Why A Nitrogen Cycle Nowadays???

union865

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45 years ago, I had many freshwater tropical fish tanks setup. Back then, all we had to do to get them fish ready was get the temp close to 72, add in 5 drops per gallon of a product called Zipdrops and add the fish in immediately. This process worked 99% flawlessly and the fish lived for many years. What has changed so much nowadays that you need to go through a Nitrogen Cycle to get the fish to live??? No one at my local fish store has any answer. I either get a shoulder shrug, or some off the wall answer that makes no sense to me. Anyone have any for sure answers??? BTW, I'm setting up a 115 gallon tank now and it's almost ready for fish. Ammonia is at zero, but Nitrites are still at 5.0. Nitrates are at 1 or 2. I can't tell because the colors on the color chart are real close to being the same color and I have 63 year old welders eyes. The PH reading is out of this world. Any idea on why a Nitrogen Cycle wasn't done back then and now it's a must???
 

Mary765

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I think because back then there was less of an understanding about the chemical needs of fish. Sure, fish can survive without a nitrogen cycle, but it is damaging to them and can cause long term health issues and tank instability.

The nitrogen cycle reduces the amount of tank maintenence needed to keep fish, keeps the tank parameters more stable and is healthy/natural for fish.

Because we put chemicals in out tap water (I don't know if we did that back then) that the fish find toxic, we can safely and reliably remove these along with the natural toxins fish produce through said cycle.

Do you understand about the cycle? Because almost anybody on here would reccomend you do one before adding fish. If you have any questions, just ask us we will be happy to help!
 

Nataku

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Most likely because the majority of the hobby didnt know about it or didn't understand the importance of it.
Zipdrops was an early dechlorinator. Precursor to today's Prime and StessCoat if you will. We still have people today that put a few drops of dechlorinator in the tank and throw fish right in. This begins what is known as a fish in cycle. That hasnt changed. Tanks back then still cycled, just no one knew about it and so the fish in cycle was the standard. However, water quality and fish quality play a big part in the difference between now and then. 40 years ago many more people were on well water - and many more of those wells were not cross contaminated by seepage. Likewise, those who were on city water also usually had overall cleaner water sources with less chemicals. The modern water facility treats much more aggressively with chloramines and other flocculating agents because our modern water has a lot more **** in it. Like medicines. Its astounding how many drugs we take today that the body doesnt fully digest, passes out, and it ends up back in our water supply. It has profound effects on many of our local ecosystems, just look at some of the studies about frogs and local fish populations in Florida. It would follow that this water would affect things in our tanks as well, though these arent things that an API test kit are going to pick up. Sad fact, our water is more contaminated now than it ever was. We correct it with chemicals. That doesnt mean beneficial bacteria or fish can handle those chemicals.
Our fish stock is also much weaker now. Many more captive bred species, many of which are commercially produced on large scale via hormones. Hormones in too large of an amount? Not good for any species. But they are producing for colume not quality. Years ago? Many more wild caught specimens. Many died in shipping, but those who survived all that and made it to your fish tank? Practically bullet proof.
 

Paradise fish

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You actually still could do that with very hardy fish like zebra danios, white clouds, and/or rosy minnows.

The closest thing to what you're describing is Seachem Stability used with Seachem Prime. Dose the tank everyday for 7 days, 50% water change, then dose 7 more days. Simple as that.

0ppm nitrite has a greenish tint to the color. And hopefully you're continuing to add ammonia for your ammonia-oxydizing bacteria? If not they can die off.
 

OnTheFly

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Excellent info @Nataku

Like the OP I was also ignorant of the nitrogen cycle 30+ years ago. It mostly worked out but I am sure I killed some fish in new tanks that I would not today. At the very least exposed them to harsh ammonia and nitrite spikes that would be easily avoidable today.
 

86 ssinit

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I don’t think I’m ignorant of the nitrogen cycle. I’ve always known about beneficial bacteria in my filters. Just I’ve never done a fishless cycle. I don’t see the benefit. Where I live my water conditions are fine for my tanks. I think that’s the biggest problem here everybody has different water conditions and because of that different ways to start a tank. I believe your first move in setting up a tank would be to talk to the owner of your local aquarium not the guys at Petco/pet smart. He will know the best way to start your tank. When I was a kid in queens the owner of my store sent me home with charcoal and floss out of one of his holding tanks. Told me add that to my box filter and come back in 2 days for the fish. All went well and I’ve been transferring bb since than. Your lfs will know what’s good where you live.
 

Punkin

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However, water quality and fish quality play a big part in the difference between now and then. 40 years ago many more people were on well water - and many more of those wells were not cross contaminated by seepage. Likewise, those who were on city water also usually had overall cleaner water sources with less chemicals. The modern water facility treats much more aggressively with chloramines and other flocculating agents because our modern water has a lot more **** in it. Like medicines. Its astounding how many drugs we take today that the body doesnt fully digest, passes out, and it ends up back in our water supply. It has profound effects on many of our local ecosystems, just look at some of the studies about frogs and local fish populations in Florida. It would follow that this water would affect things in our tanks as well, though these arent things that an API test kit are going to pick up. Sad fact, our water is more contaminated now than it ever was. We correct it with chemicals. That doesnt mean beneficial bacteria or fish can handle those chemicals.
Our fish stock is also much weaker now. Many more captive bred species, many of which are commercially produced on large scale via hormones. Hormones in too large of an amount? Not good for any species. But they are producing for colume not quality. Years ago? Many more wild caught specimens. Many died in shipping, but those who survived all that and made it to your fish tank? Practically bullet proof.
I completely, totally, 100% DEFINITELY agree with these statements. Completely. Absolutely. No doubt.
 

