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That's awesome. Good simple design. You must of had fun setting it all up? What type of shrimp are you going to have?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks. Yes, it has been great fun. Currently doing a fishless cycle with the Right Now bacteria and will write a post about that soon. As to type of shrimp, I've been focused on getting the tanks set up so I haven't really had the chance to take advantage of the Christmas sales. I guess it depends what's available and what people will be selling in the next few weeks.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
The Fishless Cycle - results after one day.
With 8 x 10 gallons + 15 gallons in the sump there is roughly 95 gallons total. There is Hydroton as the bacteria media in the sump.

At 7 am these were the water conditions:
pH 6.5
0 ppm Total Ammonia
20 degrees C

I dropped in 150ml of bottled Ammonia(NH3) which brought the system up to 5ppm Total Ammonia
At the same time I put in half a bottle of the Right Now bacteria (HDLTD.com)

36 hours later these were the water conditions:
pH 7.2
5 ppm Total Ammonia (NH3 and NH4+)
0.15 ppm Free Ammonia (NH3 only)

I would have liked to test the nitrites and nitrates as well but unfortunately the used kit I have is faulty and I have to wait to get a new kit.

In any case, this is a totally surprising result (to me) and verifies the claims made by Hiatt on his website. He says in order to know that things are working correctly, test that the ammonia (toxic) has been converted to ammonium ion (non toxic). I have to look into why the pH changed so much during this process. From what I've read, the higher the pH, the more NH3 there would be compared with NH4+. But even when my tank went from 6.5pH to 7.2pH, there is hardly any NH3 and it is all NH4+.

As I said I would still like to verify nitrates, but the tank is cycled in a day. And totally non-scientific evidence - the water smells like fish tank water does.
 

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ph level looks good, more updates please
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
At 7am (which is 48 hours after adding the bacteria):

pH 7.2
> 6 ppm Total Ammonia (NH3 and NH4)
0 ppm Free Ammonia (NH3 only)

Just so the results are clear. In 48 hours, all the toxic ammonia has been turned into non toxic ammonium ion form.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
I've been doing a lot of reading about water chemistry and I think I've answered my question about the rise in pH. pH is a measure of how many hydrogen ions are in solution (H+). The process of going from ammonia (NH3) to ammonium ion (NH4+) is adding a hydrogen ion. So if the H+ is being used up in the NH4, there's less H+ and the pH then will show a rise in value (pH being a negative logarithmic scale of amount of hydrogen ion).
 

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Discussion Starter #8
After verifying that you can indeed cycle a tank system with that amount of water over such a short time, I did an 80% water change. I didn't want all that ammonium ion floating around with hardly any plants to use it up. After the water change, the conditions were:
pH 6.6
0.5 ppm Total Ammonia (NH3 and NH4+)
0.0 ppm Free Ammonia (NH3 only)

Once I get a Nitrite/Nitrate kit, I'll post more results and probably do another NH3 cycle test. What's been interesting to read is that plants actually prefer ammonium ion to nitrates. It will be interesting to see how fast the plants will take up each of them.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I got a Nitrate test kit and decided to do another 24-48 hour cycle test with Ammonia.

Water conditions at Hour 0:
pH 7.0
0 ppm Nitrate
2 ppm Ammonium ion
0 ppm Ammonia
2 KH
5 GH
167 TDS
20 degrees C

I put in 100 ml of Ammonia to the 90 gallon system. I didn't want to put in as much as last time.

Water conditions at Hour 9:
pH 7.4
0 ppm Nitrate
>6 ppm Ammonium ion
0 ppm Ammonia
224 TDS

It seems I didn't even have to wait 24 hours for all the toxic ammonia to be converted into non-toxic ammonium ion. Within 9 hours, there are no nitrates whatsoever. Even during the last week from the intitial cycle test, there have not been any nitrates showing up.
 

