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PostPosted: Jan 16th, '16, 01:10 
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Hello all, new here and to aquaponics.
10 gallon tank
75gph pump to a 15" x 19" x 5" grow bed with u-bend siphon.
3 albino cory catfish
6 bloodfin tetra
6 blackskirt tetra
4 neon tetra (1 died, 1 vanished)

My system has been set up for 8 days or so. The main problem I am running into is the cycling.

I started the system with 6 fish and a live gravel substrate from here http://www.activbetta.com. I have also since added a whole bottle of Tetra Safestart, said to fully cycle a 20 gallon aquarium. Initial filling and all waterchanges have been done using tap water with Tetra Aquasafe for dechlorination. Regular testing is showing zero nitrites and nitrates with stressful to dangerous levels of ammonia.

I have two methods for ammonia, one is a seachem in tank alert that reads safe <0.02ppm. The strip I am using for my testing are tetra easy strips. One package for ammonia and another for nitrites, nitrates, ph, alk, chlorine, and hardness. The strip is showing ammonia levels which look between stress @ 1.0ppm and danger @6.0ppm. Kinda hard to tell the color difference between the 1,3, and 6ppm...

Water changes have been 3 gallons each if the readings are in the 1-3 range.

But again, zero nitrites and nitrates. My cloudy bacterial plume has disappeared and I have relatively clear water.


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PostPosted: Jan 16th, '16, 03:39 
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First of all, welcome to the forum Meenwiz :headbang:

If your ammonia is reading in the danger zone for one of the tests, stop feeding your fish. The fish can go for long periods without being fed because they don't have to maintain their body temp the way you or I do. Add 1 ppt of salt to the tank to help the fish deal with nitrites. You may not need it yet but you may not be around when the nitrites start to pile up. Most people here use the API Freshwater Master test kit for their testing and the strips usually aren't recommended.

While it's possible all the other bacterial additives might accelerate the cycling process, save your money and don't add anything else, Nitrifiers are everywhere. It may take a bit longer - maybe a month but probably a couple of weeks at the temps you're running. You may also see the advice of not adding gravel to your system because it traps solids and makes it harder to keep the fish tank clean. You really want most of the solids to go to the plant beds as long as you're not overstocked. In a 10 gallon aquarium if you have an under gravel filter the bacteria to break down Ammonia into nitrites and nitrates will likely get the job done as long as enough oxygen is present.

Find the fish that are missing if you can, dead fish add more ammonia to the system and you might not want that (Check the grow bed, maybe they got sucked into the pipe).

Hope this helps


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PostPosted: Jan 16th, '16, 04:36 
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Thanks Scotty,
A couple questions about that.
Why would I want all the solids to go to the growbeds? Most systems I see have a solids removal system, is this because their stocking rate is too high? Second I'm assuming that I will have nitrifying bacteria in the bed and in the gravel. Does it multiply faster in the growbed? I have an air pump always running (not using airstone, but bubbling clam: bigger and less bubbles) and the draining of the growbed for 15 min every hour helps with the oxygenation to the point I feel there is enough.
I stop pumping at night... should I keep it going instead?


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PostPosted: Jan 16th, '16, 09:38 
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Actually, in most systems, the solids removal system is the grow bed and this acts as both their solids filter and their biofilter. Eventually you'd have to clean this although many systems go for years between cleanings if they are lightly stocked. A lot of systems now do use a solids filter - there are several different reasons for this but they aren't a necessity in very many cases.

1. Higher stocking densities generate more waste and too many solids accumulate in the grow bed causing it's biofilter to fail (smothered and cut off from oxygen). RFF cuts down on solids and keeps the grow bed from being smothered.
2. Just a desire to tinker.
3. A trade off between maintenance now and later. Either way you have to remove some solids.
4. Using Deep Water Culture grow beds where solids would coat the plant roots and kill them.
5. More control over the nutrient levels by sending the solids from an Solids filter to a mineralizer, you can take nutrients out of the system or possibly change the nitrogen to phosphorus ratio. Bit tricky on this and makes more sense for commercial production but lots of us like to mess with this sort of thing.

There are probably other reasons that I haven't thought of.

As far as tank vs grow bed - If you have to clean out the grow bed because it has anaerobic areas, at least you can cut it off from the tank - bit tough to do this if those deposits are in the gravel within the tank. If you clean it often enough I doubt it will make any difference where the solids settle. If the solids that fall in the tank gravel get enough air it should be OK (I'm not sure which would grow faster but suspect it would be about the same or maybe the one that gets the most oxygen and nutrients would be faster)

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I stop pumping at night... should I keep it going instead?


