Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Help

Discussion in 'Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle' started by Chucklett, Apr 10, 2010.

  1. ChucklettNew MemberMember

    Hi all,

    What a fantastic forum!!!! I have been reading various posts here for the last couple of days to try to understand the Nitrogen Cycle. Sadly, it is all too scientific for me ???

    So, if I just tell you my story so far, please feel free to give me any help & advice on anything Im doing (or done!!) wrong.

    I spent Easter Sunday (4th April) setting up my 200 litre tank and finally switched on at 8.30pm. Unfortunately, the starter pack that came with my tank had leaked so I couldnt put the dechlorinator (Nutrafin Aqua Plus) in until Tuesday teatime after I had taken it back to the shop and got a new pack. At this point, I added 6 newly purchased plants (Alternanthera Cardinalis, Pogostemon Helferi, Anubias Nana, Echinodorus Bleheri, Cryptocoryne Undalatus Green, and one other which I cant remember the name of).

    24hours later I added my bottle of bacteria (Nutrafin Aqua Cycle).

    Thursday morning I did my first test. Apart from the water still being slightly cloudy, all seems to be going well. Ammonia & Nitrite both at 0ppm, Nitrate 9ppm and PH 7.6 (though I have been advised to get my PH to 7.0-7.2 due to the fish types I want to keep ie. Mollies, Tetras, Shrimps, hopefully a couple of Frogs and possibly Guppies if I've got enough room left for some). I bought some JBL PH Minus, which had to be stirred well into the water. So I pinched some tank water into a bucket, added the PH- into the bucket, then topped the bucket up with tank water, tipping the whole lot back into the tank.

    This morning (Saturday), I tested again. Absolutely nothing had changed. Taking advice from the shop, I repeated the process with the PH-

    I have an AquaManta EFX300 external filter and have maintained a temperature of 25 celcius since Monday. Im going to try to get to the end of the month before buying any fish :;laughing (Mollies being first on my list, as they are apparantly hardier than the others to be first in the tank)

    My water is still slightly cloudy.

    I have read here that cloudy water is quite normal during the cycling process, so is it a fair assumption that patience will be a virtue and all will be well in the next week or two?

    Also, how do I know when the Cycle is finished, since my water is testing fine every time anyway ?????????

    Many thanks to all hints & tips I have read here already to fellow newbies. Im sure we will get there in the end :)
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2010
  2. MeenuFishlore VIPMember

    First, don't use Nutrafin Cycle. It contains nonaquatic bacteria that competes with the good bacteria your tank needs. Your tank won't ever complete the nitrogen cycle while you use that product - that's why you are supposed to keep adding it for the life of the tank.

    I'll address more of your post in a few minutes - kids are acting up.

    edit: Oh, and welcome to FL. I hope you enjoy the site.

    Last edited: Apr 10, 2010
  3. MeenuFishlore VIPMember

    Okay, I'm back and left a little confused by your post. You have no fish yet? What are you using as an ammonia source?
    And how can you have 9 nitrates with the API test? I thought it goes from 5 to 10???

    Here's the nitrogen cycle in a nutshell:
    Your tank has ammonia from the waste the fish produce. The beneficial bacteria living on the surface of your gravel and filter media eats the ammonia, changing it to nitrite. Another beneficial bacteria converts that into nitrates.

    Any amount of ammonia or nitrites can be lethal to fish. A small amount of nitrates are fine (5-20). Once your tank is cycled, it means you have enough benefical bacteria growing to eat all the ammonia and nitrites, making your tank a healthy place to live. Your readings should be 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and 5-20 nitrates.

    So to cycle fishless, you need to create a source of ammonia that is not fish waste, since you want to avoid fish being exposed to ammonia. You can use pure ammonia, a chunk of raw shrimp etc. As the ammonia source decomposes, beneficial bacteria (BB) will develop and eat it. You'll see the ammonia levels rise, and then nitrites rise as the ammonia is eaten. The other BB will then grow, eating nitrites and leaving nitrates. You will now see the nitrates show up. Once you have no ammonia and nitrites, and the nitrates have started show up, you are cycled. Nitrates will be controlled by water changes.

    Does that help? I can explain further if you want.

  4. jetajockeyFishlore VIPMember

    don't mess with your PH, they will acclimate fine, fish can tolerate a fairly wide range of PH levels as long as they are steady, its the shock of varying PH that usually does them in. Your current PH is pretty close to optimal, I'd leave it alone.

    The nitrogen cycle normally takes several weeks (4-6 or more depending) to accomplish, and like Meenu said above, you need a source of ammonia.

