Fishless Cycling with Buffering Substrate 0KH and Low PH - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 27 (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 06:48 PM Thread Starter
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Fishless Cycling with Buffering Substrate 0KH and Low PH

So I have been trying to cycle my two new 10 gallons tanks now for a couple weeks. I have never done a fishless cycle and have done all kinds of research on it. Now here is what my setup consists of two 10 gallon tanks(Both tanks identical)
Substrate is Controsoil(Buffering Substrate)
Temp 84 in both tanks. Lots of surface movement with the Filters.
With the Substrate its doing its job with 0KH and I have the GH at 6 exactly(Salty ShrimP GH+. Now the Substrate takes the PH to around 6.2-6.3. Now this is normal for this substrate and I am not the only one using it. My question is this. How the heck are you guys cycling your tank with a 0KH and a very low 6's PH? Everything I have read states that the Nitrifying bacteria have a VERY hard time in 0KH and a low PH. Many say anything in the low to straight 6 will pretty much cause the Bacteria to go dormant and possibly die. Now how can this be as I am sure many of you are using this and have a cycled tank. Now here is the weird thing and why I know the PH and KH is causing issue.

I added cycled media from my 60 gallon tank that has been cycled for a very long time. That tank has been running for about a year now. Now the PH in that tank with co2 is 6.4 with a KH of 4. So as far as PH goes when the co2 is maxed is right around what the PH is in the new tanks. But the KH is obviously different.

Could it be that the strand of Nitrifying bacteria is different so even though I transferred over the cycled bacteria that new ones need to form in the new tanks due to the low PH and 0KH? I figured that I would be instantly cycled as I took a bunch of media from the 60 so it should of been instantly cycled but its not. My ammonia reading is 5ppm and after 5 days of adding the cycled media my nitrites are 2ppm but no Nitrates at all and Ammonia has not budged. I figured I would get nitrates right off the bat since I added the cycled media.

Here is a thread I ran into and Diana had mentioned that the nitryfing bacteria will have problems with a 0KH and also low PH. Is that what is going on here and I just need to wait a very long time since it seems the bacteria are struggling? It will eventually happen right? I just thought they would of been instantly cycled due to the cycled media I used. So what I think is going on is this.

1. Due to the low PH and 0KH there is a different strand of Nitrifying bacteria and is why the cycle is taking a long time. So there are different strands depending on water parameters.

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/11...nk-low-ph.html


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post #2 of 27 (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 06:58 PM
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Cycle it with tap water. Change over to the rodi remineralized once it's cycled. The tap water will hold the pH and the kh will remain long enough to cycle

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post #3 of 27 (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 07:06 PM Thread Starter
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Cycle it with tap water. Change over to the rodi remineralized once it's cycled. The tap water will hold the pH and the kh will remain long enough to cycle

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Honestly thought of doing that but did not for a couple reasons. First is that will deplete the substrate. Not sure how long it will take but it will just take the KH back to 0 and PH back down as well so will this really help the bacteria because won't they face the same issue once the levels are down again? That was honestly the first thought that came to mind but figured I would be back to square 1 when the parameters are back down to what the substrate will take it and the bacteria will not survive or go dormant again. I tried doing research on this but did not find much so wanted to know from the others that use a buffering substrate that brings the ph low how they do it.


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post #4 of 27 (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 07:11 PM
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Cycling it won't kill its buffering capabilities that would take like a year in tap to do so. It's the norm to cycle with tap for caridina in my experience. Once the bacteria colony is started you'll be fine they don't just die, they will sustain at the level the tank needs

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post #5 of 27 (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 07:12 PM Thread Starter
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Cycling it won't kill its buffering capabilities that would take like a year in tap to do so. It's the norm to cycle with tap for caridina in my experience. Once the bacteria colony is started you'll be fine they don't just die, they will sustain at the level the tank needs

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Ok thank you I will give it a shot.
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post #6 of 27 (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 08:03 PM
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Ok thank you I will give it a shot.
Yeah it will work out fine. I just actually re-did my brightwell tank (same as controsoil) after almost 2 years. It could have gone longer, but I wanted to re-do the tank anyway and use a different soil. It was still buffering strong and I did a month long cycle in tap. Your soil will buffer the tank around 6.3 or so, which is in the range where bacteria will grow w/o issue.

Sorry for the quick responses before I was walking into my office. If you have more questions let me know!
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post #7 of 27 (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 08:12 PM Thread Starter
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Yeah it will work out fine. I just actually re-did my brightwell tank (same as controsoil) after almost 2 years. It could have gone longer, but I wanted to re-do the tank anyway and use a different soil. It was still buffering strong and I did a month long cycle in tap. Your soil will buffer the tank around 6.3 or so, which is in the range where bacteria will grow w/o issue.

