Help Fishy Business - Advice For Cycling Process Appreciated

Sir Aaron

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Hello everyone.

I’m a beginner to keeping fish and have been following the (often conflicting) advice I’ve found online as to how to do everything properly. I’m so lost though, and any advice would be greatly appreciated, especially from people with experience cycling aquariums.

Aquarium.jpg

I have a 225-litre tank (about 60-gallon) running an AquaOne Nautilus 1100 filter. I have been attempting a fishless cycle in a planted freshwater tank using Dr Tim’s Ammonium Chloride Solution. I treat all water that is added in a separate container with SeaChem Prime for chlorine, chloramine and hard metals.

There are four water wisteria, three banana plants/lilies and three amazon swords, all held down with fishing line attached to river stones buried in the substrate, which is Pisces Gold Pearl Aquarium Gravel. And as per the pictures, there’s sunken ship and treasure chest ornaments.

The plants, presumably, brought along some snail eggs as well, which have since hatched (Ramshorn I think?), then laid eggs on the glass which babies are now hatching from. So there’s quite the snail population ranging in size from a salt-grain to half a Tic-Tac (so they are quite hard to see).

As of this posting is has been 44 days (6 weeks +) since I set it all up and first added Ammonia (Wednesday September 5th to be exact). I have also added an air pump/air stone as of several weeks ago, which is on during the daytime, as are the lights in the hood. It isn’t in direct sunlight, facing a southward window meaning it’s in somewhat shade without the lights on during the day.

In regard to water parameters, PH is at about 7.8 after using API PH Up to raise it from around 6.8. General Hardness (GH) and Carbonate Hardness (KH) are both at 4 (degrees is it?) or about 70ppm, which I understand is a bit low for the Black Moors (aka goldfish) I plan on having? Water straight from the tap has hardness at about half of that level.

In regards to temperature, I had a heater in there keeping it at around 25°C (77 farenheit) to hopefully help bacteria growth, but have removed that, as while spring heads into summer it is currently between 21-24°C (70-75F) and only going to get much hotter.

Now for the nitrogen cycle, which is my main issue. All of my tests are with the API Master Test Kit and API GH / KH Test kits. Nitrite and Nitrate readings have been consistently at 0. I have been maintaining a concentration of around 2ppm of Ammonia. At first, I added it up to 3ppm, but lowered it through a 20% water change on day 14 after reading too high can be counterproductive. For the record, Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate base readings for my tap water are all 0.

After a futile three or so weeks, I used SeaChem Stability according to its label instructions for eight days, then I emptied the rest into the tank on the next day. This process eventually took Ammonia levels down from 2ppm to 1ppm. Now each time I raise it to 2ppm it gradually reduces to around 1ppm in under a week, but then goes no further. From what I can gather online, the Nitrite and Nitrate levels may be 0 due to the live plants. Should I consider removing them to get a better idea of how the cycle is progressing? Nonetheless, my tank isn’t processing Ammonia fast enough yet, so that’s where I really need help.

Currently my future ideas for further attempts involve trying the products “Dr Tim’s One and Only Live Nitrifying Bacteria”, “Aquasonic Bioculture” and “API Quickstart”, or trying to somehow source some seeded filter media and/or gravel from a cycled aquarium. I would try “Tetra Safestart”, but it isn’t available in Australia, from what I can gather due to the fact it would be subjected to gamma treatment in customs which would kill the bacteria.

Since adding SeaChem Stability, my tank has become rather dirty (which may be unrelated to the Stability and just due to time). As per the pictures, there’s what I believe to be “Hair Algae” on the wisteria and ship, and “Brown Algae” on the glass. There has also been traces of a white fluffy growth on decaying plant parts and covering the air pump tube. I’ve been removing the brown algae with a magnet cleaner and glass scraper.

Filthiness.jpg Brown Algae.jpg Hair Algae.jpg

Several weeks ago I took the plants and ornaments out to give them a wash (alongside a 25% water change) because I was frustrated at the filth, but that didn’t hamper its spread at all, and probably just set things back more than it helped the nitrogen cycle situation. I wouldn’t mind giving my filter a clean, but don’t think that’s the best idea while still trying to get the bacteria growing.

So that’s where I’m at. Any and all advice on how to proceed with getting this environment hospitable for some Black Moors would be greatly appreciated. Furthermore, what are your thoughts on adding two ivory (aka mystery/apple) snails and some ghost or red shrimp to help clean things up? I plan on adding these eventually, but is it advisable to do while still cycling and adding Ammonia?

Thank you.

-Eden
 

Zigi Zig

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Hello and Welcome
There is no reason to remove live plants. Aquarium plants actually complete the nitrogen cycle by eliminating nitrates from the water. However live plants generally don't do well in newly established aquarium conditions where nitrate levels are low but as the tank ages, live plants will use up abundant nitrates, helping to minimize algae growth.. Keep in mind Black Moors are goldfish species. You need to choose the right kind of aquarium plant. Some plants grow quite slowly and will be completely eaten away before they have chance to grow… but others grow more quickly than goldfish eat, and can therefore survive a bit of goldfish nibbling!
 

