My tank isn't cycling - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-07-2019, 10:14 AM Thread Starter
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My tank isn't cycling

Hello. I have a 10 gallon tank with 1 betta and 3 cherry shrimp. I only got the livestock because my lfs said it was ok but I'm new to the hobby and am now finding out my tank should be cycled first. I've had the tank for 3 months now and everytime I test it's 0-0-0. I have anubias, crypts, pellia and hemianthus. Have not started ferts yet but have recently purchased seachem flourish and will begin that soon. I water change and clean the tank weekly with about a 30% change and condition the water before hand. I have a built in filter with 2 sponges and wash the sponges in the removed tank water and only 1 per wash so as not to kill off any bacteria that may be growing on them. I have gravel substrate and a few bits of drift wood and dragonstone. Tank light on 6hrs daily. Initially was testing parameters almost everyday but now only weekly and every single test I have done is showing 0-0-0. I use the api test kit and it's expiry is 2023. What is going on?! Please help me to understand. Attached is a picture of my tank if that helps anything
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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-07-2019, 02:39 PM
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Buy dr times aquatic ammonium chloride. Drop 5 or so drops. Test ammonia, nitrite and nitrate after 30 minutes or so. Test ammonia, nitrite and nitrate at the end of the day and check if the ammonia is gone, and water change if nitrite or nitrate got too high.

If ammonia is 0 at the end of the day and nitrites/nitrates aren't too high then you are cycled and fine.

And of course, if you want your plants to grow you'll need a little nitrate and phosphorus when you test, but it's easier to not get algae if you have co2.
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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-07-2019, 07:38 PM
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First of all, nice setup! I like it.

If the tank has been running for three months, then it's already cycled. With no bioload (livestock) up until this point, the plants are consuming any ammonia as fast as it's being produced... which explains why the tests are 0-0-0. I wouldn't worry about the livestock at this point, only the plants. I'd recommend that you start dosing the Flourish right away, along with Flourish Nitrogen. Start with the minimum recommended dosage, and gradually increase as the plants grow and fill in. At the same time, you could also gradually increase the lighting period to 8-10 hours/day.

I agree w/ Ddrizzle that it's easier not to get algae w/ CO2, which is why it's important to gradually increase ferts and lighting. If you do too much too fast, you're likely to get an algae bloom.
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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-07-2019, 07:42 PM
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How long have the betta and shrimp been in there?
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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-07-2019, 07:54 PM
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Your plant load exceeds your animal load, so you shouldn't expect to see much of a cycle. The plants are absorbing the waste faster than the animals are producing it. Things might change over time, or if you add more animals. You can always add a little bottle of Tetra SafeStart if you decide to add more fish, and then your tank will be cycled in a day or two.
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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-07-2019, 09:39 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Quicksilver2299 View Post
First of all, nice setup! I like it.

If the tank has been running for three months, then it's already cycled. With no bioload (livestock) up until this point, the plants are consuming any ammonia as fast as it's being produced... which explains why the tests are 0-0-0. I wouldn't worry about the livestock at this point, only the plants. I'd recommend that you start dosing the Flourish right away, along with Flourish Nitrogen. Start with the minimum recommended dosage, and gradually increase as the plants grow and fill in. At the same time, you could also gradually increase the lighting period to 8-10 hours/day.

I agree w/ Ddrizzle that it's easier not to get algae w/ CO2, which is why it's important to gradually increase ferts and lighting. If you do too much too fast, you're likely to get an algae bloom.
Thank you so much Your advice is very helpful. I am looking into C02 options along with the fertiliser. What do you think the average cost of a CO2 setup would be like for a tank this size? Tia!

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How long have the betta and shrimp been in there?
Shrimp in for about 3 weeks, betta probably about 5 weeks

