Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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crs1945 08-20-2011 07:39 AM

I just started to cycle a new tank. When can you start to put plants into it. I should mention that I am using ammonia to cycle the tank. The plant will be on a piece of driftwood after I finish soaking it to decrease the amount of tannins in it. Thanks

Jbrofish8 08-20-2011 07:55 AM

You can add plants to a new tank right away.

I'm not sure though if you're adding ammonia, so better let someone more knowledgeable chime in on that part.

If you add enough plants though, you can skip adding ammonia and avoid tank cycling all together.

BarbH 08-20-2011 08:13 AM

As said by the OP you can add plants right away. How many plants are you planning on putting in? If enough plants are put into the tank than you will be able to add some fish right away to the tank, the plants will use the ammonia that the fish are producing and you will not see the usual rise in ammonia and nitrites that you would while going through a cycle.

crs1945 08-20-2011 09:24 AM

I'm cycling the tank using pure ammonia that's why i'm wondering about when to insert plants. I intend to start with a Java fern on driftwood.

Byron 08-20-2011 11:02 AM

Java Fern is a slow-growing plant, and I am not certain hoe much ammonia it might be able to assimilate. My suggestion would be to also get some other plants, and include some fast growers if you can. I don't know what plants you may be thinking of down the road, but for the purpose here (cycling) some stem plants or floating plants are ideal.

With a few more plants, I would do a major water change to get rid of most of the ammonia, plant the plants, then add the first intended fish. The initial fish should be small, few and "hardy" by which I mean not something highly sensitive. I can expand on any of this if asked.

I strongly recommend cycling via plants; it is quick (immediate), totally harmless on fish, and stable. You just have to have enough plants and few fish.


tulip55555 08-21-2011 10:33 PM

I don't think you can immediately cycle a tank with plants. Cycling isn't about lowering ammonia mechanically or with plants. It's building a colony of bacteria to consume ammonia. Plants can't help with that. And plants don't consume anything unless they are growing. Rooted plants are generally root feeding plants, and since you don't have any mulm built up in the gravel yet those would be a bad choice. They also take longer to acclimate and thus start growing. That said...I would start with stem plants because they are fast growing and growing=consuming nutrients. Anacharis or hornwort would be my suggestion. Hornwort has an enzyme that also inhibits algae growth which might help fight that new tank algae bloom.
I always disinfect my plants before putting them in my tank. It kills snails, algae and bacteria. Here's a link...
Jake’s Planted Aquarium Pages | Disinfecting Plants – Before or After
By the way, I would keep cycling as you are-without fish. Cycling takes much longer with fish (even if you have plants) Due to the constant water changes necessary to remove ammonia and nitrite you are constantly removing the food source of the bacteria you are trying to "breed". If you are inclined to stop cycling fishless and add plants and fish look into the Walstad method...Walstad method - The Free Freshwater and Saltwater Aquarium Encyclopedia Anyone Can Edit - The Aquarium Wiki

Byron 08-22-2011 10:41 AM

I will expand a bit on the plant/cycling issue.

Plants assimilate ammonia/ammonium, it is their preferred source of nitrogen. One frequently reads that plants need nitrate but this is inaccurate; given the choice most aquatic plants prefer ammonium and will only take up nitrate if ammonium is exhausted. Ammonium comes from the water, assimilated through leaves and roots. The faster growing the plant, the more ammonium it uses.

Fish and bacterial processes produce ammonia which will be changed into ammonium in acidic water and used by the plants, or in basic the plants have the ability to take up the ammonia and change it to ammonium. If forced to use nitrates, they actually take these up and change them back into ammonium before they assimilate the nitrogen as nutrient.

In a well planted tank, the nitrifying bacteria will be much slower to colonize and will be in far fewer numbers than in a non-planted tank, all else being equal. This is because the plants grab the ammonia/ammonium much faster than nitrosomonas bacteria. And with fewer nitrosomonas bacteria using ammonia and producing nitrite, there is far less nitrite, and thus less nitrate. This is why nitrates in a planted tank are often minimal, zero or 5-10ppm depending upon the fish load. The plants assimilate a vast amount of ammonia/ammonium.

So yes, there is a "cycle" still, but it is so minimal you cannot detect it with our test kits. Ammonia and nitrite will read zero in new tanks if there are sufficient plants for the fish load from day one. I have set up dozens of new tanks with live plants and never experienced any detectable "cycle" because of the above. Diana Walstad writes about it in her book, as do many other planted tank aquarists.

You also do not want to encourage biological bacteria in a planted aquarium because this competes with the plants.

No one has yet found a safer method of setting of a new tank than with live plants; and I agree, faster growing such as stem and floating are advisable. But I have done this with a tank of swords (Echinodorus) and floating plants very successfully. With sufficient plants, you add fish the first day and there will be no problems. But until one is experienced, it is best to start with very few fish.

With respect to disinfecting plants, Rhonda Wilson (monthly columnist in TFH) says anything strong enough to kill all bacteria/pathogens/snails on plants will harm the plants and may kill some. She recommends not bothering with treatments. In my 20+ years I never have.


martian123 08-22-2011 10:44 AM

the plants will help cycle your tank and you can stop the ammonia

redchigh 08-22-2011 12:32 PM

Well, one source of confusion is that 'cycling' is a misnomer.

If you add a bunch of fast-growing easy stem plants, dose flourish, then you can immediately add a few fish.
While the tank isn't truly 'cycled' as in populated with bacteria, as Byron said, the ammonia will be used by the plants.

I don't encourage this since it was an experiment, but when I first tried plants everything struggled... Java ferns and mosses were fine, but the stem plants were in trouble. I took out the biological media, and they perked right up. Ammonia still read 0, but the plants had easier access to ammonia in the raw form. Plants and 'cycling' bacteria are actually competing for the same food (ammonia). As long as the ammonia is 'eaten' by something, your fish are OK.

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