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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I setup this 3.5 gal nano tank on Christmas day.
Still working on creating the vision I want but it's getting close.
Most of the plants were added within the last 2 weeks - I keep replanting as I gain knowledge.

My water tests as follows:
PH: 6.6
Ammonia: 0
Nitrites: 0
Nitrates: 0

I have never tested anything but 0 for the the Nitrites and Nitrates.
I just brought the ammonia down to zero with water changes and it's been stable for a week now.

There is no fish in the tank - only plants.

I'm still wondering if I have completely cycled the tank yet - I'm assuming there should be some level of Nitrates.

Please advise.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I never added ammonia - I did use SafeStart Plus and Nite-Out II.

I am using Aquasoil to clarify.

My adult son keeps bugging me to add fish - but I don't want to kill them off until I'm sure it's cycled.
 

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If you haven't added a source of ammonia, then your tank is not cycled. If you decide to go the route of adding fish, only add one to get things started. You can also go the route of "fishless cyling".
You can really help speed things along if you know someone with a healthy fish tank. If you do, get a piece of filter media from them, and add it to your filter. I have done that by using a sponge from one of my fully cycled tanks and it pretty much has given me a cycled tank. I still went slow in adding fish to the new tank, though.
Here is an article explaining the cycling process.
https://users.cs.duke.edu/~narten/faq/cycling.html
Yes, I agree with the above poster ... you new tank is lovely!
 

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You added beneficial bacteria (safestart and nite-out II), but you need to keep the bacteria fed.

Nitrosomona bacteria are ammonia-oxidizers, essentially feeding on ammonia/ammonium and converting it into nitrite.
Then Nitrospira bacteria, nitrite-oxidizers, convert the nitrite into nitrate.

Nitrates can be used up by plants or removed through water changes. Anaerobic bacteria can denitrify nitrates, but they aren't much of a factor in most aquariums so we will just leave that out of the picture.

Aquasoil I believe is said to leach out ammonia or ammonium, which explains the total ammonia you detected. If you did have a properly cycled tank, you would of have Nitrosomona bacteria been there to convert ammonia/ammonium to nitrites, and then Nitrospira bacteria to convert the nitrites to nitrates.

It is possible the plants have used up all the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates, but I doubt so, since you said you removed the ammonia through water changes. And since you never detected nitrites or nitrates, then you don't have the beneficial bacteria necessary to consider your tank cycled.

So no, the tank is not cycled. You should have been dosing ammonia one way or another. I doubt the ammonia from the substrate was much to establish a large enough beneficial bacteria colony. You should have also left the ammonia present as that is the food source necessary for the beneficial bacteria to grow.

I am not sure if the beneficial bacteria you added via bottled products is still alive or not. If you add a form of ammonia now (you can simply throw in some fish food if you want, make sure to add enough so the plants don't out compete the bacteria) and see if the ammonia converts to nitrite within a few hours, then check for nitrates. If still no nitrites or nitrates, the tank is not cycled and you most likely need to add another bottle of bacteria (or wait for the bacteria to naturally grow, which takes long).

Those bottled bacteria products claim to allow you to stock a tank instantly (although if you research, a lot of those bacteria in the bottle have slowed down in function and take days to "wake up" and perform at optimum levels). So you should be able to add the appropriate amount of the bottled bacteria and stock fish right away. Or to be safer, add the bottled bacteria, then feed ammonia over the next few days and check that the tank is fully cycled and ready to stock fish.

But props to you for not adding fish until you are sure the tank is cycled.


Oh, just looked back at your tank pic. Since it seems you are rather new, be easy with the co2 until you are sure it's at safe levels for the fish. It's wise to introduce fish to co2 injected tanks slowly, so slower acclimation is recommended. Or reduce the co2 in the tank and increase slowly, allowing the fish to adjust gradually.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Just to be clear: I will get another bottle of the SafeStart and add it to the tank.

I'm assuming the ammonia levels will increase and then turn to nitrites and then nitrates.

What would be the appropriate level of nitrates in a cycled tank?

And I want to keep the ammonia levels up until it is converted to nitrites - correct?

Thank you for all your responses - very helpful
 

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Just to be clear: I will get another bottle of the SafeStart and add it to the tank.

I'm assuming the ammonia levels will increase and then turn to nitrites and then nitrates.

What would be the appropriate level of nitrates in a cycled tank?

