PSA: Something I am seeing more and more often, fishless cycling....

mattgirl

Member
I am seeing more and more folks having problems when adding fish after fishless cycling their tank. I have thought about this for a while.

I am beginning to think something is missing when we cycle our tanks with only liquid ammonia. I am beginning to think the bacteria we grow isn't exactly the same bacteria needed to process the ammonia formed when we add fish and start feeding them. We start seeing an ammonia and/or nitrite spike in what we thought was a fully cycled tank. The ammonia we add goes down to 0 within 24 hours, we have gone through the nitrite spike and are seeing nitrates. Our numbers are 0, 0, and some nitrates so our cycle should be done and ready for fish. When the ammonia and/or nitrites spike after adding fish we are now doing a fish in cycle in what should have been a cycled tank.

I have often thought and have occasionally mentioned, I think we get a stronger more natural cycle when doing a fish in cycle. I have to think the reason for that is because we are growing the right bacteria. I think the bacteria in our tanks needs what fish and fish food provides. We can still do a fishless cycle but we need to give the bacteria what it will get once we put fish in the tank. We can still use liquid ammonia so we can somewhat control the amount of ammonia but it seems the bacteria needs more than liquid ammonia provides. The proof in that is the number of folks coming here for help when this happens.

I suggest, along with the liquid ammonia, we also add a small pinch of fish food daily. It isn't going to take much so there shouldn't be a big mess to clean up once the cycle is done. I will suggest using ground up flakes instead of some kind of pellets. Pellets seem to just fungus over instead of quickly dissolving. The flakes are going to dissolve/decompose so once the cycle is done there should be very little left in the tank.

I truly do think we will get a more natural cycle by adding fish food. If the bacteria has been grown with the right food there should not be an ammonia spike once fish are put in the tank.

As always just my humble opinion. I welcome all thoughts on this.
 

Cody

Member
I am personally a believer in this as well. I think this is a reason why we see cycles stall so much. I did my first pure ammonia cycle earlier this year and it took way longer than any other “pure feeding” cycle I ever did. I had a cycled stalled with high nitrites and when I started adding food I saw those numbers go down quite rapidly. I had attempted this because I read about the BB needing more than just ammonia to thrive and it made sense(I believe phosphorus was a major component). Adding pure ammonia is nice since it’s controlled and it can gauge where you’re at but I do think there is value to attacking from multiple angles. This also kind of supports how we see a mini cycle that resolves after a week or so with some water changes and we assuming it wasn’t cycled “enough” but is it that the right components were finally introduced?


Like you, this is just my opinion from experience.
 
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mattgirl

Member
Cody said:
I am personally a believer in this as well. I think this is a reason why we see cycles stall so much. I did my first pure ammonia cycle earlier this year and it took way longer than any other “pure feeding” cycle I ever did. I had a cycled stalled with high nitrites and when I started adding food I saw those numbers go down quite rapidly. I had attempted this because I read about the BB needing more than just ammonia to thrive and it made sense(I believe phosphorus was a major component). Adding pure ammonia is nice since it’s controlled and it can gauge where you’re at but I do think there is value to attacking from multiple angles. This also kind of supports how we see a mini cycle that resolves after a week or so with some water changes and we assuming it wasn’t cycled “enough” but is it that the right components were finally introduced?


Like you, this is just my opinion from experience.
I think you hit the nail on the head. I have to think the problem resolves when the "right components" were finally in there to grow and feed the right kind of bacteria.
 

mimo91088

Member
This makes sense. I could see the phosphates from the fish food helping.
 

Mii

Member
I usually just fish-in cycle with bottled bacteria. if you add fish slowly and use a LOT of bottled bacteria, you can prevent big ammonia or nitrite spikes, I recommend you start with the standard dose, test often, and add more when you start to see ammonia or nitrite, before it gets high enough to hurt the fish.

EDIT: lots of water changes are also very important.
 
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mattgirl

Member
Mii said:
I usually just fish-in cycle with bottled bacteria. if you add fish slowly and use a LOT of bottled bacteria, you can prevent big ammonia or nitrite spikes, I recommend you start with the standard dose, test often, and add more when you start to see ammonia or nitrite, before it gets high enough to hurt the fish.
This is good and I am glad it works for you. Lots of folks choose to do fishless cycles and are only feeding it liquid ammonia. This PSA is for those folks.
 

Betta'sAnonymous

Member
I do think there is something to this. It's like the fish provide some sort of needed but overlooked bacteria. Or maybe some other bio thing that is overlooked or just cannot be recreated otherwise. I have always done a fish in cycle or add a lot of seeded material to the tank about 5-10 mins before i put the initial fish in the tank. So i really havent encountered a stalled cycle.
 

Fisch

Member
I can see your points, but I am not fully convinced, to be honest. Pinch of fishfood is good, but the problem aleays was that it is hard to quantify.
It would be interesting to do a survey who did which method successfully. Really curious about feedback in regards to the modified method.
I am a total beginner and did a fishless cycle by the book, with ammonia, plants and heater, no water changes.
I came to this site as I thought my cycle was stalled, and got the encouragement I needed as my cycle was considered complete.
In my opinion It comes at this point down to the patience thingy again. Yes, the tank is cycled, but maybe the solution is adding only few fish slowly at the end of the cycle to give the bb time to adjust. Our impatience drives us to stock too fast too early.
 
