Back After 15 Years - My New Tank

ITViking

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Years ago I ran a Hagen 48g long, for about 4-5 years. I've kept fresh water tropical fish of many kinds, exotic plecos and peacock eels. I was in college and transitioning into the work place again. It was a stressful time, but I found that watching fish was an extreme stress reliever for me. I'm fortunate that my work in IT is considered essential services during this pandemic where I live. In fact, the workload has exploded, and with it, much more stress. So I'm back into fish keeping.

I setup a 32g Fluval Mega Flex about four weeks ago. The tank has been slowly cycling, with fish & using biological enhancers. I've increased the fish population as conditions allowed. I have the added bonus of an already cycled small 5g hospital tank / shrimp tank I got from my daughter. That extra little tank is useful to be able to remove a few fish from my new tank, should I see unwanted ammonia or bacterial spikes. I had been doing 10% water changes, 3-4 per week to keep the PH to around 7. In the first 3 weeks, ammonia and nitrites had stayed very low, and nitrates were hitting over 10. So cycling was happening. My longer term goal is develop an 'Orinoco river' type tank with a pleco and rams from that region. So I've kept the temp around 79-81 which seems to the happy overlap between pleco's likes and rams likes.

Just recently I added a couple of rams, and the other day a tiny L128 Pleco. To be safer, I countered the adds, by removing a few fish previously introduced (into the hospital tank). Though I don't always do it, I used a drip acclimation process for the rams & pleco. Ammonia and nitrite levels came up slightly. Ammonia (test result, non-ammonia) is sitting around .03, toxic ammonia is <.01 (0.0 on the chart) and nitrites around .6. I started doing 10% daily water changes and that has kept my PH to between 6.5 -7.0. When I added the pleco it seemed to be spending a lot of time near the top of the tank. Since oxygen-CO2 exchange happens on the surface of the water, I guessed that it was looking for increased oxygenation. My water level was right at the level of the tanks water return nozzles, so I removed a few liters of water, causing the water return to pour out above the water surface, increasing the surface disruption, resulting in greater oxygenation. That seemed to have done the trick as the pleco then began to hang out near the bottom of the tank.

I have ammonia & nitrite removing filter pads on standby, but as far as I recall, .03 ammonia (<.01 toxic ammonia) and .6 nitrite are pretty low and easily managed by most fish. By the time I do my daily 10% water change, nitrates seem to be around 20. After the change down to 15+. But I'm testing nearly daily at this point in case there's a spike in ammonia, nitrites, PH or nitrates. I don't want the ammonia and nitrite to be so low that cycling is disrupted either. Doing my best to err on the side of underfeeding rather than overfeeding.

Any advise for me at this point? If someone has experience with cycling and ammonia & nitrite removing filters, would you add them immediately or hold off and watch the levels closely, only adding them when there's more defined spikes?
 
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ITViking

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Nitrates really climbed over night now sitting between 30-40. Nitrites are around 0.8, and ammonia is actually a bit lower .04 test result, or <0.1 toxic ammonia, so not going to add any 'removing' media and just do a 20% water change today.

Can anyone comment on those levels for a tank that's been cycling for a month? With such a climb in nitrates and the way nitrites and ammonia trended, I'm thinking that I must be quite far along in the cycling, and possibly nearing the end?
 
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With a fish-in cycle, you need to do a water change every time ammonia or nitrite read above zero. With a pH under 7, ammonia can be allowed to show slightly above zero, but only slightly, maybe as high as 0.25 ppm; at pH below 7 almost all the ammonia is in the safer ammonium form. But no level of nitrite above zero is safe.

The pads that remove ammonia and nitrite will starve the bacteria preventing them from multiplying. I would not use them. However, Seachem Prime detoxifies both ammonia and nitrite for around 24 hours then they revert back to toxic, but if you do a water change every time they read above zero, Prime will keep the fish safe until the next water change.
The amount of water change should be large enough to get the readings down to zero rather than a set amount.

The other way to deal with ammonia and nitrite is to have live plants in the tank. These take up ammonia faster than the bacteria and they don't turn it into nitrite or nitrate. The fish will appreciate them as well :)
 
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ITViking

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Thanks! I edited my posted because I realized I hadn't clarified that my toxic ammonia was actually <0.1 (it actually reads as 0.0 in the test result chart).

I appreciate the info on Prime. I had a bottle in my hand yesterday, but the LFS convinced me to go with the pads instead. I'll probably pick up a bottle to have on hand anyways.

