about fishless cycle, and types of fish for tank Question

Discussion in 'Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle' started by Starshine86, Apr 19, 2010.

  1. Starshine86New MemberMember

    Hi everyone. I'm still just setting up my 50 litre tank and have a couple more questions.

    I started feeding the tank with fish flakes about a week ago to start the fishless cycle. I tested the water in the tank before I started, and figured I should test about once a week until the levels all reach 0. Is this right?

    And once the cycle is complete, I need to do a 100% water change, and vacuum up all the food, right? Then I can just start adding fish?

    Also, I've never done a tropical tank before, so never dealt with a heater. When I get fish, I plan to change about 20-25% of the water on a weekly basis. But if I get the water straight from the tap, obviously that won't be as warm as the water in the tank. Will that be an issue, or will the fish just adjust?

    I'm also still finalising what fish I want, and how many. I'd appreciate a bit of advice. I've got my heart set on a dwarf gourami, although I realise I can only get one.

    Given that I've got a 50 litre tank, I thought a dwarf gourami, and then some guppies and platys. Could you suggest how many I could have? Are they schooling fish, and would a need a minimum number of them?

    I did also wonder about getting a catfish, as it seems like they'd be good at picking up any food from the gravel. Could you suggest a type that might work in this tank that wouldn't grow more than 2-3 inches? Or would this be a bad idea? And would I need drift wood or something for a catfish? I've just got some plastic plants and an decoration in the shape of a couple of barrels for the fish to swim through and hide in.

    Thanks for your help! I'm open to any thoughts or ideas you have for other types of fish too.

  2. midthoughtWell Known MemberMember

    Hi Starshine, welcome to Fishlore. :)

    As you feed the tank, you'll see your ammonia spike and then your nitrite. When both ammonia and nitrite are zero and you can detect some nitrates, then you will be cycled. This will take anywhere between 3 weeks and 3 months. It will go a little faster if you increase the temp in the tank as it cycles, or if you have established filter media with which you can seed your tank. If you stick with fish food (or ammonia), to be safe, keep feeding the tank for a couple days after you're testing 0 ammonia and nitrite, just to ensure that all the ammonia from the food is being used up within 24 hours. Then do a large water change before adding new fish. A 100% change probably isn't necessary, many do 50-75%. This largely depends on just how much nitrate you're seeing by the end of it. That is, if you're testing 100ppm nitrate, you'll want to do a larger change than if you're only seeing 40ppm. Once fish are in the tank, you'll basically want to keep the tank from ever going above 20 or 30 ppm. Biologically, this may be a 6 day or 9 day cycle -- it just depends on your livestock, live plants, etc., but weekly is probably going to be fine. :)

    Oh and do vacuum the food up before the large water change. That stuff gets really nasty. That's why I prefer using pure ammonia. Huge bottles tend to be really cheap because hardly anyone but building superintendants use it around here. :) My bottle's actually so big, I once spilled it all over the bathroom and made the whole apartment smell of noxious fumes. I nearly got sick from trying to mop it up. Anyway, that's a tangent. It's late.

    About tropical temp water. You should try to introduce fresh water, treated with a water conditioner, as close as the tank temperature as possible. You can just adjust the heat of your tap for this purpose. Your water conditioner will take care of the chlorines and chloramines in the water, and I believe some take care of heavy metals if you're concerned about that. You *can* use a thermometer to match up the new water with the old water, but human skin is actually pretty accurate to within a degree or two of telling the temps between the two, so I don't bother with a thermometer specifically for new water.