Sorry for the quick responses before I was walking into my office. If you have more questions let me know!
Thank you very much. I just could not find much info on cycling soil with low ph and 0kh and lots of what I read said that will create bacteria problems. How often should I do water changes with tap? my tap is 7.8ph, 4.5GH, 4.5KH. Basically how long before the substrate takes the levels down again? I figure once every 2 days do like a 50% wc and get the ph and kh back up. Good thing is I do have 2ppm nitrites so figure I am probably have way through the cycle. Now it should go faster I assume. The soil is brand new, well 2 weeks old. Do you also notice the soil charges during this period meaning it soaks in nutrients and bring the gh down?


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post #8 of 27 (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 08:26 PM
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If your tanks are filled with RO, DI, or distilled water they will never properly cycle. You may see nitrate after several months but the few bacteria that made it are not enough to handle the bioload when fish or shrimp are added.

The reason is like plants bacteria need nutrients to grow. They need all the plant nutrients plus a few others. Without those nutrients they will not grow and the tank will not cycle. Zero KH and low PH just means you have a low mineral content in the water. KH and PH have no direct effect on bacteria growth. Scientist have found bacteria growth in water barely above 0 PH. The GH reads higher simply because you added the GH booster wich contains calcium and magnesium.

With tap water the bacteria have a better chance at finding what they need to grow. Adding a plant fertilizer helps even more (tap water is often deficient in nitrogen).
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post #9 of 27 (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 08:26 PM
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Thank you very much. I just could not find much info on cycling soil with low ph and 0kh and lots of what I read said that will create bacteria problems. How often should I do water changes with tap? my tap is 7.8ph, 4.5GH, 4.5KH. Basically how long before the substrate takes the levels down again? I figure once every 2 days do like a 50% wc and get the ph and kh back up. Good thing is I do have 2ppm nitrites so figure I am probably have way through the cycle. Now it should go faster I assume. The soil is brand new, well 2 weeks old. Do you also notice the soil charges during this period meaning it soaks in nutrients and bring the gh down?
What are you using as the source of ammonia? I don't change my water for the first week or so initially with a new tank when cycling. As long as you keep ammonia to like 1-2ppm and you see nitrites and nitrates, you're on your way. as soon as ammonia and nitrites go away you're good to go and do a 100% change. If ammonia gets too high, do a 50% change to get it down to 2ppm.

The water changes aren't super necessary, it will still cycle even in RODI remineralized, just slower. Again, you're not dealing with super acidic water, just slightly. I had a blackwater tank that sat at 20 TDS, 0KH, and 5.3pH, and it stayed cycled.
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post #10 of 27 (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 08:44 PM Thread Starter
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If your tanks are filled with RO, DI, or distilled water they will never properly cycle. You may see nitrate after several months but the few bacteria that made it are not enough to handle the bioload when fish or shrimp are added.

The reason is like plants bacteria need nutrients to grow. They need all the plant nutrients plus a few others. Without those nutrients they will not grow and the tank will not cycle. Zero KH and low PH just means you have a low mineral content in the water. KH and PH have no direct effect on bacteria growth. Scientist have found bacteria growth in water barely above 0 PH. The GH reads higher simply because you added the GH booster wich contains calcium and magnesium.

With tap water the bacteria have a better chance at finding what they need to grow. Adding a plant fertilizer helps even more (tap water is often deficient in nitrogen).
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What are you using as the source of ammonia? I don't change my water for the first week or so initially with a new tank when cycling. As long as you keep ammonia to like 1-2ppm and you see nitrites and nitrates, you're on your way. as soon as ammonia and nitrites go away you're good to go and do a 100% change. If ammonia gets too high, do a 50% change to get it down to 2ppm.

The water changes aren't super necessary, it will still cycle even in RODI remineralized, just slower. Again, you're not dealing with super acidic water, just slightly. I had a blackwater tank that sat at 20 TDS, 0KH, and 5.3pH, and it stayed cycled.
Thanks.

Yeah I have been adding a little ThriveS to both tanks. Maybe once every 4 days or so normal dosing level according to bottle(1ml per 5 gallons). Did this because I have a single Anubias plant in each tank. Was not aware that nitrifying bacteria need a whole slew of nutrients to thrive in basically the same as plants and more? Do not they grow just fine and people are able to cycle a tank with just tap water with no plant fertilizers? Do you have a link to show this? Very curious

@bsantucci I have been using the Ace Hardware Janitorial Strength Ammonia. Saw after much research this is the right stuff. Does not bubble/foam when shaking, does not have additives. I also may of had a bit much ammonia. I would say about 8ppm because I did a 50% wc and its down to 4ppm now. So that also could of been part of the reason I was not really cycling. Like I said though the last 2 days I went from .25ppm nitrites to 2ppm nitrites as of last night. But that number really never moved since last night. I think I may be good now with the higher PH and KH. Will do another reading tomorrow and see if I start to get nitrates.

Again was just wondering what was going on since I used well cycled media and figured I should of been instantly cycled but to find out that was far from the case.


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post #11 of 27 (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 08:55 PM
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Thanks.

