Fishless Cycling Breaking Down - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-25-2020, 03:27 PM Thread Starter
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Fishless Cycling Breaking Down

I started my fishless cycle on 10/20 by adding ammonia.

10/22 Ammonia levels were at 4.0, PH 7.6 so I added some crushed fish food, Stability and Prime.

10/23 Ammonia levels were at 3.0, Nitrite at 5.0 and Nitrate at 20.0

10/24 Ammonia at 4.0, PH 7.8, Nitrite 5.0, Nitrate 10.0 - Added Prime

10/25 Ammonia at 4.0, PH 7.8, Nitrite 2.0, Nitrate 10.0

I have a few plants in the tank and heater cranked up to 86. Water temp is at 86-87.

There is white fuzzy algae on the driftwood.

I've been cleaning the glass throughout the process, it just occurred to me that I am literally disrupting the bacteria growth by doing that. At this point I should just step away and let things work themselves out and continue to add Prime every other day. Does that sound right?
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-25-2020, 06:34 PM
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I wouldn't worry about cleaning the front glass. The amount you may be wiping off will be inconsequential. The point is is to enjoy your aquarium, and keeping the front clean in order to do so will do no harm.
I typically change water regularly when cycling to not allow the ammonia to get too high ( which may disrupt cycling) and keep algae growth to a minimum. Changing water will not stall your cycle-- as long as you are de-chlorinating, of course; the beneficial bacteria grows on surfaces in the aquarium and in filter.

It usually takes me about 2-3 weeks to cycle a tank for fish and 6 weeks for shrimp. So, you are on the right track.
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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-25-2020, 09:19 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the encouragement. Adding a picture of the driftwood to show what the algae is like at this point.
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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-26-2020, 03:24 AM
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Milky-clear 'slime' on driftwood in a new setup is perfectly normal. It's not harmful, probably just the 'good' bacteria you are adding colonizing the tank and making use of the nutrients seeping from the wood. It's harmless and will go away in time, but you can remove and wash the wood (if possible), or clean with a toothbrush before siphoning out the tank if it bothers you. Critters like amano shrimp may eat any remnants once you start to stock the tank. Looks a bit unsightly and disconcerting I know (my new driftwood was coated in a 0.5-1.0" layer all over for first few weeks!), but don't worry about it.

Why are you adding Prime every other day? I'm assuming to detoxify the ammonia, is that right? There is no need to do this when fishless cycling as there is no livestock for the ammonia to be toxic too! If the ammonia level gets too high (2-4ppm range is good from memory), then reduce it with a water change. No need to add Prime apart from when you do water changes as a dechlorinator.

However it is worth adding Stability (bacteria) daily / every other day to help the biofilter develop.

Why have the heater cranked up so high? I know very cold temp can slow biofilter development, but I have never heard of the need to heat the tank so high. Someone on this forum gave me the advice of setting up the tank for cycling exactly how you want to be once it's stocked (i.e. same lighting, water parameters, temp, etc). That way the biofilter that develops is matched to your long term tank conditions. Seems to make sense to me! Only thing I now alter for cycling is to maybe add an additional air-stone since good oxygenation can help the bacteria colonies to develop.
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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-26-2020, 04:09 AM Thread Starter
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Milky-clear 'slime' on driftwood in a new setup is perfectly normal. It's not harmful, probably just the 'good' bacteria you are adding colonizing the tank and making use of the nutrients seeping from the wood. It's harmless and will go away in time, but you can remove and wash the wood (if possible), or clean with a toothbrush before siphoning out the tank if it bothers you. Critters like amano shrimp may eat any remnants once you start to stock the tank. Looks a bit unsightly and disconcerting I know (my new driftwood was coated in a 0.5-1.0" layer all over for first few weeks!), but don't worry about it.

Why are you adding Prime every other day? I'm assuming to detoxify the ammonia, is that right? There is no need to do this when fishless cycling as there is no livestock for the ammonia to be toxic too! If the ammonia level gets too high (2-4ppm range is good from memory), then reduce it with a water change. No need to add Prime apart from when you do water changes as a dechlorinator.

However it is worth adding Stability (bacteria) daily / every other day to help the biofilter develop.

Why have the heater cranked up so high? I know very cold temp can slow biofilter development, but I have never heard of the need to heat the tank so high. Someone on this forum gave me the advice of setting up the tank for cycling exactly how you want to be once it's stocked (i.e. same lighting, water parameters, temp, etc). That way the biofilter that develops is matched to your long term tank conditions. Seems to make sense to me! Only thing I now alter for cycling is to maybe add an additional air-stone since good oxygenation can help the bacteria colonies to develop.
I have added Prime based on the recommendation from Seachem's example schedule on their website. I only just found it so I am starting late.

