Fishless cycle help for a newbie

Kglace

Could I please get someone’s advice. There is so much to read on the internet. We recently got a 10 gallon tank from pet co thinking glo fish would be a easy fun first pet for our 3 year old. Ha. So after purchasing everything setting up tank, 3 days later getting 6 tetras, a snail. ( I’m sure everyone can imagine what happened next) so 5-6 weeks later our tank still isn’t established. We were doing 10-15% water changes daily for 1 week. After that we just let the tank alone. And occasionally checking the water. Only once did I see a rise in nitrites never nitrates. After much reading I think I finally understand the cycle. The past week ammonia level has been a 0.5 everything else negative. PH being around 7.5. My question is what do I do next? It has been 6 weeks and my kid and I really want some fish! I know it’s my fault for not researching about this prior to getting a tank but we went to petco and I wanted a beta and my husband said we should get more fish. And thanks to petco i have an entire setup and they were no help ie too small of a tank for tetras, told us to wait a few days then get fish. So we are going to try danios. What actions should I take with the tank? And should I get 2 fish at a time once the time comes? Also not opposed to adding fish and testing water and adjusting daily.
 

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PeterFishKeepin

Welcome to fishlore :)

Sorry about the glo fish and snail..... (did the snail die??, what kinda snail was it. do u know?)

Could you please tell us the nitrate and nitrite levels, u said pH was 7.5 and ammonia 0.5, have you dosed any ammonia, is the decomposing dead fish/snails still in the tank, is there fish poop in the tank.. otherwise where is the ammonia from??

In regards to fish stocking in the tank, firstly i would strongly suggest you replace the plastic plants with live plants that have many positives you can read up on....

As petco said, glofish aren't suited to 10gal but there is options, you could get a betta fish (solo), or you could get some Mountain cloud minnows which would IMO be the best stocking, they are easy to keep live a few years, are cool to watch, hardy and overall i great fish, i would say get around 8 to start. If you want you can easily breed them too. If those aren't something your interested in perhaps some rasboras or amber tetras???? again anywhere form 6-10 is a great starting number. Stay away from danios, most can get to big for 10gal and they are quite fast swimmers so 10gal may not be the best tank for them. Again another option would be to get around 5-8 only males, or only female guppies dont get both sexs as they can breed way to quickly, easily and rapidly so best to get only one sex

Hope this helps, if you have any questions please let us know, again, Welcome to fishlore :)

Peter :)
 

FishDin

Stay away from danios for a ten gal. for the above mentioned reasons. Have you considered Ember Tetras (PFKeepin mentioned "Amber"). Pretty coloring. Quite small. More suited to such a small tank.

You said there have been no nitrates, which means your tank is not cycled since nitrate is the end product of the cycle process.

So is anything living in your tank now? As PeterFishKeepin suggested, you need an ammonia source to cycle a tank. If you not adding ammonia and there is nothing living in there (aquarium animals produce ammonia) to produce it, your tank won't cycle. Unfortunately, pet store employees are often the worse source of information. I'm sure you already know more about fish keeping than most of them.

There are 2 ways to cycle. Fishless and fish-in. It generally takes 4-6 weeks. In fishless, you must add ammonia to feed the bacteria and allow them to populate the tank. This is the safest (no fish are at risk) and easiest method. Fish-in cycling, which you were doing before, requires daily testing and often daily water changes for weeks. This must be done to protect the fish (as you now know :().

If you do have something living in there, like a snail, your tank will cycle, but the bacteria will only grow enough to process the ammonia from one snail. When you add fish, the bacteria will not be able to keep up until it grows to handle the new higher ammonia level. You will see ammonia and possibly nitrites during this transition. In that case, once you add the fish, you should treat it as a fish-in cycle for a week or so. Test daily to see how the cycle is progressing. Keep ammonia and nitrite to a combined total of no more than .5ppm with water changes. Do this until cycled: 0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite, Nitrates are present and increasing. Keep nitrate below 20ppm with water changes as needed. 50% weekly water change is typical, but each tank is different.

Tank maintenance: In the first couple of months resist the urge to clean things. You are trying to establish a balanced living system and it is good not too disrupt it. Filter pads and sponges do not need replacing unless they are falling apart. You will be told by manufacturers that they do need regular replacing. For example, I'm in the hobby for 12 years and have never once replaced a filter sponge on my several filters. I clean them 2-3 times a year, but that can vary depending on the filter and the tank stocking.

You can certainly clean filter pads, but you only need to rinse them in dechlorinated water. You can use used tank water when doing a water change.

You don't need charcoal filter pads unless you need to remove medication from the water.


The beneficial bacteria that make up the biological filter (cycling creates this) primarily live on hard surfaces; filter material, hardscape (rocks wood and substrate) and plants (plastic or real). Therefore cleaning these things should be limited and never done all at once.

It's good to avoid trying to have a pristine tank.

When setting up a new tank there are often stages it goes through while trying to find balance. One thing you may see is various alga cropping up. If you don't have live plants, there is no need for lighting except for viewing, so don't leave a light on all day if nobody is home to enjoy the tank. You can use a timer. This can help reduce the algae . Avoid placing the tank near a window for the same reason.

For now, test the water and post the results here. Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. That will help determine where the cycling process is, and tell you how to proceed. You may be at the beginning or you may well on the way, but the bottom line is that you need an ammonia source to cycle a tank.
 

Kglace

Welcome to fishlore :)

Sorry about the glo fish and snail..... (did the snail die??, what kinda snail was it. do u know?)

Could you please tell us the nitrate and nitrite levels, u said pH was 7.5 and ammonia 0.5, have you dosed any ammonia, is the decomposing dead fish/snails still in the tank, is there fish poop in the tank.. otherwise where is the ammonia from??