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mattgirl

Member
Fisch said:
I can see your points, but I am not fully convinced, to be honest. Pinch of fishfood is good, but the problem aleays was that it is hard to quantify.
It would be interesting to do a survey who did which method successfully. Really curious about feedback in regards to the modified method.
I am a total beginner and did a fishless cycle by the book, with ammonia, plants and heater, no water changes.
I came to this site as I thought my cycle was stalled, and got the encouragement I needed as my cycle was considered complete.
In my opinion It comes at this point down to the patience thingy again. Yes, the tank is cycled, but maybe the solution is adding only few fish slowly at the end of the cycle to give the bb time to adjust. Our impatience drives us to stock too fast too early.
I do agree with your points. I have never done a fishless cycle so I can only go by what I read here and feedback from folks I've tried to help.

It is possible too many fish are added to begin with but if a tank will process 3 or 4 ppm ammonia when we consider the cycle complete I have to think there should be enough bacteria to handle a fairly high bio-load. That doesn't seem to be the case though. It seems something is still missing.
 

Betta02

Member
mattgirl said:
I do agree with your points. I have never done a fishless cycle so I can only go by what I read here and feedback from folks I've tried to helped.

It is possible too many fish are added to begin with but if a tank will process 3 or 4 ppm ammonia when we consider the cycle complete I have to think there should be enough bacteria to handle a fairly high bio-load. That doesn't seem to be the case though. It seems something is still missing.
I think anytime we try to replicate nature, there will always be something missing. I agree with you saying that something may be missing. Adding food with ammonia is an interesting concept. I'm considering setting up my 13 gallon again, may try this method. I would want to measure the food added to get some kind of idea how much you would need.
 

Fisch

Member
mattgirl said:
I do agree with your points. I have never done a fishless cycle so I can only go by what I read here and feedback from folks I've tried to helped.

It is possible too many fish are added to begin with but if a tank will process 3 or 4 ppm ammonia when we consider the cycle complete I have to think there should be enough bacteria to handle a fairly high bio-load. That doesn't seem to be the case though. It seems something is still missing.
Yes, and I agree that the pure chemical process needs some real world addition.
I wish I could bottle my fishpoop and market it
I think the fishfood is great, just that there needs to be a quantifier.
 

Cherryshrimp420

Member
From what I understand, nitrifying bacteria dies quickly when there is no food for them,. This is possibly why pure liquid ammonia is a bad idea because once its digested the bacteria will starve. Fish food on the other hand provides a constant supply of ammonia....
 

AggressiveAquatics

Member
Makes sense to me that’s why I only use ammonia powder made for aquariums by fritz
 

Fisch

Member
Cherryshrimp420 said:
From what I understand, nitrifying bacteria dies quickly when there is no food for them,. This is possibly why pure liquid ammonia is a bad idea because once its digested the bacteria will starve. Fish food on the other hand provides a constant supply of ammonia....
I was under the impression that re-dosing ammonia, keeping it above 1ppm will prevent the starvation.
 
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mattgirl

Member
Cherryshrimp420 said:
From what I understand, nitrifying bacteria dies quickly when there is no food for them,. This is possibly why pure liquid ammonia is a bad idea because once its digested the bacteria will starve. Fish food on the other hand provides a constant supply of ammonia....
I actually think the bacteria in our tanks is a lot tougher than we have been lead to believe so a few hours with no ammonia in the tank really shouldn't affect it. I do agree fish food will be providing a constant, although low, amount of ammonia. My thoughts on adding fish food is I think it provides a more natural form of ammonia. By doing so I think it will grow the same bacteria we grow when we add the fish or do a fish in cycle.
AggressiveAquatics said:
Makes sense to me that’s why I only use ammonia powder made for aquariums by fritz
Ammonia powder may provide something more than liquid ammonia but even then the bacteria may still be missing some needed ingredient.
 

86 ssinit

Member
I must say I always thought a fishless cycle was best for a fishless tank . Fish in if you’d like to actually keep fish . Way to many people fail with a fishless. With a fish in you do get used to actual fish keeping. Doing water changes!! Water changes = healthy fish.
 
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mattgirl

Member
86 ssinit said:
I must say I always thought a fishless cycle was best for a fishless tank . Fish in if you’d like to actually keep fish . Way to many people fail with a fishless. With a fish in you do get used to actual fish keeping. Doing water changes!! Water changes = healthy fish.
I couldn't agree with you more. I would go crazy taking care of a fishless tank although I did take care of a plant only bowl for about a year before I put shrimp in it
 

ValkyrieLips

Member
I don't think it's a matter of not growing the right species of bacteria, I think it might be related to how the bacteria process the pure ammonia vs ammonia produced from the decomposition of organics. One is more natural and likely easier for the bacteria to use therefore they can reproduce more quickly.
 
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mattgirl

Member
ValkyrieLips said:
I don't think it's a matter of not growing the right species of bacteria, I think it might be related to how the bacteria process the pure ammonia vs ammonia produced from the decomposition of organics. One is more natural and likely easier for the bacteria to use therefore they can reproduce more quickly.
This is a possibility. Either way if fish food is added as the tank is fishless cycling the effects would be the same. Once fish are added and are bring fed we shouldn't get an ammonia spike.
 

