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Eolith 04-22-2012 11:39 AM

Is it Cycled Already?
First of all, your time and patience is appreciated. I know this thread is probably one of those dime-a-dozen ones asking for relatively basic advice and input.

Anyhow, my tank has a bit of history with it. It's a standard 10 gallon tank with an under gravel filtration system and a filter rated for a 30 gallon tank. I initially set it up about 3 years ago... it's a long story how we got here, but the basics are that all of my initial fish died off and some of the new ones I tried out didn't last very long, so I gave up and decided to start from scratch. I took the tank completely apart, replaced most of the fake plants, cleaned off all of the algae, updated the under gravel system, etc etc and reassembled it.

I decided to start off pretty easy and got two platies. The employee at the pet store suggested NutraFin Cycle which is supposed to add beneficial bacteria and help cycle the tank, which I knew was probably a bit of a gimmick but I figured it couldn't really hurt and it didn't cost much especially considering I only have a 10 gallon tank to dose.

It's been about 2 days with the two platies and the cycle stuff. I just tested the water conditions with my API liquid test kit and came out with 0-.25 ppm ammonia, 0 ppm nitrite, and 5-10 ppm nitrate. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but these actually seem like very good levels overall. So my question is, does this reflect a tank that is already cycled? I'm going to keep an eye on the levels and maintain a weekly 20% water change, but it seems sort of optimistic for a tank that's been running anew for only about 4 days.

Romad 04-22-2012 11:44 AM

It sounds to me like a tank that has just started the very beginning of cycling. Your ammonia will continue to spike before you get to the second stage (nitrItes) and so on....

My guess is that you've got nitrAtes right out of the tap water. Have you tested that?

kitten_penang 04-22-2012 12:01 PM

the thing with using bacteria is that some brands will give you a fake spike in water readings.
to know for sure the tank is cycled will take 1 month when ammonia 0,nitrites 0 and nitrate 10 or lower

Eolith 04-22-2012 12:09 PM

Thanks for the input. I did just check the tap water nitrates and came out with 0 ppm, or at least very close to it.

When I revamped the tank I didn't change the biowheel on the filter and I just rinsed the gravel with fresh tap water, no additional cleaners or chemicals. Could that be of some help?

I will continue to watch the levels, and I'm not really anxious to add new fish in a hurry or anything. I'm just hoping that the tank will get reestablished without too much trouble.

AbbeysDad 04-22-2012 12:16 PM

I'm a bit unclear about the time interval in your tear down and restart...If you reused the [wet] gravel from your tank and did not kill the bacteria (e.g. rinse in chlorinated water), it's likely that no 'new tank cycle' will happen. The established bacteria colony just continues to do it's thing. If there was a delay and the gravel dried out, then this is not the case and a new tank cycle process will be in play.

It's often thought that the first site of nitrates means the cycle has completed. However, many (like me) have high nitrates in their tap water (which should also be tested) so this is not really a clear indicator.

If you will continue to use the UGF, (filter of great debate) bear in mind that they are an excellent bio-filter, but can quickly become a somewhat evil NITRATE factory. (you didn't mention specifics about the 'upgrade'). You can avoid problems with aggressive weekly gravel vacuum siphoning. I used them in the past, but feel they can be more trouble than they're worth, especially considering the other available bio-media today.

Bacteria in a bottle products are coming of age with so many reputable companies in the market now. Years ago the skepticism was warranted as often incorrect bacteria strains were in play. However, time has passed, research has been done and patents have expired giving us much better products. However, the bacteria can be killed by extremes in temperature, so transportation and warehouse storage continues to be a potential problem. I'm encouraged that one day these products will eliminate our 'old school' cycling processes and new tank syndrome will be a thing of the past.

Bottom line, as Romad suggested, you should monitor ammonia closely for awhile to ensure against a spike and be prepared to do a water change if it does. However, if your ammonia/nitrite readings hold and your nitrates increase, it's likely cycled and all is well.


kitten_penang 04-22-2012 01:14 PM

since you used tap water straight from the tap you might have killed off the existing bacteria in the gravel.always use old tank water or at least use anti-chorine to new water and let it sit for sometime before washing stuff like filter media or a portion of the old gravel if you want to keep the bacteria alive.
for the time being make sure there's no uneaten food in the tank and don't add anymore fish for the time being

AbbeysDad 04-22-2012 04:04 PM

Oops!=AD.... I think the info about the tap water gravel wash came in when I was writing my post. Hard to say if any bacteria survived, but we shouldn't count on it.

Eolith 04-23-2012 05:10 PM

I've been continuing to keep track of the water conditions and they haven't really changed at all, however one of the platies died. I'm not terribly surprised because from the get go he was clamping his fins... I'm certain this began at the pet store.

It leaves me to question whether or not I should get another one just yet though. The tank isn't fully established, but the remaining platy seems extra skittish now without another fish (running into the walls at the slightest movement and so on). He seems quite healthy physically... color and activity is good and he hasn't clamped his fins at all.

I'm just not sure if the stress will be more or less if I get another platy. There's probably pros and cons either way.

Maxillius 04-23-2012 05:20 PM

I wouldent recommend adding more fish! I would recommend adding live plants! like floating plants and fast growing plants! these will absorb ammonia faster then your bacteria will change it intoo nitrate and the remaining nitrate can serve as food for the plants , you still need to do water changes unless you have a huge aquarium with tons of plants and a small number of fish. either way plants are always beneficial since they also absorb impurities and co2. If you dont want live plants keep monitoring your parameters if it goes above 0.25 ppm ammonia do a water change as alot of ammonia in water is not only toxic to fish but to bacteria also!

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