How long does it take? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-21-2014, 08:01 PM Thread Starter
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How long does it take?

If you put an extra filter in an established tank how long would it take to built it up with bacteria? Then move this filter to help start a new tank.
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-21-2014, 08:33 PM
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It seems to take people a few weeks to get filters fishless-cycled (that is using fairly big doses of ammonia though).... I'd be thinking something around the 3-4 week mark, to get it seeded, then would still build up stock slowly in the new tank.
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-21-2014, 08:40 PM
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Week or two? How big is the established tank? If it's at least 30 gal, I'd probably install the new filter (leaving the old/current filter, too), let things run for a couple weeks, then move the OLD filter to the NEW tank. The current tank will have nitrifying bacteria all over it (not just in the filter, though that's where the majority probably is), so you'd get more benefit on the new tank by using the oldest filter (or rather, the media from the oldest filter).

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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-21-2014, 08:51 PM
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Bacteria Growth

Originally Posted by Trickster 75 View Post
If you put an extra filter in an established tank how long would it take to built it up with bacteria? Then move this filter to help start a new tank.
Hello Trick...

If the tank has a decent number of fish, then a couple of weeks should do it. If the tank is lightly stocked then give it an additional week.

When you move the filter, make sure you add fish slowly. Too many fish added at once will create water chemistry problems, by there being more fish waste than the bacteria can handle.


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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-21-2014, 08:52 PM Thread Starter
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I have a 20 gal running with an AC 20. I have a AC 70 that i will put in the 20 to build up and use as seed filter for a new start 75 gal. Was just curious how long to leave running in the 20 before moving it. I was guessing at least a month.

I have used this AC 70 in my 20 gal but it was to much current for that tank, my angels didnt like it one bit.

Originally Posted by BBradbury View Post
Hello Trick...

If the tank has a decent number of fish, then a couple of weeks should do it. If the tank is lightly stocked then give it an additional week.

When you move the filter, make sure you add fish slowly. Too many fish added at once will create water chemistry problems, by there being more fish waste than the bacteria can handle.

I have 4 angels, 3 corries, 4 guppies, 3 neons and 1 pleco.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-21-2014, 11:24 PM
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Hi. Your biggest factors to how long it's going to be are going to be specifically your tank's temp and pH.

pH effects autotrophic nitrifying bacteria more than you'd believe.... At a pH under 6.5, they ARE NO LONGER efficient in oxidizing ammonia and nitrite.

At pH 7.2 its at about 50% efficiency. Optimal nitrification occurring around 8.3. At a pH of 8.3, nitrifying bacteria function at near 100% effectiveness. At a pH of 7.0, efficiency drops to under 50%.

At a pH of 6.5, it drops to 30%, and at a pH of 6.0, it drops to 10% optimal efficiency.

The factor affecting the growth of autotrophic nitrifying bacteria the most is temperature. Your bacteria is going to grow best at 77-86F. Rates decline to 50% at a temp of 64F. At temperatures near 95 degrees, bacteria experience life threatening stress. Enzyme disruption will kill fish... go figure

With all that being said, base it off your conditions and go from there.. Probably 1-2 weeks at most.

Bump: It could be mentioned Nitrite oxidizing bacteria are more tolerable of temperature highs than are the ammonia oxidizing bacteria.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-22-2014, 11:35 AM
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Small population in the 20 will not support a big population in the new filter. A starter colony, yes, then grow it out with the fishless cycle.

Just take some media out of the filter that is on the 20 and stuff it into the new filter.
Start running it right away on the big tank. An AC 70 is a bit much on a 20 gallon tank.

If the big tank is not yet set up then put the media from the AC 70 in a bucket and do the fishless cycle in there. Move it all to the tank when it is set up enough that you can run it.

Here is the fishless cycle with a few more tips about different ways to make this work:

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 1a) 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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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-22-2014, 12:54 PM
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I would think a week would be plenty. What you do and how fast you put a load on the tank will be as important as how long. Once you make the switch just build you load up very slow. At least a week in between adding new fish and very few at a time at first. I have done this before without much of any cycle at all. Also I would try and keep your w/c at once a week for the first three weeks.
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