And I want to keep the ammonia levels up until it is converted to nitrites - correct?

Thank you for all your responses - very helpful
Sounds like you dont yet have a firm grasp on the nitrogen cycle. Ammonia presents itself in a fish tank either from fish waste, uneaten food, etc. ammonia in even a small concentration is deadly to fish. A particular bacteria "eats" (I guess metabolizes is really the correct word) the ammonia and converts it to nitrite. Nitrite (just like ammonia) is deadly to fish even in small concentrations. Another bacteria "eats" nitrite and converts it into nitrate which fish can tolerate up to a certain level. The whole idea of cycling a tank is to feed those different bacteria so they colonize and grow to a point where they almost instantly consume the hazardous ammonia and nitrite.

The safestart or any other bottled bacteria is nothing more than bacteria (hopefully if its still alive in the bottle.). Without a source of ammonia that bacteria will die off and does nothing to help cycle a tank. You can do a "fishless cycle" (where is Diana when you need her?!) which can involve literally dosing ammonia into your tank either by using liquid ammonia, or something like fish food or even a frozen shrimp from the grocery store. This can be a slow process as you need to see the ammonia levels rise; then allow time for the bacteria to colonize and consume the ammonia which eventually turns into nitrite. Then you need to keep the ammonia levels up (so that first colony of bacteria keep doing their thing) until enough of the second bacteria appear and can consume the nitrite and turn it into nitrate.

The bottled bacteria (safestart) you're mentioning is just a way to help speed up the cycle. But its worthless unless you keep the ammonia levels up.
 

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I am not entirely sure if those bottled bacteria have ammonia inside the bottle or not.

I would add a known ammonia source to be sure (again, you can simply add fish food, best if done so using a separate media bag to contain the food, otherwise it's messy with rotting food all over the tank). Bottled ammonia isn't that expensive though.

Make sure you use a water conditioner to dechlorinate. Seachem Prime is a good one.

Yeah, keep the ammonia levels up until they are converted to nitrites. Then you know you have some Nitrsomona bacteria there.
Then you keep nitrite levels up until they are converted to nitrates. Then you know you have some Nitrospira bacteria there.
That's how the cycle works. Remember to factor in the plant uptake of ammonia, nitrite, nitrates.




Is this your first tank? Not too shabby aquascaping if it is.

Bump:
You can do a "fishless cycle" (where is Diana when you need her?!)
LOL! Was just thinking the same thing :)

She has the whole fishless cycle steps written out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
So I can purchase Dr Tim's Aquatics Ammonium chloride and bring the ammonia levels up.
Should I use the SafeStart and then add the Ammonia?

Most importantly here will the ammonia harm my plants?

Sorry for all the questions - but knowledge is only gained by experience.

It is my first planted tank - not quite done yet - will be adding more of the Limnophila heterophylla this week - more elegant than the Limnophila indica.
 

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So I can purchase Dr Tim's Aquatics Ammonium chloride and bring the ammonia levels up.
Should I use the SafeStart and then add the Ammonia?

Most importantly here will the ammonia harm my plants?

Sorry for all the questions - but knowledge is only gained by experience.

It is my first planted tank - not quite done yet - will be adding more of the Limnophila heterophylla this week - more elegant than the Limnophila indica.

I dont know what dr tims ammonium chloride is. All you need is ammonia. Unscented, regular old ammonia. Go to the grocery store for it or Ace hardware as their brand is known to be free of soaps, dyes, etc. But to be safe shake the bottle. If it froths up its not what you want. If it forms a few bubbles that disappear quickly you're good.

Its not likely to harm your plants in a low concentration. Remember how I said fish food, and fish waste turn into ammonia inside of your tank? The plants should be fine just like everybody else's planted tank!

You're going to want to add the ammonia first and then add the bottled bacteria (remember, the bacteria NEEDS ammonia to survive). I assume you have a test kit since you mentioned some readings. You'll want to first dose the ammonia to 3-5 ppm. There is a calculator here to help figure out how much ammonia you'll need to get to that 3-5 ppm number: Calculator
 

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didn't read all this but you should properly cycle a tank vs relying on those 'instant cycle' products.
 

