05-31-2009, 06:29 PM
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Well, any way you cycled it should get it ready for pictus. The any fishless cycling method is preferable to cycling with fish for a few reasons. Firstly, cycling with fish exposes those fish to ammonia and nitrite, both of which are toxic to fish and can cause long-term health problems (or, in any amount higher than just barely detectable, can be deadly in very little time). Secondly, certain fish make much better cycling fish than others because they're hardier and less expensive. Zebra danios are a common choice. However, this means you have a tank full of zebra danios that you either have to rehome or plan a stocking list around. Finally, although this is debated, some people (myself included) believe that the water changes necessary to keep even the hardiest fish alive during the fish-in cycle can prolong the cycling progress. There are good arguments on both sides of the debate, though.
Despite the debate, both sides agree that a fishless cycle is better. There are many ways to do it. The three most common are to use either a) doses of pure ammonia to stimulate and fuel bacterial growth, b) "feeding" the tank with fish food, which rots and produces ammonia or c) using a frozen shrimp (the kind you'd eat) and letting that decay in the tank. Personally, I prefer the third method. Pure ammonia can be hard to track down, and the ammonia method, while very precise, requires you to test the tank fairly regularly and dose ammonia daily. The fish food method just seems to create a lot of mess in the tank and never really produces that much ammonia. The shrimp method provides a steady source of ammonia without requiring you to do anything. Just toss the shrimp in a filter media bag or some pantyhose, then stick it in the tank. Test the water every few days just to keep your eye on the ammonia and nitrite spikes, wait for both of these to go to zero (anywhere from two to eight weeks) and for a steady positive nitrate reading. At that point, remove the bag of shrimp and toss it, do a large water change to bring nitrate down to a reasonable level (<20 ppm is fine) and you're ready for fish.
Any of these methods requires the use of a good liquid test kit to keep an eye on water parameters. Technically, you should be able to add a "full load" of fish after completing a fishless cycle, but in my view it's always safer to add fish in small batches every few weeks. Also, any cycling method can be sped up by using filters or filter meda (or even decorations) from an established tank to "seed" the bacteria colonies in the new tank.
What do you plan on keeping in the tank? Just pictus? How many?