    About your stocking. I wanted a dwarf gourami very recently and was warned away from it by some nice people on these forums. Unfortunately, dwarf gourami stock worldwide is commonly affected by Dwarf Gourami Disease (often shortened to DGD, also known as iridovirus). There was a large infection/outbreak about 5 years back stemming from infected stock coming out of Asia and even today it's still pretty bad. It often shows up regardless of any quarantine safegards, can appear several weeks or months after you've brought it home, is *always* fatal, and there are no known cures or preventions. It's rather bleak. :( If you can get your hands on a healthy one though, good on you and good for the fish. Maybe you could track down a local breeder, as their stock would likely be more reliable than your random LFS. You can read more about DGs here: https://www.fishlore.com/Profiles-DwarfGourami.htm

    As for stocking with the other fish, I'm sure someone else can advise much better. As far as I can tell though, 50 liters is just over 13 gallons, so you should be able to fit a DG with some guppies and platys. I don't *think* that you'd have any more room for a catfish, but again someone else will likely chime in on that note.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2010
  3. Prince PowderWell Known MemberMember

    Hello and welcome to Fishlore!

    Midthought has offered you some great advice and has covered all your questions I believe. Congratulations on the fishless cycle! Your fish will be much better off for it.

    In regards to the guppies and platys, they are not really schooling fish, but if you are to have more than one it is generally wise to keep at least 2 females for every 1 male or have an all female tank. Keep in mind that live bearers are very prolific breeders and if you have a mixed sex tank you will almost certainly wind up with many, many babies. Even with an all female tank you may wind up with some babies as it is not uncommon to purchase females already pregnant. Female live bearers can also store sperm for very long periods of time, so if a female has been kept in the same tank as a male, they may wind up getting pregnant months down the road even if they weren't to begin with. An all male tank is generally not recommended since males tend to harass each other if there are no females. If you are looking for an alternative to live bearers, small species of tetras like neon tetras would do fine. However, most tetras are schooling fish so it is generally recommended you keep tetras in groups of 5 or more.

    For your size tank, the only catfish I know that is small enough are pygmy corys or ottos. Pygmy corys are not available at any of my local fish stores so I'm not sure how much luck you would have finding them locally. Ottos are generally available, however they are very sensitive to water conditions and require very well established tanks. If you were to go with ottos your tank would not be ready to sustain them for at least several months. Both corys and ottos are schooling fish so if you plan on keeping them, you would need to keep at least 3, keeping them in groups of 5 or more would be better though. There are a few alternatives that make a good clean up crew like ghost shrimp, or even snails. Shrimps have very low bio loads so you can often get away with more than you would think. Snails tend to produce a bit more waste so generally only one or two would be needed depending on the species.

    In regards to the Dwarf Gourami, as midthought mentioned, there has been some recent health issues with the species, but if you can find a reputable breeder rather than getting one from a fish store you should be fine. From what I understand, problems with Iridovirus is declining, however it still pops up enough that it is still worth mentioning. There are other small gourami species you could look into as an alternative such as the Honey Gourami or Sparkling Gouramis. They don't have the same health warnings as Dwarf Gouramis and actually stay a bit smaller so they would be ideal for your tank size.

    Good luck with your tank!
  4. Starshine86New MemberMember

    Thanks for your advice. I'd still like to get a dwarf gourami, but I'll talk to the fish store and see... Is it true that I can put a betta fish in there instead? I'd always thought they had to be kept by themselves, but I've read somewhere that they're usually only aggressive to other betta males, and do ok in a community tank.

    Anyway, I tested my water today, since it had been a week since I started feeding the tank. I don't really feel like I'm getting anywhere. Ammonia was at 1.0, and nitrite and nitrate were 0. This is obviously going to take a while... I'd like to use pure ammonia, but it's really difficult to get hold of in Australia, so I thought I'd go this route, but I'm getting so impatient. I've turned the temperature up to 28 degrees C, so hopefully that will help. But is it worth doing the raw prawn method? If I put one of those in, will that create a bit more ammonia and get everything done a bit faster? I just want to get my fish! I can't bare the thought that it might take 3 months to cycle... obviously I don't want to kill any fish, but an empty tank really isn't that fun to look at.

    Anyway, as for what I'll stock the tank with, I think I'll give the catfish a miss. It just sounds too complicated. I'll hopefully get a dwarf gourami, or at least something like that, and then maybe 4 guppies and 2 platys, or some combination like that. I'm aware that they can breed, and I don't really want that, but I'm not sure what to get instead. I've seen the tetras, but they just don't interest me for some reason. Since I've got such a small tank, I'd like to get some really interesting looking fish, and the guppies particularly appeal to me because of the amazing colours and the great patterns on their tails. Obviously since I'm new at this I also like the fact that they're fairly simple to look after.

