 4 days before I added any fish but then I added three cherry barbs right away. <There are ways... as you now know... to "break in" a new system... but this was too much too soon> They seemed really happy so after 4 more days I added 3 Serpae Tetras. That's where things started getting out of control.  <Actually not where, or even when... think about this... all this life produces wastes, which poison themselves... and not enough biological filtration going...> I was having trouble stabilizing the water and kept doing water changes every 2 or 3 days. When the ammonia got high I added "Ammonia Clear" then the next day I would have a bacteria bloom and freak out that my water was cloudy so I would do more water changes. After three weeks the filter was really dirty so I changed the Whisper carbon filter but I did reuse the original framework that goes in the bio bag as they said it would have built up beneficial bacteria. <Yes, good> After all this one morning the male cherry barb looked like he had been sprinkled with salt after identifying this as ich I quickly ran to Petco where they advised me to put CopperSafe in the tank and it would fix everything. It didn't, the other fish rapidly showed signs of ich and they all died a slow agonizing death. It was horrible to watch. (some Christmas present) The only fish that was not affected was the largest Serpae who seems to be immune to ich. He never got a spot. Now that you have the background here are the questions. My husband thinks I should just dump this whole tank and start over since I've messed up so many things trying to give them tender loving care. What do you think? <I would NOT start all over... but you might> The tank has been running at 80 degrees fo about 2 weeks. I will turn it up higher like you mentioned. Were you suggesting that I remove all the CopperSafe from the water? <It's gone... absorbed by material in the tank, fallen out of solution> Should I put the carbon filter back in? <Yes> To clarify my previous e-mail I have only put in about 5 gallons of RO water in the tank, the other five were treated tap water. <Oh, good> I have noticed that when I stir up the water in the tank when cleaning hundreds of pieces of what looks like mucus or skin start floating around the tank. Do you know what that would be. Is it from the fish that died, or ich, etc. <Don't know... could be scales, copper flecks...> Last of all I just want to mention that the Tetra looks great very brightly colored and healthy. When I feed him I only put in a few pieces at a time and quickly remove what he doesn't eat. Sorry this was so long but your my only reliable source of information. I can't trust the high school kids at Petco that never had a fish. Thanks, Tina <Take your time... wait a few weeks and see how the tank looks, feed sparingly till there are no nitrogenous waste anomalies... Bob Fenner> 

Re: Nitrite and Ammonia still high after 5 weeks Thanks again Bob.  I will put the carbon back in my filter and raise the temp.  I will slow down on water changes.  Is once a week still too much?<Not as long you don't touch the gravel.  Syphoning the gravel will remove the bacteria that you are trying to produce.>  Would you recommend that going forward I do not always vacuum the gravel with every water change?<NO, once a month should be sufficient.> Should I wait until the water is completely stabilized before adding another Serpae? <Yes, absolutely.> This one seems so lonely since all of his buddies died.  I don't have an isolation tank since this is our first try at tropical fish so I'm nervous about when I do add another fish.  According to one of those links you gave me it sounds like if the conditions are good in your tank there is less of a chance of a fish getting ich. Tina <Tina, let the tetra be in the tank for about 2 weeks after the tank has stabilized.  This will remove the ich from the tank.  Once the water quality is stable then you start your time for the 2 weeks.  Then you add fish 2 or 3 at a time.  I would suggest one addition of fish a week.  This will give your biological filter time to recover from the addition of the new fish.  good luck. MikeB>

Re: Nitrite and Ammonia still high after 5 weeks Hi Mike or Bob, I hope someone has a brief moment to help me here. I have taken all your advice and it finally looks like my tank is doing what it's suppose to be doing. The ammonia level finally went down and now the nitrites are between 1.0 and 3.0 on the color chart. I guess that means that it's going through the cycle. I did a 15% water change today by scooping the water out so that I didn't disturb any beneficial bacteria in the gravel. After several hours the nitrites are still reading the same. How long should I wait before I change any more water? <Another week unless the nitrite approaches 1.0 ppm>> I don't want to mess it up at this point. All the things I read on your links didn't specifically say whether I should keep changing the water until those numbers go down. I don't want the fish to die. Thank you so much! Tina <Bob Fenner>

Nitrite and Ammonia still high after 5 weeks Hi Mike or Bob, I hope someone has a brief moment to help me here. I have taken all your advice and it finally looks like my tank is doing what it's suppose to be doing. The ammonia level finally went down and now the nitrites are between 1.0 and 3.0 on the color chart. I guess that means that it's going through the cycle. I did a 15% water change today by scooping the water out so that I didn't disturb any beneficial bacteria in the gravel. After several hours the nitrites are still reading the same. How long should I wait before I change any more water? I don't want to mess it up at this point. All the things I read on your links didn't specifically say whether I should keep changing the water until those numbers go down. I don't want the fish to die. Thank you so much! Tina < Go Marineland.com and go to Dr. Tim's Library and look at the articles. Read the one titled "The first 30 Days." It will explain what is going on. I would personally watch that I don't overfeed my fish. I feed only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes once each day. Clean the filter to remove any waste that is causing the nitrite spike. Remove any uneaten food after the two minutes with a siphon. Watch your fish and if they are breathing hard I would do a 30% water change.-Chuck> 

Re: Nitrite and Ammonia still high after 5 weeks Hi Bob, I have a quick emergency question. The ammonia in my tank is now at 0 finally but the nitrites continue to increase. I did a water change 2 days ago and e-mailed you as to when I should do the next water change. You mentioned that I should wait a week if the nitrites did not approach 1.0. They are at 3.0 so earlier today I did a 20% water change (scooping the water out) but nitrites remain 3.0... <... changing a fifth of the water will not reduce the nitrite below 1.0 ppm> ...even hours later and now the fish is breathing very hard and the gills are pumping hard. What should I do? <Starting from when? You should remove the livestock to a setting where the nitrite concentration is less than one ppm> I only have the one fish and I am very careful in feeding twice a day and making sure he eats every piece or I scoop it out. After reading all the articles that you guys have pointed me to I realize that this is all part of the cycle but I don't know how long to let the fish endure this level of nitrite. Thanks, Tina <Give the fish back to your shop till you are ready to keep it/them. Bob Fenner>

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