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Surprise cycle?
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Pi
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Joined: 09 May 2005

PostPosted: 2005.05.14(Sat)23:23    Post subject: Surprise cycle? Reply with quote

So, I've been busy finishing up a fishless cycle on my 29 gal (its inhabitants are now in quarantine tanks). I've been working very hard to get that cycle going.

Meanwhile, I moved my two bettas from two five gallons to one divided 10 gallon. I didn't cycle the tank, with such a light bio-load, I was planning on keeping the ammonia down with frequent water changes etc. because one of my bettas dislikes waterflow (I know this from experience with him, other bettas might be different).

But my tank disagreed with me. I have been only monitering ammonia, because I did not expect the tank to cycle without me! It's been less than a week since the bettas were introduced. One of them started acting very stressed out, though the other was fine. I tested for nitrites on a whim, because ammonia was 0 and I ruled out just about every other possibility.

Nitrites were at .5.

I have no idea what happened. I evactuated the bettas to different tanks right away. (After I moved them a re-tested to verify, but the results were still .5)

I've cycled tanks before, but never without some sort of mechanical filtration as well. There was no seed bacteria introduced...(I should add that my water, from the tap, has no nitrites)

How did this happen? And so fast?

I suppose I'll just let it finish the cycle and then return the fish, but do I need to have mechanical filtration, or will the system be stable without it?

Pi
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Laskey
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Joined: 27 Nov 2004
Location: Northern Germany

PostPosted: 2005.05.15(Sun)1:02    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can think of some possibilities:

Arrow It's really not all that light a bio-load, especially with two in a small tank like your divided 10-gallon tank. It's not a really really heavy one, but it's not a negligible bioload either.
Arrow Especially if you weren't doing big water changes, the accumulation of organics over some days should quickly give you readable ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, even if you were careful not to overfeed.
Arrow You could have had an ammonia spike on days you didn't test. The only way to really monitor an uncycled tank and know anything for sure is to test very very frequently, as in every day, not a couple times a week. Since the cycle process--all things being equal--is usually faster in small tanks, you could have simply missed the ammonia spike.
Arrow Your ammonia-eating bacteria developed fast and your nitrite-eating bacteria is slower to develop (which is normal), and your testing schedule was such that you caught the nitrite but not the ammonia.

I personally wouldn't keep any fish in an uncycled environment unless I were doing daily water changes. That's what I do with my hospital tank, which is useless to cycle since I use antibiotics in it. But don't get frustrated; you can do a lot of water changes, test frequently, borrow some filter medium and/or seeded gravel for the cycling tanks, etc. etc. etc. I also personally don't think it's enough to have fish in an uncycled tank and test only once or twice a week. You can miss too many spikes, especially in a small tank. If at all feasible, test every day. But once you're finished with cycling, it's not so many water changes and testing as it used to be and you can relax. Smile

I hope your betta is feeling better. Although damage is irreversible, sometimes they bounce back and are still able to live a pretty long while, depending on how much damage was done. Maybe research some preventative measures for diseases like ich; he could come down with something easily right now.

Laskey
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Laskey
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Joined: 27 Nov 2004
Location: Northern Germany

PostPosted: 2005.05.15(Sun)1:39    Post subject: Re: Surprise cycle? Reply with quote

Pi wrote:

I suppose I'll just let it finish the cycle and then return the fish, but do I need to have mechanical filtration, or will the system be stable without it?
Pi


I've seen it done but personally, never without plants. They really seem to make a big difference in a betta tank's stabilization without mechanical filtration. You'll be siphoning and doing your small water changes, and probably kicking up a lot of pollutants that didn't get siphoned in the process. I'd feel better about doing that with some plants, but maybe someone with different experience can tell you how they do it.

Check out this betta setup here:
Humberto Hepp's 4 L Betta Bowl

Laskey
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Pi
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Joined: 09 May 2005

PostPosted: 2005.05.15(Sun)14:49    Post subject: Reply with quote

Laskey wrote:
Arrow You could have had an ammonia spike on days you didn't test. The only way to really monitor an uncycled tank and know anything for sure is to test very very frequently, as in every day, not a couple times a week. Since the cycle process--all things being equal--is usually faster in small tanks, you could have simply missed the ammonia spike.
Arrow Your ammonia-eating bacteria developed fast and your nitrite-eating bacteria is slower to develop (which is normal), and your testing schedule was such that you caught the nitrite but not the ammonia.

Actually, on new tanks, for at least the first week, I test every day. I have a schedule posted for all my tanks and keep an excel spreadsheet with the results. I test at the same time each evening (8:00pm) to ensure that equal amounts of time have passed. That's what caught me by surprise. There was no ammonia spike in my tests. I hadn't been testing for nitrites because I hadn't expected them to appear (I don't know why! I'm kicking myself for it now). Obviously I missed it, but I didn't realize that could happen so fast...should I test every 12 hours?

Laskey wrote:
I also personally don't think it's enough to have fish in an uncycled tank and test only once or twice a week. You can miss too many spikes, especially in a small tank. If at all feasible, test every day. But once you're finished with cycling, it's not so many water changes and testing as it used to be and you can relax. Smile

I've never tested only once a week. Though I've just gotten back into the aquarium hobby, in the past, I've test my established tanks every third day (I'm actually obsessive-compulsive, so I'm very regular about this). I know that's probably overkill, but tests are cheap, and I'd rather be safe than sorry (like I am now!). The bettas were only in the tank for 4 days, I was planning on doing a 50% water change today (that would be 5 days) as well as vacuuming the substrate. I figured that would be enough, though perhaps not and I am certainly reconsidering my methods!

Laskey wrote:
I hope your betta is feeling better. Although damage is irreversible, sometimes they bounce back and are still able to live a pretty long while, depending on how much damage was done. Maybe research some preventative measures for diseases like ich; he could come down with something easily right now.

The good news is that both of them are doing very well. His color is completely back and he has been eating and swimming very actively. I know that there was damage done, and I will be watching him closely for some time to be sure he does not become ill. I'm still surpised that one of the bettas wasn't even showing stress striping, though obviously he must have been affected.

Thanks for your help

Pi
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