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Old 12-08-2012, 11:18 PM   #1 
carbonxxkidd
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Cycling woes

I'm having some issues cycling, I think.

I have a divided 5 gallon with a filter and a heater. Each side has a male betta (one CT, one HMDT) and the side with the HMDT has 4 ghost shrimp. The tank has been up and running for about a month now. The shrimp were just added last weekend.

The only water test kit I have are the strips, but I work in a water lab so I took a sample of my water in yesterday to test with the plans to do a water change when I got home from work. Here are the chemistries I got:

ph: 8.18
dissolved oxygen: 7.5 mg/L
conductivity: 616 μmhos
hardness: 204 mg/L
alkalinity: 288 mg/L
ammonia: 0.86 mg/L

I tested again when I got home, and the strips basically gave me the same thing EXCEPT there is a huge range (for example: my ammonia was somewhere between 0.5 and 3, hardness was between 150-300, etc). I have been doing 50% water changes twice a week and my fish and shrimp seem to be happy and healthy, but obviously that ammonia is a bit high. Anyway, I did a water change when I got home from work yesterday and re-tested the ammonia using the strips a few hours later and ended up with the same result. What's going on? Should I be doing more water changes (50% every other day?)??

Other info: the strips said that my nitrItes were in between 1.0 - 3.0 mg/L and my nitrAtes were between 0 and 20 mg/L. I use tap water conditioned with Aqua Safe and once that bottle runs out I will be using Stress Coat. My water is crystal clear. I also have a few pieces of pothos floating in my tank as well as two Marimo balls.

Please help!
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Old 12-09-2012, 07:05 AM   #2 
Hallyx
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Those ammonia and nitrite readings are dangerous to stock, especially at that high pH. I'm surprised your shrimp are OK.

NH3 and/or NO2 >0.25ppm (mg/L) should be changed out. NO3<20mg/l (ppm) is acceptable.

Prime dechlorinates; it also converts NH3 to harmless NH4 for a day or more. Good for water changes. Stress Coat is a good dechlorinator and is good for integument and finnage. I don't know how it handles NH3.

If anyone, you can tell us how far off those test strips are. Most of us use the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. If you ever feel like doing us a great favor, you could calibrate one of those. It would be a welcome addition to our database.

Last edited by Hallyx; 12-09-2012 at 07:13 AM.
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Old 12-09-2012, 08:11 AM   #3 
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Test your tap water straight from the tap & after letting it set out for 24 hrs (stirring occasionally). Some people have ammonia, nitrite or nitrates in their tap. If you can invest in a liquid test kit it'll be more cost effective in the long run, lasts MUCH longer than the strips & is more accurate. IMO, your 5g is overstocked but I know others disagree.

Last edited by shellieca; 12-09-2012 at 08:13 AM.
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Old 12-09-2012, 10:12 AM   #4 
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I really didn't want to spend the money on a water test kit at all, so I bought the strips because they were cheaper. Unfortunately at my lab we only test for ammonia on a weekly basis, so I can't just bring a sample in to test whenever I want. I just got lucky with bringing a sample in on Friday.

My boss was also surprised at the level of ammonia in my tank. It's weird to me, because he is one of those old (65 year old) guys who is literally a FISH BIOLOGIST and doesn't believe in water changes or using stuff to condition the water. He said he raised discus for years, and all he did was put them in a mixture of de-ionized water and tap water and they started breeding like crazy. He said he only did like one water change every couple months, even from the very start. He even said "the bacteria took care of the ammonia" and all I could think was "uh...where do you think the bacteria came from???" For some reason I think he's forgotten what he really did for those fish.

Anyway, I guess I will probably have to invest in a "real" liquid test kit, lol! I will also talk to my boss about calibrating it if I do buy it, I'm sure that won't be an issue. Should I move my water changes up to every day or every other day? Still do 50%? I am also surprised the shrimp are doing well - everything I've read says they are super sensitive.
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Old 12-09-2012, 10:19 AM   #5 
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The test kit is more expensive up front but instead of getting 30 tests as with strips you're getting at least a couple hundred. If I remember correctly strips are 15-20 dollars, the liquid test kit if bought online is around $20 or 25-30 if bought at a store so you can do the math for cost savings. In any case until you test your tap water I can't suggest a water change schedule because I don't know what you're starting with. Once your tank is cycled it should process out whatever is in your tap water.
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Old 12-09-2012, 11:06 AM   #6 
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Okay! I will try and go to the store today and buy one. It's a blizzard right now here in MN so it might be difficult, even though Petsmart is literally 5 minutes from my house. I just did a 50% water change, just in case.

If I test the tap immediately will that help or does it need to be after it sits for 24h?

Edit: nevermind, I just re-read your post and you said to do both.

Last edited by carbonxxkidd; 12-09-2012 at 11:10 AM.
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Old 12-09-2012, 03:13 PM   #7 
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Alright, so I braved the storm and went and bout the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. It was like $35 at Petsmart *cringe*

Anyway, here's what I got:

TAP WATER
pH: 8.0
ammonia: 0 ppm
nitrite: 0 ppm
nitrate: 0 ppm

TANK WATER
pH: 8.0
ammonia: 0.25 ppm
nitrite: 0 ppm
nitrate: 5.0 ppm

I just did a 50% water change this morning, approximately 4.5 hours before testing my tank water.
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Old 12-09-2012, 04:53 PM   #8 
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Oh so glad you made it safely. Yeah Petsmart is a little expenisve for the kit but glad you got it. Your tests look good. Good to know your tap is good. The water changes brought down the ammonia in your tank. Now the trick is to keep it .25 or lower. Having the test kit will help you do that better. Test every 24 hrs to see what happens with the ammonia. You're doing good so keep it up. How long have you had your tank running?
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Old 12-09-2012, 05:24 PM   #9 
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The roads are terrible, BUT it was kind of fun going out in it...haha. I'm lucky that pretty much every store you could possibly need is within a 5 minute drive from my house. Right now I have about 10 inches of snow in my yard. Here's a photo so you can see what it's like (not sure where you live and if you are experiencing the same thing right now):


Back to my tank - It's been up and running about a month now, I set it up mid-November (I can't remember the exact day). Should I still test my tap water after it's been sitting out for 24h or is that not really necessary? Do you think I should test my tank water again in the morning and probably go ahead and do another 50% water change? Thanks for all your help!
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Old 12-09-2012, 06:13 PM   #10 
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Wow that's beautiful . . . if you don't have to go out in it. LOL. I'm in Southern California so nope not expecting snow any time soon. As for the tank, I'd wait 24 hrs to see exactly what the ammonia is doing. I'm not sure if the water conditioner you're using detoxifies ammonia & nitrites but if it does then your fish are safe for at least 24 hrs. If the ammonia goes up again do 50%+ water change, i did 70-80 a few times when my tanks were fish IN cycling. Since the tanks been up for about a month you should be close to or at the least half way to being cycled. Hopefully you'll see nitrites soon.
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