New Tank, No Fish, Live Plants

BarbieREsco

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Hi,
I'm just a little confused about the cycling.
Set up my tank 2 1/2 weeks ago. 13 gallon, gravel, live plants, 3 fake ones. I'm using the Aqueon filter that came with the tank. I didn't have the API master test kit, but strips. Thought it had cycled then put 6 small GloFish in and they all died.
Bought API test kit.
PH 7.9-8.0.
Ammonia .50ppm
Nitrite 0 ppm
Nitrate 0 ppm
Did 25% water change, added a bottle of Dr. Tims nitrifying bacteria and waited two days. Tested again.
PH 7.6
Ammonia .50
Nitrite .125ppm
Nitrate 0
Now, do I let it just run for a couple of weeks or do I add anything else daily like ammo lock, ph down, fish food, or ammonia?
Also, one of the live plants I bought appears to be dying. Should I remove it now? I may have got bad advice when I put them in the tank. They had a fibrous padding in the little plastic pot they were in. The Petco person said to take them out of the pot, break up the fibrous stuff a little then bury in the gravel. The other person there told me that I should have thrown that stuff away. I got a lot of conflicting advice from the 4 people I have talked to at Petco...
Also, when is it best to test the water 1-2 days after water change or???
Thank you, Barbie
 

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Your tank has started to cycle. If there are no fish in you should add a few drops of ammonia each day. Add enough to make your ammonia about 2.0. as the first bacteria multiply the nitrites will spike and the ammonia will drop. Then the next bacteria multiply and the nitrites will drop and nitrates will rise. Once all the ammonia and nitrites are at zero 24 hours after adding the ammonia your tank is cycled. If at this point your nitrates are too high lower them with daily water changes of about 30 percent. Once this is down you can add fish. It's best not to add fish up to the maximum stocking level in one go. Add a few fish then let the system settle a week or so before adding more. Ammo lock will reduce the harm of high ammonia to any fish in the tank but will slow down cycling so if you have no fish in don't use it.
Remove the plant if it looks beyond saving as a dead plant will pollute the water. If you think it can be saved put it in a bucket of dechlorinated water in daylight with some aquatic plant food and see if it recovers.
Personally I leave the plants in the fiberous stuff and the mesh pot and stick the whole thing in the tank. This means I can lift it out for cleaning and move it around. I am aware that many say you should remove it and put it in the substrate. Both seem to work
 

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Welcome to FishLore!

Sadly you really cannot trust the advice you get at pet stores. One would think that is where the best advice comes from, but more often than not you'll get bad advice.

If you aren't 100% on the nitrogen cycle, click the words (they should be a link to an article explaining it).

For your Dr Tim's to work, you need ammonia in the water. Ammonia is the food source for the ammonia converting bacteria. Without an ammonia source, the bacteria will starve off. But since you still have an ammonia reading, your bacteria should still be alive.

You can add enough ammonia to get your level to 1.5 to 2ppm. Test daily and if your ammonia drops, dose it back up. You may or may not see a nitrite spike. But just keep testing and dosing as required until you are processing all of the ammonia within 24 hours. Then when your nitrites are 0ppm and you have some nitrates, you're cycled.

But note that Dr Tim's doesn't work instantly and it may take two weeks to get cycled.

One side note, Dr Tim's is really designed for doing fish in cycles, so if you change you mind about doing a fishless cycle just post and myself or another member will walk you thru the process. But note, you will have to spring for another bottle of Dr Tim's or you could use Tetra SafeStart, which you can buy at PetSmart.

Best of luck!
 
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BarbieREsco

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Your tank has started to cycle. If there are no fish in you should add a few drops of ammonia each day. Add enough to make your ammonia about 2.0. as the first bacteria multiply the nitrites will spike and the ammonia will drop. Then the next bacteria multiply and the nitrites will drop and nitrates will rise. Once all the ammonia and nitrites are at zero 24 hours after adding the ammonia your tank is cycled. If at this point your nitrates are too high lower them with daily water changes of about 30 percent. Once this is down you can add fish. It's best not to add fish up to the maximum stocking level in one go. Add a few fish then let the system settle a week or so before adding more. Ammo lock will reduce the harm of high ammonia to any fish in the tank but will slow down cycling so if you have no fish in don't use it.
Remove the plant if it looks beyond saving as a dead plant will pollute the water. If you think it can be saved put it in a bucket of dechlorinated water in daylight with some aquatic plant food and see if it recovers.
Personally I leave the plants in the fiberous stuff and the mesh pot and stick the whole thing in the tank. This means I can lift it out for cleaning and move it around. I am aware that many say you should remove it and put it in the substrate. Both seem to work
Just to be sure, I want to add enough ammonia to get the water up to 1.5-2ppm today and then maintain the level or a few drops over a period of days? How soon after I dose should I test?

