There is no reason to "manually" cycle a small tank
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Old 01-20-2013, 01:08 PM   #1
hoa101
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There is no reason to "manually" cycle a small tank


I am thinking out loud here, for the benefit of people who have never experienced this. For tanks less than, say, 10-15 gallons, I cannot think of any reason to cycle a tank the old-fashioned way. Now that research has shown the correct bacteria for nitrification, the cycling products on the market are fantastic. The ones I've used are Tetra's Safe Start and Nite Out II.

For any small tank, my methodology is:

1) Fill with dechlorinated water.
2) Run the filter for a day or so with activated carbon. Probably not necessary, but I am a little paranoid.
3) Remove carbon, dose ammonia to ~1.5 ppm. (keep doing this once a day until fish are added)
4) Add nitrifying bacteria.
5) Drink a beer.

Measured in time since adding ammonia, my results are usually:

24 hours - Beer has worn off. Ammonia zero or close. Nitrite 0.25-0.50 ppm
48-72 hours - Ammonia zero, nitrite zero.

Congratulations, the tank is cycled. I am astounded how well the products work. For large tanks, the cost may be prohibitive. Also, if the bacteria in a bottle was not kept from being too hot or freezing during shipping, you could get a dud.

For small tanks, I usually add a dose from two bottles, one from Safe Start and one from Nite Out II, just in case. Seems to work pretty much every time.

I was wondering if anyone else goes this route and if they have been as successful as myself.
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Old 01-20-2013, 01:24 PM   #2
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Or just add seachem stability and away you go.
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Old 01-20-2013, 02:12 PM   #3
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I do not have any data on that one, having not personally used it and tested the water over time.
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Old 01-20-2013, 02:33 PM   #4
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i use it in every large tank now. i still wait a while before adding fish, maybe two weeks, but it gets the process going pretty fast. i dont even bother with the dosage suggestions, i just put something in the tank that will produce ammonia and pour the whole bottle in. as the ammonia producer decays away, the bacteria stabilize and then i add fish. by tests, they are usually completely cycled on day three.

im a bit leery about how stable a three day cycle is, so i still wait a couple weeks just to make sure. thats just me being paranoid though...

for anyone wanting to use it, be sure to test your water to verify that you didnt buy a dud. it does happen from time to time.
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Old 01-20-2013, 02:48 PM   #5
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I don't have a tank to cycle. I'll just go strait to the beer.
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Old 01-20-2013, 02:54 PM   #6
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Do the same with shrimp. I'm just curious about the products. Fish, depends on what species. There are hardy fish and there are fish that go belly up when you think you're doing it right.

I don't think it's possible to cycle a tank in days with just products. If you have material from a cycled tank that's another story. Otherwise, I don't consider a tank to be cycled in days.
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Old 01-20-2013, 02:59 PM   #7
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material from another tank would have the same thing as the bottles of bacteria...
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Old 01-20-2013, 03:08 PM   #8
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There's plenty of reason to "manually" cycle a tank of any size. Not just to build up the bacterial population to the point that it can handle the amount of waste your tank produces. But to also create layers of biofilm, help develop microfauna and to create a well-established, healthy environment for eventual inhabitants.

This is especially important for sensitive species of dwarf shrimp and for more delicate fish like Otos.

Your method can work, though, and there's nothing wrong with it if you aren't initially keeping sensitive livestock.

