this will give you an intro to the nitrogen cycle if you dont already know how it works
basiclly i think the problem is you dont have enough beneficial bacteria in your system to support the bioload you have
Initial stage: The cycle begins when fish are introduced to the aquarium. Their feces, urine, as well as any uneaten food, are quickly broken down into either ionized or unionized ammonia. The ionized form, Ammonium (NH4), is present if the pH is below 7, and is not toxic to fish. The unionized form, Ammonia (NH3), is is present if the pH is 7 or above, and is highly toxic to fish. Any amount of unionized Ammonia (NH3) is dangerous, however once the levels reach 2 ppm, the fish are in grave danger. Ammonia usually begins rising by the third day after introducing fish.
Second stage: During this stage Nitrosomonas bacteria oxidize the ammonia, thus eliminating it. However, the by-product of ammonia oxidation is nitrite, which is also highly toxic to fish. Nitrites levels as low as low as 1 mg/l can be lethal to some fish. Nitrite usually begins rising by the end of the first week after introducing fish.
Third stage: In the last stage of the cycle, Nitrobacter bacteria convert the nitrites into nitrates. Nitrates are not highly toxic to fish in low to moderate levels. Routine partial water changes will keep the nitrate levels within the safe range. Established tanks should be tested for nitrates every few months to ensure that levels are not becoming extremely high.
You added too many fish and inverts at one time for your present bacterial bed capacity. It will take a while for it to catch up and until you do you do not have a viable cycle. You could lose the whole thing unless you do water changes daily to keep the levels within limits to maintain the life of the fish you have. When you add fish it is never a good idea to add a load of them at a time, just a couple small ones of if the fish is larger one at the most. The filter bed needs time to adjust to the added load.
The one exception to this is when you use Bio-spira or Turbostart in your tank then you add all the fish you are going to put in there at the same time you add that product at the very beginning of the tank as it will cover the cycle and you want as much of the bacteria in THOSE products to live and establish as possible. If you add fish later you will have the same thing you are going through now unless you add more Bio-spira or Turbostart. Those are the only two products that work that way. I have seen others ADVERTISE that they do but they do not. One in particular that is sold from drsfostersmith.com that I paid a lot for that claims to do the same thing as some others and give an instant cycle was a miserable failure.
I'm guessing this is not a brand new tank, since it is 80g, and he posted before and knows that the ammonia is 0. The nitrate level is fine up to 10-20ppm. The nitrite is a little high but nothing to panic over....yet. My guess is that some of your bacteria cultures went inactive since you did not have any livestock in the tank for awhile. They should bounce back fairly quickly.
Do a 25% water change and watch your nitirite and nitrate levels. Change water every day or 2 until nitrite levels are zero again. Add Prime (or something similar) with every water change. Prime will neutralize the nitrite and nitrate so use a double dose if you still see nitrite. Although the test kit will show nitrite, it will be non-toxic to the fish.
According to his posts he started it on 7-3 and don't think it has had time to cycle enough to have this level of fish population yet IMHO but maybe some of you know better than I do about this one. I could not get one cycled that fast without using a product used for the instant cycle process and there are only the two that I know of that would work well enough to do the job with that load of fish. Sorry if I am making anyone uncomfortable here but that is a lot of fish and some of them discus that are rather large to boot. It is less than 3 weeks to cycle and that filter could not hardly be established yet.
I checked back on his other posts to see how long it had been before I answered so I did not go into it without taking it into consideration. There have also been a lot of issues with this tank and a lot of start overs with the fish and problems with fish health in it so as well as replacements of substrate and other things in the time he has had it if I am reading right. It was a used tank when he got it and has been a constant source of problems so it is like he is starting completely over once again.
The real scary part is the discs. With them being a very sensitive species...they don't tolerate much. Regardless of cycle or not....any nitrItes will be very bad on these guys. To top it off....we now have introduced clams in the mix. They will throw the parameters for a loop unless he stays way on top of it.
Don't even count the shrimp against the bioload. Very minimal and won't be there very long to begin with. ;o)
All those fish are really small and I am guessing that the Discus are probably around 2-3" when shipped....unless he really payed a lot for larger ones? I don't think 16 small fish and 10 shrimp is that much for an 80g tank, which looks like it is almost finished with it's cycling. His other post made it sound like his tank was established until he changed his filters. I was assuming that his gravel had not changed and that his filters have been going since that post.
I would just test it daily and do water changes as stated above with the addition of something like Prime. Clams and shrimp are fine, they are filter feeders and scavengers. They will break down wastes faster and aerate his gravel.
I did partial meaning 5 gallon water changes twice, added a spot of prime and the water has been doing 0's now. PH was like 7.5 so a tad of seachem to lower it but it really hasn't done anthing although all other tests like amonia etc. have been good. Simply put I caught it, stabilized it and all is good...for now...
The discus (2"-3"), two barbs, clams and 10 ghost shrimp were added at once but the discus and the break in was long and gentle but in three days I haven't seen any real color in them and blood worms have been eaten a little but not very well. The trip must have been hard on them as I would expect from Fed X.
No I have not had discus before so I haven't cared for them. They seem to be annoying each other and playing a dominance game of who will rule the tank - Their colors go in and out and don't stay constant - not sure of this is normal- I'm a novice fish keeper but a pro fly fisherman as well as a globally recognized chef so I've fished and prepared fish more than care for them and will admit very open for direction and comments-
If you are open to it, let me say that if you have a chemistry problem, anything much less than a 30 gallon change is a waste of time. When things have gone wrong bad enough for people to be jumping all over water changes, they usually expect to see from 30 to 50% changes which puts us around at least 30 gallons for a tank your size. Discus keepers often get into the habit of doing a 50% change every day or two, which is one reason that I don't keep them myself.
discs will definately play the cat and mouse dominance game. It's actually kind of funny to watch when you have a nice a big group of them. Colors coming in and out is the tell tell sign of stress. they will get darker in color especially noticable at the bottom of the fins.
Water does have to be pristine. For this reason it does make most shy away from them as there must be frequent water changes. Try looking into getting your ph in the mid 6 range. Blackwater is what they are accustomed to.
Your jumbo neons....were they labeled as jumbos...or cardinals? Cardinals are another blackwater species and get along perfectly with discs.
Here's a few pictures - slightly disturbed water from snipping a few plants and adding one. Cloudy eyes and not healthy looking - I'm wondering how long FED X had them - it was overnight delivery but it's 113 here in Az.
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