First "dirt" tank not cycling.
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Old 11-14-2012, 05:38 PM   #1
dbl_dbl17
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First "dirt" tank not cycling.


So as the title says, I'm attempting my first dirted tank, and I'm having some problems. I've been fishless cycling tanks for 10 years or so, and this is the first time I've ever had a serious snag.

After a month of fishless cycling and seeing almost minimal ammonia, nitrite and no nitrate, I added 6 platies (I need them to breed for some Killis I have anyway). Test again today, still nothing across the board.

I also added some live plants which are doing well even under the subdued lighting (new ballast coming tomorrow) and with the tannins.

Here is the important info:

1. Had minimum-to zero readings across the board for Nitrogen cycle. (edit: for 4 weeks)

2. Tried adding difference sources of ammonia, and used some cycled media. Still nothing.

3. Current fish: 6 Platies

4. Current plants: Ambulia, Hygro, Amazon Frogbit, Bacopa, Java Moss - all are surviving or growing.

5. Water stained by tannins, I'm guessing from the soil? One peice of manzanite wood but my manzanite usually doesn't leach.

6. Filtration is a powerhead powered sponge filter, 40g tank (want to breed Threadfin Rainbows, people have had more success with this type of filtration than others).

7. Using Prime.

8. 5g water changes starting yesterday, 3x weekly from now on to remove tannins.

9. pH 7.0, kH 5.0, gH 6.0


Theories:

Can dirt cycle a tank almost immediately? Because EVEN if I was getting false reading from Prime, I should still be seeing Trite and Trate?
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Old 11-14-2012, 05:48 PM   #2
rroginela
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40 gals and 6 platies starting with established media... Sounds like the worst that may happen is a cycle crash if you starve the bacteria as I'm sure yhe platies are not really a huge load at the moment. I've had almost instant cycles when load was low and using established media. The plants if you have enough will take care of trate... Now just slowly raise the load and you should be ok.

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Old 11-14-2012, 05:55 PM   #3
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Thanks, I think I am going to feed liberally this week and see ow the tank reacts. My real concern is that the cycle is stalled for whatever reason, then I add the colony of Threadfin Rainbows and it goes to hell in a handbag overnight.
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Old 11-14-2012, 08:37 PM   #4
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1. Had minimum-to zero readings across the board for Nitrogen cycle. (edit: for 4 weeks)
Ammonia: Nitrite: Nitrate: All zeros? But you should be adding ammonia.
2. Tried adding difference sources of ammonia, and used some cycled media. Still nothing.
What different sources? Protein like shrimp or prawn? Fish food? Ammonia from a bottle?
3. Current fish: 6 Platies
Well, no more adding ammonia!
4. Current plants: Ambulia, Hygro, Amazon Frogbit, Bacopa, Java Moss - all are surviving or growing.
Any floating plants can remove nitrogen (in any form) pretty fast. I wonder if the Frogbit and fast growing Hygro are removing enough ammonia that the cycle is complete?
5. Water stained by tannins, I'm guessing from the soil? One peice of manzanite wood but my manzanite usually doesn't leach.
I do not think tannins interfere with the growth of nitrifying bacteria. My Manzanita also does not seem to leach significant tannins. Probably coming from the soil.
6. Filtration is a powerhead powered sponge filter, 40g tank (want to breed Threadfin Rainbows, people have had more success with this type of filtration than others).
What size powerhead?
7. Using Prime.

8. 5g water changes starting yesterday, 3x weekly from now on to remove tannins.

9. pH 7.0, kH 5.0, gH


The nitrifying bacteria thrive under these conditions:
High oxygen (so good water movement)
Ammonia under 5 ppm (So add ammonia to 5 ppm only the first day or so, then allow it to drop to 3 ppm)
Nitrite under 5 ppm (So, if it ever shows up, keep it under 5 ppm with water changes)
KH- These bacteria need the carbon from carbonates, so I would make sure the KH is over 3 German degrees of hardness.
pH- I know these bacteria were first grown in the lab with alkaline water, but I do not know if that is because they need the carbonates, or if they really need high pH.
Some organic acids have some antibacterial properties. Not a lot, and I have not heard of them stalling a cycle.
Moderate temperature- The bacteria grow faster with higher temperature, but water holds less oxygen at higher temperature. Anywhere in the 70s is probably great, higher only if you can assure good oxygen supply. Since most aquarium plants struggle when the temperature gets into the 80s, and you have added cool water fish, I would keep the temperature about 75*F.
No toxins such as fish meds, soaps, surfactants, perfumes (Read the label on the ammonia. Should be pure ammonia, nothing else).

How did you prepare the soil? Did you mineralize it? Or just take it straight out of the garden? Natural soil, where weeds and worms and so on have been living is very good, it even has some of the nitrifying bacteria in it.

What happens when you add ammonia to test 5 ppm? Does it go away really fast? Maybe the plants are using it.
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Old 11-14-2012, 11:37 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rroginela View Post
40 gals and 6 platies starting with established media... Sounds like the worst that may happen is a cycle crash if you starve the bacteria as I'm sure yhe platies are not really a huge load at the moment. I've had almost instant cycles when load was low and using established media. The plants if you have enough will take care of trate... Now just slowly raise the load and you should be ok.

Rafal

Sent from my Galaxy Nexus using Tapatalk 2
You don't "starve" the bacteria nitrogen fixing bacteria, their metabolism slows down and they will go still consume the ammonia(NH4) and nitrites to convert into both energy and Nitrate...but at a much lower rate until the ammonia returns to higher levels which they'll match up to.
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Old 11-14-2012, 11:41 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rroginela View Post
40 gals and 6 platies starting with established media... Sounds like the worst that may happen is a cycle crash if you starve the bacteria as I'm sure yhe platies are not really a huge load at the moment. I've had almost instant cycles when load was low and using established media. The plants if you have enough will take care of trate... Now just slowly raise the load and you should be ok.

