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Discussion Starter #1
I've asked this question about 4 times, and have yet to find an answer anywhere from anyone.

I have a 3 gallon uncycled and unfiltered tank. It currently has 1 betta male, several PetCo decorations (plants and one fake rock), a small tetra heater for 2-15 gallons, and a thermometer. For whatever reason, I seem to be getting insanely high readings of Nitrites with know logical source. My tank is uncycled, and the day after doing a 100% water change, my nitrites were at 2.0ppm. The day after that, they were at 5.0ppm (even though I did a 50% water change the day before when they were at 2.0). I checked my tap water, and straight out of the tap, I have no nitrite readings. None what so ever. I don't even have Nitrite readings in my cycling tank which hasn't even gotten past the ammonia stage. I can only imagine that its something very specific to this tank. Whether its the heater, or something leeching off the decor, I haven't a clue.

He seems Ok so far, and I'm doing 100% water changes at least every other day, sometimes I'll do a 50% in between. But I really need help with this problem. My big tank is a LONG way from being completely cycled, and I don't want to lose my beautiful boy in the meantime.
 

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Gosh, what a problem.
Nitrites are highly toxic, even 0.50ppm can be fatal. Any level of ammonia or nitrite can cause permanent damage..
Can you provide a list of everything in this tank, alive or not? What sort of conditioner you are using, anything else going into the water?
Is there anything metal in this tank?
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Wow, strange. Could it be a mini-cycle? Do you wash your tank/ornaments/plants? The bacteria that cause cycling stick to those, rather than existing in the water. If you don't rinse that stuff, you might be cycling your tank without knowing it..

Is all I can think of, I might be really wrong. >< This is interesting, looking forward to some more replies.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Well, I've got about 3 silk and 3 plastic plants, 2 live onion bulbs (to take out Nitrates that are naturally in my tap - I had problems with Nitrites before adding them), a plastic rock with plastic plants, aquarium gravel and sand, and a Tetra heater (2-15 gallons). I just did a reading, and the results have utterly shocked me.

Current Nitrite readings on standing water (outside of tank): 0ppm
Tank Nitrites (100% change this morning): 2-5ppm (they look right about the same on the card)

I took out the fake stone formation, and put it in the sink. I'll be doing another 100% water change... I feel really bad for my fish right now, but its all I can do. If its high again in the morning, I'll take out another decoration. And I'll have to keep doing this until I figure out the culprit.

Edit: I actually decided to take out the sand/gravel mix first, along with the rock. I haven't gotten that fast of a spike before, and I added extra sand this morning - don't ask me why. I don't even know! So, first to go is the substrate. I'm thinking of packing it with fake plants, so he feels more comfortable - as he's really stressed. I've never seen him freak out so bad before.
 

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Yikes... if substrate doesn't fix it, maybe take him out and put him in a hospital tank for a few days while you test each item in his current tank? Or, take everything out and add each item back one at a time... Just so that he doesn't have to swim around in nitrite-water until you figure it out!

You could also try adding some floating plants... many plants are supposed to take up ammonia and nitrite preferentially to nitrate (according to Diana Walstad - Ecology of the Planted Aquarium p22 - the experiment she listed was with a variety of duckweed).
 

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Not all plants use nitrites though so you can't just throw any plant in there. o-o
I think Aus may be right though- if you haven't been scrubbing those ornaments there may be some bacteria on them.
There's no filter, right? You never listed one.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Nope, no filter. I've been rinsing, and scrubbing lightly with my fingers if that counts? Nothing really vigorous. This time I put a little extra effort into it. My only problem with bacteria being the issue, is how would they set up so quickly in my tank? Its never sat for more than a day without a water change (I was doing 100% every other day until I saw the Nitrite issue)

I don't have plants in there for nitrites. I have plants in there for NitrAtes. There's naturally 20ppm of Nitrates in my water, so I've got plants in there to keep it a bit lower. It also should help keep my ammonia down, so the only thing I really have to worry about is the Nitrites.

Readings this morning:
Conditioned water: 0
Conditioned + AQ salt: 0
Conditioned + Sand: 0
Tank: <.25 ppm (there's a very very slight change of color. Probably just residual from the old tank water the fish was in during the water change)

So... either I didn't do something right with my substrate test, or it was the plastic rock (which I spent like $20 on). I'll have to do a couple more tests over the next few days, but at least I have an idea of what the problem is.

