Cycling Substrates? - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-22-2011, 12:52 AM Thread Starter
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Cycling Substrates?

Hi PT, im new to the planted aquarium game. I had just purchased the Fluval Stratum Substrate.I was wondering how im suppose to cycle this. I also have cycled water already that I saved from my aqaurium before transitioning to this substrate. Will this cycled water speed up the process? Ive heard that there is alot of ammonia in this substrate. Can someone explain what im suppose to do or send me a link about it? Thank you all soo much!
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-23-2011, 01:47 AM
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Some substrates need to exist under water for about a month before they are safe to add fish. Most of the time the problem is ammonia. There should be a large colony of many different species of microorganisms in the soil. Sometimes they are not quite the ones that will thrive in your tank, so some die off, and others increase in population. This takes time.

While the substrate is giving off ammonia, run all the equipment. You are also cycling the tank. The bacteria that will ultimately help with removing ammonia from the fish will grow with any source of ammonia, including the ammonia generated in a newly submerged soil.

Not many bacteria live in the water. The actual nitrifying bacteria live on surfaces, such as filter media. There may be a few bacteria in the water, but I have done more than 100% water changes (water flowing in and out at the same time) and not had any problems with the nitrifying bacteria disappearing. Go ahead and use the water, but it is not worth the effort of saving it. Have you been feeding the bacteria daily? They will be growing on the sides of the container you are storing the water in. Feel how slimy it feels? That is the biofilm that the microorganisms live in.

Now, a fully cycled filter is a great source of the correct microorganisms, and is the best thing you can add to a new tank.

Here is what I would do:

1) Put dampened substrate in the tank.
2) Add driftwood, rocks, create hills and valleys.
3) Add just enough water to BARELY cover the substrate, or not even that much.
4) Plant, misting the plants as needed.
5) Put a plate or plastic bag over the substrate and add water slowly. Allow the water to seep in over the edges of the plate and into the substrate. This minimizes the cloudiness. While the tank is filling you can install the equipment.
6) Turn on the equipment, make sure it is all running.

For the next month (about) test for ammonia, and whatever other tests you want. Perhaps GH, KH and pH, maybe nitrite and nitrate.
Here is what you do with the test results:

Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate: Monitor the growth of nitrifying bacteria. The lower the ammonia the faster the first group (ammonia removers) are growing, and the less ammonia the soil is putting into the water. Nitrite may show up for a while. The bacteria that remove nitrite grow slowly. If the nitrite gets to 5 ppm, do a water change. The bacteria do not grow well when the nitrite is over 5 ppm. Nitrate: As the 2 groups of bacteria (ammonia removers and nitrite removers) grow in population they produce more and more nitrate. Depending on how densely you planted the plants may remove some of each of these. When the tests read Ammonia 0 ppm, Nitrite 0ppm and nitrate anything at all, can be quite high, the soil and the tank are cycled. You can add fish. If you will not be adding fish for a few days or longer then feed the bacteria with ammonia, fish food or other source of ammonia.
When you are ready to add fish do a really big water change to get the nitrate really low. Maybe the plants have already done this for you.

GH: If you want to keep soft water fish you will want the GH to be under 9 German degrees of hardness for most hatchery raised fish, or under 5 degrees for more delicate soft water fish. Lower than 3 degrees might suggest calcium or magnesium is in short supply, and you might have to do something about it. For hard water fish over 9 degrees, and up to 20 is fine. Most plants are not so picky, though there are a few...
While the tank is cycling it is OK to see what you might do about a problem GH, see what might fix it.

KH: For hard water fish over 9 degrees, and as high as 20 is fine. For soft water fish around 3-5 degrees is usually pretty good. This is a buffer that stabilizes the pH. Watch to see if your substrate removes the KH. Some do, leaving the water vulnerable to possible swings in pH.

Do not allow either GH or KH to get below 3 degrees while cycling. The microorganisms need some minerals, and will slow or stop if the minerals are in short supply.

pH: Do not bother doing anything directly about pH. If the GH and KH suit the fish, then the pH will probably be fine. If it does vary, then look for a cause (such as a substrate that has removed all the KH)

Post these tests and what fish you want, and we can help if there is a problem with the water:
Tap water:
Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate
GH, KH, pH and let some water sit out for 24-48 hours and test the pH again.
Tank water:
It would be interesting to follow the cycle with you, and see how it is going!
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-23-2011, 01:48 AM
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This one is very new on the market, so not many people have used it yet... I'll be interested to hear how it works out for you!





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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-23-2011, 02:39 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
Some substrates need to exist under water for about a month before they are safe to add fish. Most of the time the problem is ammonia. There should be a large colony of many different species of microorganisms in the soil. Sometimes they are not quite the ones that will thrive in your tank, so some die off, and others increase in population. This takes time.

While the substrate is giving off ammonia, run all the equipment. You are also cycling the tank. The bacteria that will ultimately help with removing ammonia from the fish will grow with any source of ammonia, including the ammonia generated in a newly submerged soil.

Not many bacteria live in the water. The actual nitrifying bacteria live on surfaces, such as filter media. There may be a few bacteria in the water, but I have done more than 100% water changes (water flowing in and out at the same time) and not had any problems with the nitrifying bacteria disappearing. Go ahead and use the water, but it is not worth the effort of saving it. Have you been feeding the bacteria daily? They will be growing on the sides of the container you are storing the water in. Feel how slimy it feels? That is the biofilm that the microorganisms live in.

