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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-28-2015, 04:46 AM Thread Starter
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Two Part Cycle?

So Hurrah for the DPG sale starting this weekend! I will be picking up my 40B on Sun. My Eheim G90(2037), Hydor in-line heater, Controller, Satellite+ Pro and plant tabs will be here by Thursday and I'm itching to get started.

I currently have an established 10G with some extra media in the HOB filter, and a sponge filter in it. I also have extra plants in there that I'm planning to use in the 40.

I have boiled my driftwood to release the tannins and get it waterlogged. I have decided to use Activflora as the substrate.

My thoughts were to set everything up, plant it heavily, and just leave it be for a week or so to let everything settle. Test my water, add Safe Start, follow up with Stability for the week. Test water daily and as long as there is no ammonia or nitrates to stock the tank.

I will be using the extra media and the sponge filter(at least til the new filter is established).

My parameters out of the tap are: PH 7.2, KH 71.6, GH 35.8, NH3/NH4 0ppm, NO2-0ppm, NO3- 0ppm.

When I first set up my 10G I just added Safe Start and then added fish the next day without testing. (I didn't know any better) But everyone lived except one neon that didn't look right straight out of the bag.

So what do you think???

Sorry about the novella!!
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-28-2015, 05:49 AM
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You should be OK. Stock lightly and build up slowly of course....
Don't underestimate how much nitrifying bacteria is in the tank, rather than the filter - so when you stock a new tank with established filter material, you may still see cycling going on - I did this with a quarantine tank recently, and saw a significant nitrite spike (fishless, using ammonia dosing).
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-28-2015, 05:01 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by lee739 View Post
You should be OK. Stock lightly and build up slowly of course....
Don't underestimate how much nitrifying bacteria is in the tank, rather than the filter - so when you stock a new tank with established filter material, you may still see cycling going on - I did this with a quarantine tank recently, and saw a significant nitrite spike (fishless, using ammonia dosing).
That's good. I thought I would help it along by placing the sponge filter in the new tank for a while. The Activeflora has beneficial bacteria in it and I have media brewing in my 10G filter. Hopefully this will be quick!
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-28-2015, 06:16 PM
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If you add a lot of the right bacteria (sharing media, Tetra Safe Start) then wait, some of the bacteria will die off. I would add ammonia to feed them and encourage them to reproduce.
Then, when you are ready to add fish you can add more of them.
Basically you are doing a fishless cycle with a generous starter colony of bacteria.
You can continue 'scaping the tank, rearrange things... whatever you want to do while you are growing the bacteria, as long as the water parameters are good for them to reproduce and get well established.

Here is the fishless cycle:

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. I have even heard of the right bacteria growing in the bio film found on driftwood. (So if you have been soaking some driftwood in preparation to adding it to the tank, go ahead and put it into the tank) 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 1a) 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.

Bump: If you are going to be adding fish over several months then you might want to hang on to some of the Safe Start (fridge) and add a small amount each time you add more than just a couple of fish.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-29-2015, 05:26 AM Thread Starter
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Fishless Cycle

If you add a lot of the right bacteria (sharing media, Tetra Safe Start) then wait, some of the bacteria will die off. I would add ammonia to feed them and encourage them to reproduce.
Then, when you are ready to add fish you can add more of them.
Basically you are doing a fishless cycle with a generous starter colony of bacteria.
You can continue 'scaping the tank, rearrange things... whatever you want to do while you are growing the bacteria, as long as the water parameters are good for them to reproduce and get well established.

Diana,
My KH is 4 out of the tap and dropped to 2 in the tank. My GH is 2 out of the tap and increased to 5 in the tank. Do you see this as a problem for cycling and general aquarium health? I always thought my tap water was hard but these numbers don't support that. Should I look into increasing these values? If so, how do I do so?
Thanks for your help!
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-29-2015, 07:03 AM
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The bacteria would grow better with higher KH. I would aim to keep it higher during cycling. If you want to keep soft water fish you can do a big water change at the end, and switch the tank over to low GH, low KH, low pH.

I would wonder what is in the tank, or what you are adding to raise the GH? Is there a rock in there? Are you adding any GH booster or Epsom salt?

Bump: I used baking soda for many years, then got some potassium bicarbonate. Either is just fine to raise the KH.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-29-2015, 02:50 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Diana View Post
The bacteria would grow better with higher KH. I would aim to keep it higher during cycling. If you want to keep soft water fish you can do a big water change at the end, and switch the tank over to low GH, low KH, low pH.

I would wonder what is in the tank, or what you are adding to raise the GH? Is there a rock in there? Are you adding any GH booster or Epsom salt?

Bump: I used baking soda for many years, then got some potassium bicarbonate. Either is just fine to raise the KH.
This is a 10gal. I have a piece of driftwood and one rock that I got at Petco from one of their tanks. Both have been in the tank for over a year. The only things I add to the tank are Prime, Safe Start and Melafix when I do my bi-monthly water changes. I have been dosing Flourish Excel twice weekly. The tank is heavily planted as I'm collecting in preparation for the new tank. I've not added any salt because of the plants.
Thanks
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-29-2015, 05:09 PM
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Well, I would skip the Melafix. No need to medicate the tank. The Safe Start is only needed when you need to add more bacteria. They live in the tank just fine, and are not removed with water changes.

If the GH is rising, something in there is contributing calcium or magnesium.
From what you list so far, I would suspect the rock. If that GH is OK with the fish you want to keep, then don't worry about it.

Epsom Salt is often used as a source of magnesium for the plants. It is fine, if your water is low in magnesium. However, I mention it because it will raise the GH.
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-30-2015, 05:42 AM Thread Starter
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Cool

I haven't tested my water for Mg. Another test!! (sigh) Just when I think, aha I think I've got it! I read a post like yours and a few others and realize that I haven't even touched the surface never mind scratched it! lol
Thanks for your input!
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-30-2015, 05:54 AM
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No, I do not know if there is a hobby level test for magnesium.
I would not go there, yet. Get the other things under control, then worry about if there is an imbalance between Ca and Mg. A GH of 2 degrees in the tap is a bit low. I just wonder what in the tank is raising it.
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-30-2015, 07:01 AM Thread Starter
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Well I expected the driftwood to lower my PH and it has. But I wasn't worried that the GH went up to 5. Should I be? I was more worried that the KH went from 4 to 2.
Am I understanding that Epsom Salts will increase the GH? If so do I need it higher than 5?
Is there something that I should dose to increase the KH? If I need to work on these parameters that's fine I just need to know what and how much to dose.
Now I'm worried about introducing new fish to these values. I just added 3 Panda Cories to my 10 gal the other day. They seem fine.
I don't have any plans for soft water fish per se. I haven't really gotten around to thinking about what I want to stock in the new tank. Maybe a pair of Rainbows? I like the live bearers too. But for now I need to get the tank set up and learn how to operate all the new equipment (canister filter and in-line heater). I'm not willing to sacrifice fish lives while I figure this out. That is why I was thinking of waiting to cycle the tank for fish.

Thanks
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