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FAQs on Establishing Cycling Trouble/Fixing

Related Articles: Establishing Cycling, Freshwater Filtration, Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium, Tips for Beginners, Water Quality and Freshwater Aquariums,

Related FAQs: Establishing Cycling 1, Establishing Cycling 2, Establishing Cycling 3, Cycling Products, Biological Filtration, Freshwater Filtration, Freshwater Environmental Disease, Nitrates in Freshwater Aquariums, Ammonia, FW Nitrites, FW Nitrates, Chemical Filtrants,

Some aquatic life is much more sensitive to cycling issues. Apistogramma cacatuoides

Extremely high ammonia during cycling      12/12/18
Hello Crew! Hope you all are doing very well.
<All good.>
Got a brackish nitrogen cycle question for you. I have recently set up a 5 gallon biotope aquarium for some Opae ula shrimp. There is a tall tower of lava rock (held together with aquarium silicone glue) to provide a hypogeal environment. There is also additional lava rock mixed with some reef "dry live rock" pieces in the rest of the tank. Specific gravity is at about 1.010.
First evening after filling the tank, I added a few (very few!) flakes of fish food to begin cycling. After 24 hours I tested for ammonia using an API Ammonia test kit, and the result came back at 8 ppm! Since 8 ppm is as high as the test goes, the ammonia level is anywhere from 8 ppm to who knows what. No way this came from those teeny flakes!
<Possibly not. Hard to say without knowing how much protein was in the flake and how much water (actual, not nominal) is in your 5 gallon tank.>
So, the ammonia could only come from one of three places: my tap water, the salt mix, or the rocks. I tested my tap water after treating with Prime water treatment, and it came back at between 0.25 and 0.50 ppm ammonia, likely from the chloramine. Then I mixed in some of the marine salt mix and retested - came back the same as the tap water.
<Indeed, as should be the case.>
I still had some lava rocks left over so I put a few in some fresh water and let them soak a few hours and then tested. Yep, it was the lava rocks.
<Yikes! I'm not a huge fan of lava rock, which not only affects water quality in this case, but more regularly, affects pH and water colouration too. It's vaguely acidic in many cases, causing pH to drop, and the minerals contained can stain the water reddish brown.>
After 48 hours the ammonia level was still high and beginning to look a little cloudy, so I did a 2 gallon water change.
<Correct action here.>
At this point I'm assuming it will be continue to cycle the tank as usual, am I correct? Or are these levels too high even for cycling? I'm also guessing I will need to do a fairly large water change after the cycle
completes as there will likely be pretty high nitrate levels.
<Yeah, but if there's no livestock in this system, the ammonia spike shouldn't do any lasting harm. If the shrimps are there, and have survived, wow!!!>
At any rate this was a good lesson to learn - don't just throw new rocks into an established aquarium! Even if you have tested for carbonates, you never know what might be lurking in there.
<Sage advice.>
Thanks for your input on this!
<And thank you for sharing. Neale.>
Re: Extremely high ammonia during cycling      12/12/18

No, definitely no livestock in here yet. Just doing the cycling.
The reason for using the lava rocks is because I am trying to recreate a biotope. In the case of Halocaridina rubra (Opae ula) this is definitely lava, with a sprinkling of carbonate rocks. I did a lot of research on scholar.google.com on the Hawaiian anchialine pools - fascinating stuff!
The lava rocks I purchased are not *exactly *the same as the lava where they occur, but it is as close as I can get.
<I am fairly sure the "lava rock" traded is a byproduct of glass making or some other industrial process, rather than actual pumice stone.>
Based on your comments about these rocks changing the pH, I will give this tank an extended cycle period. Once the nitrogen cycle has completed I will continue to monitor the pH and other parameters, while keeping the cycle "fed" with the use of flake foods. If there is a trend toward acidification, I will remove some of the lava rocks and replace them with some limestone and/or dry live rock to help keep things buffered.
<I do think Tufa rock, or Texas hole-y rock, might be better.>
I'll see how things trend before adding any live creatures. Hopefully things will tend to stabilize as whatever soluble materials are in the rock get leached out.
Thanks again!
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Hi WetWebMedia Crew! Disease help please!     6/1/17
Hello crew!
I've been using your site for years now and have always come back to read the FAQ's and ask for advice. Once again, I require some disease identification and treatment help.
My mother's freshwater tank has been setup for 2 years and ,according to the all in one test strip, it has the following stats:
GH: 0 ppm
KH: 0 ppm
<This lack of hardness is a huge issue here.
I would be adding at least baking soda, if not a modicum of Neale's "Malawi Mix" here. Read here Re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwsoftness.htm
and the linked files above>
pH: 6.5
no2-: 0.5 ppm
<Debilitating to outright deadly toxic. Needs to be addressed immediately:

no3-: 20 ppm
temp: 28 degrees Celsius
Her tank is 45 gallons.
Her stocking list consists of:
6 Rummy nose tetras
1 Siamese algae eater
3 Discus
4 Julie Corydoras
9 Harlequin Rasboras
Now for the spicy advice we need. So I will go chronologically from what it seems started her downwards spiral. 1. The new rummy nose tetras she purchased died the day after. 2. Her pre-existing rummy nose tetra developed white balls/tufts on the centre of its eye.
<Both these are environmental insult manifestations; only secondarily pathogenic>
3. Her white discus's eye became cloudy. 4. The eye began to protrude and the white tuft continued to push outwards. 5. the red discus(not pictured) is beginning to show clouding in one eye.
<This as well>
We treated the tank with the proper cycle of tetracycline (the instructions are not off the top of my head) and she did some impromptu Methylene blue doses.
<No treatment is going to work till you fix the environment/water quality>
After the treatments and the results looking as poor as they did before. I told her to do water changes every other day for a week and to replace her carbon.
Now seeing the current issue at hand, I am wondering what to do. We are quite lost and need some disease identification(doesn't look like typical cloudy eye) and some treatments.
Pictures should be attached in no chronological order whatsoever
Thanks for the help,
<The reading ASAPractical, modification, fixing next. Bob Fenner>


Re: Is our tank possessed by an ammonia demon???       9/4/16
Thanks for your response, Neale.
We use well water, no chlorine, but we still add conditioner to it to help keep the skin coating on the fish.
<Well water can, does absorb ammonia and other pollutants from the surrounding ground, especially in rural areas (nitrogenous compounds are often very high near farms that use fertilisers or rear livestock). So you should absolutely be using water conditioner, and a good one at that, even on well water.>
Our tap water is zero for ammonia, nitrates and nitrites. We've tested it many times. And the water itself was tested by the water softener guy and was clean.
<Do you use water from the bypass tap, or water that's been through the water softener? You should be doing the first, not the second. NEVER use water from a domestic water softener. Introduces all sorts of variables, including high sodium and zero carbonate hardness that can cause problems.>
We (well, Maria - I'm in the sidelines with a herniated disk in my lower back) are doing multiple 50% water changes until the ammonia is gone. We've done two today and will do a third tonight and again in the morning until the numbers are down. All the gravel is being washed in both tanks.
We are using that bottled bacteria, we don't have any other option.
<Is this refrigerated before purchase? If not, it's useless. Franky, even the refrigerated stuff is pretty ropey. I'm not a fan. I'm going to ask Bob's opinion on this, but I've come across FAR too many problems with tanks cycled without fish but with store-bought bacteria potions. My preferred method is to clone an existing filter, which is pretty much foolproof done right. Do you live near anyone with an aquarium? If they can donate half their mature media, which any mature filter can without problems, your tank would be instantly cycled. Hence, "cloning" a filter.
The donor filter can have 50% of its live media replaced with brand new sponges (or whatever) and experience NO noticeable drop in water quality.
Bacteria double in numbers every 20 minutes, the scientists tell us, and when you have a gazillion per cubic cm on a mature block of sponge, that means the donor filter will make up any losses very quickly. The problem, as you may realise now, is when you have none or just a few bacteria per cubic cm.>
Thanks again for your help and time.
<I do think things should settle down. What fish do you have now? If you change all the water, clean the filter as indicated (taking care not to over clean and kill the bacteria) and then feed sparingly, if at all, for a couple weeks, hardy fish (Danios, peppered Corydoras, 'feeder' guppies, etc.) can, do sail through the cycling process without much trouble if you change some water every day or two. Old school approach, and not widely recommended, but does work. The addition of floating aquarium plants, especially floating Indian Fern, is another 'magic bullet' from days gone
by. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Is our tank possessed by an ammonia demon??? (RMF?)       9/4/16

1. We have been using softened water. We'll switch, but we're going to replace another fifty percent. Should we use the bypass tap for that? Or half half, if they're used to the softened water?
<I'd go the latter route, maybe 25% bypass/75% softened for the first water change, and so on across a week of water changes. Domestic softener water isn't good for fishkeeping for all sorts of reasons, and it's a shame that
the idea of "softening" water means different things to different people.
Please do check with the installer of your system, but most work by leaving general hardness as it is, but replacing carbonate hardness (limescale) with sodium ions. That's why people with blood pressure problems, for example, are told not to drink softened water. On top of that, with zero carbonate hardness your pH might not be stable between water changes, and a low pH (anything far below 7) will absolutely hammer biological filtration.
Indeed, some reports suggest it stops working completely below pH 6!>

2. We use Aqueon filters - a mesh bag with carbon in it. I guess you are talking about the mesh part of the filter?
<Nope. Take the carbon and throw it in the bin. Useless for freshwater fishkeeping. Actually, there are VERY SPECIFIC situations where carbon is handy, like removing leftover medication from a tank, but other than that... useless. Similarly anything labeled "ammonia remover" (Zeolite) is also useless for a normal tank, and again, chuck in the bin. Or at least lay down for use some other time! What your filter needs is plenty of biological media -- usually sponges and/or ceramic noodles. That's where the bacteria live.>
If we can find someone with a filter, would we just put that in the tank?
<Well, pretty much, yes. Easier to have that filter donate some sponges or ceramic noodles, and put those inside your new filter. Should jump-start it a treat.>
We have one white skirt tetra, one platy, and one Pleco in the tank. We DO have a second 20 gallon tank. Could we use the filter from that?
<Any filter more than a couple months old should be mature enough to donate some live media. That assumes temperature and water chemistry aren't very different. Obviously taking filter media from a hard water tank and sticking it in a soft water system would be nasty to the bacteria and likely to stress them (though not kill them).>
No, we just changed the filter in that, but I have that filter - it didn't dry out, so maybe use that? Should we not change the filters?
<I'm a bit concerned here. What do you mean by "change the filter"? You never "change" a biological filter. All you do -- every six weeks to six months depending on how well flow rate is holding up -- is rinse the live biological media under a lukewarm tap to get rid of the muck. Periodically (every five years or so) you might want to replace a really irredeemably grubby sponge, and every ten or twenty years you might change some of the ceramic noodles. But even then, you'd only change, say, a quarter to a half of the media at any one time. Really, a biological filter should be left
alone as much as possible, and the golden rule is "if in doubt, and water is still flowing through it, leave it alone". You should absolutely NOT be changing media every time you change water! For sure the manufacturers will want you to change carbon and ammonia remover every week or two, and they're right to recommend that -- such media needs frequent replacing. But those media are totally unnecessary in the average freshwater aquarium.
Some filters are designed around carbon and Zeolite modules, but they're a con, and I spurn them! Focus on sponges, noodles, and perhaps a small layer of filter floss to trap silt (and the filter floss will need replacing or cleaning quite frequently, if it bungs up).>
If we put the fish in another tank, how would you suggest that we restart the 38 gallon tank as new tank? From scratch?
<See above; I'm a bit worried you're doing something to the filter that's preventing it from maturing. Perhaps I've misunderstood? Neale.>
Re: Is our tank possessed by an ammonia demon??? (RMF?)       9/4/16
sigh. You have not misunderstood.
<Oh dear.>
We have been doing what they told us to do: using the carbon filter for the Aqueon pump and changing it out when dirty.
<Got you now. I don't know these filters, so can't be sure about their design. But usually these small internal canister filters have two or three 'chambers' inside them. Ideally, the water passes through a mechanical medium first to trap dirt, a second stage of biological media to clean the water of ammonia and nitrite, and finally (and optionally) a chemical medium (such as carbon, peat or Zeolite) to chemically change the water somehow. This last stage is a total waste of filter space in most freshwater tanks. Furthermore, the mechanical and biological stages can be combined if you're limited with space. Sponges and ceramic noodles will trap silt as well as house bacteria, and so long as you only rinse them gently in aquarium-temperature water (even a bucket of old aquarium water during water changes) then you'll keep the bacteria on that medium in tip-top condition as well as rinsing off the dirt. Make sense? Now, I don't
know which filter you have from their range. But I'd suggest looking at the instruction leaflet or packaging, or heck, just email me the make and model number. Once we know which filter we're talking about, we can plan accordingly. One option though is that if your filter has simple empty chambers that you're meant to put proprietary cartridges into, those chambers can still be stuffed with filter floss or ceramic noodles. Filter floss is cheap and crams nicely into awkward shapes. Don't over pack it though or you'll stop the flow of water. Also, the other problem is that it clogs up quickly and isn't really washable more than once or twice, so you have to be careful about replacing no more than 50% per month. Ceramic noodles are more expensive, especially the really good brands (such as Siporax and Eheim Substrat Pro) which hold the most bacteria per cubic centimetre. Being a loose but solid medium you can stuff it into a
compartment without worrying about clogging up the flow of water. So it's a better medium in all but the smallest and most awkwardly shaped filters. Of course your particular canister filter may have proper biological cartridges on sale, and these are the ones to use if that's an option.>
We are using the Aqueon pumps and I don't know if they have a filter like the one you are talking about. If you don't like their products what do you suggest? These things get pretty dirty. Maria can go get the new media now, but we don't know what to get. We THOUGHT we did, but obviously we were listening to the wrong people.
<Possibly. Since you already have an existing aquarium, cloning that tank's filter should be easy. Can some media be removed from that filter? Or even, worst come to the worst, scrape off the top 1 cm gravel from the old tank
and add it to the gravel in the new filter. The top layer is where some filter bacteria live, so while it's not as good as cloning a filter, it'll provide a heck of a jump start to any new aquarium, speeding up the cycling process a lot. As mentioned before, adding a handful of floating plants is another good way to get things moving. Hope this helps, Neale.>

Major cycling issues      9/3/16
Hey Crew.
Sorry for asking but I am at a complete loss.
I purchased a four foot long, 90 gallon aquarium at the end of March, to transfer my fish from my old 15 gallon tank.
I upgraded to a large canister filter but used all my old filter media in it and just topped it up with new media.
I didn't anticipate any problems. I thought I might have to watch my water chemistry for a few days.
I always preheat my water to the same temperature as my tank, treat it with prime and then add it after 5 minutes. So I followed this routine when filling my new tank, and then added my filter and fish.
But something went wrong, and it is like my bacteria have all died out.
<Does happen...>
It's been a few months, and I still have at least 1ppm of ammonia in the tank after a week if I don't do water changes every other day. I don't even understand where all the ammonia is coming from,
<... the water? Foods? Life?>
all I have in the tank currently are 3 harlequin Rasboras, although I also currently have a pond snail infestation. I feed every second day.
I thought my test kit must be testing wrong but I bought a liquid test kit and the results are correct. Lots of ammonia, no nitrites, no nitrates. I have plants in the tank so they might take up some nitrites/nitrates, no idea.
<Have you tried using a bacterial product to move the cycling process along? I would. Dr. Tim's line is a fave.>
I have no idea what wiped out the bacteria to start with, and no idea why this tank is showing no signs of cycling. It's been months. I lost 3 of my 6 harlequins to fungus, and I don't want to lose the others. (I decided at one point to slow my water changes to see if too many were inhibiting the cycle)
Please help!
<Something forestalling establishment of bio-geo-nutrient cycling here. A few possibilities. Please read here:
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Re: Major cycling issues       9/5/16

Thanks Bob,
I'll try the bottled bacteria you suggested.
I'm worried that whatever caused the bacteria to die off and is inhibiting the new cycle will make it ineffective but I will give it a go.
<This is what I'd do. Am hopeful that enough beneficial microbes will overwhelm whatever is the issue here>
If this doesn't work, what would you suggest?
<Dumping, bleach washing all, rinsing a few times, refilling and trying again. There are a few "scenarios" that might explain the observations here... restarting can solve most all>
I read that a lack of calcium could cause this but my PH sits at 7.2 and doesn't fluctuate, so I doubt this is the issue.
<Me too>
There are no spray products used in the house, so I don't think chemicals getting into the tank are an issue either :/
<A mystery... that we could pursue if you'd like... Bob Fenner>
Re: Major cycling issues   8/7/16

I am curious. I understand that you are busy and have lots of more urgent emails to deal with. If you do have time, could give me some of the scenarios. I like to learn and would appreciate a better understanding of what could have gone on here.
<Some of the scenarios? That forestall the establishment of (nitrogen) cycling? Okay, categorically the ones that come to mind:
1) Lack of essential nutrient, or TOO much of said nutrients. E.g. no assimilable ammonia, or excess will starve or poison nitrifiers. Have seen folks pouring in too much concentrated exogenous NH3/NH4OH and wondering what was going on...
need to use a bit of organic source (foods are best) and let "rot"/decompose.
2) A paucity of alkalinity; in particular carbonate/bicarbonate... the metabolism of nitrification is reductive; drives pH down.... you state your pH is 7.2 so this is not likely a/the issue.
3) Presence of other microbes/bacteria... that outcompete, poison desired species. "Wipe out syndromes" are commonly attributed to these conditions.
4) Other sources of toxicity: Metal contaminants, medications, saponifiers like soap residue....
Bob Fenner>

Cycling question      8/31/16
Hi there
I know you must get this sort of question a lot , but I need a definitive answer.
<Let's see if I/we have one>
Set up a new 300 litre tank that will house Malawi cichlids 14 days ago , Have buffered the tank with crushed coral and is holding stable at 8.0 ph , I started the cycle with Tetra safe start and the water parameters as of last night were as follows , ammonia 1 mg per litre, Nitrite 2mg per litre and the Nitrate is between 25 and 50 mg per litre ,
<Mmm; all three nitrogenous compounds present at the same time... the Ammonia should "go to zero" soon (days) and then the Nitrite soon after>
I am doing a fishless cycle currently and would like to know what these parameters suggest ,

as far as I know after being in the hobby for 10 years that the ammonia and the Nitrites should drop to 0 pretty soon as the Nitrate level is present ,
<Ah yes>
or has something gone wrong in the cycle somehow.
<Agreed... >
The crushed coral was bought at a local fish store but seems that the coral had been used previously in filters but was dry and dusty and was thoroughly cleaned prior to filling tank.
Tested the tap water and came out zero on all fronts and the ph was 5 .
<Wow; I'd be pre-treating new water in a container OUTSIDE the tank; storing for a few days/week ahead of use, TESTING before adding to the system>

Regards Jason Liffmann
<And you. Patience here... and if NH3/NH4OH and NO2 don't go in a few days, do check the water with other test gear. Bob Fenner>
Cycling question /Neale      9/1/16

Hi there
I know you must get this sort of question a lot , but I need a definitive answer.
Set up a new 300 litre tank that will house Malawi cichlids 14 days ago , Have buffered the tank with crushed coral and is holding stable at 8.0 ph,
<Good. Though personally, I'd be relying on carbonate hardness added to the water with each water change. 0.5 to 1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) per 5 US gallons/20 litres should do the trick nicely.>
I started the cycle with Tetra safe start and the water parameters as of last night were as follows, ammonia 1 mg per litre, Nitrit 2mg per litre and the Nitrat is between 25 and 50 mg per litre,
<Currently lethal conditions for fish! But what you'd expect early on in the cycle.>
I am doing a fishless cycle currently and would like to know what these parameters suggest,
<Within the normal range.>
as far as I know after being in the hobby for 10 years that the ammonia and the Nitrites should drop to 0 pretty soon as the Nitrat level is present,
<Ammonia usually drops to zero within 2-3 weeks, and nitrite something like 3-6 weeks, but this is not totally predictable. Nonetheless, after 6 weeks the tank should be safely cycled. Fishless cycling doesn't always work first time. You can add a helping hand by adding some fish food. Why?
Because the complex chemicals provide nutrients for saprotrophic bacteria.
The nitrifying bacteria use ammonia and then nitrite, but fish wastes aren't necessary just ammonia. They can be other chemicals as well, urea for example, and uneaten food as well. So saprotrophic bacteria need to be there too.>
or has something gone wrong in the cycle somehow.
<Not necessarily.>
The crushed coral was bought at a local fish store but seems that the coral had been used previously in filters but was dry and dusty and was thoroughly cleaned prior to filling tank.
Tested the tap water and came out zero on all fronts and the ph was 5 .
<Yikes! That's some very acidic water!>
Regards Jason
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Cycling question     9/2/16

Thanks Neal
Was concerned with the high Nitrat reading , threw me a bit .
<Understood. For a start, the test kits aren't that accurate, hence the "25 to 50 mg/l" range your test kit indicated. You also have to look at the nitrate level in your tap water. London tap water for example can easily have 40 mg/l nitrate!>
Did a 50 water change last night and all the levels predictably dropped by half so ammonia 0.5 mg per litre Nitrit 1.0 mg per litre and Nitrat between 25 mg and 50 mg per litre , didn't check phosphate level previously but have checked now and the readings are between 1 and 2 MG per litre.
As far as my thinking goes may have not cleaned the substrate and rock well enough , your thoughts on this and should I just carry on cycling and see if it corrects itself.
<Carry on. Fishless cycling just isn't as reliable as cycling with fish, unfortunately! It does take a while for the whole thing to settle down. Just persist.>
Or should I boil al the rocks and the substrate and restart the cycle with a few fish with another bottle of Safe Start.
<Tetra Safe Start does not add bacteria! You can't do a fishless cycle with this product on its own. It really isn't anything more than fancy water conditioner. You need to be adding ammonia, which I think you're doing, and waiting for the bacteria to arrive. They're in the air, but you can speed things up by adding floating plants, which carry lots of them on their feathery roots.>
Regards Jason
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

8+ week cycle   5/29/16
Sorry to impose again, but I am confused. Eight plus weeks into cycling my tank. Everything was looking good - but it was taking a long time to get a safe Nitrate reading.
<Do you really mean this? Anything between 0 and 20 mg/l nitrate is ideal for a freshwater aquarium. Up to 40 mg/l is okay for standard community fish (tetras, barbs, catfish, etc.) though cichlids (such as Angels and Rams) tend to be disease-prone when nitrates get into this range, especially if water changes are infrequent.>
I did partial water changes, fed the bacteria occasionally, etc. Just now I tested Nitrates (>20ppm) but Ammonia is back up to 0.25 ppm (?).
<Right. Now, two things to do here. Check water tap water first. If your tap water has this trace level of ammonia AFTER being treated with water conditioner, your ammonia test kit is detecting "safe" neutralised chloramine. So nothing to worry about. Only a problem if the aquarium has HIGHER ammonia than the treated tap water, because that means biological filtration isn't happening properly/quickly enough. Immature filter, too much food, too many fish, not enough filter media or flow rate, etc. The nitrate level in your water should be relatively low, depending a bit on where you live (agricultural and urban areas can have quite high nitrate levels). But whatever, the nitrate should be lower than in the aquarium because the biological filter ADDS to the amount of nitrate when it does biological filtration. Make sense?>
I do use Prime daily - and the Seachem Ammonia Alert is <0.02. What am I doing wrong?
<Possibly nothing. Assuming you treat your water and your filter is properly set up, the filter should mature within 6 weeks. Of course that assumes you were providing a source of ammonia, like pinches of fish food or drops of household ammonia.>
My tap water is treated with Chloramine.......will I never be able to have a safe tank? R/O and bottled water are out of the question. It's a 10 gallon tank
<Stocking 10 gallon tanks is difficult. Most of the stuff sold is too big.
Do choose carefully. Have a read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_5/volume_5_3/stocking.htm
Some ideas there, but fish of similar size/habits could work too. Feel free to ask.>
with 6 plants (thriving), heater, filter, sponge filter, airstone and UV sterilizer.
<This latter is probably overkill.>
Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks again, Eve
<Personally, I favour the nitrite (not nitrate) test kit as the one less likely to give "false positive" readings. If nitrite is zero, and you have been supplying an ammonia source to jump-start the filter, I'd assume the filter is ready, and start stocking. A few small, hardy types would be ideal. One of the smaller Corydoras species for example, or a robust little cyprinid like Tanichthys spp. (these are best in cool tanks though, even room temperature). Cheers, Neale.>
Re: 8+ week cycle      5/30/16

