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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi there!

I'll be setting up a 29 gallon tank next month after moving to a new house - I'm upgrading from a 10 gallon.

I plan on using some of the Eco-Complete and water from the 10 gallon to help kickstart the cycle process, but I also have a 6 gallon tank that has been sitting in my garage for about a month now after my betta passed away. The Eco-Complete in that tank has completely dried out.

Would it be safe to add the old, dried out substrate from the 6 gallon? I'm guessing no, as it may have developed (bad) bacteria in the meantime?

Thanks so much! If my question sounds silly, forgive me - I'm still pretty new to aquariums. I can't believe I've managed to keep a handful of tetras and corydora alive for the past two years in a teeny 10 gallon. Hoping the upgrade doesn't do them in - I figured if I have to stress them from moving at all, I should at least move them to a larger tank in the process. :)

Edited to add: I don't plan on switching the fish over to the new tank for at least a few weeks after setting up the 29 gal tank.
 

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In case it has not been exposed to any chemical while it was in the garage, Just give it a good wash to remove fine particles and use it .

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The only thing it has been exposed to in the garage is air. I just wasn't sure if having it sit out dry could have made any kind of bad bacteria breed into the substrate. Will definitely give it a good wash if I use it! :)
 

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Bacteria do not breed in dry conditions. If it had been stored wet, in a sealed bag, no oxygen, then it would have needed some really strong cleaning. As suggested by sushant, a thorough rinse is about all it should need. I would put this in the new tank first, then top if off with the cycled substrate from your established tank. If you also move the filter, then you should be able to move the fish right over, too. The beneficial microorganisms are growing on all the surfaces: Filter media, substrate, driftwood, ceramic merpeople... By moving all this over to the new set up you are bringing all the microorganisms that have been supporting the fish. Go ahead and move the fish, too.

If you want to run the new tank for a while, perhaps work with the 'scape, get the plants growing before adding the fish, or maybe add more fish, you would want to keep most of the microorganisms in the 10 gallons, just move a little bit to jump start the cycle. If you remove too much then the 10 gallon could have some problems. Do the fishless cycle in the 29 while you are working on the 'scape etc. Then you will have a 10 gallon cycled tank as a quarantine tank, so you can get more fish :)

Here is the fishless cycle.
Cycle: To grow the beneficial bacteria that remove ammonia and nitrite from the aquarium.

Fish-In Cycle: To expose fish to toxins while using them as the source of ammonia to grow nitrogen cycle bacteria. Exposure to ammonia burns the gills and other soft tissue, stresses the fish and lowers their immunity. Exposure to nitrite makes the blood unable to carry oxygen. Research methemoglobinemia for details.

Fishless Cycle: The safe way to grow more bacteria, faster, in an aquarium, pond or riparium.

The method I give here was developed by 2 scientists who wanted to quickly grow enough bacteria to fully stock a tank all at one time, with no plants helping, and overstock it as is common with Rift Lake Cichlid tanks.

1a) Set up the tank and all the equipment. You can plant if you want. Include the proper dose of dechlorinator with the water.
Optimum water chemistry:
GH and KH above 3 German degrees of hardness. A lot harder is just fine.
pH above 7, and into the mid 8s is just fine. (7.5-8 seems to be optimum)
Temperature in the upper 70s F (mid 20s C) is good. Higher (to 95*F or about 35*C) is OK if the water is well aerated.
A trace of other minerals may help. Usually this comes in with the water, but if you have a pinch of KH2PO4, and trace elements like CSM+B that may be helpful.
High oxygen level. Make sure the filter and power heads are running well. Plenty of water circulation.
No toxins in the tank. If you washed the tank, or any part of the system with any sort of cleanser, soap, detergent, bleach or anything else make sure it is well rinsed. Do not put your hands in the tank when you are wearing any sort of cosmetics, perfume or hand lotion. No fish medicines of any sort.
A trace of salt (sodium chloride) is OK, but not required.
This method of growing bacteria will work in a marine system, too. The species of bacteria are different.

1b) Optional: Add any source of the bacteria that you are growing to seed the tank. Cycled media from a healthy tank is good. Decor or some gravel from a cycled tank is OK. Live plants or plastic are OK. I have even heard of the right bacteria growing in the bio film found on driftwood. (So if you have been soaking some driftwood in preparation to adding it to the tank, go ahead and put it into the tank) Bottled bacteria is great, but only if it contains Nitrospira species of bacteria. Read the label and do not waste your money on anything else.
At the time this was written the right species could be found in:
Dr. Tims One and Only
Tetra Safe Start
Microbe Lift Nite Out II
...and perhaps others.
You do not have to jump start the cycle. The right species of bacteria are all around, and will find the tank pretty fast.

2) Add ammonia until the test reads 5 ppm. This ammonia is the cheapest you can find. No surfactants, no perfumes. Read the fine print. This is often found at discount stores like Dollar Tree, or hardware stores like Ace. You could also use a dead shrimp form the grocery store, or fish food. Protein breaks down to become ammonia. You do not have good control over the ammonia level, though.
Some substrates release ammonia when they are submerged for the first time. Monitor the level and do enough water changes to keep the ammonia at the levels detailed below.