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Yes -

You can use Dr Tim's Ammonia Chloride as your ammonia source. "Pure" so safe for aquarium use and cheap ( <$2 per bottle, but so is any ammonia source). The directions for use are right on the bottle - Add 1 drop per gallon to achieve 2 ppm level in your tank. In your case, that would be 4 drops (I would round up for your 3.5g tank). Check your ammonia levels after adding to confirm they are where they should be, then daily moving forward. Keep dosing daily as needed to maintain your desired ammonia levels. Some people dose to 3 or 4 ppm, so adjust your drops/doses as needed if this is what you want. Just don't go over 4 as this can stall your cycle. Continue checking levels and dosing, then in a week, start checking for Nitrites (keep dosing your ammonia). Once those show up, wait a couple days then start looking for Nitrates.

Once you have nitrates, you are now looking for your ammonia and Nitrite levels to zero out within 12-24 hours of adding your ammonia source. Usually a pretty quick occurance once you start seeing nitrates. It's the getting from ammonia to nitrates that takes time (couple weeks to months for some folks).

Plant concerns? Your plants will do fine with ammonia as long as you don'the get crazy high. Plants will actually metabolize some of the ammonia too.

Oh yeah, I agree with everyone else....Beautiful tank!
 

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The ammonia produced by the Aquasoil can cycle the tank. But it does not last forever. Your tank may have grown the beneficial bacteria, or the bottled bacteria grew, but as the ammonia tapered off the population of these bacteria also tapered off.
Start doing the fishless cycle. If you find it seems to go really fast, there were some bacteria still alive to jump start the cycle. If the fishless cycle takes 3 weeks, then you know they had all died when the ammonia was gone.

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 methemglobinemia 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.
__________________________

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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Aquasoil alone that OP is using would prolly add enough ammonia to feed bacterial colony and plant's. (may never see ammonia due to plant uptake)
I am assuming the aquasoil contain's some organic matter which is why those who use it often suggest frequent water changes for first few week's.
Believe this happens with most soil's.
Do not believe attempting to keep ammonia at level that will never be realized in this small tank to be necessary.
Do not believe the 3.5 gal to be large enough for much in the way of fishes but would be suitable for single small fish like Betta or honey gourami.
I would be tempted to place one of afore mentioned in the tank considering plant mass in photo and monitor the water each day for a week for ammonia.
Change water if ammonia greater than .25
My two cent's.
 

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I didn't even realize that was only a 3.5 gallon. In that case it looks even better! The scale the hardscape presents is great! Some Neocaridina shrimp would compliment the scale even more. But then that questions compatibility with shrimp, in a small space at that. For a first planted tank you've done it up very nicely!

If the ammonia (heard it's actually ammonium? which is almost non-toxic, but I assume that would more so be determined by your pH) produced by your substrate by itself, without an additional source of ammonia, and it is not being converted down to nitrite to nitrate within reasonable time, then it's not cycled.

If the plants aren't using up the ammonia from the substrate fast enough to keep ammonia levels safe (practically 0 ppm) then that is not enough plant mass to filter the tank on it's own (without beneficial bacteria/filter), especially after adding more nitrogen sources (fish, fish food, possibly ferts), so then cycling the tank would still be advised.

But again, those beneficial bacteria products claim that you can instantly stock fish after using the bottled nitrifying bacteria. So I mean, you supposedly should be able to dose the bottled bacteria and add your livestock/fish/inverts right away and the tank should be instantly cycled and you would be done with it all. It being only a 3.5 gallon, it should work out really easily.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I want to thank this wonderful community for all your tips and compliments.

I am going to go with Dr. Tim's One and Only and his Ammonium chloride.

Will dose the bacteria and ammonium at the same time and then monitor the ammonia levels to keep it at 2ppm.
Once the ammonia goes down and there is some nitrite I will be looking for the nitrates to elevate.
Will then test the bacteria with more ammonia and see if it goes to zero in 24 hrs.

Then my son will be happy because we can add a few fish.

Thanks again,
William
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
I used Dr. Tim's One and Only and his Ammonium chloride and it took less than 5 days to cycle.

The ammonia, with the API test kit, never measured about .25ppm.

I added 4 drops of the Ammonium chloride each day and today I tested for Nitrates and got a 40ppm reading. No ammonia or nitrite.

I have done a 50% water change and will test the nitrates again tomorrow.

Seems like it's time for fish.

I did add a Hydor Pico Evo-Mag 180 pump and the additional circulation has been great for the plants.

Thanks again everyone,
Wm
 

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