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How to get ammonia to convert. Tanks lost their cycles.

Jan Cavalieri

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I have lost the cycling on at least 2 of my 4 tanks - perhaps all of them. The biggest issue is that ammonia/ammonium will NOT convert to nitrites to any great extent. So my readings of high total ammonia just stay high

I add Prime every other day to make sure that there is no Active ammonia in the tank. Of course the API test kit shows total ammonia, not just active - so it continues to show total ammonia levels of 4-8 ppm. Obviously, if that was active ammonia all my fish would be dead. I have a separate test kit that shows ONLY active ammonia. My active ammonia is always 0 ppm. So what is in my tank is all non-toxic ammonium.

But I want to get rid of the ammonium too - and my understanding is that until there is the proper bacteria to convert ammonia to nitrites the ammonium levels will continue to read high.

Is there a product or procedure that I can use to add/increase the bacteria in my tank while there are fish in it. (ie., I don't want to have to re-cycle my tank with that many fish in it)

I also have tried using Seachem's Stability on a regular basis - it's supposed to add or increase the bacteria you need - it has yet to work and I've gone through multiple bottles.

It's really frustrating to see readings of 4-8 ppm knowing most likely those are ammonium levels NOT toxic ammonia. I always feel the need to run the separate test for active ammonia just in case somethings gone wrong. I never have active ammonia.

I do a 50-75% water change WEEKLY - the ammonia readings drop for a day or two then pop right back up to 4.0-8.0 . Is overfeeding the problem? Nearly 100% of the time ALL the food is gone by the next day (I have lots of night feeders that eat the pellets so the "all food eaten in 2 minutes" just doesn't apply except with the flaked food - I have to make sure there are enough leftover pellets for the night feeders. That includes carnivorous pellets, pleco pellets and algae pellets. Do I have too many fish for the amount of bacteria that was created when I cycled my tank? How do I grow more bacteria since Stability isn't working. I hesitate to add any of the "quick start" liquids that add bacteria instantly - they always mention using them before you add fish so I consider them unsafe for tankful of fish. I think the reason I lost my cycle is because I initially added too many fish at once (I buy online and to get free shipping - shipping costs $40 - you have to purchase a certain $$ amount - they were always fish I wanted, I just should have added 3 fish at a time rather than 10.) But that was months ago, my tanks are fully stocked so I'm done buying fish - and I'm still fighting this ammonia problem.
 

essjay

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The two most recommended bacteria products are Dr Tim's One & Only and Tetra Safe Start.
 

essjay

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A thought has just occurred to me. What is the expiry date on the two bottles of the API ammonia tester? They do go off.
 
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Jan Cavalieri

Jan Cavalieri

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Expiration is 2024 on API kits. There isn't anything wrong with them, plus I've had to replace the ammonia only component multiple times because it takes so much fluid and I use it more than any of the others.

Everything I've read about Dr Toms and SafeStart is that they are NOT to be used if there are fish already in the tank. That they are for new tanks only - is that not true?
 

essjay

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I've never heard that. In fact the instructions for Tetra Safe Start say to put it in the tank and add a "moderate number of fish" so it is intended for fish-in cycles.
 
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Jan Cavalieri

Jan Cavalieri

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Well 30 fish isn't exactly a moderate number, some of these cost well over $100. I have a few large fish, a number of 2" fish and the remainder are about 1" fish. So there are a lot of them. Partial problem is that a number are night feeders so I have to leave enough food in the tank for them to eat at night - I think that is polluting the water even though by morning there is not a bite left of food in the tank. Plus I think I just have too many fish for the bacteria to handle.

My other problem tank has a small number (5) larger fish (that grew larger than the spec's said they would). Even though there are fewer fish they really need a bigger tank. I suspect their excrement is causing their issues because there is NEVER a bite left of food in the tank after I feed them. Again, not enough bacteria to handle the excrement coming from these large fish.

My third tank has about 20 fish in it but it's my favorite tank due to the antics of my Dojo Loaches - I would be heartbroken to lose any of the fish in this tank - it's a beautiful combination of color and activity. So I'm afraid to try Safe start on this tank either.

4th tank is a hospital tank with a very sick Gourami - stats are out of control but I'm afraid to add many chemicals other than the antibiotics she is on. She has barely eaten in 5 weeks and has swim bladder issues off and on, refuses to eat peas (or anything else) - I force feed her pea "soup" and Miralax to try to get rid of her constipation. Before I had her in it I had 5 Raspbora's - not overfed, not overstocked but with the worst stats of any of my tanks. I have NO idea why.

I have a bottle of Tetra Safe Start but I'm really afraid to use it after reading the instructions and online reviews all saying put this in BEFORE you add fish. I'm just looking for something to boost the number of bacteria without forcing an entire recycle. I think if I had enough bacteria to handle the number of fish the tanks would go back to being cycled.

I made the mistake of stocking my tanks with too many fish before there was enough bacteria to handle it.

Should I just "go for it" and add Safe Start to one of my tanks and see what happens?
 

essjay

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Should I just "go for it" and add Safe Start to one of my tanks and see what happens?
At this point I don't think you have anything to lose by using TSS, and probably something to gain. But make sure it is still in date, or it's less than a year since you opened it, if you've used some. And that you've not let it get too hot or too cold since you got it.
 

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Does safe start contain chemicals then?
I thought it was just bacteria so worst case scenario, the bacteria are dead and it's ineffective.
Only loss would be the cost of the safe start? ????
 
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Jan Cavalieri

Jan Cavalieri

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Well all is good - thanks for your advice. I purchased Tetra Safe Start PLUS that suggests you add it after a water change or when you get new fish. I added it to all my recently water changed tanks and I'm finally seeing Nitrites and lower ammonia levels in all tanks but one (and it's still sitting on 4 ppm of ammonium and zero nitrites - I'll add more after my next water change). . I am hoping now they'll convert to nitrates and life will be good again. I am really impressed. I still have a ways to go but this is giving me hope that I'll be back to zero ammonia and zero nitrites in the near future. Doing a happy dance!
 
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