Extremely Fast Cycle
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Old 06-06-2013, 03:06 AM   #1
d0ublemur
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Extremely Fast Cycle


I decided to set up my aquarium again after a year or so and put water and gravel in it 3 days ago. I added plants yesterday and today and I also added 5 neon tetras today to start the cycle. When I checked my parameters today I had ammonia below .25 ppm and nitrates were registering right around 5ppm. I am using gravel that I had used in a previous aquarium but it had been dry for a few years. Is it possible that my tank has cycled this fast or is my test kit (an API Freshwater Master Kit) giving me false readings?
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Old 06-06-2013, 03:17 AM   #2
Diana
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Best case scenario:
I think the plants helped. A lot of microorganisms live on the leaves, including nitrifying bacteria. So that is where the fast conversion to nitrate is happening.

Alternate possibilities, not so good:
Might also have been some nitrate lingering in the old substrate. (So there may not have been much, if any conversion by bacteria)
The low ammonia can be because of the bacteria, the plants, and low stocking level, and the early testing (Don't know which).
The fish have not been in there very long for the ammonia to build up, yet. (How long had it been between adding the fish and testing?) So the ammonia level may still be rising!

I would not feed these fish. The protein in the fish food is converted to ammonia.
Watch the parameters very carefully, and be ready to do a water change if needed.

Best to do the fishless cycle. Here it is.
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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Old 06-06-2013, 03:24 AM   #3
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Thank you for the fast reply I hope it is the first scenario you outlined, but I fear it is too good to be true. Also thanks for the advice on how to do a fishless cycle.
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Old 06-06-2013, 05:23 AM   #4
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Hi, and welcome,
The concept of fishless cycling is new to me as well, and I learned about it here. Now I think it is the only way I would do things. Hope you have a good result.
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Old 06-06-2013, 11:25 PM   #5
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OP, you asked for it, lol. But there is no way that tank is cycled that fast. The fastest I have heard is 1-2 weeks and thats with some pretty good seeding of the tank. On a bad note, I hate to say it but your neons might not survive the cycle.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
Best to do the fishless cycle. Here it is.
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.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveMcKenz View Post
Hi, and welcome,
The concept of fishless cycling is new to me as well, and I learned about it here. Now I think it is the only way I would do things. Hope you have a good result.
Dave
Its pretty much the best way to go. No fish life loss and a big jump start of bacteria can be colonized vs cycling with fish.
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Old 06-07-2013, 01:43 AM   #6
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If the tank is well planted and the plants take off running then the bio filter is the plants. They bring in some nitrifying bacteria on their leaves, but not enough to say the tank is fully cycled with respect to the bacteria portion of the bio filter.

An experienced planted tank person could probably set up a planted tank and have everything right (light, fertilizer, CO2) from day 1, and that is a cycled tank. It has been called 'the Silent Cycle'. Someone who is just getting started with planted tanks is taking a risk. What if the plants don't just get going right away?

I would set up the planted tank, but then do the fishless cycle as the safest way to be sure the bio filter is up to handling the waste from the fish. If the tank is well set up, then the fishless cycle may go as fast as a week, or even less. This is because the plants are doing their part of the nitrogen removal.
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Old 06-07-2013, 01:35 PM   #7
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I followed Rex Grigg's methods when I set up my tank. The trick to his method is heavily planting the tank with the easiest and fastest growing plants so the plants use up any ammonia and nitrite before it hurts the fish. I stocked very slowly, however, five fish might be pushing it. You would want keep a very close eye on things if you go this route.

http://www.rexgrigg.com/cycle.htm
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Old 06-07-2013, 02:50 PM   #8
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good point about the fast growing plants outcompeting the beneficial bacteria for ammonia. the good news is that it'll probably also be sucking out most of the nitrates from your tank too. come to think of it, this is maybe why i got a mini spike of nitrites? my planted tank might have given me readings that i misread as a cycled tank, while in reality the plants were doing all the cleaning up. so eventually when there was enough bacteria to start up nitrite production but not enough bacteria to start gobbling the nitrite up, bingo, there was the spike. not a big one, but enough to make me do an on the spot water change.