I'm doing a 20% water change today, then I'll re-test. I'm also adding some biological enhancers from time to time as well.
 

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Hello and welcome to the forum fellow Viking :fish: :hi: :fish:You may want to look into Tetra Safe Start Plus, it has the correct bacteria to help jump start your tank. I do what is call a silent or planted cycle where I have enough plants to remove the ammonia. Good luck
 
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ITViking

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Thanks! I am planning to do live plants at some point, but started off with artificial for now. Mostly because plants would be more of a new thing for me, and I want to have some time to re-adjust to the hobby basics; as well as plan out my aquarium better once I can afford to disturb the substrate a bit. Going to let the beneficial bacteria settle in a bit more before I do any re-arranging.

Here's my new L128 Blue Phantom Pleco hanging out in the wash of a hydor power head, under some mopani.

L128.jpg
 
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ITViking

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Did a 20% water change yesterday, but didn't test afterward. Followed up with another 20% water change today, and testing. I've added no removers of any kind.

Yesterday's Pre-Water Change Test Result
PH = 7.0
Ammonia = 0.4
Nitrites = 0.8
Nitrates = 35

Today's Test Result (following 2x 20% water changes):
PH = 6.5
Ammonia = 0.0
Nitrites = 0.4
Nitrates = 10

So, seeing how the levels bounce back up will probably give me an idea of where in the cycling process the tank is.
 
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ITViking

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whoa that plec is cool! is it really that green in real life?

That is how it appears - more greenish against the purple slate, and more blue-green against darker objects. It's actually an L128 Blue Phantom. It comes from the Orinoco river, same as the L200 Green Phantom pleco, and the two species may be related (jury is still out). The L128's range in color from dark blue to more blue-greenish, while the L200's range from greenish-blue to yellowish-green.

Here's a another picture of it. It's just a little one. It's discovered zucchini.

L128 02.jpg
 

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That is how it appears - more greenish against the purple slate, and more blue-green against darker objects. It's actually an L128 Blue Phantom. It comes from the Orinoco river, same as the L200 Green Phantom pleco, and the two species may be related (jury is still out). The L128's range in color from dark blue to more blue-greenish, while the L200's range from greenish-blue to yellowish-green.

Here's a another picture of it. It's just a little one. It's discovered zucchini.

View attachment 122871
Very nice looking :good:
 
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ITViking

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Results from two days ago (following 2x 20% water changes):
PH = 6.5
Ammonia = 0.0
Nitrites = 0.4
Nitrates = 10

So, seeing how the levels bounce back up will probably give me an idea of where in the cycling process the tank is.

Two days (really 1.5) later I re-tested this morning (no water changes in between, though I did add back 5 small fish from my shrimp tank).

PH = 6.7
Ammonia = 0.0 (toxic ammonia - NH4 is 0.3, slightly lower than last test)
Nitrites = 0.6
Nitrates = 15

So I think cycling is continuing. Ammonia down slightly despite adding 5 small fish yesterday, Nitrites are up a small amount, and nitrates up a small amount.

EDIT: Forgot to mention that I'm dosing with Prime and doing another round of 20% water changes to try to drive the nitrites down. I've very fortunate that my conditioned tap water is nearly ideal for the fish & circumstances. So I'll be water changing like crazy for a bit I guess. It's a challenge to get it under the .3 recommended max.
 
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ITViking

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Finally knocked the nitrites down under 0.3 (might be 0.2). The only problem is that PH is closer to 6.0 now. So I hardened with deluded baking soda. It went a bit higher than I want (7.0-7.5), so I'm going to quickly do another small water change to bring it down to the 6.5-7.0 range again.

EDIT: Success! PH = 7.0
 
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Are there any fish in the tank? Baking should only be used during fishless cycling. You mentioned rams and a plec in the first post and these are soft water fish which prefer acid water and a low TDS. Baking soda increases TDS. I would do a water chnage to get rid of the baking soda and allow the pH to be what it wants to be.
 
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ITViking

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Are there any fish in the tank? Baking should only be used during fishless cycling. You mentioned rams and a plec in the first post and these are soft water fish which prefer acid water and a low TDS. Baking soda increases TDS. I would do a water chnage to get rid of the baking soda and allow the pH to be what it wants to be.

Thanks essjay! I did not know about the TDS. Thankfully I used very little and I removed a portion of it yesterday. I'm doing another water change today. My goal is to keep the PH 6.5-7, low enough to make things easier for the fish, but not stall the cycle.
 

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