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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just getting into the hobby, I was able to snag a 20g tall on the cheap from craigslist. I did the soil capped with sand route for substrate. Everything seems to be going alright but it's only 2 days in, I had a few general questions.

1) Will adding nitrifying bacteria to kickstart the cycle create a bacterial bloom, or is it a different type of bacteria altogether that causes the bloom? I added the recommended amount but wondered if you could add more to help speed up the cycle and/or replace what may be lost during early water changes?

2) I have about 6 root and stem plants as well as some anubias petite on some rocks. I used probably 1 in soil and a 1.5 in sand cap, my question is will the plants establish well through the sand and be able to reach the soil, or should I be adding some root tabs just under the sand to encourage growth before they establish in the dirt? They already had pretty good root systems when I planted, and I tried to get it at least an inch into the sand. I also have some liquid Seachem flourish advance on the way, but I'm a little wary to start water column dosing because I don't want a huge algae issue as my plants work to become established.

3) Any easy beginner tips for keeping plants in hard water? I live in FL and when I tested with the API strip it read 180ppm GH, KH around 120ppm, pH looks to be around 7. I'm waiting on an advance test kit to come in because I didn't realize these strips don't test ammonia...so they're a little useless for me cycling right now.

4) I bought some "paradise rock" from the LFS because it was the most budget friendly and I liked how it looked. This stuff literally looks and feels like limestone to me but the guy said that it is aragonite based and would be fine in our local water. When I looked up aragonite, I saw that it releases calcium and carbonate into the water sooo I'm thinking I would be totally F'd to put this in a tank with already hard water?

I plan on stocking a pair of german blue rams in this tank so I think the hardness should be "okay" as far as livestock goes right? I saw that cichlids prefer hard water, unless that isn't true for the dwarf cichlids so much as the african cichlids. As far as other stocking, I was thinking some cherry barbs or other hardy schooler, and I really like cory cats. So super cute.

Thanks in advance if you bother to read through my ramblings.
 

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For the nitrifying bacteria, I usually dump the whole bottle in. Also what brand of bacteria did you buy I find that the seachem one works best for me. The top fin brand didn't work(for me).

The Anubis and other stem plants will feed through the water column mostly, so the roots wouldn't need to bury all the way to the soil, just enough to stabilize the rest of the plant. and the roots from rooted plants grow fast imo so they will be able to reach the nutrients in the soil no need to add root tabs

I don't think 7 is too hard for live plants my water is 7.5 and the plants, I have, do great. but I wouldn't add the rocks that might raise the pH too much.

german blue rams are south American cichlids so they like water from 6.5 to 7.5. African cichlids like water at like 8.
Your water (I would think) is fine for them. I have cory cats at water that was 7.8 pH and they are doing great. I also keep guppies at the 7.8 pH and the population is exploding. I have never kept barbs so I dont know.

Hope that helped
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks!

I used Brightwell Aquatics Microbacter Start for the bacteria. The pH seemed okay to me, I was mostly just worried if the actual reading of GH and KH was going to be a major obstacle to overcome. I'm trying to get this all going without dumping too much money into it, and I have a little one on the way so I would ideally like this to be as low maintenance as possible. I understand that the hobby is unpredictable by its very nature, so I'm just hoping for the best!
 

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Nitrifying bacteria are different from the bacterias that cause bloom. However, it's very common to get a bacteria bloom in a newly filled tank. So don't sweat it if you get one. they usually go away in 2-3 days. You can add more starter bacteria if you like, but what is more important is the right amount of ammonia in the water. Too little and your cycle will take longer and you'll have a smaller colony of BB. Too much and the tank won't cycle. You want to aim between 2 ppm and 4 ppm. I like 2 ppm and add more ammonia when it drops under 1 ppm. Keep adding ammonia when it drops under 1 ppm until your nitrites spike then drop to zero. Do not do a water change during the cycle. When the nitrites drop to zero, you're cycled. Do a big enough water change to drop your Nitrates to <20 ppm. Then you're ready to add fish.

