fishless cycling - taking literally forever?

Discussion in 'Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle' started by feedingfrenzy, Jul 25, 2014.

  1. feedingfrenzyNew MemberMember

    I have since purchased and 29 gallon tank and started the process of fishless cycling. i started, i believe, on the 6th, and after almost 20 days im starting to get impatient. i'm very eager to purchase and home 2 goldfish and a few nerite snails, but it feels like my cycle is taking extra long.

    what i did: (step by step)

    day one: i bought all my junk, set up the tank with rocks and plastic/silk plants and little hidey-holes fliter and all that. i filled it with tap water then used aqueon water conditioner to dechlorinate. i dosed by water and my readings were something like ammo - 4ppm, ite - 0, ate - 0, and the natural ph of my tap water was about 7.6

    days 3: in one of the little starter kits i bought, it came with this super vague and cheap water heater. while i'm aware that you do not necessarily need a heater for goldfish (because they're "cold" water fish/not tropical) i read a scary story about how temperature fluctuation can stress your fish out. i was thinking if i could find a way to keep the heater as low as possible, it would keep my tank at the coolest possible setting and no colder.

    day 7ish? this did not go as planned. over the course of a few days i made a mistake and when i came home from work my water was warm to the touch at ~100 degrees. i took out the heater, took off little tank cover/lid thing, put a couple fozen water bottles in there, and over the next few days it cooled down and now stays around 78 - 80degrees (side question 1: several people have told me that this is an ok temperature for goldfish. however several other people have told me that this will stress your fish out, they'll eat too much, there's not enough oxygen in the water blah blah. could two goldfish handle this temperature of do i need to rethink everything?)

    at this time i had still not seen any signs of progress. my ammo stayed still at 4ppm, with 0 nitrites and nitrates.

    day... 12?? - i bought a bacterial supplement. i think it's by topfin? i googled it before i put it into my tank, and some people said that it would probably not do anything while others said it might speed up your cycle. i took my chances and put in a little bit less than it told me to.

    day 13 or 14 - i tested my ph again because the guy at the petstore scared me. i a filter made for a 50g tank for my 29, and i know this to be ideal. i'm currently keeping my water level a little low so it splashes and makes lots of air bubbles. i also purchased a cheap air pump for a 10g and hooked it up to a bubble wand that i keep towards the back of the tank. i wasn't too worried about oxygen but after reading that wamer water has less oxygen i wanted everything to be perfect. i told this to the fish store guy and he told me that TOO MUCH OXYGEN WILL TURN YOUR WATER INTO ACID!?!?????????????????????????????? so i rushed home and tested my ph, it seemed to be a bit higher at >8, but not considerably higher. at this time my ammo was starting to look like it was between 2 and 4ppm.

    day 19 - today my ammo looks like it's at about 1 or 2ppm, but i'm started to doubt all my earlier information. my nitrites still look like they're at 0, and i'm beginning to get discouraged. i have not done any water changes or removed anything from my tank. my bubble wand is still bubbling and my filter still filtering. i just want fish!!

    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 25, 2014
  2. ricmccWell Known MemberMember

    I never have used bottled bacteria, choosing rather to beg, borrow or steal well seeded filer media from a tank I know to be healthy. It becomes a sort of instant cycle, and as you cycle appears to be stuck, in that you should have nitrites at least, I would highly recommend this method.
    I have quite a few tanks, which does make it far easier for me, but perhaps you might see about getting well seeded media into your filters, of course being first satisfied that the tank they come from is healthy.
    In that your goldfish will soon need larger quarters, perhaps mentioning this to your LFS might grease the wheels.-best, rick

  3. Adam55Well Known MemberMember

    First, the LFS guy has lost his mind. It is true that certain elements which are rich in oxygen will dissolve in water and produce acid. The Latin translation of the word oxygen is "acid former" or something along those lines. But that's never going to be an issue in a fish tank.
    Regarding the cycle, a fishless cycle is a process but your cycle will be stronger for it. Three weeks is not at all out of the norm. Just be patient. Also, the supplement you bought is for cycling with fish. When you cycle without fish, the only thing you ever add is ammonia.

