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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I started my fishless cycle on 10/20 by adding ammonia.

10/22 Ammonia levels were at 4.0, PH 7.6 so I added some crushed fish food, Stability and Prime.

10/23 Ammonia levels were at 3.0, Nitrite at 5.0 and Nitrate at 20.0

10/24 Ammonia at 4.0, PH 7.8, Nitrite 5.0, Nitrate 10.0 - Added Prime

10/25 Ammonia at 4.0, PH 7.8, Nitrite 2.0, Nitrate 10.0

I have a few plants in the tank and heater cranked up to 86. Water temp is at 86-87.

There is white fuzzy algae on the driftwood.

I've been cleaning the glass throughout the process, it just occurred to me that I am literally disrupting the bacteria growth by doing that. At this point I should just step away and let things work themselves out and continue to add Prime every other day. Does that sound right?
 

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I wouldn't worry about cleaning the front glass. The amount you may be wiping off will be inconsequential. The point is is to enjoy your aquarium, and keeping the front clean in order to do so will do no harm.
I typically change water regularly when cycling to not allow the ammonia to get too high ( which may disrupt cycling) and keep algae growth to a minimum. Changing water will not stall your cycle-- as long as you are de-chlorinating, of course; the beneficial bacteria grows on surfaces in the aquarium and in filter.

It usually takes me about 2-3 weeks to cycle a tank for fish and 6 weeks for shrimp. So, you are on the right track.
 

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Milky-clear 'slime' on driftwood in a new setup is perfectly normal. It's not harmful, probably just the 'good' bacteria you are adding colonizing the tank and making use of the nutrients seeping from the wood. It's harmless and will go away in time, but you can remove and wash the wood (if possible), or clean with a toothbrush before siphoning out the tank if it bothers you. Critters like amano shrimp may eat any remnants once you start to stock the tank. Looks a bit unsightly and disconcerting I know (my new driftwood was coated in a 0.5-1.0" layer all over for first few weeks!), but don't worry about it.

Why are you adding Prime every other day? I'm assuming to detoxify the ammonia, is that right? There is no need to do this when fishless cycling as there is no livestock for the ammonia to be toxic too! If the ammonia level gets too high (2-4ppm range is good from memory), then reduce it with a water change. No need to add Prime apart from when you do water changes as a dechlorinator.

However it is worth adding Stability (bacteria) daily / every other day to help the biofilter develop.

Why have the heater cranked up so high? I know very cold temp can slow biofilter development, but I have never heard of the need to heat the tank so high. Someone on this forum gave me the advice of setting up the tank for cycling exactly how you want to be once it's stocked (i.e. same lighting, water parameters, temp, etc). That way the biofilter that develops is matched to your long term tank conditions. Seems to make sense to me! Only thing I now alter for cycling is to maybe add an additional air-stone since good oxygenation can help the bacteria colonies to develop.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Milky-clear 'slime' on driftwood in a new setup is perfectly normal. It's not harmful, probably just the 'good' bacteria you are adding colonizing the tank and making use of the nutrients seeping from the wood. It's harmless and will go away in time, but you can remove and wash the wood (if possible), or clean with a toothbrush before siphoning out the tank if it bothers you. Critters like amano shrimp may eat any remnants once you start to stock the tank. Looks a bit unsightly and disconcerting I know (my new driftwood was coated in a 0.5-1.0" layer all over for first few weeks!), but don't worry about it.

Why are you adding Prime every other day? I'm assuming to detoxify the ammonia, is that right? There is no need to do this when fishless cycling as there is no livestock for the ammonia to be toxic too! If the ammonia level gets too high (2-4ppm range is good from memory), then reduce it with a water change. No need to add Prime apart from when you do water changes as a dechlorinator.

However it is worth adding Stability (bacteria) daily / every other day to help the biofilter develop.

