Help with starting my cycle

Gage6

I’m currently in the process of setting my first aquarium. As you can see by the first picture, it’s a 10 gallon planted tank (2 Java fern, 1 Amazon sword, 1 anubias). I’ve had it set up for about a week and haven’t cycled it as I’ve been confused on the best way possible due to there being a lot of information out there. I’ve tested my water this morning (picture shown) these are the results. Ph: 6.0ppm Ammonia 0.50 ppm, Nitrite 0ppm, Nitrate 0ppm. I’m assume the ammonia may be coming from the plants. Currently there are no fish in as when I start my cycle I plan to do it fish-less of course. The only reason I haven’t started is because I’m not sure what method to use. I also haven’t done a water change just yet. It’s been set up for about 9 days. Any help is appreciated.
 

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mattgirl

Welcome to Fishlore :)

I see your pH is very low. You will struggle to cycle this tank with it that low. We need to determine the pH level straight from the tap and then after it has set out for 24 hours. If it is higher from the tap and then drops down to this level after 24 hours you can raise and stabilize it by adding crushed coral to the tank. Once we have it stabilized up to at least 7 we can go from there to get this cycle done.
 
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Azedenkae

Well, there are a lot of different methods - also because people consider a tank 'cycled' differently. Some consider waiting for set period of time = cycled (I wholeheartedly disagree with this), others consider a tank cycled when it can handle a certain amount of ammonia (for some, it's just any amount, and for others, it's a specific amount like 2ppm). The end result also affects what happens after. Some will say you have to add fish very slowly, others all at once - again, dependent on how they actually cycled their tank.

My suggestion is to ask around, ask questions if there is anything confusing, and most importantly - follow one method. Don't jump back and forth, that's a recipe for disaster and prolonging the cycle.

For me, fishless cycling is a chance to ensure the nitrification capacity of an aquarium can handle a full bioload. It doesn't have to be this way, but I like it because a.) it allows a full stock from the start, good if you want to get a school of fish that best do well introduced together all at once, and b.) it also ensures you definitely have enough biomedia. Sometimes one does not have enough biomedia, and it kinda sucks to figure that out after fish has been added.

So the method is, dose 2ppm ammonia and introduce nitrifiers at the same time. Measure ammonia and nitrite every 24 hours, until both reads 0 (or ammonia reads 0.25). If so, dose 2ppm ammonia again. Rinse and repeat until ammonia and nitrite reads 0, in which case tada! You're cycled.
 
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Gage6

Welcome to Fishlore :)

I see your pH is very low. You will struggle to cycle this tank with it that low. We need to determine the pH level straight from the tap and then after it has set out for 24 hours. If it is higher from the tap and then drops down to this level after 24 hours you can raise and stabilize it by adding crushed coral to the tank. Once we have it stabilized up to at least 7 we can go from there to get this cycle done.
So I realized that I had actually tested the pH wrong and added the low range and high range pH tests together. The picture I have added shows the results of the low range PH and the high range PH. What I find strange is even though I added exactly 5 drops of the high range, pH is showing up a bright yellow which is not up on the chart but the lower range pH is showing up a dark blue which is probably about 7.6 ppm.
 

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mattgirl

That is an unusual color for the high range pH but we really don't need to be overly concerned about it. At least we know your pH is fine for cycling.

Since you plan on doing a fishless cycle you will have to provide the ammonia source. Lots of folks use Dr. Tim's ammonium chloride. Others buy ammonia from their local hardware or janitorial supply store. If you buy some not specifically for cycling a tank just be sure it has no additives added to it. If you shake the bottle and it foams don't use it.

If you would prefer you can use fish food or a piece of raw shrimp to provide the ammonia. The only problem I see with this method is it is hard to determine how much ammonia the cycle is processing. What are your plans for this tank? Since it is just a 10 gallon tank I suspect it isn't going to be heavily stocked. The amount of bacteria we need to grow depends on your future plans for this tank.
 
