Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Contra Costa CA
Many years ago scientists thought they figured out the species of bacteria in a cycled tank. These bacteria entered a dormant phase, so were easy to bottle, ship, hold in the warehouse or store shelf....
... but were the wrong species of bacteria.
Many people still refer to "Nitrobacter" as one of the bacteria, and Nitrosmonas europa as another. Some of the research had been done in sewage treatment plants where the ammonia level is WAY higher than in a properly managed aquarium, and different species of bacteria deal with it. When these are introduced to an aquarium they live a short while, as long as the ammonia is high, but they remove ammonia and starve, then die.
Attempting to cycle the tank with these products took exactly as long as a fish-cycle, with the same spikes of ammonia and nitrite, and the many, many water changes. The 'bacteria in a bottle' might have been dead, or would live for only a few days until the ammonia level dropped out of their preferred range. Then the right species of bacteria would get going, but they are slow growing. In the mean time the fish keeper was advised to keep on adding the cycle product, and do water changes or not (depends on who was advising them). Either way, they had the wrong bacteria, the kind that died off in a well managed tank.
About 10 years ago the correct species of bacteria were identified. These do not enter a dormant phase, so a harder to ship, and do not store well.
The first patent was for Bio Spira by Marineland. They produced a marine/salt water product that is still on the market, and a fresh water product. The fresh water product is now available under several names. The key is to look at the ingredients. If one of the bacteria is Nitrospira, then it has the right species.
The bacteria identified as the right ones are:
Ammonia - to - nitrite:
a Nitrosomonas marina-like species.
(There is more current research that suggests there is a different organism also playing a part in the reduction of ammonia)
Nitrite - to - nitrate:
a Nitrospira moscoviensis-like species.
These products will work very well, as long as they have been handled correctly. Refrigerated, not frozen.
There will be a brief, low spike in ammonia and nitrite, so low that you probably do not need to do a water change, then the tank is cycled. These products can be used to jump start the fishless cycle.
When in doubt about the handling of the product there are a couple of things you can do:
1) Use more. (not a problem to overdose)
2) Stock fewer fish. If the product is good, keep it in the fridge, and add it each time you add more fish. You could fully stock a tank in a week or two, even being more conservative.
If you get a batch that has been miss-handled return it, and complain. The only way the store will understand how these bacteria must be handled is when they get complaints about dead bacteria. Whether the problem is at the store or at the wholesaler, they need to know that the instructions about temperature control and product dating, and shelf life really mean something.
back to the original question:
I started several aquariums mumble-mumble years ago with Cycle, and some with Bio Zyme ( dry product in a little yellow plastic jar with a flip-top lid), and Pond Zyme (dry product, bacteria supposedly stored in their dormant phase on little flakes of dried stuff, perhaps rice hulls.)
I read the label and read the test results.
a) Test results showed it was not working.
b) My mind kept coming back to: Mother Nature has no bottle of bacteria to keep adding to the rivers and lakes, so this Cycle product must be a hoax. Something for suckers. There is something ELSE that keeps the ammonia etc under control. The RIGHT species of bacteria will not die off and need to be added every week.
Then I got a computer and started researching on the internet.
Then they came out with Bio Spira, and I had my answer to why the 'bacteria in a bottle' products did not work.
Since then I cycle my tanks in either of 2 ways:
1) Share media from healthy, cycled tanks. I will make up a new filter using cycled media from several tanks, each donor tank sharing so little that it does not create an ammonia spike.
2) Fishless Cycle.
I have posted this many times. The version I post was developed by 2 scientists who were looking for a way to fully stock a Rift Lake tank. African Cichlids are over stocked as a method of controlling their aggression. So the tank has more fish-mass than most of us would stock in a planted tank. A Rift Lake tank is almost always not planted. These fish eat plants, dig them up or otherwise destroy them.
The fishless cycle will grow so many nitrifying bacteria that you can fully stock any reasonable fish-mass in a planted or non planted tank.
These scientists also tried a plant cycle. When the plants are thriving, and you plant enough of them you can immediately stock the tank with a reasonable fish mass. The plants are the bio filter.