How do I cycle my first planted tank? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-23-2020, 03:08 AM Thread Starter
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How do I cycle my first planted tank?

Hi there!

Iím currently working on my first ever planted tank (and first fish tank in general).
Right now Iím researching different cycling techniques/methods and it's a bit overwhelming. So I was wondering what other people thought was best and the pros and cons of different methods.

My tank is an Aqua One AR850 (165 litres / 43.58 gallons) with ADA Amazonia Light as substrate and Iím planning on keeping ember tetras, cherry shrimp and a bristlenose pleco.

Iím worried about doing cycling with fish because I really donít want to hurt them but Iíve also found a lot of conflicting information about fishless cycling and how to do it so Iím scared of messing up in general. Itís also hard for me to get ammonia where I live so Iíll have to add fish food or something else if/when I do fishless cycling.

I want my fish to be as comfortable as possible so I donít really care how long it takes to cycle the tank, I really just want recommendations for the safest method.

If you need any other information feel free to ask!
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-23-2020, 08:03 PM
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What plants are you planning on planting? If any of them can grow emersed, I recommend using Tom Barr's Dry Start Method, since it allows them to develop a healthy root system, and cycle the substrate. I've heard that ADA soil releases a small amount of ammonia, so if you DSM, you can cycle the tank, prevent algal growth, AND let any plants you plan on keeping develop healthy root systems, an all around plus.

So many fish/plants/inverts to keep, not enough aquaria.
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-24-2020, 06:40 PM
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The methods are all pretty similar except for the initial source of ammonia. Whatever method you choose, you'll need a test kit to monitor the different forms of nitrogen.

Ammonia makes it so easy, so it's too bad you can't get some. That's the method I'm most familiar with.

I like using a heater to keep the temp at least 80 F/27 C to speed up the process. I also use a bacterial starter, but it seems not everyone finds them worth it. If you can start cycling with just substrate and hardscape, that will make your life easier because you won't need to have lights on for any plants which can also grow algae, especially while the nitrogen is so high.

For shrimp, it's even better if you can let the tank mature for an extra month or two after cycling to let conditions stabilize and biofilm establish.

It's hard to mess up fishless cycling as long as you give the tank a nitrogen source and time. If you don't supply enough, it will just slow down the process. Also be sure to test how well cycled it is before introducing any livestock. And you always have the option of doing frequent water changes until cycling is complete if you do find ammonia accumulating once the fish are in.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-25-2020, 11:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blackpearl View Post
Ammonia makes it so easy, so it's too bad you can't get some. That's the method I'm most familiar with.

I like using a heater to keep the temp at least 80 F/27 C to speed up the process. I also use a bacterial starter, but it seems not everyone finds them worth it. If you can start cycling with just substrate and hardscape, that will make your life easier because you won't need to have lights on for any plants which can also grow algae, especially while the nitrogen is so high.
Hi cykeclops. I'd be very, very surprised if you can't get ammonia anywhere you live. It's such a basic cleaning product and is in every supermarket I go to. It should be very cheap. Like blackpearl, I like this method and always use it now. Before I plant or add any fish etc. I cycle the tank by adding ammonia. Having said that, if you really can't get ammonia, then put something in the tank that will rot (nitrogen sauce as blackpearl said). I have heard of people using prawns, I don't like the idea of that, I'd probably just go for some plant that will die and rot away. When I got my fists tank as a kid, the store owner sent me home with 2 goldfish and a little gravel out of his tank (bacteria source) to put in my tank for a week before I came back to buy fish. I lived a long way from the shop and it was a few weeks before I went back. But that worked too. I didn't own a test kit. Now my bacteria source is other tanks, but you can also get some water or stones from a pond, river or lake etc.

One product I have found really useful for this process is a Seachem Ammonia Alert. It hangs in your tank and is a constant display of the ammonia level. It's a lot more convenient than doing a test every time you want to know the levels. I normally cycle my tank until I can tip ammonia in and get a high reading and the tank can process it down to zero by the same day. Then I plant and add fish etc.

Good luck.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-26-2020, 07:00 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks so much for your replies!
I’ll listen to your advice and cycle the tank without plants and fish initially and leave it for an extra few months to help the biofilm build up. I’ll also definitely check out Seachem Ammonia Alert. For my bacterial source I’ve been planning to either get a starter or ask either my LFS owner or one of my dad’s friends who keeps fish for substrate and/or filter media (or maybe a combination of these options).

Quote:
Originally Posted by blackpearl View Post
Ammonia makes it so easy, so it's too bad you can't get some. That's the method I'm most familiar with.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Farmer View Post
I'd be very, very surprised if you can't get ammonia anywhere you live. It's such a basic cleaning product and is in every supermarket I go to. It should be very cheap.
On the subject of buying ammonia:
Technically there has been ammonia for sale at the nearby supermarkets I checked but I didn’t think I could use them because they contained additives like eucalyptus or soap. However, both of you mentioning how good it is for cycling has encouraged me to keep looking (if I still can’t find it without scents and other additives I’ll probably use the plant method Farmer mentioned).