    If you want to speed the process a bit, I've heard nothing but good things about Tetra Safestart (actually ordered some yesterday), just be sure to follow the directions on the bottle to the letter, and be sure that you don't have any ammonia/nitrite detoxifiers (amquel+/prime) in the water when using it.

    Most TSS reviews have claimed around a 10 day cycle period, hope this helps!

    Last edited: Apr 10, 2010
  5. MeenuFishlore VIPMember

  6. JrobberWell Known MemberMember

    I've used Tetra SafeStart and it works very well.

    Advice I can give you, be very patient and dont get discouraged if things don't seem to work out. Eventually, your tank will be ready for some beautiful fish.
  7. jetajockeyFishlore VIPMember

    I've kept platies in ph 8.0+ water before and they never had an issue. I've read that livebearers prefer soft water for breeding/spawning but I honestly believe that they could breed and spawn in a bowl full of jello.
  8. ChucklettNew MemberMember

    Many thanks for your quick replies. I'm beginning to think I should have got a hamster instead!!!!!

    I do kind of follow the process in my mind. I guess my problem now is that I have already added the Nutrafin Cycle. I have read here that the bacteria in this stuff is not self-sufficient and so will die as soon as I stop using it. Is it fair to say that I will get away with leaving the tank alone awhile and let them die then? If so, how long should I wait? I added 125ml (one bottle) to 200 litre tank Wednesday teatime. Will I have created nasties in my filter by using Nutrafin Cycle???

    As for my Nitrates being 9ppm, well then I guess it must be 10 (I thought my test result was fractionally lighter than the card so thought that meant it would be just under 10)

    In response to JetaJockeys reply re: PH........ I will test the water again tomorrow night. Hopefully I haven't done too much damage since the first dose did nothing anyway!!!!

    Ammonia Source??......... I thought thats what the Nutrafin Cycle stuff was all about :confused:
    Raw Shrimp..... as in what you can buy at the local fresh fish shop / supermarket??????????

    There are times when you just wish you could go back in time and do things right in the first place.....!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks Jrobber - I was beginning to lose hope!!!!!! I'm determined to be patient, let my tank cycle and the water be right before adding fish. Shame I've wasted a week doing it all wrong to begin with eh???
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2010
  9. FurallicahWell Known MemberMember

    Yeah any raw shrimp form the local market will do, just wash them off a little bore you use them. Place them in some panty hose and tie off the top and place it in your tank at about middle height.
  10. MeenuFishlore VIPMember

    Cycle is a bacteria product, kind of the opposite of an ammonia source. You can get a chunk of raw shrimp, put it into a new panty hose, and throw it into the tank. Or you can find some ammonia (without additives/sufracants/soaps) at some hardware stores and do it that way.

    Read the link in my signature - it explains how to cycle without fish.

    Oh, and yeah the Cycle will eventually die off. Or, since you are just starting, you can do a massive water change and get rid of it.

    Don't worry about the pH stuff at this point. You have no fish, so nobody was harmed. Just don't keep using that stuff.

    Fish stores give awful advice, huh? ;) Hang in there - this hobby is really fulfilling if you stick to it long enough to make it past cycling.
  11. ChucklettNew MemberMember

    Many thanks to everyone for their help & encouragement. I will do a massive (complete ?????) water change on Monday when my fiance is at work!!!!! (He's less patient than me and keeps telling me off for fiddling with the water !!!!!!!! )

    Agreed fish stores give advice that help their sales rather than your hobby!!! In future, I will come here first for advice, then go to the shop if I need anything.

    As you say, no fish yet so no harm done. Only lost £6 on the bottle of PH Minus (Nutrafin Cycle came in the starter pack with my tank).

    While Im here, is the Nutrafin Aqua Plus ok to use then? It is apparantly a water conditioner to remove Chlorine and Chloramine from the tap water (also came in my starter pack). It is all I have right now to do my water change on Monday. I presume I then wait until Tuesday before adding the shrimp?

    And yes Im sure this hobby is VERY fulfilling. I love my goldfish I have in the garden pond and was very upset to find one of my Shubunken hadnt made it through the winter. My tropical tank is my next step up the ladder of fishkeeping!!! I shall certainly stick with it - especially knowing I have so much help at the end of a computer!

    Tiz early hours of the morning here in England, so shall say goodnight to all for now and thanks again for everything :)
  12. jetajockeyFishlore VIPMember

    yes aqua plus is ok, its just a water conditioner, you definitely need to condition the water because any chlorine/chloramine will kill beneficial bacteria. I've tried the Cycle product before, and it did absolutely nothing, it didn't even lower the ammonia level.

