fishless cycle and SC excel - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-18-2014, 06:46 PM Thread Starter
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fishless cycle and SC excel

Hi, just planted my 80g (eco-complete, no CO2, eco-xotic LED) and started a fishless cycle with Ace ammonia. Should I also start with SC Excel or anything else for the plants?
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-18-2014, 07:40 PM
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1) How high are you dosing the ammonia? Keep an eye on your plants if you are dosing the ammonia at 4ppm. Some plants won't like that high a concentration, although my Anubias didn't seem to care.

2) if you have plants in the tank, fertilize them the way you intend to when the fish are put in, although hold off on any nitrogen as the Ammonia is adding plenty of that. Depending on what you are using, the cycle will probably be helped by having a bit of nutrients beyond just N around anyway. Don't go nuts, but any fish-safe dosage should be fine.

3) I half-dosed excel during my cycle... not that I think it was really needed to go half-dose, but I didn't want to slow down the bacteria by adding disinfectants (which Excel is, in large enough doses). I figured if full dose is safe on an established bio-filter, half dose should be fine while trying to establish one.

4) note from my own experience: If your fishless cycle guide doesn't warn you to avoid letting your nitrites (Ites, not Ates) get too high, you might want to look at other guides as well. I ended up stalling my cycle by racking up somewhere over 20ppm of nitrites in the mid-stage of the cycle. The guide I went by only suggested water change if the pH dropped, but my water had enough KH to keep the pH stable while letting the nitrites go through the roof. The high nitrite ended up killing off some or all of my ammonia-eating bacteria, so at some point I added ammonia and it just stayed at 1ppm for 2 days, despite it having been converted rapidly to nitrite each day before. 2 days of 50% water changes later I was able to get it going again, but ammonia consumption was very slow for a while. Oops.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-18-2014, 10:46 PM Thread Starter
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Hi, I think it was from someone on this site; recommendation was to keep ammonia at 1ppm (for planted tank), test twice a day and add ammonia as needed to keep at 1ppm. Then, if nitrites get to 5ppm do a water change to get lower. So far, pH steady at 7.4, GH 8, KH 4, ammonia at .5, nitrite at .5. Should I add 1/2 dose of excel maybe in a few days? How soon can I add some snails to help with algae?
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-18-2014, 10:58 PM Thread Starter
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PS - I had read a number of fishless cycle articles, but none mentioned anything about high ammonia dosing and planted tanks!! Thank goodness for this site, which is the first time I saw that recommendation to keep ammonia lower. I got lucky and you guys are great!
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-19-2014, 02:48 AM
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Here is the fishless cycle referred to above.
I have no idea if Excel slows or stops the reproduction of the bacteria that is not yet established in a bio film. Why not monitor it and let me know.

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.

1a) 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.

1b) 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.
Some substrates release ammonia when they are submerged for the first time. Monitor the level and do enough water changes to keep the ammonia at the levels detailed below.

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 1b) 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. Tropical 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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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-19-2014, 01:10 PM Thread Starter
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cycling method with plants

Hi, yes this is the method I read (I get lost with all the info I have and where it comes from)!!!! Thank you so much for this. I am going to wait a few days and then start the excel.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-19-2014, 01:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by All4Fish View Post
How soon can I add some snails to help with algae?
While snails are substantially less sensitive to nitrites (ie: comparatively immune) than fish are, I wouldn't add them until your cycle is complete.

You are going to be adding ammonia at various points in the cycle, and snails are NOT immune to ammonia. Even if you are far enough along in the cycle that it gets converted to nitrite in a few hours, that's still a few hours of exposure.

Once you are done cycling, snails, fish, etc do add ammonia to the tank, but they do it slowly, and the levels never really get high enough to register. Your additions end up creating a big "spike" up to 1ppm once a day... That is fine for cycling, not so fine for mobile life forms..
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-27-2014, 08:56 PM Thread Starter
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Hi again! On day 11 ammonia at 0, nitrites at 2 or 5 (hard to read), nitrates at 10 to 20 (again hard to read the color charts), KH staying at 4 to 5, pH up to 8 from 7.4. I did 2 small water changes as I thought I was supposed to get the nitrites down. Added Prime each time and just read that should not be done?? Also, started with SC Excel on day 3 and added Dr. Timms on day 10. Am I on the right track? Should I be concerned that pH is up? Heavily planted, 80g, Eco-xotic LEDS. Plants all doing well.
PS - LFS said do not do water changes. I understand Prime removed chlorine/chloramines - tap water has high chloramines, but I am using a water filter which should remove most.

