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Old 08-31-2015, 09:28 PM   #1
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How long is the cycle with established filter media?

How long does a tank take to cycle when established filter media is placed in a canister filter?

A little background: I purchased an instant cycling product, TLC's Smart Start (that's right, I'm naming and shaming) and it didn't even remotely work. Someone I know had success with it and it had generally good reviews online, so I thought it would work.

I have 4 tiger barbs in the tank (don't lecture me about fishless cycling - I know - I thought the ammonia would be gone within 24hrs because of Smart Start) and the ammonia levels are hovering around .5 after about a week. I went to my locally owned fish store and they kindly gave me some established filter media, which I placed in my canister filter today.

My question is how long will it take the tank to cycle now?

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Old 08-31-2015, 10:53 PM   #2
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Doing a fish in cycle isn't a horrible thing if you do it right.

I've seen fish less cycles happen in about 11-12 days with established media, in tanks about 20-75 gallons, in the forums here. Mine was 11 in a 29, overnight in a 1, 3 days in a 3. But those had a higher level of ammonia since they were fish less.

Bottled bacteria can be pretty variable. It wasn't a terrible idea. I hear consistent good things about Dr Tims (available online).

I'd suggest you get some Prime and read up on fish-in cycling and start a thread in "getting started" -- you'll be in good shape soon!

How big is the tank? I'm presuming it's not a 10 ...


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Old 08-31-2015, 10:58 PM   #3
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How long does a tank take to cycle when established filter media is placed in a canister filter?

A little background: I purchased an instant cycling product, TLC's Smart Start (that's right, I'm naming and shaming) and it didn't even remotely work. Someone I know had success with it and it had generally good reviews online, so I thought it would work.

I have 4 tiger barbs in the tank (don't lecture me about fishless cycling - I know - I thought the ammonia would be gone within 24hrs because of Smart Start) and the ammonia levels are hovering around .5 after about a week. I went to my locally owned fish store and they kindly gave me some established filter media, which I placed in my canister filter today.

My question is how long will it take the tank to cycle now?
There is no way of telling exactly ( or roughly) how long it will take. What you should see is the nitrification process happening quicker than if you started with no established material. It doesn't have a timeline as it's a living breathing thing. Also, keep in mind, as the ammonia and nitrites rise and fall, it means that there is enough bacteria present to handle the present load only so you will need to increase your fish stock slowly to prevent a noticeable recycling of the tank. Anytime your bioload increases, the bed grows and most times, in an established aquarium, it happens faster than you can test for it.
I suggest you keep a bottle of Seachem's PRIME handy so that if the ammonia and nitrites do get too high and unsafe for the fish, the PRIME will detoxify them and make it safer for the fish to be in that water. Water changes will dilute the levels but the PRIME will detoxify the whatever is there.

Now, having said all that, The nitrifiction process is dependent on PH and temps. The following is some science behind the cycling process. Keep in mind that this is from a company that sells a cycling product and I am not suggesting that you buy the product ( even tho I have used it successfully in the past) but this has one of the best examples of how the different factors effect the bacteria bed and worth the read ( IMO). Nitrifying Bacteria Facts

Hope this helps
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Old 08-31-2015, 11:14 PM   #4
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Thanks guys! It's a 55 gallon tank, 78-80 F, and the pH is 7.8. It's been up and running for a week so I would assume there will already have been some bacteria present before I added the established media today. I'm hoping it fully cycles within the week!
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Old 09-01-2015, 12:19 AM   #5
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In my experience, a fishless cycle with seeded biomedia media in the filter takes approximately 3-4 weeks.

