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Standalone nitrogen cycle AKA Cycling a plantless, substrateless, filterless tank

This is a discussion on Standalone nitrogen cycle AKA Cycling a plantless, substrateless, filterless tank within the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> Originally Posted by JDM Seeing as I had ammonia within 24 hours of putting the fish food in the water, the initial bacterial activity ...

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Standalone nitrogen cycle AKA Cycling a plantless, substrateless, filterless tank
Old 05-29-2013, 11:04 AM   #11
 
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Seeing as I had ammonia within 24 hours of putting the fish food in the water, the initial bacterial activity is next to negligible in the whole picture, so the difference between using a pure ammonia source and fish food is one of neatness and maybe accuracy for the sole sake of accuracy. I can add food to bring the levels up or not change the water so soon but the 1ppm ammonia has been proven to be a threshold over which the nitrite oxidizers are inhibited from doing what they do best. I would have liked to do a side by side to prove this extends the cycle timeline but researchers have already done this.

Knowing how much food I added to bring the ammonia to 1ppm in an uncycled container lets me know how to judge the cycled container in testing afterwards to see how effective the biofilms are in this nitrogen cycle.

The surface area is not really of interest, just the fact that there is no additional surface area involved other than the glass container itself. I read about biological filter media and hold the opinion that they are not nearly as effective as advertised in many cases (although they don't really make claims that they are, just intimate that they are by their nature) and are not really needed in the first place. So rather than prove them not effective, it's easier to prove them unnecessary and therefore a waste of time and money... even if only to me.

I expect that not many will like my attitude toward well known and trusted brand name manufacturers' biological media products but that is my nature, to look under the marketing.

Also, I asked a couple of months ago for some timelines from people and their cycle setups and didn't receive any feedback. I just needed to establish what a timeline would be for my own curiosity, and I would have done it for that reason alone... it's just more fun to have other reasons as well.

Jeff.
I agree with you regarding biological media and planted aquaria.(plant's can be excellent biological filter's)
Can't say this for tank's sans plant's,holding number's of large fish (cichlid's).
Mechanical media in these tank's, clog's quickly and is harder for water to flow through.(more frequent cleaning).IMHO
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Old 05-29-2013, 09:38 PM   #12
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Day 8

Ammonia back to 1ppm, nitrite still at zero so that test was not a fluke. Nitrates at non-zero.

The highest the nitrites tested at was 0.25ppm. If I assume that that concentration is what is being oxidized in a 24hour period and the ratio of ammonia to nitrite to nitrate is a 1:1:1 (I don't know but is think that it may be) then it might be safe to say that the nitrates could be as high as 1ppm due to the four days since the first nitrite appearance and they seem to be oxidized on the fly now. The colour scale is not that demarced to tell if non-zero is 1 or less. I'll know better in a few days based on where it rises to and how fast.

The 1:1:1 would also suggest that the ammonia is being oxidized at the same rate as the nitrates are being produced so my ammonia production is still outstripping the jars bio capacity which is apparent by the daily rise to 1ppm anyway.

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Old 05-30-2013, 12:32 PM   #13
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Day 9

I guess I could have called the thread "The Seven Day Cycle". Nitrites are still zero after three days. I haven't retested nitrates yet but I expect that they are slowly climbing.

The only reason that the ammonia levels keep returning to 1ppm is due to the food still in the bottle decomposing. I guess I was a little heavy handed with the food considering the size of the jar. No real issue as I was able to keep the ammonia concentration at or below 1ppm.

I measured 1ppm again today and I removed the fish food by just running the water through a coffee filter. I then returned the ammonia laden water back to the jar to see how long it takes to drop to zero. If it does, the cycle is established and has been for the last three days.

More testing to come.

Jeff.
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Old 05-30-2013, 04:33 PM   #14
 
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I'm surprised that you chose fish food for your experiment. Ammonia would have been a better control.


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Old 06-22-2013, 07:58 AM   #15
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I'm surprised that you chose fish food for your experiment. Ammonia would have been a better control.


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True, but I had fish food on hand and didn't feel like going looking for a pure ammonia source. I was curious about the food decomposition as well, I mention that below.

I haven't posted anything new as not much has changed.

So, still in process, day 31.

I did test the water 5 days ago and the ammonia was down to 0.5ppm from 1ppm on it's own. The issue is that I used fish food to bring the ammonia up and water changes to keep it at 1ppm or less. I only ever added food once and when I filtered it out using the coffee filter after the cycle was established, I could not get it "clean" so there were still minute particles decomposing which has been driving the ammonia production even since the filtration. If I had used pure ammonia I could have just stopped adding it.