It makes sense to do have the temp at the levels you want for the regular tank setup. I just read that higher temp promotes bacterial growth.

Thanks for the feedback.
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-26-2020, 02:48 PM
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I have added Prime based on the recommendation from Seachem's example schedule on their website. I only just found it so I am starting late.
Sorry, confused. We're talking about Seachem Prime - water dechlorinator, right? Prime only needs to be added to the new water when performing a water change (assuming that you are using tap water that potentially has chlorine / chloramine in it).

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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-29-2020, 04:52 PM Thread Starter
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I did a 60% water change 2 days ago, added Stability and Flourish Excel for the plants. Today the Ammonia is around 1.0, Nitrite is high (4.0-8.0), Nitrate is at 20.0 and PH is 7.8

Going to keep adding Stability and measuring until Ammo is 0 and Nitrite is lower.
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-29-2020, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by outspoken View Post
I have added Prime based on the recommendation from Seachem's example schedule on their website. I only just found it so I am starting late.

It makes sense to do have the temp at the levels you want for the regular tank setup. I just read that higher temp promotes bacterial growth.

Thanks for the feedback.
AFA temperature, higher is better. My last setup, a 40g breeder, cycled in 3 weeks at 85F. I dropped the temp down to 82F when it cycled. Here is an article that explains it well.

https://aquaticcreationsgroup.com/ed...cycle-overview

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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-30-2020, 12:30 AM
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I'm far from being a chemical guru but it is my thinking that you are shooting yourself in the foot by using Prime during fishless cycle. There is not need to dechlor if there are no fish and the way I understand Prime working is that it converts ammonia to the less dangerous ammonium. The problem is that our hobby level test sets, will read not only ammonia but also ammonium as one reading. That would seem to me that you are quite likely to not have ammonia in the tank to start the process of growing the first stage good bacteria which use ammonia?
Nature works slowly and the cycle takes time, so there is some obvious problem with the readings of nitrite and nitrate only two days after starting, so give some thought to what is wrong with the testing or what is adding nitrate as it is not coming from the bacteria that quickly!
I might suggest stepping back to ask what it is you are working to achieve with the fishless cycle. Is there some driving item like a large shipment of fish so that you do want a large bacteria colony? It seems like you may have stumbled into doing bits and pieces of several different ideas on how to do the cycle.
There are ways to mod the process but it is important to look at those mods to see if it fits what you are wanting to do!
First point might be the question of why we use the right type of ammonia that has nothing else added rather than using food of some sort. With the correct ammonia we can figure out how much and how often to add it without the added confusion of having and unknown amount of ammonia added from waste food.
With plants already in the tank, there will be an unknown amount of waste from them to make the calculations more difficult. But if one is not needing a huge bacteria colony before adding a bunch of fish, the plants are often good enough to avoid the trauma of a fishless cycle as long as we don't clean and kill too many of the bacteria we want!
So what's the plan, as the current seems to have too many questions involved to get good results.
I would definitely drop the temp to a more normal tank temp.
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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-30-2020, 01:02 AM
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I'm gonna disagree with Rich and suggest that Prime can benefit in a cycle. Ammonia is not only toxic to stock, but also, at high levels, toxic to the very nitrosomonas bacteria we need to convert it into nitrites. So the conversion to ammonium, in some cases, can be a benefit, especially since it's tough to know exactly how much is too much. Here are some other thoughts on Tank Cycling.
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post #11 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-30-2020, 03:22 AM
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I'm gonna disagree with Rich and suggest that Prime can benefit in a cycle. Ammonia is not only toxic to stock, but also, at high levels, toxic to the very nitrosomonas bacteria we need to convert it into nitrites. So the conversion to ammonium, in some cases, can be a benefit, especially since it's tough to know exactly how much is too much. Here are some other thoughts on Tank Cycling.
I certainly can agree that too much ammonia is going to kill off the good bacteria we need, however, it seems much more direct and simple if we just reduce the amount of ammonia we add. Isn't the point of starting by adding ammonia to the correct level and holding it there by adding the correct amount as we go along a far better way to know what we are doing?
That's where I feel it is very important to define what it is we are trying to do when we do a fishless cycle.
What's the point of doing a fishless cycle if there is not going to be a need for a large bacteria colony which is normally needed when we are going to have a bunch of fish arrive all at one time which does really need a fishless cycle? There seems to be lots of different levels of cycle for different settings but if the OP is adding ammonia to jack the level up and then using Prime to neutralize those levels, it really seems like a better plan is needed.
With a situation where there is ammonium from treating ammonia with Prime, how does one ever test and figure out how much ammonia to add?
The fishless cycle process is pretty straightforward and simple when done right but when we throw in mods to the process it sometimes gets really hard to tell if we are really getting anything worthwhile done.
I look at fishless cycle as a special occasion deal for when it is really needed but only an act of desperation when there are far easier ways to go about getting a normal cycle done. A simple swap for some used media is my best bet for doing cycles on new tanks.
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post #12 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-30-2020, 04:31 AM
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@PlantedRich, I hear you. Then again we hear a lot about stalled fishless cycles due to high ammonia levels. So like partial water changes, a product like Prime is just another tool for control. I always 'instant cycle' as pointed out in my Blog post, so I've never done a fishless cycle with commercial ammonia.

