First mistake, I THINK was to listen to an employee at our local Petsmart! The guy has seemed like he knew what he was talking about AND since I'm NEW at this, I followed what he said. Actually, him and a co-worker of his told me to do the fish-in cycling with two Rosy Red Minnows.
Anyway, here goes (little long, but not bad):
Took some water to the store this past Sunday for testing. He told me that it was time to vac the gravel, which in turn would take water out (water change). He also told me that I didn't need the two minnows anymore that my tank was cycled. He said this b/c I told him our water was "crystal clear".
Yesterday I took everything, except one live plant out (including the minnows), and vacuumed the gravel w/the hand-held suction thing we bought. It was my first time doing this, so don't know if I done it completely right, but did see junk going into the bucket with the water. Ended up taking out around two gallons of water. Along w/1 swim-thru décor, put one artificial plant back in (had taken out 3) and put another live plant in. Also have a Moss Ball and a Betta Grass Pad in it. Anyway, already had 2 gallons of room-temperature tap water, so put that in, along with 4 drops of Prime (2 drops per gallon). The water was cloudy for a little while and then completely cleared up to "crystal clear" again.
I tested the water this AM at home w/API Strips......WON'T get these again! Ammonia was high as well as Nitrate! Too high! Also, took a sample of water to Petsmart and a girl checked it this time. She told me that I needed a water change. My Ammonia and Nitrate and Nitrite (think that's what she said) was too high. Told her that I done a gravel vac yesterday along with replacing 2 gallons of water and adding 4 drops of Prime. She told me to add 4 more drops of Prime to help the water. Also, gave the two minnows back to the store. When I got home, I added 4 more drops of Prime.
Did we take the minnows out to soon? Was there bacteria on the artificial plants, that I didn't put back in? Right now, it looks like we needed to keep the minnows in there longer. If the water numbers don't get better, what do we do? Get two more minnows? Was planning on getting our Betta this Friday, but not with water like this!
It can take up to six weeks to properly cycle a tank. I suggest you purchase an API Master Liquid Freshwater Test Kit and some liquid ammonia. Dose the ammonia to 4ppm (using your test kit to monitor) and let the tank run. You will need to re-dose the ammonia everytime it falls to keep it at a constant 4ppm. You will eventually get a Nitrite spike, then start getting Nitrates. Once you can dose 4ppm of ammonia 3 days in a row and have no ammonia or nitrites just nitrates, your tank is cycled. Do a water change to get your nitrates down and you'll be ready to add your fish.
How big is your tank?
It's the Marineland Eclipse Hex 5, 5 gallon w/carbon cartridge filter and BIO Wheel.
Just seems like a lot of "dosing" and "checking" to us. With the minnows, you simple feed, test water and do water changes. The minnows do the rest!
you can also use fish food or a salad shrimp to add ammonia to the tank.
With the minnows, it's an inhumane way to cycle the tank as they are literally being poisoned by their own waste in order to cycle your tank. There is a high possibility of them dying in the process, not to mention the long term effects it can have on them. People will cycle their tanks this way, but personally I think risking the life of the fish isn't worth it when you can just pick up a bottle of ammonia at a hardware store and use that.
Cycling a tank with ammonia is no harder than the regular maintenance a fish tank requires (in terms of checking water parameters regularly, weekly water changes, trimming plants, feeding fish, etc.)
Pet store employees often don't know much about the animals they sell, they're just trying to make a quick buck. Most of it is said I believe in ignorance, as they receive poor training and often only have word of mouth myths as their 'knowledge'.
The API Liquid Master Test Kit (http://www.amazon.com/API-Freshwater-Master-Test-Kit/dp/B000255NCI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392188143&sr=8-1&keywords=api+liquid+master+test+kit) provides reliable results (the strips are reportedly not nearly as accurate, and are more expensive in the long run. That kit will last for years) and will allow you to test your water at home, instead of running to the pet shop every time you need it done.
Beneficial bacteria is on every surface of the tank. The glass, the filter media, the decor.
The clarity of the water has nothing to do with whether or not the tank is cycled.
You don't need the minnows in there just feed an empty tank 2 flakes per day to get your cycle started. When ammonia and nitrite read 0 , and nitrAte is being produced, your cycled.
Well, let me say this now:
I didn't do this Thread to debate people about fish-in cycling or to read how terrible the advice is that workers give at pet stores or what products not to use.
I know there are people out there in forum websites that do the fish-in cycling......I've heard from them. Don't hear much from them, b/c they know the procedure isn't popular today, BUT it is THEIR decision to do it. Fish lovers don't want to hear about people buying/feeding minnows to their ducks or turtles, but it's done.
It is true that SOME employees at pet stores give bad advice, but some give good advice as well! We've had one guy give us bad advice. At least we "THINK" he did. We found out that a lot of these employees have aquariums of their own at home. So, they are giving advice to customers about what they do w/their own aquariums. This isn't just some BS they've thought up. Right or wrong, they knew MORE than wife/I did starting out! We knew basically nothing! But, their advice can really conflict with folks on forums.
As far as the products sold......big pet stores will test tank water for free and they use Tetra Strips. People who see this done, will likely buy the Strips. These people think, "if the pet store uses them, they can't be that inaccurate!" From our current experience, the API Strips aren't as accurate as the Tetra Strips are. As far as the Master Kit goes, new folks to the "fish world" will most likely think they are too involved. Don't know why the Betta Grass Pad is sold if it tears the heck out of Betta's fins, like implied it does. However, there are lots of products sold in stores that people can't figure out why.
I mean, really folks, new people to the "aquarium" thing who DON'T KNOW anyone who does this, pretty much have to go by what pet stores tell them weither the advice is good or bad.
Anyway, this is what was in my thoughts.
If you want to keep a healthy, happy fish, proper readings are essential and you won't get them if you continue the use of strips. A liquid test kit really is needed. If you want to do a fish in cycle (I recently did because I am pregnant and can't play with ammonia) then go get your betta and a small bottle of Tetra SafeStart. Use the ENTIRE bottle of the safestart and just wait. It won't let your ammonia, nitrites or nitrates get high enough to harm your fish and you should be cycled in 2-4 weeks. Clean out the tank and replace all of the water. You have to wait 24 hours after using water conditioner to add the TSS for it to work properly.
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