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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-08-2014, 09:21 PM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: iĺinois
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cycle advice plz

Before I get started here is my equipment.

55 gal tank
2x 158gph powerhead's attached to spray bars
2x hydrosponge 3 filter's
2x 32 watt t8 bulbs both 6500k
No heater yet not sure what size ill need

Ill be mineralizing my substrate. It will be 2 inches of organic potting mix with a 1 inch pebble cap. Heavily planted with a low bio load. My question since this is my first aquarium is whats a good way to get the cycle going? And how do I maintain the water quality after its established. Will lots of plants and a low bioload mean that I wont have to intervene much? Ive done my research but the water quality and cycling aspects is a bit confusing due to everything I read contradicting the previous info. Any help or suggestions are appreciated. Im trying to go for a tank thats more or less self sustaining. Although I dont mind doing what necessary to maintain a healthy balance.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-08-2014, 10:32 PM
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Cycling info will vary from a lot of variables, temp, water movement, volume, and method of cycling used. Soil even when capped will leech ammonia into the water column. I've set up a 3g bubble bowl with MGOPM, black diamond "sand" cap and plants added. It leeched ammonia for about a month before finished cycling (had a sponge filter in).
My usual method for cycling is dosing pure ammonia and keeping plants out until ready for fish (no lights to avoid algae blooms). I use this sites calculator to figure out doses after doing water tests. Find that page very helpful.

As for flora and fauna and low maintenance it's very possible, plants have tanks like this but it's not a cookie cutter formula of what plants and what fish. Depends on what grows well in your waterand with your lighting (plants). Plenty of people brag their tanks just end top off for evaporation and no other attention, not sure if these tanks have been no maint. from the time fish were added, I'd suspect unless you buy an insane amount of plants for initial setup you'll have to do water changes for a while till it grows into a jungle.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-08-2014, 10:56 PM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
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My plan is complete ground cover from the start. Probably plant 1-1.5" apart with a few larger plants in the back corners to hide the sponge filters and powerheads. Hardscape will just be a large rock and a peice of drift wood. I did more reading and I now know that no matter how I set it up ill be doing regular water changes of 10-20% and testing for the first two months or untill it all balances out. I just dont want to spend the time and money and end up with a tank o death. But from what I can tell once its cycled with enough plants and a low bio load all thats really required is top off's and the occasional water change. Guess hands on experience is the best way.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-09-2014, 05:39 AM
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Here is the fishless cycle. Done right, it can be complete in 3 weeks.
If your soil gives off ammonia that is OK, part of the bacteria food.

Fishless Cycle

Set up tank and equipment.
Fill with water, including dechlor.
Optimum conditions to grow these bacteria the fastest:
GH and KH at least 3 German degrees of hardness, and higher is just fine.
Add some other minerals, for example plant fertilizers: KH2PO4, trace minerals.
High oxygen levels.
Good water movement.
A place to grow. They grow on surfaces, not drifting free in the water. Filter media is great. Sponges, floss, bio-media are all good places for these bacteria.
You can add a starter culture of the right bacteria if you want. It is optional. The cycle can go faster if you add something. Media from a cycled, healthy filter. Bottled bacteria containing Nitrospira species of bacteria. Do not waste money on anything else.

Add ammonia (no surfactants, no perfumes) to test 5 ppm.
Test daily. Add more ammonia to keep the test at 5 ppm through the first few days.
Test for nitrite. When nitrite shows up allow the ammonia to drop to 3 ppm.
Test daily, adding enough ammonia to bring the test to 3 ppm once a day. If you are growing plants that do not like this level of ammonia then test twice a day, and add enough ammonia to bring the test to 1 ppm twice a day.
If the nitrite gets to 5 ppm do a water change. Perhaps add less ammonia for a few days. The nitrite removing bacteria (Nitrospira species) are slower growing, and the ammonia removing bacteria might be making more nitrite than they can deal with.

When the ammonia returns to 0 ppm after 24 hours, and no nitrite shows up at that same 24 hour mark, then the cycle is done.
A fishless cycle with no plants might have VERY high nitrate. Do a BIG water change, or even a couple of them to get the nitrate way down before adding the fish. You can fully stock the tank.
A fishless cycle with lots of plants might show almost no nitrate. The plants are part of the bio filter, and are removing a certain amount of the ammonia before the bacteria even have a chance to turn it into nitrate, and then the plants are removing some or all of the nitrate produced by the bacteria. I would still do a big water change.

If the fish you want to keep need water different than the hard, alkaline water that grow the bacteria so well, now is the time to change that to softer, acidic water. While you were trying to grow the bacteria as fast as possible you wanted optimum conditions for the bacteria. Now that the colony is well established you can change the conditions. They might not grow so fast, but that is OK.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-09-2014, 07:33 AM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
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Wow thank you. I can plant the tank during the initial set up right?
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-09-2014, 08:05 AM
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Yes you can and, imo, you should.

For heater, you need ~5w per gallon of water to raise the temp up to about 15℉ above ambient.

Edit: For a 55g you will need 200-250w total. Getting 2 x 100w instead if a single one has many advantages: better heat distribution, some safety if a heater gets stuck in the on mode.


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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-09-2014, 08:26 AM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
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K thanks for the info on the heaters. Any brand of heater you would recommend?
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-09-2014, 09:33 AM
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Cobalt Aquatics for internal
Hydor ETH for external

Neither one is cheap. Check Amazon and Ken's Fish.


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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-10-2014, 01:01 PM
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lotsa plants+low stocking is something I believe in as one of the things required for a low maint. tank. I have such a dirt tank (see my sig) but it does need a 5-10% water change per week + daily feeding and 2-3 times liq ferts/week, thats just the way it is with that tank...
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-04-2014, 06:49 AM
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Will people mind if I post my log I'm keeping with my fishless cycle?

I've got a 75 gallon that I just started this process on. It may help people out...
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-04-2014, 02:30 PM
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I cannot stress enough how terrible things will be if you do not get pure ammonia (if you choose to go that way)

Also go for a Hydor ETH external inline heater. If you have a canister there is no clutter in your tank and my experience has been that they work perfectly. Worth $50.
Cheap glass heaters work but look bad in the tank / I have broken many due to myself being an idiot. If you do a large water change without turning it off it will overheat / break and melt rubber all over your tank... Also cheap heater malfunctions can ruin a lot more money in stock than buying a good heater in the first place.

75 Gallon High Tech
29 Gallon Low Tech (RCS / cory tank)

Last edited by klibs; 08-04-2014 at 04:49 PM. Reason: olloollool
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-05-2014, 05:06 AM
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Daniel, start your own thread with the information. I think it would help a lot, especially if you run into problems and we need to work to find a solution.
A story where everything goes right can help, too. It will prove that the way I write up the fishless cycle does indeed work. (I know it does, I have used it a few times).
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