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About to set up a new cold water aquarium - cycling advice needed!

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Hi there! Hope everyone is safe, sane and well in these crazy times.

I've just bought my first aquarium in years and I'm super excited to get cracking now - my husband and I have decided on fancy goldfish instead of tropical this time.

I'm planning on doing a planted aquarium (have researched best plants to keep with goldfish as I know they can be destructive and messy), but I have a couple of questions about the cycling process that I've found so much mixed info and advice on:

1) Is it a sensible idea to add plants at the same time as beginning cycling the tank? Lots and lots of different opinions out there it seems! There's an incredible aquarium store near me who specialise in aquascaping so their plants are pretty established submersed and ready to go. It seems much easier to get an idea of what will go where, attaching moss to wood etc., but will adding them at this early stage be detrimental to plant health and establishment?

2) If I were to do that, is it a good idea to add liquid Co2 for the cycling process? (I can't afford a big fancy co2 tank thing right now and also not sure it would be necessary down the line with the fish in there). I've seen a few products that sound great but don't know how effective these truly are.. I know API seem to offer a bottle for anything and everything.

3) If 'no' to adding whilst cycling, how long would you cycle for before adding plants - and in that case would you still add co2, fertilisers etc.?

4) Does anyone have advice on the best sort of substrate to use for a cold water planted tank? And are fertilisers necessary alongside a nutrient rich soil?

5) At later cycling stages, is adding shrimp before fish a good idea? Have read in plenty of places that cherry and ghost shrimp are a good companion and can help clean up after messy goldfish. I know that as the fish get bigger they'll likely chomp on the poor little guys but I'm thinking about getting the tank established at this time.

In a nutshell, if anyone is able to give a simple step by step like cycle 2 weeks - add co2 and plants - cycle 4 weeks - add fish etc. that would be excellent.

Thanks in advance and sorry for absolute essay - Just trying to wade through allll the mixed info out there is sending me in circles and I want to provide the best environment for plants and future fish.

Thanks, Joanna 馃悺
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Hi there! Hope everyone is safe, sane and well in these crazy times.

I've just bought my first aquarium in years and I'm super excited to get cracking now - my husband and I have decided on fancy goldfish instead of tropical this time.

I'm planning on doing a planted aquarium (have researched best plants to keep with goldfish as I know they can be destructive and messy), but I have a couple of questions about the cycling process that I've found so much mixed info and advice on:

1) Is it a sensible idea to add plants at the same time as beginning cycling the tank? Lots and lots of different opinions out there it seems! There's an incredible aquarium store near me who specialise in aquascaping so their plants are pretty established submersed and ready to go. It seems much easier to get an idea of what will go where, attaching moss to wood etc., but will adding them at this early stage be detrimental to plant health and establishment?

2) If I were to do that, is it a good idea to add liquid Co2 for the cycling process? (I can't afford a big fancy co2 tank thing right now and also not sure it would be necessary down the line with the fish in there). I've seen a few products that sound great but don't know how effective these truly are.. I know API seem to offer a bottle for anything and everything.

3) If 'no' to adding whilst cycling, how long would you cycle for before adding plants - and in that case would you still add co2, fertilisers etc.?

4) Does anyone have advice on the best sort of substrate to use for a cold water planted tank? And are fertilisers necessary alongside a nutrient rich soil?

5) At later cycling stages, is adding shrimp before fish a good idea? Have read in plenty of places that cherry and ghost shrimp are a good companion and can help clean up after messy goldfish. I know that as the fish get bigger they'll likely chomp on the poor little guys but I'm thinking about getting the tank established at this time.

In a nutshell, if anyone is able to give a simple step by step like cycle 2 weeks - add co2 and plants - cycle 4 weeks - add fish etc. that would be excellent.

Thanks in advance and sorry for absolute essay - Just trying to wade through allll the mixed info out there is sending me in circles and I want to provide the best environment for plants and future fish.

Thanks, Joanna 馃悺
Hello and welcome!

1) Yes add plants when you setup the tank. Plants will help your cycle slightly faster then you otherwise would.

2) Liquid co2 products do not actually contain carbon dioxide. They are at best another and very different source of carbon for plants to use. At worst they just kill algae. You can skip it or use it as you see fit. BUT be aware these products are seriously dangerous to you as a human. As in cause cancer and chemists familiar with them won't consider handling them without full skin protection and a ventilated hood.

4) Substrate is your choice as well as there are many options good for planted tanks. For a fish that digs as much as goldfish I wouldn't bother creating layers of different types of substrate as it will all get mixed together. For goldfish I wouldn't bother with aquasoil and just go straight sand or very fine gravel. You will definitely need fertilizer in any tank with plants. Especially for goldfish since most of the plants you will be putting in this tank will not be rooted in the soil. The reason is that goldfish will dig up any plants you stick in the substrate so you will instead need to be attaching plants to the hardscape. Some people will put pots in the tank and then plant rooted plants in those pots and that seems to hold up better with the goldfish digging habbits.

