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Discussion Starter #1
So I've been trying to cycle this 5 gallon aquarium that I have but the ammonia seems quite excessive. I never added any ammonia in myself, I just have fluval stratum substrate, some ghost wood i boiled, and several plants. Ive been treating all the water with prime before I put it in.

Now when I first tried I started out with some of my established tank water from my other tank (which was at 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and 5-10 nitrates.) About half of that. And the rest of it was water from home treated with prime. I have tested the water and home and it has 0 ammonia.

Well after a couple days, I tested the water and it was at 8 ppm of ammonia, 0 nitrites, and 10-20 nitrates. I did a water change of like 40% and tested again a couple days later and it was the same. After tested intermittently over the next two weeks, the ammonia never budged and I got no nitrites. (Nitrates stayed about the same).

The ghost wood i put in there wasn't sinking as well and was starting to get that white fuzzy fungus like stuff so I decided to take most of the water and the wood and plants out and basically start over.
I boiled the wood, washed the plants (rinsed), and rinsed the filter. I left the substrate untouched, though I fished out any dead plant matter. After adding everything back in and putting new water (which was basically a 95% water change.) I tested again and the ammonia was 2 ppm and when I tested again in the morning, it was to 4 ppm. Nitrites are 0 and nitrates are now 0.

What the heck could be going on with my water? I know that for cycling there is ammonia and you have to wait for it to turn into nitrites then nitrates, but over 8 ppm seems excessive don't you think? Its not my water because I tested it before and there's no ammonia.

Anyone have any ideas? Should I just be more patient? How often should I change the water?
 

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So I've been trying to cycle this 5 gallon aquarium that I have but the ammonia seems quite excessive. I never added any ammonia in myself, I just have fluval stratum substrate, some ghost wood i boiled, and several plants. Ive been treating all the water with prime before I put it in.

Now when I first tried I started out with some of my established tank water from my other tank (which was at 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and 5-10 nitrates.) About half of that. And the rest of it was water from home treated with prime. I have tested the water and home and it has 0 ammonia.

Well after a couple days, I tested the water and it was at 8 ppm of ammonia, 0 nitrites, and 10-20 nitrates. I did a water change of like 40% and tested again a couple days later and it was the same. After tested intermittently over the next two weeks, the ammonia never budged and I got no nitrites. (Nitrates stayed about the same).

The ghost wood i put in there wasn't sinking as well and was starting to get that white fuzzy fungus like stuff so I decided to take most of the water and the wood and plants out and basically start over.
I boiled the wood, washed the plants (rinsed), and rinsed the filter. I left the substrate untouched, though I fished out any dead plant matter. After adding everything back in and putting new water (which was basically a 95% water change.) I tested again and the ammonia was 2 ppm and when I tested again in the morning, it was to 4 ppm. Nitrites are 0 and nitrates are now 0.

What the heck could be going on with my water? I know that for cycling there is ammonia and you have to wait for it to turn into nitrites then nitrates, but over 8 ppm seems excessive don't you think? Its not my water because I tested it before and there's no ammonia.

Anyone have any ideas? Should I just be more patient? How often should I change the water?
Well having had the same problem when I started Ben's 5.5 gal. My first course of action was the same as your's. Drain it and start over. However I found out the Test Kit I was using, The API fresh water Master kit had a lot to do with my ammonia readings. First the Ammonia test in this kit only test for total Ammonia in the tank . Even today when I test with the ammonia test in this kit my readings are 8.0. As I said it tests for total ammonia. So I got (on the recommendation of RussellTheShihTzu I put in a SheaChem ammonia alert. This alert only reads the toxic ammonia NH3. Ever since I added this in the tank I have never had a toxic ammonia reading above 0.02. The way I checked this was I bought an ammonia test kit just for NH3 and low and behold my readings were 0 PPM. I know for a fact my ammonia alert works and since then I have added on to every tank I have.

My cycle finished with out any more problems and a lot less stress on me.

So I recommend getting the ammonia alert and go by that reading. Now as far as the nitrate as long as you have a live planted tank and depending on how heavily planted it is Your readings will range between 0-20 and that is safe readings in a planted tank.

Keep doing your water changes of 25% weekly or every couple of days while the tank is cycling. and then after the cycle is finished 25% - 50% per week.

OH yeah. one little Betta in a 5.5 gal. will not produce that much ammonia in one day.
 

