Slow fishless cycle

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Wills

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I'm in the process of setting up a 300 litre for a group of Malawi Cichlids and I started the cycle with ammonia 2 weeks ago I think around the 9th of March and I'm still getting no Nitrites - Ammonia is still around 4ppm and I'm not sure why its taking this long.

I did squeeze some dirty filter sponges into the tank from another tank (I have a bad cut on one hand so slightly limited with accessing media) and I also added in some Colony (I know its not perfect but it was something I had in).

I did wonder if it could be a kh crash but I would have been surprised knowing what my tap water is like - I've tested it today at kh is stilling at 5.5 (5 drops causes a green colour, 6 makes it go all the way) and my gh is at 12 - low for me tbh but it does fluctuate through the year.

Does anyone have any ideas as to what I'm dealing with?

I was really hoping to get some fish in over Easter but not going to happen :(

Wills
 
It normally takes 4-6 weeks to cycle an aquarium but can take longer.
Some things you can do to speed up the cycling process include:
  • Raise water temperature to 28-30C. This helps the bacteria grow faster.
  • Increase aeration to maximise the oxygen in the water.
  • Have lights off unless you have live plants. The bacteria prefer dark conditions.
  • Have the top of the aquarium open so bacteria can land on the water and colonise the filter.
  • Add some filter media from an established tank.
  • Add some liquid filter bacteria supplements. I recommend a double dose every day for a week, then add the remaining contents. Try to add it near the filter intake so the bacteria get drawn into the filter where they will live.
 
It normally takes 4-6 weeks to cycle an aquarium but can take longer.
Some things you can do to speed up the cycling process include:
  • Raise water temperature to 28-30C. This helps the bacteria grow faster.
  • Increase aeration to maximise the oxygen in the water.
  • Have lights off unless you have live plants. The bacteria prefer dark conditions.
  • Have the top of the aquarium open so bacteria can land on the water and colonise the filter.
  • Add some filter media from an established tank.
  • Add some liquid filter bacteria supplements. I recommend a double dose every day for a week, then add the remaining contents. Try to add it near the filter intake so the bacteria get drawn into the filter where they will live.
Thanks Colin

The temperature is set low at the moment (energy bills!), aeration is pretty good from the filter outlet, the lights are off but the tank does get a lot of sunlight (I think this might be a sunlight only tank) its a rimless open top tank so no problem there. I do want to add mature media but can't open my filter right now because of my hand.

Interesting you mention the bacteria supplements - which one would you go for? I think I've seen a few people mention the Tetra product and the UK has a new product called Goop that I'm tempted to try but they encourage you to add some fish straight away.

Wills
 
I don't think it matters to the Goop whether the ammonia comes from fish or a bottle. They probably say get fish in case people don't buy it if they think they have to wait.
 
I don't think it matters to the Goop whether the ammonia comes from fish or a bottle. They probably say get fish in case people don't buy it if they think they have to wait.
On their website they actually claim adding ammonia is a bad thing because it’s un natural for a dose of ammonia to hit a tank in one go and it then starves the second type of bacteria that converts nitrite. Not sure the logic checks out and given our experiences here but there are a lot of people using goop with good results - I’ve come across very few genuine issues and I’ve been keep an eye on it. Just a big risk if I’m wrong though - I do feel slightly like I’m just ten years out of date with the latest tech and innovation though…,
I think that's a bad idea. Adding fish straight away is just marketing crap for newbies.
Normally 100% agree with you but with goop I’m not 100% as it’s quite a new product and I’ve seen a lot of people with very good results.

My understanding of it is that it’s basically filter bacteria from a mature system somewhere in the uk that they are suspending in some kind of gel and keeping refrigerated. You can buy it from fridges in a few stores or you can order direct and they send it in a chiller box on next or same day delivery with instructions to use within 48 hrs
 
On their website they actually claim adding ammonia is a bad thing because it’s un natural for a dose of ammonia to hit a tank in one go and it then starves the second type of bacteria that converts nitrite.
Trying to get my head around this.

How does adding the ammonia in one go starve the second bacteria? It would be the same with drop by drop addition via fish. If there are any ammonia eaters in the Goop, they'll convert the ammonia straight to nitrite to feed the second bacteria regardless of how much is added. The only difference I can see is that if ammonia is added all in one go it may take a while for it all to be converted whereas when fish make it in tiny amounts throughout the day it's all converted virtually as soon as it is excreted. Either way, the ammonia eaters will convert it to nitrite as soon as there's any ammonia in the water.

I do wonder if they really understand what goes on. In their FAQs they say their product contains Nitrobacter species, but it's Nitrospira which grows in aquariums. Does the product really contain Nitrobacter or have they just read old literature and they are ignorant of what the bacteria in their product actually is.
 
On their website they actually claim adding ammonia is a bad thing because it’s un natural for a dose of ammonia to hit a tank in one go and it then starves the second type of bacteria that converts nitrite

If it is a new tank, the organic matter has not broken down into ammonia thus all the bacteria is being starved. How long does the natural process take? With ammonia in a bottle, you can control the amount of ammonia you are dumping in the tank. So why not feed the bacteria right away with at least a low dose?