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Gage6

That is an unusual color for the high range pH but we really don't need to be overly concerned about it. At least we know your pH is fine for cycling.

Since you plan on doing a fishless cycle you will have to provide the ammonia source. Lots of folks use Dr. Tim's ammonium chloride. Others buy ammonia from their local hardware or janitorial supply store. If you buy some not specifically for cycling a tank just be sure it has no additives added to it. If you shake the bottle and it foams don't use it.

If you would prefer you can use fish food or a piece of raw shrimp to provide the ammonia. The only problem I see with this method is it is hard to determine how much ammonia the cycle is processing. What are your plans for this tank? Since it is just a 10 gallon tank I suspect it isn't going to be heavily stocked. The amount of bacteria we need to grow depends on your future plans for this tank.
In terms of fish, I’m planning to add a honey gourami first, and maybe some cardinal tetras later down the road. Although the honey gourami is the main focus as of now so pretty much just the gourami for now. I do plan to add some more plants before adding fish I just haven’t been able to source anything of interest locally yet, specifically dwarf sagittarria. Planning to go to my LFS tomorrow as they stock aquarium plants on Wednesdays.
 
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mattgirl

In terms of fish, I’m planning to add a honey gourami first, and maybe some cardinal tetras later down the road. Although the honey gourami is the main focus as of now so pretty much just the gourami for now. I do plan to add some more plants before adding fish I just haven’t been able to source anything of interest locally yet, specifically dwarf sagittarria. Planning to go to my LFS tomorrow as they stock aquarium plants on Wednesdays.
Since you just plan on having the one fish in this planted tank have you considered going ahead and doing a fish in cycle? As long as you keep a close eye on the parameters and do water changes as needed the little guy should never be in any danger.

Should you decide to do so just change out most of the water just before getting him. We want him to start out in fresh water. With the low bio-load of one fish and the live plants helping out a fish in cycle is totally doable.
 
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Gage6

Since you just plan on having the one fish in this planted tank have you considered going ahead and doing a fish in cycle? As long as you keep a close eye on the parameters and do water changes as needed the little guy should never be in any danger.

Should you decide to do so just change out most of the water just before getting him. We want him to start out in fresh water. With the low bio-load of one fish and the live plants helping out a fish in cycle is totally doable.
I have been hesitant with a fish in cycle as not confident in my abilities just yet even with the information provided, which is appreciated. I’m definitely more comfortable doing a fish less cycle. Also my local fish store doesn’t have any honey gourami’s atm so I definitely feel it’s best to keep adding live plants to make it more lush and full as well as doing a fishless cycle .
 
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mattgirl

I have been hesitant with a fish in cycle as not confident in my abilities just yet even with the information provided, which is appreciated. I’m definitely more comfortable doing a fish less cycle. Also my local fish store doesn’t have any honey gourami’s atm so I definitely feel it’s best to keep adding live plants to make it more lush and full as well as doing a fishless cycle .
I totally understand. In this case your best option is to use liquid ammonia to cycle the tank.
 
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Gage6

Well, there are a lot of different methods - also because people consider a tank 'cycled' differently. Some consider waiting for set period of time = cycled (I wholeheartedly disagree with this), others consider a tank cycled when it can handle a certain amount of ammonia (for some, it's just any amount, and for others, it's a specific amount like 2ppm). The end result also affects what happens after. Some will say you have to add fish very slowly, others all at once - again, dependent on how they actually cycled their tank.

My suggestion is to ask around, ask questions if there is anything confusing, and most importantly - follow one method. Don't jump back and forth, that's a recipe for disaster and prolonging the cycle.

For me, fishless cycling is a chance to ensure the nitrification capacity of an aquarium can handle a full bioload. It doesn't have to be this way, but I like it because a.) it allows a full stock from the start, good if you want to get a school of fish that best do well introduced together all at once, and b.) it also ensures you definitely have enough biomedia. Sometimes one does not have enough biomedia, and it kinda sucks to figure that out after fish has been added.

