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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have some fish coming soon and I wanted to get a quarantine tank setup. I had one up previously but haven't used it in almost 2 years. When I was done with it last time, I just shut everything off and left it. The water in the tank evaporated eventually and everything was just left sitting there. So a couple of days ago I filled the tank up and got the filter running again. I put some ammonia in to get the cycle started. Today I tested the water just out of curiosity. I got 1 ppm Ammonia, 0 ppm Nitrite, and 5 ppm Nitrate. I was quite surprised to see Nitrates in there. I haven't added anything to the tank other than ammonia. No starter bacteria or anything. I'm pretty sure there was still water in the filter this whole time, but I'm not sure how much. Is it really possible for the Nitrifying bacteria to survive that long? I guess it is possible there was waste in the filter to continue providing ammonia and help them survive. But that seems like a long time. Anybody else seen anything like this before? I was expecting to have to wait a few weeks to get this thing cycled, but maybe not now.
 

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Not that this proves anything, but I have used old used dried out filter media in a new tank before and I swear it felt as though it cycled faster. This is a good question and I look forward to the answer
 

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What sounds more likely is the bacteria may have entered a dormant state. I don't think they could have stayed alive without being wet and fed. But it is possible for bacteria to enter dormant states, or leave spores around to repopulate.
 

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Did you test ammonia at the time to get a base reading (just in case nitrates are from tap water).

I would guess weeks if not months from tank restarts (but there was most likely waste in tank that helped). Plus filters still running (just no fish).

I have seen papers on this for treatment plants but don’t have anything. Could be some research out there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
There was definitely still some water in the filter when I started it back up. All I had to do was prime it a couple of times and it started up. So it stayed wet for the whole time. I'm not sure about access to oxygen and good though.

The nitrates are definitely not from my tap water. There is a chance it could be a bad nitrate test. I have KNO3 so I could mix some with distilled water to make a known solution and calibrate my nitrate test with that. I have done this in the past.

I did read somewhere that Dr Tim, the one who sells suspended bacteria for aquariums, said that BB can't grow and multiply without ammonia, but they can survive. I haven't verified that though.

Sent from my SM-N950U using Tapatalk
 

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The bacteria don't die off, they go dormant. You can throw a sponge filter on the fish room floor and pick it up 6 months later and use it without problems. If they died off you could never have starter bacteria in a bottle.
 
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Did you clean your tank before you fill it? If not, then I'm guessing the nitrate is from the dried up deposit of the previous water. Nitrate doesn't evaporate into the air with water. You can also confirm by testing ammonia again to see if it has gone down.

I don't know how long nitrifying bacteria can survive but it is definitely not as resilient as you guys described. I still remember the first generation bacteria cycle products needed to refrigerated. The bacteria in a bottle that you can keep at room temperature was a major step forward and has things in it to keep the bacteria alive.
 

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Here are some interesting facts about filter bacteria…

Beneficial bacteria grow to the size of your filter media, not when they reach a certain food loading.

https://acrylictankmanufacturing.com/shocking-truth-nitrifying-bacteria-colony/ "Autotrophs can survive approximately eight months in this state, feeding off of their own nutritional reserves.”

http://www.tfhmagazine.com/aquarium-basics/columns/nitrifying-bacteria.htm

https://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/fishkeeping-news/think-you-know-filter-bacteria-dream-on/
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Just thought I'd add an update for anyone who might read this later. After 3 days my ammonia was gone. Dosed 1ppm more and it was gone the next day. Added 8 cories and have been feeding them for the last 3 days. I have been testing every day...... 0 ppm ammonia and nitrates are rising. I never had any nitrites.

Since I didn't add anything else to the tank... no bacteria in a bottle, no plants, wood, rocks or anything,.... the only conclusion I can make is that the beneficial bacteria survived in my filter (which retained water the whole time) for almost 2 years.

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It stands to reason that a "used filter" at any point in its lifecycle, should be more effective than a brand new off the shelf sterile filter. At the very least, you are starting of with a net gain in surface area from buildup with use.

I would think the same proves true of filter media. Notwithstanding the wellness of the legacy bacteria, the act of cycling in its previous life created vastly more surface area than any 1:1 new media. (assuming you are comparing apples to apples in terms of starting point)

Again, this comment is tuned more to surface area than the state of the bacteria. Assuming the dormancy comments and extended lifecycle of bacteria (not an expert but am a believer in bacteria's survivability) You might have gotten lucky; take it!
 

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Just thought I'd add an update for anyone who might read this later. After 3 days my ammonia was gone. Dosed 1ppm more and it was gone the next day. Added 8 cories and have been feeding them for the last 3 days. I have been testing every day...... 0 ppm ammonia and nitrates are rising. I never had any nitrites.

Since I didn't add anything else to the tank... no bacteria in a bottle, no plants, wood, rocks or anything,.... the only conclusion I can make is that the beneficial bacteria survived in my filter (which retained water the whole time) for almost 2 years.

Sent from my SM-N950U using Tapatalk
And now you know why hundreds of thousands of tanks that have power failures all over the world for days, weeks and months come up just fine.
 
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