Help with water parameters since switching filter

Mikepirhanaman540

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I have recently ditched my crap undergravel filter in my 55 gallon tank, housing 3 medium RBP’s, I have switched to the penguin bio wheel 75 gallon filter system.

I had performed many frequent water changes trying to combat my issue before I switched to this different filter, and based on the water changes I had performed to attempt to lower the nitrates, I would assume my tank has been attempting the recycle as I believe I may have killed all bad bacteria.

it has been 3 weeks since I switched to the bio wheel filter, I have been checking my ammonia nitrite and nitrate levels almost every other day, only to notice today that my ammonia levels are through the roof , .50 PPM + , 0 nitrite , and very high nitrate levels, despite all the water changes I had performed.

I should also mention I had treated my tank and all added water with API stress coat , stress zyme, and I also dosed my entire tank with ammo-lock approx 3 days ago.

- would the ammo lock contribute to the visible rise in ammonia levels in my tank?

- why all the sudden, when my tank has appeared to have almost completed any bacteria bloom, eg , seemed very clear and clean , but now it has seemed cloudy for the past 2 days, hence my I checked my parameters.

ANY advice would be appreciated but I do want to try avoiding any unnecessary water changes , as I believe this is what possibly for me into this problem in the first place.

THANK you all for any input.

Ammonia - .50 PPM plus
Nitrite - 0 PPM
Nitrate - 60 - 80 PPM +

This is after a steady 2 -3 week period of decent parameters, only slight slight ammonia levels , so close to zero I would question my colour sight while reading the test.

Nitrite was above 0 for a while and then dropped to zero within a few days, ammonia stayed around the same very low low ready if any at all.

Than I added ammo lock roughly 3 days ago.....
 

Colin_T

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Hi and welcome to the forum :)

What is RBP?

Undergravel filters are very effective filters if set up properly and maintained with weekly gravel cleaning (using a gravel cleaner). If you removed the undergravel and added an external hang on the back (HOB) style filter, you will have screwed up the biological filter and your tank could be cycling again. If you left the gravel in the tank it should help the tank cycle faster.

You would have been better off adding the HOB filter and leaving it to run for a month or so before removing the undergravel filter.

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Check your tap water for nitrates.

The easiest way to dilute anything in the aquarium is with big (75-80%) water changes and gravel cleaning the substrate. You can do them each day or each week, however they should be done any day you have an ammonia or nitrite reading above 0, or a nitrate reading above 20ppm.

You do water changes for 2 main reasons.
1) to reduce nutrients like ammonia, nitrite & nitrate.
2) to dilute disease organisms in the water.

Fish live in a soup of microscopic organisms including bacteria, fungus, viruses, protozoans, worms, flukes and various other things that make your skin crawl. Doing a big water change and gravel cleaning the substrate on a regular basis will dilute these organisms and reduce their numbers in the water, thus making it a safer and healthier environment for the fish.

If you do a 25% water change each week you leave behind 75% of the bad stuff in the water.
If you do a 50% water change each week you leave behind 50% of the bad stuff in the water.
If you do a 75% water change each week you leave behind 25% of the bad stuff in the water.

Fish live in their own waste. Their tank and filter is full of fish poop. The water they breath is filtered through fish poop. Cleaning filters, gravel and doing big regular water changes, removes a lot of this poop and makes the environment cleaner and healthier for the fish.
 

seangee

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Check your tap water for nitrates.
I agree. Nitrate is the end product of the filtration process. The filter won't remove this, that's your job, and one of the reasons why water changes are so important.

To keep nitrates low you need to ensure there is no excess organic waste, so your filter and substrate do need to be clean. Live plants help but if you have high nitrates in your source water they are unlikely to make enough difference and you may have to look for another solution. My own tap water has nitrates at 50ppm so I am familiar with this struggle.

FWIW if you ever have to change filters again leave the old one in place and run the new one alongside it for a few weeks. That way you don't have to deal with any cycling issues.

Edit: if RBP means red bellied piranha they do leave a lot of waste and you would need large and frequent water changes anyway.
 
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Corydoras_Catwoman

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I would say your problems are probably coming from the fact you took out the old filter. Undergravels are very competent once running for a little while but when you change the filter you are essentially starting from square one.

Nitrate can only be removed by you. Do larger more frequent water changes and the parameters should settle. Also as seangee and Colin_T said check your tap water.

This isn't something to get too stressed about. My first tank ever was a 20 gallon, i cycled it for months and did everything right but my nitrates still had a week of being super high (75+ ppm) Its incredibly stressful but if you eliminate things that have gone wrong you can fix it.
 
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Mikepirhanaman540

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OP-

I initially scrapped the UGF set up because my tank was extremely unstable after running the UGF and maintaining if for 6 months, at the end of me using the UGF I was doing such intense water changes , I did 25 percent daily with no results, so I ended up doing a very large water change 70 percent or more, for this reason my tank had started to cycle over again, but it would not clear up even after waiting 3 or more weeks, it was at this time that I bought the HOB 75 gallon filter and set it up, I kept the old gravel, as well as the UGF plate under the gravel is still in place

Since I made this post my ammonia has dropped slightly, I am hesitant to do another large water change incase it resets the cycle process.

My tap water reads 0 ammonia , 0 nitrite , 0 nitrate as well as someone else asked.

Should I keep using the ammo lock additive as directed to neutralize all ammonia? I only used it one day, and I stopped as I seen what I believed to be a rise in ammonia levels, which have since started to drop
 

Colin_T

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Water changes don't affect filter bacteria unless the new water has chlorine or chloramine in.

How thick was the gravel on the undergravel filter?
They need 2-4 inches of gravel to be effective. You also need to gravel clean the substrate every week or two to maintain them.
 
