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Old 05-14-2009, 01:56 AM   #1
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I just learned about cycling but I already have fish. What now?!



Did you listen to the local store employee and run your filter for 24 hours before adding fish? I did and like you, I now know the error of my ways. So what to do after you put fish in the tank and then learn about the need to “cycle” your tank? What is cycling anyway? I don’t even own a bicycle!

Ok… in a nutshell and at the very basic level, cycling a tank is allowing bacterial colonies that consume harmful compounds to grow to a level to keep your fish healthy.

The first bacteria to appear consume Ammonia (NH3) and excrete Nitrite (NO2).
The next to show up consume Nitrite and excrete NitrAte (NO3).

Both Ammonia and Nitrite can hurt fish long term or be deadly on the short term.
Nitrate (NO3) is less harmful and fish can acclimate to it. I prefer to keep my levels under 20 PPM, but up to 80 PPM can be fish safe.

Where does the Ammonia come from?

Your fish produce it in their waste and any left over food (or rotting plants) decompose into Ammonia. A fishless cycle, which is preferable by most standards, involves adding an ammonia source (usually a decaying shrimp or pure non-scented ammonia) and allowing the bacterial colonies to grow before fish are added. But what if you didn’t know about any of this before buying those gorgeous fish?

This is the point that a lot of folks (including me) start to get a bit overwhelmed. There’s really no need for it though. Get a liquid test kit (API Master FW is my favorite) and follow the directions. Don’t waste your money on test strips. They are more expensive in the long run and a lot less accurate. The test results will tell you what to do. If Ammonia or Nitrite equal .25 PPM or higher, it’s time to do a water change! Remember to use a good dechlorinator, like Seachem’s Prime. If you measure .50 PPM and do a 50% change, you will be at .25. Do another 50% change and you’ll be at .125, etc.

Ok, well that’s all well and good but I already have fish! What should I do now?!

Seriously think about returning some or all of your fish and doing a fishless cycle. There’s a great sticky on it here… http://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums/f15/fishless-cycling-for-dummies-103339.html. If you absolutely can’t bear to part with your new finned friends, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get dedicated. TEST your water daily (or more) and change it as needed! You may need to do this more than once a day so don’t be surprised. This regimen shouldn’t last longer than a month or so. Despite perpetual rumor and misinformation, changing water WILL NOT slow down your cycle and will keep your fish healthy. The bacteria that we need for a healthy “cycled” system live in the filter media, gravel, and décor, but don’t really exist in substantial amounts in the water itself.

Can I do anything to speed things up?

Yes! Get some nasty old filter media (Filter pad, bioballs, biowheel, etc.) or a handful of used gravel from a healthy established tank and put it into your filter or a filter sock in your tank. This will “seed” your system with the bacteria needed and significantly speed up cycling for you.

How do I know when my tank is cycled?

Your Ammonia levels will gradually give way to higher Nitrite levels. Nitrite will lower to zero and Nitrates will start to rise. When you consistently test zero for Ammonia & Nitrite and have increasing Nitrate, you have a cycled tank! (Woohoo!) Remember that each fish you add will add more Ammonia and that time should be allowed for the bacteria to catch up. Add slowly and responsibly and you will enjoy the hobby even more and your fish will thrive.

Happy Fishkeeping!
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Old 05-17-2009, 11:47 PM   #2
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Very well said.
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Old 05-18-2009, 09:31 AM   #3
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so does that mean i still have to wait for my nitrate and nitrites to spike?

:S

my tank has been running for 2 weeks. ><
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Old 05-18-2009, 12:45 PM   #4
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so does that mean i still have to wait for my nitrate and nitrites to spike?

:S

my tank has been running for 2 weeks. ><
More than likely. Without a test kit for ammonia, we can only assume that you are somewhere in the ammonia spike phase still.
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Old 05-18-2009, 01:00 PM   #5
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so that means it may take weeks, months, or even years for that matter in order for the ammonia spike to break in?

can't I avoid it? . . . will regular water changes help avoid it?
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Old 05-18-2009, 01:38 PM   #6
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so that means it may take weeks, months, or even years for that matter in order for the ammonia spike to break in?

can't I avoid it? . . . will regular water changes help avoid it?
Weeks. That's the way it goes whether you cycle with fish or fishless. You can't avoid it but you can mitigate the damage to fish by doing water changes. A test kit is important because it essentially tells you how much and how often you need to change water, as well as gives you an approximate idea of where you are in the cycle. Once your tank has cycled, ammonia and nitrite will read 0, and you'll have nitrate that accumulates in between water changes. This means that your bacterial colonies have grown to a sufficient size to support the bioload that you have; i.e. the ammonia that your fish produce is broken down to nitrite, and the nitrite is broken down into nitrate. Your water changes at that point will dilute nitrate and dissolved organic compounds, and you can generally back them off to once a week.

