Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Universe,Milky Way Galaxy,Earth,United States,California
Wow, people are still cycling their tanks? I've discovered over the years that it isn't necessary unless you're planning on having some delicate species in the tank. You can actually get a tank up and running in as little as a day or two if you do the following:
1. Test kits are good, and I'd reccommend you get this product in particular: Sea Chem Ammonia Alert. It'll cost you about $10, and it gives you constant ammonnia readings for about a year. Just stick it to the inside wall of your tank. If pH is going to be a great concern, they also have a similar product for pH readings.
2. After you have all the substrates, filters hooked up, and the misc., add the tap water, then use a water conditioner. Yes, this may give you initial ammonia readings, which is fine, natural, and should be on the low side. Here, you'll actally see your Ammonia Alert working too, which is neat.
3. Next up is getting yourself some Stress Zyme by API. This is just bacteria in a bottle. Really, any brand should do. This addresses the major parts of the nitrogen cycle - the breakdown of Ammonia and the Nitrites. After some time, again with the Ammonia Alert, you'll see the ammonia drop to safe levels. Water changes and plants will handle the nitrates. Your filters airating the water will keep the bacteria alive and multiplying.
4. Really, that's pretty much it. 2 products - the water conditioner and the bacteria gets you setup. There's other things you can do like waiting a day before starting up your filters or using the water conditioner to allow the bubbles from the chlorines to seep out somewhat, but not really necessarily since the water is fish safe once the conditioner is put in. What you do next really depends on what you're trying to setup here - a fish only tank (salt,brackish,warm,cold) or one with plants.
5. The method I mentioned allows you to put fish in the same day, but please acclimate them. The pH differences between your water and the store's can kill the fish. So I hope you understand this part of the hobby - just keep adding your tank water into the fish's bag periodically over about an hour of time. If the store mentions this, which they rarely seem to these days, they will usually say 20 minutes. Acclimating them slowly over longer periods of time will increase the fish's chances of surviving.
6. As a side note, you actually don't have to use test kits, there are ways to know what's going on. For example, if you buy a fish and dump in the tank within seconds of getting him home and he's dead a few hours later you likely have a pH problem. Well, it certainly doesn't match the store's. Next, if you have alot of fish food, dead fish, or other organic waste, then you'll have high ammonia levels. You'll know it's too high when you see dead fish daily. If you get algae outbreaks, then you likely have a high nitrate problem.
Hope that helps.