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Mikepirhanaman540

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I had my gravel an average of around 3 to 4 inches , as I said I did have amazing results with the UGF for about 6 months maybe longer , but I wanted to mention when I was sold the UGF plates they actually sold me two single plates , and when I installed them into my tank bottom they did not meet in the middle, there was about a 3 “ gap between the two plates.

I also always did the gravel vacuum instead of water siphon, but for the past month of the UGF being in use I had noticed small pebbles trying to suck up the intake tubes, so I think the plate had gotten lifted when I was vacuuming, hence not a good seal under the UGF tray.

Since I have switched to the HOB 75 gallon filter I have still performed bi- daily water changes around 6 to 7 gallons, while treating all newly added with stress coat and stress zyme

I did check all levels of tap water again before my water change Today , and it seems like there is trace amounts of ammonia in my water supply.

- should I continue using the ammonia detox “ammo- lock” as directed on the bottle since I am doing this cycle with my 4 pirhana’s occupying the tank?

I also should mention that when I do my gravel vacuum there is next to no waste at all in the gravel or under the UGF plate , but when I vacuum in the very center of the tank where the UGF plates do not meet I was able to get many many completely BLACK buckets of vacuumed water out, but everywhere else is spotless.

- Could this have contributed to some kind of bad gas pocket???
 
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Mikepirhanaman540

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If I have been doing 5 gallon water changes while treating my added water with stress coat + stress zyme, should I keep up with my daily , sometimes 2x daily water changes?

Or should I do as advised by my local fish expert and just stop treating my tank as much ?

I am worried mostly as I am doing an fish in - cycle , just like I told my local fish store , my pirhanas really do mean a lot to me and my family.
 

Colin_T

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If you have ammonia in your water supply, then continue using the conditioner that binds with ammonia. You can also pre-filter the tap water before using it. Fill up a large plastic storage container and put some "Ammogon" or "Zeolite" in a filter and put that in the container of water. Leave it to run until the ammonia is gone and then use that water to do water changes. Ammogon and Zeolite can be recharged by soaking it in salt water for 24-48 hours.

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Undergravel filter plates should be joined together to stop gravel getting under them. If you don't want to do that, make sure you have 1 uplift tube for each plate. And have the open end of the plate against the glass to reduce the amount of gravel getting under it.

Black sediment in deep gravel can cause anaerobic pocked to form and this can cause nitrate problems and possibly poison fish if anaerobic gasses are released into the water. Using a gravel cleaner normally prevents anaerobic gasses from getting into the water when you clean the tank.

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Bigger water changes normally do a better job at diluting nutrients. I recommend doing a 75% water change to dilute nutrients, but you can do whatever size you like. Just make sure any new water is free of chlorine/ chloramine before it's added to the tank.

I would normally recommend people reduce feeding to a couple of times a week. However, piranha tend to eat each other if they get hungry so this might not be useable in your tank.

You could try adding a bag of your gravel to the filter and it might help speed the cycling process up. Just use a fine mesh bag and put some gravel in the bag. Tie it up and put it in the filter so it's in contact with other filter media like sponges.
 
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Mikepirhanaman540

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Thank you all for your input, I have been checking my water parameters daily, only to find my ammonia is still hanging around the two ppm Mark, today I did to 30% water change is one in the morning one in the evening, I am going to check the parameters in about one hour. I also wanted to mention that I made an internal sponge filter with some carbon media inside a mesh bag, with one of my 600 gallon per hour powerheads, it seems to be polishing my tank quite nice and it looks very very clear now, I will post back later and let you know the ammonia levels after the two heavy water changes.

I also wanted to mention that I did once again check my ammonia levels from the water supply, They are below 0.25 ppm so any ammonia spike that happen should not be contributed from my water supply, correct?
 
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Mikepirhanaman540

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Ps - I only left the under gravel plates in my tank underneath the gravel, I unhooked the tubes and the powerheads that I had hooked up to the plate, and I filled the holes with gravel.

Every time I have done a water change I do an extensive gravel clean at the same time, End it appears that I have removed all of the sludge that was caught underneath the UGF plate.

Could this still be contributing to some of the problems that I am having?
 

Colin_T

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The problems are caused by lots of food (particularly meat) going into the tank to feed the fish, and the fact you have killed the old undergravel filter by turning it off. You have to wait for the new filter to develop the colonies of beneficial bacteria and this is going to take about 4-6 weeks.

Until the new filter has developed, you will have to keep doing huge (75%) water changes each day to keep the ammonia and nitrite levels low.

Feed the fish in the morning and do a 75% water change and gravel clean the substrate 4-8 hours after feeding them. Make sure any new water is free of chlorine/ chloramine before it's added to the tank.

Increase aeration to maximise the oxygen in the water.

Put some floating plants in the tank to help use up the ammonia.
 
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Mikepirhanaman540

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Finally after a long battle with ammonia I have finally conquered it and finally have a 0 PPM ammonia reading, after enough water changes.

I also have been monitoring daily and have not seen any sign of nitrites rising. I should mention before this issue started I had nitrates in the 80 PPM range, after all these water changes my nitrates are acceptable in or around 20 PPM, does this mean my tank is cycled and possibly just had the high ammonia from massive bio load?
 
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Mikepirhanaman540

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Edit - and combined possibly with changing to the HOB filter, the tank did not have enough good bacteria in the new filter to handle the ammonia etc ??

I just want to know if I am on the right track with my assumption.
 

seangee

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Keep up with the daily testing. The water changes also dilute the nitrite so you need to make sure nothing rises between water changes. If you get through the next week with no ammonia or nitrite you should be good to revert to weekly water changes. But do be prepared for a water change if either of those values moves off zero.
 

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