Starting new tank; cycling water externally? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-21-2018, 06:18 AM Thread Starter
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Starting new tank; cycling water externally?

Hello all,

I'm starting a new 10g tank and I am currently doing a dry start. While waiting for my plants to grow, I figured I could try to speed up the entire process to a finalized tank by cycling some water in another empty container or bucket in the meantime. Since I won't be able to flood my tank until a few more weeks (maybe even a month) and cycling will take an extra amount of time after that. I can definitely wait as long as needed, but I am excited to see my tank in its full form

I don't have any other established tank that I can use filter media from, so I would be starting with water and an API quick start formula. Although, I did read that growing plants with dsm provides a pretty good basis for beneficial bacteria to start up the cycling process after flooding. So I'm not sure how this might affect my plan.

If it is possible to cycle water externally, would adding this water to my dsm tank when it is ready to be flooded, mess with the levels of bacteria/ammonia/nitrites/etc? I do want to give my aquarium setup a boost, but I don't want to cause any harm to my tank environment by trying to find shortcuts.

Please let me know if any of you have ever tried this or have any thoughts/advice on this. Thank you!!
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-21-2018, 07:00 AM
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The water holds very little bacteria. It is mostly found on the surface of items inside the aquarium or filter.
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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-21-2018, 07:10 AM
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A filter cannot tell a bucket from a fish tank. You will need a source of ammonia to kick off the cycle though.
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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-21-2018, 07:19 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Couesfanatic View Post
The water holds very little bacteria. It is mostly found on the surface of items inside the aquarium or filter.
I was planning to use API quick start for some added bacteria. Hope it works!

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A filter cannot tell a bucket from a fish tank. You will need a source of ammonia to kick off the cycle though.
Makes sense! Although, I'm mostly concerned about the possible outcome of adding cycled water to a dry start tank that is probably rich with bacteria already. Not sure if cycling water externally is an overkill or just unnecessary, or even helpful? I have no idea, but I guess it wouldn't hurt to give it a go! Even with API quick start, would I need to add some source of ammonia? What would be your recommendation? Thanks for your input!
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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-21-2018, 11:17 AM
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water...

You'll need something from an established tank. Go to the local fish store and ask for some of the gravel from one of their tanks and mix it in with some new, rinsed gravel and put it into the new tank. Instant cycling. Just add fish very slowly and test the tank water for a few days to make sure the bacteria is working.

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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-21-2018, 08:41 PM
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The water itself is not very involved in the cycle other than being there to let bacteria live! The bacteria is often the "slick stuff " we find all over. Kind of like flu germs? They are all going to be there but the bottled stuff does add it in a larger quantity and all at once which can speed things along.
But the cycle WILL happen when we add water and then there is some form of ammonia to feed them. Waste from fish, material in the sub like bits of grass or most any material that rots? So the "cycle" question becomes somewhat a balance between how many fish we want to get ready for adding versus how much ammonia anything we add can handle safely. One way to go is to start the tank without fish, let the bacteria get started and then slowly add fish a few at a time. If we add too many fish, too fast so that ammonia from their waste builds faster than the current level of bacteria can convert it, we can still get by good enough by doing water changes to remove or dilute the ammonia.
Where we can get into big trouble is when we get too much waste and not enough water changes or bacteria to deal with the ammonia which can then be too strong and burn the fish gills, etc.
Rushed people may need a more "instant" cycle but other slow patient people may do fine with spending more time waiting and changing water.
No one certain method for all ?
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-21-2018, 09:23 PM Thread Starter
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Ty!