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my fish less cycle with pure ammonia took 22 days, but i've heard it can be done faster
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Here's an update after another week:
The amount of ammonium has not changed at all. But at least there is no ammonia. This tells me that the bacteria responsible for keeping ammonia locked up as ammonium is working well. However, there are no nitrites and no nitrates whatsoever. After 3 weeks in the usual fishless cycle you would at least see nitrites and lowering ammonia by this time. Now I should be happy with no nitrates but the Right Now system says that there should be no ammonia AND ammonium and there should be nitrates. I have been in contact with the inventor and am getting my questions answered. The big difference is that he recommends having fish right away - the the big selling point. But I wanted to do a fishless cycle so I have been adding a small amount of fish food in lieu of having fish.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Yay, I've finally got shrimp in my tanks!

IMG_20140119_105350.jpg

Not quite as lively as I imagined they'd be.

The Right Now bacteria guy figures that my tanks don't have enough "burden" for them to show the full results of the system. I've been putting just a bit of fish food in for it to break down. He suggested going to the grocery store and getting some fish or shrimp (12 of them!) and throwing it in the tank for the bacteria to really go to town. Hey, I'm going for broke with this system to see that it works.

It looks crazy, I know. But I've read through the patent documents and the tests they put these bacteria through are really crazy. It makes for some great reading.
 

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I feel like you've been sold a bill of goods, to be honest. Your results are exactly what one would expect an uncycled tank to look like. Actually what I think's happened is you've added too much ammonia and your cycle has stalled out.

The ammonium/ammonia thing isn't what your guy is making it out to be either. The relationship between ammonia and ammonium works as any other buffer does; they exist in an equilibrium where the relative balance is determined by the availability of the H+ ion. It's a mathematical relationship that looks like this when you graph it

Untitled 1.jpg

Apologies for the lousy graph; I'm not exaclty a wizard with charts. Anyway it's got pH along the bottom from 0 to 14, and the percentage of the total ammonia that exists as either ammonium or ammonia along the side.

As you can see, at pH 7.4 you'd expect only 1.4% of the total ammonia to be in the form of NH3. So at 6 ppm total ammonia you'd have a NH3 concentration of 0.08 ppm, likely below the range of any hobbiest testing method, with the rest being ammonium. So your results of ~6 ppm ammonium and 0 ammonia are about what you'd expect.

Additionally, you wouldn't expect bacteria to convert NH3 to NH4+, because there's no energy to be gained in doing so (the reaction is spontaneous; any given molecule will flip back and forth between ammonium and ammonia instant to instant without any outside involvement).

I've had a read though this guy's stuff and a lot of it comes across as very reasonable sounding gibberish. A lot of the basic stuff he says is technically true; but he put it together into a discussion that makes it sound like he doesn't know what he's talking about. Speaking as someone with a certain amount of training in environmental chemistry, I can say he's sounds more like a clever advertiser hyping a rather ordinary product than someone making a science based discussion of a breakthrough innovation.
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Whether or not it's a bill of goods, I know that the Right Now bacteria did something. When I first put the 6ppm ammonia in the system, as I've described above, there was a massive build up of slime (bacteria) and the tanks smelled. Even using the chart you included, at ph7.4, there should be a measurable amount of NH3, which there has not been after the first ammonia test I did several weeks ago. In the meantime I have done a much smaller test. I put ammonia in a much smaller container with water and waited several days to see if it converted to ammonium. It did not. It was always in the form of NH3. Then I took a few hydroton pebbles which had the bacteria and put them in the container and then kept testing the water. Within 2 days, there was not a trace of NH3 and it was all NH4+.

The point with the NH3/NH4+ is that there is no buffer - it is a constant concentration of NH4+.

The Seachem Ammonia kit I'm using has a noticeable greenish tinge even when approaching 0.1 ppm. It's stayed pristine yellow in my testing - no green changes at all.
 

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So far I like the thread, can't wait to see things start happening with the shrimp! All the best of luck!
 

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Well, I suppose you are free to believe what you wish. I would point out you are at the lower end of the detection range at pH 7.4; there are pretty big error bars using those test kits. For example, your original test with 5 ppm total ammonia should only have come up with 0.04 ppm NH3 rather than 0.15. Hobbiest kits are not really what you call lab quality. I wouldn't rely on them for precise measurements (which you'd have to at the low end of the scale).

