Water trouble!

Era101

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I just finished cycling my tank, or so I hope, and added some more fish to my aquarium.

I used a generous amount of bacteria starter when setting up my tank and once more about a week later during 10 % water change. Unfortunately the stores near me were all severely understocked due to Corona and so none had any tests left. I ordered NH3/4, NO2 and NO2 tests online which took about a week to come in. I checked my water everyday since and to my surprise my NH and NO2 levels were already low and NO3 was at about 25 ppm so I thought I was getting along pretty well with my cycle. Skip to about 2 weeks later and my NH and NO2 levels were practically 0 so I added some more fish to increase the bioload to help grow the bacteria.

I just found out that the NO3 test was faulty and would somehow always show that I have 25 ppm. Even in water where there would be no NO3 present. To make matter worse, the new test I got shows accurate readings and it seems the water I am using for the changes has 50 ppm nitrate in it.

Now I don't know if the readings I have from my tank from before and after the new test are accurately telling me if the bacteria are growing. Or if they are even present at all.
 

essjay

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The ammonia and nitrite tests will tell you if you have any bacteria. Both of these will be zero in a cycled tank. If either of them is above zero, the tank is not cycled and you need to do water changes to reduce them to zero.

If the tank is heavily planted, the ammonia made by the fish will be taken up by the plants so you should not have a reading above zero for these two.
 
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Era101

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The ammonia and nitrite tests will tell you if you have any bacteria. Both of these will be zero in a cycled tank. If either of them is above zero, the tank is not cycled and you need to do water changes to reduce them to zero.

If the tank is heavily planted, the ammonia made by the fish will be taken up by the plants so you should not have a reading above zero for these two.
Then my tank is definitely not cycled.. The ammonia levels are somehow always the same, every day. Since adding some new fish the nitrite levels have also spiked. The biggest problem for me is the nitrate though.

For the last 2 weeks my ammonia has been steady at 0,25 ppm. The nitrite just spiked from 0,05 ppm to 1 ppm while my nitrate is at 50 ppm. That level is already from the water source.

What would you suggest I can do to combat this long term besides daily water changes? Is it better to add a lot of plants that can lower the ammonia to zero and with that (I hope) also eliminate the nitrite. Or is it best to buy another tank as qt where I can keep my fish with daily water changes while I start my the cycle of my main tank from scratch?
 

essjay

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Live plants will use the ammonia and they don't turn it into nitrite. But that still leaves the nitrite currently in the water.

I would put live plants in the tank. It may take a few days for them to settle and start taking up ammonia so keep an eye on both ammonia and nitrite until they do. Until then, you will need to do water changes to keep them down.

Ammonia at 0.25 is not a problem; some people never see the zero colour even in tanks that have been running for years. But if you have nitrite above zero, that needs to be removed. If you do get some live plants, once they start to take up ammonia there won't be any left for the bacteria to turn into nitrite.
 
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Era101

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Live plants will use the ammonia and they don't turn it into nitrite. But that still leaves the nitrite currently in the water.

I would put live plants in the tank. It may take a few days for them to settle and start taking up ammonia so keep an eye on both ammonia and nitrite until they do. Until then, you will need to do water changes to keep them down.

Ammonia at 0.25 is not a problem; some people never see the zero colour even in tanks that have been running for years. But if you have nitrite above zero, that needs to be removed. If you do get some live plants, once they start to take up ammonia there won't be any left for the bacteria to turn into nitrite.
I have 4 java fern with 2 cabombas at the moment but that is then obviously not enough. I wanted to add some more plants anyway so that's quite alright.

If the plants eat all the ammonia and the bacteria all die out, how big of a problem is that?

On a sidenote, does that also mean that even if I fully cycle a tank but afterwards add a lot of plants the bacteria will still die?
If so, wouldn't it then be possible to avoid cycling your aquarium altogether because your plants will take care of everything?

Still a complete rookie so of course my logic can be backwards?
 

essjay

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Bacteria will still grow but not as many as in a tank with no live plants. The only danger would be if you decided to remove all the plants from the tank, or they suddenly all died at the same time.

