fish less cycle won't start


Hello, I'm trying to cycle a 10 gallon aquarium to use as a betta/cory tank for my son. We also have a 30 gallon tank that is well established and about 5 years old. I read exhaustively about this and thought I was doing everything right, but it has been 6 weeks with no progress.

Here's the details:
10 gallon tank filled with tap water conditioned with API super strength tap water conditioner
substrate is Carib Sea Tahitian Moon sand
75W Jager heater
Filter - TruAqua PFE-1 - 15 Gal Capacity, 45 GPH
Decorations - silk plants, floating logs, etc.

I added Dr. Tim's Aquatics Ammonium Chloride to bring the ammonia to 4ppm (using API liquid test kit)
From our established tank I used some decorations and some of the filter material (cut from a used Aqueon cartridge) that I stuck inside the new filter.

Temp 80-82
pH 7.5

After that I waited for 4 weeks, testing frequently. The ammonia did not budge. I read some more and thought maybe the ammonia could be too high, so I did an 80% water change and brought the ammonia down to 2ppm. I also took some gravel from the established tank, put it in a mesh bag, and added it to the new tank.

Now it's been 2 more weeks and the ammonia is not coming down. There have never been any nitrites.

We're a bit frustrated! This is my first attempt at fishless cycling and it appears to be a total fail.

Any suggestions?

I know you get these questions all the time and I try to read previous posts/responses, but I don't know what to do next except just keep waiting...

Thanks very much!


First of all, 10 gallons is too small for cories and bettas are not community fish. I honestly don't think the Dr Tim's ammonium works, you are the second or third person I have seen using it with no cycling results. Ammonium is harder for bacteria to digest than ammonia. Yes, there is a difference. Ammonium is the non-toxic version of ammonia. Lastly; your filter is underrated for a 10 gallon tank.



First, Welcome to Fishlore!

I'm sorry you are having difficulty with your cycling. I would suggest the following since your current efforts haven't worked.

1. Drain the tank 100%
2. Fill the tank
3. Add your water conditioner, and start the filter, heater, etc.
4. Note the time you did this as it will be important later.
5. Go to the store, get a bottle of 100% pure Ammonia and an eye dropper.
6. Go to the fish store and get a product called Tetra Safe Start+. The 3.38 fl oz size is sufficient.
7. 48 hours after you added the water conditioner, shake the bottle of the TSS+ and dump the entire bottle into your tank.
8. Using your eye dropper, add the 100% ammonia to the tank until it reaches 2.0 ppm as shown with an API Freshwater Master Liquid Test Kit.
9. Test your water every day. Make a chart or spreadsheet for your results so they are organized and can be looked at later if needed.
10. When your ammonia hits 0, you will need to re-dose to 2.0.
11. If your nitrite gets above 4.0 ppm, you will need to do a water change to get it down to 2.0 or less. High nitrites will stall a cycle. If this happens in the first 10 days, wait for the water change until the 11th or 12th day. Use your water conditioner with the water change.
12. On day 14, you should be very close to cycled, or done. If you aren't, keep checking daily and doing water changes and/or redosing ammonia to 2.0 as needed until both ammonia and nitrite show 0.
13. When you are showing 0 ammonia and nitrite, you are ready for fish. If you are not ready to get the fish, you will need to add ammonia to keep your bacteria colony alive until you get fish. A 10 gallon tank would be great for a Betta, but not for Cory cats. There isn't enough floor space for a group of them, and they need at least 6 in a group. You can do snails and shrimp with the Betta, but that's about it. Other fish will likely, at some point, be killed and eaten by the Betta, so its best to avoid the possibility. If you choose to do it anyway, realize the risk and don't be surprised if it happens.
14. Sit back and enjoy your new fish tank! Remember to do water changes regularly.

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