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Ph Crash During Fishless Cycle


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#1 tunerhead24

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 11:37 PM

Im at week 3 in my fishless cycle and today when I did my daily water test i noticed my PH reading is 6.4 !!! The tank im cycling is a 55 gallon, my ammonia reading is 1 ppm and nitrite is also 1ppm as of today. Should I do a water change ? I really hope I dont have to start all over again.

#2 doresy

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 11:52 PM

do you have bogwood in there?

#3 tunerhead24

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 12:47 AM

yes i do have bogwood but i never seen my ph so low during the cycle

#4 backtotropical

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 01:31 AM

Hi Turnerhead,

The good news is you shouldn't have to start your cycle again. :good:

The pH falling during a fishless cycle is quite normal and nothing to worry about so long as you notice it and take the appropriate action. Bogwood can cause the pH to drop, but the fishless cycle itself is probably the cause in this case.

What is the pH of your tap water? If it is higher than 6.4, do a 50% water change and then test the pH in the tank again. You should aim to keep the pH in the tank the same as the pH from the tap. If the tank pH continually drops, that indicates that your water lacks buffering capacity (carbonate hardness), but this can easily be fixed if necessary.

You might also need to top up with ammonia again after the water change. If ammonia is at 1ppm, and you change 50%, ammonia will be around 0.5ppm so an ammonia top up is probably due in any case.

Keep us updated on your progress.

BTT :good:

#5 tunerhead24

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 02:13 AM

should i test the tap water right from the faucet or let it sit for 24 hours like some people mentioned in other topics?

Edited by tunerhead24, 25 January 2009 - 02:14 AM.


#6 waterdrop

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 02:46 AM

Let it sit before your pH test. If I'm remembering right, often CO2 will be elevated coming out of the tap and you'll want that to equalize with the air prior to getting your pH reading.

~~waterdrop~~

#7 tunerhead24

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 05:27 AM

Well while I wait I guess I'll let you guys know how my fishless cycle is progressing. I added ammonia on January 3rd to 5 ppm, the next day it dropped down to 3 ppm right away I raised it back up again. Nothing happened for about a week, ammonia stayed exactly at 5 ppm. Here are my stats......

1/10/09
NH4 - 2 ppm
NO2 - .25 ppm

1/11/09
NH4 - 2 ppm
NO2 - .25 ppm

1/12/09
NH4 - .5 ppm
NO2 - .5 ppm

1/13/09
NH4 - .25 ppm
NO2 - .5 ppm

1/14/09
NH4 - 0 ppm Raised to 5 ppm
NO2 - 1 ppm

1/15/09
NH4 - 2 ppm
NO2 - 2 ppm

1/16/09
NH4 - .5 ppm
NO2 - 2 ppm

1/17/09
NH4 - 0 ppm Raised to 5 ppm
NO2 - 2 ppm

1/18/09
NH4 - .25 ppm
NO2 - 5 ppm

1/19/09
NH4 - 0 ppm Raised to 5 ppm
NO2 - 5 ppm

1/20/09
NH4 - 0 ppm Raised to 5 ppm
NO2 - More than 5 ppm

1/21/09
NH4 - 0 ppm Raised to 5 ppm
NO2 - More than 5 ppm

1/22/09
NH4 - 0 ppm Raised to 5 ppm
NO2 - More than 5 ppm

1/23/09
NH4 - 0 ppm Raised to 5 ppm
NO2 - More than 5 ppm

1/24/09
NH4 - 1 ppm
NO2 - 1 ppm

At the beginning of the cycle PH was 8.4, I would check it about twice a week. The Ph would bounce around from 7.8 to 8.4 but never under the 7.8 reading. When checked my water stats today I noticed ammonia didn't drop to zero like its been doing for the past week or so, I got suspicious and decided to check PH. I got a reading of 6.4 and I started to panic knowing that a PH reading below 6 would cause a cycle to stall ! By the way my Nitrate levels are between 40-80 ppm so nitrite must be getting processed right? Let me know what you guys think...... :thanks:

Edited by tunerhead24, 25 January 2009 - 05:30 AM.


#8 OldMan47

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 01:44 PM

It looks like your cycle is stalling. As BTT suggested, a 50% water change would probably help a lot and you should probably top off with ammonia afterward.

#9 waterdrop

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 01:50 PM

Hi Tuner,

You should have been able to measure the tap pH by now to answer BTT's question. I'm sorry I probably implied last night that the wait for getting a good reading should be as long as you mentioned but I actually can't remember and its probably really only a pretty short time that needs to be waited (half hour?) Maybe someone will see this...

Anyway, that's your next step. The most desirable thing is for your tap pH to be high enough, as BTT says, which I suspect might be true for you given where you started. If that's the case then you are perfect candidate for a nice thorough gravel-clean (or two!) where you take out a large percentage of water and then recharge with ammonia. I'm almost always too lazy to even turn off my cannister filter and just remove water down to just above the intake, so it can still be running while I'm changing water. You can even refill and immediately do it again if you want to get the nitrate level way down (which is supposed to be good for encouraging faster N-Bac growth).