By way of example: A while back I got bored and did a series of tests with my nutrafin nitrate kit on samples with a known concentration of nitrate. It was all lining up nicely until I realized I'd made a mistake mixing up my standards and I was off by a significant amount (it was only about half of what I thought it was... IE my 100 ppm standard was more like 50 in reality, my 50 ppm standard was more like 25, etc). I went back and did the tests again with the same standards and ended up the numbers I should have got the first time. I realized then how hard it was to make an accurate reading of the colour; I was reading the results based partly on what I thought it should be, rather than what it was. My level of accuracy was only good enough to tell me what the nitrate was within a fairly wide margin of error; after that I was interpreting the results based on what I 'knew' the water should be.

If it were me, I'd bump up the pH as far above 8 as I could for a proper small scale test. At pH 8.3 (about as high as you can take the pH by adding baking soda) you'd have a really significant amount of NH3 in the water (0.5 ppm with 5 ppm total ammonia); that'd be well into the detection range of the free ammonia test.

I do like the setup so far, by the way. Looking forward to see how it turns out.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
"I love the smell of rotting shrimp in the morning."

IMG_20140125_111625.jpg

Actually it's not that noticeable. It's been quite the interesting week - chemically. Remember, I had the water cycling for 3 weeks and in that time there were no nitrites, nitrates or ammonia. All the initial ammonia (6ppm) had been converted and stayed locked up as ammonium. I put 10 frozen shrimp in the system to see if that would add enough load to give the Right Now bacteria something further to do.

Rotting Shrimp (RS) Day 0

pH 7.0
146 TDS
Ammonia 0 ppm
Ammonium >6 ppm
Nitrite 0 ppm
Nitrate 0 ppm

RS Day 1
Ammonia 0.1 ppm
Ammonium >6 ppm
Nitrite 0.1-0.5 ppm
Nitrate 0.0-0.5 ppm

RS Day 2
Ammonia 0.0 ppm
Ammonium >6 ppm
Nitrite 0.5-0.8 ppm
Nitrate 2.0 ppm

RS Day 4
Ammonia 0.0 ppm
Ammonium >6 ppm
Nitrite 2.5 ppm
Nitrate 5-10 ppm

RS Day 6
pH 7.2
186 TDS
Ammonia 0.0 ppm
Ammonium >6 ppm
Nitrite 10-15 ppm
Nitrate 15-20 ppm

Quite interesting results so far. This is not your usual "cycle". As the inventor says, this bacteria doesn't have to be cycled at all. It seems that the initial pure ammonia (at 6 ppm) I put in the system was not enough for the various bacteria in Right Now to do the complete reactions. The rotting biological load (and eventual living biological load) is what is required.

I've put quite a lot of non living organic matter in and still there has been absolutely no free ammonia (toxic) showing up after 6 days. That to me is very surprising. This shows that all the ammonia is being converted to ammonium.

Nitrites and nitrates are now showing up. I will have to do a bit more checking but I thought with these particular bacteria, I would not have measurable nitrites. These results I see are a bit troubling, I have to admit.
 

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Hmmm... interesting indeed. Have you been keeping track of your KH through your cycle? Also, what test kits are you using? Your readings are very precise (I'm a bit envious).

I'd maybe change some water at this point. You've got loads of nitrogen floating around in there; there's a decent chance of stalling out if any of the levels get too high.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I didn't do any testing of KH or GH. From what I read these values wouldn't be affected. As to test kits: I have a digital TDS meter which I use for my aeroponics system. I have an API Master Test Kit which I test the pH and total ammonia. I have an API Nitrate kit and GH/KH kit. I have SeaChem Nitrite/Nitrate kit, Phosphate kit and Ammonia/Ammonium kit.

I really like the SeaChem kits. They are the only kit that tests individually ammonia vs ammonium. The free ammonia test is a small piece of reactive paper which can be used again and again. So that's really handy. Their Nitrite/Nitrate is a logarithmic scale from 0 to 50 for nitrate. So it's quite accurate for lower ppm readings. The API nitrate kit is kind of useless for anything between 0 to 20 because it's just similar shades of yellow-orange. It goes up to 160 ppm which is kind of pointless because you've acted on your readings well before seeing those kind of results.
 
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