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Fishless Cycling

This is a discussion on Fishless Cycling within the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> I have to agree with eddie on this one, I'm also not a big fan of the UK's method for fishless cycling. For one ...

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Old 11-02-2006, 03:03 AM   #11
 
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I have to agree with eddie on this one, I'm also not a big fan of the UK's method for fishless cycling. For one thing, the products they find on their shelves can be quite difficult to impossible for people to find here in the USA. Another problem is that water params differ in the UK, coming from the tap. Their water treatment is different than ours is in the states.
I have found it is much more expensive, much more difficult, and a lot more time consuming to use this method.
Mike has the right idea, for a tank to "cycle" it's a matter of ammonia breakdown due to the bacteria colony growing and working it's wonders in the tank. If there is ammonia reading, then nitrite, as nitrite goes up, ammonia goes down.. nitrite is simply the byproduct of ammonia once the bacteria have begun to break it down. Then, as nitrite goes down nitrate goes up, as the final stage of breakdown. When there is nitrate and no ammonia or nitrite, the cycle has completed itself. There are actually 2 different kinds of bacteria at work here, and now some scientists are claiming to have found a 3rd. Each different type handles a different level of breakdown. One type (I'll have to look up the names) feeds on ammonia and puts off the nitrite as an end product. Another feeds on the nitrite, it's end product is nitrate when complete. I forget what the 3rd is supposed to feed on.
I have heard of people dosing ammonia daily for weeks, keeping ammonia levels up high so that in order to cycle, enough bacteria to meet that kind of level is established enough to meet fish waste needs for a fully stocked tank. This can be dangerous. One slip somewhere, something doesn't quite "take" the way it should, and you still find issues... and these with an empty tank.
If done properly, a tank can be safely cycled with a few small fish, and more added later, also only a few at a time. I have been cycling with fish for almost 20 yrs, and I have yet to lose a fish to it.
I have also cycled using bacteria culture from an established tank and using flake food to feed the bacteria... flake food uneaten breaks down and you get ammonia, and the process begins. This is cheaper and easier than ammonia, simply feed the tank every night and watch the water test results for the cycle to complete.
In the case of borrowing gravel to add to the new tank, try scooping it wet and right from the tank and into a nylon stocking. Tie off the stocking and drop it into the new tank. This will send the bacteria into the tank while making the gravel easy to remove when you're finished with it. I have also been using that method for many yrs, and it has yet to fail me.
The original tank should be fine, just go easy on feedings for a few days to keep waste levels down until the bacteria is produced to replace what you took. You could even add more new media to the old filter to seed it, also. The increased surface area, even though new, will populate with bacteria culture quickly in an established tank.
As for the UK methods... they may work in the UK, but I've seen a lot of disasters and dead animals when people from the states use their methods. If we want to use advice from another country, my suggestion would be to pay attention to the Germans, they know what they're doing. They don't use the many pieces of equipment we do for their tanks, andn using pure ammonia to cycle would be unheard of. They focus on natural methods to do things, and tend to dislike any kind of chemical usage. They are the leaders in the world for fish keeping, so it can't be all bad.
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Old 11-02-2006, 10:48 AM   #12
 
I don't really see how 4ppm can be deadly when there are no fish in the tank to kill.

I read up on this on many different sites, and saw quite a few success stories, including many from the US. Guess I will just have to wait and see what happens, for better or worse. I just know that I've ended up with a lot of fish deaths and illnesses from the standard way - it seems inhumane somehow. Apparently, even if the fish survive, they sustain damage to their gills, etc. If this doesn't worik, then I guess inhumane is the only way to go, but I thought it was at least worth a shot, y'know?

Meanwhile, my ammonia is dropping and my nitrites are climbing. I'm just gonna wait and see what happens. If nothing else, I'll just have to start over with new water. I'll let you know if it works or not.
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Old 11-02-2006, 04:16 PM   #13
 