Just to be sure, I want to add enough ammonia to get the water up to 1.5-2ppm today and then maintain the level or a few drops over a period of days? How soon after I dose should I test?
Actually, I think I just got the big ah ha. I'm supposed to maintain a few drops per day until the tank can process the ammonia into nitrates within 24 hours, without nitrites present, is that right?
 

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When doing a fishless cycle, you add ammonia to simulate the ammonia the fish would be producing. So you'll want to add enough ammonia to get the ammonia level up to 1.5-2ppm. To figure out how much you need to add, you're going to have to add some drops, then test. I've never cycled fishless, so I don't know how many drops of ammonia you'll need to add, but I would think that if you added a few drops, waited about 1/2 hours then tested, you would get an accurate test result. I believe there is an on-line calculator that will give info on how many drops of ammonia you'd need to add, but I don't have a link to it. But you may be able to do a google search and find it.

Once your ammonia converting bacteria colony starts growing, you're ammonia level will start to drop and your nitrite levels will start to rise. This is because the ammonia converting bacteria converts ammonia into nitrites. (But occasionally when using a bacteria additive, those nitrites will immediately be converted into nitrates and you will not see a nitrite spike, but most times you will get the rise in nitrites). So when your ammonia drops, you need to top it back off because you still need to feed the ammonia converting bacteria. At some point your ammonia converting bacteria colony will grow large enough to process all ammonia into nitrites within 24 hours. But if you still have nitrites, you need to keep feeding it ammonia.

So normally your nitrites will start to rise, then once the nitrite converting bacteria colony sets up shop, it will start converting all of those nitrites into nitrates and your nitrate level will start to climb. Eventually the nitrite converting bacteria colony will grow large enough to process all of the nitrites being produced and your nitrites will zero out. So at this point you will be processing all ammonia within 24 hours, your nitrites will be 0ppm and you will have higher nitrates than whatever you started with. (Some people have nitrates in their tap water).

Once you get to this point, do a large water change to get those nitrates down (maybe 80%-90%). Use a combination of hot and cold water to get it to the correct temperature and you can add some fish right away.

Most people recommend a minimum of 20g for Glo-Fish since they are active swimmers and enjoy the swim space of the larger tank. But if you are going to stick with Glofish, I would add 3 initially, wait 10-14 days then add 2 or 3 more. The reason is that if the ammonia your fish produce is more than what your bacteria colony can handle, you'll end up with a mini-cycle (a short lived rise in ammonia, then nitrites until the bacteria colony catches up). By stocking the tank more slowly, there is less risk of overwhelming the bacteria.

So just to recap, once you know how many drops of ammonia you need to add to bring your level up, test add drops as necessary, wait 24 hours, test add drops...repeat until cycled.

Also, be sure you are using a pure ammona/water solution. Your ammonia should contain no perfumes, surfactants, dyes..etc...just ammonia and water.
 

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Also, be sure you are using a pure ammona/water solution. Your ammonia should contain no perfumes, surfactants, dyes..etc...just ammonia and water.
Considering the importance of this, I thought it deserved to be highlighted.

Concerning the live plants, the fibrous stuff in the pot is probably rock wool. You should remove as much of it as you can without damaging the roots.

I wouldn't give up on the plant just yet. Many aquarium plants can be grown with just their roots in water or completely submerged as they are in your tank. The nurseries mostly grow them with just the roots in water because they're easier to deal with that way. While the plant can deal with either situation, there is a transition period during which it's common for the leaves to "melt". The plant is fine, it's just transitioning from emerged growth to submerged growth. With these type of plants what you're actually buying is healthy root stock, not leaves.

I'd let the plant go for a while and see if you get new growth.
 
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BarbieREsco

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Thank you all. I'm a little worried about the ammonia now. The bottle says clear ammonia all purpose cleaner. Nowhere on the bottle does it say ingredients. I googled and got msds sheet. It lists a bunch of chemicals, so pretty sure this is not pure ammonia...It does say "no surfactants" on the bottle. I've dosed twice with 2 drops each day. Do I need to empty the tank and start over or just go to the hardware store and buy some pure ammonia?

Already pulled the dying plant, but put it in a cup of water to see if it will have regrowth.

Will reconsider the fishies. I was keen on the GloFish, but also another case of bad pet store advice on starting with all 6. If I go with them again, I'll do 3 then 2 or 3 more a couple weeks later. Sounds like 5 is better for max in my tank.