Are you talking about the air pump or the water pump?


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PostPosted: Jan 16th, '16, 10:14 
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scotty435 wrote:
Are you talking about the air pump or the water pump?


Water pump. I have had it on for 15 min every hour till about 9pm. I recently switched it to every other 15 minutes just to try to cycle the water through more. But I haven't had the water pump on at night.

I should also note that I do have some brown algae growing in the system, so there has to be nitrates right?

I just need to be a lil more patient?


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PostPosted: Jan 16th, '16, 10:25 
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Algae can use ammonia directly they don't need to break it down to nitrates and apparently they prefer to use ammonia for growth. Using nitrate wastes more energy. The brown stuff on the walls is probably a mix of organisms including algae.

I like to leave the pump on all the time since I'm running Constant Flood but basically if the water temp is high even at low stocking densities, I'd keep the pump on. If you're stocked really light and have lots of surface area you'll probably do fine even turning it off at night. Just keep in mind that as the fish grow or the water gets warmer you should keep it going. If you see the fish up at the top gasping, that's another clue.

Yes, be patient :thumbright:


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PostPosted: Jan 16th, '16, 22:41 
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I cleaned out my tank yesterday, wiped down all the walls and silk plants of what I thought was algae... but more reading has suggested, as you did, that the brown/reddish color was my nitrifying bacteria...


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PostPosted: Jan 17th, '16, 16:08 
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Not a big thing to have wiped down the walls. You'll maybe lose some but there are millions more where those came from. Normally it's best to just leave them be though. There is the potential for some of the organisms that you removed to die and create more ammonia than you would have otherwise.

I haven't had problems with this and I've cleaned the walls on more than a few occasions (not real often maybe twice a year). You don't really need to do it at all, I just get annoyed with it sometimes because I start to get more growth on thermometers and other parts like the intake for the UV light in my RAS setup. It takes a while to come back.


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PostPosted: Jan 22nd, '16, 01:25 
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So I just got the API master test kit and my ammonia looks between 4 and 8 ppm, nitrite 0 ppm and nitrate 0 ppm. Tank has been going for 2 weeks now. Bout to do a water change, but this seems fishy to me.


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PostPosted: Jan 22nd, '16, 05:22 
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If you have a local pet store some will test your water for you and this would be a way to confirm your results.


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PostPosted: Jan 22nd, '16, 06:05 
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Having two separate test kits that are telling me the exact same thing is confirmation enough. What to do is the question? What happened to the bacteria I added? Does too much ammonia kill the bacteria? Before it would kill the fish?


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PostPosted: Jan 22nd, '16, 10:08 
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Need to know the water temp and pH to determine the ammonia toxicity, any information?


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PostPosted: Jan 22nd, '16, 10:17 
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Temp 77 F
Ph 7.0


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PostPosted: Jan 22nd, '16, 10:21 
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I picked up my neon tetras shortly after they had been medicated. Put them and the water in my aquarium, would that have killed my bacteria?


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PostPosted: Jan 22nd, '16, 11:26 
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Possibly if an antibiotic was used but I kind of doubt enough made it into the system. It sounds like it's pretty early on with this so you probably just haven't had enough time to get the bacteria going. Sometimes it takes a month so be patient.

OK so ammonia between 4 and 8
pH 7.0
Temp 77 F = 25 C

You have hit toxic and possibly lethal levels with the ammonia at that temp and pH, although, I don't know how durable your fish are and there is a wide variation - http://ibcofaquaponics.com/information/tables-and-charts/

Definitely do a water change and try to get the ammonia in the 1 to 2 range over the next day or two so the bacteria have something to cycle with. It might be a good idea to let the temp in the tank go down a bit to reduce the toxicity of the ammonia (If this isn't a major hassle. Keep it within the level the fish need of course). Stop feeding and check for any dead fish. It sounds like cycling hasn't started so you'll need to keep the ammonia down around 1 or 2 until it does. Remember that because you'll be doing water changes, if you added salt to help the fish cope with nitrites that you'll need to compensate for what you remove along with the water. If you haven't added the salt then you should because at some point the ammonia will turn to nitrites and without the salt it could kill the fish. 1 ppt = 1KG per 1000L or 1gm per L is about what you want.


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