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post #13 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-30-2020, 03:15 PM
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@PlantedRich, I hear you. Then again we hear a lot about stalled fishless cycles due to high ammonia levels. So like partial water changes, a product like Prime is just another tool for control. I always 'instant cycle' as pointed out in my Blog post, so I've never done a fishless cycle with commercial ammonia.
Yes, it is common to hear about stalled cycles and it is quite commonly due to not following the steps correctly and letting the ammonia get too high. Testing and getting the right level of ammonia is critical to getting the cycle right.
Since our kits can't define what portion is ammonia and which is ammonium, I just never felt it good to add the wildcard factor of ammonium.
The straight fishless is pretty straight if done as first intended but it is also slow and tedious so there are lots of mods made to the process to speed it up and some work better than others.
That leaves me thinking that it is often not a case of the process not working but more one of the user not working the process correctly! When we reinvent the wheel, we need to look carefully if we get a bumpy ride?
Planted tanks do certainly teach us patience---or we pay the price!
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post #14 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-30-2020, 07:33 PM
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Yes, it is common to hear about stalled cycles, and it is quite commonly due to not following the steps correctly and letting the ammonia get too high. Testing and getting the right level of ammonia is critical to getting the cycle right.
Since our kits can't define what portion is ammonia and which is ammonium, I just never felt it good to add the wildcard factor of ammonium.
The straight fishless is pretty straight if done as first intended, but it is also slow and tedious, so there are lots of mods made to the process to speed it up, and some work better than others.
That leaves me thinking that it is often not a case of the process not working but more one of the user not working the process correctly! When we reinvent the wheel, we need to look carefully if we get a bumpy ride?
Planted tanks do certainly teach us patience---or we pay the price!

A bit of common sense added to the science involved goes a long way. Keeping everything safely within parameters is common sense. I prefer being able to control my parameters, so I use ammonium chloride at about 2-3ppm and keep my ph well above 7.0 when cycling, as well as using a good quality starter bacteria (I use Dr. Tim's). If I have a seeded filter that I can use on the tank, all the better. Usually, when I hear of someone with a stalled cycle, they have missed some aspect of setting up the tank for cycling.
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post #15 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-31-2020, 03:09 PM Thread Starter
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I might suggest stepping back to ask what it is you are working to achieve with the fishless cycle. Is there some driving item like a large shipment of fish so that you do want a large bacteria colony? It seems like you may have stumbled into doing bits and pieces of several different ideas on how to do the cycle.
There are ways to mod the process but it is important to look at those mods to see if it fits what you are wanting to do!
This is an extremely important question that I did not have enough knowledge to answer. I read a few articles on starting a tank with the fishless cycle and the fish-in cycle. Took bits and pieces and tried a process that doesn't exactly fit any of the parameters. Not sure why I thought that was a good idea, but I wanted to get started and I'm here now.

I have been adding Prime to the water before it enters the tank. I wait 24 hours before adding it. This was during a 60% water change and to add some water after taking measurements.

Today the readings were 0 Ammonia, 4-5+ Nitrite (really it was unreadable, a color not on the chart but definitely purple) and 20 Nitrate.

At this point I'm not sure where to go.

My goal is to get some fish in the tank. I'm looking at some loaches, angelfish and guppy/tetra.

Last edited by outspoken; 10-31-2020 at 08:46 PM. Reason: Updated test readings
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