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Old 08-21-2010, 04:36 PM   #1 
marhlfld
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Cycling a New/Old Tank

Ok, I can't seem to find anywhere, anyone talking about using hard water from a well, other than a few tidbits here and there. Hopefully I can get a good balance of information here since there seem to be alot of knowledge base people on this forum.

Long story short, I have a 10 gal. I used some natural looking gravel that I washed thoroughly. It came with a nice Whisper filter, which I rinsed. I put in a Marineland heater set at 80 and a stick on thermometer on the oposite side of the heater. I initially filled it with my hard well water, which was run thru a gravity carbon filter and added recommended amount of aquarium salt. Put in 7-8 silk plants after throughly rinsing. Turned on the filter and left it cycle for about a week. Meanwhile I took some of the aquarium water to a Petco who tested it with one of their paper strip tests. Everything was fine, except it tested hard. 8.2 PH. Then the girl said, it looked like the ammonia level was a tad high. I went "Huh? There's nothing in the tank." So I added Amquel.

(Side Note: My carbon gravity filter system is what we use for drinking and cooking water cause I'm concerned about all the fertilizers used on the farm fields next to us leaching into the aquifers for my well water. This concerned me that the filter isn't getting rid of ammonia if present. I didn't buy a test kit for myself and was relying on Petco... big mistake.)

So after adding Amquel, I took another sample to different local pet store to have it tested. Everything was good except the PH and of course they recommended PH Down. By this time I had read a lot of people aren't real concerned about PH as much as ammonia, nitrites, etc.... Fish will adjust to higher PH if introduced correctly. I then decided to do a partial water change and took out 8 gallons of hard water, added 8 gallons of RO water. I had also read that Blackwater can lower PH and is more of a natural remedy without using chemicals. Sounded good to me so I added Blackwater as recommended. I didn't really care if my water in the tank had a yellow tint to it. I wanted my future new fish to be happy and healthy.

I gave it another day or two to "cycle". Or what I thought I was cycling. Meanwhile I bought a PH test kit. PH was down to 7.4-7.6. I'm thinking, Ok, I'm good to go and purchased a Betta. (Yes, at Petco) I figured if I could keep a seemly healthy pet store fish alive, I would then make the jump to Aquabid later.

I purchase an orange Betta with purple stripes like a Bengal Tiger. I named him Tiger. I properly introduced him to the new water for over an hour. Then let him go into his new tank. He was exploring everything, in and out of his logs, between the leaves on the plants, here and there and everywhere. Flaring at his reflection on one side that faced a black cabinet. Flaring at a mirror. And super hungry. Ate 5-6 pellets in seconds. (I backed off the next day to 4-5.)

Unfortunately, the heater didn't seem to keep the temp steady and overnite it would drop 3-4 degrees and take 1/2 day to recover to 80. So I set it up to 82 and it seemed to keep it at 80 better.

Three blissful days later, Tiger seemed to be getting lethargic. Ate maybe one or two pellets. I became concerned. I thought maybe he was a bit overwhelmed with all this newness and was tired. Second day, he was worse. I flashlighted him but saw no velvet or ich. His fins clammed down, he's resting on the gravel or hiding. I was too busy that day to go to the store to get a test kit. Third day, it was obvious he was distressed. He barely could swim to the top for air, and his color faded. I put him in a floating breeder tank inside the main tank so he didn't have to swim far for air. I ran and got a test kit and velvet medicine. Yes, a paper strip testing kit. Everything tested good. I was really puzzled. I treated the tank for velvet and did see just a smidgen of white on his pectorals.

Tiger died last nite. :( I felt sooo bad. I killed him. From ignorance I guess. No way I could handle a nice show Betta now. Can't even keep a simple pet store fish alive more than 6 days.

I am resolved to start again. I washed everything and rinsed and rinsed. It's as sterile as possible.

I then tested my well water from the tap. No ammonia present. All levels are good, other than the hardness. I tested the filtered well water, same thing. But then again, I'm using the paper test strips. I will be buying the other kind of testing kit to retest it before putting any water in my tank.

Here's my new plan. I'd like some feedback if you don't mind.

