Originally Posted by Alight
As this is the plantedtank.com, the answers above are pretty good.
However, for the sake of the fish, if you are planning a sparsely planted tank, or no live plants at all, you should be familiar with the fishless cycle and/or biospira.
Even with a planted tank, knowing about the fishless cycle can help the average person who isn't going to stick to the 1 or two fish at a time addition to the tank, either because he's going to order them, and doesn't want to pay 10 times the price of the fish in shippping, or because he sees a good deal and wants to buy a bunch of fish at the same time, that may not be available again soon. Addition of a bunch of new fish can cause a mini-cycle, even in a well planted tank, and can make the fish sick or kill the fish.
Then do a water change and add mulm.
I can tell you it's better than any bacteria in a bottle, biosopira you name it.
Those are all dormant bacterial cultures(to be active, they require large amounts of a food source as well as O2, something that a bottle cannot supply) the mulm? It's not dormant, it's live actively growing and also provides some carbon sources
for the bacteria so they can better utilize the NH4 waste. Bacteria in a bottle, it requires a carbon source, the NO2, NH4 are just electron acceptors that get oxidized. Like us, the bacteria need their carbs so to speak(the carbon source/OM).
We somehow managed to squeek by decades ago at the LFS, we had no FC, we had no Biospira, bacteria in a bottle etc.
There was no issue.
This is issue is artifical and created, it's not real.
If folks do a simple thing at the start and do routine large water changes, you never have an issue and the overall health, no matter if it's a planted tank or not, is greatly improved.
That includes folks that over feed, add too many fish all at once etc, large frequent water changes are the single best solution to overstocking, providing long term stability.
FC will not save folks from other issues like the water changes and mulm additions will.
FC, biosopira offers nothing
Once the NH4 has cycled through, you still are left with some extra bacteria that removes a large fraction of O2, oxidizing all the NH4 waste.
What is better, doing water changes which adds both O2 and removed the NH4, the NO2 and the NO3?
Or just leaving it in there for the bacteria to grow?
Once the bacteria grows, it'll level off to whatever the fish loading and O2 levels are.
So if you do not want to do some water changes, you can wait 3 weeks I suppose. But you can also just simply do a few extra water changes till the tank stabilizes in the first month. You are not going to get out of water changes unless you go to a balanced non CO2 planted tank or do a lot of fiddling with test kits and waste a lot of time to accomplish that.
Still easier and simpler if you are trying to help a newbie, why explain all the chemistry, sell them test kits, etc?
They get into the hobby to test water or to keep fish?
Which method would ensure a wider range of successes?
I help many newbies here and have at aquarium societies, LFS's etc.
You start talking NH4, NO2, bacteria, their eyes glaze over
...........no amount of talking will get them to do it.
Test kits are often poor in their accuracy.
Also, what about those who have no access to cycled media, and are ordering fish, and don't trust the diseased fish at the lfs so don't want to ask for cycled media there?
I've never had an issue, worked at a LFS for several years, we used mulm for all tanks. That issue of trust etc, I'd have to say it's also precieved and created. Good health of the fish and a good home with reasonable stocking levels and high quality foods plays a much larger role.
Who does not have access to cycled media?
If you own and fish tank, you must have gotten it somewhere
A fellow hobbyists can mail you a bottle, or a piece of sponge etc for free/mail cost.
There are no LFS's in your area?
Perhaps........but very rare.
Hard to get things unless there's one around.
Newbies don't do all MO as a rule.
More experienced aquarist that live a good distance often know others, or have another tank etc.
There are a very few cases where this issue would apply.
But everyone tends to have a mail box at the very least.
My solution is to cycle a filter, or filter media in a bucket or waste basket using the fishless method with clear ammonia. I can beef up filter media before adding new fish to any level needed for the new bioload, then just add the filter/filter media to the fish tank filter when the new fish are added. Absolutely no cycling. No ammonia, or nitrite.
I can say the same thing about plants, fish only tanks that get regular large water changes and have added mulm.
