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Good Afternoon

I was wondering what everyone's oppinions/experiences are with the beneficial bacteria additives that are on the market. Are they safe? Do you find them effective? If yes, which are the best brands? Do they really help reduce cycling time?

Thanks ahead of time for your input.

~Christine
 

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Good Afternoon

I was wondering what everyone's oppinions/experiences are with the beneficial bacteria additives that are on the market. Are they safe? Do you find them effective? If yes, which are the best brands? Do they really help reduce cycling time?

Thanks ahead of time for your input.

~Christine

I do not recommend any bacterial additives on the market.

But then I don't recommend addives in general either.

I just don't feel they are effective and that I shouldn't have to pay money for bacteria that will show up for nothing anyway.

my .02
 

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My only experience is with Nutrafin Cycle. It seemed to help with the ammonia, but it was definitely NOT effective in controlling nitrIte. I had five Zebra Danios in the tank, at the time, and they were exposed to a dangerous concentration of nitrIte for about two weeks. I lost one fish, and the remainder may very well have latent problems.

Next time, without question, I will do a fishless cycle. Others will join me in recommending the same for you. You won't need a bacteria additive, but you do need a source of ammonia... and a dose of patience.

If there are children involved in setting up your tank, it will be very tempting to try the well-promoted shortcuts. Resist. I speak from experience when I say that having to wait for fish is less dispiriting than the death of a new fish.

To be fair, there are folks in this forum who have had success with these products. Most seem to promote SafeStart from Tetra as having the right strains of bacteria for the cycle. You can use it in an attempt to accelerate your fishless cycle.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thank you both.

Actually my tank has been set up for quite some time (3 years). About 8 months ago, I started having ammonia spikes for unknown reasons. The tank is not overstocked, the filter is twice the necessary size, no one has died and gone undiscoverd and I am the only one who feeds the tank, so no over feeding.

About 8 months ago, I started having some deaths. When I tested the water I found an alarming amount of ammonia. I did nothing, waiting for the tank to recycle itself. Months went by with no change. I talked to an emplyee of petco (there are, sadley, no independent shops where I live). The suggested the Amquel (plus) I was using was binding the ammonia, therefore starving the bacteria, and not allowing the biological filter to function properly. I switched to regular Amquel, and did some small water changes to rid the tank of the bound ammonia and allow bacteria to repopulate. Though the ammonia has reduced, it is still not at zero. I was thinking dosing with bacteria to repopulate.

Thoughts?
 

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I jumped to conclusions... sorry about the sermon.

My understanding of Amquel is that it works similar to Prime (which I use) in that it binds the ammonia and nitrite (making it more difficult for the fish to absorb) but does not eliminate them. The bacteria will still consume those compounds.

Are you measuring total ammonia (NH3 and NH4) or just free ammonia (NH3)? And have you seen any change in the pH of the water you are using for water changes? A higher pH would release more NH3... which is more toxic to fish than NH4.

Another thought... Is your tank planted? And have you made any changes to the plants that would reduce the amount of ammonia they are consuming?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I have a basic API master kit, so I'm not sure if it tests for NH3 or 4 to be honest. Very low nitrates.

The ph of the water I'm using for water changes is neural. The ph in my tank is fairly high. I had some Malaysian drift wood in there, which I removed in order to bring the ph down. My tank does have some plants. Some amazon swords and java moss, nothing new. I tested the ammonia today and it's still hovering between .25 & .50. :-/
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The ph of the water I'm using for water changes is neural. The ph in my tank is fairly high. I had some Malaysian drift wood in there, which I removed in order to bring the ph down.
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Fluctuations in pH can manifest different levels of ammonia, and can also stress the fish.

Did you observe a change in pH when you removed the driftwood? If so, can you describe what happened? Did the fish loss occur afterward?

What is the difference in the pH of your replacement water (which you say is neutral) and the pH in the tank? If that difference is great, I wonder whether a large gradient is created during a water change that becomes problematic. I'm speculating on this one... someone with more expertise should weigh-in.
 

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Amquel Plus, Prime, Ammolock and others all lock ammonia/ammoium in a complex molecule that's harmless to fish but still usable by bacteria and plants. (Seachem disagrees, but few others do.) The lock decays and releases the ammonia in 24 to 48 hours. By then the bacteria and plants will have dealt with it. So goes the theory.