Last edited by All4Fish; 09-27-2014 at 09:14 PM. Reason: added info
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-27-2014, 09:29 PM
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Sounds good to me. You do need to add Prime. It does convert ammonia but you have to get rid of the chlorine/chloramine. Your tank will produce more ammonia for the bacteria. Keep up the water changes. Things seem to be progressing well.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-27-2014, 11:13 PM Thread Starter
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fishless cycle-water changes

Thanks! So just keep on keeping on. LFS said water changes will slow down process, but I also read that high nitrites will slow down bacteria (nitrosomus?). Which is accurate?

What could have caused the pH to rise? Just curious, I know that chasing pH is not a good idea; as long as my KH is stable. It does seem a bit lower, I will have to monitor.
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-28-2014, 12:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by All4Fish View Post
Thanks! So just keep on keeping on. LFS said water changes will slow down process, but I also read that high nitrites will slow down bacteria (nitrosomus?). Which is accurate?

What could have caused the pH to rise? Just curious, I know that chasing pH is not a good idea; as long as my KH is stable. It does seem a bit lower, I will have to monitor.
I have found over the years that the people at the LFS usally have poor if not compleatly inaccurate information.

As for the Ph, your right don't chase it
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-28-2014, 03:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FatherLandDescendant View Post
I have found over the years that the people at the LFS usally have poor if not compleatly inaccurate information.

As for the Ph, your right don't chase it
+1

Be vary wary about listening to people at LFS. Very rarely do I run across someone at a LFS that is extremely knowledgeable.

I saw one thread where some guy said his LFS worker said that "he didn't need to do water changes because he had plants"

Do not chase pH. A lot of people think that you need a rock solid pH for some reason or need to hit a magic number. As long as you don't have large swings in pH that can harm fish then you are fine.


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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-28-2014, 02:23 PM Thread Starter
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Yea! Thank goodness for this site as the LFS can create havoc if we don't double check our information. Thanks all!
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-28-2014, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by All4Fish View Post
Thanks! So just keep on keeping on. LFS said water changes will slow down process, but I also read that high nitrites will slow down bacteria (nitrosomus?). Which is accurate?
Actually, both can be accurate under the right conditions.

There are two primary bacteria we're looking to grow, Nitrosomonas and Nitrospira.

Nitrosomonas + Ammonia ⇒ Nitrite

Nitrospira + Nitrite ⇒ Nitrate

Both need food, either ammonia or nitrite. The more food you have the larger the colony will become. So removing the food via water changes can slow the process slightly. However, water changes remove many other nasty things as well as add good things. This prevents algae, promotes plant growth and keeps our inhabitant happier. So basically, you can grow bacteria and take the risk or do frequent water changes and have a more attractive tank. The cycle WILL happen regardless of how much water we change. The colony size will increase and decrease based on the available food source throughout the life of the tank.

Both bacteria can be affected by high levels of ammonia and nitrite. If memory serves me correctly you want to keep ammonia below 3ppm and nitrite below 5ppm.


Quote:
Originally Posted by All4Fish View Post
What could have caused the pH to rise? Just curious, I know that chasing pH is not a good idea; as long as my KH is stable. It does seem a bit lower, I will have to monitor.
Many things can raise PH. Most likely the hardscape in the tank. I also agree to work with the PH you have. It's so much easier when you can fill your tank direct from the tap rather than chasing numbers.
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-28-2014, 08:10 PM Thread Starter
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That is an excellent explanation which really helped my understanding. Thank you! So I am now trying to decide on doing a water change and/or adding ammonia. No inhabitants yet, except the plants, so maybe just sitting tight and being patient!
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