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Hello everyone!

I'm hoping to get some information/advice on my cycling experience so far.  

Here's the basic layout:

300 gallon fish tank

100 gallon clarifying tank

100 sq foot DWC (roughly 12" deep)

250 gallon sump 

**I'm planning to add some nft and vertical also.

Water had been flowing the system with water pump and aeration for a few weeks prior to starting to cycle, because it's winter here, and we were waiting to get our water temp up. First, I tested for Chloramines (with AquaChek test strips).  My county told me it was less than 0.1 ppm, but I tested several times to be sure, and it was negligible as the best I could tell. 

I used Sylvia's large cycling kit, and followed the directions until we reached about 4 ppm ammonia.  Our ph was pretty high, so I brought that down little by little using general hydroponics ph down---for 2 days until reading that this product is not recommended because of citric acid.  I quickly switched to phosphoric acid, and got it down to 7.2.  Water temp has remained fairly stable at around 78 degrees, sometimes maybe dipping into the high 60's overnight.

I added the Microbe Lift Nite Out II, and continued testing every day.  I only had to add a small amount of ammonia for the first several days after starting, and it never went below 1.5 ppm before adding slowly to get back to 4 ppm.  

I'm 11 days in, and haven't added ammonia in almost a week as it's remained around 4 ppm.  According to the testing, nitrites still show 0 ppm, so I started to wonder if something's not right, or if I'm just being impatient.  Seeing no signs of nitrites led me to start testing for nitrates, just to see if anything is happening there, and nitrates are now just below 5 ppm (with ammonia at 4 ppm, nitrite at 0 ppm).  

If the Chloramine level was higher than I could tell from testing, could this be a cause for the ammonia to remain at 4 ppm for over a week without any additions?  Also, would adding vitamin C at this point pose any risks at this point in cycling?

I'm going by the store tonight to get another water test kit to eliminate the possibility of old or bad testing solutions, and possibly more Microbe Lift---is it a good or bad idea to add more Microbe Lift at this point?

Any thoughts, information, and help would be greatly appreciated!


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11 days is very early in the cycling process, it can take up to 3-6 weeks to see the Nitrite spike. The hardest part about cycling is being patient.

Where are your bacteria going to live? You only have tanks (bodies of water) thus far...

I recommend getting a hose water filter for your chlorimine problem.

Thanks for the reply Jonathan. So you're saying it's not strange that I'm getting a reading on nitrates before seeing any nitrites?

I felt that there's plenty of surface area for the bacteria, considering the size of the bed, tanks and underneath the rafts..

Also, Im not convinced there's a problem with chloramines, I was only asking if the test results were off, would it contribute to the situation I explained above?

It is not normal to have nitrates in a system which has never seen biological activity before, but a 5ppm reading is next to nothing and may be margin of error or due to nitrate run off into your water source. 10ppm is the epa limit for drinking water. Did you test the water source?

You should have around 10 square feet of biological surface area per gallon of water in your fish tank assuming 1 pound of fish per 10 gallons. So that means for your 300 gallon fish tank you should have 3000 square feet of biological surface area.

Chlorine and Chloramines are different things.

Chlorine will evaporate in about 24 hours with the a pump running while Chloramine will remain in the water.

Only a few cities are using Chloramines to treat water which could show as rashes on skins when taken a shower.

Nope, that's totally normal. Just be patient.

Nitrifying bacteria multiply faster at higher pH levels. For faster results you can actually raise your pH to around 7.8-8.0 and then lower it to 7.5 or so once your nitrites spike.

Another thing to note.

If it is an outside system, the water temperature could be to low where the bacteria is dormant or even die.

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