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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-31-2016, 09:26 PM Thread Starter
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No Filter for Cycling

Beneficial bacteria have no problem without a filter to hide in.
Accidentally cycled my 75.
While stabilizing pre-charged SafeTSorb in about 35 gallon of fill height
I introduced all of my driftwood, let it soak, release tannin etc...
It was scrubbed and such but not boiled.
Small powerhead just moving the water around.
Don't remember the type, heavy dark brown African wood.
In week 4 of driftwood soaking now and no NH3 detected.
Prior to driftwood no NH3 or NO2 readings (4 weeks).
I reckon I should dose ammonia so I don't cycle again.
This all happened when I wasn't ready.

Do we think the BB is more in the substrate or on the driftwood?

Guessing the moldy white material from driftwood died and provided NH3?

Another observation, driftwood was keeping temps in tank about 76 degrees.
No heater, in the basement and a bucket nearby with water was 64 degrees.

Any thoughts or similar experience?


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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-01-2016, 11:23 AM
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BB grows on any and every surface. Some surfaces are better suited than others. There is no such thing as accidential cycled. No matter what you do, a tank will cycle on its own regardless. We only speed up the process with the methods we use. If its cycled, you might as well just keep it up. Fishless cycles are great for all you have to worry about, is feeding it ammonia. Maylasian driftwood (I assume that's the African wood you have) is great real estate for BB just as substrate. Having a filter is icing on the cake. Currently, the tanks I am setting up don't have actual bio filters. I only run floss for screening as they are plant only tanks. Once I redo my sumps, I will be adding a sponge along with the floss.

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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-01-2016, 12:43 PM
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I do not know if it was much of a cycle.
How much ammonia was in there? What was the source? The white mold that grows on wood is not a great supply. Wood has very little ammonia. Nitrogen has to enter the tank at some point, and I don't see where.

I would start dosing ammonia and act like you were doing the fishless cycle. Keep it up, and test to see how fast the ammonia and nitrite removing organisms in the tank can really handle these.

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. (7.5-8 seems to be optimum)
Temperature in the upper 70s F (mid 20s C) is good. Higher (to 95*F or about 35*C) 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, and trace elements like CSM+B 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. I have even heard of the right bacteria growing in the bio film found on driftwood. (So if you have been soaking some driftwood in preparation to adding it to the tank, go ahead and put it into the tank) 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.
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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 may use the carbon in carbonates, and if it is all used up (KH = 0) the bacteria may die off. They use the carbon from CO2, and this is generally pretty low in water, but can be replenished from the air and from carbonates. Keep the carbonates up to keep the pH up, too.
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. To grow them at optimum rates, keep the pH on the alkaline side of neutral.
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. 1 ppm twice a day will grow almost as much bacteria as 3 ppm once a day.
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-01-2016, 02:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maryland Guppy View Post
In week 4 of driftwood soaking now and no NH3 detected.
Prior to driftwood no NH3 or NO2 readings (4 weeks).


Are you leaving out a part where there was a detectable amount of ammonia at any point during this process?

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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-01-2016, 02:46 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
I do not know if it was much of a cycle.
How much ammonia was in there? What was the source? The white mold that grows on wood is not a great supply. Wood has very little ammonia. Nitrogen has to enter the tank at some point, and I don't see where.

I would start dosing ammonia and act like you were doing the fishless cycle. Keep it up, and test to see how fast the ammonia and nitrite removing organisms in the tank can really handle these.
I cannot explain this cycling.
1ppm NH3, +5ppm NO2, RED NO3, 90% WC yesterday.
Will test again today.

2 months of pre-charged SateTSorb only and only 5ppm NO3, no NH3 or NO2.
Added driftwood about a month ago and this happened.

KNO3, KH2PO4, MgSO4, CaSO4 have only been added to saturate the SafeTSorb.
When I dumped in the driftwood I figured to just let the tannin leech and quit monitoring the water.
No livestock of any kind just a half a tank of water.

Bump:
Quote:
Originally Posted by lksdrinker View Post
Are you leaving out a part where there was a detectable amount of ammonia at any point during this process?
No detectable NH3 until after driftwood was introduced.
Actually it is a little under 1ppm but not zero.


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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-01-2016, 03:44 PM
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How much ammonia was the tank receiving?
Try dosing ammonia as you would fishless cycling and see if it really is fully cycled, at least enough to support a decent amount of fish.

You mentioned tannins, but I am not sure how much there are and so how low your pH is. And not sure if your test kit tests for NH4 (ammonium). But a low pH can turn NH3 into NH4. So if your test kit doesn't test NH4 that could be an explanation.

Then again I don't see much of an ammonia source to begin with.
Again you can dose ammonia (even fish food) and see how efficient the tank can nitrify them down to NO2, then NO3. See if it meets the guideline results of a fully cycled tank.
Without a food source, the nitrifying autotrophic bacteria would starve to death.

I don't know if a high CEC substrate like SafeTSorb, absorbs ammonia at all. After all, we do hear of those substrates that contain/release NH3/NH4.

While I know a tank can be successfully stock fish without a designated filter, they can only support a small amount of bioload. Plants would yield better results. Just not efficient surface area to colonize enough beneficial bacteria. If that was the case, everyone would be able to stock a tank pretty heavily without a filter or plants (and not need to do water changes weekly to keep nitrogen levels down). A filter has a constant flow of oxygenated water that also brings in their food source (the necessities of aerobic/autotrophic/nitrifying beneficial bacteria). A higher turn over rate also means the NH3/NH4 and NO2 will get fed to the beneficial bacteria quicker/more often. The whole compartment in the filter is just a more efficient housing for nitrifying bacteria. More so than a powerhead/circulation pump moving water over surfaces in the tank. Though you can rig them up to create a DIY filter. Biomedia material determine the amount of surface area available for beneficial bacteria to grow on.