10 gallons of gravity filtered well water, circulated by the Whisper filter and heated to 80 degrees, plus add all the plants. Since I used some bleach to sanitize the tank, gravel, marbles and heater, I'll add Amquel to neutralize chlorine, etc..., plus add aquarium salt and the recommended amount of Blackwater for hardness.

Then cycle the tank with the "shrimp" cycle formula and purchase the proper testing kit.

Love to have comments from the forum. Sorry this got so lenghty!
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Old 08-21-2010, 04:59 PM   #2 
cmndrJOE
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From what I understand, bleach is not the best thing to use at all. I believe if you let your water to sit out in the sun for a day or two before you change your water, it helps with the hardness... but i'm not too sure on that. I've always done it and I've never had any problems with hardness.... then again i'm not on well water. Another alternative is Bottled Water. Not distilled, just plain ol' bottled water. I did that with my 10 gal when i first set it up. I treat my water with SeaChem Prime, NutraFin Cycle, and NutraFin Aqua Plus. At least if you start with bottled water, you won't have to worry about the hardness as much, if at all. Maybe someone with more experience will chime in soon.
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Old 08-21-2010, 05:13 PM   #3 
Oldfishlady
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Welcome to the wonderful world of Betta keeping....

I use well water the is really hard, so hard I call it liquid rock..lol....it test well over 8.2pH only because that is as high as the test goes, KH and GH are both in the 150 as well

What are your numbers for: ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, GH, KH for both your tank and well water after is it has gassed out for 24h with an airstone
*note-the pH does not mean you have hard water-other factors at play
With that said.....
Most fish will adjust to hardness or pH-those sudden changes can be deadly-I would not try and change your pH or hardness with chemicals unless you have a special breeding project planned with species other than the Betta splendens

You also have to factor in the water changes and keeping the new water at the same levels to avoid any sudden swings
Unless the fish is having problems with pH issues-I would toss the pH tester and products and only use water pram test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate...so not to stress you and the fish....

What is sounds like to me on what happened to your Betta was more related to water quality and high ammonia and/or nitrite poisoning and not a pH issues unless you had been adding products to change the pH and shocked him.

I would research the nitrogen cycle and get a better understanding
Test your well water as I suggested above-(since you are in a farming area some times during the year the ferts added to the field can cause added/high ammonia and/or nitrate reading in well water)

Also-I would not use aquarium salt long term-it is not needed and long term use can cause kidney damage as well as resistant pathogens/parasite.....
Aquarium salt when used in the correct dosage and duration is a great short term treatment for most problems that can affect our wet-pets.....
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Old 08-21-2010, 05:24 PM   #4 
marhlfld
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CmmdrJoe, Thanks for the input. From what I understand, bleach is a form of chlorine and Amquel will take care of any residue that may not have rinsed out. Believe me, I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed again. I'm trying to stay away from purchasing water if I can treat mine properly. Putting water in the sun helps with getting rid of odors and will weaken chlorine or neutralize it, as I understand it. But it won't change the hardness. Our water is saturated with limestone, there isn't a good way to filter it out, unless you have those million dollar filtering processes the big water companies have. I could add PH down, but it would only last a day or two and I have to add again and again and again. I could really screw up the balance and have what they call a PH crash. That's why I'm gonna use the Blackwater solution. Yes, perhaps more people can chime in on this.

Last edited by marhlfld; 08-21-2010 at 05:29 PM.
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Old 08-21-2010, 05:56 PM   #5 
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OldFishLady, I had to laugh about the Liquid Rock comment! Yep, I know what you mean! Nope, I don't plan to mess with the hardness, other than add Blackwater. I agree, from what I've read, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates, etc... are most important. No, I didn't change anything with the PH. So it had to be the ammonia spiked, but my paper test strip didn't indicate high ammonia. That's why I was so puzzled. He didn't have the normal symptoms of velvet or ich.

I probably should've just stuck him in treated fresh water, but I would of killed him with the temperature change since he was already in distress. I should've acted sooner too. Waiting that one day is what may have killed him. Hindsight is 20/20.

Yes, we are in a farming community that uses ALOT of fertilizers, Urea for one. That's why we filter our drinking water. Water tension is different during different times of the year too, so I've had to learn about that too. Just need to balance it out to be successful with fish.

