Newly Aquired 55 Gallon Aquarium: Does It Need To Be Cycled??

Discussion in 'Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle' started by GiveIt2MeNerdy, Dec 18, 2012.

  1. GiveIt2MeNerdyNew MemberMember

    Hey peeps!

    Earlier this week I bought a 55 gallon aquarium off Craigslist. When I went to go pick it up the owner was draining it and placing all the accessories in a box (the tank came with all the lighting, stand, filter, heater, etc). I brought the tank home and immediately set it up. I rinsed out all the gravel, decorations, and accessories, as well as the inside of the tank (except for the filter) and started her up. The tank is now running with everything that was originally in it, plus the filter with some original tank water (I did NOT dump the water that was left in the filter thinking that it could help 'seed' the tank) and it's original filter cartridge.

    My question is, do you think this tank needs to be cycled since it was already being used before I bought it?

    There's no way to tell if there was fish in the tank right before he sold it, the only reason he gave for getting rid of the tank is that he has had it for 15+ years and his wife is sick of it. There was a good amount of alge built up on the sides of the tank and on some of the decorations, so my guess is that the tank was at least 'biologically' active. I should also mention that while I was cleaning out some of the decorations, I found a half eaten pleco body wedged in between some rocks. It appeared to be relatively 'fresh' as gross as that seems.

    I ordered and API master test kit and it should be here later this week to tell for sure, but what do you guys think? Does this tank need to be cycled given that it virtually had a 100% water change?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. FashoogaFishlore VIPMember

    Is the filter cartiages new or are they the same ones? If they were the same ones were they wet or dry?

    Just using the water from the same tank doesn't always mean it's finished cycling. You don't know whats in that water, like diseases or something that could make your future inhabitants go sick.

  3. West Allis DadNew MemberMember

    I would start fresh. This way you can start the cycle yourself to make sure it is done right and finishes.

  4. GiveIt2MeNerdyNew MemberMember

    The filter cartridges are the OLD ones and yes, they were very much wet and warm.
  5. FashoogaFishlore VIPMember

    Well than it might be good to go. I would test the water out when you get your API Freshwater test kit. If it reads 0 Ammonia and 0 Nitrites than you should get good to go.

    As long as the media is wet, the good bacteria should still be enough to do well, even if you put 100% new water. It may take some time, but again I would check your numbers first before you put in fish.
  6. YeoyWell Known MemberMember

    I would put some fishfood or something in as an ammonia source incase it is cycled, to keep it going without fish. Until you get the test kits.
  7. jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    Welcome to FishLore!

    Congrats on the new tank! Sadly there is no way of knowing for sure if it is still cycled or not. If you could find out from the previous owner if he had cycled it (you would assume after 15 years he would know about the nitrogen cycle, but you just never know) and how long the tank was without fish and when he unplugged the filter.

    As you hopefully know, the water doesn't cycle, it is actually the filter that cycles. This occurs when there is enough ammonia converting and nitrite converting bacteria in the filter media to process all the ammonia that the fish in the tank produce. But once there is no longer ammonia being released in the water, the bacteria starts to starve off since ammonia is the food source for the ammonia converting bacteria, and the nitrite that the ammonia converting bacteria turns the ammonia into is the food source for the nitrite converting bacteria.

    So, if the guy kept the filter running up until you picked up the tank, even without fish in it, the decomposing Pleco may very well have produced enough ammonia to keep the bacteria fed. After 15 years, that bacteria colony should be pretty strong and be able to withstand some time without a food source.

    But if you wanted to play it safe you could always just put some pure ammonia solution (i.e. ammonia & water, since you can't buy 100% non diluted ammonia) and see if the filter processes the ammonia and resultant nitrite. If you're feeling lucky, you could put a few fish in and see if it processes the ammonia, and if not start doing daily partial water changes with Prime until cycled.

    But if it were me, I would just fill the tank with dechlorinated water, let it run for 24 hours then put some fish and an appropriately sized bottle of Tetra SafeStart in the tank. If the tank is cycled, the SafeStart will not hurt anything, and if the tank is uncycled the SafeStart will cycle it.
  8. GiveIt2MeNerdyNew MemberMember

    Hey there! Thanks!

    Yeah, that's why I figured it was worth while to mention the dead pleco - he would be a great ammonia source. It makes me wonder if an ammonia spike killed the last of the old owner's fish being that he failed to completely remove the pleco body and that's what drove him to finally sell the tank, but there's really no sure way to tell.

    I went ahead and put 4 guppies and a beta in the tank and so far they are LOVING the added space. When my test kit arrives I will be sure to watch the water perimeters closely to make sure I don't stress em' out with high levels of nitrates or poison them with ammonia or nitrites. Luckily, it is a larger tank so if a spike were to occur I would have more time to react accordingly - that's just the beauty of running larger tanks.

    In addition, I will be doing 4 gallon water changes daily (4 gallons/day = 28 gallons/week = 50% water change per week), unless my test kit indicates that the tank is stable. Do you think that's too much? I mean, I'm not exchanging 50% in one day - I'm exchanging 7% of the water per day which adds up to 50% new water per week.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2012
  9. GiveIt2MeNerdyNew MemberMember

    I figured the decaying pleco would be enough of an ammonia source. What do you think?
  10. jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    If you have an ammo nia spike or nitrite spike, you will need to do larger daily water changes (unless you add SafeStart). The idea would be to keep the ammonia/nitrite level low enough for Prime to fully detox them.

    If cycled, you are better off doing once weekly partial water changes. I do 50% weekly water changes, but you really want to do ones that are large enough to keep your nitrates under 20ppm (assuming 0ppm nitrates in your tap water).
  11. chenay83New MemberMember

    Cycle, cycle, wait and cycle some more.
  12. GiveIt2MeNerdyNew MemberMember

    Thanks everyone :)

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