If your tank is getting unstable, showing persistent ammonia after having been cycled for a long time, you can ride out the mini-cycle by thorough vacuuming, frequent water changes (with Prime, Amquel etc), and by cutting back on food.
Prime @ 1- drop/ gal (or equivalent) every day will keep ammonia locked up.

We're talking here about total ammonia (NH3 + NH4). The percentage of each is determined by pH and temperature. Here's a graph that explains that.
CNYKOI - Ammonia calculator


As for bottled bacteria, the brands that specifically say they contain nitrosomonas and nitrospira (or nitrobacter for SW), work to accelerate the nitrogen cycle. These are the bacteria that oxidize ammonia and nitrite. If the product has never been frozen, overheated or left on the shelf longer than (I recommend) six months, it will definitely cycle your tank quickly. Nitrifying bacteria is in any film or body of non-chlorinated/unpolluted water, as well as in the atmosphere. The bulk of time spent cycling is waiting for the bacteria to fall out of the sky into the tank.

I'm in contact with over a dozen keepers on BF and here, and I track their procedures and success. Rarely do bacteria products fail.

Some keepers even prefer to use bottled bacteria over "seeded" media so as to prevent contamination from disease or toxins.
 

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Daily water changes (40% to 50%) and substantially reduced feedings really helped resolve the nitrIte problem I had with my start-up cycle.

Hallyx... What do you suppose may be the root cause of the increased ammonia levels in an otherwise stable tank, and what might be preventing the nitrosomonas from responding naturally? CStevens1967 has been waiting 8 months for the tank to re-cycle!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Fluctuations in pH can manifest different levels of ammonia, and can also stress the fish.

Did you observe a change in pH when you removed the driftwood? If so, can you describe what happened? Did the fish loss occur afterward?

What is the difference in the pH of your replacement water (which you say is neutral) and the pH in the tank? If that difference is great, I wonder whether a large gradient is created during a water change that becomes problematic. I'm speculating on this one... someone with more expertise should weigh-in.
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The PH is running at < 7.6. The tap is 7. I just removed the driftwood a couple days ago, so no change yet. I don't really expect a change until I've done a couple water changes.
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To be honest with you, Diver, I really can't say with certainty. I've tried to learn all I can about the nitrogen cycle and the ancillary water chemistry. I track other keepers. I experiment with my own tanks. I cruise forums and chase articles about cycling.

But it's still not clear to me what causes a mature, "established" cycle to break-down or destabilize. There are the obvious reasons: death in the tank, dying plants; life in the tank: too many livebearers, snails, whatever. These can be seen and dealt with.

Then there's interference: mulm suffocating the substrate bacteria, filter blockage suffocating the filter bacteria. But, if your tank is so overstocked that either of these is vulnerable, you're on the edge anyway.

Conditioners break chloramine into chlorine and ammonia. If the chloramine has been increased by the water supplier, more ammonia may be released. Only dangerous in a heavily-stocked tank.

Forgetting conditioner can allow chlorine to kill bacteria. It takes quite a dose though. Bacteria aren't that feeble. Once a tank is "established" for several months and the bacteria has found it's way in the most efficient amounts into it's favorite places (filter, substrate, decor, plants, livestock), and achieved it's balance. it's pretty hard to get rid of and not easy to kill, except by temperature extremes or excursions, or drying out.
 

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For now, you could simply reduce feedings, continue your water changes with Amquel treatment, and monitor total ammonia. If you can't coax it back down to zero, then perhaps it would be time to try SafeStart. You'll probably want to suspend the Amquel and water changes for several days after you dose with the bacteria supplement. Even though the conditioner should only lock the ammonia (not destroy it), the manufacturers of SafeStart recommend that you stop the conditioner 48 hours before adding the bacteria and then for about seven days afterward.
 

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I am terribly disappointed in the instructions for using Safestart. If followd to the letter they could cause severe stress or even death. I read the explanation by a Tetra representative, which was very complicated, overly "fussy" and, again, dangerous if followed literally.

The keepers on here, with whom I correspond, just dump[ it the tank a day or two after adding fish. They use Prime and water changes to attenuate ammonia. It works fine. Go see what Dr. Tim Hovanec has to say about bottled-bacteria. He invented the stuff.

I'll see if I can find the Tetra Q&A (if you're really interested).
 
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