A water change in the later stage of fishless cycling (the "nitrite spike" stage, which you certainly appear to be in) is actually great for giving you a chance to practice what will be your weekly water change process but since you don't have fish in there its a little easier, not having to worry about sucking them up! Note that there will be a "pause" in the cycle for a day or two as the bacteria adjust to this change you've made, but you have to do it if your pH has crashed and its better of course than having it sit there "stalled."

~~waterdrop~~

#10 OldMan47

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 02:43 PM

His pH started in the 8s WD. A water change should definitely help by bring the pH back up unless the water supply has changed.

#11 waterdrop

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 03:05 PM

Yes, I had remembered that, was just being cautious and trying to build on the direction he and BTT had taken. Agree we have every reason to suspect the tap water will bring it up just fine.

~~waterdrop~~

#12 tunerhead24

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 05:09 PM

Hey guys i did two PH tests, one directly from the faucet which gave me a reading of 7.6 and the other was after a 12 hour wait which gave me 7.0 . I did do a 50% water change last night because i got so impatient and i topped off ammonia to 5ppm but i checked my water stats this morning and all i got was bad news!

NH4 - .5 ppm
NO2 - 0 ppm
NO3 - more than 5 ppm but less than 10 ppm (api test kit)
PH - 6.0 !!!

lol now what??

#13 backtotropical

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 05:25 PM

Well your cycle certainly hasn't stopped, thats for sure. :good: Ammonia is still processing, and the lack of nitrite indicates that is processing too. It actually sound like you are almost cycled, but just having a slight pH problem at the moment.

Try another 50% change and then test the pH again. I am now wondering how your pH was originally over 8, when your tap pH is around 7. Maybe the water company are messing about with it just now.

If the pH keeps dropping, it's a simple case of adding bicarbonate of soda to the tank to raise the pH until the cycle completes.

#14 Emily in CA

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 06:28 PM

I am going through exactly the same thing with a 45 gallon tank fishless cycle. I am beginning my third week of the cycle using ammonia (10% ammonia hydroxide from ACE Hardware) and bacteria from my pond filter and all of a sudden my PH has crashed (6). I just did a partial water change and my PH came back up to 7. My nitrites are 2ppm and nitrate is 5 ppm after the water change. I have read that ammonia hydroxide can mess with the ph. Will baking soda cause other problems if I use to raise the ph?

Edited by Emily in CA, 25 January 2009 - 06:29 PM.


#15 tunerhead24

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 06:54 PM

I am going through exactly the same thing with a 45 gallon tank fishless cycle. I am beginning my third week of the cycle using ammonia (10% ammonia hydroxide from ACE Hardware) and bacteria from my pond filter and all of a sudden my PH has crashed (6). I just did a partial water change and my PH came back up to 7. My nitrites are 2ppm and nitrate is 5 ppm after the water change. I have read that ammonia hydroxide can mess with the ph. Will baking soda cause other problems if I use to raise the ph?

Welcome to TFF ! I was just about to ask the same question also how much baking soda should I use and can I use the arm & hammer brand?

#16 Emily in CA

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 07:25 PM

I am going through exactly the same thing with a 45 gallon tank fishless cycle. I am beginning my third week of the cycle using ammonia (10% ammonia hydroxide from ACE Hardware) and bacteria from my pond filter and all of a sudden my PH has crashed (6). I just did a partial water change and my PH came back up to 7. My nitrites are 2ppm and nitrate is 5 ppm after the water change. I have read that ammonia hydroxide can mess with the ph. Will baking soda cause other problems if I use to raise the ph?

Welcome to TFF ! I was just about to ask the same question also how much baking soda should I use and can I use the arm & hammer brand?



Thanks! I know that raising or lowering PH suddenly can hurt fish, but I am not sure if it will also affect bacteria. I know you are supposed to raise or lower PH very gradually but I am not sure if that applies when you dont have fish in the tank yet.

#17 waterdrop

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 08:16 PM

No, neither of you needs to worry. Big pH swings and small percentage water changes are all about *fish*, not bacteria! When you do water changes during fishless cycling (if you -have- to...) then it always makes sense to make them as large as practical, either 90% or maybe a little less if you don't want to turn your filter off and have to reprime it. Then you always recharge with ammonia of course.

Baking Soda (NOT baking powder) can be used pretty freely once you get the hang of it, although if water changes will bring your pH up then usually that's better. To give you an idea, a tablespoon is often a good rough starting amount for around a 30gallon tank. Having a KH test kit makes it much easier to use baking soda. You want to get your KH up around 4 or above so that you don't have to add the baking soda too frequently.

When the end of fishless cycling comes, the baking soda goes "out with the bathwater" so to speak and you never use it again. Ideally your tap water changes will take care of your tank from then or or if you are forced to raise pH, it will be done with crushed coral in bags in the filter, but you should only undertake this if forced.

~~waterdrop~~

#18 OldMan47

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 01:27 AM

In extreme cases, it can be necessary to add materials to raise KH after the cycle has finished and in those cases it is safer to use something like crushed coral. Sodium bicarbonate can still be used but it is much more dramatic than using something like the calcium carbonate in the coral.