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I'm going to assume you are doing a fishless cycle.

I'd try and figure out what's causing the ammonia spike, and I'd start with the wood. Take it out and put it in a container of treated water. Leave it sit for 3 or 4 days then test the water. If it has ammonia then you know the wood is your culprit.

Make sure you wait at least 48 hours after treating the tank with Prime to do your water change. That way you will avoid the Prime causing your water test to register ammonia when there is't any.

The water from established tanks contains very little beneficial bacteria. You'll need to use old filter medium, or some of the substrate, from the established tank to help kick start your cycle. I'd get the ammonia under control before doing that, too high of an ammonia or nitrite level will cause the cycle to stall.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Old Dog, its just weird to me that the same kit I use to test the 2.5 gallon at my work is showing little to no ammonia while the 5 gallon at home is showing so much. I can try getting the alert though.

And yes, it is a fishless cycle. You're right that it may be the wood, as that's the only thing different between the tank at work and this tank at home. The one at work only has some lace rock and that one seemed to cycle quite fast.

Ill try separating it and seeing if that's the cause.

Is there any hope for the wood in that case? Will I have to get rid of it? 😞
 

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Old Dog, its just weird to me that the same kit I use to test the 2.5 gallon at my work is showing little to no ammonia while the 5 gallon at home is showing so much. I can try getting the alert though.

And yes, it is a fishless cycle. You're right that it may be the wood, as that's the only thing different between the tank at work and this tank at home. The one at work only has some lace rock and that one seemed to cycle quite fast.

Ill try separating it and seeing if that's the cause.

Is there any hope for the wood in that case? Will I have to get rid of it? 😞
Whether you'd have to get rid of it or not would depend on what type of ammonia it is producing. If you want to keep it I'd go with Old Dogs suggestion and get a kit that test for just the NH3 or get the SeaChem Ammonia Alert.
 

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The last 2 tanks i set up had virtually no cycle time at all.

I took brand new dry high quality filter media and placed it in a bowl. Then i poured in some tank water from an established tank with a whole lot of beneficial bacteria stirred into it. I use Waterlife Bacterlife, which has an excellent reputation here in the UK. When the water hit the dry media it soaked deep into it, and the bacteria were carried in too. Instant beneficial bacteria colony. I also added some media from an established tank, but that was a small quantity.

The last tank setup was a 200litre, and I used 1 litre of Biohome Ultimate media and put it in a canister filter. I didn’t get a positive test for ammonia once, and only had nitrites for 2 days. Then the tank was up and running. I found the speed of it quite shocking (in a good way)! Looks like I will do this again. :)

Once you get the media up and running like that, you either need to move fish in fast, or feed the bacteria with liquid ammonia, or you lose the cycle.
 

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It may be a useful idea to boil the wood for about 15 min to 1/2 hour. This way the tannin's that are given off from the wood are removed along with the ammonia causing properties. Most times if I add driftwood to a tank I boil the wood and keep changing the water and boil again until the water boils clear. That's when I put the wood into a tank. You could also fill your filter with massive amounts of charcoal which will over time remove the tannin's But this will not help the cycle. Another way to rid the tank of this ammonia problem is to add Zeolite to the filter which will trap the ammonia. With my canister filters I add a bag of zeolite along with charcoal to maintain the ammonia removal in an established tank (community tank ).

However a regular HOB would have room behind the Bio sponge an in front of the filter pad to place a filter bag with zeolite in it. This would help to remove the excess amount of ammonia and not harm the cycle.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Well I did boil the wood, and that seems to have helped a small bit, but there's still some pretty high ammonia. Just curious, you said when you boil you boil until the water is clear? Mine never seemed to have stained the water at all while I boiled it, it was clear the whole time. Does that mean anything?

I'm going to get that seachem alert today and get some charcoal (the filter does have a space for it, though I had removed it in my smaller 2.5 gallon since I heard it doesn't actually help so much and can make medicine for a fish null.) and try changing the water every 2-3 days to see if I can get a handle on it. If that doesn't work, maybe I will re-think the wood. :(

And @Rainbo I use prime as my water conditioner as well, so I dose my new water with it and then add it to the tank while doing my water change. (although, like I said, I do the same for my 2.5 gallon and it shows 0 ppm of ammonia currently with the same test kit, so I don't think its giving me a false reading for that reason.)
 
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