So the method is, dose 2ppm ammonia and introduce nitrifiers at the same time. Measure ammonia and nitrite every 24 hours, until both reads 0 (or ammonia reads 0.25). If so, dose 2ppm ammonia again. Rinse and repeat until ammonia and nitrite reads 0, in which case tada! You're cycled.
Thank you for the very detailed reply! My question is, what beneficial bacteria is good to go with? I’ve heard some not so good results with QuickStart and tied between seachem stability and Tim’s. Which would you recommend?
 
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Azedenkae

Thank you for the very detailed reply! My question is, what beneficial bacteria is good to go with? I’ve heard some not so good results with QuickStart and tied between seachem stability and Tim’s. Which would you recommend?
I would not recommend Stability or Dr. Tim's. I know people said they have success in the past, but seen quite a few posts where neither of them seem to work recently. I'd suggest FritzZyme QuickStart 700. I will say I have never used it specifically, but I used the marine version for my marine aquarium and it worked like a charm, so I'd think the freshwater version (the one I am suggesting) should work great too.
 
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mattgirl

I would not recommend Stability or Dr. Tim's. I know people said they have success in the past, but seen quite a few posts where neither of them seem to work recently. I'd suggest FritzZyme QuickStart 700. I will say I have never used it specifically, but I used the marine version for my marine aquarium and it worked like a charm, so I'd think the freshwater version (the one I am suggesting) should work great too.
I have read good words about this one. Bottom line though. Bottled bacteria really isn't something one has to have to cycle a tank. I didn't even know there was such a thing until I joined this forum. Without bottled bacteria we know exactly what to expect. With it we are just guessing and hoping it is working as advertised if we aren't seeing the numbers we expect to see.
 
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Gage6

Since you just plan on having the one fish in this planted tank have you considered going ahead and doing a fish in cycle? As long as you keep a close eye on the parameters and do water changes as needed the little guy should never be in any danger.

Should you decide to do so just change out most of the water just before getting him. We want him to start out in fresh water. With the low bio-load of one fish and the live plants helping out a fish in cycle is totally doable.
I totally understand. In this case your best option is to use liquid ammonia to cycle the tank.
Welcome to Fishlore :)

I see your pH is very low. You will struggle to cycle this tank with it that low. We need to determine the pH level straight from the tap and then after it has set out for 24 hours. If it is higher from the tap and then drops down to this level after 24 hours you can raise and stabilize it by adding crushed coral to the tank. Once we have it stabilized up to at least 7 we can go from there to get this cycle done.
One thing I forgot to mention is that I am using fluval stratum abs that seems to be affront ph, I tested it this morning and it was back to 6.0. Now, I’m not sure if
Welcome to Fishlore :)

I see your pH is very low. You will struggle to cycle this tank with it that low. We need to determine the pH level straight from the tap and then after it has set out for 24 hours. If it is higher from the tap and then drops down to this level after 24 hours you can raise and stabilize it by adding crushed coral to the tank. Once we have it stabilized up to at least 7 we can go from there to get this cycle done.
So it has been over a day and I tested my ph again in the am and pm. It was down to 6.0ppm in the morning and in the evening at 6.4ppm. Also something worthy to note, I tested my tap and waited 24 hours and the ph came back at 7.4. What I think is a culprit for my low ph could be the fluval stratum substrate that I used.
 
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mattgirl

One thing I forgot to mention is that I am using fluval stratum abs that seems to be affront ph, I tested it this morning and it was back to 6.0. Now, I’m not sure if

So it has been over a day and I tested my ph again in the am and pm. It was down to 6.0ppm in the morning and in the evening at 6.4ppm. Also something worthy to note, I tested my tap and waited 24 hours and the ph came back at 7.4. What I think is a culprit for my low ph could be the fluval stratum substrate that I used.
I have to think you are right. Adding crushed coral may or may not counteract what your substrate is doing but may be worth a try. I've not read up on the substrate you are using. If you have do you know if it will continue doing this from now on or does the active ingredient eventually dissolve and stop affecting the pH level?
 