Tallen78

Member
mattgirl said:
I am seeing more and more folks having problems when adding fish after fishless cycling their tank. I have thought about this for a while.

I am beginning to think something is missing when we cycle our tanks with only liquid ammonia. I am beginning to think the bacteria we grow isn't exactly the same bacteria needed to process the ammonia formed when we add fish and start feeding them. We start seeing an ammonia spike in what we thought was a fully cycled tank. The ammonia we add goes down to 0 within 24 hours, we have gone through the nitrite spike and are seeing nitrates. Our numbers are 0, 0, and some nitrates so our cycle should be done and ready for fish. When the ammonia spikes after adding fish we are now doing a fish in cycle in what should have been a cycled tank.

I have often thought and have occasionally mentioned, I think we get a stronger more natural cycle when doing a fish in cycle. I have to think the reason for that is because we are growing the right bacteria. I think the bacteria in our tanks needs what fish and fish food provides. We can still do a fishless cycle but we need to give the bacteria what it will get once we put fish in the tank. We can still use liquid ammonia so we can somewhat control the amount of ammonia but it seems the bacteria needs more than liquid ammonia provides. The proof in that is the number of folks coming here for help when this happens.

I suggest, along with the liquid ammonia, we also add a small pinch of fish food daily. It isn't going to take much so there shouldn't be a big mess to clean up once the cycle is done. I will suggest using ground up flakes instead of some kind of pellets. Pellets seem to just fungus over instead of quickly dissolving. The flakes are going to dissolve/decompose so once the cycle is done there should be very little left in the tank.

I truly do think we will get a more natural cycle by adding fish food. If the bacteria has been grown with the right food there should not be an ammonia spike once fish are put in the tank.

As always just my humble opinion. I welcome all thoughts on this.
I always do fish in cycles just to avoid any issues once I purchase the fish I want to keep yes it is more work but the results are solid plus I’m using feeder fish which if I didn’t buy them for my purpose they would end up food in someone else tank 8 tanks and 8 successful cycles plus these feeders are treated great frequent wcs and well fed
 

UnknownUser

Member
When I started I added way too many fish to a 10 gal, the fish weren’t compatible, and they all got stressed or bullied and ended up sick and ultimately dead. The one issue I didn’t have???? Cycling! I swear I added 3 platies and two male guppies to a 10 gal tank, dumped a bottle of bacteria in there, and never had any ammonia or nitrite readings. How did I ever get so dang lucky? No idea. But after reading more into the cycle and the issues people have here, I’m in agreement with you mattgirl .... I believe I will only ever do natural, fish-in cycling. But for those who want fishless, the more natural it is the better.
 

86 ssinit

Member
I believe a fishless cycle is just people anthropomorphizing fish ( thanks MacZ). Someone believed it was less stressful to fish (feeder goldfish:eek. Yes that’s right less stressful than being fed to another fish .
 

Tallen78

Member
86 ssinit said:
I believe a fishless cycle is just people anthropomorphizing fish ( thanks MacZ). Someone believed it was less stressful to fish (feeder goldfish:eek. Yes that’s right less stressful than being fed to another fish .
Not t mention when I buy them there is like 300 of them in a 20g tank I’m doing them a favor
 

MacZ

Member
86 ssinit said:
I believe a fishless cycle is just people anthropomorphizing fish ( thanks MacZ). Someone believed it was less stressful to fish (feeder goldfish:eek. Yes that’s right less stressful than being fed to another fish .
Fishless cycle to me is just protecting the investment in the fish. I do fishless cycling with leaves, cones and seedpods. No artificial ammonia, no fishfood. Just dead plant matter. Works, never had problems afterwards. *shrug*
 

86 ssinit

Member
Decaying live things. Never heard of this but sounds like the right approach to a fishless cycle. How long does it take? Do you remove all that left over at the end.
 

MacZ

Member
86 ssinit said:
Decaying live things. Never heard of this but sounds like the right approach to a fishless cycle. How long does it take? Do you remove all that left over at the end.
I wrote DEAD plant matter. And no, I don't remove it, just leave it to rot for tannins. All driftwood, leaves and seedpods in my tank are covered in biofilm and I add more usually every few weeks, sometimes just every month.
For the tank I'm running right now, I did this pretty much a year ago (Sept./Oct.) and it took 3 weeks.
 
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mattgirl

Member
MacZ said:
Fishless cycle to me is just protecting the investment in the fish. I do fishless cycling with leaves, cones and seedpods. No artificial ammonia, no fishfood. Just dead plant matter. Works, never had problems afterwards. *shrug*
This to me is a lot more natural than using bottled ammonia or bottled bacteria. This seems to me like it would work as well as using fish food for the ammonia source. For those that would prefer not to have a black water or at least a tank without tannins I would recommend using fish food though.

Like JettsPapa I keep extra sponge filters running in my heavily stocked tank and have successfully cycled several tanks since I originally cycled my main tank. I agree, even though the tanks are cycled, meaning I never get an ammonia or nitrite spike, it still takes a while to be firmly established. I normally start seeing nitrates in these tanks within a week or so but know the tank still needs time for the bacteria to spread throughout the tank.