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Just a note for you, cycling with fish is not "inhumane" as you put it unless it's not done properly. Using a group of angelfish to cycle a 55 gallon tank would be humane, but using 5 zebra danios is not. There is no evidence of any kind of gill damage being done, or any other damage being done, if it's done right. The problem I see most often with people who choose to cycle with fish is too many fish or too large of fish in a tank at once, from the start. Just like anything else, there is a right and wrong way to approach it. Another problem often found during cycling with fish is over feeding.
Once you understand water quality and how to keep it stable, and what fish waste does to it, you're most of the way there. Small fish with good immune systems are just fine to cycle a tank properly.
5 zebra danios cycling a large tank isn't much different than a person walking into a smoky bar for an evening out with friends... will it cause you to get lung cancer or other permanent damage? Is this inhumane? Yes, the possibility is there, especially if you sit right in the line of smoke and stay put for a very long time, but if there is good ventilation and you limit your stay, chances are that you'll leave as healthy as you were when you came.
If you've had that much trouble in cycling with fish, I would then have to ask how you went about it... what fish, how many, how large, how often were they fed, and were any water changes or water tests being done during cycling?
Not every fishless cycle will end in horror, but there are many that do. It is not my "preferred" method. It falls into the category of keeping goldfish in a 20 gallon tank... is it impossible? Nope, not at all, I'm doing it now for a temp shelter for 2 fancy goldfish, but is this something I would suggest to someone else? Nope, not at all, because it's not known to work, and it's never a long term situation. I have done a lot of extra work and used a lot of "special tricks of the trade" to make it work because I had no choice, the fish were orphanded and would otherwise have died.
Good Luck and keep us posted.
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Old 11-02-2006, 04:44 PM   #14
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bettababy
Using a group of angelfish to cycle a 55 gallon tank would be humane, but using 5 zebra danios is not.
did you mean to say that cycling with angels would be INhumane, and danios wouldnt? or am i misunderstanding?

bri
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Old 11-02-2006, 06:30 PM   #15
 
Thanks for the advice. I'm learning more every day. It's been almost 48 hours since adding ammonia to my tank, and my stats are amm. 4ppm, nitrites 0.5, and now nitrates are showing up at around 10. However, today I noticed a clear, jelly-like substance on my rocks and thermometer. I'm wondering if this is from the ammonia or what? It scares me. I tried to rinse them off but of course it's in the water.
Does anyone know what might cause this and how I can get rid of it?

Dawn, what would you suggest at this point? Should I empty out the water and restart? Would it be best then to put in new water and throw in some danios? I was on another board when I was trying to cycle my 46-gal and it seemed they jumped on me for putting in mollies to cycle it; now I don't seem to be doing it right here either LOL. I want to have success of course, so I want to do it the best way. Thanks again for your help.
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Old 11-02-2006, 09:32 PM   #16
 
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Girlofgod, thank you for catching my typo, yes, I meant cycling with angels would be inhumane.
I also don't agree with cycling any tank with mollies, either. Live bearing fish are not the best fish for cycling. They are prone to too many illnesses. When I said it needs to be done properly, that means fish that are known to be sturdy and healthy. Danios fall into this category, as do a few of the tetra species.
Star, my opinion at this point would be to break down and start over. Were this my tank, I would clean everything with a solution of 1 cup of bleach to 1/2 gallon of water. I would then rinse everything thoroughly, and let it all air dry for 48 - 72 hrs, then begin fresh. I would discard the gravel you borrowed to start this new tank, and also the filter media. Once done, I would fill the tank, add the water conditioner, and let the filter and heater run for 24 hrs, then add a fresh bacteria culture of gravel and/or filter media, maybe a decoration or 2 from the established tank, and 3 - 5 SMALL STURDY fish, such as danios. If you want a list of good fish to cycle with, give me an idea of what you plan to keep in the tank, and I will find you some options compatible with that, yet safe to cycle with. There are 2 products you could use to help you out, one is called "Cycle" the other is called "Biozyme". A daily dose of one of these bacteria starters for the first week, easy feeding of the starter fish, and monitoring your water quality should be all you need to do.
As for the jelly-like substance, this could be a number of things, and none of which I could imagine are healthy for your tank.
This is one of the many problems I have encountered with helping people do the "fishless cycle". Ammonia should be "pure", which isn't always easy to find. Other chemicals in the ammonia mixtures are not only highly toxic, but some will leave residue in the tank, some will cause funky growths, and many other potential hazards that can be expensive and difficult to clean up. The bleach water should help to eliminate any contaminants that are left behind from the ammonia solution. The important part of using the bleach water is to let everything air dry completely before setting it back up. Bleach is about the only chemical that will evaporate completely without leaving a toxic residue anywhere in your tank. After rinsing, you should not be able to smell bleach. If you smell bleach, rinse some more.
If you feel more comfortable with someone live to ask questions to, simply PM me here, and we'll set up a time to chat on Yahoo messenger. I will help all I can.
When I was still working at the store, I had many customers who came in and would deal with nobody but me. Many even refused the help of my manager. Why? Because I took the time to explain the things I instructed, and I stood by them through whatever it took to fix a problem. Those who listend to my advice claim to never have experienced the major problems that are so common these days, and many got hooked on the hobby quickly. I had a few regulars who used to just follow me around for hours at a time, listening to me teach those who needed help. I take my work very seriously. When I say I don't suggest the fishless cycling, I do so for very good reasons. As I stated before, I won't say its impossible, I don't feel anything is impossible if you try hard enough, but... is it really worth the problems and expense it can cause if it doesn't work? I try to always error on the side of caution, for the sake of the animals. I am not interested in helping someone abuse an animal, any animal. If I felt that cycling properly with fish was harmful to the animals, I'd be finding other ways to easily cycle the tank.
Your other option, of course, is the way I've done fishless cycling, using flake food. This, also, can be touchy, because you'll never quite know for sure how much is enough, and the risks of over-doing it are high. While I, myself, use this method, I'm not fond of teaching it. Also, cycling this way can take a bit longer, and most people don't have the patience that it requires to do it properly.
I will leave the call up to you, with or without fish... but either way, I extend the Yahoo chat invitation to help you do it without lost lives and wasted money.
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Old 11-02-2006, 11:08 PM   #17
 
