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Can an emersed tank cycle?

954 Views 7 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Diana
So I've had my emersed setup running for just over 2 months now. I keep the water level below the substrate line, but there is still apparently enough water for snails to live and grow between the particles. I've spotted quite a few of them through the front glass, so there are probably many more that I can't see. I see a bunch of other little critters zooming around too. With all the snail poop and whatnot, is my tank cycled? I'm not sure because ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates all read 0; there should be some nitrates...
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I was wondering the same thing too. Hopefully someone can answer your question
Cycled in respect to being able to fill the tank completely and add fish, or cycled just for the emersed plants? Because the water doesn't need to be cycled in a tank just for emersed plants... they don't care, lol.
To add onto what Philip's saying, if you're going to have a tank in an emmersed state for some periodontal of time before eventually filling it (i.e. a dry start) then once you fill it it won't take as long to cycle. The substrate surfaces and all the exposed wet surfaces will harbor beneficial bacteria at that point, and then all that's left is for the filter to cycle.
If your using dirt substrate it is cycling, the organics both in the dirt and added from the snails are breaking down, bacteria on all surfaces are processing the waste.

When fill with water you aren't affecting what's going on in the substrate. When you add fish and inverts that will increase bio-load that will affect the current system pushing it out of balance.
I just added water to my dry start and a filter from another tank and added a few fish with no deaths
I just added water to my dry start and a filter from another tank and added a few fish with no deaths
filter from another tank + dry start is your key here.
Nitrifying bacteria are growing in any substrate that has the right conditions:

High oxygen
Some moisture

They do not need to be submerged. These bacteria grow in your garden soil, too.

The system is cycled to the extent that whatever ammonia is being produced (snails are not a big ammonia source) is being removed by the bacteria. You are probably not seeing nitrate because the plants are using the nitrogen in any of the 3 most common forms.

You can boost the ammonia in there, but be careful! Ammonia can be toxic to the plants, and there is not very much water in there to dilute it, and there is not great circulation though the substrate.

Here is a better way:
Set up any kind of filter on a 5 gallon bucket. It could even be loose filter media swimming around in the bucket with a small fountain pump circulating the water.
Do the fishless cycle in this bucket. When you are ready to fill the tank use this cycled media in the filter.
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