Why have the heater cranked up so high? I know very cold temp can slow biofilter development, but I have never heard of the need to heat the tank so high. Someone on this forum gave me the advice of setting up the tank for cycling exactly how you want to be once it's stocked (i.e. same lighting, water parameters, temp, etc). That way the biofilter that develops is matched to your long term tank conditions. Seems to make sense to me! Only thing I now alter for cycling is to maybe add an additional air-stone since good oxygenation can help the bacteria colonies to develop.
I have added Prime based on the recommendation from Seachem's example schedule on their website. I only just found it so I am starting late.

It makes sense to do have the temp at the levels you want for the regular tank setup. I just read that higher temp promotes bacterial growth.

Thanks for the feedback.
 

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I have added Prime based on the recommendation from Seachem's example schedule on their website. I only just found it so I am starting late.
Sorry, confused. We're talking about Seachem Prime - water dechlorinator, right? Prime only needs to be added to the new water when performing a water change (assuming that you are using tap water that potentially has chlorine / chloramine in it).

Have fun =]
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I did a 60% water change 2 days ago, added Stability and Flourish Excel for the plants. Today the Ammonia is around 1.0, Nitrite is high (4.0-8.0), Nitrate is at 20.0 and PH is 7.8

Going to keep adding Stability and measuring until Ammo is 0 and Nitrite is lower.
 

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I have added Prime based on the recommendation from Seachem's example schedule on their website. I only just found it so I am starting late.

It makes sense to do have the temp at the levels you want for the regular tank setup. I just read that higher temp promotes bacterial growth.

Thanks for the feedback.
AFA temperature, higher is better. My last setup, a 40g breeder, cycled in 3 weeks at 85°F. I dropped the temp down to 82°F when it cycled. Here is an article that explains it well.

https://aquaticcreationsgroup.com/education/nitrogen-cycle-overview
 

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I'm far from being a chemical guru but it is my thinking that you are shooting yourself in the foot by using Prime during fishless cycle. There is not need to dechlor if there are no fish and the way I understand Prime working is that it converts ammonia to the less dangerous ammonium. The problem is that our hobby level test sets, will read not only ammonia but also ammonium as one reading. That would seem to me that you are quite likely to not have ammonia in the tank to start the process of growing the first stage good bacteria which use ammonia?
Nature works slowly and the cycle takes time, so there is some obvious problem with the readings of nitrite and nitrate only two days after starting, so give some thought to what is wrong with the testing or what is adding nitrate as it is not coming from the bacteria that quickly!
I might suggest stepping back to ask what it is you are working to achieve with the fishless cycle. Is there some driving item like a large shipment of fish so that you do want a large bacteria colony? It seems like you may have stumbled into doing bits and pieces of several different ideas on how to do the cycle.
There are ways to mod the process but it is important to look at those mods to see if it fits what you are wanting to do!
First point might be the question of why we use the right type of ammonia that has nothing else added rather than using food of some sort. With the correct ammonia we can figure out how much and how often to add it without the added confusion of having and unknown amount of ammonia added from waste food.
With plants already in the tank, there will be an unknown amount of waste from them to make the calculations more difficult. But if one is not needing a huge bacteria colony before adding a bunch of fish, the plants are often good enough to avoid the trauma of a fishless cycle as long as we don't clean and kill too many of the bacteria we want!
So what's the plan, as the current seems to have too many questions involved to get good results.
I would definitely drop the temp to a more normal tank temp.
 

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I'm gonna disagree with Rich and suggest that Prime can benefit in a cycle. Ammonia is not only toxic to stock, but also, at high levels, toxic to the very nitrosomonas bacteria we need to convert it into nitrites. So the conversion to ammonium, in some cases, can be a benefit, especially since it's tough to know exactly how much is too much. Here are some other thoughts on Tank Cycling.
 