#19 tunerhead24

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 01:59 AM

I did another 50% water change today and my PH came back up to 7.6 :rolleyes: I topped off ammonia to 5 ppm again. Im going to wait 12 hours till I do the next water test....... so I'll let you guys know the results of everything els tomorrow :good:

#20 Emily in CA

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 02:46 AM

No, neither of you needs to worry. Big pH swings and small percentage water changes are all about *fish*, not bacteria! When you do water changes during fishless cycling (if you -have- to...) then it always makes sense to make them as large as practical, either 90% or maybe a little less if you don't want to turn your filter off and have to reprime it. Then you always recharge with ammonia of course.

Baking Soda (NOT baking powder) can be used pretty freely once you get the hang of it, although if water changes will bring your pH up then usually that's better. To give you an idea, a tablespoon is often a good rough starting amount for around a 30gallon tank. Having a KH test kit makes it much easier to use baking soda. You want to get your KH up around 4 or above so that you don't have to add the baking soda too frequently.

When the end of fishless cycling comes, the baking soda goes "out with the bathwater" so to speak and you never use it again. Ideally your tap water changes will take care of your tank from then or or if you are forced to raise pH, it will be done with crushed coral in bags in the filter, but you should only undertake this if forced.

~~waterdrop~~


Great to know - thanks for your help. I have not have issues with PH in the past in my other 10 gallon tank (or my pond) so I am assuming it is the fishless cycle causing the fluctuation. I will use baking soda to raise it if needed. It seems like the ph goes down after the ammonia is processed. I m,ight have set myself back a little with the water change but I will live with it.

#21 waterdrop

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 12:21 PM

Sounds good Emily. Tunerhead, remember it all takes patience. Lots of stuff happens when you do a water change during fishless cycling. The patterns of all the substances you've been measuring get changed simply by the dilution, the bacteria often pause in their processing because their environment has changed, so sometimes you just have to keep steadily recording your log entries of your measurements and eventually the progress will bounce back into view!

~~waterdrop~~

#22 tunerhead24

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 03:33 PM

Just did a water test after a 12 hour wait, everything seems to be working! I really believe Im two steps from the finish line! The only thing wrong is the PH is still at 6.4 but I don't think thats doing any harm to the bacteria because its all working perfectly. Here are the stats.......

NH4 - .25 ppm
NO2 - 0 ppm
NO3 - In between 5 ppm and 10 ppm
PH - 6.4

Im going to top off ammonia to 5 ppm and wait 12 hours to see if the PH level really has an affect on the bacteria. I never really got a chance to see if the PH has really been doing any harm because I would always do a water change and raise PH when I top of the ammonia, the cycle has not stalled at all.

#23 waterdrop

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 04:42 PM

Good, that's great! Its never a black and white thing and "stalling at 6.2" is just an estimate of sorts that we've settled into when talking about it here in the beginners section

~~waterdrop~~

#24 tunerhead24

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 03:44 AM

Just tested the water and it looks like the ammonia process slowed down a bit, but i guess its going well.

NH4 - 1 ppm
NO2 - 0 ppm
NO3 - 20-40 ppm
PH - 6.4 ppm

Edited by tunerhead24, 27 January 2009 - 03:45 AM.


#25 tunerhead24

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 12:48 PM

It's official my fishless cycle has stalled! :angry:

NH4 - 1ppm
NO2 - 0ppm
NO3 - 20-40 ppm
PH - 6.0 or less

By the way this test was done 12 hours after the last one I'm going to plan B the dreaded baking soda!

#26 tunerhead24

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 01:08 AM

Today I added one and a half table spoons of baking soda and raised the PH levels to 7.4 from a 6.0 . I didnt add any ammonia because it still has a 1ppm reading, I hope this will cure the problem. Well I'll keep you guys posted.

#27 waterdrop

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 12:29 PM

Did you add the baking soda and ammonia after a water change? Usually that method gives the low-hardness tanks like yours a better kickstart if they stall. Regardless, its good that you've seen a very definite rise in pH. If you don't have a KH kit, then you will have to be more sensitive to declining pH and use more baking soda early enough to ward off a stall.

~~waterdrop~~

#28 backtotropical

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 01:28 PM

You seem to almost certainly have water with a low kH. As Waterdrop says, just keep an eye on the pH, and if it starts to drop at all, add more baking soda.

Keep us updated. :good:

BTT

#29 tunerhead24

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 11:59 PM

This morning I checked my water stats (6:00 am) and here is what i got...

NH4 - 0 ppm
NO2 - .25 ppm
NO3 - 5 ppm
PH - 7.6

I topped off ammonia to 5 ppm and waited another 12 hours, after the wait everything seems to be back to normal! Wow I would never have guessed the PH levels can have such an affect on the bacteria! This water test was taken exactly at 6:00 pm

NH4 - 0 ppm
NO2 - 1 ppm
NO3 - 10 ppm
PH - 7.6

I just topped off the ammonia back up to 5 ppm I'll keep you guys posted.......

#30 waterdrop

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 10:53 PM

Lookin good Tunerhead! :good:

~~waterdrop~~




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