Thank you for the quick reply Neale,
The tap water treated with Prime is reading 0.25 ppm ammonia, testing the same as the tank (now, before it was 0 ppm).
<Problem solved. If you're confident the ammonia reading in the treated tap water is the same as the aquarium, then no new ammonia is being added/created by livestock, so your filter is working fine. Time to move on!>
I am doing a fish-less cycle for a 10 gallon tank for one Betta only.
<Sounds a great strategy.>
I live in the city and nitrates from straight tap water can fluctuate up to 5.0 ppm. The tank was 160 ppm maybe 3 weeks ago, but is slowly coming down, with partial water changes (?).
<I'd be minded to change all the water. 160 mg/l is a vast amount. Switch the heater and filter off, change all the water, then switch the heater and filter back on Assuming no big water chemistry variations, filter should be
fine, and you'll go from 160 mg/l nitrate down to something much lower.>
It's tricky all this, but I want my next Betta to be in a safe tank - and I wasn't sure that could be achieved with my water source. Thanks again for the advice!
<Glad to help. Neale.>
Re: 8+ week cycle        5/31/16

Thank you for the quick reply Neale,
The tap water treated with Prime is reading 0.25 ppm ammonia, testing the same as the tank (now, before it was 0 ppm).
<Problem solved. If you're confident the ammonia reading in the treated tap water is the same as the aquarium, then no new ammonia is being added/created by livestock, so your filter is working fine. Time to move on!>
I am doing a fish-less cycle for a 10 gallon tank for one Betta only.
<Sounds a great strategy.>
I live in the city and nitrates from straight tap water can fluctuate up to 5.0 ppm. The tank was 160 ppm maybe 3 weeks ago, but is slowly coming down, with partial water changes (?).
<I'd be minded to change all the water. 160 mg/l is a vast amount. Switch the heater and filter off, change all the water, then switch the heater and filter back on Assuming no big water chemistry variations, filter should be fine, and you'll go from 160 mg/l nitrate down to something much lower.>
It's tricky all this, but I want my next Betta to be in a safe tank - and I wasn't sure that could be achieved with my water source. Thanks again for the advice!
<Glad to help. Neale.>
Re: 8+ week cycle        5/31/16

Again, Thank you....I was wondering about doing a 90% water change.
<So long as you avoid substantial water chemistry and temperature changes, this is totally fine.>
Thanks again!
<Welcome. Neale.>
Re: 8+ week cycle        5/31/16

Neale, maybe I'll do a 50% WC instead.
<Certainly sensible; doing two 50% changes, the second the day after the first, will go a long way to clearing out a murky aquarium without stressing the filter or livestock too much.>
I see that you are a Paleontologist - last October I took part in a dig opened to the public in Sewell, New Jersey with Rowan University (found some poop) with Dr. Lacovara. Below is his Ted talk (haven't watched it yet, too busy draining the tank). Take a look:
<That's a good talk! Fossil collecting certainly is fun, and a good way to understand the age of the Earth and the diversity of life that's been here.
It's a shame geology is taught to badly in schools. It's often thought of as dull, which it really isn't, as you probably realise now! FWIW, my field was ammonites, specifically heteromorph ammonites; but apart from freelance articles on the subject for various magazines and websites, my day job is as a science teacher now. Much better at that than writing grant
I love fossils, especially fish.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Don't know if my tank is recycling.  /RMF   9/14/15
Hello gang.
It's been a couple years since I needed to write you. I have a 40 gallon freshwater tank that I have had set up for about 4.5 years now I have an Emperor 400 with 1 slot is carbon filter, 2 slots are sponges from LFS,1 slot is bio stars(I thought I had one slot for sponge and 2 for bio stars. What would be the optimal configuration for the 4 slots in the filter?
<In order, first on: Mechanical (foam, pad, floss...) biological (stars, sponge...), chemical.... a Dacron bag with activated carbon likely.>
Everything was fine until the last few weeks I have had 5 die (Madagascar Rainbow, Julii Cory and three blood fin tetras two are still alive and "looking ok". I have two more Julii's a Botia and a black ghost(about size of pinky).

Side question...Since I introduced the black ghost so young when he gets bigger generally will he still go after the smaller fish that he grew up with, or does fish not work that way?
<Can't tell; some do/don't>
I bought a new API liquid test kit 2 days ago. I found the ammonia to be at .25ppm and Nitrates way up at over 60ppm about one less square from topping out on the API reference card. I admit I did get a little lax on vacuuming and water changes but due to water evaporation I do 5 gallon water change once a month.
<Do a weekly change, vacuum of 20-25% See WWM re>
I did a 5 gallon water change yesterday and 5 gallon today and also yesterday I put a Nitra Zorb Friday afternoon, but today Sunday it doesn't look like the nitrates have gone down at all. I know(for a new tank) the Nitrates go up to bring down the nitrites and the nitrates go down after the ammonia goes up and it all starts all over again. So if my nitrates are
higher than ammonia does it sound like cycle restarted?
<Something is out of whack here... STOP feeding period for a few days... >
My LFS said not to do another water change yet, but I told them I used a 10 gallon bucket which would be 20 gallons of a 40 gallon tank but they are only 5 gallon buckets so I only actually did a 10 gallon change of the 40 gallons. Hoping to get your opinions, suggestions and resolutions so I can get this back on track.
<READ on WWM re FW sys. maintenance. Bob Fenner>
Re: Don't know if my tank is      9/14/15

<READ on WWM re FW sys. maintenance. Bob Fenner>
Thank you for the speedy response. I will stop feeding for a few days and do water changes as you suggest. As for the configuration of the Emperor 400 not sure if you mean "first on" do you mean front left or back left. Can you break it down that way for me. Which goes in front left, back left, front right, back right.
Can't thank you enough for the help over the years. take care.
<<First as in the water flow path through this or any filter system...
First mechanical....BobF>>
Don't know if my tank is recycling. /Neale      9/15/15

Hello gang. It's been a couple years since I needed to write you. I have a 40 gallon freshwater tank that I have had set up for about 4.5 years now I have an Emperor 400 with 1 slot is carbon filter,
<Do understand carbon will prevent medications from working... unless you have a specific reason to use it (and you don't) replace this module with something more useful, even plain vanilla filter wool.>
2 slots are sponges from LFS, 1 slot is bio stars (I thought I had one slot for sponge and 2 for bio stars. What would be the optimal configuration for the 4 slots in the filter?
<A good rule of thumb is at least half to three-quarters should be biological media of your choice, and the rest mechanical media you can remove and rinse as often as needed.>
Everything was fine until the last few weeks I have had 5 die (Madagascar Rainbow, Julii Cory and three blood fin tetras two are still alive and "looking ok". I have two more Julii's a Botia and a black ghost(about size of pinky).
<This will be the "miner's canary" in this system... will also require more space, more current, and better water quality for long term success. Do understand the adults are massive fish and hypersensitive to low oxygen levels. Even 75 gallons is "small" for adults. They don't grow fast, but yours should/will outgrow this system within six months to a year.>
Side question...Since I introduced the black ghost so young when he gets bigger generally will he still go after the smaller fish that he grew up with, or does fish not work that way?
<Complicated. But usually fish kill prey-sized tankmates once they become big enough, but there are stories of big predators ignoring small fish. Apteronotus are not piscivores but vermivores, and if properly fed (they have big appetites) generally leave all but the smallest (Neon-sized) tankmates alone.>
I bought a new API liquid test kit 2 days ago. I found the ammonia to be at .25ppm
<Lethal to Apteronotus quickly; other fish will become stressed, sickly.>

and Nitrates way up at over 60ppm about one less square from topping out on the API reference card.
<Do more water changes. Add fast-growing plants. Don't overfeed.>
I admit I did get a little lax on vacuuming and water changes but due to water evaporation I do 5 gallon water change once a month.
<This WILL NOT work with Apteronotus. You need to raise your game. Most specimens of this genus kept "casually" in this way end up dead.>
I did a 5 gallon water change yesterday and 5 gallon today and also yesterday I put a Nitra Zorb Friday afternoon, but today Sunday it doesn't look like the nitrates have gone down at all. I know (for a new tank) the Nitrates go up to bring down the nitrites and the nitrates go down after the ammonia goes up and it all starts all over again.
<Not quite. Fish excrete ammonia. Ammonia is turned into nitrite by the filter bacteria. Then another bunch of bacteria turn the nitrite into nitrate. In a normal aquarium nothing removes nitrate apart from fast-growing plants, which is why you need to do regular water changes to dilute than nitrate.>
So if my nitrates are higher than ammonia does it sound like cycle restarted?
<If your aquarium has more nitrate than your tap water, then yes, nitrate being produced by the filter implies the first AND second bunches of bacteria described earlier are growing there.>
My LFS said not to do another water change yet, but I told them I used a 10 gallon bucket which would be 20 gallons of a 40 gallon tank but they are only 5 gallon buckets so I only actually did a 10 gallon change of the 40 gallons.
<You should be doing 20-25% changes every week or two, regardless. With Apteronotus, you really have to be on top of water quality.>
Hoping to get your opinions, suggestions and resolutions so I can get this back on track.
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Is this a mini cycle?    9/23/14
Hi there,
One of my worst fears was realized recently, my tank sprang a leak. It was a 20 gallon, with a dwarf Gourami, 7 Cory cats, and 7 tetras. It had been established for approx. 10 years and I've had most of those fish for many years.
I had a small 7 gallon tank and was able to set that up and transfer the fish, using existing filter and tank water, while I ran out to purchase a replacement 20 gallon.
I set up the new tank using existing live plants, driftwood, rocks, and filter/medium from my original established tank. I used new gravel but put some of the old gravel in a new pair of pantyhose and put it in the tank as well. I hoped all that would be enough to skip a mini cycle.
For several days I tested ammonia and nitrites daily, and both were zero so I thought I was safe. Three days ago my Dwarf Gourami had been making loud smacking noises at the surface of the water (like he does when he eats, except he wasn't eating) but seemed fine otherwise. The next day I found him dead.
<Could be anomalous>
That prompted me to retest the water, and my ammonia is still at zero but the nitrite level is at .25. I've done water changes the last three nights and it is still at .25.
<Best to halt feeding for now>

The one thing I should also mention is the water smells a bit musty, ever since I set up the tank. The tank was clean when I got it, and I rinsed it several times (no soap or cleaners were used) and there was no odour to it. I've never had a musty smell before, so I wonder what may be causing it. There is no debris in the tank, as the gravel is new (very well rinsed).
Should I be doing 20% water changes every day until the Nitrite levels are
back to zero?
<Mmm; I would not... can result in forestalling establishment of nitrogen cycling>

I don't know what else I should be doing.
<I'd add a worthwhile (some are placebos) bacteria starter culture/adjunct. A fave: SeaChem's Stability:
Thank you for your help!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Too soon overstocking, cycling issues       8/1/14
Hi, I started a fishless cycle on a lake Tanganyika 30 gallon tank 9 weeks ago. I had good readings 7 weeks into the cycle so added a marlieri Julie and also put 2 Synodontis in. All was fine so the next week I added 6 more cichlids
<Too much too soon>
under advice from lfs and 3 days later I have an ammonia reading of 0.5ppm and the 1ppm the following day.
<Dangerously toxic; more so at high pH>

I have been doing 10 percent daily water changes which I hope is helping the fish but am starting to worry I have reset my cycle because of the bioload I placed on the tank. Is there anything you would recommend that
may help.
<Yes; the usual reading:
and the linked files above>
<And you, Bob Fenner>

Most creatures are less active    1/16/14
> Hi,
> Our tank was a Christmas present for our 12 year old.
> <A worthy gift; proffered at a sensitive/appreciative age>
>  In the middle of
> December we put water, gravel, decorations etc in, and she put her first
> fish (a male Betta) in on 29th along with 2 (zebra?) snails.
> <Mmm, what was done to "cycle" this system?>
> stock has been
> added over the last 2 weeks, and now there are 3 algae eating fish,
> <Yikes... how large is this tank? Do please look up the name
> Gyrinocheilus/"Chinese algae eater"... these are inappropriate... as are
> larger suckermouth catfishes of the family Loricariidae ("Plecos") in
> volumes>
> several
> red cherry shrimps, 2 Ramshorn snails, a lava snail, 2 giant shrimps,
> some rabbit snails. the fish and snails are a lot less active over the
> last
> 24 hours compared to when they were introduced. some snails haven't
> any distance for 24 hours.
> <Oh oh... good reporting of bad behaviors>
> the shrimps don't seem to be as affected -they
> are still feeding, but have always stayed 'out of the way' as the Betta
> liked to take a closer look at them initially. The snails seem to hide
> their shells some of the time too, I even thought one had died and the
> shell left empty!
> The water seems to be fine - ammonia isn't tested on the dip strips I
> (API 5in1), but no3
> <If you'll search, read on our site, you'll find that I/we don't trust
> "test strips" (liquid colorimetric assays/kits are far more accurate,
> precise: reliable)... and the fact that you have no measurable Nitrate
> (NO3) indicates this system is NOT cycled... this is likely THE
> cause of your livestock malaise, trouble here. You MUST be very careful
> (little feeding, careful water changes...) to avoid poisoning/killing
> stock here... AND do what you can to urge the system to cycle
> product, old media...) AS gone over here:
> http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm
> and the linked files above: READ>
> and no2, nil, pH7.5, KH 180, GH 180. Tank size approx.
> 50 litres. Are you able to give any idea why the activity in the tank is
> reduced? I'm not sure if there may be Whitespot on one of the Bettas
> fins (by gill) but don't know how to treat it with snails and shrimps,
> how diseases might affect them. no spots on other 3 fish though.
> Thanks for your advice,
> Susan
> <STOP feeding for now and READ. Do write back if you have further
> questions, concerns. Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Most creatures are less active    1/16/14

My husband has done most of the setting up of this tank....
<Do show, review w/ him our corr. here>
I think we probably put a commercial cycling product in, and I know we added a bag of daphnia - my husband thought they might become established providing a food source for the 'proper' residents of the tank, but I suspect the treatment they get before reaching us renders them sterile, and the lifespan isn't that great! I'm sure they will have helped create great bacteria in our filter.
<Possibly; but... where is the accumulating NO3? It should be detectable in a ready-cycled system>
The fish he has included to eat algae off the glass etc, are definitely not Plecs - looking at the ID pages on here I think they may be Otocinclus.
<Ahh, these are fine... compatible... just not very hardy in most hobby systems>
We had no means of measuring hardness with our older test kits, and weren't sure how reliable the they would be with their age. Also, we had ran out of nitrate reagent, so bought the dipsticks when we got her tank. I have done tests with the chemicals for ammonia and nitrite today confirming the negligible reading on nitrite, and 0.1 on ammonia
<This MUST be zero, .0.0>

My daughter learnt her lesson on overfeeding with a mishap in our tank and is now very careful, and I help her keep on top of water changes.
I did realise overnight that someone (probably her) had flicked the switch to override the lighting timer, leaving the tank lit continuously. There seems to be more movement today after no light on for16hrs. Hopefully they will all feel less stressed, and my daughter can get back to enjoying them.
Now  to catch up on my reading matter:)
<A pleasure to aid your success, enjoyment. BobF>

Cycling query; FW, GF sys., stalled nitrification poss.       11/13/13
Hi crew, thanks as always for your wonderful site and all the help you give us.
<Ah welcome>
I have a query about cycling. Four weeks ago, I moved house and at that point I changed to a new tank in order to make the transfer easier.
Despite my bringing the filter media in a bucket of water and some gravel from the old tank, the tank is showing an ammonia reading of 0.25 every time I test, from which I assume the tank is cycling. I test two hours after feeding, which consists of a half pea, or one sinker.
<Ok... DO test your kit... just tap/source water... the quarter ppm may be artifactual, spurious>
The tank is 125 litres, with one fantail goldfish who is about 6 inches long including tail. It has a built in heater and filter to which I have added another filter to increase filtration. This set up is exactly the same as it was in the previous tank.
<Am with you thus far>
For the last near month I have been doing a daily 50% water change to reduce the effect of the ammonia and have reduced feeding to once a day.
However, there is no sign of any improvement or cycling.
<Changing so much water daily is likely forestalling the establishment of cycling... I'd cut back to 25% and feed much less; though a few times per day... sinking pellets of low protein composition>
The fish seems healthy and happy, although a little subdued. I see from the extensive reading of the site that my water changes will be slowing cycling. What timescale should I be expecting here?
<Ahh, yes; and as you state/d, I would not have expected, anticipated that you'd have any cycle at all having moved useful bacteria from the get go to the new system... Another couple/three weeks "should do it"... Elsewise, I might buy/use a bacteria/cycle product>
My understanding is normal is 4-6 weeks, so how would this be affected?
<Yes; and just time going by>
Also, is it necessary to still be doing these changes to this extent?
Could you recommend any further course of action?
<As detailed; cutting change outs by half (to a maximum of a quarter per day) and reducing feeding>
Hope you can help,
<I hope I have. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

The Missing Cycle, GH     8/4/13
I need some help diagnosing why I can't get a Betta tank to produce even a hint of nitrates even though I have detectable amounts of ammonia.
<Mmm... first thing that comes to mind is cycle isn't complete; that and defective test kits, procedure>
  Sometimes it is as high as 4+ ppm after a few days and for whatever reason, it seemed to have zero effect on the fish (more on that later).  I have started up and broken down a bunch of fresh and salt water tanks so I more or less have a basic understanding of how it all works. The tank I'm working on now is the smallest I've done. It's an Aqueon Evolve 4 which is four gallons (go figure).  It's actually a pretty well done tank aside from having to isolate the pump to reduce the noise and putting some foam around the output to diffuse the flow.  I have had this tank almost four months now.   I figured I would do a few 25-50% water changes a week and that should more or less keep things reasonably healthy.
 I use tap water and a conditioner.
<Might I ask what brand, label? Some have ingredients that yield false positives for ammonia>
 I was wrong. Things are not healthy.  I feed the fish once per day around 5 flakes.
<Try pellets instead... more nutritious, discrete>
 If one happens to sink, I'll leave it there for the day and if it is still there at night, I'll get it with the turkey baster and get some poo if I happen to see some as well.  After a month or so of not detecting any nitrates, I started thinking something was not right.  I know the bacteria are not floating around the house telling all their friends to stay out of the four gallon tank
because it's too small according to the Internet for Betta fish and to instead check out the 55 in the living room or maybe the 28 or 20 in the dining room. My temperature was at 72 degrees which I learned was much too low for Betta fish so I turned up the heater and now it's at 80 degrees.
 I understand that temperature makes a difference in how bacteria grow and perform so i hoped that the heater would help.
 The fish was more active but still no nitrates. I know the test kit works because my other tanks all have various levels of nitrates when I test them.  The next thing I tried was adding some ceramic rings but that did not help and was a bit of a silly thing to try.  I then decided there was something in the tank (the water is crystal clear) so I broke it down, cleaned it and pushed the reset button.  And....I'm back where I started. 
Our Betta is cranking out ammonia but the cycle just won't start.  So back to the Internet I go and I stumbled on how dechlorinators work and how you end up with ammonia after all the atoms and electrons finish up their business so I decided to test the treated water for ammonia thinking we may have a high level of chloramine and there is too much for the conditioner to handle the resulting ammonia.
<A good guess/speculation>
  This was not the case so the water I'm adding does not have ammonia in it.  I also started doubling the dose under the guess that maybe there was still chloramine in the water and that was killing off the bacteria.
 Again, still no cycle.  So back to the fish that looked none wiser for the wear. I learned on that horrid Internet that ammonia can grab an extra hydrogen atom in low pH settings which makes ammonium which apparently is harmless.
<An order of magnitude or so less>
So I looked on the test kit and it does not differentiate between the two so I guessed my pH may be really low.  I bought a fresh water pH kit because the one I have is high range for the salt water tanks and....my pH was 6 or maybe lower because that is as low as the test goes.  I then test the tap water and it's 7.  So my theory is that ammonia turned to ammonium which gobbled up all the hydrogen.
<Well; kind of the chicken/egg sort of thing here... The lower/ed-ing pH drives the change in NH4/NH3 change/conc.>
 My pH drops to the floor so all the ammonia is really ammonium and its pulling the pH down.
<More the pH is dropping (need to find out why and counter a bit) and this is driving the change of ammonia to ionized ammonium>
  I read that low pH can inhibit or even stop the nitrifying bacteria so perhaps this is my problem? 
I've had high ammonia so perhaps this killed off the bacteria according to some (doubt it, have you seen ammonia readings curing live rock)?
<Again; a very real possibility>
  I then read yet another explanation of the nitrogen cycle and they point out how much oxygen you need along the way.  I just got an air stone to agitate the surface more thinking that would help if there was not enough oxygen.
<Nah; very doubtful>
Or, maybe there is something in the tank like the fish (no comment) that is competing not leaving enough left over for nitrification?
<Mmm, much more likely the/your water is alkalinity deficient, and there's naught IN the system to offer same... As in natural gravel, stones, a cuttlebone (not a joke)>
 Am I missing something obvious?
<Just a/the source (of mostly) bicarbonate, carbonate... perhaps accompanying biomineral (calcium, magnesium...). Easily remedied>
  I have the right temperature. I'm putting in water that has a pH of 7 that has no ammonia and presumably no chloramine.  I'm agitating the surface thinking it will increase the dissolved oxygen levels. The bubbler is the last thing I added a few days ago so I don't know what impact that will have.  I'm not addressing the pH because that is probably going to kill the fish if it rises and things go back to ammonia.
<Yes; like steering a large ship w/ a small rudder you want to change/alter this slowly (over days)>
I don't do 100% water changes so there is a steady supply of ammonia. What am doing wrong? Paul
<The (apparent) "missing link" is the/se aspects of water quality (GH, KH)... to buffer the pH upward, and supply chemicals for sustaining nitrification... A few possible courses of action: In the short term, the addition of a "pinch" (some science now!) of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to the change out water (a gallon or so is all I'd change any given day)... to register pH to more than 6.0... Are you using tapwater/RO/drinking specialized source water? In the longer term, adding a source of "hardness"... some coral sand, crushed shells, commercial prep. in a filter "bag/sock" in the tank or filter... And/or just adding the Arm & Hammer or aquarium-equivalent product (see SeaChem's excellent line) to the new/change out water will "solve this mystery"... Or far better, add even more questions to your sensitive, curious mind (which I greatly approve of BTW). Bob Fenner>
Re: The Missing Cycle     8/5/13

