Why add fish slowly? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 50 (permalink) Old 03-19-2014, 11:41 PM Thread Starter
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Why add fish slowly?

There's a well-established rule in the aquarium hobby that says always add fish slowly (2 or 3 at a time, maybe 4 if they're really small). But explain this to me.... At the end of my "fishless cycle" I can dose my tank with ammonia and instantly bring the ammonia level up to 4 or 5 ppm. In just 24 hours the ammonia is gone completely, and nitrites are on their way out too. And yet, everyone still insists that it's necessary to add fish slowly. Why?! I find it difficult to believe that adding 10 neon tetras will cause an ammonia crisis more severe than when I dump in 10ml of janitorial strength ammonia. Will 10 or 12 neon tetras instantly raise the ammonia level to 4 ppm? Instead of the sudden rise in ammonia caused by fishless cycle ammonia dosing, I expect that 10 or so neon tetras would cause only a gradual increase in ammonia that my beneficial bacteria would handle easily. How am I mistaken? Why is it necessary to add fish slowly when fishless cycling prepares such a robust colony of beneficial bacteria?

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post #2 of 50 (permalink) Old 03-19-2014, 11:51 PM
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In your situation it would be fine to add a whole school to an empty tank. The add fish slowly rule is meant for well established tanks where you not only don't want to tip the chemical balance but also need to see how the new residents fare with the old residents.
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post #3 of 50 (permalink) Old 03-20-2014, 12:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Oxl View Post
In your situation it would be fine to add a whole school to an empty tank. The add fish slowly rule is meant for well established tanks where you not only don't want to tip the chemical balance but also need to see how the new residents fare with the old residents.
+1 indeed.

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post #4 of 50 (permalink) Old 03-20-2014, 12:50 AM
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So yet again we find how easy it is to get bad information. !
What you are getting is a mix of old school thinking with new thinking on the process. The major point of fishless is to prepare the tank for a full load.
This is one of the main points on running a cichlid tank. If you do it the old " add 'em slow" technique with a bunch of the rowdy types, you will have a boatload of trouble. New folks often will not be able to find their place in the pecking order. You have to add them all at once in some cases to avoid the established group beating up the new fish.
Unfortunaltly bad information rarely dies!
When you've completed the full fishless cycle and both ammonia and nitrite are being processed, go for the full amount if you want.
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post #5 of 50 (permalink) Old 03-20-2014, 01:29 AM
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+1
Just think about adding 2-3 fish to QT per week: treat the old guys, then treat the new and the old, and ... repeat.

Even for schooling fish: school of 3, then school of 7, then 12 - bet stresses them even more. Try that with cardinals, rummynoses, ottos, ...

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post #6 of 50 (permalink) Old 03-20-2014, 04:25 AM
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If you add the fish right after doing a big water change to be sure you have reduced the ammonia in the water to virtually zero, you should do fine just adding all of them at once. But, if you wait a few days after you do that big water change, much of that big bacteria colony will have shut down for lack of food, and you can still have ammonia problems as the colony restarts. Personally I like adding a few fish at a time, so I don't bother at all adding ammonia to the tank. I also wait until my plants are all growing well before adding any fish. That lets the plants take care of the ammonia from the fish, even if the bacteria colony isn't in the best shape. There is more than one way to start a tank.

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post #7 of 50 (permalink) Old 03-20-2014, 04:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oxl View Post
In your situation it would be fine to add a whole school to an empty tank. The add fish slowly rule is meant for well established tanks where you not only don't want to tip the chemical balance but also need to see how the new residents fare with the old residents.
Agree.. Adding fish slowly only implied when the bio load would be more than the system could handle, causing a jump in ammonia, nitrates and nitrites.

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post #8 of 50 (permalink) Old 03-20-2014, 12:05 PM
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Yikes! I cringed a little at the thought of dosing a tank with ammonia!
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post #9 of 50 (permalink) Old 03-20-2014, 12:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoppy View Post
If you add the fish right after doing a big water change to be sure you have reduced the ammonia in the water to virtually zero, you should do fine just adding all of them at once. But, if you wait a few days after you do that big water change, much of that big bacteria colony will have shut down for lack of food, and you can still have ammonia problems as the colony restarts. Personally I like adding a few fish at a time, so I don't bother at all adding ammonia to the tank. I also wait until my plants are all growing well before adding any fish. That lets the plants take care of the ammonia from the fish, even if the bacteria colony isn't in the best shape. There is more than one way to start a tank.

