How to cycle a tank in one week - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 14 Old 02-15-2008, 06:36 PM Thread Starter
How to cycle a tank in one week

Hi everybody
I wanted to post this topic in case it can help beginners when establishing a new tank.
People that are already in the field would agree on how painful it could be sometimes to wait until the tank gets cycled.
Not on purpose but more by luck, I found how to cycle a tank in only one week.
I've just started a new 55 gallon tank with a fancy Styrofoam background that took me 3 month to build up for my apistogramma borellis cichlids (South American dwarf cichlids). After the background was fixed into the tank using silicone glue (curing time included), I decided to clean the glass as much as possible before I could fill the tank with water.
For this I used regular glass cleaning solution (blue color) found in anywhere. In the shops you can either find this cleaning solution with or without ammonium. I used the one WITH ammonium. I washed the whole inner glass surface of the aquarium with this solution.
At night, I filled the tank entirely with water and I was already thinking about my fish swimming around in a couple of weeks from now.
The next day about 24 hours or even less after, I was surprised that the water was already densely cloudy. Then I did a 10% water change at day 3 and day 7. During these 7 days I could see the cloudiness of the water decreasing meaning that the bacteria get deposited in the gravel as well as on the background surface without forgetting those stuck in the power filter. At the end of the 7 days the water was clear and since yesterday which means 13 days it is crystal clear. As clear as the water I have in my 30 gallons tank which is 7 months old now. The cycling of the water was made without the appearance of any ammonium peak (I've tested the water parameters every day since day 1). This avoids having to buy hardy fishes (that some time you don't really want in your tank) during the cycling period. After one week you will be able to put your favorite fishes without thinking about the ammonium peak that would have potentially be harmful for them if you were not careful enough during this period.

I hope that thanks to this trick you will be rapidly able to set your tank while giving the best living conditions for your fish.
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post #2 of 14 Old 02-15-2008, 07:12 PM
What you have just described is the forced cycle of a tank, a fishless cycle. It is hardly new. Your post is a unique insight on how things happen in the hobby. If even by accident.
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post #3 of 14 Old 02-15-2008, 07:41 PM Thread Starter
Well let say that if it was already so much known, everybody will do the same thing to cycle their tank. And if it was the case their won't be so much forums and chats speaking about or explaining how to cycle a tank. You will agree that most of the time, from the different possibilities to cycle a tank, this one is not the one which is mostly advertised. In general hobbists advertise more the cycling of the tank using fish and letting the ammonium raising into the tank while the bacteria grow. Most of the articles speaking about forcing the cycle without fishes use food that decompose and bring the ammonia up, in this case you do not avoid the peak as my experience shows.

thank you for your interest
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post #4 of 14 Old 02-15-2008, 07:55 PM
I would worry about how much of the other chemicals from the glass cleaner remained in your tank and therefore the water you put it? I'm not just talking about ammonia, I'm talking about everything else (including whatever makes it blue)...don't wanna kill the fishies :)
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post #5 of 14 Old 02-15-2008, 08:57 PM
Cycling a tank using ammonia, is a touchy deal. Already the question has been raised by a member on how much one should use. Eventually, I agree, someone with a little drive and some connections, will market a product that contains ammonia, in the proper quantity, that will hasten the cycling of the tank. As for not having an ammonia surge, you had one, but it was not to the degree that one is used to seeing using other methods of cycling.

The big reason no one uses the "ammonia technique" to cycle is because:
a.) It is relatively a process that is hit and miss at this time. The fact remains that no one has done a comprehensive study as to the amounts to use. Let me rephrase that. If someone has done a study, it remains that the results have not been published enough to make everyone aware of the process, from dosing, what the tests should read during the process, and a timetable for the process.
b.) Humans are resistant to change. Just a simple fact of life here.
c.) Most aquarists are naive and wear that naivete on there sleeves. This is a prime example. They also are doubters. What they doubt, they don't try, usually.
d.) Not enough of the "names" of the hobby are promoting the "ammonia technique". Without the blessing of the "gods", it may never be a hugely popular method of cycling a tank.
e.) All knowledgeable hobbiests have had the fact that any ammonia concentrations is doom for the inhabitants of the aquarium. One could liken the use of ammonia to cycle a tank to administering curari as a cure for cancer.