I'd suggest reading the above post again, and then searching the articles section for other info on cycling. This is something you'll need to have a really good understanding of.
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Old 05-18-2009, 01:57 PM   #7
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invest in a test kit so you know whats going on in your tank. if not just keep doing daily major wcs for several weeks.
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Old 05-19-2009, 04:59 PM   #8
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I'll invest in the near future... I need to get my studies straight so I can finally get this final lap done and I'm gonna look for a job so I can buy more stuff for the fish... and also invest in my other hobbies, which is pretty pricey too ><

Hopefully My parents would approve of another tank in the near future
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Old 05-20-2009, 09:22 PM   #9
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i ended up with a very used filter that had tons of gunk in it... within the first week my levels were good....
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Old 05-20-2009, 09:34 PM   #10
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what do you do if you have too much nitrate?
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Old 05-21-2009, 12:45 AM   #11
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nothinig i believe nitrate is the good compound
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Old 05-21-2009, 12:48 AM   #12
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what do you do if you have too much nitrate?
in a fishless cycle nothing. with a fish cycle or a stocked tank if you do your water changes weekly you wont have too much nitrates. try to keep it at 20-30 ppm in a tank.
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Old 05-26-2009, 07:23 AM   #13
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nothinig i believe nitrate is the good compound
nitrates aren't exactly good, they're just the least dangerous of the major nitrogenous compounds. as for getting rid of them, live plants help keep nitrates down, although keeping a planted tank will take more effort. partial water changes and gravel vacuuming are still regardless since there will still be wastes and other stuff to remove anyway.
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Old 06-07-2010, 07:40 PM   #14
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Smile cycling,

ah, may I test what i have learned? Answer would be water changes and testing to determing how many ppm you need to reduce by / what % of the water you need to change?

Correct?
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Old 06-08-2010, 07:40 PM   #15
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tank cycling question

Hello, I am just learning about the water cycling process. Unfortunately I already have a fish, and not knowing any better was doing a complete water change every 4 or 5 days.

I just ordered an API Freshwater Master Test Kit. (Waiting upon arrival)

Now I have many questions: such as....

Does having filtration help with controlling Ammonia, Nitrites during the start up?

Can someone tell me if Tetra products, that claim to assist with the cycle process are anything they claim to be? Specificallly:

SafeStart:
Features and Benefits
- Live nitrifying bacteria start working immediately to reduce dangerous ammonia and nitrite.
- SafeStart prevents new tank syndrome for healthy fish.
- The patented mix of Nitrosomonas, Nitrosospira, and Nitrospira is proven

and

EasyBalance® with Nitraban
EasyBalance® provides an invaluable safety net for the time challenged hobbyist. Nitraban™ adds further stability to aquariums by helping natural bacteria complete the nitrogen cycle. These white, biodegradable granules settle into the gravel where they nourish beneficial de-nitrification bacteria that convert nitrate to harmless nitrogen gas. When used on a weekly basis, EasyBalance® will help keep your fish healthy while making your job easier. The water is kept biologically healthy for up to 6 months, extending time between water changes. It’s a comprehensive benefits package for both you and your fish alike

is there anything I can do meantime to minimize stress and risk to the health of my daughter's betta fish?

Thanks all.......
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Old 06-08-2010, 07:56 PM   #16
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I would cycle for the first time without using any of those products. Just return the fish if you can or lend them to a friend with an aquarium and cycle fish-less. Yes, you should always have your filter running during the cycle, that's where the most nitrification is going to be happening.
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Old 06-08-2010, 08:03 PM   #17
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Do you know anyone with an established tank? The easiest way to speed up things is with used media. Don't worry about doing too many water changes. The good stuff is on the media, substrate, and decor. The bad stuff is in the water and needs to be removed. IMO, the more often the better. Those products (and MANY others) are questionable at best to me. I wouldn't waste the money, buy an extra bottle of Prime.
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Old 06-08-2010, 08:23 PM   #18
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Crepe/ HN1, no don't know anyone with an established tank. Assuming the betta is no worse off than when I knew no better, I suppose the best thing to do is wait on the test kit and do daily 25 - 30 percent changes. I need to get some Prime, right now I have Tetra AquaSafe, but only used it once... prior i was using, (I beleive API)....

I do not have "gravel" just the larger smooth-surfaced polished-looking translucent rocks.... other than that, just a little bridge toy, which i was scrubbing each time i changed the water, but now know better. also, don't have a gravel vac... was going to get a Red Sea Nano Aquarium Filter tonight, since the Tom Aquatics is much too strong and stresses out the betta.

anything else i gotta have? other problem is funds right now.... and wife is getting p/o-ed on my spending money... little by little that $6.00 betta my daughter got for her birthday is turning into an increasingly expensive almost-a-hobby... but i feel for the little guy....
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Old 06-08-2010, 08:40 PM   #19
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Water changes, water changes, water changes, and more water changes.

50% twice a day! You'll be cycled in a couple weeks. An aquaclear hob will cycle fast that way too, and will be the best filter you can buy if your not already using something better.
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Old 06-08-2010, 09:34 PM   #20
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Agreed. With the level of attention you are paying, I think you'll do fine doing as you are. Once the test kit comes in, you'll have more details. Like has been said, water changes will get you through. The good news is that once you have a cycled tank, it's easy. She'll love it before you know it!
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