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Old 08-24-2013, 03:42 PM   #1
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Question fishless cycling

greetings.
this is my first post to a forum ever! so forgive me my inexperience. like many people i have taken a long hiatus from the hobby (15 years!) due to travel/ school/ work et al. i am very happy to once again invest myself in the commitment to and responsibility of owning fish.
i was snooping around your site (doing research!!) and came across an article that really caught my attention. 'fishless cycling'. this is what has prompted me to join up!
in it the author mentions the negative impact charcoal filters have on the ecology of the tank and recommends the avoidance of them altogether- save for when medicating or serving some other 'disaster'.
i find this intriguing and am hoping for some more input. - i have always thought (and been taught) that carbon is a must....

for what its worth- here is a quick background of my fish keeping experience:

i got my first tank when i was 12 and quickly had 2-3. like most first time owners the early tanks met with limited success and taught me a lot of hard lessons. my parents knew nothing about fish and were very clear that the tanks were my responsibility. by the time i was 14 i had my first 100 gl. beauty! i ran this tank successfully for for the better part of 4 years.
these early tanks were largely experimental for me- figuring out what species i liked and which ones worked well together.
my interests broadened and i started keeping frogs/ toads and lizards. i successfully bread and sold a small variety of geckos, toads and frogs for several years. my favourite and most successful species were my red eyed tree frogs. (if anyone cares i am happy to elaborate)

eventually i sold off everything- i had custom built all of my own tanks (10 in all- each one about 150 gal) and canopies- to say nothing of the huge array of gadgetry.
so now i am back- i have to admit that i have never felt as successful with fish as i have the lizards and frogs.
my wife had an old 30 gal tank we set up a couple of years ago- cory's and emperor tetras. they did great for the better part of a year, but ended up meeting with disaster- we lost all of our fish within a week of each other. poor decision making and lax cleaning standards go the better of me (well actually my poor fish). we were really upset. after all we are the ones responsible for the safety of the fish we keep. arggg. never again.


i/ we now have a 55 gal tank- (the old tank is now the quarantine tank) lighting is not the greatest so plants need to be low light dependant to succeed and i'm not delving into co2 just yet... i want an amazon biotope (ish) i am happy to make some exceptions for plants. the fish will be tetras. the tank has been running for several months without any fish. i want to make sure i am happy with the layout, the health of plants and that my tank is properly cycling before i add any mates. thats where the article i read about fishless cycling got me.

my questions are as follows:

1.whats the deal about not using carbon?

i am going to do a forced cycle for the tank and once everything is cooking will add- (i havnt completely decided between) black phantoms, black neons, lemon tetras, emperors and some oto cats- i would love some corys but do not have a sand substrate.....
2. what are good stocking levels for my size tank. i was thinking of 2 schools of at least 15 tetras and a group of 5+ oto cats- am i better off to stick to a single school that is slightly larger or a couple of smaller schools? i dont want to over-bourdon my tank, yet i want some variety....

sorry for the length of the post. i will add some pics soon.
thanks!
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Old 08-24-2013, 08:13 PM   #2
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Carbon is optional, it can help keep odors down. In general, it only lasts for a few weeks before its useful surface area is coated with biowaste, and should be replaced.
I keep a bag around for removing meds if necessary. I prefer purigen by seachem for polishing the water. Also quilt batting (from craft/sewing stores) is useful and really cheap. Just make sure if you go that route, you use the non-flame retardant kind. I read that the flame retardant chemicals are toxic to fish.

I would go to aqadvisor.com for some ballpark references as far as stocking levels. Just be aware, that these are "recommended" stock levels, and if you treat it as gospel you will be frustrated.
I have a 55 gal, and have 2 large schools (14 harlequin rasboras, and 12 serpae tetra) in addition to my showpiece fish (2 angels and 2 silver dollars). I like the different schools, as they occupy different strata of the tank.
I have no experience with otos, although I've read that they should be added after your tank has built up a nice biofilm, otherwise they'll starve.
Basically what I'm trying to say is, it comes down to your personal preference.
Have fun, and welcome back to the hobby. I took a similar hiatus, been back for about 4 or 5 years now, and loving it.
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Old 08-24-2013, 08:23 PM   #3
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Most don't use carbon in planted tanks except to remove medications, odors, and such. Many people like to use Purgen which is rechargeable making it more economical even tho it costs more up front.

You don't have to keep cory's on sand. As long as the substrate doesn't have sharp edges they will be fine.

Are you going to do a fish only tank or planted?

I'm an old hobbyist... watched my dad in the 50's and 60's and had my first tank in the late 60's. By 1980 I was getting seriously into planted tanks. And let me tell you times have changed even in the past 15 years. So welcome back to the fun and enjoy!
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Old 08-28-2013, 01:24 PM   #4
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Hi rivercats. Thanks for responding. I am still unsure about whether or not to use carbon in my filter. My tank will have fish- tetras Otto cats and maybe ( maybe) Bolivian ram @1 male and 2 females I am more likely to do 2 schools of terra though- green tetras and black phantoms. I have not been able to find any more info on carbonless filtering. What do you think?
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Old 08-28-2013, 03:24 PM   #5
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The issue of using or not using carbon is a big debate. I have used it in planted tanks without problems but I don't tend to use it unless I want it for a specific reason. I prefer using purgen if I use anything and my favorite media is cheap 100% Polyfill for polishing purposes. If your doing a fishless cycle to me it would be a waste of the carbon since it only works for 2-4 weeks.
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