Fishless cycle question - Page 2 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #16 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-10-2013, 10:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Hawkian View Post
But there are so many Ifs...

How long do you plan on taking to redo your tank?
How many fish do you have to house in the temporary tank?
How large are the fish?
How large is the temporary tank?
Since I will be doing a fishless-cycle on the new tank, I am guessing several weeks. I can add some of substrate and some bio material from my filter to give the bacteria a boost to the new tank. I will be getting an API test kit right away to monitor all of this.

I have about 25 small fish (neons, guppies, a few ottos, a flying fox, and one orange shrimp). The temp tank is a 10g.

The main reason I am starting over, is a long term battle with BBA. All of my plants are covered with it. There are even balls of it starting on the eco-complete. I also want to change my scape.

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post #17 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-11-2013, 02:05 AM Thread Starter
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I would put aside a day to do it all in personally. House your fish in the temp tank for less than 48 hours, redo the scape in your main tank, and transfer them back. Take a day off work to get it done but don't tell them I told you to do it

For me it was easy... I don't have any fish right now so I can take all the time in the world to get to where I want to.

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post #18 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-11-2013, 02:10 AM Thread Starter
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Your battle with BBA may not be solved by a redo either. Isn't it possible you either have too much light? Too much fertz? Too many fish?

You say you have a 10G... I personally woudn't house 25 small fish in a tankj that small without it being totally overrun with plants. What plants do you have?

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post #19 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-11-2013, 02:16 AM Thread Starter
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So... tank as it is today:

I've been expecting an algae bloom but so far nothing. The water looks somewhat cloudy but just a tad and that may just be the driftwood releasing tannins...

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post #20 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-14-2013, 02:01 PM Thread Starter
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The readings on this tank have been fairly steady over the last 5 days or so. I have taken the advice that was given and reduced the amount of ammonia I was adding to the tank and stabilized the schedule so that I only add the same amount of ammonia every day (7ml) at the same time. Over the last 5 days these are the readings I have been getting very consistently before I would dose the ammonia:

Ammonia: 0.25ppm
Nitrites: 1ppm
Nitrates: 5-10ppm

Last night I decided to do a PWC (about 35%), the first since I started the fishless cycle and out of curiosity decided to take another reading of ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. WHOA!

Ammonia: 0ppm
Nitrites: 5ppm+
Nitrates: 100ppm+

I know my tap water is very soft and contains no ammonia, nitrites or nitrates, so what has caused my water parameters to peak so high just by doing a PWC? Is this normal?

A happy by-product of the PWC is that all plants in the tank started pearling almost immediately following. Is it possible that somehow the PWC actually kicked off something?

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post #21 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-14-2013, 05:33 PM
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Something seems wrong here. Last week the tank was able to process significantly higher levels of ammonia and reduce nitrites pretty effectively. It shouldn't have any problem with the amount you're adding now. What kind of test kit are you using?

Did you repeat the nitrate test in case of error? Actually, up until now it's shown surprisingly low nitrates for all the ammonia you added. Maybe it's the previous tests that were wrong. If you are using API Liquid tests, you can get false low results if bottle #2 isn't thoroughly mixed up.

Also, the “pearling” may just be small bubbles that got trapped by the plant leaves when you did the water change.

Life isn't stone, it's water.

PSA: When talking about baby fish, "fry" is plural.
I have a fry. I have some fry.

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post #22 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-18-2013, 07:45 PM Thread Starter
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I come home early today and find a bunch of diatoms covering some parts of the sand. The ammonia that I added to the tank yesterday, after not having fed the tank any ammonia for two days, is reading a whopping 4ppm and the nitrites are off the chart! Both ammonia and nitrites were looking like they were starting to drop a few days ago.

Did skipping 2 days of adding ammonia kill off the bacteria I was trying to produce or is the tank water simply saturated with ammonia at this point?
I’m not sure what to do at this point… do I do a PWC or do I let this go?

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post #23 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-18-2013, 08:15 PM
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I would do a big water change to get back on track.
Ammonia: dose to 3ppm
Nitrite: Do water changes if needed to keep it under 5 ppm
Nitrate: Don't worry about it.

Skipping adding the ammonia for a few days does not kill the bacteria. I have no idea why the test results were so weird.
Shake all the bottles really well, especially the nitrate tests.
If you have a second test kit, or can take some water to a store, see what the other test kit says.
Figure out a way to calibrate your test kit.

Here is the fishless cycle:

Cycle: To grow the beneficial bacteria that remove ammonia and nitrite from the aquarium.

Fish-In Cycle: To expose fish to toxins while using them as the source of ammonia to grow nitrogen cycle bacteria. Exposure to ammonia burns the gills and other soft tissue, stresses the fish and lowers their immunity. Exposure to nitrite makes the blood unable to carry oxygen. Research methemglobinemia for details.

Fishless Cycle: The safe way to grow more bacteria, faster, in an aquarium, pond or riparium.

The method I give here was developed by 2 scientists who wanted to quickly grow enough bacteria to fully stock a tank all at one time, with no plants helping, and overstock it as is common with Rift Lake Cichlid tanks.

