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I did not know how much ammonia to put in my first system, cycling without fish, and spiked the ammonia to well above 8.0 ppm! (newbie style) I have done a 1/3 water change and it is still above 8.0 ppm. Nitrite is at .5 ppm. Should I wait and let the bacteria catch up or should I do another water change? Thanks for the help!

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Hi Justin,

If you're getting a nitrite reading it will cycle eventually.......... If you want to speed things along, continue water changes until you get an ammonia reading of 4ppm or below. I cycled a new system about 3 months ago using Urea. I dosed like i normally do and got the same readings as you did(stronger than usual ammonia i think). I had to change water about 6 times to get the reading down. Guess I'm also a newbie.

Thanks for the help! It took three 1/2 water changes and now ammonia is at 4.0 ppm. Everything else is holding steady!

If you're "fishless cycling".... then it doesn't really matter how high your ammonia levels get... and theres no real need to water change...

 

It will just take a little longer... unless you up your aeration to assist....

 

Bsically the nitrite to nitrate conversion wont commence until the ammonia has fallen to zero anyway... (regardless of level).... as the ammonia inhibits the bacteria necessary for nitrite conversion....

 

Hence.. the higher the level of ammonia... the longer it takes (and more oxygen)... to convert to nitrites.... and the longer it takes before the conversion to itrates commences...

Hi Justin,

Great work! Please keep posting as you progress. As you know, your nitrites will peak and fall to zero. Since you already had a nitrite reading, i suspect you should be there in a couple of days. Good luck!



Justin Taylor said:

Thanks for the help! It took three 1/2 water changes and now ammonia is at 4.0 ppm. Everything else is holding steady!
RupertofOz: I noted your comment on inhibiting nitrite and nitrate conversion with interest. My fishless system appears to contradict that. Like Justin, I overdosed the ammonia and got >8.0ppm, after two weeks nitrites were pegged high too and me nitrates were showing up. I did a 80% water change which brought the ammonia down to .25 and reduced the nitrite level as well. I was happy with myself until the very next day when ammonia tested >8 again with high nitries again. The only thing I could think of is my hydroton trapped some ammonia. Today I flushed the system twice through the inlet pipe hoping to wash the media in situ and got ammonia down to 1.0ppm. I am hopeful tomorrow the reading will hold.

I will be interested to hear how it goes for you as I am in the same darn boat.  I have isolated the barrel that holds my lava rock that will act as my biofilter (I will be raising my fish in my basement and my greenhouse outside) and I did a 20% water change and now am adding nitrifying bacteria, but from posts above am worried that they won't take hold due to excess ammonia.  Will likely change more water and add some big aeration to the barrel and try to establish the colony; then slowly process the 170 gal from the main tank through the biofilter. If you get your system cranking with the high ammonia then I hope I can replicate.

txdurk said:

RupertofOz: I noted your comment on inhibiting nitrite and nitrate conversion with interest. My fishless system appears to contradict that. Like Justin, I overdosed the ammonia and got >8.0ppm, after two weeks nitrites were pegged high too and me nitrates were showing up. I did a 80% water change which brought the ammonia down to .25 and reduced the nitrite level as well. I was happy with myself until the very next day when ammonia tested >8 again with high nitries again. The only thing I could think of is my hydroton trapped some ammonia. Today I flushed the system twice through the inlet pipe hoping to wash the media in situ and got ammonia down to 1.0ppm. I am hopeful tomorrow the reading will hold.
I brought my journal in from outside. After several water changes over a few days I was able to get my levels to:
water temp, 52F
ph, 7.6
Ammo, 2.0ppm
Nitrite, pegged at >5.0
Nitrate, pegged at >80

Another 75% water change today with a media flush and got:
Temp, 58F
ph, 7.2-7.6
Ammo, 0.5
Nitrite, still pegged at >5.0
Nitrate, reduced to 20ppm

It looks like Ammo has been managed by the water changes but I wouldn't be surprised my ammo level tomorrow is at >=4.0 again. My nitrites are still astronomical too.

Can anyone tell me if I should wait out the nitrites to reduce or amend the water chemistry somehow? The average date here when it is safe to plant after the last frost is 3/20 and I'm hoping to have the system ready to go by then. Maybe that's futile. Dunno.

@Geoff: as you can see my nitrites and nitrates appear independent of the ammonia level. Water changes seem to be working for me in the short term but to-be -determined longer term. What I seem to have experienced is a certain 'stickiness' of the ammonia to my media. I don't know if that is a common occurrence or corollated to hydroton's porouseness.

I recommend doing a baseline test on your replacement water. I found my home water had 0.25ppm ammonia and, surprisingly, low level nitrates already in it. At least I know what I'm working with.

Temperature

The temperature for optimum growth of nitrifying bacteria is between 77-86° F (25-30° C).

Growth rate is decreased by 50% at 64° F (18° C).

Growth rate is decreased by 75% at 46-50° F.

No activity will occur at 39° F (4° C)

Nitrifying bacteria will die at 32° F (0° C).

Nitrifying bacteria will die at 120° F (49° C)

Nitrobacter is less tolerant of low temperatures than Nitrosomonas. In cold water systems, care must be taken to monitor the accumulation of nitrites.

Thanks Harold. I had heard of the temperature dependency but didn't have the numbers. Water temp here is what it is for March. I just have to work with it since the system is outdoors. Regardless of the odds, it appears that my bacteria colony has begun to grow. That's one good thing going for me at least.

Hi txdurk,

So you will cycle slowly at these temps. Its best to wait it out for now. If you have higher temps later on(when you introduce fish) you won't have to monitor your feeding much. If your temps remain low when you fully cycle you'll have to keep a keen eye on feeding. Plant as soon as you can, roots are great for conversion.

@Harold: Thanks or the tips. I have four tomato seedlings now I am babying and have various seeds in the bed. Yesterday I noticed some pea seeds had started to root. I'm in SE Texas so temps will start to rise from now on. Heat will actually be my problem before long.

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