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Old 08-03-2011, 10:22 AM   #1
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Other ways to cycle your tank.

Before we get this discussion started, I just want to throw out a gentle reminder to be respectful.

Just about everyone has read the myriad of fishless cycling discussions here. Fishless cycling is a great option for a lot of folks, there is no doubt about that. But lately I have been seeing a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about the process. I just wanted to throw out a few scenarios that I rarely see mentioned at all.

Seeding a new tank is easy, if you already have a cycled tank. Starting with a small bioload and some filter media from an established tank is one of the easiest and most foolproof ways to cycle quickly IME. All you need to do is pull some media from your existing tank and put it into the new one. Putting it into the filter is a good idea, although if it doesn't fit in there you can simply drop it into the tank. Add a small bioload (ask questions if you aren't sure what constitutes a small bioload) immediately. This will feed the existing bacteria without overwhelming it. Test often for a week or so. Any ammonia or nitrite spike you see can easily be addressed with an extra water change or two until the bacteria you introduced plays catch-up. The bacteria that make up our tanks' biological filtration capacity are much more hardy and resilient that what they get credit for IME, and any catching up will occur in a matter of a couple days to a week if you've added a proper bioload. If you really want to, you can add the media and then dose ammonia to build up the bacteria colony... but it is not necessary to do so and quite honestly, I don't see the point. I have seen comments in other threads much to the effect of "if your tank can't convert 4 PPM ammonia in 24 hours, you can't add fish". This is absolutely not the case.

If you are starting from scratch and do not have access to established filter media, the absolute easiest way to cycle your tank without fish is to get a raw shrimp from the grocery store and toss it into the tank (use a piece of the shrimp for smaller tanks). It releases ammonia as it decomposes and you don't have to go through the trouble of dosing anything. In the overwhelming majority of cases this is a set it and forget it method. Monitor with a test kit just as you would if you were dosing ammonia. If you want to cut down on the mess, just put the shrimp into a filter bag or pantyhose and pull it out when you're done. Again, there is no magic number to shoot for with ammonia conversion that constitutes a threshold between cycled and not cycled. I'm of the opinion that you should always start with a small bioload anyway, so shooting for a specific value of ammonia conversion is not relevant to the way I stock a newly-cycled tank.

If you have enough plants, you can silent cycle. This refers to the use of fast-growing stem plants to remove toxins from the water, as plants use the toxins quite readily for growth. In order for this to work, you need to start with a small bioload and a lot of plants. Anubias, java fern, java moss, etc. won't cut it. You need fast-growing stem plants such as anacharis or hornwort, and you need to start with a lot of them. Monitor with your test kit just as you would for any other method of cycling.

I have used all of these methods many times to cycle tanks over the past 8 years and none have failed me yet. I just wanted to throw out some alternatives to dosing ammonia that I don't even see mentioned anymore. Weigh your options and decide on a method that works best for you.

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Old 08-03-2011, 10:25 AM   #2
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Great point! I have a new tank and some old filter media in my other tanks, this defiantly saved me from asking the same old question again! Thanks SM!

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Old 08-03-2011, 10:28 AM   #3
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Great info!

I'm a huge fan of using seeded filter media from an existing tank. How easy can you get?
75: blood parrots, featherfin cat, emperor tetras, turquoise rainbowfish, BN plecos, japanese trapdoor; 46: WCMM, gold inca snails, ghost, bamboo & amano shrimp, kuhli loaches, rummynose & ember tetras, endlers, platies, flame gourami, guppies; 16: pygmy, peppered, loxozonus corys, otos, assassins, RCS ... ~ Research PRIOR to purchase.... ~
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Old 08-03-2011, 10:28 AM   #4

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There are a handful of members here like myself that agree fish-in cycles are good as well when done responsibly.
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Old 08-03-2011, 11:07 AM   #5
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I absolutely agree . I personally support fishless cycling for new and / or inexperienced hobbyists, but one of the benefits is that once you have an established tank...you don't need to do it again.

I think HUKIT summed it up perfectly...as long as cycling is done responsibly by committed hobbyists, the method chosen is not of paramount importance.
The (almost) Complete Guide and FAQ to Fishless Cycling
Being responsible...fishless cycling defines it, fish-in requires it. Choose wisely.
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Old 08-03-2011, 12:03 PM   #6
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I have a big issue in one of my 55g tanks. I did a fishless cycle and then had a death a death in the family. Without thinking I came home and said the tanks should be good ( it was ready the day I received the bad news) and we picked up 6 gold long finned danios. I put them in and forgot to check the levels. Yes this was bad, but I was still not thinking clearly. Once l came to my senses I check the parameters to fine that ammonia was at .50ppm with 0 nitrites and nitrates. I realized my BB must have died while I was gone, this was back in April. I kept on top of the tank and checked everyday so nothing got too high. I didn't want to harm my fish while the tank cycled again.

When I saw my tank cycle I waited a little while and thought it was ok to put in more fish. We then added 6 tiger barbs. These guys have a much bigger bio load than the danios. I have been checking the water every day and something strange happened. When my ammonia spiked (which I was waiting for from the new bio load) my nitrates disappeared. I checked the tank every day and when I noticed that the nitrates and nitrites where not coming back I seeded the tank from our well established 10g. I cannibalized the filter media to put in the 55g canister and added some of the gravel in an open bag to the tank.

This was last week and I have still not seen any nitrites or nitrates, and ammonia is still rising. I never let it get above .5ppm and if it does I do a proportional water change to bring it down to an ok level.

How long do they think it will take to see my cycle come back?
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Old 08-03-2011, 02:16 PM   #7
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Cycling a Tank w/o fish

Hello ski...

The cycling steps I was given a number of years ago, are extremely easy for the novice fishkeeper. I've used them at least a dozen times. The procedure has never failed me. Here are the steps:

Set up the tank with light, power filter, heater, gravel and an air pump with an air stone.

Fill the tank half full with water and plant it well.

Completely fill the tank and plug everything in and let it run for 30 days.

At the end of 30 days, add a few small fish.

This is all the information I was given when I started my first tank. It's worked every time since then.

"Fear not, my young apprentice. Just change the tank water."
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Old 08-03-2011, 02:28 PM   #8
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That's just a delayed method of a fish-in cycle though. Running the tank with nothing in it for 30 days, and no source of ammonia, doesn't do anything to cycle the tank prior to adding fish. My point is, there is no benefit to waiting the 30 days rather than just adding a few small fish after a day, as either way is going to result in a fish-in cycle.
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Old 08-03-2011, 02:42 PM   #9
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Ive heard of the walstad method whats that something totally different or is it a cycling method
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Old 08-03-2011, 02:46 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by severum mama View Post
Running the tank with nothing in it for 30 days, and no source of ammonia, doesn't do anything to cycle the tank prior to adding fish.
Originally Posted by Bbradbury View Post
Fill the tank half full with water and plant it well.
Wouldn't having lots of plants in the tank for 30 days provide enough nutrients to get the bacteria colonies started? You would still need to stock slowly and monitor water parameters, but I would think allowing the plants to grow in the tank for that long would get the cycle started just from the small amount of decomposing plant material.

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cycle, tan

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