20 Gallon Tank Tips for Fishless Cycling

Revan

Hi everyone,

I have a 20-gallon long tank with a few rocks and 2 plants. (Anubias and Java Ferns) I was wondering if anyone had any tips regarding fishless cycling for a freshwater tank. I'm planning on using Dr. Tim's Ammonium Chloride Solution to add to the tank and hopefully get beneficial bacteria growth, although, after doing some more research, I've found that some people use bacteria supplements while others don't, and the results were mixed. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!
 

jdhef

I have successfully cycled with fish several times using Tetra SafeStart+. Some members have used TSS+ with a fishless cycle and have reported success. With TSS+ you will be cycled in 14 days.
 

Revan

So, to make it clear, you're suggesting using TSS+ and dosing ammonium chloride to the tank to feed it?
 

Azedenkae

Hi everyone,

I have a 20-gallon long tank with a few rocks and 2 plants. (Anubias and Java Ferns) I was wondering if anyone had any tips regarding fishless cycling for a freshwater tank. I'm planning on using Dr. Tim's Ammonium Chloride Solution to add to the tank and hopefully get beneficial bacteria growth, although, after doing some more research, I've found that some people use bacteria supplements while others don't, and the results were mixed. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!
Hi there. If you want beneficial bacteria established faster, then yes it is better to introduce them somehow. Here, I would caution the use of the term 'beneficial bacteria' because that can be too encompassing, and the purpose of cycling is to establish nitrifiers, not other types of probiotics.

With that said, a safe method is to use established biomedia from another tank, because that is kinda guaranteed to bring over (lot's of) nitrifiers.

Failing that, I would recommend FritzZyme TurboStart 700. At this point in time I have seen it work often recently.

Followed by maybe Dr. Tim's Nitrifying Bacteria. However, I must add a caution here, because while there has been a lot of good reports over time, specifically within the last six months or so I have seen like two people post that it worked for them, and probably a hundred posts by now where Dr. Tim's did nothing. So yeah. Word of caution.

I would advise against API Quick Start, Brightwell Microbacter XLF, and Seachem Stability. They seem to not work very effectively in general regardless of when I read up on them. Stability in particular may not even contain nitrifiers, in fact. I would also advise Tetra Safe Start. Safe Start certainly works, but is overly complicated. When there are alternatives like FritzZyme Turbo Start 700, no need to go through the hassle with Tetra Safe Start.
 

Revan

Alright, Thanks!
 

awilkinson871

The tried and true method is to add pure ammonia and be patient. Dose to 2ppm, add more when the ammonia gets close to 0, repeat, repeat, repeat.
 

Revan

Hmm, so you're suggesting that I don't add any bacteria, to begin with from the store, instead, I let the cultures grow as I add ammonia? As of right now, I'm thinking of using old filter media from a friend to help kickstart the cycling process.
 

Dunk2

Hmm, so you're suggesting that I don't add any bacteria, to begin with from the store, instead, I let the cultures grow as I add ammonia? As of right now, I'm thinking of using old filter media from a friend to help kickstart the cycling process.

While adding bottled bacteria can’t hurt, the level of success using it is mixed.

If you can get some established media from a friend, that would be your best option to kick start the cycling process.

I would caution the use of the term 'beneficial bacteria' because that can be too encompassing, and the purpose of cycling is to establish nitrifiers, not other types of probiotics.

Sometimes simpler is better, especially when we’re attempting to help new fish keepers.
 

Revan

Hmmm, I see. My friend won't be back for some time, and school is starting soon, so I'll lt the tank cycle on its own for now and dose the ammonia at 2 ppm, and once I'm able to get his filter media, I'll add that as well.
 

Azedenkae

Sometimes simpler is better, especially when we’re attempting to help new fish keepers.
Exactly, hence preferably they just know to look for nitrifiers, rather than be confused by all the other probiotics out there.
 