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I'm gonna disagree with Rich and suggest that Prime can benefit in a cycle. Ammonia is not only toxic to stock, but also, at high levels, toxic to the very nitrosomonas bacteria we need to convert it into nitrites. So the conversion to ammonium, in some cases, can be a benefit, especially since it's tough to know exactly how much is too much. Here are some other thoughts on Tank Cycling.
I certainly can agree that too much ammonia is going to kill off the good bacteria we need, however, it seems much more direct and simple if we just reduce the amount of ammonia we add. Isn't the point of starting by adding ammonia to the correct level and holding it there by adding the correct amount as we go along a far better way to know what we are doing?
That's where I feel it is very important to define what it is we are trying to do when we do a fishless cycle.
What's the point of doing a fishless cycle if there is not going to be a need for a large bacteria colony which is normally needed when we are going to have a bunch of fish arrive all at one time which does really need a fishless cycle? There seems to be lots of different levels of cycle for different settings but if the OP is adding ammonia to jack the level up and then using Prime to neutralize those levels, it really seems like a better plan is needed.
With a situation where there is ammonium from treating ammonia with Prime, how does one ever test and figure out how much ammonia to add?
The fishless cycle process is pretty straightforward and simple when done right but when we throw in mods to the process it sometimes gets really hard to tell if we are really getting anything worthwhile done.
I look at fishless cycle as a special occasion deal for when it is really needed but only an act of desperation when there are far easier ways to go about getting a normal cycle done. A simple swap for some used media is my best bet for doing cycles on new tanks.
 

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@PlantedRich, I hear you. Then again we hear a lot about stalled fishless cycles due to high ammonia levels. So like partial water changes, a product like Prime is just another tool for control. I always 'instant cycle' as pointed out in my Blog post, so I've never done a fishless cycle with commercial ammonia.
 

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@PlantedRich, I hear you. Then again we hear a lot about stalled fishless cycles due to high ammonia levels. So like partial water changes, a product like Prime is just another tool for control. I always 'instant cycle' as pointed out in my Blog post, so I've never done a fishless cycle with commercial ammonia.
Yes, it is common to hear about stalled cycles and it is quite commonly due to not following the steps correctly and letting the ammonia get too high. Testing and getting the right level of ammonia is critical to getting the cycle right.
Since our kits can't define what portion is ammonia and which is ammonium, I just never felt it good to add the wildcard factor of ammonium.
The straight fishless is pretty straight if done as first intended but it is also slow and tedious so there are lots of mods made to the process to speed it up and some work better than others.
That leaves me thinking that it is often not a case of the process not working but more one of the user not working the process correctly! When we reinvent the wheel, we need to look carefully if we get a bumpy ride?
Planted tanks do certainly teach us patience---or we pay the price!
 

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Yes, it is common to hear about stalled cycles, and it is quite commonly due to not following the steps correctly and letting the ammonia get too high. Testing and getting the right level of ammonia is critical to getting the cycle right.
Since our kits can't define what portion is ammonia and which is ammonium, I just never felt it good to add the wildcard factor of ammonium.
The straight fishless is pretty straight if done as first intended, but it is also slow and tedious, so there are lots of mods made to the process to speed it up, and some work better than others.
That leaves me thinking that it is often not a case of the process not working but more one of the user not working the process correctly! When we reinvent the wheel, we need to look carefully if we get a bumpy ride?
Planted tanks do certainly teach us patience---or we pay the price!

A bit of common sense added to the science involved goes a long way. Keeping everything safely within parameters is common sense. I prefer being able to control my parameters, so I use ammonium chloride at about 2-3ppm and keep my ph well above 7.0 when cycling, as well as using a good quality starter bacteria (I use Dr. Tim's). If I have a seeded filter that I can use on the tank, all the better. Usually, when I hear of someone with a stalled cycle, they have missed some aspect of setting up the tank for cycling.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
I might suggest stepping back to ask what it is you are working to achieve with the fishless cycle. Is there some driving item like a large shipment of fish so that you do want a large bacteria colony? It seems like you may have stumbled into doing bits and pieces of several different ideas on how to do the cycle.
There are ways to mod the process but it is important to look at those mods to see if it fits what you are wanting to do!
This is an extremely important question that I did not have enough knowledge to answer. I read a few articles on starting a tank with the fishless cycle and the fish-in cycle. Took bits and pieces and tried a process that doesn't exactly fit any of the parameters. Not sure why I thought that was a good idea, but I wanted to get started and I'm here now.

I have been adding Prime to the water before it enters the tank. I wait 24 hours before adding it. This was during a 60% water change and to add some water after taking measurements.

