Is My 3.5g Tank Cycled? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 10-18-2017, 06:32 PM Thread Starter
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Question Is My 3.5g Tank Cycled?

Some background:

-3.5g Top Fin half-moon tank kit (LED lighting, carbon filter, and a mini heater I installed myself)
-Gravel substrate
-Mix of fake decorations (including plastic plants that may have some sharper edges), 4 golf ball-sized marimo moss balls, and a piece of driftwood
-1 month ago I had to do a complete teardown/rebuild after an outbreak of what I think may have been hemorrhagic septicemia (possibly caused by new tank syndrome; I used Top Fin bacterial supplement to boost the cycle in a week and then added 3 zebra dannios which was a bad decision in hindsight) killed my new fish
-After I cleaned everything using bleach solution, I restarted the nitrogen cycle 3 weeks ago using the bacterial supplement and about 3 larger fish food flakes every other day in a net
-I have left the carbon filter in
-I test using the API master test kit and know how to do it correctly
-I filled my tank with conditioned tap water

Here is my concern:

After 3 weeks, I haven't seen any changes in my chems. Ammonia has read at a consistent 1ppm (my tap water reads at about 0.5ppm), and both my nitrite and nitrate levels consistently read at 0ppm. I have read that the marimo balls in this small of a tank may be absorbing all of the toxins, but then I don't know if I have an established bacterial colony or not. Also, I am only able to test my water hardness using Tetra test strips which I know are notoriously inaccurate, but they consistently say that I have very hard water (in the 150-300 ppm GH range), and my pH concurrently reads near a 7.4 in the master test kit. Is my tank cycled, or should I wait longer? Should I find a way to lower my water hardness? I'd like to stock first with ghost shrimp and then either a single Scarlet Badis or possibly a betta (which would mean I would need to replace my plastic plants). Then there may be a possibility of a pair of cories later if all goes well. Thoughts?

Last edited by CollegeNano; 10-18-2017 at 07:05 PM. Reason: Image
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 10-18-2017, 07:06 PM
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At the moment your tank is not yet cycled. You will know the process is complete when your test kit reads 0ppm ammonia, 0ppm nitrite, and >0ppm nitrate.

Some cycles take longer than others; sometimes up to 6 weeks. I would add a few more flakes of food each week to make sure there is enough ammonia to keep things rolling. When your test kit begins to read nitrites you can stop adding flakes and let the cycle continue at its own pace.

Once your kit reads nitrates and 0ppm of nitrite and ammonia, you will be able to add 3-4 ghost shrimp. After a few weeks have passed and everything seems well you can add a fish.

Unfortunately, I do not think you will be able to keep a scarlet badis or corys in this particular tank due to its smaller size. The ghost shrimp and a betta will just about do it as far as stocking goes (just make sure to observe your betta and make sure he/she isn't bothering your shrimp). The betta will need silk or live plants to protect his/her fins. Some easy live plants that stay small are anubias nana, anubias nana petite, java fern, and any kind of moss such as java, taiwan, christmas, etc.

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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 10-18-2017, 07:21 PM Thread Starter
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First of all, thanks!

That's what I was thinking and why I was hesitant to consider it cycled, but I've heard competing perspectives about how the marimo balls, bacterial supplement, and even carbon filter can affect chem readings. At this point I will just try to boost the ammonia with a larger quantity of flake food in the net and see if I start to read nitrites.

The other thing is that I am on a tight budget, so if I do replace the plants for a betta I would want to find inexpensive, ideally hardy and leafy plants to go in the background. However, I haven't fertilized my substrate because my marimo balls (the only plant I started with) didn't need it. Do you or does anyone else know of either options for a.) plants that fit my circumstances or b.) alternative non-schooling fish?

Thanks again!
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