Kalyke

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New tank Syndrome includes many of the features in your post. The ammonia spikes, the algae growth. The first cycling is a process that is ongoing, and when it first starts, it needs constant adjustment.

Here is a quote from the article below: "If the ammonia starts to get anywhere around 1ppm then change some water. Likewise, aim to keep the nitrite level low, under 1.5ppm if you can. These levels will eventually go altogether once the bacteria start to do their thing, but they’ll need to be diluted down with water changes if they start to creep up." So really one can go up, while 2 go down, 1 can go up while none others go up or down etc. They are not synchronized for a while. I would seriously say 3-4 months. Any spike, dilute with a water change. Diluting will take away a portion of that ppm, lowering it some, and possibly allowing the nitrifying bacteria to get back on the job. They are actually doing "something" as you indicated because your ammonia does go down. It is possible that they are there, but there are not "many" of them because they are also bound to a size appropriate for your stock. Your stock being, in this case, drops of ammonia.

Notice also how the temperature and PH will affect the cycling.

https://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/features/articles/how-to-solve-a-problem-like-new-tank-syndrome

I honestly would not put red shrimp in there, they are expensive, and would probably die. Shrimp have very little bioload and would not make much of a dent into your problem.

A thing to remember: people run tanks without having them cycled. The trick is plenty of water changes, and I know, after I had to restart my cycle, I did a water change every day. I'd get home from work and do a 50% water change every day. But people have "betta bowls" and so on, and in pre-cycling days no one cycled their tank. They just filtered and did water changes. My brother had a 55 gallon full of cichlids, and never cycled his tank in advance. He just bought the tank, and dropped the fish in. I think these days people getting fish tanks believe that the water will take care of itself if there is a cycle going. You still need water changes. And lots of them in the first 4-6 months! (At least).

Water changes!
 

Authmal

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Cherry shrimp should be the last animals you add, because they're very vulnerable to ammonia spikes. The snails aren't really problematic. If you don't overfeed, they won't breed. If you overfeed, they'll clean up the excess. And they'll clean up some algae.

Don't wash ornaments, because the beneficial bacteria for your cycling resides on hard surfaces, not in the water. You set your cycle back a bit by doing that, unfortunately. Also note that because a tank can be cycled in 4 weeks, that doesn't mean it *will* be cycled in 4 weeks. My initial cycle on my 55 took 6 or 7, if I recall correctly, and I've heard of them taking 12.
 

Tayls

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Hi Eden! I'm sorry I don't have advice for you but just wanted to welcome you as well - I'm also a newbie and going through the first cycle for a black moor. Good luck with the cycle! From everything I've read and my very limited experience it will just take time but sounds like you're very well researched and prepared. And your tank looks beautiful! Nice one on the size too.
 

mattgirl

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To jump start your fishless cycle.....Group think......

If you have just been topping off the tank and haven't done an actual water change in this tank I would do one now. Even a growing cycle needs fresh water from time to time.

Once you have done the water change (at least 50%) add enough ammonia to get it up to at least 4ppm. That amount is not going to stall your cycle. Since you are using Prime as your water conditioner you may want to wait 24 hours after the water change to add the ammonia.

I has been said when using bottled bacteria it is better to keep the ammonia level lower but if not using it 4ppm will work just fine.

When the ammonia starts going down add more. You really should start seeing nitrites soon after the ammonia starts going down.

Now for my own thoughts....

Personally I would do a bigger water change (at least 75%) and go ahead and add 2 or 3 of the fish you are wanting and do a fish in cycle. As long as you keep a close eye on the perimeters, do water changes as needed and use Prime to neutralize the ammonia left after a water change this tank will cycle and no fish will be harmed.

Doing a fish in cycle does take more work but it is totally doable and as long as the fish keeper is willing to do the work no fish will be harmed. It may come down to daily water changes at one point (when the nitrites spike) but usually you can plan on every other day or every third day water change.

There is bound to be some bacteria in this tank after all you have done over the past 6 or so weeks so things might happen fast once the fish are in there.

As always just my humble way of doing things.
 

McGoo

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I don't know how against it you are to having fish in whole you're cycling, but I used zebra danios. They're a very tough little fish and can handle large swings in water parameters... they'll also help to introduce a steady bio load to the tank while cycling. A good plant that I also used during the cycling process was hornwort. It is a very easy, low tech, low light plant that consumes a lot of toxins like ammonia and nitrite/nitrate, and grows like crazy consuming even more as it gets bigger...I just through it out when I was done with it. Good luck, welcome aboard tank on!
 

clovervalley

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The snails will also start producing some more ammonia once they get bigger and will help kickstart your bacteria while providing it food
 
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