11-10-2011, 12:04 PM
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The live plants are the main reason you will not (should not) see any ammonia or nitrite showing up with tests. Plants need nitrogen as a macro-nutrient, and aquatic plants prefer it in the form of ammonium. The ammonia occurring from fish and bacteria [in the substrate] is quickly grabbed by the plants. In basic water (pH above 7) the plants change the ammonia into ammonium and assimilate it, and some of the ammonia they take up as a toxic substance. In acidic water the ammonia automatically changes into ammonium and the plants grab it. Either way, it is the plants that are taking the ammonia. Provided there are sufficient plants, and some reasonably fast-growing species [faster growth requires more nutrients], to balance the fish load, you will have no issues normally connected with cycling.
Some nitrifying bacteria will still appear and colonize surfaces, but the level will be less than if no plants were present. And the ammonia/nitrite that might escape the plants will be so minimal that normal aquarium test kits cannot detect it.
The bacteria in the Eco-Complete and SafeStart will assist and speed up the establishment of the nitrifying bacteria with or without plants, but in a planted tank as explained above this is minimal.
You can safely increase the fish load, by quite a few if you want. A dozen small fish in a 90g will not have much impact on ammonia, and I would increase the fish. Assuming you have a lot of plants; as I said, the plants must be sufficient for the fish load.
Last edited by Byron; 11-10-2011 at 12:07 PM..