Yeah I have been adding a little ThriveS to both tanks. Maybe once every 4 days or so normal dosing level according to bottle(1ml per 5 gallons). Did this because I have a single Anubias plant in each tank. Was not aware that nitrifying bacteria need a whole slew of nutrients to thrive in basically the same as plants and more? Do not they grow just fine and people are able to cycle a tank with just tap water with no plant fertilizers? Do you have a link to show this? Very curious

@bsantucci I have been using the Ace Hardware Janitorial Strength Ammonia. Saw after much research this is the right stuff. Does not bubble/foam when shaking, does not have additives. I also may of had a bit much ammonia. I would say about 8ppm because I did a 50% wc and its down to 4ppm now. So that also could of been part of the reason I was not really cycling. Like I said though the last 2 days I went from .25ppm nitrites to 2ppm nitrites as of last night. But that number really never moved since last night. I think I may be good now with the higher PH and KH. Will do another reading tomorrow and see if I start to get nitrates.

Again was just wondering what was going on since I used well cycled media and figured I should of been instantly cycled but to find out that was far from the case.
Yeah that's the right ammonia to use.

You could very well have had an instant cycle if using existing filter media. I did that with my tank. I broke the tank down, wiped it out, refilled and added my shrimp back. Same filter so no worries. Just less biofilm now for them to eat.

That being said, if you hit 8ppm ammonia you probably fried your bacteria lol. So now you're kinda building back up. I'd reduce that to 2ppm and go from there, to be honest.
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post #12 of 27 (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 09:00 PM
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I just let mine sit long enough and it cycled.

Remineralized RODI with SS GH+
6pH
0KH
4-5GH
New 2211 Canister Filter/media
Some plants moved in from established tanks
Ample Ferts and Light

It took a while, but I had so much life pop up in there that I had to add some feeder guppies to get it under control before the shrimp arrived.

Clown- I'm curious to know how much your GH dropped just sitting there with the new substrate? Top offs with straight RODI?
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post #13 of 27 (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 09:06 PM
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I just let mine sit long enough and it cycled.

Remineralized RODI with SS GH+
6pH
0KH
4-5GH
New 2211 Canister Filter/media
Some plants moved in from established tanks
Ample Ferts and Light

It took a while, but I had so much life pop up in there that I had to add some feeder guppies to get it under control before the shrimp arrived.

Clown- I'm curious to know how much your GH dropped just sitting there with the new substrate? Top offs with straight RODI?
The substrate doesn't drop your GH, only KH.
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post #14 of 27 (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 09:10 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Aqua99 View Post
I just let mine sit long enough and it cycled.

Remineralized RODI with SS GH+
6pH
0KH
4-5GH
New 2211 Canister Filter/media
Some plants moved in from established tanks
Ample Ferts and Light

It took a while, but I had so much life pop up in there that I had to add some feeder guppies to get it under control before the shrimp arrived.

Clown- I'm curious to know how much your GH dropped just sitting there with the new substrate? Top offs with straight RODI?
It did drop it a little I noticed 1GH drop after a week. Took measurement from when I added remineralized RO with Salty Shrimp. Was at an accurate 6.5
After one week took another measurement and it was down to 5.5. I get a very accurate reading by doing 20ml of test water instead of just 5ml. Then 4 drops equals 1dGH and 1 drop equals .25dGH This is how I get very accurate measurements.

@bsantucci I have noticed there are conflicting reports from some that say it will take the GH down "initially" when it is very first setup as it is charging a bit I guess is the term? Read this is normal for this soil. Again just what I read but have noticed a 1pt GH drop the last week. and Yes only Top offs with RO.

Wanted to add this drop was BEFORE I added the single plant in each so can rule that out as to dropping the GH.


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post #15 of 27 (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 09:23 PM Thread Starter
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Yeah that's the right ammonia to use.

You could very well have had an instant cycle if using existing filter media. I did that with my tank. I broke the tank down, wiped it out, refilled and added my shrimp back. Same filter so no worries. Just less biofilm now for them to eat.

That being said, if you hit 8ppm ammonia you probably fried your bacteria lol. So now you're kinda building back up. I'd reduce that to 2ppm and go from there, to be honest.
Could it be that the high amount of ammonia(8ppm) will cause a problem with the BB because of the low PH and 0KH? Because I also read that having even higher ammonia will still cycle the tank just takes a bit longer for the BB to build up before you see it drop. Was not aware this would kill the BB though. I went off of this article although the PH recommended is of course higher. But there are two methods of fishless-cycling. The "add and wait" and the "Add Daily" method. Basically the Add Daily method the ammonia ends up getting up to more than 10ppm but you do still get the BB to build and eventually cycle just takes longer to process all the ammonia but the end result is more BB to handle a heavier bio-load.Of course I do not need a lot of BB to handle much bio load with the shrimp. https://www.fishlore.com/aquariumfis...s-cycle.19627/


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