But the idea of doing it outside and away from the tank is a good , a better idea.
It's amazing how many people think that ick came from the pet shop, or from something else they did, when it is almost always actually caused by ammonia or nitrite build up from a cycle or mini-cycle.
Wait a minute here, you said you might not trust the LFS then you say it's the aquarist neglect.......
don't trust the diseased fish at the lfs so don't want to ask for cycled media there?
So is it the LFS poor quality or is it the cycle that killed or caused their fish to be diseased?
This is a precieved notion.........folks often do not know, especially new folks.
So adding mulm and doing large water changes takes care of this better than a well cycled filter using FC would alone.
Over time the well cycled filter has limits, the water changes will always save you. Bacteria populations can and do vary over time, but the export is large and rapid via water changes.
That's a much better habit for a newbie than doing the test and being complacent later as they add too many fish and not do enough water changes. Many test to avoid water changes. That's a bad habit for a newbie.
I think it tough to know where a disease came from, rather than doing that, watch the fish for 2-4 weeks at the LFS etc, then if they do well there, take them home, give them a nice place to stay, nice food etc.
That ensures the best change of survival. FC will require the folks to wait 3 weeks, mulm does not nor test. Do a weekly water change, which is a habit they ought to get into anyhow.
Doing 50% or high % weekly changes for the first couple of weeks is not much tougher than doing 25% etc.
I always suggested do 50% weekly water changes, and you will likely never have any disease unless the fish where weak from the LFS to begin with.
This is true for the most part, much more than FC can claim as that merely addresses and start up phase.
Water changes and zeolite alone as well as adding mulm, can address that.
The other option is Biospira. Unlike all the rest of the products that claim to have nitrifying bacteria, this one actually does.
Except mulm, it does not get any better than mulm. It's also free.
How can you possibly beat Free?
How can mulm which is exposed to far more O2 and is actively growing
and being supplied a renewed source of carbon be worse?
What precisely is in a well cycled filter?
Mulm can be taken from the filter as well if you feel it matters.
How can Biospira be better than the very thing you are trying to replicate?
As to Tom assertion that rotting organic matter helps the cycle--well, partly. The part that helps the plants is the heterotrophic bacteria that breaks down organic matter to ammonia and other products. And rotting organic matter, by definition, contains these bacteria. It doesn't, however, necessarily contain the bacteria that will convert ammonia to nitrites and nitrites to nitrates. So if you don't have a bunch of plants, you could still be in trouble.
My assetrtion is not a partly, it's a defintiely.
Bacteria in new tanks are often carbon limited, even if there is ample NH4+, they still need a carbon source.
FC can be amplified and speed up by adding a carbon source, sugar even.
And you are sure it does not contain the nitrifying bacteria how precisely
? What do you think is present in a well established filter?
Are you saying that biospospira is better than an established filter
Isn't the idea to get an established filter colony
? That is the goal, is it not?
Go back and think about this..............
The organic matter is a carbon source, not a source really for organic N
, but there is some of that in there as well, but it's not the main role.
Bacteria are made out of a lot more carbon than they are the Nitrogen and the N is just a terminal acceptor used to oxidize the carbon.
Have you tried the mulm method?
While the heterotrophic bacteria multiply quickly, the nitrifying bacteria are agonizingly slow, doubling after 24 hours or more. These bacteria also like lots of oxygen, and don't do that well in oxygen poor environments like in rotting leaves, and such at the bottom of your tank. They do much better in the rapid water movement areas of your filter.
So rotting leaves........ are we talking about about a planted tank or a fish only tank now?
In fish only tanks, the much larger grain sizing, as well as the use of UG filters etc makes this a non issue, there's plenty O2 down there, but this is also addressed easily, a filter sponge squeezing will supply all any one needs if you think and believe this to be true.
OK, so first choice, lots of plants to start with, introduce fish slowly in a well planted tank.
So we are back to a planted tank now?
