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LuvlyLori 01-19-2013 11:31 AM

Fishless Cycling... ENDLESS cycling??
Hey all!

So around Christmas time I decided that my gift to myself was going to be to start up a fish tank. I had a little 5 gallon tank when I was a little kid, but never had ANY luck keeping anything alive... so I did my RESEARCH this time! :)

I bought the biggest tank I could afford and keep in the space I had available, which unfortunately worked out to be only a 15 gallon. But hey, it's better than 5 right?

Anyway, I bought my tank New Years day and had done enough research to know that I needed to cycle my tank and the idea of little fishies screaming in agony haunted my subconscious, so I chose to get real technical and do the fishless cycle before buying any fish (my husband thinks I am crazy to get so emotional over fish... but I didn't want anything to suffer purely for my convenience/impatience).

I bought a bottle of ammonia (fragrance and suds-free), an API test kit, a bottle of Stability (which I only used for the first week), and planted my aquarium with gravel, 2 plastic plants, 2 live plants, and a large ornament.

Quick Facts:
-Cycling for 19 days
-Dosing tank to 4ppm ammonia, over time it lowered to 0.5ppm and was dosed back up to 4ppm two days ago (day 17).
-Tests for Nitrites and Nitrates have consistently said ZERO
-only tested for pH once around day 12, it was high at around 8.2
-As of day 16 I have CLOUDY, white water
-I haven't done ANY water changes due to the negligible levels of Nitrates
-My live plants are looking brown on the tips and starting to die.
-I keep my light on for 8-10 hours a day
-I have my heater cranked to 32C (89.6F)
-I have a bubbler

-How long is this fishless cycle thing supposed to take? I don't have any friends with tanks so I have no access to seeding material
-Is a cloudy tank during a fishless cycle a GOOD thing or a BAD thing?
-Should I be doing partial water changes even though I have no nitrites/nitrates, or will that interrupt the cycle at this point?

I'm getting a little exasperated to be living with an empty tank for so long and playing "mad scientist" every day checking my water chemistry. I want to enjoy some pretty fish soon, but I want to do this right.

A little help and encouragement for a blundering novice? Please? ;-)

Chesh 01-19-2013 12:43 PM

Hmmmm... depending on the type of plants you have in the tank, this could be a part of your problem. Ammonia in high doses is toxic to all life - including plants, which *may* be why they're looking a bit ragged. . . but in lower doses, plants will readily absorb ammonia and use it as a food source. If you have the right types of plantlife in a tank, it is possible to circumvent the fishless cycling, as the plants will help in keeping your new fish safe while the bacterial colonies establish. As far as what's going on with you - it's very possible that the plants are getting in the way of things by absorbing the ammonia (and possibly nitrites and nitrates) before the bacterial colonies are able to form - essentially 'stealing' their food away. Fishless cycling should generally be done plant-less, too. The white cloudiness is fairly common in new tanks/fishless cycling - it's likely a bacterial bloom. . .

I'd recommend that you keep on doing what you're doing, but remove the plants and see what happens. You don't need lights to do a fishless cycle, so if it's possible, pop the plants into a bucket and give them some light every day so they can survive until the tank is ready for them and the fish!

Hopefully someone with more experience in fishless cycling will pop by to offer better advice, but until then, I hope this helps! Good luck, and congrats on doing things the right way. It takes much more patience, but is well worth it in the end. :)

Hallyx 01-21-2013 12:19 AM

You didn't say what you're growing, but it's not likely that a mere two plants are interfering with your cycle.

Your temp is a little high. I've read that ~82* is optimum for growing nitrifying bacteria.

Stability doesn't contain the actual nitrifying bacteria that generates the nitrogen cycle. It makes it easier for them to grow, but not worth it, in my estimation.

A bubbler is a good thing. Bacteria need oxygen. What kind of filter are you using?

Bacteria like it dark. But I wouldn't move any plants just for that.

Patience is the most important ingredient in promoting a cycle. You've only been at it for three weeks. Six is average. More is not unusual.

It sounds like you're doing the right things. And, of course, performing a fishless cycle is the responsible thing to do.

The advantage is, once you're done, you'll be able to completely stock your tank with no waiting for the bacteria to catch up.

Also, this is the last cycle you'll have to do. From now on you'll always have live nitrifying bacteria to cycle any future tanks.

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