There really is a difference between cycled and established. That is one of the main reasons I try to let folks know not to over clean or make major changes immediately after completing the cycle.
 

altwitch

Member
I've never been a fan of fishless cycle and think there may be something to this hypothesis. I tend to not love 'faddish' things so no Harry Potter, never saw Titanic and cycle with fish in the tank. That said those that have made the point to go slow and be patient are spot on. I did my 120g with 8 Celebes Rainbows which looked ridiculous and the kids whined they wanted more fish, but I insisted on adding to the group slowly. Obviously not everyone is attempting cycle at this scale; however, you can start a 20g out with just 2 or so small fish and let nature take it's course. I monitored my parameters closely and never saw things rise to a level where I felt I was harming the fish. For fear of sounding cynical I think fishless cycling is a PETAesque development that has attracted a degree of groupthink to the fad. No hostility to those who choose it as an option, but all I've heard is it's a pain, doesn't work as advertised and leads to endless forum posts for help. Obviously those who are successful with the technique aren't coming to the forum for help, only those for whom it is not working so not really scientifically sound statistics on this. Don't know how you'd do it, but I'd love a scientific study that evaluates what % of folks that attempt have no problems, some problems or severe issues trying to get it to work. If you do try it fully support the idea that fish food rather than raw chemicals is probably a better way to go as it's closer to the desired end state.
 

MacZ

Member
altwitch said:
I've never been a fan of fishless cycle and think there may be something to this hypothesis. I tend to not love 'faddish' things so no Harry Potter, never saw Titanic and cycle with fish in the tank. That said those that have made the point to go slow and be patient are spot on. I did my 120g with 8 Celebes Rainbows which looked ridiculous and the kids whined they wanted more fish, but I insisted on adding to the group slowly. Obviously not everyone is attempting cycle at this scale; however, you can start a 20g out with just 2 or so small fish and let nature take it's course. I monitored my parameters closely and never saw things rise to a level where I felt I was harming the fish. For fear of sounding cynical I think fishless cycling is a PETAesque development that has attracted a degree of groupthink to the fad. No hostility to those who choose it as an option, but all I've heard is it's a pain, doesn't work as advertised and leads to endless forum posts for help. Obviously those who are successful with the technique aren't coming to the forum for help, only those for whom it is not working so not really scientifically sound statistics on this. Don't know how you'd do it, but I'd love a scientific study that evaluates what % of folks that attempt have no problems, some problems or severe issues trying to get it to work. If you do try it fully support the idea that fish food rather than raw chemicals is probably a better way to go as it's closer to the desired end state.
Don't know where you live, but in Germany fish-less cycling is the standard at least since the 1950s (Had a look into some antique aquarium books and they all state to fish-less cycle.). The only people coming and asking for help in german language forums are those that did no cycling at all and added all fish immediately. Fish-in-cycling is often only done because of this, absolutely unplanned and unvoluntarily as an emergency measure.
In my experience it's not much different here on the forum. Almost every time the people asking for help are overstocked in an uncycled tank and don't even know what the cycle is.
And those who ask for help with fish-less cycling usually are either impatient and got fish early against all warnings or didn't have an ammonia source in the first place.

And that's the point: My guess is, it doesn't matter if fish-in or fish-less, it's the amount of strain put on the system with stocking density/ammonia concentration, and so it stays necessary to be ONE THING: Patient.

And doesn't everything in the hobby come down to this?
 

Pfrozen

Member
I remember one poster from a few months ago who couldn't get her cycle to start for weeks. She used raw shrimp instead of Dr. Tim's and boom, nitrites appeared within a few days. Definitely an interesting idea and I believe there is something there for sure
 
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mattgirl

Member
To be perfectly honest I had never even heard of doing a fishless cycle or using bacteria in a bottle until I joined this forum. It seems lots of folks today now think bottle bacteria is needed to get a cycle started. Some can't understand how bacteria can grow if they don't add some to start with.

What we have to understand is, bacteria is everywhere. It is in the water and in the air. It is just part of the microscopic world that surrounds us. Once it gets the proper food it will grow. That food, of course is ammonia. Where it comes from is the reason for this thread.

Some folks say the form of ammonia or where it comes from doesn't matter because ammonia is ammonia. I am not sure that is totally true. I just think the bacteria we are growing needs more than pure liquid ammonia. The lack of what fish food adds is why some folks go into at least a mini-cycle after fishless cycling a tank with only bottled ammonia and then adding fish.
Pfrozen said:
I remember one poster from a few months ago who couldn't get her cycle to start for weeks. She used raw shrimp instead of Dr. Tim's and boom, nitrites appeared within a few days. Definitely an interesting idea and I believe there is something there for sure
I remember this one and actually several more like it. These are part of what has led me to post this thread. I hope it will help more folks that choose to fishless cycle and are struggling to get their tanks cycled.
 

faydout

Member
Counter point, I've done 2 "from scratch" fishless cycles this year, using only ammonia powder. No stalls, no spikes after fish were introduced. The issues I've noticed in the forums from folks doing fishless cycles and having issues, patience in most cases would solve those issues. Besides the patience (and trust) required to let a box of water sit empty for 2 months, people see those nitrites clear and assume they're good to go. I was dosing about 1 - 1.5PPM ammonia per day to get through the cycle, then once I was processing ammonia and nitrites, I kicked it up until I was processing 4PPM a day of ammonia before I started adding fish.
 