You'll want to add a ~3x overdose of Prime and do water changes to get that ammonia down to < 0.25 ppm with Tiger Barbs in the tank. They're hardy, but will eventually die of ammonia poisoning.
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Old 09-01-2015, 06:23 AM   #6
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It seems to call when would be difficult?
IMO if the seeded media is strong enough you should have 0 ammonia today and could say you are good to go?
I have seeded many tanks with seeded material and never experienced a mini cycle or spike of any nutrient.
Every tank is different but most here believe you are cycled when ammonia and nitrites go to zero in 24 hours.
I actually believe you could be cycled with in 24 hrs of adding media.
Just don't go adding more fish till you are sure all is good through testing.
Interested in how your tank test 24 hrs after media install.
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Old 09-01-2015, 10:44 AM   #7
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It seems to call when would be difficult?
IMO if the seeded media is strong enough you should have 0 ammonia today and could say you are good to go?
I have seeded many tanks with seeded material and never experienced a mini cycle or spike of any nutrient.
Every tank is different but most here believe you are cycled when ammonia and nitrites go to zero in 24 hours.
I actually believe you could be cycled with in 24 hrs of adding media.
Just don't go adding more fish till you are sure all is good through testing.
Interested in how your tank test 24 hrs after media install.
Great, I hope so! I'll let you know. I seeded it last night when the ammonia was approx .75 and this morning it was approx .5, but it's hard to tell on those test kits because the intervals are .5 and 1ppm - so it could just be me.
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Old 09-02-2015, 03:56 PM   #8
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Nearly 48hrs after the ammonia is somewhere around .75.
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Old 09-02-2015, 04:35 PM   #9
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Should I do a water change or will that disrupt the cycle?
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Old 09-02-2015, 06:10 PM   #10
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Should I do a water change or will that disrupt the cycle?
Do enough water changes to get the ammonia below 0.25 ppm. You can do 50% changes as frequently as once per hour. It shouldn't disrupt the cycle and, if you have fish in there, getting rid of the ammonia is paramount.

Also, if you haven't done so already, overdose your tank with Prime. The one time that this happened to me, I used a 3x overdose, though I believe that it's save to go up to a 5x overdose. See the instructions on the bottle.
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Old 09-02-2015, 06:28 PM   #11
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Do enough water changes to get the ammonia below 0.25 ppm. You can do 50% changes as frequently as once per hour. It shouldn't disrupt the cycle and, if you have fish in there, getting rid of the ammonia is paramount.

Also, if you haven't done so already, overdose your tank with Prime. The one time that this happened to me, I used a 3x overdose, though I believe that it's save to go up to a 5x overdose. See the instructions on the bottle.
I've read that using an ammonia blocker is a bad idea when cycling the tank?
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Old 09-02-2015, 06:31 PM   #12
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Nearly 48hrs after the ammonia is somewhere around .75.
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Should I do a water change or will that disrupt the cycle?
IMO a 50% waterchange and double dose of prime should get the water in good shape.
Keep testing, hopefully this will resolve itself soon.


Prime is ok during cycling in reply to above post.
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Old 09-02-2015, 07:13 PM   #13
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IMO a 50% waterchange and double dose of prime should get the water in good shape.
Keep testing, hopefully this will resolve itself soon.


Prime is ok during cycling in reply to above post.
I did a ~50% water change and a double dose of dechlorinator (I don't have prime). I'll let you know what it looks like in an hour or so when I'll get an accurate reading.
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Old 09-02-2015, 08:11 PM   #14
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It has been my experience that using seeded filter media from an established tank makes cycling unnecessary. That is how I set up when I need to use my quarantine tank. I have never had a problem. Just always use a dechlorinator.
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Old 09-02-2015, 09:58 PM   #15
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It's around .5 after the water change. Is it worth adding Tetra Safe Start if I already have seeding material in there?
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Old 09-02-2015, 10:59 PM   #16
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I've read that using an ammonia blocker is a bad idea when cycling the tank?
There's some evidence that it'll temporarily stall it. But you can't worry about that right now. Prolonged exposure to ammonia will kill your fish.
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Old 09-02-2015, 10:59 PM   #17
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It's around .5 after the water change. Is it worth adding Tetra Safe Start if I already have seeding material in there?
Keep doing water changes until it's below 0.25 ppm. Don't worry about the SafeStart until your ammonia is < 0.25 ppm.
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Old 09-02-2015, 11:31 PM   #18
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The safe start will bring it back up to 1ppm anyway?
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Old 09-03-2015, 12:07 AM   #19
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In my experience they can be anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 weeks. There are many factors. Water changes will help speed things along. Patience will be required. If the fish are in the aquarium you want to add ammonia blockers to protect them. If there are no fish then you don't need them. Dr. Tim says adding ammonia blockers makes the bacteria's work harder but they will still get the job done, just a little slower.
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Old 09-03-2015, 10:03 AM   #20
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In my experience they can be anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 weeks. There are many factors. Water changes will help speed things along. Patience will be required. If the fish are in the aquarium you want to add ammonia blockers to protect them. If there are no fish then you don't need them. Dr. Tim says adding ammonia blockers makes the bacteria's work harder but they will still get the job done, just a little slower.
Why will water changes help the bacteria?
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