Doing A Fishless Cycle With Live Plants? Question

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by bigbro, Aug 23, 2019.

  1. bigbro

    bigbroNew MemberMember

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    Hello again,
    So I recently purchased and re-sealed a 180 gallon tank (no leaks, yay!) and it is now time for me to start cycling the tank. I have read some guides on how to cycle a tank and decided to do a fishless cycle using pure ammonia. A few questions I have are:

    1) is it a good idea to start adding live plants during the cycle? I will be growing java fern and anubias on some driftwood. I have read that some plants will die if there is a high amount of ammonia present so would dosing to 5 ppm of ammonia during the cycle be harmful to these plants?

    2) will adding live plants slow down the cycle since they will be competing with beneficial bacteria for ammonia and nitrites? These are slow-growing plants so I'm guessing it won't affect the cycle time too much.

    3) If i am growing plants during the cycle, I will need to be running my lights. Will the amount of ammonia, nitrite present plus the lights promote too much algae growth? Will this also be detrimental to my plants?
     
  2. SaltyPhone

    SaltyPhoneWell Known MemberMember

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    After my experience I’m totally over the fishless cycling method. When I started out I was all about just trying to keep fish alive. I researched a ton on that so I really didn’t give plants a thought. Two years in and I wish I knew then what I know now. Live plants are amazing so good on you for jumping all in. I’d recommend adding some fast growing stem plants like wisteria. Also check this video out it helped me out tremendously!
     
  3. Salem

    SalemValued MemberMember

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    theres a lot of debate about this but in my experience its fine. you may want to dose 2-3ppm twice instead of 5ppm to make sure you dont hurt the plants. the light will probably cause an algae bloom though. heres an older post about this
     
  4. OP
    OP
    bigbro

    bigbroNew MemberMember

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    thanks for the quick responses guys. I will give this a try :)
     
  5. Momgoose56

    Momgoose56Fishlore VIPMember

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    Unless you're planning on stocking your tank with goldfish or overstocking it with fish after its cycled, starting it at 2-3 ppm and reducing dosing to 1 ppm when nitrites first test positive is high enough for any tank. If you're going to overstock or put goldfish in it, start at 3-4 ppm and drop to 2ppm when nitrites appear. You can add plants right from the start. Ammonia won't hurt them and since you'll be adding ammonia every day to every few days anyway, based on ammonia test results, plants can't deplete ammonia or slow the fishless cycle (the beauty of fishless cycling)
    Anubias and java fern are low light plants, easy to grow and don't really need CO2. So, if you have a reasonable amount of bright daylight in the room your tank is in, you may not need lights at all. My 125 narrow end is 4 feet from a floor to ceiling window (no direct light) and I cycled that tank at 4ppm/2ppm ammonia, had anubias and java fern in there the whole time and never turned my lights on. I don't fertilize my plants, use co2 or turn on my lights much so the plants haven't grown much but they are still alive and healthy. I never had an algae 'problem' (a little green algae low on tank walls that easily rubbed off). I overstocked it with African Cichlids and a few rainbow fish, a big catfish and a common pleco (total of about 35 fish) as soon as it was cycled and never saw ammonia or nitrites after stocking. Here's an ammonia dosing calculator that takes the guesswork out of dosing your tank with ammonia during any phase of the cycling:
    Ammonia Calculator for Aquariums - Spec-Tanks
    Good luck!
     
  6. OP
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    bigbro

    bigbroNew MemberMember

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    tyvm I am actually planning on keeping about 5 shubunkins so I guess my tank would be pretty stocked. A question for when I am done cycling: Will I be able to add the fish all at once assuming I dosed your recommended 3-4 ppm? or will it be better to add fish one at a time slowly? I would think it is ok to add all at once since dosing the tank with higher ammonia during cycling is to prepare for heavy bioload when fish is introduced.
     
  7. Momgoose56

    Momgoose56Fishlore VIPMember

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    When your cycle completes and your tank is oxidizing 2ppm ammonia to 0 ppm in 24 hours, your nitrites remain at 0 ppm and your tank is producing nitrates, you can add all those fish at once! I put 20 cichlids, 11 rainbowfish and the catfish in my tank the day after it finished cycling and never had a problem. I do have to do 50% water changes every week to keep my nitrates down now because I'm so overstocked (I have several fry and some of the fish are over 6" long now) -but have never had a problem with ammonia or nitrites.
     
  8. jdhef

    jdhefModeratorModerator Member

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    @Momgoose56 is a brave woman. If it were me, I would start with 3, wait two weeks and if the parameters were still good add the remaining two. But just to be clear, I'm not saying Momgoose56 is wrong (it probably will be fine), I'm just saying I would be more conservative.
     
  9. Momgoose56

    Momgoose56Fishlore VIPMember

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    Actually, @jdhef it's not bravery, it's common sense and microbiology lol! If the tank is cycled to handle that much ammonia, it's cycled. I 'dithered' around with a 39 gallon tank I'd fully cycled once adding a fish, then a week later a couple more, in the mean time those few fish weren't producing enough waste to feed the bacteria colony I'd worked so long to establish and half of it apparently died off. So after a month of slowly adding fish, I did have a couple small ammonia spikes when I added a group of tetras then again adding a couple of gourami's. I recommend adding them all at once. If you cycle high enough for the bioload you won't have a problem.
     
  10. mattgirl

    mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

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    I agree with @Momgoose56 I'm not 100% positive but I am thinking I recommended she add all her fish at once since her cycle was processing enough ammonia to be able to handle the high bio-load.
     
  11. Momgoose56

    Momgoose56Fishlore VIPMember

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    I bought them all from the same breeder (except the pleco I added a week later). I went and got them all a couple days later and dumped all 32 of them in.
     
  12. jdhef

    jdhefModeratorModerator Member

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    I'll start by saying I've never fish less cycled, but for me, I have no feel for how much ammonia a fish produces, so if I cycled to 5ppm, I wouldn't know if the fish I added produced 5ppm or less. So hence why I try to err on the side of caution.
     
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