ferg42995

Member
faydout said:
I was dosing about 1 - 1.5PPM ammonia per day to get through the cycle, then once I was processing ammonia and nitrites, I kicked it up until I was processing 4PPM a day of ammonia before I started adding fish.
This part seems like it might be a smart idea for a fishless cycle. Get the parameters set correctly, then push them a bit for the safety of the future fish who might also push it at some point. Did you do any water changes during this or just keep topping off?
 

trackguy77

Member
mattgirl said:
I am seeing more and more folks having problems when adding fish after fishless cycling their tank. I have thought about this for a while.

I am beginning to think something is missing when we cycle our tanks with only liquid ammonia. I am beginning to think the bacteria we grow isn't exactly the same bacteria needed to process the ammonia formed when we add fish and start feeding them. We start seeing an ammonia spike in what we thought was a fully cycled tank. The ammonia we add goes down to 0 within 24 hours, we have gone through the nitrite spike and are seeing nitrates. Our numbers are 0, 0, and some nitrates so our cycle should be done and ready for fish. When the ammonia spikes after adding fish we are now doing a fish in cycle in what should have been a cycled tank.

I have often thought and have occasionally mentioned, I think we get a stronger more natural cycle when doing a fish in cycle. I have to think the reason for that is because we are growing the right bacteria. I think the bacteria in our tanks needs what fish and fish food provides. We can still do a fishless cycle but we need to give the bacteria what it will get once we put fish in the tank. We can still use liquid ammonia so we can somewhat control the amount of ammonia but it seems the bacteria needs more than liquid ammonia provides. The proof in that is the number of folks coming here for help when this happens.

I suggest, along with the liquid ammonia, we also add a small pinch of fish food daily. It isn't going to take much so there shouldn't be a big mess to clean up once the cycle is done. I will suggest using ground up flakes instead of some kind of pellets. Pellets seem to just fungus over instead of quickly dissolving. The flakes are going to dissolve/decompose so once the cycle is done there should be very little left in the tank.

I truly do think we will get a more natural cycle by adding fish food. If the bacteria has been grown with the right food there should not be an ammonia spike once fish are put in the tank.

As always just my humble opinion. I welcome all thoughts on this.
I totally agree
 

faydout

Member
ferg42995 said:
This part seems like it might be a smart idea for a fishless cycle. Get the parameters set correctly, then push them a bit for the safety of the future fish who might also push it at some point. Did you do any water changes during this or just keep topping off?
The first one, being the first fishless cycle I'd ever done, was kinda all over the place. I was doing at least weekly 75% water changes through the first 4 weeks. The cycle got to processing the ammonia through to nitrate in 24 hr after about 6 weeks. It took me another almost 3 weeks to get it up to processing that 4PPM. The 2nd one, I didn't do a wc for, for the first 4 weeks. Then did a 50%, and waited till it was processing through to nitrates, which took till 6 weeks again. Once I started dosing up to 4PPM on both tanks, I was doing 75% weekly because the nitrates were obviously going through the roof.
 

ferg42995

Member
faydout said:
The first one, being the first fishless cycle I'd ever done, was kinda all over the place. I was doing at least weekly 75% water changes through the first 4 weeks. The cycle got to processing the ammonia through to nitrate in 24 hr after about 6 weeks. It took me another almost 3 weeks to get it up to processing that 4PPM. The 2nd one, I didn't do a wc for, for the first 4 weeks. Then did a 50%, and waited till it was processing through to nitrates, which took till 6 weeks again. Once I started dosing up to 4PPM on both tanks, I was doing 75% weekly because the nitrates were obviously going through the roof.
Still learning here so if this sounds judgy, it isn't AT ALL. It's me trying to learn as I'm in a fishless cycle as we speak. So with that many water changes to keep it under control, it didn't "naturally" work out its new parameters then, right? If you added fish after the first cycle and it spiked like that, you would need to do all of those water changes to bring it down. So please help me understand how it better prepared your tank for a spike? Did it or did it just delay you adding fish but not really make the tank set up to do handle that level of an ammonia spike on its own? THANK YOU for helping me process this concept.
 
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mattgirl

Member
faydout said:
Counter point, I've done 2 "from scratch" fishless cycles this year, using only ammonia powder. No stalls, no spikes after fish were introduced. The issues I've noticed in the forums from folks doing fishless cycles and having issues, patience in most cases would solve those issues. Besides the patience (and trust) required to let a box of water sit empty for 2 months, people see those nitrites clear and assume they're good to go. I was dosing about 1 - 1.5PPM ammonia per day to get through the cycle, then once I was processing ammonia and nitrites, I kicked it up until I was processing 4PPM a day of ammonia before I started adding fish.
It is great that it worked out for you. I agree, patience is the key but I spend a lot of time reading as many of the cycling threads I find. Some folks have had all the patience in the world and still they have problems getting their tanks cycled when only adding liquid ammonia. The struggle these folks are having has led me to think something the bacteria needs is missing. I don't know what that something is but the issue seems to be real.
 