No one has ever measured NH4, NO2 after adding plenty of plants from day one + mulm.
I've never lost a fish in decades. Neither did the LFS.
Many folks have been doing this, FC just has no place in a planted tank and except with the filter only cycling method outside the tank, I see little use for it.
If your tank is going to be sparsely planted, or not planted, cycle your filter with clear ammonia in a bucket, and if you don't want to wait for the free bacteria (which can take 5 weeks) get some biospira and fishless cycle with the addition of this stuff in the bucket, and add some to your tank when you add your fish.
This I could stand behind.
This is a good idea versus the other stuff.
Still, adding mature sponge from another filter, or adding say 1/2 of the media from a established filter into a new one will help if available.
That is one of the older tricks, the mulm and old water from established tanks etc, these are all along the lines of mulm additions.
As to the uselessness of test kits, I've found that they can very quickly help you diagnose a situation, even after the initial cycle. Several medications can reduce or kill your biofilter, and this can also kill your fish. I can't tell you how many times someone has told me about a mildy ill fish that they treated in the tank, then all of the fish got sick and died. Had they had an ammonia and nitrite test kit, they would have seen that they killed the biofilter and the fish died not from some disease, but from ammonia and nitrite poisoning. I've managed to help friends save their fish by having them test after the medication and then do massive water changes to reduce the ammonia and nitrites.
It's even quicker to do the water change when in doubt.
And that is why a simple one step habit, the large weekly water change is wiser. You cannot test away neglect, if they neglect the water changes, test will only confirm that
, it will not get them to actually do the water changes.
Why are they using medications to begin with?
Neglect/lack of knowledge perhaps. Poor stocking levels, poor feeding/food, imcompadible fish etc.
If they had been doing large frequent water changes, these issues are mitagated.
This is not common just in new tanks, it's common in most all tanks.
Folks negelct things and then wonder why their fish are dying, it's the NH4/NO3/NO2 etc, but the real reason why their fish are dying is the negelect.
A pro active solution is the large water change, not a bacteria issue.
So with that mind set, why not simply apply a simple, easy to understand method that any one can do?
That is a better habit than testing.
It's easier to explain also.
I rarely use my test kit, except in my quarantine tank, which is not kept planted. I treat all new incoming fish for specific parasites that could cause problems with my discus, and some of these medications do reduce the biofiltration.
So is the success it due to FC and testing, or good habits and frequent water changes?
Few discus folks neglect their water changes.
You sort support my case here, you yourself don't test much.
How might you rapidly add bacteria to a medicated tank that had it's bacteria killed off using FC? Takes 3 weeks. You might be able to use the biospiro, I'd just grab a filter sponge from a non treated tank, do a few water changes for a couple of weeks and that would be it.
Isn't that easier to tell a newbie?
Aren't water changes a better habit than test kits?
Doesn't this apply to all tanks except non CO2 planted tanks?
Won't this save more folk's fish over time?
Isn't mulm cheaper(sediment or filter)?
As a newbie gets more familar and at ease with things, they can get into the testing etc if they chose............I know many aquarist who have never touched a test kit nor ever will.
Many old timers seldom touch a test kit, yourself included.
So how is it we can do that?
Simple habits(water changes) and methods(add estbalished bacteria from one place to another-mulm)=> we all avoid testing to large degree.
Now when I tell newbies how and why to do water changes, I tell them this: admittedly, there is a little fear mongering, but it works well:
"Imagine 10 people in a small bathroom. Now imagine flushing the toilet only once a month!? Better to flush it often and do large water changes for your fish, as they are swimming around in the waste, freshing things up for them and let them have a nice clean home. This will save you from many deaths over the years if you do this one simple routine. Python water changers etc make quick and easy work of water changes. Squirt some dechlor in there and adjusts the temp and you are done in a few minutes."
The thought of packed bathroom with an unflushed toilet is vivid. It helps to get them doing it, the python makes it easier and less work. End result is better fish health. Add some mulm to start, that's it.