So I have to go get a decent testing kit. I now know that the strips are unreliable and I treated the fish for something it didn't have. It needed a water change, and fast!

Ok, I'll nix the aquarium salt then. Thanks!
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Old 08-21-2010, 06:20 PM   #6 
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I use natural dried and fallen from the tree..oak leaves to naturally soften the well water(liquid rock) some...lol.....

I also keep buckets of water on hand that have the oak leaves steeping in it all the time to use for water changes

I have not had any problems with any of my Bettas with my hard well water, except for my crowntails and then I will get some fin melting and have to use rainwater and oak leaf steeped water for them, however, their fry can be changed over to my well water without any problems...it can take me about 5-7 days to get them switched when they are about 2 weeks of age and grow out nice with intact rays...but have never been able to get the breeders changed over......
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Old 08-21-2010, 11:14 PM   #7 
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OFL, no oak trees here... just cottonwoods. Would any dead tree leaves work? Good idea about having them soak in buckets all the time for water changes. Here in the Pacific NW, we get lots of rainwater from Oct to April, so that's good info for Crowntails especially.

I ran to town and got a good liquid test kit. Lo and behold, my tap water does indeed have ammonia in it. 1.0 ppm. However I tested the carbon filtered water, and it dropped to .25 ppm. So those paper test strips are totally unreliable. I'm taking that kit back on Monday and getting my money back. Petco has a good return policy.

FYI, pH is between 7.6 and 7.8 according to new test kit. So I'm happy with those numbers.

Question, I'm planning on doing the shrimp cycling. Do I still add the Amquel for chlorine, ammonia, etc... and the Blackwater in the beginning or wait until after the cycle ends? Thanks for your wealth of info OFL! :)
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Old 08-22-2010, 01:51 AM   #8 
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OFL, it just dawned on me that I could use spaghnum peat moss in buckets or plastic trash cans to soften water for changes... duh... and rainwater, when it finally decides to rain here... about Oct. 1. What I need to find out is how much peat moss I should use in like a 5 gallon, 10 gallon buckets or 40+ gallon trash cans. Have any ideas on that?
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Old 08-22-2010, 08:28 AM   #9 
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Peat moss is great to use as well, not sure on the ratio to use, I go by color with both the peat and oak leaf.

What are your stocking plans for your tank and the tank size, (you may have posted this already but I forgot..sorry)

Since you have ammonia in your well water-good that you have Amquel another good ammonia binder is Prime and a natural way is to use stem and floating plants in your stored replacement water for water changes and to keep some in the tank with the fish as well.
Hornwort and water lettuce come to mind as two of the better ones to use in storage containers.

You don't want to use the ammonia binders during a fishless cycling process, you need that ammonia for the nitrogen cycle
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Old 08-22-2010, 10:50 AM   #10 
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OFL, I need more patience. Last nite after posting about whether or not I should use the Amquel, I filled up my tank, put in the heater and bubble maker (not a bubble stone) and was concerned about any possible residue left from using bleach to clean the tank, gravel, and marbles, though I rinsed everything with super hot water 3 times. Since bleach is a form of chlorine, and I didn't have just a chlorine remover, I used the Amquel. So yep, I bound the ammonia present in the well water. Oh poo. So, do you think I should empty the tank again and start over with fresh water?

I have a 10 gallon tank, heating it to 80 and a Whisper filter with a sponge baffle. I was planning on having just one male Betta, possibly a few spotted Cories or Plecos, and since I have 7-8 silk plants I thought it would have enough hiding areas to add 3 to 5 little Neon tetras as well. Understanding that a Betta can be territorial, I thought of adding the Cories and Tetras first, then a Betta. That way he can't think he owns the place all to himself. I know this can depend on the Betta and might have to remove the Tetras if they or he gets nippy.

I don't know what the Betta is up against in the wild, but I'm sure there are other critters they have to deal with and can't possibly run off everything, so there has to be some tolerance for some other small fish in their areas. But then again, we are dealing with Domesticated Bettas... who think for the most part they are Prima Donnas. :)

Thanks for the help!
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