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Reference Team
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It doesn't make much difference, but as long as your plants are easy to remove, cycle without them. I guess you're planning on a fishless cycle. Do yourself a favor and find "pure" ammonia that does NOT foam when shaken. Rotting shrimp or fishfood is a smelly mess. Your tank will reek for months.

Many keepers have been having good luck with bottled nitrifying bacteria. As long as it is fersh and has never been frozen or overheated, they work a lot faster than waiting for the bacteria to fall out of the sky into your tank. Shake, shake, shake...then shake some more. Put it in your filter.

Tetra Safestart is easiest to find, so it is the most widely used --mostly successfully by my informants. ATM Colony, API Quickstart and Niteout are also well reviewed. Dr Tim's One-and-Only is shipped fresh from the factory in an insulated container so is most likely to arrive in your tank alive and healthy. It is also the most expensive.

---Dose ammonia >4.0ppm
---Run your filter on high for aeration
---Temperature ~84*
---Keep it dark.

Not sure what you mean by "aquarium media."

Good price:
Amazon.com: API Freshwater Master Test Kit: Pet Supplies
 
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