I often use bottled bacteria when initially setting up a tank. Sort of as an initial boost to help things along in the beginning of my typical 4-6 week 'cycles'.
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Old 01-20-2013, 03:58 PM   #9
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IMO, the "instant gratification in a bottle" products do not have a place in my fishroom. I agree with Somewhatshocked's comments and I can even see using the stuff to boost a normal cycle. I will add that there is an art to aquarium keeeping. Every small step of the process of setting up a tank teaches something. All of my tanks went through a 2-3month cycle during which a healthy bacteria colony developed along with the nessessary biofilms and diatoms needed to support many types of life. Additionally, my plants went through the usual melting/adjusting while the various stages of algae growth came and went. AGAIN, this is my opinion. I do not beleive that a one week old tank, regardless of how it was set up, is as health as a 3 month old, properly set up tank.
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Old 01-20-2013, 03:59 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevenjohn21 View Post
Or just add seachem stability and away you go.
That product is absolute garbage. It says on the bottle that with its use you don't get new tank syndrom ( ammonia and nitrite) which is absolutely bs. I work at a place where owner makes us sell it to every single person.... then we check there water each week and every single one is the same.. they get ammonia then nitrite then trate and this is over a 4-6 week period. Or... save your money and do the same thing without stability and get the exact same results

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Old 01-20-2013, 04:02 PM   #11
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I agree with somewhatshocked and razorworm. Besides if we are talking planted what's the rush. It's much better to let the tank develop, let plants do the cycling and correct any issues before adding livestock.
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Old 01-20-2013, 06:30 PM   #12
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Or what you could do for free is set up your little tank, then take the media from your other tanks and wash it in tank water.next, dump ALL the brown muck into your new tank. Put an ammonia source in the new tank and wait a few days. Cycle complete.

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Old 01-20-2013, 06:54 PM   #13
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I agree that the whole cycling process is overblown, with testing, etc. where there is a diminishing return.

My technique is simply this:

1) fill tank, let it run for a day or two

2) add some bacteria, plants, a couple of starter fish or low bioload things like shrimp, etc.

3) do frequent, BIG water changes to ensure that the ammonia doesn't build up too much while the bacteria colony establishes itself. As long as you do big water changes, you should be ok

4) the big water changes make the conditions change a lot, and what you really want is to stabilize the levels with a good balance of fish, bioload, plants, bacteria, etc. So, slowly reduce the frequency of the water changes of a nice, long period like 6 weeks and let the tank balance itself accordingly.

No testing, nothing. Just water changes with decreasing frequency and everyone seems to do fine. As long as you w/c enough to remove any dangerous levels at the beginning, who cares what the levels are as long as they are stabilizing?
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Old 01-20-2013, 09:10 PM   #14
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I think an important thing to keep in mind here is that there is a difference between a cycled tank and an established tank. A cycled tank is still not necessarily a proper environment for living creatures.
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Old 01-21-2013, 02:06 AM   #15
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I have done the fishless cycle. 3 weeks to grow a really impressive load of bacteria. This also gives the tank time to get started on the populations of all the other microorganisms, and a chance for me to re-scape until I like it.

I have combined filter media (not the mulm- I rinse the media to get rid of debris) from several tanks to get enough bacteria to start a new tank. Bacteria cling to surfaces in a bio film, sticking to sponges, floss and bio-noodles and other things. Then raise the fish load slowly, testing, water changing. When I start with enough cycled media there is no ammonia or nitrite in the new set up. I have removed as much as 25% of the media from the filter of a well cycled tank. This is not 25% of the bacteria- there is a lot more bacteria on all the surfaces in the tank. By combining a little filter media from several tanks the new tank can be fully cycled from the start. Note that I am also (usually) using rocks, driftwood, plants and substrate that has already been used, usually is wet from another tank, and can bring in some of all the other microorganisms.

I have not used the bacteria in a bottle. It is the right species when you read the label and buy only products that contain Nitrospira. All other products have the wrong species, and the tank will go through the 'fish-in cycle' as described by TheGuy.
Knowing that these bacteria are sensitive to shipping conditions as noted by hoa101, I often counsel adding more bacteria and less fish, then keeping the Nitrospira in the fridge. Test and finish out the cycle with the small bio load as a test of the Nitrospira. Then add more Nitrospira with each addition of fish (if it works the first time) or else return the Nitrospira and complain that it was mis-handled in shipping and the bacteria is dead.
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