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Old 05-23-2013, 03:13 PM   #1
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Smile Have I Found the Solution to Nitrite Stall on Fishless Cycle?

I wanted to get your opinions on this. My understanding is that often during fish less cycling, there is a stall when nitrites spike. This happened to me recently, as my tank was dosed to 4ppm Ammonia and cycled it in three hours... But nitrite conversion was very slow. Suddenly a thought occurred to me:

I have the same filters that Ive had the entire time cycling with high ammonia. My ammonia feeding bacteria have colonized and thrived on every surface and filter and have densely populated the tank. Now that I have nitrite for my nitrite feeding bacteria, they would thrive...but they have NO REAL ESTATE to grow on and outcompete the established colonies!

This doesn't happen when cycling with fish because there isn't enough ammonia produced quickly enough to take up all the 'real estate.'
One solution people use is to not feed ammonia for a couple of days... This likely works by killing some of the established colonies and freeing space, but it is slower and unnecessary.

I have just done this so I will let you know the results, but here was my solution:

I have four removable filters (and then four bio wheels). I removed two filters and shook them in the tank. I replaced two with new filters and then shook off the old two and placed just straight in my tank. I let ammonia fall to zero before doing this.

If my theory is right, both types of bacteria will land and seed on the new media, but the fact that nitrite is high and ammonia is low... Means that the nitrite bacteria I want can easily outcompete on this new real estate and grow healthy colonies. I will let you know if this makes a dramatic change in my cycling time frame. If this works, it would be wise to continue to hake off filters in this manner to eventually allow both bacteria to establish an equilibrium on ALL filter media and rocks etc so that you don't replace one filter and completely wipe out a colony. I would never do that anyway, but just for those who might not understand the implications.

46g Bowfront
Temp 79
Ph 7.9
GH 180 ppm
KH 180 ppm
NH3/NH4+ 0 Cycles 4ppm to 0 in 2 hrs
NO3 4.3 ppm
NO4 1 ppm

NO3 steady at 4+ for about 7 days

I am making a hypothesis:
Nitrite levels will fall to zero in 24-48 hours,
At which point I will dose ammonia to 4ppm and within 24 hours will have only NO4.

Will post results.


PS: if someone has already posted this idea, I apologize but did not find it and if it is correct then it should be stickied at the top. I think that appropriate fish less cycling procedure (perhaps using Stability also) should be able to be tested by forum members and yield relatively consistent results with a tank fully cycled to full capacity in seven days, fourteen max. This is my quest.

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Old 05-24-2013, 04:19 AM   #2
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Talking Update

Nitrites cycled to 0 in 8 hours.

I have changed water to get rid of nitrates and does ammonia to 4ppm, and will post results tomorrow to see if tank has finished cycle. If my theories are correct, here would be my recommendation for a fast fish less cycle (in addition to the excellent info already posted here):

Do as others have stated, dose to 4ppm and if you use tap then remember that after using Prime (if you have high chloramines)... You may have a good starting dose from the start. Also, use a MINUSCULE amount of fish food to give the bb some trace food.

Use Stability (10 bucks) It WORKS, I can't believe it but it WORKS. Make sure to shake VERY VERY well between each cap. If you don't get a milky solution, you aren't putting the spores in your tank.

Watch for ammonia to hit zero. Should not take but days and you can use seed material too, but I do not believe it is necessary.

Dose back to 4ppm. You should see it drop quickly and nitrites start spiking (days not weeks). Keep dosing up to 4ppm once you hit zero and when ammonia is gone in 6 hours, remove an extra filter and shake it out in the tank. Place new filter right up front to get first 'dibs' on incoming water.

Stop dosing ammonia, but buy the SMALL bottle of safe start, as it contains different bacteria. We are looking for diversity to provide a quick but also Resilient biological system. Put the whole bottle in (15 bucks). You can still use stability.

Take a sample of nitrites. Wait 24 hours (unless you want more 'real time' data), and when you have zero nitrites then test nitrates. If they aren't over 40, dose 4ppm ammonia and see if in 24 hours you can go to zero ammonia and zero nitrite. If nitrates already high, do a large water change (ONLY WATER), and dose to 4ppm ammonia. Same 24 hour rule. If nitrates are all that are present and you have water changed to reduce them and run a 24 hour cycle after to be sure you haven't sabotaged your new biological system...

Make sure chemistry is right for fish, dose stability just because it won't hurt and could help and you should have plenty...use a little prime if you are concerned with levels, but should not be necessary.