In regards to fish stocking in the tank, firstly i would strongly suggest you replace the plastic plants with live plants that have many positives you can read up on....

As petco said, glofish aren't suited to 10gal but there is options, you could get a betta fish (solo), or you could get some Mountain cloud minnows which would IMO be the best stocking, they are easy to keep live a few years, are cool to watch, hardy and overall i great fish, i would say get around 8 to start. If you want you can easily breed them too. If those aren't something your interested in perhaps some rasboras or amber tetras???? again anywhere form 6-10 is a great starting number. Stay away from danios, most can get to big for 10gal and they are quite fast swimmers so 10gal may not be the best tank for them. Again another option would be to get around 5-8 only males, or only female guppies dont get both sexs as they can breed way to quickly, easily and rapidly so best to get only one sex

Hope this helps, if you have any questions please let us know, again, Welcome to fishlore :)

Peter :)
The snail was a nertrite and it also died. After the fish died we removed them and did a 50% water change. We have not added anything to the tank except stability and water conditioner. Nitrates and nitrite levels 0.
Stay away from danios for a ten gal. for the above mentioned reasons. Have you considered Ember Tetras (PFKeepin mentioned "Amber"). Pretty coloring. Quite small. More suited to such a small tank.

You said there have been no nitrates, which means your tank is not cycled since nitrate is the end product of the cycle process.

So is anything living in your tank now? As PeterFishKeepin suggested, you need an ammonia source to cycle a tank. If you not adding ammonia and there is nothing living in there (aquarium animals produce ammonia) to produce it, your tank won't cycle. Unfortunately, pet store employees are often the worse source of information. I'm sure you already know more about fish keeping than most of them.

There are 2 ways to cycle. Fishless and fish-in. It generally takes 4-6 weeks. In fishless, you must add ammonia to feed the bacteria and allow them to populate the tank. This is the safest (no fish are at risk) and easiest method. Fish-in cycling, which you were doing before, requires daily testing and often daily water changes for weeks. This must be done to protect the fish (as you now know :().

If you do have something living in there, like a snail, your tank will cycle, but the bacteria will only grow enough to process the ammonia from one snail. When you add fish, the bacteria will not be able to keep up until it grows to handle the new higher ammonia level. You will see ammonia and possibly nitrites during this transition. In that case, once you add the fish, you should treat it as a fish-in cycle for a week or so. Test daily to see how the cycle is progressing. Keep ammonia and nitrite to a combined total of no more than .5ppm with water changes. Do this until cycled: 0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite, Nitrates are present and increasing. Keep nitrate below 20ppm with water changes as needed. 50% weekly water change is typical, but each tank is different.

Tank maintenance: In the first couple of months resist the urge to clean things. You are trying to establish a balanced living system and it is good not too disrupt it. Filter pads and sponges do not need replacing unless they are falling apart. You will be told by manufacturers that they do need regular replacing. For example, I'm in the hobby for 12 years and have never once replaced a filter sponge on my several filters. I clean them 2-3 times a year, but that can vary depending on the filter and the tank stocking.

You can certainly clean filter pads, but you only need to rinse them in dechlorinated water. You can use used tank water when doing a water change.

You don't need charcoal filter pads unless you need to remove medication from the water.


The beneficial bacteria that make up the biological filter (cycling creates this) primarily live on hard surfaces; filter material, hardscape (rocks wood and substrate) and plants (plastic or real). Therefore cleaning these things should be limited and never done all at once.

It's good to avoid trying to have a pristine tank.

When setting up a new tank there are often stages it goes through while trying to find balance. One thing you may see is various alga cropping up. If you don't have live plants, there is no need for lighting except for viewing, so don't leave a light on all day if nobody is home to enjoy the tank. You can use a timer. This can help reduce the algae . Avoid placing the tank near a window for the same reason.

For now, test the water and post the results here. Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. That will help determine where the cycling process is, and tell you how to proceed. You may be at the beginning or you may well on the way, but the bottom line is that you need an ammonia source to cycle a tank.
Thank you this is super helpful!
 

FishDin

Stability, as you know, contains bacteria to help jump start the cycle, but they need something to "eat". That would be ammonia and nitrite. Ammonia needs to be added by you. Also, these products often do not work, but that's ok. All you lose is time.

To do a fishless cycle you will need to add the ammonia yourself. The easiest way to do that is to add liquid ammonia (must not have anything else in it like detergents etc.). It's best to buy a product made for cycling aquariums such as Dr. Tim's. There are other brands too. You will probably have to buy it online. My Petco doesn't sell this type of product, but then they don't seem to know what cycling an aquarium is.

Another way to do a fishless cycle is to use fish food, or anything that will decompose in your tank. As it rots it will release ammonia into the water. This method definitely works and is used by many, but IMO the pure ammonia route is much easier. Dr. Tim's will come with clear instructions.

The nitrite and nitrate are at 0 because there is no ammonia to feed the bacteria that produce nitrite and therefore no nitrite to feed the bacteria that produce nitrate.

So basically you are starting over. Once you start adding ammonia along with the Stability you may be cycled in a couple weeks if it performs as advertised. If not, then it could be longer. The only way to know is to test the water. When doing a fishless cycle there is no need to do water changes. If the nitrates get high it's not a problem. When the cycle is done you can do a water change before adding fish.
 

kansas

Cycling with live plants worked for me:

Freshwater Fish Tank Cycling: How to Prepare for New Fish

I suggest a lone betta for a 10 gallon. They're active and colorful and hardy. Good luck.
 

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