My fish is also really stressed right now, or so it seems. He's darting around like crazy (not rubbing), and anytime I'm close he tries to hide. I'm hoping my readings will stay down over the next few days, so he can settle down. He was just starting to get used to me, too XD I've got a dark towel wrapped around him, as I've heard dark locale tend to make them feel safer. I'll probably have to remove it later, though, as the temp of my apartment gets insanely hot, which brings his temp up to about 88F max (that I've seen). The towel was also there for stability overnight, as my heater is non adjustable 78F.
 

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Hmm, have you noticed any rapid breathing?
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Beneficial bacteria set up pretty quickly (though they take time to build to useful numbers..) and stick to solid things like gravel and rocks and fake plants, the tank surfaces.. they don't live in the water itself so much, so water changes alone wouldn't be affecting them so much.

This issue you're having has sent me on a bit of a googlefest and everywhere I've looked so far has indicated a mini-cycle as the nearest thing to a cause I've found.. not saying that's definitely it, of course, but if the QT tank's clear of nitrites and the old tank always had issues, it does sort of point to it trying to cycle..

I'm really interested in the results of your tests, will be reading. Hope everything works out okay for you really soon, too!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Haven't noticed any rapid breathing. He's calmed down a lot since this morning.

The thing is, I don't have a QT tank. I only have two tanks, and one is in the early stages of cycling with Ammonia through the roof, and he's in the other. I put a crested Java fern in the occupied tank, not thinking that it might eat up nitrites like java moss does. If it does eat up nitrites, then that might be the solution I need until I can actually set up my fish without all his decorations and not have him freak out (when I removed them last night, he darted all over the tank, not even wanting to eat). I have another crested Java fern in the cycling tank that I can put in the occupied one in case it does eat up Nitrites, and I start getting readings again.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Just did a test: Nitrites have risen to .50ppm in his tank. I removed all but one of the plastic plants (his favorite), and added almost all of my living plants so he still has something to hide in. If the nitrites keep going up, I'm going to have to do another 100% water change tonight, or at least a 50%-75%, and then will take out all the plastic. I'd prefer to do a 100% so I can scrub down the tank.

Does anyone know if I can use Lysol All Purpose Cleaner on my aquarium stuffs? Its got bleach in it, but I don't think it'll work well... seems like its too dangerous with its chemicals considering it says "hazardous to humans and domestic animals"
 

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Don't use Lysol.. Limit yourself to bleach, vinegar, and baking soda.. The reason even bleach is safe is because it does quickly dissolve into something less toxic in water if you leave some residue.
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Weird.
Maybe it would be a good idea to get a small filter? Some people say small tanks can hold a cycle. I don't bother with them for anything under 10G (not enough outlets in here) but maybe it would help control the nitrites.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I don't have the funds to buy a filter at the moment, and won't for about another week and a half (I get paid every other week). With most plastics out, and most reals in, I think I might be able to keep it under control until I figure out what exactly the problem is. Its irritating to think that the bacteria may be setting up in my 3 gallon tank, but they won't get busy in my 6.6 *sigh*
 

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The nitrites come from ammonia that was broken down by bacteria. The reason it is not being broken further into nitrate is due to a lack of a filter. In a 2-3 gallon tank about the only thing you can use is a sponge filter or under gravel filter. That will give the surface area for the bacteria to do it's work.

Lacking that, you just need to do weekly water changes. I suggest 100% at least once a week.

Sanitizing the tank or ornaments has little to do with your problem.... If anything doing that will stop the breaking down of ammonia which is more harmful than the nitrites.

Jeff.:)
 

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Discussion Starter #17
If I did ONLY weekly water changes, my fish would be long dead. I get 5.0ppm spikes in less than 24 hours, at the worst. For the past 20 hours, I've kept it to .50ppm, which is the best its been since I noticed the problem. I don't think my boy is creating enough ammonia to produce 5.0ppm spikes of Nitrite that fast... Could he? It doesn't seem logical, but I could be wrong considering I'm no expert. I don't leave any uneaten food in the tank

Edit: I was also told that nitrites were more harmful than ammonia >.> but, I've got a lot of live plants in that tank to absorb the ammonia and nitrates
 

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One Betta does not produce enough ammonia within 24 hrs for that high of Nitrite to develop.

I'm curious, have you checked your tap for ammonia?
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I still have no definite source of Nitrites. If I'm reading my results correctly, and remembering the results I had last night, with only live plants in the tank my nitrites have gone up about .10-.15ppm (from somewhere between 0 and .25ppm to .25ppm). I thought it might have been my heater, or my thermometer, when the substrate checked out with a negative, but according to my tests its neither.

Is it possible for there to still be bacteria in the tank, with nearly nothing in there, that set up SO quickly, for me to still be getting increased levels of Nitrites?
 
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