Java fern is a slow growing plant so they will not take up very much ammonia. Fast growing plants take up more. Floating plants are best of all as they are near the lights and can get carbon dioxide from the air - the other things they need besides nitrogen (which is in ammonia). And as most of the fish we keep come from waters with overhanging vegetation, the fish appreciate the cover over their heads that floating plants provide. Plants such as water sprite, Amazon frogbit, water lettuce, Salvinia or even elodea (aka anacharis) left to float.

It is possible to cycle a tank using just plants - lots of members of the forum do this. It's called a plant or silent cycle.
 
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Era101

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Bacteria will still grow but not as many as in a tank with no live plants. The only danger would be if you decided to remove all the plants from the tank, or they suddenly all died at the same time.

Java fern is a slow growing plant so they will not take up very much ammonia. Fast growing plants take up more. Floating plants are best of all as they are near the lights and can get carbon dioxide from the air - the other things they need besides nitrogen (which is in ammonia). And as most of the fish we keep come from waters with overhanging vegetation, the fish appreciate the cover over their heads that floating plants provide. Plants such as water sprite, Amazon frogbit, water lettuce, Salvinia or even elodea (aka anacharis) left to float.

It is possible to cycle a tank using just plants - lots of members of the forum do this. It's called a plant or silent cycle.
Perfect! Then I'll add some more plants asap. Although the selection near me is quite bad, common plants in Bali are Java ferns, java moss and cambombas. Finding Anubias was already quite a feat. Maybe I'll add more plants than initially planned in order to take care of my ammonia problem. What about the nitrate levels, are mine dangerous?

Maybe later on I can see if I can place a custom order with one of the local stores for specific plants.
 

seangee

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Bacteria will still grow but not as many as in a tank with no live plants. The only danger would be if you decided to remove all the plants from the tank, or they suddenly all died at the same time.

Java fern is a slow growing plant so they will not take up very much ammonia. Fast growing plants take up more. Floating plants are best of all as they are near the lights and can get carbon dioxide from the air - the other things they need besides nitrogen (which is in ammonia). And as most of the fish we keep come from waters with overhanging vegetation, the fish appreciate the cover over their heads that floating plants provide. Plants such as water sprite, Amazon frogbit, water lettuce, Salvinia or even elodea (aka anacharis) left to float.

It is possible to cycle a tank using just plants - lots of members of the forum do this. It's called a plant or silent cycle.
On a sidenote, does that also mean that even if I fully cycle a tank but afterwards add a lot of plants the bacteria will still die?
If so, wouldn't it then be possible to avoid cycling your aquarium altogether because your plants will take care of everything?
Yes it is possible. This is the only option available to me as my pH is very low (<5.5). The bacteria cannot live in such an environment so I have to rely on plants to remove the ammonia. Another benefit of this is that when the plants use ammonia they do not turn it into nitrate - which is what the bacteria do. Since you already have high nitrates in your tap water this is a good thing as you do not want them to increase any further.

Note that I still do large weekly water changes as there are a lot of other good reasons for doing so.
 
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Era101

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Yes it is possible. This is the only option available to me as my pH is very low (<5.5). The bacteria cannot live in such an environment so I have to rely on plants to remove the ammonia. Another benefit of this is that when the plants use ammonia they do not turn it into nitrate - which is what the bacteria do. Since you already have high nitrates in your tap water this is a good thing as you do not want them to increase any further.

Note that I still do large weekly water changes as there are a lot of other good reasons for doing so.
Ah what happened to get the PH so low? I honestly might try what it is you are doing. My PH is quite high at 8,6 but I am fairly certain it is because of some of the rocks that I have in the aquarium. Waiting on some peat moss right now to try and lower it a bit. Maybe you could add some other rocks to your aquarium to raise your PH?

My hope is exactly that, that I have enough plants to completely soak up the ammonia. It is surprisingly enough also difficult to find Prime around here as well. But I found it online so I plan to use that to help with the excessive nitrates.
 

essjay

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Seangee uses 100% RO water in his tanks (or most of them at least) That means no minerals in the water at all; zero GH and zero KH. The natural tendency of a fish tank is to become more acidic. Usually the KH in the water stops the pH dropping but if there is no KH at all, the pH will slowly drop as in seangee's case. And he is quite happy to have this situation.

