Tank cycle questions..... - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-01-2014, 02:01 AM Thread Starter
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Tank cycle questions.....

Hi all, new here with a few questions.

Here is a little background on my setup. I bought a 20 gallon long tank and fit it with a Fluval C2 fliter, 75 watt heater, co2 injection, Finnex Ray 2 led light, and Floramax substrate. I purchased a bunch of Glossostigma plants to carpet and some Dwarf Sage from an online store. I got the tank filled up and when the plants came in I planted them. I consider this to be day 1.

I opted to not put fish in for 2 weeks to let the tank cycle with just the plants. After 2 weeks, I put 6 neon tetras in hoping for a silent cycle. On week 3 I noticed a large amount of hair algae growing so went and bought a couple of ottocats and some shrimp. It turns out after further reading that the hair algae was just diatoms. After cleaning this stuff out of my tank every day, it seems to be going away on its own. Unfortunately, the fish I got at the LFS had a bad case of ich which I didn't realize until I bought them and was looking at them in my tank and wondering why they looked like pretzels. Hey, I'm still new to all this! I've been treating them with the Kordon Ich Attack which seems to be working well. Just one cyst left on one fish with no losses.

So after 4 weeks with the fish and shrimp, I'm getting zero readings on Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels. pH is right at 7 and my drop checker for co2 reads normal. I'm wondering when is a good time to add more fish. I know I've got to wait at least a week once the ich clears up, but I'm concerned about the safety of adding more fish. I should also note that I removed the carbon filter in the C2 for the ich treatment and I still saw no rise in ammonia, nitrite or nitrates. Also my tank is planted with glossostigma and dwarf sage. The dwarf sage is stagnant, but I've been trimming the glosso every week!
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-01-2014, 02:04 AM Thread Starter
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Here are some photos.......
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-01-2014, 02:10 AM Thread Starter
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more photos.......

I should also note that I put in a power head as I was told it would inhibit the hair algae.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-01-2014, 02:16 AM Thread Starter
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I also dose with micro nutrients and excel.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-01-2014, 02:17 AM Thread Starter
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These pics were taken right after trimming and a water change. I should also note that the plants came from Fired up aquatics.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-01-2014, 02:23 AM
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Gorgeous tank. I also have a recently set up 20 long, and love the look of that particular shape tank.

For your cycle, if you're getting 0/0 ammonia and nitrite you're probably good to go. The ich was possibly (I'm regurgitating other stuff I've read, I'm new at this too) caused by adding fish before the cycle finished.

If you're getting 0 nitrAte readings, and assuming you're unsing an API test kit, are you sure you're shaking the bottles enough? One of them has a bad habit of crystallizing after 24-48 hours, so you really have to beat the cr*p out of it and shake it around for a good while.
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-01-2014, 03:05 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks!

Yes using the API test kit, shaking well prior to testing. Still zero's across the board.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-01-2014, 04:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by W1ngz View Post
Gorgeous tank. I also have a recently set up 20 long, and love the look of that particular shape tank.

For your cycle, if you're getting 0/0 ammonia and nitrite you're probably good to go. The ich was possibly (I'm regurgitating other stuff I've read, I'm new at this too) caused by adding fish before the cycle finished.

If you're getting 0 nitrAte readings, and assuming you're unsing an API test kit, are you sure you're shaking the bottles enough? One of them has a bad habit of crystallizing after 24-48 hours, so you really have to beat the cr*p out of it and shake it around for a good while.
Its bottle number 2 that gets pretty darn thick and should be beaten to death...
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-01-2014, 07:53 AM
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Seeing zero nitrates suggests the plants are using all the nitrogen in all the forms it may be showing up. The fish are producing ammonia, and the plants can use that. Whatever nitrogen cycle bacteria are in the tank will convert remaining ammonia to nitrite and nitrate, and the plants can use these, too.

Ich is caused by an organism that was on the fish. The stress of shipping to the store, then capture and relocating to your tank weakened the fish enough that the Ich was able to thrive.
An un-cycled tank can also cause stress.
But it sounds like your tank is cycled, and that the plants had a couple of weeks to get established before you added fish. Next time I would be adding ammonia during the time you are waiting for the plants to get going. What you did for 2 weeks was not cycling the tank, just getting the plants rooted. Cycling means growing the bacteria, and you are not doing that if you are not feeding them.

Get a 2nd tank to quarantine ALL new fish before adding them to the main tank. That way you can treat the new fish without disturbing the established tank. I treat new fish for internal parasites, and watch them for whatever else they may be bringing in (especially Ich).

Here is the fishless cycle:
Cycle: To grow the beneficial bacteria that remove ammonia and nitrite from the aquarium.

Fish-In Cycle: To expose fish to toxins while using them as the source of ammonia to grow nitrogen cycle bacteria. Exposure to ammonia burns the gills and other soft tissue, stresses the fish and lowers their immunity. Exposure to nitrite makes the blood unable to carry oxygen. Research methemglobinemia for details.

Fishless Cycle: The safe way to grow more bacteria, faster, in an aquarium, pond or riparium.

The method I give here was developed by 2 scientists who wanted to quickly grow enough bacteria to fully stock a tank all at one time, with no plants helping, and overstock it as is common with Rift Lake Cichlid tanks.