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Gage6

I have to think you are right. Adding crushed coral may or may not counteract what your substrate is doing but may be worth a try. I've not read up on the substrate you are using. If you have do you know if it will continue doing this from now on or does the active ingredient eventually dissolve and stop affecting the pH level?
I have not. I’ve be actively searching if this will be the case but what I have found is which may or may not be true cause this was from a forum not from fish lore (aquariumadivice.com) with someone dealing with a low ph with stratum but still managed to cycle to tank. This is what was mainly suggested, this is a direct quote:
The fluval stratum is a buffering substrate, so it will absorb your kH which drives the pH down with it. Over time it will “fill up” and will no longer absorb kH, at that point your water will return to roughly the pH of your degassed tap water.

By adding crushed coral, you are accelerating this process because there is so much more kH in the tank from the coral, and this will “burn out” the buffering ability of the stratum faster.
 
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mattgirl

I have not. I’ve be actively searching if this will be the case but what I have found is which may or may not be true cause this was from a forum not from fish lore (aquariumadivice.com) with someone dealing with a low ph with stratum but still managed to cycle to tank. This is what was mainly suggested, this is a direct quote:
The fluval stratum is a buffering substrate, so it will absorb your kH which drives the pH down with it. Over time it will “fill up” and will no longer absorb kH, at that point your water will return to roughly the pH of your degassed tap water.

By adding crushed coral, you are accelerating this process because there is so much more kH in the tank from the coral, and this will “burn out” the buffering ability of the stratum faster.
This tells us adding the crushed coral should kinda counteract what is happening. If it can hold your pH up to or at least close to 7 your cycle should keep moving forward without having to constantly do water changes to replenish the KH. If you have room for it put it in a media bag in your filter. If you don't have enough room situate it under the output of your filter so water is running over and through it.
 
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Gage6

Hello again, more “exciting news” lol Another thing I just learned today is that the water I used in my tank is Rodi water, Primo brand 5 gallon water dispenser jugs from the grocery store which I only used because of convince. Later learning my tap is very hard 180ppm But I only learned that after leaving it out for 24 hours and Testing that. 24 hours was about an hour ago.
Full parameters are as follows for the tap.
Ph 7.5ppm
KH 80ppm
Gh 180ppm
Now I am pretty sure this is a big reason for the ph instability as I never remineralized the rodi because I didn’t realize it was rodi. More learning, I’m just glad I knew not to just add fish straight away and risk death. I just am not sure if I should do an 100% water change now as I’m sure the rodi water that wasn’t remineralized is the reason that the stratum is keeping my ph at 6.0-6.5 regardless of its buffering capabilities.
This tells us adding the crushed coral should kinda counteract what is happening. If it can hold your pH up to or at least close to 7 your cycle should keep moving forward without having to constantly do water changes to replenish the KH. If you have room for it put it in a media bag in your filter. If you don't have enough room situate it under the output of your filter so water is running over and through it.
Hello again, more “exciting news” lol Another thing I just learned today is that the water I used in my tank is Rodi water, Primo brand 5 gallon water dispenser jugs from the grocery store which I only used because of convince. Later learning my tap is very hard 180ppm But I only learned that after leaving it out for 24 hours and Testing that. 24 hours was about an hour ago.
Full parameters are as follows for the tap.
Ph 7.5ppm
KH 80ppm
Gh 180ppm
Now I am pretty sure this is a big reason for the ph instability as I never remineralized the rodi because I didn’t realize it was rodi. More learning, I’m just glad I knew not to just add fish straight away and risk death. I just am not sure if I should do an 100% water change now as I’m sure the rodi water that wasn’t remineralized is the reason that the stratum is keeping my ph at 6.0-6.5 regardless of its buffering capabilities.
 
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