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Old 07-13-2003, 10:24 PM   #1
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New aquarium, please help

Hi all,
I know the "how to start a new aquarium" thing has been overdone, but I'd appreciate it if I could get some answers to a few questions...

I've never had an 'aquarium' persay, but I currently have 2 betta fish who are doing quite well, and I've never heard of the cycling process till now. Why is it so important if my bettas don't seem to be effected; I change their water completely when it gets dirty and they don't seem to mind? Are they just more hardy?

Right now I have a tank all set up with good water and no fish, and don't have gravel from a previously established tank to seed the new water with. I've been reading up on aquariums, and now I don't dare buy any fish to put into it...will they really die if I put one or two in now? Can I possibly put one of my bettas in there for awhile to start up the nitrogen cycle? Or maybe purchase a plant from the store that might carry some good bacteria?

And do I really have to wait for weeks before putting fish in?

Also, how important is the filtration apparatus? Will an air pump tube stuck in the tank work as long as I vaccum the gravel often?

Thank you so much! I really want this to work out, I appreciate any help or suggestions!
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Old 07-13-2003, 10:32 PM   #2
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You will have to say what you have in mind as far as tank size and what fish you eventually want. That will determine what you need for a filter and how the cycling process will go.
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Old 07-13-2003, 11:22 PM   #3
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I change their water completely when it gets dirty and they don't seem to mind
I wouldn't do that...firstly, the bacteria that helps neutralize the ammonia will be washed away as well and every time you change the water it bascially starts the cycle again. 20% water changes weekly would be enough.
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And do I really have to wait for weeks before putting fish in?
Yes. The nitrogen cycle takes time and if you put fish in, high ammonia or nitrite will kill the fish. If you put fish in that aren't hardy enough, it will die of ammonia posioning

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I've never heard of the cycling process till now
Cycling is a process where the ammonia produced by fish respiration, excretation and uneaten food get turned into nitrite. Bacteria builds up in the tank and the filter. These bacteria are called Nirosomonas. It takes time for Nirosomonas to colonise the tank so it might take a few weeks for ammonia levels to drop...during this period of time, high ammonia level would be deadly to fish. When Nirosomonas has fully colonised the tank, the ammonia is then changed to nitrite.
Nitrite then can be reduced to nitrate. The bacteria that reduce nitrite to nitrate is called nitrobacter. Nitrobacter takes even more time to adsorb nitrite, and in this stage nitrite is prominent and it is another dangerous time for a fish, even a hardy one. After a while, nitrite will drop and nitrate will be prominent in the tank...but nitrate although not as toxic as ammonia and nitrite, regular water changes is need to keep the nitrate level down.

Basically if the ammonia and nitrite has spiked then rapidly dropped and you could test for nitrate, the tank has cycled. The ammonia and nitrite has to read 0 and nitrate below 20 to reduce changes of death.
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Can I possibly put one of my bettas in there for awhile to start up the nitrogen cycle?
Yes you can but i wouldn't recommend it. Buy some other cheap hardy fish like platties or guppies to start off the cycle, that way, it has more of a chance surviving the high nitrite and ammonia.

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Or maybe purchase a plant from the store that might carry some good bacteria?
Plants use ammonia and nitrite as energy so if you have a couple of live plants in the tank, it will lower ammonia and nitrite

Good Luck and hope i've helped
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Old 07-13-2003, 11:29 PM   #4
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Yes you can but i wouldn't recommend it. Buy some other cheap hardy fish like platties or guppies to start off the cycle, that way, it has more of a chance surviving the high nitrite and ammonia.
This is not true, guppies are not extremely hardy, just not expenisive. They will most likely die in the cycle. The fish with the best chance is a zebra danio, but why kill a fish when you dont have to?

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Plants use ammonia and nitrite as energy so if you have a couple of live plants in the tank, it will lower ammonia and nitrite
If you dont have the right lighting to sustain plants, they will rot causing the ammonia to rise, in turn totally eliminating what they are in for...
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Old 07-14-2003, 12:34 AM   #5
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This is not true, guppies are not extremely hardy, just not expenisive. They will most likely die in the cycle.
Part of this is true because female guppies most likely could survive the cycle but male will have a lower chance.
And the more pretty looking ones aren't really that great and will most likely die...so just buy the more common types
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Old 07-14-2003, 12:57 AM   #6
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thanks for the replies

Thanks all for the prompt replies!

Tkos, and anyone else who cares, I have a 20 by 10 inch tank that's 12 inches deep, and I hope to eventually have some plants, a bottom feeder and a few mixed community fish...I've been looking into them, but I can't do anything till that water cycle works out. Does anyone have hardy starter fish/plant suggestions while I wait so I can research them?

Azn, could I put some betta water into the new tank water to transplant some of that ammonia-neutralizing bacteria? I think I will put the betta in to help too. I have a bubble blowing air pump, I heard that air is needed for these bateria to grow...?

And d9hp, I don't want to kill fish when I don't have to, but I don't know of any other way to start the 'cycle' without introducing fish! I don't want to endanger them, but what do I do? Help!