I do have a Betta in a 1/2 gallon bowl....
What if I did a fish in cycle with him? Would his water help to start the cycle? He seems happy in the bowl, but since being on the forum, I see that is frowned upon and considered cruel. Maybe I should put him in the big tank and then get a couple of compatible fish after the tank is cycled??
 

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What brand of ammonia is it? But it sounds like you may have to drain the tank and wash the gravel until you hands bleed. But before doing that post the brand just in case it is okay.

I have a link that lists all kinds of fish combos that are appropriate for a 10g tank, but it's on my desktop computer and I'm on my tablet right now. I'll try to remember to post the link for you, or maybe someone else will be so kind. I know you have a 13g but the stocking would be similar.

A betta should really be in heated, filtered, cycled tank of at least 5g. Betty's are really much better off in a tank of their own. For the most part, Betty's don't play well with others.

The water doesn't really have any of the bacteria which cycles a tank, so the water from the Betta's bowl really will not help.

If it turns out you do need to start over with the 13g, you really may want to consider cycling with fish using Tetra SafeStart. It's my favorite way to cycle. You fill the tank with water, wait 24 hours (this is very imortant), then after 24 hours is up add an entire, well shaken, appropriate size bottle of TTS and 2 or 3 fish. Then doing nothing but lightly feed your fish for the next 14 days. On day 14 test your water and if all worked correctly...congrats, you're cycled.
 
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This is what I used.

I'll save this, thank you.
"If it turns out you do need to start over with the 13g, you really may want to consider cycling with fish using Tetra SafeStart. It's my favorite way to cycle. You fill the tank with water, wait 24 hours (this is very imortant), then after 24 hours is up add an entire, well shaken, appropriate size bottle of TTS and 2 or 3 fish. Then doing nothing but lightly feed your fish for the next 14 days. On day 14 test your water and if all worked correctly...congrats, you're cycled."

Well well, I saw another thread same photo in this forum. Unfortunately, it sounds like there may be suds in this stuff. To be safe, I think I have to dump the tank and start over. Just a few drops of this sound like a disaster waiting to happen. If I'm wrong, let me know what you all think. I'm not going to be able to do it until tomorrow anyhow.

The thread said if you shake the bottle and there are suds, it's no bueno to use...there are suds.

Wait...wash the gravel til my hands bleed!!??? Really? It was a few drops...
 

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I googled it and it looks like it may have some additives. I also came across a thread here on FishLore, where it was decided that brand was not good to use, so if it were me, I would err on the side of caution and start over. Actually if it were me, I would toss the gravel and buy new.

Wait...wash the gravel til my hands bleed!!??? Really? It was a few drops...
Ya know, the whole "till your hands bleed" was supposed to be funny.

Well if only a few drops you'll probably be okay just giving it a good rinse. But that said, I would think it will take more than a couple drops to get your ammonia level high enough. But as I mentioned before, I've never used ammonia to cycle, so I have no frame of reference.
 

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I used this ammonia on both of my tanks to cycle it! So far, I have no issues (one a few months ago, one just finished cycling a week or so ago. I have my bottle still, and when I shake it I see no suds, just normal water bubbles. I swear when I was searching, there were two different walmart brand ammonias and I thought this one was okay but the other wasn't.. i could be very wrong so I am not suggesting you continue using it, especially if it has suds, but it looks like the exact same bottle as mine. I wonder how long it takes to show problems? None of my fish are showing any illness/signs of distress. Everything is going well in both tanks...so far... and I dosed the heck out of these tanks when I fishless cycled them. So anyways, maybe if it was just a few drops, and you switch to something else, you don't need to throw everything out? Now it is time for me to look up symptoms of surfactant poisoning(?) in case my fish suddenly start to have problems!
 

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@jennalynnj It is very confusing. When I googled Great Value Pure Ammonia and found the product, it said that it contained surfactants along with some other ingredient's, but @BarbieREsco said that the label said "no surfactants", but did list ingredients other than ammonia and water. So to be on the safe side I recommended against using it. (I would not want to be responsible for killing any of her fish). This is one of the reasons I prefer cycling with fish using TSS, there is never any confusion about what ammonia to use, or how much of it to add.

Okay...here's the link to the thread listing 10g stocking ideas:
https://www.fishlore.com/aquariumfishforum/threads/stocking-list-for-10-gallons.207629/

Also, in case you do choose to cycle with fish and TSS this link would be very helpful:
https://www.fishlore.com/aquariumfishforum/threads/q-a-with-tetra-about-tetra-safestart.58116/
 

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I am finding things saying it has surfactants and other things that say it has chelating agents but no surfactants. My bottle has no ingredient list, but looks like the exact same bottle. Suds in one, none i the other its so weird. Darn you walmart!
 

