TSS fishless cycle with plants?! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-18-2014, 03:23 PM Thread Starter
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TSS fishless cycle with plants?!

Hi all,

I have a 6 gallon nano tank I am trying to cycle with Tetra Safe Start. I already had some (dying) plants which are planted.

I have used organic worm castings (because I had some at home and I boiled beforehand) as my substrate with plain gravel on top. I also stuck in 2 root tabs for the plants (one is an Anubia and I think the other is java fern?)

After dosing with Safe Start the other day, my levels today are:
Ammonia 1.0
Nitrite 0
Nitrate >160

I did a 70% water change due to the nitrate spike.

Does the low ammonia and 0 nitrite suggest that after this water change, my tank will be cycled? I am a beginner and still trying to figure this out.

I am hoping to put in Red Cherry Shrimp to this setup, and maybe some fish. Please advise!
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-18-2014, 03:58 PM
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You need a constant ammonia source. TSS is ment to be used with fish in not fishless, also not supposed to do wcs. You probably removed the free floating bacteria.

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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-18-2014, 04:37 PM
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TSS is doing exactly as advertised and dealing with whatever ammonia/nitrites you had in the system at the time it was poured in.

What you dont know right now is if those bacteria survived and are propagating. You need to continue to feed the bacteria (using ammonia) and monitor your levels. When your tank can safely process 2ppm in a 24 hour period is when I would call your cycle completed.

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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-18-2014, 07:19 PM
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When you say you used root tabs for the two plants you have, Anubias and Java Fern, it makes me wonder how you planted them. Neither one of these plants should have their "roots" stuck into the gravel. These plants grow by attaching themselves to something like a rock or piece of driftwood. Burying the rhizome ("root") in the substrate will cause them to rot. These plants will extract nutrients from the water column.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-19-2014, 12:04 AM
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I think your sky high NO3 might be from root tablets or worm castings, and only a little bit from any ammonia being handled by the beneficial bacteria. They usually do not kick in so fast.

I would remove the worm castings and start over.
Lightly dust the worm castings on the floor of the tank.
Then use a substrate that has a high cationic exchange capacity like Safe-T-Sorb.
The worm castings are fertilizer. Not intended to be the whole substrate.
Do not add tablets.
Plant something that grows roots into the soil where it can benefit from the worm castings.
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-21-2014, 06:36 PM Thread Starter
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Doh! Thanks for the advice. I will pull up my java fern and anubia and affix them to some driftwood or something.

As of yesterday and today, my ammonia is 0ppm, nitrite 0ppm and nitrATE is staying at 5ppm despite a 60%ish water change yesterday.

If I try to leave the worm castings as-is, what plants (with roots) would benefit from this substrate, and would they help reduce my nitrATE levels?

At least I'm down to 5.0 after the water changes from the 150+ I was at.

Should I be adding ammonia now, or just leave it as-is since ammonia and nitrites are staying at 0?

Thanks again!

Bump: Diana- what's the difference between Safe T Sorb and something like Turface? Is one better than the other?
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-21-2014, 06:50 PM
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You will either need pure ammonia(actually a percent of ammonia in water) that has no perfumes etc in it. If it foams when you shake the bottle it has those and is not good.
That or you need to add fish. The beneficial bacteria will die if they have no food.
The fish will provide the ammonia from it's waste. If you did not use the whole bottle, a tablespoon full is enough for a 6g tank and like one Betta.

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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-22-2014, 10:13 PM Thread Starter
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Hi all,

So today my ammonia was 0, nitrIte 0, and nitrAte ~40ppm.

Did another 60-70% water change, and tested my treated water that went in just to make sure of it's levels (it was 0,0,0 thankfully).

I added a couple mystery snails and put in 5 red cherry shrimp. Will this be enough you think to help generate some ammonia?

Also put in a healthy Amazon Sword. My Anubias are looking much better since pulling up and tying to some rock decoration (that and the shrimp helped clean up the hair algae that was starting to grow on it).

At this point I guess I am just going to keep up with the water changes every day or other day if the nitrAtes get over 10ppm? Thoughts about changing the substrate still? Not sure if it will eventually resolve itself or if I can just add something. Will the worm castings eventually stop contributing to the nitrAte levels over time? Or am I beating a dead horse so to s peak.

Thanks again!
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-23-2014, 06:09 PM
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My method for fish less cycling is easy, but can take some time.

Get some cheese cloth, or a panty hose and put a prawn or shrimp from the grocery store in it. Seal the cloth with a rubber band or tie a knot so as to keep the shrimp in. Submerge the shrimp and weight it down with something. The shrimp will begin to rot and create an very high level of ammonia. Wait three weeks, checking the levels every few days, once it is down to under 1ppm, remove, let sit for another day, and do a water change before adding fish. To speed up the process, ask to use some old media from your LFS or friend.

The dead shrimp will provide a constant source of ammonia for the bacteria to feed on.

For a 6g tank, I would use a few popcorn shrimp instead of a jumbo shrimp.

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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-23-2014, 09:11 PM
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My friend did the shrimp thing for cycling, what a smell.

5ppm of nitrate is nothing, you will always have some. When it gets to 40ppm its time to lower it.
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