We have a few members that swear by the "ammonia technique". I use it in preparing for shows and judgings. However, I have a group that, truly, knows what they are doing and have used the method for many years. I bring in my tanks set them, up add water, they do the ammonia bit. I do know that a capful can go a long way to cycling a 75g tank, 24-36 hours, I'm adding fish. But, I am also using "seasoned" equipment.

I do not recommend that anyone use this method if they do not know what they are doing. Until such time as someone does the research and publishes a bonafide, concrete "how-to", it will continue to linger in the shadows.

I would like to differentiate between "forced" cycling and "accelerated" cycling of a tank. "Accelerated" cycling is as you described when food is added to the tank to "rot" thus providing an ammonia source. Another form of "accelerated cycling" is adding seasoned substrate, using "seasoned" filters, ect to lessen the time for a tank to cycle. "Forced cycling" is adding chemicals, such as ammonia or other substances containing ammonia, to supply the system with the needed food, ammonia, for the bacteria bed. The absolute fastest way to cycle a tank is a hybrid of the two methods, using seasoned materials and equipment and ammonia. Cycling can be accomplished in less than a day. I've seen people at conventions have a tank completely cycled in less than 12 hours.
That is a remarkable time, awe inspiring.
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post #6 of 14 Old 02-16-2008, 05:38 PM Thread Starter
Hi guys

First of all, thanks you for your interest and your comments.

I would agree that I honestly don't know what are the other chemicals that are present in the glass cleaning solution that I used (Target glass cleaning solution for those that are interested). And for this method to be universally used it would have to be much more "controlled"

I would rather disagree on the fact that you have to dose correctly the amount of ammonium you have to add in the tank to cycle it. At least in my case, I didn't put a pure ammonium solution in the tank; I only cleaned the glass surface with it. So the amount I put was directly related to the amount of "dried" cleaning solution remaining on the glass after my cleaning (I would assume it was not so much). In other words, If I had to cycle a 30 Gallons tank instead of a 55 like I just did, the surface of glass will be less as the amount of ammonium "let on the glass" during the cleaning. Whatever the size of your tank you will always have the right amount.

Next point that I would like to emphasized, I added my first fish after 7 days which means the tank was already cycled. Just to explain that if you use this method and wait until the tank is cycled before you put your first fish, you will certainly harm them less than if you "USE" them to cycle the tank.

My experience described here is based on a tank where no seasoned equipments were used. I totally agree on the fact that if you use some you definitively reduce the time to cycle the tank. And this because the amount of bacteria you will have in your tank at the beginning will represent the primary population and that this population as any other bacterial one will have an exponential phase growth.

I trust you when you say that tanks can be cycled in 1 day or less but I would assume that in these cases the aquariums were not big ones and that the amount of bacteria they already had in the tank was already high before the started to do their pseudo cycling. A regular type of bacteria has a growth rate of about 2x more bacteria every 20 to 30 minutes during the exponential phase. So if you cycle your tank in 12 hours that means only 24 divisions. That goes in the idea that you had already a lot of them in the tank. The only idea behind the fact of purring ammonium in the tank was to make the bacteria change their growth phase from stationary to exponential. Basically you give them more food they grow faster.

I said just before that I thought the tanks you were describing were not big because of a second fact. Even If in my tank the final amount of bacteria was present in 1 to 2 day they also needed time to sediment and to colonise the different parts of the aquarium (ornaments, gravel, filter etc) and in the case of a 55 gallons like the one I have it took 7 days for them to sediment. I would though imagine that the tank you were speaking about were not too big otherwise I would be happy that you explain me how you make them sediment so rapidly.

