I am in the process of fishless cycling a 3gallon tank with Tetra Safestart and daily doses of pure ammonia. So far so good, everything seems to be working smoothly and I should be fully cycled any day now. However I'm noticing some bizzare ph readings and I'm wondering if I can get some light shed on this.
I have well water with some pretty acidic values (6.0 yikes), so I've been using bottled water instead (neutral 7.0). I expect the ph in the tank to shift a point or two due to buffering, but what I'm reading from the tank is a whopping 7.6. Still in the safey range for a betta, but what the heck is causing it? Since its a fishless cycle, the only things in the tank are off the shelf topfin aquarium gravel, the filter, a thermometer, a couple silk plants and a 7.5w heating pad.
I tested the aquarium gravel by putting some in a bucket for 24 hours and it didnt change the ph at all, so I eliminated that as the culprit. The only thing I can think of is the ammonia levels I'm keeping it at for cycling. I've been dosing it up to .25-.50 daily. Would those levels cause a ph swing? Any Ideas are appreciated. I really don't want to deal with water changes causing ph crashes in my tank once a fish is in there.
As far as I know, there is no substitute for live nitrifying bacteria. I hope to be proven wrong about this because, for many people, it is not easy to come by.
For general information, may I ask:
---How long have you been cycling this tank?
---What are your absolute ammonia values right now? Nitrite? Nitrate?
---What temperature are you maintaining?
---What filter are you using?
---Can you determine the GH and, especially, the KH of your well water? Of your bottled water?
Thanks for the info. Regarding Safestart, unlike most other bottled additives that use the wrong strains or sell a bottle of dead stuff, tetra apparently contains Nitrospira, Nitrosospira and Nitrosomonas bacteria. Unless I'm mistaken, those are the correct strains. Sorry I don't have a link to back that up, but that information is from doing a ton of internet research and talking to a Tetra rep on the phone. And from a practical standpoint, it does work. Since it does use the right bacteria, it works about as quick as seeding fom an established tank.
To answer some of your questions
I've been cycling for 7 days with pure ammonia. I have a journal that looks like this
1) ammonia dosed to .5, safestart added
2) A .5, Ni 0, Na 0
3) A .5, Ni 0, Na 0
4) A .25, Ni 0, Na 0
5) A 0, Ni 0, Na 0, redosed to .5
6) A 0, Ni 0, Na 0, redosed to .5
7) A 0, Ni 0, Na, 0 redosed to. 5
The bacteria is eating up the ammonia like its going out of style, but so far I don't have a nitrate reading which is what I'm waiting for. According to the Tetra rep I talked to, its unlikely I will see ANY nitrites show up during the cycle.
The tank is at 78-80 degrees and its a redsea nano filter. Dunno about the other readings you are asking about, I don't have a way of testing for them.
So what you are saying is my unbuffered tank is allowing the ammonia to change the ph? Maybe I should wait till its cycled to address this issue... I'd hate to screw up the process. i do have a number of nice shells I could put in the tank... I live on Cape Cod, there's no shortage of shells for me. And driftwood. I suppose I'll need to trial and error buffers til I get something stable.
So my next question is about the 6.0 ph wellwater. Once the bacteria colony is established, will switching to a low ph starve it to death by keeping the ammonia locked up as ammonium?
Strange that you ammonia is vanishing. no nitrites/ates. what kind of filter are you running? what's in the filter? it's pretty hard to cycle a 3-gal. two or three shells in there will help stabilize ph. you need to work out the amount. but I would recomnend starting off with 3 small ones. did you actually test the bottled water too?
If you do happen to cycle the tank well and the tank reciees a fair bit of lighting, I would recommend a hardy plant in there to account for any instability :) good luck
Its a redsea nano fliter, standard. The Tetra rep I talked to was very clear that nitrites would be very low or non-exsistant during the process, and at this point what i was looking for is some nitates to pop up.
I should point out that it did take 2 tries to get the safestart working. I did it with some live plants the first time, and the ammonia just kept rising. I suspect i had some rotting plant material in there. Once ammonia reaches 4.0 ppm its toxic to the product, and mine was like 3.0. So I dumped the water, rinsed the gravel and started again. Its likely the filter was already seeded a little from the 1st attempt. But the 2nd try it took very little time to see ammonia vanish.
Did the rep explain to you why the nitrties wont show up? I've just never heard of tank cycling that skipped the nitrite process >.> some people say that in those bottle are a temporary alternative to the beneficial bacteria. they also eat ammonia but is short lived in water. Eventually the real bacteria will take over wholst the other ones die and your tank will be properly cycled.
This guy had a similar experience to mine and kept a crazy detailed log. It took him 3 days to have ammonia vanish and 10 days to see nitrites. And he was cycling an 80 gallon... so who knows how that translates to my 3. I might see some show up soon, or it might just cycle completely. The internet is filled with people claiming the stuff cycled their existing tanks in 48 hours. Supposedly its really not a whole lot different than seeding with filter material from a mature tank.
As I posted earlier safestart DOES seem to contain the correct strains of bacteria. Its not the same crap as API Stress zyme or similar temporary bacteria strains, and thats where the confusion is. Time will tell though... if nothing else its an experiment. If I'm wrong and my tank doesn't cycle, no sleep lost.
I ordered mine off amazon. When I go to plant my tank after the cycle, I'll be looking for advice on plants too. I have some amazon swords, java ferns and a nice little wisteria in a glass bowl on my deck, lol. They seem to be doing ok, i honestly havent paid much attention to them.