  4. Fishy FriendsWell Known MemberMember

    Hi feedingfrenzy & welcome to Fishlore!

    As rick mentioned - a seeded filter media in your filter is the best. I used a combination of old media from a 55gal (later given away) - new media rinsed in water from same 55 (not much BB in water but felt it couldn't hurt) & sand from the 55 in our 180gal we set up in Feb 2014. I also let it run for 48 hours & used recommended amount Tetra Safe Start 20 little Danios. They are a hardy fish I wanted anyway & I felt they would be OK with the cycle already almost complete. They all survived & a cycled tank within a week.

    Mine was overkill because I already had the fish I wanted to put in the 180 from an over crowded 38 & another 55 gal - an impatient husband & a friend waiting for 1 of the 55's to put her fish from a 28gal overcrowed tank....whew

    Do what   suggests if you can - so much easier & less stress. You don't mention what state you live in (& don't have to) but if someone in your area could donate media....if you live in Hampton Roads area of Va Beach/Suffolk I will donate some☺

    Have fun - have patience - you will have happy fish before too long☺
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2014
  5. RivieraneoModeratorModerator Member

    Hi Feedingfrenzi, welcome to Fishlore!

    Goldfish are temperate fish, they can withstand higher temperatures as long as you meet their higher good and oxygen demands. A temperature between 78-80f would be fine as long as they are acclimated. In the winter, I plug in my goldfish tank heater and have it set at 68f.

    Surface agitation caused by your filter splashing and airstone both help with oxygen dissolving into the water, your pet store person miss informed you as more oxygen causes a rise in PH with turns you water more alkali, adding CO2 would make your PH drop and water more acidic.

    The supplemental bacteria you purchased only lives temporarily and eventually dies, I suggest you use a starter bacteria product such as Tetra Safe Start or Colony to kick start your cycle.

    What's worry some is that you are registering 4PPM ammonia or ammonium from your tap. You may consider using RO water as the ammonia reading is rather worrisome.

    Lastly, since this is your first post, I encourage you to review the forum rules, your post was edited by me. Thanks...
  6. ricmccWell Known MemberMember

    With due respect, a cycled tank is achieved in many manners; why to you say that the cycle produced by a fishless cycle would in any way be stronger than a cycle produced by other means?
    The end result is exactly the same, I just find some methods easier than others.
    The concept of a stronger cycle is alien to me, as any cycle conforms to a given bioload, therefore all cycled tanks are equal, not stronger or weaker.
    I am missing something here, I believe;some methods are , however, quicker.--------rick
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2014
  7. Adam55Well Known MemberMember

    There are people, myself among them, that will never believe that adding pure ammonia to the tank and letting your bacteria colonize is the exact same thing as dumping in a bottle that has been packaged, shipped, and left sitting on a shelf. If you mean the end result to be a month or two after the tank has been established, then I agree. If you mean the end result to be five minutes after dumping in a bottle of TSS and a couple caps of Prime, then I do not.
  8. ricmccWell Known MemberMember

    No, sorry, we are speaking across purposes here I think--I was referring to using seasoned filter media as opposed to bottled bacteria--sorry if I was not clear on that bit--best to you, and sorry if I misunderstood you, rick
  9. poeticinjusticesWell Known MemberMember

    I can tell ya, a TSS cycle freshly is completed isn't anything to sneeze it. It's fragile and easily disrupted. In time, though, it's comparable. I stole a large chunk of media from my TSS-cycled goldfish tank and that tank didn't even see a mini spike. Seeded media is a different story. This is a true instant cycle if you've stolen enough of it. I think it's probably just as strong as a fishless cycle as soon as you add it to your tank.

    However, bottled bacteria is a little different. After all, Dr. Tim developed the strain, right? Presumably tweaked so that it could survive on the shelves because TSS DOES work after all. But if you took some seeded media, bottled it in the same ammonia compound TSS is bottled in, would it still be good in as much time? I've also been thinking - who is to say that the bacteria doesn't have different sensitivities? Medications normally thought to have minimal impact on cycling bacteria may have a catastrophic effect on a cycle started with TSS. Of course, I don't actually know that for sure, but I've been thinking about it a lot.
    feedingfrenzy - take the words of pet store employees with a grain of salt. Now that you've found FL, at least cross-check their "facts" here before you let them freak you out.