Last edited by CocoMay; 03-07-2019 at 09:42 PM. Reason: Wrong comment
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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-07-2019, 09:50 PM Thread Starter
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The plan is to add more shrimp as my betta is of a gentle nature and never tries to harm them. I was going to get some small corys but I've researched it quite a lot and that would first of all require a substrate change as to not damage their barbels and also wouldn't want less than 5-6 as they are happier in schools and I think that would be overstocking a tank this size. Would tetra safe start be better than ammonium chloride? Sounds 'safer' :P
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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-07-2019, 10:13 PM
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We've had a couple discussions lately about tanks that don't "cycle" and I feel part of the question relates to what we are told to expect versus what nature does that we may not see. so we think it didn't happen!
My homespun definition of cycle is when we have ammonia, either from us adding it for a "fishless cycle" or from natural waste that becomes ammonia. We are told to see it become nitrite and then nitrate as the two types of bacteria grow.
But what I see is the cycle being something somewhat new which defines what the older method did and just didn't know we were doing it.
Before "cycle" became a common thing, we added fish very slowly and let the tank adjust to the new load. So I call your tank cycled or ready for a small upward bump in the load if you feel it is time. Why did you not see the expected results? Because the load was increased so slowly that the plants and bacteria took care of what we might/might not have seen on our hobby grade test sets!
You know you are putting food in but not seeing ammonia or any results that you can test, so just feel sure that there is "something" working quite well!
Not that you would be ready for 15-20 more fish as the bacteria will only be ready for what you have and can expand a bit to cover a bit more. If you added more fish, you might see some waste going high enough to test but it will be something of a race between more waste which is plant food and more plants growing to use the food?
I would not bother with any of the commonly sold products as nature is very good at taking care of things if we don't push too hard. I also would not worry about the barbels on gravels as I often find them work very well with gravel of different types.
Too much bad info out there! I would add a couple now and couple next week until I got as many as I wanted.
But it does pay to watch carefully as you add new fish as there are certainly things that can go wrong, just that you do not have any right now.
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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-07-2019, 10:54 PM Thread Starter
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Ok I think I'm understanding better now, thank you! I do have a quite a lot of decor in my tank in terms of stone and wood which would be taking up space, so in reality my tank does not have 10 gallons of water in it. Would it still be big enough for some corys if I kept up with cleaning and water changes? And how to know what sort of gravel will be ok with them? Each grain looks relatively rounded with my current gravel. It's hard to know what's wrong or right in this hobby! Everyone has an opinion.

Thank you for sharing yours based off experience though, it does help a lot.
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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-07-2019, 10:57 PM
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Originally Posted by CocoMay View Post
Thank you so much Your advice is very helpful. I am looking into C02 options along with the fertiliser. What do you think the average cost of a CO2 setup would be like for a tank this size? Tia!

You're very welcome


To my knowledge, decent CO2 injection systems start at about $100. On a 10 gal tank, you could easily set up a Do-It-Yourself system for next to nothing. I'd warn that there's quite a bit of maintenance involved, but it's fairly simple to get started... all it takes is a couple plastic bottles, some air-line tubing, a couple check valves, super glue, a diffusor (several options), sugar, and yeast. You can use baker's yeast, but brewer's yeast will last much longer. The funny part is that it's very similar to brewing beer... the yeast consumes the sugar and emits CO2 and alcohol. The conundrum is that once the alcohol becomes too much, it will start to kill the yeast. Hence, the maintenance factor. Here's one way to do it if you're curious: https://aquariuminfo.org/diyco2.html


I use a DIY setup on my 36 gal tank that works pretty well at keeping the plants healthy and pearling (most of them, anyway). The difficulty comes in trying to maintain a consistent bubble count from one day to the next. Usually, I have to do something every few days to keep it going steady... whether it be just shaking the bottles to mix things up, changing some of the water, and/or adding a little more yeast.



If you're really into the science of it all and don't mind doing a bit of maintenance, DIY CO2 is a pretty cool option. If you'd prefer the idea of simplicity and minimal maintenance, then I'd look at purchasing a system.
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post #11 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-07-2019, 11:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Kislath View Post
Your plant load exceeds your animal load, so you shouldn't expect to see much of a cycle.
There is a cycle, Fish and Inverts fish food create Ammonia which is converted by Bacteria to >>> Nitrites >>>> Nitrates.
The plants consume enough Ammonia and Nitrates such that you can't detect it on your nitrate kit <5ppm but the cycle is occurring.

