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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First all the details:

- Have just bought a 10-gallon tank, separated with DIY separator made from plastic needlepoint mesh.
- Tank has a bio wheel filter, heavily baffled to reduce flow.
- Two betta's - one for each of my little girls. One on each side.
- I am using Prime, 2 drops per gallon whenever I change water. New primed water measures zero ammonia and 8.0 pH.
- Have had fish in tank for about 2 weeks. Added Tetra Safe Start the day I put the fish in.
- Checking water with API Master Test Kit (liquid). I read this was the best.

No Nitrites, No Nitrates. Checking every few days.

I change out about 3 gallons (this actually ends up closer to 40% of the water because of plants, decorations and substrate) every day. After changing water I am checking Ammonia and can't seem to get it down. The daily readings stays pretty constant between 0.25 and 0.50 Ammonia.

Haven't done a full water change because the LFS recommended not to do this after the safe start since it will interrupt the cycling of the tank.

We feed 3 pellets every day (per fish) and seldom does a pellet get to the bottom of the tank (aka virtually no waste food on the bottom).

What am I doing wrong? With 2 betta I wouldn't have thought they would create that much ammonia. Especially with daily water changes.

Do I dare not doing a water change for a few days and see if the ammonia goes up. I am scared to do this in case the ammonia goes up too high and hurts my fish.

Obviously with these questions I am new to keeping fish. I read that Ammonia should be zero but I can't seem to get my tank to zero.

Help?
Please?
 

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You just used the safe start the one time, right? This sort of ammonia reading automatically points to a large bacteria die-off as the first suspect. I think maybe you should just do the 100% change to flush out the dead bacteria, but this will most likely end up with no beneficial bacteria after this. If you don't want to re-start your cycle, move the fish out temporarily and let the ammonia go up. I'm not sure that you can keep the fish in the tank and keep the cycle. You can buffer the cycle if you buy a bunch of plants as an ammonia sink. Then you could keep the fish in.
 

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I had a similar problem (but just 1 betta in a 5.5 gallon) using the safe start and I never overfeed. It got so out of control I flushed out the tank and started over without the safe start and put a brand new filter in. It worked for about a week with water changes every three days, and now it seems to be spiking again. Also, I've only gotten a reading for nitrites once, every other time I've tested it's been zero and only the ammonia is going up. It seems like whatever you're doing wrong, I'm making the same mistake so hopefully someone can shed some light. Maybe we just have messy fish?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
You just used the safe start the one time, right?
Yes. A few hours before adding fish like recommended on the bottle. I understood the theory was that if you add it too soon (before fish) there is no ammonia for the bacteria to convert.

I did not realize that dead bacteria could cause ammonia.

I wanted to avoid a large water change because I read that this messes up your cycle but if my cycle is messed up already I guess it doesn't matter.
 

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You could let your tank cycle and put your fish in critter keepers and keep up their water changes there and let your cycle run the course. Then you don't have to worry about hurting your fish.
 

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I learned the hard way (lost 4 fish) not to rush a cycle. My cycle finally took a couple months to complete. As I remember it took at least a week w/o fish for the nitrite to show and a couple weeks for the nitrates to show. I had started the fishless cycle using the fish food and then switched to ammonia dosing. BIG MISTAKE. The fish food had sunk into the gravel and the cycle had gotten rid of it but the overload ending up with huge overload of nitrates killing the fish. The moral of the story is "Anything that happens fast in a aquarium is NOT good".
 

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How long has this tank been running? FB is right...nothing good happens fast.

Usually TSS is a safe, reliable cycle-starter. However, it is live bacteria and can be damaged, even killed, by very high or low temperatures during shipping. It's also best used fresh. What was the sell-by date?

Babystarz's conjecture, that a lot of that ammonia is from bacteria die-back, is plausible. But, unless it has all been killed in transit, there are most likely some viable bacteria remaining. And she's right, live plants will temper any ammonia spikes.

Give it more time before you decide to start over. As long as you're using Prime with every water change and/or every couple of days, you've detoxified the ammonia; your fish are safe.

Change 50% of the water whenever ammonia rises to 0.25ppm.

Welcome to the forum.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
How long has this tank been running? FB is right...nothing good happens fast.

Usually TSS is a safe, reliable cycle-starter. However, it is live bacteria and can be damaged, even killed, by very high or low temperatures during shipping. It's also best used fresh. What was the sell-by date?

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Tank has only been running a few weeks. I know the cycle may take a long time especially with fish in.

I should clarify that the way I use the Prime is to fill bucket with 3 gallons. Add 6 or 7 drops of Prime. I temp match to within 1-2 degrees. While this new water sits for 5-10 mins I siphon out 3 gallons from tank. Then replace the 3 gallons taken out with the new Primed water.

I keep expecting this to bring the ammonia down especially since I do this daily, but so far the ammonia stays between 0.25 and 0.5.

I understand Prime locks ammonia as well as dechlorinating. Should I add a few drops of Prime to the water in the tank to reduce the ammonia rather than just adding it to my new water?

Thanks for the help everyone
 

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I understand Prime locks ammonia as well as dechlorinating. Should I add a few drops of Prime to the water in the tank to reduce the ammonia rather than just adding it to my new water?

Thanks for the help everyone
Yes use your prime for control of ammonia
The API ammonia test can be very inaccurate at low levels when using Prime (a .25 ppm is not unusual)
r
 

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Yes use your prime for control of ammonia
The API ammonia test can be very inaccurate at low levels when using Prime (a .25 ppm is not unusual)
r
Part of the reason for this is the API test can't differentiate between the "bad" ammonia and the ammonia converted by the Prime. The ammonia converted by the Prime is rendered non-toxic for 48 hours, but the process is reversible and it happens automatically after those 48 hours, so if you miss a water change dose the tank with the Prime anyway to re-bind the ammonia. And keep in mind even though you are showing an ammonia reading, it's the harmless ammonia. Once your tank is established, using quick fixes like this is not advisable (they tend to cause crashes later) but this one is safe and essential to do with the fish in. As long as you're staying on top of the Prime dosing, I think you should continue as you have been doing, and the tank will cycle eventually.
 

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Little detail. I forgot to ask, how much did you shake that Safestart before putting it in? How much did you use?

Because of the vulnerability of live bacteria, occasionally a bad batch is sold. The problems are then reported around various forums and all bottled bacteria get a bad reputation and poor references.
 
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