Slowly acclimate your full stock to the water as directed by experts on here for your fish. Feed them lightly but no need to starve them. Watch your levels, you should not have a problem. If you do, use stability and prime to regulate and protect. You can perform minimal water changes at first, but best if you can avoid. You should have an excellent biological system that won't stress your fish.

Buy your fish and plants ONLY from the best sources who use appropriate quarantine facilities. If it costs extra, it is worth it: healthy fish into healthy water and healthy bio ecosystem = happy aquarium, happy fish, happy you, and pretty colors on your fish. They establish their pecking order and territory right away and you have a fully functional tank.

I believe than someone starting a tank should test this, as I believe the tank will be full stock fish ready in 7-14 days max, and the fish will have worked out the rest in the next week or two. If anyone is just curious and is setting up a brand new tank, I urge you to try this and keep a record and share your results. If this system can consistently provide a full healthy tank in two-three weeks, Im sure everyone would love to know.

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Old 05-24-2013, 04:43 AM   #3
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I don't think it's possible to cycle in 1 day let alone 3 hours ...
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Old 05-24-2013, 06:47 AM   #4
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Smile Cycle Answer

Thanks for the reply!

If you read carefully, you'll notice that I was nearly cycled and just stalling on the nitrite->nitrate half of cycle. After some careful research, I learned how to get a ammonia->nitrite bb colonies quickly and that were efficient. The question was to the relatively common problem of the second half of the cycle taking a long time during fish less cycling (and sometimes stalling at like 1ppm until fish are added).

Some proponents of cycling with fish have pointed this out as a flaw and problem with fish less cycling. When I realized that the levels of ammonia were so high so quickly in fishless, I realized the problem was that by the time the nitrite->nitrate process began...the bacteria feeding primarily ammonia had already colonized very surface and could easily outcompete the newbies I needed.

Some people don't have this problem because a) they cycle with less ammonia b) they are lucky c) they use lots of chemicals to alter the process d) their seeded material has enough of both species to almost instantly create a cycle or the big one E) the particular species they colonized first is the one (not going to use names here) is the one that can use both ammonia and nitrite.

-These factors are possibly the cause for why one person can cycle a new tank in a week and another, using what they thought was the same process, takes six weeks. I wanted to find a consistent cycle that would be fast and effective.

Unfortunately, trial and error means that my process wasn't fully tweaked until the second half of my cycle...but the knowledge that I HAD the nitrite eating Bacteria and they just weren't taking off, led me to my conclusions.

1) Provide new real estate
2) Allow ammonia to fall for 24-48 hours or until nitrite drops
3) Use a combo of Stability throughout and then small bottle of safe start

The last point goes to the heart of the issue. You want the super efficient ammonia eating bacteria and the same of the nitrite eating, but a healthy colony of those who can do both will provide greater stability (keeping the system level). Also, some are more sensitive to ph changes, temps, etc than others. A diverse colony provides ultimate Stability. Cycling with fish may actually do a better job of that when done properly over time...but the time and time and the stress on the fish every time you add more load, aye! Using the principals Ive mentioned, I think you could do this easily and quickly with the right scientific procedure.

As to your point on the three hours: My cycle was at the top of the nitrite half but had the bacteria and spores there. I killed the ammonia supply and gave them a place to land, replicating geometrically in 8 hrs with live Bacteria as found in safestart instead of stability spores, I had a bloom and the nitrite was gone completely in about ten hours. I was impressed and wanted to share.

The ideas mean, however, that one 'should' be able to follow directions carefully and ""Consistently"" produce a fully cycled tank from scratch with a bottle of stability and small of safe start within two weeks, but that is conservative and I think it probably would only take one week. This would be for full stock. Others have done this many times, but we haven't seen others replicate this success and chalk it up to 'every tank is different' or blah blah. Maybe this is would work to fix that.

To update you (I have been up testing all night like a mad scientist):
Beautiful bloom after the water change and in 2 hours now... I have cycled a little less than half the ammonia->nitrite. I expect the Bacteria to settle and establish more diverse colonies and then replicate. In 6-7 more hours, they should be able to knock this out (if my calculations are correct). If I pulled early on the nitrite->nitrate bacteria, then it should be 12-16 hours. Just my hypothesis as will post results. Perhaps tomorrow my tank will be cichlid ready?
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Old 05-24-2013, 08:31 AM   #5
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You're very thorough. I'd be interested to see how things pan out for you. Thumbs up.
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cycle, fishless, fishless cycle, nitrite, stall

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