I’ve never used the word “ichthyological” before

In midwifery, patience is the name of the game. Sometimes the most helpful thing a new mother will remember you doing is just sitting nearby, not doing anything but keeping eye contact and moaning with her through each contraction. It doesn’t really serve any purpose other than to help keep the laboring mama focused and in control. It certainly doesn’t speed anything up, but then that’s not really what you’re aiming for anyway. Your job is really to safeguard a sacred, natural process that will happen in its own time and its own way and, eventually, produce a new little life.

Patience is also the name of the game in fishkeeping. I have found, however, that staring into my fish tank and moaning isn’t really as helpful as it is for laboring women, which is why yesterday I did a >50% water change to try to nudge things along.

I haven’t made a blog post in several days because, for the most part, the tank remained unchanged. Ammonia stayed at 0, and any little bits of ammonia I added here and there (usually 15-20 drops in the morning and 15-20 more at night) were reduced rapidly to 0. My first colony of bacteria is clearly well-established. Nitrite remained off the chart – well in excess of 5.0 ppm, which is the highest my test kit can show. Nitrates have been slowly climbing -last night prior to the water change they were just shy of 40 ppm, whereas the past couple days they had slowly climbed past 20 ppm.

So, in general, the nitrogen cycle is underway. I began to get concerned that the nitrite spike had lasted eight days without any sign of it coming down, so I decided some action might be necessary. There are theories among aquarists that the second bacterial colony can become inundated with nitrite and not consume it quickly enough to cycle the tank, and that a water change to reduce nitrite can be helpful in nudging the cycle along.

I didn’t test water parameters right away after the water change last night (mostly because I fell asleep), but this morning they were as follows:

  • Ammonia 0 ppm
  • Nitrite 1-2 ppm
  • Nitrate <5 ppm
  • pH 6.7

So the water change caused a pH swing; it had been holding steady around 7.4. I added a teaspoon of baking soda to help buffer and keep it closer to 7.0, which is ideal for the nitrogen cycle. I’m waiting a while before re-testing it so I know I get an accurate value. While I don’t want to regularly add anything to alter the pH when I have fish in the tank, I’m willing to do so to help prevent a crash while the tank is cycling and particularly unstable.

I honestly am surprised the nitrate and nitrite dropped so much as a result of the water change, but that will make them a little easier to monitor for changes in the next couple of days.

I also tried to do a little bit of vacuuming with the water change last night. What I had been writing off as plant detritus I think I must admit is actually snail poop, and it’s getting a little out of control. I basically have a 125g snail paradise – no natural predators and no competition. I do love snails, but I think an assassin snail is going to have to be added to my stocking plans to keep the snail population in check. I would rather the substrate stay a little cleaner than it is since I’m going to have corydoras snuffling around in the sand.

The plants are all doing well, with the exception of a couple of the anubias barteri. Some of the old growth seems to be suffering from nutrient deficiencies despite my fertilizer dosing, and I haven’t figured out what nutrient it is yet to be able to fix it.

Hopefully this water change will help push things along, and soon maybe I’ll be posting photos of new ichthyological residents! In the meantime, enjoy some plant pictures:

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I also wanted to show off a little mosaic I put together in the living room over Hampton’s piano. His cousin actually made these paintings, and I feel like they look perfect in our living room.

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And lastly, 10-day-old baby birds! They’re getting so big! They look at me when I take their picture now!

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