Revan

Hey Everyone,

I've started cycling my new 20-gallon tank without any fish, and yesterday I added 2 ppm ammonia to the tank to help bacteria grow. However, when I tested it today, I've found that the ammonia levels have already dropped to 0.6 ppm! I'm fairly certain that the tank hasn't actually immediately cycled, and instead, the algae that has somewhat grown in the tank are consuming the ammonia. I got algae after accidentally leaving the light on for a few days, although I've set a light schedule and dimmed the light now, so I'm expecting the algae to die out. Should I stop testing the water until the algae dies out?

On a side note, can anyone confirm that the algae in my tank is probably from excess lighting? It's been on 24/7 until the past 2 days, and I haven't seen much growth or reduction of the algae since then.

Thanks in advance!
 

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jtjgg

yes excess lighting will give you algae bloom asap.

and yes, the algae is probably eating the ammonia if there's no nitrites yet.

dose 4ppm ammonia. the bacteria has to compete with the algae now. looks like you have live plants, they will consume ammonia also.
 

Revan

In that case, should I stop testing until the algae dies out so I can simulate water conditions when fish are introduced? And will my new 8 hours a day light limit and dimming of the light kill off the algae?
 

mattgirl

Your aquarium details tell us you started this tank July 25th. Can you fill us in on what you have been doing with this tank from then up until you added the 2ppm ammonia? Is this the first time you have added ammonia? This may help us determine what's going on.
 

Revan

Alright, so I added the substrate a while back, then added my rocks and 2 plants and wood at the same time. I filled the tank up with dechlorinated water, and let it sit for a while under 24/7 lighting while I waited for my ammonia, tank siphon, more dechlorinator, and the test kit. During this time, some algae started to grow in the tank. I have since set the tank light on an 8 hour limit and have dimmed the light intesity. Once I got the ammonia and test kit (yesterday) I added 2 ppm ammonia so I could grow bacteria. This was yesterday. Today I tested the tank, and the ammonia is now 0.6ish
 

mattgirl

Did any of the items you added to this tank come from another tank? I really don't think the algae consumed all the ammonia overnight. I have to think you have somehow introduced some ammonia eating bacteria to this tank. I would go ahead and continue adding ammonia each time it gets back down this low to continue the cycle.
 

Revan

I have not added anything from a tank, all the components are fresh. I'll attach another picture of the algae, I don't think the first one really conveys the whole scale:
 

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JeremyW

Your plants. The bacteria probably came in on the plants.
 

Revan

Ahh, that makes sense. I got them from a pretty good fish store, so I can see why that makes sense.
Thanks!
 

mattgirl

I have not added anything from a tank, all the components are fresh. I'll attach another picture of the algae, I don't think the first one really conveys the whole scale:
I have to think JeremyW is right. The bacteria had to have come from somewhere and that could be the plants. I see some algae but no where near enough to consume 2ppm ammonia overnight.
 

Revan

Alright, cool. I'm running some nitrite and nitrate tests as well, just to get an idea of the progress.
 

JeremyW

I bet those potted type plants are especially good for bringing in bacteria. More so than the bare root stuff I would guess.
 

jdhef

Also, your plants will absorb some of the ammonia.
 

Revan

Are you doing a fish in cycle, fishless cycle or was your tank cycled and you had a sudden ammonia or nitrite spike?:

Tank
What is the water volume of the tank?: 20 gallon long
What type of water are you using in your tank? (tap, well, RO/DI, other): tap
When did you start cycling the tank?: August 5th
What type of filtration are you running on this tank? (sponge, HOB, canister, other): HOB (Fluval AquaClear Cycle Guard 20)
If canister or HOB list all the media you are running in it. (manufactured cartridges, sponge, etc.): (Provided Biobag)
Do you have good water agitation/surface movement?: Yes
What is the water temperature?: 78 degrees F


No fish in cycling btw

Products used while cycling
If this is a fishless cycle what ammonia source are you using? (fish food, Dr Tim’s ammonia, other): Dr. Tim's Ammonium Chloride
If adding liquid ammonia how often do you dose ammonia in your tank and in what quantity? (1ppm, 2ppm etc.): every time ammonia and nitrite dip to 0, I add another 2 ppm.
Are you using a dechlorinater and if so, which one?: Seachem Prime
Are you using bottled bacteria and if so, which one?: No
Did you add seeded media from a previously cycled tank?: No, although I might get some from my friend
What other products/chemicals are you using? (list them all): API Master test kit to test