OnTheFly

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I don’t think I’m ignorant of the nitrogen cycle. I’ve always known about bb in my filters. Just I’ve never done a fishless cycle. I don’t see the benefit. Where I live my water conditions are fine for my tanks. I think that’s the biggest problem here everybody has different water conditions and because of that different ways to start a tank. I believe your first move in setting up a tank would be to talk to the owner of your local aquarium not the guys at Petco/pet smart. He will know the best way to start your tank. When I was a kid in queens the owner of my store sent me home with charcoal and floss out of one of his holding tanks. Told me add that to my box filter and come back in 2 days for the fish. All went well and I’ve been transferring bb since than. Your lfs will know what’s good where you live.
As long as you use seeded media it's a completely different matter. That is by far the preferred method. Unfortunately a lot of LFSs are not helpful at all in supporting the idea and loaning media. Many would rather sell you a lot of chemical.

There is no way you can comprehend what you are putting your fish through with a fishless cycle from scratch unless you test water. It was an eye opener for me. My water puts fish through a very nasty nitrite spike that lasts about two weeks. You can't change enough water to control it. I tried in vain. Most fish survive but it doesn't change the biology/chemistry going on in the tank. They take a beating. I made sure I had cycled sponge filters to transfer to new tanks after I actually saw what was going on in the tank. Before this I saw no sense in a fishless cycle.
 

TobyZ28

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Zipdrops were just a de-chlorinator i think. I think we have a selective memory on how things were a few decades ago.

I recently got back into the hobby and had a "whats this whole nitrogen cycle thing about" moment. I did a fish in tank cycle thinking all was well since I did it this way in the past and they were all fine... then i lost a fish or 3 (5-6 survived), and i started remembering something similar happening 20+ years ago. I also now remember an incident losing quite a few fish due to over-cleaning my filter and causing a spike. The fish deaths at the time were a mystery to me and i just bought a few more to replace them .

I'm now cycling my second tank with some filter material from my first tank and ammonia
 

OnTheFly

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Zipdrops were just a de-chlorinator i think. I think we have a selective memory on how things were a few decades ago.

I recently got back into the hobby and had a "whats this whole nitrogen cycle thing about" moment. I did a fish in tank cycle thinking all was well since I did it this way in the past and they were all fine... then i lost a fish or 3 (5-6 survived), and i started remembering something similar happening 20+ years ago. I also now remember an incident losing quite a few fish due to over-cleaning my filter and causing a spike. The fish deaths at the time were a mystery to me and i just bought a few more to replace them .

I'm now cycling my second tank with some filter material from my first tank and ammonia
Busting my tanks down and sterilizing everything to include the filter a couple times a year was the best strategy ever.
 
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union865

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Thanks for all of the replies. Really good info. Nataku......RENGA. Also, if someone could produce an acronym sheet, then we'll all know what each other is referring to. And, Zipdrops were just for dechlorinating. I would use that in city water right from the faucet, then put in angelfish, catfish, algae eaters and black mollies almost immediately with hardly any deaths.

So, now another question. Paradise Fish...........My Ammonia went to zero and my Nitrites are now spiking. So, I thought my tank was going through the cycle properly. Do I need to add in more ammonia???? What do I do this for??? Is it necessary???
 

OnTheFly

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Thanks for all of the replies. Really good info. Nataku......RENGA. Also, if someone could produce an acronym sheet, then we'll all know what each other is referring to. And, Zipdrops were just for dechlorinating. I would use that in city water right from the faucet, then put in angelfish, catfish, algae eaters and black mollies almost immediately with hardly any deaths.

So, now another question. Paradise Fish...........My Ammonia went to zero and my Nitrites are now spiking. So, I thought my tank was going through the cycle properly. Do I need to add in more ammonia???? What do I do this for??? Is it necessary???
Yes continue to dose ammonia. You need to maintain the cycle. You are trying to culture two separate bacteria colonies. One processes ammonia to nitrites, the second nitrites to nitrates. The second colony is usually much slower to build. What are you dosing with? Maintaining an ammonia dose of about 2-3PPM is good. When the BB (beneficial bacteria) can process ammonia all the way to nitrates in about 24 HRS a day you are fully cycled. In the end you need Ammonia-0 Nitrites-0 and some nitrate reading. You will do a large waterchange to get rid of the nitrates.

Long story short you have to keep feeding the bacteria ammonia or the colonies die off to meet the current needs of tank. The fish supply the ammonia later of course.
 