I would stay away from the Aragonite where your water is hard.

Here is a good article on cycling. I followed their directions and cycled my 40g breeder in 3 weeks with a healthy colony of BB. IIRC, my nitrates were >80 ppm when the nitrites dropped. I've had good luck with Dr. Tim's one and only starter bacteria. It's a good idea to keep some starter bacteria on hand, you never know when you'll need it.

Nitrogen Cycle Overview | Aquatic Creations Group, Inc
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks. As I hinted at I am pregnant, so I'm hesitant to bring any straight ammonia into the house. I understand I won't be cleaning with it or anything, but I'd rather avoid it entirely...I'm clumsy and a spill would not be beyond me haha. I read that adding fish food would spike ammonia, and I also used an organic soil substrate under the sand, which I heard could also leech ammonia. Aside from dosing with straight ammonia, is there a "best practice" for getting ammonia to those levels required for cycling?

Another interesting thought that never occurred to me until now... Is it safe to handle an aquarium while pregnant? I'd imagine the diseases likely don't cross the species barrier, so I'm not entirely worried about that...Are there any known aquarium chemicals that I should avoid? (Aside from ammonia). I know inhaling ammonia would be bad, but I wonder if it would be absorbed through the skin if I was planting/cleaning/doing water changes? Hmmm. Probably not at a high enough concentration to really matter through dermal contact?
 

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Hello and welcome!

Just to make sure, this is a filtered tank and not one without a filter right?

There are a few ways to check if a stone will alter water chemistry. The most sure way is to fill 2 buckets with water, put the rock in one bucket with nothing else and test the water in both buckets after a week. If the tests are the same then the rock doesn't alter the water.

A quicker though less sure way is to take a rock, clean it and dry it, then pour a little vengar on it. If it fizzes a bit then its going to alter water chemistry.

That said, a lot of aquascapers use limestone of various flavors in their scapes. Doing big 50+% water changes every week keeps the effects from getting out of control.

Honestly your water doesn't sound that hard to me. Definitely ditch the strips as quickly as possible, they are fine for quick looks to make sure nothing crazy is going on but they simply are not accurate enough to make any meaningful decisions on.

Edit: Your new post came in as I was writing this,

You don't need ammonia for a dirt tank. The dirt itself is going to release a LOT of ammonia all by itself.

I am unaware of any freshwater aquarium related problems with pregnancy. I know saltwater has some issues with coral that can affect even non pregnant people, but freshwater I am unaware of any issues, you can always ask your OB when you see them. My wife had I think 3 million regularly scheduled visits to the OB for our kids so I'm sure you are only a few weeks away from your next visit at the longest. :p Congrats on the kiddo, they are a lot of fun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yep I have a filter, heater and airstone in the tank as well.

Good idea on the rock, it didn't occur to me to do my own little experiment with it! I ordered a python after reading so many raving reviews, so a 50% water change weekly wouldn't be the biggest ordeal. I only got the strips because I couldn't find the freshwater API test kit online, it was out of stock everywhere. I found a kit at a local pet store though so I'm going to pick it up after work today. I have no idea what the ammonia will be like since the strips didn't test for it, so we'll see later tonight what I've got.

Hahah, yep I see the OB once a month so I can definitely bring that up next time! Hopefully I can be successful with this hobby, it'd be really neat for the little one when she gets older!
 

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I concur with @minorhero about your water hardness not being too hard. You're definitely in the zone. I understand your concerns about chemicals and diseases. This is sort of mad science. You can avoid using Ammonia by putting just one starter fish in your tank. The fish will pass Ammonia and has the beneficial bacteria for your filter in its gut. This beneficial bacteria will get passed as solid waste and find its way to your filter media to establish a colony that will filter your water. So no playing around with Ammonia if you don't want to. It might take two fish to get this started. But minorhero says soil leaches Ammonia so maybe just one. There is only one disease that you can get and that is TB. Don't put your hands in the water if you have an open cut. This only applies if you have fish. You could go fishless. You can get Salmonella if you drink the aquarium water so no sucking on the syphon hose to get the syphon going.
 