    If you are doing a fishless cycle, then doing a water change isn't really necessary unless your ammonia levels get too high. basically all life releases ammonia when it breaks down, whether it be a piece of raw shrimp, a dead fish, or extra uneaten food pellets and flakes. Also the fish themselves create ammonia. In our tanks, the fish are kept in a confined space, so you can imagine how much waste would build up over time, which is why frequent water changes are necessary (with fish in the tank) to keep the fish healthy and safe until the biological cycle completes.
  13. ChucklettNew MemberMember

    Thanks for your last post, JetaJockey. I was going to do a massive water change as advised by Meenu in post No.10 because I've added too many damaging potions to my tank already. As I havent got any fish yet, it seems logical to get my tank back to square one and start again - only do it right this time!!!!! Im not sure if you realise this was why I planned to do a massive water change, or if you mean I dont need to do one anyway :confused: As patient as I'm trying to be, I thought starting again would save a week or two of waiting for the Nutrafin Cycle (and PH Minus) to get out of the system, as well as avoid any natural beneficial bacteria from having to compete with man-made bottled rubbish!! Also, as you said in post No.4, if I were to use Safe Start to speed-up the cycle, would it not be better if the water was fresh rather than as it is with all the unnecessary stuff Ive already added?

    The only life I have in my tank at present, are the plants I bought (see original post for details) and a couple of tiny, weenie microscopic cone-shaped snails that must have come in on said plants. I have a gorgeous chunk of bogwood that came out of a tank in the shop so it didnt need soaking for days - I just put it straight into my tank during setup. Presumably I have killed any useful bacteria that might have been on it to begin with, as I rinsed the sand off it with tap water before putting it in - duh!!! Also, of course, it was in my tank for 48hrs before I could add the dechlorinator anyway.

    I have a tub of Nutrafin Max Complete Flake Food (for all Tropical Fish) that also came with my starter pack. From what you said, I can use some of this to start the Cycle rather than shrimp? If shrimp is better, I will buy some, but wonder if the fish food will suffice as I have it to hand? And how much of whichever do I need to put in?

    At this point, I would be greatful for any opinions on this food - Im getting a bit paranoid now about Nutrafin products!!!

    As I dont want to do everything wrong again, I will tell you my plan of action before I do it. All advise is greatly appreciated:

    Mon - Massive water change. Leave tank running for 24hrs to sterilise setup right through
    Tue - Add Nutrafin Aqua Plus (dechlorinator)
    Wed - Add Nutrafin Max Complete Flake Food to kick-start the Nitrogen Cycle

    I realise I will be putting the snails at risk by doing this, which is a shame, but will my plants be ok?

    Thanking everyone for your time & help - One very confused Newbie :;fru
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2010
  14. jetajockeyFishlore VIPMember

    i understand, starting over would get you back on square 1 where you know exactly what is and isn't in your tank. I personally have never done the 'wait 24 hours' thing, I always just dump it in with the water conditioner and go. The flake food (or whatever else you use to break down into ammonia) will probably take a day or 2 to start releasing ammonia, I wasn't sure if you have done this already but getting a liquid test kit at this point is important to keep an eye on your levels (and progress), there are a lot of links on here for fishless cycle that are quite useful, good luck :)
  15. MeenuFishlore VIPMember

    I know you didn't ask me, but I'm going to tackle a little bit of this for you anyway...
    1) I think the massive water change to start over is a good idea. Get all the stuff in the water out of there.
    2) If you decide to use Tss (safe start) it's added with fish at the same time. I think you are better off going fishless.
    3) You can use food, but it can get really messy and stinky. I think the best method is pure ammonia, and then the shrimp-in-a-sock thing. (I don't know this from personal experience - I already had fish in the tank before FL). If you use the fish food, as it decays, it just sits on the bottom of the tank. For some people, by the time they get cycled, the tank is such a mess that they have to break it down and start over.
    4) Your flake food is okay. There are better brands out there, such as Omega. The key is to feed your fish a variety of foods.
  16. ChucklettNew MemberMember

    Thankyou both for your opinions. And yes Meenu - I was asking anybody, so thanks for your input. I will go with my plan and keep everything crossed. I will see if I can get pure ammonia but wont hold my breath - its hard to get anything down in Cornwall as we're at the end of the land (standing joke that we've just discovered electricity here!!!!) so will probably end up with the socked shrimp method. And thanks also for pointing out that TSS is not for fishless cycle - think I was getting mixed up on that one trying get my head round everything! The food I've got came in my starter pack with the tank. I plan on getting a decent variety of foods when I get the fish, so will get better brands then. I will look out for Omega between now and then. Any other recommended brands (or ones to avoid!) would be helpful for when I get to that stage. I want my fish to be as happy & healthy as they can be so dont mind forking out for decent food etc - I just cant afford to waste money on rubbish.
    Meanwhile, I have to tackle the mess I've made of my tank, so massive water change it is then! Any ideas if my plants (and snails) will make it through? I dont really want to uproot them now as they've settled in really nicely but feel leaving the tank running for a good 24hrs before adding dechlorinator is going to help rid all the nasties I've put in.