faydout

Member
ferg42995 said:
it didn't "naturally" work out its new parameters
If I'm understanding the question right, the only part that it didn't work out naturally on it's own was the nitrates, which outside of rare occurrences, the vast majority of tanks do not. Removing nitrates is one of the bigger reasons for doing regular water changes on cycled tanks.

ferg42995 said:
So please help me understand how it better prepared your tank for a spike? Did it or did it just delay you adding fish but not really make the tank set up to do handle that level of an ammonia spike on its own?
It better prepared my tank by not spiking. My plan was to overdo the BB colony that I'd need when I stocked the tank, so that when I did stock it, there was already more bacteria processing ammonia than the bioload of the fish was going to add. That plan worked flawlessly, so I did it on the second tank as well (2nd tank cycled 3 months after the first).
 

ferg42995

Member
Thanks for clarifying for me. You did understand my question but the confusion was on my end. I thought you were changing the water to lower the nitrites, not nitrates. Thank you!
 

PNWBettas

Member
This is very interesting. Coming at it from a purely scientific stand point though, it doesn’t quite make sense to me. Granted I am no biochemist, but I am majoring in bio with a minor in chem, so I have some background. I guess my issue lies in this idea that the pure ammonia isn’t growing the correct bacteria. You would have to differentiate the compound in pure ammonia from what is produced by fish in some way. What is difference in the ammonia produced by fish food and fish poo compared to bottled ammonia. I am not aware of any differences in the compound, but again, I could be wrong about that. But here’s why I think I may not be:

Straight ammonia is Nh3, we all know that. But in water, it will form ammonium, nh4. I believe that technically also happens at an equilibrium, so it’s a bit of both are present.

Dr. Tim’s ammonia is ammonia chloride: Nh4Cl. Which in water, just becomes Nh4, the Cl essentialy breaks off. Leaving us with the same compound: nh4. But again, that nh4 is in equilibrium with water, leaving both nh4 and nh3 present.

so unless there is a difference compound, besides nh3, produced by fish, there can’t be any difference on a chemical level.

subsequently, that would imply that there are differences in nitrifying bacteria that can exist within the tank. While it’s absolutely true that there are different nitrifying bacteria, they all carry out the same general process: ammonia to nitrite, nitrite to nitrate.

I think this phenomenon is likely due to other factors, rather then the “type” of bacteria we are accumulating in our tanks. Concentration of the bacteria that accumulates, time before adding fish (die off), and initial bio load seem like more likely explications to me.

this is all just coming from what I understand on the nitrogen cycle on a chemical level. If someone has a better understanding of what may be going on I would love to hear it. This kidna nitty gritty stuff is really interesting to me.
 
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mattgirl

Member
PNWBettas said:
This is very interesting. Coming at it from a purely scientific stand point though, it doesn’t quite make sense to me. Granted I am no biochemist, but I am majoring in bio with a minor in chem, so I have some background. I guess my issue lies in this idea that the pure ammonia isn’t growing the correct bacteria. You would have to differentiate the compound in pure ammonia from what is produced by fish in some way. What is difference in the ammonia produced by fish food and fish poo compared to bottled ammonia. I am not aware of any differences in the compound, but again, I could be wrong about that. But here’s why I think I may not be:

Straight ammonia is Nh3, we all know that. But in water, it will form ammonium, nh4. I believe that technically also happens at an equilibrium, so it’s a bit of both are present.

Dr. Tim’s ammonia is ammonia chloride: Nh4Cl. Which in water, just becomes Nh4, the Cl essentialy breaks off. Leaving us with the same compound: nh4. But again, that nh4 is in equilibrium with water, leaving both nh4 and nh3 present.

so unless there is a difference compound, besides nh3, produced by fish, there can’t be any difference on a chemical level.

subsequently, that would imply that there are differences in nitrifying bacteria that can exist within the tank. While it’s absolutely true that there are different nitrifying bacteria, they all carry out the same general process: ammonia to nitrite, nitrite to nitrate.

I think this phenomenon is likely due to other factors, rather then the “type” of bacteria we are accumulating in our tanks. Concentration of the bacteria that accumulates, time before adding fish (die off), and initial bio load seem like more likely explications to me.

this is all just coming from what I understand on the nitrogen cycle on a chemical level. If someone has a better understanding of what may be going on I would love to hear it. This kidna nitty gritty stuff is really interesting to me.
Thank you. I suspect you understand the chemistry behind it better than I do. It has been a very long time since I was in a high school science class.

It is possible ammonia is ammonia. If that is the case then I have to think it isn't just the ammonia that fish and/or fish food produces that makes the difference. It has to be something else that is behind what I am seeing. I know adding a more natural source of ammonia makes a difference. I just don't know why it does.
 

PNWBettas

Member
mattgirl said:
Thank you. I suspect you understand the chemistry behind it better than I do. It has been a very long time since I was in a high school science class.