Hi, Thanks for the response.  For conditioner, I started out using API's Stress Coat+ but switched to SeaChem Prime which I like better.
<Is a much better product>
  I use regular tap water.  I have raised the pH to 6.2 and will go slowly from there and keep up with Prime. 
<Ah, good>
I think you are right that this is a water quality/buffering issue.
<Oh yes; am quite sure. You can see my brief bio. posted on WWM; I've "done" the aquarium business for quite a few decades; and did teach H.S. level chemistry, physics, bio. classes>
I downloaded our water companies annual report looking for clues (50 million gallons per day and they use fast and slow sand filters.... will resist the urge to see how the water company works for now).  I looked over the different tables (calcium, sodium and on and on) but then, there it was, total alkalinity.  The average was 16ppm and the range was 3.5-23 ppm over their different test sites for the year.  I believe these are very low numbers and my fish could stand having any number of your suggestions implemented. 
<Yes; these values are "low"... not a worry>
It also listed copper statistics from their testing.  We have copper pipes so I found an old copper test kit from API used during a salt water Ich battle and tested my tap water that had been in the pipes for 6 hours but nothing showed up. 
<Yes; the operative word/modifier you state is "old"... again, no problem>
The Betta tank gets water from a tap that almost never gets used and I was not really expecting to find anything.  I figured I'd put enough time into this that I may as well cover all the possibilities no matter how remote they are. There you have it.
So, I will send an update in a few weeks figuring you probably want to know what happens in the end.  Cheers and enjoy! Paul
<I thank you, BobF>

strange things... establishing cycling     2/15/13
I have been feeding my new 10 gallon aquarium with pure ammonia, up to about 4 ppm,

<I'd limit this to no more than 1.0 ppm... too much exogenous ammonia can/will poison... oh, I see you mention this below>
 for about 2 weeks. Now 16-24 hours after adding ammonia to the 4 ppm, the bacteria eats it and it then tests about 0. However, still nitrites test 0!
<Ah yes>
Since I have seeded the aquarium with much mature filter media from an established aquarium, is it reasonable to assume that the bacteria responsible for eating nitrites is also in that media, and thus consume the nitrites as soon as they are produced, resulting in 0 on the API test?
<Eventually, yes>
I just don't want to put in the fish if there might be a big nitrite spike on the way....
<You are wise here. Do wait on the completion of the cycle... I'd limit the ammonia additions as mentioned, or better still, just add a bit of dried food at this juncture and keep testing for accumulating NO2, NO3>
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: strange things
Thanks! What about the phosphate concern some are talking about connected to decomposing fish food?
<A very minor issue... some HPO4 is absolutely essential in biological systems/circles. BobF>

Guppy with possible fin rot... Uncycled system... for obvious reasons, iatrogenic troubles     11/17/12
Back again!!!  Sorry to bother you once again but I am at my wits end with my tank!  I have a 26 gallon tank running two filters, one is the one that came with the tank and I added a second for a ten gallon just to add surface for good bacteria.  It has one tower decoration, one pirate ship and one treasure chest, all bought at PetSmart, two Marimo( may not be spelling this right) balls and four fake plants with what I felt were soft leaves.  I had done a fishless cycle that was removing ammonia and nitrites quickly using pure ammonia and so I did a large water change and added 4 male sunrise tequila guppies.  I was having nitrite issues after that but never ammonia issues so I do water changes almost every other day and use Prime and water conditioner every time but to no avail!
<This situation, establishing nitrification, just takes time... I'd remove the guppies to a cycled system, add some food to the cycling system and wait, test every few days... till NO2 was gone, there was accumulating NO3>
  Still having them. In the mean time I acquired two Mickey Mouse Platys.
<? You're compounding the problem by adding more biota>
 Still doing 30 percent water changes, vacuuming the gravel
<Don't do this... you're forestalling the establishment of nutrient cycling>
and using Prime but no luck.
<The use of Prime won't help either...>
  It's been two months and now for the main reason I am writing. One of my guppies top fin looks ragged with white tips and I know water conditions can bring on fin rot but I also believe he may have been bullied a little although most of the time they seem to get along.  Then tonight maybe it's paranoia but on of my platys looks kind white and maybe it's eyes look a little buggy  so I ran out and got Maracyn 2 because the booklet said if she showed a decrease in movement it was the one I should choose. I am too afraid to set up a hospital tank and am afraid to break down my main tank for fear I will be starting over the cycling process, not that I have ever really completed it anyway.  What am I doing wrong and how in God's name do I proceed from here?
<Your situation is so very common... and fixable... Review here:
and the linked files above... Best, as stated above, to remove the fishes here... add some food... and just let time go by>
  I'm so frustrated!  By the way, tank temp is at 82 and have floated frozen water bottles to cool it down to no avail, which may be good since I have this bacteria but will invest in a chiller if I don't give up all together soon.  I love them and  don't want to have them suffer so any suggestions would be gravely appreciated!  Thanks!
<Don't panic, or get too bummed... Time will solve this issue assuredly.
Bob Fenner> 

Sick Catfish    7/16/12
I am hoping you have some advice on my sick fish.
<Me too>
I have a 180 Litre tank with a canister filter system, heater and air stone, some plastic plants and a helicopter ornament.  I have 9 catfish.  2 Bristlenose, 2 Synodontis petricola, 2 Synodontis multipunctatus, 3 Synodontis ocellifer. They are all 3 years old which is how long I have had the tank.  I also have 2 Electric Yellows approximately 4 months old.  My Silver Shark
<Mmm, what species is this? Balantiocheilus, the Ariid cat?>
 died 2 days ago, he had been darting around the tank for the past week, he jumped out when i fed them a few days ago too. 
<Mmm... either trauma or summat wrong w/ water quality... or both>
His eyes were slightly cloudy. He seemed to have some blood around his fins. I do one third water changes every 3 weeks and clean the filter every 3-4 months. 
<I'd change this to weekly and monthly respectively>

I did move house 2 months ago.  My  catfish are looking really sick now and I am not quite sure what to do.
 I took a water sample in to be tested 2 days ago they told me all the levels seemed fine ammonia was maybe slightly high
<Very toxic>
but nothing that should cause a problem. 

They thought perhaps velvet disease? 
<Where would this come from? No>
They gave me Bactonix and told me to run that through the tank whilst doing a partial water change every 2nd day.  I have treated the tank with 40ml of Bactonix.
<May further interfere w/ nitrification>

  I have since noticed lots of very long white poop, almost like cobwebs or hair strands?
<Could very well be environmental in cause>
The 2 Multipunctatus Catfish are sitting right in front of the water outlet spray from the filter they have not moved for days.  The Ocellifer Catfish have very cloudy eyes, they are limp/lethargic and look so unwell.  All the catfish have blood under their fins.  I have a glass thermometer inside the tank which reads 25’C- the heater is usually set between 26’C – 28’C- i just turned it up slightly however. 
Hoping you can get back to me soon.
<I'd be treating the water to cycle the system for sure; read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm
monitoring nitrogenous accumulation
and using activated carbon, Polyfilter or such as a chemical absorbent. Bob Fenner>

ammonia problem   3/15/12
Hi :-)
Our 3 gallon
<Too small for fish
. Assume this is for shrimps maybe? Or cut flowers? Not for fish, except maybe a Betta, but even then, a poor starting point.>
tested 0 for ammonia, nitrites and nitrates before a 25% water change. A week after, it tested at 1.0 for ammonia. I suspect an increase in the biological filter will help.
<It takes 6 weeks for a biological filter to mature BEFORE you add any livestock. So carry on with your non-fish cycling method -- e.g., adding tiny pinches of flake each day -- and wait until the ammonia and nitrite drop to zero. By tiny pinches I mean about the size of the eye of the fish that would be kept, so in a 3 gallon, that'd be a better, so a single flake 2 mm x 2mm would be ample, once or twice per day. Will take 6 weeks for cycling; don't add livestock before then.>
What do you recommend as the most effective way to do this?
<See above.>
Thank You.
<3 gallon tanks rarely work well, usually kill livestock other than shrimps or Bettas; do understand this. Worthless for any other use. Cheers, Neale.>

Temperature impact on cycling tank - reestablishing bio filter, FW      3/4/12
I have two tanks I keep in a northern United States home basement.  In the summer, the tanks get to 66-68 F degrees or a little higher based on how hot it gets outside.  In the winter, they fall to 60 F degrees, although on the one I have a heater I try to hit 66 F degrees as I have a snail in with the gold fish. I take the heater out during the spring.
<I see>
The biofilter in the 66 degree tank got cleaned and I am having trouble cycling it.  It was taking months to reestablish, so in frustration I took 1/2 the media out of the filter in the 60 degree tank and put it into the 66 degree tank.  Initially, this worked great.  The nitrite finally started to rise (so much in fact I put all the fish temporarily into the other tank). 
But this meant taking the heater out of that tank, and now the nitrite levels are crashing and it looks like the cycling did not complete.  The tank fell from 66 F back down to 60 F, and it looks like I am stuck again.
Sure, I could pony up and get another $20 heater, but am I on the right track here?
<Mmm, right... track... yes; in that in either case/temp. the system will cycle in time>
 Are there some temperatures where a tank won't cycle?
<Just slower at too low, too high temp.s>
  I want to keep the temperature as low as my tank mates (gold fish, Danios, and snail will allow, as the only benefit of higher temps seemed to be that I had to feed them more, they would be more active, generate more waste, etc.).  Not much of a benefit.  But if I can't keep my biofilter alive, too low seems problematic as well.
<Just monitor nitrogenous metabolite concentration, be ready to change out water, stop feeding should NH3, NO2 get too high (like half a ppm). Bob Fenner>

Newbie that did EVERYTHING wrong, FW, non-cycled...    3/2/12
Good morning,
<And you>
Thank you for taking the time to answer questions.  I inherited a 72-gallon aquarium from a friend that is moving.  I've never had an aquarium before, and stupidly thought you just throw fish in, feed them, and they will be fine.  Dumb, I know.  Anyway, the tank came with three Harlequin Rasboras, a huge Pleco, and a khondi loach.  It also came with a number of live plants and snails.  We moved the same substrate and plants into the new tank, and the same day we set it up, I added 10 Zebra Danios, 6 Neon Tetras, and 9 Platys.  A Platy and a Danio have since died.  It's been up and running for almost three weeks.
<Was this tank cycled? Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm
and the linked files above, particularly "Trouble-Fixing">
After the two fish died, I started spending hours and hours researching what to do to keep them healthy.  At a week, I started testing the water parameters.  We had a nitrite spike for a day or two,
<Toxic, debilitating>

which has since subsided.  Now, ammonia and nitrites are 0, nitrates are 5 and ph is about 7.2.  Then things started getting interesting.
Last weekend, five days ago, I noticed that one of the tetras and two of the platys had small white spots on them.  Thinking Ich, I started treating the big tank with Paraguard, and set up a 10-gallon hospital tank, where I put the two platys and all 6 neons.  Both tanks are now at 80 degrees F,
<I'd raise...>
and I added 1 Tablespoon of aquarium salt per 5 gallons of water.  I started treating the hospital tank with Rid-Ich.  I was trying to protect the loach and the plants.  Everyone in the big tank now seems fine, except for one platy that hides all day and only comes out to eat.  I have also twice seen her with long, white stringy poop hanging down.
Anyway, I used water from the main tank for the little tank, which I know now was not sufficient.  Last night, the platys were handing out on the bottom and no one in the little tank ate.  I tested the water in the little tank, and the nitrites were .25, ammonia 0.  I did a 50% water change, and got a reading of 0 for both ammonia and nitrites.  This morning, nitrites were between .25 and .5, ammonia still 0.  And, some of the neons had pieces of their tail fins missing! I panicked and moved everyone back to the big tank, where at least I know the water is okay.
My questions are these: 1) Could the nitrites have caused the loss of appetite/lethargy in the little tank or is something else going on?
<The NO2 could have>
 2) What is up with the tetras missing tails?
<Chemical/physical "burn">
  It happened overnight, so I am not thinking tailrot, right? 3) How long should I treat the big tank with Paraguard?
<Please read here:
I would just use elevated temperature>
 4) Could something ELSE be going on in the big tank, and, if so, should I just leave it alone right now while I treat the Ich?
<More could be going on... other chemical issues, other biological disease agents...>
Thank you so much for your time.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I want to take good care of the fish.  I am trying to learn everything I can.
<Like life itself. Bob Fenner>
Re: Newbie that did EVERYTHING wrong 3/2/12
Good morning Bob,
Thank you for your response.  I have read the links you included.  I am almost certain the big tank was cycled, it had been in my friend's house for nearly 10 years. My husband transferred the plants, substrate and a big log the Pleco lives in when he set it up in our house, so I am very much hoping he transferred the good bacteria with it.
I am also hoping the nitrite spike of .25 in the big tank last week was a mini cycle caused by adding too many new fish too soon.
 I never detected an ammonia spike, but I understand from your links that this could be the filter working to keep that level under control.  I continue to test at least the ammonia and nitrites every day, and so far, so good. I am doing a "fishless" cycle with a splash of household ammonia in the little tank we bought, so that it will be cycled and ready to act as a quarantine or hospital tank if needed.
How much higher would you raise the temperature to treat the ich?  I have read conflicting information re: how high I can go without hurting the tetras, Pleco and loach. It has been at 80 for three weeks.
<Mid-80's... as posted>
Also, I am on day 6 of Paraguard, should I just stop cold or is it worth continuing another few days in your opinion?  I have not seen any spots in two days, only one of the Platys is still "flashing," and she is the one that is hiding all day, so not sure what's going on with her.
<... pls re-read where you were referred to>
Thanks again for your help.  Is there a way to donate to your site or otherwise compensate you for your time and information?
<There is a PayPal donation button on every page>
 I really appreciate the help as I try to redeem myself from my initial ignorance which put the fish in danger.
<Welcome. BobF>

1st time woes... FW uncycled sys.     2/29/12
1st off, thank you for a great resource for us fish owners. I just started a new 30 gallon aquarium a week ago,
<... not cycled>

Treated my water, and let it run for 36 hours before I bought my veiltail Betta (not sure on sex, possible male because of the long fins). I couldn't resist the temptation after 2 days, and ended up introducing 6 red wag platys , 3 albino Cory catfish, and 1 guppy (The guppy was a mistake, but she said she wouldn't charge me for it). After floating them for 20 minutes, then introducing aquarium water, 15 minutes later everyone was in the tank.
They all seemed great and hyper. I know the problems of sharp increases in ammonia and nitrates,
<and nitrites>
so I tested everyday. Then one morning I find a red wag platy dead, on the bottom of the tank. He hardly swam much the day before and the employee at the lcf just said it was stress cause my water was fine. My questions are 1. Any other ideas on my platy's cause of death?
<... read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/PlatyDis8.htm
and the linked files above>
2. I hear cloudy water with a new tank is normal,
<Not healthy... see WWM re... the search tool>

but I'm at a week in and its still a bit cloudy (I use spring water and the Tetra brand conditioner). 3. Sometimes my guppy and a few platies will just stay in one place on the sides of my tank and watch themselves, normal?
<Likely so; seeing themselves reflected in/side>
4. Two times a day I feed the tank a pinch of flakes, a tiny bit of freeze dried bloodworms (for the Betta)
<See WWM re Betta nutr.>
 and 3 sinking small pellets made for catfish, but every fish eats them. Is this too much?
<Shouldn't be... but if there's ammonia, nitrite...>
 I hope you can give me some insight, and if you need any further information, please let me know.
<Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm
and the linked files above... particularly "cycling trouble-fixing". Bob

Some advice for a total newbie, FW, too-soon-stocking issues 2/17/12
Hello, I hope all is well for you guys.
<Thank you Jason>
I suppose I'll start at the beginning. First, I have never taken care of fish before the past two weeks, so please bear with me.
I started with an empty five gallon aquarium, which was given to me. When I went to the local fish shop, I told the man working there that I was looking for some fish for a five gallon tank. He sold me a (rather poor quality, in hindsight) filter and a bottle of Kordon AmQuel and told me to fill the tank with tap water, pour a capful of AmQuel into it, then leave the filter running for a day before putting fish into it.
I did as he said, but waited two days before I returned to the shop to buy some fish.
When I asked how many fish the tank could accommodate, he said six or seven small fish, but never specified what kind of fish. Being naive, I bought two balloon mollies, two zebra Danios and two tiger barbs.
<Oh oh>
During the first two days, everything seemed to be fine, but on the third the tiger barbs seemed ill, not moving much and hiding in the back of the tank.
<This system is "uncycled"... not ready for aquatic life based on a lack of biological filtration>

I did some research and found out that they needed to be in groups of six or more. I didn't want them to die, so I took them back to the shop. They seemed to almost immediately perk up when they were placed back into their tank at the shop.
<Oh yes>
A couple of days later, my tank had a bacterial bloom so I did more research and started doing daily gravel cleanings and 25% water changes to clear it up. Just as things began to look less cloudy, one of the balloon mollies started acting very lethargic, so I took him back to the shop to be reunited with his buddies as well. The man at the shop offered me store credit and seeing that the zebra Danios were so lively, I picked up two more of them. At this point my tank contained one balloon molly and four zebra Danios. They all seemed to be doing fine, but I had this nagging feeling that they weren't going to make it and so I did yet more research on a wide variety of aquarium topics.
<Still not cycled...>
I must have learned more about aquariums and fish in those hours of research than I ever knew, so I went to a different shop and bought a ten gallon tank (I don't have the space for much larger), a Tetra Whisper 10i filter, an Aqua top water heater, another bottle of AmQuel, a bottle of API Stress Zyme, some higher quality food, an ammonia level indicator, some freshwater aquarium salt, some plants (both real and synthetic), an air pump and an air stone. I transferred the water and gravel directly from the five gallon tank to the ten gallon tank, hoping to preserve whatever beneficial bacteria might have accumulated, filled the remainder with filtered water, installed all of the new hardware, set up the plants and added more AmQuel along with the first dosage of Stress Zyme bacteria booster. So far, all of the fish seem much happier with this arrangement and I have been keeping a very close eye on them for any signs of trouble.
The zebra Danios seem to be schooling together and the balloon molly swims
all about, nipping on the plants. My questions to you are do you think these little guys will be ok like this for the long-term and if so, do you think adding one more balloon molly to keep the current one company is a bad idea? I'd really like to keep these guys, but I will return them and get other fish if it's better for them.
<We'll/you'll have to see if they survive the establishment of cycling... but can live together... the fishes you list/have both enjoy hard, alkaline water quality, of moderate temperature>
My apologies for the lengthy fish story, but I thought it would be best to provide more information rather than less. I do appreciate any suggestions that you might be able to provide.
<And you. Do read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwset-up.htm
and here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Tank set-up and fish advice. 2/7/12
Found your site shortly after I got my fish set up on their tank and thought I might seek advice on a couple of matters. I have a 36L tank (about 9.5gal)
with a beta, Bristlenose Pleco (2.5cm), black balloon molly, golden swordtail and red wagtail platy.
<'¦ and much overstocked, mis-stocked.
I 'think' they're all male, I stupidly forgot to keep track of what genders I was buying. Using fake plants; one leafy plant provides a low dark hiding area and a couple of others. Gravel substrate. 100W lamp set to 25 degrees Celsius and a filter that pumps a max of 350L/hour. I have a pH testing kit and it's hovering around 7.5 with daily testing and adjustment at the moment. I'm feeding them fish flakes and algae wafers. Flakes twice a day and algae wafer once a day. I've had this setup since Wednesday and my fish 'seem' to be doing mostly fine.
<For now. How did you cycle the filter beforehand?
For the first few days ammonia levels won't be much above zero and the fish will look fine. But a week in and ammonia will rocket, and a week later nitrite; both of these are lethal to your fish.>
My bristle nose appeared to lose a bit of colour, and a nearby fish shop suggested I do a partial water change every 3 days for a while.
<And the rest! If the filter wasn't matured for 4-6 weeks before adding the fish, you will need to do 25% water changes every 1-2 days. Trust me on this. Things may look fine, but that means nothing. If you don't do this, your fish will sooner or later start gasping and looking lethargic, and not long after you'll find your first sick or dead fish.>
My platy is currently spending most of his time hiding under the leafy plant and chasing away the swordtail when it comes near. Ignores the other fish.
From reading some of the FAQ's I'm running under the assumption that these could be stress and environmental issues. I don't have an ammonia testing kit (cost is rapidly becoming an issue).
<Get a nitrite (with an "i", not nitrate with an "a") test kit. It's the one kit you MUST have. All the others are optional extras, provided you know your water chemistry -- i.e., if you have soft water or hard water.>
I ran the filter in the tank for a few days before getting the fish, but didn't really understand why so probably didn't do anything and I'm assuming I don't have a good bacterial colony to break down the ammonia, so I'm trying to feed them less and performing the water changes. Using a gravel-vac for the water change. I don't think there's any specific illness as there haven't been any other symptoms I've noticed.
So is this a reasonable diagnosis?
Anything else you would suggest I do to make my fish more comfortable?
<See above; read.>
Also, I'm wondering if it's a good idea to get any more fish. Under the "2cm of fish for 1L",
<No!!!! Far too many fish. The old "inch per gallon rule" works out at about 2.5 cm per 4 litres. But this rule assumes [a] you're keeping small fish and [b] your aquarium is big enough for them in other ways too. Let's take an extreme example of a Great White Shark measuring 4 m, or 400 cm. If you allowed 2 cm for every 1 litre, that's be 200 litres for that fish. Obviously stupid. So, any of these rules is only as useful as the thought the fishkeeper applies when using them. For a 10 gallon tank, your fish are almost all the wrong size and temperament, needing more space -- Swordtails are fast-moving fish that need a tank more than 80 cm long, and Mollies are so aggressive and can get so big that anything less than 100 litres makes no sense at all. Even Platies, though somewhat smaller and less active, need more than 36 litres.>
if all these fish get to full size, then I'll fill half my quota. I'm thinking a small school of some kind of tetra, or one or two larger blue fish (blue to bring a little more colour to the tank). Or I may get some of the same species for company if my fish need it. So any advice on that subject would be welcome.
<For 36 litres, a school of 8-10 Neons and 6 "pygmy" Corydoras (such as Corydoras hastatus) would be about right, perhaps with a few Red Cherry Shrimp for colour.>
Cheers Olias
<And likewise, cheers, Neale.>
Re: Tank set-up and fish advice. 2/9/12

G'day again.
Thanks for your comments. It can always be hard to hear how bad your doing even if you already know it. But I appreciate because it's not my own comfort I'm looking out for here.
<Real good.>
The water had previously been cycled for 5 days with everything but the fish in place.
<It'll take at least 3, 4 weeks for the biological filter to mature --
assuming you're adding a source of ammonia. If all you're doing is running the filter with no ammonia source, then nothing will happen. It's just getting wet! The easiest way to cycle the tank is to add a small pinch of flake food daily. It'll rot and produce ammonia. Use your ammonia test kit; the ammonia level should rise to 1, 2 mg/l, maybe a little higher. But it'll eventually drop down to zero, at which point the filter is halfway to be mature. Keep doing the daily flake feedings another 2 weeks, and the second half of the process (nitrite to nitrate) should be done.>
I've already done a couple of water changes already but I'll bump up how often I do it. I also notice it's difficult to get around the plants and decor with the gravel-vac. Would it be a bad idea to remove the decor before starting a water change and replace them afterward?
<Makes no real difference. Keep the tank clean and remove uneaten food (once fish are installed) and any other organic crud but don't worry too much about cleaning the tank completely every week.>
As to the mis-stocking, ignoring for a moment the tank size, would it have been better if only one of the swordtail, balloon molly, and platy were male and the other 2 female? (I'm beating myself over the head for not checking what genders I was picking up.) Or is it generally bad to keep all those live bearers in the same tank? I see now the molly was a poor beginner choice.
<None of these species belongs in a 30-40 litre tank. Do read the articles linked last time.>
I may have gotten the numbers mixed up and it should've been 1cm/2L which is closed to the inch/gal.
I'll see about getting a nitrite testing kit as soon as I can. In the longer term I'll also see about acquiring a larger tank.
Thanks again for clarification.
<Glad to help, Neale.>

