Moderately planted tank.. do I need to wait for it to cycle?
Because I've been seeing different people say different things, I figured I'd ask the direct question to hopefully get a direct answer.
My 56 gallon has been running for almost two weeks. I've been dosing Sea Chem Stability since Sunday evening. I have several plants in the tank, 6 Amazon Swords, 4 Compacta Swords, 1 Green Cambomba, 1 Corkscrew Vallisneria, 2 Broad leaf Sagittaria, 1 Pennywort, and 2 Water sprite (floating). I currently have four neon tetras in the tank as well (which I plan on taking out once I put the angelfish in).
I have seen several posts in relation to cycling where the person has a planted tank. Within these threads I have seen posts stating that there is no need to be immediately concerned with cycling the tank because the plants take in the ammonia, ammonium, nitrates, etc.
Now my question, do I need to wait until I feel that the tank is cycled prior to putting in more fish when I do have it moderately planted?
My ultimate goal is to have 4-5 angelfish, 2 bolivian rams, 3-5 panda corydoras, a few mystery or assassin snails, and a yet to be determined number of various compatible characins.
Obviously I would not add all of these at once, but I would like to know if I need to wait out the cycle or if I can begin to slowly add some of my inhabitants because my tank is moderately planted.
My levels are as follows:
Any help would be appreciated!
Without a source of ammonia, a new tank will not "cycle." The Stability needs ammonia for the bacteria to establish.
I am curious as to where your .25 ppm ammonia is coming from. Have you tested your tap water? You should test tap water for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, as any one or all of these can occur depending where you live. I can comment more when I know this answer.
On the live plants, you have sufficient to add a few small fish with no issues whatsoever (once we know about that ammonia). However, of the fish you mention, I would not use the Bolivians or the panda corys in a "new" tank, and the angels are in my view risky too. The reason is not to do with cycling, but water stability. In a new tank it takes a few weeks for the biology to stabilize, what we call reaching a biological equilibrium. During this initial period, pH can fluctuate more than later, bacteria in the substrate (the aerobic and anaerobic crucial to biological stability with the plants) are appearing, etc. Some fish are sensitive enough to have problems in such an environment, and they will be less likely to have problems and more likely to settle in quickly if the tank is established when they are added.
The best initial fish would be some of those characins you mention. And the snails, they will help. Not all characins are good with angels; any fast-swimmers should be avoided. The several "Rosy Tetra clade" species in Hyphessobrycon usually work well. We have fish profiles here, second tab from the left in the blue bar across the top of the page, and these are under "characins." If a fish name is shaded in a post, it means there is a profile and you can click on the name to see the profile, example Corydoras panda.
Make sure you add the 5 (and I would have 5) angels together. This is explained in the profile, Pterophyllum scalare.
Last, but not least, as you are a relatively new member, may I welcome you to Tropical Fish Keeping forum. Glad you found and joined us.
Well, I do have four neon tetra in the tank. So I hope some of the ammonia is coming from them. I also tested my tap water which resulted in the following readings: 1ppm Ammonia, 0ppm Nitrite, 0ppm Nitrate. So I am also getting ammonia from my tap water.
I plan on taking the neon tetra out of this tank and placing them in my 20 gallon prior to adding the angels.
Does the fact that I have 1ppm of ammonia in my tap water hinder the effectiveness of my water changes?
Thank you for helping me out with the addition of fish issue. I'll be sure to let the tank stabilize prior to putting any of the ones you mentioned in.
Would adding some other characins be harmful since I already have the four neon tetra?
I do think I will go ahead and get a few snails though. I feel they will help keep my tank clean!
And thanks for the welcome! I don't post a whole lot but I can tell you I have found loads of useful information on this site!
I would leave the neon tetra for the present; they also are not the best "new tank" fish but as they are already there, might as well leave them rather than unsettling them further. You are correct, they are not good companions for angels, but that is down the road a ways. If you find other characins compatible with angels and like them, get a group. Minimum of six is always recommended, but the more the better, and as you will have space i would get 7-9 of a species you like. They will not have any issues re the cycle, more on that in a moment.
On the snails, if you can find the Malaysian Livebearing Snail, sometimes called Trumpet Snail, they are a great help in any aquarium. They spend most of their time down in the substrate, eating "stuff" and aerating the substrate like nothing else can. They eat minimal algae, but not plants. I have them in all my tanks.