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Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
The water itself is not very involved in the cycle other than being there to let bacteria live! The bacteria is often the "slick stuff " we find all over. Kind of like flu germs? They are all going to be there but the bottled stuff does add it in a larger quantity and all at once which can speed things along.
But the cycle WILL happen when we add water and then there is some form of ammonia to feed them. Waste from fish, material in the sub like bits of grass or most any material that rots? So the "cycle" question becomes somewhat a balance between how many fish we want to get ready for adding versus how much ammonia anything we add can handle safely. One way to go is to start the tank without fish, let the bacteria get started and then slowly add fish a few at a time. If we add too many fish, too fast so that ammonia from their waste builds faster than the current level of bacteria can convert it, we can still get by good enough by doing water changes to remove or dilute the ammonia.
Where we can get into big trouble is when we get too much waste and not enough water changes or bacteria to deal with the ammonia which can then be too strong and burn the fish gills, etc.
Rushed people may need a more "instant" cycle but other slow patient people may do fine with spending more time waiting and changing water.
No one certain method for all ?
That makes total sense! I'm guessing I'll have to go out and get some ammonia to use with my api quick start then. I'll definitely be cycling my tank without fish since I'm not in any rush. Thank you for the detailed explanation! That was very helpful
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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-21-2018, 09:58 PM
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During your dry start period, your filter is just sitting around doing nothing, yes?
So do this :
Add dechlorinated water (e.g., tap water dosed with Prime) to a bucket (e.g. 5 gallon standard bucket) and run your filter in that bucket for a few weeks.
Dose ammonia daily.
Test your water daily. When your start seeing your nitrates rise, you're good to go.
When the time comes, now just move the inlet/outlet into your aquarium.

Instant cycle.
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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-21-2018, 10:04 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by DimitriSF View Post
During your dry start period, your filter is just sitting around doing nothing, yes?
So do this :
Add dechlorinated water (e.g., tap water dosed with Prime) to a bucket (e.g. 5 gallon standard bucket) and run your filter in that bucket for a few weeks.
Dose ammonia daily.
Test your water daily. When your start seeing your nitrates rise, you're good to go.
When the time comes, now just move the inlet/outlet into your aquarium.

Instant cycle.
Awesome, this was the exact confirmation I was looking for! When the water is cycled, do you recommend that I move 25% of the water into the aquarium for basically a 75% water change? Or just starting off with completely fresh water is okay too? Thanks!
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-21-2018, 10:28 PM
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You'll need an ammonia source to cycle your filter. Do you plan on adding fish to the bucket? I used pure ammonia for my cycle. Do you have an existing tank that you could add the filter to?

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post #11 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-21-2018, 10:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waterblossom View Post
Awesome, this was the exact confirmation I was looking for! When the water is cycled, do you recommend that I move 25% of the water into the aquarium for basically a 75% water change? Or just starting off with completely fresh water is okay too? Thanks!
Completely fresh water. Dechlorinate it before pouring it not after.
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post #12 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-22-2018, 02:18 AM
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Understanding the reason folks came up with doing a fishless cycle can help understand why it was "invented". The old standard way was to start slowly and add fish a few at a time so that the ammonia never got very high as the bacteria was allowed to adjust to the added food/waste/ammonia. But then as the hobby progressed, we began to see more and more folks ordering fish which then made it much more practical to order all the fish at one time to cut the shipping costs.
So folks who want to add something like 20-30 fish all at one time found it impractical to try to do the water changes needed to prevent damaged fish.
The way to build up that big super sized bacteria colony is to start feeding it ammonia that contains no other items (surfacants?) and let that ammonia feed the growing bacteria. I've forgotten the exact amounts/numbers, etc. but we add "X" PPM of ammonia to hold a certain level, wait for it to be converted to nitrite and then as the second type of bacteria uses the nitrite for food, we begin to see high nitrate and do a large water change to get that down so that we can add lots of fish, all at once but have enough bacteria on hand to handle the super large jump in waste!!
It's all about how we want to deal with the ammonia. We COULD get by with just pouring in fresh water all the time to dilute the ammonia but most of us don't like that idea!
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post #13 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-22-2018, 03:34 AM
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[QUOTE=waterblossom;11072833]
Quote:
Originally Posted by DimitriSF View Post
Awesome, this was the exact confirmation I was looking for! When the water is cycled, do you recommend that I move 25% of the water into the aquarium for basically a 75% water change? Or just starting off with completely fresh water is okay too? Thanks!
Is not the water that gets "cycled" but rather the filter. The filter's sponges and media are what house the beneficial bacteria.
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post #14 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-22-2018, 04:56 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psalm18.2 View Post
You'll need an ammonia source to cycle your filter. Do you plan on adding fish to the bucket? I used pure ammonia for my cycle. Do you have an existing tank that you could add the filter to?