Re: Tank set-up and fish advice. 2/9/12
G'day again.
Thanks for your comments. It can always be hard to hear how bad your doing even if you already know it. But I appreciate because it's not my own comfort I'm looking out for here.
<Real good.>
The water had previously been cycled for 5 days with everything but the fish in place.
<It'll take at least 3, 4 weeks for the biological filter to mature --
assuming you're adding a source of ammonia. If all you're doing is running the filter with no ammonia source, then nothing will happen. It's just getting wet! The easiest way to cycle the tank is to add a small pinch of flake food daily. It'll rot and produce ammonia. Use your ammonia test kit; the ammonia level should rise to 1, 2 mg/l, maybe a little higher. But it'll eventually drop down to zero, at which point the filter is halfway to be mature. Keep doing the daily flake feedings another 2 weeks, and the second half of the process (nitrite to nitrate) should be done.>
I've already done a couple of water changes already but I'll bump up how often I do it. I also notice it's difficult to get around the plants and decor with the gravel-vac. Would it be a bad idea to remove the decor before starting a water change and replace them afterward?
<Makes no real difference. Keep the tank clean and remove uneaten food (once fish are installed) and any other organic crud but don't worry too much about cleaning the tank completely every week.>
As to the mis-stocking, ignoring for a moment the tank size, would it have been better if only one of the swordtail, balloon molly, and platy were male and the other 2 female? (I'm beating myself over the head for not checking what genders I was picking up.) Or is it generally bad to keep all those live bearers in the same tank? I see now the molly was a poor beginner choice.
<None of these species belongs in a 30-40 litre tank. Do read the articles linked last time.>
I may have gotten the numbers mixed up and it should've been 1cm/2L which is closed to the inch/gal.
I'll see about getting a nitrite testing kit as soon as I can. In the longer term I'll also see about acquiring a larger tank.
Thanks again for clarification.
<Glad to help, Neale.>

20 gallon freshwater with fish having problems! New tank, hobbyist syndrome 2/5/12
Hi there,
I am pretty new to freshwater tanks and have only had two saltwater tanks in my 23 years of life which both were my father's tanks. So roughly three weeks ago my fiancée and i decided to delve into freshwater aquariums. We have a okay local fish store and at first i really thought they were good, but after talking and researching things after i started having issues i found out that the store was just selling to be selling and was telling me whatever they thought i wanted to hear. Anyways i bought what they said was a 15 gallon tank, turns out its a 20gl.
<A lucky break.>
With a heater, filter which i never could figure out what type of filter system it was and i got a plant and some zebra Danios to put in the tank they told me the Danios and plants would help. The plants were, when i asked for their name, the store owners "famous homegrown weeds"..
<Could be anything; hmm'¦ do read:
Many cheap "aquarium plants" are nothing of the sort.>
so i washed my bag of larger sized gravel which i was told would help root my plants, put the gravel in the tank and then proceeded to poor water and fill the tank up. We live in western NC and have a well feed from a natural spring here on our 17 acres and when i took a water test in to check it i was told it was fine to use. After i filled the tank full i planted the plants, made a little shelter for my African leaf fish
<Ctenopoma acutirostre; a lovely but predatory fish; peaceful but will eat bite-size tankmates; gets fairly big. Doesn't eat flake, pellets or freeze-dried foods, so you will of course need to use live earthworms and river shrimps or wet-frozen alternatives such as bloodworms and chopped tilapia fillet.>
i was getting later and then turned the filtration system on. Immediately i could tell that something wasn't right because the water flowing out of the small filter was not much at all.
<Oh dear.>
Anyways, at the time i thought nothing of it. I put the Danios in to acclimate and then put them in the tank. The next day i take a water sample to the fish store and was told it all looked good and that i could take my leaf fish home as well as a loach.
<Did the retailer know you were putting the Danios with the Ctenopoma?>
They called it a dojo loach but it wasn't it was some other type of loach. After acclimation, i put the loach in first and then the leaf fish. The loach immediately started laying on his side and had very rapid gill movement.
<I see. Loaches, on the whole, are not good fish for new tanks.>
He lived for four days and then died.
<No surprise. They need good, clean water with lots of oxygen and no ammonia/nitrite.>
I exchanged him for a Rainbow Shark who looked healthy as can be.
<For now. A poor species for 20 gallon tanks; gets big, is territorial, potentially aggressive.>
This whole time my leaf fish is snacking on Danios at night and just doing great.
<Yes and yes. Being air-breathing swamp-dwellers, they're pretty tough. They're also dawn/dusk predators. See those big eyes? That huge mouth?>
I also got two mystery snails which other than them looking like their fighting or mating (i read the page on that issue already lol) they're doing great too. I've also been doing water tests myself at home. My dad has a 29 gallon bio-cube and has the reef master kit tests. The owner of my local fish store told me that i could use the reef test kit, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrate tests and it would be accurate so that's what I've been using. At first when the loach died, my ammonia spiked at around .25 ppm an a tiny bit higher then within a few days an two water changes later it went to 0ppm. But then my nitrites went quickly up to 2.0-5.0ppms and nitrates went to 40-80ppms. So we continued with the three water changes a week and my rainbow shark within a week an a few days started acting really weird, "flashing" some times but still eating and swimming around the tank.
<Reacting to ammonia or nitrite in the water.>
Within a few days though, by this time id been another week (2 total) and the nitrite and nitrates were still very high. The nitrates even went to nearly 160 ppm.
The rainbow shark has now been wedged on a ledge of my leaf fishes home and will occasionally come out and flutter on the ground then finds a spot and just sits there and ever so often its like he gas a seizure because his tail fin starts fluttering and his side fins start flapping like he's trying to warm them up or something.
<Ammonia and nitrite are irritants; they "burn".>
Now i do have a heater which is suction cupped to the back side of the tank and my temperature stays between 72-78 degrees F.
<!!! Between!!! Why is the temperature swinging this much at all? It should be more or less steady; aim for 25 C/77 F.>
So after a ton of internet searching the only thing that was making any sense as to why i have had no ammonia for two an a half nearly three weeks but deathly high nitrite and nitrates was due to my inadequate filtration system.
Yesterday we went to a local Petsupermart and bought a Tetra EX 30
<I'm really not a fan of these hang-on-the-back filters. Big gap at the back of the hood for fish to jump through, noisy, often seem to force you into using proprietary filter modules (such as carbon, which most aquarists should avoid). No idea why they're so popular in the US. But whatever. The main thing is you need a decent filter offering a turnover rate about 6 times the volume of the aquarium; so for a 20 gallon tank, that's 120 gallons/hour. Anything less is a false economy. I believe the EX 30 offers 160 gallons/hour, so you're okay there. Good call.>
and we also last week got an air pump and air stone to help. Anyways, we got the new filtration system and a chemical additive called Nite-Out II. It is supposed to help the nitrite and nitrates become lower.
<Snake oil.>
So we took the old crummy filter out installed the new one and did a nearly 50% water change then started up the new filter.
<Hope you transferred across the mature filter media.>
As soon as we did, you could see an instant difference in the tanks clarity. The other filter while installed, left my tank very very foggy. So last night i decided, many hours after the water change, to do a water test. I did two at one time. I used the reef master.kit that I've been using this whole time and then this new test strips we got yesterday. The results were a bit confusing. The ammonia from reef kit was 0ppms, nitrites were 5.0ppms

and the nitrates were 80ppms, while the 6in1 tetra test strips said this; nitrate 20ppms which it says is safe, nitrite 5.0ppm listed as Danger, Hardness 75ppms listed as soft, total chlorine 0ppms, total alkalinity 80ppms listed as moderate, ph 6.8ppms listed as neutral. So the only discrepancy was the nitrates.
<Forget for now. In fact don't do nitrate tests at all. Nitrite is the issue here. So far as nitrate goes, don't feed more than 3-4 times a week, remove uneaten food after a couple minutes, and do 25% water changes 2-3 times a week until the tank settles down.>
This morning i did another strip test and it told me that my alkalinity was 0ppms ... so now I'm really confused how accurate is this Tetra 6 in 1 east strips for fresh and salt aquariums. My nitrites wont budge and I'm very scared that the prolonged elevation of nitrite and nitrates have slowly and is still slowly killing my rainbow shark.
<For sure.>
My leaf fish is doing fine
<Tough fish.>
and my mystery snails are doing good too.
<For now; lifespan in tropical aquaria is limited; see WWM re:>
I am so worried about my tanks chemical balance and that i may loose my shark and eventually my African leaf fish as well. What else can i do?? I cant find any answers on the internet nor at my local fish stores as their staff knows as much as i do at the moment. Any advice would be very appreciated.
<Stop feeding until nitrite below 0.5 mg/l. Don't overfeed when you do. For the next 4-5 weeks, do as many water changes as possible, at least 3-4 25% water changes a week, and ideally daily. Maintain filter carefully. Read, understand how the nitrogen cycle works.>
Kindest Regards,
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Tank cycling, FW... prompting/prompted? 9/24/11
Hi Crew!
Just when I thought I was starting to understand this whole cycling business, turns out I don't. After doing every conceivable thing wrong when setting up my first tank, it was a steep learning curve. Now I know what a bad human I have been, I'm making an effort to repent and do everything the right way (I swear, keeping dogs/cats/horses/birds/etc has never been this tricky! Fish are a whole new ball game).
<Ah yes... not tetrapods/homeotherms... very different in a few fundamental ways>
So, last weekend my housemate bought a 100 litre tank to be set up as a cold water tank (eventually will be transferring all my 4 remaining goldfish from my tropical tank to here). I filled it half full with water from my (cycled: ammonia/nitrite is 0) tropical tank, then topped it up with tap water, treated it for chlorine/chloramine and added some stress zyme+. I also added a rock ornament and a plastic plant from my aquarium (I
read somewhere that the 'good' bacteria can live on here) -<Can/do>
treated this like I would any livestock (bagged it up and allowed it to gradually come to temperature etc) to avoid killing the bacteria. Aside from this, everything else is brand new: new tank has an inbuilt filter in the hood in which all the media is new, brand new gravel and a new ornament and ornamental plant. My housemate chose white clouds for her tank, so I put 6 of those in, plus one goldfish (approx 5cm) from my tank who had one eye eaten a while ago and has
since seemed stressed by all the movement and activity in my tropical tank (he loves the new tank - thinks he's king of the castle). I've fed them flake food sparingly and peas on one occasion - a tiny amount each day and ensured nothing was left to rot. They've happily eaten everything.
The thing is, I've been testing ammonia daily since the second day of setup and it has remained zero.
<Might stay so>
Half way through the week (3 days ago) I added the 5 zebra Danios from my tank. I've read conflicting reports about whether they are/can be cold water fish,
<Are "cool">
but I had them in my cold water tank before it turned tropical for about 5 - 6 years and they were fine. I live in Australia, so perhaps it never gets cold enough to be an issue?
<Likely not, unless you're down S. (e.g. Tasmania)>
The trigger for the move was discovering that one of them had had it's entire tail chewed off (I'm thinking maybe a clown loach is the culprit as during feeding time they get very excited and seem to try to eat anything that moves, however they could just be trying to school or follow other fish, they move so fast my inferior human eyes can't keep up -- my BGK before it died also had its tail eaten, presumably cause it looked like a wriggly worm. But I'm just pointing fingers, I really don't know who is the tail/eye eater).
<Could be the loach/es>
So I decided to get it out of there and, because they're so zippy, I had to take out all the ornaments
and half the water from my tank just to catch them, I figured I might as well grab them all if it was going to take that much effort (I'm thinking of getting scissor tails as dither fish for my tank instead). When the white clouds were briefly in my tropical tank, the Danios schooled with them, so I figured they'd be all fine together. And they have been, the 4 zebras, 1 pearl Danio and 6 white clouds are happily schooling. Though with no large fish in there, they are often content to hang out alone as well until there is some activity in the tank (i.e. feeding, moving things, if the one-eyed goldfish tries to swim over to them they school tightly). I also figured it would move the ammonia cycle on a bit.
Well it's been a week total and still nothing. Ammonia is fixed at zero. I haven't done any water changes as I have been waiting for the ammonia spike to do so. I have read in places that ammonia should be seen to rise after the third day, so I figured I should have had some reading by now. I doubt my efforts were enough to skip the cycle completely,
<May well have been>
especially given that the filter is brand new from which I am led to believe is a pretty big deal where ammonia spikes are concerned, so I'm wondering if by adding water/ornaments from my tank I have delayed the cycle?
<A small perchance>
I'm going away for the weekend and have to leave the tank in my housemate's hands so if there's going to be a sudden spike I want to be able to equip her with the info to deal with it.
<I wouldn't worry. Just go over w/ her re the small amounts of food you want proffered>
Thanks for your time,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

What haven't I done wrong?
New Tank Cycling Problems 9/12/11

Hey all, I first want to explain that obviously I am very new to owning an Aquarium.
I was given a 50 gallon tank as a gift. The tank came with a suitable stand, lighting, filtration system, and some decor. The former owners were having issues keeping their fish alive. After cleaning the components with warm tap water, and diluted bleach compound if necessary, giving everything a final bath in warm tap water. I have to admit that I was very anxious to get this tank up and running with fish. With no water in the tank, I took the dimensions of my tank and the filtration system to my LFS to get their opinion on whether or not it was a proper fit for the size of my tank.
The system is the side attached waterfall type. Its an AquaTech 30-60, which I am assuming is for the gallons it is recommended for. I also have an air pump Aqua Culture 20-60. After leaving my LFS I was much better educated then I was when I went in. He told me that my tank could be ready for fish in two days, but before getting the fish I want, I would need to cycle my tank with less expensive fish. He quickly explained what cycling the tank was. He sent me home with new filters, new air stones, gravel and high hopes of soon raising my own fish.
After filling the tank that night with cold tap water (from the hose) and slowly adding amounts of warm to hot water, along with Stress Coat+ made by API, Amquel made by Kordon, and Stability made by Seachem, I turned the filters and air pump on. On the end of the 2 valves of the air pump I have air stones, one large sitting under rocks under an ornament, and the other air stone is smaller and in a sponge filter(??). After about 32 hours of letting this run and monitoring temperature, I consulted with my LFS who told me I could add some fish, and asked me what type I wanted to start out with and what I would want in my tank after my cycle was finished. I was looking at the tropical fish and they advised me to buy a heater. They sent me home with a heater, 20 Zebra Danios, 2 GloFish, and 2 Cory Cats, advising me that we may lose a few during the cycling period of 6 to 8 weeks. They also told me to keep the tank about 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit. We came home installed the heater (letting it sit unplugged for 15 min.s, and waited for the water to get to temp. Now I know this is wrong, but didn't know that when I just dumped the fish in their new home, instead of floating them.
We added Stability everyday as recommended for the first 7 days, and fed them once a day about a half a flake each. A week later only 2 fish of our 24 survived, and an additional 6 were added about 4 days into this, who have also died. Got our water tested at our LFS who told us that it appeared correct for cycling tank that that our deaths where probably a combination of underfeeding, stress from the new environment and the way I added them, and the batch of Danios that they got were weaker then normal. So we added 10 more Danios, 3 Red Eye Tetras, and 3 Black Eye Tetras, and are continuing with our normal routine. When we called about whether we should clean the first week during the cycle or not, they said we should probably hold of our first cleaning until 10-14 days.
1 day in the tank and I already have a Danio acting very sick (twirling while trying to swim). That's when I decided I REALLY should have done my homework more, and started to do research. (I know this should have been step 1) That's when I discovered this amazing site with helpful friendly people that were truly interesting in helping.
First, I know I made a lot of amateur mistakes, and now I have read a lot of the FAQs on your site, along with a lot of the threads. Now I need help.
I listed out all of my experiences and steps to help you understand what the status of my tank is at this point, I have lost a whole lot of fish, and because I am stubborn, now have more fish in the tank. I will not buy anymore (I promise) until I am positive I have a GOOD home for them. I currently have: 1 Cory Cat (original), 1 GloFish (original), 3 Red Eye Tetras (been in tank 1 day), 3 Black eye Tetras (1 day), 12 Zebra Danios (10 are 1 day, 2 are 5 days, NONE from the original 20)
The original 20 Danios all had started to get red spots and looked flaky,
I had originally thought this was due to one of them being a bully. He was chasing all the other fish and biting them and trying to remove him I couldn't catch him, and I was worried about stressing all the fish out.
What are my next steps to get my tank back in order?
I am buying a self test kit today, I had asked my LFS if I should get one and he told me that he would test my water for free anytime that I wanted, but after reading this site, I will be more responsible for that.
< Get a kit that reads ammonia, nitrites and nitrates as well as pH.>
So for my cycling tank, should I be doing a lot of water changes to help keep the ammonia down?
< Get the kit and test for ammonia, nitrites and nitrates in ppm. Kits that say OK or fine are useless. Keep ammonia and nitrite levels down with water changes. The nitrates should be under 20 ppm.>
Will this lengthen my cycle putting a damper on the bacteria growing?
< You could have added Dr. Tim's One and Only and be ready for fish anytime. Some ammonia and nitrites are needed to feed the bacteria.
Elevated levels are very toxic to fish. Watch the fish every day for signs of stress then change the water as needed. Some fish handle the nitrogenous wastes better than others.>
How long should my cycle last?
< As the ammonia levels go down the nitrite levels should rise. When the nitrites levels start to go down the nitrate levels will start to go up.
When the ammonia and nitrite levels are next to zero the nitrate levels will start to rise. >
And MOST importantly how do I keep these guys healthy and happy?
< When you tank is stable and you are thinking about adding more fish , you should invest in a quarantine tank.>
Sorry for the length of this, I just want to do the right thing now. I would be appreciative of all advice, criticism, and further learning. I will probably have follow up questions, not knowing the proper way to siphon \water out of the tank (do have the tool). Thank you so very much, Jeff
<Start out slow and don't be in a hurry., While your tank is cycling you can start looking at fish and try to figure out what kind of fish you ultimately want to get.-Chuck>

Tank Re-cycling woes 8/7/11
Hey there wonderful people. The site is great and I have scoured through it for hours looking for some answers, and although I have found some, I am still at a loss for the others. I feel there is some information that is conflicting so I hope you can help me. Here's the background information on my tank. I have a 39 gal. tank that has been established for over a year. I have a power HOB filter rated for 60 gal. and an under-gravel filter. My stock includes 3 platies, 1 dwarf Gourami, 1 striped Raphael catfish, and 2 GloFish (down from 3). I use Prime as a conditioner and add some aquarium salt with water changes. My ph is 8.0 (my tap is 7.8 and very alkaline) The problem I'm having is with the dreaded A-word, ammonia. My ammonia levels have been elevated for over 3 weeks between .25 and .5, as high as 1ppm
<Yikes! All deleterious to deadly toxic at high pH>
and I have 0 nitrites and 5 nitrates. Obviously I am very concerned even with low levels of ammonia since I have a high ph. I now believe my tank is re-cycling.
<Likely so... I would give up on the adding salt/s... this is contributing to your problem here>
This is why: Over 4th of July weekend, we had a 4 day power outage due to a bad storm.
<Ahh, and of course the biofilter will die back with loss of circulation>
Of course, I just started a 12 hour shift at work and could not attend to my tank until I got home, so for 12 hours there was no water flow. I had the hubby cover it with blankets to keep it warm and when I got home I hooked up some battery air pumps and did warm water changes to keep the temps up (my tank is in our cold basement).
I did not however, put the filter sponges and cartridges in the tank itself right away because I thought they'd be fine in the filter (stupid me). I did eventually put them in the tank after the 2nd day or so realizing my error. They were not dried out however. After the power came back on, my ammonia levels did not rise and were at 0 for 2 weeks after the outage so I patted myself on the back for attending the tank so well and thought I was in the clear. I then proceeded to clean my tank a bit and changed the filter media (stupid me again). I'm not really sure what threw me into this cycle: the power outage, the over cleaning, or both. For the first two weeks of my ammonia spike I was reading as high as 1ppm and was doing daily 50% water changes. I reduced feeding my fish.
My ammonia was coming down with water changes, but not going away and I had 0 nitrites with a small amount of nitrates. Due to lack of nitrites, I suspected something may be askew so I then started to investigate my filter, and found that the impeller was missing 5 out of its 6 blades. I had some water flow yet so I had no idea that it was in that bad of shape.
I immediately hooked up another HOB power filter (rated 20 gal) to pick up the slack until I could have a new impeller sent to me. So the problem was now compounded with this discovery. I then added some SafeStart by Tetra to add some bacteria to hopefully kick start the cycle. I received the new impeller last Monday and have the 60 PF going full blast and I still have the other 20 PF running too. I still am reading .50ppm ammonia and 0 nitrites. I have been occasionally dosing with extra Prime to detox the ammonia.
<Likely forestalling establishment of filtration as well>
I have asked advice on what to do from both a large chain pet store and from a mom and pop pet store. They both told me that I was prolonging the cycle by doing the water changes and I needed to back off.
<Good advice>
The mom and pop store (where they've raised fish for many years) told me to do, at the most, 20% water changes daily, and to let it be so it will
cycle. So that's what I did this last week. Still no nitrites! My ammo levels have stayed between .25 and .50 this last week. I've lost 1 GloFish (who I suspected also had an illness) and 3 fry (who I lost right away at the beginning of the spike). The remaining fry I had moved to it's own tank so I didn't pollute my main tank with fry food. The rest of my fish seem to be okay, but possibly a little stressed (as am I). I've decided to go back to 50% daily water changes since this prolonged spike was still prolonging and I don't want my fish to be poisoned any longer. I also plan on cutting back on the feeding to every other day and adding some more SafeStart. My questions for you are:
1) Am I prolonging my cycle by doing the water changes? If I do water changes how often and how much?
<First... stop feeding almost entirely... The 20-25% change a week is fine... ONLY change out water IF there is more than 1.0 ppm of free ammonia... STOP feeding altogether if it's more than 0.5 ppm>
2) Do I vacuum my gravel to get rid of extra waste or will I be sucking up the good bacteria?
<Don't vacuum>
I feel I should leave it be. What about just vacuuming the very surface of the gravel to pick up loose new waste?
3) Am I not seeing a nitrite spike because of the use of Prime?
<Likely so>
There seems to be conflicting information about cleaning and water changes during an ammonia spike and/or recycle so I'm eager to hear your take on it.
Sorry my message is so long, but I am at my wits end!
Thanks in advance for a response.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

