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Tank has been cycling for a couple weeks now and still no nitrate reading. I had 4ppm of Ammonia last week which lowered to 2ppm two days later. No ammonia has been added since then but the reading started to climb first yesterday it rose to 4ppm again and today it is off the chart. Found nothing dead in the tank and the only thing added was a product recommended by the local pet store owner.

He suggested adding StressZyme. The water had been clear until this was added. A few days after adding the stresszyme the water took on a greenish hue and now it looks like pond water. This also coincided with the rise in ammonia readings. 


This is an indoor tank with not much natural light and zero input from rain water or other possible animal waste. The ammonia used for dosing was in liquid form so I think it should not be a factor in the continued rise in readings. Though I have been wrong before.


I think I will change at least 1/2 if not all the water tomorrow. 


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Comment by Wayne on April 26, 2011 at 10:25pm

Good news!

The ammonia level has dropped a bit and the water has cleared almost completely. The dark green water has turned into a slightly yellow/brown tint and I can see the bottom again.


Nitrite and nitrate levels have not increased yet but the few plants in the system may be using it up.

Comment by TCLynx on April 25, 2011 at 8:46am

Yep time to adjust the pH a little (actually if you can get some chicken grit like oyster shells to hang in the system in a mesh bag, they will be a good longer slow acting pH buffer) but use the pH up for now to get the pH back up to about 6.8 over a few days.  Adjust pH slowly but you will be dealing with the cycling now kicking in as you now have a nitrite spike happening.  This part of the cycling (waiting for the nitrite spike to start to subside) is often the longest part.  Bringing the temperature up a bit should help some.


I wouldn't not add any more ammonia until you see the levels for the ammonia and nitrite drop below 1 ppm.  Keep an eye on the pH since you want to keep it roughly in the range of 6.5-7.0

Looks like you are underway but keep practicing patience.

Comment by Wayne on April 25, 2011 at 8:36am

There were some sacrificial goldfish in the tank, only because the ammonia sold in the stores all had some sort of fragrance or other additive that I did not want in the tank. All the goldfish have been accounted for. 

After I put the goldfish in, as luck would have it, I found the ammonia with no additives. I was told that the few fish I had would take a long time to cycle the tank so I gave them to the neighborhood kids and dosed with the ammonia. 

I was checking to make sure that we didn't miss any. 

As of today the readings are:

  • ammonia 8ppm+
  • Nitrite 5
  • nitrate 5
  • ph has dropped to 6.4
  • water temp 63F

I have not added any more ammonia since the spike, but I think I will add some PH up and drop a heater in the tank today.

Do you think that 30 goldfish could have released that much poo in a couple days. The first day they didn't eat anything and the second they ate very little.

On a side note I checked with the neighbors and 23 of the 30 fish are still living.

Comment by Green Acre Aquaponics on April 24, 2011 at 10:32pm

Hi Wayne,

I am assuming there are fish as you were checking for anything dead!   In that case, you should definitely do a water change.  If you are at 3ppm, although most test strip say stress at 3, it is manageable for most fish.  Over 3, you should change at least 1/2 the total water.  If it is over 6, about 3/4 of the water should be exchanged.  These levels can be harmful to fish.  Now in keeping with the assumption that you have fish, were you feeding them?  Feeding fish during start up can definitely make ammonia go up during start up. We did that in our first small system because we were so excited our fish were eating.  Oops.    I agree with TC that an algae bloom from the additive probably is also responsible for the ammonia spike.  How big is the tank and how many pounds of fish do you have? 

Comment by TCLynx on April 24, 2011 at 8:20am

Are there any fish in the tank?  Why would you need to check for anything dead if fishless cycling?  Or if there are fish in the tank, I would say don't add ammonia!!!!


I suspect what happened is when you added the stresszyme it may have triggered an algae bloom (the greenish hue) but then the algae dieing off can then lead to the remains decaying back into ammonia again.


Two weeks is not that long in terms of cycling if you were starting in a relatively sterile environment with no kick start bacteria.


Just make sure if you do a water change that your source water is not treated with chlorine or chloramine and if it is, make sure to deal with it accordingly since added treated water into a system with really high ammonia will likely only stall the process further.


I would suggest doing nothing for another week (provided this is really just fishless cycling.)  If you must tinker with it, see if you can get some filter squeezings from a healthy aquarium or some media from an established aquaponics system to add to your grow bed.  Or if you have or know some one who has a worm farm see if you can get a spoonfull of worm castings  (and maybe some worms) to add to your grow beds.


With no kick start the initial ammonia spike can last 3 weeks or more when cycling up a system and longer if conditions are not all perfect.


Cycling takes time.  Have patience.

Comment by Kobus Jooste on April 24, 2011 at 1:55am

If you have introduced anything with the plants - bits of potting soil or traces of fertilzer, it may get broken down again to ammonia.  If roots or other parts of the plants added died, it may also show some traces of Ammonia as the protein components gets broken back down to ammonia.  Other than that I do not really have any suggestions.


Comment by Homefire on April 23, 2011 at 9:55pm


Hi Wayne,

I wouldn't expect nitrates till week four.  And ammonia coming down still later.  It wouldn't hurt to flush some but you should keep some too; your bacterial culture is in there. 


I can't speak to the Stress Zyme, having never used it.  I can say that using worm tea and aerated compost tea made great micorhyzal fur on my baby plant roots.


Don't plant till the ammonia is way down; i shocked my baby plants, they yellowed and bolted.




My tests:


_Started 12 min./ cycle 3/12/11 humonia, worm tea, aerated compost tea, powdered kelp & 1cap liquid kelp w/iron,

Air pump: Aqua Culture Mk-1504 3.5 W (small). Soon to be Active Aqua 110 L/hr

Bell siphons misbehaving, hope to replace with FLOUTs or some other means.

Started testing water 3/31

High Range PH 8.0
Ammonia        >8.0ppm (deep blue off chart)  have added way too much pee, stopped  now  till that figure comes down.
Nitrite               0.25ppm
Nitrate               0.0

added live worm culture on the bed.

4/9 test:
HR PH             8.2
Ammonia       >8.0 ppm
Nitrite              2-5 ppm
Nitrate           >20 ppm
added 3 adult house plants to soak up some Nitrate (I'm not sure if i'm getting ammonia conversion or if the house plants & worm bin contributed nitrate.)

4/11 test:
HR PH             7.4  cuz i added rainwater @ 6.0 ph.  My limestone buffered rain water is 7.0 to 7.4
Ammonia        >8.0   If any conversion, Ammonia is still too high to show a difference.

Grow bed has baby Bok Choy, baby Spinach, 3 medium sized house plants.

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