1) Set up the tank and all the equipment. You can plant if you want. Include the proper dose of dechlorinator with the water.
Optimum water chemistry:
GH and KH above 3 German degrees of hardness. A lot harder is just fine.
pH above 7, and into the mid 8s is just fine.
Temperature in the upper 70s F (mid 20s C) is good. Higher is OK if the water is well aerated.
A trace of other minerals may help. Usually this comes in with the water, but if you have a pinch of KH2PO4, that may be helpful.
High oxygen level. Make sure the filter and power heads are running well. Plenty of water circulation.
No toxins in the tank. If you washed the tank, or any part of the system with any sort of cleanser, soap, detergent, bleach or anything else make sure it is well rinsed. Do not put your hands in the tank when you are wearing any sort of cosmetics, perfume or hand lotion. No fish medicines of any sort.
A trace of salt (sodium chloride) is OK, but not required.
This method of growing bacteria will work in a marine system, too. The species of bacteria are different.

1a) Optional: Add any source of the bacteria that you are growing to seed the tank. Cycled media from a healthy tank is good. Decor or some gravel from a cycled tank is OK. Live plants or plastic are OK. Bottled bacteria is great, but only if it contains Nitrospira species of bacteria. Read the label and do not waste your money on anything else.
At the time this was written the right species could be found in:
Dr. Tims One and Only
Tetra Safe Start
Microbe Lift Nite Out II
...and perhaps others.
You do not have to jump start the cycle. The right species of bacteria are all around, and will find the tank pretty fast.

2) Add ammonia until the test reads 5 ppm. This ammonia is the cheapest you can find. No surfactants, no perfumes. Read the fine print. This is often found at discount stores like Dollar Tree, or hardware stores like Ace. You could also use a dead shrimp form the grocery store, or fish food. Protein breaks down to become ammonia. You do not have good control over the ammonia level, though.

3) Test daily. For the first few days not much will happen, but the bacteria that remove ammonia are getting started. Finally the ammonia starts to drop. Add a little more, once a day, to test 5 ppm.

4) Test for nitrite. A day or so after the ammonia starts to drop the nitrite will show up. When it does allow the ammonia to drop to 3 ppm.

5) Test daily. Add ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. If the nitrite or ammonia go to 5 ppm do a water change to get these lower. The ammonia removing species and the nitrite removing species (Nitrospira) do not do well when the ammonia or nitrite are over 5 ppm.

6) When the ammonia and nitrite both hit zero 24 hours after you have added the ammonia the cycle is done. You can challenge the bacteria by adding a bit more than 3 ppm ammonia, and it should be able to handle that, too, within 24 hours.

7) Now test the nitrate. Probably sky high!
Do as big a water change as needed to lower the nitrate until it is safe for fish. Certainly well under 20, and a lot lower is better. This may call for more than one water change, and up to 100% water change is not a problem. Remember the dechlor!
If you will be stocking right away (within 24 hours) no need to add more ammonia. If stocking will be delayed keep feeding the bacteria by adding ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. You will need to do another water change right before adding the fish.

Helpful hints:

A) You can run a fishless cycle in a bucket to grow bacteria on almost any filter media like bio balls, sponges, ceramic bio noodles, lava rock or Matala mats. Simply set up any sort of water circulation such as a fountain pump or air bubbler and add the media to the bucket. Follow the directions for the fishless cycle. When the cycle is done add the media to the filter. I have run a canister filter in a bucket and done the fishless cycle.

B) The nitrogen cycle bacteria will live under a wide range of conditions and bounce back from minor set backs. By following the set up suggestions in part 1) you are setting up optimum conditions for fastest reproduction and growth.
GH and KH can be as low as 1 degree, but watch it! These bacteria use the carbon in carbonates, and if it is all used up (KH = 0) the bacteria may die off.
pH as low as 6.5 is OK, but by 6.0 the bacteria are not going to be doing very well. They are still there, and will recover pretty well when conditions get better.
Temperature almost to freezing is OK, but they must not freeze, and they are not very active at all. They do survive in a pond, but they are slow to warm up and get going in the spring. This is where you might need to grow some in a bucket in a warm place and supplement the pond population. Too warm is not good, either. Topical or room temperature tank temperatures are best. (68 to 85*F or 20 to 28*C)
Moderate oxygen can be tolerated for a while. However, to remove lots of ammonia and nitrite these bacteria must have oxygen. They turn one into the other by adding oxygen. If you must stop running the filter for an hour or so, no problem. If longer, remove the media and keep it where it will get more oxygen.
Once the bacteria are established they can tolerate some fish medicines. This is because they live in a complex film called Bio film on all the surfaces in the filter and the tank. Medicines do not enter the bio film well.
These bacteria do not need to live under water. They do just fine in a humid location. They live in healthy garden soil, as well as wet locations.

C) Planted tanks may not tolerate 3 ppm or 5 ppm ammonia. It is possible to cycle the tank at lower levels of ammonia so the plants do not get ammonia burn. Add ammonia to only 1 ppm, but test twice a day, and add ammonia as needed to keep it at 1 ppm. The plants are also part of the bio filter, and you may be able to add the fish sooner, if the plants are thriving.
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