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Old 05-01-2011, 12:00 PM   #1 
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Why won't the nitrites go away?

It is day 41 of my fishless cycling and my nitrites are still high. I've been cycling my 10 gallon with pure ammonia. I added about 5ppm of ammonia to start off and kept it there until the nitrites spiked, which happened on day 18. After that, I added enough ammonia each day to keep the level at about 2-3ppm. The ammonia level consistently fell to 0 after 24 hours but the nitrites showed no sign of decreasing. The nitrates weren't increasing either, they remained at about 5ppm. I've been using the Nutrafin Liquid Test kit for nitrites and they have been off the chart this whole time. In fact, once the dye had been added the liquid would turn yellow after about 4 minutes. It is supposed to be a shade of magenta.

Yesterday, I decided I must have done something wrong and did a water change of about 75%. I filled up my five gallon buckets with old tank water, dumped them out in the bathroom and refilled them with new tap water. After the tank was refilled I tested them again and found the nitrite levels to still be off the chart. Confused, I went and refilled the same five gallon bucket with water and tested the water out of the bucket for nitrites. They were very high. When I tested the water out of the sink the nitrites were zero. Is there some way that a large number of nitrites remained on the bucket that had had the water from the fish tank in it? I followed this up with a water change of about 90%. I didn't use the buckets for new water this time but instead filled a one gallon carton with water and carried it back and forth between the bathroom and my room. This time the nitrites registered at 0.3ppm. I added about 2ppm of ammonia and went to bed.

This morning, I woke up and tested the tank again. The ammonia was almost zero and the nitrites were over 3ppm. I did an 80% water change and filled the tank up with water using the 1 gallon carton again. The nitrites were at 2ppm when I finished.

What am I doing wrong? Why won't the nitrites significantly decrease even with large water changes? I really want to move my betta into the tank since he is in a 1 gallon right now but I need to get these nitrites under control.
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Old 05-01-2011, 09:45 PM   #2 
Join Date: Dec 2010

You have my sympathy -- the nitrite part of the cycle is always the slowest. Can you get some filter material form a cycled tank and put it in your filter? I've had dramatically quick results with that.

Hang in there. The nitrites will suddenly crash.

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Old 05-08-2011, 06:07 PM   #3 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Central Texas
Maybe your test kit isn't accurate.
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Old 05-09-2011, 12:06 AM   #4 
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Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Canada
@MWH: gbose and dramaqueen propose excellent ideas. In my experience, my 5 gal took a while to cycle as well~

Is your tank totally empty? Or is it set up with a filter? You need to add many surfaces for bacteria to live on. Adding a sponge to baffle the filter even if you don't need to baffle can provide an excellent home for bacteria.
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Old 05-09-2011, 12:42 AM   #5 
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I always thought getting the nitrites was the longest part; for me, once they spiked it was only a couple of days before the tank was finished cycling. Out of curiosity, what are your nitrates at? I can't imagine it taking that long for nitrites to go down...I agree with dramaqueen that it might be your test kit. Perhaps there is something wrong with the nitrite test...the kit has gone bad or something. Maybe you could take a water sample into a fish store and have them test it to see if they get the same readings you're getting.
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Old 05-09-2011, 12:21 PM   #6 
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After thinking about it, I decided that it may be the ammonia test kit that is off. It took quite a bit of ammonia to bring it to 5ppm when I started but I had attributed that to the fact that the ammonia was kind of old. However, if the ammonia test kit was off that would explain why the nitrites went through the roof after the ammonia was converted. I don't think the nitrite test kit is bad because I just bought it but the ammonia one is a bit older.

I've been doing a lot of water changes recently to bring the nitrites down so the nitrates are pretty low, 5ppm or lower.

I'll probably buy a new ammonia kit and have the water tested by the pet store when I go in. It will have to wait until the end of the week though because I'm currently stuck at school without a car and it's finals week so I've locked myself in my room. I'll be returning home on Friday and hope to stop by the store on Saturday. I'll look at the sponges to baffle the filter when I'm there as well.
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Old 05-09-2011, 12:59 PM   #7 
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For various reasons I'd like to move my betta from his one gallon bowl to the ten gallon as soon as possible. Yesterday, I brought the nitrites down to zero and today they were at about 0.8. Do you think if I did twice a day water changes (or how ever many are necessary) I would be able to move him into the new tank?
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