It is truly difficult to know what the right answer is. I have gotten so much conflicting information (from many different sources). I've read over and over (and over), and also have been told by several fish store clerks that none of the bacteria supplements really work; even on this forum I was warned against using them in my other tank.

I can drain my tank and scrub the rocks, etc. and put in new water again. However, I have arogite sand in there, recommended by the lfs, and it was very expensive. I do not wish to throw that out by any means.

I am planning the tank for Malawi cichlids (probaly mbuna). Will danios be able to stand the high pH? How do I get them used to it if the pet store water has lower pH?
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Old 11-03-2006, 01:08 AM   #18
 
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When cleaning the tank, I would rinse the sand very well, and watch for ammonia levels when you set it all back up. You may find you'll have to rinse it more than once. The sand won't hurt the cichlids, but I would disagree with that store clerk, as cichlids like to dig, and sand will be difficult for them to dig up by the mouthfuls and move it around as they will need to. Crushed coral would have been the better option here.
It is safe enough to cycle the tank with 1 or 2 of the cichlids, but if it were mine, I'd use a group of 3 - 5 feeder guppies, which would then simply be food for the fish once the cichlids were introduced. Feeder guppies are about as sturdy as they get, and can tolerate more fluctuation that any other fish I know of. They are also inexpensive. I won't suggest feeder guppys as part of the regular diet, but a treat now and again won't hurt them, provided it's not a lot of guppies all at once and other foods are stopped until the guppies are gone.
Also, when keeping African cichlids, make sure you have enough decoration, and be ready to move up in tank size if you intend to keep more than one or 2 of them for any period of time. African cichlids breed quite easily, and most will average 5 - 7 inches full grown, with some going up to 9 inches. (except the shell dwellers)
If you start out with 6 small (1 - 2 inch) fish, within the first year you will need well over 100 gallons for tank size. If 2 of them should pair up and begin spawning, it's not uncommon for them to take up 1/2 or more of the tank, attacking anything that gets too close to their chosen territory or fry. The cichlids tend to be good parents, and extremely protective. Then, there is also the issue of where to go with the many fry you can expect regularly after the 1st spawn. I have seen tanks over run with fry to a point of water quality crashing, and at the store, we had customers bringing in bucketfuls of fry and dropping them off just to get rid of them. If you don't want spawning issues, then try to select all fish of the same sex, and again, be prepared for the extremely aggressive and territorial behavior that cichlids are known for.
Does this help at all?
As for the conflicting information, that is common, especially in pet stores. Most pet stores focus on money and how much they can make from an inexperienced customer. The bacteria products I mentioned DO work, as I've done my own trials with them many times over the years. Cycle works faster than biozyme because of the liquid form, but they do both work. In this hobby there isn't always just 1 way to do something, but many times 1 way is much easier and much less expensive than other ways. There is also the issue over how much time and money you wish to spend to make it easier. Easy doesn't have to be more expensive. That sand you bought... that sounds to me like someone who's trying to make money, not doing what's in the best interest for you or your fish. Conflicting information online tends to come for 2 reasons more than others... 1, experience level/money to spend, and 2, differences in location and availability of products or livestock, differences in water params coming from the tap, etc.
When I provide information, it's with the idea that whomever attempts it, wherever they are, however experienced, it should be successful.
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Old 11-03-2006, 10:35 AM   #19
 
Wow, seems nothing I'm doing is right in your book LOL.

The "sand" is very coarse, large particles of arogite. The bag specifically says "for african cichlids," and it buffers the water. I'm gonna stop posting about this on here now.
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