Again here I don't want to force anyone to do what I did. I'm not here to say that I'm the best and that everybody else says crap. I'm just sharing my experience in case some people would be interested in it.
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post #7 of 14 Old 01-19-2011, 05:45 AM
Cycling a Tank in 1 week

Hi Guys

Its amazing how much literature there is online about cycling a tank. In my experience, perhaps because the water conditions are not harsh in Singapore, I managed to cycle my tank in 1 week. The tank my first (now cycling my second which is a 260 litre) which is a 60 litre planted soil and gravel mixed one saw the following additions after a week - i think perhaps a day or two shy of a week! A pair of Leopard Danios then Cardinals then Rummy Noses followed by a Dwarf Puffer (this fiesty one jumped out onto the floor and managed to survive and s doing quite well now nipping the fins of the other fish!!!!) then Plecos/Corys , Rams and Angels. The tank is now around 4 months old and all the fish are doing well. The only ones that didn't make it were the tetras and a couple of Rasboras. From personal experience tetras are pretty sensitive or perhaps these were weak as they are commercially bred as staples and not much care is taken. The rams and angels are gorgeous and resilient fish. My angels are Kois with Yellow heads.
In my experience the most interesting and resilient fish to start off with are Angels and Rams.

Im in the midst of cycling my 260 litre bow front tank which also is planted but this time I had two beds done. The soil as the first layer followed by the gravel. Makes it look nicer. I was looking to stock it with Discuses only but have changed my mind because 1. They mess up the tank pretty good and the water gets polluted too fast making frequent water changes necessary 2. If there are too many Discuses in a tank one gets edgy about putting a variety of other fish in there because of compatability issues. Its much more interesting to have a community tank with a nice variety of fish. The best part is you can introduce a pair of discuses with the rest and Im sure all will be well minus the hassle of dirty water and beef heart!!

This is what I am looking to stock in my 260 litre - 12 Koi Angels / A pair of Blue Snake Skin Discuses / An Adonis Pleco / 6 Corys / 8 German Rams / 8 Blue Rams & my cherubic naughty friend the Dwarf Puffer!!

Have fun guys!!


Last edited by Gino Hardial Singh; 01-19-2011 at 05:48 AM.
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post #8 of 14 Old 01-19-2011, 08:49 PM
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What strikes me in this, is that the tank is not actually "cycled." If I am reading the initial post and follow-up posts correctly, ammonia was introduced to the tank and the water cleared in one week. That does not mean the tank is cycled, and I would suggest it is not. Water clarity has absolutely no direct relationship with the nitrifying bacteria and cycling; it is possible to cycle a tank and have clear water throughout, aside from the initial cloudiness from the substrate or whatever.

Cycling involves colonization of nitrosomonas bacteria (to use ammonia and produce nitrite) and nitrospira bacteria (to use nitrite and produce nitrate). This process takes anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks; many other factors affect it, so it is variable. During the "cycling" process the ammonia must remain at the same level, and then the nitrite. The various bacteria will multiply to handle new ammonia or nitrite respectively, but if the ammonia or nitrite lessens during this "cycling," the bacteria will die off accordingly. If the source of ammonia decreased even to the point of disappearing completely, so will the bacteria.

Having live plants in the tank eliminates the "cycle" per say, and that is still the safest and most natural method. The plants prefer ammonium as their source of nitrogen, and are quicker to grab it than are nitrosomonas bacteria. With fewer bacteria, nitrite is scarcely negligible, so there is no "cycle" to speak of with sufficient live plants for the fish load.

I also highly agree with the member who suggested other substances in the cleaning solution might well kill your fish. This is a very dangerous practice. Pure ammonia, like pure vinegar, can be used inside a tank (with no fish present obviously), but any product that has any other chemical may very well be lethally toxic. I would suggest the tank be thoroughly cleaned (drained first), although if the substrate (gravel, sand) is in the tank it may well be un-usable.

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]

Last edited by Byron; 01-19-2011 at 08:52 PM.
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post #9 of 14 Old 01-19-2011, 09:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Byron View Post
I would suggest the tank be thoroughly cleaned (drained first), although if the substrate (gravel, sand) is in the tank it may well be un-usable.
Byron, the OP is really old. Whatever happened with that tank would have happened ages ago. For some reason the thread was resurrected yesterday by a new post.
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post #10 of 14 Old 01-20-2011, 04:38 AM
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Never understood why the original poster who claims to have had a 7 month old 30 gal tank didn't just borrow some filter material and or substrate from the 7 month old tank to cycle the 55 gal.(perhaps he/she did and just didn't share that info).
Much could have gone very wrong with the process that OP described.
As the signature of another member who use to frequent this forum used to read..."The only things that happen quickly in the Aquarium,are bad things".

The most important medication in your fish medicine cabinet is.. Clean water.
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