Sent from my SM-N950U using Tapatalk
Thanks for that info! I'll be doing a fishless cycle so I went out and got some pure ammonia today to get started as soon as I can

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Originally Posted by KeeperOfASilentWorld View Post
Completely fresh water. Dechlorinate it before pouring it not after.
Awesome, good to know! I'll keep that in mind

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Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
Understanding the reason folks came up with doing a fishless cycle can help understand why it was "invented". The old standard way was to start slowly and add fish a few at a time so that the ammonia never got very high as the bacteria was allowed to adjust to the added food/waste/ammonia. But then as the hobby progressed, we began to see more and more folks ordering fish which then made it much more practical to order all the fish at one time to cut the shipping costs.
So folks who want to add something like 20-30 fish all at one time found it impractical to try to do the water changes needed to prevent damaged fish.
The way to build up that big super sized bacteria colony is to start feeding it ammonia that contains no other items (surfacants?) and let that ammonia feed the growing bacteria. I've forgotten the exact amounts/numbers, etc. but we add "X" PPM of ammonia to hold a certain level, wait for it to be converted to nitrite and then as the second type of bacteria uses the nitrite for food, we begin to see high nitrate and do a large water change to get that down so that we can add lots of fish, all at once but have enough bacteria on hand to handle the super large jump in waste!!
It's all about how we want to deal with the ammonia. We COULD get by with just pouring in fresh water all the time to dilute the ammonia but most of us don't like that idea!
Wow, thanks for explaining the reasoning behind the fishless cycle! I had no idea. Now that I know, I wonder if there's any harm in having a much bigger sized bacteria colony than needed. I was only planning on having about 2 fish in my 10 gal, so I'm not sure how it'll all work out. I guess I'll just have to see! Thanks so much for all the info, it definitely cleared some things up for me

Bump: [quote=DimitriSF;11073321]
Quote:
Originally Posted by waterblossom View Post

Is not the water that gets "cycled" but rather the filter. The filter's sponges and media are what house the beneficial bacteria.
Right! That definitely makes sense. Thanks for the clarification!
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post #15 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-22-2018, 02:53 PM
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Just to echo what everyone else said: your bucket plan should work fine as long as you're using the filter you will be using in your tank. When you fill your tank you should use (completely dechlorinated) fresh water. The bacteria colonies live in the filter media, substrate, etc, which is why doing water changes doesn't mess up the cycle. You're gonna want a master test kit to keep an eye on your ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Ammonia will be up at first, and you should continue dosing daily or every few days, and then nitrite will rise and ammonia will fall, and eventually nitrate will rise and nitrite will fall. The nitrate spike will be significant, so wait before you call your cycle done once the nitrate starts to rise, because mine took a few days to peak. There's a good article on fishlore about this and tons of articles all over the internet about the fishless cycle. I use Dr. Tim's Ammonium Chloride because it's made specifically for fishless cycling and has dosing information but many people buy pure ammonia from their hardware stores. Here's a link to the fishlore article on fishless cycling: https://www.fishlore.com/NitrogenCycle.htm (sorry for the poor formatting) and there's tons of information out there if you just search nitrogen cycle aquarium or fishless cycle (if you search for the nitrogen cycle you'll get broader information about the nitrogen cycle in an ecological context).
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