It is possible ammonia is ammonia. If that is the case then I have to think it isn't just the ammonia that fish and/or fish food produces that makes the difference. It has to be something else that is behind what I am seeing. I know adding a more natural source of ammonia makes a difference. I just don't know why it does.
It could relate to the breakdown period of the ammonia source or possibly the amount of ammonia you are using. I don't know this for sure but I suspect that fish food and poo take longer to break down and release ammonia than the pure liquid form. Maybe that has some bearing on bacterial growth. I also suspect that pure ammonia tends to give higher concentrations. I struggle to get those 3-4 ppm with fish food alone, but that's just me, maybe yall can get more. Maybe when doing those large amounts, when adding fish there is an initial die off which leads to a mini cycle.
 

Hugooo

Member
mattgirl said:
Thank you. I suspect you understand the chemistry behind it better than I do. It has been a very long time since I was in a high school science class.

It is possible ammonia is ammonia. If that is the case then I have to think it isn't just the ammonia that fish and/or fish food produces that makes the difference. It has to be something else that is behind what I am seeing. I know adding a more natural source of ammonia makes a difference. I just don't know why it does.
Don't be sad, mattgirl. You are very smart And you have saved lives here! Literally!
 
  • Thread Starter

mattgirl

Member
PNWBettas said:
It could relate to the breakdown period of the ammonia source or possibly the amount of ammonia you are using. I don't know this for sure but I suspect that fish food and poo take longer to break down and release ammonia than the pure liquid form. Maybe that has some bearing on bacterial growth. I also suspect that pure ammonia tends to give higher concentrations. I struggle to get those 3-4 ppm with fish food alone, but that's just me, maybe yall can get more. Maybe when doing those large amounts, when adding fish there is an initial die off which leads to a mini cycle.
You are correct. It is often difficult to get high amounts of ammonia in a tank when cycling strictly with fish food as the ammonia source without having to add a great deal of it.

This is why I suggested using both liquid ammonia for better control of the ammonia level but also suggest adding a pinch of fish food. If someone chooses to do a fishless cycle this combination should be the best of both worlds.

I have to think bacteria is more stable than we have been giving it credit for so I don't think a short time with less ammonia would cause a die off but like most everything in this hobby something like that could be happening.
 

MacZ

Member
I think bioavailability also plays a role in this as well as enzymes. The bacteria in a bottle often also have added enzymes and the form in which ammonia occurs naturally could have a slightly different molecule structure or be present in compounds with something else that makes it more bioavailable. Just a thought.
 

bamos1

Member
I recently got done with a fishless cycle. It took almost 3 months. One thing I noticed is that I had miscalculated the amount of ammonia I was to put in. I put in 5 drops per day instead of 50. I thought it had cycled after a month, but realized my mistake and started adding the correct amount. I have not had a spike since adding fish. I tested every few days after adding fish to be sure. I wonder if some people are like me and miscalculated the amount of ammonia to be added.
 
  • Thread Starter

mattgirl

Member
bamos1 said:
I recently got done with a fishless cycle. It took almost 3 months. One thing I noticed is that I had miscalculated the amount of ammonia I was to put in. I put in 5 drops per day instead of 50. I thought it had cycled after a month, but realized my mistake and started adding the correct amount. I have not had a spike since adding fish. I tested every few days after adding fish to be sure. I wonder if some people are like me and miscalculated the amount of ammonia to be added.
This too is a possibility. I wonder though if it would have taken this long even after realizing your mistake if you had been adding a pinch of fish food. 3 months seems to me like a very long time when it comes to cycling a tank. I applaud your patience.
 

Pfrozen

Member
PNWBettas said:
This is very interesting. Coming at it from a purely scientific stand point though, it doesn’t quite make sense to me. Granted I am no biochemist, but I am majoring in bio with a minor in chem, so I have some background. I guess my issue lies in this idea that the pure ammonia isn’t growing the correct bacteria. You would have to differentiate the compound in pure ammonia from what is produced by fish in some way. What is difference in the ammonia produced by fish food and fish poo compared to bottled ammonia. I am not aware of any differences in the compound, but again, I could be wrong about that. But here’s why I think I may not be:

Straight ammonia is Nh3, we all know that. But in water, it will form ammonium, nh4. I believe that technically also happens at an equilibrium, so it’s a bit of both are present.

Dr. Tim’s ammonia is ammonia chloride: Nh4Cl. Which in water, just becomes Nh4, the Cl essentialy breaks off. Leaving us with the same compound: nh4. But again, that nh4 is in equilibrium with water, leaving both nh4 and nh3 present.

so unless there is a difference compound, besides nh3, produced by fish, there can’t be any difference on a chemical level.

subsequently, that would imply that there are differences in nitrifying bacteria that can exist within the tank. While it’s absolutely true that there are different nitrifying bacteria, they all carry out the same general process: ammonia to nitrite, nitrite to nitrate.

I think this phenomenon is likely due to other factors, rather then the “type” of bacteria we are accumulating in our tanks. Concentration of the bacteria that accumulates, time before adding fish (die off), and initial bio load seem like more likely explications to me.

this is all just coming from what I understand on the nitrogen cycle on a chemical level. If someone has a better understanding of what may be going on I would love to hear it. This kidna nitty gritty stuff is really interesting to me.
That all makes good sense, it could just be that the bacteria carried on food, rocks, etc. during a fishless cycle with no bottled bacteria is slightly different than the stuff you would find with bottled bacteria. Is it possible that the fish also carry traces of bacteria with them?