Now to the ammonia and the cycle, starting with the latter. Live plants need nutrients, and nitrogen is a macro nutrient. Aquatic plants prefer assimilating it as ammonium. As you know, fish produce ammonia through respiration, and organics breaking down produces ammonia. Ammonia is highly toxic. In acidic water, ammonia basically changes to ammonium, which is relatively harmless. Plants grab a lot of it. [Nitrosomonas bacteria use ammonia or ammonium, both, just so you know.] In basic water (pH above 7), plants have the ability to take up the ammonia and change it themselves into ammonium which they then assimilate as their nitrogen. With enough plants (and you are OK there) and provided the fish load is not beyond what will balance, there will never be an issue with ammonia from day 1. And since plants grab so much of it, nitrosomonas bacteria will be fewer in well-planted tanks, meaning less nitrite, and provided the fish are introduced slowly so the bacteria have sufficient time, the Nitrospira bacteria will easily handle the nitrite. Nitrate, the final product of the nitrifying bacterial cycle, will be minimal in a well-planted tank.
Now, the above is the norm. When ammonia, nitrite or nitrate are being introduced from other sources, such as the tap water, things are just a tad different. I'll jump straight to the ammonia. A level of 1 ppm is not that high, but it is sufficient to kill plants and fish. However, with a partial water change, even one of 50% of the tank such as I do weekly, the 1 ppm ammonia will be diluted half. But that is still a sufficient sudden influx of ammonia that a water conditioner that detoxifies ammonia would be a good investment. Such conditioners detoxify ammonia by changing it to the less harmful ammonium, so it is not going to stress the fish and it will easily be assimilated by the plants. Water conditioners basically "work" for 24 hours, but by the time these wear out the plants will have easily caught up. Plus there will be some bacteria as I indicated previously, and that will also be able to handle the excess after several hours.
Back to your ammonia test of .25--with 1 ppm in the tap water, this tells me your plants are using most of it already. I would not expect to ever see nitrite above zero in your situation. By the way, ammonia test kits read ammonia and ammonium as "ammonia" so don't let that concern you.
Thank you, Byron! I certainly appreciate you taking the time to help me out here.
Just to clarify, I would be OK to add up to about 9 characins and a snail or two at this point or were you referring to down the road a little ways? I haven't seen any trumpet snails on my outings, but I will keep an eye out. Are mystery snails decent enough?
As for down the road, are there any particular things that I should look for in reference to water stability to determine the appropriate time to add either the corydoras, angelfish, or bolivian rams?
Again, Thank You! You've answered so many of my questions without my even having to ask!
Mystery snails are much larger, and behave "differently." I have never had the larger snails, i like the tiny fellows that do such a terrific job of finding detritus I never could. Malaysian Livebearing are the best, but I also have acute bladder or pond snails [never can keep these straight] that are ideal too.
Each aquarium is different; the fish (species, numbers, size), plants (species, number), water parameters (out of the tap) and temperature all affect the biology. The type of substrate has an effect on bacteria and biological processes. Nutrients you add (via fishfood--these are different, fertilizers, substrate additives) impact things. In my experience setting up dozens of planted tanks, they tend to settle within a few weeks, at least to the point of having stable pH, and adding the more sensitive species has never been a problem. But as I said, this time frame depends upon your water and such. My very soft tap water allows the initial pH around 7 to lower to 6 within a week or maybe two, and I have never had it vary from then on for years. I would add the group of tetra, and monitor pH and nitrates for a couple weeks or longer, depending. Add the corys next, then the Bolivians. Angels last, not only from water stability but more from their temperament. Angels like to think they "own" the space. Adding them to a community is safer than having a tank with just angels and then adding other fish that will be seen to "invade" their territory. And all 5 angels at once is crucial to preventing or at least reducing the chance of bullying. This goes for the Rams too; Bolivian make super "single" fish, for the reason noted in our profile information. But once a male particularly is in a tank, that tank is "his" space, and intrusions months later by males or even females may be met with disaster; I speak from direct experience. I added a female to my 115g containing a male that had been there for almost 2 years, and although they spawned several times, between spawnings he harassed her and within a few months she was dead.
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