04-24-2012, 07:29 AM
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It's a bit of a 'catch 22' with or without fish in. You can't develop a nitrosomonas bacteria colony until there is ammonia to support it...and you can't develop a nitrobacter colony until there are nitrites to support it. Both ammonia and nitrtites are toxic to fish. As a matter of fact, high levels of ammonia are toxic to nitrosomonas (go figure).
So the question is whether you are risking fish in the process or using bottled ammonia. If there are fish, more frequent water changes are in order to protect the fish even if it slightly prolongs the cycle time. If there are no fish, then you might just monitor ammonia, nitrites and nitrates and change water as indicated by the test results. With no fish, keep ammonia <5ppm.
Note: If you do not have filter media or substrate from an established aquarium, there are several good bacteria supplements on the market today. Tetra Safe Start, Seachem Stability, API Quick Start, Dr. Tim's One and Only.
A good "bio-seed" jump starts the process by providing bacteria right away allowing for a more efficient and quicker cycle process.