That being said I let my sponge filters mostly cycle in my newest tank before adding cycled media from an older tank and also added Stability for several weeks. I used TSS+ before. I've found that my colony is especially strong now and my sponge filters alone are enough to keep my tank going for a day or two without the HOB. Maybe the diversity in sources and types of bacteria makes some kind of difference
 

RayClem

Member
I have been keeping fish for the past 60 years including both freshwater and saltwater aquaria. I have never cycled a tank with ammonia and I would never consider doing so. Yes, feeding ammonia to the tank will allow the growth of nitrifying bacteria that will convert ammonia to nitrite and then allow growth of the bacteria that convert nitrite to nitrate. However, you are starting in the middle of the cycle, not at the beginning. In an aquarium, the nitrogen cycle does not begin with ammonia. It begins with proteins that are formed from amino acids. These amino acids are organic compounds that contain both hydroxyl (COOH) and amine (NH2) groups. It is these amine groups that are the source of nitrogen in the aquarium. When protein is consumed by our fish, the amino acids are metabolized and converted to ammonium ion in the liver of the fish. The ammonium ion is converted to urea in both the liver and kidneys of the fish. The urea is excreted as part of the waste products.

Urea is converted to ammonia by an enzyme contained in bacteria and plants. Thus, our aquaria needs a healthy colony of the bacteria responsible for breaking down the urea. When you start the nitrogen cycle with ammonia, you are limiting the growth of these very important bacteria. Live plants also consume urea. That is why many fertilizers contain urea as part of the available nitrogen.

Once the urea has been converted to ammonia, then the nitrifying bacteria take over and convert the ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrates.

Remember, though that when you talk about the nitrogen cycle, what goes around has to come around. The next step in the nitrogen cycle is the conversion of nitrates to nitrogen gas by anaerobic bacteria called denitrifying bacteria. Some biological media are specifically designed to foster the growth of anerobic bacteria deep within the structure of the media. In a saltwater aquarium, a deep sand bed or live rock provide such structures. In a freshwater aquarium, filter media like Seachem De-nitrate and Matrix are designed to do this. In nature this process also occurs in swamps and stagnant ponds.

The cycle continues in nature with legumes that absorb nitrogen from the air and with the help of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in root nodules are able to convert atmospheric nitrogen into amino acids/proteins thus bringing us back to the very beginning of the cycle.

Thus, in order for a tank to be considered fully cycled, you need to start with either protein or urea, not ammonia. Some people start with a small piece of frozen fish or shrimp to provide protein. Some people add urine to the tank to provide urea (yes, it will work). I take the less messy route and start by adding a pinch of high protein fish food to the tank each day. Because the food is broken down slowly by bacteria, you do not need to worry about dosing levels unless you dump way too much food into the tank.
 

Pfrozen

Member
RayClem said:
I have been keeping fish for the past 60 years including both freshwater and saltwater aquaria. I have never cycled a tank with ammonia and I would never consider doing so. Yes, feeding ammonia to the tank will allow the growth of nitrifying bacteria that will convert ammonia to nitrite and then allow growth of the bacteria that convert nitrite to nitrate. However, you are starting in the middle of the cycle, not at the beginning. In an aquarium, the nitrogen cycle does not begin with ammonia. It begins with proteins that are formed from amino acids. These amino acids are organic compounds that contain both hydroxyl (COOH) and amine (NH2) groups. It is these amine groups that are the source of nitrogen in the aquarium. When protein is consumed by our fish, the amino acids are metabolized and converted to ammonium ion in the liver of the fish. The ammonium ion is converted to urea in both the liver and kidneys of the fish. The urea is excreted as part of the waste products.

Urea is converted to ammonia by an enzyme contained in bacteria and plants. Thus, our aquaria needs a healthy colony of the bacteria responsible for breaking down the urea. When you start the nitrogen cycle with ammonia, you are limiting the growth of these very important bacteria. Live plants also consume urea. That is why many fertilizers contain urea as part of the available nitrogen.

Once the urea has been converted to ammonia, then the nitrifying bacteria take over and convert the ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrates.

Remember, though that when you talk about the nitrogen cycle, what goes around has to come around. The next step in the nitrogen cycle is the conversion of nitrates to nitrogen gas by anaerobic bacteria called denitrifying bacteria. Some biological media are specifically designed to foster the growth of anerobic bacteria deep within the structure of the media. In a saltwater aquarium, a deep sand bed or live rock provide such structures. In a freshwater aquarium, filter media like Seachem De-nitrate and Matrix are designed to do this. In nature this process also occurs in swamps and stagnant ponds.

The cycle continues in nature with legumes that absorb nitrogen from the air and with the help of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in root nodules are able to convert atmospheric nitrogen into amino acids/proteins thus bringing us back to the very beginning of the cycle.

Thus, in order for a tank to be considered fully cycled, you need to start with either protein or urea, not ammonia. Some people start with a small piece of frozen fish or shrimp to provide protein. Some people add urine to the tank to provide urea (yes, it will work). I take the less messy route and start by adding a pinch of high protein fish food to the tank each day. Because the food is broken down slowly by bacteria, you do not need to worry about dosing levels unless you dump way too much food into the tank.
Awesome explanation, thank you for this. That makes a lot of sense!
 

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