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I recently used Dr. Tims products to cycle my 20 gallon tank without fish, and it took about a month for the cycle to complete. I ordered a bottle of Dr. Tims ammonia along with their bacteria (got it on Amazon), just to be sure I had pure ammonia. I'd read about some household ammonia having detergents, so this seemed a safer bet than taking a chance on getting the wrong ammonia from the grocery store.

It's recommended to add 4 drops of Dr. Tims ammonia per gallon to maintain 2 ppm, so it's rather foolproof. It seemed like a small bottle, but I still have more than half of it left.

I wonder if the cleaners in the ammonia are what did your plant in, or the first glofish.
 
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BarbieREsco

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I am finding things saying it has surfactants and other things that say it has chelating agents but no surfactants. My bottle has no ingredient list, but looks like the exact same bottle. Suds in one, none i the other its so weird. Darn you walmart!
Yep, and they don't give a number to call except poison control and their customer satisfaction number. I didn't want to take a chance so I dumped the tank, rinsed everything really well, and started over. I'm going to try fish in cycling with the TSS and hope they don't all die again. I'll want to give up if that happens.

I recently used Dr. Tims products to cycle my 20 gallon tank without fish, and it took about a month for the cycle to complete. I ordered a bottle of Dr. Tims ammonia along with their bacteria (got it on Amazon), just to be sure I had pure ammonia. I'd read about some household ammonia having detergents, so this seemed a safer bet than taking a chance on getting the wrong ammonia from the grocery store.

It's recommended to add 4 drops of Dr. Tims ammonia per gallon to maintain 2 ppm, so it's rather foolproof. It seemed like a small bottle, but I still have more than half of it left.

I wonder if the cleaners in the ammonia are what did your plant in, or the first glofish.
Doubtful because I added the ammonia after the fish died, which was after two weeks of running just plain water and conditioner in the tank. From what I had read about cycling, I thought it would happen naturally. The other two plants are fine. The one that started looking sheepish was near the filter intake so maybe it was getting beat up or just a moody little guy. I gave him a haircut, so maybe he will grow some new leaves. I've just finished cleaning everything and now going to try fish in cycling. Starting with 3 GloFish and Tetra Safe Start. Wish me luck.

@jennalynnj It is very confusing. When I googled Great Value Pure Ammonia and found the product, it said that it contained surfactants along with some other ingredient's, but @BarbieREsco said that the label said "no surfactants", but did list ingredients other than ammonia and water. So to be on the safe side I recommended against using it. (I would not want to be responsible for killing any of her fish). This is one of the reasons I prefer cycling with fish using TSS, there is never any confusion about what ammonia to use, or how much of it to add.

Okay...here's the link to the thread listing 10g stocking ideas:
https://www.fishlore.com/aquariumfishforum/threads/stocking-list-for-10-gallons.207629/

Also, in case you do choose to cycle with fish and TSS this link would be very helpful:
https://www.fishlore.com/aquariumfishforum/threads/q-a-with-tetra-about-tetra-safestart.58116/
I ended up dumping and cleaning. The bottle doesn't have ingredients listed. There really isn't much info on the bottle except "no phosphorus". It definitely doesn't say no surfactants, so I don't trust it, especially since it bubbles up. Sorry if I gave the wrong impression. I found the MSDS on line and it had all kinds of crazy on it. Everything is reset and I've added the conditioner. I plan to add the TSS in 24 hours like you suggested, then go get 3 GloFish. I'll read the post above now in the link you attached. Thanks again. And I wanted an easy pet...

I read the TSS post. Great info. The bottle I bought says it treats up to 40 gallons and to use the whole bottle. I'm thinking maybe half or should I use the whole thing?

I read the TSS post. Great info. The bottle I bought says it treats up to 40 gallons and to use the whole bottle. I'm thinking maybe half or should I use the whole thing?
Tetras website explained this. I'm going to use half of the bottle tomorrow and save the rest for maintenance dosing after water changes. I think I'm all set. Crossing fingers.
 

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I recommend using the entire bottle as per the instructions. You can't overdose with TSS, but you can underdose. Plus, once opened, I do not know what the shelf life is. And lastly, you only need to use TSS once, that whole "maintenance" thing is just a marketing ploy to sell more TSS.

