What's the deal with Tetra Safe Start?

Discussion in 'Fishkeeping Hot Topics' started by harpua2002, Dec 21, 2009.

  1. harpua2002

    harpua2002Fishlore VIPMember

    Maybe someone can help me out here....
    I've seen a ton of folks talking about how Prime "kills" the bacteria from the TSS. If this is true, then why does Prime do such a great job in a cycled tank? If the converted ammonia is still available to the biological filter in the form of ammonium in a cycled tank, and the bacteria in TSS is supposedly the same as if the bacteria were left to develop in a normal cycle, why should it be an issue?

    Sounds pretty suspect to me, and a great way for Tetra to get you to use Aquasafe as your dechlorinator.
  2. Shawnie

    ShawnieFishlore LegendMember

    ammonium will feed the bacteria in TSS but not in the 7 days ...from my experiments(last year), it takes about 14 -17 days when ammonium is the food source and not ammonia....as well, the ammonia readings (even though its ammonium if using prime) get way above .50-1.0 , which very rarely will you see the ammonia get above .25-.5 when using TSS properly....and you can use ANY dechlorinator as long as it doesnt detoxify ammonia..we just recommend the aquasafe as TSS does...
  3. Lucy

    LucyModeratorModerator Member

    Great topic for dicussion harpua.
    In this sticky:
    Q & A With Tetra about Tetra SafeStart
    Tetra recommends not using any detoxers but doesn't mention their dechlorinator by name, but of course, they would recommend theirs.

    My head spins when our more knowledgeable members discuss Detoxifiers and how they convert ammonia.

    Perhaps this is a great question to pose to Tetra.

  4. OP

    harpua2002Fishlore VIPMember

    Did I miss an experiment that you did with TSS? That would be interesting.

    I was under the impression that TSS users didn't test for 7-10 days. Did you do it anyway?

    I don't claim to know all that much about dechlorinators and the manners in which they detoxify. With my limited knowledge on the subject, what I'm seeing here appears to be a logical fallacy.

    If the bacteria in TSS are the same as what would grow naturally (in time) in a cycled tank, why should it make any difference what dechlorinator we use? That leads me to believe that there is misinformation somewhere... either regarding the bacteria in TSS or regarding the dechlorinator issue.

    Seeing all the issues folks have had with TSS, I can't understand why it would be so widely recommended here. It's barely mentioned on any other boards I visit. A fishless cycle works and doesn't endanger any fish in the process. TSS is expensive and results are mixed at best from what I've seen. Even when it works, the fish are subjected to conditions where parameters are all out of whack for however long it takes. It doesn't take much exposure to ammonia or nitrite to burn a fish's gills irreparably.

    Even if TSS works 90% of the time (which I doubt from what I've seen here at FL), why risk it? However long it takes (and yes, it often requires a LOT of patience), a fishless cycle works 100% of the time, eventually.

  5. Meenu

    MeenuFishlore VIPMember

    I think it is best to do a fishless cycle too. I think most would agree to cycle fishless or use seeded media is best.

    However, for 2 main reasons that I see, this isn't the option for everyone:
    1) This is the main reason, in my opinion: by the time people find a forum like this or another, it's too late. They've listened to a store person and already have the fish in the tank.
    2) They are impatient. People want to see their tank up and running, with fish in it. Until they've really come to understand the cycle and understand fish, most people are pretty clueless what it means to cycle with fish in the tank. You get advice at the fish store that you don't need to wait to add the fish, and it's what you want to believe, so you choose to believe it. It may not be "right", but it's true.

    So for those people who already have fish in the tank, or who have made a decision that they will not wait for fish (we don't have to agree with or like the decision), we advise what is best for the fish at that point. For some, it is water changes with Prime. For others, it is TSS. And yet, for others it is returning the fish to the store or finding someone with seeded media they are willing to share.

    I think (hope) that what you see recommended most often for someone starting is a fishless cycle. It's just that unfortunately, by the time new members get here, it's too late for that.