Testing and cycling process
What was your knowledge of the nitrogen cycle before beginning to cycle your tank? (none, beginner, intermediate (please explain), advanced): intermediate
What do you use to test the water? (API liquid, test strips, other): API
Have you done any water changes and if so, when?: No, the tank is still cycling so I wasn't sure if I should.
Did you clean your filter, filter media, decorations and/or glass?: No
If using disposable cartridges have you replaced one recently?: No



*Parameters - Very Important
What are your parameters? We need to know the exact numbers, not just “fine” or “safe”.
Tank water:
Ammonia: 0ppm
Nitrite: 0ppm
Nitrate: 10ppm
pH: 7.0

Explain your cycling problem in detail. (Please give a clear explanation of what is going on, include details from the beginning of the problem leading up to now)


It's not as much a problem, instead I'm wondering when I'm officially "done" cycling. My ammonia drops to 0 within a day from 2 ppm, and my nitrites take 2 days to drop from the ammonia to 0. I vaguely recall someone telling me that my tank is cycled when my ammonia and nitrite goes to 0 within one day, but I'm not sure if that's true or not. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!
By the way, I have a java fern and an anubias in my tank.
 

Aaronious

3 weeks, so starting 8-5 and it's 8-26, that's today my man! Congrats!

Everything looks amazing. Honestly, usually all I do is toss in something from another tank, you can borrow something, even water. And toss in a snail. few weeks later, add a few fish, then a few more.

Point is, you're ready for fish! Don't do them all at once. I like to do smallest types first. Wait a week, next size up until all are in. And stop the ammonia the day you put fish in. I suppose I should fess... I usually split the livestock in half, so how many types you have doesn't matter. But I do try for the smallest ones first. I like that order for the sanity of the fish. Large ones like the little guys too, but the little guys like to feel at home before the new kid shows up.
 

Chewbacca773

Are you doing a fish in cycle, fishless cycle or was your tank cycled and you had a sudden ammonia or nitrite spike?:

Tank
What is the water volume of the tank?: 20 gallon long
What type of water are you using in your tank? (tap, well, RO/DI, other): tap
When did you start cycling the tank?: August 5th
What type of filtration are you running on this tank? (sponge, HOB, canister, other): HOB (Fluval AquaClear Cycle Guard 20)
If canister or HOB list all the media you are running in it. (manufactured cartridges, sponge, etc.): (Provided Biobag)
Do you have good water agitation/surface movement?: Yes
What is the water temperature?: 78 degrees F


No fish in cycling btw

Products used while cycling
If this is a fishless cycle what ammonia source are you using? (fish food, Dr Tim’s ammonia, other): Dr. Tim's Ammonium Chloride
If adding liquid ammonia how often do you dose ammonia in your tank and in what quantity? (1ppm, 2ppm etc.): every time ammonia and nitrite dip to 0, I add another 2 ppm.
Are you using a dechlorinater and if so, which one?: Seachem Prime
Are you using bottled bacteria and if so, which one?: No
Did you add seeded media from a previously cycled tank?: No, although I might get some from my friend
What other products/chemicals are you using? (list them all): API Master test kit to test


Testing and cycling process
What was your knowledge of the nitrogen cycle before beginning to cycle your tank? (none, beginner, intermediate (please explain), advanced): intermediate
What do you use to test the water? (API liquid, test strips, other): API
Have you done any water changes and if so, when?: No, the tank is still cycling so I wasn't sure if I should.
Did you clean your filter, filter media, decorations and/or glass?: No
If using disposable cartridges have you replaced one recently?: No



*Parameters - Very Important
What are your parameters? We need to know the exact numbers, not just “fine” or “safe”.
Tank water:
Ammonia: 0ppm
Nitrite: 0ppm
Nitrate: 10ppm
pH: 7.0