in a tank like that, i wonder if during the night, ammonia builds up, the plants aren't sucking it up, and there aren't enough beneficial bacteria in the tank to eat it...and that's when you get burnt gills before dawn?
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Old 06-07-2013, 10:41 PM   #9
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I would not be so optimistic about a person being new to planted tanks. A week or less is really for someone who knows exactly what they are doing. A newbie will not have that experience to pull that off alone. You can read all day and all night but until you get your hands in the cookie jar, your just researching. It my opinion its giving false hope for mentioning such quick cycles for someone just starting a planted tank.

A lot of beginner's post I see assume a cycle is done prematurely. Then come on forums such as this with their water parameters asking if the tank is cycled. Most of those post I see are tanks that have been setup for less than 2-3 weeks. No offense to anyone for this is just my opinion. I would recommend most count on a 3-6 week cycle to be safe. Sometimes it can take even longer. Seeding a new tank from another tank will vary from setup to setup. What seeding may work for one hobbyist may not work for the other due to the nature of the tanks involved. If you setup a tank and give it a little push in the back, it will cycle with or without further assistance eventually. Rushing a natural process can be a bigger headache than what its worth sometimes. Give the tank time to do its thing. You will have years of enjoyment once it does cycle so why rush the process if your new at it.
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Old 06-09-2013, 12:28 AM   #10
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When things go right the plant cycle, or silent cycle is practically overnight. The fishless cycle takes 3 weeks. (with no starter culture). Using the right species of bacteria from a bottle or from an established, healthy tank can also result in a very fast cycle.

However, that is when things go right. Much safer to hold off on getting the fish until you know the tank is fully cycled. Thus, my suggestion above:
Fully plant the tank.
Do the fishless cycle.

While the fishless cycle is going on you will be learning how this tank operates. Every planted tank is different. Even someone with a lot of experience can have things go wrong.

Also, there are many other microorganisms in an aquarium, and it takes time for them to get settled, for their population to peak and fall.

Take the time to allow these things to happen, and the fish will be much safer when you finally add them.
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Old 06-09-2013, 11:33 AM   #11
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You have fish in the water so you have to do something - I say Dr. Tim's.

I've pushed a few fast cycles, including a 29G one recently. My trick comes down to Dr. Tim's One and Only. You can find it on Amazon, if you LFS doesn't carry it.

The first day I added the recommended dose, and there after I added a half dose, each day along with a 10% water change, until the levels stabilized. I think it took about 3-5 days. You can't over dose on Dr Tim's so can keep hitting the tank with it. I watched my levels daily for about a month, adding Dr. Tim's anytime anything started to trend up. All done with a fully stocked and planted tank. I over feed my fish, not as part of my master plan, but because I didn't know any better.

Dr. Tim's is pricey, and to overnight it more so, but it does work.

Fast cycling bucks the traditional 30 day fish-less cycling routine. I have learned with a great deal of certainty that nothing upsets the established community more than trying to change tradition. Trust me, I work for the state, were we still use carbon-paper and type writers, because -- we've always done so...
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Old 06-09-2013, 02:50 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
If the tank is well planted and the plants take off running then the bio filter is the plants. They bring in some nitrifying bacteria on their leaves, but not enough to say the tank is fully cycled with respect to the bacteria portion of the bio filter.

An experienced planted tank person could probably set up a planted tank and have everything right (light, fertilizer, CO2) from day 1, and that is a cycled tank.
....When things go right the plant cycle, or silent cycle is practically overnight.
This

This is how I did my last tank - ready for anything I wanted to put in there the next day. Plenty of plants, including some hungry floaters. No such thing as a spike in that tank.
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