    And as far as the TSS, I like the product overall. It got my tank cycled. But you may have noticed that I advise a lot of caution when using it because I found it to be extremely finicky. If I every start another tank, it will be with seeded media, already cycled, maybe with TSS to give the bacteria a boost. I found TSS difficult to use and expensive, but in the end I believe it is what saved my fish a lot of trauma.

    Just my two cents.
  6. kelsangdolValued MemberMember

    Well, I came across TSS when I heard about Bio Spira. But lo and behold! It's out of style now because of its neediness and it was sold to Tetra.
    I added TSS with my 4 goldfish yesterday and they are doing pretty good in the 55 gallon tank.
    The water is clear with 2 filters running and the fish don't show any stress that much. There is the occasional gulp for air but I think it was because there were some tiny pieces of food floating around.
    I'm going to test my water tomorrow.
  7. Meenu

    MeenuFishlore VIPMember

    kelsa, since you just added the tss, your parameters will read wacky. when i did this, i panicked, added prime, and the tss didn't work. be careful. :)
  8. acolli51

    acolli51Valued MemberMember

    I used TSS when I started my first tank and I used PRIME with it and never had any problems. I think you are correct that it does not matter what brand you use but others have had different outcomes with the product. I think one thing that matters is that TSS not get over a certain temp (I think it is like 88F) or something like that. The guy at my LFS says it comes shipped with cooling packs to their store and not to leave it in a hot car or anything like that before use or it will not work. Again it is just my experience, but TSS worked for me with Prime. I had 5 glowlight tetra in my 20 gal, used prime to dechlorinate and then added the TSS and the fish and it worked just fine. I think I waited a couple of days after I used prime on the water and let the tank run for 48 hrs or so and then added the TSS and the fish. It may make a difference if you use prime after you have used TSS but I just let it run for a week or two before doing any water changes and it worked well.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2009
  9. Aquarist

    AquaristFishlore LegendMember

  10. Lucy

    LucyModeratorModerator Member

  11. Red1313

    Red1313Fishlore VIPMember

    One thing to keep in mind when looking at how TSS with prime vs a non-detoxifying water conditioner. Is the bacteria's needs and the difference between ammonia and ammonium.

    TSS's basic prinicple is to add a massive dump of bacteria to the tank which can handle the ammonia without "New Tank Syndrome" showing up. By the end of the 1 week period that it's supposed to have worked in the bacteria have been collected into the filter media and on the tank surfaces and viable colonies have formed.

    However the colonies are more complicated then bacteria just grabbing the nearest surface and settling into a buffet.The bacteria form what is known as a biofilm, which is made up of specific compounds, proteins, etc. Once the bio-film has been made the bacteria are protected, and more efficient at what they need to do. However making the bio-film would require a large metabolic cost. The bacteria need to synthesis most of the compounds required for this bio-film, this costs energy.

    Here is where the Ammonia and Ammonium come in. I'm not an expert but from the results that Shawnie mentioned it's likely that Ammonia, rather then ammonium, is the bacteria's preferred energy source. It's possible that the ammonium conversion is either slower or perhaps less efficient. What it means is that the bio-film (b-f) synthesis slows down. Since the b-f is slower to develop it means that the bacteria have less protection, are less securely attached to their surface of choice, and therefore less efficient at converting the toxins then they would be otherwise. Hence the lag in the cycle completing when TSS is used with Prime.

    *Note: I'm not a microbiologist but from what I've read, and what I've learned this seems like a viable hypothesis for the discrepancies we've seen.
  12. Shawnie

    ShawnieFishlore LegendMember

    I did do a bunch of them when TSS first came out...lots of phone calls as well...ill see if i can find the link..I kept daily journals on all my tanks (I think it was 4-5 of them at the time ) the ones with prime, took longer .. ...and it was the fact that the ammonium(which the prime changes ammonia into) wasnt enough to feed the high concentrated TSS bacteria...although it did work ..I also did one with stress coat+ ( another link somewhere that I posted, gave us a huge warning that stress coat+ does nothing to detox ammonia) and that was 6 days (trying to remember as it was awhile ago)