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It takes a little longer but you can use the table shrimp method to cycle. Just throw a table shrimp in the tank and monitor until your ammo hits 4 then toss the shrimp. Feeders guppies are another way, just make sure they're male. You can also just add a pinch of fish food each day. The key to all of these is monitoring.

You can test rocks for reactions using vinegar- dip the rock in vinegar and see if it bubbles. If it does then it will release minerals. I used aragonite stone caves in my african cichlid set ups as a buffer to keep high gh and ph levels. The thing about that is with your water already being pretty basic I'm not sure there would be enough acidity in your water to really breakdown the aragonite to leach enough to generally affect your tank. Would be worth researching if you're really liking the rock in your hardscape.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
@Savetheplants I was actually reading about fish TB yesterday, I didn't realize that there actually were some zoonotic diseases carried by aquarium fish! I did do an airline tube syphon to fill the tank but I have yet to change any water. I have a python coming in so that will eliminate the good old fashion sucking syphon haha. I suppose I could let the hubs do all the maintenance during this time....but half the fun of starting a tank is putting in all the work to get it just right (to me at least).

I got a hold of an actual test kit instead of strips, the readings I got were:

Ammonia: 4ppm
Nitrite: 0.25pm
Nitrate: 0ppm
pH: 7.8

I suppose since I'm seeing some nitrite the cycle is slowly starting? I dumped an entire bottle of beneficial bacteria to start.
I now have about 13 clumps of plants in there as well as a couple bulbs of tiger lotus. The ammonia is pretty high, I know that plants can use it as a nitrogen source but can too much harm the plants? I've seen mentions of "ammonia burn" on this forum so I was wondering how much ammonia it takes for that to happen. The plants overall seem to be doing okay though, no significant melt or anything and the stem plants seem to be straightening up to the light instead of being a little droopy.

The pH... Is 7.8 going to be problematic for fish? The ones I want to keep (rams and cherry barbs) have a range of 6-7.5 from what I gather. But if I can keep the 7.8 stable will that be okay?
 

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@Savetheplants I was actually reading about fish TB yesterday, I didn't realize that there actually were some zoonotic diseases carried by aquarium fish! I did do an airline tube syphon to fill the tank but I have yet to change any water. I have a python coming in so that will eliminate the good old fashion sucking syphon haha. I suppose I could let the hubs do all the maintenance during this time....but half the fun of starting a tank is putting in all the work to get it just right (to me at least).

I got a hold of an actual test kit instead of strips, the readings I got were:

Ammonia: 4ppm
Nitrite: 0.25pm
Nitrate: 0ppm
pH: 7.8

I suppose since I'm seeing some nitrite the cycle is slowly starting? I dumped an entire bottle of beneficial bacteria to start.
I now have about 13 clumps of plants in there as well as a couple bulbs of tiger lotus. The ammonia is pretty high, I know that plants can use it as a nitrogen source but can too much harm the plants? I've seen mentions of "ammonia burn" on this forum so I was wondering how much ammonia it takes for that to happen. The plants overall seem to be doing okay though, no significant melt or anything and the stem plants seem to be straightening up to the light instead of being a little droopy.

The pH... Is 7.8 going to be problematic for fish? The ones I want to keep (rams and cherry barbs) have a range of 6-7.5 from what I gather. But if I can keep the 7.8 stable will that be okay?
Yes, sacrifice the hubs for the progress of the hobby. When your Ammonia gets down to 1 ppm or below you add 2 ppm. 4 ppm is ok but 5 ppm is too much. When you start to get Nitrites start adding 1/4 the amount of Ammonia. When you get Nitrate and your Nitrite is gone you're cycled. Good job hubs!

The problem I thought I was having was correctly estimating how much Ammonia I was putting in. The pH, temperature and off-gassing affect how much Ammonia you have. I learned this week it's not so much a dose you calculate to hit a target. It's more like a 2 ppm window from 1 ppm to 3 ppm that you try to stay inside of.
 
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