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Confused the local aquarium experts

This is a discussion on Confused the local aquarium experts within the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> Cycling a tank if you want to stay fishless might take a long time. I'm no expert and i just cycled my first tank ...

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Confused the local aquarium experts
Old 05-30-2010, 08:54 AM   #11
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Cycling a tank if you want to stay fishless might take a long time. I'm no expert and i just cycled my first tank and it took me about a month and a half to cycle a 20G tank with fish in (even lost one fish ) The stores will tell you that it shouldnt take more than 3 weeks because thats an average but this place has taught me a lot and turns out it can take months for a tank to cycle. Dunno if you read this post by iamntbatman but this was helpful to me in setting up my tank

Hope it'll help you if you havent read it yet.
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Old 06-05-2010, 10:40 AM   #12
Still struggling, but on track?

Well, this IS certainly taking a lot longer than I expected. Boy, years ago I had some good tanks going with neons and fancy guppies and so forth, only 10g no less, and knew nothing about water chemistry. I don't know how I did it all those years ago.

When I first set this tank up with ancient gravel, the water clouded up almost immediately and stayed that way for almost a week, making me think something was wrong. I hope my changing the water to dilute it weeks ago didn't set me back.

With no fish and adding flakes, my ammonia reading has been lingering for days at a steady 3.0 ppm (right between 2 green levels on the API testing scale). My nitrites have been at .25 ppm since Wednesday. At this rate when can I expect this 20g tank to cycle? I've been seriously considering adding a couple zebra danios to speed things up, but fear the ammonia would be too much a shock to the system at this point.

My water is actually quite hard, making me nervous about getting the fish I want, which for some reason all seem to prefer softer water. At any rate I don't have live plants - should I still get some? Not sure if my lighting is adequate.

I expected to have this tank up and running a couple weeks after setting it up. I don't know if it's best to just be patient, or to scrap the whole thing and start over, this time, using fish.
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Old 06-05-2010, 11:19 AM   #13
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Cycling an aquarium takes somewhere between 2 and 8 weeks normally; the variableness is due to several things that are rather unique to each tank.

Your nitrite reading suggests the cycling is progressing, so that is positive. Nitrite will spike (before you ask, I've no idea to what level, it just goes up) and then will lower to zero. When ammonia and nitrite read zero for consecutive days, the tank is cycled for the amount of ammonia you are (still) adding. A couple fish added then will be fine; stop adding "ammonia" when the first fish is added as the fish will produce ammonia and the bacteria will use it and multiply accordingly. But it is not safe to add fish until you have zero ammonia and nitrite, meaning the tank is at that point cycled.

Have you tested your tap water for ammonia?

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Old 06-05-2010, 11:51 AM   #14
My ammonia reading for my tap water is 0.

I took your earlier advice and didn't remove my old gravel or driftwood. Now I understand that EVEN IF they had absorbed ammonia from that earlier tank nightmare (maybe the driftwood at least?) that that is a good thing, in terms of starting a tank cycle.

The aquarium shop I went to simply led me to believe that my tank would cycle in short order, which isn't the case. If I were to do this all over, I would have simply asked to take home some aquarium water, even if I had to wait for a day for when they clean their tanks.

Thank you so much everyone, especially you Byron for walking me through my gross ignorance and frustration. I really wanted to take a more knowledgeable approach about water chemistry compared to the past when I knew absolutely nothing. But I was more interested in researching the needs of various species and how to get them to thrive in my particular pH (7.0) and water hardness (in the past I used to just buy distilled water). I did not know about ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels. I wish I had known earlier to add fish flakes right away and to just WAIT instead of changing the water to lower that ammonia!
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Old 06-05-2010, 12:14 PM   #15
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You're welcome. I have a couple comments on statements in your last post.

Water is of no value in cycling; the bacteria colonize surfaces under water, so taking home store water would do nothing but could be detrimental in adding pathogens that you wouldn't want.

Water changes during the cycling are fine, but only necessary if one has live fish in the tank as this keeps the ammonia and nitrite low. Otherwise, once a week, just change some of the water, don't vacuum the substrate (in case it removes some of the bacteria hopefully establishing themselves there) until the tank is cycled and fish are in.

If your pH is around 7, you have an almost endless selection of fish possible. Assuming the hardness is minimal, the tank will, once biologically established, gradually lower in pH and that suits acidic water fish. If you want livebearers you can add a bit of calcareous rock like dolomite gravel or crushed coral to the filter to keep the hardness and pH above 7. We can go into all that later, when you have selected possible fish (before buying them obviously), as everything in the tank should have similar requirements.

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