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We've had a couple discussions lately about tanks that don't "cycle" and I feel part of the question relates to what we are told to expect versus what nature does that we may not see. so we think it didn't happen!
My homespun definition of cycle is when we have ammonia, either from us adding it for a "fishless cycle" or from natural waste that becomes ammonia. We are told to see it become nitrite and then nitrate as the two types of bacteria grow.
But what I see is the cycle being something somewhat new which defines what the older method did and just didn't know we were doing it.
Before "cycle" became a common thing, we added fish very slowly and let the tank adjust to the new load. So I call your tank cycled or ready for a small upward bump in the load if you feel it is time. Why did you not see the expected results? Because the load was increased so slowly that the plants and bacteria took care of what we might/might not have seen on our hobby grade test sets!
You know you are putting food in but not seeing ammonia or any results that you can test, so just feel sure that there is "something" working quite well!
Not that you would be ready for 15-20 more fish as the bacteria will only be ready for what you have and can expand a bit to cover a bit more. If you added more fish, you might see some waste going high enough to test but it will be something of a race between more waste which is plant food and more plants growing to use the food?
I would not bother with any of the commonly sold products as nature is very good at taking care of things if we don't push too hard. I also would not worry about the barbels on gravels as I often find them work very well with gravel of different types.
Too much bad info out there! I would add a couple now and couple next week until I got as many as I wanted.
But it does pay to watch carefully as you add new fish as there are certainly things that can go wrong, just that you do not have any right now.
+1 You don't need any cycling products you are already cycled but should add fish slowly(or a lot more plants) to avoid adding too much ammonia at once.


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post #12 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-07-2019, 11:10 PM
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It's hard to know what's wrong or right in this hobby! Everyone has an opinion.

I love that you said that... you hit the nail on the head! The reality is that there's A TON of grey area; and in many cases, there is no absolute right or wrong. Everybody has their own experiences and opinions, but there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to it. There are so many variables and it's far from an exact science.



Welcome to the wonderful hobby of figuring out what works best for your setup and having something completely customized for yourself. There's so much beauty in it, in so many ways.
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post #13 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-07-2019, 11:18 PM
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What do you think the average cost of a CO2 setup would be like for a tank this size? Tia!
This will last you 1.5 to 2 years before you have to change the tank and that is with running CO2 at 0.5bps 24/7.

5lb CO2 tank, $62
https://www.amazon.com/Luxfer-Tank-A...gateway&sr=8-2

Dici Regulator, $47

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Aqua...e-94a93a75c878

Inline diffuser $11 (assuming you have a canister filter)

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/CO2-...c-3ad6d000be0a

5 lbs CO2 $11 (check your local fire safety, brewing or paintball place, you want food safe CO2)

Total cost $120 + shipping (you may also have to buy filter and airline tubing ~$10) and this will last you ~2 years before you have to refill the CO2.

I use the same reg and tank and similar diffuser for a 17g tank, its been stable over a year.
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Last edited by cl3537; 03-07-2019 at 11:21 PM. Reason: ..
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post #14 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-07-2019, 11:44 PM Thread Starter
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Yay thank you all. I posted a similar thread in a fb page for aquarium enthusiasts in the country I am in and people on there were very rude and 'know it alls' giving off a bad vibe to 'beginners' so I really thank you all for being open minded, kind and helpful.

I actually got into this hobby for the science aspect and to learn more so maybe I will try to create a DIY CO2 using bottles, sugar and yeast and if that fails or becomes to frustrating I'll fork out a bit more cash. But I have faith in myself that I can do it!

Again thank you all so much, If I have any future questions I'll def be posting them on the planted tank rather than that silly fb group that's all about who knows more and proving that to everyone else on there rather than actually helping.
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post #15 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 12:03 AM
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Yay thank you all. I posted a similar thread in a fb page for aquarium enthusiasts in the country I am in and people on there were very rude and 'know it alls' giving off a bad vibe to 'beginners' so I really thank you all for being open minded, kind and helpful.

I actually got into this hobby for the science aspect and to learn more so maybe I will try to create a DIY CO2 using bottles, sugar and yeast and if that fails or becomes to frustrating I'll fork out a bit more cash. But I have faith in myself that I can do it!

Again thank you all so much, If I have any future questions I'll def be posting them on the planted tank rather than that silly fb group that's all about who knows more and proving that to everyone else on there rather than actually helping.

Haha - admittedly, there are some of those know-it-all egomaniacs on here if you get into some of the high-tech threads. Stay out of those and you're good


It shows that you're into the science - not to blow smoke, but for someone who's only been doing this for three months, you have a very solid grasp on things. You're off to a much better start than most... myself included.


If you haven't already, you should start a profile and continue to post pics of your setup. I'd like to see how it progresses.
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