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Choosing the best cycling method

696 Views 11 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  plantnoobdude
Started a few posts lately to get back up to speed. So, about to get my first "big", 120p, tank and I will, of course, have to cycle it. I wanted to gauge the opinions of the good people on this site on the methods of cycling.

First things first, it will be about fishless cycles only without additives like stability or seeded materials. I know this would vastly decrease cycling time but I don't have access to either one.

Not sure yet what the exact design will be so I guess I will keep it fairly broad. I know of silent cycling with a fully finished aquascape, but experience taught me that even though you do daily 50% water changes.. You will likely end up with some dead roots in the soil and quite a few melted plants. I really would like to avoid this, I'm also not going for a Dutch style so going for a fully planted tank from the start doesn't matter too much. Also read that it might hamper the growth of the bacteria as you are banking that the plants eliminate the majority of ammonia.

Then we have fishless cycling with added ammonia or organic matter. Guessing this works best with an empty aquarium? Then we still have cycling with nothing but soil in the tank. To me this seems like the best way to go, the leaking ammonia from the tank feeds the bacteria and you don't have to clean the substrate or do water changes during the cycle. Though this is theory,and I would love to know if any of you still do water changes when there is nothing in the tank?

Lastly, cycling with soil, hardy plants and floaters. This seems like a good way to go about my cycle as well, setting up the basic plants while floaters take up quite a lot of the ammonia.

Added info, if possible I'd like to do as little water changes as possible, if possible. As my water is quite bad and buying an RO filter would require me to buy a secondary water tank which would need to be filled with "special" Water that gets delivered by water truck(?). So I am buying RO per 19L water jugs.
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
FWIW, I have plants growing out in the tank that I add 3-4ppm of ammonia to every day. Several varieties of swords, some Val, etc. Bare bottom tank with an FX6, UV, CO2 reactor. Plants growing like crazy and the ammonia isn't bothering them at all.
You managed to grow swords and Valisneria without a substrate at all? That is pretty impressive!

These plants I understand would not have any problems surviving, and even thriving, during the cycling phase. I love bucephalandra, monte carlo and blyxa. In my experience I always had those melt in my tanks during the cycling phase.. So which is not great seeing as bucephalandra and blyxa are fairly expensive here.

Most people plant their tanks first, flood, add their ammonia source. Concentrations of ammonia at 2-3PPM won't harm plants - even moss.

You should never have to clean your substrate in a planted tank. Nothing beyond gently siphoning detritus from the surface of the substrate, anyway. And you wouldn't want to disturb a dirt or clay-based substrate.

If you're using a product like ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia, water changes are almost always necessary during the initial cycling process because ammonia concentrations are high. Daily for a week and less frequently for the next 3 weeks, generally. It's a lot of water. (Though, I only really do water changes with ADA products if the ammonia concentration ends up being higher than 7-8PPM.)

I tend to add floating plants to my tanks after they're 'cycled' just so there's less chance for me to disturb them. But most like Frogbit should be able to handle some ammonia.

If you want to do as few water changes as possible while cycling, may be a good idea to go with an inert substrate like sand or fine gravel. Then use liquid ammonia (no surfactants) or a an ammonia/ammonium product from a company like Dr. Tim's or Fritz Aquatics to dose the tank to 2-3PPM. Keep it at 2-3PPM for several weeks until the tank can process all the ammonia in 24 hours or less. This is a good primer on the fishless cycle.

The only water change you'd need to do is a 100% change the day before or the day you add all of your livestock.
I didn't know you should still add ammonia if you start off with a full planted tank and rich soil. Why do we do this though? Is the ammonia leaking from the soil not already crazy high?

I should have been more specific on cleaning, siphoning the detritus from the soil is what I meant by cleaning. Though I sometimes tap the soil a bit during thorough cleaning to stir up any detritus that might have fallen into the soil.

Perhaps I wrongly classified floating plants as well, I meant just taking a lot of water Wisteria and Ludwigia and let them float around soaking up ammonia.

I use Mastersoil HG instead of Amazonia, I had great experience with before. It is also designed to not let too much ammonia leak into the water column and it doesn't break the bank. I used to do the ADA water change regime in my other tanks. 1st week every day, 2nd week every 2 days, 3rd week every 3 days, 4th week twice a week and then weekly. Only previous tanks of which the biggest one was 100L that was no problem, 2.5 water jugs and I was fine. Now I'd need 8 water jugs for every water change. The ADA regime would require 130 jugs on the first month. Which is fairly pricey as well.

Can I do the fishless cycle like on the thread you included but with the soil instead of inert sand/gravel?

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Do you mean potting/garden soil or a clay/soil-based substrate specifically for planted tanks? Regardless, not everything on the market releases ammonia and that's why an ammonia source is necessary.

Yes. But like I mentioned above, if your substrate doesn't release ammonia, you'll have to add it.
Mastersoil is a clay based aquasoil, it still releases ammonia into the water column just not as much as ADA soil does. I doubt the 4 bags of soil won't release enough ammonia but it might best to just test the water for a few days and ammonia myself should it no be enough.

Can I lessen the water change regime it I do it like above without plants?
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