This tank is going to be so gorgeous when it's all set up and running! I can't wait!!!
Originally Posted by JDM
I might suggest dropping the moss balls. Jeff.
NOOOOO!!! Mossballs are brilliant! Don't drop them. . .
I've always regarded my Mossies more like animals than plants. They're fuzzy and they end up moving or being moved all around, either by the current, the keeper, or even the fish. I have them in every one of my tanks, and they all have names, because they're SO SUPER CUTE!!!
*giggle* Mossballs are the greatest!
Love your sand! It looks like you have the PetCo brand version of the Tahitian Moon Sand that I have in most of my tanks. I just love the stuff! If it is what I suspect, you'll find that it's really easy to deal with, and ideal for a beginner. It tends to be a bit heavier/larger grained than other types of sand, including the play and pool filter sands that I've experimented with, and far less likely to be disturbed during maintenance, which could lead to ruined filters and such. You'll have to let me know how you like it!
Kudos to you for choosing to cycle your tank BEFORE adding fish - it's always nice to see people taking the time out to do things the right way for the safety of their fish! All of these methods, fish food, ammonia, loads of live plants - are valid in their own right, and initial stocking should be influenced by which method you have chosen. It all comes down to your experience and comfort level, really.
From what I have read and experienced, using fish food will work to cycle a tank, but unless you are adding a LOT of food, a large bacterial colony won't be needed to keep up with the relatively low amount of waste/ammonia being created - most especially in a larger tank the size of yours. This method seems to work much better in a smaller setup. . . The end goal of getting bacteria into the tank will be accomplished, which gives you a lovely head start, as it will then grow more quickly to accommodate the waste of the fish added than if you had started stocking with a clean setup. Using the ammonia method will have the same desired result, only in reverse. When dosing a tank to 4ppm of ammonia, you're ensuring that you have far MORE bacteria than will ultimately be necessary for most stocking scenarios, and the 'extra' will die off when the tank is stocked, and there is not enough ammonia created by the fish wastes to support it. Using ammonia will allow you to safely stock more animals initially without as much worry over parameters, using fish food will require that you pay VERY close attention, as you will have to give the bacteria a chance to 'catch up' with the increased waste produced by a fish - who also gets food.
Since the end visible
result of the nitrogen cycle is nitrate, the wisest course of action would be to base your initial stocking on the nitrate level that you end up with once it stabilizes - regardless of the cycling method used OR plants in the system. All of these methods are valid, cycling with fish food will force you to stock slowly, pure ammonia will allow you to stock more quickly. . .if
stocking quickly is necessary due to online purchases. In my experience, growing a tank slowly is the best way to go, but it isn't always possible, depending on availability - especially with those fish that require shoals. I tend to prefer to play things safer than sorry, and try to have more bacteria than I need in any new tank before stocking. I view plants as a 'cushion' that allow me a bit of wiggle room - in case my estimations are off.
It can be difficult, especially for a beginner, to try to guess at what you can stock based on bacteria that can't be seen and counted! I would suggest that the best way to go about this is to take a good look at your stocking list, and local availability, and proceed from there once your cycle is complete. Get your plants into the tank, and give them time to settle in before adding stock, that way you know they'll be working to keep the water clean if any issues occur. The next time you have to do this, it will be MUCH easier for you, as you will be able to seed the tank from the established colonies already present in this one. Also as you become more familiar with the effects of various fish on your parameters, and how different types of plant-life do in your system, you'll find that much of this will become intuitive. For now, go slow and be careful!
One thing I haven't seen mentioned here (sorry if I missed it) is if you have, or are planning to start, a QT tank? After the initial batch of fish goes in, it is always a good idea to QT the next group before adding them. . .
I can't wait to see what your final stock list looks like, and to see this gorgeous set up start coming to life! Keep us posted!