Today the readings were 0 Ammonia, 4-5+ Nitrite (really it was unreadable, a color not on the chart but definitely purple) and 20 Nitrate.

At this point I'm not sure where to go.

My goal is to get some fish in the tank. I'm looking at some loaches, angelfish and guppy/tetra.
 

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Yes, no problem with not knowing which way to go for now. I think we all get there sometime! So maybe just some thoughts on the basic what and why may help to ease the worry and get things moving along.
My views and that may not fit all the other thinking the group has.
My view is that fishless came into being when we got around to wanting to get a whole tank of fish shipped in and one way to say on the really expensive shipping is to make one box do the whole job! Cichlids coming from Africa made this important.
So if we are going from no fish to 25, we got to have a BUNCH of those little bacteria to convert from ammonia to nitrite and the other group then grows to convert deadly nitrite to far less dangerous nitrate. To control it and make really sure, we used pure ammonia without surfactants ( form of detergent!) as "food" for the first group. It often takes a couple weeks for this group to really grow in, so we keep testing the ammonia amount to keep it at the ideal level as we wait and hope to eventually test and see nitrite. Then eventually (maybe a month!) we get around to seeing we can add ammonia of a certain amount and see it converts to nitrate the next day, telling us we have the super sized colony of both types and ready to add fish. We do a massive water change to knock the nitrate levels down so we don't harm our terribly expensive fish coming all the way from AFrica!
No big deal to take a month of testing and sweating if they want to protect a couple hundred dollars of fish they may never be able to replace!
But not really what many of us need/want if we are going down to the local shop to buy a handful of fish that may cost $20 and everybody has them, so we have evolved/ changed our thinking and there are dozens of different levels of doing the same idea of getting bacteria to deal with the waste.
Lowest level, is to slowly add a couple small fish ,letting the bacteria grow to meet the new food source, before adding more and getting more ammonia. Not the best as it tends to do some level of damage to the gills of the fish and they do tend to not live as well.
Another way, is to swap or someway get some used filter media as it has the "start" of both types of bacteria and if we keep them fed, they grow pretty quickly, so we can add more fish sooner if we watch the ammonia level carefully and do water changes to keep it down. Works pretty good if we are careful to not damage our fish.
With plants, we get into more where you are now, I think. You will be getting some bacteria growing as it is all over in the air, etc. Got a tank, it shows up to eat! Adding bottle bacteria can speed this but it has doubters as the bacteria dies if the bottle gets shipped and too hot! Some like it, some can't see any benefit.
What complicates your situation is that you may be seeing nitrite and nitrate but it is not likely to be from the bacteria that quickly but from any ferts you are adding?? But plants also use ammonia and ammonium as plant food!
So how to proceed is a personal choice thing and depends on your situation.
I live where the fish mentioned are easy and relatively cheap to acquire, so I would get a few which depends on what size tank and how much work/worry to do water changes. For instance in a 20-30 gallon tank, I might add five small fish like guppy or tetra and not worry much about it, while still doing the careful watching needed for any new tank. I'm from a farm background where we grew up knowing that things have to die at times and it doesn't bother my thinking if I do slip up and damage or kill a few. It happens! After a week or two and all looks okay and the ammonia level is not too high or working me too much changing water, I then add a few more until I get all that I want. I rock the boat but gently until I see how it goes?
On using Prime, I am very much in favor of it as treating water to neutralize the chlorine or chloramine in tap water and it works almost instantly, os I often just drip some in the bucket of new water and pour it in. I'm less inclined to use it as a buffer for ammonia as it tends to mask what problem I may have. If I'm creating situations where I get ammonia readings, I tend to want it to show up so I can fix that problem, not be hidden by using Prime. If I am making a mess, I change water and change what I'm doing and don't want the faults to be hidden.
It is a balancing act and we do each have to get into the flow of things just like riding a bike. Most of us do the best we can but still fall off and skin a knee now and then!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Added 7 Silvertip Tetras to the tank yesterday. They've been in the tank for 24hrs. I've fed them twice now and just took measurements. Same values as before they were added.