Normally 100% agree with you but with goop I’m not 100%
Fair enough and my bad for not researching first. I give these guys credit for addressing the issue of is the bacteria alive. I would not be surprised if it has a high success rate. But there is still the fundamental problem, how do you verify you have established a bacteria colony?

I would buy the 50 litre product AND dose the tank with a measurable amount of ammonia. Should only take a few days to verify you are good to go.
 
It's not really ammonia that is the problem, it's all the other ones that participate ( byproducts and processors )

Nitrosomonas, Nitrosospira, Nitrosococcus, and Nitrosolobus, one or multiple of them will takeover and process ammonia.

One or more of Nitrobacter, Nitrospina, and Nitrococcus will take care of nitrite.

And there is also a lot of other ones involved... In my book Nitrosomas, Nitrosococcus and Nitrobacter, Nitrococcus are the most prevalent in cycled aquariums. But depending on the water condition, any of them can be favored or not.

I used liquid ammonia fishless cycling and adding fish food and waste control product is a way to start to enrich your water with other bacteria that are related to the process.

If you want to kick start everything from algae to protozoan, let rot a couple slices of cucumber in addition :)

Make sure theres a lot of oxygen.
 
Trying to get my head around this.

How does adding the ammonia in one go starve the second bacteria? It would be the same with drop by drop addition via fish. If there are any ammonia eaters in the Goop, they'll convert the ammonia straight to nitrite to feed the second bacteria regardless of how much is added. The only difference I can see is that if ammonia is added all in one go it may take a while for it all to be converted whereas when fish make it in tiny amounts throughout the day it's all converted virtually as soon as it is excreted. Either way, the ammonia eaters will convert it to nitrite as soon as there's any ammonia in the water.

I do wonder if they really understand what goes on. In their FAQs they say their product contains Nitrobacter species, but it's Nitrospira which grows in aquariums. Does the product really contain Nitrobacter or have they just read old literature and they are ignorant of what the bacteria in their product actually is.

From what I can tell the people behind it are proper fish nerds - but I agree it is possible they have the wrong names but I have to admit the types of bacteria are above my knowledge.

They also sell pre used sponge filters which run in their Tropco facility, which is a pretty cool thing but I do think the same logic is whats led to this product for them - creating a big commercial scale production of filter bacteria somehow and essentially scraping off the 'goop' and bottling it :)
 
I didnt really touch the tank after the last post here but this morning I woke to a layer of brown algae so figured things must be moving! I did a test and quite high nitrite but low ammonia so movement at last!

I topped up the ammonia dose and will see where we end up tomorrow. I think I will add the first fish a bit earlier than usual on a fishless cycle as the initial co-hort will be 3-5 2 inch juvenile cichlids and a traditional fishless cycle equips the tank for a full bioload. As with anything though, patience! It might be early May before I get time off to get fish again so we will have to see!

Wills
 
Are you following TwoTankAmin's method for cycling? Were your ammonia & nitrite readings at the levels needed for another ammonia addition?

It's just that you said nitrite was quite high and adding more ammonia at the wrong time can push nitrite over stall level so I thought I'd better check.
 
Are you following TwoTankAmin's method for cycling? Were your ammonia & nitrite readings at the levels needed for another ammonia addition?

It's just that you said nitrite was quite high and adding more ammonia at the wrong time can push nitrite over stall level so I thought I'd better check.
hmmm I've not read up on it for a while - I was at about 3ppm nitrite?
 
So we need to decide where you are in the cycle.

The first stage is add ammonia and wait until ammonia is below 0.75 and nitrite over 2 ppm, then add another 3 ppm ammonia.

The second stage is wait until ammonia is zero and then zero again 2 days later, nitrite level doesn't matter here. Then add 1 ppm ammonia.

Third stage is wait till ammonia is below 0.25 and nitrite is below 1 ppm, then add 3 ppm ammonia.
Next day if both are zero the cycle is finished. If one or both are not zero, repeat stage 3 until they are both zero after 24 hours.


With what you've done/tested so far, which stage are you at?
 
So we need to decide where you are in the cycle.

The first stage is add ammonia and wait until ammonia is below 0.75 and nitrite over 2 ppm, then add another 3 ppm ammonia.

The second stage is wait until ammonia is zero and then zero again 2 days later, nitrite level does matter here. Then add 1 ppm ammonia.

Third stage is wait till ammonia is below 0.25 and nitrite is below 1 ppm, then add 3 ppm ammonia.
Next day if both are zero the cycle is finished. If one or both are not zero, repeat stage 3 until they are both zero after 24 hours.


With what you've done/tested so far, which stage are you at?
The first one (I think...)

I've been stuck at 3ppm ammonia 0 nitrite for 3ish weeks then at some point over the easter weekend the brown algae has appeared and the ammonia has gone to nitrite. So this morning ammonia was below .75, nitrite over 2ppm and I added another dose of ammonia which is 9ml based on the calculator here.
 

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