Rafal

Sent from my Galaxy Nexus using Tapatalk 2


I did a 75 with MTS and Aqua-soil. I had a 1 week cycle. I used a testing machine from my college (thanks to an awesome chemistry staff) for 3 weeks. I added 8 adult angels, 15 ottos, 10 congos, and some others a week after the tank was started. <- Not a single spike in ammonia. And Remember also, some plants have the nitrogen fixing bacteria in a symbiotic relationship with roots of plants to help with growth. As long as other nutrients (light, c02, P04, micros, etc) are sufficient, the speed of that cycle will increase.

Last edited by fishykid1; 11-15-2012 at 07:10 PM.. Reason: Wrongly worded...
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Old 11-15-2012, 03:24 AM   #7
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Quote:
And Remember also, some plants have the nitrogen fixation bacteria in a symbiotic relationship with roots of plants to fixate
Which ones? I know lots of land plants do this, but I did not know any aquatics could.
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Old 11-15-2012, 03:45 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fishykid1 View Post
You don't "starve" the bacteria nitrogen fixing bacteria, their metabolism slows down and they will go still consume the ammonia(NH4) and nitrites to convert into both energy and Nitrate...but at a much lower rate until the ammonia returns to higher levels which they'll match up to.

Just to add - I did a 75 with MTS and Aqua-soil. I had a 1 week cycle. I used a testing machine from my college (thanks to an awesome chemistry staff) for 3 weeks. I added 8 adult angels, 15 ottos, 10 congos, and some others a week after the tank was started. <- Not a single spike in ammonia. And Remember also, some plants have the nitrogen fixation bacteria in a symbiotic relationship with roots of plants to fixate....
Can you explain this for dumb ol' me? The second part that is.
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Old 11-15-2012, 03:29 PM   #9
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Sounds like your tank is already cycled or instant cycled due to the biological media you've added.

My current tank never really cycled ether, but from day one I had live driftwood (from a river) and plenty of plants. Never saw any elevation of any parameters.

Just go slow while adding livestock.
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Old 11-15-2012, 07:08 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbl_dbl17 View Post
Can you explain this for dumb ol' me? The second part that is.
Some semi-aquatics (mostly species that are terrestrial AND submersed) and ~18,000 land species have the bacteria (Rhizobia) to do it.


Plants that have the bacteria for fixating can help speed up the time it takes to cycle...
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Old 11-15-2012, 08:15 PM   #11
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Using soil or mulch enriched substrates I've only had a single tank show cycle readings on tests.
The rest simply started showing low nitrate readings after settling in.

I just loaded another tank (90g MTS) the end of September and it never showed a cycle.
A few plants added with a 280 bio wheel moving the water placed at the end of the tank. Flooded 9/24/2012 with just substrate the tank held 70g filled, so much for listed volumes LOL. The same day I loaded this tank I rinsed the filter pad from my 29g beeder tank and poured the mum water into the new tank.
9/25 I planted a few reopen stems, added a clump of java fern and a few frogbit floaters.
9/29 (5 days wet) 185TDS, 4dGH, 2dKH, 7pH I swapped the filter pad on the 90g with the one on the existing 29g breeder tank (swapped the pads without rinsing it). Added 6 salt & pepper cory (Corydoras paleatus).
10/5 the testing was NO3 6ppm, zero nitrite and ammonia.
10/6 I added 7 more S&P and a kuhli (all they had at the LFS)
10/15 the testing was NO3 3ppm (<5ppm color), zero nitrite and ammonia.

My blue angels followed after worming the Cory and loach.
The stocking of the tank is complete and I've had three spawns by the angels already.

Seeded filters are the bomb! (just stock in steps)
You may never see the cycle on a chemical test.
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Old 11-16-2012, 01:23 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbl_dbl17 View Post
Can dirt cycle a tank almost immediately?
Yes. As explained in the book Ecology of the Planted Aquarium, soil already comes with plenty of nitrifying bacteria.

When I set up a soil-based tank, I typically add fish within 24 hours.


Quote:
Originally Posted by dbl_dbl17 View Post
Because EVEN if I was getting false reading from Prime, I should still be seeing Trite and Trate?
No. I'd never detected any nitrite or nitrate in a soil-based tank with plenty of healthy growing plants.
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Old 11-16-2012, 12:14 PM   #13
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No. I'd never detected any nitrite or nitrate in a soil-based tank with plenty of healthy growing plants.
Almost every freshwater environment there is Nitrate at some level...If you don't have any nitrate, you don't have very healthy plants...
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Old 11-16-2012, 01:37 PM   #14
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Quote:
Plants that have the bacteria for fixating can help speed up the time it takes to cycle
How does this work?

Quote:
If you don't have any nitrate, you don't have very healthy plants
Uh, maybe not so well worded. Your plants may be using all the nitrogen in all 3 forms, with the net result that the tests show low to no nitrate, and be just fine. If they were unhealthy they would not be taking in so much nitrogen. Zero or very low nitrate does suggest that the plants might become less healthy if a deficiency continues, it does not say they are unhealthy now.

dbl dbl 17, How is the cycle going?
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Old 11-16-2012, 10:46 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fishykid1 View Post
Almost every freshwater environment there is Nitrate at some level...If you don't have any nitrate, you don't have very healthy plants...
May I remind you that the tank in question has a soil substrate...

In such a tank, the main nutrient supply comes from the soil, not the water. And I have seen plenty of soil-based tanks with no nitrate in the water and yet the plants continued to be very healthy.
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