Tetra SafeStart Q&A

Tetra SafeStart Q&A

  • Author Lucy
  • Creation date
Since we have so many questions about how to use Tetra SafeStart I sent them an e-mail.
I hope this helps answer the many questions about this product.
Shawnie will be adding some info she recieved from them.

TO: TetraCare Customer Care Team

Hi :)
I belong to an on-line forum and several questions come up about the use
of SafeStart. The directions on the bottle aren't very clear. Many members have had luck with it but some haven't. We'd love to be able to answer questions about it's use. If you could send step by step instructions so that I may pass them on, it would be great.

Some of the more popular questions are:
Will conditioners that detox ammonia effect SafeStart? If so, how and why?

Do you add water, conditioner, SafeStart and fish all at once or should you:
a) Add fish, wait a day to add Tetra SafeStart?
b) Add Tetra SafeStart wait a day to add fish?
c) Do you add your full stock of fish at once or start off with just a few?

If you've already added fish and have an ammonia reading, will Tetra SafeStart still be effective?

At what ammonia reading will Tetra SafeStart still be effective?

Is there too high of a reading that would render Tetra SafeStart ineffective? What would that reading be?

Can it be refrigerated without harming the bacteria?

After adding Tetra SafeStart:
How soon should you test the water and why? (I've heard it said you'll get high ammonia readings if you test within 10 days of adding TSS. Isn't that harmful to the fish? If not, why?)

How soon should you do a water change after adding the product and why?

Does TSS effect the pH?

What is the key to the success or failure of Tetra SafeStart?

I'm sorry, I know I have a lot of questions but the forums goal is the same as yours, happy healthy fish.

I appreciate your taking the time to address my questions. Feel free to add any other information you think would be pertinent to the success or failure of SafeStart.

Thank you!

---------- RESPONSE ---------------
Hi there,

Wow, lots of questions! All are pretty simple, and we get them a lot too. I'll suggest marketing address them on our website, next time they update it. Out of curiosity, what forum is it?

So...where to begin? First, ideally you should set up the tank, and let it run at least 24 hours, then, shortly before you head off to the store for your first fish, add TSS to the tank. Within two hours, you should add the fish.
I would add the fish then a few hours (up to 12) later add the TSS as the bacteria NEEDS that ammonia source to feed it(NEW SETUPS ONLY)

Our normal recommendation is to add one small fish per ten gallons of water. However, you CAN fully stock the tank, you just need to keep a close eye on it, and be sure to not complicate matters by overfeeding as well. We recommend this method for African cichlid tanks since it is best to fully stock such a tank from the beginning due to territorial issues.

For a novice fish-keeper, we'd recommend the one small fish per ten gallons rule for the first two weeks. Within two weeks, TSS should have fully cycled the tank and they can start slowly adding more fish, one at a time.
I would add your full stock right away, with the correct amount of TSS for your tank size..

In regards to ammonia products, yes, they kill TSS. Any type, whether a chloramines remover or detoxifier, etc, anything that says it locks up ammonia or removes ammonia. Do not add TSS for 24 hours after using
such a product, and do not add such a product for at least 7 days after using TSS. The bacteria is housed in a special stabilized solution of ammonia, so if you remove/lock up the ammonia, you remove all of the
food the bacteria require to live.

If you already have fish, and are having an ammonia issue, it is best to get the ammonia levels down to below 4.0. 4.0 and higher is just as toxic to TSS as it is to fish. While 2.0 -3.5 ppm ammonia may harm some of the TSS bacteria, it should still have some effect. You may want to do a second dose several days after adding the first one, if you are not seeing the results you want. Keep in mind, these are bacteria, not a
chemical, so results are slow to see. Give the product at least 5-7 days.
Recommended to add the next size up bottle with already existing ammonia/fish in a tank...ex. 30-55g tank, use a bottle of TSS for a 75g tank

Best temperature for TSS is between 40 and 80 degrees. Freezing and extreme heat will destroy it. Refrigeration is okay, but not necessary.

You can test the water any time, but really, you should probably wait at least 48 hours. We expect TSS to start slowly seeding the tank, and making a difference in about that time. You have to have some ammonia
occur in the tank to provide the cycle needed, so it will usually create levels or reduce levels to around 1.0-1.5 ppm, and they should stay there for a week to 14 days, and then come down. Sorry, these levels
would be for both ammonia and nitrite. These are considered stress, but not toxic, levels, and should not cause any long term damage to the fish.

We recommend waiting two weeks before a water change. Of course, if for some reason, the levels go up to a high level again, we would recommend a change at that point, and another dose. Usually, the hobbyist has done something wrong the first time, in such cases.

Nope, bacteria should not affect the pH. The bacteria itself wont effect it, but very common for tanks that are cycling, to flectuate ph until the cycle is completed..then the ph settles more on a stable range

Hmmm....be sure the levels are not already toxic, shake the container thoroughly, be sure to add the right dosage, do not use an ammonia detoxifying product, and be patient. It won't give you zero readings in
an hour, like some folks think. By the way, carbon does not affect it but uv lights do...we get those questions too. :) And just an interesting point...the large aquariums, such as the Georgia Aquarium, and the Shedd Aquarium, as well as huge research labs in this country and other countries, also use TSS as well as the saltwater version Bio Spira.
ALWAYS use the entire bottle as its too difficult to split it up and not knowing how much of the bacteria is left behind by using partial bottles

If I have not addressed all of your questions, please let me know.


Tetra Care

great job lucy!!! other than what ive added in blue, from testing the product for months, and phone calls as well as emails, its consistent with all my research also!


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  • teko116
  • 5.00 star(s)
Awesome work! @Aquabee So, you could purchase the bacteria, as long as it has been handled properly (kept refrigerated)
  • Argenis
  • 5.00 star(s)
Great article! Cycled my tanks in just 9 days!
I used this article when I was using TSS+ to do a fish-in cycle for my 2.5 gallon betta tank and it gave me the confidence to just trust that the product will work. 11 days later, I have a cycled tank! Thank you!
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