I was curious to see how the food decomposed over time and saw that ammonia was present within 24 hours, 0.25 ppm, and in 4 days it reached 1ppm and required water changes to keep it at or below 1ppm thereafter... until I filtered the food out.

Today it is slightly lower, somewhat under 0.5ppm and the nitrates are between 0 and 5ppm, in the lower end of the range. I also did a sniff test, I stopped doing that pretty early on as the smell was pretty nasty. Today there is no bad odour, in fact there is really no discernable odour at all and I have a pretty sensitive sniffer. I won't be doing a taste test anytime soon, duckweed is one thing.

Once it is down to zero on it's own (all the food is decomposed) I will add another ammonia source to test it... it might still be fish food but it would be representative of what might be expected if there were some teenie tiny fish in there.

I could just dump it and refill with clean water and it would serve the same purpose but I wanted to see if the jar would still handle the overload that is in there now. I also wanted to leave it this way to see how much the nitrate concentration rises without water changes... although there may be no empirical measure (#ppm ammonia in = #ppm nitrate out) it will serve to demonstrate the system efficacy. Actually, I would like that measure as I think it is a 1:1 ratio but I don't know for certain. With no plants or fish I could measure this well enough... I may will look for some pure ammonia after all so I can do just that.

Jeff.
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Old 07-06-2013, 11:44 AM   #16
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Day 45. About 6 and a half weeks.

Ammonia is zero... Not sure when it bottomed exactly as I haven't tested in 14 days.

Nitrate is 5ppm

There has been no water added or changed since day 28 when the ammonia stopped climbing.

I am going to replace the water this weekend and add a very small amount of fish food to see if the system can stay ahead of a very small load. I may see about picking up some ammonia if I get a chance then I can change out the water to specifically test controlled ammonia concentrations now that the cycle is fully established and proven to be able to handle some ammonia on an ongoing basis.

I am at the point of considering that the nitrifying bio films that develop in a tank will grow to meet the load we introduce with the fish and associated wastes without the need to try to provide additional surface areas for them to grow on. Considering that, by default, we already provide a substrate, various ornaments, rocks, driftwood and filters with some porous media as well as some form of circulation to make the whole system more efficient, there really is no need to be concerned about adding any bio film friendly media.

I am of the opinion that the various bio friendly mediums (bio balls, ceramics and what not) do not actually do what they claim any better than classic foam and floss while some don't do any of what they claim, and I still stand by that, but it is easier to be able to say that they are not needed in the first place.

Jeff.
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Old 07-20-2013, 09:25 AM   #17
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Two weeks ago I replaced the water in the jug with fresh well water and added 13 small food pellets. I tested every few days for ammonia and never saw anything more than a very slight blush in the tube... What Imight refer to as "non-zero" which could as easily be attributed to the lighting as an actual ammonia reading. Today I tested and used outdoor natural light and it is definitely zero. So are the nitrites. Theres not much sense in testing for nitrates yet as the scale has much larger graduations and is likely to test very low.

The jug has a nice sustainable nitrogen cycle. I even did the sniff test and there is not only no unpleasant odour, but there is no odour at all. The pellets are all still in there as there is no help from fish or snails to break them down quicker.

Today I added one more pellet and will continue to add one every day or two to drive the ammonia production higher to see if I can force the cycle to become overloaded. One additional pellet is an approximate 8% increase in source material.

Jeff.
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Old 07-20-2013, 09:42 AM   #18
 
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JDM, the results of this experiment would be really interesting to the people in the betta forums. It's very commonly believed that tanks smaller than 2.5 gallons can't hold a cycle and that therefore constant water changes (even as much as daily) are needed--there's even a sticky over there about it. If you wanted to post over there about your results, I think a lot of people would find it really helpful.
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Old 07-20-2013, 10:02 AM   #19
 
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JDM, the results of this experiment would be really interesting to the people in the betta forums. It's very commonly believed that tanks smaller than 2.5 gallons can't hold a cycle and that therefore constant water changes (even as much as daily) are needed--there's even a sticky over there about it. If you wanted to post over there about your results, I think a lot of people would find it really helpful.
I think a lot of people would just blindly argue with it.... But I agree, I think many of the betta people need more exposure to fish keeping and a better understanding of the nitrogen cycle.


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Old 07-20-2013, 10:04 AM   #20
 
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I'm just curious about what the results of this mean for a small tank. How often would one do water changes, then, in say a one-gallon tank, if it can hold a cycle?
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