And please, if anyone could explain why a filter is necessary, I would really appreciate it...it probably sounds like a stupid question, but as far as I've found, a filter acts as a home for the 'good' bacteria and it removes waste; the former which can be accomplished with gravel, and the latter with a gravel vacuum or siphon...Please correct me if I'm wrong with these assumptions.

Thanks so much for your input!
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Old 07-14-2003, 12:59 AM   #7
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We bought 3 zebra danios to cycle our tank and they are still in there... NOTHING phases those little suckers! When we pulled the UGF out and put in a HOB filter, the water quality was pretty poor but those Danios just kept swimming around like crazy. They like to play in the bubbles from our bubble wall too... really funny fish. Considering how hardy they are and how much fun they are to watch, it's no wonder they are as popular as they are.

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Old 07-14-2003, 01:04 AM   #8
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Your tank is a standard 10 gallon tank. You could place a raw shrimp into your tank and that would start the cycle faster than fish would
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Old 07-14-2003, 01:10 AM   #9
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The Under Gravel Filter grabs food and basically "traps" it under the gravel. As long as one is RELIGIOUS about vacuuming gravel, the UGF might work. However, and I speak here from VERY recent experience, that food and waste can cloud up the water in a matter of days and make the fish very unhappy. It will also make the water smell terrible... we pulled the UGF out and installed a power filter (we chose a Penguin Biowheel but there are several good ones on the market), changed most of the water in the tank, and voila! Within 36 hours our water was cleaner, the fish were happier, and I could sleep better at night knowing that my fishies weren't living over a landfill. A filter is necessary to clean the tank as well as maintain a natural "ecosystem" of bacteria, but it also saves the human a TON of work... I would hate to be vacuuming gravel every other day, which is what I was doing before we installed the Penguin. Ahhh... life is good.

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Old 07-14-2003, 01:15 AM   #10
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>>You could place a raw shrimp into your tank and that would start the cycle faster than fish would
Question... do you mean a LIVE shrimp? Or a dead one, uncooked??

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Old 07-14-2003, 01:36 AM   #11
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I think d9hp means dead and uncooked so it rotts giving off ammonia
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Old 07-14-2003, 07:30 AM   #12
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Okay. The best source of ammonia is well ammonia. You can buy it really cheap at the super market, but make sure it is pure ammonia dn has no detergents in it. You can use this to cycle you tank and then introduce all of your fish right away. You need an ammonia test kit. Dose you tank slowly with small amounts of ammonmia until the test kit shows 5 ppm. Then stop dosing. Keep testing every 24 hours. After every test dose again to bring the level up to 5 ppm again. When you are able to go from 5 ppm to 0 ppm in 24 hours your tank is ready to be filled. Now is the time to place all of your plants and fish in the tank. During this time do no water changes. Do a water change right before adding fish.

You can also use a raw dead shrimp for an ammonia source but it is much slower to rot than using pure ammonia.

Never place the plants in during the cycle as they use the ammonia and will not help build bacteria. This is called the fishless cycle.

Your other option as previously stated is to fish cycle. That means placing in your plants and starting with the hardiest fish and placing a small amount in the tank. Now keep testing for ammonia and if there is any spike at all do water changes to bring it back to 0ppm. Slowly add more fish until you have all your tank can hold. With a 10 gallon this isn't very much. If you want a bottom feeder then I would suggest cory catfish, maybe 3 or 4 dwarf ones, or a bristle nose pleco. The catfish are hardy and stay small. The pleco does get to around 4 inches which is a bit big but they don't need a lot of swimming room. However, they produce a lot of waste so you must clean a lot (not a common pleco as they grow 24 inches).

Also to grow real plants you must make sure than you have a proper light source. Does your tabk have flourescent lights or incandescent ones?
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Old 07-14-2003, 04:58 PM   #13
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Okay, tkos, I'll try out the fishless putting-ammonia-directly-in cycling first because I don't want to end up with dead fish, and if it's relatively faster that's great...do you know about how long it will take until the water will be okay? A week? Two? More? 8O And right before I add fish, do I do a partial or full water change? Should I ever scrub/distrub the gravel when I do a water change?

At the moment, I haven't yet gotten a light at all just for the fish. I know that flourescent lights seem to have most people's vote for the best light source, but wow, they're expensive! Are there any plants out there that don't need a lot of extra light?

Thanks for the fish advice, MicroFish, I'll have to get some zebras if I ever sort out this water issue. And thanks for the filter info.

Thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful comments and help!!!
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Old 07-14-2003, 05:14 PM   #14
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Well the time really depends on a lot fo things. It will go much faster if you could get some gravel or decorations from an exisiting aquarium. It could take 2 weeks or so but will allow you to put a full load of fish all at once. Yes, do a water change before adding fish and plants to make sure it is fresh and not stagnent and oxygenated. The bacteria is not in the water but on surfaces firmly attached. You shouild try and avoid disturbing gravel during water changes, though it won't hurt the bacteria.

Make sure no fish are in the tank with pure ammonia or any ammonia levels. That is where the test kit comes in so handy.

Java Fern and Java Moss work well with low light levels. If your tank has incandescent lights in it then you can replace those for around 8 dollars or so with screw in compact flourescent bulbs. The look like spirals and you can pick them up at WalMart or any Home Store. Get the mini ballast kind. That will give you much better light to grow plants.
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