Explain your cycling problem in detail. (Please give a clear explanation of what is going on, include details from the beginning of the problem leading up to now)


It's not as much a problem, instead I'm wondering when I'm officially "done" cycling. My ammonia drops to 0 within a day from 2 ppm, and my nitrites take 2 days to drop from the ammonia to 0. I vaguely recall someone telling me that my tank is cycled when my ammonia and nitrite goes to 0 within one day, but I'm not sure if that's true or not. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!
By the way, I have a java fern and an anubias in my tank.
sounds like you're cycled, nice! Since you were planning to add a nerite to your tank, maybe pick one up to make sure the bacteria stay fed till you add fish!
 

mattgirl

You will know your cycle is complete when the both ammonia and nitrites are zero 24 hours after adding ammonia. It seems your cycle has moved fairly fast since it has only been 3 weeks since you started it but it has been known to happen.

Add 2ppm ammonia each day for 2 or 3 days in a row. If at the end of each 24 hour period both ammonia and nitrites are zero you can be assured that you cycle is done and the tank will be ready for a water change and fish. If it takes 2 days for the nitrites to zero out the cycle isn't complete.
 

Revan

Hmmm, how long do you think it will take until the nitrites are also stable?
 

Chewbacca773

Hmmm, how long do you think it will take until the nitrites are also stable?
If the ammonia will go to nitrates, that means that it would have to go through as nitrites, so they will also be fine.
 

mattgirl

Hmmm, how long do you think it will take until the nitrites are also stable?
It is hard to say. Actually impossible to give a specific amount of time. For some it is a few day for others much longer.
If the ammonia will go to nitrates, that means that it would have to go through as nitrites, so they will also be fine.
I am not sure what you are saying here. If it takes more than 24 hours for the nitrites to zero out, the cycle isn't complete.
you can borrow something, even water
I do want to point out. Adding water from another tank is not going to help cycle a tank. Moving water from another tank may add nitrates but that doesn't do anything to help cycle a tank specifically because bacteria isn't free floating in the water. Bacteria is growing on all the surfaces in the tank so moving filter media, some substrate, plants or a piece of decor should help but moving water won't.
 

Chewbacca773

It is hard to say. Actually impossible to give a specific amount of time. For some it is a few day for others much longer.

I am not sure what you are saying here. If it takes more than 24 hours for the nitrites to zero out, the cycle isn't complete.

I do want to point out. Adding water from another tank is not going to help cycle a tank. Moving water from another tank may add nitrates but that doesn't do anything to help cycle a tank specifically because bacteria isn't free floating in the water. Bacteria is growing on all the surfaces in the tank so moving filter media, some substrate, plants or a piece of decor should help but moving water won't.
I'm saying that if the ammonia to nitrate cycle is good, that in turn means the nitrites are good.

Sorry if I was unclear, that was worded really weird
 

Aaronious

I'm saying that if the ammonia to nitrate cycle is good, that in turn means the nitrites are good.

Sorry if I was unclear, that was worded really weird
That's not totally accurate. It's an indicator I suppose. But they are "eaten" up by different bacteria. So, one for ammonia to nitrite, another for nitrite to nitrate.
 

Chewbacca773

That's not totally accurate. It's an indicator I suppose. But they are "eaten" up by different bacteria. So, one for ammonia to nitrite, another for nitrite to nitrate.
I think that's what I'm trying to say, this is really confusing me.

._____.
 

Revan

Alright, just to clarify, it should take 24 hours for both ammonia AND nitrite to go to 0, so if i added 2 pom ammonia today, both ammonia and nitrite should be 0 by tomorrow
 

mattgirl

Alright, just to clarify, it should take 24 hours for both ammonia AND nitrite to go to 0, so if i added 2 pom ammonia today, both ammonia and nitrite should be 0 by tomorrow
Right. If the cycle is complete both will be zero. If you still see nitrites the cycle isn't complete. Add ammonia and test again 24 hours later. Continue doing this until both are a constant zero.
 

Revan

Got it, thanks!
 

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