NavigatorBlack

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I think there are 3 major things behind the interest in the nitrogen cycle.
First, we can read it if we wish, which we couldn't 40 years ago. We made it happen, but blindly.
Second, we have more polluted tapwater, especially it would seem in the central US.
Third, and this one hasn't shown up, we have inferior filtration technology compared to years ago. A lot of aquarists deal with fluctuations in the bacteria of the tank because of the cartridge type filters that are sold now. I have spoken with product development people who have straight out said they don't work as well as an old school Aqua-Clear sponge, for example. But they need to be replaced, and that's why they were designed. Cash flow comes first.
So where back in the day, we could count on filtration to stay alive through being squeezed out in tank water. Now, inexperienced aquarists constantly restart their cycles when they replace the cartridges. Understandably, this has made ammonia a way larger worry.
Add to the that a sort of fourth factor, the lower health of captive bred farmed fish, and we have a few problems we didn't have way back when. Tanks have improved, nutrition is better, and lighting is fantastic. The actual fish and the filtration media are not as good. You win some, you lose some...
 

OnTheFly

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I think there are 3 major things behind the interest in the nitrogen cycle.
First, we can read it if we wish, which we couldn't 40 years ago. We made it happen, but blindly.
Second, we have more polluted tapwater, especially it would seem in the central US.
Third, and this one hasn't shown up, we have inferior filtration technology compared to years ago. A lot of aquarists deal with fluctuations in the bacteria of the tank because of the cartridge type filters that are sold now. I have spoken with product development people who have straight out said they don't work as well as an old school Aqua-Clear sponge, for example. But they need to be replaced, and that's why they were designed. Cash flow comes first.
So where back in the day, we could count on filtration to stay alive through being squeezed out in tank water. Now, inexperienced aquarists constantly restart their cycles when they replace the cartridges. Understandably, this has made ammonia a way larger worry.
Add to the that a sort of fourth factor, the lower health of captive bred farmed fish, and we have a few problems we didn't have way back when. Tanks have improved, nutrition is better, and lighting is fantastic. The actual fish and the filtration media are not as good. You win some, you lose some...
Good explanation Navigator. I have often wondered why they don't supply a small amount of bio-media in a mesh bag and instruct the user to leave that part in the filter when changing the cartridge. They could still make their money and not encourage aquarists to destroy their cycle every two weeks. Most of us here understand how simple it is, but we are a small part of the market who never get the word until some fish die, if they even ever understand what happened before they quit.
 

junebug

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Haha I was going to say, even just 15 years ago, fish weren't half as inbred and weak as they are now in many cases. I would imagine a guppy 15-20 years ago could withstand a pretty harsh ammonia spike as they are a pretty hardy fish. Until you get into "linebreeding" which half the time is done incorrectly, causing inbreeding, deformity, and subpar genes.

Also like Nav said, it's not like your tanks weren't cycling then. You just didn't know they were.
 

DarkOne

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When I started out in the hobby 30+ yrs ago, I was told to start off with a few small, hardy fish for the first month after setting up a new aquarium. I had a 30g and put a couple of guppies in there for a month. I was told that Stress Coat was good for treating tap water to go into the tank so that's what I used (still use now). I never knew about the nitrogen cycle back then but knew that there was stuff in the filter and not to wash it in tap water. I also had a UGF with pebble gravel and it worked really well. Everything I learned about the hobby was from books I bought and sometimes a magazine and talking to the staff at the LFS.
 
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union865

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WOW, more great information from some really great people. Thank you again. (Lucy, you are too much, but a great person) Now, I still need to add ammonia, and I started with a goldfish that died after 2 weeks. (Per the fish store person) I really would rather continue doing a fishless cycle, so what/how do I add ammonia to the tank??? Not ammonia from a bottle???
(an ammonia dose of about 2-3PPM is good) Is this easily figured with a math calculation??? I have a 115 gallon tank.
 

NavigatorBlack

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Interestingly, I crashed one tank, a 20 long I bought (and still use...) 27 years ago, by adding sailfin mollies too soon. Honestly, in all my years of fishkeeping, that is the only problem I have had that I could blame directly on the cycle. I can't estimate how many tanks I set up and ran - it could be over 150. So do I think the danger of ammonia is over-rated?
Yes.
But I am also a softwater aquarist, and I like my tanks to be below pH 7. In ancient times when all phones had wires to the wall, we considered ammonia to be a hard, alkaline water worry. Now, I see aquarists hardening their water so the test kits will work, creating problems for themselves.

I think inbreeding has zero effect on these issues. It is rearing techniques. A farm 40 years ago supplied large numbers of healthy fish, often raised outdoors, working as well with wild imports. Most were smaller operations answering to their many customers.
A farm now is a huge industrial operation answering to shareholders, using antibiotics to force growth, and hormones to control colours, growth and sex. A farm that focuses on quality before price will not get the business of the enormous and powerful Pet chains that didn't exist 40 years back. They have so much clout in their purchasing that they can almost dictate prices, and that has created a race to the bottom in order to make fish as cheap as can be.
Fish that were very tough forty years back, like neons, now die if you sneeze in the next room.
 
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