    I guess I'll have a lot of time to think about it while waiting for my tank to cycle...
  5. midthoughtWell Known MemberMember

    Bettas generally* are not only aggressive to other male bettas, but female bettas, colorful fish, fish with long flowy fins, and gouramis. They are not really a community fish and they would probably do pretty badly with the guppies and even platys that you're considering. :(

    *Aggression is a "typical" betta behavior but bettas do have personalities and some are more peaceful than others. Some people have successfully kept bettas in community settings, but the peace is not very often long-lived. There is still a danger in keeping even "peaceful" betas in a community tank because they may become aggressive without warning, and you must be more vigilant than normal in visual checks, headcounts, etc. of your livestock. Keeping them in community tanks is particularly not advised for beginners.

    I mentioned this above but to repeat: cycling often takes between 3 weeks and 3 months, often averaging to maybe 6 weeks. You can try to speed up the process by turning up the heat as the tank cycles. And if you want to throw money at the problem (and I am not knocking it ;D), you can track down a bottle of Tetra Safe Start. It contains the necessary bacteria so you can seed your tank much much faster. There are similar products out there that claim to contain live bacteria, will instant-cycle, etc., but they are hit or miss generally. People on these forums very strongly prefer the gold standard in the business, TSS.

    If you do get guppies and you do *not* want them to mate, you could simply only buy one sex. If you go with all males (which are far prettier), make sure to keep 1 *or* 3+ males, as only 2 males will potentially devolve into bully/victim. I'm not too sure about platy care, but since they're livebearers I'd guess it's similar. Anyway, here is their profile page: https://www.fishlore.com/Profiles-Platy.htm
  6. AquaristFishlore LegendMember

  7. Starshine86New MemberMember

    Thanks again. After a bit more googling I discovered bettas probably aren't the solution anyway, but it's good to get it all confirmed.

    I like the guppies more than the platys, so I'm happy to get more guppies if that will stop them fighting? Obviously it makes sense to have all male guppies to stop them breeding, I'd just prefer them not to kill each other.

    So at this stage, my plan is to get a dwarf gourami (or possibly a honey gourami depending on what my aquarium store says) and maybe 5 male guppies. Would that be a good combination?

    I haven't been able to find tetra safe start in Australia so far, so looks like I'll have to cycle the old fashioned way unless I can find something else. At least it gives me plenty of time to decide how I want my tank set up.
  8. midthoughtWell Known MemberMember

    I think that sounds fair to me. Just be careful about adding your fish and not to add too many fish too quickly (as it will cause a minicycle). Of course, it's a bit relative -- if you feed a lot of ammonia to your tank as you cycle it to simulate the full bioload, presumably you should be able to add the whole stock if you'd like, quarantine issues aside.

    TSS isn't often available in brick and mortar stores in the U.S., I know. Many people here and in the UK have to get it online through an internet retailer or eBay. Might be the same in Australia? Up to you in any case. I have a hard time not impulse buying, so I want to cycle ASAP. :)
  9. claudiclesWell Known MemberMember

    Hi Starshine,
    Fellow Aussie here. No, TSS isn't available but there is a local product called Auqasonic Bioculture which does the job. It is a bit hard to find though. You might want to enquire through   for a stockist near to you
    As for stocking, sometimes behaviour is a much better way to choose your fish than prettyness. 50 litres is pretty limiting. Have you considered danio? Small and very active. Or Harlequins - very pretty, small and school nicely.Cory's are awesome too even though they are theoretically bottom dwellers they dart up to the top of the tank often.
  10. Starshine86New MemberMember

    Thanks everyone. I'll look into the Aquasonic stuff. Would really like my tank to be done already! But I suppose it's giving me a chance to get into a routine of feeding the tank before there are any fish to worry about.

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