Fishless cycle - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-18-2016, 02:55 AM Thread Starter
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Fishless cycle

So I'm about to start to get ready for the fish. I've been reading the fishless cycle post that many people have posted and reposted. Have a couple of questions.

Not quite understanding this part:

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.

I have tetra safe start. When it says I don't have to jumpstart the cycle, does that mean I can put the safe start in and be good to add fish or do I still have to add ammonia? Also, should I wait after a certain time to add fish/ammonia or do you do it after you add the safe start?

Sorry for the long thread

Thanks!
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-18-2016, 04:31 PM
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You have to add ammonia. The bacteria need it to feed.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-18-2016, 04:51 PM
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According to the label on these products you do not have to do the fishless cycle at all, as long as you use enough of their product. I have used TSS in an emergency situation and it worked great.
If you will be stocking the tank slowly, then use a generous partial dose with the first lot of fish, then store the rest of the bottle in the fridge. Add some with each lot of fish.

However, these organisms are delicate, and subject to dying during shipping and storing. Here is how I would use these:

1) Set up the tank to do the fishless cycle. (correct water parameters to grow the bacteria as fast as possible)
2) Add Nitrospira (Tetra Safe Start or other)
3) Begin the fishless cycle by adding ammonia.
4) Monitor the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate.

a) If the TSS is good, then the ammonia and nitrite might only show up for 24-48 hours. Nitrate should show up after that. Add more ammonia once a day to maintain 3 ppm until the bacteria can remove all ammonia in less than 24 hours, and no nitrite shows up. This may mean a few days, mostly making sure the microorganisms are doing well. When you are ready to add fish you might need to do a water change if the NO3 is climbing, or if the fish prefer some different water parameters. Once they are established the bacteria do not care if you do a great big water change and change the mineral levels.

b) If the TSS has been in storage too long or whatever, ammonia will stay high, nitrite might or might not show up, and nitrate will probably not show up. Depends on if the bacteria are all dead, or if some are still alive. If this happens, then go on and complete the full fishless cycle. It may go a bit faster if some of the bacteria are still alive, or it might take the full 3 weeks, if the bacteria are pretty much dead.

I am including the fishless cycle so you can see the optimum water parameters, and so others reading this thread will see what we are talking about.

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 methemoglobinemia 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. (7.5-8 seems to be optimum)
Temperature in the upper 70s F (mid 20s C) is good. Higher (to 95*F or about 35*C) 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, and trace elements like CSM+B 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 from 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 may use the carbon in carbonates, and if it is all used up (KH = 0) the bacteria may die off. They use the carbon from CO2, and this is generally pretty low in water, but can be replenished from the air and from carbonates. Keep the carbonates up to keep the pH up, too.
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. To grow them at optimum rates, keep the pH on the alkaline side of neutral.
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. 1 ppm twice a day will grow almost as much bacteria as 3 ppm once a day.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-18-2016, 07:47 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks. I really appreciate it.

Should add that I have ammonia but wasn't sure if I needed it. Going to still go with the fishless cycle
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-18-2016, 10:32 PM
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That is the smart way to go. The various products with Nitrospira can make the nitrogen cycle go really fast.
There are other microorganisms that thrive in an aquarium, and allowing these to get established is a really good idea.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-22-2016, 02:48 PM
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I cycle tanks several times a year using ammonium chloride. The first step where ammonia is converted to nitrite goes fairly fast, 1-2 weeks. The stall for me is always processing the nitrite. I slow down of the ammonium chloride dosing and it seems to take 3-4 weeks longer to clear nitrite. With saltwater I'm not much concerned with nitrite but in fresh water systems were I don't add any salts it can be an issue. I run 6 livebearer systems with salinity at 3-4ppt but the rest of them are kept at 0-1 ppt.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-22-2016, 05:06 PM
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In fresh water the nitrite oxidizing species are slower growing than the ammonia oxidizing species.
A growth of the ammonia handling organisms should show up in just a few days, and in a week or so be able to handle 3 ppm of ammonia overnight.
But the Nitrospira (fresh water nitrite oxidizing organisms) grow slower. First of all the ammonia oxidizing species have to produce the NO2, and this takes a few days for production to being.

Also, it seems the Nitrospira is more demanding of correct parameters. Make sure the ammonia and nitrite are not over 5 ppm.

I am not as familiar with the nitrogen cycle in a marine environment, I understand they are different species from fresh water. I do not know at what level of salt the one group dies off and the other starts growing.
But the same concept holds:
To raise ammonia removing organisms, start by adding ammonia to the tank.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 02:07 PM Thread Starter
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Figure I let you guys in on a update. Got the tank completely cycle. And I did it all fishless. Checked the readings and im good to go. Gotta say that I was really concerned that I was going to mess this up. But with the guide and patience, I did it in no time. Lucky for me I've been busy and it really went by quick.

Really easy and definitely worth it.

Thanks again everyone.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 02:22 PM
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Cape Town, South Africa.

Hi. I'm back.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 04:14 PM
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That is great :-)
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 04:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbtiv View Post
Figure I let you guys in on a update. Got the tank completely cycle.
How did you do it? What products did you use?


I prefer Tetra-Marineland Bio Spira to TTS. I use fish flakes for the ammonia.
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 07:03 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hilde View Post
How did you do it? What products did you use?


I prefer Tetra-Marineland Bio Spira to TTS. I use fish flakes for the ammonia.
I used Terta safe start. Then I went to dollar tree for the ammonia.
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 07:45 PM
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Looks like Marineland is reviving the Bio Spira name for fresh water. How long have they had that one out?
What are the active ingredients?
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-03-2016, 02:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
Looks like Marineland is reviving the Bio Spira name for fresh water. How long have they had that one out?
What are the active ingredients?
Do not see ingredients on it. Just says bacteria. I got on amazon.
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-03-2016, 01:17 PM
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I use ammonium chloride only because you can calculate accurately when dosing. I have two systems now that I'm dosing. One was shut down to sterilize and the other has such a low fish-load that I need to keep the bacterial populations more active. I never know when 20,000+ fish may need to be tanked with only a 2-3 day notice. lol
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