A larger water body/volume, such as the tank vs bucket, can keep water temps more stable. If the tank had a lid/cover on that helps keep warmth in as well. The glass (acrylic is a better insulator) can keep temps more consistent as well (insulates from ambient temps). And the substrate and wood also can absorb temps within their water body and keep temps more the same (you can notice this if you wash/rinse/soak substrate in hot or cold water and place it in another opposite temp water source, you can feel the substrate does absorb and hold in some temp, I guess you can say they retain heat). I can imagine the powerhead is a little source of heat as well (very little though).

I am a bit confused on the timeframe of your test readings.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-01-2016, 04:12 PM Thread Starter
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pH is at 7.8 SafeTSorb is fully saturated and stable.
It does not release NH3 out of the bag.
No idea if it can absorb NH3 but I doubt it.

Water tested yesterday(6 on left) today(3 on right)
Beaker from yesterday provided for a second test today before WC.
Pulled water today to get 3 on right side.
Scrubbed every test tube before testing too and rinsed with test water sample.
NH3, NO2, and NO3 left to right.
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Point is where did the NH3 come from?
Must be driftwood related.
How can driftwood warm up the water? Reaction of some sort?
Someone mentioned Malaysian driftwood, yes it is.
Possible that larvae or bugs in the wood?
It is tough and very dense.

The WC was about 95% just leaving the SafeTSorb wet.
That test from today is less than 1ppm NH3 and NO2 is not quite zero.
Will test again tomorrow.

The only other additive was a Purigen reactor for a week.
It was not capable of keeping up with the tannin in the water.


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Last edited by Maryland Guppy; 02-01-2016 at 04:19 PM. Reason: edit
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-01-2016, 04:32 PM
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I meant the wood can retain some heat (insulate).

How long has the tank gone without receiving NH3? (you mentioned NH3 was not present until you added the driftwood)
I'm not quite sure how long nitrifying bacteria can go without NH3/NH4, NO2 before starving to death.

Are there an excessive (more than normal) amount of tannins being released from the driftwood (lot of sap or not)?
Did you collect the driftwood yourself or bought it at the store?

I guess it's possible the driftwood has organic matter in it that is decompsing/being converted by heterotrophic bacteria into ammonia. Then somehow there is some nitrifying bacteria converting the NH3 down, apparent by the NO2 tests (if the wood was collected, it could contain some beneficial bacteria).
You can test the driftwood by soaking it in a separate container and test it's water (although that's kind of what has already been done if this tank really didn't have any NH3 until the wood was added).

Oh, I remember hearing that Purigen absorbs organics? and keeps them from being converted down into ammonia? So not sure if that is of any importance (I'm tired :P)
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-01-2016, 10:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WaterLife View Post
I'm not quite sure how long nitrifying bacteria can go without NH3/NH4, NO2 before starving to death.
Common question that I've been answering for years now. After 4 months of starvation you will have a happy viable colony that will recover quickly. The point at which are all dead? It can be years. Remember as one bacteria dies it feeds many others for a long time. It's not like they all die all at once. They increase in numbers based upon the food supply and then decrease in numbers with the weaker ones feeding the stronger ones for a very long time.

As for checking to see if your tank is cycled. Dose ammonia repeatedly up to 1ppm for a few days, testing to ensure the NH3 is disappearing in between. If their are plants in the tank you will probably not see much of a change in nitrate. If there are not plants in the tank you should see a buildup of nitrate provided the substrate is not locking it in. Repeat for a week.

If the ammonia remains 0, stock the tank with your fish.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-01-2016, 11:48 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by THE V View Post
As for checking to see if your tank is cycled. Dose ammonia repeatedly up to 1ppm for a few days, testing to ensure the NH3 is disappearing in between. If their are plants in the tank you will probably not see much of a change in nitrate. If there are not plants in the tank you should see a buildup of nitrate provided the substrate is not locking it in. Repeat for a week.
I am a patient individual.
This tank was a high CEC substrate experiment.
No fish or plants yet, just developing a recipe for SafeTSorb.
Pre-charging this substrate to a level of stability.
No ammonia was ever introduced, for months no NO2 or NH3 on any test.
NO3 does not count it was part of the pre-charge substrate experiment.

Added the driftwood ( like 35lbs.) and boom cycling has begun.
How can just adding driftwood do this?

I am more of a plant fanatic, fish could be a year away.
It will be planted soon though, growing out jungles in 3 other tanks.
Running out of room for plant space now. Shading is a problem in all tanks.


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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-02-2016, 02:25 AM
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Well the driftwood probably had a whole host of species. I have tossed in some wood and had the entire tank turn cloudy with a bare bottom tank and no filters.

There are bacteria/fungus that can eat the cellulose in wood. There are also those that eat the cellulose eating bacteria/fungus, and so on. So you get blooms of different types of bacteria, fungus, protist, and algae as the tank matures. On the flip side of a bloom you get predation or die off. Both of these release waste into the water.

Some of these organism can fix nitrogen from the gas form. The wood also contains small amounts of nitrogen. So there is a small but real amount of ammonia being produced. It really doesn't take much to get the nitrifying bacteria going.

The longest part of the cycle is waiting for the few bacteria that come in the water to colonize logarithmically.

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