Prime does not remove nitrate - or nitrite or ammonia. It temporarily converts them into a non-toxic form and after 24 to 36 hours they revert back to the toxic form. Prime should not be added to a tank except in the new water at a water change, at the dose rate for the volume of new water only. It should not be added to a tank apart from this.
 
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Era101

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Seangee uses 100% RO water in his tanks (or most of them at least) That means no minerals in the water at all; zero GH and zero KH. The natural tendency of a fish tank is to become more acidic. Usually the KH in the water stops the pH dropping but if there is no KH at all, the pH will slowly drop as in seangee's case. And he is quite happy to have this situation.

Prime does not remove nitrate - or nitrite or ammonia. It temporarily converts them into a non-toxic form and after 24 to 36 hours they revert back to the toxic form. Prime should not be added to a tank except in the new water at a water change, at the dose rate for the volume of new water only. It should not be added to a tank apart from this.
Aah alright, I wasn't aware that was done with a specific goal in mind. Just checked the fish that do well in low PH tanks are they look pretty cool actually.

I wasn't planning on using Prime for the water that is currently in the tank. I figured it would be a great way to help my current condition. I will be doing daily water changes until I have enough plants in the tank and until they are settled well enough to soak up the ammonia in the tank.

I thought using Prime during that time would keep the fish I have now safe from brown blood disease. Can I not use Prime in this way or will it be too much too often?
 

essjay

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Prime should be used together with water changes. If water changes are done every day, Prime will keep the fish safe between water changes as the nitrite level builds up. You do water changes before the nitrite has change to revert back to toxic.
Say you do a water change, using Prime in the new water, and get nitrite down to zero. Next day you find that nitrite has gone up to 1 ppm. Prime will have detoxified that nitrite to keep the fish safe but as the detoxifying effect will soon wear off you need to do another water change, using Prime to treat the new water, to get the nitrite level down to zero again.
 

seangee

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Aah alright, I wasn't aware that was done with a specific goal in mind. Just checked the fish that do well in low PH tanks are they look pretty cool actually.
pH is not my specific goal - I don't really care what the pH is. I do have soft water fish and my tap water is very hard. I also have 50ppm nitrates in my tap water - so for me its the easy option to get rid of nitrates and have soft water. As @essjay explained there is nothing in my water to stop it going acidic - and I do have a lot of wood.
 
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Era101

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Prime should be used together with water changes. If water changes are done every day, Prime will keep the fish safe between water changes as the nitrite level builds up. You do water changes before the nitrite has change to revert back to toxic.
Say you do a water change, using Prime in the new water, and get nitrite down to zero. Next day you find that nitrite has gone up to 1 ppm. Prime will have detoxified that nitrite to keep the fish safe but as the detoxifying effect will soon wear off you need to do another water change, using Prime to treat the new water, to get the nitrite level down to zero again.
I have to say, this community is incredibly active and knowledgeable. I really appreciate you taking the time to help and explain everything plainly and clearly.

It sounds like this could help me get through my current issues. I will keep at it with water changes and prime until the plants are all settled.

My qt tank should be done tomorrow and I kind of want to move my fish there asap. I know it's not cycled but I am starting to notice some symptoms of nitrite poisoning on my fish. My current tank already has live plants in it and I read that while salt will help the fish it can be a quick plant killer.

I'd like to use the new tank to do a quick salt bath without harming the plants in my aquarium. Any thoughts on if this is a good idea?
 
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Era101

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pH is not my specific goal - I don't really care what the pH is. I do have soft water fish and my tap water is very hard. I also have 50ppm nitrates in my tap water - so for me its the easy option to get rid of nitrates and have soft water. As @essjay explained there is nothing in my water to stop it going acidic - and I do have a lot of wood.
Yeah @essjay said you use 100% osmosis water. Did you buy your own RO filter or do you buy it somewhere? Is it expensive for to do waterchanges? My water is also very hard so maybe diluting it with RO water could help lower it or using RO and adding aquasafe to remineralize it a bit maybe?
 
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