tap water and cycling question 7/15/11
Dear WWB staff,
<Warner bro.s?>
I hope this isn't something you answered before. I've done as much research as I could this morning and can't find what I need. I'm going to give you the back story. I hope that's what you want.
<Oh yes>
I have two tanks cycling with fish (I know this isn't ideal, but it's too late), both on day 14 of having the current fish in them. The 10 gallon has 2 female and 1 male guppies. I thought this tank was mostly cycled when I added these fish because it had held goldfish for a month.
<Can be harbingers of real trouble... dropping, leaving parasites>
(I was pulled into this craziness when my 4 year old won 3 goldfish at the fair.
<Ahh! A common origin for many of us>
That was June 4 and I've been frantically researching and reading on how to keep these things alive.
<You're to be commended>
I knew nothing about fish before hand. Finally, after having to sneak out and replace fish while my daughter was in camp twice and realizing that I didn't want to buy a 55 gallon tank to properly house 3 feeder goldfish, I gave the survivors to my friend with a lovely established pond.) I used the filter, ornaments and 3 gallons of water from the previous tank. Also, excited about my new obsession I bought a 29 gallon which now has four platys (3female/1male)
For the first week, I did 20% water changes twice a day and used a master test kit to test ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. At the end of the week, I brought my numbers to two independent fish stores and was told by both that I needed to stop all water changes until the tank had cycled and that my fish would 'adapt' because they were 'hardy.' I just shouldn't add any more fish.
<Mmm. Had you added any purposeful biofiltration bacteria product?>
I wasn't completely comfortable with this but decided to continue my twice a day monitoring and only change the water if the fish showed signs of stress. I know what this looks like from my goldfish who were significantly stressed, poor things. (Doing great in the pond though.)
My Platys look happy and healthy (remarkably) swimming around, interacting, and gobbling up food. So I haven't changed their water in a week. The Nitrite and Nitrates have been climbing and ammonia dropping, but not going to 0, which had me concerned.
This morning the readings were temp: 76, PH 8, Ammonia 0.5 (up from the day before), Nitrite 2, Nitrate 10.
<Be stingy re feeding...>
My guppies I'm more concerned about. The boys won't eat fish flakes, though he'll eat peas and plants, and is always nibbling on the rocks (for algae I assume). The smallest girl has been frantically trying to get out of the tank. Two days ago I did a 20% water change and last night a 50%. Yesterday temp: 78, PH: 8, Ammonia: 1, Nitrite: 5, Nitrate: 40. Today temp: 78, PH: 8, Ammonia: 1, Nitrite: 2, Nitrate: 20.
<NO feeding for this tank till ammonia is lower>
The water change must have induced a birth because this morning I found 3 baby guppies. I knew they were doomed in that awful water so I scooped them out and put them in an old beta bowl my mother used, figuring they were better off there with water changes than that tank. I decided to test the bowl along with the tanks this morning and was shocked to find the ammonia in that was almost 1.
Frantic I checked my tap water (I could have sworn I had done that already), again ammonia almost 1,
<Mmm, this is not good for your drinking, potable uses... But the measure/s may be artifactual... your test kit may be faulty. I'd check against another that is known to be accurate, and/or check yours with a source of water known to have 0.0 Ammonia (e.g. distilled...)
checked the gallons under my sink that had been sitting there for days with Prime in them, again almost 1. Checked my distilled water 0,
<Ahh, I see>
but I can't use all distilled water the PH is 6 and it's too soft for my fish. I spent two hours searching your site and the rest of the internet (that might not sound like a lot of time, but it made us late for camp and work). All I could find was either buy an extremely expensive reverse osmosis machine or use chemicals to 'lock' the ammonia, but couldn't find another way to actually get it out of the tap water.
<Aerating, storing for a few days to a week will "do this">
Finally, desperate, I started checking different water sources, all the other taps in the house were the same, but the water out of the refrigerator dispenser was clean, ammonia 0, same color as the distilled.
<Likely there is a "charcoal" (carbon) filter cartridge in place here in-line>
Then I checked the refrigerator filtered water's PH and it's 8.2. I haven't been happy with the PH of 8 in my tanks and have been doing my water changes with 30-50% Distilled water, because I knew I have hard alkaline tap water (I must have originally tested them with the strips that don't include ammonia.) I wanted to, as slowly and naturally as possible, bring my ph to 7.5, so something other than guppies and platys would eventually survive.
So here's my plan, go home, do a 50% water change on both tanks (75% on the bowl) with ½ refrigerator water plus prime (have to wait for it to get to room temp, obviously,) and ½ distilled water. Is this a good plan?
Is there some reason not to do this?
<May forestall the establishment of cycling...>
Does it make sense that the refrigerator would filter out the ammonia, because I went to the Brita site and it says that doesn't?
<Mmm, actually, I think the latter may just be stating this to avoid liability. Try running the water through their product and test>
Thank you so much for reading through this really long story and I would appreciate any help you could give.
<I think you're doing swimmingly; would continue per your stated plan... and invest in a dedicated "water change container" for your aquarium use. Store (treat if you want) new water for changes... Bob Fenner>

Overall Tank Confusion/Sickness/Death... FW cycling 2/7/11
Hi Crew,
I'm having trouble getting my tank established and healthy. I got a 20gal (tall) tank on in May of 2010. I certainly didn't go about starting the tank right. I ran the tank for 3 days after adding conditioned tap water to the tank with decorations, gravel (blue) and a mechanical filter. The filter I use has an ammonia remover bad, chemical remover and a sponge.
<Mmm, you need some ammonia to establish biological filtration. Are you familiar with this?>
I put in 2 red coral platies and 2 tiger barb. I knew nothing about fish and only after research did I realize there needed to be at least 3 more barbs. I had them in there for at least a month doing weekly 20-25% water changes. They survived and were actually thriving. I added 2 more barbs and a Chinese algae eater (not a good idea). One platy died. The tigers never bothered the other fish. The CAE got aggressive and chased the other fish around. The other platy died also with no obvious illness. I gave the CAE back to the fish store that recommended it.
I decided to get 2 green barbs to add to the community and they didn't fair well. After 2 weeks they showed signs of Ick and the one died very fast.
The other one died days later. This caused a nasty chain effect in the tank. All the barbs starting getting the Ick too and all but one died. 2 platies that I got survived with spots on them too. I didn't realize it but I'm sure they were stressed from the ammonia levels of having too many fish at once.
<Ah yes>
I treated the tank with green malachite with a raised temp to 82. It had been about 3 months and I vowed to do everything I could to get the tank right.
I didn't add fish and worked on cycling the tank with 2 red platies, 2 ADFs and a frog Pleco. I did this for another 2 months. I finally tried adding 3 guppies after a week vacation using one of those week feeding pyramids.
<These have very little utility, food value>
They pooped a lot to say the least. I got home and did an immediate water change and gravel cleaning. I did it again 2 days later before attempting to add 3 guppies.
The showed signs of sickness immediately. 2 were dead within hours. That last one died during the night. I took them back to the store and they test my water. They said the nitrates/nitrites were okay but the ammonia was a bit high.
<... Let's stop here and have you read:
and the linked files above. You've been mis-leading a "petfish" life here reactionarily... Killing your aquatic charges.... You need to learn what you've been ignorant re to prevent further killing>
Even the platies were acting strange. One would dart around running into the gravel and seemed disoriented. The other will hide under a rock and only come out for food. The underside of one is turning white too.
I did water changes every 3 days about 5 times. I got an ammonia drop tester. I couldn't get the ammonia level to drop to zero. The color would be yellow at zero and darker green at a high level. It seemed to go from green to light green. I tested the tap water and it showed light green.
That kind of worried me. 3 weeks later I added 2 guppies and they were doing fine. A week later one died and the other has Ick now.
The ADFs and frog Pleco seem to have done just fine through all the mess.
The Pleco has gotten 4 times bigger. I'm ready to just let surviving fish live their lifespan and start over new. My filter and tank should be cycled. My wife thinks I do too much work on the tank. I clean the filter in the tank water so I don't kill the beneficial bacteria. I feed the fish flakes, frozen bloodworms, frozen brine shrimp, bottom feeder tablets and algae wafer. The frogs get their specific little pellets of food. I did notice that the frogs like to bite at the fish.
Sorry for the big email. I'm in a financial pinch and can't go out to get more testing equipment. The ammonia was at 0.25 (light green) about a week ago. I wish I could give more test numbers.
Should I just start over?
<Read. Bob Fenner>

Fish Question... cycling issue? FW hlth. 11/23/10
Hello Crew,
I have a 10 inch freshwater Plecostomus in a 55 gallon aquarium.
To make a long process into a short story, I bought the entire setup piece by piece (with the help of an aquarium shop owner) and achieved pristine and balanced water, all in preparation for a fish to come live with me. He was a 10 inch African Cichlid who had been living healthfully for years in a friends tank and this friend offered the fish so he could change his scenery a bit (the friend's). He arrived here on a Friday night in a large cooler of his own very well-kept aquarium water, and by Saturday night he had died. Although his color returned to full strength an instant after being placed in the new tank, as time wore on he rapidly deteriorated. His symptoms included a white wispy film flowing from his fins, clouding his eyes, and disintegrating the tips of his fins. He was lethargic at first, being less active than usual, and then he began resting his belly on the bottom of the tank, and gradually he seemed to have difficulty holding his body perpendicular to the tank floor. When I began noticing this white film forming 10-12 hours after his arrival I called the Aquarium-owner friend and he recommended I check his water temp and bring it up from 68 degrees F to 75-80 to help him heal, and to go purchase some anti-fungal medication.
I did this approx. 6 hours before he went belly-up. Now my Plecostomus has the same white film, lethargy, difficulty breathing, a slight reddening of his scaled regions and is unable to hold himself up on the glass (there are some bubbles at the top of the tank now but I was told that is probably from the medication). I've put "Lifeguard" tablets in the tank (an antibacterial and antiparasitic) as well as added 4 rounded tablespoons aquarium salt. This tank has a 50-60 gallon dbl-headed water filter, a 200 watt heater and a complete undergravel filtration system. Oh and the Pleco had been doing beautifully the 3 weeks he was in the tank by himself before the cichlid got introduced (we did that so that the cichlid wouldn't beat up the Pleco, or if he did the Pleco would defend "his" territory and not let himself get injured too badly, since the cichlid wasn't very friendly with other tankmates).
I understand that my Pleco may die from whatever this bacteria (I'm guessing it's a bacteria) is if the medications are too late, but what puzzles me is that I can't seem to find a disease with this appearance
online to compare or get advice. This is my first attempt at having an aquarium ever, and I am really bummed about this first experience... I've put a lot into trying to make the most comfortable environment possible for a couple of fish. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I've attached pictures of how he looks right now, and a couple of how the tank looked before introducing the cichlid. Thank you for your time guys I really appreciate it...
-Laurie, Klamath Falls, OR
<Laurie... is this system cycled? Do you have the means to test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate? The pic of the set-up appears very sterile...
Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwcyctrbfix.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: Fish Question; as suspected 11/23/10
I did the new aquarium process dictated by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals and used their product "Stress Zyme+" that had me let the water run through the filter for 2 weeks before putting in fish,
<... too soon. Takes longer to become established, cycled. Read where you were referred or any general freshwater aquarium husbandry book>
adding 10mL per 10 gallons on the first, seventh, and fourteenth days.
This was to remove chlorines and chloramines and develops biological filter (by adding beneficial bacteria).
<... it, the API product, does not do this last>
Unfortunately the Pleco "Leonardo" died last night not long after I sent you those pictures. It looks like I would benefit from some "How to clean your aquarium after fish death to prevent it happening again" advice, if you will.
<No need; not advised. Instead leave all as is to cycle and read in the meanwhile>
Thanks again.
I'm going to study the white film on Leo's fins and see if it is a fungal or bacterial growth.
<... decomposers period...>
I'm a medical student rather used to culturing gross stuff, and I had some sterile swabs and specimen tubes handy. I'll let you know how they test.
<I have an advanced degree in fisheries pathology... Read on. BobF>

Re: Fish Question 11/23/10
The Stress Zyme says "Contains Live Bacteria".
<... not nitrifiers of use. Please, this/WWM is NOT a bb... search them on the Net re this product. It alone will NOT establish bio. cycling>
And two weeks wasn't long enough?
<... no>
Leo was doing fine for the 2 week he was in there alone: water was clear, he was active and a healthy color. That is a very cool degree, and I'm glad you have a site like this to help us beginners. I am not adverse to further reading on aquarium preparation, but please understand I invested in an aquarium to have a pleasant living room de-stressor (Finals are in two weeks). I will do as you suggest and let the filters run for now. I thought I was taking every precaution possible with this attempt, and the water was perfect until something in/on the cichlid came into the tank. Well anyway thank you for the advice; I'll read some freshwater aquarium husbandry books over Christmas break.
<And you. B>
Re: Fish Question 11/24/10
Here, let me read you the label on this API Stress Zyme+ since we seem to have a bit of confusing interaction on the subject. Maybe this will help
"The Complete Starting Kit for Achieving Ideal Water Conditions
Benefits: Contains millions of live bacteria that speed up the development of the biological filter to eliminate ammonia and nitrite.
When to use: Whenever setting up a new aquarium, and use weekly to maintain fresh water aquariums.
Shake well
New Aquariums first use: use Stress Coat (the other bottle in this kit) to remove chlorines and chloramines. Next, on the 1st,7h, and 14th days, add 10mL of Stress Zyme per gallon of aquarium water to establish biological filter.
Thereafter and existing aquariums: to maintain good water quality and healthy biological filtration, add 5 ml.s of Stress Zyme per 10 gallons aquarium water weekly.
I understand that this site is not a bb. I really didn't mean to be obnoxious by expressing confusion. I was very careful to do everything just so for the sake of two fish, and both have died on my watch. Both had very interesting personalities were and were very healthy before the cichlid was moved here. My water tested just right, even with the slightly higher pH the cichlid would prefer. I had suspected some fungal or bacterial agent introduced by the cichlid, maybe the cooler he was moved it, or a microorganism who found the new tank a more productive environment than a previous one, but I don't know that sort of thing, especially not about fish. And as I've said, I've looked all over online for what these symptoms
could have been caused by. Please let me know if you have any more ideas on what may have gone wrong.
<Hello Laurene. The problem with these "instant cycling" potions like Stress Zyme is they're not terribly reliable. They're like stain removers that promise to clean your clothes from ink stains and such: sometimes they work, but sometimes they don't. So most of us who've been in the hobby for a while don't recommend them. At best, if you use one -- don't rely on it.
Add the instant cycling potion, and then add an ammonia source like a small pinch of flake. Add further pinches over the next week, and if you find ammonia and nitrite levels stay at zero, then all well and good. Add some fish! But if the ammonia and nitrite levels aren't zero, then the potion hasn't "taken" and the bacterial will need a bit more time. Carry on adding the pinches of flake and doing water changes. In all likelihood you'll speed up the cycling process because the potion will get things started, but you probably won't entirely eliminate the cycling process. By the way, once a filter is cycled, there's no need to add further Stress Zyme on a weekly or whatever basis. The manufacturers would obviously love you to, but the reality is that the filter contains a self-maintaining population of bacteria that will be optimised simply through proper maintenance.
Nothing needs to be added. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fish Question 11/24/10

Alright, thank you for the advice Neale.
<Always glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Black Ghost Knife and dying tankmates 11/7/10
We bought a Black Ghost Knife (that will go into our ~1 year old, 75 gallon, planted tank) and at the same time bought 5 Snakeskin Barbs.
<Puntius rhomboocellatus, a nice species.>
We put all six fish into our 10G quarantine tank - 50% of the water from our cycled tank, and media from our cycled filter into the QT filter. Everything was fine for 2 days, when we lost one of the barbs. No nipped fins, just belly-up.
<Puntius rhomboocellatus is a delicate species. It's sensitive to "old" water, and apart from zero ammonia and nitrite levels also needs very low nitrate levels. Water hardness should be low; this isn't a species for hard water tanks.>
We checked the levels, and we had some (~20) nitrates, possibly from the main tank water, or from overfeeding.
<Indeed. While 20 mg/l shouldn't be lethal to either Puntius rhomboocellatus or Apteronotus albifrons, both will resent nitrate levels much above that.>
We stopped feeding the fish, did a 30% water change. Checked the levels the next day, and then the morning of day 4 we lost 3 more barbs. Levels were OK (Ammonia: 0.5, Nitrite: 0, Nitrate: 0).
<That ammonia level is far too high for both species.>
We noticed that temperature was 75 (down from the 78 it was set for). We had had some cold nights, so I assumed that it was shock from temperature drop? We made sure to keep the room temperature more steady, and we are now covering the QT at night to keep it steady. That evening, we lost our last barb, and the temperature was fine (78-79).
<A little warm for both species; aim for 25 C/77 F. Both species need LOTS of current and plenty of oxygen.>
Levels were the same, and we did another water change. All this time, the BGK looks great, is active, is eating, and is behaving normally (for a BGK, that is). We waited 6 days, doing water changes every 2-3 days). We added in a guppy three days ago (as a canary). Last night the guppy was dead. Checked the levels this morning - Amm 0, Nitrite .5, Nitrate 0.
<Again, the non-zero ammonia and nitrite levels indicate the filter isn't mature. Or, if it is mature, the filter is too small for the aquarium or you're maintaining the filter badly.>
Temp is good (78-79).
<Actually not good.>
It's apparent that our QT isn't fully cycled, but I don't think the .5 nitrite is enough to kill a guppy (and not affect the knife?).
<Yes, non-zero ammonia levels are always dangerous and can be lethal. To some degree there's a relationship between pH and ammonia, but in any event, if you detect either ammonia or ammonium, it clearly indicates problems with the filter.>
We are going to do another water change now. Could the knife be carrying something (parasite, disease) that is killing the tankmates, but not affecting itself?
Or could these be small, new tank woes?
<See above. Both Puntius rhomboocellatus and Apteronotus albifrons are crashingly bad choices for new aquaria.>
We would like to get the BGK into our main tank soon, but we don't want everything in that tank dying. Advice? We are tentatively planning on keeping the BGK in the QT for another week, then adding another guppy to see if it lives.
<Guppies are fairly delicate fish, and in any case require hard water, which is the opposite to what your Puntius rhomboocellatus and Apteronotus require, so buying Guppies is pointless. Remember, for your Puntius rhomboocellatus and Apteronotus albifrons, you're after 5-10 degrees dH, pH 7 to 7.5.>
Thanks in advance for the help! Your site is awesome!
<Thanks for the kind words.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fish seem poisoned, please help. (Bob, any ideas) 7/28/10
Hello again! :)
The fish seem to be doing ok. A group of them still prefer their spot on the gravel but only two or three are still breathing heavily (although, seemingly not as heavily as before). Streaking is almost completely gone now. Not out the woods yet I know, but my hope is returning.
Regarding the sand... Thanks for the warning! I went to a local garden supply shop today and asked for smooth silica sand. The man seemed a bit confused by the request, and didn't quite know what I was talking about.
<Sometimes called smooth silver sand. As distinct from sharp silver sand.
Ask for smooth, non-calcareous, i.e., lime-free, sand and he should know what it is. It's used in pot plants and gardens to improve drainage. Just don't get sharp sand!>
I explained to him that I needed it for some burrowing fish, and that it needed to be fine because they pass it through their gills. He pointed me in the direction of the washed Sydney sand (I'm currently in Sydney, Australia btw). Basically, it's just really fine beach sand. Is it ok to use this, and when the time comes to put it in the tank, should I do anything besides rinsing it out first?
<No, don't use beach sand. It contains lime, usually in the form of pulverised sea shells, and will dramatically raise pH and hardness.>
Thanks again!!!
-Julie B.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fish seem poisoned, please help. (Bob, any ideas) 7/29/10
Hiya again,
<Neale's out till next week>
Sorry about being a pest, I was hoping that the next time I wrote, it would just be a final update saying that everything is fine now and to thank you for all the help and advice.
I tested the water this afternoon (last test was a couple of days ago - ammonia - 0, nitrite - 0, PH 7.2 or there about). I didn't bother with Nitrate because the last time I tested it was only 5.0 and I knew it wouldn't have risen much, or at all. Anyway, my results today are ammonia -
0.50 or possibly even 1.0,
<Deadly toxic at high pH>
nitrite - 0, nitrate - 0, PH 7.4 - 7.8 (I used high and low PH tests, but it's difficult to match the liquid colour to the
test strips 100% , so it could be either the highest two colours of the low end test, or the lowest two colours of the high end test.)
Whatever the case, it's not good, and definitely not what I want to see in a cycled aquarium.
<This system is not cycled per your test... Have you checked your test kit/s against others for accuracy?>
I checked around for dead fish and found nothing, I've not been feeding the tank (but even if I had, I wouldn't expect a rise in ammonia). So I can only conclude that the spike is due to the death of my biological filtration.
How's that for a spanner in the works!
I did a small water change (100 liters). My tap waters PH is easily 8 or higher,
and I do not want to risk a larger water change for fear of raising the PH even higher than what it is now. I re-tested the water about an hour or so after the change but got the same results.
Given the fragile state most of the fish are in, how would you suggest I proceed?
<Read. Here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwmaintindex.htm
the third tray (Yellow header) down, re cycling, ammonia>
I can think of a couple of things to do in this situation, and although I've kept fish for years I'd rather not risk doing the wrong thing right now, I really could use some expert advice.
I've not had a bio filter crash on me before, I've never had a fluke problem before, nor have I ever had a possible tank contamination situation before.
The biggest disasters I've ever had to face were fish with ich, and they were dealt with in quarantine before they ever set fin in a main tank. But flukes? How was I supposed to spot them in quarantine?
<Hard to impossible to do w/o microscopic examination, and/or a good footing on what to look for/observe macroscopically on host fishes>
It's darn unusual (from what I hear) that some of them got big enough eventually to be seen with the naked eye.
The tip of one of my Corys fins is a little opaque, and some of the Danios have pale patches.
<... environmental likely>
As for the sand, they sell river sand too but I don't know how fine it is...
I might be better off going to the LFS and checking if they have any burrowing fish friendly substrate there, just to be on the safe side. :)
Thanks again!
-Julie B
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Algae eater/ bottom feeder with Glofish... Uncycled sys. issues 3/4/10
Dear Wet Web Media crew,
I have a 20 gallon tank with live plants and a sand substrate to which I added 6 Cory catfish and 8 zebra Danios 5 days ago.
<I think your problem lies here. You've added too many fish at one time, causing a "mini-cycle." I have made this mistake in the past, and can affirm that you'll probably only make it once -- after that, if you're anything like me, you become overly cautious about adding fish to a newly cycled tank.>
Prior to this I had let the tank cycle for 2 weeks.
<I know you mentioned that you were adding substrate from the pet store, and I'm guessing that you meant this was seeded substrate from an established aquarium. However, this period still seems a little short to me. In the future, if you'd really like to "rush" cycling, I'd suggest obtaining filter media from an established system, rather than gravel, since filter media is in a more direct line with water flow in the filter.>
During the cycling period I kept testing the water and also got a neighbouring pet store to test it and everything seemed to have settled down. As soon as I added the fish the ammonia level has gone to 0.5 ppm ('stress' on the testing strip). <<Deadly toxic. RMF>>
<I really like the test kits that use the liquid reagents a lot better than strips. The strips aren't always very accurate.>
I do 25% water changes daily but the ammonia levels are stuck at the 0.5 ppm. I tested the tap water in my house and that reads 0 ppm.
<Good information to have. You're lucky -- I have ammonia in my tap water!>
The other parameters are of the tank are:
1. nitrate: < 20 ppm ('safe' on the strip)
2. nitrite: 0 ppm
3. total hardness: 300 ppm ('very hard' on the strip)
4. total alkalinity: between 120-180 ppm
5. ph: 7.8
<Okay, so everything else looks okay. The water is a little hard for Corys, so it might be a good idea to look into their needs, as far as that goes, and see if you can adjust this so that they're more comfortable.
Please read here about Corys, as well as the linked files above the title of the article:
I lost one Cory catfish (the smallest one) pretty suddenly 2 days after adding the fish. She was swimming around and eating in the morning, was listless in the evening and gone by the next morning. I could see no reason
for the death (I examined her carefully).
<This may have just been a weak specimen, but the ammonia certainly didn't help. The ammonia should be going down when you do water changes, at the very least, but your strips aren't going to show it unless it returns to zero, I'd imagine. You should see this problem clear up in a few days, when the biological filter has had time to 'catch up' with the bioload. I think that, rather than adding all fishes at once, it would have been better to, at the very least, add the Danios, and then a couple of weeks later, the Corys, or even to split each group up, and only add half of
each group every week. The fact that you stocked all at once, plus the immaturity of the tank, and the speed of this cycle, caused an unstable situation.>
The other fish seem fine now, but, I am concerned and do not know what to do for the ammonia. Please help.
<I think that when you're changing water, you're reducing ammonia, but these strips aren't showing it. In any case, within a couple of days, you should see that ammonia go away, and turn into nitrite. I think this process was just rushed a little too much, which caused some problems, but the biological filter should recover. If you'd like to see evidence of what your water changes are doing for ammonia, I'd suggest getting a liquid test kit. Then you'll be able to see more of a difference.>
Thank you.
<You're welcome. Good luck, and please write back if you have any more questions.>

