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Cycling My 120gal.....something's Wrong


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I set up my 120(US Gal) tank up and ran it for a few days.

On April 6th, I added 2 Orandas to cycle the tank with.

I test the water everyday and this is what is happening:

The PH is stable at 8.0

I am keeping the Ammonia between 0.25 and 0.50 (50% water change everyday).

It is now April 24th and I still do not have any Nitrite readings!!!

Is it possible that am I changing too much water? I don't think so though. I don't want the Ammonia levels to reach 1.0.

Should 0.50 not be enough for the Nitrifying bacteria to grow?

It is a barebottomed tank, would that make this much difference?

I am not running at 10X filtration yet (third filter on the way from Ebay land at the moment). I am at about X6. Could this be the reason?

The temperature is stable at 21C (70F).

I keep expecting Nitrites to register everyday but nada as of yet. I'm exhausted from water changes and it'll be months of it at this rate!!

Fishless cycle next time.....why wasn't I patient!!?

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At 70F, the beneficial bacteria will be a bit more sluggish than you wish. They thrive at 78-80F. If you can do it, it would goose the temp. a bit. Do not compromise your fish.

A large tank like that sometimes takes longer, but since you have a concentration of ammonia that is "good", it is still passing through the filters, water volume or not. It will get there.

I suspect that what is happening is that you are keeping the ammonia nice and low (GOOD!), and the bacteria that process the ammonia into nitrIte are very very slowly developing. But since they are not working too fast at it (low temp - low turnover in filtration) they are producing such a minute amount of nitrIte that it is not registering on your test kit - you are changing out the water every day and diluting that reading to a still smaller value, remember?

If I were to hazard a guess, I would guess that you will be changing out the water in the tank everyday for a bit, and then your ammonia will go to zero. You will then relax a bit and not change for a day, and you will then see a bit of nitrIte in the water. Depending on how much water you change you will see more or less nitrite (keep it low - CHANGE the water). This portion of the cycle will take a bit longer, but it will kick into full cycle with never a HUGE spike in anything - as long as you CHANGE the water.

Lots of work, huh? I HATE cycling with fish. I am way too lazy.


You could back it off - put the fish in a tub with the partically cycled filter and just change and cycle a smaller volume. Then, when cycled, take it all over to the new, bigger tank and start a short bump cycle. Or, you could start up a fishless on the big tank while you maintain the fish in a 20 tub.....

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Strange, I wouldn't think that even two 6" long goldfish could produce enough waste in a day to make a detectable amount of ammonia in 120 gallons of water. Are you sure the ammonia isn't coming from your tap water?

If there's any ammonia, in the water, it's enough for the bacteria to grow. And the nitrifying bacteria don't live free floating in the water. So you don't need to worry about changing too much water. With a PH of 8.0, ammonia is pretty toxic so keeping it in the 0.25 - 0.50 range will be appreciated by your two fish.

If it's available in Sicily, try to get some Amquel+ or Prime to use as a water conditioner. Either Amquel+ or Prime will make the amount of ammonia non-toxic to your fish while still leaving it available to your nitrifying bacteria.

Raising the temperature of your tank to 25-26C will help speed up the process of getting your tank cycled. Other than that... Just keep up with the water changes, have patience and your tank will finally get cycled.

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Thank you both for your responses guys.

Daryl that all makes sense to me.

Bak2it, I have no ammonia in my tap water. I did a full run of tests on it, it was all ok, except the NitrAtes were 5, but maybe that's normal for tap water.

My 20 gal is fine (fully cycled 0 Ammonia).

One Oranda is about 5 inches and the little Red Cap is tiny at about 0.5 inch.

There was no Ammonia for the first few days but once is appeared it registered at 0.25 and I've kept it between that and 0.50 since.

I know what you mean though, you'd imagine that their Ammonia production would be diluted at 0ppm for days but no!! Just goes to show what messy little creatures they really are!

Unfortunately we have no Amquel+ or Prime here. I use "Sera" conditioner.

I think I will add the heater to the tank and heat it up a little bit. I'm nervous though because higher temperatures makes Ammonia more toxic, doesn't it? And with the high PH....eeeek!! I guess it will be ok as long as I keep the readings under 0.50?

That and a lot of patience and it should be ok by the sounds of it.

Thanks again guys. I really appreciate your input and knowledge.

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Oh joy!

Nitrites registered on my test kit today.

I put in the heater after your advice and it must have speeded things up a nice bit.

I'm relieved to be in stage two.

Thanks for your post Fishies724 but I didn't think there was any point in putting any "cycling" products in my tank because I'm changing so much water everyday that it would just be coming out again the next day!

Thanks to all..........few more weeks and then ...PHEW!!

I was supposed to be going to a wedding next weekend up the north of Italy and had to cancel because I have no one to do the water changes.....it must have sounded like the worst excuse they had ever heard (they don't keep fish)!!!

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I was supposed to be going to a wedding next weekend up the north of Italy and had to cancel because I have no one to do the water changes.....it must have sounded like the worst excuse they had ever heard (they don't keep fish)!!!


Oh the things we do for our animal babies! I love the look Lee gives me when I have to do something to/for an animal and I cancel something. :heart He will understand the crazyness one day, I hope. :D

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