Now, a fully cycled filter is a great source of the correct microorganisms, and is the best thing you can add to a new tank.

Here is what I would do:

1) Put dampened substrate in the tank.
2) Add driftwood, rocks, create hills and valleys.
3) Add just enough water to BARELY cover the substrate, or not even that much.
4) Plant, misting the plants as needed.
5) Put a plate or plastic bag over the substrate and add water slowly. Allow the water to seep in over the edges of the plate and into the substrate. This minimizes the cloudiness. While the tank is filling you can install the equipment.
6) Turn on the equipment, make sure it is all running.

For the next month (about) test for ammonia, and whatever other tests you want. Perhaps GH, KH and pH, maybe nitrite and nitrate.
Here is what you do with the test results:

Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate: Monitor the growth of nitrifying bacteria. The lower the ammonia the faster the first group (ammonia removers) are growing, and the less ammonia the soil is putting into the water. Nitrite may show up for a while. The bacteria that remove nitrite grow slowly. If the nitrite gets to 5 ppm, do a water change. The bacteria do not grow well when the nitrite is over 5 ppm. Nitrate: As the 2 groups of bacteria (ammonia removers and nitrite removers) grow in population they produce more and more nitrate. Depending on how densely you planted the plants may remove some of each of these. When the tests read Ammonia 0 ppm, Nitrite 0ppm and nitrate anything at all, can be quite high, the soil and the tank are cycled. You can add fish. If you will not be adding fish for a few days or longer then feed the bacteria with ammonia, fish food or other source of ammonia.
When you are ready to add fish do a really big water change to get the nitrate really low. Maybe the plants have already done this for you.

GH: If you want to keep soft water fish you will want the GH to be under 9 German degrees of hardness for most hatchery raised fish, or under 5 degrees for more delicate soft water fish. Lower than 3 degrees might suggest calcium or magnesium is in short supply, and you might have to do something about it. For hard water fish over 9 degrees, and up to 20 is fine. Most plants are not so picky, though there are a few...
While the tank is cycling it is OK to see what you might do about a problem GH, see what might fix it.

KH: For hard water fish over 9 degrees, and as high as 20 is fine. For soft water fish around 3-5 degrees is usually pretty good. This is a buffer that stabilizes the pH. Watch to see if your substrate removes the KH. Some do, leaving the water vulnerable to possible swings in pH.

Do not allow either GH or KH to get below 3 degrees while cycling. The microorganisms need some minerals, and will slow or stop if the minerals are in short supply.

pH: Do not bother doing anything directly about pH. If the GH and KH suit the fish, then the pH will probably be fine. If it does vary, then look for a cause (such as a substrate that has removed all the KH)

Post these tests and what fish you want, and we can help if there is a problem with the water:
Tap water:
Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate
GH, KH, pH and let some water sit out for 24-48 hours and test the pH again.
Tank water:
It would be interesting to follow the cycle with you, and see how it is going!
Thank You soo much for your reply! But will planting plants before cycling will kill the plants since it has a lot of ammonia?
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-23-2011, 02:40 AM
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How high are the ammonia levels?

It is possible to kill plants at extreme ammonia levels... so it depends.





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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-23-2011, 02:45 AM Thread Starter
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How high are the ammonia levels?

It is possible to kill plants at extreme ammonia levels... so it depends.
I dont know yet because I dont have a tester.. So ill have to get one soon.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-23-2011, 02:46 AM
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Fluval Stratum does not release ammonia and does not require any "cycling" period. Follow Diana's cycling recommendations for your tank, but do not worry about the substrate affecting the process.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-23-2011, 03:02 AM Thread Starter
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Fluval Stratum does not release ammonia and does not require any "cycling" period. Follow Diana's cycling recommendations for your tank, but do not worry about the substrate affecting the process.
Thanks for replying! Are you also using this substrate?
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-23-2011, 03:12 AM
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I was using it in my Fluval Ebi's but changed it out for black sand because I like that look better.

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Thanks for replying! Are you also using this substrate?
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-23-2011, 03:28 AM Thread Starter
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I was using it in my Fluval Ebi's but changed it out for black sand because I like that look better.
Ohh! I have a question,when you were using the Fluval Stratum what did you do to cycle your tank.And how long did it take?
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-23-2011, 04:12 AM
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I used filter media from an established tank and added ammonia every couple of days to feed the bacteria. It completed its cycle within 7-10 days. I keep a bunch of extra aqua clear sponges and ceramic rings in established filters for that very purpose.





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Ohh! I have a question,when you were using the Fluval Stratum what did you do to cycle your tank.And how long did it take?
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-23-2011, 03:38 PM
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The more plants you have in the tank from the beginning, the better the cycling will go. The plants leaves are going to be covered with the desirable bacteria, if it hasn't been too long since the plants were in a tank. Then, those plants will be consuming ammonia themselves, making cycling a lot less critical. If you also move a filter sponge from an established, operating filter to the filter on this tank, that will also speed up the cycling. Finally, putting a layer of mulm from an established tank under the new substrate will help with cycling, although I think it probably helps establish the bacteria colony in the substrate even more. I have never seen a reason to wait more than 2 weeks to introduce the first few fish into a new tank set up with this method.

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