New Tank - Guidance Needed. not cycling w/ fish, env. dis. 3/1/10
I have come across a lot of info, however, there seems to be a lot of differences from one site to the next.
<Variation in quality, I suppose. To our credit, we're experts who write books and magazine articles, and we aren't selling anything.>
I am hoping if I give some specifics you can reply with some specifics.
<Let's see.>
I have a new 36 gallon tank (30w x 16d x 20h), with all the necessities:
power filter, heater (200w), light, cover, 6" air stone (fine bubble), Gravel (~2" deep). Large fake rock in center with various holes and tunnels. Lots of imitation plants (would like to slowly migrate to live plants).
Water is on the hard side. pH is 7.6-7.8 out of the tap. Temp maintained @ 78F (26C) in tank. New water was pretreated with a conditioner and the tank was set-up and run for three days before adding starter fish to cycle the tank.
<Ah, now, here's where the wheels come off the wagon. The "cycling with fish" approach is fraught with risks, and generally not recommended anymore. It's far, far better to cycle with a "fish-less" method. Some folks use ammonia, some folks use pinches of fish flake, but either way, the goal is to periodically give the biological media something to use up, and you wait until the nitrite level rises and then falls down to zero.
Once that happens, you're good to go. Typically, if you add a small pinch of flake food every 1-2 days, the aquarium should be cycled within a month.
Time consuming perhaps, but low-risk and cheap to do.>
After some web search, Zebra Danios seemed like a good hardy starter fish.
I bought (6) Zebra Danios to start cycling the tank. All died within 3 days. (Maybe should have tried fishless cycling but read of it too late, although ,it seemed if you provided a good environment even in the beginning of cycling hardy fish should make it)
<Yes and no. There are ways to cycle new aquaria using fish, but it's risky, and does demand that you do frequent water changes to keep ammonia and nitrite as low as possible. We're talking daily water changes.>
What would lead to such a quick demise?
I was under the impression that the higher pH with the presence of Ammonia could be quite lethal and may have led to the deaths.
<Something like that.>
Not knowing any better, the local store talked me into using three Mollies as my starters this 2nd go. After reading your section on Mollies I realize this is not the way I want to go seeing that I would need a Brackish tank for best results.
<Yes. Mollies are really, really bad choices for cycling freshwater tanks.>
I have three Mollies now: two "Creamcicle" and one "Dalmatian" variety.
The two appear to be doing quite well and all have survived 10 days so far.
The other, the Dalmatian, just got what I would guess is something of a swim bladder disease since he has trouble descending.
<No, it's not "swim bladder disease" since that's basically a non-existent disease. What people call "swim bladder disease" is a catch-all description for fish that aren't swimming properly, and that ranges from constipated Goldfish through to Mollies with the Shimmies.>
It cleared up the next day but was back the day after. I did a 15% water change to get rid of NO2. Not sure if that was what helped it or not.
Are these three fish enough to cycle? From what I read not using enough fish is almost as bad as using too many. Seems it will introduce mini-cycles from some articles I read.
<I wonder what you're reading? Essentially, you cycle with the minimum number of fish possible. Once the tank is cycled, it will quickly adapt to a few more fish added, and doesn't "re-cycle" at all. When you add the new fish, ammonia loading increases, but the billions of bacteria already in the filter quickly adapt.>
I test GH, KH, pH, NO2, NO3 & Ammonia daily. Ammonia has been .25 - .50.
Waiting for it to drop to zero, should see it any day now if the tank-cycling info I read is correct. Nitrites were zero up until a few days ago, but oddly there has been a slight presence of Nitrates. Nitrites and Nitrates are both showing now. Nitrite Should spike around day 14 based on what I have read.
<Does depend on all sorts of factors, could take longer.>
Currently @ day 12 in the cycle with the Mollies (not counting the first 3 days with the Zebra's)
GH: ~30 ppm
KH: between 80-120 ppm
<Far too low for Mollies.>
pH: 7.0
NO2: 0.5 ppm
NO3: 40ppm
Ammonia: between .25 - .50
Is it odd Nitrates are showing at this point in the cycle?
<Not really.>
The local store also directed me to use a pH buffer to get my water to 7.0.
<For Mollies? What are they smoking?>
I found your web site a bit too late and realize this is too low for Mollies.
<I'll say.>
They also directed me to use aquarium salt. From what I read on your site, it seems the aq salt is of no benefit to the Mollies and would hurt any other FW fish.
<Aquarium salt will detoxify nitrite and nitrate to some degree, but it won't provide the other benefits of increased carbonate hardness, increased general hardness, and a stable basic pH.>
Is this correct about the aq salt?
<Marine salt mix is far superior.>
My goal is to have a Barbs, Danios & Rasboras combination, smaller sizes preferably.
<Not with Mollies.>
I would rather have more smaller fish than fewer larger fish.
Based on my tank specs how many can I populate my tank with? ( seems to be a lot of rules of thumb but nothing specific for a beginner to follow easily)
I am partial to gold barbs as my primary. What would be a good combination and number of top, mid and bottom swimmer types be?
<These prefer cooler water to Mollies, so aren't an option. Golden Barbs, whether Puntius semifasciolatus or Puntius sachsii, are best treated as subtropical fish and maintained around 20-24 degrees C. Mollies of course need much warmer, around 28-30 C, so there's no overlap at all.>
I would also like some sort of bottom feeding algae eating cat fish or other variety with this combo. any suggestions?
<Depends on the fish you're keeping. Mollies eat algae, but you could keep them with salt-tolerant Nerite snails.>
I would like to keep the Mollies I currently have but would not add more.
I may find a new home for them since I cannot run more than the 1 tank for now.
I plan on NOT treating the pH on water changes and to allow the pH to slowly normalize in the tank back to what comes out of the tap 7.6-7.8. It seems the higher pH will benefit the current Mollies and the local shops should probably be around the same when I decide on getting more fish once the cycle is complete.
<You need to read about water chemistry, here:
Should I not use aquarium salt?
<Would recommend marine salt mix for brackish water systems, assuming you want to keep Mollies as easily as possible.>
How many fish should I add at a time when it is time to add more when the cycling has completed?
<Depends on the fish, but obviously add as few as possible, depending on their social behaviour. Better to add six schooling fish than just three of them, but if you can, add fish in ones or twos with a couple of weeks between them.>
WWM is the Best web-site I have come across so far. I am very excited with this new undertaking and cannot wait to have a thriving community.
<Good luck.>
Thank you so much - John.
<Cheers, Neale.>

10 Gallon Tank rapidly declining 2/24/10
<Hello Kerry,>
I have a 10 gallon tank that currently has a few snails, 2 Mickey Mouse Platys, 1 Neon Tetra, 2 Golden White Clouds, a male Betta, and 2 African Dwarf Frogs. In the last two months, we had 4 Platys, and 3 Danios die
quickly showing no obvious signs of distress until the end. I have had the tank for almost a year and half, and the Neon is the only remaining fish from when the tank was originally set up.
<Now, before we go any further, let's be clear that 10 gallon tanks are [a] poor choices for beginners; and [b] difficult to stock. Few of those animals belong in a tank this small. I'd skip Apple snails for a variety of reasons, not least of which is they don't live long in fish tanks. Platies need at least 15 gallons, Danios the same if not more, and certainly a tank 60 cm/2 feet end to end, simply because they are so hyperactive. Neons and White Cloud Mountain Minnows could be kept in a 10 gallon tank, but in groups, and because they need somewhat different conditions, you wouldn't tend to keep them together, though it's certainly possible. Both prefer fairly cool water, around 22-24 C (72-75 F) and that's much colder than Bettas tolerate, so you can't mix them. Plus, Bettas are targets for nippy fish, and Neons and Danios are known "Betta harassers". Hymenochirus frogs are fine in 10 gallon tanks, but on the whole mixing frogs with fish is risky, and something to approach carefully. Let me direct you to this article about stocking very small tanks like this:
To some extent, what you keep depends on your water chemistry and the temperature. If you had soft water, then Neons would be a good choice. If you had hard water, then Endler's Guppies (a dwarf species distinct from common Guppies) would be sensible.>
To start off, I noticed white "flaky" spots on the Platys before they died (each one got sick and died separately from the others). I did my research and determined this was Ick and treated with QuICK Cure drops.
<Ick looks like salt/sugar. Flaky patches on the Platies are more likely caused by Finrot or Fungus, in which case a different medication will be required. You have said nothing at all about water chemistry and water quality, both of which are crucial.>
This did not help during any of their quick demises, so I would look to make sure I saw no signs of Ick on the other fish, and I discontinued treatment until the next one got sick. This happened for separate times.
<Likely environmental. Without data about the water chemistry and water quality I can't be sure, but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that you either have poor water quality or the wrong water chemistry for the fish you're keeping. Perhaps both.>
2 of my Danios seemed to just go. I couldn't understand what had happened with them, and Google searches did not help. They each died separately and seemingly unrelated.
<Again, this points strongly at a water quality issue. Do make sure you have cycled the aquarium before adding any fish, and that you test for nitrite every few days to make sure cycling is progressing. The easy way to cycle a tank is to fill it with water and plants -- but no fish -- and add small pinches of flake food every couple of days. Do this for 3-4 weeks, doing 25% water changes once a week. By the 3rd or 4th week, the nitrite level should have peaked and dropped, and once it hits zero again, you can add a few small fish. Half a dozen Neons, if you have soft water, would be appropriate. Let them settle down, test the water every few days, and don't even think about adding any more fish for at least two weeks. Sure, this sounds time consuming, but better 4 weeks of an empty tank than 4 weeks of dying fish. Do read here:
Fast forward to last weekend, I did my normal water change (roughly 20%), I added AquaSafe in as usual, and then I noticed my Betta was VERY lethargic. This Betta was my sister's fish at school, but she found transporting him to and from school during every break was too stressful and gave him to me. He has always been a "lazy" fish, not incredibly active in the tank, and he enjoyed lounging on the leaves of plants. However this weekends behavior
was extremely unusual even for him. I did some research and read about aquarium salt helping to aid fish in better respiration and disease treatment.
<How told you this gem of misinformation? Salt does nothing of the kind.>
I got API Aquarium Salt and according to the directions on the box, added 2 tablespoons of salt. I also purchased Lifeguard All-in-one treatment of parasites including Ick (I was not treating with QuICK Cure currently).
Since Saturday, I have lost a Platy and a Danio.
<I bet. You haven't understood the actual problem here, and your "cures" are only making things worse.>
The Platy died much the same as the others, but the Danio had developed a white thing coming out of his rear (which I only noticed Sunday night).
This morning, the white thing had not changed, but when I got home, he was gone and his anus was SEVERELY inflamed and red. I scooped him out of the tank as soon as I got home.
The frogs seem ok, with the exception that one has become very thin and stays on the bottom of the tank.
<Starving, will die soon. Needs wet-frozen foods like bloodworms and mosquito larvae; won't "scavenge" on fish food, flake.>
The snails seem to be thriving, and I have had to remove several sets of eggs in the last week, and I have discovered 2 new sets today.
<As is their nature, though overuse of medications can kill them, and that means you have lots of rotting snail corpses in the tank.>
The only other medicine I have put in the tank is Clarity, because after Saturday's water change, everything looked cloudy. Also, I have removed my water filter according to the Lifeguard box's directions.
I fear I will lose my entire tank before I figure out what is going on. The water tests are normal, except for a low pH, but that is not highly unusual for my tank.
<I need numbers. For a generic community tank, you're aiming for pH 7-7.5, hardness around 10 degrees dH, and a temperature of 25 C/77 F. Ammonia and nitrite should both be zero.>
I'm planning on doing a partial water change tonight. Any help would be very appreciated.
-- Kerry H.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: 10 Gallon Tank rapidly declining 2/24/10
Thanks for your quick response.
I just went to test the water to send you data, and discovered I used the last strip yesterday morning. I will get more tonight and send you accurate data when I get home.
I'll go in order of my testing strip:
Nitrate - 0
Nitrite - 0
Total Hardness - 150 GH
Total Chlorine - 0
Total Alkalinity - 120 KH
pH - 6.2
<Whoa! This pH is far, far too low. Do understand filter bacteria are happiest around pH 7.5 to 8, and when the pH drops below 7, filtration diminishes. At pH 6, it stops altogether. Moreover, only some fish tolerate acidic conditions. Tetras (mostly) like acidic water, but livebearers can't tolerate it at all. So Platies, Guppies, etc. aren't viable additions to this community. Do read here:
Water temp holds pretty well around 75 F (I do have a heater)
I realized I did not say last night that when I discovered the low pH I put in a "Correct pH" to get it back to neutral.
<Do not do this. Do not use potions of any kind that come in bottles. If the retailer offers you a bottle of magic potion, run. All of these products are notorious for leading beginners into total mess-ups. You need to add a portion of Rift Valley cichlid salt mix, perhaps one-quarter to one-half the recommended dose, to each bucket of water you add. This costs pennies, and the key thing is it adds carbonate hardness to the water, and that stabilises water chemistry. For a mixed community, you're aiming for about pH 7.5, 10 degrees dH. This is acceptable for a wide range of fish including tetras, catfish, barbs and (most) livebearers (not Mollies).>
Should I put the filter back in? Should I change more of the water? I've had all these fish for at least 10 months (if not longer) with no problems, then all of the sudden they're dropping like flies.
<Read the above link. Act accordingly.>
What should I do? I feel like I've been a poor aquarium owner, but I am trying hard to help those little guys...
<Yes, you've made some mistakes. But time to move on. Providing good water chemistry is cheap and easy: all you need is a bag of Epsom salt, a bag of baking soda, and a bag of marine aquarium salt mix.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: 10 Gallon Tank rapidly declining -- 02/25/10
Hi Again Neale,
<Hello Kerry,>
I read the page you sent me while at work, and went out to buy marine salt, new test strips, and blood worms (for the frogs).
<Very good.>
I got home and put in a new filter, did a small water change with the Rift Valley Salt mix, and tested the water. Here is what I got:
Nitrate - between 80-160
Nitrite - 1.0
<Ah, this is lethal; be under no illusions.>
Hardness - 150 GH
Chlorine - 0
Alkalinity - between 120-180
pH - 7.2
I was SHOCKED when I saw this!! My other strips (same brand) must have been duds!
<Can happen. As they say with breakfast cereals, "store in a cool, dark place". It's also fair to say that they aren't especially accurate at the best of times.>
I know that the Nitrate is WAY high, will getting the filter going again help this?
<No; biological filters fix ammonia and nitrite, not nitrate.>
Or do I need to do a large water change?
<Water changes. I'd to 50% today, and 25% tomorrow. After that, the usual 25% weekly should be fine.>
Thank you for your help! So far Indigo, the Betta, is still hanging on!!
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: 10 Gallon Tank rapidly declining 2/26/10
Just wanted to write a quick thank you note to Neale!
<You're welcome.>
I did my 50% water change tonight. My water data is much much better!
After the water change:
Nitrate - 40
Nitrite - between 0-.5
Hardness - 150-300
Chlorine - 0
Alkalinity - 180
pH - between 7.2-7.8
Tomorrow I will do a 25% water change.
<All sounds promising.>
Indigo is still here! I can hardly believe it! I hope he will get better
now, but I think I'll just have to wait and see.
<Good luck.>
I did lose another Platy, however.
<Hopefully, as nitrite drops to zero, things should improve. Almost all premature fish deaths come down to either poor water quality (i.e., non-zero nitrite/ammonia) or the wrong water chemistry (most often, the water is too soft for the fish being kept, rather than the other way around).>
But at least I know now to buy another set of test strips if I seem to be getting unreliable numbers when there is stress to the fish.
Thanks again!
<Cheers, Neale.>

Pregnant Swordtails, red gills, and two clueless tank owners -- 02/22/10
Hello. For my birthday this year, January 9th, my husband decided to get me an aquarium tank.
After four hours at Wal-mart (you don't even have to say it), we walked out with a 10 gallon tank, Whisper filter, bubble stone, a few deco items, fake plants, food, test kits, chemical adjusters, and our fish: 2 Swordtails (2 female, a pineapple and a black tail), 1 Pleco, 1 African Albino Clawed Frog, and a Kissing Gourami (all young).
<You do realise almost none of these animals will survive in a 10 gallon tank. Actually, the plastic plant is the only thing that will be happy.
Swordtails are up to 12 cm/4 inches long, and as their shape should immediately suggest, very fast swimmers. They need tanks at least 90 cm/3 feet long to feel at home. The Plec will get to 45 cm/18 inches within a year or so, while the Kissing Gourami is a big food fish that becomes a slab of meat up to 25 cm/10 inches long at maturity. The frog, Xenopus laevis, might be okay, but it's a coldwater animal that doesn't belong in a tropical aquaria, and frogs and fish rarely mix successfully. I'd suggest you take back everything, and read here:
My husband set up the tank, chemical adjusters and all, and we released the hounds a few hours later.
<What are these "chemical adjusters"? Almost always, beginners shouldn't touch bottles of any potions *other* than water conditioner. Beginners kill more fish using pH buffers than they ever help.>
However, we lost the Kissing Gourami before it even got to the tank, and the AACF didn't make it past a week.
So, we returned the Gourami and exchanged it for a Red Male Swordtail.
<Males are extremely aggressive.>
We gave the frog a proper flushial (burial) and purchased another frog.
<Hold on... why are you buying more animals when you don't know why the ones you had just died?>
A few weeks later our Red Swordtail died.
On Valentines Day, we lost our Pleco with no sign of sickness or ailing, except that he hardly ever touched his Algae wafers and just sucked on whatever else he could (malnourished?)
<No, he was killed through careless maintenance.>
We've been struggling to keep good bacteria in the tank and Ammonia out.
<I bet.>
After extensive research, we've come to the conclusion that we shouldn't have bought fish the same day as the tank.
Last week, we went to a pet store and bought 2 more Plecos and another Swordtail (male).
<Stop! Stop!>
The next day, one of the Plecos was dead.
<Oh, for the love of God! What are you doing here? Are you trying to make me cry? This is sheer insanity! For gosh sakes, take all the fish back, and go buy a book about keeping an aquarium. Clearly you have all kinds of money, since you're happy spending it on fish that die overnight. So choose a book on fishkeeping for beginners, and read the darn thing.>
Last week our Frog's toe was twitching for a few hours, so we changed the water and he stopped after a while. Could that be the Ammonia?
My husband has been changing the tank a few days a week. Mostly doing full tank changes. We just bought Stress Coat & Stress Zyme, API is the brand.
<Look, all the potions in the world won't help UNLESS you know what's going on. For a start, you have too many fish, and none of them belong in this tank. Take them all back. If I was feeling cranky, I'd say you should keep pet rocks or something, but I'll try and be constructive this time around.
Your tank needs cycling. Do that without fish. Set the tank up, run the filter and the heater, and then add a tiny pinch of flake once every other day for the next three weeks. During that time, replace 25% of the water once a week. After the end of the third week, check your water. You should find ammonia is zero and nitrite is close to zero. Carry on doing this, and when both are zero, you're good to go. Buy a few small fish suitable for this aquarium. I'd suggest either six Neons (if you have soft water) or one male and two female Endler's Guppies (if you have hard water). Let them swim about for a couple of weeks and see what happens. If all is good, and nitrite and ammonia stay at zero, you can slowly add more small fish every couple of weeks. Broadly speaking, if you stick with small, Neon-sized fish, you can allow about one inch of fish (i.e., one Neon or Endler's Guppy) per gallon of water. If you add bigger fish, then you can't add so many.>
He's been adding those and is now doing 20% water changes but there doesn't seem to be an improvement.
<I bet.>
Here's the kicker;
<Only now comes the kicker?>
I have noticed a black stripe straight through the black tail Swordfish and just figured it was her color. Well, this weekend, we went away overnight to my in-laws and when we came home Sunday we found a few tiny little unfamiliar moving objects inside the tank. Low and behold they were fry...19 fry. The black tail Sword no longer has that black stripe going through her body but now has a redness under her belly (probably where she gave birth?) and a black sack looking thing near her gills.
<Very sick.>
This led to us noticing a sort of redness on her gills and a redness on our other two Swords gills. We also noticed our pineapple Sword has a black pouch under her tummy as well, and has been there for a weeks now. Could she be pregnant?
If so, what should we do?
<Well, I'm weeping for the poor little souls. This is really not an aquarium for Swordtails.>
They are all acting fine for the most part.
<"Most part"? Half the fish you've bought are dead, and some of the surviving ones are sick...>
So, our questions are, how can we fix our aquariums eco system properly without getting rid of our fish and doing it from scratch?
<Illogical question. You can't keep the fish you have in this aquarium.
It's rather like me asking you "How do I get a ripped body and lose all my flab without eating less and doing any exercise at all?" You have a too-small aquarium that hasn't been cycled and is filled with fish that don't belong there.>
What happened to the black line through our Swordtail and why does she have a black sack near her gills?
<No idea without a photo.>
What do red gills on the swordtails mean?
<Inflammation. Same thing as red patches on humans.>
How should we take care of the Fry, where should we put them?
<Least of your problems right now.>
Any idea how to get our Pleco to suck on something other than an inanimate object?
<Take it back to the shop. It doesn't belong here.>
Thanks a bunch,
<Not sure you're going to be pleased with my reply, but I did my best. Good luck to you all! Cheers, Neale.>