3) Test daily. For the first few days not much will happen, but the bacteria that remove ammonia are getting started. Finally the ammonia starts to drop. Add a little more, once a day, to test 5 ppm.

4) Test for nitrite. A day or so after the ammonia starts to drop the nitrite will show up. When it does allow the ammonia to drop to 3 ppm.

5) Test daily. Add ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. If the nitrite or ammonia go to 5 ppm do a water change to get these lower. The ammonia removing species and the nitrite removing species (Nitrospira) do not do well when the ammonia or nitrite are over 5 ppm.

6) When the ammonia and nitrite both hit zero 24 hours after you have added the ammonia the cycle is done. You can challenge the bacteria by adding a bit more than 3 ppm ammonia, and it should be able to handle that, too, within 24 hours.

7) Now test the nitrate. Probably sky high!
Do as big a water change as needed to lower the nitrate until it is safe for fish. Certainly well under 20, and a lot lower is better. This may call for more than one water change, and up to 100% water change is not a problem. Remember the dechlor!
If you will be stocking right away (within 24 hours) no need to add more ammonia. If stocking will be delayed keep feeding the bacteria by adding ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. You will need to do another water change right before adding the fish.
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Helpful hints:

A) You can run a fishless cycle in a bucket to grow bacteria on almost any filter media like bio balls, sponges, ceramic bio noodles, lava rock or Matala mats. Simply set up any sort of water circulation such as a fountain pump or air bubbler and add the media to the bucket. Follow the directions for the fishless cycle. When the cycle is done add the media to the filter. I have run a canister filter in a bucket and done the fishless cycle.

B) The nitrogen cycle bacteria will live under a wide range of conditions and bounce back from minor set backs. By following the set up suggestions in part 1a) you are setting up optimum conditions for fastest reproduction and growth.
GH and KH can be as low as 1 degree, but watch it! These bacteria may use the carbon in carbonates, and if it is all used up (KH = 0) the bacteria may die off. They use the carbon from CO2, and this is generally pretty low in water, but can be replenished from the air and from carbonates. Keep the carbonates up to keep the pH up, too.
pH as low as 6.5 is OK, but by 6.0 the bacteria are not going to be doing very well. They are still there, and will recover pretty well when conditions get better. To grow them at optimum rates, keep the pH on the alkaline side of neutral.
Temperature almost to freezing is OK, but they must not freeze, and they are not very active at all. They do survive in a pond, but they are slow to warm up and get going in the spring. This is where you might need to grow some in a bucket in a warm place and supplement the pond population. Too warm is not good, either. Tropical or room temperature tank temperatures are best. (68 to 85*F or 20 to 28*C)
Moderate oxygen can be tolerated for a while. However, to remove lots of ammonia and nitrite these bacteria must have oxygen. They turn one into the other by adding oxygen. If you must stop running the filter for an hour or so, no problem. If longer, remove the media and keep it where it will get more oxygen.
Once the bacteria are established they can tolerate some fish medicines. This is because they live in a complex film called Bio film on all the surfaces in the filter and the tank. Medicines do not enter the bio film well.
These bacteria do not need to live under water. They do just fine in a humid location. They live in healthy garden soil, as well as wet locations.

C) Planted tanks may not tolerate 3 ppm or 5 ppm ammonia. It is possible to cycle the tank at lower levels of ammonia so the plants do not get ammonia burn. Add ammonia to only 1 ppm, but test twice a day, and add ammonia as needed to keep it at 1 ppm. The plants are also part of the bio filter, and you may be able to add the fish sooner, if the plants are thriving. 1 ppm twice a day will grow almost as much bacteria as 3 ppm once a day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Wow, thank you so much for all of the information!!! :)

I'm going to read through what you provided again when I'm all set to get started in about a month.

What I initially planned to do was set up the new tank using the old (dried out) eco-complete, add more eco-complete - a few handfuls of the gravel in my established tank, along with 2-3 prefilters covered in goo (haha, they tend to get covered in a week or two's time, so I should have a few by then), along with a marimo ball or two from the tank as well. I typically use Seachem Stability + Prime to condition the water.

Then I was going to heavily plant the tank (investing in a Finnex Planted+ 24/7) and give it a good 2-3 weeks while testing and doing water changes - then add the rest of my settled tank's eco-complete (maybe I could add that gradually, actually), and maybe a layer of sand on top for my corydora.

__________________

Just noticed your comment about running a fishless cycle in a bucket. Interesting! So I could basically start that in the meantime and get a couple of week's headstart before moving and setting up the tank? That would be fantastic!
 

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Yes, if you are planning on setting it up in a month, you could completely cycle a filter with NO starter culture in 3 weeks. Then keep it fed with ammonia until you are ready for it.

I have seen other threads about seachem stability. Basically, it boils down to:

Tank cycles in the same length of time whether you use it or not...
In other words, don't waste your money.

If you have had a better experience, with test results over time to prove it, I would like to see it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I already have the Stability, so no money wasted there! Well, no more money wasted anyway. :)

I will definitely try the bucket cycle!
 
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