Once again, thanks for all your help and I hope you have a nice day : )

Last edited by cykeclops; 06-26-2020 at 07:10 AM. Reason: Spelling
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-26-2020, 07:45 AM
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Yes donít buy ammonia with additives, use 100% pure ammonia. Might check with hardware store for it.

A alternative is what they call ghost feeding. You basically pretend your feeding 1-2 small fishes in tank daily, as food decomposes it releases ammonia in tank. If you can add a few ramshorn snails so they eat that waste and poop even better, snail poop is loaded with good bacteria. Feed enough so you see it showing on ammonia test at 1-2ppm reading and find the amount of food you need to add every day or two to keep it there. In about 1.5wk youíll see nitrites start to climb, about 1.5-2wk after that you should see nitrates climbing.

Then back off on ghost feeding to about half rate you started with and you should be able to detect barely noticeable levels of ammonia and nitrite and nitrate levels will continue to rise. When you see 15-20ppm of final stage which is nitrate its time to start small water changes and start thinking about getting a few fish. When you add fish etc your adding fish poop into that nitrogen cycle youíve just setup, monitor itís ammonia levels, fish poop generates ammonia much quicker because itís already partially broken down by digestive track. Increase water changes as needed.

Good thing about ghost feeding is besides organic nitrogen compounds your adding to tank it also adds organic phosphate and sulfates, there is such a thing as phosphate cycle and sulfur cycle, this ghost feeding preps those cycles as well. They are much quicker and easier to implement in a aquarium. But most people who see a brown algae/diatom surge soon after adding livestock is because they have no phosphate or sulfur cycle set up, all they setup with pure ammonia dosing is nitrogen cycle. I would always recommend if your doing ammonia only cycling start ghost feeding during the last week or so of cycling. Youíll be so much further along in having a stabile tank if you do.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-26-2020, 08:28 AM
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Hi!
Iím in the same boat.
Getting back to Fishkeeping after many years. It is SO much fancier now!!!

I just filled my tank with water today. I have a 36G bowfront, no co2... sand substrate. LOTS of filtration. Running a Fluval 307 and a large sponge filter with a 50g capacity pump.

I am also doing fishless cycling.
No reason to stress or kill poor fish.

There IS SO MUCH info.

I finally landed on the method of adding ammonia to the tank to jump start it.
Mostly bc the approach made sense to me in my mind.

I have some plants. Iíve put in root tabs (sand substrates for not contain nutrients) Iíve conditioned the water. Tank is full.

I got my filters and heater running.

Everything seems to work.

Tested the water. Wrote down results.

Tomorrow Iím planning to add the recommended amount of ammonia.
Then test after about an hour to see if I hit it right.

I also have ďquick startĒ from API on stand by. But Iím hoping I wonít have to use it. Iíve heard too many tales of bacteria crashing.

There are other ways to speed it up. Some people put in a shrimp in a filter baggie.

Some wait and put some food in.

This is not an instant gratification hobby. You have to look at the recommendations and choose one that makes sense to you and give it a shot to see how it goes.

Who knows... maybe my set up will crash and burn... but Iíll know not to do it next time 🙂

Good luck!!!!

If you are uncertain about the ammonia in your local store, or it is hard to find, you can also get a little container of ďaquarium safeĒ ammonia in Amazon.

Just search.

You wonít need much.

Itís likely a little bit more expensive By volume than at the hardware store but I think I got mine for like 6-7 dollars anyway.

Last edited by Darkblade48; 06-26-2020 at 04:18 PM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-26-2020, 08:48 AM
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Yea, if OP is in a major metro area like Sydney finding 100% pure ammonia shouldnít be that hard. Look at hardware stores or industrial cleaning supply outlets.
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-13-2020, 02:30 AM Thread Starter
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Hi everyone!
If any of you were curious about what I ended up doing, I had to take a break from doing anything with my tank for a few months. Part of my house got renovated which meant I had to keep moving my tank around and couldn't put any water in it! I still couldn't get my hands on any ammonia with no additives during that time so I settled on a frozen bait fish in a mesh bag (I plan to remove it when my ammonia levels get to 2ppm).

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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-13-2020, 03:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cykeclops View Post
Hi everyone!
If any of you were curious about what I ended up doing, I had to take a break from doing anything with my tank for a few months. Part of my house got renovated which meant I had to keep moving my tank around and couldn't put any water in it! I still couldn't get my hands on any ammonia with no additives during that time so I settled on a frozen bait fish in a mesh bag (I plan to remove it when my ammonia levels get to 2ppm).

It looks like it's going to be a nice scape.

The real fountain of youth is being a musician
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