Air bubbles in fish, Emphysematosis & Cycling troubleshooting/fixing 2/8/10
Good day:
<And you>
I have an ongoing problem with supersaturated water- one of my goldfish had recently presented with air bubbles in his eye which I discovered was from my tap water.
<Not uncommon this time of year... the cold/er weather increases gas solubility, the difference in temperature releases it. Hence a good idea to... oh, I see you state this below>
I began leaving the water to sit in 5 gallon pails for 48 hours before using it for tank changes. This seemed to be effective and the bubble effused from the fishes eye over several days. This morning, however, I noticed a large bubble just beside the nare of my smaller fish- I am so frustrated!!! The water here where I am currently living (Vancouver) is really very poor. It is heavily chlorinated and also, apparently, supersaturated.
<I would store the new/change water a good week ahead of use here>
I have had so much trouble getting my tank to cycle and I am afraid my poor fish are taking the brunt of this inferior water. My tank is still not cycled after almost 6 weeks (not a trace of nitrates showing yet) so I am still doing daily 25% water changes to reduce ammonia build-up. Hence the issue with the supersaturated water... Do you have any suggestions for helping to reduce the oxygen levels to normal amounts?
<Yes, enhanced aeration... a mechanical "bubbler" will help de-gas the water>
It is rather an odd problem as most people have the opposite problem.
Would a small pond pump immersed in the waiting pails of water help to release the dissolved O2?
I am using Prime to condition the water and lock up the ammonia-
<I would not do this. This practice may well be responsible for your forestalled establishment of nitrogen cycling>
I was told to treat the entire tank every day as the Prime only locks up the ammonia for 24 hours. When I do a water change I do treat for the entire 36 gallons. I was wondering if this could be affecting the nitrogen cycle (it isn't supposed to, according to the manufacturer but I do wonder).
<It is>
Thank you for your assistance!
Gina de Almeida
<Gina, is there someway to get/buy "The Real One" (aka BioSpira) where you are? Or otherwise add some established media? Please read here:
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: Air bubbles in fish, & cycling f', FW -- 02/08/10
Thank you Bob:
<Welcome Gina>
I have not found the Bio-Spira but did use a product called Tetra Safe Start that is also supposed to one of the real ones. For some incredible reason they don't sell live bacteria in Canada and I had to have it smuggled across the border from the US.
<Mmmm. I don't like to encourage law-breaking, but I don't agree with such brainless carte-blanche censorship either>
Everyone here uses the chemicals that you have to continually add to the water, like Stability.
To complicate matters I have been treating for an intestinal parasite and I think it may also be partially responsible for the delayed cycling of my tank. I have more Safe Start on order, but the intestinal problem is just not going away so I may wait until my fish is clear to add it. In the mean time, I have purchased a really nice Eheim filter and added a UV filter to the mix to try to kill off any free-floating bugs that may be around. I know it isn't uncommon to lose a fish but I only have two Dragon-eye fancies and they are quite endearing little fellows so I will do all I can
to prevent a loss!
<Ahh! I feel similarly re my Ryukins>
I am on week three of Jungle anti-parasite medication and if that doesn't work I have some 100% Metronidazole that I'll try.
<Only treat once with this material. Very potent, hard on fish's kidneys>
It's really confusing as to what parasite might be affecting the poor fish as there seems to be so many! He still has stringy, clear feces even after the third cycle of meds. I'm concerned about bringing in the "big guns" as
I don't want to harm the fish with unnecessary meds, either. It really is a complicated matter- I can't believe that people perceive fish to be an easy
<Some much more/less than others for sure>
On a happy note, I have started fish training and my small fish (who has much better eyesight than my big bug-eyed fish) is responding quite well.
The larger fish just can't see the food reward up close and it ends up floating away (much to the delight of the smaller fish).
Kind regards:
Gina de Almeida
<And you, BobF>

Open Body Sores/Striped Raphael Catfish culprit? Rainbowfish hlth./env. 1/10/10
<Hi there>
We have a 55 gallon tank with: 2 turquoise Rainbowfish, 2 zebra Danios, 2 emerald Cory cats, 2 praecox Rainbowfish, 1 Australian Rainbowfish, 1 Plecostomus, and 1 striped Raphael catfish.
<Mmm, the Rainbows are social species... should be kept in groups>
Recently we've had a problem with our Rainbowfish having open body sores and subsequently getting Popeye twice.
<Water quality? Measures?>
This has gone on for probably 4 months now and we've done treatments with: Lifeguard, Melafix, Tetracycline, and EM Erythromycin.
<Mmmm. Please read here:
and the linked files above>
Our last attempt at treatment was done by setting up a hospital tank and dosing only this fish with the Erythromycin. After several courses of treatment we had quite a bit of improvement, but the sores were still present. We placed the Australian back in the 55 gallon tank with the others about 6 weeks ago.
Now the sores are looking worse and the Popeye is back again. I also noticed that one of the praecox rainbows has a huge gash in it's side. I checked the water levels and they're all fine.
<Please send values, not subjective evaluations>
Four days ago I started dosing the entire 55 gallon with Melafix,
<Worse than worthless... see WWM re>
at the recommendation of pet store, because it is inexpensive
and supposed to treat the problems we are experiencing,
<... it will not. In fact, it forestalls folks seeking, using real cures;
sometimes disrupts nitrogen et al. cycling... is worse than a placebo>
but it doesn't seem to be doing much. Today I noticed that the praecox seems to be struggling and staying at the surface of the water, so I put both it and the Australian in the 10 gallon hospital tank, added aquarium salt, and started treatment with the Erythromycin and aeration with an air stone. Do you have any suggestions on what else I can do?
<Yes... water changes, the use of carbon et al. chemical filtration, the adjustment of water quality, determination of root cause/s here... There is something amiss with the environment... NO treatment/medicine is going to solve this>
I'm also wondering if you have any opinion on whether the Raphael cat may have caused the injuries to these fish with his hard and spiny exterior?
<It has not... Lives on the bottom...>
Heather Richardson
<Please send along water test data, history and make-up of this set-up, images of all including the livestock if you can. Bob Fenner>
Pictures Re: Open Body Sores/Striped Raphael Catfish culprit? 1/10/10
<Mmm, no. Unfortunately no pix attached. Please try again. BobF>
please find pictures of the Australian Rainbowfish that has Popeye and body sores as well as a picture of the praecox Rainbowfish that has the gash on its side. Please also note that where I said, "Recently we've had a problem with our Rainbowfish having open body sores and subsequently getting Popeye," I was referring to only the 1 Australian Rainbowfish that I've attached the pictures of.
Heather Richardson

Re: Open Body Sores/Striped Raphael Catfish culprit? 1/10/10
The pictures should be attached this time. Also attached are photos of the water chemistry as of this morning in the 55 gallon tank (which I replaced the carbon in yesterday after transferring the sick fish into the hospital tank). It seems the levels are off now.
<They are... do you agree that there is detectable ammonia and nitrite here? Toxic!>
The temperature hangs around 76.6F.
It was unclear as to whether you wanted pictures of the healthy fish, <Mmm, no>
so none are attached (I did try to take pictures of them, but they're too fast to catch.)
<The Praecox is ich infested... the others...>
It may be of worth to mention that the reason we don't have several of each social fish is because we've had some problems in the past with a malfunctioning heater.
<?! Replace this>
Over the past couple of years, our heater has malfunctioned three times causing our tank temperature to soar to 90+ degrees,
which has killed off probably 10-15 of our fish. The last time this happened was during the time that the Australian was treating in the hospital tank, so I don't think it's related to the condition.
As far as the praecox with the gash in the side, it died overnight.
Should I continue to treat the Australian in the hospital tank with erythromycin until I figure out what is wrong in the 55 gallon tank?
Heather Richardson
<First and foremost, the water quality... whatever is subtending nitrification needs to be FIXED. Pronto... See WWM re:
the third tray down. The issue here is a priori environmental. Pouring in more med.s is counterproductive. BobF>

Re: Open Body Sores/Striped Raphael Catfish culprit? 1/11/10
Thanks for link as far as where to look for information, however, there are a lot of links and stories and I'm not sure what exactly it is that I'm looking for instruction on.
<Hello Heather. Platydoras-type catfish are generally extremely hardy, and the last fish to show signs of stress. So if your specimen is currently sick -- and I better make the point here they're social animals that don't thrive kept singly -- it's a good idea to review the reasons why. As Bob mentioned, a broken heater serves no purpose. When shopping for a new one, choose one that either has a clip-on heater guard, or else pick up a heater guard that can be fixed over whatever heater you buy. These catfish are notorious for burning themselves as they nestle against the heater. They like to hide, and switched off, a heater is mistaken for a plant root or something. By the time they feel the heat when the thing switches on, their skin is burned. Catfish don't have scales -- their armour is actually just thickened skin -- so unlike most other fish that can slough off damaged scales easily, catfish can be severely harmed by otherwise superficial burns and cuts. Optimal water conditions should ensure spontaneous healing of such wounds, but any trace of ammonia or nitrite, as well as excessive heat or cold, will stress the fish sufficiently to allow secondary infections. In any event, if you're getting a variety of sick/dead fish, it's a very good sign the aquarium environment is poor. Review tank size, filtration, diet, etc. and act accordingly. To recap, a community of talking catfish and Rainbowfish would need to be upwards of 180 litres in size and equipped with a robust filter rated at not less than 4 times the capacity of the tank in turnover per hour (e.g., a 200 litre tank would need a 4 x 200 = 800 litre/hour filter). Water chemistry should be neutral (pH 6.5-7.5) and the water slightly soft to moderately hard (8-15 degrees dH). Avoid extremely soft or extremely hard water, and don't add salt.
Ammonia and nitrite should both be at zero levels all the time; if they're not, then the filter is immature, the filter not properly maintained, the fish overfed, or the tank overstocked. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Open Body Sores/Striped Raphael Catfish culprit? 1/11/10
Thanks for the information, Neale. Fortunately, our Raphael catfish is not the one with the sores.
It is the Australian rainbow that is having the problems with the wounds that won't heal and the recurring Popeye.
<Almost certainly a water quality issue, perhaps aggravated by collisions with solid objects, fighting amongst themselves, or a vitamin-poor diet.
Check the Rainbows aren't throwing themselves into the glass because of sudden noises, lights coming on in the dark, etc.>
To recap my previous discussions, we have a 55 gallon tank with: 2 turquoise Rainbowfish, 2 zebra Danios, 2 emerald Cory cats, 2 praecox Rainbowfish, 1 Australian Rainbowfish, 1 Plecostomus, and 1 striped Raphael catfish.
<I see. I will make the observation an adult Plec, anything upwards of 20 cm, and up to 45 cm when fully grown, can overwhelm an aquarium this size, preventing good water quality. There is no obvious reason to keep a Plec in a tank this size, and you'd be much better with an Ancistrus Bristlenose.>
We use an Emperor 400 BioWheel filter (400 gallons per hour) in conjunction with a submersible bio filter. We should be getting a pretty good flow with these.
<In theory, yes. But even the best filter clogs up with time, and some designs waste precious filter media space on stuff like carbon and Zeolite you don't need.>
I'm not sure if you saw the photos of the sick fish or the water chemistry, so I have attached copies for your review.
As you see, our levels were a little high.
<I'll say! First check your tap water doesn't contain ammonia or nitrite. It shouldn't, but some supplies do. Water conditioners are available that neutralize (not remove) the ammonia that comes with tap water (no good for fixing ammonia produced by fish, though). If your water contains nitrite, that's a bigger deal, and you really should call your water supplier.>
In an attempt to solve this problem, I did some gravel vacuuming today and a huge water change.
<Gravel cleaning doesn't dramatically change much of anything, though it makes the fishkeeper feel a bit better I suppose. There really shouldn't be much organic matter in the gravel assuming the tank is properly filtered and you stir the gravel a bit each time you do a water change.>
The levels are still the same, though. I'm wondering if the fact that our tap water tests high for ammonia has anything to do with it?
<Yes, can do. Obviously a filter neutralizes ammonia at a fixed rate, and is designed to remove the ammonia produced by the fish. If you also have ammonia in the water, and this isn't neutralized first, then filter could be overwhelmed. The WHO recommend water for drinking contain less than 0.2 mg/l, and higher levels are often taken to imply a mix of dirty water (i.e., sewage or agricultural run-off) with potable water. If you're getting above 0.2 mg/l, pick up the phone and call your water supplier.
Such levels are potential health hazards to you and your family, let alone your fish.>
I've read online that although the results say it's ammonia (on the tap results), it may just be chloramine that shows on the test as ammonia.
<Yes, this can happen. The interaction between chloramine, dechlorinators, ammonia removers, and ammonia test kits is complex. See for example these explanations by manufacturers:
The bottom line is that using one or more products to condition your water (for chloramine and ammonia) may be necessary, and at least initially, try doing small (10-20% water changes more frequently to avoid flooding the tank with extra ammonia. As an experiment, try skipping a water change one weekend, and see what happens. If you find ammonia and nitrite drop to zero after a couple of days and stay there for the next ten days, then the problem is the TAP WATER. If the ammonia and nitrite levels do not drop to zero, then the problem (in part at least) is THE AQUARIUM. Why? Because even a crummy filter should process the ammonia in your tap water. Once it's gone, it's gone. So if levels don't drop to zero, that means there's some other source of ammonia that keeps topping up the levels in the water.
This is, of course, the fish (either directly, or via the food you give them).>
Regardless, I don't think either are probably things I want in our tank.
We use AmQuel Plus when doing water changes. Any suggestions on what to do next?
<Cheers, Neale.>

(fishless) Cycling tank experiencing nitrite fluctuations 7/15/2009
Dear WWM crew,
Hi! I hope you're doing well and thanks for taking the time to read this!
<Happy to help.>
I'm at the tail end of a fishless cycle for a Betta tank that I'm having difficulty finishing up. Nitrite levels have an infuriating habit of lowering to 0.1 ppm in the morning and then spiking back up to around .8 ppm after I add the daily ammonia dose.
<You're adding too much ammonia for the filter to process "in real time"; try adding half as much, and see what happens.>
They'll then go back down to .1 ppm by the next morning until I re-add the ammonia. The ammonia itself takes less than a day to go back down to zero.
This has been going on for a few days and short of considering a bum nitrite test kit, I'd like to ask your opinion of a few tips I've read about to get the cycle moving, but I'm a little too nervous to try out, lest I disturb the cycle.
<If you've been doing this for more than, say, 3 weeks, the tank is probably cycled good enough to add fish. At the very least, stop adding ammonia, and instead add a tiny bit of flake food each day, just as if there was a Betta in the tank. It goes without saying that ammonia is ammonia is ammonia, and the bacteria couldn't care less whether the ammonia comes direct from decaying flake food or via your pet fish. It's all the same to them! If you find 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite after a few days of this protocol, you're good to go.>
But First, some tank specifics are in order!
tank size: 5.5g, planted, cycling, heated (80F) and filtered (whisper HOB filter with a sponge insert on the intake to protect delicate Betta fins and a baffle on the outtake to reduce the current)
set-up: half an inch of gravel, planted with 2 Anubias nanas, 1 Anubias barteri, 5 bunches of java fern, Christmas tree moss, duckweed a Cladophora ball and a few pieces of driftwood for cover
water additives: Nutrafin aqua plus water conditioner(10ml), blackwater extract (5ml) and weekly Seachem flourish and excel doses(.5ml) for the plants along with tetra Florapride which is added each month (5ml). I'm also adding 12 drops of ammonia each day and Seachem stability was added the first week of the cycle.
water parameters:
ph: 7.6
GH: 120 ppm (this value tends to fluctuate a bit)
KH: 60 ppm
ammonia: 0 (it goes up to around .5 ppm when I add ammonia and goes back to 0 ppm in less than a day)
nitrite: .1 ppm but then goes up to around .8 ppm very quickly after ammonia is added and then back down to .1 by the next morning
nitrate: between 50-110 ppm
uninvited guests: pond snails, Planaria, copepods, nematodes and what I think are Ostracods
<All harmless, and in fact likely helping the cycling process in their way.>
I had left the tank alone until July 8th when I did a partial water change because of a second nitrite spike that brought levels from .3 ppm back up to 1.6 ppm which I attributed to a sudden KH drop. In response to the nitrite levels, I thought the ammonia was inhibiting their growth in some way, so I've been reluctantly lowering the amount of ammonia I add from 20 to 18 then to 12 and finally to 10 drops.
I was dosing 20 drops at the beginning, then 18 when I started getting nitrites, followed by 12 when I had a second nitrite spike and right now I'm adding 10 drops.
I've never found any information that matches my current predicament so I'm hesitant to try some of the cycle troubleshooting advice I've read. They range from water changes, varying the amount of ammonia I add to the very ominous-sounding not adding any ammonia at all for a day or two.
I have to say I'm mildly tempted to skip a day of ammonia, since the nitrites are on the brink of disappearing and adding ammonia is what appears to be keeping them from doing so. But then again, I don't want to have a die-back of the other bacteria. I'm also nervous about adding a fish now, because the gradual lowering of the ammonia dose has no doubt reduced the bacterial bed, no? The bacteria can consume .5 ppm of ammonia in less than a day, do you think that sounds like a ballpark range of waste produced by a Betta each day?
<Who knows? Not a huge fan of using ammonia for precisely this problem; should I need to cycle a tank without fish, I tend to use flake food or bits of seafood to mimic the amount of food added to the aquarium once the first batch of fish are added; this way, I know the filter is getting "used" to exactly the right amount of waste.>
In a nutshell, have you ever encountered this sort of thing? If so, is there anything I can do, or is this another one of cycling's many 'sit down, shut up wait' tests?
thanks for all your help,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: (fishless) Cycling tank experiencing nitrite fluctuations -- 07/17/09
Dear Neale,
Thanks so much for the quick response (I can't say so much for myself)! I Just wanted to say that the nitrites finally reached zero yesterday,
and after a large water change I purchased a Betta (who's bag water had a 1 ppm ammonia reading no less)!
Despite that he's got immaculate fins and vibrant colour. He's still a little skittish and his gills might be compromised by the polluted water he was in, but hopefully he'll take a shine to his new surroundings and live out his days comfortably!
<I hope so too. Good luck!>
Thanks so much for taking the time to send me all that information and I'll put it to good use should I ever convince my parents to let me get another tank!
<Sounds like you're enjoying this hobby, which is good news for the future.>
gratefully, Emilie
<You're welcome, Neale.>

Re: (fishless) Cycling tank experiencing nitrite fluctuations 7/26/09
Dear Neale,
(don't worry, I'll leave you guys alone after this message)
<You're always welcome to write!>
It's been about a week since I got my Betta and things are going wonderfully! I can't express how pleased I am!
<It's a lovely aquarium too! It would be a real blessing upon the world if everyone kept their Bettas in tanks as well constructed as this one. Your choice of plants is excellent and should do well even under moderate lighting levels. One thing I'd add though, if you find algae becoming a problem, is add some Indian Fern (Ceratopteris). This floating plant provides shade and cover at the top -- Bettas love the stuff! -- but even better, it's a great algae-buster. Anubias in particular doesn't like direct light, and the edges of its leaves often become covered with hair algae. Floating plants moderate the light a bit, and helps Anubias and other shade-loving plants keep algae-free. Simply crop back the Indian Fern regularly to prevent the tank being totally overwhelmed.>
It's so rewarding to wake up and get to see a healthy, active fish going about his business. In light of this I need to thank you and the rest of the crew for creating this site and for all your patience and advice. WWM is by far the best resource for fishkeepers I've come across and I can spend hours at a time looking through all the FAQs (although I usually skip the Betta FAQs because it depresses me a little) and learn some thing new.
<Ah, yes, the Betta FAQ does tend to be unusually rich in the "same old problems", in part (unfortunately) because pet store clerks seem to continue selling inappropriate Betta habitats, and offer little in the way of useful advice.>
In that spirit, I thought you might like to see a photo of my Betta's tank (I hope it got through!). Most of the final setup is a result of reading your site's articles and FAQs and I thought you'd like to see the results of applying your site's (and enviable knowledge) indispensable resources.
<Thank you for this photo!>
Anyway, I think it's really important that I take the time to let you (and the rest of the gang) know that I recognize and highly value the time and effort you (all) put into WWM because I'm often disturbed by how ungrateful some of the people who write in are. Once again, eternal thanks and I hope I accumulate enough experience to become as knowledgeable as you all are!
<And thank you for taking the time to write! Good luck with your fish, Neale.>

Tank Cycle Question
New Tank Problems With Cycling 4/9/09

Hey crew, First I want to say thanks for all your advise with my previous questions about setting my 75 gallon tank correctly. I have the aquarium set up and I currently have a green terror (goldsaum) and 3 clown loaches. I plan to add just one more fish and I am considering a tiger Oscar. The tank has been going through a cycle for the last 3 weeks. I have been struggling with cloudy water and ammonia readings, to combat that I have been doing 50% water changes and with every water change I have been using a product called "neutralize" dechlorinator and product called "colonize" to add good bacteria in the water. I also had a problem with low pH due to it coming from my tap on the low side and having drift wood in the tank so I was told to add some crushed coral to the filter and now it's been stable for the last week in an acceptable range for the fish I am keeping. The fish are showing nice colors and are very active.
After testing yesterday I noticed that I am showing 0 ammonia, NO2 was 0.25 ppm, NO3 looked to be 5.0 ppm, and the pH was between 7.4 and 7.8. I have I attached pictures of how the results have changed over the past couple of weeks hoping you guys could tell me if I should continue changing the water every couple of days until the NO2 and NO3 and ammonia are at 0 or if I am nearing the end of the cycle and I could space the water changes out a bit.
<The nitrites are still a problem. Continue with the water changes or add Dr. Tim's One and Only to establish the biological filtration.>
The presence of NO2 just started yesterday and as well as the first time I had a 0 ammonia reading also for the first time yesterday my tank was actually clear. Today I did about another 30% water change and it remains clear. Thanks in advance for any advice or suggestions Tom
< The bacteria that break down the ammonia are now becoming established and converting the ammonia to nitrites. While less toxic, they still are a potential problem and will cause problems for another few weeks. When the ammonia and nitrites are at 0 ppm then think about adding new fish. BTW, you clown loaches and green terror will grow up to a foot long when at adult size. You may not want to add any additional fish.-Chuck>

Is this a "mini-cycle"? 02/09/09 Hi Crew, I am helping someone set up his new 300L tank, using approx 1L of mature Seachem Matrix from my existing canister filter into his new filter. I was expecting that this would allow him to start stocking and he added 4 small rosy barbs and 2 small clown loaches. After one day, he is seeing approx 0.1ppm ammonia and 0.25 nitrite. pH is 6.8. Seeing that its got nitrite, I presume that at least he is not needing to go through the full cycle process. What is happening here? Is this a 'mini-cycle"? How long will this last, and what else should he do - apart from dosing with Prime, which he has already done, and not getting anymore new fish. cheers Tim <Hi Tim. Well, it does sound like this filter is cycling. Something went wrong in "cloning" the filter. Perhaps there was a substantial water chemistry change, or temperature change. Perhaps the filter media was allowed to dry out or suffocate. A variety of things. But the upshot is this new tank is cycling, and it is critical the fish are not fed during the next week. Because the media contains at least some bacteria (you detect nitrite, so there must be some) my guess is the filter will cycle fully very quickly, perhaps 7-10 days. No need to feed the fish. Do big water changes, ideally 20-25% daily, but at least 50% every other day. Should be fine after that. Do check water chemistry is stable (filter bacteria don't like acidity, and stop working below 6.0). Cheers, Neale.> Thanks Neale. Cheers Tim <Happy to help. Good luck! Neale.>

Re: Is this a "mini-cycle"? 02/10/09 Hi Neale By the way, I seeded the new filter at about the same time as fish were added. Perhaps the bacteria died waiting for the fish waste to generate some ammonia? Moreover, it was almost 45 minutes from taking out the media from the old filter, driving to the location of the new tank/filter and adding the old media into the new filter. <Filter media can survive without ammonia for maybe a day, but after that, the bacteria will die back. If you put live media into a system (whether live rock or mature media) you need to provide a source of ammonia. A pinch of flake per day will do; it doesn't have to be fish.> In retrospect, what would have been the best time to seed the filter in order to preserve the bacteria? Should the fish be added to the tank first, wait awhile (how long?) and then seed the new filter? <You *do* need to add a source of ammonia. Whether that's fish, 4-5 mg/l ammonia per day, or a daily pinch of flake food, doesn't much matter.> Cheers Tim <Cheers, Neale.>