    Fancy goldfish, which is what I assume you are planning to stock as the other types would certainly need a larger tank, are not only temperate but thought by many to do well in warmer water. While 80F is a little higher than I would keep mine, they should be just fine as long as you, as mentioned above, accommodate the increased food and oxygen demands. Increased food means increased waste which means increased water changes as well.

    But it's far better to keep the temp stable. I keep my goldfish at about 75F but I've seen this summer take their temps up to 78F. I just turn the air up and feed a little more, do an extra WC that week, etc. It's really not that big of a deal. Do pick a reliable heater though.

    I'm a big fan of Cobalt Aquatics heaters. They look fantastic and work really well. They ain't cheap, but they're well worth the peace of mind.

    By the way, I did notice one thing...did you say that your ammonia was 4ppm as soon as you set up the tank? Or was that after you dosed ammonia? Check your tap water. If you have 4ppm ammonia in your tap, this is something that needs to be resolved before you get fish.
  10. jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    Welcome to FishLore!

    Just a heads up, a lower pH would be more acidic, a higher pH was be more basic
  11. feedingfrenzyNew MemberMember

    - Whoops, I think I left out the part about adding ammonia. My water, of course, is not 4ppm. Considering I have to drink it and all. I dosed my tank up to 4ppm and today it's still floating around >1.

    - This is my second thread and maybe 4th post, and I'm a little unsure what you're talking about. It says "Language" but I don't remember typing anything bad. But I did type this up real fast before work, so something could have easily slipped out. I'll be sure to take more time to edit. Again I apologize.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2014
  12. feedingfrenzyNew MemberMember

    I will be getting fancy goldfish, so fret not.
    I live in Sacramento, California, by the way, so if anyone wants to send me your dirty tank deco please do. I'll come get it myself if you live nearby. And thank you for the peace of mind. I've been told that getting a little clip-on fan and letting it blow across the surface of your tank will help keep it cool? So I'm thinking about trying to do that and experimenting a little more with how low I can get my temperatures this summer. Even if summer ends before my cycling finishes (that's how it feels anyway) there will be many more 106F summers so I've gotta figure this out at some point.
    I'm glad my tank won't be turning to acid anytime soon.

    Do you think that the bacteria supplement I added could harm my tank? It doesn't really feel like it did anything, but is there anything I should look out for?
  13. poeticinjusticesWell Known MemberMember

    You added the TopFin stuff, right?

    Here's what I've heard about TopFin. Haven't confirmed it myself but a lot of experienced members have reported that contains what is essentially the "wrong" type of bacteria.

    Basically, this bacteria works but is unable to sustain itself in an aquatic setting. It dies off in about 7 days and spikes return. What's more is that this bacteria will out-compete the right bacteria for ammonia while it's alive so the tank never fully cycles.

    If you're looking at bottled bacteria additives, Tetra SafeStart works really well but is generally used for fish-in cycles.

    For fishless cycles, another member here who hasn't been around in awhile but who is VERY reputable uses Dr. Tim's One and Only. This is the guy who created SafeStart before breaking away from Tetra. Anyway, for whatever reason, it apparently does well for fishless cycles. And when ordering, the company included ammonium chloride drops for dosing the tank. The member I mentioned has used it for all of her tanks and told me it cycled them in 7-8 days. So there's that.

    I really would not spend too much time stressing about the temp unless you don't have an A/C and the room actually gets to match the outside of 106F. In which case I'd worry about you as much as I would worry about the fish! With proper aeration and no super sudden changes, goldfish can tolerate a range of temps quite well (probably not 106 though, but the mid-high 80s could probably be managed). What it will mean is the fish will become more metabolically active and therefore require more food and oxygen AND produce more waste, so you'll need to allow for that in your water change regime.

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