    Thanks again - A Much Happier Newbie :;thx
  17. jetajockeyFishlore VIPMember

    the plants should be fine, ammonia is actually a form of fertilizer. As far as snails go, I think they'd be the last thing standing after an aquatic nuclear disaster. not sure what kind you have but if its an air breather then it shouldn't be much of an issue.

    As far as food goes, if you aren't squeamish then you can try your hand at culturing your own live foods for them, or take the easy route and just go with a primary flake/pellet diet, and throw in a frozen bloodworm treat every few days. I'd avoid using freeze dried bloodworms or shrimp just because they will bloat the fish since they expand after a few minutes in water, but i have heard that some people soak them in garlic juice prior to feeding to remedy that (plus garlic is good for their immune system)

    It really just depends on what kind of fish you end up as to what diet will work best.
  18. ChucklettNew MemberMember

    Thanks for that Jetajockey. I would be gutted to lose my plants - they are looking really healthy. As for my snails - they hitch-hiked in on the plants so I've no idea what they are (tiny, weenie cone-shaped things - not even 2mm long). Only one has spent his time on the piece of bogwood all week (he was the first one spotted so I'd like to save him if I can. He's done some miles over the last few days so he really works hard for his keep!! I thought about putting him in a deep tub with a leaf & airstone for a few days while I sort my tank out! I'd hate to lose him now) but the others were spotted then disappeared again. Must be in there somewhere!!!

    Yes I am a little squeamish so will opt out of culturing my own live foods. Tho thanks for the idea.

    I'm starting with Mollies as they are apparently quite hardy to be the first fish in and I've seen some gorgeous Dalmation Mollies I MUST have!! I'd also like Tetras (probably Neons and/or Cardinal Reds). I've yet to decide on what other fish to have. Am researching more over the next few weeks whilst waiting for my tank to cycle. On my list to look into are: Guppies, Sharks (Red-Tailed - dont yet know if there are others), bottom-feeders/sucker fish, Shrimps, Frogs and Clams/Mussels/Snails. Siamese Fighting Fish are totally stunning, but dont sound suitable for my quiet, peaceful, happy aquarium. I've been told I could get away with one, but I'm not convinced so will look into it more. They're called "Fighting Fish" for a reason, right?!!!! :;jaws

    When I have finished my homework and decided on which fish to have, I will come back here for more advice on which foods are best. You folk are really helpful :;thx

    PS - yes I do have a test kit (API). Thats what rose my suspicions about my tank in the first place - my water was fine every time I tested it!!!! Great if you want to spend the rest of your life buying unnecessary man-made bottled stuff - which I dont!!!
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2010
  19. jetajockeyFishlore VIPMember

    yeah, bettas are very hit and miss, some claim to have peaceful ones but others have horror stories of their peaceful betta that went psycho one night killing everything in the aquarium black plague style.

    I really like mollies also, havent had the pleasure of owning any yet, but I will, im just up to my ears in livebearers now, they are like aquatic rabbits or something.

    Have you looked on aquabid at the livebearers they have? On quite a few of them I had to double take because I thought they were bettas! check em out.


  20. ChucklettNew MemberMember

    Thanks again Jet. Only just found your reply - didnt realise this had gone on to page 2!!!!

    I will have a look at aquabid later. Have just finished sorting out my tank then had to catchup with housework (been low priority this week due to tank :;laughing ) My prized snail fell into the gravel when I tried to remove him from bogwood. He has since made his way back up and doing ok so far :;banaman Fingers crossed he makes it through his ordeal he's got coming up the next few weeks.

    I have heard Mollies breed like rabbits. I'm hoping to get an outlet for the young coz I really fancy having Silver and Black Mollies too. Would be interesting to see what I end up with!!!! Again, more research to do on this one coz I dont want to end up with loadsa fish with nowhere to go. This is another reason why Im not sure what other fish Im going for. If I can get an outlet for the Mollies, then I wont buy too many other fish as I'm sure I will want to keep some of the babies!!!!

    Anyway, this thread has turned into more of a chat now so better go. I dont yet know how this site works as I only joined a few days ago. I assume you can send messages to other members without doing it through a thread?? If so, please feel free to do so if you like. Either way, many thanks for your help & support the last few days :)

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