No luck with freshwater cycle? -07/18/08 Hello, WWM crew, and thanks in advance for your reply. I have a couple of questions on a brand new 10-gallon freshwater tank I'm trying to set up. I currently have a Betta in a 1-gallon setup (no heater, poor guy) who will be moving into the new tank as soon as its water settles. General Question (the General for short) lives on my desk, where the ambient temperature sometimes drops below 70 F due to an overactive air conditioner... I'm sure he'll enjoy his new home much more. Joining him will be a few small catfish (Otocinclus - the excellent LFS has fat & happy, local, captive-bred specimens) to help with algae and add some more interest to the tank, which will be helping to spruce up a very dull reception area at my workplace. <Tank-bred Otocinclus are very rare and they aren't bred on farms. The only breeders are hobbyists, and prices tend to be high as and when these fish are sold. If your LFS really does have a supplier of such fish, that's fantastic! Wild-caught fish predominate, and are so inexpensive lots of aquarists buy them. As I've explained elsewhere on WWM, they are extremely bad fish for the non-expert fishkeeper: they need quite cool water (no more than 25 C), very strong water currents, lots of oxygen, and a constant supply of green algae (not other kinds) or a suitable substitute such as algae wafers. All in all, difficult fish to keep alive, and the VAST majority die within a few months.> I am pretty new to this and have never tried to do a fishless cycle before - the few aquarium books I've read have absolutely nothing useful to say on the cycle process, and I didn't find what I'm looking for by searching your site or the web at large. That said, I've had a blast reading all your articles. <All aquarium books should describe the cycling process, and I've never yet seen an aquarium book for beginners that doesn't. In any case, here it is: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm > The 10-gallon will eventually have rooted plants, but does not yet (I get paid today, rooted plants come soon!) and currently has a pair of Java fern. It has 1" sphagnum peat (no additives) under 1" gravel as a substrate. As our local water is very basic and very hard, the peat not only makes the plants happy but also keeps the pH in a less extreme range (7.2 rather than 8.3). There is a hanging filter with mechanical, carbon and biological media (AquaClear 20), a heater holding at 78-80 degrees, and a fluorescent grow light that came with the hood. When starting my cycle, I sprinkled in a few of the General's freeze-dried bloodworms, hoping that their decay would cause an ammonia spike. Indeed it did; ammonia went from 0 to 6 ppm in two days' time. I've also seen a NO3 spike up to 100 ppm, but no NO2! The ammonia is slowly dropping back down, the NO3 is rising, and this does not fit the pattern I've read about over and over on your site and elsewhere. Did I go wrong somewhere? Do I need to try again? Or does it just need a big water change? <If you have ammonia, it's because you are either: [a] overfeeding; [b] under-filtering; or [c] not allowing the filter to mature. Common mistakes people make are to keep cleaning the biological filter medium vigorously. This kills the bacteria. A gentle squeeze in a bucket of aquarium water is all you need do, ideally once every 2-6 weeks depending on how messy your fish are. Obviously you should not feed your fish at all if you can detect ammonia. Fish can easily last 1-2 weeks without food, so this isn't an issue. Just let the ammonia drop down, and once it's safe, add tiny amounts of food. A single flake is ample for a Betta.> The second question involves snails. They must have come in with the Java ferns. I didn't have snails before - don't want them, even - and they're tiny. One has already died; I found its empty shell scooting around in the filter's current. At least two other individuals exist - one has a fuzzy tuft of algae on its shell and the other does not. They are glossy, black, and very round, and researching them told me that they should not be able to survive in the aquarium at this stage as the ammonia and nitrate are way too high. How are they surviving the wild swings in this tank? <Some snails are adapted to ponds where the water quality can be pretty poor. These snails breathe air, and are consequently less dependent on water quality than fish. While snails will die if endlessly exposed to very poor conditions, in the short term at least things like pond snails and Melanoides are surprisingly tolerant. Snails don't do any harm, and their numbers are directly proportional to the amount of uneaten food and generally muck in the tank. Clean tanks have few snails; dirty tanks have lots. So the important thing is to appreciate what snails are -- recyclers -- and keep the tank clean so that their numbers stay small. A few snails in a tank is a good thing: they help circulate the gravel and so prevent anaerobic decay. But in large numbers they are unsightly, and certain plants will be nibbled by them. That said, I have a small planted tank with lots of snail species and it is fine. Cryptocoryne, Java fern/moss, Vallisneria are all ignored by small snails such as Physa spp. Melanoides snails never eat plants and are completely trustworthy.> I'm pretty confused on this, though not concerned as it seems the General will probably eat them once the water has figured itself out and he's in his new home. Thanks! ~Sylvia <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: No luck with freshwater cycle? 7/22/08 Thanks for all the information and help! <Most welcome.> My water has settled down over the past few days, and I'm just waiting for the last few ppm to drop to 0 before introducing the fish. <Good move!> I now have a total of three snails scooting around - they grew from pinhead size to being almost 1cm long in just those few days and developed a golden color - and four plants (the new ones are a Micro Sword and an Anubias nana.) <I happen to like snails. I bought a couple of really interesting conical snails over the weekend for my "freshwater reef tank", a small tank with snails, shrimps, and a couple of gobies and some dwarf halfbeaks. Lots of plants, of course. Anyway, if you take care not to overfeed them, snails aren't the problem everyone says they are. I actually have some snail-eating snails in there, and these keep the populations low by eating the baby snails. The shrimps breed like crazy when happy, so I have something that's as much fun to watch as a marine aquarium, but hardly any effort to maintain at all. All this in about 8 gallons of water. I hope that gets you thinking about what's possible in a small space, IF you're careful!> I would emphatically recommend your site! So much information, accessible in so little time. <Bob Fenner, the site creator, I'm sure will be very touched to hear you say this.> Thanks again! I'll keep on doing my reading, and work toward a nice display in my workplace. <Cheers, Neale.> <<Ah, yes. Thank you both. BobF>

How to keep bacteria alive in a fishless tank? 4/24/08 Hello Neale, <Giuseppe,> hope you and your tanks are doing well. <Yep, we're all just fine; thanks for asking!> I have 2 unrelated questions. 1) I will be on vacation for 2 weeks in June and I was wondering if the good bacteria would starve to death in a tank without fish. By then I will have all my fish in the 46-gal, but I would like to keep the established 10-gal running to try breeding when I'm back. Again my question is whether or not the good bacteria would starve in these 2 weeks or not and what could be a solution. Maybe I should leave 1 or 2 Otocinclus and they would eat the algae in the tank? <Otocinclus aren't my favourite fish in the trade because their survival record is so poor. But certainly some hardy algae eater, like an Ancistrus or Hemiloricaria whiptail, could be left in the 10 gallon tank for a couple of weeks with a bit of carrot for grazing but otherwise left to fend for himself. Alternatively, just stick a small frozen prawn in the tank and let it rot away. Remove when you get back, obviously. Yet another option would be a plain "holiday block" of the type often sold for Goldfish and the like. These are basically lumps of limestone that dissolve away, releasing flakes of food. Again, the food will rot, producing ammonia. The bacteria couldn't care less where the ammonia comes from.> 2) How should I feed Otocinclus? I used to have 1 in the 10-gal tank and he did great for 1 year without feeding anything. When I moved the fish to the 46-gal it died after a couple of weeks, probably because there was no algae in the tank. When I'll be on vacation for 2 weeks I will use an automatic feeder loaded with flakes or mini pallets, which the Otocinclus wouldn't eat. Do you think the poor guy would starve? <Otocinclus are very difficult to feed. They almost entirely eat "aufwuchs", the combination of green algae and micro-invertebrates that encrust surfaces in bright, clear waters. They are opportunistic to some degree though -- most notoriously eating the mucous from slow moving fish -- but still, getting enough food into them within a community setting can be very hard. They do best (perhaps only do well) in large tanks with established algae "turfs" on the rocks and plants where they can feed continuously, supplementing that diet with bloodworms, algae wafers, and so on. I'd tend to avoid in favour of hardier, more adaptable Loricariidae, of which there are many.> Thanks, Giuseppe <Cheers, Neale.>

Bio-Spira... not following directions... 2/26/08 I wrote to you on 2/21/08 concerning Amon. & No2 & No3 levels. In brief: 55gal., aqua-clear filtration system, artificial plants & décors Started tank without fish 12/31/07 Amon ? O.5 No2 &3 - O. Added 6 Danios 1/9/08- Amon. O.5 No2 & 3 ?O. PH-7. <Ammonia is toxic> 1/24/08 Added 3 swordtails & 1 Gourami 2/10/08 Added 6 Australian rainbows Up to this time all levels stayed the same ? Amon. O.5 No2 & 3 ? O. All of this was recommended by LFS and knew of my concerns <... still deadly toxic> about the ammonia levels and no reading for No2 &3. (Told me that the tank probably already cycled) (Can you tell I'm new to this hobby)? <Yep> On 2/17/08 Amon. now 1.0 and still no readings for No2 & 3 PH-7.2 . Had been doing 15 ? 25% water changes weekly with no changes. <No use changing water... forestalling the establishment of cycling> Was told by Bob to use ?Bio-Spira?, no water changes, feed tiny amts. (feed every other day) and no new fish until cycled. <Good advice!> I bought the ?Bio-Spira? and was told by LFS to use only ½ of the pkg. <... a full dose?> I did this on Sat. 1/23 and tested water today and all levels are still the same as on 2/17/08. Should I use the rest of the ?Bio-Spira? --- or wait it out and test daily? <Use the full dose... as labeled> All fish are fine, water crystal clear and no odors. <And check your test kit... against another, and/or make a standard (with household ammonia, and water known to have no ammonia...) Thank you for any help <Read: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm  and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

New Tank Cycling HI, your web site is GREAT, and I'm hoping you can help me. I tried looking for the answer on your site, but I'm not sure what to do. I have a calico goldfish (a little larger than 1 and a half inches), which has been in a 6 gallon Eclipse for about almost two weeks now. The tank has been previously used, but when I put my fish in, I added new gravel, water, etc., and a new filter. I did pH, nitrite, and ammonia testing and the levels were all good, ph was about 7, ammonia was 0, and nitrites was 0. About 3-4 days ago I (after he'd been in the tank about a week) I thought I should clean and change water. I changed about 25% of the water, vacuumed the gravel, and wiped the inside of the tank. After doing some research, I figured it was probably to early to clean (the water parameters were the same as when I started the tank, before I cleaned). After I did the water change, I noticed he was acting a little strangely sitting in one area of the top of the tank, and sitting in corner at the bottom. I immediately did water testing and found the ammonia level at about 0.5-0.6, and the nitrites at about 0.3 (Hagen testing kit). I usually keep a little aquarium salt in the tank, and I added a little more. I tested the next morning, and found the same levels in both, and I did a 50% water change. I checked the levels in the evening, they were still about the same. I did another 50% change yesterday and got some Cycle (supposed to add good bacteria and drop nitrites and ammonia) and added that to the water as well. I checked the levels again last night and the ammonia dropped a little, and nitrites dropped to 0.1. I changed the water again this morning (50%) and added cycle again. The levels are now BARELY detectable. Should I keep changing water until there are NO traces? Eddie's still sitting at the bottom (fins still clamped), he swims around when I change the water, I have been still feeding him smaller amounts of food then usual. He also now seems to have a little less of one his tail fins (although it is hard to tell because he never swims!) I just noticed that today, research indicating probably because of the poor water, BUT should I now treat him medically for that? If I do I have to stop the filter and bio-wheel (disrupting the good bacteria again)... HELP, Thank you soooo much, and sorry this was so long, just trying to give you as much info as possible. Mel <Hey Mel, the longer the better, we like detailed emails. You are on the right track. 6gal is a small volume of water, so it will foul quickly, especially if it was not cycled. Keep up on the small water changes, daily if needed, test frequently. Once the tank is cycled Eddie should start acting normal again. I would not use any meds right now, just focus on getting Ammonia and Nitrite down to zero. Best Regards, Gage >

Cycling with ammonium chloride (11/10/03) <Hi! Ananda here...> Am having a really big problem cycling my tank. Some fresh water expert suggested to use ammonium chloride to cycle my 40gal fresh water tank (planted). <Sounds good.> So I went to the local drug store and got some ammonium chloride (powder). I've been dosing since 3 days to bring the ammonia up to 2 ppm but all what I got is about 0.1 Until now 7 large tablespoon has been added and the ammonia is still 0.1 ..What's wrong??? <Hmmm. I would suspect your ammonia test.> I am starting to get worried. I have a power filter with carbon in it and some bio media. I hope you could help. A.G <Have you checked the nitrites, too? What is your nitrite reading? Meanwhile, there's an excellent article on fishless cycling here: http://www.tropicalfishcentre.co.uk/Fishlesscycle.htm ... -Ananda>

Re: Power cut, cycling 2/21/08 Hi Neale, From what I read in your last e-mail, does this mean that all the good bacteria in my filter thing has died? It came in-built with the tank as did the pump and the heater. It was out of the water for at last 4-5 hours and there was no water flowing on it because the electricity was off. What should I do now? Will my fish die because the bacteria aren't there anymore? I mean how long will it take for it to grow back? Thanks, Neervana <No, not all the bacteria will have died, but some will because the oxygen that will have passively diffused into the filter will be less than the amount of oxygen that gets in when the motor is running. So do your water change, and then over the next few days, reduce/stop feeding, do nitrite tests, and basically act as if the filter is only partially cycled. With luck, the remaining bacteria will spring back into life straight away, and quickly undo the damage. Cheers, Neale.>

Cycling... learning to use WWM, not chatting 2/21/08 Hi Neale, <RMF here in his stead> I did a 50% water change before I e-mailed you - I did it around midday I think. I then tested the water and the nitrites is still showing really high - around 10. Was not sure about the colour of the test strip, looked more like 20. Do I need to do a water change again? <... you need to learn to/use the search tool, indices which are WWM. This time I'll do this for you: Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwnitrates.htm  and the linked files above> I have not fed them anything so why did was the nitrites still high after I did a water change? <See WWM re freshwater maintenance, water changes... this is all covered and much more related information you may need to know> Also, my new aquarium should be arriving soon, I was thinking that every time I do a water change from my 200 gallon can I then put the water I siphoned out of that tank into the new one? <See WWM re... Cycling...> Will this help with bacteria to grow in the new tank. If I put the water I have taken out of the old tank into the new one once a week for 6 months, perhaps it will be cycled then and safe to add a fish to? Thanks, Neervana. <Keep reading. Bob Fenner>

Re: Bio-Spira Cycling Questions 11/8/07 Bob, <John> Again, thanks. <Welcome> Yes, I've read on the use of DSB's and plants on WWM. But, Since I vacuum the gravel so frequently (recall I have two comets and a Pleco) I didn't think that this would work for me. <Could "tie in" a sump... another tank outside... or use a canister filter with an anaerobic to hypoxic media...> I have also desperately tried to do plants, but I have not been successful because both the comets and the Pleco love to eat them and uproot them. <The sump... could be lighted... perhaps on a reverse daylight photoperiod with the main display> I'm searching for java fern, which I've heard neither comets or Plecos like, and also have short 4" bamboo here in my local pet store chain. But, I'm not knowledgeable on bamboo so I'm going to do more research on that before I just add it to the aquarium. Again I'm not sure if you can say, but I was curious which products you think were for show? <Principally the continuous read assay devices> I've been seriously looking at the Matrix and de*nitrate, but don't know really the differences between the two. I was thinking it might be better just to have an all-in-one product like Matrix, but then again, sometimes all-in-one means less performance for all functions involved. Decisions, decisions. I've also got the Purigen, but I'm not so sure this is working as well as I had hoped. And about my water... I do filter it through a PUR faucet before I cook and drink it, but unfortunately my ice maker is not filtered. What can nitrates to do a human!?!? <A few things... that are best avoided> Perhaps it might explain my sudden not-feeling-so-well. <I don't like this> Thank you, John <I do hope/trust you're joshing re the NO3... the federal standards for potable water have back-slided in the U.S.... I would get/use (I do) a reverse osmosis device. Bob Fenner>

Ceramic media, & air pumps FW -- 08/26/07 Hello Neale, I bought the ceramic cylinders yesterday to be used as filter media. I wanted to ask you how should I place them inside the power filter and how many of then I'm supposed to use? Should I also bury some cylinders in the gravel and use them to jump start an eventual new tank? I also wanted to ask you if using an air pump inside the tank is really beneficial or not. As always, thanks a lot for your helpful insights. Giuseppe <Greetings Giuseppe. How you use the ceramic media depends somewhat on the design of your filter. Some filters have "compartments" that you stuff with the media of your choice. If this is the case here, place the ceramic media in the last compartment (i.e., the one that water enters last of all) for best results. This will stop it getting clogged with solid waste quickly, allowing the media to perform as biological media better. If your filter doesn't have compartments, then place the media in a media bag (or something similar, like the "foot" from a pair of stockings) and stuff it somewhat after the mechanical filter media (again, so that it doesn't get clogged too quickly). There's no "wrong" way to use media, just more or less efficient ways, so if this all seems to complicated, just cram the ceramic hoops in wherever you can. The filter should have some instructions explaining this. You likely can't use "too much" or the filter won't go back together. As for burying them in the gravel -- pointless. If you have spare, buy another filter and put them in there. Otherwise, leave them somewhere dry to use at another time. The gravel in a tank without an undergravel filter is basically "dead" as far as biological filtration goes, and the ceramic media won't do anything useful and won't get significantly colonised with bacteria. Better to remove 50% of the media from the filter after a few months, and use those to "seed" a new filter in a new aquarium. You can replace up to 50% of the filter media from a mature filter and not lose too much biological filtration capacity. Obviously you add new media after you do this. This process is called "cloning" a filter, and it's how I set up all my tanks, and totally removes the cycling process. Now, as for air pumps: here's the deal. Air pumps don't put oxygen into the water. That's a myth. What they do is improve circulation. By doing this, de-oxygenated water at the bottom of the tank is brought to the surface, where CO2 diffuses out and oxygen diffuses in. That's really all air pumps do. Obviously, an air pump connected to an airstone at the bottom of the tank will be more useful than the same pump connected to an airstone that's bubbling away at the top of the tank. Do you need an airstone? Generally not. A decent filter should be providing adequate circulation on its own. This wasn't always the case in the past, where air-powered filters were common, but modern electric filters generally offer a lot of circulation. The ideal for regular community fish is 4x the volume of the aquarium in turnover per hour. For goldfish, cichlids, Plecs, etc. this goes up to around 6-8x per hour, and for marines anything from 10x upwards is required. Your filter should have a "gallons per hour" or "litres per hour" quote on it somewhere; compare this to the volume of the aquarium, and draw your own conclusions as to whether you need to add extra circulation. Cheers, Neale>

Water Changes Affecting Cycle, FW -- 06/15/07 Hi Crew, <Hello.> Just a quick question about water changes and cycling. <OK.> I was on a forum the other night and someone asked a question about cycling his freshwater tank. The L.F.S. he had purchased the tank from had unfortunately sold him 4 fish at the same time as the new tank. <Common problem. Actually, depends on the size of the tank and the fish being bought. Four mollies to mature a 55 gallon fish-only marine tank would work rather well. But four mollies in a 20 gallon freshwater tank would be a disaster.> The person had to his credit, realised he was in trouble and read up on cycling. He had then managed to source a mature filter pad from one of his friends. <In theory this works very well. It's called "cloning" a filter, and it's my preferred method. But you do need to be moving the mature media from one tank to another without killing the bacteria by drying them out or shocking them water chemistry changes.> He said that he had seen a nitrate spike after ammonia and nitrite had appeared and was wondering whether this confirmed his tank was cycling. <Nitrate (and indeed ammonia/nitrite) levels are almost never the nice smooth curves you see in aquarium books. There's fluctuations to them for a variety of factors. In other words, provided the ammonia and nitrite stay at zero, and your nitrate level stays below some danger value (realistically, around 50-100 mg/l for most freshwater fish) then there isn't any real reason to worry about the precise value or how it compared to the reading you got last week.> I replied telling him that indeed this did mean his tank was in the process of cycling and it was a good sign. I told him to carry on performing his scheduled water changes, and gave him a list of symptoms of stress to watch out for. <Very good.> I told him to observe, and if he noticed any signs of stress, perform a large water change. <Correct.> This is where the question comes. I then told him that the emergency water change may slow the cycle slightly, but was not significant and was preferable to sick or even dead fish! <Absolutely.> I checked the post a few hours later and one of the moderator's had posted a reply after me stating that 'water changes will NOT AFFECT THE CYCLE'. <Almost certainly correct.> I replied stating that a large water change would decrease the available nutrients for the bacteria and therefore would marginally affect the cycling time. <Hmm... not convinced. The multiplication of bacteria depends on other things than just ammonia/nitrite availability, such as time, temperature, pH, oxygen, surface area of the media, etc. In other words, there's the biological law that processes are restricted by the thing in least supply. If the bacteria haven't had time to reach maximum population size, then it doesn't really matter if they have 0.25 mg/l ammonia to play with or 25 mg/l ammonia. Fundamentally, you're looking at a process that is constantly changing. The ammonia and nitrite in the water are the stuff the bacteria *haven't* had time to use. They're "leftovers" if you will. If you remove 50% or 75% of the water and so dilute these leftovers, the bacteria aren't going to starve. The fish are constantly producing more ammonia, and the nitrifying bacteria are producing more nitrite in due course. Think of it like a conveyor belt in a sushi bar: even if you take away most of the dishes on the conveyor belt at once, the sushi chef will be adding new ones all the time, so before long the belt will be filled up again, and the diners won't be hungry. They might have to wait a little longer to get the exact dish they want, but they won't starve.> He replied stating that the bacteria have a limited reproductive rate, and that a concentration of 0.25 ppm ammonia, would be no different than a concentration of 3.00 ppm ammonia, with regards to cycling speed. <I'd be dubious about actual values, but in terms of theory, this makes sense.> I decided to leave it at that as I didn't really want to enter into an argument. However I am interested to know whether I was right or wrong. <I'd tend towards agreeing with the moderator.> I have seen members of the WWM crew state that water changes will slow the cycle and was wondering if any of them have a reasoning behind this statement or whether it is from gathered experience. <Water changes are good, even during cycling, and are critical if you're cycling with fish. Anything above ammonia = 0.25 mg/ is lethal to fish, so you have to do water changes at that point anyway. Any possibly benefits of leaving the ammonia at higher levels will be more than offset by the sick fish. So while an interesting academic discussion, in sheer practical terms somewhat irrelevant.> I look forward to your views/opinions. Thanks and keep up the good work, Matt. <All very interesting. Thanks for sharing. Cheers, Neale>

Bio-Spira + Amquel = Uncycled Tank 3/9/07 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I started a new tank using Bio-Spira (75 gallon tank). I got a little crazy with the Amquel, which resulted in a lower pH and now I'm wondering what else its resulted in. <Amquel shouldn't lower your pH. If you read the directions on the Bio-Spira package though, it says not to use any ammonia-removing products with it. The bacteria in Bio-Spira needs ammonia to live.> My ammonium <ammonia?> went up and went down. My nitrites started down, went up, then up again, then up again and now I have no idea where the reading should be but it's a real pretty shade of purple. The nitrates stayed low until recently, now it's on the rise but the nitrites are holding steady. My fish are eating, swimming, seem relaxed but I'm extremely worried and willing to do anything in my power to keep those beautiful dollar bills swimming. I'm mainly writing to find out if Amquel is skewing my test on the nitrites. Please let me know. About the only thing left to buy is snake oil and the only thing stopping me is finding the salesman. <Now why would you want to go and do that? Using anything other than Bio-Spira to cycle your tank, will only hinder the cycle. Get another package of Bio-Spira and add to your filter, after doing an 80% water change to remove the nitrites & Amquel. You tank should be fine within 24-48 hours. Next time, please be sure to correct your capitalization & punctuation, before sending out your email to us. I have to correct them before they are posted in our FAQs. Very time consuming. Another Crewmember might have returned this email unanswered, for correction. Thanks, PP>

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