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I have been cycling my small system for nearly 3 weeks now.  

The first week both Nitrate & Nitrite levels were doing well.  

I was waiting for the Nitrites to drop to 0 and the Nitrates to go up a bit but the Nitrates went down as well.  

Is this normal?  Or do I need to do something?  

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Another question...my PH has now also dropped to the lowest readings in my testing kit.  Is there a way to raise PH naturally?  

I heard you can put Oyster Shells in the fish tank?  Or Egg Shells?  

What's a good way to do this?

R.K...Using qualifiers like "natural" is a little misleading. It is no more nor less "natural" for me to put crushed eggshells in a system which wouldn't have otherwise...without my intervention...found there way into that system, than it is for me to add potassium hydroxide (KOH)...which I make "naturally" from 'natural' wood ashes and 'natural' rainwater...At any rate...

You have no way of knowing now, where your pH is actually at. Could be 6, could be 5.2...you don't really know because the test kit (I'm assuming you're using an API test kit) only registers to 6. Below that is anyone's guess. It's no wonder your nitrites and nitrates 'disappeared'. 

It's a bit late for slow acting oyster/egg shells (CaCO3)...You should have been thinking about that about 0.8 to 1.2 pH points ago. Do yourself and your system a favor and get some carbonate alkalinity in there FAST. Like potassium bicarbonate...or some 'hard' high pH tap water (it is that way because it is full of CaHCO3 and CaCO3)...if you're tap water fits that bill. Then later you can hang that bag/stocking full of shell grit in your water stream. Hell add some (fast acting) baking soda (NaHCO3) to try and stave off a total system collapse (if it's not already too late). Just dont make a habit out of using baking soda...it's an 'emergency' type of fix...hopefully a ONE TIME emergency type of deal...

I take it you didn't bother to read those "Rules of Thumb"  (that Sylvia took the time and trouble of  for us all) that I linked in your other (NFT) thread about a month or two back?

(or use the 'search' field as suggested to look up stuff like pH, cycling, whatever)..? I only say this because you can sure save yourself A LOT of headache and failures by taking a few minutes to read up on what is is you are trying to do...how to do it...and what to expect... Unless of course, you just really, really, REALLY like learning things the 'hard way'...and crashing system bio-filters, killing fish over and over again, and destroying plants...Which is fine too, we're all different after all. Me? I like to at least read the 'Instruction Manual' when I acquire a new piece of equipment...saves me time, money and frustration

Yes...Vlad I have read the Rules of Thumb document and the fishless cycling article a number of times and was doing that. Watched the entire video course as well.  On the video course she said when your ammonia levels get up high to let them sit at that level and don't add more ammonia.  Which is what I did.  

And when I had questions about what was going on I went to this Forum.  

So...if you have crashed a bio-filter what do I do now?  

RK...what Sylvia suggests seems pretty reasonable to me. What are all your reasons right now?
Readings, not reasons.

Everything is at the bottom of the testing kit readings except ammonia at the top.

Yeah, it definitely sounds like the nitrifying bacteria have stopped working. This is the worst case scenario, but you are using the fishless cycling technique, so all it really means is back to square one for your system. Just start over and be sure to plan to hand off the job of adding ammonia to your system to some live fish when you see ammonia and nitrites drop and nitrates spike.

So...I added 1 tbsp of Baking Soda to the system yesterday and today the PH is at 7.6.  The Ammonia is still at the top of the API test at 8.  

So just to double check.  I do not keep adding ammonia to the system when it is that high?  

No R.K. DO NOT add anymore ammonia. Ammonia should be kept between 1ppm - 4ppm while fishless cycling. Anything much above 6 or so becomes toxic to the bacteria you are trying to cultivate and will inhibit their proliferation.

Water change until your ammonia is at least within a readable range (again, preferably between 1ppm and 4ppm).

Since you are beyond the capabilities of your test kit to read...your ammonia could currently be at 9ppm or 20ppm...you have now way of knowing...

So...after you do a partial water change to bring your ammonia into a readable range...the next step would be to buy yourself a pair of handcuffs, attach one end to your left hand, the other to a radiator...and don't go near your system for the next 4-6 weeks

Ok cool...so don't add anything to the system for 4-6 weeks?  

Not even some ammonia everyday like Sylvia said is the Rule of Thumb document?

As long as your ammonia is between 1-4ppm your fine...when it gets below 1ppm...sure, you can jack it back up to at or below 4ppm. In the mean time buy some potassium bicarbonate (KHCO3) you can find it at a wine making shop or on line. You will need that for later.

Also, while cycling...try to keep your pH above neutral (above 7)...Later on you can go for the whole pH6.8 thing...but a below neutral pH is counterproductive while fishless cycling. 7.6 is GREAT for now...trust me...

Sounds good, thanks for your help.

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