74 PH, 0 ammonia, 2-5 nitrite, 20 nitrate.

They seem to split into groups of 3 and 4, one group in the front of the tank and the other in the back. Sometimes they come together as a full group either in the back or front. Look to be happy, swimming around and exploring individually from time to time.

I'm going to keep feeding twice daily and cleaning as needed every 3-4 days or so.
 

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Thanks for the encouragement. Adding a picture of the driftwood to show what the algae is like at this point.
That is not algae, I beleive its a type of mould and it perfectly normal and healthy thing to see when you put that kind of wood in water. If it bothers you so much you can get otos, or nano plecos to eat it quickly or manually remove it, but it will go away on its own in a week or two.

You are on the right track, but for future reference, I wouldn't add fish until you see no Nitrite readings in the tank, usually that is the final step in the cycling and it shouldn't be more than a few days more for a full cycle once you start seeing nitrite.

I also don't add prime when I am cycling, I don't think it matter much for the cycling bacteria and it might mess up your Ammonia readings. I like to keep my Ammonia levels between 1 - 2ppm, I am not pouring the new water directly into the filter either so by the time it circulates it has minnimal impact on the bacteria in my opinion. If I had a deeper tank I would probably let the water change water sit out a couple days to degas before adding it to the tank so no need for prime.

However I only have Chlorine in my water no Chloramines so YMMV.

Bump:
A bit of common sense added to the science involved goes a long way. Keeping everything safely within parameters is common sense. I prefer being able to control my parameters, so I use ammonium chloride at about 2-3ppm and keep my ph well above 7.0 when cycling, as well as using a good quality starter bacteria (I use Dr. Tim's). If I have a seeded filter that I can use on the tank, all the better. Usually, when I hear of someone with a stalled cycle, they have missed some aspect of setting up the tank for cycling.
+1 to all of this.
 

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One point to add on how to deal with new tanks may help.
As we get new fish, we often really want to treat them right but that may also make us do bad things!
We may want to see them eat as eating is a good thing but that urge to feed means more waste. Then we want to keep it clean, so we scrape and scrub and clean things, not thinking that some of that is going to either remove a bit of good bacteria (it's often the slimey stuff) or we get too nervous and decide to do things like clean the filter and rearrange the gravel a bit at the same time we wipe everything down.
That urge to really do things right can lead to us killing bacteria at a time when we are short of the good bacteria because it is new tank and then we hurt the situation a bit more when we try to feed new fish who may be too nervous to eat much until they settle down!
How this works out in each case will vary but there are times when we need to fight the urge to do it right!
It takes a really, really, long time for fish to starve as we feed them far more than they are able to find in nature, so going very little the first few days until we actually see them gulping every bit will work better, while at the same time we don't clean the filter or tank nor rearrange as those all do a bit of damage to the bacteria we need so bad. Later, a few months down the road when bacteria is hanging on everything in the tank, in the filter, on the walls and sub, we can be fine knocking down some in each location as the rest is still there and bounce up to take care of the work!
 

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This is an extremely important question that I did not have enough knowledge to answer. I read a few articles on starting a tank with the fishless cycle and the fish-in cycle. Took bits and pieces and tried a process that doesn't exactly fit any of the parameters. Not sure why I thought that was a good idea, but I wanted to get started and I'm here now.

I have been adding Prime to the water before it enters the tank. I wait 24 hours before adding it. This was during a 60% water change and to add some water after taking measurements.

Today the readings were 0 Ammonia, 4-5+ Nitrite (really it was unreadable, a color not on the chart but definitely purple) and 20 Nitrate.

At this point I'm not sure where to go.

My goal is to get some fish in the tank. I'm looking at some loaches, angelfish and guppy/tetra.
If your ammonia had spiked then dropped to zero, you're where you want to be. The nitrite spike lasts about a week then drops quickly. You do not want to do water changes when doing a fishless cycle as it removes the ammonia the bacteria feed on.

I found this article helpful

https://aquaticcreationsgroup.com/education/nitrogen-cycle-overview/
 
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