Okay, now onto something you may already know, but for some reason, it was not intuitive to me (although it should have been). You don't want to replace your filter media unless it is totally falling apart and disintegrating. The reason being, the bacteria that cycles your tank lives in the filter floss, and if you follow Aqueon's instructions and replace the filter cartridge every month, you will lose your cycle as soon as you replace the cartridge, since the new cartridge does not have the bacteria colonies living in it. (Although people say you cycle a tank, in reality you cycle your filter).

So you may be wondering why Aqueon would tell you to replace the cartridge every month. The reason is that the carbon that is encapsulated inside the mesh that is stretched over the plastic frame, will become saturated after about a month and will stop removing impurities. But the thing is, you really do not need to use carbon. So you may think, well I'll just leave the cartridge with the carbon in it until the cartridge is falling apart and needs to be replaced. The problem with that is the carbon over time will start to clump together and prevent the water from passing thru the cartridge.This will cause your water to bypass the partridge (and the bacteria). So what you can do is cut a slit in your cartridge and dump the carbon out. Then every week when doing your partial water change, just rinse the cartridge out in a bucket of dirty tank water and then pop it right back into the filter.

Now with all that said...I hate to spend other peoples money for them but, my favorite HOB (Hang On Back) filter are the AquaClear filters. The reason why is that the AquaClears have a sponge that sits in the bottom of the filter, then a bag of carbon that sits on top of the sponge, then a bag of ceramic media that sits on top of the bag of carbon. This makes it very easy to use carbon (which while not mandatory, I prefer to use). So the way it works is the sponge removes the course particles from the water, the carbon removes the impurities from the water (and prevents yellowing of the water) and the ceramic media is where the bacteria lives.

So your filter maintenance is as follows. On water change day, squeeze the sponge out in some dirty tank water. Then monthly in addition to squeezing the sponge out, replace the carbon with a new bag of carbon. You never have to do anything with the ceramic media, it will last forever. Of course if you choose not to use carbon, just don't put a bag of it in the filter. But one thing that carbon is very useful for is removing meds from the water at the end of treatment. With the Aqueon, this becomes very difficult. You need to somehow find a way of stuffing a media bag of carbon in the filter box and their aint a lot of room in those Aqueon Filter boxes. But with the AquaClear, you just pop a bag of carbon in the filter and your done.

Lastly (well you may be saying FINALLY!) fish really are pretty easy to keep. But the problem with fishkeeping is that the learning curve is very steep. You need to know 95% of everything on day one, but then you spend the rest of your fish keeping years learning the last 5%. But once your up and running it usually just a matter of feeding your fish daily, and performing partial water changes weekly.

Okay...Have a happy July 4th!
 
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BarbieREsco

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What about the tank light during the first two weeks using the TSS? On during day and off at night or not at all?

I have the Aqueon filter you described, so will follow your great instructions.

I feel like I'll be bringing home a new baby today. Lol
 

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This is what I used.

I'll save this, thank you.
"If it turns out you do need to start over with the 13g, you really may want to consider cycling with fish using Tetra SafeStart. It's my favorite way to cycle. You fill the tank with water, wait 24 hours (this is very imortant), then after 24 hours is up add an entire, well shaken, appropriate size bottle of TTS and 2 or 3 fish. Then doing nothing but lightly feed your fish for the next 14 days. On day 14 test your water and if all worked correctly...congrats, you're cycled."

Well well, I saw another thread same photo in this forum. Unfortunately, it sounds like there may be suds in this stuff. To be safe, I think I have to dump the tank and start over. Just a few drops of this sound like a disaster waiting to happen. If I'm wrong, let me know what you all think. I'm not going to be able to do it until tomorrow anyhow.

The thread said if you shake the bottle and there are suds, it's no bueno to use...there are suds.

Wait...wash the gravel til my hands bleed!!??? Really? It was a few drops...
My wife bought me the same ammonia. It's no good for this.
 
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BarbieREsco

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New question. The fish are in the tank. I got three. They are swimming around and occasionally taking a pause, like just treading water. There are two that keep picking on each other. The most aggressive one seems to be the one still swimming round and round. Are the other two hiding from him? Is this normal new fish behavior?

Ha! I put the light on and they started schooling around! Maybe they were sleeping??
 

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New question. The fish are in the tank. I got three. They are swimming around and occasionally taking a pause, like just treading water. There are two that keep picking on each other. The most aggressive one seems to be the one still swimming round and round. Are the other two hiding from him? Is this normal new fish behavior?

Ha! I put the light on and they started schooling around! Maybe they were sleeping??
What fish? Different wavelengths do different things. Often just red light will make a school huddle together and sleep.
 
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