    Its the same but in a much HIGHER concentrated formula...again it doesnt matter what dechlorinator you use, as long as it doesnt detoxify the ammonia...I agree with lucy that tetra recommends their brand with the TSS as most companies do with each of their different products...we do the same with shampoo's and conditioners in the hair world..it definately is a marketing ploy im sure but again, ANY dechlorinator works as long as the ammonia is available to feed the TSS

    MOST of the issues ive seen and read about, have contributing factors as to why the TSS hasnt worked...very few , if followed the way its suppose to be used, have had failure...but I can only speak from this site not others....I TOTALLY agree that fishless cycle is the BEST and SAFEST way for EVERY cycle to be done...does that happen in this world of aquaria? I bet 70% or more times, it is not....tons of people have already had the fish in their tank most of the times....if you read allot of threads, very few members have STARTED a tank with TSS and its been recommended when fish are already in the tank...human natures, unfortunately for allot of fish aquarists that are new or a few years into it, are ALWAYS looking for that quick fix...its been happening for years.....

    I dont agree on the "doubt of TSS working" at least without reasons ...but I totally agree Fishless is always the way to go!
  13. OP

    harpua2002Fishlore VIPMember

    Well, I'm certainly not convinced, but I don't expect to change anyone's mind so I'm just going to let it go. All I know is that it would be difficult for me to start up a tank with a product that has mixed results, knowing that even if it works the fish still have to suffer until it does and if I do anything to alleviate their suffering I've wasted my money. I do see where it has its place, though, if the person already has fish in the tank and can't return them to cycle the tank fishless.

    For the record, I'm not just anti-TSS... this has been a thorn in my side since it was BioSpira. IMO patience is key in this hobby and only bad things happen quickly. I don't like the marketing of these products that claim instant success... especially SW BioSpira. ;)
  14. Shawnie

    ShawnieFishlore LegendMember

    I can only speak on my own views and experiences, as most of us do, but for me, Im NOT trying to convince ANYONE of its quality or not....im only stating the facts according to my research and my experiences...I hope you didnt take it that way either ;) We all have a right to our own beliefs and each and everyone of them should be respected and shared as one feels the need to help and advise..again through all of this, FISHLESS is always the safest way to cycle any tank IMO but also, TSS does what it says and does it fast if used properly

    I was a HUGE and I mean HUGE Biospira fan...not because of my lack of "wanting the quick fix" per say or my lack of "proper "cycling"..when I first joined FL , I had no clue about the cycle process and was educated here about such things...I did 9 weeks of daily water changes on my 75g tank with my oscars once I found out about the cycle ...Bio Spira was suggested to me back then, and I used it at the recommendation of the members...6 days later, I had a fully cycled tank ....as far as SW Biospira, im no way near having any knowledge about SW period so I cannot speak for that....
  15. OP

    harpua2002Fishlore VIPMember

    Oh no, nothing is personal for me in this thread or in any comments I make, and I hope they aren't taken as such. I'm not really trying to change minds either, I'm just quite opinionated and throwing it out there. :) There is no one right answer for how to do things in the hobby (but I'm sure it would be easier if there were)... that said, I think it's important to have discussions where we agree to disagree. When everyone states their opinion in a respectful way, we have a thread where a new person can read differing experiences and opinions and make a more educated decision. And, we have points made by others that we didn't think of before, so it's beneficial for all of us, new or old members... there is so much to be learned from these discussions IMO. Thanks everyone for sharing opinions and experiences, keep 'em coming if you'd like!
  16. Shawnie

    ShawnieFishlore LegendMember

  17. AlyeskaGirlFishlore VIPMember

    This is off the topic of TSS but I used CaribSea Instant Aquarium Substrate to cycle my 10 hex back in April, followed the directions and the tank had zero, zero and some nitrates in less then 3 weeks. The readings never got very high, if I recall. I have acidic water so it's ammonium, takes a little longer for me but it worked great. I trusted my lfs, they are the ones that said it worked and it did. Of course I would choose fishless first.

    It's nice to know that we have a couple products out there to fall back on, in case of an emergency. That's how I see it.

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