5) I would not bother adding shrimp to a tank with goldfish as they will definitely eat them and at a surprisingly young age.

Just setup your tank, add plants when you can, dose fertilizer, get a timer for your light to keep it on for around 8 hours (split up if needed to maximise viewing), and then figure out your ammonia source and wait for a month. Good luck!
 

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Yeah, I wouldn't look at this in terms of a cool water tank, my primary concern would be the goldfish. I run unheated tanks and the temperature hasn't affected my decisions relating to plants or cycling, but the goldfish will need special consideration.

As far as cycling instructions, I think the standard is to plant and do a fishless cycle. You can use the search here for details, but it's a pretty forgiving process. It's important to understand the principles of nitrogen cycling, but the details are less important. As long as the bacteria has food (ammonia), they will come eventually. Some people may recommend turning up the heat to speed the process, but I think if you are running an unheated you should cycle it without a heater encourage bacteria species that do best at those temps. (It may not matter at the end of the day, but there's little point in buying a heater just for this reason.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hi guys,

Thanks for quick and helpful responses - nice and simple, really appreciated after reading so many different opinions on cycling with plants!

All sounds good to me. Planning on anchoring plants using wire for moss, weighing down / protecting rooted plants with rocks etc. (going for a very natural looking set up so it ties in well with that). Great to hear that it's fine to cycle the tank with plants in - was getting frustrated with the idea of having to cycle then try and sort the planting out with a tank full of water lol. My LFS are amazing with aquascaping too so I'll pick their brains also. Here for anyone that's interested - really cool place!: AQUATIC DESIGN CENTRE Ltd | Professional Custom Fish Tank Design | Aquarium Installation | Aquarium Maintenance | Media Hire. Britains Premier Aquatic Retail Outlet | Tropical | Marine | Ponds | Aquatic Supplies

Interesting to hear your thoughts about introducing a heater for cycling, I do have one from an old tank which I held on to, so I'll do some more research into using that for establishment, but I agree with you that perhaps it's better to just keep it cold and establish that way. Also GREAT to hear that you don't think it's necessary to start adding co2 - I'm a bit of a hippy really and wasn't over the moon with the idea of introducing a bunch of bottled chemicals to my home or the tank.

In terms of adding the ammonia source, that's kind of what I thought adding shrimp before fish might help with, however I'm not set on the idea of having them (seeing them devoured by the fish would almost certainly bring me to tears anyway lol). Are there any particular methods / products you'd recommend for that?

Also great to hear your thoughts on substrate, I wanted to go for sand anyway so it's really helpful to hear your advice on not bothering with layering!

Thanks again, Joanna 馃悺
 

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Hi guys,

Thanks for quick and helpful responses - nice and simple, really appreciated after reading so many different opinions on cycling with plants!

All sounds good to me. Planning on anchoring plants using wire for moss, weighing down / protecting rooted plants with rocks etc. (going for a very natural looking set up so it ties in well with that). Great to hear that it's fine to cycle the tank with plants in - was getting frustrated with the idea of having to cycle then try and sort the planting out with a tank full of water lol. My LFS are amazing with aquascaping too so I'll pick their brains also. Here for anyone that's interested - really cool place!: AQUATIC DESIGN CENTRE Ltd | Professional Custom Fish Tank Design | Aquarium Installation | Aquarium Maintenance | Media Hire. Britains Premier Aquatic Retail Outlet | Tropical | Marine | Ponds | Aquatic Supplies

Interesting to hear your thoughts about introducing a heater for cycling, I do have one from an old tank which I held on to, so I'll do some more research into using that for establishment, but I agree with you that perhaps it's better to just keep it cold and establish that way. Also GREAT to hear that you don't think it's necessary to start adding co2 - I'm a bit of a hippy really and wasn't over the moon with the idea of introducing a bunch of bottled chemicals to my home or the tank.

In terms of adding the ammonia source, that's kind of what I thought adding shrimp before fish might help with, however I'm not set on the idea of having them (seeing them devoured by the fish would almost certainly bring me to tears anyway lol). Are there any particular methods / products you'd recommend for that?

Also great to hear your thoughts on substrate, I wanted to go for sand anyway so it's really helpful to hear your advice on not bothering with layering!

Thanks again, Joanna 馃悺
For ammonia source you can use pure ammonia. In the state's we have Dr. Tims which I think you also have available to you, also you seem to have this. Another option is called 'ghost feeding' where you put in fish food and let it rot which will also produce ammonia. Which you go for is up to you. There are lots of videos on youtube for how to do a 'fishless cycle' which is what we are talking about right now.