1a) Set up the tank and all the equipment. You can plant if you want. Include the proper dose of dechlorinator with the water.
Optimum water chemistry:
GH and KH above 3 German degrees of hardness. A lot harder is just fine.
pH above 7, and into the mid 8s is just fine.
Temperature in the upper 70s F (mid 20s C) is good. Higher is OK if the water is well aerated.
A trace of other minerals may help. Usually this comes in with the water, but if you have a pinch of KH2PO4, that may be helpful.
High oxygen level. Make sure the filter and power heads are running well. Plenty of water circulation.
No toxins in the tank. If you washed the tank, or any part of the system with any sort of cleanser, soap, detergent, bleach or anything else make sure it is well rinsed. Do not put your hands in the tank when you are wearing any sort of cosmetics, perfume or hand lotion. No fish medicines of any sort.
A trace of salt (sodium chloride) is OK, but not required.
This method of growing bacteria will work in a marine system, too. The species of bacteria are different.

1b) Optional: Add any source of the bacteria that you are growing to seed the tank. Cycled media from a healthy tank is good. Decor or some gravel from a cycled tank is OK. Live plants or plastic are OK. Bottled bacteria is great, but only if it contains Nitrospira species of bacteria. Read the label and do not waste your money on anything else.
At the time this was written the right species could be found in:
Dr. Tims One and Only
Tetra Safe Start
Microbe Lift Nite Out II
...and perhaps others.
You do not have to jump start the cycle. The right species of bacteria are all around, and will find the tank pretty fast.

2) Add ammonia until the test reads 5 ppm. This ammonia is the cheapest you can find. No surfactants, no perfumes. Read the fine print. This is often found at discount stores like Dollar Tree, or hardware stores like Ace. You could also use a dead shrimp form the grocery store, or fish food. Protein breaks down to become ammonia. You do not have good control over the ammonia level, though.
Some substrates release ammonia when they are submerged for the first time. Monitor the level and do enough water changes to keep the ammonia at the levels detailed below.

3) Test daily. For the first few days not much will happen, but the bacteria that remove ammonia are getting started. Finally the ammonia starts to drop. Add a little more, once a day, to test 5 ppm.

4) Test for nitrite. A day or so after the ammonia starts to drop the nitrite will show up. When it does allow the ammonia to drop to 3 ppm.

5) Test daily. Add ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. If the nitrite or ammonia go to 5 ppm do a water change to get these lower. The ammonia removing species and the nitrite removing species (Nitrospira) do not do well when the ammonia or nitrite are over 5 ppm.

6) When the ammonia and nitrite both hit zero 24 hours after you have added the ammonia the cycle is done. You can challenge the bacteria by adding a bit more than 3 ppm ammonia, and it should be able to handle that, too, within 24 hours.

7) Now test the nitrate. Probably sky high!
Do as big a water change as needed to lower the nitrate until it is safe for fish. Certainly well under 20, and a lot lower is better. This may call for more than one water change, and up to 100% water change is not a problem. Remember the dechlor!
If you will be stocking right away (within 24 hours) no need to add more ammonia. If stocking will be delayed keep feeding the bacteria by adding ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. You will need to do another water change right before adding the fish.
__________________________

Helpful hints:

A) You can run a fishless cycle in a bucket to grow bacteria on almost any filter media like bio balls, sponges, ceramic bio noodles, lava rock or Matala mats. Simply set up any sort of water circulation such as a fountain pump or air bubbler and add the media to the bucket. Follow the directions for the fishless cycle. When the cycle is done add the media to the filter. I have run a canister filter in a bucket and done the fishless cycle.

B) The nitrogen cycle bacteria will live under a wide range of conditions and bounce back from minor set backs. By following the set up suggestions in part 1b) you are setting up optimum conditions for fastest reproduction and growth.
GH and KH can be as low as 1 degree, but watch it! These bacteria use the carbon in carbonates, and if it is all used up (KH = 0) the bacteria may die off.
pH as low as 6.5 is OK, but by 6.0 the bacteria are not going to be doing very well. They are still there, and will recover pretty well when conditions get better.
Temperature almost to freezing is OK, but they must not freeze, and they are not very active at all. They do survive in a pond, but they are slow to warm up and get going in the spring. This is where you might need to grow some in a bucket in a warm place and supplement the pond population. Too warm is not good, either. Tropical or room temperature tank temperatures are best. (68 to 85*F or 20 to 28*C)
Moderate oxygen can be tolerated for a while. However, to remove lots of ammonia and nitrite these bacteria must have oxygen. They turn one into the other by adding oxygen. If you must stop running the filter for an hour or so, no problem. If longer, remove the media and keep it where it will get more oxygen.
Once the bacteria are established they can tolerate some fish medicines. This is because they live in a complex film called Bio film on all the surfaces in the filter and the tank. Medicines do not enter the bio film well.
These bacteria do not need to live under water. They do just fine in a humid location. They live in healthy garden soil, as well as wet locations.

C) Planted tanks may not tolerate 3 ppm or 5 ppm ammonia. It is possible to cycle the tank at lower levels of ammonia so the plants do not get ammonia burn. Add ammonia to only 1 ppm, but test twice a day, and add ammonia as needed to keep it at 1 ppm. The plants are also part of the bio filter, and you may be able to add the fish sooner, if the plants are thriving.
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