+one
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post #10 of 50 (permalink) Old 03-20-2014, 12:31 PM
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For me it's not really about the bioload. I stock so lightly and plant so heavily that that's not really a concern. What is a concern is making sure my new acquisitions are doing well. It's a lot easier to troubleshoot, look for problems, and make sure everyone's eating amongst a group of 4 fish than it is for a group of 12.

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post #11 of 50 (permalink) Old 03-20-2014, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Smeagol View Post
There's a well-established rule in the aquarium hobby that says always add fish slowly (2 or 3 at a time, maybe 4 if they're really small). But explain this to me.... At the end of my "fishless cycle" I can dose my tank with ammonia and instantly bring the ammonia level up to 4 or 5 ppm. In just 24 hours the ammonia is gone completely, and nitrites are on their way out too. And yet, everyone still insists that it's necessary to add fish slowly. Why?! I find it difficult to believe that adding 10 neon tetras will cause an ammonia crisis more severe than when I dump in 10ml of janitorial strength ammonia. Will 10 or 12 neon tetras instantly raise the ammonia level to 4 ppm? Instead of the sudden rise in ammonia caused by fishless cycle ammonia dosing, I expect that 10 or so neon tetras would cause only a gradual increase in ammonia that my beneficial bacteria would handle easily. How am I mistaken? Why is it necessary to add fish slowly when fishless cycling prepares such a robust colony of beneficial bacteria?
I have a question, your signature indicates a 55 gal "cycling" and a 20 gal already established??
Why go to the trouble of fishless cycling which still takes week's,when you could borrow filter media ,substrate, from already established tank and seed the 55 gal with already healthy bacteria.?
Then you could add a few fish at a time immediately without the daily dosing,testing,with ammonia.(plant's would be a plus)
Some folk's who use fishless cycling method can still get in trouble depending on number's of fish added at once, size of fish added, size of tank,number of feeding's per day,and pH which is non issue with more acidic water,more concerning with ph above 7.0.
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post #12 of 50 (permalink) Old 03-20-2014, 02:51 PM
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As in most things we do, it has to be adapted to fit the situation.
The folks who say fishless cycle has no value are wrong, just as those who say it is required are also wrong. Shallow thinking on both ends!
Anybody who has 10-12 large expensive fish shipped in and pays $50 -100 for shipping, will certainly know the value of fishless cycles. Those who go down to the local shop and buy two fish at a time should certainly know that it is not required in their case.
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post #13 of 50 (permalink) Old 03-20-2014, 02:52 PM
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I ran into the "only add 2 or 3 fish at a time" to a tank two weeks ago at a very popular LFS in Champaign, IL.

I was buying 10 red eye and 5 phantom tetras. The worker asked me what size tank it was and how long it was set up. I informed her that it was a 55 gallon and it was a 3 month old planted tank that I have completed a "fishless cycle."

She advised me to only buy only 2 or 3 tetras because the immediate bio load would be too great for my new tank.
I told her that a fishless cycled tank already has the required bacteria to support a large bio load immediately.
She told me that she would sell me the fish but would not warrant them.

It has been two weeks and ammonia, nitrite levels are 0 while nitrate level is approximately between 0 and 0.25 ppm.

All 15 tetras are still alive.

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Last edited by Lab_Man; 03-20-2014 at 02:54 PM. Reason: comma
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post #14 of 50 (permalink) Old 03-20-2014, 04:21 PM
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Can't say that I would have worried much about Tetra bio load on a 55 gal.
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post #15 of 50 (permalink) Old 03-20-2014, 05:15 PM
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But then there is still a great deal of opportunity for bad info.
There are those who define "fishless cycle" quite different than others. Some use ammonia and do wind up with a full load of bacteria ready to support a boatload of fish. But then there are also those who have missed a fair amount of the idea. They consider a fishless cycle to be something as useless as letting the tank and plants set for a given amount of time and then consider that they have done a "fishless cycle". The first will support the fish, the second may not.
With that in mind I can't really fault the girl for having some doubt. But then that would have been a real opportunity to ask more questions.
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