I'd figure out what you want to use for fertilizer while you are at it. You will definitely need a liquid fertilizer. When you are at your aquascaping store ask them what they recommend and how to dose it. Personally I wouldn't bother with the heater for cycling. Your tank will need to get along without it.

Shrimp are not a good source of ammonia for cycling as the amount of waste they produce is incredibly low and they are relatively sensitive to waste build up.

Another issue that hasn't been mentioned is tank size. Gold fish get BIG. Some of them get REALLY BIG, others just get to medium/largish fish size but regardless they are all incredibly messy eaters and produce a lot of waste besides. The combination of largish fish (for the smallest varieties) and messy eaters mean you need at a minimum a 150 liter tank (40 gallons) for a couple of goldfish. Some folks would say double this size. Just FYI if you didn't already know. If that is larger then you were planning then you might want to consider either Ricefish or White Cloud Mountain Minnows. The former comes in a variety of fun color combinations, the latter has fewer color morphs but both are smaller fish that are cold water hardy and both can live happily with shrimp.
 

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Hi guys,

Thanks for quick and helpful responses - nice and simple, really appreciated after reading so many different opinions on cycling with plants!

All sounds good to me. Planning on anchoring plants using wire for moss, weighing down / protecting rooted plants with rocks etc. (going for a very natural looking set up so it ties in well with that). Great to hear that it's fine to cycle the tank with plants in - was getting frustrated with the idea of having to cycle then try and sort the planting out with a tank full of water lol. My LFS are amazing with aquascaping too so I'll pick their brains also. Here for anyone that's interested - really cool place!: AQUATIC DESIGN CENTRE Ltd | Professional Custom Fish Tank Design | Aquarium Installation | Aquarium Maintenance | Media Hire. Britains Premier Aquatic Retail Outlet | Tropical | Marine | Ponds | Aquatic Supplies

Interesting to hear your thoughts about introducing a heater for cycling, I do have one from an old tank which I held on to, so I'll do some more research into using that for establishment, but I agree with you that perhaps it's better to just keep it cold and establish that way. Also GREAT to hear that you don't think it's necessary to start adding co2 - I'm a bit of a hippy really and wasn't over the moon with the idea of introducing a bunch of bottled chemicals to my home or the tank.

In terms of adding the ammonia source, that's kind of what I thought adding shrimp before fish might help with, however I'm not set on the idea of having them (seeing them devoured by the fish would almost certainly bring me to tears anyway lol). Are there any particular methods / products you'd recommend for that?

Also great to hear your thoughts on substrate, I wanted to go for sand anyway so it's really helpful to hear your advice on not bothering with layering!

Thanks again, Joanna 馃悺
I wouldn't add the heater, honestly. It doesn't take a lot longer to cycle a cold water than it does a tropical and it will give you a sense of peace knowing it's cycled to temp- if you're anything like me you'd be worrying for a few days if you killed any bacteria turning the heater off and if you're gonna start a mini cycle. That's just my opinion, though
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for further messages! :) Yep, my tank's large enough for 2 beauties, so all good there. Do love the look of white mountain minnows too, although don't think I'd have room for those also (shame, so peaceful and elegant to watch).

I've just seen some Dr. Tim's on Amazon so I'll order some, thanks for suggestion! Was planning on buying whichever fertiliser LFS recommend as well :)

And agree with you Plink, I'd be worried about that too so I'll stick to cold water cycling.

Cheers guys happy Friday!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Update on cycle!

Tank was set up, planted and dosed yesterday.

Ammonia was at around 3ppm yesterday night, came home this afternoon and noticed a bacteria bloom (white cloudy) have just done testing and ammonia has dropped to 1ppm, nitrite at 0ppm and nitrate at 10ppm! :eek:

This has happened waaay quicker than I expected.. maybe the plants have helped by carrying beneficial bacteria with them?

Should I be concerned or happy about the bloom.. my gut tells me it's good and that the cycle is fully kicking in?!

Was also wondering if I should do a water change if nitrates have hit 10ppm.. thoughts?

Thank you! Joanna
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
haha mine too! I've just done a 25% change and nitrates have dropped to around 5ppm now.. I don't want to keep doing water changes in such early cycling stages, do you think I should just leave it for a few days now and monitor parameters?
 

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Before I say 10 is a bit high I should've asked when the last time you dosed ferts was... I normally test before my water change which is on a day that I have the least amount of ferts in the coloumn. If you are testing randomly and have added ferts recently anything below 15-20 is ok. If you keep it below 20 you should be okay to skip a water change, unless using an amazonia substrates where they have specific instructions on water changes.
 
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